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January 2006

Wherever U go, there you R

From Coconut:  I found this cool blog applet that lets you create a map of every country you have visited. Try it out. However the person who wrote this program needs to brush up on their geography and history (i.e. Mexico is a part of  North America, etc).    According to the program, I have visited 39 countries, or 17% of the globe.  For all the traveling I've done in recent years, it seems to little accomplished and so much more left to explore. I recently read an article in "The Washington Post" about a group of Americans who had succeeded in visiting every country in the world including North Korea, Cuba and other off-limit areas.  That's my aspiration. World, here we come!

P.S. I can't figure out why the map below appears cut in half. To see the full-sized image, click on the Flickr photoblog icon, and then click on "Profile".

create your own visited countries map or vertaling Duits Nederlands

Life in the big city

Quite the exciting couple of days in our quiet little corner of London.  On Tuesday, an out-of-control bus rammed into the Borders Book store a few blocks from our flat, careened to the other side of the road, rammed into a taxi que outside of the Sainsbury's supermarket, putting six bystanders in the hospital.  Just minutes before the accident, Pineapple Princess and her mum (The Professional HolidayMaker) had been standing outside the Borders chatting with friends.  By sheer luck they had walked on just before the accident occured.

There is now a huge plywood wall where the Borders windows once stood and part of the wall is missing. And all the traffic lights at that intersection were knocked out.  Our neighborhood aident even made the evening news!  Another exciting day in Angel Islington.

Londontown 2006

Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

Posted for no particular reason other than I really love this photo. There is something very organic and natural about sepia-toned photography.

I shot this from atop the London Eye ferris wheel during a sightseeing trip with Pineapple Princess's mum, who shall hereforth be known as "The Professional Holidaymaker".  To explain: A "holidaymaker" is a British term to describe anybody on holiday, or on vacation.  Mum has more fun and exciting trips planned over the next 3 months than we will take all year long!  A true wanderlust by any definition!

Click on the Flickr link at the right to see more recent Londontown images.

Wasted lives

Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

(BLOGGERS NOTE: This editorial was published in today's Washington Post. Posted here without comment)

A Life, Wasted: Let's Stop This War Before More Heroes Are Killed

By Paul E. Schroeder
Tuesday, January 3, 2006; A17

Early on Aug. 3, 2005, we heard that 14 Marines had been killed in Haditha, Iraq. Our son, Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II, was stationed there. At 10:45 a.m. two Marines showed up at our door. After collecting himself for what was clearly painful duty, the lieutenant colonel said, "Your son is a true American hero."

Since then, two reactions to Augie's death have compounded the sadness.

At times like this, people say, "He died a hero." I know this is meant with great sincerity. We appreciate the many condolences we have received and how helpful they have been. But when heard repeatedly, the phrases "he died a hero" or "he died a patriot" or "he died for his country" rub raw.

"People think that if they say that, somehow it makes it okay that he died," our daughter, Amanda, has said. "He was a hero before he died, not just because he went to Iraq. I was proud of him before, and being a patriot doesn't make his death okay. I'm glad he got so much respect at his funeral, but that didn't make it okay either."

The words "hero" and "patriot" focus on the death, not the life. They are a flag-draped mask covering the truth that few want to acknowledge openly: Death in battle is tragic no matter what the reasons for the war. The tragedy is the life that was lost, not the manner of death. Families of dead soldiers on both sides of the battle line know this. Those without family in the war don't appreciate the difference.

This leads to the second reaction. Since August we have witnessed growing opposition to the Iraq war, but it is often whispered, hands covering mouths, as if it is dangerous to speak too loudly. Others discuss the never-ending cycle of death in places such as Haditha in academic and sometimes clinical fashion, as in "the increasing lethality of improvised explosive devices."

Listen to the kinds of things that most Americans don't have to experience: The day Augie's unit returned from Iraq to Camp Lejeune, we received a box with his notebooks, DVDs and clothes from his locker in Iraq. The day his unit returned home to waiting families, we received the second urn of ashes. This lad of promise, of easy charm and readiness to help, whose highest high was saving someone using CPR as a first aid squad volunteer, came home in one coffin and two urns. We buried him in three places that he loved, a fitting irony, I suppose, but just as rough each time.

I am outraged at what I see as the cause of his death. For nearly three years, the Bush administration has pursued a policy that makes our troops sitting ducks. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that our policy is to "clear, hold and build" Iraqi towns, there aren't enough troops to do that.

In our last conversation, Augie complained that the cost in lives to clear insurgents was "less and less worth it," because Marines have to keep coming back to clear the same places. Marine commanders in the field say the same thing. Without sufficient troops, they can't hold the towns. Augie was killed on his fifth mission to clear Haditha.

At Augie's grave, the lieutenant colonel knelt in front of my wife and, with tears in his eyes, handed her the folded flag. He said the only thing he could say openly: "Your son was a true American hero." Perhaps. But I felt no glory, no honor. Doing your duty when you don't know whether you will see the end of the day is certainly heroic. But even more, being a hero comes from respecting your parents and all others, from helping your neighbors and strangers, from loving your spouse, your children, your neighbors and your enemies, from honesty and integrity, from knowing when to fight and when to walk away, and from understanding and respecting the differences among the people of the world.

Two painful questions remain for all of us. Are the lives of Americans being killed in Iraq wasted? Are they dying in vain? President Bush says those who criticize staying the course are not honoring the dead. That is twisted logic: honor the fallen by killing another 2,000 troops in a broken policy?

I choose to honor our fallen hero by remembering who he was in life, not how he died. A picture of a smiling Augie in Iraq, sunglasses turned upside down, shows his essence -- a joyous kid who could use any prop to make others feel the same way.

Though it hurts, I believe that his death -- and that of the other Americans who have died in Iraq -- was a waste. They were wasted in a belief that democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator -- a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires. They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel.

But their deaths will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers may be wasted as well.

This is very painful to acknowledge, and I have to live with it. So does President Bush.

The writer is managing director of a trade development firm in Cleveland.