Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy 3rd, Kaden

Today, please remember...

Flowers arrived at Capt. Marissa Alexander's office at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on June 3, 2005. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Leroy Alexander, was half a world away fighting with the Special Forces in Afghanistan, but he had found a way to send a floral arrangement to his wife, who was five months pregnant with twins. "He called me and asked me what building I worked in. He said he had to update some records," Alexander said. The flowers lifted her spirits.

But a few hours later, her emotions would be thrown into a tailspin. Alexander saw two Army officers in dress uniforms knock on her front door. One of the officers started to talk: "We regret to inform you..." If he said any more, Alexander doesn't remember. "The next memory I have is in my kitchen, banging on the floor. I just couldn't believe it," she said. The good feelings from flowers delivered a few hours before were gone, replaced by shock, pain and mourning. A roadside bomb had made her a widow.

Staff Sgt. Alexander now lies in Arlington National Cemetery's Section 60, where 500 soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. For years Section 60 has been the one of busiest parts of the cemetery. Every day new burials bring precision marches, the somber tones of taps and the nerve-rattling three-gun salutes.

Then there are family and friends who come to the graves to make an emotional connection to their lost loved ones.

Memorial Day weekend brings even more activity and more visitors. Adults, even some uniformed generals, walk slowly between the rows and rows of headstones, looking for a familiar name. But small children often seem to find the cemetery a place to explore, even play. Their smiles and curiosity remind grown-ups that even in a place synonymous with death, life goes on.

A sense of community has emerged in Section 60. "I've come here at times and I've met people who were paying remembrances to their loved ones. You become friendly," Capt. Alexander said. "You see each other sometimes and you make a friendship because you know that your loved ones died for the same cause."

Angie Capra's husband is buried a few yards from Leroy Alexander. Air Force Tech Sgt. Anthony Capra was an explosive ordnance disposal expert, killed trying disarm a bomb in Iraq. "Other widows will come by and put something on there for me if they don't see me. They'll put down flowers. It's kind of a community," Capra said.

More than flowers adorn the graves in Section 60. Visitors of all faiths have picked up the ancient Jewish tradition of leaving a small stone on the headstones to show that a visitor had been to the grave. In most cases these are pebbles found near the grave. But some people have taken to leaving colored glass beads or elaborately painted stones with shamrocks or words like "hero."

Capra recently found a small Yoda figure on her husband's grave. She doesn't know who left it, but it must have been a friend, because her husband loved "Star Wars." "We never know who puts stuff" on the headstone, she said.

Some mementos leave one to wonder about the story behind them. Like the headstone topped by a tiny bottle of Tabasco hot sauce. Or a set of dog tags with a name that didn't match the name on the headstone. There is another topped by a small Lego toy, perhaps left by a child whose father died in a far-off land before they even knew each other. Or the grave adorned with an empty bottle of Bud Light, a rubber duck and a candle. Nearby an empty Wild Turkey bottle is the lone addition to the grave of a soldier who died in a country where drinking alcohol is strictly forbidden.

Capra has found a variety of items on Tony's headstone. "Coins, lots of rocks, candy. My husband was a candy freak," Capra said. "There was a cross. A little necklace, Mardi Gras beads during Mardi Gras season. Anything they have they'll put on top to show that they are thinking about them at the time." Alexander seems to draw strength from the items she finds. "Someone came and did a picture of Lee, and it was a hand-drawn picture. I thought that was very interesting," she said. "People who haven't been seen in years will leave a note of some sort. It's nice to know that you've been remembered after all of this time. To know that we have friends who still love and support us, that is just wonderful."

Section 60 has been called the "saddest acre in America," and without a doubt sadness abounds. But so do comfort, support and even an occasional smile.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why...? Was it worth it?

I'm about as anti-NRA as a sane, rational person can be. Read this:

May 24th, 2009
Two killed in Arizona standoff
Posted: 05:32 AM ET
(CNN) — Two people were fatally shot and another five injured — including a police officer — during a standoff Sunday at a home in Arizona, authorities said.

The multiple shooting in Mesa occurred when a man got into an altercation during a graduation party, said Sgt. Ed Wessing, a spokesman for the Mesa Police Department.

Authorities did not immediately say what led to the altercation.

The suspect went to his car, got a gun and shot two people dead on the front lawn, Wessing said.

Police were eventually able to persuade him to leave the house and give himself up, Wessing said.

The injured included a 10-year-old who suffered a grazing wound to the head. The suspect also fired at police who arrived at the scene. One officer was shot in the arm, Wessing said.

All five suffered minor injuries, he said.

Mesa is a suburb of Phoenix, the capital.

^ — CNN’s Sara Pratley contributed to this report.

So rather than just haul off and punch the guy (which I don't condone, but it's better than what happened), he went to his car and got his gun. Killed two people over an argument. About what? Was it worth spending years in prison to be right?

I know it's too late for this country (in that changing the laws won't remove guns from our society), but I'd be lying if I said I never thought about moving somewhere else with stricter gun laws.

Let's do a time warp!

The geoblogosphere is doing a call for posts (an Accretionary Wedge). While this isn't strictly a geoblog, geology is my thing. So, readers, where and when would you most like to visit to witness and analyze an event in Earth’s history?

Suppose you have a space-time machine to (safely and comfortably) watch an event unfold; which event would you most like to see? Why? What do we already know or hypothesize about that event that appeals to you, or that you would like to test? What would be the result, the upshot, of knowing more about this event? You do not necessarily need to limit yourself to Earth, nor to the past. You do not need to limit yourself to a particular instant if peeking several times over a period of minutes or ages helps you envision the evolution of something. You do not need to limit yourself to environments that could support life as we know it... imagine being able to take a time-sampling of magmatic composition from 10 miles below the surface as a nascent mid-ocean ridge opens up, or examining the circumference of the vent during one of Yellowstone's mega-eruptions! I'll tell you, this technology is basically magic. (See the third law here.) Feel free to toss in a few "also-rans" of your favorite day-dreams, but please develop one. This isn't intended to be just a set of lists.

Anyone? If you'd like to play along, please either leave a comment here or post in your own blog and leave me a link.

My baby is three today!!

Pictures will follow. We're having a (very) small get-together with our best friends. Presents, cake, and probably hours on the playground in our backyard.

Happy birthday, K-Kaden!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Found this here.  Click on the image to enlarge.

Text of handwritten note:

Note: Just to let you know it is not that we don't believe in things like that it is just misleading when you speak about it being billions of year old, when we all know that the world is only about 6000 years old, so why would I pay so that you can misslead my children, your world is just a revolving, our's has a start and an end. God created the world he created animals and man all in the same week. It was also Adam who named all the animals, they will do the essay rock and minerals, but it might not be 5 pages long, and not about billions of years ago, it'll be according to the Bible

Oops, it's been way too long...

So, the thesis is finished, submitted, and I'm all graduated and stuff. Now I'm looking into that whole job thing.

I have some bites out there to some federal government positions. One is super convenient (right down the street from J's summer child care location, but for not so much money), one is fantastically wonderful (but quite a ways away and I'm not sure how my experience/education will compare to the others who've made it to the referral list), and one is middle-range money and the same distance away as the fantastically wonderful job.

And of course I'm still applying.

I called to inquire about the convenient position - they referred my resume to the selection official three weeks ago and I've not heard from them. I figured the interviews had happened already and I should cross it off the list, but the helpful lady on the phone says it took her four months to get through the hiring process. Wow, for a GS-5 job?

As is typical, the federal process takes The last time I went through this process, it only took about three weeks to get the notice of referral, receive the call for the interview, and then the call for the offer. Guess I need to get used to hanging out at home.

I'm open to lots of things. I'm going into this job search with an open mind. Sure, I know what I'd like to end up with, but I'm not sure if I can get everything I want. Rather like house hunting, I'll put up with a few things I'm not happy with if I can get the things on my 'must have' list.