Sunday, February 24, 2008

I listen


Heard you all loud and clear and family was verbal about it. Change the title, keep blogging, stay away from politics, talk about re-adjusting to being a regular guy again and definitely write about Saudi Arabia once I get there.

I need a catch all title like Dave has so once I get over the hangover I have I will try and think one up.

One of our best friends came into town for the weekend as he is taking his annual Real Estate CEU class. We have know Todd since my sister and I were starving students at Southwest Texas State University (Now Texas State) in the early and mid 80s. Todd is one of life's challenges and we have stuck by him all these years. It was great to see him as I had not seen him since he came to my house in California about 6 years ago.

The bad part is that the Estancia wine flowed, the Sherry Cask CC flowed, the last of my Cuban cigar stash was smoked and we ate a light dinner. My wife passed out, Todd passed out, T-Man (A non drinker BTW, he's only 6!) passed out and the dogs passed out. My sister and I sat outside in the beautiful evening and just talked until almost midnight which is also when the whisky ran dry.

Thank God that we live in the same subdivision so I didn't get a DUI. There is a benefit to being 4 blocks from my sister! Now I have a headache and have to go outside and play on the new trampoline with T-Man.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What to do?

I had the pleasure of entertaining Dave from daves-not-here at my home last week. He was in town with his galpal and they called me out of the blue. We had them over for dinner and had a great time. I had never met her but had a drunken cell phone converstaion with her once when Dave and I were in Dubai for R&R.

One of the topics of discussion is just what do he and I do now since we are out of the war zone? We both started blogging as a way to share our experiences with everyone about what it is like to live, work, and survive in a modern danger zone. We both have left and hopefully neither of us will have to go back to that God-Awful place.

I am going to Saudi Arabia but that is not a red zone at this time. I want no more of Iraq. I was there for 4 long years and have to wonder if I did not push my luck on that. Those rockets that blasted BIAP last week hit a compound I lived in last year.

Dave and I both agree that we need to change the titles, change the content, or just close these blogs and start new ones. What do you think?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bar Stool Economics

This is the best explanation I have ever read regards our tax system. I am one of the top 10% even though I am far from wealthy and if I did not spend so much time overseas to get my tax breaks I would be destitue!
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth would pay $1.The sixth would pay $3.The seventh would pay $7. The eighth would pay $12.The ninth would pay $18.The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. Drinks for the ten now cost just $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected.

They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men, the paying customers?

How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?' They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so: The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings).The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28% savings).

The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings). The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. I only got a dollar out of the $20, "declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man," but he got $10!" "Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!" "That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!" "Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill! And that, ladies and gentlemen, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics
University of Georgia

For those who understand, no explanation is needed. & For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I wish these were true

I'm sure these are fantasy especially since the French (See: Cheese eating surrender monkeys) are involved but they are too good to not pass along.
When in England at a large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building' by George Bush. He answered by saying, "Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return." It became very quiet in the room.
Then there was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American. During a break one of the French engineers came back into the room saying "Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intended to do, bomb them?" A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: "Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day each, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?" Once again, dead silence.
A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S., England, Canadian, Australian and French Navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of Officers that included personnel from most of those countries. Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks but a French admiral suddenly complained that, 'whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English.' He then asked, 'Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?' Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied 'Maybe it's because the Brits, Canadians, Aussies, and Americans arranged it so you wouldn't have to speak German.' You could have heard a pin drop!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Super Bowl was actually...Super

Wow. The first SB I have seen in over 5 years that I didn't get up in the middle of the night to watch. No 03:00 alarm clock. No gallons of coffee. Plenty of beer, food, and family to watch the game with.

I have installed a 42" Panasonic flat screen plasma HD TV. The T-Man calls it a "Flatsma". I installed a Samsung surround sound system and hid all the wiring by going wireless to the back channels and then using raceway to hide the rest of the wiring. It's a lot easier than going through your attic to drop wiring and then fish through the wall for it.

Needless to say we had awesome seats and I revisited one of our old California customs by cooking fajitas to serve at halftime. Of course we had too much food and too much beer but hell, it's the Super Bowl which is really the last bit of the holiday season and the last big winter party.

Lot's of other folks have commented on the "Catch", Manning, 18-1 and so on so I won't pontificate except to say that every person in our house jumped up with joy and high fived when the Giants scored that last TD.

You have to pick a reason to root for or against a team one way or another. When the Rams played the Titans I was really torn. As a kid and young adult I was a die hard Oilers fan and then as an adult I became a Rams fan. Both those teams fled their long suffering and loyal fans for money, money, money and then built up great teams. I wanted them both to lose. I searched and searched for a reason to like or dislike one more than the other. I then looked at the rosters and found that the Titans had 6 players from USC and the their coach, Jeff Fisher, was a former USC defensive back. Done. I rooted for the Titans even though they lost.

For this game it was easier. I'm not a Patriots hater like some others are. I actually like the Giants even though they are not my first choice team. I have seen them play in LA against the Rams and Raiders and once in 1993 I saw them in a playoff game at the Meadowlands. Really, I did!

They were a wild card against the Vikings and I was living in Philadelphia. My roommate and I took a chance and drove up the 90 miles to try and score a ticket. It was about 15 degrees and blowing like mad. We agreed we would spend up to $200.00 each for any kind of ticket just to say we went.

We found a miserably cold guy who had two tickets and was willing to give them to us for face value. We could not believe our luck. We had planned to tail gate whether we got in or not as our fallback plan was to find a Giants friendly sports bar to watch the game. No problem finding one in New Jersey for sure.

We parked next to a family of Ginats fans who are season ticket holders. Grandpa, dad, and son, along with a cousin. We hung out with them and shared our food and beer as did they. They were great folks and true blue Giants fans. Grandpa had season tickets as far back as the polo ground days. They informed us that Giants fans and Jets fans are from entirely different worlds just like the Rams and Raiders had such different fan bases.

When they looked at out tickets they were surprised we got them so cheap and said that while they looked real they did not recognize the seat locatijon. That caused us some trepidation as we now wondered if we had not been hornswoggled.

Game time came and we went to the turnstiles. Yep, the tickets were real and now we just had to find our seats. The usher looked at out tickets and took us to an elevator. We went up and were let out on the club level. Hey! Not so bad! Club level, seat beverage service, covered and no wind. We then found another usher who looked at our tickets, whistled and said ,"Follow me." He led us to the holy land of Gianst Stadium. Yep, we had scored tickets to a luxury box.

We went in and milled around for a few minutes and it was not long before a guy came up and asked us who we were. We were so out of place. We were bundled up for the Iditarod dog races and these folks all had on businesss suits and the girls were dressed to the 9s. We explained how we got the tickets and one of the guys was incensed. He wanted to know the name of who sold then to us. I told him we did not know but that we bought them fair and square and that it entitled us to a seat. He wanted us to leave and we stood our ground and said we just wanted a seat. We did not mean to crash their party but we need a place to watch from. He went to get an usher. While this guy was gone we chatted with some of the other folks who were really friendly. They apologized for the rude guy but said it was his suite and they were some kind of brokers or traders or something. They told us that wew were welcome as it was apparent that we were not the average type fan who buys scalped tickets.

In came a guy in a suit who worked for the Giants. He was super aplogetic to us and showed lots of deference to the suite holders as it was apparent that this suite was ultra expensive. He asked us to wait a minute and we just hung out in the corner while the national anthem was being played. He showed up a few minutes later with two new tickets and siad these were VIP tickets that were not picked up at Will Call. He asked if we would take these instead.

They were 5 rows from the field on the 45 yard line. Oh yeah! We took them. He also escorted us down there, grabbed the usher for that aisle and told him to have some one check on us every quarter to see if we needed anything. Also the suite owner realized that we were just a couple of lucky stiffs who scored tickets and not party crashers so they loaded up our back packs (pre 9-11 days) with beer and sandwiches in wrappers before we left.

Needless to say. Great game, the Giants won. We partied in the parking lot afterward and then drove back to Philly. No one beliveved us when we told them what happened but Mark and I know it really did. I still have the ticket stubs for both seats.

That was my reason for rooting for the Giants on Sunday. The team I wanted to win did. I was surrounded by family. I had legal beer and watched at home on my dream entertainment system. It was all great except for one thing. In the back of my mind during the entire game I thought about my friends in Iraq. I knew they were all bleary eyed, tired and hoarse from yelling at TVs on the other side of the world. I had a beer and when I was outside at the BBQ working the fajitas I had one silent tear come down my cheek. It was easy to hide it as it was smoky and that gave me a plausable excuse for having a weak moment.

Here is to you my brothers and sisters. May you come home soon and have a Super Sunday like I did.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Saudi Arabia

Lots of folks have commented that they think I am bored or just can't stand not being part of the big grind and that this is why I am going to Saudi Arabia. Not true. I am thoroughly enjoying being off for the first time in years and really have no desire to go anywhere right now.
If I go for 60-90 days I can make enough money to put a really bitchin deck in the back yard with a built in kitchen and teak cover over it. I was also told that I will be helping out two other guys who have not been able to get their R&Rs because the rotation schedules have not been kind.
I don't know what I will do afterward. The siren song of Iraq keeps calling me but I have cotton stuffed in my ears instead of being lashed to the mast like Ulysses.
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