How Much Did General McChrystal Earn?

While listening to Wolf and company fill time from the Situation Room I wondered how much General McChrystal made? How many jobs have more responsibility than a four star general?

I am watching President Obama’s acceptance of General Stanley McChrystal’s resignation. As with most public resignations it’s tough to read the words and believe they’re true.

More than once in situations like this I’ve turned to friends and colleagues and asked, “Jumped or pushed?”

Though well deserved it has to be tough for McChrystal to stand there and listen to the president diss him. This is the real definition of “walk of shame.”

While listening to Wolf and company fill time from the Situation Room I wondered how much General McChrystal earned? How many jobs have more responsibility than a four star general? Forget the responsibility–he’s the Super Bowl of terrorist targets. How many jobs have more peril?

I know he doesn’t make as much as a titan of Wall Street or even some TV news people! But how much? It’s got to be quantifiable. He’s a government employee.

McChrystal’s pay grade was/is probably O-10. That’s the top of the food chain at the Pentagon.

From About.com: It’s really impossible to produce an actual annual salary chart. This is because there are many variables to military pay.

Some jobs are entitled to flight pay, continuation bonuses and special pay, and some jobs are not. Some people live in free on-base government quarters (barracks or base housing) and others live off-base and receive a housing allowance. The amount of the housing allowance depends on the person’s location, and whether or not they have dependents.

The best I can do is the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, a Pentagon agency. They have a chart with all officer’s base salaries listed. The master schedule for Metro North looks simple and inviting in comparison.

Though an O-10 with 30+ years experience is listed as earning $18,675 per month there’s an additional footnote.

While serving as Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff/Vice Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff, Chief of Navy Operations, Commandant of the Marine Corps, Army/Air Force Chief of Staff, Commander of a unified or specified combatant command, basic pay is $19,983.60.

I believe that includes McChrystal. So, $239,803 per year before the “extras” are added.

It’s my understanding no one is shooting at those TV news people making more. Keep that in mind when choosing your next career.

Almost Gone

I’m pretty much done packing. The plane leaves at noon.

I hope Stef doesn’t read this. I’m starting to pack like her. No, not clothes, but my stuff weighs more.

For Clicky, I’ve got the tripod and monopod, five lenses and a flash unit. Oh – there’s the Gorilla Pod too. I normally carry three batteries and charger plus 3.5 Gb in compact flash memory cards.

I’ve got a computer and cell phone plus cables for both. Ditto with a GPS unit. And, on top of that, there are the army of power plugs and power bugs.

Stef passed her old iPod down to me. I’ve downloaded enough podcasts to fly to Burma. The iPod travels with earbuds and a cable. Though pink, it is now hidden in a black rubber skin, lest anyone question my masculinity.

This is nuts. All this stuff. Even I can see that, but I’m obsessed. It’s an illness.

The weather has been horrendous out west. San Francisco had 60+ mph gusts on Friday. The system is moving down the coast, though it’s weakening. I expect the pilot will be forced to wrestle the plane to the ground as we land at LAX.

We will chase the Sun, flying west at about 500 mph. It’s a losing battle. The Sun’s faster and won’t be stopping at Midway.

Even with three time zones, the clock will read 4:30 PM when we put down.

My plane flies from Hartford to Los Angeles with that stop in Chicago. Somehow, I’ve gotten it in my head to post a blog entry from my airplane seat as the plane briefly empties while we are on the ground in Chicago. My cellphone will act as the modem, bringing the Internet to my laptop.

Now I’m worried I’ve forgotten something.

Off To New York

This is my parents last full day in Connecticut. Tomorrow, at an ungodly hour, they fly the day’s only non-stop from BDL to PBI.

The goal of the Connecticut Foxes was to make this a vacation full of activity, and we’ve succeeded. Maybe we were a little too aggressive in planning for my dad. We have taken him to the edge of his physical limits… though that wasn’t our intention.

Today was our day to head to New York and the Lower East Side. Stef, Helaine and my Mom love shopping there, but after this week, we knew it would be too much for my dad.

The solution was mine. The five of us would travel to New York together, but when the women headed to Canal Street, my dad and I would continue to Whitehall Terminal and the State Island Ferry.

When I was a kid a trip on the Staten Island Ferry cost 5&#162. Later, it was raised to 25&#162. About ten years ago, to lower the cost of commuting from Staten Island, the fare was removed altogether.

It’s a phenomenal free trip from The Battery, at Manhattan’s southern tip, to St. George on Staten Island. You go through the Upper Harbor, past Governors Island, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island.

It’s easy to forget, as I had, how busy a harbor this is. There are ocean going freighters moving past barges and tugs and other local working boats. We actually cruised by LSV-!, the Army’s General Frank S. Besson, Jr.

I thought the Army only had ships in Jack Lemmon movies!

Our ferry to Staten Island and back was the John F. Kennedy, christened in 1965. It, like all the ferries, is a stubby, dirty orange behemoth. There is no front. The ferry is commanded from both ends.

We took the outbound leg, standing outside on the upper deck on the port side. That’s the best view of the Statue of Liberty.

On the return we stood at the very front of the Kennedy, with an ever sharpening view of Lower Manhattan, the ‘satellite city’ of office towers that’s grown up in the Hoboken/Jersey City area and the smaller, older, office buildings in Downtown Brooklyn.

This trip, like nearly every other trip to New York was heavily dependent on the New York City subway system. I know some people are a little apprehensive, but it’s a great way to get around. It’s certainly faster than driving. Service is frequent… every few minutes on some lines.

The downside is, the cars are sometimes dirty and there are often people soliciting for (often dubious) charities. We had one guy beg while holding up sandwiches, ostensibly for any homeless on the train. We also had an accordionist join us – hand outstretched. His charity begins in the home.

There was one other downside today. When we headed from Whitehall Street, at the ferry slip, to Cortlandt Street, we discovered the Cortlandt Street Station is closed due to the reconstruction around the World Trade Center site. That aded a walk I didn’t plan on from City Hall down to Cortlandt.

We met up with the girls at Century 21, an &#252ber clothing department store, about a block from Ground Zero. My dad and I sat in the shoe department while (mostly) Stef did her damage upstairs!

The final stop of the day was dinner at the Stage Deli. It was very good, but my first choice was to head to Chinatown for Chinese food. I can’t name one Chinese restaurant down there, but I’m sure whatever we would have found would have been great.

By the way – on a trip like this, majority rules. It’s no sin to be outvoted.

The Stage is in the mid-50s on 7th Avenue while Grand Central Terminal is at 42nd and Park Avenue. That wasn’t too much of a hike for Helaine, Stef and me, but it was too a lot for my parents. We threw them in a cab and met them at the train station.

We were home by 8:30 PM.

My parents need to go home to recuperate from their vacation!

Blogger’s note: I took well over 300 photos today. I was saddened to see a few pieces of dust had settled on “Clicky’s” sensor. That was easily cured with a bulb duster I carry… but not until I had shot at least 250 photos that need an extra hand to be acceptable.

Abe Lincoln – Wired

I often listen to NPR while taking my shower. Today, on Talk of the Nation, Neil Conan spoke with Tom Wheeler who had an op-ed piece in this morning’s Washington Post and who also wrote the book, “Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War.”

(I)nsight into our greatest president is possible through the nearly 1,000 messages he sent via the new telegraph technology. These 19th-century versions of e-mail messages preserve his spur-of-the-moment thoughts and are the closest we will come to a transcript of a conversation with Abraham Lincoln. In their unstructured form, Lincoln comes alive.

Are you kidding? Lincoln was our first president to communicate electronically. I guess he really was the Great Communicator.

This made Abraham Lincoln our first president with instant access to information. Imagine how that benefited him as he formulated our political and military strategy during the Civil War?

You owe it to yourself to read the op-ed column.

Oh, and Happy Birthday Abe.

Continue reading “Abe Lincoln – Wired”

My Grandfather

My grandfather, Sol Drelich at work in his Brooklyn lunchenonette

My folks are doing some minor redecorating down in Florida. They had a closet rebuilt with shelves.

Of course rebuilding a closet also means cleaning a closet. Everything came out and my folks started to sift through things they hadn’t seen in years. That’s what takes the most time, because you really want to savor every bit of history you find.

As is so often the case, my mom kept a lot of memorabilia┬╣. I’m glad she did. The picture attached to this entry is part of the haul. It’s my grandfather, Sol Drelich, taken in the restaurant he owned, probably sometime in the pre-war 1940s.

The prices jump out first. Imagine paying that today!

What’s not so obvious is my grandfather. He came here from Poland. He chose to leave Poland rather than serve in the army.

When he came to the United States he had nothing. He spoke no English, only Polish and Yiddish. In New York City, that was OK. There were thriving communities where Polish or Yiddish were all you needed.

He worked hard as a waiter, learned English, met my grandmother, Rose, and started a family – my mother, Betty, and her sister, Norma.

As time went on, Grandpa bought his own restaurants. With his partner Nat (always referred to simply as “Spiegel” – his last name), he owned a series of luncheonettes. By the time I was old enough to know what was going on, they owned a little place right at the foot of the stairs of the Rutland Road Station of the IRT.

I loved that little restaurant. When I’d go, taking the subway all the way from Queens, Grandpa would show me off like a trophy. I didn’t realize that at the time – though I do now.

He also let me work behind the counter, where I’d pour coffee, get Cokes and generally slow things down. From time-to-time I also worked the register.

I remember being at the cash register, at the front of the store, when a policeman came to pay his bill. There were always policemen there. Grandpa ran to move me out of the way.

It was only later I found out, police officers ate for half price. Captains, lieutenants and other supervisors ate free. Coffee was always free for anyone in uniform, police or fire.

Was that illegal? I’m sure it was.

I know why Grandpa did that. Having cops in his restaurant in this very tough neighborhood was good for business. If it were my business, I might do the same thing.

There’s a lot of me that comes from Grandpa. My quick temper – unfortunately – is one part.

He always talked to me as if he knew I would be a success, even though he didn’t know at what. There was never any doubt that I’d go to college and make something of myself. He wanted me to be more successful than he was.

As a little kid Grandpa took me aside more than once to tell me about the Nazis and their concentration camps. That’s where his entire family was killed. He knew his stories scared me, but that was the point.

I can close my eyes right now and see him, in front of his little Cape Cod in Laurelton, Queens, telling me. We stood face-to-face as he went through it piece-by-piece; how the Nazis would herd the Jews and send them to “take a shower.”

Grandpa has been gone a long time now. He never got to see me on TV. I wish he had. I know he would have been very proud, even though he would have preferred me becoming a doctor.

I wish you could have met my grandfather. You would have liked him.

┬╣ – As long as I’m mentioning my parents memories, I should give a plug to the little video I produced about how my parents met.

Judgemental for Christmas

My friend Josh Mamis, who publishes the New Haven Advocate, asked me to come to their offices and judge Christmas decorations. Is there a job I am less qualified for?

I said yes.

The Advocate is a weekly tabloid devoted to local arts and entertainment. It is often the best place for ‘bite the hand that feeds me’ expository journalism on local politics and business. I always enjoy reading their longer feature stories.

In the past, the Advocate had been very unkind to my station in a story that I felt was vindictive and a maybe little heavy handed (though they were always nice to me…. even in that article).

Though once locally owned, it recently become part of Times-Mirror which also owns the Hartford Courant and Channel 61.

Josh knows I have a soft spot in my heart for print in general and the Advocate specifically. Though TV has more impact and is much more immediate, the written word has an elegance and permanence that TV can’t touch. That’s probably why I enjoy writing this blog.

I drove into Downtown New Haven and parked under the Omni Hotel. Though cold, today was a beautiful day with high thin cirrus clouds adding some texture to an otherwise blue sky.

It is only in the past few years that New Haven has had a first class hotel downtown. I popped up to street level through the hotel’s lobby and walked around the block to the Advocate’s offices. They are located on the 11th floor of a building over what was the Chapel Square Mall. The building had fallen into disrepair, but looked very good today. Obviously, someone has spent the money to try and turn it around.

The mall is long gone – a failure through a few incarnations. I was surprised to hear it had been converted to upscale apartments. What was the actual mall is now an enclosed courtyard with an open air roof and apartment entrances. Upscale apartments going into Downtown New Haven (and now a 4-screen artsy movie theater down the block) is another very good sign for the city.

Josh’s office is near the receptionist and has a killer view of the Green and then north to East Rock&#185. Very impressive… especially so with today’s weather.

We schmoozed for a few minutes and then it was on to the judging. To my eye, Christmas lights around Connecticut seem to less visible this year. The Advocate’s office maintained that trend. There really wasn’t a lot of cubicle decorating, though I did pick a winner.

The winning cubicle featured a very scrawny little artificial tree but lots of other little homemade Christmasy type accoutrements. It was enough to show real holiday spirit. That won me over.

As I walked around the office, saying hi to people and chatting, I noticed someone working on a page from the paper featuring a photo of a group of people. They were from a store called “Group W Bench.”

I smiled… actually chuckled at that name. No one else did. The name “Group W Bench” only meant something to me. My age was showing again.

“The Group W Bench” was made famous in the late 60s by Arlo Guthrie in his song “Alice’s Restaurant.” For 18 minutes Arlo told and sang the story of his arrest for illegal dumping… in the town dump… on a legal holiday… and led to his day at the local draft board.

And I proceeded to tell him the story of the twenty seven eight-by-ten

color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and the paragraph on

the back of each one, and he stopped me right there and said, “Kid, I want

you to go and sit down on that bench that says Group W …. NOW kid!!”

And I, I walked over to the, to the bench there, and there is, Group W’s

where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after

committing your special crime, and there was all kinds of mean nasty ugly

looking people on the bench there.

Hey, it was the late 60s! Times were different and this story of a song became huge.

I left the Advocate a little disappointed – not because they didn’t know Arlo, but because there weren’t more decorations to be seen. But I also left feeling a little better (and this is a continuing, incremental process) about New Haven.

&#185 – At the end of the last ice age, as the ice retreated, huge chunks of rock that had been pushed forward by the glaciation remained in place. East Rock is one of these steep, sharp rock mountains. It overlooks New Haven Harbor and is a few miles from downtown.

Be All That I Can Be

As a student… even a distance learning student… at Mississippi State University I get the privileges and email of an on-campus student. When there are concerts or symposiums or notices on campus security, I get them.

I guess this also applies to giving my email address to interested organizations off campus. It hasn’t happened often, but I have gotten a few non-MSU notes to my MSU email address.

Tonight was the best. A little earlier this evening I got an email from an Army recruiter! I’m 54 years old. If the army needs me, we’re in huge trouble (though a few weeks of basic training would certainly help me firm up a bit).

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY

U.S. ARMY RECRUITING STATION (COLUMBUS)

2321D HWY 45 NORTH

COLUMBUS, MS. 39705

Dear Geoff Fox,

Congratulations on your decision to pursue a higher education. Continuing your education is a very important step in ones life, it can at times make you wonder if it is really what you wanted to do and of course the thought of education expenses comes to mind as well. At this important crossroad in your life it is essential that you consider all options that are available to you.

For students that are presently at this crossroad, the United States Army offers money to qualifying applicants to pay the high cost of tuition in the form of the Montgomery GI Bill and the Army College Fund. To those who qualify, this could mean up to $70,000.00 for your education. The Army also offers $65,000.00 in student loan repayment. Additionally, the Army will pay 100% tuition while you serve so that you may pursue an even higher degree.

If you are one that may be considering taking a break for a semester or so, the Army can offer quaranteed job skill training in over 200 military occupational specialties. Studies have shown time after time that potential employers prefer to hire U.S. Army veterans to those applicants not having military experience. This is evident by the Army’s new program referred to as the PAYS (Partnership for Americas Youth) program.

I would encourage you to check out the www.goarmy.com web site or simply call 662-328-1741 if you have questions. We, the recruiters at the Columbus Army Recruiting Station wish you well in your studies and once again look forward to speaking with you about the great opportunities the U.S. Army has to offer you.

Sincerely,

Randy Gentry

SFC, USA

Station Commander

Here’s my response

Flattered as I am, I’m guessing age 54 might be a little old to be all I can be.

All the best,

Geoff Fox

UConn versus Army

There are more photos available from this blog entry by clicking here

I wasn’t going to let a sore toe stop me (actually, I would have, but the toe is getting a little better day-by-day). This was my day to shoot pictures at the UConn – Army game.

I left the house around 10:30 and drove to Rentschler Field in East Hartford. I knew where the field was, sort of. I had printed out directions off the computer, but chose to listen to the DOT’s radio station on 1610 kHz to get me where I was going.

Any time I’ve listened to DOT’s network of low power highway stations I’ve been disappointed. Usually, there was no usable timely info at all! Adding insult to injury, the broadcast is sometimes padded with time killers, moving you farther from the content you really want to hear. And the signal strength and audio quality are awful

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

This time was different. The station repeated a recording of simple directions to the field from all the major access roads. This is exactly what should be on.

I turned past the Pratt and Whitney property and followed the cars. If had no idea where to go with my parking pass, but the attendants along the way saw it and waved me in the right direction. I parked about 4-5 minutes walk from the stadium on what looked like well manicured grass.

Thank heavens it wasn’t raining! In fact it was partly cloudy and well into the 70s. In other words, perfect.

I met John Pierson, our sports reporter and Kevin Frederick (who normally shoots video for sports, but was at the game as a ‘civilian,’). I’m glad I ran into John because I don’t think I would have known where to go or what to do once I got into the stadium.

We made our way down to the field level. Both teams were on the field warming up. The stands were 25% full. By game time the teams would have left and returned for their official introductions and the stands would have filled closer to capacity&#185.

I carried my Canon Digital Rebel with the Sigma 70-300 mm lens attached. Over my shoulder was a small camera bag with an 18-125 mm lens, a spare battery and two extra compact flash cards.

By the end of the game… actually before the end of the game, all three cards were filled. That’s over 1 gigabyte of photos! The final count was 317 actual. That’s fewer shots than I anticipated by nearly a hundred. I’m not sure why this particular shoot created such big files.

If there’s one thing I learned at the game, it’s that I need one more card. The prices are down. I’ll order one later today.

John took me to the end zone section adjacent to where the Huskies would enter. He introduced me to four girls, including quarterback Dan Orlovsky’s sister. Then we went and met Dan’s father who has better seats than his daughter!

Dan Sr. and I chatted for a few minutes. Not knowing him, but knowing who his son is, I addressed him as Mr. Orlovsky. Respect under these circumstances is appropriate and fair.

I later found out he’s two years younger than me. Maybe the mister part wasn’t necessary?

There’s an interesting observation to be made here. I have often equated hurricane watching to seeing a car accident in slow motion. Watching Dan Orlovsky is like watching a Lotto winner in slow motion. You know it’s just a matter of time before he’s worth millions of dollars from the NFL. He’s got to know that too. He’s that good – probably a first round pick.

I was afforded an incredible amount of access and freedom on the field. Back a few feet from the out of bounds line and end zone was another line – a dashed line. As long as I stayed behind it, I was fine. It gave me an amazing view of the field.

I started shooting on the first play and soon learned it was very difficult to follow the action on a pass play with a lens. Following with a TV camera is one thing, but my still camera rewards someone who can anticipate where the ball will be in the fraction of a second it takes for the mirror in the camera to flip and the shutter to open.

Often, I’d have my camera at the ready as a play would start, but I’d never get anything to shoot. Other times the player would be turned away from me or blocked by someone else. Sometimes my camera, which is supposed to continually focus while shooting sports action, just wouldn’t focus quickly enough or would focus on something other than what I was tracking.

You can be the judge. I’ve taken forty of the best shots and put them in my gallery. The thumbnails don’t give you a sense of what was shot, so please click for larger versions.

At halftime I went under the stands to a small room for the on-field media. It was surprising to see a number of newspaper photographers downloading their shots onto laptops and sending them on their way. At least one photographer (New Haven Register, I think) was using Photoshop – processing and cropping her shots before an editor even saw them.

As I expected, I saw a lot of much faster lenses – big lenses with wide openings. One of the photographers had a humongously telephoto lens with f1.8 speed. He’s getting 8 times as much light as I am, giving him a great deal of latitude. On the other hand, I can still buy food, something I wouldn’t be able to do as the owner of that lens.

Most of these big lenses demand a monopod. They are too heavy to hand hold for long. The monopod is actually attached to the lens and not the camera body itself.

As the second half was starting I walked by the UConn bench and said hello to Jeff Fox, one of the players. I’m not sure if he got what I was trying to say… that we both had the same name (though one of us spells it incorrectly).

It is cool to have a player with the same name as me. He can’t be related though. None of my relatives, or their families, have any athletic ability at all!

By the time I was finished shooting the stands were back to being 25% full. UConn had cut through the Army like a hot knife through butter. It wasn’t a contest.

This was fun. I’d like to try again. I’m not sure I can quantify what I’ve learned from this, but I’d look back at my shots and try and figure out what worked and why and how I can do it again.

There are more photos available from this game. Just click here

&#185 – The game was a sellout, though that doesn’t mean everyone attended. There were plenty of empty seats.

Gene Klavan

When I was growing up, my parents (mostly my dad) listened to WNEW. To me it represented what adult life was about. It was sophisticated and upwardly mobile. The stars of that era of popular music hung out at WNEW and socialized with the disk jockeys.

It was a Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Jack Jones, Steve & Eydie kind of place.

The morning show was Klavan and Finch. Gene Klavan was the comic and Dee Finch his straight man. This past week Gene Klavan died at 79.

I was speaking to my dad tonight, looking for the right moment to tell him about Klavan, when he told me.

I stopped for a minute. Is it right to tell a 78 year old about the death of a 79 year old? And then I asked him.

I didn’t want to pry, but I wondered how my dad looked at death. I think (and he reads this so he’ll tell me if I’m wrong) that he just sees it as a part of life. Where he lives, in Florida, he is surrounded by it.

His life now is the best it’s ever been. He and my mom are incredibly active – much more so than ever before. He says, 78 is an age he never imagined, much less consciously thought of.

I see my parents living forever. But they are so much better at dealing with reality than I am.

Continue reading “Gene Klavan”

Is That a Dinar In Your Pocket…

I drink entirely too much coffee, and I’ll be the first to admit it. Two mediums a day… it’s probably the equivalent of 4 or 5 regular cups. But, I can’t do without it it, and why should I?

Tonight, on my way back to work after dinner, I stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts near home (by the way – what a disappointment while in Southern California this year to find no Dunkin’ Donuts). They know me well enough that often, my coffee is poured and ready by the time I’m at the counter.

As is often the case, especially after being on TV for over 19 years on the same station, I was recognized. It was a young black man. He was wearing flashy ‘bling’ and an elastic type head covering on this awful, drippy, day.

When he spoke, it was obvious that he was well educated and a man, not a child. He had the confidence that comes with maturity.

His name is Aaron Hawkins and he grew up here in town. Now, he’s in the Army, repairing tanks. His home base is in Georgia, but he’s just back from Iraq.

We talked a little about the war (I worry about this Vietnam wannabe war, fought mostly by men of color, without a draft). There are too many historical analogs.

Then, as I was about to leave, he reached in his pocket, pulled out his wallet and started to thumb through the bills. He pulled one out, smiled, and gave it to me… a 250 Dinar note with Saddam Hussein’s picture. Current value, around $.20.

I’m sure Saddam saw the proofs, asked to have his hair darkened and a little taken off the jowel… or maybe the artist knew for his own safety that flattery was the best policy.

Whatever the case, it was a great gift from Aaron. I’m glad I got to meet him.