Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Leadership in the McCrystal Debacle

Here is an interesting piece written by my former battalion commander, who now works at the Center for Creative Leadership.

My thoughts are that McCrystal had to go. If there is one thing that is NOT tolerated in the Army, it is insubordination. If he is not guilty of that, he is guilty of not having discipline within his staff (maybe a worse offense).

Gen. Petraeus has a difficult task in front of him. He has mentioned during his testimony in front of Congress that he was going to review the rules of engagement that govern the soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. He must tread lightly and modify these rules with great caution. If the reports are true about soldiers being hemmed in by overly-restrictive rules, loosening them too fast could be calamitous. Kind of like letting a drunk out of rehab and having him walk home past the bar. Reports are that soldiers are angry and frustrated. What 'better' way to release that frustration than through a hail of gunfire or a 500-lb bomb.

Moonpie (her pen name), currently rehabilitating at Walter Reed said in her blog:

Petraeus said he would take a hard look at the issue. He'd better. The only thing worse than having Congress and the American public in your face is having your own soldiers despise you.

As an aside, if you want an unfiltered glimpse into the life of an amputee with the courage enough for the rest of us, take a few minutes and read through her blog.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Magic Kingdom, Vacation Day 8

Our vacation finished on a high note with a trip to the Magic Kingdom. Truly the happiest place on earth, Mallory and Mason enjoyed themselves immensely. Mason and I ran to the back of the park and were able to ride Splash Mountain once and Big Thunder Mountain twice ("Daddy, did you see those goats? How did they get alive goats on that ride?!").

Within 45 minutes, we claimed victory over Adventureland and headed to breakfast. We had reservations at Cinderella's Castle to dine with the princesses. Mallory was more excited to see them than Mason, but he had sword, so all was right with world.

Here is Mason and Mallory with Cinderella.
Mallory with Belle (from Beauty and the Beast)
Mason with cousin Baxter

After breakfast, we dodged downpours, visited the Enchanted Tiki Room, took a boat ride with the Pirates of the Carribean, visited the Haunted Mansion, and scarfed down smoked turkey legs.
And, here, the measure of any successful trip to the Magic Kingdom (Mallory with cousin Baxter):

We had a wonderful vacation; enjoying family and fun.

Tommorrow was to be the car ride home...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Our Little Princess, Vacation Day 7

Day 7 of our vacation was a day to relax before our last day (at Magic Kingdom!). Noel and her mother had been plotting for months to take Mallory to the Bibbity-Bobbity Boutique. Located at the World of Disney in Downtown Disney, it offers a day (really more like 45 minutes) of pampering for the young princess in your family.

Mallory and mommy got to spend some quality time together while daddy and Mason went to the giant Lego store and looked at all of the crazy Lego sets they had to offer and the even crazier Lego sculptures outside.

Anyway, back to the boutique. Mallory had tons of fun and was transformed into a magical princess. Enjoy the pictures below:

Friday, June 25, 2010

Disney's Hollywood Studios, Vacation Day 6

After getting crispy in the hot Florida sun at the beach, it was time to meet Mickey and Minnie. Our first stop was the Disney Hollywood Studios park.

The park skews its entertainment to the older kids (and dads) but much fun was had by all. The most entertaining thing for me was when Mallory saw Darth Vader for the first time. She jumped up and took off running. Below is a clip from the show, but not of Mallory. I never have the camera at the ready when I need it!

We enjoyed the Disney stunt show and Mason rode his first real roller coaster, the Aerosmith-sponsored Rock 'N' Roller Coaster.

Mason and I ran into some snags with the aforementioned Rock 'N' Roller Coaster shutting down when we were two trains from riding and once in the Hollywood Tower of Terror but other than those two hiccups, it was a fun day.

As a side note, I still miss the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire show they had where members of the audience would compete to sit and play the game. Who doesn't love Disney AND trivia? I guess Disney doesn't anymore. Boo hoo. Maybe I'll start a Facebook page to bring it back.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wannado City, Day 5

After two days of roasted in the hot Florida sun, I was ready for a change of pace. Noel's brother, Allen, had heard of a place called Wannado City just south of where we were staying.

In his description of the place, he had me at 'indoors' and I was ready to go.

Turns out, Wannado City is an interactive space for kids where they can 'live' for a day doing work and having fun, all with 'Wongas', the currency in Wannado City. When we signed in, Mason and Mallory were each given check for 150 Wongas. Of course, you can't spend a check in Wannado City, so both had to go to the bank to get it cashed.

Once the two had Wongas in hand, it was up to them to see how they wanted to spend it; and when they got low, had to make decisions on how they were going to earn more.

The funny thing was that both Mason and Mallory were more interested in earning Wongas than spending them. Mason and Mallory both were firefighters and were called to a fire (see the grainy 'smoke-filled' [by smoke-filled, I mean lots of mist] video below).

Each of them worked in the (heavily-branded) Coca-Cola bottling plant where they had to use a video screen to control which bottles would be filled, then capped, and shipped off to customers. My personal favorite was the fashion show (which, coincidently, was Mason's least favorite, but he humored his old man; again, see the video below).

The kids made cookies in the bakery, acted as a reporter for the Miami Herald, made a pizza, and worked as an archeologist. I tried to explain FICA to Mason, but apparently the tax code is different (ney, non-existent) in Wannado City. Mason even got to the point where he was comparing how much he could make by doing different jobs. Who doesn't love cost-benefit analysis!!!???

It was a welcome break from the hot Florida sun and the kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Next was back to Orlando to see Mickey!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Florida Vacation Days 3 and 4 (The Beach)

Saturday morning we packed up the car (weren't we just in this thing!?) and drove down to North Palm Shores, Florida (which is not Jensen Beach, Florida ...). We arrived at a beautiful hotel with a gorgeous view.

The kids were eager to go to the pool and the beach (we will have some beach photos later from our inlaws as I was a little nervous taking the camera to the beach). The sun was hot and I, apparently, had forgotten how to apply (and re-apply) sunscreen. Over the course of two days, I got the worst sunburn I have had in probably 20 years. You would think that I would have learned that the sun can, and will, burn. It hurt. Oh goodness, did it hurt. I was just painful being.

Despite that, the water was very warm, oil free and relaxing. Mason and Mallory were delightful to watch playing in the sand as Mommy and I floated in the ocean. We even saw manatee swim up near the jetty. According to a local, he (she?) lives in the harbor and comes out almost daily for a swim. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. I know, I know, its not like I saw Nessie or a mermaid, its just that us land-locked Indiana folks don't see manatees every day.

This is how you know the kids had fun ...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Florida Vacation Day 1 and 2 (The Drive South)

Our trip to Florida marked the first extended journey with all four Hubers in the car at the same time. I was nervous about how a 3-year-old and 6-year-old would behave when confined for 15 hours in the car, but the DVD player and my wonderful wife's expert packing made the trip south an enjoyable one The best thing she packed for the kids was a Frisbee that we would through at rest stops. The best thing she packed for the adults was a list of rest stops so we could get a good idea of when we were going to stop next.

We left after a short workday on Thursday; leaving about 1:30. We made it to Chattanooga without incident. Up the next morning at 4am and on the road by 4:45. We were geared up with the thought of stopping at the Florida Welcome Center to try some yummy Florida Orange Juice. The kids were more impressed with the aisles and aisles of brochures from every beach, hotel, deep-sea fishing charter and historical landmark that Florida had to offer.

Pulling into Orlando at around 3pm, it left plenty of time for the us to catch up with Noel's folks, swim and relax poolside. For the next day, we were to saddle up again and head south to North Palm Shores. It was to be the kids' first ocean adventure.

But, for now, it was pool time.

Daddy and Mallory had a different idea of how to unwind after the car ride.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Back Safely

The Huber family is back safely from a week in Florida. We visited family in the Sunshine state (along with Mickey and others). Just wanted to update all on our status and be sure to look for posts throughout the week about our adventures.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Spending cuts?

Reuters reports that President Obama is directing a five percent spending cut across government agencies.

"We are asking each agency to develop a list of their bottom 5 percent performing discretionary programs, as measured by their impact in furthering the agency's mission," White House budget director Peter Orszag told the Center for American Progress think tank.

Sounds like we are on our way toward fiscal discipline, huh? Let's look at the numbers.

What Mr. Orzag is calling for is cuts to discretionary spending. This discretionary spending only makes up on 38 percent of all of the 2010 Federal spending. The majority of the goverment's spending is what is called 'mandatory' where it takes an act of Congress (literally) to change (reduce?) this spending.

Now, this 38 percent is not small change. It is still $1.368 Trillion (we'll use a capital T to give that number its due respect). Five percent of that is $68 billion.

Wow, $68 billion? That is still lots of money. Before you get too excited, lets also look at the changes in spending from last year's budget.

The first number is the total Amount, (percent change from 2009), then the department.

  • $663.7 billion (+12.7%) – Department of Defense (including Overseas Contingency Operations)
  • $78.7 billion (−1.7%) – Department of Health and Human Services
  • $72.5 billion (+2.8%) – Department of Transportation
  • $52.5 billion (+10.3%) – Department of Veterans Affairs
  • $51.7 billion (+40.9%) – Department of State and Other International Programs
  • $47.5 billion (+18.5%) – Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • $46.7 billion (+12.8%) – Department of Education
  • $42.7 billion (+1.2%) – Department of Homeland Security
  • $26.3 billion (−0.4%) – Department of Energy
  • $26.0 billion (+8.8%) – Department of Agriculture
  • $23.9 billion (−6.3%) – Department of Justice
  • $18.7 billion (+5.1%) – National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • $13.8 billion (+48.4%) – Department of Commerce
  • $13.3 billion (+4.7%) – Department of Labor
  • $13.3 billion (+4.7%) – Department of the Treasury
  • $12.0 billion (+6.2%) – Department of the Interior
  • $10.5 billion (+34.6%) – Environmental Protection Agency
  • $9.7 billion (+10.2%) – Social Security Administration
  • $7.0 billion (+1.4%) – National Science Foundation
  • $5.1 billion (−3.8%) – Corps of Engineers
  • $5.0 billion (+100%) – National Infrastructure Bank
  • $1.1 billion (+22.2%) – Corporation for National and Community Service
  • $0.7 billion (0.0%) – Small Business Administration
  • $0.6 billion (−14.3%) – General Services Administration
  • $19.8 billion (+3.7%) – Other Agencies
  • $105 billion – Other

So, in many cases, the 'cut' would be just reducing the increase from last year.

Here's an idea. How about we just cancel half of the unspent Stimulus money for contracts grants and loans. Or even better, cancel the half and reduce the budgets five percent.

This fiscal discipline comes just in time for the midterm elections. Maybe its a little 'hair of the dog' after going on an 18-month spending bender. Who knows.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


This dispatch from the AP today:
President Obama met behind closed doors today with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and BP CEO Tony Hayward to discuss the ongoing crisis in the gulf. After emerging from the two-hour long meeting, the three held a joint press conference.

"I have just met with both Ken (Salazar) and Tony (Hayward) and we are united in our efforts to solve this complex problem," Obama said, standing between the two. Putting his arm around both, he said that the two would work together to solve issues and, when they couldn't agree, that he would intervene and make the difficult decisions.

"I have been out on the water and seen the devastation first-hand," the president said. The harm to the environment and the loss of life is unacceptable. Tony here has looked me in the eye and committed to me that he and BP are willing to do whatever it takes to clean this up.

"Also, I wasn't impressed with Ken's comment on how he was going to 'keep a boot on BP's throat'. Ken has sinced apologized to Tony and we have moved forward. That type of language has no place in my administration. We can't attack people and attack problems at the same time. Right now, we are attacking problems," Obama said.

After an initial reaction to the disaster that many in the press have labeled as slow, or unresponsive, Obama has sent up a command center in Fort Walton Beach, Florida where Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen briefs the president daily by phone.

"The president told me that it is important to him that he know what is going on on a daily basis," Allen said. "I know he can't be here every day. That is my job. But, he is using my briefings to make key decisions on cutting through the beauracracy that is holding up some of the most pressing relief efforts."

Since Obama received his first briefing, he phoned Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) and talked through some of the challenges facing the Bayou State. According to a Jindal aide, upon hearing some of Jindal's issues, the president called the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to order them to begin building berms.

The aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said, "I don't know what who said to who, but the engineers can't build these berms fast enough now. The governor is very pleased with the Corps' response."

President Obama said that he speaks with Hayward every 'three or four days' to get an update from him on measures BP is taking to make fisheries and other businesses whole in the wake of the damage.

"He is really listening to what we are doing. He isn't happy about what we, and TransOcean have done, but he sees the action we are taking and is encouraging us to reach out more to help those in need," Hayward said.

Oh, wait. That isn't a real story. I made it up. It's just what I wanted to have seen from our President.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ready for Quarter No. 2

I was extremely happy to shift my brain into neutral for a week or so. It had been a long time since I had read a novel and it was definitely a treat. Nelson DeMille never disappoints. Now I am rested, and ready, for some operations and supply management along with data analysis using Microsoft Excel. Woohoo!