Thursday, May 5, 2011

Be Moved

It's mid Golden Week here in Japan and a lot of people have used their time off to do volunteer work in Tohoku. For many Japanese, Golden Week is among a few times in the year where they take vacations. Therefore the entire country shuts down together. Unlike other places where people schedule their time off according to their own requirements. Japanese take time off in mass at times such as Golden Week, Summer Obon (Ancestral Holiday), and New Years. Therefore everyone travels during these days and peer pressure usually prevents many to not take time off at other times. This year a lot are joining volunteer teams in order to contribute. It's good and I hope that the flow of philanthropy continues after the holidays. I hope that the influx of volunteers are used efficiently. It's very common here to see an inefficient use of man power. On tasks that require only 3 or 4 people, you may see that 12 are assigned. On a whole a lot of redundant tasks here are not as effectively administered as they should be. My point is that because there will be a lot of available human resources this week; I hope the orchestration and organization of the clean up/assistance will be efficiently and effectively rendered.

My other wish is that those who see for themselves what's happened to this beautiful country come back on their own when there are no scheduled holidays. At times like these, employers and co-workers should be more understanding in allowing their colleagues to take time off during non holiday weeks. This will be helpful as there will be a steady flow of contribution and it's not a one week trend. For those who are going this week, be moved. Be moved to come back on your own and do as much as you can. As for me, I'll be back in a few weeks. I was slated to go tomorrow, however I see that the group that I would be going up with already has too many people. I'll go when I know I'll be better needed and make a difference.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Blending In

If I were a 6'6" über-rich maniacal leader of a secret society (and I'm not saying I'm not) poised on world disruption and domination; hiding from the CIA, NSA, MI6, FBI, and the IRS. I believe I'd pick a better place to hide than in a massive walled compound 1000 meters from the military academy of a country that's working with the U.S. on the War on Terror. I would find it a bit too bling and less incognito to have a $1,000,000 mansion located in a country where the average annual income Per-Capita is $1,051. I would do my best to blend in and stay off the radar. Likely live in a cave or the dense foliage of a jungle. In a place like Afghanistan and or Pakistan, I may even cross the line and wear a burkha. In short I would be in a less conspicuous locale laying really low. Hiding and living simply.

That's of course if I were not being helped by say the Pakistani ISI or Inter Service Intelligence agency.  Is it me or do these guys have a lot of explaining to do? How in the world can a man build a massive mansion 40 miles from their capital that's completely distinctive from the other structures in the neighborhood and no one had questions for him. Is it likely that no one came by to see what it's all about? I'm sure the concept of zoning permits has not hit Pakistan, but gee wiz; didn't a few drunken military cadets stumble upon it and try to climb over the wall to check it out? "Hey guys this place may have a pool..." It's as if no one had a clue or noticed anything at all. Goodness even a guy named Sohaib Athar with a Twitter Account tweeted about the SEAL TEAM's helicopter on the night of the raid. 

Am I to believe that there was no assistance on their part in hiding Binny?  It's amazing and will be quite interesting seeing what happens next. I read that Pakistan claims that the raid violated their sovereignty. Well as our supposed friends I think aiding and abiding Osama Bin Laden violated our sovereignty. As well as this Pakistan sat and did nothing as we lost soldiers fighting the war on terror. Let's also not forget the other terrorist attacks that have occurred since 9/11. If Pakistan knew and assisted al-Qaeda then there should be no holds barred when it comes to the war on terror in their back yard. If for some odd reason they did not know; then that's just plain stupid. .I don't know which is is worse. Having them as our enemy or having them as a friend that's completely incompetent.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Long Time Coming

Unless you've been hiding in a cave today and or your own little private secret mansion with a walled compound in Pakistan; you've noticed that there's one less evil terrorist in the world. Midday today, when I clicked on my favorite source for news online, I could not believe it at first. As report after report regarding the death of the terrorist mastermind was posted, I felt vindicated. Then the president came on. Although I've never been a fan of teleprompter driven political speeches, President Obama's speech was moving. Actually his speech/announcement did not even seem political. He was upfront and inspiring. Today I'm proud of my president. Finally and a long time coming the U.S. Forces got Osama Bin Laden. After all this time of wondering if he was even still alive, we find out that he's been shacking up quite comfortably in Pakistan. Oddly his not so humble abode was right up the road from the Pakistan's primary military academy. I wonder how in the world you hide a large walled compound in the middle of a city that's close to your capital. Upon doing some research on Abbottabad I discovered this area is a scenic hot spot. Well, If you are the most wanted man on earth, hide in style. I can't help but conclude that the Pakistani government are suspect. If some mad serial killer was hiding in your back yard in a Winnebago and you had no idea he or the motor home was there, I'd start to be concerned. Anyway, a few days ago his address was Abbottabad, Pakistan. Tonight he's the newest high profile resident in "Hell" (Crackle Crackle)

Now with all seriousness, 9/11 was one of the worst days in each of our lives. Everyone has a memory of exactly when and where they were. It'll be something the keeps us reflecting back forever. It was not and act of war, it was an act of cold cruel murderous terror.On that day,  I was on a flight to Beijing and landed in the evening. It was about 10:00 PM when I arrived at my hotel in the Wangfujing district right near the Forbidden City. I came to my room and put on the TV. As I opened my bags to settle in, I was using CNN as background noise. At first I thought I was watching a Jerry Bruckheimer film. Then I was amazed that the film's news report looked liked a real news report. With closer inspection and as I saw the iconic antenna and tower fall into a dark cloud of gray smoke, it hit me. This was real. I called a friend who worked at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He gave me an update and it all became clear. Even as we spoke the other events of that day were unfolding. I was up all night watching news and taking calls. The next day I met my friend at the Embassy and we had lunch in the shopping alley nearby. There was an air of silent rage. At that point everything was speculation. In Beijing, our access to information was limited.

When I finally returned to the U.S. later that winter I visited my beloved city of New York. As I drove in on a rainy night, the ground zero site had banks of lights illuminating in the footprint of the old towers. The ghostly beams plowed upwards into the sky at heights even surpassing the original towers. With the rain, the beams of light were even more luminescent. It was powerful.New York has always been a part of me as I studied there in college. The World Trade Centers were always a landmark I used to figure out where I was. My best friend's wedding reception was held atop one of the towers in the restaurant Windows on the World. Good memories and even now as I glance at the skyline on each visit. It just feels empty. I'm not sure if the new Freedom Tower will ever fill that void.
 As for the Pentagon, I know that building quite well as I started my career as an engineer there. Some of my best experiences and learning was done in that building. When I was there, they were renovating the section which was where the Army had its offices. The helipad was right on that side as well. A few years after I had left and just as they had completed the work, it was leveled by a plane filled with innocent people. It's been about 10 years, and 10 years too long for the man responsible to enjoy his freedom and status. Even in death it seems that he's receiving undue treatment. I read that in observance to his Islamic faith they gave him the proper rites of body washing, wrapped him in a white, cloth and dignified him with a burial at sea. Now I'm not saying don't bury the guy. But why worry about his dignity. What about all the unburied that he's killed. Many of the people who died because of him were Muslims and Jews who shared the same requirement in terms of  funerary traditions. Many did not receive any amount of concern or respect. Dumping his body into the ocean from a ship is nice way to make sure he's not enshrined. But it's also a good way to fuel the imaginations of the kooks and conspiracy theorists out there. They should have brought him back, put him in a viewing and then dispose of him in a way where he'll never have pilgrims.

My closing thoughts are for all the families affected by this tyrant. May they find that this event brings some form of closure. It will never recover the loss, but it could perhaps bring peace. My respects go to the men of that SEAL team who will always remain nameless. Those are indeed heroes for their achievement. Thank you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Stark Contrast

It's amazing what can survive an earthquake and a tsunami. Spring has reached Tohoku and so has the Sakura. Right in the midst of this disaster zone, flowers are blooming. Although many trees have been snapped in half or destroyed by sea water. A few have remained and defying the gloom with their vibrant colors. On the way up, I noticed that the sakura had reached this northern area of Japan as the migrating blossoms edged northward with the warming spring. They were seen along the hillsides and around the inland areas as expected. But I was taken by surprise to see them here.  As fierce as nature can be, it also can remind us that it can be beautiful when it wants to. It's an odd moment as I usually welcome them when they come each year. When you stare at a single blossom its an intricate grouping of 5 delicate pedals. Each one slightly different, light, and airy. When you stare at tree as a whole, it's as if the branches have been engulfed by a subtle pink cloud.  This time around I can't seem to allow myself to get lost looking at them. The best expression to describe my feeling is "Stark Contrast." Seeing them this year gave me no sense of comfort. It's sad as when they arrive it's usually a time for celebration and lightheartedness.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


It's Golden Week here in Japan. This means it's a week full of public holidays which are dated next to each other. Think of it as a Spring Break for all of Japan. Most Japanese have taken a few days off in order to have the entire week free. Many go on vacation and many go abroad. What I've read is that there is going to be a mass of people going north to do volunteer work. The government has noted that traffic may be heavy on the Tohoku expressway. Good news as it seems that a lot of people are going to be helping out with distribution and clean up efforts. It's a turning point as things are gaining momentum. This surge will make a difference since cleaning up enables the rebuilding of the infrastructure. One step at a time as the difficult journey back is a long one. This photo which I shot speaks more than my words can regarding this topic tonight. It captures the current spirit of things here as we are all rising above this situation together.