Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."


Christmas 2009

Merry Christmas! We have truly enjoyed our first Christmas in the Mile-and-a-Quarter-High City. One of the most enjoyable Santa experiences ever is on the Manitou Springs Cog Railway's "Santa Claus Special", where the ASPEN Car of the Cog Railway was decorated in the holiday spirit for a trip to one of Santa's villages.

Joined by the Elf King and Queen, as well as many of Santa's Elf helpers, we rode the railway up the snowy slopes of Pikes Peak to the Four Mile Siding -- where a North Pole village was set up, replete with hot chocolate and cookies.

For the ride back down to Manitou Springs, Santa read "The Night Before Christmas" and his helpers led us in Christmas carols. Truly an exceptional way to spend quality time with Santa!

Shelby has continued to dance, this year performing as a Russian Tea Cake in the Colorado Classical Youth Ballet's production of The Nutcracker.

Prof. Lawrence Jackson from the Univ. of Wyoming starred as The Russian, dazzling all with his presto tempo Trepak.

For Christmas Eve, we drove north to Renee's aunt Helen's house. Sophie wore her favorite polka-dot dress.

Cousins Lee & Michelle brought Baby Christine from Las Vegas. Since grown-ups don't know when to go to bed, it's a good thing Mom packed some warm PJs.

Reindeer hoofprints on the deck, remnants of carrots outside with cookie crumbs and an empty milk mug in the house could only mean that Santa had paid a visit to our new home. Sophie loves her Chloe doll and (once Dad gets some "D"-sized batteries) her ball popper.

Renee is truly a Rebel®...

... while Jarrett will be spending the next several weeks assembling the 5,922-piece LEGO Taj Mahal. We expect to see him about the time of the spring thaw.

And Shelby looks glamorous in her new Snuggie! (Oh, and she got a netbook too.)

Best wishes to you all for a joyous 2010, with many opportunities for fun, family and frivolity!

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2nd Blogiversary

Wizards of Oz is now two years old! Thanks for continuing to follow and indulge my sporadic musings -- more than 75,000 visits in the past year, nearly double the total for year one.

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Home Office Tourney

Blogfriend (and occasional co-imbiber of fine fermented beverages) Zenpundit has tagged me in his "Tournament of Home Offices". Though we only moved in to our present home two-and-a-half weeks ago, I am more than happy to oblige....

First, there is the Library (which CINCHOUSE continues to urge me to "downsize" -- as if I'd never find a need for my "Elements of Classical Dynamics" text from college, or my hardcopy notes from Joint Maritime Ops at the Naval War College circa 1992!):

Then there is the fightin' hole:

The clocks show all the important time zones in the world: Hawaii Standard Time, Tehran, Greenwich Mean Time and (of course) local time of the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center in lovely Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The bike is my Mercier Aero II (hoisted on a Minoura Rim Drive Action System for those blustery snowy days, or just about any time between Labor Day and Memorial Day).

The pen holder is a re-linked chain of .50-cal casings from a long-ago Science Advisor developmental test of a remote fire control system. The book next to the monitor is none other than Michael Tanji's edited work Threats in the Age of Obama.

And the beer is an Easy Street Wheat from Odell Brewing Company of Fort Collins, Colorado. There are a lot of benefits from living in the epicenter of U.S. microbreweries....

Of course, what Zen fails to mention about the esteemed Thomas P.M. Barnett office is the map painted on the walls/ceilings:

Hands down, Tom has the rockin'est home office.

I tag Sean Meade of interact, General of the Hordes Subadei, and Prof. Sam Liles of selil (who has the most impressive C2 / Info War library I've seen) to join the fray.

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Annasophia-to-be 2

The little peanut M&M just passed her 33rd week in utero, weighing in at an estimated 5 pounds 2 ounces according to our ultrasound technician. Here's a brief snippet from this afternoon's ultrasound, where you can see her profile on the center-right side of the monitor (and her arm coming up at the end of the clip):



Colorado Dreamin'

It's official: we're moving on.

In approximately one month, I will report for duty at Schriever Air Force Base (near Colorado Springs) to join the Missile Defense Agency's Modeling & Simulation Directorate.

We are grateful for the opportunity to spend these past two years in the "Secret City" of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and have formed many lifelong friendships. My roots to Oak Ridge stretch back to my college days, as a physics major at Berkeley (where the "CalUTrons" invented by Prof. Lawrence were brought to Oak Ridge to help end a terrible war), so this is a bittersweet transition.

But the opportunities presented by MDA are compelling. Technology is becoming increasingly accessible to those who wish us harm, and the only difference between an IED and a cruise missile is thrust & guidance. I'm privileged by the opportunity to join a dynamic team working to counter these threats to our nation and our allies.

'Blogging will continue in some fashion (hey, if my pals in the IC can do it... :-) so stay tuned....



1st Blogiversary!

Exactly one year ago I ventured into the deep waters of the 'blogosphere, inspired by the likes "of Tom, tdaxp, Zenpundit, Shlok, Soob" to "see how deep this rabbit hole goes."

After 213 blog posts (many from my Treo 680), 37,873 hits (since we started tracking in late August of last year), many face-to-face meetings with Überbloggers whom I had only known online before taking the red pill, and a vastly expanded Blogroll, the ride keeps getting better.

My humble thanks to all who have visited, commented, advised, challenged and cajoled. I have learned volumes, and hope that the coming years will continue to present even greater opportunities for exchanging ideas in order to make our world a better place.

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Nuclear Blogtank

Cheryl at Whirled View has asked:
"What strategies are available to a country with fissionable material sufficient for 1-5 nuclear weapons, some of which may be assembled? Take into account probable responses, and assume some sort of rationality on the holders of these weapons and material. You may specifically refer to Iran and North Korea, or any other nation, or make the scenario(s) more general. Flesh out the scenario with some support."
Since it has become known to The Great and Wonderful Wizard that nefarious forces in the lands of ZenPundit are "contemplating how to leverage the possession of a small number of nuclear weapons to best advantage," we will develop our own strategy in the interest of global peace and tranquility.

Our resources being small, and our arsenal limited, we can not come anywhere close to the Kahnesque scenarios of On Thermonuclear War. And with a severely constrained national ability to reconstitute, our primary objective is the security and preservation of our fissile material.

Therefore, we will pursue a four-fold strategy we call "Deterrence Light":

1. INTERNAL SECURITY: Ensure the secrecy of our fissile material. Maximize employment of decoys and spoofs so as to preserve this material should it ever be needed. In addition, ensure that only the most loyal forces of Oz are entrusted with this powerful knowledge. Should we fail in this most important endeavor, our national investment in this capability will be for naught.

2. EXTERNAL AWARENESS: Inform the world of our technological accomplishment -- and embed in our announcements disinformation regarding the exact disposition of our research establishment and weapons complexes. Deterrence fails when your potential adversaries don't realize the extent of your capabilities.

3. MAXIMIZED ARSENAL: Given that our arsenal has, at most, five weapons, we will seek to maximize our arsenal by producing the smallest practicable weapons -- weapons still with significant destructive power in order to support our strategy of 'Deterrence Light'. To reinforce our standing in the world, we will stage one underground test (in full compliance with international protocols, short of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which we see as the foil of established powers seeking to preserve their exclusivity).

4. DELIVERY OPTIONS: Develop multiple methods to deliver weapons systems unto our adversaries, should the deterrence strategies of 1. and 2. above fail: via land, sea and air/space -- but emphasizing surface routes due to the high assurance (good) despite the lengthy response time (bad). While Oz may not be able to respond immediately to a clear and present danger, we must preserve the ability to respond at a time and place of our choosing -- akin to the Fedayeen Saddam in Iraq following the fall of the Iraqi government in 2003. Moreover, our declared philosophy will be peaceful coexistence with our neighbors and the world -- but a clear warning to our adversaries that their economic and population centers will suffer should they cause our own government or our people harm.

The Kind and Benevolent Wizard is content that the world will see us for our goodness, and not think ill that we should use this technological capability for the assured preservation of Oz and its ideals.

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[Moblog] Splashdown!

After a 0600 departure from the Secret City this morning, we covered 500 miles in 8 hours before grinding to a bumper-to-bumper halt on Interstate 64 between Richmond & Williamsburg.

After an abrupt "about-face" (thanks to those handy 'Authorized Vehicles Only' cut-outs on the median), we cut over to U.S. 60 and scooted the length of the Peninsula - only to find the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge Tunnel was closed due to a disabled vehicle.

Another about-face, we crossed the James River Bridge into the haze from a wildfire in the Great Dismal Swamp (which started two weeks ago, ironically from the heavy equipment that was being used to *prevent* fires from spreading).

Though my "average speed" plunged from 63mph to a mere 56 (reminding me why we dislike Virginia), we are now surrounded by dear friends at the Tillett-Ambrose-Smith family pool. In a few moments, the worship pastor from our former hometown church will baptize Eldest and Man-Cub (as well as the Tillett-Ambrose-Smith family).

Update: Pastor Mark, Worship Pastor from Believers Church in Chesapeake, Virginia, presides over a baptism ceremony in the Ambrose-Smith-Tillett pool. Eldest's faith grew significantly during a "Women of Faith" conference and concert in Washington, DC two years ago (which she attended with CINCOZ), and she's been asking to be baptized for several months.

Man-Cub also has a much deeper faith than me, expressing it in nearly everything he does. So he wanted to make his own declaration of faith -- much like CINCOZ's personal acceptance, also at the age of 7.

As someone raised in a secular home (we didn't even go to church at Christmas or Easter) -- whose subsequent faith was tempered in the cauldron of solipsism before giving way to deism in college -- and whose bride has been Christian nearly her entire life, I marvel at the purity of faith in these kids. Though my own skepticism has not yet been squelched (requiring something on the order of a "Road to Damascus"-like encounter to overcome), there is comfort to be found in the unadulterated love kids can express.

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Random Seven Meme

While I harbored plans to provide an intellectually stimulating post on "decisionmaking" today, I instead have to respond to General of the Hordes Subadei's "randomness meme".

Update: I've been double-tapped, this time by The Strategist.

The Rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog. (Done, above)
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
5. Present an image of martial discord from whatever period or situation you'd like.

So, beginning with #5, here is an image from (IMHO) the most significant moment of the most significant battle of the Civil War: Gen. Stonewall Jackson succumbing to friendly fire.

This fateful shot, near dusk in the rugged woods of central Virginia in early May 1863, felled the maneuverist spirit of the Confederate States Army -- and left General Bobby Lee with only Longstreet's "static defense" a few short weeks later at Gettysburg. Had Stonewall Jackson been present in Pennsylvania, I have no doubt that he would have listened to Hood and his Texans' idea of flanking Meade and the Army of the Potomac well south of Little Round Top -- and many more of us would to this day be sending our income tax returns to Richmond....

Seven random facts about me:

1. I have been in the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Actually, I've been under the DMZ -- in an intercept tunnel dug by the R.O.K. into a mostly-completed tunnel from the north. It was wide enough for two soldiers to walk abreast, or for one division per hour to move through.

2. I've lived in six different states of the U.S., including (for two years) Hawai'i. So quit your whining about the price of food & gas -- we were paying nearly six bucks for a gallon of milk ten years ago.

3. Along with college buddy Tony, I used to brew my own beer. A doppelbock we brewed in the early 1990s won an "Honorable Mention" at the Del Mar Fair in San Diego -- despite being a simple extract brew.

4. My grandmother was a Marine in World War II. As was my grandfather (which is how they met, gearing up for Operation OLYMPIC and the invasion of Japan in 1945; thank God for the Manhattan Project!). Other Marines in my family include my step-dad, my uncle and my cousin. Alas, I wasn't good enough ("4-F" medical disqualification at the entry processing station after graduating from college).

5. I met my bride on a plane. I was going to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with the ski club from the Navy lab where I worked; she was going to her grandmother's funeral. She sat in front of me from San Diego to Denver, and again (a week later) right in front of me from Denver back to San Diego. (Makes it hard to be agnostic with that kind of blatant interventionism going on! :-)

6. I missed just one math question on my college prep exam (the ACT), taking my possible score of 36 (out of 35) all the way down to a 33. The question? Area of a circle. Every time I think about it, refrains of "π are square" echo in my head....

7. I once wanted to major in philosophy, probably due more to the fact that I was a lazy student incapable of serious, deep study than for any real interest in epistemology. Parental intervention (i.e., "Fine - but YOU have to pay for your tuition, books and lodging!") gently nudged me back on the physics track.

In the interest of seeing how the fairer sex addresses Rule #5, I hereby tag:

Citizen Netmom
Baby Brewing Cocktail Mommy
Sydney Liles (as ZenPundit has tagged Sam :-)
Cheryl @ Whirled View

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Middle School Musical

Eldest of Oz concluded a week of performances with her middle school talent show this evening.

Her classmates demonstrated a tremendous amount of skill, both vocally and with musical instruments. Seventh grader Wyatt P. played a nearly-flawless "Stairway to Heaven" by the mighty Zep (with us 40-somethings waving our cell phones like lighters), and sixth grader Brandon F. rocked us all out with "Revelation (Mother Earth)" by Ozzy Osbourne [corrected - thx Brandon!].

The show ended with the RMS Jazz Quintet closing out with a pair of trumpet solos and a keyboard solo. But the real star of our Middle School Musical was the RMS Cheerleading Coach Traci Russell as the inestimable Sharpey Evans.

Here's a video of Eldest on the keyboard playing "Little Dance in A Minor" by Carolyn Miller:



[Moblog] Entrata Music Club

Eldest of Oz played Beethoven's "Russian Folk Song" for this season's "Entrata Music Club" recital. The Entrata is part of the Tennessee Federation of Music Clubs.

Tomorrow both Eldest and Man-Cub will perform for the Guild judge. This will be Eldest's 3rd Guild critique, with ten (10) songs to be played from memory as they are called by the judge.


UPDATE: I've uploaded the Treo-captured video to YouTube.

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Blogger issue solved

Technical difficulties solved -- somehow my FTP path in Blogger's "Settings" was changed to a different subdirectory. We now return to our regularly-scheduled rant.... :-)



Wizards is Global!

Wizards of Oz is officially global! Today, at 10:40am, we had our first visitor from the continent of Africa -- in particular, the nation of South Africa. We've had visits from all other continents (except Antarctica) in our first three months of blogging -- so "Baie dankie" to Midrand, Gauteng!

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Welcome to the Emerald City

I've long been fascinated by the story of the "Wizard of Oz": from the movie (a staple of most Americans' childhood) to, later in life, L. Frank Baum's 1900 book and our all-time favorite Broadway play Wicked.

Beyond the feel-good tale of a young girl who just wants to go home, Oz presents numerous character studies that are germane to many of my professional and personal fascinations.

Central to these is the role of the Wizard. To some, he is simply helping others liberate the talent already within them. But to others, he is a charlatan with no real powers of his own who uses fear and intimidation to preserve his authority.

I fall in the latter category. After all, what did the Wizard ever really do for the Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow except give them placebos in the place of real solutions? A ticking clock for a heart? C'mon...

Therefore, the Wizard is a master of Fifth Generation Warfare -- able to twist perceptions so that the very context by which we judge the world is altered.

The story is further enriched by Gregory Maguire's 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Tim
es of the Wicked Witch of the West and Stephen Schwartz's brilliant Broadway musical adaptation Wicked, which challenge all of our presumptions about the characters in Baum's original work. It's a telling tale of our willingness to accept what we're shown (be it from the mainstream media, our schools, our churches, or any other seemingly authoritative source of information) rather than to think for ourselves. The subtitle on this 'blog (Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless!) is a quote from the character Fiyero, a vain and lazy prince we encounter in Schwartz's play.

So, this 'blog is intended to be a forum for challenging our mainstream opinions, for identifying the Wizards in our midst, and for seeing the true intentions of the Witches in our hearts.

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