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Memorial Day 2015

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Memorial Day is one of those interesting days where you don't know whether to celebrate or mourn: mourn the loss of life, or celebrate the freedom those lives earned. Some will mourn, especially those families who lost loved ones, others will celebrate and give not a thought to meaning of the day, I choose to do both.

In a few hours I will go down to the Courthouse to set up for our ceremony. I don't know how many years we have been doing this but it has been many. I recall when the news reporters would come to our ceremony because it was the only one being held. Now, others have their ceremonies but ours remains essentially the same, unchanged, simple, solemn. The weather looks like rain but it should not be raining at 1100, the time our ceremony begins. Regardless, we will have the dedicated citizens out to join us. I hope the clouds will keep the temperatures down.

Since the War of the Revolution, America has lost more than 1.3 million lives in defense of our country and preservation of our principles around the globe. Many of those paid the ultimate sacrifice did so holding strong beliefs in the cause for which they were fighting. Others, especially recently, may not have believed so much in the cause as they did in their country; they were called to serve, and they served.

Those of us who are old enough to remember Vietnam, likely remember someone who died there. Although I was only eight years old, I recall the son of a neighbor, the only son, who died. David Wayne Parker lived across the street and, although we did not know the family well, I recall the green Army staff car visiting the house several days. I was to learn later that he was on a patrol one night and was crossing a river. When the squad got to the other bank, he was not with them. He was presumed to have drowned and his body was never recovered.

Then there is William Newton Johnson, the brother of a friend, who died when I was only 7 and long before I had met my friend. He died of small arms fire in South Vietnam as a 2nd Lieutenant.

For those who consider today to be nothing more than a vacation, enjoy it, the price of that enjoyment has been paid by others. For those who give deeper meaning to today than simply a day off work, join me at 1100 and let's both mourn and celebrate the lives of these brave people.

Today I attended the memorial service for my former minister Wendell Manuel at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Starkville, MS. The service was wonderful and captured the essence of that wonderful man

Personally, it was a little tough for me. I returned to a church I left a few years ago, the church where my daughter was baptized, and the church where I served on and/or chaired most every committee there, including three terms as an Elder. It was also the church where I got know and love Wendell.

Wendell was the first minister I had the privilege of knowing as person. I have known other ministers but they were always seemingly maintaining their minister image. Wendell was different. I was able to see him angry and hurt. I was able to talk to him about theology, religion, parenting, marriage, politics, the community, and most any other subject. He had a gift for being able to see people for who they were and accepting them as just that.

He preached some of the most wonderful sermons I've heard and his children's sermons was especially good. I loved his adult sermons for children such as his Sesame Street sermon. I had the opportunity to preach a time or two at Trinity and when I asked Wendell for advice, he said to work on he children's sermon. He told me if I could take the sermon I wanted to preach and condense it down to one or two minutes for the children, then I knew what I was going to say. He also said that often the children's sermon was really meant for the adults. He had to follow it up with the adult sermon using bigger words so they would feel intelligent but he really thought they often first understood things from what he told the children.

I have attached his obituary below.

Wendell is now in Heaven watching out for us all.

Thanks be to God.


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I found this over at Abu Muqawama and liked it.

My preferences are simple: I like Starbucks, bold, prefer Sumatra, black, in my stainless steel blue Starbucks tumbler that I travel with. It makes it very convenient to get a cup in an airport and then carry it on the plane.

I really liked the fact that there were so many Starbucks in Vancouver when I was there. Made it very convenient to stay tanked up since the conference did not provide coffee (one of my very few complaints). I mostly frequented the Manulife store there.

My favorite place to get a cup of Starbucks is of course the store in the Colvard Student Union on the Mississippi State University campus. The people there are outrageously friendly and helpful.

The damage resulting from the recent tornadoes in Mississippi and Alabama has resulted in an outpouring of support from friends, neighbors, community organizations, and churches. We were fortunate to not suffer any damage in our immediate area but we could the next time.

I am happy with the support being given but I am also worried about the lessons being taught to our youth. I have seen numerous news reports featuring high school students who have made statements along the lines of: "I am helping because I would expect people to help me"; "You should help people because you get so much in return". Wrong! Parents, you need to teach your children that they should help others because it is the RIGHT thing to do. You do not help people for selfish reason of expecting anything in return--even feeling good about yourself. Sure, you can feel good about helping others but that is not why you should help others.

Dateline: Mississippi State University, 10 December 2010.

I was honored to have been asked to be the guest speaker at the 10 December 2010 Joint Army-Air Force Commissioning ceremony at Mississippi State. There were four cadets commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants in the US Air Force and one commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army. It was a pleasure to have been asked to speak and a joy to share some of the lessons I have learned with these new lieutenants who are beginning their careers.

After the ceremony I received some very nice complements on the talk and I was appreciative of them. I told several that what I told these new airmen and soldier were what I wished someone had told me when I was an Ensign. The text of my remarks is below.

Adopt-A-Family 2010

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My annual task on the church Local and Global Missions Committee for the last two years has been to coordinate our Adopt-A-Family program. The Starkville United Way administers the program but local groups adopt families and then provide them with Christmas gifts. This year, like last, we adopted five families.

Each year I am amazed at the generosity of the members of First Presbyterian Church. Our five families, combined with two church members we help, yielded a total of thirty-two individuals who needed Christmas Gifts. Our members provided everything from bicycles to coats, from toy tractors to footballs. They included games and gift cards. We also used some committee funds to provide some food items.

Part of what I do is arrange for people to deliver the gifts to the families. There are always many gifts for each family so delivering the gifts is no easy undertaking. The pictures below are of the gifts after they have been sorted by family. I am very appreciative of each person who delivers the gifts but I always get thanked by those who make the deliveries.


This is a worthy mission and I am glad that our church can make Christmas a little bit better for these people.


Greg Mortenson Lecture

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Sara and I attended an excellent lecture tonight by Greg Mortenson of Three Cups of Tea fame. We arrived at the Humphrey Coliseum shortly after 1800 for a 1900 lecture. Following the requisite introductions, the lecture began around 1910.

I had seen Mortenson video when he gave a talk at the Naval War College. I really enjoyed that lecture but he was even better in person. He seemed to really enjoy being here and we certainly enjoyed having him here. He mentioned that in a early meeting with some of our students, he asked how many had been involved with community service. Typically he said he gets about 60% to 80% response but at Mississippi State he got 100%. Similarly, later he asked how many students had spent 10 hours or more talking to their elders about historical events (depression, World War II, etc.). Again, we had about 20% greater response than others.

Mortenson said he did want to come back and visit some of the public schools and nursing homes. I know he would get a wonderful reception.

Following the lecture we waited in line with some friends for the book signing. I got both my hard back Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time signed and by hardback copy of Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan signed. Of course I have both as Kindle editions and I have bought and given away probably 10 to 15 copies of the paperback Three Cups of Tea. We had a short conversation while he was signing and I found him to be very pleasant.

His Central Asia Institute has been added to my list of charitable organizations. As I get older I find I prefer more and more to donate money to my church and to some specific organizations rather than run them through clearinghouses such as United Way. This way I can get money directly to the places that need it without the overhead charge of these clearinghouses. Call me cantankerous.

Friend's Son on Colbert Nation

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A nice segment from the Colbert Report. I am in the same Sunday School Class with Lt. Col. Cummings mother and also knew his fater--a grerat man. Enjoy...

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Brent Cummings & Josh Bleill<a>
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

On Saturday, 28 August 2010, over a year's effort of planning came to fruition with the Recognition Ceremony and Celebration Honoring Starkville and Oktibbeha County Veterans of World War II. I was a small part of the planning committee for this event but it success is due solely to the tireless work of Bill Poe and Joan Wilson.

The event was sponsored by the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum funded in part by a SOAR grant from the Greater Starkville Development Partnership. In addition to honoring the veterans, there was a panel discussion hosted on Thursday which detailed the early involvement of Oktibbeha County in pioneering aviation. The museum also conducted and recorded interviews of World War II veteran which will be available in the museum.

Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) gave the keynote address on Saturday and he is to be commended for his outstanding address. His remarks were on target and stayed focused on honoring the veterans. All too often people who give speeches get off track with their personal agendas and actually detract from those being honored. Senator Cochran did not do that. He also kept his talk brief in recognition of the length of the program and the age of those being honored.

The keynote address can be heard below. The sound quality is not all that good but the video camera did the best it could.

Prior to the start of the ceremony, each veteran was given an opportunity to have his picture taken with General Freeman from the Mississippi National Guard and Parker Wiseman, mayor of the City of Starkville. Each veteran was photographed holding a steel plate with a cut-out of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. These plates were furnished by Gulf States Manufacturing, a company with a long history of honoring veterans.

Following Senator Cochran's keynote address, former Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Amy Tuck, the master of ceremonies, called the name of each veteran and their branch of service while a member of the Boy Scouts of America presented them with their personal steel plate.

When we first began planning this event we were hoping to have around 30 veterans attend. We ended up with 43. There were perhaps 200 or more from the community who came to honor these members of the Greatest Generation. It was a bittersweet time in that many who served are no longer with us and could not be honored. I thought of my grandfather most of the day. There were also many other World War II veterans in Oktibbeha County who were unable to attend the ceremony. We honor them all.


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Sara and I just saw Inception and I loved it. Sara was not as enthusiastic as I was about it but that happens every now and then. Coming in at just under two and a half hours I was afraid it would seem way too long but it really seemed too short. I'll buy this one when it comes out on DVD and watch it by myself.

I do wish people who frequent movie theaters would follow Robert's Rules of theater behavior. There are only a few rules which, if followed, would enhance everyone's viewing pleasure.

  1. Arrive on time.

  2. If you had to perform emergency surgery or kill some terrorists and couldn't help but be late, enter the theater quietly.

  3. No cell phones means no cell phones! That means no phone calls, no text messages, and no email sent or received. And most importantly, this rule applies to you, even if you don't think it does.

  4. During the movie remember: eyes and ears open, mouth closed. If you have to explain the plot during the movie, your guest is a lost cause so just wait until the movie is over.

Great Day at SeaWorld

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Had an absolutey wonderful day in Orlando at SeaWorld. Saw petty much all of the shows but did none o the rides save for the Sky Tower. The weather was not too hot, or at last there was plenty of shade. My favorite part: Shamu, of course!

Tomorrow we brave Epcot!

The last couple of weeks have been rough. On 22 May 2010 I gave away my daughter, my only child, at her wedding. She then left for a week long honeymoon at Grand Isle, Louisiana. While she was there she gave me some first-hand accounts of the oil from well in the Gulf. The President visited during her stay but she did not get to see him. He stayed on the end of the island where the newer houses and the Coast Guard station are. She did wave at every helicopter and saw Katie Couric.

Today, we helped load her stuff onto a truck for her to move with her husband to their new home. It was and is a very difficult time. She has married a very nice guy who cares about her greatly but, she has been with us for 25 years and not having her around will take some adjustment. I've been told that we will make the adjustment, and intellectually I know that too, but the truth is it is very hard right now. Fortunately they will only be a few hours away so we can visit without too much trouble.

Because Thomas PM Barnett just passed a milestne, his 10,000th blog post, I thought I would mention it here. Tom's blog was the genesis of my own but he has been much, much better at it than I have. Perhaps one day I will achieve that level but not right now.

Tom state he has no plans for changing his blog; " It remains as it has always been: a workspace to organize my thinking, catalogue sources, and write whatever makes me happy to write." That too is my philosophy.

Congratulations Tom! Well done. I have indeed enjoyed reading both your posts and your books over the years.

I am saddened to hear that Walter Cronkite passed away a little while ago at the age of 92. Not only we lose Walter Cronkite, we lost an age of news reporting. I remember listening to Walter Cronkite give the news, even though I was young for many of those years. To me he always seemed impartial in reporting the news and he is certainly THE reporter who is replayed in television retrospectives. Come Monday we have all hear many replays of his broadcast of the moon landing.

In his retirement I admit I was disappointed to learn that good ole Walter was a liberal. Not that being a liberal disappointed me, I was disappointed that he "came out" and was not longer seen as impartial. My recollections of his news reporting were always those of someone impartial.

When Dan Rather replaced him I quit CBS News. Rather was so obviously biased in his reporting that I could no longer watch the news with him. That was before we had news 24/7. Of course I remember CNN seeming to be fairly unbiased when they first came to be too but that has changed. No we have CNN's obvious bias, Fox News is "fair and balanced" but we know which way they tend to lean. ABC, NBC, and CBS just can't compete with the 24/7 stations. MSNBC, well let's not go there but they have little impact.

In losing Walter Cronkite we lost an icon. We do still have his model to follow if only we can.

When It Rains, It Pours

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First, when I returned from Virginia I got in the car at the airport and found the air conditioner was not working. It worked fine two weeks prior when I went to the airport but Saturday morning it was not working. I thought perhaps it was a simple matter of low Freon so I ran by an oil change place to get some added. They found the problem was a restriction somewhere, not low Freon and said I needed a new expansion valve and evaporator for about $800. Well, I wasn't going to get it fixed then and I knew that the chance of needing both of those items at the same time was incredibly low. So, I took it to the dealer yesterday. The problem was the orifice so they had to replace the line for about $350.

This morning the air conditioning in the house was not working and I fund the circuit breaker outside to the compressor unit was tripped. I reset it like have several times before and came back inside. The A/C went out again so I went to check to the breaker only find it smoking. It was burned up in a major way. So, I had to call an electrician t come and replace it.

As of now we are cool in the house and cool in the car.

Memorial Day Service

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The Greater Starkville Development Partnership Memorial Day Service went very well today. It took a little while to get the sound ysem working (a problem when you only do it once a year) but then it went well.

The keynote speaker was Colonel Gary E. Huffman, Mississippi Army National Guard, Rear Detachment Commander, 155th Brigade Combat Team. He did a nice job and shared a sentiment I have often shared with others. Heroes are the ones who pick up a weapon and fight the enemy; heroes are not football players, movie stars, or politicians.

The rain held off for the most part until near the end when we were laying wreaths at the monument. I rushed thingsalongas much as I could to try and get everyone out as soon as possible. Of course,a few minutes later the rain stopped.

Many thanks to those on the Military Affaris Committee and the GSDP who made this possible.

From my troubleshooting I believe my DSL modem is dead or dying. It will work for a while then quit. If I unplug for a few seconds and then power it up again it will work for a while then die. So, last night I called AT&T Tech Support and they decided to send out a tech because it would be faster than sending me a new modem.

I had a "confirmed" appointment between 1:00 and 5:00 today. I say "confirmed" because according to AT&T "confirmed" means we are going to make up some stuff top make you happy and after you wait at home for us and we don't show we won't care. But, to make it sound really interesting we will call you to remind you of your "confirmed" appointment.

Well, this afternoon comes and goes, after we made sure someone was home all afternoon. I get in and call AT&T which is "experiencing an unusually high volume of calls". After holding they tell me the ticket is still "open". I ask what that means and they say "if a technician is still out he may come by". So "confirmed" means...absolutely nothing. Oh yes, they will call to remind me that they have an appointment scheduled but they do not call to let you know they will not be coming.

You would think that the "Work Management Center" could find out where the workers were but you would be wrong. Apparently the techs do not give their cell phones to AT&T.

So now I have another "confirmed" appointment for tomorrow morning. I can't find a DSL modem in stock around here or I would fix the problem myself. Come Monday I think it is time to call the cable company and see if they can offer me a better deal.

Bottom line, AT&T remains one of the worst-run companies I've dealt with. To be a telecommunications company they certainly communications capability. And the scary part is that they are among those who are going to roll out broadband and stimulate the economy. My friends, we are in trouble.

MyKindle 2

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I tend to be an early adopter of technology but put off the Kindle for a while. I wondered if it would really be that useful, if reading would be as easy as Amazon said it would be, and if I would enjoy it as much as the price would dictate. I did not buy the first Kindle but looked hard at the Kindle 2. I read about it before it was released and then looked at it and read reviews shortly after it was released. Finally, about a week ago, I place the order.

I requested overnight shipping with Saturday delivery. I was heading out of town and thought taking it with me would be a good test. The Kindle 2 arrived and I began to unbox it. Amazon seems to be taking lessons from Apple in terms packaging and the whole customer experience. The Kindle arrived as expected.

Kindle 1.jpg

I pulled the tear strip on the side of the box and folded back the top of the box to reveal another package. It was a black box as was the interior of the shipping container.

Kindle 2.jpg

I opened the inner container and found a cardboard top which I removed...

Kindle 3.jpg reveal the Kindle 2.

Kindle 4.jpg

I lifted it from the box and found the Quick Start booklet and the computer cable/AC adapter underneath.

Kindle 5.jpg

I then unpacked everything.

Kindle 6.jpg

I plugged the Kindle into the power adapter and removed the protective plastic cover.

When I turned on the Kindle for the first time I found some items were already pre-loaded. The user manual of course was already loaded. Why send a printed manual when the purpose of the device you just purchased is to read documents? I also found that the Kindle had already been registered to me so I was ready to make my first purchase.

So, what book did I first purchase? Why Great Powers by Thomas P M Barnett of course. I already had the hardback version but wanted it in Kindle format as well.

I took the Kindle with me on my trip and was able to read it a little bit. I found to be easy to read and enjoy the ability to vary the font size. I find that I usually read with the font set to the smallest size but as I get tired, or late at night, I will sometimes bump it up a size just to lessen the eye strain. I found it was easy to read in the car (not while driving of course). I also had it nearby during the meeting but did not have time to read it.

I did order a few accessories when I ordered the Kindle 2 but I opted for 2-Day delivery on them. Being an Amazon Prime member 2-day shipping was free and I really no need for the accessories until Monday. The accessories I purchased were the Amazon Kindle 2 Leather Cover
to keep the screen from getting scratched while in my computer bag, and the Mighty Bright XtraFlex2 Clip-On Light so I can read in the dark, on planes, etc. The light is necessary for low-light conditions because the screen is called electronic paper. It is not backlit which makes it easier to read for long periods of time.

As best I can tell, this is not a purchase I will regret. I always have a book or four nearby and with the Kindle 2 I can have some 1500 books with me. When I travel I will often pack 3 or 4 books just to have variety. I take the one I am currently reading and plan to finish it on the trip. I usually pack the next book I want to start, and then I will often pack one or two optional books.

With the Kindle I will be able to greatly reduce the weight of my bags, and be able to negotiate airports much easier. Any time I get on a plane I either have a book in hand or have one in my bag. If it is in my hand then I have to negotiate the boarding pass, the coffee cup, and the carry-on. The hardback books (I seldom anything but) can be difficult to manipulate without tearing the dust jacket. The Kindle will be much easier to manipulate plus it will eliminate the need to get into my carry-on in-flight to get the next book out.

There are a couple of things I'd like to see incorporated for the Kindle. First I'd like to have some reference to the page number of the physical book. Right now all the Kindle shows is the section which is a good reference but is not he page number. If the page number were available it would make it easier to discuss works in book clubs and also allow for referencing pages in academic works. I don't think many journals would accept a footnote referencing a section of the Kindle book...not just yet anyway.

Another feature I would like to see is the bundling of hard copy with electronic copy. I still like the look and feel of real live books that you can put on the shelf. I doubt I'll ever give up on them completely, but there is something to be said for the convenience of having them on the Kindle too. Although most Kindle books are only $9.99, some are more expensive, especially some of the newer books. For example, I paid almost as much for the Kindle version of Great Powers as I did the hardback version. I would gladly buy a hardback book and then pay $5 or $6 more to get the Kindle version with it. Perhaps Amazon is reading. (If not, I've emailed them already.)

What's on my Kindle now? Here are the books I have purchased to date:
Great Powers by Thomas P M Barnett
The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman
Winston Churchill by John Keegan
Types of Naval Officers, Drawn from the History of the British Navy by Alfred Thayer Mahan
Character & Success by Theodore Roosevelt
The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 - with all maps and illustrations by Alfred Thayer Mahan
UR by Stephen King
The Holy Bible English Standard Version (ESV)
US Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Bill of Rights, and Guide to US Government
by MobileReference

Along with the documents that came with the Kindle:
Welcome Letter from Jeff Bezos
Kindle 2 User's Guide
The New Oxford American Dictionary

Sara and I attended the American Council of Engineering Companies of Mississippi 2009 Engineering Excellence Awards program in Jackson, MS tonight. I was a judge for the projects entered into the competition and was invited and recognized for my service. The judging was fun and the program was good. The food was great and I did get to see many of my friends, some whom I have not seen in a while.

The guest speaker was Andy Taggart, former Chief of Staff for Governor Kirk Fordice and author of Mississippi Fried Politics: Tall Tales from the Back Rooms and Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2006, who delivered a moving talk entitled "Rebuilding An Economy When the Politics are Cracked."

He began by pointing out how he learned as a supervisor that it was common for local elected officials to fill potholes and overlay bad roads near election time. The problem is that if the road base has failed, there is no amount of work that can be done on the surface that will last. Any repairs are short-lived. The real fix has to be a repair of the base.

He then went on to say that Americans have been moving from crisis to crisis for the last several years. In 2006 it was terrorism and the government limited what we could carry onboard a plane. In 2007 it was the Iraq war. In the summer of 2008 it was gas prices and then in September 2008 it was the economy that had everyone concerned. He argued that we need to ensure our base is in good shape.

Years ago Taggart pointed out, I was common for people to have heated debates and arguments but still be friends. Now if someone disagrees with you it is because you are a bad person. We have lost some civility in our daily discourse. Taggart says our base is really summed in what he calls one of the most elegant passages in the English language: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." This, the second sentence from the Declaration of Independence, sums up what our base is. Taggart says we need to keep this in mind as we go through the next few years and remember what it is that makes us Americans and what has ensured our success as a nation in the past.

Taking Chance

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I, along with the family, watched Taking Chance on HBO. This is one of the best movies I have seen in a very long time, and is, in my opinion, what movies should be. It was very moving and relied on nothing but sheer acting skills, especially by Kevin Bacon. I have no doubt that it will many awards this year. When it makes it to DVD I will certainly buy a couple of copies for friends and family.

One interesting thing about this is that I know a Marine Colonel who knows Lt. Col Mike Strobl. In fact, while I was at the CWID MPC a week ago, he was invited to Washington, DC to see the premiere. That means that I know someone who knows someone who knows Kevin Bacon.

Update: Taking Chance is now available for pre-order at Amazon for $17.99 with a release date of 19 May 2009. The movie soundtrack is available now.

Strategic Thinker, I Am

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Yep, it was confrmed this weekend that I my leadership strength falls into the domain of Strategic Thinking. I read Strengths-Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie this weekend and used he code inthe back of the book to get my personal profile. I read StrengthsFinder 2.0 not too long ago (and Now, Discover Your Strengths before that) so I was able to log into the site nad use my strengths aready on file to get my leadership domain.

Based on their research, the authors found there were four leadership domains: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. Based on my top five strengths (out of the 34 they measure) of Learner, Strategic, Input, Achiever, and Intellection I fell into the Strategic Thinking domain. In fact, four ofmy five strengths (learner, strategic, input, and intellection) fell into the strategic thinking domain with my remaining strength of achiever falling into the Executing domain.

If you are familiar with the strengths movement then this would be a good book to get. You will not only get five strengths but you will also get your leadership domain. Strengths-Based Leadership does discuss the 34 strengths so there is a review. But, if you have not read any of the other books then you might start with one of them.

Victor H. Krulak, 1913-2008 "Military Innovator Who Sought New Approach to Battle in Vietnam," by. Stephen Miller. The Wall Street Journal, Vol. CCLIII, No. 2, Saturday/Sunday, 03-04 January 2009.

General Victor Krulak, 95, passed away on Monday, 29 December 2008. This is a nice review of his career and shows many ways in which he was a creative thinker. I recall discussing his ideas on how to win in Vietnam in my war college seminar and we all agreed that it was the only way to win that war. In fact, in places where it had been implemented, results were being realized. Unfortunately the American public was growing tired of the war and the method would take several years to win the war.

There are many parallels between General Krulak and General Petraeus. Both are innovative and sometimes unconventional. They have both forwarded ideas that were met with resistance. And, in the end, I think they both were correct while their critics were wrong.

His plan to win in Vietnam included winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people on a village by village basis one person at a time. It also included placing mines in Haiphong harbor which President Johnson thought might anger the Russians and/or Chinese. Therefore the President did not embrace this plan, passed over General Krulak for Commandant of the Marine Corps, and resulted in his retirement. As for the outcome of the war, well that is history.

I have finished well mostly finished, reclaiming shelf space in my many bookcases. I've spent the last couple of days tossing out old magazines and resolved to only keep the last year of most of them. When a new issue comes in, the oldest will go out. Exceptions are Naval Institute Proceedings and American Interest.

Using my Fujitsu ScanSnap Scanner I scanned all of my Naval War College notes and books, my Advanced Joint Professional Military Education notes, and a few other things. When all is said and done I have an extra 117-3/4 inches of shelf space.

A Sermon Delivered to
Trinity Presbyterian Church PC(USA)

29 June 2003

He shouldn't have been out of his room wandering the halls, trying to sneak into the restricted section of the library, but he was. He knew there were risks but he thought they were acceptable for he had his invisibility cloak, a mere piece of cloth that was delivered to him by an anonymous person which, when placed over the wearer, rendered them invisible. Surely with such a covering he could go where he wanted.

Privacy and Advertising

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11 February 2003

I'm willing to surrender a little privacy to gain a little convenience and eliminate much of the unwanted advertising I have to put with now. With the technology available, why do I still get calls wanting me to call an 800 number to find out about a vacation that is priced too low to disclose on my answering machine?

I would really like to eliminate most of the advertising I'm exposed to but I know that will never happen. Given that fact, then why not tailor the information to me. I have certain tastes and preferences. I like many different types of music but have never cared for country; why try to sell me a country CD? I like coffee and prefer the really dark and strong kind, a Folgers ad is a waste of time and money for me.

One of my favorite stores is The reason is really quite simple, I like books and Amazon is pretty good at letting me know when there is a book available that might interest me. The system is not perfect but it is pretty good and seems to be getting a little better. I can rate the books and music I purchased and that is used to determine if I might like a newly released book. The system is not perfect and it has missed some books that I would love to buy but it beats being bombarded with all kinds of notices that do not interest me.

The movie Minority Report shows advertising at its best. Walking down the street the billboards change to show you the ads that interest you. When you enter a store you are greeted by name and some items could be suggested to you.

Snap, Crackle, and Pop!

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11 January 2003

Okay, I must have missed something along the way. A few days ago I read a story about some software that allows the user to add noise, noise as in scratchy sounds, to digitally recorded music. So there is now software that allows you to take crystal clear digital music and add scratches, pops, and crackles. Unbelievable! Why would anyone possibly want this?

Somewhere, hidden behind several layers boxes and even more layers of dust, is my collection of albums; those twelve inch diameter disks of vinyl that I collected as a teenager and as a young adult. I certainly recall the pops that came from scratches and the hiss that came from static electricity and dust. I hated it, and it seems most everyone else hated it as well, for in that same box of albums you would also find a collection of sprays, cloths, static discharge devices, brushes and even specially coated sleeves, all designed and purchased with the intent of reducing the effects of dust and static on the records.

I remember that when cassette tapes first became popular I couldn't wait to switch to them because they would not suffer from the same static and scratch problems as did the vinyl records. Of course there were problems with cassette tapes too which were soon to be reduced by Dolby technology to eliminate that incessant hiss.

Compact disks were a godsend. Now I could truly listen to music without the hiss, without the pops, and not have to worry so much about the scratches as I once did. The CD's were also easier to store and carry than either tapes or vinyl disks. I can convert them to mp3's and listen to them on my computer and even download them to my Nomad II mp3 player which is much smaller than the once popular Sony Walkman, of which I had several.

But now people want to add noise to their clear digitally recorded music? I may have missed something along the way but I certainly have not missed the crackle and pop of music recorded on vinyl or the hiss of music recorded on tape. I'm just waiting now for someone to come up with the software that will add the click-click that happened when the 8-track players would change tracks (usually in the middle of a song). I'm afraid that before long someone is going to develop a device that you can add to your television so that you can watch shows in black and white with snowy and wavy pictures.

Well, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to listen to some mp3's and if I get an urge to hear some snaps, crackles, or pops, I'll go for fix myself a bowl of Rice Krispies.

Harry Potter and His Tattoo

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A Sermon Delivered to
Trinity Presbyterian Church PC(USA)

Starkville, MS

07 July 2002

I have a few confessions to make. My favorite snack is Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, my favorite sport is Quidditch, I would love nothing better than to ride a Nimbus 2000 broom and be the seeker on the Quidditch team. I've been sorted by the sorting hat into the House of Gryffindor and wish I could trade my email for Owl Mail. I think Hermione Granger is as cute as a button and she even reminds me a little of one of my fifth grade girlfriends. I am, I have to admit, a Harry Potter fan.

But I'm Too Busy to Help

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12 March 2002

Trinity is a volunteer organization. We have a few paid people, several who are underpaid, to take care of some of the work but there is not enough of them to go around. Our church is governed by the Session, sixteen volunteers. Our church work is done by the many committees. Our income is freely given by volunteers. The people in the chairs on Sunday morning are...volunteers. So the next time you are asked to do something for the church, remember, without your help, the work would not get done.

I've meet very few people at Trinity who were not busy. Some have said they had the time but I knew they were just being polite. They may have been unemployed at the time or retired but they still had commitments to be fulfilled to others. And it always seems that the people who are the busiest are the ones who quickly agree to do more. I know they are the one's we keep going back to ask for help.

I've wondered why the one's who do the most seem to be the one's who never say no and always get the job done. Last night I think I found the answer. While flipping through Bill Bennett's book, The Moral Compass, I ran across this poem. The author was not identified so I can only assume it was written by the prolific Anonymous, perhaps a volunteer. Read the poem and I think you will understand why we keep asking the same people to help. And please feel free to substitute woman, child, layperson, professional, gardener, or whatever you please. Trinity, perhaps more than most churches, realizes that we all have valuable contributions to volunteers.

The Busy Man

If you want to get a favor done
By some obliging friend,
And want a promise, safe and sure,
On which you may depend,
Don't go to him who always has
Much leisure time to plan,
But if you want your favor done,
Just ask the busy man.

The man with leisure never has
A moment he can spare,
He's always "putting off" until
His friends are in despair.
But he whose every waking hour
Is crowded full of work
Forgets the art of wasting time,
He cannot stop to shirk

So when you want a favor done,
And want it right away,
Go to the man who constantly
Works twenty hours a day.
He'll find a moment, sure, somewhere,
That has no other use.
And help you, while the idle man
Is framing an excuse.

William J. Bennett, The Moral Compass, Page 615.

Interstates and Christmas

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31 December 2001

It's hard to imagine life without Interstate highways. They allow us to get from place to place with ease, in relative safety, and save us some time in the process. I truly can not imagine travel without them. But they are lacking in something that the older two-lane US highways were not--character. The old roads had character, character given them by the towns they passed through and the billboards that lined them.

Not Teaching Our Children by Example

02 October 2001

In the wake of the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, Americans and many others have been extremely generous with their money, time, and efforts. They have shown what it is like to care for others and to share with those who are in need--a trait common in most every religion in the world--and certainly one most parents would want their children to learn and practice. What better opportunity can you have than the terrible events of the recent past to show the children of today that they should give to others who are less fortunate and to reinforce the lessons they have been taught? And what better place is there to reinforce this lesson than in our schools?

By "we" in this articl I refer to Southerners, of which I am one. Had I been alive then it is hard for me to say which side I would have fought on because I am really a Federalist at heart and would have had a hard time favoring a divided country.

04 March 2001

I've never been one to give the Confederate flag much thought. Recent events have brought the flag up in various arenas. The NAACP is boycotting South Carolina; yet another bill to have it removed from the Mississippi Flag has been filed; and political candidates have been quizzed when they visited states. The flag seems to stir emotions on both sides and I've, for the most part, found the reasoning to be silly--on both sides of the argument.

Salter, Sowell, and Symbols

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26 November 2000

There comes a time when something that has never been an issue all of a sudden becomes one for you. This happened to me a few weeks ago. I've never much been concerned about the Confederate flag, whether it is flown singularly or as part of the Mississippi state flag. I truly believe that there are much more important things that we should be dealing with at this time, but others have deemed the flag to be the most important.

Those Whom We Have Forgotten

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It is hard to believe that it was about twenty years ago when I made my first trip to Washington, DC. It was the summer of my freshmen year in college and I had been working at a steel fabrication plant for the last several months earning some money for college and gaining some work experience. As the summer drew to a close, I mentioned to parents that I would like for us all to go to Wash-ington and see the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I pointed out that it would be the last time we could take a vacation as a family and that it was probably the last chance I would have to see Washington. I was right about the vacation, I was married the following summer and we have not had family vacations since; I was wrong about it being my last time to see Washington, the Navy has seen fit to provide me with many opportunities to visit the center of democracy.

Robert's Ramblings: Redux

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Almost ten years ago I began publishing a very sporadic newsletter I called "Robert's Ramblings" I sent it to friends and family mainly. It was nothing more than an outlet for my writings, bad as they were and are. I have no idea how many were read and how many were sent directly to the circular file, but some have been read because I've been asked a time or two what happened to Robert's Ramblings.

Well, what happened is they became my weblog. So, to make the transition complete, I am renaming my blog to Robert's Ramblings and am publishing, for completeness, some of those earlier articles and sermons. I begin with the letter I sent with the first edition of Ramblings followed by the other articles in chronological order.

Resolutions for 2009

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I'm not one to make New Year's Resolutions because hey are too easily broken and I see no reason to wait until the New Year to start something. But this year, just once, I'm going to break this rule and make some resolutions.

In 2009 I resolve to:

1) Start and finish my dissertation.
2) Read at least one book each two weeks. I really wanted to do one per week but that could get in the way of resolution number 1.
3) Write/blog on a more regular basis.
4) Get in better physical shape.

Reading Habits of President Bush

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"Bush Is a Book Lover," by Karl Rove, Wall Street Journal, Friday, 26 December 2008, Vol. CCLII, No. 150, p. A11.

This is an insightful article into the reading habits of our president. What began as a New Year's resolution in 2006, to read a book a week, became a competition between Karl Rove and President Bush. Rove, like many of us, had gotten out of the habit of reading as much as he used to and decided to turn things around. President Bush joined in and it was soon a competition. Rove has won each year but that is not important, what is important is that if someone as busy as the President of the United States still finds time to read, it makes it difficult for most of us to say we do not have the time to read.

The scores: 2006 Rove 110, Bush 95; 2007 Rove 76, Bush 51; 2008 (as of today) Rove 64, Bush 40. The President has also read the Holy Bible cover to cover each year through his daily devotional. The books have ranged from history to biography and even included some fiction.

Some points I found interesting in the article are on Bush's theory of competition. Rove states:

"The reading competition reveal Mr. Bush's focus on goals. It's not about the winning. A good-natured competition helps keep him centered and makes possible a clear mind and a high level of energy."

"There is a myth perpetuated by Bush critics that he would rather burn a book than read one. Like so many caricatures of the past eight years, this one is not only wrong, but also the opposite of truth and evidence that bitterness can devour a small-minded critic. Mr. Bush loves books, learns from them, and is intellectually engaged by them."

According to Rove, the President is never without a book. He reads instead of watching television and reads on Air Force One. To read as much as he does, he obviously reads most anywhere he can. It reminds me of a story I read about William F. Buckley a few years ago that pointed out he always had a book with him. I also always have a book with me. You never know when the car might break down or you might have some time to yourself. When I know I am going somewhere that will require a wait (the doctor, the dentist, to get a haircut) I always take my own book. It is nice to have magazines in a waiting area but I prefer to take my own books.

I'm not much for New Year's resolutions but this year I may have to break my tradition.

"Military Finds an Unlikely Adviser In School-Building Humanitarian," by Yochi J. Dreazen. Wall Street Journal, Friday 26 December 2008, Vol CCLII, No. 150, p. A9.

The military is listening to Greg Mortenson a co-author of Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time. Mr. Mortenson is being courted by the military now for advice on nation building. He believes that building schools is an effective way to fight Islamic extremism. He has already visited with Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen.

"General Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, read Mr. Mortenson's book, which recounts his school-building efforts, and recommends it to his staff." Nation-building, something once abhorred by the military has now become a part of the military strategy. People like General Petraeus are, I believe, responsible for much of this. In the past he military was quick to divide fighting wars and rebuilding following the war. The military did the former, NGOs, aka civilians, did the latter, but in the new age of warfare it is more difficult to divide these two phases, especially when fighting an insurgency where winning hearts and minds is critical to winning the war.

"Education is the long-term solution to fanaticism,: says Col. Christopher Kolenda, who commanded an Army brigade in a part of eastern Afghanistan where Mr. Mortenson founded two schools. "As Greg points out so well, ignorance breeds hatred and violence."

This seems so obvious but many of us tend to miss the obvious. Not only does "ignorance breeds hatred and violence" apply to Islamic insurgents; it applies to people across the world. When you look at those who are the most racist, the most protectionist, and most violent also tend to be the most ignorant. Let's face it, when was the last time you read about a gang of Ph.D.s terrorizing a neighborhood?

Mr. Mortenson has come face-to-face with an issue that concerns me and one I have been looking into for several years--the military-NGO incompatibility. When offered to have $2.2 million secretly funneled to him to build schools, he "...realized my credibility in that part of the world depended on me not being associated with the American government, especially its military." This is a sad yet real part of the world in which we live. NGOs and the military could do great things by working together but there are serious issues which must be overcome and the most serious issue is the one of perception.

Mr. Mortenson has another book coming out in January. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Journey to Change the World... One Child at a Time, scheduled to be released on 22 January 2009 is geared for younger readers. If his first book is recommended reading by General Petraeus to his staff, surely this one will be recommended to the children of his staff.

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

A Really Nice Christmas

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As is now our tradition, we stayed home for Christmas and enjoyed it for the most part. I am sad in that this is the last my daughter will be with us before she gets married next year. So, we made the best of it. We opened gifts when we woke up and I had a great time--I always enjoy giving presents more than receiving them. Kathryn was tickled with her pink GPS (Garmin nuvi 250 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator (Pink)). No need to ask about technical specifications, accuracy, or availability of up-to-date maps, what is important is that it is PINK!

Sara made steak and eggs for breakfast which was really good. We ate together and talked. Nice change of pace. Later in the day, as everyone grew lazy, I started cleaning out some desk drawers--something I usually do over the holidays but missed last year. I got rid of a lot of junk and got most everything organized for the new year.

As for my gifts, Sara took a stab at my Amazon wish list and got me War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Today by Max Boot, The Past as Prologue: The Importance of History to the Military Profession edited by Williamson Murray and Richard Hart Sinnreich, and two DVDs--Fail-safe (Special Edition) with Henry Fonda and Walter Matthau and A&Es Biography - Admiral William . Sara and Kathryn also "gave" me The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Standard Edition by J. K. Rowling. I say "gave" because I picked up three copies while on a trip and gave one to each of them and they "gave" one to me.

When it Rains, It Pours

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When it rains it pours--literally. My daughter was visiting her fiancé's parents over the last two days and was ready to come home today. Her car starting acting up and she didn't want to drive it home. Fortunately we have AAA Premier and they covered a tow home where we will have it looked at after Christmas. And it was raining to boot. I just picked her up and now we are heading to church.

Tom Barnett is ticked off a Chicago and I can't blame him. All the man wanted to do was take his son to a Packers game but was berated most of the time by the Bears fans. He claims he will not go back to Chicago or spend any more money there.

It reminds me of the last time I attended a game at the University of Mississippi. It was for the Egg Bowl and the University of Mississippi had won. The weather was lousy, it had rained most, if not all, of the game, and it was Thanksgiving. I was patted down by security on the way in, apparently confusing with the drunks they are used to having at their games. (By the way, what University in the nation has been told by a federal judge that they need to get their student drinking problem under control?) As I was walking back to the car where the rest of my family and friends were waiting, I saw a guy come running up behind us, jumped on a guy's back who was walking with his wife and son, and made a very crude statement. It was at that time that I decided I had attended my last function on that campus.

In my case there was no bright side. In the case of tom Barnett, his son at least said he enjoyed the time they spent together. That says a lot about the relationship they have and I have no doubt that his son will grow up to be a fine young man--who shows much more class than fans of the Chicago Bears.

Arrived in Norfolk Despite Delta

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Another flight on Delta and another comedy of errors. I left Starkville with no problems. It does irk me a little that when I travel I always take the same stuff and pack the same way. Most times I sail through security, other times they want to search everything. I can’t imagine why the difference. Heck, even some of the TSA agents know me now and talk to me. I got to Atlanta with no problems, had time to stop at Starbucks, and then got on the plane. We even left on time. Of course I immediately noticed that we quit climbing and started banking which meant only one thing—we were returning to Atlanta. The problem was the throttle on one engine was sticking and pilots wanted it checked.

Once we got to back to the gate maintenance took a look and the pilot announced that sometimes the baggage handlers packed the bags too tightly which forces the ceiling of the cargo hold up a little and can bind the throttle cable. After a little while everyone was pretty much convinced that was the problem but not enough to fly the plane. So, we deplane and go to another gate. They announce a departure time of 5:30 and we board the plane accordingly. We are all ready to go but there are no pilots. Not only that, there is no air conditioning. We were getting hot and the flight attendants were trying to get maintenance to turn on the air conditioning. Finally one pilot shows up, then another. But we don’t move. The new problem is that the caterer took the drinks off the old flight and moved them to the wrong gate. We were grounded because of soft drinks.

While we are waiting for the drinks to arrive, the Delta messenger service starts sending me email messages every five minutes telling me we are leaving in five minutes. Finally, we leave and trust me, by the time I was served a soft drink on this flight, we could have landed in Norfolk had we not waited for the drinks. The crew and the flight attendants were as nice and helpful as they could be but there are some serious management issues with Delta. I also continue to be bothered by the number of mechanical problems that are discovered in flight.

But, the good news is I am in Norfolk with friends and an exciting week of work ahead.

Third Place in Chili Cookoff

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I won third place in the Mississippi State Scabbard and Blade Honor Society Chili Cookoff today. I made the chili last night and let it cook all night. The judging was today at 1100 in front of Middleton Hall. I was not expecting to win, this was my first entry, so I am very happy. Even better, one of the members of my Day One Action Team from last year won first place!

I had to joke that those running this copetition had to be future contracting officers. They require you to buy the ingedients to make the chili, that you pay a $10 entr fee, and then they sell the chili for $1.00 per bowl. Only a contracting office couldwork such a deal. Of course I was only joking. The proceeds went to support the Sacbbard and Blade Society and the Intrepid Fallen Heros fund--two very worthy causes.


Lunch with WWII Veterans

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I had the privilege of having lunch today with America’s finest. The Sony Montgomery Center for America’s Veterans hosted a luncheon for World War II veterans today on the campus of Mississippi State I was fortunate enough to be invited. I met some really wonderful people who answered their nation’s call and to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude. In addition to lunch, we also viewed the PBS documentary on the World War II memorial in Washington, DC.

My only regret is that my grandfather was not around to be invited. I was able to eat with several people today who reminded me of him in many ways. On the one hand I was tremendously proud of what he did. On the other hand it brought back memories and made me realize how much I still miss him.

What a man! I attended the Colin Powell talk tonight and was more than impressed. I read his autobiography many years ago and was impressed then but seeing him in person was even more impressive. He is clearly a very intelligent person and has a keen sense of humor. His talk was informative and entertaining.

We had some students present who embarrassed me, and their fellow students. Some kid (yes, kid) showed up on the floor wearing a “colorful” t-shirt and black and white checked shorts. Most everyone else was wearing business dress. Perhaps he thought he was cool, but I, and even the students sitting near me, thought he was ridiculous and an embarrassment to the university. Some students even called that he be taken off the floor.

Questions were submitted to General Powell and read by students who apparently had some role in deciding which questions to ask. One question dealt with how you could work with someone and work on topics you disagreed with. The implication was that General Powell continued to work on the Iraq war even though he disagreed with President Bush. The General set the student straight and noted that the question assumed he and the president disagreed. He clearly stated that he did not. He was in agreement with going to war but differed in how things were handled after the fall of Baghdad. Another question was so boggled and senseless I can’t even remember what it was. I only remember that the General did a great job in handling it with dignity. I was impressed with the answers given but disappointed in the questions asked.

His talk covered his time in the military, his time as SecState, retirement, and his outlook on life--he looks ahead, not to the rear.

General Powell is definitely a speaker to hear given a chance.

I attended the 2008 Air Force Ball in Columbus tonight with my wife. I was there actually representing the Greater Starkville Development Partnership Military Affairs Committee but Navy uniforms were authorized so I added a touch in joint service. It was held celebrating the 61st birthday of the Air Force and the 66th anniversary of Columbus Air Force Base. We had a good time, with good food, with good people. Harding Catering handled the food and I have never had Bridget serve anything I didn’t like.

The guest speaker tonight was Major General Michael Gould, Director of Operations and Plans, US Transportation Command. He did a really good job with is talk. Like most, not all, but most, flag and general officers he was able to give a talk that was on topic, had the right amount of humor and serious content, and was of an appropriate length. Sounds like it is easy to do until you try it yourself and realize how difficult it can be. Of course the central theme was the excellence of the Air Force and the pride in CAFB and among those serve. But the greater theme was family and keeping them first. He made some excellent points but, unfortunately, it is difficult to do, especially in today’s world with today’s OPTEMPO. On the other hand, by doing what we do, we allow others to have that family time.

My wife and I actually danced to two songs. Doesn’t sound like much but for someone who does not dance (me) it was a lot of dancing. I really did enjoy the night. Happy Birthday Air Force!

"Read, Think, Write, and Publish' by Admiral Jim Stavridis, U.S. Navy, US Naval Institute Proceedings, August 2008, pp.16-19.

In the August 2008 issue of Proceedings, Admiral Jim Stavridis, USN, Commander of US Southern Command makes a compelling case for military officers, actually military members, to air their ideas. In his article entitled “Read, Think, Write, and Publish”, he quotes Benjamin Franklin as saying “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing” and then Admiral Stavridis adds, “Do both!” The John Adams motto “Read, Think, Write” has long since been adopted by the Naval Institute, and is also my personal motto, and now Admiral Stavridis asks that we all adopt it but take it a step further and publish. [John Adams actually said “Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”]

Such a request is not without its risks, however. Putting ideas out in the open can be a dangerous thing at many levels, especially at the personal level. Reciting the widely-accepted mantra of the day, or merely restating the obvious is usually not risky. But then again, it accomplishes very little. The best writings, in my opinion, are those that get people to think. Even if in the end the opinion expressed is not widely accepted or the idea is relegated to the trash can, the act of getting the thought started is worth the effort. Of course the audience must be willing to listen and willing to have an open debate and that, unfortunately, is not always the case. When an unpopular opinion is expressed publicly, whether is right or wrong, does not matter, it can carry a high personal price. This is something I recently learned the hard way.

My former church had been going through rough times. The internal issues, which are too numerous to list here, but which were, in my opinion, not being addressed. The Session was, again in my opinion, too concerned about not hurting feelings or not offending someone than they were in doing the work they were supposed to be doing. Now I must be clear here that this is not a condemnation of any individual member on the Session or in the church—the problem was one of the organization as an entity. There were strong members of Session but the Session as a whole was unwilling to look at the problems. Membership growth had stalled, if not declined; weekly attendance was falling; the number of people removing their names from elder ballot was rising; and the minister was being blamed for all of this. Sermons were, according to those dissatisfied, “too intellectual”, “too long”, “not exciting”, and a host of other things.

The church, over my objection and against my vote, removed the minister and then pronounced the problem was solved and we needed only a healing period. I was ready to leave then, like many of my friends did, but I stayed in hopes of being able to get things back on-track. However, what followed were group discussions and surveys which resulted in little and ignored those of us who were not into group therapy. Further, those like me were being told that we needed to get with the plan. But I had a finger on the pulse of the church membership and I knew that roughly a third of the church members attended so sporadically that they were clueless as to what was happening. Another third was happy because they “got their way”. The final third was still hurt, not happy with the things were going, but were either sticking it out to try to make things better (like me) or were sticking around because they did not feel comfortable going to another church.

Recognizing this I chose to write an article for the church newsletter. I had written them in the past and they often would stimulate some thinking. The article was entitled “A Message to Garcia” and referred to the story by Elbert Hubbard which recounted the struggles of Rowan to deliver a message to General Garcia in the Spanish-American War. I pointed out that there were those of us who were still not healed and that problems remained the church. I acknowledged that there were also Rowans’ within the church who were trying to deliver the message that all was not well. Interestingly, I also pointed out that the motto of our church was “Open hearts, open minds”, in hopes that the message would be heard.

What I found was that the church seemingly no longer had an open mind. The reactions to my article ranged from “I was wrong, everything was fine”, to “who is Garcia?” There were also those who came up to me and thanked me for saying what needed to be said. Rather than stimulate debate it raised defenses of those who wanted to pronounce the church healed. Further, it was stated that if I had concerns I should take them to the Session and not publish such articles. There was even brief discussion of having Session or a committee review articles before being published. Call it what you will but in my book the church with open minds was seriously discussing censorship.

The price I paid was coming to the conclusion that it was time to leave. I hated to leave; I had really hoped that things would turn around and get better. I joined another congregation in town and have been very happy ever since. They put God first in the church and their membership is growing. My old church has seen little to no growth and even fewer members are leaving their names on the ballot for elder elections. They now have a new minister and I truly pray things get better. However, before I left, the interim minister resigned. I have this hope because there is a need for such a church and because I still have friends who attend there. There are also some friends who attend there, share many of my thoughts and concerns but, for whatever reasons, are not comfortable joining another church.

I still agree with Admiral Stavridis and John Adams, but I am now keenly aware that reading and writing do not necessarily result in thinking, and there may well be a high personal cost associated with the publishing.

Back in July I made a presentation on engineering ethics to the annual meeting of the Consulting Engineers Councils of Alabama and Mississippi in Panama City Beach, Florida. I had planned to turn it into a little mini-vacation but my wife broke both her ankles and couldn’t travel. It turned into a quick drive down, do the presentation, and get back home—two nights and one day away.

I tend to be very critical on myself and I gave myself a B or B- on the presentation. But I just got the feedback sheets and it looks like the audience gave me an A to A+. Some comments were that the best part of the presentation was the presenter! Can’t beat that. I always sweat these presentations because ethics can be a very boring and very difficult topic to present.

Generation Entitlement

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The Navy and the Generation of Entitlement, by LCDRSteven L. Rogers, USN, Naval Reserve Association News, August 2008, p. 14.

This commentary struck a chord with me. The article mentioned that we have the baby boomers, the Gen-X and Gen-Y crowd, and even the Millennials, but the author described a new generation he calls Generation Entitlement. This is the generation that my generation messed up by trying to make sure they did not do without. It seemed like a good idea at the time but now I think we, and they, would have been better served by experiencing a little more adversity in their lives.

LCDR Rogers points out that “[t]hese individuals question all authority, care little about tradition, and refuse to embrace a work ethic which requires ‘earning your way’.” He also states they are arrogant, self-serving, and impatient. He says they do not belong in the Navy and I would add they do not belong anywhere.

Before I run the risk of generalizing about an entire generation, let me be the first to add that within this generation are a large number of exceptions. These are the people who are hard-working, dedicated, and believe in sacrifice. They look at what has been given them not as an entitlement but rather as a gift to be used to better themselves and society. They really are out there and I have had the privilege of meeting them.

However, I have also had more than my fair share of meeting the self-serving Gen E’ers. Over the last few days I have been dealing with more than fair share of them. They have been asked to sit out of school for various periods of time because of poor academic performance and have been petitioning for readmission. Far too many have had parents and distant relative intervene on their behalf. I have heard all kinds of excuses as to how they got in trouble and how not they really will work hard to do better. Some really have identified their difficulties and taken action to correct the problems. Others simply want a bye because they feel entitled.

I also have the privilege and honor of dealing with many other students who have shown remarkable maturity and insight. They have recognized problems that they have and are working to correct those problems. They are the students I like. They realize why they are in school and know that their success depends on them. Even though some of them have found themselves in trouble I have never spoken to their parents about those difficulties. I do know that their parents care, and care deeply, but they are letting their children handle the problems while they provide emotional support. These students will be successful. They are going places and I am proud to be a part of their journey. The others are destined for either failure or a big wake-up call in the future.

As for me, I much prefer those who do not feel they are entitled.

Father's Day Present

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Due to my travel scheule and my daughter's schedule as well, when I got home from Pittsburgh she had my Father's Day present waiting. She gave me a bear that she made and naed Commander Unsat. I was very touched that she took the time to make the bear for me and the name is a bit of an inside joke betwen us which makes it even more special. I'll try to post a picture later but for now, here is the birth certificate.


I’ve never really liked Gore Vidal. I don’t know why, I just have never cared fro the man or for his writing. I also feel a bit queasy when I hear someone quoting him as if some special knowledge has been imparted to him that everyone else missed. The “What I’ve Learned” article on him in the June Esquire I think explains why I’ve never cared for the man.

Some quotes from that article:

I’ve developed a total loathing for McCain, conceited little asshole. And he thinks he’s wonderful. I mean, you can just tell, this little simper of self-love that he does all the time. You just want to kick him.

You got to meet everyone—Jackie Kennedy, William Burroughs.” People always put that sentence the wrong way around. I mean, why not put it the true way, that these people got to meet me, and wanted to? Otherwise it sounds like I spent my life hustling around trying to meet people” Oh , look, there’s the governor.

I wasn’t like everyone, you know. What everyone did, I was sure not to do it.

I went into a line of work in which jealousy is the principle emotion between practitioners. I don’t think I ever suffered from it, because there was no need. But I was aware of it in others, and I found it a regrettable fault.

And this man find McCain conceited? Never liked Vidal, never will. This article convinced me I was right in not liking him. I am still bothered that so many people conitnue to listne to him as if he has some grreat insight into the world.

Made a presentation to a very small audience at the Institute of Industrial Engineers Region 3 Student Conference today but enjoyed it. I retooled my engineering ethics talk for this audience and made is significantly shorter. The conference seemed to go well but it looked like many of the sessions were not very well attended with the possible exception of the talks given my potential employers. Can’t fault the students—I would not have been much interested in a talk on ethics on a Saturday morning either.

The highlight of the conference was getting to see a former student who I really liked when she is in school. I am pleased she is doing well. I also missed the keynote address by another student I knew, but did not know she was doing the keynote.

Tomorrow will be a quick trip to Jackson for the Mississippi Engineering Society Board of Directors meeting in the afternoon. A trip back home tomorrow night, followed with a presentation to the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors on Monday. Then, I have another trip back to Jackson for the MES awards banquet where I get to present the MES Outstanding Engineering Student award to a remarkable student. I do dread the travel but I do look forward to the award presentation.

Somewhere in all of this, I have to find some time and figure out this dissertation thing.

Love my Tom Tom

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I knew that having my Tom Tom navigation system that my wife gave me for Christmas would be fun, and I had hoped that it would be useful. Today it proved to be both. I am in New Orleans for drill and this is the first time for me to drill here and it has been a long time since I was in New Orleans.

I left a little later than I expected so I got stuck on I-10 in rush hour traffic and my gas was getting low. I figured I could make it to the hotel on a tank of gas but it would be close. Since I like living on the edge every now and then I thought I’d try it out. Well, as I sat in traffic I started to doubt I could make it all the way and I did want to be sitting in traffic waiting for AAA to deliver gas. So, I punched the screen a time or two and the Tom Tom was displaying the gas stations near me. I told it to navigate to one and I got there without a problem. Then I told Tom Tom to navigate to the hotel, expecting it to take me back to the Interstate. Nope, it found a faster route (especially given traffic) through some back roads.

It is a great toy and even greater tool. Thanks Sara!

What Happened to Manners?

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I went to see a movie with my wife tonight, a movie my wife says will be our last to see at a theater. The film was good; Denzel Washington and the entire cast of The Great Debaters were outstanding. The movie was an inspiring story of an underdog coming out on top and demonstrated the importance of family, the need to focus on goals, and included several lessons that we all should heed. One of my favorite quotes is from an exchange between Forest Whitaker and Denzel Whitaker who played the father-son team of James Farmer, Sr. and James Farmer, Jr.: “[W]e do what we have to do so that we can do what we want to do.” Ah, if only people would learn that lesson.

So, what made the movie so bad? Well, first there were only a total of six people in the theater, four others besides us. Two were apparently a mother-daughter team, the other and young, and I mean high school (maybe) couple. The apparent daughter of mother-daughter couldn’t sit still. She made at least six trips from her seat out of the theater. And when she was in the theater she was talking most of the time—talking, not whispering.

As for the teenage romance crew? They are a little tougher to gauge. I still can’t decide which is worse, to be the guy who passed gas LOUDLY several times during the movie, or to be the girl who laughed at him and stayed with him. I’m sure both mothers would have been proud!

I really don’t know why things are this way here. I go to other towns and other movie theaters where people are well-behaved and well-mannered. I went to one in Newport News, Virginia and they actually put a message up on the screen before the movie began asking the patrons to please use the trash cans on their way out of the theater. Guess what? They did. The people actually picked up their trash and dropped in the trash can!

Thanksgiving Day with Family

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My wife, daughter, and I spent the day visiting my parents and grandmother. My great Aunt and some cousins were there as well. I enjoyed the visit but I do not like the trip. It is not that long but it is incredibly boring. I do not know how a road could possibly go through country that had any less interesting things to see.

I did get to see my grandmother who has been moved into a personal care home. She is not very happy there from talking to her but she is making the best of it. My daughter and I took her over to her house for a while and helped her get a few things she wanted to take back with her. As we were going through things she was trying to give us some things. She wanted me to have one of my grandfather's wallets and I was just not ready to take it. It has been almost six years my grandfather died and I am still not ready to take any of his things. Hardly a day goes by that I don't think about him in some form or fashion.

I did take one item though, mainly because it was not really his. After my grandfather died, one of his nieces had him listed in the World War II Memorial register. My grandmother gave me the certificate she received. I need to have him listed with the Navy Memorial as well. My grandfather meant a lot to me and helped me become who I am today. I am happy my daughter got to know him fairly well before he died.


WSJ 27-28 October 2007, p. A1

So is this where public science education has brought us? The Wall Street Journal discussed two children who were struck by lightning while inside playing video games. What part of lightning and electronics were these poor souls not taught? Obviously there are simply not enough qualified science teachers to give our youth the basics of a science education so that they can figure this out for themselves. And even more unfortunate, I am certain none of them are reading the Wall Street Journal, if they are reading anything at all.

Ridiculous Item of the Day

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I read this and was simply amazed. First, there is a Flight Attendant who is not familiar with the term “fair dinkum”; second s/he confuses it with a “swear word”; and third, s/he considers uttering it to be “swearing at an attendant”. Did it ever occur to this attendant to ask the passenger what “fair dinkum” meant? Perhaps it didn’t, but I am sure a flight attendant does not have the authority to call the police to a gate at the airport which means she had to report this incident to someone who does have that authority. Why did this person then not follow up and ask a few simple questions?

I am sure that the passenger was embarrassed and I can only hope that the flight attendant, the pilot, and Delta are incredibly embarrassed by this. What if instead of being an Australian English-speaker this passenger had been Italian and had uttered a swear word in Italian? How would the flight attendant have known that it was a swear word? Given this attendant is not very well-read I suspect you could have “cussed up a blue streak” at them in another language and they would have never known. This law of “swearing at attendants” is yet another ridiculous over-reaction to security.

I'll not fault the attendant (too much) for not knowing what "fair dinkum" means, but I do fault him/her for not asking. There are many things I do not know but I do try to ask questions.

Did someone pass a law making it illegal to use common sense? Think people!

Coors Tour!

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I toured the Coors brewery in Golden Colorado today with the NSPE group. For the most part I enjoyed the tour but would have preferred a more technical tour. This was pretty much the same tour any tourist would get. Not bad though. Mid-way through the tour we got to sample 3 to 5 day old beer and it was good. At the conclusion of the tour we got three free samples. I tried Coors Banquet (original), Kilian’s, and Molson. I thought it but just could not bring myself to try the Zima.

Something like 70% of Coors sold is Coors Light, which make me wonder why people bother to drink beer at all.




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Rockies vs LA Dodgers--rained out. I was disappointed. We had a 100 years of engineering licensure celebration reception scheduled at the Club of Coors Field. While on the bus from the hotel to the stadium the rain started...and it got worse. We got off the bus and ran to the gate to keep as dry as we could.

The reception was nice. I spent some time with fellow engineers from other states as the rain fell and the lightening struck. It did not look like things were getting better and they didn't. Eventually the game was cancelled.

I had a good time but would have liked to have seen the game. Oh well, such is life.




I really have to ask myself, Has Delta Airlines ever flown a plane before? We were scheduled to leave the Golden Triangle Regional airport 20 minutes late. That was no surprise from an airline that can only make 73% of its flights on time. What was surprising was that once we got on the plane we had to wait for an additional 5 minutes for the infamous paperwork. What were they doing with that extra 20 minutes for crying out loud!?

We finally land in Atlanta and pull up to the gate only to stop and wait. I’ve done that enough too so I was not surprised by that. But then we were told that we had to change gates. I’ve changed gates before too but this was the first change of terminals. Now, I’m already running late due to the “scheduled” delay, then the extra five minutes make it even later, and then we change from ‘C’ to ‘E’ terminal which makes it an even longer walk/ride to my connecting flight in Terminal ‘B’. With some praying, fast walking, and some running, I made the flight, only to find my seat occupied by someone who can not read the seating charts.

What is up with Delta? Are they that clueless that they wait until planes actually pull up to the gate before they realize they can’t stop there? Can they not plan better? And oh, by the way, the weather was fine so the standard “weather delay” lie does not apply. These people simply can not run an airline and perhaps should have never come out of bankruptcy. I think it is time that we get rid of the deadweight and let those who can compete be able to compete and make a fair profit.

As for me, that is probably my last flight out of GTR. I think it is better to drive to another airport, one that is not served by ASA Airlines, my “Delta Connection”. It is probably worth driving to Atlanta to fly. I suspect my total time, including the drive to Atlanta, would be less than messing with ASA which only makes the Delta flights even worse.

The other advantage of going to a major airport is that the TSA bozos will be able to scan my checked baggage rather than rummage through it like they at GTR. These bozos pretty much toss the contents of my luggage which honestly defeats the purpose of packing. Might as well just toss the stuff in and zip it up.

Grandmother Getting Old

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My parents had to put my grandmother in a nursing home today because they simply can not take care of her like she needs to be taken care of. She has been to the hospital several times lately and it is too difficult for my parents to move her without risking further injury. Of course nothing serious was wrong with her but she has to go.

Fortunately she will be able to get good care. When my grandfather retired, he and I discussed his retirement options over a period of several days. He ultimately decided to take an option that would result in lower monthly payments but, in the event he died first, essentially the same monthly payment would be made to my grandfather. I agreed with his decision and it turns out, unfortunately, that we were both right—she did out live him.

I’m not sure how things will go at “the home”. I have seen elderly people enter only to give up all hope and die within a few months. I have seen others flourish as a result of the increased companionship. My grandmother had been getting out of the house much anyway so I am fairly confident that she will actually do better in the home.

The other problem is the guilt that I know my parents must feel now. They did the best they could but they have their own problems to deal with as well. While they are not in bad health, they are suffering from minor problems that limit what they can do. They will also be able to make regular visits so it is not as if they have shipped my grandmother off to no where.

This has made me stop and think though. I am not looking forward to getting old. I still remember my grandmother from when I was a very small boy. She and my grandfather, just like my parents, could and would do anything for me. Even after I got married, she washed our clothes and cooked many meals for us so that my wife and I could focus on completing college. When my daughter came along, about four years later, they did the same for her. All in all I am lucky, albeit a bit sad about all of this.

I went with the family tonight to see License to Wed with Robin Williams. I enjoyed the movie and found it to be pretty funny most of the way through. But then again, it is hard to not laugh at Robin Williams. I’m still not a big Mandy Moore fan but she was pretty good in this movie not that it mattered…Williams carried the movie.

So far my favorite in a while remains Live Free or Die Hard which we saw with Doug and Beverly in Virginia last week. That was a non-stop action movie.


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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!

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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Had a nice Christmas Day without being rushed to be anywhere or to do anything, just relax and take it easy. We slept in a little, not too much, but a little, got up and had some coffee, and then opened our gifts. I got DVDs from my wife and daughter: Walk the Line (I like Johnny Cash but hate country music—go figure), Season One of The Unit, and Season Five of 24.

Of course I’d much rather give than receive so I enjoying my wife and daughter opening their gifts. They seemed happy but not surprised: they never are because I always seem to get them what they want.

Other gifts had come in earlier in the month. We all got some much appreciated money from my parents and grandmother, gift cards from sister, and other gifts people here and there. All were very nice and appreciated. We get together with my wife’s family and exchange gifts later.


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My daughter sang a solo at church today. All I can say is, Wow! She really has a very nice voice, always has, but it has become even better over the last few years. She is projecting much better and is more confident in front of audiences. I was, and am, very proud of her.


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Dateline: Home Study

I received my iPod today, the 80Gb video version in black. I regrettably gave up on my Dell Digital Jukebox and went over to the iPod. The reasons were several. Dell no longer sells the Digital Jukebox and there are dozens of other mp3 players out there. I wonder how long I could expect the other brands to survive. But Apple seems to have gottin it right. The Dell DJ was heavy and bulky, but functional. The iPod is just as functional, smaller, and lighter.

I've switced over from MusicMatch to iTunes and am getting more familiar with the iTunes interface. iTunes also has some of the tunes I want but have not been able to find on MusicMatch. I also like the business model of iTunes--the software is free and you only pay for the songs. MusicMatch charged if you wanted the more functional version of the software, charged for upgrades, and charged for the songs.

Dateline: Home Study

The Dean gave us all a copy of the book Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton and asked that we find our strengths. The thesis of the book is that employers and employees focus on improving their weaknesses rather than capitalizing on their strengths. Through thousands of surveys, the authors, who are associated with Gallup, identified some 34 traits, or strengths, in people around the world.

When you get the book, you also get a code that allows you to complete a strengths assessment they call StrengthsFinder. We are all taking the assessment and will discuss or strengths at a staff meeting later.

My strengths, or Signature Themes, are (taken from the web site):

    Learner: People strong in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.

    Futuristic: People strong in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future.

    Strategic: People strong in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

    Input: People strong in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.

    Achiever: People strong in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.

If you want to know more about what all of those mean, then you'll need to buy the book (and Input may be one of your strengths!)..

As usual, I wasn't too sure whether I agreed with these or not so I bounced them off my sounding board--my wie. She said, yep, that's you.


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It is amazing how two US Post Offices can differ. The Post Office that delivers mail to our house has delivered us mail but noted that we needed to make sure that senders of junk mail corrected our address. Our street has a "c" and a "k" in it which many people confuse. Regardless of whether "c's" or "k's" are used, it is virtually impossible to even remotely confuse it with another street in our town.

Our Post Office box is in a different Post Office. They often mail with incorrect addresses but get the mail to us. Yesterday we got our Presbyterians Today.

In the photo you can see the white area in the bottom left corner which is where the address is supposed to go. Apparently the printer got offset somehow and the only part of the address that can be seen is part of the zip code at the top and another part of the zip code at the bottom. We got it!


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Today was a day off, of sorts. The NSPE Board of Directors of met which meant I didn’t have to. So, I worked some in the room in the morning and then I headed out to see the sites of Boston.

I took the T in and got on the Freedom Trail. I was a bit disappointed when I got to the shipyard only to find the USS Constitution closed for tours. I got some pictures and did go through the USS Cassin Young. That was interesting because I have reviewed many inspection reports of the Cassin Young but, until today, have never been aboard her.

The Bunker Hill monument was closed for repairs so I could see it from afar. I then wandered around and ran across the Bell in hand Tavern. According to the signs, the Bell in Hand is America’s oldest continuously operating tavern, having only closed during prohibition. I know I should have had a Samuel Adams but they had Guinness on draught so I had no choice. I enjoyed a Guinness and an appetizer of potato skins. It was very enjoyable.

I returned in time for the reception at the hotel, bought a birthday present for my wife but the other store I needed to go to was closed before I could get in. I’ll slip out of meetings in the morning after they open to get the final gift. If all goes well, I’ll be home about this time tomorrow but there is still Delta, ASA, Atlanta-Hartsfield Airport, and the weather in front of me.


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Dateline: Boston Marriott, Copley Place

John Gonsalves, President and Founder of Homes for Our Troops gave a very moving talk about his organization and what it is doing to our disabled veterans. Home for Our Troops was John's brainchild and is proving to be very successful. This organization is doing great things and is deserving of support.

What was truly impressive about John's presentation were the stories he told about the generosity of Americans. He related stories of anonymous donors giving thousands (even hundreds of thousands) of dollars. But he also had many stories of the average working American who shows up to donate time and services building houses. More proof that Americans are giving people.


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Dateline: Boston Marriott, Copley Place

I arrived in Boston for the NSPE Annual Conference after an aborted trip due to “maintenance” issues with ASA. Yesterday’s flight was cancelled after we boarded the plane and the pilot started the engines. He noticed a hydraulic problem that required maintenance. So, we were off-loaded, told to wait a while, and then the flight was officially cancelled. Of course the earlier Friday flight was also cancelled. I got out on the earliest flight Friday morning and arrived in Boston without incident.

Planes with maintenance problems should not fly so I can’t argue about ASA cancelling the flight. But, as I have stated before in my letters to the infamous Atlantic Southeast Airlines, maintenance is something you do to aircraft so that they can fly, it is not an excuse to not fly planes. I never fly only ASA, rather ASA allows me to connect to Delta. I can not count how many ASA flights have been cancelled because of “maintenance”. I can count the number of flights on Delta I’ve been on that were cancelled because of maintenance—one. So, I have to ask myself, how much preventative maintenance does ASA actually do? My suspicion is very little. The pilots are the final quality assurance managers and the passengers are the ones who pay the price.

Checked into the Boston Marriott at Copley Place and was disappointed that they had run out of non-smoking rooms. So I’m in a smokers room and, in spite of the cleaning they do, it still reeks of that nasty smoke smell.

But I did have a great meal though. I was walking around the Prudential Center and ran across Legal Seafoods Restaurant. It looked good, I was hungry, and it was a perfect match. I had the gnocchi lobster and a bowl of clam chowder. Wonderful!

Dateline: Home Study

This was, by large, a pretty good weekend. My wife and I started off by going to the movies to see Cars Friday night and loved it. It is one we will have to get on DVD and watch several more times to catch all of the stuff we missed. We both love Pixar movies because the animation is great and the little things in the background are especially entertaining. With all of their previous movies, every time we watch them again, we find something we’ve missed.

The only bad part of the movie was having to go to the theater to see it. What has happened to common courtesy and decency? There were too many people on their frapping cell phones for one thing. All through the movie I kept seeing those blue lights illuminating the side of some heads. At least there were not any obnoxious ringtones going off. Secondly, what happened to parents taking responsibility for their children? I don't expect a 2 year to have perfect behavior but I do expect the mother to take her crying child out of the theater after a couple of minutes of incessant crying. But that is expecting too much--finally an usher made her leave with her many other children in tow. And thirdly, I really don’t want to hear all of your conversations. When in public keep in mind that other people are around and we generally don’t care about what you have to say. So, keep it quiet. Go ahead and talk to your friends and family, but don’t shout it out for all to hear.

Saturday began with some work. We had freshmen Orientation but it was kind of fun. I always enjoy meeting the new students and their parents. I also had a lot of help from our current engineering students and they are simply a great bunch of people. After it was over I went to the Command Center to see how things were going there and then I came home. At home I actually watched two movies on TV guilt-free. With no classes this summer, I had no papers due so I could enjoy some downtime and it was nice.

Today began with church, and it was a pretty nice service. I was able to get in a short nap (always nice), wash the car, and catch another movie! Now, if I could only add another day to the weekend.

Dateline: Home Study

I rented my last two movies from Movie Gallery today. Why? I do not approve of their business practices. As I was paying for the rentals I was told I did not return a movie and now owed for the movie. When was this movie rented? July 2005. Let’s see now, that was some nine months ago and I’ve heard nothing from them. You think a phone call or a letter would be in order if I had one of their movies. The truth is, my daughter rented the movie and I have no doubt she returned it (she even said it was a terrible movie). But, how can I prove that? They do not give you a receipt when you return movies (but they will when I return these two). I, the customer, have no control over how they check movies in but am held responsible if they make a mistake.

Then, as I paid for the movie and the rentals, the clerk stamped the back of my check and asked me to sign the back saying that their bank can debit my account if the check is returned for non-sufficient funds. I found that insulting and refuse to do further business with companies who have such policies. I signed the front of the check which certifies that there is money in the account but that was not enough for them. What really bothers me about that is just how stupid it really is. Think about it. If I don’t have money in the account (an account, by the way, that has been open for twenty-eight years, and the date the account was opened is on the front of the check) and sign the check, would I hesitate to sign the back of the check saying their bank could take even more money from the account?

I expect more from the companies I do business with and Movie Gallery does not live up to those standards. So, my membership card is being returned to them on Monday. According to that membership card, I was one of their first 1000 members. I was actually an even older customer because I was a member of a store the Movie Gallery bought.

If a company were truly interested in customer service, you think they would train their employees and give them some decision-making authority. Simple things like how to look at a check and see the date the account was opened before questioning if the check will be good. Or to look at the membership number and recognize that you have been a customer for many years and are probably being honest with them. Well, apparently that is asking too much of Movie Gallery.

Other businesses have tried such tactics in the past, and they were short-lived. I remember in 1980 time frame, McDonald’s tried something similar and I’ve not eaten at that McDonald’s since. I also understand they quit the practice later that same year. A few years ago Papa John’s require that you put two phone numbers on your checks. I quit doing business with them until they changed that policy. I fully expect Movie Gallery will also change its policy in the not too distant future. If they want to earn my business back, they will have to compete with DirecTV pay-per-view and Blockbuster. (Plus, they need to get a better selection of movies—of course better movies need to be made too.)

Well, Movie Gallery is asking too much of me. So, come Monday, I will be a former member. I ask you Gentle Reader, do you wish to patronize such a company or would you rather deal with people who trust you? For me the answer is simple.


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Dateline: Home Study

Well, I'm a little better organized now. I spent much of the afternoon moving books around on my shelves, tossing some files in the trash, some in the shredder, and cleaning some space for the new semester. I also moved files around on the laptop getting ready for new courses.

I'll be taking two classes this semester, co-teaching one, and co-teaching/assiting with another but it only meets once a week for an hour. Should prove to be an interesting semester, which gets underway Wednesday with registration Tuesday.

Now, if I can ever kick this cough/cold/crud that keeps hanging on!


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Heard from my parents neighbor that they are safe and all is well. They live south of me and I knew they would have felt the effects of Katrina more than we did. They are not so far that an evacuation was in order for dafety but they do live in a very rural area and I wish they had evacuated simply to avoid the inevitable communications gap that would result from falling trees.

They have water but no electricity nor phone. Cell phone? Did I say rural? They have one but reception out there is limited under the best of conditions and I suspect some cell towers in the area are down or without power.


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Dateline: Home Study

Tom Barnett seems to have been taken to task for his post of a message that Denzel Washington pulled out his checkbook and wrote a check, on the spot, to build a new Fisher House, to the tune of $1.5 million. Well the facts are not quite like that. Washington did make a contribution but it was not done on the spot and it was not $1.5 million. My reaction is, so what?

I too saw the email that Tom posted and it seemed too good to be true but I also forwarded it to some friends. Big deal! All that has changed is a few of the facts. The essence of the message remains unchanged and that is that Denzel Washington is a caring patriot who made a significant contribution to help the families of those who were injured in the service of their country. What’s more, the fact the he made the contribution sometime later, out of sight of the cameras and after he had come down from the emotional high I’m sure he was on during his tour, makes me think even more of him. His contribution was truly a reflection of his personal sense of responsibility and honor and not a publicity stunt.

This is along the lines of an eye-witness who got a few facts wrong. The get away was actually black, not dark blue and the crook was 6’-0” not 5’-10”. None of that changes the fact that the bank was robbed and the witness was pretty close to being completely accurate. Would the police not stop a black car because it was said to be dark blue? Of course not, they would account for some inaccuracies in the eyewitness report. How many other stories in our lives are 100% accurate after being told for the fourth or fifth time? Human nature is to add a little here, take a little there, but the gist of the message remains.

By comparison, the slightly inaccurate story about Washington pales when viewed next to Peter Arnett and the “Baby Milk Factory” of Gulf War I fame or his and CNN’s Operation Tailwind fabrication. And let’s not forget our buddy Dan Rather and his fabricated memos. It’s great that Tom Barnett corrected the story in his blog but I don’t see the error as a major one. Denzel Washington seems to really be a good guy and my opinion of him is higher as a result of what he did.

Dateline: Fairfield Inn Greensboro, NC

Arrived tonight in Greensboros for drill after another long trip. I left work later than planned (I always do) but had a meeting with someone interviewing for a faculty position. It was a nice meeting and the position is one of the more visible. Worth the delay.

Of course the delay meant hitting Atlanta traffic at the wrong time. I keep thinking that one day Atlanta will get this traffic thing figured out but they seem to do it. At least I don't live there and have to deal with it everyday. Lots of people on the road tonight for some reason. Lots of people who shouldn't be on the road tonight. I continue to be amazed at how many poor drivers there are and how they can block all lanes of traffic, and I'll not even start on the inconsiderate truck drivers out there. There are some nice ones but nothing like just a few years ago.

During the drive I did have some time to think, listen to the news, and catch some talk radio. Bill O'Reilly was really down on the Brits for being anti-American based on editorials in British papers. I think he's just plain wrong. If editorials were reflective of the people's thinking and feelings, then the New York Times would have Al Gore in his second term as President.

While at the Current Strategy Forum at the Naval ar College, a German militarry person was asked, in effect, why weren't the Germans more supportive of America. After talking for a while, he finally made the point that there is a difference between the German government and the German people. Hmmm, just like in America. Perhaps just like in Great Britain? Yea, I think so.

Put some more thought into the Leadership Academy. More on it later.


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Dateline: Home Study

My daughter has been selected as Queen of the Natchez Pilgrimage for the coming year. She is very excited about, I am less so. She will miss some class, not a good thing; I will have to make a lot of trips to Natchez while trying to keep the rest of my things going; it will cost money; and I can't really see any benefits. But, if it makes her happy.

We went out to eat to celebrate and she was wearing a tiara she got from a Mardi GRas parade some years ago.


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Dateline: Home Study

Today I went to the radio station for an interview about the Military affairs Committee but it turned to not be an interview at all. I was prepared to answer questions but I learned that the way it was going to work was for me to be introduced and I was to then talk for about a minute and fifty seconds. I managed to pull it off but more takes and it would have been better. The focus was on Memorial Day and inviting people to the ceremony we are planning.


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Dateline: Home Study

There may well be a move in our future, but I'm not sure. Apartments are being being built across the road from us, the owenr of the land next to us is interested in our property, and I suspect the university is also interested in it given what they already own around us. I don't really want to move, I like where we live for the most part--it is very convenient to work and football games--but it can be a little loud at times. I like students, but I also don't want to live too close to them because I've already lived the life they are living now and I know there is something better after college.

I am also working myself into the idea that our days in this town are limited as well. The more I visit other places the more realize how much I miss by not being in a larger area. So, I see five to seven years here as being perhaps as long as we want to stay, depending on how things go at work.

So, if our days are limited, then what will it take to get us to move? A new house will need to be able to be sold easily. We will need to be able to make a little money on it to make it worth the move. And, perhaps most importantly, we will have to get enough for what we have to make it worth our while--and I really hate moving so it will take a fair amount. I'm also confident that our property value will only go up so time is on our side.


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Dateline: Residence Inn, Annapolis, MD

I worked this morning in the office for a little while and took care of some things but much more is piled up. Spent most of the morning on the phone talking to people about school and scholarships. I did get teh paperwork signed off on for classes this summer and next fall. Will do some dissertation hours this summer then two classes in the fall which should be fun. I've been told by a classmate that one of the classes will be fun and should be too tough given my background so that'll be nice.

Left Starkville wih dark clouds rolling in. I knew the flight would be cancelled but we took off early, flew fast, and even landed early. The climb to altitude was one of the best rides I've had yet--lots of bumps and jumps. Weather in Atlanta was nicer so we took off on time and arrived at BWI early. I picked up the car that was arrancged by the Navy at Thrifty (I never seem to rent from the same place twice in a row) and drove to the hotel in Annapolis.

Tomorrow we'll have meetings and a VTC, then perhaps some networking tomorrow evening and head home Sunday morning. A quick trip but I think we will get a lot accomplished.

Watching the news about the Pope now. He has certainly made an impact on the world which makes it silly when people email news shows with questions like "I'm not Catholic but do you think the Pope spoke for all Christians or just the Catholics?" Makes you wonder what planet this person grew up on. Does President Bush speak for the entire United States or just the Republicans? People are truly amazing!

Still nothing on fixing my DSL so it is looking like cable early next week. My ISP asked if they could have until Monday and I agreed. The thing is that it is not their problem, the problem is hardware which belongs to BellSouth and since I do not have them as my ISP they are not too inclined to help much. I really hate to change because I've been with this ISP for somthing like 8 or 9 years but, if I can't get what I need then it is time to change. Four weeks is a little long to deal with this problem and I am more frustrated than ever.

I read Just War Against Terror by Jean Elshtain for a report that was due last Thursday and am now going through the book again. I found it to be very interesting that an academic belives in the war (at least did when she wrote the book). She makes some interesting points that I find refreshing and I really liked the part about how academics seem to think they can only be against something. I also to read another book by her for the class and that should be good as well.

Now, its off to bed. I'll leave the computer on playing the new tunes I picked up in the Airport, Ultra Chilled 05 by the ellusive "various artists" and The Cosmic Game by Thievery Corporation. So far it sounds like nice chillin' music.

Wasted Weekend

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Dateline: Home Study
Pretty much wasted the weekend and got nothing done I wanted to get done--especially the reading I needed to do.

Had a stressful day today making for a not all that pleasnt Easter. I've not really been in an Easter mood for many years now and I don't why. I served communion with my wife in church, and hte service was fine but something was missing. It has to be me but I don't know what.

The dishwasher is not working like it should. It does not drain completely and appears to have a proble with diveting water to the drain or back into the dishwasher. After replacing the pump assembly on our previous dishwasher, I don't work on them too much anymore--much cheaper and easier to replace them (or call someone else to work on them).

DSL is giving me more and more problems but I was told BellSouth would look at it tomorrow. Of course it will fine for them, justl ike a car never makes a noise when you get it to the shop. Hopefully the tech will look for the problem and realize that I can get DSL to work, just not all the time, and it is particularly troublesome at night. Can't blame inside wiring either. I bought new wire, put plugs on it and ran it straight from the NID, along the side of the house, in the back door, and right into the modem. Same results--worked great in the day, trouble at night.

Time for bed and I've just lost DSL again. So, unplug, let sit, plug it in again, post this, and be gone.

Morning People

I woke up earlier than normal this morning due to a 0800 start of an on-campus recruiting event. I was not a very happy camper and mever enjoy getting up early. My personal beliefe is that if God had wanted us to see the sunrise, he would have scheduled it for later in the day.

As I was showering, trying to improve my mood, I started wondering why so many things started in the mornings. Why not start later in the day and work into the night? I'm usually up until 0100 or 0200 in then mornings, why does it seem wrong for me to expect that of other people?

Now, when I'm doing AT with the Nvy, then I really don't mind getting up early and te reason is simple--everyone gets up early. We all get an early start and also finish the day fairly eraly as well given me the time I need to do the other things that need to be done.

One day, when I'm made king, I'll change all of this. I'll issue a decree that no event shall be scheduled earlier than 1000. And, we'll have some events scheduled for oh, let's say, 2300, every now and then, just to get some revenge on the morning people who are responsible for me more of the early morning than I really care to see.

Dateline: Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport

As I sit in the Atlanta Airport, courtesy of Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) not being able to adequately maintain their aircraft, I have realized how rude some people are. Delta was nice enough to provide these Relax and Recharge stations where you can plug in your laptop, do a little work, and recharge your computer batteries, all of which I tried to do. But, I had one person, a youth I believe is the currently accepted term, come in and plug in his CD player. No problem, hey save his CD’s batteries too but did he have to play his crappy rap music so loud that I could it from the other end of the table through his headphones? I tried to move but the other table was occupied by a girl talking up a storm on her cell phone. Okay, no problem, I don’t mind her talking (I’m not in a library after all) but does she have to be so loud and animated?

I decided to stay where I was and bank on the “youth’s” inability to stay in any one place too long. I banked correctly and he left soon thereafter. I thought things were going well until another girl came in with her laptop, set it up and put in a DVD. This time I really had no problem hearing it because she did not even bother with headphones, she played so we could all share in her poor taste of movies.

Well, I composed the letter to ASA, it is quite a letter, and there is a loud crying child nearby (if I were his age I would be crying too!) so I guess I’ll go spend ASA’s $7.00 voucher.

And She's Off

My daughter left for El Salvador this morning on a church mission trip. She is going as part of a team to conduct site surveys for possible water treatment systems. She and my wife were teary when she left. I'm too excited for her to be teary. I do worry about her, very much, but the opportunity to travel like this and do this kind of work at her age is amazing. I'm hoping it will help settle her down academically and give her focus. She has great potential if I could only get her to realize it.

I tried to help her prepare for the trip but she inherited my stubbornness. She wants to do everything herself and learn on her own. I can't say I blame her but I would rather she learn new things that I've not learned rather than re-learn from the mistakes I've made.

She wanted an mps player to take with her, her old is now too small and not compatabile with her new computer, but alas none were to be had this time year. Seems they were more popular than the press reported for I've not found one anywhere, even on-line, with a reasonable delivery date. Perhaps for her birthday.

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