Monday, March 14, 2011

And it just keeps getting better!

This week, at a hastily assembled meeting, our Superintendent of Schools informed us that the County Probation office may have to potentially close down one-half of our juvenile hall next year due to severe budget cuts, thereby affecting the COE (County Office of Education) juvenile hall teaching staff. He handed out pink slips to 22 of 48 teachers to prepare for a "worst case" scenario. It was painful to watch as teacher friends found out their fate that evening.

But wait, it gets better! The news just said that global warming may have helped cause the Japan earthquake, so now I feel guilt too! I just knew that using my fireplace, driving my car, eating meat and drinking milk (because cows produce methane), using up my old light bulbs, etc. would come back to hurt the planet. I knew it! My apologies to the earth, Japan, and to you reader, because as we all know, duh!...Mother Nature can be tamed by well intentioned environmentalists, and I'm not doing my part.

With all the unstable, worldwide events in the news recently, I look inward, Yoda-like, and realize that if I was more of a devout Mexican-American, intrinsically linked to my dark-skinned Mayan ancestors' apocalyptic 2012 calendar, and, believed that guy from history...what's his hyphenated name?... Nostradamus-Perez-Rodriguez? I might think some dark days lie ahead.

In light of all this, I'm considering a new exercise program, a regimen of extreme flexibility, perhaps yoga; so if the shit hits the fan, I'll be able to bend over, and kiss my ass goodbye!

Ay dios mio!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

DADT - Don't Ask Da Taliban

Now that Congress has repealed the military's DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) policy of the Clinton era, I'm left wondering, who's left to "come out of the closet"? Emboldened by the change in policy, what other category of shadow people are ready to emerge?

Let's see, aliens? I'm not talking about your run-of-the-mill illegals, (so
blasé). No, I'm talkin' about real-deal aliens, you know, extraterrestrials...Naah! OK, If not aliens, how about pedophiles? Ouch!... well, maybe. Note: in the interest of PC run amok, I am not equating homosexuality to pedophilia; I am merely posing a question, so relax.

I pondered my original question, and recalled hearing about the PBS Frontline documentary, The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan. After watching it, the answer came to me - the Taliban are next to be outed! But shh... DADT, Don't Ask Da Taliban, because they certainly won't tell you, and they're likely to kill someone for that insinuation. I just hope it's not me!

Do I really believe the Taliban are righteously immune to the "bacha bazi" practice due to their feigned religious zealotry? Well, maybe as much as I believe that all clergy are immune to extra-marital peccadilloes because they believe in god. Think about it, what are these guys doing for fun in their caves, between planning horrific attacks, hmm?

Looking back, I recall seeing the stream of local Afghan workers, men only, walking to and from their jobs at Bagram, as they entered/exited the base. Sometimes, they were holding hands, but I didn't think anything of it, and wrote it off as a cultural trait, kind of like teen girls strolling innocently along holding hands, as girlfriends do in the US. When I asked about it, an Afghan interpreter told me that sometimes men, in the absence of their wives or women, relieve their "loneliness" with other men, and it is an accepted practice.

So, what do the Taliban think of our change in DADT policy? Outwardly, they are probably disgusted, decrying the decadence of "western culture". But inwardly, I envision them being as "thrilled" as Chris Matthews was about candidate Obama, when he was running for the presidency. But be careful, DADT, Don't Ask Da Taliban, for fear of what you might discover!

Monday, November 22, 2010

What is secret anymore?

I thought of the lyrics from the Beatles song, "A Day in the Life", as I read about a USAF satellite launched from Cape Canaveral recently:

"I read the news today, oh boy..."

Why did I flashback to those particular lyrics?

"...And though the news was rather sad; Well I just had to laugh; I saw the photograph..."

Don't know what you think about after reading the headline/article. But for me, I wonder, what qualifies as secret anymore? What exactly does secret mean? Come on! The USAF launches the "largest satellite in the world", described as, "a classified, electronic eavesdropping satellite"; so why are we broadcasting the launch to the world? Why call it secret if you are going to tell the world about it?
The word "secret" is like the word "crisis", meaningless! Let's start searching for new superlatives in Webster's online dictionary, as these words are now flaccid.

" they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall, ...I'd love to turn you on."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Vetoed!

Today, I I mean voted; but it sure feels like I had a small say in vetoing some agendas harmful to our great country.

I've been looking forward to today for months! Although locally, in CA, I have a feeling I will be disappointed in the results. Nationally, I hope to feel a sense of pride in America tonight.

How about you, have you vetoed today?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cell Phone Solution

Chalk this one up under "Duh! Why didn't I think of this sooner?". As I passed a car going way too slow for my comfort, I glanced over, only to see the driver using a cell phone, leaning on the center console, looking way too cool; oblivious to the world around them.

As I turned left, using my finger to steer the car, the crux of the problem struck me! Driving is waaay too easy for all y'all! Being able to manipulate my steering wheel with only a middle finger helped me realize how easy and physically unchallenging driving is, thanks to the advancements in mechanical technology.

The drastic solution? Take away power steering from vehicles AND require all cars to have manual transmissions. "What's a manual transmission?", you ask. You heard me! Lets go retro, back to the days when 10 and 2 were not just a factored pair of 20, but were the required hand/clock positions necessary to maneuver a car; or so we were taught.

I'm aging myself; but as I look back fondly, those old clunkers we learned to drive, really required some muscle and mental skills to negotiate, even on the straightest of roads. Are you old enough to recall your left thigh and calf muscles bulging because the clutch was so hard to push in? Ever stall your car because your coordination was just a hair off? C'mon, fess up.

Do you really think you're a strong enough driver to use a cell phone without the assistance of power-steering? I doubt it. Wait, now that I think about it, this is the potential remedy for our American obesity problem too! Have flabby biceps and triceps? Is your six-pack a twelve-pack? Steer a car on a winding road, without power steering, for an hour or so.

So there you have it; I've solved the using a cell phone while driving problem, and found a way for people to exercise and lose weight too. Now, if I can just get President Obama's car czar to read this post, I might win a Nobel!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Doonesbury 10/11/2009

After a hiatus from writing based partially on an irrational fear of having nothing of value to post anymore regarding my deployment, I read the Sunday 10/11/2009 Doonesbury comic, and the will to write came rushing back. A chance occurrence on my birthday? With Halloween coming up, that's spooky!

All I know is, after reading the Sunday comic, I felt like "Wow, Trudeau nailed it!". The visual of: the relationship between the CIA/contractor and the Afghan informant, the reference to the 16th century (which I posted on before), the ubiquitous tea while doing business (chai sabz or chai cia?), to the hat, scarf, and appearance of the informant, the reference to a "drug lord", along with alluding to our enormous technology/firepower. It's all there, powerfully packed into eight colorful panels, with the beautiful Afghan mountains lingering in the background. I couldn't get the comic out of my mind. Not that I wanted to, it brought back a lot of memories. The simplicity of how Trudeau depicted the paradox of war, made me think, "Yeah! That's it, that's what we're capable of!" But, is it really?

I thought back to the days spent conversing with my friends, Afghan linguists, whose opinions about culture, and their fellow Afghans, really moved me to consider how THEY see the war; and like the Afghan informant in the comic, they usually posed a variation of the question: "I don't get it, how come you guys are losing?" That really struck me.

Since returning, I've followed the news, both good and bad out of Afghanistan. It's really heated up since I left, but that was expected. What comes to mind is how humane we (the US) are perceived to be by the Afghans...most of the time, to a fault and detriment.

Afghans are familiar with tribal justice that may include - the slice of a sword, hurled stones, whippings, and harsh death. They do not understand taking prisoners after a fierce firefight, then treating them humanely (What's the point?). They do not forget what the Talibs (and Russians) have done to their families. For Afghans, brutality rules, and they don't flinch. It's just their way of life. And this was imparted to me by the linguists, who in their own way were saying to me: 'We should be kicking Taliban ass!" It is war after all.

Teachers: Have students look up what "Rules of Engagement" (ROE) are. Researching the Vietnam war might help them understand what consequences the rules can have on war. What are the positive/negative aspects of ROE's? What are some of our current ROE's in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts?
What do your students think about the Doonesbury cartoon? What do they think Trudeau thinks about the war? Have them research his previous comic strips relating to Iraq and Afghanistan, and have them report on what they think he believes.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Never Find a Hookah Here

While deployed, I enjoyed going to the weekly bazaar. It was a nice way to break the monotony of the daily routine. At the bazaar: I haggled with vendors (customary/expected), socialized outside of work, found some great deals, and as the days blurred, the bazaar helped indicate that it was Friday, again.

There was much to be had at the bazaar, depending on your preferences. Beautiful Afghan/Persian rugs, gemstones/jewelry, Afghan clothing, Russian artifacts, antique rifles, and... hookers, oops, excuse me, wrong spelling, I mean hookahs. My apologies to nor-easterners; same pronunciation, different meaning.

Hookahs, are prevalent in the Middle East, and are used to smoke tobacco, herbs, or marijuana/hashish/opium. It is a culturally and socially acceptable smoking instrument in those parts of the world. Guess I could have bought an authentic Afghan hookah if I really needed one, but I don't smoke. And, I don't think a colorful, multi-user hookah souvenir, prominently displayed, would go over well with our military/educator circle of friends. Never knew anyone who used a hookah, until a few days ago.

Recently, while searching for computer cables in my cable-stash drawer, I happened upon a hookah, apparently hidden. "What's this?" I thought. Had my wife taken up smoking pot to deal with the stress of my absence? Nah! She did well while I was gone. But if not her, who then?

Seems my 18 yr old step-son bought the hookah online while I was gone. Mama found it, and confiscated it amid great consternation. The official story relayed to my wife, according to my step-son/daughter, was that the hookah, a trendy instrument, is used by young adults for smoking "trendy" blocks of tobacco.

Uhhh, after thinking back to high school/college, I paused, contemplating the fable. I paused some more, then proceeded to believe their incredible story (it did smell like tobacco). These kids are just not the type. Tobacco experimentation, yes, marijuana, no.

Nonetheless, the hookah was officially confiscated. They took a hit (so to speak) on their much needed teen dinero, it was their money, not tobacco, that went up in smoke. I had to find another place to put it until we decided what to do with it. But where?

After some thought, using finely honed parental skills. I put it where they'd least likely think to look, a place where teens are notorious for never venturing, hidden in plain sight...Duh! I put it with the cleaning supplies, under the bathroom sink; no chance of discovery there!

Teachers: Seriously, the hookah does play a prominent social role in many cultures, and it is not always associated with the use of illicit drugs. Have your students research this centuries old implement, and report on the positive, and negative aspects of how it is used.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

From Insurgents to Pre-Emergents

It's interesting to observe how life has shifted from one focus to another now that I'm home. An example - for six months, it was all about Afghanistan insurgents. But now, it's crabgrass pre-emergents. So, for peace of mind, I set out to find similarities between the two that might help make my mental transition easier, and more meaningful.

As I considered a pre-emergent for the lawn/garden, I found an article from the Ohio State University, Extension entitled: Pre-Emergent Herbicides Effective for Weed Control. Here are some bullets from the article:

Marestail, giant ragweed and lambsquarter remain some of the most challenging weeds to control for several reasons:
• They become more difficult to control with increasing size and age.
• They are some of the first weeds to emerge in the spring, and marestail grows quickly in size, making proper burndown treatments a must to control them.
• Avoid making post-emergence applications during periods of adverse environmental conditions, such as low temperatures, extended cloudy periods, and drought.

Here's my take on this useful information, uh,... I mean intelligence:

Taliban insurgents and their radical fundamentalist followers are the most difficult to control for several reasons:
• They become more difficult to control with increasing size and rage.
• They are the first to emerge in the spring/summer, and their numbers grow quickly in size, making appropriate engagement/elimination a must.
• Avoid engaging insurgents during periods of adverse environmental conditions, such as low temperatures, extended cloudy periods, and drought.

Is it a stretch to equate Taliban insurgency with out of control weeds? Mmmm, you tell me. But if any of you pass by my house and see me vigorously eradicating/eliminating weeds, via airborne or ground assault methods, please consider that my conduct is easily explained by the psychological term - transference.

Transference: "the redirection of feelings and desires; especially of those unconsciously retained from war, toward a new object." (For you psych majors, I replaced the word childhood with war. Sorry, it makes sense.)

Teachers: Have your students make the connection for me - How is an insurgency like weeds? What conclusions can we draw from the similarities? The differences? Are these similes, or metaphors? Discuss the differences between the two, then have students write a paragraph on a topic using similes and metaphors.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Man's Home is his Depot

As we approached our house, I mused, "Ah, a man's home is his castle", relieved to finally return home. According to, this old English saying means - "A proverbial expression that illustrates the principle of individual privacy, which is fundamental to the American system of government".

After imparting this age-old proverb of wisdom to my 8 yr old son, he replied without skipping a beat, "No papa, a man's home is his depot" (as in Home Depot). Caught completely off guard, I busted-up laughing. He had never heard the expression before, and thought Home Depot was what I really meant to say.

I lovingly reached over and rubbed his shaggy head, and told him his interpretation was extremely funny, music to my ears, and that Home Depot marketers would probably pay a fortune for his "out of the mouth's of babes" observation. And so started the reunion with my family after a six-month deployment to Afghanistan.

I've been home for two weeks now and it's time to write. The urge to write again, I'd liken to the anticipation of reuniting with your spouse; a lot of pent up thoughts, words building up, waiting to explode into a, a ... a blog post, so to speak. Who would have known?

I've had fellow bloggers mention that many soldiers come home from deployments, and for whatever reason, abandon their blogs. That is certainly their prerogative, and I completely understand; but I have no such inclination, there is too much to say.

So reader, was it good for you too?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Number One with an F

Sat with linguists at lunch today and an Afghan gentleman stopped by the table. We all did the Salaam Alaikum shtick, I mean greeting. Once the pleasantries were exchanged, and the gentleman left, I told my lunch mates I had met this man a month or so ago, and that he had an interesting background.

When we met, he asked if I could help him get reassigned to another job, because he was not happy with his current position. He worked with detainees. He proceeded to rattle off his resume, and told me that in Afghanistan, he'd worked for the government in the 70's as a young man, before the Russians invaded. His résumé sounded pretty impressive.

When I shared this with my lunch mates, they looked at each other knowingly, smiled and said, "Almost all (linguists) claim to have worked with the Afghan Government; they tend to embellish their résumé so as to look good".

With that, the linguist asked if I had heard one of the reasons why Afghan-Americans think they are the best. I replied, "no".

He proceeded to share a story about an older Afghan couple who lived in the US. They purchased a car, something they could never have done in Afghanistan. So the old man drove their car from San Francisco, CA to Vancouver, Canada, to visit relatives.

After the trip, the wife was bragging amongst Afghan friends, and shared that her husband was a "number one" driver. When asked to explain, she said that on the trip to Canada, people who passed their car, constantly raised their middle finger at him, signifying he was "number one", which in their minds was an indication that the husband was a wonderful driver! I choked down my pie, nearly spitting it out! Again, these linguists and their sense of humor! Very solemn, serious and matter-of- fact usually, then BAM! out of the blue stuff like this.

When I return home to driving, and am on the road, I will henceforth associate the American middle finger "salute" with that old, proud, Afghan driver and his wife.

Teachers: How many times on your way to work, have you been given the "number one" salute? What a great opportunity to speak with your class about driving habits around the world. The insane vs. the sane. If you are working with HS age students, talk about requirements for driving throughout the world. What age can one start driving? Is there insurance in that country? How much do cars cost? What kinds of cars are there to drive? With the popularity of Social Media, consider having your class track down foreign students in other countries and ask them the above questions. Let your students do the research, and have them report their findings to the class. domain from: