I am pleased to welcome you to my personal blog, which I started in March 2009. I first became interested in blogging about five years ago, using old "blogger.com", which was cumbersome to use and I never mastered. About a year ago I discovered that Google had bought "blogger.com" and had revised it considerably, making it fun to use, so much so that I have devised at least 15 blogs on various subjects and frequently add posts and Gadgets to them.

Monday, December 28, 2009

18.05.2001 Tabriz - Our first taste of Iranian hospitality

[While reading the Solar Cycle Diaries, I was introduced to this very-well-written blog about a tandem-bike-ride through Turkey and Iran in 2001. Here's the URL to get you to it:


Cass writes…

As chance would have it, our arrival in Tabriz coincides with the last stage of the sixteenth Azerbaijan Bicycle Tour. Toiling our way up a steep climb out of Marand, we're left teetering over a valley that encloses the city, confronted by dozens of cyclists procuring track side spots for this 1000km regional version of the Tour de France.

It's Friday, day of rest for Muslims. Like Turks, Iranians seem a nation of picnic lovers. Extended families of fragile old grandpas, languidly relaxed fathers, chador clad wives and football obsessed teenagers (What is your country? England? David Beckam!!) tuck into home made feasts, alluringly served on portable carpets. Gathering momentum like a torpedo, we rocket by to frantic waves and yelps of delight, defiant against the hardy headwind that's trying its best to slow the descent after all our hard toil. Through forested valleys and along undulating plains, the road eventually flattens and widens into the industrial outskirts of the city.

We stop for a few gulps of water in the heat of the day, squeezed onto the gravel by a fleet of thundering lorries. Two Lycra skinned riders - a particularly strange sight in this Muslim republic - join us for the last fifteen kilometres into the city. Our introductions to Habib and Farad are made on the move, all but drowned out by the roar of traffic, uneasily cycling side by side just a hair's width from a stream of friendly by lumbering trucks and nimble but careless Paykan saloons.

A quick pit stop before we reach the city suburbs has our friends unfolding neatly pressed shirts and trousers from rucksacks, blending into the Islamic surroundings once more. Expecting to reach the city centre, before we know we find ourselves on a tour that emerges before Habib's home, introduced to his radiantly rounded mother, shaking the hand of a slightly bemused father and nodding towards clusters of intrigued neighbours peering from windows and doorways. Downing rounds of tea we work our way through a bowl of fruit before a half dozen giggling children, waited over like king and queen.

It's our first time in an Iranian house, our first experience of Iranian hospitality. We sit on the floor propped up with cushions, admiring the open design and simple decorations, painfully aware of our smelly socks. Habib is a baker, his brother a dentist and his father a bus driver. Their home is far bigger and more modern than we expect. Carpets are the main theme and there's not a bed or chair in sight - just a spotless kitchen and in the background a DVD of a Maria Carey concert - perhaps to make us feel more at home! After a few days in cramped hotels, it seems very luxurious.

As well as two brothers who watch us through thick glasses, Habib has two sisters who move like a blur, constantly scuttling around to replenish tea cups and fruit plates, disappearing into the kitchen every few moments. A succession of doorbell rings marks the arrival of friends and family, reminding us of a soap opera. Away from the prying eyes of the street, Rosal is allowed to lift her hejab - the head dress that conforms to Iranian law - and there follows a session of hair gazing, swooning and admiration. Habib's family express their dislike for the religious mullahs and their stringent laws, preferring the pre Islamic Revolution rule of Shah Pahlavi. Despite the Shah's apparently repressive government, it's an opinion we have heard several times in just the few days we have been in Iran.

A stilted conversation, limited by the phrases in the back of our Lonely Planet guidebook, is relieved by the arrival of the wife of Habib's brother. Married by arrangement just two months ago after Habib' s mother took a shine to this sweet faced teenager, Elnaz is just 16 to Ali's 27 years of age. As far as we can make out, the couple don't live together just yet - Eland has been called out to put her studies into practise and act as interpreter. With the help of an English-Farsi dictionary, we chat way, silences filled by all round beaming smiles until a banquet of rice and salad appears, served on a huge plastic tablecloth laid out on the carpet. Our arrival is celebrated by the opening of a dozen bottles of neon orange Zam Zam - the Iranian equivalent of Fanta. Plates stacked high with crispy rice seasoned with red currents are proffered and we're strongly encouraged to eat until we can no longer move, then invited to stretch out and relax our weary limbs.

Such incredible hospitality, almost overbearing in its zeal, puts our own Western preconceptions of Islamic people to shame. Two strangers invited into a home, we can have hoped for no warmer welcome to Tabriz, gratefully accepting their offer to spend the night.

Senior Leaders Blog, Too

Army Secretary John McHugh speaks with California native Staff
Sgt. Nathaniel Cummings of Charlie Company, 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, about taking care of Soldiers at Foward Operating Base Warhorse, Diyala, Iraq. December 18, 2009.

Just returned from a great trip seeing our Army’s efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait – followed up by a visit with Soldiers and their medical team at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Spending time with our Soldiers overseas was a real improvement from my usual work week. As much as I value the input of the Army’s great senior military and civilian leaders at the Pentagon and throughout Washington, D.C., you just can’t beat what is learned from a personal view of conditions on the ground.

Not surprisingly, the primary intent behind the trip was to get feedback from Soldiers. My job as Secretary of the Army is to organize, train and equip the Army to carry out its mission to fight and win the nation’s wars. Among other issues, I asked Soldiers how well their unit formations function given their set of wartime missions, how we can improve training stateside before they deploy, their experiences with the various MRAP vehicles now in theater, and the medical evacuation process. In Kuwait, I focused on the tremendous effort to drawdown personnel and materiel in Iraq and concurrently to surge into Afghanistan. As a professional Army, we are committed to continuous improvement in order to do our mission more effectively and efficiently while minimizing loss of life. My impression is that we’re doing a good job, but I’ve brought back a few ideas to share with leaders here to provide even better support to warfighters in the field.

I also wanted to share some holiday cheer. At each place I visited, I expressed to Soldiers the thanks of the Army and the nation for their sacrifices and those of their families. It’s humbling to wish “happy holidays” to a Soldier at a remote forward operating base, and even more so when that Soldier is serving a second or third tour. Our nation is truly blessed by the commitment and courage of the few who choose to put country before self and serve us honorably.

For those of you reading this who are part of the military community – Soldiers, DA civilians, spouses, kids, parents, veterans, and volunteers – let me thank you for your part to keep our nation strong during this period of protracted conflict. Each of you makes a contribution to preserve our way of life, and to enable others to have a better future. My wish for us all, this year as always, is a warm, healthy, safe, and secure New Year.

Posted byashmccallinArmy News, social mediaJohn McHugh, Secretary of the Army, U.S. Army

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Kindle Experience — A Personal Report

[This post is from Albert Mohler's blog]Books are a major part of my daily life. As I write this, I am surrounded by many thousands of books, each with its own feel, appearance, and meaning. Many of these books have played crucial roles in my thinking and understanding. Even as Christianity requires a certain level of literacy for its transmission and understanding, the book (whether scroll or codex) is rightly cherished by Christ's people.

There is something special about most books and the experience of reading them. The physical reality of the book, including its cover, paper, typeface, and design are part of its charm. Books are wonderful to behold, to sense, to hold, and ultimately to read. As a technology, books have survived the test of time. They do not need batteries, they hold up well with a minimum of maintenance, and, unlike a computer, they never crash. Books are almost perfect as a combination of design and purpose. Who could ask for more?

I do. The printed book is superior to almost every imaginable technology in any number of respects, but not in all. The digital revolution has reached the world of books, and things are forever changed. I was an early adopter of the Kindle, Amazon.com's almost iconic electronic reader. My first Kindle was bought soon after the technology became available. I purchased a few books and intended the Kindle to operate as a supplement to my library of printed books. I did not expect to spend much time with it, but I saw the advantage of instantly-available books that could be carried in my briefcase by the hundreds.

Now, I travel with an unreasonable number of books inserted throughout my luggage, but I cannot stash more than a few. The Kindle allows me to carry hundreds, and eventually thousands. Even as Nicholas Negroponte of MIT predicted the shift of all information from atoms to bits, the Kindle allows this transformation for the book. Writing in The New Republic, Anthony T. Grafton predicts that "electronic reading will move from being one of the ways we access and consume texts to the dominant mode."

I am not sure of that when it comes to books, but it is already true for any number of other published formats, ranging from newspapers to academic journals. I cannot imagine that the Kindle (or any similar technology) will replace the printed book in affection or aspiration, but it has already become a means of transcending the material barrier when it comes to books.

Put bluntly, I seldom leave home without my Kindle. It rides in my briefcase, holding more books than I could ever carry and ready for more.

I started with the original Kindle, then switched to the Kindle 2, and upgraded to the Kindle DX. I eagerly recommend the Kindle DX as the state-of-the-art Kindle. Amazon now also offers a Kindle that can be used to purchase books internationally.

Some thoughts:

1. Do not think of the Kindle as replacing the book. Bury that thought. Bury it deep. Then go and hold a favorite book in your hand. Enjoy. Then pile 50 of your favorite books and carry them with you all day, through airports, onto airplanes, checking into hotels, sitting in meetings, reading in bed at night. You get the point. You sit (gloriously) in a library. You take a Kindle in your briefcase.

2. Yes, you really can read books with this thing. The experience is not identical to reading a printed book, but it is very satisfactory for most books, magazines, and newspapers. The screen technology makes the Kindle look much like a printed book with type on a page. You will gain a feel for reading on the Kindle quite quickly.

3. The ability to purchase and receive books almost instantaneously is nothing short of amazing. I recently needed a couple of books for an article I was urgently writing in a New York City hotel room at 2:00 AM. No worries. I had both books on my Kindle within five minutes.

4. My Kindle holds dozens of theological classics, Bible translations, and seminal works of theology, history, and philosophy. It also holds a great deal of literature, including novels. I find reading fiction particularly profitable on the Kindle. I tend to forget the technology and just get lost in the book. I also have dozens of biographies, books on current events, and books by favorite authors on my Kindle.

5. I purchase and read some books on the Kindle, knowing full well that I probably do not want to maintain them in my permanent library collection. The Kindle is glad to hold them for me. You can often request a sample chapter to see if you want to purchase the book. I generally find myself hooked.

6. I really like the ability of the Kindle DX to receive and display PDF files and the ability of all Kindles to receive my own files as books. I can send a manuscript to my Kindle by email and it is there for the reading whenever I need it. That is extremely helpful.

Will the Kindle and its digital competitors replace the printed book? I think not. Indeed I hope not. I think most of us will reserve a special pride of place for printed books. Think not of replacement, but of supplement. Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bazos recently told The New York Times Magazine: "For every 100 copies of a physical book we sell, where we have the Kindle edition, we will sell 48 copies of the Kindle edition."

That stunning figure tells the story. Digital books are here to stay, and sales will only grow. You are probably reading these very words on a screen. That ought to tell you something.


I am always glad to hear from readers and listeners.  Write me at mail@albertmohler.com.  Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AlbertMohler.

I will be trying out the Barnes & Noble e-reader, the "Nook," in coming days. I'll let you know what I think.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Reflections on 'The Rap' and kudos from the parliamentarian

By J. Gerald Harris, Editor

Published: December 3, 2009

Since our Georgia Baptist Convention meeting I have preached in another state convention, traveled to Germany and Latvia, enjoyed a family vacation in the Sunshine State with all ten grandchildren, had another birthday, and had some time to reflect on our recent GBC meeting at First Baptist Church in Woodstock.

In our annual convention gatherings I have always tried to present The Christian Index as a relevant, Georgia Baptist-centric publication that also addresses moral and cultural issues from a conservative, thoughtful, provocative perspective. Through the years the comments about my reports have been mildly complimentary and placidly approving, but rarely resulting in the sale of any newspaper subscriptions.

Nevertheless, we pressed on with our report year after year undaunted by the lackluster response to our plaintive appeal for new subscribers. We faithfully set up our Christian Index booth amidst all the other ministry displays with the bright hope that one day messengers and guests alike would find the appeal to subscribe to our state paper as compelling as Calvinists’ find grace irresistible to the elect and make a mad rush to sign up on the dotted line.

At the end of each convention we would pack up our goods, fold up our Index display board, eat the remainder of the reduced-priced post Halloween candy that we had not given out to potential subscribers, and trudge back to the Baptist Missions and Ministry Center, not necessarily clothed in laurels and victory.

When we discovered earlier this year that the ministry reports would be limited to a restricted time, placed on a video, and edited to insure that the time constraints were upheld, I knew that I could not preach my typical sermon – oh, excuse me – make my typical report within the framework of the time allotted.

So, one night after eating a pepperoni pizza just before going to bed I had a vision of three persons on our convention staff doing an interpretive dance. While I was not inspired by the interpretive dance the idea of doing a rap suddenly penetrated my skull, lodged in my brain, and struck a responsive chord.

So, I wrote the rap, contacted the Communications Department of the GBC, and the rest is history. The response to the video production has been nothing short of amazing. This whole experience has taught me a valuable lesson – Georgia Baptists are sometimes more likely to respond to the ridiculous than the sublime.

What kind of report will I give at the Convention next year? It is difficult to tell this early, but someone suggested that I come onto the convention platform on a zip line. I have also had someone suggest I do my report as an Elvis impersonator.

All I know is that the ridiculous worked this year; we had more folks sign up to subscribe to The Index than in the previous six conventions combined. I also have been inundated with invitations to do the music for multiple youth retreats and lock-ins. I am of the considered opinion that those invitations were offered in jest. If not, call my booking agent in New York at (800) 555-1234.

To be honest, we may be back to the mundane for next year’s Index report, but if your church would like to use this year’s rap video to promote The Christian Index in your church just give us a call. You can preview it on our website at www.christianindex.org and have a copy sent by calling Heidi Hager at (770) 963-5590.

Actually, the Georgia Baptist Convention annual session was marked by many non-frivolous moments and experiences. The hospitality of First Baptist Woodstock was incredible and worthy of emulation. The business sessions were harmonious and effective. The preaching of Jeff LaBorg, Dan Spencer, and Bucky Kennedy was anointed and inspiring.

Dr. J. Robert White’s state missions report was thrilling and very informative; and the ministry and salvation reports from the rain-soaked participants (almost 1,000 of them) from LoveLoud were truly heart-warming.

Barry McCarty, the parliamentarian for this year’s convention, may have summed the Woodstock meeting up about as well as could be expected of anyone. McCarty has become a fixture at Southern Baptist Convention national meetings for almost 25 years.

In 1986, SBC President Charles Stanley called the American Institute of Parliamentarians and asked them to recommend the best-certified professional parliamentarian in the country who was skilled in church polity. McCarty was the man recommended for the job. Since that time he has stood by the side of multiple SBC presidents to assist them in conducting Convention business.

When the 188th GBC Annual Session met in Woodstock, McCarty, who pastors a church in Dallas, Texas, stood by the side of Georgia Baptist Convention President Bucky Kennedy to assist him in the business sessions of the Convention.

At the conclusion of the Tuesday morning session McCarty turned to me and said, “I have a quote for you, if you are interested.”

I was interested in what he had to say so I got out my pen and paper like an alert, on-task reporter.

He said, “I have been the parliamentarian for a lot of church business meetings and for a lot of Christian denominational gatherings and after observing this convention for two days I have concluded that Georgia Baptists are a happy group of people who have confidence in their leadership.”

Without question McCarty spoke from an experienced and objective perspective; and for what it’s worth, I agree with his assessment.

Copyright © 2009, The Christian Index, All rights reserved, Unless otherwise noted.
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Starting Something You Cannot Finish: Christian Ministry From Generation to Generation

[This post is from Albert Mohler's blog.]

Posted: Friday, December 11, 2009 at 4:00 am ET

A commencement ceremony seems absolutely right and profoundly necessary. The hard work of education cries out for ceremonial recognition. The commencement traditions of higher education have developed by formality and ritual in order that this business of teaching and learning would be marked by milestones and memories.

Arrayed before us today is an assemblage of scholars decked out in all their glory. The regalia and ceremonial symbols will be recognizable throughout the world of scholarship and higher education. The completion of degree programs and courses of study deserves recognition. The investment of time -- even blood, sweat, toil, and tears -- is worthy of celebration. Furthermore, there is the very real sense that this institution of learning is setting loose a new generation to go out into the world. The least we can do is to organize an orderly launch.

Of course, there is actually far more here than meets the eye. Even as the regalia and ceremony will be recognizable throughout the world of education, this is no mere commencement ceremony. Then again, this institution is no mere school. This ceremony is a service of Christian worship and this institution serves no less than the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our calling is to educate and prepare a new generation of Christian pastors, missionaries, evangelists, and ministers in order that the church may be faithfully fed and competently led.

The process of education is more than the transmission of knowledge from one mind to another. This is especially true in a Christian institution, where teachers and students are learners together, where committed teachers invest not only their minds but their hearts in the inculcation of Christian conviction and knowledge, and where bonds of friendship and affection inevitably arise. In other words, we have come to love these students and it is no easy thing to let them go.

At such a moment, it seems appropriate that we consider this commencement event in light of Christian wisdom drawn from the Word of God -- a wisdom that is, more often than not, counter-intuitive and distinctively different from that wisdom shaped by secular presuppositions. Indeed, a correct understanding of the Christian ministry will often require us to reject what the world is absolutely certain is true. And this applies even to the wisdom gained from the most trustworthy of human sources -- even our grandmothers.

As a boy, I recall hearing my maternal grandmother's admonishment that I should be always certain to finish whenever I start. In most dimensions of life, this remains good advice; the kind of advice a good and godly grandmother would pass along to her grandson. It is the sort of wisdom that passes the test of conventional acceptance. We should not be satisfied to leave our work unfinished.

In some cases, an unfinished project is a matter of mild embarrassment. Projects begin with great energy and intentionality -- to trace a genealogy, restore a vintage automobile, renovate a room, write the Great American novel, or simply clean the attic. Nevertheless, so many of these aims are never accomplished

In other cases, an unfinished project appears more tragic than embarrassing. Mozart did not live to complete his famed Requiem. Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not live to see final victory in World War II. The landscape of Europe is dotted with both castles and cathedrals begun but not finished. Each of these has become a monument to the frailty of humankind and the fragility of human plans.

Nevertheless, the biblical conception of the Christian ministry is, as we should not be surprised to find, radically at odds with worldly wisdom. According to the New Testament, one of the most important insights about the Christian ministry is this: We will not finish what we begin. This is not to say that we will never set goals and reach them or that we will never complete plans and programs. It does mean that the Christian ministry must be seen in the context of faithfulness extended from generation to generation until Christ returns to claim his Bride.

This truth is made clear in this well-known passage from First Corinthians, Chapter 3:

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

The background of this passage is Paul's utter frustration brought about by the fact that the Corinthian church was so deeply divided into factions. Repeatedly, Paul expresses his grief, frustration, and heartbreaking concern over the tendency of the Corinthians to insult the Gospel and to divide the church by factionalism and a party spirit. As this passage begins, Paul admonishes the Corinthians for their spiritual immaturity. Spiritually, they are satisfied to be nursing infants rather than to grow into the fullness of Christ. They should be eating meat, but they must be fed with milk. When no one claims to follow Paul and the other to follow Apollos they demonstrate to their mutual immaturity and fleshly ambitions.

The exasperated apostle sets the record straight by making clear that both he and Apollos are merely servants of Christ who have been assigned by the Lord to be agents of bringing the Gospel and feeding the flock of the Church at Corinth. Using an agricultural metaphor, Paul simply states: "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth." Paul was commissioned to bring the gospel to Corinth and he planted the good seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was followed by Apollos, a man of eloquence, who taught the Word of God and watered what Paul had planted.

Shifting to an architectural metaphor, Paul speaks of his role, by the grace of God, to act as a skilled master builder laying a foundation. He understands that others will come to build on that foundation. Ultimately the true foundation of the Church is none other than Jesus Christ.

In framing his admonitions, Paul reminded the Corinthians that "he who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor." Ministers of the Gospel are "God's fellow workers." The congregation is God's field and God's building. Every minister must take care to build faithfully upon the foundation. The one who plant and the one who waters are nothing in themselves. The agent of all true Gospel ministry is God himself. As the remainder of chapter 3 makes clear, the worthiness of our work will be fully disclosed on the day of judgment and tested by fire.

A commencement ceremony takes a quick view backward in order to aim at the long view of the future. This day is far more about beginnings than endings. The completion of these monumentally important programs of study is appropriately marked and celebrated, but our hearts are drawn to the future as we imagine what God will do by his grace and for his glory in these graduates arrayed before us. And so our focus is on the start of new ministries, missionary journeys, and opportunities to serve the church for whom Christ died.

But, in light of Paul's words to the Corinthians, it seems necessary for us to set loose these graduates with the exhortation that they must start what they will themselves never finish. As a matter of fact, we really do not start what is altogether new. We will all build on the foundation someone else has laid. Even as the Lord grants opportunity to sow seed, we will spend much of our lives and ministries watering. The Christian ministry is not a career. It is a calling that originates in the sovereign majesty of God and is concluded only by the coming of the kingdom of the Lord, and of his Christ.

In the church age, ministry is handed from generation to generation. Our humble determination and our heart's desire must be to receive this charge and to serve faithfully --- planting and watering in the fields of ministry and taking care how we build upon the foundation laid before us.

The Lord God spoke through his prophet Joel to promise that older men will dream dreams and young men shall see visions. Powerful, faithful, and compelling dreams and visions animate these graduates. They were brought here to this seminary as they were called to ministry, these visions and dreams have kept them here through years of dedicated study, and these dreams and visions propelled them onward as they go out into a world of ministry and mission.

But as they go, they join a line of faithfulness that reaches back to Moses and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, John the Baptist and John the evangelist, Peter and Philip, Paul and Apollos. It extends through generations punctuated by names such as Athanasius and Augustine, Luther and Calvin, Whitfield and Wesley, Owens and Edwards, Spurgeon and Moody . . . and so it goes.

Graduates of the Southern Seminary class of December 2009, if you aim to finish what you start in ministry, you will aim too low or finish what is not Christ's. Go out to plant, but also to water. Sow the good seed of the Gospel, even as you cultivate and irrigate. Build faithfully upon the foundation laid by Christ and the apostles. Receive the stewardship of ministry that is passed on to you and give your all to this calling so long as you live. Then, pass this ministry to a generation yet unseen and unborn to continue this ministry and extend the reach of the Gospel until Jesus comes.

Start something you cannot finish and give yourself to it for the length of your days, with the strength of your life, to the glory of God. Dream dreams and see visions, and take up this calling as you plant and water in the fields of Christ. Build carefully upon the foundation laid for you. The hopes and prayers of God's faithful people go with you.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

The mighty Florida Gators finally beaten so next year the Bulldogs can take a bite

By KIP BURKE news editor
Although their season is over, Georgia Bulldog football fans finally have something to cheer about – the mightily hated Florida Gators are finally defeated.

It took, of course, my Alabama Crimson Tide to not only break Florida’s 22-game unbeaten streak Saturday for the SEC Championship, but to thrash the Gators so thoroughly that there is no doubt that the Tide belongs at the top of the SEC and heading to Pasadena for the national championship.

It’s even sweeter that just a year ago, Gator quarterback Tim Tebow and his swamp reptiles defeated Bama for the SEC Championship on their way to another national title for Florida, and it looks like they sauntered into the Georgia Dome feeling invincible and looking for a repeat.

And, to be honest, after Bama’s game against Auburn last week, the Tide didn’t exactly look like a team that could beat Florida, or Texas, or even William and Mary, for that matter. But that was last week.

This week, the Gators showed up at the Dome like national champs who expected to roll right over their next opponent. What we saw, however, was a team terribly surprised, shocked by the fiercely unpredictable offense that Bama put up from the start, a team unable to understand that not only could they be beaten, but that they were being beaten.

I don’t often laugh out loud watching football games, but Saturday I did. I laughed at the confusion on the faces of Gator fans as they saw Bama have their way with Florida. I laughed at the shock on the faces of the Florida players as they realized that they were not only behind, but they were being beaten, and beaten, and beaten some more.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who got the grins as, between plays, the TV showed the faces of Gator fans as they registered first concern, then panic. Could we actually lose? Noooo, we’re the Gators, chomp chomp! Undefeated!

Now I know you Bulldog fans would never rejoice over the tears running down Tim Tebow’s face – that kind of schadenfreude is impolite and the relationship between the Dawg fans and Gator fans is just a friendly rivalry, right? Well, maybe not.

But the fact is, the mighty Gators have fallen. Bama’s proven that they’re not invincible after all. That means that the University of Alabama, 22-time SEC champs, will meet the Texas Heifers, I mean Longhorns, in Pasadena for the national title in January. Since the Dawgs didn’t make the post season, you might as well cheer along with me for the Tide.

And who knows, Georgia fans, now that Florida’s been whupped, maybe a resurgent Bulldog team can beat them, too, next fall, and nail a banged-up Gator hide to the locker room wall. That would be sweet.

Tonight I’m going to sit down and watch a cable rerun of Alabama beating Florida – like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” it’s a great story that I just can’t watch enough. Roll Tide.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New capability gives National Guard Soldiers more realistic training opportunities


By Sgt. Christopher Milbrodt, Florida Army National Guard

- In the midst of a nondescript Middle Eastern-style village, 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team Soldiers interact with the local inhabitants the same as they have done day in and day out on routine patrols.

Today, however, something feels different. You can describe all the little things that make you feel that way: the hairs on your neck, that pit in your stomach, or even the fidgeting that at this point you can't stop. No matter what it is, something isn't right.

You look to your buddy for validation of your feelings, and as he acknowledges, BOOM! Chaos erupts as a car explodes and gunfire bursts from a house down the street. Now your mind clears and your body calms down, and all that remains is your training and muscle memory of your tasks at hand.

This engagement didn't take place on some foreign battlefield, and no one was injured. It was just simulations and blanks. This isn't simply a training event, but a true learning experience from which to build - provided through the Exportable Combat Training Capability, known as XCTC.

While these scenarios unfold, subcontractors monitor the movement and actions of each Soldier and establish a high-tech "overwatch" to help even the individual Soldier understand what went right and what went wrong.

XCTC is taking the National Guard to a new level of readiness.

In 2006 at Camp Atterbury, Ind., the principal exercise of XCTC was conducted to demonstrate the type of training to be offered. The 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team is participating here in the seventh rotation of XCTC's training package since its inception. Each rotation, consisting of 21 days or more, is completely customized and tailored to unit mission and requirements. Previously, this type of training was available only at a select few training installations, and most National Guard units did not have the resources to attend.

As part of the ever-changing overseas contingency operations, XCTC brings the most up-to-date theater-specific training to mobilizing Army National Guard units. This approach to mobilization training cuts down on the time spent at mobilization sites and increases the amount of time units can actively support combat commanders.

The XCTC was designed to fill a capabilities gap in training set forth by Army training strategy that the Army could not provide to Guard units. The National Guard Bureau, along with a team from Stanford University, used the Army's training criteria to develop a program that could fill the void.

The XCTC is available only to deployable expeditionary force brigades headed into combat threat areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan. "We work our way down, and we get those [units] that we think fit the model, but you don't get it unless you're deploying to theater," said Col. Rob Moore, chief of the National Guard Bureau's training division. "It is tailored and pinpoint training."

With this new tool, the Army National Guard is able not only to meet, but also to exceed, prior training expectations and standards put in place by the Army. "We know that units that use XCTC accomplish at least 82 percent of all their required tasks for deployment," Moore said.

Total immersion training is what XCTC brings to the units receiving the training package. Soldiers are surrounded by the look, smell, sound, feel and taste of their projected combat tour.

"I believe that increased use of modeling and simulation - and using them with greater effectiveness - will be essential for all reserve components to increase and maintain their combat readiness," said Dennis M. McCarthy, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs.

As part of this immersion, Soldiers interact with American and foreign-national role players to make the exercise as real as possible.

"It's a great pleasure to be able to do what I do," said Thomas Cottle, a volunteer role player from Madison, Fla. "I interact with Soldiers, but I also interact with Iraqi citizens and citizens from other countries as well who speak Arabic. We're helping make this training exercise more realistic for the Soldiers."

Michael LiDondici, managing field director of Allied Container Systems which oversees the role players, said many 53rd Infantry Brigade Soldiers have demonstrated a high level of knowledge of Iraqi culture during the training. He attributes this to the fact that many of the Soldiers wear combat patches and have already deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

"The role players have been absolutely critical to our training success," said Col. Richard Gallant, commander of the 53rd. "From working with interpreters to managing the cultural and religious differences, they have created a level of realism we generally don't see prior to deployment."

The appreciation of the level and quality of training extends not only to the leadership, but also to the most important element of the equation: the Soldier.

"The training we've had so far has been very beneficial," said Pfc. Alistair Salesman, a member of the 53rd. The integration and use of Iraqi nationals, coupled with the complete immersion of the environment, helps to bring valued experience and an ability to better learn the tasks at hand, the Soldier added.

As the Soldiers maneuver through the mock village, they understand the significance of being engulfed in the surrounding culture. While their environment is chaotic, they understand they have to differentiate between the friendly populace and those who would do harm.

"So far, it's going great. We're learning a lot of across-the-board tactics," said Pvt. Eric Alapont, a nursing student from Orlando. "It's really an eye-opener as to what we might expect overseas, given not every town is hostile."

As the brigade finalizes its Florida training before leaving for its active-duty mobilization station, the sense is that the Soldiers are more confident in their ability to get the job done when they deploy early next year, and in their prospects of coming back safely.

Lt. Col. George Rosser, commander of 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, exudes the confidence his Soldiers gained through the training.

"The XCTC portion of [the training] this last week really brings a lot of resources we can't get otherwise, with the civilians on the battlefield and the villages," he said. "That adds a lot more realism, and makes the training that much better for the Soldiers.

"I'm absolutely confident in my Soldiers," he continued. "We've deployed this battalion and this brigade twice already. ... We have an extensive amount of combat experience."

Rosser said the goal is simple: "Bring everyone home alive, having completed the mission."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New flu-fear hand-washing habits possible,

 New flu-fear hand-washing habits possible, it just takes the right amount of motivation
By KIP BURKE news editor

They say that old habits are hard to break, and that's true. I've had more luck substituting one habit for another, replacing a bad habit with a good one, or at least a better one.

It may be a sign that I'm not yet set in my ways, but I've gradually become a hand-washing fool and for the first time in my life, a slightly germophobic cleaner of nasty surfaces where other folks have carelessly slung their germs.

Now, properly motivated, anybody can change any habit. I remember when I was a Navy photojournalist, we called what we did "shooting" photos. That was the standard term - we'd do a photo shoot, we'd shoot this ceremony and shoot that exercise. We had shooting scripts and shooting schedules and shooting assignments. Then in 1989, the President of the U.S. came to our ship to meet with Soviet President Gorbachev, and I found out I had a bad habit.

Members of President G.H.W. Bush's Secret Service detail used our office just prior to the boss's arrival, and pointed out my bad habit. "Chief," one agent said, "we know what you mean, but could you please avoid using the word 'shoot' and 'the president' in the same sentence? It makes us a little twitchy."

Gulp. Well, after the blood returned to my head, I readily agreed, and changed that habit instantly. We "covered" the president's summit, we "documented," but we did not "shoot." Given enough motivation, we can all change.

In the past, when it came to washing hands, I was often hit-or-miss. Since I have a robust immune system and seemed to be largely impervious to most germs, although I preferred to wash up before eating, I didn't make a big deal of it if I couldn't. I was aware that all the money we handle and most public surfaces like doorknobs and handrails harbor a variety of germs, theoretically, but I wasn't motivated to do much about it unless it was convenient.

Until flu season. For the last few seasons, I've been getting better and better about realizing that, if a flu germ is going to enter my body, chances are it's going to come from my hand after that hand touched a surface on which someone has carelessly left their germs. Since I've always preferred to avoid the catching the flu, I've been more aware of that process, and had gradually become a sporadic flu-season hand-washer and nasty-germ avoider.

Now, with the swine flu seeming to affect every family in some way or another, and flu germs being slung willy-nilly all about us, I'm strongly motivated to start a new habit. I have become a hand-washing fool, washing my hands several times a day and using alcohol wipes whenever I couldn't wash.

More than that, I've become aware of when my hands have touched germ-laden surfaces and manage to keep my hands away from my face until they're clean. They say that things we touch repeatedly, like this keyboard I'm typing on, the mouse I use, my car's steering wheel and shifter, can harbor all the infectious nastiness required to get sick as dogs. So I use hand-sanitizing wipes on those surfaces every day I remember to.

Now, I'm not particularly concerned with the swine flu since it doesn't seem to be much worse than the seasonal flu, and I wouldn't take a vaccination even if I were in a qualifying group, so this new handwashing habit is pretty much my only line of defense against getting the flu this year.so far, it's working. If it doesn't, if somebody's dedicated swine flu germs penetrate my defense, I promise to keep the flu to myself and not share.

Y'all wash up for dinner, ok?
Reader Comments

Sunday, November 15, 2009

101 Nutrition Tips for a Longer, Better Life

101 Nutrition Tips for a Longer, Better Life
Nov 2nd, 2009
Scientific and technological advances have made it so that people are living longer than ever. Unfortunately, advancements have also made it much easier to eat unhealthy foods that can have a pretty negative impact on your overall health and well being. Here are some tips to help you embrace good nutrition and eating habits so you can live longer and look good well into old age.

Check out these basic tips to get started on improving your diet and your overall well-being:

  • Use common sense. You know what’s good to eat and what’s not, so use your common sense when it comes to nutrition. You might enjoy eating fast food every day, but you know when enough is enough.
  •  Listen to your body. If you’re feeling run down and less than healthy, take a look at what you’re eating. It may be that you’re not getting the foods you need to feel your best.
  •  Get enough water. Getting enough water can help ensure you stay hydrated and healthy as well as helping you feel fuller faster.
  • Eat fresh. While you don’t need to avoid all processed foods (we all have our lazy days) you’ll get a lot more out of fresh, unprocessed foods.
  • Think before you eat. Don’t just eat blindly. Take time to consider whether or not you’re really hungry or are just eating because you’re bored.
  • Fix meal times. One way to help yourself eat healthier is to have set meal times and stick to them so your body will have a schedule and you’ll know when you’ll be getting hungry.
  • Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals can cause your blood sugar to drop and cause you to get extremely hungry and willing to eat anything, however unhealthy, in sight.
  • Learn the food pyramid. If you want a guide for your food choices, check out the guidelines set out by the government.
  • Eat for your needs. Not everyone has the same nutritional needs. Those who are more active need more calories, those less active need fewer. Find out where you fall.
  • Work together. Eating well shouldn’t be an individual effort. Involve your whole household in your healthy food choices. It’ll be beneficial and help you all stay on track

Avoiding the Bad Stuff  
Those empty calories may taste good but they could be clogging your arteries and setting you up for health problems down the road. Try out these tips to keep the indulgences to a minimum:

  • Eat fruit rather than fruit drinks. While you might think you’re being healthy by consuming fruit drinks, these concoctions usually have more sugar and less nutrients than the real deal.
  • Don’t avoid things you crave. If you totally banish those sweet and fatty foods from your life you may be doing more harm than good and end up binging on them in the end. Having a little bit won’t kill you.
  • Try dark chocolate. Those who have a serious chocolate addiction can have a sweet treat and still be (semi) healthy by having dark chocolate full of antioxidants.
  • Don’t buy it. One way to keep those pesky unhealthy foods out of mind is to keep them out of sight. Don’t buy them when you’re at the store. If it’s a pain to get them, you’re much less likely to eat them.
  • Keep treats a luxury, not a routine. Having a piece of cake or some french fries now and again won’t doom you to an unhealthy life. Just make sure these treats are occasional instead of regular.
  • Eat good fats. Not all fats are bad fats, so choose yours carefully. Avocados are chock full of fats–the unsaturated variety–giving you the fats you need to be healthy without the unhealthy side effects.
  • Turn off the TV. Ads are designed to get you to buy products, which very often are unhealthy fast foods, sweets and processed, salty, pre-packaged concoctions. Turn off the TV and cut out the chance to get those foods in your mind.
  • Fill up on good food first. If you’re craving unhealthy foods, try eating something healthy like veggies or fruit first. If you’re still hungry after the healthy snack then consider those other foods.
  • Be honest. Many times we crave bad foods not because we need them but because we had a bad day, are lonely, bored or some other emotional issue. Learn to recognize when you’re using food to fill a void rather than satisfy a nutritional need.
  • Find healthy alternatives. Just because you’re eating healthier doesn’t mean you have to give up desserts. Fruit with yogurt can be a satisfying alternative to more calorie-laden and unhealthy options.

Eating out  
It’s easy to know what goes into your food at home but it becomes much more complicated when you go out. Here are some tips to help you eat healthy no matter where you’re at:

  • Choose healthy establishments. Usually you know going into a restaurant what kind of foods they offer. If you don’t want to eat fried chicken, don’t head into a place where you know that’s the main offering. Instead, choose a location you know has healthy options.
  • Eat half. Restaurant portions are notorious for being too large for one person to consume. Solve this problem by halving your food and only eating that one part and having the rest boxed up to take home.
  • Research ahead of time. The vast majority of restaurants have online menus and nutrition facts available, and if not, you can usually get a close approximation. Use this information to educate yourself on the healthiest choices at each establishment before you go. It can also help you choose a restaurant that will offer you the most choices for your healthy eating.
  • Share. If you don’t want to bring restaurant food home with you, you can always share with a friend, and that way you can eat what you’d like without having to worry about overdoing it.
  • Look at the nutrition facts. It’s not hard to find out the nutritional information for most restaurant offerings these days, letting you know if your choices are truly healthy or if they just appear to be that way.
  • Get sauces and dressings on the side. Many times it can be better to control just how much of those calorie- and fat-laden dressings and sauces you get on your dish. Simply ask if you can get yours on the side instead.
  • Ask for healthier sides. While french fries might come with your meal, many places are more than happy to accommodate a request for a side salad or grilled veggies instead. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Limit fried foods and sweets. It might seem obvious, but it’s much easier to fall into the trap of eating unhealthy foods when they are readily available in a restaurant. Avoid them or share them if you must indulge.
  • Ask about healthy options. Not everything a restaurant offers is always on the menu. You may be able to have your food prepared in a healthier manner or get it with different ingredients. It never hurts to ask.
  • Investigate the menu. Many menus offer a wealth of health advice if you’re willing to look for it. Most chain restaurants label what dishes are on the lighter side helping you narrow down your choices.

Losing Weight  
While having a little extra weight might not kill you, having a lot greatly increases your chances of developing chronic and potentially fatal diseases. These tips are designed to help you shed those pounds and live healthier:

  • Drink water before you eat. Having a full glass of water before you eat can help you feel more full when you sit down to eat your meal.
  • Consider smaller, more frequent meals. Because your body doesn’t have a chance to get super hungry, eating smaller meals may help you eat less over the course of a day.
  • Don’t eat out of boredom. At work or at home, eating because you don’t have anything else to do isn’t uncommon. Remind yourself that eating isn’t a pastime.
  • Limit snacks. While having snacks in between meals can be good, try to limit it to one or two a day or eating super healthy snacks so you’re not sneaking in loads of extra calories between meals.
  • Take a hard look at your beverages. Many beverages are packed with calories, sugar and other substances that can contribute to weight gain. Try to stick with water or, if you must, diet or low-cal options.
  • Keep track of what you’re eating. It can be a big help in weight loss to know just how much you’re taking in on a daily basis. Use an online tracker to monitor your daily intake and track it over time.
  • Avoid crash diets. There are few things less helpful to long term weight loss than crash diets. Make a real change in your lifestyle if you want to see sustainable change.
  • Enjoy your meals. When you sit down to eat, it shouldn’t be a race to see how fast you can polish off your food. Give yourself time to slow down and really enjoy what you’re eating. You’ll eat less and have more fun while doing it.
  • Eat appropriate portions. Many people eat far more than they really should when it comes to portion size. Check with nutritional guidelines to see how much you should be eating of each part of your meal.
  • Plan your meals. One thing that can be a big help in keeping you on track is planning out your meals for the week. It will help you balance your nutrition and ensure you have a set plan for eating right.
  • Bring healthy food with you. If you have to run errands or are just stuck at your desk all day, make sure you have at least one healthy snack with you so you won’t be tempted to consume the less healthy options from a vending machine.

Eating Right  
These tips will help you learn the basic principles of maintaining a nutritious and healthy diet:

  • Stay away from sweetened drinks. Sodas, fruit drinks and even juices aren’t doing you any favors. Cut back on the sugar-laden beverages if you want to cut out a major calorie source.
  • Aim for a balance. Despite what some diets might say, eating all of one thing or another isn’t good for your overall nutrition. Try to maintain a balance of proteins and carbs and vitamins and minerals.
  • Eat less meat. While lean meats are a great addition to the diet, try to eat less meat and have at least one veggie meal a week to cut back on fat and cholesterol.
  • Go for whole grains. Eating whole grain breads and pastas can give your body the nutrition it needs and keep you fuller for longer.
  • Limit the salt you eat. There is no doubt that salt is tasty, but it can have some pretty negative effects on the body if not eaten in moderation.
  • Cook with care. Just because you’re not frying foods doesn’t mean you’re cooking them in a healthy way. Stick to steaming or sauteing in olive oil.
  • Carry water with you. Often people eat when they are thirsty, not hungry, so carry a bottle of water with you everywhere to stay hydrated and on track.
  • Try something new. You may have been a veggie hater your whole life, but the reality is that tastes change and evolve over time and some healthy foods you think you hate might taste different to you now. Try something new to expand your palate.
  • Make eating right fun. Eating right doesn’t have to be a chore. Make it fun and get your family and friends involved as well.
  • If you must, hide healthy foods. If you can’t bear to eat a piece of broccoli or a carrot, you can always chop it up super fine and hide it in a sauce so you’re getting your nutrition without the taste.
  • Eat the rainbow. When you want to eat healthy, it’s best to eat a wide variety of colors of foods, from leafy greens to bright red tomatoes.
  • Go lean. If you do want to indulge in some beef, choose the most lean and healthy cuts available.

Good nutrition starts when you choose what foods to buy. These tips will help you shop smarter:

  • Look at serving sizes. Sometimes labels will trick you with abnormally small serving sizes. Make sure to check these to see the real nutritional value of a food.
  • Check out the ingredients. You want to look for foods with healthy ingredients listed first and few preservatives and chemicals.
  • Watch out for tricky advertising. Some foods aren’t exactly truthful in their advertising and it’s up to you to find out what is truly healthy and what’s just hype.
  • Shop the perimeter. The perimeter of the store is usually home to fresh baked goods, meats, and produce–foods you should be concentrating on the most.
  • Avoid pre-packaged and prepared foods. While you can indulge in these now and again, you’ll be much better off eating more fresh food instead.
  • Have a list and stick to it. Going to the store without a list can result in you buying things you don’t need or shouldn’t be eating, so make a list ahead of time.
  • Look for fewer ingredients. The ideal foods will have few ingredients or just contain the basic components without much added.
  • Go to a local market. If you want to find fresh, local and seasonal food, go to a farmer’s market in your area.
  • Buy organics. While you don’t need to buy everything organic, many people believe avoiding foods sprayed with chemicals can be a great health boon.

Disease Prevention  
Learn how eating right can help reduce your risk of developing potentially deadly conditions in these tips.

  • Eat nuts. While some nuts are better than others, all contain substances that will help you improve your heart heath.
  • Cut back on the cholesterol. Eating lots of red meat, eggs, butter and other cholesterol rich foods isn’t good for your body, so limit your intake and monitor your levels carefully.
  • Get folate and B6. These two substances, found in supplements and foods like orange juice, leafy green veggies and broccoli, were found to significantly reduce heart disease risk.
  • Consume the suggested levels of fruits and veggies. Eating right doesn’t just help you lose weight–these healthy foods are full of nutrients that help your body stave off everything from the common cold to cancer.
  • Up your vitamin D intake. Many people aren’t getting the levels of vitamin D that they should be, increasing their risk of osteoporosis. Vitamin D can also protect against cancer, autoimmune diseases, arthritis and diabetes.
  • Watch your calories. Studies have shown that people who eat a low calorie diet actually live longer than those who consume more calories.
  • Consider a multi-vitamin. While you should be getting your vitamins from the foods you eat, if you’re worried you’re not getting enough, consider taking a supplement.
  • Eat complex foods. Preprocessed foods contain more vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants that can help you stay looking and feeling young.
  • Visit your doctor. Making regular visits to your doctor to check your levels and make sure you’re healthy can help you tailor your diet to your needs.
  • Try soy. Some doctors believe that getting more soy may help lower your cholesterol.

Superfoods to Try
There’s a lot of news out there about superfoods, named because they offer numerous health benefits. Here are a few you can add into your diet:

  • Plain yogurt. With potassium, protein and calcium this super food is great on its own or can be enriched with other healthy foods for a balanced snack.
  • Eggs. The protein in eggs has been shown to go a long way, and people who eat them at breakfast often eat less throughout the rest of the day.
  • Nuts. Nuts may contain a good amount of fat but they also contain protein, heart-healthy fats, high fiber, and antioxidants.
  • Kiwi. Get your daily requirement of vitamin C from this super food as well as potassium, fiber, vitamin A and vitamin E.
  • Quinoa. This whole grain may not be part of many diets but it should be with loads of protein, vitamins and minerals. If you don’t like this grain, try oats, wild rice or barley instead.
  • Beans. Beans come in numerous varieties to suit different taste buds but all offer fiber, protein, magnesium and potassium.
  • Salmon. Fish that are rich in Omega-3s like salmon offer many benefits from lowering the risk of heart disease to fighting depression.
  • Broccoli. Try steaming some broccoli with your dinner to get ample servings of vitamin A, vitamin C, and bone-building vitamin K.
  • Sweet Potatoes. These tasty foods are full of vitamin A and are a great source of other vitamins as well. If you don’t like these root veggies consider pumpkin or carrots instead.
  • Berries. Foods like blueberries are packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids as well as potassium and vitamin C, lowering your risk of heart disease and cancer and reducing inflammation.
  • Tea. Teas, both black and green, offer loads of antioxidants helping lower cancer risk and reducing cholesterol.

Looking and Feeling Good  
Make sure your added years are good ones with these tips to keep you looking good and feeling great.

  • Get enough antioxidants. Antioxidants help rid your body of damaging free radicals, so getting enough will not only help you feel better but look younger as well.
  • Keep skin and hair looking good with protein. Your body needs protein to keep your skin looking supple and your hair looking lustrous.
  • Have enough calcium. No one wants to be hunched over with osteoporosis in their old age. That’s why getting enough calcium is essential.
  • Find foods that are anti-inflammatory. Inflammation in the body, not the visible kind, is the cause of many illnesses and premature aging. Eating foods that reduce this inflammation can be a big help.
  • Cut back on sugars. Sugars may taste yummy but studies have shown that they also age your skin.
  • Switch to tea. While the caffeine in coffee may not hurt you, it also contains organic acids that cause cortisol, the natural stress hormone in your body, to skyrocket.
  • Make your carbs count. Good carbs will give your body enough of an insulin response to have an anabolic effect on the muscles without storing excess body fat.
  • Use healthy oils. Using olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, instead of vegetable oil, which is a polyunsaturated fat that can make your body more susceptible to free-radical damage.
  • Get your Omega 3’s. These much touted substances have been found to help keep skin looking young and help reduce inflammation in the body.

Striking a Balance  
It’s important to maintain a balance of foods in your diet, and these tips explain how to do it.

  • Veggies and legumes should take up most of your plate. Try planning the rest of your meal around these all important, nutrient rich foods.
  • Eat a small serving of lean proteins. You don’t need much meat to get the benefits, so choose small, lean servings at your meals.
  • Make sure to eat whole grains. Grains are an important part of a healthy diet, but you should make sure you’re choosing those that are whole and not heavily processed.
  • Mix it up. Perhaps one of the most important things to do, however, is to make sure to eat a wide range of foods.
  • Ensure you’re getting enough fiber. Keeping your digestion going smoothly and your body happy means getting fiber which can be found in veggie and fruit skins, beans, brans, and oats.
  • Look at food pyramids. The food pyramid was designed to help you balance what you’re eating and get the right amounts of each thing. Consult it if you don’t know how to construct balanced meals.
  • Look to cultures with long life spans. If you want to create a diet that lengthens your life, look at what cultures with especially long life spans eat and use it as a model.
  • Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. The occasional glass of red wine won’t hurt you, but drinking a large amount of alcohol can pack in calories and hurt your body.
  • Have a plan. Don’t just go at nutrition willy-nilly. Come at what you eat with a plan of what you need, where you want to be, and a map of how to get there. If you need help, try consulting a nutritionist.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Jimmy Doolittle, American Hero

Wars and Battle, 1896-1993

"Jimmy was a short, muscular fireplug of a man with a confident grin above his cleft chin. His nose was a little crooked from having been broken on his road to becoming a boxing champion. He was just five feet four inches tall and never weighed more than 145 pounds, but he was a giant who reached the clouds, a king of the sky."

From the novel, Fly Boys, by James Bradley.

The man famous for his daredevil B-25 bombing raid on Tokyo was none other than the "Babe Ruth of Flyboys," the boisterous "Jimmy" Doolittle. However, General Doolittle's aviation legacy is just a fraction of what he ultimately achieved in his near-century-long life.

Early years

Born in Alameda, California, on December 14th, 1896, James Harold Doolittle spent the first three years of his life in California with his mother. His father, inspired by a touch of "gold fever," left the carpenter trade for Alaska when Jimmy was an infant. At three and a half years of age, Doolittle's mother brought him with her to join his father in Nome, Alaska.

When he was 11, he moved with his mother to Los Angeles, where he developed an interest in flying. He became a professional boxer and entered the University of California's School of Mines, in 1915.

Learning to fly

Doolittle was a junior at the University of California when the United States entered World War I. He soon enlisted as a flying cadet in the Army Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps to train as a pilot, where he first earned his wings — quickly making second lieutenant in 1918. Doolittle served in the United States Army Air Corps from 1917 until 1930, eventually becoming promoted to major.

After he learned to fly, Doolittle served as an instructor pilot and began to engage in aerobatics, always with dreams of breaking aviation records. In 1922 he made the first cross-continental crossing in less than a day, taking 21 hours and 19 minutes to fly his De Havilland DH-4 from Pablo Beach, Florida, to San Diego, California — stopping only once to refuel.

Higher education

Jimmie Doolittle enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1923. He would systmatically obtain a master's degree and then a Ph.D. in aeronautical engineering. After receiving his degrees in June of 1925, fewer than 100 people in the world held comparable credentials.

In his doctoral dissertation, "Wind Velocity Gradient and Its Effect on Flying Characteristics," he combined laboratory data with test flight data to determine that a pilot needed visual aids or instruments to know the direction and speed of the wind and the direction in which the plane was flying. His dissertation collided with the assumption of many other contemporary pilots that they could "know" that information instinctively.


In 1927, Doolittle was the first person to successfully execute an outside loop — previously thought to be a fatal maneuver. Carried out in a Curtiss fighter at Wright Field in Ohio, Doolittle executed the dive from 10,000 feet, reached 280 miles per hour, bottomed out upside down, then climbed and completed the loop.

As the first person to win all major aviation racing trophies, Doolittle also won the Schneider Trophy in 1925, for flying a Curtiss Navy racer seaplane the fastest it had ever been flown, averaging 232 miles per hour.

In April 1926, Doolittle got a leave of absence to go to South America to do airplane demonstration flights. At a party in Argentina, after a few too many drinks, he demonstrated handstands on a high balcony when the balcony gave way, and he broke both of his ankles. Despite the accident, Doolittle put his Curtiss P-1 through stirring aerial maneuvers the next day, with his casted ankles strapped to the rudders. Doolittle looked at the practical side: He could leave his bulky parachute behind since his feet were strapped in and he could not get out in an emergency.

Doolittle returned to the United States, and was admitted to Walter Reed Hospital for his injuries until April 1927. He was then assigned to McCook Field for experimental work, and additional duty as instructor with the Organized Reserves of the Fifth Corps Area's 385th Bomb Squadron.

In 1931, after leaving the Army Air Corps and going to work for Shell Oil Corporation, he won the Bendix Trophy by flying from Burbank, California, to Cleveland, Ohio, establishing a new speed record. He crossed the country in 11 hours, 16 minutes and 10 seconds, beating the record set earlier that year by one hour and eight minutes.

In 1932, he won the Thompson Trophy race at Cleveland in a Granville Gee Bee R-1 racer, averaging 252 miles per hour (reaching a top speed of 406 mph), and established the world landplane speed record of 296 mph.

World War II and the Korean War

Jimmy Doolittle became a national hero and received the Congressional Medal of Honor for leading an aircraft carrier-based bomber raid on Tokyo, Japan, on April 18th, 1942. The "Doolittle Raid" was the first attack on Japan by the U.S. in World War II, and occurred just four months after the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.

Following the Tokyo raid, Doolittle returned to Washington D.C. and was picked up in a staff car by Hap Arnold and Army Chief of Staff George Marshall. As the car headed downtown, Doolittle asked where they were going. The question was greeted with a stare from Marshall and Arnold’s grin. Doolittle broke the silence. “I think there’s something going on that I don’t know about. I’m not a very smart fellow and if it involves me I think somebody had better tell me so they won’t be embarrassed.”
“Jimmy,” Arnold said, “we’re on our way to the White House. The president is going to give you the Medal of Honor.”

After his heroic displays of courage over Tokyo, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted Doolittle from lieutenant colonel to brigadier general — skipping the rank of colonel. He was then assigned as the commanding general of the 12th Air Force in North Africa, the 15th Air Force in Italy, the Eighth Air Force in England and then on Okinawa during the Island hopping campaign. While in command, Doolittle was promoted to major general, then lieutenant general.

At the start of the Korean War in March 1951, Doolittle was appointed as special assistant to the Air Force chief of staff, in which he served as a civilian in scientific matters that led to Air Force ballistic missile and space programs.

Postwar service

Doolittle entered his postwar service as an advisor to the Air Force, such intelligence agencies as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and presidents. From 1955 until 1958 he served as chairman of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), advising the U.S. Air Force on future aviation and space technologies.

From 1955 until 1965, Doolittle also was a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, which evaluated intelligence operations. In 1958, he was offered the position of first administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which he declined.

Doolittle retired from Air Force duty February 28, 1959, then went on to become the chairman of the board of Space Technology Laboratories.

A legend in aviation

In 1985, although long retired from active duty, retired Lieutenant General James H. Doolittle became General James H. Doolittle, when President Reagan and Senator Goldwater pinned on the same four-star insignia that General George Patton had been given on the occasion of receiving his fourth star, more than 40 years earlier.

In addition to the nation's top award, Doolittle also received two Distinguished Service Medals, the Silver Star, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, four Air Medals, and decorations from Great Britain, France, Belgium, Poland, China, and Ecuador.

James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle passed away at the age of 97 on September 27th, 1993.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hoover Dam Bypass and Bridge

The New Hoover Dam Bypass – Wider View
Posted in Crazy Pictures, Picture Worth 1000 Words • Tags: Hoover Dam Bypass • Author: HART (1-800-HART)

call HART crazy .. but


THE WIDER VIEW: Taking shape, the new bridge at the Hoover Dam
Creeping closer inch by inch, 900 feet above the mighty Colorado River, the two sides of a $160 million bridge at the Hoover Dam slowly takes shape.

The bridge will carry a new section of US Route 93 past the bottleneck of the old road which can be twisting and winding around and across the dam itself.

When complete, it will provide a new link between the states of Nevada and Arizona.

In an incredible feat of engineering, the road will be supported on the two massive concrete arches which jut out of the rock face.

The arches are made up of 53 individual sections each 24 feet long which have been cast on-site and are being lifted into place using an improvised high-wire crane strung between temporary steel pylons.

The arches will eventually measure more than 1,000 feet across. At the moment, the structure looks like a traditional suspension bridge. But once the arches are complete, the suspending cables on each side will be removed. Extra vertical columns will then be installed on the arches to carry the road.

The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
The bridge has become known as the Hoover Dam bypass, although it is officially called the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, after a former governor of Nevada and an American Football player from Arizona who joined the US Army and was killed in Afghanistan. Work on the bridge started in 2005 and should finish next year. An estimated 17,000 cars and trucks will cross it every day.

The Hoover Dam
The dam was started in 1931 and used enough concrete to build a road from New York to San Francisco. The stretch of water it created, Lake Mead, is 110 miles long and took six years to fill. The original road was opened at the same time as the famous dam in 1936.

An extra note: The top of the white band of rock in Lake Mead is the old waterline prior to the drought and development in the Las Vegas area. It is over 100 feet above the current water level.

Hoover Dam, once known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the U.S. states of Arizona and Nevada. When completed in 1936, it was both the world's largest electric-power generating station and the world's largest concrete structure. It was surpassed in both these respects by the Grand Coulee Dam in 1945. It is currently the world's 35th-largest hydroelectric generating station.[4]
This dam, located 30 mi (48 km) southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, is named after Herbert Hoover, who played an instrumental role in its construction, first as the Secretary of Commerce, and then later, as the President of the United States. Construction began in 1931, and was completed in 1936, more than two years ahead of schedule. The dam and the power plant are operated by the Bureau of Reclamation of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981, Hoover Dam was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985.[3][5]
Lake Mead is the reservoir created by the dam, named after Elwood Mead, who oversaw the construction of the dam.

The Incredible Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge Under Construction
Published by R J Evans
June 23, 2009, Category: Engineering
Announced in 2004, the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge has been five years under construction. Due to be completed in 2010, the bridge has slowly been taking shape. Here, with some amazing photographs is a record of this incredible bridge as it nears completion.
The people of Arizona and Nevada are patient folk. Since 1935 they have seen their local roads slowly but surely become more and more congested, most certainly at one particular point. The Hoover Dam. Since its inception it has been an important connection between the two states in terms of commerce and simply for the making the journey between the two considerably quicker. Let’s start with a money shot – even though you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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A 2008 shots gives the imagination something to work on. As the Hoover Dam became more and more popular with tourists the local roads began to get more congested than people could really put up with. Their solution? Harking back to the huddled masses days when America really was considered to be the land where everything was super-sized (and not just the fast food) the good citizens of Arizona and Nevada decided to build a bridge. Not just any old bridge though, this one would have the longest concrete arch in the US. The arch would ultimately be finished in August 2000 – and you can see it in its entirety here.

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In 2007, the tower structures, these known as approach spans, are beginning to take shape. It is known, in the briefest of terms as the Hoover Dam bypass and this much is true. There will be seven approach spans all in all, two on the Arizona side and five on the Nevada side. The bridge is enormous, but its proximity to the dam is less than half a kilometer. The longer, more proper and formal name is the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Perhaps it is already known as The Mike and Pat locally. O’Callaghan was the Governor of Nevada in the nineteen seventies as well as a veteran of the Korean War. Tillman is by far the more controversial choice. He gave up a millionaire lifestyle and superstar footballer status to serve in the US Army in Afghanistan where he was killed in 2004. His death has been subject to military investigations and more than the occasional conspiracy theory.

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Back to 2005 and the bridge is in its infancy. It has a way to go, even yet, in its construction, even though the most recent pictures see the span almost conquered by one of the most amazing engineering feats of our times. It will cost a pretty penny, of course; estimates have it at upwards of two hundred and fifty million dollars. Patience, however. Try and resist the urge to scroll down and take in the images, if you… too late.

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It won’t exactly be a slim bridge, either. It and the other new sections of Highway 93 will have two lanes going each way over its five hundred and seventy five meter span. It may not be an idea to look down either if you suffer from vertigo. The road itself will be a dizzying two hundred and fifty six meters above the Arizona River. Although people will still be able to park and walk across it (if they dare) drivers will not be able to see the Hoover Dam. It is too close and too below to be seen by them. The project suffered a serious setback in 2006 when four cranes collapsed. This caused a massive two year delay while the project recovered. It is now back on track and the next in this series of articles can be found here.

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At night, in 2008, the construction work seems like some vast drawbridge in to some dark post apocalyptic fortress. Behind it, the Hoover Dam. Iconic as the dam is, the bridge itself will become an important route between two equally iconic American cities, Phoenix in Arizona and Las Vegas in Nevada. Since the Dam’s completion both cities have seen their population sky rise (perhaps the bridge is a good metaphor for the burgeoning number of their citizens).

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By April of 2009 the bridge begins to look like a bridge – not to state the obvious. Suddenly, in the space of months a real shape begins to emerge. It looks as if plans are on schedule for the bridge to serve as the successor to the old road. Highway 93, which was as good as highways got back in 1935 is simply too old and, well, curvy to be adequate in this day and age for twenty first century traffic. Plus of course, it only has two lanes (that is counting both directions).

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A closer look at the arches gives the onlooker a greater impression of the sheer scale of the project. Take a look at the moveable platforms where brave people perform their duties each day. A certain day in the September of 2001 made things worse for those who rely on the original road across the dam as a transport link. After the air attacks on the American mainland, no trucks have been allowed over the dam for fear they could be packed with high explosive. Instead the trucks have been sent south to a crossing near Laughlin (on the Nevada side). More disruptions, albeit for a very good security reasons. When you figure that there will be almost twenty thousand cars and trucks using the new bridge every day the enormous costs – and the security concerns – begin to make a lot of sense.

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Let us take to the air to see the bridge from a real vantage point and ponder the simply awesome highlights of the project. To begin with it will eventually take the removal and embankment of over three and a half million cubic yards of earth. The bridge itself will be made from two hundred and forty three million tons of concrete. The steel used to reinforce the concrete would, if put on a set of scales, weigh sixteen million pounds (some set of scales!). Plus it has brought many, many jobs in to the area, with over twelve hundred people being involved in its construction.

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June 9, 2009 and the arch edges even closer to completion. The arch is more than fifty percent complete and it is hoped that the two sides will meet in the Fall of this year. Below, even more recent on June 18. What kind of party will be held on the day the two parts of the arch meet is anyone’s guess, but it is likely to be the biggest since the end of Prohibition. It can only be hoped that none of the revellers gets too tipsy and ends in the Arizona River.

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It is hoped that the bridge will be complete some time in 2010. When it is complete it will look like something out of the space age (oh, shucks, yes, that’s our era after all). The impression below, with no disrespect to the artist (but one suspects he once worked for Gerry Anderson), gives away little of the grandeur and majesty that the final, finished bridge will possess in (millions of) tons.

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The next in this series of articles, which covers July – October 2009 – when the arch becomes free standing can be found HERE.