She don’t say a whole lot, but when she does, it’s worth passing on
Busy is Good
This afternoon, I was walking to one of the Consulate gates to check on something, and happened across one of the Local Guard Force supervisors. His name is Ricardo Lima. A very quiet and pleasant man, who I always liked and have great respect for. He stopped me and shook my hand with a firm grip, and told me, I want to tell you something. He speaks good English, but speaks slowly to get the words accurate.
He said, One time, I asked if you were busy, and you said, “Yes”. Then you said, “Busy is good.” I always remembered that.
I honestly do not remember saying that, but it sounds like something I would say. Just those simple words spewed from my mouth, has affected him in a way I do not understand. And for him to stop me and tell me this, says it was something that changed his way of thinking in a positive way.
Just as with the Mohamed Bouazizi immolation, I feel a chill on my back that we have such power with our words to affect other’s way of thinking. It is positive thinking people we are attracted to. To this day, I avoid negative people. They do not feed the craving I have to see the world in a wondrous way.
I spent 26 months in Afghanistan working for a Contractor as an Electrician. Where I was first posted in Kandahar, it was fairly quiet. My tent was too close to the sewer pond, as was everyone else. The days went from searing in the summer to a wet chill that seeped into your bones in winter. It was not the most comfortable place to live, but I’m sure there are worse. Somewhere.
After about 5 or 6 months, about two in the morning, I heard a strange sound in my sleep. A kind of a whistling followed by a muffled boom. Then a second identical sound. I laid there wondering what it was, when the “Giant Voice” sounded. It was a rocket attack.
I rolled off my bed onto the floor and laid there until I was sure the volley had ended. Within seconds of the attack, howitzers opened fire toward the hills nearby where it was believed the rockets were launched. I got up and put on my body armor – 38 pounds of steel plating covering my chest and back, with a Kevlar helmet, and headed out to a nearby concrete bunker with everyone else. Minutes later, Black Hawk and Apache helicopters took off to find the launchers.
About an hour later, we were given the all clear to return to our bunks. It was kind of surreal.
The next day, we learned that the rockets landed near the tents where our carpenters slept. One had shrapnel in his knee and survived well. Another had shrapnel embedded in his throat and was rapidly flown to Frankfurt. I sent my sister a request for prayers at her prayer group for the man. The last I heard, he was recovering nicely and had his family with him. I am assuming all is well with him.
Months later I happen to be watching a couple of military videos of recorded firefights. One had two soldiers standing and talking, when that whistling sound was heard on the video, followed by explosions.
Hearing the sound again, even on the video shook me at my core. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the sound had a profound effect on me. It was coupled with the realization that there was someone in the hills nearby that was trying to kill me. A very eerie feeling when it actually happens.
Upon my return to the States, for the first year or so I was easily startled with any loud bang that took me off guard. But I survived, yet that whistling sound still haunts me if I hear it in a video.
– Now fast forward to the present.
I spent two weeks working the G20 Summit where 20 countries came together to discuss things and leave with nothing accomplished, thinking they solved the world’s problems.
While there, I met a young man who I found very likable and a bit ornery. His name is Chris. He sat with several of us one evening, joking and kidding with one of the women in our group. It was fun to watch, as they exchanged barbs like siblings.
I am pretty good at sensing things about people. Although Chris was happy and friendly, I could sense something that wasn’t seen. Almost a sadness within him. It wasn’t until the last night when there was a party to celebrate the completion of the Summit, did we sit and talk one on one. As the alcohol flowed, Chris began to talk about his work in the EOD. (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) These are the guys who work with the incredible dogs to detect explosive mines on the roadway and safely remove them. This job is not for those who cannot handle stress.
He told me, that he now realizes he has all the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) and it is time for him to get psychological help. His first appointment is next month. He said the abuse and hardship on his wife with his drinking, has made him realized he had the disorder. He then told me, his father returned from Vietnam and became an alcoholic. Unfortunately, his father didn’t seek help until 40 years later.
What I experienced is nowhere close to what Chris had to endure, yet it made me acutely aware of what he felt on a scale far beyond me. At least he now knows what to do to fix it, and is willing to take those steps.
I wish you well, my Good Man. I wish you well. And I thank you for your service.
Churchill and Lady Astor
One of the most interesting questions to ask people, is who would they like to spend a fantasy dinner with. List 6 people, past or present, who you would enjoy sharing a meal with.
One of the individuals I would choose is Winston Churchill. I enjoy reading quotes and Wikiquote is a good site to find them, and much of this comes from the website.
Winston Churchill (November 30 1874 – January 24 1965) was a British politician & statesman, best known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II. He was Prime Minister of the UK from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953.
Let me share a couple of quotes from this great man.
Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result. (I can attest to that working in Afghanistan in 2005. It’s quite thrilling to have someone lob rockets in your direction.)
On playing golf: Like chasing a quinine pill around a cow pasture.
Truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is.
To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.
She shone for me like the Evening Star. I loved her dearly — but at a distance. – On his mother, Lady Randolph Churchill.
It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations is an admirable work and I studied it intently. The quotations when engraved upon the memory give you good thoughts. They also make you anxious to read the authors and look for more.
Churchill dealt a sharp edged sword when speaking of others:
I remember, when I was a child, being taken to the celebrated Barnum’s circus, which contained an exhibition of freaks and monstrosities. But the exhibit on the programme which I most desired to see was the one described as “The Boneless Wonder.” My parents judged that that spectacle would be too revolting and demoralising for my youthful eyes, and I have waited 50 years to see the boneless wonder sitting on the Treasury Bench. – A jibe at Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald during a speech in the House of Commons, January 28, 1931.
We know that he has, more than any other man, the gift of compressing the largest number of words into the smallest amount of thought. – Another jibe directed at Ramsay MacDonald, during a speech in the House of Commons.
Occasionally he stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened. – On Earl Baldwin of Bewdley.
George Bernard Shaw is said to have told Churchill: Am reserving two tickets for you for my premiere. Come and bring a friend—if you have one.
Churchill replied, Impossible to be present for the first performance. Will attend the second—if there is one.
The man well understood the significance of war.
Dictators ride to and fro on tigers from which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry. – “Armistice or Peace?” published in The Evening Standard.
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. Churchill first made his comment to General Hastings Ismay as they got into their car to leave RAF Uxbridge on 16 August 1940 after monitoring the battle from the Operations Room.
Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.
One of the more intriguing of his quotes:
I am going to tell you something you must not tell to any human being. We have split the atom. The report of the great experiment has just come in. A bomb was let off in some wild spot in New Mexico. It was only a thirteen-pound bomb, but it made a crater half a mile across. People ten miles away lay with their feet towards the bomb; when it went off they rolled over and tried to look at the sky. But even with the darkest glasses it was impossible. It was the middle of the night, but it was as if seven suns had lit the earth; two hundred miles away the light could be seen. The bomb sent up smoke into the stratosphere…It is the Second Coming. The secret has been wrested from nature…Fire was the first discovery; this is the second. – Churchill on the atom bomb in conversation with his doctor, Lord Moran.
An exchange with Harry S. Truman aboard the Presidential train in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station. (March 4, 1946). The very first thing the President did was to show me the new Presidential Seal, which he had just redesigned. He explained, ‘The seal has to go everywhere the President goes. It must be displayed upon the lectern when he speaks. The eagle used to face the arrows but I have re-designed it so that it now faces the olive branches … what do you think?’ I said, ‘Mr. President, with the greatest respect, I would prefer the American eagle’s neck to be on a swivel so that it could face the olive branches or the arrows, as the occasion might demand.’
When I was a young subaltern in the South African War, the water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable we had to put a bit of whiskey in it. By diligent effort I learned to like it.
When I was younger I made it a rule never to take strong drink before lunch. It is now my rule never to do so before breakfast. – Reply to King George VI, on a cold morning at the airport. The King had asked if Churchill would take something to warm himself.
No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. I could not foretell the course of events. I do not pretend to have measured accurately the martial might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all! … Hitler’s fate was sealed. Mussolini’s fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder. – The Second World War, Volume III: The Grand Alliance.
Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you. Give me a pig! He looks you in the eye and treats you as an equal. – As cited in Churchill by Himself
I want no criticism of America at my table. The Americans criticize themselves more than enough. – As cited in Churchill By Himself.
I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter. – On his 75th birthday, in reply to a question on whether he was afraid of death.
One of Churchill’s adversaries, was Nancy Astor, the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament in the English House of Commons. During the course of her adult life, Lady Astor alienated many others with her sharp words. Many of the best-known quotations attributed to her are indicative of her personal and political views, such as feminism, temperance and conservatism; others are merely humorous. However, because she is known for her wit, statements are sometimes attributed to her without conclusive proof that she actually said them. Examples of statements that have been attributed to her include:
• I married beneath me. All women do.
• I refuse to admit that I am more than fifty-two, even if that does make my sons illegitimate.
• In passing, also, I would like to say that the first time Adam had a chance he laid the blame on a woman.
• My vigour, vitality, and cheek repel me. I am the kind of woman I would run from.
• One reason why I don’t drink is because I wish to know when I am having a good time.
• Pioneers may be picturesque figures, but they are often rather lonely ones.
• Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer; into a selflessness which links us with all humanity.
• The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything… or nothing.
• The only thing I like about rich people is their money.
• The penalty for success is to be bored by the people who used to snub you.
• Women have got to make the world safe for men since men have made it so darned unsafe for women.
• We women talk too much, but even then we don’t tell half what we know.
• Jakie, is it my birthday or am I dying? (Seeing all her children assembled at her bedside in her last illness.)
• What do those earthworms want now? (On hearing of the 1930s miners’ strike)
However, by far the most famous quotations attributed to her are taken from alleged exchanges between her and Churchill, though, like the statements above, these are not well documented and may be misattributed.
Examples include an instance in which Churchill is supposed to have told Lady Astor that having a woman in Parliament was like having one intrude on him in the bathroom, to which she retorted, “You’re not handsome enough to have such fears.”
Lady Astor is also said to have responded to a question from Churchill about what disguise he should wear to a masquerade ball by saying, “Why don’t you come sober, Prime Minister?”
Possibly the most famous of all such anecdotes reports that Lady Astor said to Churchill, “If you were my husband, I’d poison your coffee.” to which he responded, “Madam, if you were my wife, I’d drink it!”
Another verbal duel: Lady Nancy Astor: Winston, you are drunk.
Churchill: Indeed, Madam, and you are ugly—but tomorrow I’ll be sober.
– And to close with this from Churchill: Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and the glory of the climb.
I have realized the greatest gift we can give ourselves, is to be part of those who write history. Even if we are left among the unknown, to make a difference in this world is to be a success in living life, for we are here to learn, love and change the world for the benefit of those left behind. D.
The Grief of Africa
We have only about 4 more months until we leave Africa. It has been an amazing learning experience, sometimes breath taking. There were times when all we could do, was stare and say, Damn!
The one thing I did not expect, is realizing the people of Africa is just as amazing as the Dark Continent itself. … and they will be treasured the remainder of my life.
I once remarked to my boss, when we get to Heaven, we will find more Ethiopians there than anyone else. Incredibly, a co-worker shot back, how they will mostly be in Hell, because they do this or that …. Right then, I was reminded of the saying: life is a mirror…
Last Friday morning, Terese was sitting on one of the back balconies with her coffee, when she started hearing wailing and crying from across the river at one of the houses. It didn’t take but a few moments to realized someone had died there. Within minutes several more people joined in the agony. This went on for several hours as more and more people gathered. The house is just up the bank of the river and we could see the yard through the trees.
It was one of those things to watch and yet to look away for respect, as it was personal and agonizing. The crying went on all through the day and into the night. Yesterday, Saturday, a large tent was erected in the yard for the funeral. Many people could be seen gathering all around it, and as with any funeral, tables of food were set up.
At one point, Terese said, a horn was blown to start the procession to the grave and as if on cue, everyone began wailing again. As the people moved out, Terese saw that it was a small casket for a child.
It was one of those things that is both sad and beautiful, like the ramp ceremonies I witnessed in Afghanistan. And last night, I woke in the darkness and I could still hear one lone woman crying across the way.
When one of my brothers visited, we all traveled out on a day trip to a nearby crater. At one small village, a large truck pulling two very heavy loads of crushed rock, hit a curve too fast and rolled over. My guess is his brakes went out. When we saw it, the truck and trailers had just come to a rest, with dust from the gravel still spreading out.
We pulled over, and backed up some to stay out of the way. We were so close, that if we had been 3 or 4 seconds further down the road, the truck would have hit us also.
We sat and watch everyone’s horror unfold. Screaming and wailing erupted as people began to realize there were others who were walking along the curve when the truck rolled. We watched about a dozen people crawl up to the truck’s broken windshield and pulled the driver out. No assessment first, just a gang rescue. Terese, being a medic from those hard years of her life, wanted to assist in helping, but I had to tell her she could not. We could not become involved. Especially with all the people working together haphazardly.
We sat and watch for about 20-30 minutes as police officers came and called for ambulances. Eventually, several buses came up, so the crowds opened up the road enough for them to pass through, and we quickly fell in behind them.
We witnessed a dramatic eruption of agony and hysteria. But along with all else we see, it’s just one of many aspects of Africa.
The Greatest Gift God Gave Little Boys …
… is dirt. My parents raised nine kids throughout their fulfilled life, and with four older brothers, and one older sister – (but I digress), I followed in their pattern of life enjoying that amazing gift. I spent many hours playing in the dirt building roads and cities with toys that would carve out the soil. I distinctly remember having among many others, a roadgrader that I used to create such. My clothing existed of denim jeans that constantly required patches in the knees. My mother started using the new fan-dangle iron-on patches, but they lasted until I played in them, then she ended up having to sew them on.
My father had a 8mm movie camera that he used before I was born. Up until now, I thought the “mm” part didn’t existed until much later in my life. I remember the times we would all sit in the living room, usually with a huge mound of popcorn on the dining room table, and Pop would set up the Keystone movie projector and thread the film through the sprockets with the bright light shining on the movie screen.
I can still smell the soft heat given off by the machine as it chattered away with the images moving on the screen. When I think of this, I can still envision the images taken before I was born, of my older brothers playing in the yard at the “Merton Lease”, whatever that was.
They were playing with a small wagon, which I believe only had two wheels like something you would attach to a neighborhood dog if you could get it to stand still long enough. In the back of the wagon was a load of pumpkins. My brothers wore nothing but shorts. No shirts. No shoes. Just sunshine, dirt and sticks. I cannot imagine them sitting around complaining of not having anything to do.
Sticks. I believe that is God’s second greatest gift to boys. There is so much that can be done with sticks. They make great swords, guns and magic wands. I used them to poke ant beds, bird nests, dead animals and sisters. Speaking of dead animals, I remember my mother telling the story of stepping out in the yard at the Merton Lease and finding my brothers playing with a dead snake. As you know, you always poke a dead animal with a stick first before playing with it.
When my kids were still young, they too played in the dirt. I worked at an appliance store and would bring big boxes home for them to play with. Cardboard boxes are the third greatest gift God gave young boys. (and yes Rebecca, girls too) I would unload them in the back yard and with crayon and a kitchen knife, I would cut out windows and doors for them. There was one time I purchased two sheets of plywood and built them a playhouse. It was a day or two later that I caught them trying to fill it with water. Luckily there was no door or I think they would have drowned their little sister in it.
Below is a perfect example of young boys enjoying God’s great gift.
Many years after that, as a young father I spent a great deal of money ($199) purchasing the new Commodore 64 computer. I learned programming on it and was thrilled as the program move some dot from point A to point B. I would sit my children on my lap and have them press the A key, only to have it show up on the screen. They quickly realized they matched! It was only a short time that they would sit and do this themselves. I was not a perfect father, but I feel I gave my children something to learn since these new computers would become a major part of their lives. The sooner they learned, the quicker they learned. It was one of the few times as a young father that I was right.
Following the computers, video games came about, and over the decades became ugly. What was once simply bouncing a square dot back and forth across the screen has now become people running around killing. What started out simply killing monsters is now killing people, good and bad. The graphics are almost indeterminable from real life.
Also the music that is written and performed is no longer about love and heartbreak, but of hatred and killing.
Here are words from a group called Led Zeppelin that I grew up with:
Should I fall out of love, my fire in the light
To chase a feather in the wind
Within the glow that weaves a cloak of delight
There moves a thread that has no end.
For many hours and days that pass ever soon
the tides have caused the flame to dim
At last the arm is straight, the hand to the loom
Is this to end or just begin?
All of my love, all of my love,
All of my love to you.
Now I admit, you gotta hear it with the music to really appreciate it, but it was good stuff. But compare it with a hundred thousand songs with lyrics like this:
Starin’ at Marilyn Monroe’s silhouette while smokin’ my first cigarette
Listenin’ to Marvin ask his father about his death
How you shoot a n—-out, then shoot a n—-out?
Dead bodies in my dreams, Bob Marley on my couch
Pass me the blunt, he was smokin’ when he died
You really think Elvis Presley committed suicide?
It’s either kill or you be killed
Ten pints of blood per human, ain’t no refills
One thing about us humans, n—-, we kill
Turkeys, chickens, pigs, each other, f— us, we will
Take a life, lethal injection or free will
Tookie got murdered by the pigs, f— did he kill?
That ain’t none of my business, though
But I’m the type of motherf—- make it his business, so
Open the book and turn that page
It reads Arthur Ashe died from aids, no
That’s murder, n—–
And here is the chorus to a creative piece of music:
I said B—-!
Get the f— out my face
Get the f— out my face
Get the f— out my…pimpin’ ho
I said B—-!
Get the f— out my face
Get the f— out my face
Get the f— out my…pimpin’ ho
I said B—-!
Get the f— out my face
Get the f— out my face
Get the f— out my…pimpin’ ho
I respectfully censored it because this is my blog and I have a right to do so. But realize these are some of the more polite songs. People wonder why the world is like it is now. Young people look deeper into the pit of Hell trying to find something they can connect with, and all they find is a vast pool of sewage. Society has convinced them it’s all okay because they don’t want their feelings hurt and besides, somewhere there will always be a reset button to start the game over.
We adults know there is no reset button in Life.
Some of those kids who see the world in that perverted way will grab a weapon and start killing, just like video games and the words of the rap songs. And the politicians want to blame us who use weapons responsibly, be it guns, knives or automobiles.
Makes you want to put kids in a yard with nothing but dirt, sticks and cardboard boxes for the rest of their lives, but Society will accuse you of child abuse.
Okay. The damn cat said enough. She’s bathed and gone back to sleep.
Never under-estimate what your actions can do.
A number of years ago, someone tried to convince me it didn’t really matter who you voted for in an election, because both parties pretty much produced the same results. That conversation stuck with me for many years, as I found instance after instance to refute that. I read a book last year describing what it may have been like if Al Gore dealt with 9/11 instead of George W. Bush. It was fictional of course and I read it with that understanding, but I cannot help but thinking of sections that seemed to ring truer than fiction.
No matter who you vote for, there are things that will never change due to corruption in all parties. But there are many things that can be changed due to one individual. Almost always, a non-Politician.
One case in point has held my attention with awe. Mohamed Bouazizi is a name you’ve heard but would not remember. With your permission, I’ll pass on points of his life found on the Wikipedia website.
Born in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi was called Basboosa by his friends and relatives. His father died when he was three and his mother went on to marry his uncle. In later years, because of his uncle’s health, he quit school to find work to support his mother, uncle, and younger siblings, including paying for one of his sisters to attend university. He earned approximately $140 per month selling produce on the streets in Sidi Bouzid.
The local police officers had allegedly targeted and mistreated Bouazizi for years, regularly confiscating his small wheelbarrow of produce, because Bouazizi did not have the funds to bribe police officials to allow his street vending to continue.
On the morning of December 17, 2010 they overturned his produce cart and confiscated his scales. Bouazizi, angered by the confrontation, went to the governor’s office to complain and ask for his scales back. The governor refused to see or listen to him.
There are things that take place in the hearts of too many people, that go beyond human endurance. The Human Spirit becomes not just depressed but succumbs to hopelessness. Bouazizi took a can of vehicle fuel, sat in the middle of traffic in front of the governor’s office and doused himself with the fluid, then set himself on fire. People rescued him, but 18 days after the immolation, Bouazizi died.
Foolish? Desperate? It doesn’t matter at this point. 5,000 people participated in the funeral procession which set off cries for the overthrow of the Tunisian Government. To quote Wikipedia:
“Outraged by the events that led to Bouazizi’s self-immolation, protests began in Sidi Bouzid within hours, building for more than two weeks, with attempts by police to quiet the unrest serving only to fuel what was quickly becoming a violent and deadly movement. After Bouazizi’s death, the protests became widespread, moving into the more affluent areas and eventually into the capital. The anger and violence became so intense that President Ben Ali fled Tunisia with his family on 14 January 2011, trying first to go to Paris, but was refused refuge by the French government. They were eventually welcomed into Saudi Arabia …”
There were over 100 individuals who followed Bouazizi’s actions, but it was his that started a public revolt that overturn the Government in Tunisia, which triggered revolts in Lybia, Algeria, Egypt and Syria.
The revolts led to the collapse of Libya which culminated with Muammar Gaddafi ‘s death. Algeria quickly saw what was coming and officially lifted its 19-year-old State of Emergency. Egypt tried to quell the uprising but the people did not subside, and now Hosni Mubarak is gone. Syria has been in the news with Assad butchering the populace. In time, he will fall and his family will no longer be in power.
Regardless how you view his actions, you have to admit, his solitary act is changing countries, and not just those who had rebellions. Bear in mind, under Mubarak’s regime, there was peace between Egypt and Israel. They were not kindred spirits but they played nice together. Now, the treaties and agreements they had are no longer valid. The peace they had is no more, and one of these days, Israel will react like they never have before. You trap any animal in a corner and torture it, tame or wild, it will eventually bite for blood, and when Israel bites, the whole world will be affected.
It’s as if Bouazizi threw a large stone in the pond and the ripples are still moving, long after he left.
There are many people in the World who affected history as it unfolded and still affecting the future. Islam’s Mohammed created another religion to descend from Abraham. Taking the time to research all that Islam has done over the centuries will reveal chilling results, even just the past few decades.
Adolf Hitler cannot be ignored, nor Nero. In my lifetime, I saw with disbelief what Robert Mugabe did to Zimbabwe. Alexander the Great at one point, conquered the known world. It is said, Nicolai Tesla invented the 20th Century. Look at the works of the Pierre & Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Louis Pasteur, and many, many others. This may be disappointing to those who fawn over Hollywood, but they aren’t included. Neither are the super heroes and villains in your video games. But I did chose an interesting one to finish with. This name will ring a bell. Amerigo Vespucci. Even though he did not discover this part of the word, it is still named after him. Some say it was because he happened to place his name on a map and someone mistook it for the name of the area. In any case, no intelligent person can dispute America’s awesome presence in the world, and mentioning his name brings out an array of emotions in all people. From Hatred, through Compassion, through Envy, and all the way to Patriotism and Pride.
Note that all these people are just that. People. Never under-estimate what your actions can do.
Think of the countrymen who have not returned from their deployment this Memorial Day. They gave their all so you can bitch about America without being tortured and thrown into prison.