Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day 2011: Tributes to Our Fallen Soldiers

This holiday was celebrated by a great number of Americans in numerous ways.  From Time.com, here are a few pictures of the different ways Americans celebrated Memorial Day this year.

Memorial Day 2011: Tributes to the Fallen     Parade- Participants in the Memorial Day parade march down Broadway in the Inwood neighborhood of New York May 30, 2011.
Memorial Day 2011: Tributes to the Fallen     Remembrance- Sunny Yeung of the U.S. Navy visits the grave of friend, Lance Corporal Kevin Adam Lucas at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 30, 2011, in Arlington, Virgina.
Memorial Day 2011: Tributes to the Fallen     Honor the Fallen- U.S. soldiers salute during Memorial Day ceremony in honor of fallen soldiers at the Camp Eggers, in Kabul on May 30, 2011.
Memorial Day 2011: Tributes to the Fallen     Dearly Departed- An Iraq War veteran sits and drinks a beer beside the symbolic graves of fallen friends, Sgt. Eric Snell and Pfc Michael Pittman, both from his former unit, at the Arlington West Memorial on Memorial Day in Santa Monica, California on May 30, 2011.

Memorial Day 2011: Tributes to the Fallen     Observance- President Barack Obama stands with Brigadier General Karl Horst, right, during a moment of silence at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 2011 in Arlington, Virginia.
Memorial Day 2011: Tributes to the Fallen     Candlelit Lanterns- A lantern dedicated to U.S. service personnel who have been killed in combat floats on the water during the Na Lei Aloha Lantern Floating event held by the Shinnyo-en Buddhist at Ala Moana beach park on Memorial Day in Honolulu, Hawaii on May 30, 2011.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Meaning of Memorial Day

This is just a follow-up to the previous Memorial Day blog that I posted a few days ago.  It explains the meaning of Memorial Day, gives the history of it, and distinguishes it from Veterans Day.

From yahoonews.com:

Officially, Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday of May (this year it's May 30), honors the war dead. Unofficially, the day honors the start of summer. (More on that in a moment.)

The upcoming three-day weekend has prompted searches on Yahoo! for "when is memorial day," "what is memorial day," and "memorial day history." The day was originally known as "Decoration Day" because the day was dedicated to the Civil War dead, when mourners would decorate grave sites as a remembrance.

The holiday was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, when 5,000 people helped decorate the grave sites of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery. (Some parts of the South still remember members of the Confederate Army with Confederate Memorial Day.)

After World War I, the observances were widened to honor the fallen from all American wars--and in 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday.

Towns across the country now honor military personnel with services, parades, and fireworks. A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. At Arlington National Cemetery, headstones are graced with small American flags.

This day is not to be confused with Veterans Day, which is observed on November 11 to honor military veterans, both alive and dead.

However, confusion abounds anyway, with the weekend marking for many the kickoff of summer, and it is reserved for weekend getaways, picnics, and sales. Searches on "memorial day sales," "memorial day recipes," and "memorial day weekend" are just some of the lookups related to the festivities.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Top 10 Manhunts

In light of recent events, such as the death of Osama bin Laden, I thought it would be interesting to share this list of "Top 10 Manhunts" from Time.com.  It's exactly what it implies:  a list of 10 of the most notorious man-hunts in history.

Raoul Moat
Raoul Moat-  The British former nightclub bouncer had been on the run in the north of England, having allegedly shot three people, killing one, just two days after his release from prison. Two accomplices who had allegedly helped Moat target police were arrested, but Moat himself remained at large in the countryside, where the difficult terrain hampered the search. But a significant update took place toward the end of the day Friday, when police confirmed that a man fitting Moat's description was negotiating with authorities. And after a tense six-hour stand-off, where it was reported Moat had been holding a shotgun, a police spokesman confirmed that the 37-year-old Moat took his own life in a field at Rothbury in Northumberland.
Saddam Hussein-  It's been said that when Saddam Hussein was in power, he rarely spent more than 10 hours straight in any one place. So when Baghdad fell on April 9, 2003, he wasn't waiting around in his palace for a Tony Montana–style showdown — he was already on the run. Despite reported sightings all over the country, the Ace of Spades in the Iraqi most-wanted deck was nowhere to be found. The allied forces found themselves increasingly desperate — no WMD, no Saddam, bad p.r. — but nine months later, they finally tracked him down outside Tikrit in a foxhole for one, supplied with an AK-47, some chocolate and $750,000 in cash. He was hanged three years later, on Dec. 30, 2006. The manhunt for WMD has been quietly discontinued.
Top 10 ManhuntsJohn Wilkes Booth-  The first man to kill an American President was chased with all the wrath of a wounded nation. After the April 14, 1865, assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Booth left Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., via the stage door — appropriate for an actor — and then fled south on horseback through Maryland, assisted by accomplices along the road. Troops flooded the state's swamps in search of Booth, who secretly crossed the Potomac into Virginia on April 21, the same day the funeral train bearing Lincoln's body left Washington for its westward procession. Thanks to intelligence tip-offs and the confessions of accomplices, Booth was tracked to the Virginia farm of Richard H. Garrett, and on April 26 he was shot and killed by Union soldiers who had set the barn he was in on fire. Booth died on the farmhouse porch, defending his actions to the last.

Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen MuhammadThe Beltway Snipers-  For three evil weeks in October 2002, nobody could walk the streets of Washington. A gunman was traveling down the Capital Beltway from Maryland to Virginia, and in 15 long-distance attacks, he had already left 10 dead and three others injured. He began leaving threats: "Your children are not safe, anywhere, at any time." Parents panicked; schools closed.
Police and the public initially fixated on white vans in the area, but focus eventually turned to a blue Chevrolet Caprice that was carrying gunman John Allen Muhammad and his juvenile accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo. The pair were arrested on a tip while at a rest stop in Maryland; the car's trunk bore a small hole through which the rifle was fired. Muhammad was executed on Nov. 10, 2009. Malvo is in prison serving six consecutive life sentences. The episode made a minor celebrity of Montgomery County police chief Charles Moose, who was in charge of the hunt for the killers. His persistence was rewarded with their capture and a book deal.

Top 10 ManhuntsAdolf Eichmann-  The "architect of the Holocaust" fled Germany at the end of World War II, slipping through U.S. fingers into Argentina, where he worked in obscurity as a foreman at a Mercedes-Benz factory in Buenos Aires. Nazi hunters made it their business to track down the man who had transported 6 million Jews to their deaths, but it was a blind, half-Jewish refugee from Dachau who finally found him. The daughter of Holocaust survivor Lothar Hermann got to know Eichmann's eldest son, and Hermann soon worked out who his father was and told the German authorities all he knew. The Germans passed on the news to Israeli intelligence service Mossad, and over the course of a year, its agents tracked down Eichmann and confirmed his identity. On May 11, 1960, Eichmann was coshed, drugged to the gills and snuck into Israel disguised as a particularly sluggish El Al airline steward. The Nazi logistics expert was found guilty in a widely televised trial and was hanged on May 31, 1962. His remains the only civil execution ever carried out in Israel.

former Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic attending a conference sponsored by Radovan Karadzic-  The former Bosnian Serb politician on trial in the Hague for war crimes evaded capture from 1996 to 2008. He was accused of causing the deaths of 8,000 refugees and the ethnic cleansing of 30,000 others in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II. When indicted for genocide, Karadzic went on the lam and became a hero amongst the Bosnian Serb people, who helped him escape capture multiple times during his decade on the run. A tip-off, most likely from U.K. and U.S. intelligence agencies, led to the discovery of Karadzic in a clinic in Belgrade, where he had grown an enormous white beard and ponytail and was posing as specialist in alternative medicine, with a particular interest in "bioenergy," under the name Dragan David Dabic. The disguised Karadzic

Letter sent to the San Francisco Chronicle by the The Zodiac Killer-  The self-named Zodiac who terrorized Northern California in the late 1960s and early '70s has never been caught, despite extensive investigation by police and the press. The unidentified killer claimed responsibility for 37 murders in taunting letters to newspapers, although only seven were confirmed as his work. Zodiac's letters included four cryptograms, of which just one has been deciphered. Only one suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, was ever served with a search warrant, but police found no conclusive evidence. The Zodiac letters stopped coming in the late '70s; Allen died in 1992. The case has been declared inactive, although it is periodically reopened as new (and thus far implausible) evidence comes forward. The case was given screen immortality in the 2007 David Fincher movie Zodiac — but Fincher didn't solve it either.

Top 10 ManhuntsNed Kelly-  The Australian bush ranger became one of the country's first folk heroes, appealing to the downtrodden poor who were fed up with their colonial British rulers. Declared outlaws after killing three policemen, Kelly and his gang lost themselves in the southeastern Australian bush, robbing two banks and, in one episode, burning the townspeople's mortgage contracts. Finally cornered by police in the town of Glenrowan, the four members of the Kelly gang emerged in enormous homemade suits of armor, lurching toward petrified policemen as bullets bounced off their chests. The armor did not cover Kelly's lower half, though; he was shot in the legs and, unlike the rest of the gang, captured alive. Kelly was hanged on Nov. 11, 1880. The story goes that his last words were, "Such is life."

crimes of the century unabomberTheodore "Ted" Kaczynski-  The 18-year search for the Unabomber was the U.S.'s longest and most expensive hunt for a serial killer. Ted Kaczynski, a brilliant mathematician accepted to Harvard at age 16, sent 16 bombs — handcrafted with wooden parts — across the country from 1978 to 1995, killing three and wounding 23. Despite an accurate psychological profile, a $1 million reward and extensive forensic investigation, the FBI couldn't get a handle on the case. It took the 1995 publication of his rambling manifesto in the New York Times and the Washington Post for the bomber to be located: Kaczynski's brother David recognized the prose and tipped off the police. Kaczynski was arrested on April 3, 1996, at his Montana log cabin. He is serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole. His brother still writes him monthly, without reply.

Osama bin Laden, in a video that aired on the eve of the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacksOsama bin Laden-  The U.S. had been after bin Laden since the 1998 African embassy bombings. The 13-year manhunt had so little to show for it, some suspected he had died because he hadn't appeared on video since 2007, although audio tapes purportedly of his voice periodically surfaced. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates once admitted that there had been no reliable information for years as to his whereabouts. Bin Laden was generally assumed to be hiding in Pakistan, and that's where 52-year-old Coloradan construction worker Gary Faulkner was detained while looking for him in June 2010. Sent, he says, on a mission from God, Faulkner was found toting a 40-in.-long sword, a pistol, night-vision goggles and a pair of plastic handcuffs. According to Faulkner's brother, the wannabe bounty hunter had, during his six trips to the country, found a cave and "a bearded man in a white robe speaking on a walkie-talkie." But it turns out, Faulkner wasn't that close. On May 1, 2011, Bin Laden was killed by U.S. special operations forces in Abottabad, Pakistan, 35 miles north of the capital, much farther from the Afghan-Pakistan border than most people, including Faulkner, believed.

Memorial Day

For teenagers in high school at this point in time, all they can think about is summer's fast approach.  It's nearing the end of the school year, and everyone is anxious to hear the ring of that final bell on June 7th.  For seniors, the end of their high school career is nearly here.  With only three days left, most of them are concentrated on "just getting out."  Before they can walk across the stage and receive their diplomas, though, they must get through this last, special three-day weekend designated to celebrate Memorial Day. 

Memorial Day comes but once a year, and it always seems to pass without much recognition from teenagers.  Do most of them even know what it means?  Probably not.  Do most of them care about it?  Probably not.  Do most of them only know that it means an extra day off of school?  Probably.  With everything that's going on in their lives right now, it's to be expected that a great number of them have no idea what Memorial Day celebrates.  And that's why I'm writing this article.  As a member of a military family, although, admittedly, a member of a military family that has never lost one at war, Memorial Day represents more than just another day off school.  Memorial Day gives recognition to the soldiers that have died protecting America.  Dictionary.com describes it as "a day, May 30, set aside in most states of the U.S. for observances in memory of dead members of the armed forces of all wars: now officially observed on the last Monday in May."

Just a few minutes ago I came across an article written by a soldier in remembrance of the fallen soldiers of the United States.  It was deeply moving, extremely powerful, and well written.  I'd like to share it now:

"It is the early days of January 2010 and the Company forms to the front of the memorial display at the chapel of the forward operating base in Afghanistan, the backdrop for the small shrine the crossed staffs of an American flag and the regimental colors. An M4 rifle stands upright, its bayonet lodged into a felt covered wooden desk in front of the flags; the pistol grip facing the audience. The fallen soldier's helmet rests on the weapon's butt stock, shielding it as it once did his silhouette. Two dog tags dangle from the rifle's pistol grip, their clamor in the desert wind. Below, centered on the rifle's barrel and arrayed at the position of attention, are the soldier's desert tan boots; tied, laces tucked.

Leaning against the laces is a framed portrait of the fallen: SSG (Last). A Purple Heart medallion shines prominently in front of the picture, presented in its original black silk-laden box.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, the ceremony will begin in two minutes," says the Chaplain in his hospitable southern twang. The imposing Battalion and Brigade leadership files out of the chapel, programs and bios of the fallen in hand.

"Company! Atten-SHUN!" calls out the Attack Company First Sergeant, bringing the gaggle to order. I cringe contemplating how many memorials our First Sergeant has stood for in his lifetime. He has had seven deployments and two decades in the Army. "Parade REST!"

"Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand for the invocation," the Chaplain begins, "Father, we are gathered here today to celebrate the life of one of your finest servants: Staff Sergeant (First) (MI) (Last)..." My mind drifts off into the clear blue sky. I still hear the radio traffic in my head...it replays in my conscience like a broken record, "Contact! Contact! IED!...The lower half of his body! It's blown off!" That was Christmas Day 2009. My quaking cheek muscles wring a tear from my eyes.

The Battalion Commander takes the podium first. He speaks of SSG (Last)'s career and dedication to the mission. His words are kind and sincere. The Company Commander follows with (Last)'s bio: where he was born, where he enlisted. "SSG (Last) is survived by his wife and his three sons."

I see those boys, first smiling and laughing; and then I see them in horror and frantic tears upon hearing the words... "We regret to inform you..." I wonder how these children will ever open another Christmas gift again. How many nights will they bargain with God, praying at the foot of their beds: "I'll give back every single Gift I'll ever get for the rest of my life... for just one more day with my Dad..."

As the commander stands down, SSG (Last)'s Platoon Sergeant and dear friend rises for his remarks. We know his heartfelt eulogy is sure to be filled with humor, a refreshing change of pace from the sadness that overwhelms the audience. "SSG (Last) and I had some great times. There was never anything but a smile on his face. I loved watching him slap food out of his soldiers' faces. And with a dead stare and straight face, snarling "You can't eat, you're in A Co!"

SSG (Last)'s Platoon Leader speaks next. He reads from Psalm 23: "As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil..." As the PL takes his seat, a bagpipe quintet begins its rendition of "Amazing Grace." The nasal reverberance of the pipes stuns my eardrums. It brings my conscience back to the ceremony; back to the realization... He's gone.

First Sergeant conducts an about face to address the Company. "Company! Atten-SHUN!" The 160 soldiers and officers of Attack Company snap their heels together. He begins the roll call:

"SGT Anderson!"

"Here, First Sergeant!"

"SGT Smith!"

"Here, First Sergeant!"

"SGT Wilson!"

"Here First Sergeant!"

"Staff Sergeant (Last)!"


The name of the fallen leaves the First Sergeant's tongue. The emptiness weighs on our chest. An acceptance of mortality fills the void.

"...Staff Sergeant (First) (Last)!" First Sergeant's voice grows louder with each call. He yells with a release, not of fury, but of agony.

"Staff Sergeant (FIRST) (MIDDLE) (LAST)!!" The final syllable echoes through the formation. Running noses, pulsating chests. An infectious sadness permeates through even the most distant onlooker's body.

The colorguard breaks the silence with gentle, but firm commands. "Ready, Aim, FIRE!" The commander leads his element in three volley fires. In the distance, a bugler puts brass to lip. The rhythm-less tune of taps emanates from the horn, surging the ambiance with rushed closure. The music soothes our ears, purging shivers and quivering diaphragms. Our hands continue to switch between wiping sweat from our foreheads to wiping the snot from our noses and the tears from our eyes.

The Chaplain retakes the podium for the Benediction. We bow our heads in prayer.

Four by four, soldiers march to the display and submit their tender salutes. Upon ordering arms, we got down on one knee in front of the photo. Some pray. Some talk to their friend.. Some just stare, trying to feel if this is real. (Last)'s closest friends and colleagues rip off the velcro name tapes from their soft caps and place them by his picture. I focus on his photo; he was smiling. My spirituality beckons me. I don't want to believe in God right then, but I need to. I pray for his soul. I pray he is at peace.

The hardest part about writing this piece was not the recollection of the sights and emotions of a friend's passing, but deciding what to call him. Perhaps it will mean more to you if you re-read the roll-call inserting the (First) (Middle) and (Last) name of a loved one you know serving overseas. I ask you to offer your empathy to the soldiers, wives, children, and parents who pay the bill for our freedom each day. Memorial Day comes but once a year, but for the sake of those who will go anywhere and do anything to preserve the way we live, I hope that emotion stays with you forever.

Rajiv Srinivasan served as a Stryker platoon leader in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010. He hails from Roanoke, Virginia.

And that's what Memorial Day is all about.  We should never forget.

America's 20 Most Well-Read Cities

I was browsing through the articles on Time.com when I came across this article listing the top 20 most well-read cities in the United States. Turns out, if you live in Seattle, Atlanta, or Arlington, Virginia, you are among the most well-read people in the United States.  Based on sales data of book, magazine and newspaper sales in both print and Kindle downloads, Amazon has compiled a list of America's 20 cities with the most well-read people. Like the cities above, which boast Harvard University, Gannett Corp. and the University of California, Berkeley, most are home to large universities or corporate installations, so the data is a bit skewed, but interesting none-the-less.

Time.com throws out a mini-disclaimer here, saying, "The cities also fell into categories of what they like to read, for example, the cuisine-conscious populace of Boulder, Colo. (No. 5), ordered the most cooking, food and wine books. At the same time, kid-friendly Alexandria, Va. (No. 2) ordered the most children's literature. There's even an irony. St. Louis, Mo. (No. 17), also ranked as the nation's third most dangerous city, according to an estimate by financial blog 24/7 Wall Street. The list should be taken with a grain of salt — after all, lots of well-read people buy books at places other than Amazon."  Good to know.

Amazon's list is as follows:

1. Cambridge, Mass.
2. Alexandria, Va.
3. Berkeley, Calif.
4. Ann Arbor, Mich.
5. Boulder, Colo.
6. Miami, Fla.
7. Salt Lake City, Utah
8. Gainesville, Fla.
9. Seattle, Wash.
10. Arlington, Va.
11. Knoxville, Tenn.
12. Orlando, Fla.
13. Pittsburgh, Penn.
14. Washington, D.C.
15. Bellevue, Wash.
16. Columbia, S.C.
17. St. Louis, Mo.
18. Cincinnati, O.H.
19. Portland, Ore.
20. Atlanta, G.A.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Starting Salary Rises for Class of '11

This article comes from yahoonews.com, and I was SUPER excited when I read it because I'm going to college soon, and starting salaries are a bit of a worry for most collegebound students.  So, because I have friends who are also college-bound, I decided to share this article.  Read up!

In what can only be good news for the economy, the average starting salary offer for the class of 2011 is on the rise for the first time in three years.

According to a recent survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the average job offer to a bachelor's degree graduate this year is $50,034, up 3.5 percent over last year.

Hot fields enjoying a boost in starting offers include accounting, finance, business, and computer science.

Hot Degree #1 - Accounting
Average Starting Offer: $49,022

The recent recession was a financial wake-up call for everyone from Wall Street to Main Street. As a result, accountants are in demand like never before to help balance budgets.

Curriculum: By earning your degree in accounting, you'll learn about generally accepted accounting principles and study courses like statistics, tax planning, auditing, corporate valuation, and accounting for mergers & acquisitions.

Potential Career Paths: Some students choose accounting to prepare for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, but an accounting degree can lead to a surprisingly wide range of careers.

According to North Carolina State University's accounting department website, your business card could eventually read accountant, financial analyst, real estate assessor, or even forensic actuary.

Hot Degree #2 - Finance
Average Starting Offer: $50,535

While the study of accounting deals more specifically with the preparation and analysis of financial statements, finance majors focus more intently on the markets and learn about financial portfolios and investments, as well as the money that's needed to start and keep a company afloat. These are skills that corporations need right now.

Curriculum: While working your way toward a degree in finance, you're likely to study courses like macroeconomics, international banking, fixed income securities, investment management, and financial derivatives.

Potential Career Paths: Financial analyst is certainly one occupation that links up well with a finance degree. There are plenty of careers that require financially savvy professionals, including buying, selling and managing commercial real estate, as well as software sales for the financial services industry.

Many finance graduates find positions within the finance departments of firms; with banks, mutual funds, and other kinds of financial institutions; in government; or in a charitable organization, according to the Princeton Review's website.
Hot Degree #3 - Business
Average Starting Offer: $48,089

Today's global economy is a key reason why a business degree is a popular choice for students worldwide. To use just a couple examples, you might study different theories on how to build and operate a business, and learn how to market a whole host of products - as well as how to market yourself.

Curriculum: While getting your business degree, you're likely to build a strong foundation of skills in areas like accounting, communications, economics, finance, leadership, management, and marketing.

Potential Career Paths: Students may choose to enter marketing, sales, operations, or finance. Other possibilities include human resources (HR) and public relations (PR).

According to Washington State University's online business degree program, possible careers include:
Global logistics and transportation
Import-export positions
Multinational product management, advertising, and sales
Travel and tourism
International consulting
Electronic commerce

Hot Degree #4 - Computer Science
Average Starting Offer: $61,783

Computer science plays a huge role in every industry imaginable, from medicine and entertainment to finance and disaster recovery. Though its graduates sometimes work behind-the-scenes, they're often compensated well for their efforts, and companies like Google have changed the way people think about these experts. Computer geeks, as they are often affectionately called, are most definitely chic!

Curriculum: While earning your computer science degree, you'll likely study programming and the principles of computing, data structures and algorithms, information technology (IT), cloud computing, and network systems design.

Potential Career Paths: Common careers for computer science graduates include database and systems analysts, software engineers, and computer programmers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

A computer-related degree is often paired with high starting salary offers, according to a 2010 article in "Network World", an IT-related publication and website. "Here's a tip for incoming and current college students: If you want to have a high-paying job on graduation day, study computer science," said the article.

Box Office Record for Rebooted 'Pirates'

According to the Associated Press, "the re-engineered "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel "On Stranger Tides" found its smoothest sailing overseas, where it took in a record $256.3 million at the international box office, according to studio estimates Sunday.  That surpasses the previous record foreign opening of the sixth "Harry Potter" film, 2009's "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," which earned $236 million internationally. Walt Disney co. said "On Stranger Tides," the fourth "Pirates" installment, earned $90.1 million domestically. Its combined worldwide total is $346.4 million, the fourth largest global opening ever."

It surprises me that Pirates 4 has surpassed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (although Harry 6 wasn't the most popular of the Harry Potter series, in my opinion).  Maybe that's it.  Who knows.  I just thought this little scrap of news was interesting, considering the fact that I'm a Harry Potter fan.