Here is the newest addition to Fragments of Fiction.

“He is dead.” Three words. That is all they had for her. “He is dead.” Flat, unemotional and yet they still echoed inside my head. She didn’t cry. She didn’t scream and She didn’t flinch. She didn’t do anything.

Several years ago a man was convicted of murdering his wife. The jury foreman said that they had found the defendant to be lacking in remorse and that he had not acted like a man who had just lost his wife should. The foreman said that it was this inconsistency in the defendant’s behavior that had really sealed his fate and that if he had shown some emotion and acted more like a human being they might have voted differently.

That bothered her because she knew from experience that they could not know how to act, would not know what a normal response would be because there was no normal response to death, especially something that was sudden or unexpected.

What you see on television or in the movies is not necessarily what happens. The fainting, screaming and or wailing is good drama and it makes it easy for a screenwriter to cheat but it still doesn’t mean that it is real. And reality is the point of this.

See the issue is acceptance and all too frequently the mind refuses to reconcile the truth that is placed in front of you with reality. “He is dead” is not something that you automatically digest and consume. The mind has numerous methods of protecting us from things that might harm us and one of those little items is need to process the information, to sort through it and absorb it.

Or maybe not. Maybe it is all a lot of crap that they try to sell you so that psychologists can make more money. Back in college in my basic psych course she had studied this guy named Festinger who had coined the term “cognitive dissonance” as well as some kind of “Cognitive Consistency” theory. Basically they referred to behavior that was either inconsistent with your stated beliefs or some kind of B.S. that said your attitude adapted to adjust to your behavior.

Whatever. It really didn’t matter what she knew for certain was that people would justify their behavior no matter how heinous or how nice. People would always rationalize their actions and few would think twice about what they had done.

Under the bright blue North Carolina sky it was easy to remember the day they called. She was confident that her mother had made the arrangements to call her and to tell her that the boy was gone. She would have done it with love and affection with the sole intent to help her little girl move on but it was one more foolish mistake in a series of missteps between mother and daughter.

Unlike her mother she did not accept life at face value and did not believe everything that was handed to her. At one time she had been that innocent and there was a certain joy in holding onto that kind of naivety. But she had been stripped of it.

The boy was responsible for that. It was hard to love and care for a drowning man and not change and she had. That period of her life had forced her to learn a number of hard lessons and one of them was that people lie. They deceive, they dissemble and they manipulate things to fit their reality.

So when the call came it was easier to just listen and not react. Because what do you do when your biggest nightmare walks out of the closet and into the daylight. Even so it still felt like someone had kicked her in the stomach and for an untold amount of time she had laid on the floor listening to angry cries of a busy signal from a phone that had not been hung up.

It was the incessant beeping of the phone that made her get up and move. The call had left her feeling completely unsettled, but it hadn’t made her forget the hell that the boy had put her through or the anger. And that anger made her determined not to waste any more tears on him until she had details of what had happened.

Two long distance phone calls to old friends were it all it took to confirm that the boy was still alive and that the phone call was fake. In spite of the good news and her vow not to waste any more tears she still found herself staring at a tear streaked face. The call had done nothing to help her move on. If anything it reminded her that sometimes our past can still reach out and hold onto us in the present and that was not a lesson she was prepared to learn.

At Peace with Myself

This is a topic that I think about...frequently. Perhaps too frequently.

For the sake of discussion let's define this as being my quest to find inner peace and happiness with myself and let's add that I have had it, lost it, had it and lost it.

What I am talking about is the feeling of calm, of being whole, of being one with yourself in all areas of life. It is the feeling you have when you are happy with who you are, what you do, what you look like, feel like etc. It is being able to go to sleep feeling fulfilled.

I know what it is. I have been to that place. I have had moments in time in which I was happy with everything and all was right in the world and I have been in places where I felt as if I could not be any farther away from it.

The secret to this zen like state is not something I can share because it is different for all of us. I have always hated answers like that but in this case it really is true. You cannot tell me how to live because you don't know what drives me. You don't know what brings me peace and what brings war.

Ok, you can know some of these things, there are clues and there are some answers but in the end it always comes back to me. I have to be comfortable with myself. I have to accept my strengths and my weaknesses and it is not always easy to do so.

Within the last couple of years I have been frustrated with a number of things. And the hardest part about some of this is that some of these things have truly been outside of my control. I have written about my graphic imagination many times and it has come in handy during these moments of frustration.
When I was a younger man that kind of frustration frequently turned into white hot anger, some might even classify it as being rage.

And I admit to enjoying that anger, to responding to the rush of adrenaline. At times it was exhilirating. When I was serious about lifting weights there were moments where I spent time upsetting myself because I used that aggravation to push myself into the next weight class.

But as I have aged I find that these moments have decreased. Slowly they become fewer and fewer.
And that makes me happy because the reality is that the anger was not something that had great utility, what it gave me also took something out of me.
So now I return back to the focus of the post, the quest for being at peace with myself. At the moment I am not there. I am not in the place that allows me to rest and be fulfilled. There are many many blessings in my life and much to be thankful for, but there are still some pieces that are missing.

For now I am working on being content with what I have while trying to acquire the things that I need to bring the sense of quiet and security that I seek. Some days are good and some are bad, but the one thing that I can guarantee is that I will not give up. Some things are worth waiting and working for.

You Can Learn From Anyone

Rav Fleischmann's post You Talkin To Me reminded me of a very valuable lesson that I learned a number of years ago.

The majority of my friends have advanced degrees, they are doctors/lawyers and there are even a couple of rocket scientists in the mix. I graduated from college with a BA in Journalism a minor in political science and am two classes short of a second BA in Speech Communication.

So within my group I am among those with less education although I can guarantee that I read more than most of them. But the one thing that I really learned early on is that I am an education snob. It was hard for me not to look down at people who could have gotten a college education but chose not to.

Relatively early in my professional career I learned that a college education was not truly indicative of a person's ability to make money nor was it always indicative of their intelligence or willingness to learn.

I also learned that within the working world the best way to get better and advance was to find the person/people who were the best at whatever my job was and to emulate them. Some of those people were not college educated yet they were very successful and I learned a lot from them.

So if there is one general comment that I can make it is to emphasize the need to be open to learning from everyone around you. Beyond that I would add that I try to surround myself with people who are either smarter or more effective and efficient. It is an easy way to learn and there is no reason not to try and sponge up as much education as possible.

If I Could Play An Instrument

If I Could Play An Instrument I would want to be able to play the following:
  1. Harmonica
  2. Guitar
  3. Trombone
  4. Saxophone
  5. Bugel
  6. Maybe I should include all of the horns in one single item.
  7. Piano
  8. Violin
  9. Drums
Ok, so I realize that I have included a lot of different instruments, but they all attract me in different ways. I think that it would just be cool to be able to play them in large part because it is such a good way to express yourself.

Beyond that I see each one of these instruments as being a tool that can be used to specialize in specific types of music, although clearly some can be used across the entire spectrum.

Letters to the Editor

Deer Jack,
I haf been reeding you for a long time now. Keep up the good werk.


Ok, I am confused/amused by this. What the hell is this and could you be real. I don't think so.

Did you go to UCLA and if so did you take an astronomy class there? You look familiar. I think that I might know you.

Jonathan Wooden

Actually if you are John Wooden you have probably seen me at VIPs in Tarzana at your morning breakfast and you most assuredly have seen me but that would be more than 25 years ago when you used to jog by my bus stop. As for my time at UCLA you might have found me wandering around Ackerman or playing ball at the Wooden Center.
Jack, what is your relationship to the Shmata Queen and who is she?


Hi Max,

The Shmata Queen can be found in her own corner of cyberspace. She is my wife, friend, concubine and mystery woman. Or maybe she is just one of my 17 sisters. Aside from a mistaken sojourn in cleveland she is a pretty decent lady who has one hell of a right but she is a sucker for a right hand lead. Be careful because she is good at slipping the jab.
Jack, I wish that I could be as cool as you. Please tell me what I can do.

It is a simple process. First you need to learn how to write so that the sarcasm oozes off of the page. I am still working on that one, but I suspect that you know all about being sarcastic and bitter. Or maybe not. Maybe you really do think I am cool. Maybe you really like me in which case pretend I am Sally Field accepting an award.

Well folks that is a partial selection of recent email. I left out a few because I don't want any of you muscling in on my Nigerian/South African/Russian benefactors who have all sworn to make me rich.

Beyond that I am quite afraid that some of you men may abscond with the enormous amounts of Viagra and pills that are guaranteed to increase my length and girth to such an extent that horses will be ashamed to be seen near me and I can't miss out on that opportunity now can I.

Back later. Enjoy your day.

Fragments of Fiction- It is New

Fragments of Fiction is coming along. I have added another little bit to it. Slowly but surely the story is moving along, developing, growing and evolving. It still has a tremendous road to go down. There is an awful lot of work that needs to be put into this, but I feel good about it, not great, but good.

For those of you who are following along I am making tweaks and adjustments to the entire story but I have not marked each one of them. It is too time consuming and frankly I don't think that anyone is really interested in reading that I changed a word here, added a sentence there.

Anyway I am trying to make an effort to do something each day because I don't want to lose momentum. So here is a rough addition to the story. You should expect to see some changes in this shortly.

The monkey was a little man, both physically and literally. He had received his moniker in high school. It had come after he had been beaten silly for the third time by a boy who didn’t appreciate the monkey’s efforts to impress his girl. The other boy had punched the monkey in the nose and the bystanders had said that he looked like a sick monkey, swaying back and forth in a vain attempt to stop the bleeding and remain standing.

Some people argue that a person’s greatest strength is also their greatest weakness and there is something to be said for that, but not here for philosophy is better left to others. Yet if you apply that line to the monkey you would find a man of great will and obsessive in his desires.

In some respects a better nicknamed for the monkey would have been “Gollum.” Not in tribute to Tolkien but in recognition that the monkey shared those same snakelike mannerisms. He didn’t walk, he slunk from place to place, always operating in the shadows.

But none of this would be an unexpected revelation to anyone who knew the monkey. The only person who would be surprised would have been the monkey. Not unlike so many others he failed to really see himself as he was an instead had a very twisted and distorted view of himself and his importance to others.

If there was a need to hold a class on failed relationships the monkey would be a good instructor. He was just smart enough to hold a conversation and just well read enough to convince his date that he had an education. But without fail his temper and petulant behavior would surface and things would end. It didn’t take much to send him into a rant. He was forever convinced that the world owed him more.

I never believed in fate or destiny. There was no such thing as predestination and if you asked me about a deity that watched over humanity I would have chuckled. That is the kind of thing that the weak need. I didn’t need that kind of crutch. I never did and expect that I never will. But even I had to admit that sometimes life had some funny moments in which your path crossed someone else in a funny way.

Fox Renews Simple Life With Hilton, Richie

Now I watch my share of mindless television but these girls take the cake. I have to admit that I find them to be a bit embarrassing. I don't find them to be attractive or interesting and call me jealous but it irks me that a couple of spoiled brats are having money thrown at them so that we laugh at their antics.

Hope that they like life in the monkey cage.

New Super Magnet Weighs More Than 15 Tons

When I saw this story I was reminded of a conversation I had with a guy in my chemistry class in high school. He had some trouble with the girls and couldn't figure out why he kept striking out. He was a nice fellow but really a little out there, a bit of a wingnut. I suspect that if he could cranked his behavior back a notch he would not have had any trouble getting a date.

Anyway at that time he had one major ambition in life and that was to be an inventor like Thomas Edison. He came up with all sorts of ideas for inventions but the one that this story reminded me of was what he called the "Clothing Magnet."

The idea was that you could aim it at a person you thought was attractive, turn it on and voila, they would be naked. I haven't seen him since 1986 but I suspect that he never gave up the idea. I also suspect that had he been successful I would have already heard about such a device.

As a sidenote to this story his favorite movie was Real Genius followed by the Star Wars series which really got his attention because he thought that using "The Force" would be even better than the magnet but harder to come by.

Cat Lovers and Signs of Intelligence

At the beginning of July I posted about the inanity of blogging about cats and the overwhelming number of cat pictures online.

Today I received more confirmation that there is something wrong with these people as someone made the following comment:
At 7:17 AM, Anonymous said...

"Yeah, you're a retard if you don't like cats. I don't like you; that'll be my first entry in my new blog."

As I said in the post, anonymous you are a real pussy. ;) But please do let me know when you start a blog and I will be happy to supply you with content.

Faking it At Work

I just finished reading an interesting article on ABC:

Silicon Insider: Faking It, CEO Style

"So, am I then claiming that CEOs aren't faking it when they claim to be leading their companies? On the contrary, my experience tells me that they are faking it all the time. And that it is a good thing that they do — at least for the rest of us.

Masking Sheer Terror

Being around CEOs a lot, I get the chance to see them off the job, away from the public eye, and, occasionally, even when they take off their masks. And I can tell you that most of them are utterly terrified. They know fully well that the decisions they make put at risk the careers and lives of thousands of their employees — and that most of the time they will have to make those decisions based on incomplete, even false, information, in an unpredictable marketplace, against ruthless competitors. Many of them don't feel smart enough for the job, most of them don't feel experienced enough, and all of them don't feel wise enough.

But they also know, almost instinctively, that to admit any of these doubts would not only be career suicide, but, ironically, the most irresponsible decision they could possibly make for the organization. We all know that the big boss is a human being, complete with human foibles and fears — we even laugh over anecdotes underscoring that fact — but God help us all if the CEO actually comes out from behind the pinstripes to be revealed as a scared rabbit who is not really sure if the next big company initiative is actually going to work. After all, if the boss isn't sure the damn thing is doable, why should we be?"

I cannot say that I am surprised by this, but it is a little reassuring because there are times when I really am just winging it. I am relatively good at what I do, but there have been so many occasions when I am not sure what to do and just kind of shrug my shoulders and move ahead.

Most of the time it works out, but every now and then my decision can be classified as horrible and then I placed in a position in which I have to fix it and that can be awfully unpleasant. But I do it in large part because I want to be able to look my children in the eye.

It is not like they would know that I took a shortcut or did this or that, but I just feel better knowing that if they could see inside my head they would see that I practice what I preach.

What A Bomb Does To You

As usual Gail has done an excellent job of producing some very interesting posts. In one she offers photos of an unexploded bomb and a photo of an X-Ray of an Israeli bomb victim, showing the front view of a pelvis imbedded with nails and metal fragments.

I have reproduced them here as well for your review.

It is rather frightening to look at the one and then to see the aftermath. The X-Ray makes it look rather sterile. There is no blood or gore, no screaming and no dead or maimed to add to the image. I am not trying to sensationalize this, but I think that it is necessary to really think about it because there are people who do not want to accept the sad reality of our current state of affairs.

This is not a time to get crazy pointing fingers at those that disagree with our political perspectives but a time in which to rally together and work together on finding solutions. That being said I think that it is appropriate to refer to an earlier post called What Do the Terrorists Want.

In it I related a Daniel Pipes piece that outlined the goals of the terrorists we are dealing with. It should be noted that this is related to Islamic terrorists and their goals.

"In nearly all cases, the jihadi terrorists have a patently self-evident ambition: to establish a world dominated by Muslims, Islam, and Islamic law, the Shari'a. Or, again to cite the Daily Telegraph, their "real project is the extension of the Islamic territory across the globe, and the establishment of a worldwide ‘caliphate' founded on Shari'a law."

Terrorists openly declare this goal. The Islamists who assassinated Anwar el-Sadat in 1981 decorated their holding cages with banners proclaiming the "caliphate or death." A biography of one of the most influential Islamist thinkers of recent times and an influence on Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam declares that his life "revolved around a single goal, namely the establishment of Allah's Rule on earth" and restoring the caliphate.

Bin Laden himself spoke of ensuring that "the pious caliphate will start from Afghanistan." His chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also dreamed of re-establishing the caliphate, for then, he wrote, "history would make a new turn, God willing, in the opposite direction against the empire of the United States and the world's Jewish government." Another Al-Qaeda leader, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, publishes a magazine that has declared "Due to the blessings of jihad, America's countdown has begun. It will declare defeat soon," to be followed by the creation of a caliphate.

Or, as Mohammed Bouyeri wrote in the note he attached to the corpse of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker he had just assassinated, "Islam will be victorious through the blood of martyrs who spread its light in every dark corner of this earth."

Interestingly, van Gogh's murderer was frustrated by the mistaken motives attributed to him, insisting at his trial: "I did what I did purely out of my beliefs. I want you to know that I acted out of conviction and not that I took his life because he was Dutch or because I was Moroccan and felt insulted."

Although terrorists state their jihadi motives loudly and clearly, Westerners and Muslims alike too often fail to hear them. Islamic organizations, Canadian author Irshad Manji observes, pretend that "Islam is an innocent bystander in today's terrorism."

What the terrorists want is abundantly clear. It requires monumental denial not to acknowledge it, but we Westerners have risen to the challenge."

This will not end quietly nor quickly. This war began before 911 and before the current conflict in Iraq. I hope and pray that my children are able to grow up in a gentler world.

NASA: Discovery Escaped Serious Damage

Am I the only one who is more than irritated about this.

SPACE CENTER, Houston - Discovery seems to have been spared serious damage from the foam shrapnel that flew off the fuel tank during liftoff in an eerie repeat of the problem that doomed Columbia and appears in good shape for a safe return in just over a week, NASA said Thursday.

"Some good news is, it looks like all of the foam loss that we had from the tank did not hit the orbiter," flight operations manager John Shannon said a day after future shuttle flights were grounded because of the problem.

Shannon noted that all initial reports indicate "it looks extremely good and we don't have anything to worry about on Discovery." But he cautioned that it will be another three days before the space agency can conclusively give the shuttle a clean bill of health.

Earlier in the morning, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said the space agency may never be able to prevent threatening chunks of insulation foam from breaking off the shuttle's fuel tank during launch.

"We are trying to get it down to the level that cannot damage the orbiter," Griffin told NBC's "Today." "We will never be able to get the amount of debris shed by the tank down to zero," he said."

This is ridiculous. How would you like to be stuck in a tin can with the knowledge that the crew before you were made into human smores because of an accident and that you are at risk for the same problem.

"The loss of such a large chunk of debris — nearly a pound — was a vexing problem NASA thought had been fixed and shattered the euphoria from Tuesday's shuttle launch, the first in 2 1/2 years. The redesign of the fuel tank was the focal point of the space agency's $1 billion-plus effort to make the 20-year-old space shuttles safer to fly following the 2003 Columbia tragedy."
This is wrong. I am a huge supporter of the space program but there is no reason that we cannot improve upon the past. Yet here we are again.

"The piece of foam flew off Discovery's redesigned tank just two minutes after what initially looked like a perfect liftoff, right after the booster rockets peeled away. But in less than an hour NASA had spotted images of a mysterious object whirling away from the tank.

Mission managers did not realize what the object was — or how much havoc it would cause — until Wednesday after reviewing video and images taken by just a few of the 100-plus cameras in place to watch for such dangers.

Shuttle program manager Bill Parsons offered no excuses, saying, "You have to admit when you're wrong. We were wrong."

Engineers believe the irregularly sized piece of foam that came off was 24 to 33 inches long, 10 to 14 inches wide, and between 2 and 8 inches thick. It weighed an estimated 0.9 pounds, about half the mass of the 1.67-pound chunk that smashed into Columbia's left wing during liftoff. The plate-sized hole let in superheated gases that caused the shuttle to break up on its return to Earth on Feb. 1, 2003."

Can you see me shaking my head.

"On Discovery, the foam broke away from a different part of the tank than the piece that mortally wounded Columbia.

In addition to the big chunk of foam, several smaller pieces broke off, including at least one from an area of the fuel tank that had been modified after Columbia. Thermal tile was also damaged on Discovery's belly soon after liftoff; one tile lost a 1 1/2-inch piece right next to the set of doors for the nose landing gear, a particularly vulnerable spot.

Deputy shuttle manager Wayne Hale said none of the tile damage looked serious and likely would not require repairs in orbit.

Imagery experts and engineers expect to know by Thursday afternoon whether the gouge left by the missing piece of tile — or anything else — needs another look. The astronauts' inspection boom could determine precisely how deep the damage is, and they will probably pull it back out Friday."

I am still shaking it. There is something very very wrong here and we need to do better.

American Jedi

This made me chuckle.

The Shmata Queen & The Beach

The Shmata Queen and I have an ongoing debate about whether she grew up near The beach. The premise is based upon the misguided belief that a Great Lake constitutes a beach.

Technically I suppose that you could try and make the case that a lake offers a beach.
beach (bēch) pronunciation
  1. The shore of a body of water, especially when sandy or pebbly.
  2. The sand or pebbles on a shore.
  3. The zone above the water line at a shore of a body of water, marked by an accumulation of sand, stone, or gravel that has been deposited by the tide or waves.
I'd disagree with this and say that you can claim waterfront property, but a real beach needs the ocean. A real beach has sand that is created by the pounding of the Saltwater waves and not those of a sinking ship (Edmund Fitzgerald) Please note that all maritime questions can be directed to our resident sailor David. You can find him at Treppenwitz.

That concludes this less than serious post. Hog farmers, sailors, math geeks, art majors and business people are dismissed.

Emergency Divorce

I don't blame her. Heaven forbid that I am ever placed any situation remotely close to this.
WICHITA, Kansas (AP) -- A judge waived the usual 60-day waiting period and granted an immediate divorce Tuesday to the wife of BTK serial killer Dennis Rader, agreeing that her mental health was in danger.

Rader didn't contest the filing or appear for the hearing. He signed over the couple's property and all his retirement benefits to Paula Rader, who had been married to him for 34 years.

In a courtroom confession last month, Dennis Rader said that sexual fantasies had driven him to kill 10 people in the Wichita area between 1974 and 1991. As BTK -- his own moniker for "Bind, Torture, Kill" -- he taunted media and police in communications that eventually led to his arrest. His sentencing is set for August 17.

Paula Rader said in her divorce petition that her mental and physical condition has been adversely affected by the marriage.

She also said that she and her incarcerated husband are incompatible and that he had failed to perform material marital duties and obligations. The couple have two grown children.

The property settlement approved by the court includes the family home in Park City, the Wichita suburb where Dennis Rader, 60, worked as an ordinance compliance officer. It recently sold at auction for $90,000.

Polite Conversation- Things You Don't Discuss

One of things that many of us are taught is that there are certain subjects that you should not discuss with your friends and coworkers and others who are not part of a select group. There are a few things about polite conversation that I find interesting.

There are cultural issues at play here in which you can see that in some cultures it is considered rude to ask someone how much they make or discuss politics with them. In addition to this there are boundary issues in which the famous line "too much information" all too frequently becomes appropriate.

For the heck of it let us use an example of each:

1) Hi Jack, how much do you make? How much did you pay for your house? How can you support your family on one income?

2) Hi Jack. My wife and I had sex last night and I couldn't believe how loudly I made her scream. Want to know why? I had really bad gas.

For those of you who are wondering, these questions were posed to me at the gym by a man who I know from playing basketball. He is in the acquaintance category meaning that I am not comfortable sharing these things with him or learning about his carnal activities.

I am relatively open about a lot of things, but some people just don't get it.

However within the blogging world many of the traditional boundaries/social restrictions are lifted. I find it so interesting to see how here in our cyberspace cone of silence we are comfortable talking about so many personal issues. And frankly I also wonder about the veracity of some of these tales. How many really happened and how many have been polished.

Within the realm of polite conversation many have recommended that you not discuss politics with friends or anyone you interact with on a regular basis because of the potential for things to get ugly. That is an area that I don't worry too much about. I am grateful to have friends who can discuss disparate viewpoints without things going to that ugly place.

I am also grateful that there are people within the blogging world that can engage in these conversations with a modicum of grace. In a post titled Has Old Europe Lost Its Will I uploaded an opinion piece that generated some strong opinions. There were only two respondents from outside the shack and I suspect that there are others who might have wanted to comment but refrained from doing so.

But I'd like to pick on Q from Simply Put for just a moment to say that I appreciate the discussions I have had with him on his blog and my own because he does seem to be not only thoughtful but willing and able to try and discuss various perspectives without feeling the need to go to that ugly place. Moreover the interaction I have had with him has been refreshing because I have felt like he has an open mind.

That doesn't mean that he and I have always come to a place of mutual agreement, but that it has been easy and ok for us to disagree. I know that I can be aggressive when I am arguing for a particular position and I think that when I feel as if the other person has no interest in a different perspective I can be even more aggressive.

The two finest things about this blog have been the opportunity to learn more about myself and more about others and for that I thank Q and the others who frequent the shack. You make it a more interesting world.

Am I The Father I Ought To Be

This is a question I ask myself. Am I the father I ought to be. Do I give my children all that I can. Most of the time I feel pretty good about it, but there are moments where I feel like I am falling short of the mark.

Sometimes I look at myself and I wonder how my father did it. I only have two children and he had four. For years he took care of all of us and he did it with an exceptional work ethic. Do I work as hard for my family as he did for us/

Sometimes I wonder.

Am I giving myself enough credit. Am I giving him too much credit.

Sometimes I wonder.

My gut tells me that if you do not worry about this, if you do not spend a few minutes of your life worried about how you are doing then there is a big problem. It doesn't matter if you are a billionaire or poor, there are some things that money cannot buy.

And there are times when you try to do the right thing and somehow you end up feeling badly about it. Fortunately there haven't been too many of these, but the few moments I have had in which I walked away feeling badly were horrible.

In the end I follow my father and grandfather's advice to do the best that I can. I try to live in a way that lets me sleep at night, but sometimes my best just doesn't feel like it is enough. Oy.

What Do The Terrorists Want

Daniel Pipes has another good piece regarding the key question of what do the terrorists want.
"In nearly all cases, the jihadi terrorists have a patently self-evident ambition: to establish a world dominated by Muslims, Islam, and Islamic law, the Shari'a. Or, again to cite the Daily Telegraph, their "real project is the extension of the Islamic territory across the globe, and the establishment of a worldwide ‘caliphate' founded on Shari'a law."

Terrorists openly declare this goal. The Islamists who assassinated Anwar el-Sadat in 1981 decorated their holding cages with banners proclaiming the "caliphate or death." A biography of one of the most influential Islamist thinkers of recent times and an influence on Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam declares that his life "revolved around a single goal, namely the establishment of Allah's Rule on earth" and restoring the caliphate.

Bin Laden himself spoke of ensuring that "the pious caliphate will start from Afghanistan." His chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also dreamed of re-establishing the caliphate, for then, he wrote, "history would make a new turn, God willing, in the opposite direction against the empire of the United States and the world's Jewish government." Another Al-Qaeda leader, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, publishes a magazine that has declared "Due to the blessings of jihad, America's countdown has begun. It will declare defeat soon," to be followed by the creation of a caliphate.

Or, as Mohammed Bouyeri wrote in the note he attached to the corpse of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker he had just assassinated, "Islam will be victorious through the blood of martyrs who spread its light in every dark corner of this earth."

Interestingly, van Gogh's murderer was frustrated by the mistaken motives attributed to him, insisting at his trial: "I did what I did purely out of my beliefs. I want you to know that I acted out of conviction and not that I took his life because he was Dutch or because I was Moroccan and felt insulted."

Although terrorists state their jihadi motives loudly and clearly, Westerners and Muslims alike too often fail to hear them. Islamic organizations, Canadian author Irshad Manji observes, pretend that "Islam is an innocent bystander in today's terrorism."

What the terrorists want is abundantly clear. It requires monumental denial not to acknowledge it, but we Westerners have risen to the challenge."

So if you buy into this argument it is cleared that this is going to be a long, hard fought battle that will not be ended quickly or easily.

The Shmata Queen's New Post

The Shmata Queen has an interesting post up today. It is called:

It Used to be Cool But Now I am Embarrassed

Giving Hitler Hell

Again I have to thank Gail for this incredible story. It is rather long so I will just post a couple of selections for your review.

"Here, I brought it with me." Weiss fishes through his briefcase, which is definitely not fake leather. Everyone dresses well at EMP's posh Pennsylvania Avenue headquarters, but only the chairman -- a former prime minister of Pakistan and World Bank senior vice president -- is nattier than Weiss.

"There," says Weiss, handing me an old sheaf of papers.

They are 1946 photostats. What is startling is the simplicity of the documents. With all the pageantry that surrounded the Third Reich, these humble pages don't even contain an official seal. Printed on plain white typing paper of the sort found lying around any office, they have an almost suspect humility about them. But they are real, authenticated by the FBI in early 1946, according to America's Secret Army.

Mein privates Testament, reads the underlined heading of the first page. It is dated April 29, 1945, 4 a.m., and at the back are five signatures. The first is small and tightly wound, like a compressed thunderbolt: Adolf Hitler. The others are more expansive and boldly ambitious: witnesses Martin Bormann and Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister who killed himself and his family in the room next to Hitler in the bunker.

The same signatures grace a second, considerably longer document titled Mein politsches Testament, in which Hitler rails against his generals, expels Himmler and Goering from the Nazi Party, and appoints Grand Adm. Karl Doenitz as his successor and names the entire 17-member Cabinet. A third document had been in the package found by Weiss that Zander was to have delivered to Doenitz -- the death-bed marriage certificate between Hitler and his longtime mistress, Eva Braun. But Weiss did not get a copy of it. (Weiss received a photostat of Hitler's wills along with a congratulatory memo dated January 7, 1946, from an American brigadier general whose signature is illegible. The originals are stored in the National Archives.) "The wills were to be used to re-honor Hitler, when at some future date the Germans would rise again," Weiss wrote in his own sure hand in a 1946 memo that ends in a triumphant, "Case closed." (Weiss had reason to sound exultant: For finding definitive proof that Hitler was dead -- in his will, Hitler explains that he prefers ending his own life to being paraded around like a zoo exhibit -- he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, a citation from the commanding general of the Intelligence Services and a recommendation for the Bronze Star.)

As to why Zander failed to deliver the documents to Doenitz, Weiss's memo, now yellowed with age, hints that such information was above his pay grade. Trevor-Roper, however, had access to further debriefings with the wayward SS courier. "A half-educated, stupid, but honest man," he wrote in his final report, published in 1947, "Zander only wished by a silent death to end a wasted life and expiate the illusions which it was too late to shed." Apparently, the loyal SS man had begged for permission not to carry out his last mission. An idealist, he wished to die alongside his Fuhrer. But, according to Trevor-Roper, Hitler refused his request and ordered him to carry the succession documents. Once he thought Hitler was gone, Zander no longer believed that Nazi Germany had any future and simply ditched the documents instead. Weiss never found Bormann, whose skeleton was discovered in Berlin in 1972, prompting speculation that he had killed himself not long after leaving Hitler's bunker.

Weiss still marvels at Hitler's mix of naiveté and arrogance for thinking that the Third Reich could survive defeat or that his orders would be carried out after death. "Can you imagine?" he says. "Hitler was still trying to run Germany from the grave. Talk about chutzpah!" But more mundane matters also preoccupied Hitler's last thoughts: He wanted his paintings donated to a picture gallery in his home town of Linz and some personal mementos distributed to his secretaries, particularly Frau Winter. "As executor, I appoint my most faithful Party comrade, Martin Bormann," Hitler wrote. "He is given full legal authority to hand over to my relatives . . . especially to my wife's mother . . . everything which is . . . necessary to maintain a petty-bourgeois standard of living."

Hitler's final written words, however, commanded Germany's future leaders to "mercilessly resist the universal poisoner of all nations, international Jewry." It is, thus, one of history's ironies that the first person to read those words was a young German American Jew who had survived the Holocaust as a victim of Nazi persecution and was now acting as an instrument of justice."

And in light of current circumstances I give you this:

"How did you do it?" I ask Weiss. "The kapos," he explains, "that's where we got the idea. We had seen what the DPs did to the kapos, and we realized they could do us a favor."

DPs, or displaced persons, were the survivors of death and POW camps -- Jews, Poles, Russians, Hungarians, refugees of virtually every nationality who either could not return home or no longer had any homes to return to. They numbered in the hundreds of thousands in Europe, and they were housed in huge temporary DP camps. Several such refugee camps, converted German Army barracks, were near Munich.

"We studied up a little on military law, and there was nothing on the books preventing us from delivering suspects for additional debriefing to the DPs," Weiss recalls. He says he's not sure where the idea originated, who first put it into motion, or how widespread it was. "Whoever first came up with this, I honestly don't know. I don't think they'd own up to it anyway."

While it was perfectly legal under military law to hand over suspects for further questioning to DPs, says Benjamin Ferencz, who was a lead U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunals in 1945 and 1947, knowingly delivering suspects for execution was not. And of course the DPs were not interested in extracting information.

Ferencz, who today is 85 and lives in New York, cautions against making sweeping armchair moral judgments. "Someone who was not there could never really grasp how unreal the situation was," he says. "I once saw DPs beat an SS man and then strap him to the steel gurney of a crematorium. They slid him in the oven, turned on the heat and took him back out. Beat him again, and put him back in until he was burnt alive. I did nothing to stop it. I suppose I could have brandished my weapon or shot in the air, but I was not inclined to do so. Does that make me an accomplice to murder?"

Ferencz -- who went on to a distinguished legal career, became a founder of the International Criminal Court and is today probably the leading authority on military jurisprudence of the era -- cannot specifically address Weiss's actions. But he says it's important to recall that military legal norms at the time permitted a host of flexibilities that wouldn't fly today. "You know how I got witness statements?" he says. "I'd go into a village where, say, an American pilot had parachuted and been beaten to death and line everyone one up against the wall. Then I'd say, 'Anyone who lies will be shot on the spot.' It never occurred to me that statements taken under duress would be invalid."

Weiss says that his unit had its own system of ethics when it came to handing former death camp guards over to the DPs. "You couldn't do that by yourself," he says. "You consulted with the other CIC agents, and usually there was a duty officer. We would have never done this," he adds, "without at least some nod from a superior."

The key was to make certain that there were no cases of mistaken identity. The SS men would have to own up to their participation in mass murders of their own volition, never as a result of torture, since people tend to admit to anything under such circumstances, says Weiss. As a backup, "I'd make them write out a detailed history of their war record, including who they served with, when and under who." This was double-checked against captured Nazi records to make sure that the person was indeed who they claimed to be. Only then was the decision taken, Weiss says.

Weiss remembers the panic in the SS men's eyes when they finally realized where they were being taken. "We never told them where they were going," he says. At the sight of the old German Army barracks, they grasped their fate. Some would try to cling to the jeep, but the reception committee would forcibly remove them. Weiss says he never looked back in the rearview mirror to see what happened next. Nor did he need to.

In all, Weiss recalls being involved in about a dozen such cases. There were similar instances in other CIC units, Weiss says, but he does not know the circumstances of those cases or how many there were. Weiss says he no longer remembers most of the names of those handed over to the DPs, and that even if he did, he would not divulge them because their descendants might seek recourse.

He says he has never, however, had any moral qualms about his actions. "I never gave it much thought after the war," he says. "The point is: What do you do with these guys? The war crimes courts were already backlogged with more senior Nazis. The jails were full. They were going to slip through the cracks."

The overwhelming majority of the lower-level SS guards did in fact escape justice.

Ferencz prosecuted members of the Einsatzgruppen. "There were 3,000 members of these killing squads who did nothing but kill women and children for three straight years," he says. "These 3,000 men alone were responsible for almost 1 million murders. Do you know how many I brought indictments against? Twenty-two. The rest were never tried.

"I remember talking to Soviet officers," he adds. "And they were baffled. 'You know they're guilty,' they'd say. 'Why don't you just shoot them?' There was a lot of that kind of feeling in postwar Germany."

Has 'Old Europe' Lost Its Will

Gail tipped me off to this article. I think that there is some food for thought in it. As customary here are a few selections and comments on Shoring Up the Western Front:

"Nov. 9, 1989, and Sept. 11, 2001, each changed the modern world. The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of 75 years of communism, and the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks the beginning of what may be a similar period of global Islamic terrorism.

But not all of Western civilization wants to fight this not so cold war. Turkey, fearing attacks by Muslim insurgents, ended its anti-terrorism efforts in 2003. Spain followed suit after the 2004 Madrid bombings. Then Hungary and the Netherlands also all but capitulated, even without any dramatic, world-attention grabbing, attacks on their soil. Now Italy says it will withdraw its forces from Iraq by year end.

Old Europe may be falling apart before our eyes. This is suggested by the opposition of Western Europeans to the American military action in Iraq as well as the defeat of the European Union Constitution in France and Holland last spring and the economic decline of European socialist economies. In any case, Old Europe has neither the political will nor the economic strength to combat terrorism. Without the United States, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq would be terrorist-controlled nations. Once again it will be up to America to defeat an assault on Western civilization, just as it was left to the United States to rescue Europe against Nazism and then against the global assualt of communism."

I can't say that I disagree with this, but I expect that such rhetoric is going to fall on deaf ears that will respond with accusations of jingoism and xenophobia and an overinflated sense of importance.

"Within the European continent thousands of trained terrorists live and travel freely. Historian Walter Laquer reports that security authorities estimate more than 600--perhaps several thousand--British residents are actual graduates of Osama bin Laden's training camps. Dr. Hani al-Siba'i, the director of the al-Maqreze Centre for Historical Studies in London was quoted as approving of the subway bombings as a great victory, for it was legitimate to target civilians since "the term 'civilians' does not exist in Islamic law . . ." The Islamic fanatic who killed Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh told the court: "I acted purely in the name of my religion," and that "one day, should I be set free, I would do the same, exactly the same . . ."

But none of this means continental Europeans or the British establishment are prepared to criticize terrorism. Christophe Chaboud, France's antiterrorism coordinator, said last week that the war against Iraq--evidently not the blowing up of Spanish or British trains--is making Europe dangerous, and the BBC forbids the use of the word "terrorist" in its coverage of the London bombings.

France, Germany and their European allies believe the welfare state economic model--high taxes and welfare benefits, shorter work weeks, strong restrictions on hiring and firing of workers, huge government subsidies for industry and agriculture, and suffocating regulation by a massive bureaucracy in Brussels--is preferable to Anglo-American democratic capitalism and will lead to prosperity. But it hasn't and it won't, and without economic strength the military strength needed to fight terrorism becomes impossible to assemble.

Simply put, Old Europe's thinking today is that of 1930s, when the Oxford Union voted "under no circumstances [to] fight for King and Country," and British PM Neville Chamberlain believed appeasement should be the policy and "peace in our time" the goal. Winston Churchill had the better understanding: "You ask what is our aim? I can answer that in one word, victory at all costs, victory in spite of terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival." He was talking of Hitler and Nazi Germany, of course, but without victory there will be no survival against Islamic terrorism either."

A couple of remarks. First, the idea that there could be thousands of terrorists floating around is quite frightening. One of the questions that has always plagued me is just how many people out there are willing to kill themselves to murder others. Daniel Pipes has an interesting article in which he quotes a British government report that suggests there could be as many as 16,000 "British Muslims actively engaged in terrorist activity."

He also cites a survey of 526 Muslims in Great Britain from this past month. Now I am not sure if the sample is large enough for my taste, but the results are relatively shocking.

The YouGov survey contains many other statistics that should interest, if not shock, Britons and other Westerners.

  • Muslims who see the 7/7 bombing attacks in London as justified on balance: 6 percent.
  • Who feel sympathy for the "feelings and motives" of those who carried out the 7/7 attacks: 24 percent.
  • Understand "why some people behave in that way": 56 percent.
  • Disagree with Tony Blair's description of the ideology of the London bombers as "perverted and poisonous": 26 percent.
  • Feel not loyal towards Britain: 16 percent.
  • Agree that "Western society is decadent and immoral and that Muslims should seek to bring it to an end": 32 percent willing to use non-violent means and (as noted above) 1 percent willing to use violence "if necessary." Just 56 percent of Muslims agree with the statement that "Western society may not be perfect but Muslims should live with it and not seek to bring it to an end."
  • Agree that "British political leaders don't mean it when they talk about equality. They regard the lives of white British people as more valuable than the lives of British Muslims": 52 percent.
  • Dismiss political party leaders as insincere when saying "they respect Islam and want to co-operate with Britain's Muslim communities": 50 percent.
  • Doubt that anyone charged with and tried for the 7/7 attacks would receive a fair trial: 44 percent.
  • Would not inform on a Muslim religious leader "trying to 'radicalise' young Muslims by preaching hatred against the West": 10 percent.
  • Do not think people have a duty to go to the police if they "see something in the community that makes them feel suspicious": 14 percent.
  • Believe other Muslims would be reluctant to go to the police "about anything they see that makes them suspicious": 41 percent.
  • Would inform the police if they believed they knew about the possible planning of a terrorist attack: 73 percent. (In this case, the Daily Telegraph did not make available the negative percentage.)
And now back to the original article:

"Meanwhile, the terrorist network has changed its focus, making the fighting of the war more complex. An al Qaeda planning document found by Norwegian intelligence in 2003 laid out its revised strategy: spectacular attacks like those of 9/11 against the United States need to be supplemented by attacks on European nations so they will withdraw their support of the Afghan and Iraqi military operations in order to increase the burden on the United States.

University of Chicago professor Robert Pape's excellent New York Times piece of July 9th lays out its specifics: attack Britain, Poland, and Spain as the most vulnerable nations. "It is necessary to make the utmost use of the upcoming general election in Spain . . . we think the Spanish government could not tolerate more than two, maximum three, blows . . . then the victory of the Socialist Party is almost secured and the withdrawal of Spanish forces will be in the electoral program." They hoped that would put "huge pressure on the British presence that Tony Blair might not be able to withstand, and hence the domino tiles would fall quickly."

What I see here is another sign that Al Qaeda and company are not stupid people. They are not acting illogically. There is a logic and rationale to every move they make and it is shortsighted and foolish to try and apply our morals to it.

I think that it is important to understand their thought process so that we can more effectively combat them, but I would never want to underestimate their intelligence, patience and or will to fight. This is a long term battle and I really hope that more European nations will begin to see that this is not about building an empire or any other hegemonic dream.

The Blog Goes Round and Round

And now for this evenings collection of random thoughts about the world and my experiences. Received this anonymous comment on this post:


Yasher koach. Who are the Kosher Five and What happened to them? Maybe I should work them into my story, Fragments of Fiction. Speaking of that I have been listening to Johnny Cash's cover of NIN's Hurt. It is so intense. Here is a link to the video and the lyrics.
"I hurt myself today
to see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
the only thing that's real
the needle tears a hole
the old familiar sting
try to kill it all away
but I remember everything
what have I become?
my sweetest friend
everyone I know
goes away in the end
and you could have it all
my empire of dirt

I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
upon my liar's chair
full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
beneath the stains of time
the feelings disappear
you are someone else
I am still right here

what have I become?
my sweetest friend
everyone I know
goes away in the end
and you could have it all
my empire of dirt

I will let you down
I will make you hurt

if I could start again
a million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way "
This is just so raw. It is the story of someone who is stripped bare and there is so much power and strength there. This is not the story of weakness.

But lets move back to Fragments of Fiction for a moment. I have received a few emails from people who have asked how I came up with the idea, where it is going and how I am developing the characters.

The short version is that this was created based upon a whim. I have a very vague idea of where I am going to take these people and what I am going to do with them. There is not much of a formula or secret for how I have been developing the characters.

They are based upon experiences my friends and I have had, but you should be aware that those experiences have in some cases been exaggerated or completely fabricated. But there is one element in the creative process that I can share with you. I have found that the times in which I have felt the best about my writing are those where I felt the saddest. Thus far the story is a mixture of good and bad. There are some very sad moments in it. You may not feel my sadness, but it is there.

The most honest expressions in that story are from the scars that I still carry around. I tap into those places that do not see the light of day very often and I let them out. It can be hard. I am a happy person. Overall I have relatively few things that frustrate me, at least relatively few that are unique solely to me.

But the truth is that I am one of those people who holds onto some things. There is baggage there that lives in my attic. As I age I find it easier to drop pieces over the side and to ignore their loss. I really do not miss them much, but some things are easier to leave behind than others.

Breathe Like a Fish

Here is another cool idea that I'd like to try out. It has to do with an Israeli inventor who has developed a system that may allow people to breathe underwater without tanks.
"There are a number of limitations to the existing compressed air tank underwater breathing method. The first is the amount of time a diver can stay underwater, which is the result of the tank capacity. Another limitation is the dependence on oxygen refueling facilities near the diving site which are costly to operate and are used to compress the gas into the tanks which might be dangerous if not handled properly.

The final problem has to do with the actual use of air tanks underwater. When these tanks are in use they empty out and change the balance of the diver in the water.

Engineers have tried to overcome these limitations for many years now. Nuclear submarines and the international space station use systems that generate Oxygen from water by performing 'Electrolysis', which is electrical separation of hydrogen and oxygen from water. These systems require very large amounts of energy to operate. For this reason, smaller, diesel fueled submarines cannot use these systems and are required to resurface to re-supply their airtanks every so often. Divers can't even consider carrying such large machines not to mention supplying them with energy.

To overcome this limitation an Israeli inventor, Alon Bodner, turned to fish. Fish do not perform chemical separation of oxygen from water; instead they use the dissolved air that exists in the water in order to breathe. In the ocean the wind, waves and underwater currents help spread small amounts of air inside the water.

Studies have shown that in a depth of 200m below the sea there is still about 1.5% of dissolved air. This might not sound like much but it is enough to allow both small and large fish to breathe comfortably underwater.

Bodner's idea was to create an artificial system that will mimic the way fish use the air in the water thus allowing both smaller submarines and divers to get rid of the large, cumbersome air tanks.

The system developed by Bodner uses a well known physical law called the "Henry Law" which describes gas absorption in liquids. This law states that the amount of gas that can be dissolved in a liquid body is proportional to the pressure on the liquid body.

The law works in both directions - lowering the pressure will release more gas out of the liquid. This is done by a centrifuge which rotates rapidly thus creating under pressure inside a small sealed chamber containing sea water. The system will be powered by rechargeable batteries. Calculations showed that a one kilo Lithium battery can provide a diver with about one hour of diving time.""

Religion and Politics

Ok, on my obsessive tour of the blogosphere I came across this post at Kerckhoff Coffeehouse where Doctor Bean and company maintain their abode. BTW, there are those people out there who are under the mistaken impression that the picture in the profile is the esteemed doctor, it is not.

And again on a side note I enjoyed my time at UCLA much more because of Kerckhoff.

But the real point of this post is to comment on the post I linked to and more specifically is to comment on this:
'By the way, Mike, good for you for trying to inject some religious spirit into politics. But remember, when it comes to issues you mention such as abortion and gay marriage, you're gonna have to get your buddies to come up with a better argument than "religion doesn't belong in politics."
I disagree with that. If you look at the First Amendment you can see the beginning of the separation of church and state. It is a necessary and very important component of the fabric of society within the U.S.

This ties into why I find the use of religion as an argument for why Israel should keep Gaza to be problematic. I don't believe in the Koran. I believe that the New Testament is a work of fiction.

And at the same time I expect others feel this way about the Torah and other Jewish theology. I am not offended by their lack of belief.

But I think that this is a critical concept to get across. If we are negotiating terms for an agreement they should be based upon a foundation that we can all accept, not upon things that only fragments view as being truthful and accurate.

From a religious perspective I view Israel as property of the Jewish people, but in good conscience I cannot expect others to feel the same way. So when I look at a situation like Gaza I draw upon the reasons that are not based upon religion and there are plenty.

When I look at various issues within the U.S. I don't spend a lick of time worrying about what Judaism or Christianity or anything else say about abortion because we do not live in a theocracy.

The point is that we need to look for common ground to stand upon and build a consensus.

Now at the same time I think that there is truth to what Ralphie says and that to a certain extent you are going to find religion in politics. It will help mold and shape your opinions on things, but I think that there are and should be limits to its influence.

Space Shuttle Uses Ancient Technology

I found this story in the New York Times to be very interesting. I won't post it in its entirety but will include a couple of excerpts.

High Tech in the 70's, Shuttles Feel Their Age

"Until just a few years ago, some of the computers used in testing the shuttle's boosters still contained Intel 8086 microprocessors, which are from the family that powered the first I.B.M. personal computers in the early 1980's. That microprocessor has 29,000 transistors and operates at a speed of 10 million cycles per second. Today's microprocessors tend to have 55 million transistors and run at a speed of 3.4 billion cycles per second.

The sensor system is far from the only shuttle component with potential problems.

Age-related complaints abound. Workers have sweated over the shuttle's main engines, which endure some of the most pronounced stress of any component. Documents for the Discovery's flight readiness review in June showed that engineers had found and dealt with tiny cracks along seals in the main engines and ruptures in some of the engines' nozzle tubes.

In the solid rocket boosters, corroded bolts have been discovered in the motors' nozzle joints. Elsewhere, a leak was discovered in a flexible hose used to deliver oxygen to the crew before the launching of the shuttle Endeavour in 2002; corrosion was later found in similar hoses."

You wouldn't think that the shuttle would be better equipped, but the article does show some reasons why they might be like this.

"And while the shuttle undergoes the kind of stresses that no conventional aircraft endures - the bone-rattling launching, the extreme cold of orbit and the fiery re-entry - Mr. Readdy, a former astronaut and pilot, said the high-stress periods were relatively brief for the shuttles, which might fly just dozens of times. By comparison, the average fighter jet undergoes far more wear and tear over its lifetime, he said.

NASA and others involved in the space program also note that older technologies, like the transistors hand-soldered onto circuit boards in the controller box for the fuel level sensors, may be more reliable than the delicate microprocessors found on newer craft.

"Sometimes high-tech doesn't go with robust," said Jeffrey Carr, a spokesman for United Space Alliance, the main contractor for the space shuttle."

Ok, I lied, you have received most of the article, but it is just so interesting to me.

"The space agency has regularly upgraded aspects of the shuttles as well, as when it replaced the instrument panels and dials in the cockpits with modern flat-panel displays. Still, examples of the problems of an aging shuttle come up frequently. Just last week, the agency's inspector general issued a report describing continuing problems with a kind of wiring used throughout the shuttles as a "safety risk."

The document, which was first reported on, said the wires were coated with an insulator known as Kapton that tended to break down over time, causing short circuits and, potentially, fires.

In a 1999 flight of the Columbia, a short circuit occurred five seconds after liftoff and caused two of the six computers that control the shuttle's main engines to shut down.

NASA grounded the shuttle fleet for five months, and inspected and repaired some 1,300 problems it found with Kapton wiring on the Columbia alone. Many areas of wire that were inaccessible were not checked, and the accident investigation board recommended that the agency "develop a state-of-the-art means to inspect all orbiter wiring, including that which is inaccessible."

But the agency has quietly dropped plans to comply fully with the recommendation to develop new nondestructive testing technologies, largely because of the Bush administration's decision to retire the shuttle fleet by 2010.

The report assumed that the shuttles would be flying until 2020, as NASA had previously stated. The agency said the new system could not be ready before 2009 and would cost too much.

The inspector general's report said that because no good alternative to Kapton had been found, any next-generation vehicle might also use it, and so the testing method would not be wasted. The report concluded that NASA was not following its own rules for managing risks.

Mr. Readdy said that the new procedures for inspection and documentation of all work done on the vehicles has greatly reduced the risk from Kapton wiring, and that even inaccessible wiring could be tested indirectly by monitoring either end of the inaccessible areas.

Dr. Griffin has compared the shuttle to a clipper ship, which he referred to as an amazing technological achievement now past its time. Of the shuttle, he said in a news conference this month, "I am in awe of the brilliant engineering that has gone into developing it maintaining it and sustaining it." But, he added, "It's time to move on."

Random Searches- DovBear You Went Over the Deep End

From a cave located somewhere on the East Coast DovBear has launched a rant about the decision to allow the NYPD to conduct random searches of the people who wish to ride the subway. Paul and Miriam have also issued their own responses to DB. You can find them here and here.

Let me preface this by saying that I do not like this at all. I agree that we are dancing on raindrops here and that there is potential for abuse but let us take a look at what the plan calls for:
NEW YORK (AP) — Police will begin random searches of bags and packages carried by people entering city subways, officials announced Thursday after a new series of bomb attacks in London.

Passengers carrying bags will be selected at random before they pass through turnstiles, and those who refuse the police request won’t be allowed to ride, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

He said officers posted at subway entrances would not engage in racial profiling, and that passengers are free to “turn around and leave.”

Within the comments thread DB boils down his concern with these words:

Ok, so let's break it down:

1) Is being searched a viloation of your right to privacy?

No. But (a) it has to be truly random, and there is no such thing and (b) it opens the door to other intrusions.

2) Do ramdom searches increase oue security in amy meaningful way?

No. Especially if you're premitting people to decline the searches and try again in another station.

There is no doubt that are some civil liberties that are tied into this. One of my biggest concerns about the war on terror is what kind of balance we are going to be able to strike between protecting ourselves and the need to do so by eroding some of the freedom we take for granted.

It is not an easy thing to do and not something that should be allowed without careful thought. But careful thought also requires a mandate to look at ways that we can deter and prevent acts of terror. It is clear that without establishing additional security measures it would be really easy for a terrorist to do this kind of thing over and over. It would be negligent not to come up with something and I happen to think that random searches are a decent measure.

If people are willing to blow themselves up you have to expect that at some point in time someone is going to get around the measures and pull the trigger. I don't expect it to be fullproof but I do expect that it could have benefits.

Part of fighting terrorism is establishing deterrents and preventative measures.

It is almost four years since 9/11 and we haven't seen a succcessful attack within the US. I have to believe that the terrorists have tried and that they have been stopped from succeeding. But you don't read stories like that. You only read about how the current admin is responsible for all of the ills within the world.

The sad reality is that the world is not the same place it used to be and if we do not take steps we will be punished for not doing so. And the truth of the matter is that is not impossible now for a cop to stop you on the street. You can scream about a lack of probable cause and fight it after the fact if you think that it was unfair.

But in the end I think that we are going to face a hard compromise with giving law enforcement some more tools to work with.

You Should Be a Rabbi Continued

This past December I wrote a post I called You Should Be a Rabbi. Read it, you'll like it. You'll laugh, you'll cry and then you'll wonder why you wasted the five minutes it took to get through it.

I have a habit of picking on various bloggers and riffing off of things that they have said. For those of you who have been the subject take it as a compliment you managed to catch my eye. Doesn't that sound like one of those self important proclamations or some kind of back handed compliment. Have I really that much chutzpah that I think I can make these kind of remarks. Oy.

Anyway here is what caught my eye this week:
"Most of my best friend are rabbis. Recently one of these friends surprised me by sharing that he didn't want to be considered a rabbi anymore. I'm not sure you can do that. And either is he.

Another friend of mine's father is a rabbi, and has disowned the title. His son always introduces his father as Rabbi X, but his father always protests.

I have gotten used to the title. I fought it a lot at first. I didn't want to finish my requirements. But now it's like part of my name. Of course it's more than that. Perhaps I'll write more about this at a later time. Perhaps."
If you are wondering where I found this it was over at NY's Funniest Rabbi. It caught my eye for many different reasons. Now it so happens that conservatively speaking I probably know 50 rabbis. If I wasn't so tired I'd try and turn that into a joke about how many Orthodox and Reform rabbis I know too, or maybe something about how many rabbis it takes to change a lightbulb, but for now I'll spare you. ;)

Anyway this caught my eye for a variety of reasons.

1) I am someone who is perpetually filled with angst about my jobs. It doesn't matter what they are I am always concerned with something. Maybe I am that high maintenance guy that I really do not want to be, or maybe not. But it is always interesting to me to see people in the clergy express their own concerns. Although I should add that the advantage of knowing so many members of the "G-d squad" I have seen the moments of doubt and that is something that I like in them. As I mentioned in my Harry Potter post I like to see the humanity in people and I worry about clergy who never show any doubt or concern.

2) There is a part of me that is interested in going down that path and exploring rabbinics. I find much of it to be compelling but have my concerns and questions. If you are really interested you can find some insight with these posts:

Davening for Dollars

Prayer- A Converstion With G-d

What Does G-d Look Like?


A Moment In Time- Perspective For The Coming Shabbos

Uh oh, I was just detained for a moment of monster bashing. Apparently the monster in my son's closet was trying to eat him and as the resident monster killer I was called upon. In case you are wondering it was a mighty battle. He and I struggled but only because I didn't want to make him look bad in front of his boss, there are few things more pathetic than kicking the crap out of a scary monster.

And if you are really interested my 4.5 year-old terror joined me. Once he knew that I was winning he punched the monster in the nose and kicked his tuchus really, really hard. In fact it was so hard the monster ran to his mommy and cried. Got to love kids. :)

So I am stalling for a moment because I lost my train of thought, I have been derailed and cannot remember exactly where I was going with this. I must be getting old, a senior moment already. Ouch.

Whatever, I'll just start sharing more thoughts and we will see where it goes. I think that part of the attraction lies in the desire to really dig into learning and finding out more about who I am inside. The more introspection I do the more I learn about me. I am so very different from who I used to be and so very much the same.

Ok, going back to the start I found Rav Fleischmann's comments about the title rabbi to be interesting. When you work hard to achieve something in theory it seems like you should feel very comfortable wearing the title you earned, but on the other hand I can see how there would be reasons why you might not.

Anyway, I still can't quite get back to where I was so I'll just end this particular journey here.

Pallywood Posts

 I think a bunch of the posts about Pallywood that have been written and or linked here have to be updated. Probably a bunch of bad links, k...