Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."


Armed Forces Bowl

Shortly after noon today (Eastern time), the Golden Bears of Cal will grudgingly face the Falcons of the U.S. Air Force Academy in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. Cal, once on the brink of a national #1 ranking, lost six of their last seven to barely scrape by the six-win threshold for bowl eligibility (and needed the Univ. of Arizona to lose their final game to secure the sixth seed on the PAC-10 bowl card).

Cal has a history of "going through the motions" in what it considers sub-par bowl games -- e.g., the trouncing they took in the 2004 Holiday Bowl when they thought they deserved a Rose Bowl berth. So I am expecting the 9-3 Air Force to win big.

[Update: Though Air Force took a quick 21-0 lead, two things helped Cal stage a 42-36 comeback victory: Coach Jeff Tedford benched longtime QB Nate Longshore in favor of redshirt freshman Kevin Riley, and Air Force senior QB Shaun Carney suffered a severe knee injury. Best wishes for a quick recovery for Cadet Carney!]

The Armed Forces Bowl, in its fifth year, will feature much pageantry of the U.S. military, including fly-overs of several different varieties of aircraft, "Thank You's" to veterans, and a "service spotlight" on each of the DoD armed services during each quarter. However, in what I consider a poignant statement of the future direction of military transformation, the parachutists who skydive into Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas, won't be the Golden Knights of the U.S. Army.

Instead, the parachutists who land on the turf at TCU's stadium will be contractors from Blackwater USA's Parachute Team -- proving that just about anything can be outsourced....

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[Moblog] Coffee with Kao

CINCHOUSE and I crossed the Bay this morning to meet up with innovation guru and author Dr. John Kao. John is the author of jamming and, most recently, Innovation Nation (which I reviewed back in October). A great morning with great Cuban coffee and excellent conversation!

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[Moblog] Xmas Tree Lane

I grew up on a street in Alameda, California that is known (this time of year) as "Christmas Tree Lane". The lots are typical Bay Area "dense pack", with houses close enough together to clean your neighbor's windows from inside your own home.

What makes this particular block special is the center median, home to more than a dozen 40' tall Ponderosa pine trees. And each December 1st, the neighbors partner with the city electric company to decorate and light each of those trees.

This decades-old tradition continues to this day, with literally every one of the block's 90 houses sporting some kind of decoration. There is also a "North Pole Express" mailbox, and Santa always spends some time here.

[Updated (12/28) with better pictures]


Santa on the Move!

Santa is on the move! Thanks to the North American Aerospace Defense Command's (NORAD's) "Santa Tracker" satellite constellation, we can track his progress as he moves west from blogfriend Peter's (aka The Strategist) home in Wellington, New Zealand:

Merry Christmas to all!


Bloggers for Nuclear Policy

Überblogger ZenPundit has vectored me to a "group blog request" by Cheryl at WhirledView on nuclear weapons policy. This topic was an early passion of mine, while an undergrad physics major at Berkeley in the closing days of the Cold War, so I am happy to participate.

However, I disagree with Cheryl's premise that current U.S. policy is "stuck in the Cold War"; the National Nuclear Security Administration's just-released "Complex Transformation" plan seems like the right plan for continuing to convert our nuclear stockpile to one that is relevant and sustainable for the 21st century.

Three topics I'll cover in this post:
  • Great Power War
  • Stockpile Management
  • Future Challenges
Living in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (a city founded solely because of the Manhattan Project in World War II), there are daily reminders of the role this city played in bringing a terrible war to an end. The old guard posts still stand on the Oak Ridge Turnpike and Scarboro Road, and the three facilities with cryptic alphanumeric names (X-10, K-25, Y-12) still adorn signs and maps.

One thing that becomes clear, touring the various historic sites around Oak Ridge, is the magnitude of effort needed to manufacture nuclear weapons. This is not something where a couple centrifuges can be turned on in a basement and voilà! you have material to build a bomb. The undertaking is complicated, laborious and time-consuming -- and this is a good thing. The skill sets needed to preserve and maintain a credible stockpile are scarce -- and this is not so good of a thing (I'll cover this in "stockpile management" below).

This creates a taxonomy of "Nuclear Powers":
  1. Those that have it
  2. Those that want to have it
  3. Those that don't want it
  4. Those who can never make it
Obviously, those in the first category want to preserve their "exclusivity" -- because after all, the logic of nuclear warfare is that you can never logically use them. This led to policies like the Baruch Plan after World War II (which the Soviets rejected because, in their opinion, it would have preserved the U.S. nuclear monopoly) and today's proper emphasis on nuclear non-proliferation (a great success to date, in my opinion).

Since "great power war" has faded in likelihood, some nations have active nuclear research programs -- ostensibly so they can join the "great power club" and garner increased international standing. This demonstrates the continued effectiveness of deterrence within the nation-state system (where even the most despotic rulers are still governed by some semblance of rational self-interest).

The fourth category ("those who can never make it"), therefore, is the most worthy of attention. A transnational terror organization lacks the resources to develop their own program, so they would have to resort to theft in order to obtain a weapon. (Note that I am deliberately focusing on nuclear weapons, not the other varieties of "Weapons of Mass Destruction" like chemical or biological.) Therefore, in order to minimize the likelihood of an al-Qa'eda-like organization obtaining a nuclear weapon, we should focus our attention on stockpile management.

Since the end of the Cold War, many old weapon systems have been dismantled in order to diminish the U.S. arsenal -- both to abide by international treaty obligations, and to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. This requires a labor force with the same skill sets necessary to manufacture weapons: not just physicists and engineers, but master machinists, pipe fitters and other skill trades. This is an area where international cooperation should continue to increase -- especially between Russia (which has the largest cache of weapons in the world) and the United States.

Therefore, the three "core values" of a relevant nuclear policy for the 21st century are:
  1. Maintain a credible deterrent (because it's the dominant "control mechanism" in international politics)
  2. Preserve the industrial base (both for demobilization of existing stock as well as for continued research and development)
  3. Continue emphasizing non-proliferation
We can never put the nuclear djinni "back in the bottle". So long as we live in a world ruled by conflicting interests, total disarmament will never be a practical solution.

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Tagged: Christmas Meme

Local friend Citizen Netmom has been tagged by LissaKay to provide a "Christmas Meme" profile, so I'm following her lead. Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share Christmas facts about yourself.
3. Tag seven random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Welcome to the Christmas edition of "Getting to Know Your Friends."

1. Wrapping or gift bags?
Gift bags - the ultimate convenience in gift-giving!

2. Real or artificial tree?
Artificial pre-lit. (See comment on "convenience" in 1. above.)

3. When do you put up the tree?
Me? Never. My bride? Usually just after Thanksgiving.

4. When do you take the tree down?
After our annual Epiphany Party in early January.

5. Do you like egg nog?
Not as much as what you can put *in* the eggnog.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
A BMX bike when I was 12 years old.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes (a small porcelain one).

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
At an office "gag gift exchange", I ended up with a plastic hand pedestal that was supposed to be a remote control holder. We kept it in the closet until the follow year's gift exchange.

9. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Despite my comments on "convenience" above, this is one area where we go all out -- mail is the only way for us. Our family photo is planned months in advance (this year's card was from a February trip to Mexico, complete with Santa hats in the luggage), cards are ordered shortly after Halloween, and labels printed the week before Thanksgiving. We have made a habit (perhaps bordering on Obsessive-Compulsive :-) of mailing them the day before Thanksgiving -- sort of a green flag for friends and family of the start of the holiday season.

10. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Black Friday. My lovely bride, however, starts the day *after* Christmas for the next year.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
My bride's crockpot turkey (never dry!). And my Grandmother's & Aunt Peggy's Secret Toffee.

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree?

14. Favorite Christmas song(s)?
Sarajevo 12/24 by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

15. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
We usually travel -- we have family and friends scattered throughout the country.

16. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
Yes (though it might take me a while). Don't forget Olive! (As in "Olive, the other reindeer..." :-)

17. Angel on the tree top or a star?

18. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?
One selected gift on Christmas Eve, the rest on Christmas morning.

19. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Some people let themselves get too stressed out -- so courtesy seems to be too rare this time of year, ESPECIALLY on the roads and parking lots.

20. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color?
Classic white lights, gold trimmed ribbon, with lots of sentimental-value ornaments.

21. What do you leave for Santa?
Milk and cookies, of course. And some carrots on the lawn for his reindeer.

22. Least favorite holiday song?
Anything with "singing" animals.

23. Favorite ornament?
Our Macy's-New York City "Curious George" ornament (showing George climbing the Empire State Building in a clear glass globe) from their 75th Anniversary Parade.

24. Family tradition?
Besides what's already been described here (decorations, cards, gifts), we have an emerging tradition of performances. Both kids play in holiday piano recitals, and Renee always performs with the church choir in their Christmas performances. Also, Shelby has performed in The Nutcracker three of the past four years now -- and Jarrett has said he wants to be a "party boy / mouse soldier" in next year's Nutcracker.

25. Ever been to Midnight Mass or late-night Christmas Eve services?
Yes, a couple times (once in San Diego, when my mother-in-law visited us there; and another time in Minnesota at her church).

I will be passing this "tag" on to the following blogfriends (updated to link to their replies):

Sean Meade

Can't wait to see what they post... Merry Christmas to all!

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First Flight

Wilbur and Orville Wright, the youngest of a Bishop's four sons, grew up in Dayton, Ohio. Gifted engineers and inventors, they (like most of their contemporaries) were fascinated by the idea of "heavier than air" powered flight. However, while their peers built increasingly powerful motors (figuring that the "flight problem" could be overcome by brute force), the Wright Brothers focused on the challenge of control in three polar dimensions: yaw, pitch and roll.

Their engineering acumen came from years of working in their shop with printing presses, motors and bicycles -- the Gary Fishers of the 19th-century. Mechanical skill, coupled with a penchant for data collection (e.g., numerous wind tunnel tests to build better propellers and wings) led to U.S. Patent #821,393: the control surfaces that would later be called ailerons.

Needing a remote place with strong winds, they discovered the Outer Banks of North Carolina. [Ed. note: As one who has experienced the headwinds of Kill Devil Hills, Jockey's Ridge and Kitty Hawk firsthand (on a bicycle during the 2005 "Tour de Cure"), I can testify that Wilbur did good -- OBX is renowned today for it's Kite Boarding!]

On this day, 104 years ago (December 17th, 1903), Orville Wright (below) piloted their plane for a 12-second, 120-foot journey. The brothers made three more flights that day, the final flight (by Wilbur) more than 850 feet in 59 seconds.

Happy flying!

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Go, Speed Racer, Go!

While taking the kids to see a movie today, I was very pleasantly surprised to see a trailer for my all-time favorite cartoon, Speed Racer.

Set for release May 9th, 2008, this cartoon-to-live-action-film is being produced by The Wachowski Brothers of The Matrix fame.

The first trailer shows a compelling mix of technology and imagery, in true Wachowski fashion. And it (so far) looks true to the 'toon, complete with Trixie (Christina Ricci) providing overhead intel, Spritle (Paulie Litt) and Chim Chim stowing away in the Mach 5's trunk, and the enigmatic Racer X (Matthew Fox) silently watching over Speed.

The only drawback? Susan Sarandon is cast as Mom Racer...

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The Great White Fleet

America became a global power in the latter days of the 19th century by defeating Spain in the Spanish-American War, taking possession of Puerto Rico, the Phillipines and Guam. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt (credited with preparing the Navy for the war, before resigning his appointment to serve as a Colonel in the U.S. Army) understood the importance of naval power to a nation's economic and military strength.

A decade later, as Roosevelt's presidency was drawing to a close, he dispatched four squadrons of four battleships each (and their escorts) from the Hampton Roads, Virginia on a 43,000-mile, 14-month journey that would circumnavigate the globe. This fleet, "The Great White Fleet", began its journey exactly 100 years ago -- and would demonstrate to the world America's global reach and blue-water navy capability.

Tensions with Japan were rising due to Japan's incredibly lopsided victory over Russia's Baltic Fleet in the Battle of Tsushima two years prior -- and their growing sphere of influence in the western Pacific. This led many (including Harpers magazine) to believe that the outgoing president was launching a war against Japan.

However, Roosevelt's intentions were to build goodwill and cooperation -- akin to the modern U.S. Navy's recently-published "Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower".

(The above photo, taken from the roof of the Hotel Chamberlin at Fortress Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, shows the fleet passing into the Atlantic at the start of their journey, December 16th, 1907.)

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National Guard Birthday

The oldest organized military establishment in the Americas, the National Guard of the United States, was founded December 13th, 1636. (Yes, 1636 -- less than a generation after the founding of the Plymouth Colony, and only 29 years after the first permanent British presence in the New World began at Jamestown, Virginia). From Wikipedia:

"On December 13, 1636, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony had ordered that the Colony's scattered militia companies be organized into North, South and East Regiments--with a goal of increasing the militias’ accountability to the colonial government, efficacy, and responsiveness in conflicts with indigenous Pequot Indians. Under this act, white males between the ages of 16 and 60 were obligated to possess arms and to play a part in the defense of their communities by serving in nightly guard details and participating in weekly drills. After the United States came into existence, state militias would develop out of this tradition."

According to Title X of the U.S. Code, Section 311, the militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and ... under 45 years of age who are ... citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard. This militia is organized into two parts: the National Guard, and the "unregulated militia".

Happy Birthday, National Guard!

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Tennessee Snowball Fight!

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[Moblog] Zen and Me

I am having authentic pierogies and brewskis (plus some excellent split pea soup) in west Chicago's Franklin Park / Mannheim Road with Überblogger ZenPundit. My flight back to Tennessee leaves in another two hours, so Zen was kind enough to pick me up at O'Hare (amidst weather reports of freezing rain) and bring me out for a great dinner.

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[Moblog] AM Winter Run

LTC Rich Greene (new Commander of 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry) and I did the 6-mile "Riva Ridge Loop" at Fort Drum, NY this morning. It was a brisk 24° F. (-5° C.), but with no wind. A great run, and a great way for Rich to start his first full day in command of the Polar Bears!


[Moblog] New 'Polar Bear 6'

LTC Richard G. Greene Jr, USA, received the colors of 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, at a change of command this morning at Fort Drum, New York.

If leadership is "the liberation of talent," the 'Polar Bears' are gaining a commander who can inspire them to achieve more than they knew they could.

I was not a distance runner until Rich Greene picked me to join his team for the 1999 Army Ten-Miler - and have run six marathons since. We seldom did family road trips until we drove over 1,000 miles to Rich's wedding in Aledo, Illinois 7-1/2 years ago - and braved the Alaska Highway in 2004 to visit him in Fairbanks, Alaska on the "Mother of All Road Trips".

And my appreciation for the liberties we enjoy, the elegant strength of our Constitution, and the urgent importance of our operations overseas, are stronger for knowing Rich.


UPDATE: See 4-31 singing "The 10th Mountain Division Song"
(45-second .AVI file, 17MB).

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[Moblog] Johnny Walker Blue

I'm in Ft Drum, New York for a change of command ceremony tomorrow. My good friend Rich Greene - a man who has inspired me in many aspects of life - is taking command of the Polar Bears: the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment of 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team. HOOah!

Rich's bride Michelle (the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for the Division) graced Rich with a rare bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label in honor of this event. And, as a Tennessee Squire (who brought a bottle of Jack's Single Barrel for Rich), I can say unequivocally that JW's Blue is the *finest* whiskey I have ever tasted.

More pix tomorrow from Fort Drum, the snow capital of the U.S.

Pro Patria!



A Date Which Lives in Infamy

Flags across the United States are at half-mast today in recognition of "a date which shall live in infamy". At 7:52 a.m. on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941, the first wave of Japanese bombers reached the western shore of O'ahu (near today's Lualualei Naval Weapons Station), crested the Waianae Ridge at Kolekole Pass (which connects Lualualei to Schofield Barracks), attacking military airfields as well as the fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor to the south. More than two thousand sailors, Marines and soldiers were killed -- along with 68 civilians -- compared to just 65 Japanese airmen killed.

The photo above has been a staple of my briefings on defense transformation for years. When I show the photo cropped to show only the lower-right quadrant, nearly everyone correctly observes "Battleship Row" at Pearl Harbor. Showing the full photo (from a scale model in wartime Japan) demonstrates the challenge we in a open society face when battling adversaries who don't share our values -- nor our freedoms.

John Robb has aptly noted our vulnerability to "open source warfare" -- a challenge that is exacerbated by the openness of our society. But the solution is not to trade our freedoms for the "warm blanket of security". Rather, we should remember that it is those freedoms -- the freedom to live, to love, to pursue happiness and prosperity -- that make us strong.

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Cal Collapse & Other Lessons

For the first time since 2001 (and the first time ever in Jeff Tedford's reign as Cal's football coach), The Stanfurd Axe is returning to Palo Alto. And Cal's utter implosion since being on the brink of #1 in the nation two months ago came to a bitter end with today's 20-13 loss in The Big Game. All that's needed to put Cal out of its misery (and dissipate any hope of a Bowl bid) is for Arizona to overcome a 10-point deficit against #13 Arizona State in the final two minutes of that game. [Update at 23:44 EST: Arizona narrowed the gap to 3-points with 0:40 left, but ASU recovered the onside kick to secure the win. Looks like Cal will get an Armed Forces Bowl berth....]

In the spirit of Stewart Mandel at SI.com, I offer "Five Things We Learned This Weekend":

1. Cal lacks the discipline to be a great college football team. Way too many penalties (nine for 103 yards against Stanfurd), folding in "substandard" postseason games (e.g., the lackluster performance in the 2004 Holiday Bowl when they felt they deserved a Rose Bowl berth), and Jeff Tedford's "loyalty to a fault" (keeping underperforming Nate Longshore in the game too many times). Coach Tedford has brought a sense of pride to Cal football unseen since the storied Rose Bowl teams of the 1950s, but he has not yet figured how to motivate his team when their own unrealistic expectations are dashed.

2. Being ranked #2 stinks. The #2 ranked team has been upset seven (yes, 7!) times this season, including Pitt winning the 100th Backyard Brawl at West Virginia earlier today. Good teams should pray for a #3 ranking....

3. Official-initiated "instant replay reviews" are worthless wastes of time. It seldom changes the call on the field, even with apparent evidence to the contrary, due to the standard of "unambiguous" proof. To wit, Cal's final drive in today's Big Game showed an apparent incompletion (ruled an interception, and not overturned) -- followed by a Stanfurd sideline pass with the tip of the receiver's foot clearly on the sideline. Ditch the rule as written now, give it some credibility, then give the coaches more than their one challenge per game.

4. BCS is a mess. Why can't Hawai'i (the lone undefeated team in Division I football) play in the National Championship Game? Oh, yeah: "strength of schedule". Which, if applied to the NFL, means that nobody from the anemic AFC West would be allowed to play in the Super Bowl.

5. Parity is here to stay. Bottom line: there is a LOT of talent in college football today -- even without the megasalaries guys like Nick Saben can command. Add in better training methods and more complex play-calling, and you have a lot of depth in the college ranks.

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[Moblog] We Love a Parade

Oak Ridge Christmas Parade day, with over a hundred floats for the 1-1/2 mile route. Daughter is forward with a dance ensemble, son here (in photo) with Cub Scout Pack, and I'll be doing double duty with Scouts and American Red Cross Disaster Relief.