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Archive for September, 2013

Left Hanging

Having recently passed the one year anniversary of the attack in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans were killed, there have been voices venting their frustration that no one has been called to task for this crime.

Rowan Scarborough of The Washington Times even partially titles his column on this issue with “Where is the Justice?”

Representative Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, will hold hearings in the next two weeks (according to this article) to investigate the attack and, for the first time, survivors of that deadly night will testify.

While some people clamor for justice for Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty one year on, my follow-up question is this…

When will there be justice for Scott Helvenston, Jerko Zovko, Wesley Batalona, and Mike Teague?

Those names are most likely not familiar anymore, but in March of 2004, these four Americans were killed in Fallujah, Iraq. Their beaten and burned bodies were then strung up and put on display on a bridge in that city.

To date, nearly a decade since that heinous crime, no one has even been accused, much less brought to face justice.

So, best of luck Mr. Scarborough and Representative Rogers on your search to find justice, but don’t look to history to be your guide lest you become depressed.

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Are you happy?

That’s a tough question to answer because it all depends on what your definition of happiness is. Does being happy revolve around family, career, love, creativity, or none (or all) of the above.

If it’s tough to gauge how happy an individual is, it must be mind-boggling nuts to determine how happy a whole country is.

Well, it’s apparent not that bonkers as CNN brings us this story about the 2013 edition of the United Nations (UN) Happiness Index.

For those of you who enjoy reading press releases from international organizations, this is your lucky day as you jump to this link here and read until your heart’s content.

For those who want to jump to the actual number and see where the various countries lie on the Happiness Spectrum, hop on over here.

Here is what I found interesting personally about the UN numbers.

My country of current residence, Thailand, ranks number 36 (with an overall score of 6.371 and with 10 being the highest possible score). This ranking is particularly appropriate given my fascination with the number 36 (see here and here and here for examples).

For comparison, the United States of America, my country of birth, ranks 17 (score = 7.082)

My last country of residence, France, clocks in at #25 (score = 6.764)

Denmark took the top spot with a score of 7.693 while the last spot, down at number 156, was held by the African country of Togo with a score of 2.936.

As for me, I can blog, I can eat, I have a roof over my head, I work, I write, and I have a loving family nine ways to Sunday. That makes me happy.

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Living abroad has given me the opportunity to view my country of birth through another lens. I have written before about how my perceptions of life in the United States has changed since I moved abroad.

I have also written in the past in this e-space about how I do not like e-books.

This post takes those two concepts and combines them into one.

While I don’t read books on my e-reader on a regular basis, I have found a new non-Angry Birds thing to use my electronic reader for. I use it now to read magazines. Rather than wait the week or two (or three or four or five) it would take my currents events publication to arrive in Thailand, I have opted to have the latest and greatest issue dropped into my e-library. While I enjoy reading about the latest tomfoolery occurring in Washington, D.C., New York City, or Cedar City (Utah), the latest issue I received from TIME magazine gave me pause about said magazine and how they view their audience.

The latest issue (Vol. 182 No. 12) from September 16, 2013, that was downloaded on to my tiny screen has a cover story about paying college athletes. Nothing odd about that as the college football season is starting up in the States so it seems like a timely topic.

However, when I was at our local Thai store, I saw the Asian edition of TIME and was confronted with a different cover. Here, look for yourself…

One of these things is not like the other

One of these things is not like the other

So the international editors of TIME thought that a piece about Russian President Vladimir Putin should be on the cover. Well, that makes sense too as Putin has been vocal about not attacking Syria for their alleged use of chemical weapons.

But why? Why is there such a difference between the covers of the American edition of TIME and the non-American versions?

I surmise this is because the editors at TIME think the State-side readers are morons.

Here America stands on the brink of yet another war in the Middle East and one the main global players, the Russian President, stands opposed to such a military adventure. This might be a good time for readers from Hawaii to Maine to know more about Mr. Putin, the ex-KGB agent, the man who thinks the chemical attacks in the suburbs of Damascus was done by the rebels. So, it might seem like a good idea to hook the reader into this serious issue by placing Putin’s face on the cover so that the impulse magazine buyer would want to buy TIME. Apparently, the editors at TIME think that people around the world are interested enough in this issue and this man to put Putin on the cover. Also apparently, the editors of TIME don’t think Americans are that interested and resorted to putting a picture of a college athlete on the cover to attract U.S. readers.

I would tend to think that American readers are smarter than that and would be interested to pick up TIME if they same Putin on the cover. But that’s why I’m not an editor.

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Over this summer, the Mannski Family finished off their stay in the United States with a trip to Disneyland. As a child who grew up in Southern California, I spent a good deal of time at the Happiest Place on Earth. As such, I could tell you some of hidden symbols and places that reside in the amusement park, but instead I’ll just link over to snopes.com where they have all the inside dope on the House of Mouse.


Hidden
is the travel theme this week from Where’s My Backpack? and today we’re going to Disneyland to answer the challenge.

Disneyland opened in 1955 and has undergone several renovations and expansions since that time. One of those expansions was in the 1990s when the thrill ride Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye opened in 1995. Since there was almost no more room inside the amusement park, this ride actually spills out onto the original parking lot at Disneyland. All of the original lot is now lost as it was transformed into Disney’s other theme park in Anaheim, California Adventure.

The “hidden” part of this ride comes from the glyphs that are peppered throughout the walls in the line leading to the ride. There are warnings that these messages are trying to deliver, but they are hidden.

DSCN4890

DSCN5133

While I have no picture for it, there is one more “hidden” aspect to this ride I want to mention. As I said up top, the Indian Jones ride was built on part of the park’s original parking lot. The parking lot used to be divided into sections that were named after Disney characters. The Indiana Jones ride was built over the Eeyore section. In an homage, the designers of the ride hid an Eeyore parking sign in the ride. You have to stretch to see it, but there it is.

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I never had the assistance of domestic help as I was growing up. Okay, there was the cleaning woman who came by our house every two weeks to help out my sainted mother, but that’s it.

Even when the Mannski Family left the United States and landed on the Continent, we never took advantage of any domestic help. Okay, this was mainly because it was as prohibitively expensive as it is in the States, but we knew co-workers of my fantastic wife who did avail themselves of this option.

Actually, I’m glad we never hired a maid or helper because I know I would have felt particularly awkward having someone walk around my living space cleaning and dusting and vacuuming while I was trying to write or edit my work.

Well, all that has come to an end here in Thailand as we have had to hire domestic help and my trepidation of feeling awkward has certainly come true. While I certainly feel terribly odd about having another person wash my dishes or mop my floor when I have two perfectly good working hands and feet, this is not the main source of feeling like a fish on a bicycle.

No, it’s the conversation. Even putting aside the fact that I speak no Thai and she speaks little English (oh, why couldn’t we move to another place where they speak French) and so our dialogue sounds like it came out of a Dick-and-Jane story, this is not the source of my awkwardness. It’s the subjects of which we speak. While it would be dandy if we could stick to cabbages and kings and sealing wax and things, this is not the case.

But first, some background.

Ophelia, my youngest child and only daughter, lost a tooth during the night here in the Land of Smiles. Her missing piece of hardware was a molar so there was some bleeding. Nothing to be too worried about.

The next morning, as I was on the computer continuing my work on David’s manuscript, our maid came over with the bloody sheet. She showed me the linen with the red splotch and asked, in her halting English, “Her first time?”

Because our maid’s English is not all that good and is heavily accented, it took me a few tries to understand what she was saying. I finally did decipher three words and finally understood that the “Her” meant Ophelia.

I was still somewhat paying attention to my editing task and so my mental process was working on a reply that revolved around the fact that my daughter had lost several teeth during her short life. I actually thought it was odd why our maid thought my grade-school daughter had never lost a tooth before.

Then I saw the blood on the sheet and it hit me like a Tooth Fairy with a sledgehammer what our maid was really asking about.

She was asking if this was Ophelia’s first period.

More than watching someone wash my socks while I sat at the computer, our maid and I had now moved way past “awkward” and into the land of downright “stomach-churning uncomfortable”.

Why a complete stranger (and one I was paying) would even broach the subject of my daughter’s menstrual cycle is beyond me?

Maybe this culture has different attitudes that I’m not aware of.

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When Bill Clinton was President (and even before), those opposed to him wasted no time or effort to tar and feather him by associating him with the following scandals…

Whitewater – a real estate venture gone bust;
Vince Foster – the Deputy White House Counsel who killed himself in 1993;
Troopergate – allegations from the days when Clinton was Governor of Arkansas; and
Gennifer Flowers.

This constant cry of scandal and misdeed led to an interesting conclusion.

When something scandalous actually did show up, the affair with Monica Lewinsky and the impeachment and trial that followed, the public had Clinton “scandal fatigue” and shrugged. Clinton was acquitted by the Senate and he left office with an approval rating of 66%. By comparison, Ronald Reagan finished out his second term with an approval rating under 60%.

As George Santayana put it, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Such is the case with those who oppose President Barack Obama. Whether it is those who…

…question his birth certificate;
…question his religion;
…question his affiliation with pastor Jeremiah Wright;
…question his patriotism; or
…call him a socialist,

…those that call for the impeachment of the current occupant of the White House are falling into the same trap that captured the opponents of Clinton.

When something actually does show up – such as Benghazi and the Issa hearings or the IRS controversy – the public just shrugs and passes it off as more GOP crying wolf…or Kenyan…or Muslim.

Just once, I would like to see an opposition party keeps its powder dry and pounce at the right time…not simply at every whiff of blood in the air.

I have such large expectations.

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