- A man of many words. Profane, profound, loyal to a fault and a right rat bastard. I love the finer things in life: expensive cigars, cheap women and all the salted, cured meats I can eat. A friend to dogs, lover of humanity and despiser of people. If I were King the world would be a better place, because, well...I would be King! Oh, and I like ice cream.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Good call by President Obama. This is the kind of game changing we were expecting in 2008. I've often thought, though, that when this day comes it will be good for Cuba, but bad for Puerto Rico. Time will play it out.
Now Mr. President...Palestine. You've got two years.
Monday, December 01, 2014
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Friday, November 21, 2014
If you are willing to cross the desert southwest, risking armed confrontation, untrustworthy guides, thirst, starvation and death to work in the fields for two bucks an hour, while living in a filthy, shot-out tin trailer just so your family back home can have a bit more food (and we 'Murikans can have cheaper food) then I say welcome.
These are not criminals. They are the poorest people in the Western Hemisphere. They've earned the right to stay here more than many natural born Americans.
Some say they are law breakers. But they aren't breaking any natural laws. They are obeying the laws of economics.
In Hitler's Germany it was breaking the law to aid or assist Jews. The motivation there was in my mind similar to the workings of those who wish to drive "the other" out of the US. Prejudice and racism.
Funny thing is, the growers and producers who hire these folks are by and large huge contributors to Republican Party causes. You can't have it both ways.
But here is my burning question: Why is the Christian Right not outraged and parting ways with the GOP on this?
To quote their guidebook:
"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, `even' these least, ye did it unto me." Matthew 25:40
Sunday, November 02, 2014
On our way back from Mada'in Saleh to Jeddah we stopped in Madinah.
Visited a couple mosques which are famous in Islam. Both places we were welcomed in and treated with utmost kindness.
This is Masjid Qublitain. In the old days the early Muslims always prayed facing Jerusalem (Al-Quds). It was while in this mosque Mohammed received the command to face Mecca.
This is Masjid al-Nabawi. Mohammed is buried here. It's the second most holy site in Islam. We were told the place can hold half a million people! As it was we were going in as prayer time was ending. It was like trying to enter Ohio State's stadium after an OSU-Michigan game.
People come here just to hang out. Some were napping. Some eating. One man came by and gave me some dates. They were delicious.
Next time I'm going to Mecca. Followers of my blog may wonder why I'm going to these religious sites given my theological proclivities. It's historical and you can't deny the cultural significance. Plus since Americans are so afraid of everything that isn't Wal-Mart it's important for me to explore the so-called "other."
I was made to feel very welcome. More so than in Israel. But that's a blog for another day.
UNESCO World Heritage site #110 for me.
Like Petra, a much more famous site in Jordan, Mada'in Saleh features many funuraria carved into solid rock. Their civilization existed a couple thousand years ago, dying out I think around the tenth century CE.
Where Petra is more or less confined to a narrow valley, Mada'in Saleh is spread out over a much larger area.
This is al-Fareed. The Unique. It is the only tomb carved out of a single free-standing rock.
Had to do a bit of climbing to get to this one.
All in all a stunningly beautiful place. Worth the thousand miles of driving, two nights stay to gain three hour's access (Friday is prayer day, so it was only open from 3 to 6 PM).
Mark Schroeder and I, having finished our latest recruitment trek of the Middle East, drove north of Jeddah to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mada'in Saleh. We were knocking around the town of Al 'Ulá when we spied these petroglyphs on a cliff near our hotel. I'm guessing they are 2 to 3 thousand years old based on my experience in Botswana. The lettering is clearly not Arabic. I'm guessing Nabatean or Hyanese in origin. Interestingly the style of some of these carvings is quite similar to those I saw in Africa. Either humans developed these kinds of ideas at roughly the same time serendipitously or there was trading amongst them.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
So I'm told there are approximately 6,000 religions in the world. Adherents of each believe pretty much fervently and whole-heartedly that followers of the approximately 5,999 other religious beliefs are seriously wrong and fall short of the glory of the deity or deities of their choice and are therefore condemned to whatever version of punishment has been outlined for them by some kind of group-accepted authoritative source.
So what we have essentially is a situation where everyone is going to hell.
You are welcome to your beliefs, but include me out.
Monday, October 20, 2014
Friday, October 17, 2014
On to Dubai today.
I like Morocco. Every time I'm here it reminds me of an old 50s TV show, "Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion." Thank you Google for providing this information.
Anyone remember this? Starring Buster Crabbe and someone named Fuzzy Knight with Buster's actual son, who was named Cuffy on the show. Where are the great names like those any more? Fuzzy Knight. Fighting off desert tribes of wild-eyed Arabs, then relaxing in the casbah after a hard day of French imperialism. We're still fighting them off, but only when they're pushing stuff in the souk.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Woodrow Wilson, then President of Princeton University, wrote this in 1907:
"Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked of left unused."
He said this in 1907, over a century ago. You think we go to war to "defend freedom" or stop Communism or "make the world safe for Democracy?" Then you, my friends, are sadly mistaken.
Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler spent most of his 36 year military career fighting wars in Central and South America. He wrote a book called "War is a Racket."
He wrote "I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in."
Don't ever think otherwise. War is economics by other means.
Friday, October 03, 2014
Why do people care about college sports? I'm talking football here. Maybe basketball too. Yeah, definitely basketball. March Madness you know. Most of the time they didn't even go to the damn school. In fact, even if they had tried they wouldn't have got in. Yet people are all gaga over Ohio State or Michigan or, I don't know, Florida State. That one seems to be in the news a lot. Alabama, that's a big one.
Why do they care so much?
I went to Ohio University. They play in what is admittedly a second-tiered conference, the Mid-American Conference (MAC). I think it's a second-tiered conference. Might be third for all I know. I'll venture to say most OU grads are Ohio State fans. Schools from the MAC serve as tune-ups (or cannon fodder if you will) for bigger, more nationally ranked "programs." I was in the gym a few weeks ago and they had Akron playing Penn State on TV. Akron hadn't beaten a Penn State team since a couple years after The Battle of Little Bighorn.
But, Ohio U fields a football team (and basketball, baseball, etc.) for some reason. They give scholarships to players too. And once every blue moon some player catches on with a pro team. But, it's hardly worth the effort in my mind. Couple MAC teams get tossed a bone with the odd post-season bowl game. Played in the middle of December, when no one's looking. The Uncle Chuck's All Meat Wiener Styrofoam Bowl, played in some place like beautiful downtown East Hamhock, Nebraska. Something like that.
OK, OK, I know, you're gonna say Ben Roethlisberger. University of Miami (Ohio). Yeah, he made it big time with the Steelers. But man, that's a rare exception.
Bottom line I can't see the point.
Pro sports, that's different. It's regional and may I say cultural. Steelers fans are found all over the world. It's true, I've seen them. But they don't have to live in the 'Burgh to be a fan. They identify with the team's perceived blue collar work ethic. While I'm on that, who wears blue collars any more?
Same with the hated Cleveland Brownies.
Cold weather people identify with Green Bay or Buffalo. Laid back California dilettantes with the 49ers. Unless you're from Youngstown. Y-town people are allowed to be 9ers fans. But again, that's cultural. DeBartolos are Y-town people. People with fifteen gallons of manure in a ten gallon hat with Dallas.
But I digress.
I know it's business. Money. TV contracts. Apparel sales. Beer. Lots of beer. And something about getting people to donate to schools.
It just all seems pointless, that's all.
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
That day is always there. That bad, horrible worst day. The intense, exquisite pain has faded. But the dull ache never leaves. Like a rock I always carry around with me.
I still see you from time to time. Maybe a face in the news. A dress in a shop window. Someone's hair in the crowd. Just glimpses. I can never get a good look.
I'll read a story and it'll mention a date, like "on this date in 1998..."
"She had six years left," I'll think. It's a good thing we can't see into the future.
It all just seems like a dream.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Saturday, September 13, 2014
I don't ask for much. A warm, dry place to sleep. Decent food, nothing fancy. Don't need a car. No TV. Rarely go to movies.
Let's face it, I'm a simple man. But for crying out loud is it too much to ask for someone to post video of the idiot Sarah Palin and her likewise mentally endowed family brawl? There MUST be amateur video out there somewhere! They have cell phones in Alaska, right?
It doesn't seem like much to ask.
Tuesday, September 09, 2014
There should be an official psychological disorder named for anyone who gets his or her panties in a bunch over the release of yet another Apple communication device. Let me guess, this new one makes phone calls and has apps.
Seriously folks, what do we need here? I'm thinking a set of good shears are needed to clip all the sheeple lining up to be the first to buy.
Certain unnamed sources (who happened to be blood kin of me) claim estrogens from plastics in the environment for the concomitant reduction in testosterone as the cause of the iphone6 hoopla...or any other Apple hoopla for that matter.
Personally I'm waiting for the iPhone27, which will be implanted directly into my brain.
Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Anyone who is wealthier than me is a lying, thieving, conniving rat who abuses the system for his own I'll-gotten gain. Anyone poorer than me is a lazy, shiftless oaf who suckles at the teat of a bloated, morally soft welfare state.
Anyone who drives slower than me is a thoughtless idiot. Anyone who drives faster is a maniac.
Monday, September 01, 2014
Yesterday I flew across America. On my way to the airport my Hertz rental car died. Check Engine Light came on. Power steering went kablooey. Transmission would only work in low gear. I wrestled the thing off the road and called the Hertz 800 number. They informed me a tow truck would be sent poste haste. I was to be taken to the nearest Hertz office and issued a new car. This was on a Sunday morning around 7 o'clock.
If all had gone smoothly I could still make my first flight (out of Detroit).
Things didn't go smoothly.
They had given the driver the wrong address. He was supposed to be at my location within ten minutes. After repeated calls and corrections he got there an hour later. Not his fault. The nearest open Hertz office was in Columbus airport. They had received no notice from Hertz. The guy on duty wasn't authorized to do anything. I had to wait til 9 when the manager came in.
Bottom line: I wasn't going to make it to Detroit.
So I called my airline. Delta. I have flown a lot these past few years and consequently I made Delta's Diamond status this year. It has it's privileges. One of which is a direct line to Delta. No messing around with computer operators. It's nice.
They were very helpful. Booked me new flights out of Columbus. I had to hopscotch my way across the country. Columbus to Minneapolis to Salt Lake City to Oakland, CA. But I would still arrive at my original scheduled time. Only cost $59 for the change. I'm happy, even though I didn't get my traditional Cubano sandwich at DTW. But hey, you can't have everything.
Here's where it gets good:
Wouldn't you know, my first flight is delayed. We arrive at the gate in Minneapolis with barely minutes before my next flight is scheduled to leave.
Minneapolis is a very nice airport. But it is HUGE! I was arriving at C concourse and my next flight was from G. Probably (and I'm not exaggerating) a mile from gate to gate. The stewardess had me first out the door, told me to get on the people mover and run. Maybe. MAYBE I'd make it. I knew there was virtually no way I was going to make that flight. I wasn't too concerned, because if I missed it, Delta would re-arrange everything. And after all, it's not like I had to be at work the next day.
But, nonetheless, I was in full "get after it" mode.
So I jump from the plane and am stepping out smartly up the jetway when I spy a women holding a sign with my name on it! I identify myself and she asks if I would like a ride to my plane. I'm looking around for the golf cart, thinking it wouldn't be much faster than me, but at least THEY thought they could get there in time.
She says no. No golf cart. Follow me. We step through a door in the jetway, down some steps to the tarmac and there sits a new Porsche Cayenne SUV.
"You can relax Mr Wigal. You've made your flight."
We whip around the airport and pull up along side the plane. She calls the gate and tells them to mark me as "boarded." And then she took my picture. I was happily astounded.
It's called MSP Elite Services. So far as I could learn it's only in Minneapolis and only for Delta Diamond members.
Look, flying is a hassle. No two ways about that. But when a company goes an extra step or two (or there) to make it smoother for you, you have to appreciate that. This was my best ever Delta experience.
And if nothing else it motivates me to KEEP THAT STATUS!
It would have made the story even better if I had been upgraded to Business on that flight. I wasn't. But on the following flight I was.
Monday, August 25, 2014
Those of you who know me will agree I'm a straight guy. Old fool from the old school. I like women (as a general rule. I'm not crazy about them all the time.), always have, always will. I've had my relationships these past few years. And my record over that time is a solid 0-whatever. Battin' .000 in terms of any of those ladies willing to talk to me at present. Not pointing fingers or laying blame. I accept responsibility for the failures on my part.
Not that this has anything to do with today's topic, but I'm just laying the groundwork. My good friend Mark Schroeder and I have discussed this at length, seeing as how he is doing about as well in the relationship department as me. We have determined that the only women with whom we are able to maintain stable, friendly, tension-free relationships with are: Lesbians. It appears the absence of any possibility of sex removes all the pitfalls and bumps in the road that occur with the typical straight male/straight female relationships.
This still isn't getting to the crux of today's topic, but I'm closing in on it.
Now, it a relatively common thing for straight women to be pals with gay guys. And there are terms to describe that type of pairing. I won't go into them, but you know. However, to my knowledge there is no accepted term for the opposite; the straight guy and the gay woman. Not sure it's even recognized as a concept.
Until now. Or until yesterday actually. Mark and I conferred with our lez gal pal Lindsay. She consulted the handbook. And sure enough, it wasn't addressed. So with some consultation, conferring, trial and error and Google searches we have come up with a new term to describe our phenomenon:
We are lezbros. 100%. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is a new coinage. We've submitted it to the authorities at the LGBT handbook.
Feedback will be appreciated.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
My late wife Jan's uncle Joe Topolosky was a bombardier in this B-17 during World War II. On May 29,1944 they were on a mission over Germany. Two German fighters made head on attacks against the ship. Joe was in the nose blazing away. Both outboard engines were shot out. A third was sputtering and coughing. The hydraulics were gone, so no landing gear. The pilot said they couldn't make it back to England. Their only choice was to try for neutral Sweden. They were unbolting and tossing everything out to lighten the load, guns and everything. But, as you can see, they slid in for a belly landing.
The crew was interned for the rest of the war. Shot up planes from all sides were there. Allies on one side of the airfield, nazis on the other. They had to wear civilian clothes. But long story short they lived.
Joe's son, my cousin Ray, has supplied all the information I know about this. He has posted Joe's diary of his missions on Facebook. The most compelling thing (to me) that he wrote was "I thought we were going to die on this mission." I never knew any of this when Joe was alive. Wish I had.
Monday, August 18, 2014
People (pretty exclusively people who are still working, but not always) often ask me what do I do with myself all day long. The implication being basically "Don't you do anything?"
I never seem to have a good answer. After all, it's not like I have to be at work at a certain time for an approximate number of hours per day, filling an appropriate chunk of my life with "productive effort," and thus having a reason to live.
But after due consideration I've decided my answer is this: I do all the things you wish you could do and none of the things you wish you didn't have to do.
As my old running buddy Dave Stricklin used to say "It's a good life if you don't weaken!"
Friday, August 15, 2014
The official rule (established in 4345 BCE by Poseidon, he of the sacred Trident. Hence the three thing.) is yes, celebrities must die in groups of three. However, a little known addendum to the rule is that only two of whom must have had some form of talent.
While we mourn the loss of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall the world waits and wonders, who will go next.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
Viet Nam is a Communist country. One of five nominally "Communist" countries left in the world. China, Laos, Cuba, North Korea and the 'Nam. We fought a long hard costly war to crush them. And failed. So in the history books Viet Nam won the war.
To paraphrase Carl Von Clausewitz: War is economics by other means. Today the VC's grandchildren are fashionably dressed, technologically savvy consumers. No Cu Chi tunnels and a hand full of rice per day for them.
In other words: Scoreboard!
Saturday, August 09, 2014
Six years ago I sold my beloved Dagger Crossover kayak before embarking on the Peace Corps adventure. To be honest I auctioned off everything I owned (except for the house, which took another three years. Ugh!). Oh, how I've missed that boat! But my other escapades kept me from getting another.
It folds out, origami style, into a twelve foot, 26 pound rig that can go anywhere; even in checked baggage.
It took me the better part of an hour figuring out the initial assembly. But with a little practice I should be able to put it in the water within five minutes. I'm back!
Friday, August 08, 2014
In many ways Cambodia was the favorite of the four countries I visited on this trip. But the evidence of the Khmer Rouge regime's atrocities was never far away. We were going through some neighborhoods near Battambang, on our way to ride the somewhat famous Bamboo train (I never heard of it, but people seemed to think it was a big deal) when we passed by this stupa/memorial to a local killing field. Our local guide told us 10,008 people were slaughtered here. Apparently the Khmer Rouge were meticulous record keepers. Previously I posted photos of a more well known field near Phnom Penh, but this one was more stark.
The story of this field is told in some detail here.
Imagine coming up with the idea of punching holds in prisoner's hands and running rope through the holes so they can't escape.
How could George Bush et al say water boarding isn't torture?
Infanticide in order to prevent children growing up to seek revenge.
From reading the history of Pol Pot, the regime Brother Number One, the goal was for all Cambodians to be equal. The only way to achieve that was for everyone to have nothing. Consequently, if you were educated in any way; if you owned anything; if you wore glasses, even if you scrounged in the forest for roots to eat, you were trying to be above everyone else and had to be punished. Pol Pot believed the Cambodian communist paradise was more authentic than China's or the (then) Soviet Union's.
For three years, eight months and twenty days this hell existed on this earth. It will happen again. Where, I don't know. But it is in our human makeup.
Thursday, August 07, 2014
Twelfth century Hindu complex. Our guide told us that at that time 1.5 million people lived there. How many cities in the world had a million people in 1100CE? Staggers the imagination.
But it's a beautiful place. The highlight of my Indochina trip (Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam was second)
Saturday, August 02, 2014
In 1963, before our massive involvement in Viet Nam (we had "advisors" in-country) there was a series of protest immolations by Buddhist monks against the US-backed regime of Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem was a staunch Catholic who instituted many repressions against Buddhists. Thick Quang Duc set himself ablaze in mid-town Saigon. Today a beautiful memorial sits at the intersection where this occurred.
I remember the photos of this terrible event.
Initially used in the war of independence against the French, the Cu Chi tunnels near Saigon were well established by the time the US dropped in. In fact the US 25th Infantry Division (Tropic Lightning) established their base right smack on top of an enormous complex.
Everything was connected underground.
Even B-52 drops couldn't penetrate them.
And then I got to unload a banana clip of AK-47, semi-git 'em and auto-git 'em. At two bucks a round it was a bargain.
Thit Cho, the OTHER other white meat!
The fried locusts (no photo) were delicious. But the worms didn't measure up to Southern Africa's Mopane worm.