SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10th FROM 7:00PM TO 11:00PM EST ON THE MILITARY CHANNEL PRESENTED BY THE HAVEN FROM THE STORM FOUNDATION LOS ANGELES, Sept. 30, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — On Sunday, November 10th, 2013, Alan Alda and Joe Mantegna will host HOMEWARD BOUND…
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10th FROM 7:00PM TO 11:00PM EST ON THE MILITARY CHANNEL PRESENTED BY THE HAVEN FROM THE STORM FOUNDATION LOS ANGELES, Sept. 30, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — On Sunday, November 10th, 2013, Alan Alda and Joe Mantegna will host HOMEWARD BOUND…
November is (almost) here so you know what that means – It’s NaNoWriMo time! If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo, it’s the National Novel Writing Month with a very simple goal: write 50,000 words in 30 days.
That sounds pretty easy really doesn’t it? Most people write more than that on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Tumblr – you name the social network, there’s bound to be people write more than 50,000 words a month on them. NaNoWriMo is different, because it’s not just writing words, it’s writing stories, poetry, novels – a creativity springboard that brings together (at time of writing) nearly 200,000 people from all corners of the globe with one purpose: Letting their your imagination loose!
Every time I go to an Honor Flight arrival at the National World War II Memorial, it seems like there are more and more people showing up out of nowhere to stand the line welcoming and honoring the veterans. In more recent weeks, there have been a noticeable number of active duty service men and women coming to join that line too.
Today saw one of the most amazing events of all of those previous Honor Flights (from my perspective) though. It looked like most of a training company from the United States Marine Corps Basic School at MCB Quantico was present.
Going to try and post these picture sets here, until the dust settles around Facebook decisions.
There’s a lot of FUD getting spread around about the US Government Shutdown and the ability of veterans to access their own memorials. Judge for yourself – no armed guards patrolling barbed wire with guard dogs that I saw.
What I did see what Honor Flight Network bringing more of our Veterans to the Memorial – a lot of Korean War Veterans in with the World War II Veterans this rainy morning – I also got to see several Guardians trying to keep up with their charges … as usual
What I did see was a few brave souls that had braved the nor’easter that’s slammed DC for the past 3 days come out and show their gratitude to our Veterans.
What I did see (and I’m still astonished that I saw this) was a couple of politicians from up the Mall who came out to welcome their Veteran constituents from California, and avoided the camera.
Alas I had to also go see a dentist at noon so had to bug out early, but no day can ever be truly perfect
Did I see Park Police? Sure, they’re always there. Did I see a K-9 unit? Yes, when DC Fire/EMS was responding on run to a reported illness of one of the Veterans and assistance converged from all quarters (with mega-kudos to the organizational skills of Honor Flight Ohio, who brought not one, not two, but three nurses along with them).
Did I see anyone get turned away from the memorial, civilian or Veteran? Nope (and never have in several escorts of Honor Flight arrivals).
Mark One Mod Zero Eyeball people. Not Mediabites. There’s bigger issues for Veterans to get up in arms about right now – the shutdown threat to VA benefits for those Veterans.
I’ve been arguing with myself for several days about how to put all of this down online – it’s not a simple topic. However, I think it needs to be brought up, as I think you’ll see as you read further.
If you’re been following my blog, you know that I started to get involved with Honor Flight Network, welcoming World War II veterans to the World War II Memorial here in Washington DC, back in May this year.
If you’ve been following the news, you’ll also know that the World War II Memorial (and the other National Park Service-operated Memorials around the country) was closed as a result of the US Government shutdown that began October 1st. You’ll likely have heard what happened when an Honor Flight of Veterans arrived that first day of the shutdown to find barricades in their way.
This whole situation naturally has caused a huge amount of media interest which, in the main, has been great – it’s brought the entire existence and goals of the Honor Flight Network to national prominence, and the outstanding work they put into making sure as many World War II veterans as possible can get to the Memorial.
When I was at the Memorial on Saturday October the 5th, this increased media attention’s effects were out in the open, with bike escorts for many of the 8 or 9 coaches of veterans that arrived during the morning, as well as a large number of “civilians” – just ordinary people who had come to show respect and to honor those veterans as they got to see the memorial, so long delayed, to remember their efforts and sacrifice for a world that now, 70 years on, has largely forgotten them.
Unfortunately, the increased media presence also brought something I personally consider “wrong” – people whose motives for being there I believe had nothing to do with honoring those veterans.
There were a group of individuals from the Tea Party Patriots (@tppatriots), including a fellow Desert Storm veteran, who had a sign that gave an alternate explanation of the timeline to the shutdown. I spoke with that fellow Veteran about the appropriateness of the sign given the day’s objectives, and he had good points to make about the sign being relevant to the shutdown and closure of the memorial.
However, opposite the Tea Party Patriot contingent were a group with a sign that had zero relevance to why everyone was there.
Now before everyone starts reaching for their pitchforks and screaming “First Amendment!” at me, please allow me to explain my point.
Yes, that group of individuals (who I can’t say were connected to the Tea Party Patriots contingent), has the right to say whatever they like. My objection is to the idea of hijacking what is supposed to be a day of honor and remembrance for the veterans whose memorial we were standing at to further someone’s own political goals (there was the expected throng of politicians, most of whom vanished after their photo-op in the morning, but you expect that of politicians – the story of the scorpion and the frog springs to mind.)
These people inserted themselves into the focal point of the entrance to the memorial to display a placard that had nothing to do with any of the day’s events, and it turned the whole thing political.
They weren’t there for the veterans, they were there for themselves.
Freedom of speech isn’t a get out of jail free card to excuse being discourteous – as we’ve learned with this inappropriate exercise of free speech:
To be honest, the people involved reminded me of the Phelps clan a lot.
During a break in the coaches arriving, there was a gathering of the bike escorts at the Memorial. One of those who spoke up put it plainly, it shouldn’t be a time or place for politics.
I agree wholeheartedly.
However, after the impromptu meeting, the magic came back – the distractions of those individuals, and the politicians who were there for a photo-op, faded away as a coach arrived and the Line started to form again.
It was wall to wall bikers and civilians – and it kept growing …
I don’t know what triggered it, but for those last coaches of the day everyone was united in focusing on the reason we were all there – to welcome those veterans to their memorial. Of the Honor Flights I’ve had the privilege of welcoming there, this one was the best. I’ll never forget the first veteran to come down this epic Line who reminded everyone of the caliber of the people we were there to welcome when, to the embarrassment of his Guardian, he got out of his chair and after waving at everyone even managed to bust a few dance moves of his own
Those people who go to the memorial simply to exploit the media attention with totally irrelevant topics should be ashamed of themselves, piggybacking off the veterans to further themselves.
We should try to keep such things out of the places where we remember the sacrifices of those who have stood the line.
It is those veteran’s time.
It is those veteran’s place.
You want to exercise your free speech rights to spout the latest vitriol, right wing or left, go right ahead – but rent your own hall.
Those veterans paid for this one already.
Humbled, proud, bewildered. All three words sum up my feelings over this past weekend, and yet they don’t really seem to do justice to the power of everything that’s happened.
Memorial Day weekend is always a somewhat intense time in our household – especially for me as a Veteran. For the past 11 years, the weekend has been filled with attending Rolling Thunder, the annual motorcycle event highlighting the MIA/POW issue, a particularly relevant topic right now due to one soldier still being held captive by extremists in Afghanistan for over 4 years now – Bowe Bergdahl.
This year, however, proved to be an emotional rollercoaster beyond previous years for multiple reasons.
The Candlelight Vigil is the “start” of Rolling Thunder each year. Come darkness, the bagpipes start and a flame is carried past throngs of people down to the center of The Wall, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, then up to the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, then finally to The Three Soldiers memorial statue.
It seemed like there were fewer people at The Wall this year than before – but it was a chilly night. It did have the advantage of keeping the “lookie-loos” (as Pat calls them) away, as inclement weather always tends to do. But there was still a strong presence of Veterans and others all around us.
There was one gentleman at the Vietnam Women’s Memorial who was telling everyone the history of women in combat in Vietnam. I wish I’d gotten his name to post here, as his storytelling ability was the same sort Park Rangers are renowned for.
We had arranged for WMATA MetroAccess to pick us up after the Candlelight Vigil at the entrance to the World War II Memorial, since the area surrounding The Wall itself is usually full of motorcycles. It seems “things happen exactly the way they should” was in full force this year, because that decision led to the most humbling, and privileged, events of the weekend.
By pure chance, we met up with Ralph – a fellow Maryland Patriot Guard Rider – at the World War II Memorial. As we talked, he mentioned that he was at the Vigil with a Gold Star Wife and her son, and gave her fallen husband’s name (which I won’t repeat here out of respect for the family unless they allow it). I realized that I’d had the privilege of being on the PGR mission that brought her husband to Arlington National Cemetery and said so – and Ralph introduced me to the lady and her son themselves!
Now this was a first for me – I’ve never met any of the family members of any of the fallen heroes we’ve had the privilege of escorting to Arlington, and I had no idea what to say! It took a while, and a lot of emotion, before we finally got past my awkwardness and were able to just talk. The lady told me how much seeing the Patriot Guard Riders had meant and helped during the internment of her husband, reinforcing to me why what Patriot Guard Riders do is so important.
Ralph also mentioned something to me I didn’t know – there was an Honor Flight arriving at the World War II Memorial Saturday morning, and Ralph would be part of the escort bringing these veterans in. He suggested I be there to welcome them to the Memorial, and I jumped at the chance.
The hour was late, Pat and I were waiting for MetroAccess, and Ralph et al needed to get going so I escorted the lady to where they had parked – where she insisted on taking a pin and adding it to the ones on my ID lanyard. I was stunned so much I didn’t even know what the pin was (the “Welcome Home” Pin pictured here) until later. I tried to decline the gift, but you can’t say no to a Gold Star Wife!
This was a tricky balancing act for me to pull off. By the time we got home on MetroAccess friday night, it was almost midnight. Checking routing and schedules, I’d have to be at the Metro station before it opened in order to make it to the World War II Memorial in time to greet the Honor Flight veterans as they arrived, but that meant The Tank only got 4 hours of charge – battery conservation was going to be essential if I was going to make it to Thunder Alley afterwards as planned!
There’s something I should explain here. I’m from Europe, and as far as I’m concerned it’s because of what these Veterans (and others) did over 60 years ago that I’ve had the opportunities to do the things I have today. This was an opportunity for me to thank some of them in person for that.
When the coaches arrived, motorbike escorts fore and aft, I was surprisingly nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, and what to “do”, as a horde of wheelchairs were unloaded from the coaches. The riders who had escorted the coaches in were milling around, all strangers, all obviously veterans of escorting the Honor Flights in going by the vests they wore, and there I was with The Tank looking lost …
But the moment the Veterans started their way towards the entrance to the Memorial the nervousness gave way to knowing in my gut what I needed to do, why I was there – so I used The Tank to hold myself upright, and I saluted every single one who passed by.
I remember one of the Veterans, when I talked to him afterwards and thanked him, telling me that “If we hadn’t done it, someone else would have had to” and I know he’s right – but at the same time, they did do it.
Something happened as the Veterans entered the Memorial that Ralph told me he’d never seen before. As each one reached the entrance, the crowds in the Memorial below cheered every single one of them. This wasn’t just from people who’d accompanied the Veterans on the Honor Flight, or Veterans like myself who were there because of it being Memorial Day weekend – this was people who just happened to be there at the time and recognized who they were seeing, understood what was going on – parents, kids, teenagers …
Teenagers. Four teenagers approached me during a lull in the whole thing and wanted to present me with a t-shirt. That took me by surprise on a couple of levels, first and foremost the way these four young men and women carried themselves. They respected where we were, and the people we were there to honor.
It also surprised me that they liked my sense of humor – which might not actually be such a good thing, given my sense of humor
When they asked me if I had any stories, it was hard to come up with something “safe” – I probably could have spun them some good dits with a little better preparation, but I wasn’t expecting to get asked for any. A lot of my memories are still raw even after so long. I did get them to open up a little about themselves though, and when I asked them how many had friends or relatives who were serving or Veterans, a good number of the rapidly-growing crowd from the school piped up.
I wonder if the World War II Veterans look at youth like these and think the same thing I did that morning – that these are the future we fought to protect?
The saddest moment was when the Veterans, young and old, made way for a procession led by a folded flag. One of the Honor Flight Guardians told me that it represented those who had signed up for the flight, but had died before making the trip. That we are losing World War II Veterans almost daily was reinforced by discovering this along the wall inside the Memorial itself:
I can only assume the grandfather mentioned on the note was unable to make it to the Memorial himself1).
I did manage to conserve enough power in The Tank to make it home afterwards – just!
After everything on Friday and Saturday, Rolling Thunder itself seems almost anti-climactic in my memories. Of those memories however is one of a young man, maybe 13 years old, who stood across the street from us for the whole ride, all 3 1/2 hours of it, waving his flag.
It took a lot of persuasion by his mother to get him to even take a short break for a bite to eat – and he was back on the line after wolfing his food down.
An hour into the ride, I walked over the road to him (I’d strapped my legs on to be able to stand myself), called him out in DI voice not used for a while, and presented him with my Rolling Thunder Challenge Coin. There were damned few adults who spent more than ten minutes where we were, and yet this young man, I’m sure, would have stood there until his parents and grandparents dragged him away if he had to.
Some days there are things you see that almost restore your faith in humanity.
There were a few times when I had to explain to onlookers why Rolling Thunder takes place – In every case, they didn’t know about Bowe Bergdahl.
There’s not much else to say about Sunday that I haven’t said before. We were separated from the riders by plastic orange barricade tape that corralled everyone onto the sidewalk, and it seemed like there was a greater police presence – but after the Boston Marathon Bombing I can’t really fault the Powers That Be wanting to try and exercise more control over crowds.
So I’ll leave explaining the ride itself to this wonderful helmet-cam video.
This was our eleventh year attending Rolling Thunder, and it was easily the most powerful, most poignant, and most memorable one to date. It was both cathartic and draining on many levels, full of surprises and sorrow both. I was able to be proud of being a Veteran and could hold my head high – which actually ended up not quite a good idea since doing so gave me a splitting headache thanks to neck problems – moreso than in previous years.
But I still remember that there’s an American being held Prisoner of War right now, with no end in sight to resolving the situation. There are still too many names on The Wall marked as still missing. There are still many Veterans of multiple wars who are alone even when in a crowd.
Rolling Thunder is necessary for all these things and more. As long as I’m able to, I’ll stand the line there each year, because it’s the right thing to do.
I’m not the only one – I end with this: Staff Sergeant Tim Chambers USMC
For a while now I’ve enjoyed using the GetGlue website. For those of you who never tried it, it’s a site where you can check-in to shows etc you’re watching and some provide stickers that get mailed to you at intervals for achieving certain goals.
One of the fun parts about GetGlue was how eclectic a selection of things to check-in to it had. You could check in to movies or TV shows, but also topics, actors, and books.
I use the past tense because it seems GetGlue has decided to change its focus – It’s “Title” in a web browser is “Your app for TV, Movies, and Sports”, and the “new” interface locks to those areas only. Gone is all mention of music, topics, personalities, or books – even if you use their search function.
Their site design itself seems to have been adjusted to reflect this new direction. Now it looks more like an attempt to hybridize a mobile look and feel with heavy use of AJAX – which raises another issue that really bothers me. As far as I can tell, they paid absolutely no interest in making their new layout accessible. WAI-ARIA tags? Nope. HTML 5 role tags? Nada. To cap it all off, the new site design seems to have been reduced to a rather clever, if topic-focused, TV guide.
Now I can understand why GetGlue might want to take the course its set itself upon – it’s obviously hoping to leverage its concentration towards TV, Movies, and Sports with stickers and promotional opportunities to those organizations willing to pay for that promotion – TV networks, Movie Studios, Sports channels – but in doing so it risks abandoning the users that gave it the numbers that make it an attractive prospect as valuable internet real-estate promotion.
Turning GetGlue into a sticker-equipped version of Facebook – even down to the “Like” button replacing “Agree/Cool/Funny” seems more like abandoning the functions and feel and concept that made GetGlue what it is, than an “upgrade”. Couldn’t they come up with something better than to run the site through the iCloner design system? And I’m going to say it again – GetGlue didn’t even bother to make the new interface accessible – I’m wondering if the design conversation went something like “Well, blind people don’t watch movies and TV so it won’t make any difference for them”.
Going by the comments just this morning on the GetGlue topic (which, ironically, can’t be brought up using the new interface Search), GetGlue’s going to get some pushback on this. The danger for them will be the number of users who don’t bother commenting on the changes (by going through the old site interface link) and simply walk away in disgust.
GetGlue still has the “old” interface available, but it seems obvious that anything outside the three topic areas they now focus on is on its way out. This means no more discussion of topics, or your favorite star of the TV show you just checked in on, no long-tail discovery of new shows and books (or, of any books to begin with) – the “social” aspect of GetGlue is now, it seems, limited to nothing more than the odd click now and again when you watch a show on TV, rather than going there frequently every day to socialize around other common interests – ones that are feeders to the information GetGlue’s advertisers likely *want* people to discover.
It’s too soon to tell if GetGlue is going to reverse this decision, at least as far as dropping the non-TV related topic areas is concerned – I hope so, but I’m not too optimistic about it. For myself, I know that just a bunch of stickers for TV shows isn’t going to be enough as the sole motive to keep me visiting nearly as often.
Here’s hoping Google sees the gaping hole GetGlue seems to be opening up in its concept and takes up the challenge.
So who else has seen the new interface, and what do you think of the whole thing?
So it’s been a hectic month, with a crash coding project for darling @Hell_On_Wheelz hubby’s work. Been a while since I was that deeply into a code project, so it was kind of scary to realize just how far behind SotA I’ve become spending so much time on art projects.
Now it’s all over bar trying to clean up the fragment code into one cohesive application, making a pretty (and absolutely kick-ass Section 508 compliant) front end, before The Worst Part Of The Job: Commenting the damned thing so I can run a *Doc generator through it so lesser mortals can read the code.
I mean, for decades the refrain has been “Real Programmers never comment their code. if it was hard to write, it should be hard to read” – a perspective I can understand. Not that I follow it myself though, I always comment my code.
Comments about the weather.
What I had for dinner that day.
Observations about the nature of Pope on Falling Skies.
You know, real comments, a snapshot in time of the mindset of the coder. *I* think that makes much more sense to add as comments than dull, dreary, boring @param string comments, don’t you?
The past month was good for me on a couple of levels though. A big part was it put my mind to rest (to a large degree) that I still have the brain power to get handed a complex coding project, hit the ground running, and get creative finding solutions. It also involved having to immerse myself into new technologies to showcase, including accessible AJAX, WAI-ARIA tagging, JQuery, the works – all stuff that was in its infancy the last time I looked.
So why, you might ask, does that make it good for me? It’s kind of simple, really. It’s been so long since I had to think on that kind of level, structured but creative, and force-learn new stuff, that I wasn’t sure if I was still capable of doing it, or at least as well as I could. Remember, I follow the “trial and terror” method of learning, so it’s important to have confidence in my ability to think and process information – confidence that has been shaken over the past few years knowing my Multiple Sclerosis is waging war on the structures of my brain.
So this was a test of a lot of things, not only my coding skills, and ability to solve the problem Pat handed to me, but also a test for myself to see if I still have it. It’s been, perhaps, a little harder than it was in the past, but I’m also no spring chicken any more, any degradation in ability to think can be chalked up to just getting older, or being code-rusty, not everything is related to my being brain-dead
It’s the little things that sometimes give you the extra leg-up, that you never expected.
Now I just have to wait and see if the application is well received by those its intended for … I do wonder how many of them are going to wonder just why the preamble of the docs are in 5-Para Op Order format … some things are never forgotten
As an aside, I’ll be at the Baltimore Book Fair at the end of this month, already hoping to see @NightwolfWriter there – anyone else want to say hi?
So it’s all big space news this weekend, with MSL Curiosity making her much-anticipated landing on Mars. It’s got the entire Interwebs abuzz, and NASA’s got an entire set of @NASASocial events lined up spanning 7 different facilities.
But … with all the new fangled tech and social media and everything else, I want to also remember a somewhat older, and less-remembered NASA robotic explorer – The Voyager probes, 1 and 2.
These two puppies were launched in 1977! That’s right, they’ve been speeding away from Earth in near-opposite directions for just under 35 years now. They’re so far away that signals from @NASAVoyager2 take almost 13 hours and 40 minutes to reach Earth – at the blazingly fast speed of around 160 bits a second.
And you thought your connectivity sucked
So while we can all sit on the edge of our chairs waiting with breathless anticipation for news of @MarsCuriosity’s landing, and the first images once she gets warmed up and things sprout out of their housings on the Red Planet’s surface, let’s try to also remember that these two probes, a testament to a time when Government contracting did work (obviously), on their lonely way out into interstellar space.
It’s estimated that the RTG (radioisotope thermoelectric generators) on board Voyager 2 will fail some time around 2025, so at their current speeds there’s still good data about a part of our solar system we have no clue about coming in. Even once their power source is drained completely, they’ll continue outwards, carrying the famous “golden records“, so I thought I’d do a quick render to celebrate their longevity and future.
Long after Curiosity has become an immovable object on the surface of Mars, these two veterans of space flight will still be going, and going, and going …
Good luck NASA, JPL, and everyone else with Curiosity’s landing – hurry up and get us some imagery afterwards!
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