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Jason Grose's BLOG

March 2003

 

 

 


What's a blog, you ask? It stands for "weblog" and it's basically an online journal of daily thought. We'll see how long I can keep this up (as though I don't have enough to do!)

If you must have a title, I'll go with: The daily thoughts/rants of a Marine Officer, father, scholar, husband, marathon runner, Flash cartoonist, computer nerd.


Monday, March 31, 2003

Quote of the Day:

“If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it.”

-- Pricilla Welch

It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong. So stand by for me becoming a big man.

I received some interesting responses to my Thursday, March 27th BLOG entry where I ranted about being pulled over by a policeman. These emails only confirmed what I knew not long after I completed my BLOG; I was a bit out of line and I want to apologize to the men and women who risk their lives everyday on our streets to protect and serve. I have a great deal of respect for them and I don’t want one incident to unintentionally represent my complete view of the police.

Now this is no “Dixie Chicks” apology so let me make something clear. I still feel it was a lame infraction to pull me over for. And I still don’t agree with the little scare tactic used even after I explained my behavior. But I do realize I came across as attacking the concept of law enforcement and that was not my intent.

One person accused me of being hypocritical because of my discussion on respecting authority. As I stated in the entry, I have no problem with authority but rather with the ABUSE of authority. But true to my beliefs, I cooperated fully and kept my annoyance to myself (only to be let out in the BLOG entry). I did not question the officer nor did I complain. I simply explained my reasons and he seemed satisfied. That is what bothered me more than anything; even after I explained and he understood, he didn’t show any indication that he might have missed a crucial detail of the situation. Instead, he drew out the interaction and played it off as his benevolence at the end. If it was bad enough to pull me over, it should have been bad enough for a ticket. I would have much preferred either a ticket or a discussion over condescending advice.

This same email also made an argument along the lines of “cops need a history of pulling people over for the same dumb reason to ensure they can pull someone else over for that reason when that's really not why their pulling them over for at all.”

I can see the logic in that argument. I don’t agree with it, but I can see it.

The other argument in the email pointed out that I might have fit a description of the child abductor. In most circumstances, even my own pride would not stop me from allowing the authorities a closer peek if that was the case. But I find it hard to believe, considering the neighborhood I was in is almost completely military. That alone does not mean anything since it’s an ungated military housing area, but any cop working this area would definitely know the difference between a “stranger” and a military member. (I’d wager a month’s pay that any cop working this beat could score 99% on a test of military and non-military driving through this small housing area). But maybe it was a military member, you say? Maybe. I'll concede to the possibility. But they would be pulling over dozens and dozens of men if this is the case.

Again, I support the police and the concept of law and order. Was I annoyed? Yes. Did I cooperate fully? Absolutely. I believe the fact that I did indeed cooperate proves my respect for authority.

The other email I received was from a former Marine who is now a police officer. He took exception to the entry and pointed out that an officer’s pucker factor is ten times that of mine during a stop. That, I understand. Police see more combat than most Marines will ever see. I don’t think I ever questioned that and I understand they must treat every situation as potentially dangerous no matter who they think they have pulled over.

I didn’t think I was the exception. But I do believe there was a good reason for my actions and after explaining it, he seemed to agree and understand why I swerved. Yes, there are sometimes good reasons for minor violations of the law. The laws are not black and white (or at least not intended to be) and I think it’s an officer’s responsibility to assess the contributing factors when determining what happened. Is this “making an exception?” No, it’s assessing the situation before making a judgment. All I was expecting was a fair assessment and in the end, I believe I got it.

In every job, there is a distribution of people. There are the stellar performers and the not-so-stellar. Even in an institution that prides itself on excellence such as the Marine Corps, I spent a lot of time as a legal officer discharging Marines for heinous acts. But we still lay a blanket view over the entire population based on the average quality. In the Corps, I believe that quality is high but that doesn’t negate the existence of bad apples.

The same goes for the police force. The majority are really incredible people but let’s face it, there are a few bottom feeders just like every institution. So for those of you that saw my rant as an attack on police authority, I will not allow you to attribute my entire view of the police in general off of one experience. I have a high regard for the police and it would take a lot more than a silly traffic stop to change that. I still think the whole thing was unnecessary and maybe my BLOG reaction was a bit too dramatic, but isn’t that what a BLOG’s for?

Hell, in hindsight, I don’t even pass judgment on the officer who stopped me (and apologize for the ones I did make). I don’t agree with the stop but that doesn’t mean he’s not a good cop. Then again, it doesn’t mean he’s a good cop, either. I had a sum total of one experience with him and it was on the negative end of the scale. He might be a hero or a bottom feeder, I don’t know. But no matter where he falls, it wouldn’t decrease my respect for the badge anyway.

To sum us, for those who I offended, it was unintentional and if I came across as disrespectful, let me state that I do respect the police. I will continue to pour my thoughts out in the BLOG and feel free to call me on it if you don’t agree. But all I ask is that you remember you choose to visit. I’m not cramming my opinions down your throat; I’m just filling my corner of the Internet.


Sunday, March 30, 2003

Quote of the Day:

"AT HAPPY HOUR WATCH THE ONES WHO SHUN THEIR TURN TO BUY A ROUND. THIS IS A GOOD INDICATION OF LOUSY CHARACTER."

- Unknown

Since they won’t send me to Iraq, I’ve declared war on the weeds in my lawn. Lame, I know, but nevertheless, I’m battling with the forces of weeddom and I will prevail. Despite the resistance by the U.L. (United Lawns), I was tired of waiting for the spontaneous disarmament to diffuse the situation so I decided to unilaterally attack.

Beginning with an air attack (Weed and Feed), I followed up with search and destroy missions that have yielded no less than about a plastic grocery bag of victims per day since the land campaign began.

But the little suckers are not going without a fight and I’ve been greeted each morning with fresh dandelions defiantly peppering my lawn. Also joining the fight are a type of flat weed with rubbery leaves the size of small Frisbees. When pulled, they leave battle scars on the lawn. I consider this a burn and slash tactic they use similar to setting oild wells on fire.

For 4 days I’ve battled and today, I stood in the street and marveled at my victory. My back, sore. My fingers, raw. But after mowing, my lawn looked like a golf course, apparently weed free.

Oh, but they lurk. They wait and plan to ambush at the moment of their choosing. I will wait for them and not be lulled into a false sense of security. My vigilance will be epic, my retribution swift and deadly. For I am the master of this lawn and any predators that jeopardize my immaculate creation will pay the price. Justice will be levied and punishment reaped.

I really got to get over to Iraq.

The other event I enjoyed today was taking the family to the beach. (I know, yard work and then the beach; not the traditional day’s events for a Marine when a war is going on).

A few lessons I learned (or really, relearned).

- On a nice day in Monterey, approximately 145 billion people want to go to the public beach, all at once, where there are 12 parking spaces
- Americans are really fat
- Fat Americans have no qualms about showing up at the beach in a bathing suit
- My bile tastes like battery acid.
- A young boy can have breasts if he’s fat enough
- Sand has the ability to reach places sunlight will never see
- There is someone’s little boy named “Anthony” that does not respond to his name despite it being yelled constantly for 20 minutes.
- It takes me three beers before I overcome my impulse to kick “Anthony” in the groin
- The half of me that is Mexican does not include the amount of melanin in my skin
- A warm shower on a sunburn feels much like lava


Saturday, March 29, 2003

Quote of the Day
(NEW ITEM I'M THROWING IN THE BLOG ENTRIES STARTING TODAY):
"You know the world is off tilt, when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the tallest basketball player is Chinese, and Germany doesn't want to go to war." -Charles Barkley

Today, I awoke nice and early because I ran the Monterey Bay Half marathon. What I thought was going to be a nice little 13 mile jaunt (I’m up to 20 mile training runs on weekends) turned into, um, how should I put it… a root canal by a proctologist.

I guess it wasn’t the smartest move to stay up until 0100 watching The Barber Shop (which was a laugh-out-loud good show, by the way) when I knew that I had to get up at 0600. But hey, only 13 miles, right?

The morning started off decent enough with two complete “deposits into the porcelain account” if you know what I mean. By the way, if you are not a runner, let me warn you right now that discussions involving running usually involve subjects not normally discussed in polite society.

To complete my running prep routine, by 0630 I had two brown ops completed, band-aids on the nipples, and my nether regions slathered with Vaseline. Who says running isn’t glamorous?

My friend, Major Glenn Rogers, arrived shortly after and we jogged about a mile to the stadium where the race started. We checked in where we got our goody bag, t-shirt, and for the first time, a timing chip to attach to our shoe. I had never participated in a race using this technology and it was kind of cool. You tie this little transmitter to your shoelace and it detects you crossing both the starting and finish lines, automatically calculating your stats.

Our goal was to clock 8-minute miles which we did for the first half of the race. But then I spontaneously sprouted a vagina and the hills got the better of me. Glenn surged ahead of me (outwardly, I was like “Go ahead Glenn, get your run on!” Inwardly, “FAG!”)

My pace slowed considerably as the hills took their toll (there were more of them than I expected) and then at about mile 6, the course took a long downward turn and I thought for a glorious moment that I was going to make up the time I lost. There it was, a monstrous down grade with nothing to stop me. Yipeee!!!

About 1/3 of the way down, my joy turned to terror. In a span of about a minute, I started getting a bit of a stomach ache. Then it happened. I can only describe it as the feeling of a basketball dropping the 6 inches from my gut to the oil pan of my ass. It suddenly dropped and the only thing between “it” and sunshine was one straining membrane.

At this point, my body and I had a little conversation (actually, it was talking, I was in listen-only mode). “Look, this is going to happen whether you pull over or not. It’s not a voluntary situation, my friend, so either you find a little privacy or we’re going to play little game called “muddy legs” for the rest of the race."

Loud and clear, Bud.

I pulled over and luckily found a little cove of trees where I was blocked by the oncoming racers, although I could be in the middle of being knighted at that moment and not cared that the Queen of England saw what God felt prudent to bestow on me.

I lost about 4 minutes (among other things) but was free to enjoy the rest of the downhill after my pit stop.

The rest of the race was a battle with the hills, the increasing heat, and the knowledge that my Financial Management in the Armed Forces professor was somewhere behind me. He gave me a B+ in the class so naturally, I had to beat him mercilessly at the race. (Yes, I deserved the B+, but that’s not the point! Stay with me here! Focus!)

The last couple of miles were an exercise of will. I was hot, I was tired, and I was not all that strong. In other words, this little 13 mile jaunt was anything but. I lost my buddy, had to make a pit stop, performed shamefully on the hills, and had to deal with the fact that older, heavier people were passing me like I was a newbie.

I tried to pick it up at the end and managed to clock some pretty good miles. Even coming in the stretch, I managed to pick up the pace (as you always do when people are watching). I even pulled the jerk move of surging at the end to pass someone in the last 100 yards. I was trying to avoid the same happening to me but afterwards realized that it was my own butt-pack that was making the clomping noise that sounded like a pursing runner. So ironically, in trying to avoid being passed up in the chute, I did the same to another. Again, not the sportsman that I strive to be.

As I finished, one of the race workers whose job it was to clip the chip off of your shoe, bent down to do his duty. I was so fatigued that I was bent over trying to stay conscious as this guy struggled to make the clip. I had to turn to the side so as not to slobber on him and if I could have spoken at that moment, I would have encouraged him to move things along before he gets a strawberry yogurt surprise on his back. After that, I lumbered forward with a fresh head rush as I stood, only to be greeted by a small boy whose job it was to put the medal around the finisher's head. As I bent down, I wondered how scarred for life this little tike will be when I pop out of consciousness and collapse on him. But I did manage a “Thank you, buddie” and it was not required to call youth services on me.

My final time was 1:53 which ended up being about an 8:39 per mile pace. The rule of thumb for a half marathon is that you double it and add 10% for an estimate of your marathon time. That puts me at 4:09 for the marathon so I still have some work to get done in order to break my sub-4 hour goal.

For about 45 minutes, I walked around and talked to the people I knew as we discussed the nuances of the race. Glenn clocked an impressive 1:40 and considering my performance, I was glad to break the 9 minute mile barrier for the race.

We saw one gentleman walking around with a white shirt who looked like he’d been shot twice in the chest. Anyone with running experience will instantly understand that this guy did not take the proper nipple protection and paid dearly. This event has happened ONCE to me and I can safely say that it will never happen to this guy again. The Bloody Nipple is not a situation soon forgotten.

I was a sloth for the rest of the day and naps abounded. As a final tip of the hat to my wonderful wife, she understood I needed this time to mentally as well as physically rest. This weekend is my only break between quarters because Monday I start my new quarter.

Once thing I didn’t expect is the level of effort required to finish this race. I’ll never take a half marathon lightly again.


Friday, March 28, 2003

For the second time in as many weeks, we had a Marine General visit us at the Naval Postgraduate School. This one was General Hanlon and was the guest speaker for the graduation ceremonies today and I must admit, it was worth coming in and listening to him speak to the Marines.

The first half of his address was basically a pep talk. He hit the nail on the head when he said that he knows any of us would trade in his or her civilian suit in exchange for a pair of desert cammies and go to Iraq. He had to sense the frustration we feel as Marines who are sitting at NPS while the war rages and he mentioned he felt the same way in Washington D.C. He also said that he’s had a lot of requests to “put me in coach” from the Marines he runs into. How right he is.

After the last war, I never thought I would feel this way. But for a Marine, one of the most miserable things that can happen is sitting on the sidelines while there is something going on. While I have no aspirations to get myself killed or to savor being away from my family, Marines are supposed to be where the fighting is at. As an Officer, I feel like I have something to offer and with experience in the first Gulf War, I deeply feel that I could make a difference for those enlisted men risking their lives every day on the battlefield of Iraq. I just feel as a Marine, that's where I should be.

The counter-argument goes that we are fighting the war in a different way and completing a mission for the greater good of the Marine Corps in the long term. Logically, that’s all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t go very far to hide the fact that we are Marines enjoying the safety and relative ease of an academic environment while our Brothers are risking it all overseas. It has been rough since the war started to watch events unfold on the TV. Depression is a constant battle and I know I'm not alone. But it's one of those subjects we Marines don't really talk much about to each other. But we all know it's there. Hence, the two pep talks in two weeks.

The last half of the address was pure entertainment. After the General opened the floor for questions, someone asked about encroachment issues on our military bases. As the former Commanding General for Camp Pendleton, the General had a fire when it came to that subject and, because he was among friends, he let go with his blistering stance on the subject of Marine training suffering due to environmentalists and similar issues hamstringing the training areas allowed.

The best moment came from another Marine who explained what the meaning of small fences around a training perimeter, broken only by buckets set in the ground. It seems that there were frogs in the area and they would bump along the fences until they came to the bucket and fell in. Every day, the environmentalists would come by, count the frogs, and set them free. If there was a drop in the number of frogs in the buckets, the base was accused of killing the frogs or somehow upsetting their natural habitat.

The best quote that came out of the entire explanation was from another Marine who had dealt with this particular situation and said, “We couldn’t turn the engines to test them because the exhaust would blow toads.”

I also liked the General’s way of dealing with civilian complaints about noise around his base. When they complained about helicopters and “chanting” Marines in the morning, he ordered the artillery CO to start using the abandoned range near the perimeter of the base where the complaints were coming from. His reasoning: “If you don’t make noise, they get used to no noise. So we made some noise.”

God, I love the Marine Corps!

The complaints have evaporated since the war started.


Thursday, March 27, 2003

I am a law abiding citizen and as a military leader often in a position of authority, I understand the necessity of respect for authority. But days like today really test my patience with the whole concept.

I was pulled over by a policeman today and when it happened, I really had no idea what he wanted. I was not speeding, didn’t roll through any stop signs, and had my seatbelt on as I always do. I sat there and waited for him to approach while he took his time, I assume, calling my license plate in.

I understand there is heightened security in these troubled times so I tried to remain calm during this seemingly unwarranted stop and suspicion. I drive a truck that has two Marine Corps stickers on the back. My license plate reads “PVT2CPT,” reflecting my enlisted to Officer progression through the ranks. I have the standard Marine haircut. I was exiting military housing. I don’t think there was much of a doubt that I was military and an imposter would be going to great lengths to attain such detail. But, he was being careful, I can respect that. So be it but the fact remains, I had done nothing. Did I have a light out? Had I hit an old lady and was dragging her under my truck?

As he approached, I handed him all the appropriate ID (driver’s license, military ID, proof of insurance, registration) which was all up to date. The thought occurred to me that he probably never pulls anyone over with everything up to date and in perfect order. I even had my seatbelt on and just in case he really wanted to get picky, I had a little trash receptacle (a real violation for not having one!). In other words, I was bulletproof and the next thought was that whatever he claims, it’s going to be my word against his. This caused a level 2 sphincter pucker.

But the mystery was not the first subject he wanted to chat about.

“Where do you live?”
“Here.”
“What’s your address?”
I stated my address.
"Same as on your license, then? (as he stared at my license)
"Um, yes."

“Where are you stationed?”
“NPS.”
“What are you studying?”
“I.T.”
“How do you stop yourself from sucking on the business end of a 9 mil when you realize you’re overweight, have self-delusions of grandeur, and must take advantage of your position by yacking with a trapped audience just to feel important?”
(OK, maybe he didn’t say that but that’s what I heard him say in my head.)

Finally satisfied that I was not Abdul the Fort Ord Terrorist, he decided to let me in on his little secret.

“I pulled you over because you made an illegal left turn back there?”

“What? What are you talking about?” (maybe not the best tone, as my irritation peeked through)

“Well, you turned left and your vehicle was almost all the way in the oncoming lane and that is an illegal turn.”

“You mean I veered into the lane by cutting off the corner, is that what you’re saying?”

“Well, yes.”

“And that’s what this is all about?”

“Yes.”

(Again, notice I’m not scoring any points here but I was rather pissed, realized I had a good reason, and thought that if it was going to be my word against his, I’ll lose either way so why turn over and be the $2 pony?)

“Do you know why I did that?”

“I have no idea.”

“When I pulled up to the stop sign, there were two cars to the right. The first one went straight and I waited for the second to pull up to the 4 way stop, making sure she didn’t go. I then started to make my left turn and half way through the intersection, I saw in my peripheral vision that she was rolling forward with no blinker on. I veered left to try to avoid a collision but she turned right. I then corrected my turn and that’s what you saw.”

BAM!, argue that Mr. "What are you studying"!

I could see it in his eye that we both knew I was right. I wanted to point out that he should have seen this if he saw my turn and should have gone after the old lady with no blinker. But I didn’t feel like pushing my luck any further so I just let that explanation hang out there, floating between us.

He had called my information in and was waiting for my clean record to come through, which did in another minute.

After that, here is what he said;

“I’m going to… give you back your license… and your military ID…”

At this point I thought he was drawing this out to drop the ticket bomb (or he would have just handed it all back at once).

“… and I’m going to give you back your registration…. and … your proof of insurance…”

I thought “Here it comes, how should I react?”

“Just watch your left turns, stay in your lane because we don’t want to see you in any head on collisions.”

OK, contrary to commone sense, now I was really pissed. He knew he was wrong yet he drew it out to make it look like he was going to ticket me. Then he comes off as condescending. But being smart enough to know who had the authority in the situation (the “his word against mine” scenario was still a threat), I just let it go. But I so badly wanted to say something.

Again, I have no problem with authority, but I have a BIG problem with the abuse of authority. Right before I moved here, they found a dead body in the area. Since I’ve lived here, three kids have been approached by strangers who attempted to lure them in their cars. I see people speeding through housing almost daily. Yet this yahoo wants to pull me over for cutting a left turn. Even if I didn’t have the valid reason I did, this is a pretty lame pull over and to top it all off, when I returned home about 4 hours later, I watched the same cop pull over another vehicle… making a left turn!

Did someone accidentally eat the entire “butthole” dozen Krispy Kremes today?

Look, if I do something illegal, dangerous, or just all around stupid (and it’s been known to happen), by all means, pull me over! If someone is speeding through housing, rolling through stop signs, or stealing my potted plants in the middle of the night (actually happened), do your job and maintain law and order. But newsflash, Barney Fife, avoiding a collision isn’t a very good reason to pull over military members in base housing. I would even question cutting off a corner or two when no one is in the oncoming lane as important enough in the big scheme of things. There’s a fine line between harassment and law enforcement and when we feel more nervous about being pulled over than we feel safe by your presence, someone forgot what they were taught in the first day of their cop indoc class.

Rant complete.


Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Ahh, sweet freedom. Today, I took a final for the telecommunications class I’ve been taking. OK, let me correct myself; today, I faked my way through yet another test and made it look like I actually know something about telecommunications. Yeah, that’s more accurate.

The test was two hours long and consisted of only 7 questions. To give you an idea of what I had to face, let’s say that you have a satellite orbiting around Pluto. Given a bunch of numbers and Latin letters representing system parameters for both the satellite and the receiver on Earth, mash and hash them through a multitude of equations, start freaking out, and then whimper quietly. Just kidding, it was more like using about every Latin symbol and astronomical (excuse the pun) numbers, big and small, to find out how much power does it have to use to communicate?

My first reaction was: “Huh?”

Then came my second stab at it when I confidently stated: “Huh?”

So in true student form, I did a mental vomit on the paper and hoped the professor would pick out the relevant chunks. Throw down as many related equations from my 14 pages of notes (yes, filled to the edges with “stuff”) and hope for the best. This is also known as praying to the partial credit god and “was I near the right trail anywhere in this mess?”

I think what it really taught me is that I can still blow an entire day cramming 10 weeks of academics into my head and pull out a semi-logical flow of thought for the test the next day. Maybe some day I will spread some of that talent over the entire quarter. Yeah, and maybe I’ll floss regularly and never miss a BLOG entry!


Monday, March 24, 2003

Do you know who really impresses me? Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Here’s a man who is taking a stand while being lambasted by his constituents. If you watch the news, you can see him stand in from of the British Parliament and get heckled, booed, and basically chewed out in front of everyone because of his support for the War on Iraq. Here is a man who knows what is right and is willing to make the hard decision, the unpopular decision, and do the right thing.

You might say that the protesters are of the same cloth. I would say you are sorely mistaken. The English Prime Minister is a well-educated, highly informed man who knows many levels of things above the average protester. Tony Blair has a lot the lose; his entire livelihood, as a result of what he’s standing up for. The average protester is doing so in his or her spare time. Tony Blair is standing all but alone in his stance while protesters huddle with safety in numbers.

Most importantly, Tony Blair is letting the enemy know that the United States is not alone. He is saving lives. The protestors are doing just the opposite.

You want to support the troops? Put down your signs and start supporting our government. Put your efforts toward support so we can get this over and bring them home. Don’t you dare say that you are supporting our troops but opposing the war. You CANNOT do both. Don’t try to make yourselves feel better by claiming your trying to help the troops.

And to the Oscar winner last night who decided to use the event as a political platform: shut your stupid pie hole, make your little make-believe movies and/or documentaries, and leave the real life stuff to us. We won’t endanger your life if you pay us the same courtesy. I’m sure France would live to have you come work for them.


Sunday, March 23, 2003

Yesterday was the last game of the basketball team I coach. The team, including my son, consists of 10 and 11 year-olds and if you have ever coached at this level, you know it’s a lot like herding cats. In fact, that was my job description as the assistant coach while my wife, the real basketball player in the family, served as the head coach. Our team, the Black Dragons, had 6 girls and 3 boys which made it seem uneven compared to the other teams but we would have it no other way. We finished the season at about 50% with all our losses coming from very close games (except one from a team I don’t think Michael Jordan and I could have beaten!).

I can’t tell you how rewarding it was to coach basketball at this level for the second year in a row. We practiced twice a week and had games on Saturdays. Just being involved in these kids’ lives was reward enough and it was tough to say goodbye at the pizza party we had yesterday. They are kids I’ll never forget and I feel privileged to have known them. Hopefully the sportsmanship, teamwork, and self-confidence I instilled in them will carry through for the rest of their lives.

For the last practice, we decided to get the all the parents who were willing, and challenge the kids for a game. Going at about 50%, it was amazing how much of a sweat we worked up and how good the kids were. By the end, I was soaking wet and had enough of the fun for one day. I think the kids really enjoyed “beating” us and we let them brag all they wanted to. It just goes to prove our point; for a kid, most of the fun memories are just simply the adults being involved. Showing up and paying them the attention is all they crave. You don’t even have to be that good at the sport (I suck at basketball) but you have to provide a structure and atmosphere of caring for the kids. The return for both the child and adult is immeasurable.


Friday, March 21, 2003

Today was the “shock and awe” day where Baghdad got a taste of American resolve. Hundreds of precise munitions nailing government buildings. Iraqi citizens dancing in the street as the Marines rolled in. Posters of Hussein being ripped down. Protesters getting the wind taken from their sails. All and all, a good day.

Tonight, I’m watching three brothers who are friends of my son. After filling them with ice cream, I suggested that we all go to the old Del Monte Hotel on NPS and go to the Tower Room which is supposed to be haunted (see last Wednesday’s BLOG). They all thought it was a great idea so with 4 little boys and a little girl, we headed toward the hotel.

Upon entering, we had to find a bathroom. Those of you with any experience with little kids will recognize the necessity and know that kids have bladders the size of walnuts. After everyone got taken care of, we went to the elevator. A rickety old thing, it instantly set the mood and suddenly, the adventure was not as good of an idea as they first assumed. Getting into it, we pushed the 4th floor button and there was total silence as we headed up.

When the doors opened, I have to admit it was pretty spooky. The doors open up to a little area that leads to the main room and there were no lights. Everyone just stood there in silence. I stepped out with all 5 kids in tow as we entered the main room.

The main room is a large, open, elegant affair with antique furniture, a big hearth fireplace and windows all around. But at night it was about the spookiest thing for a kid that could be imagined. The elevator let out to this area and there are no other purpose for this room, therefore we were all alone on that floor and it was silent.

It didn’t help that I had filled the kids’ minds with the ghost stories about the little girl who is supposed to haunt the place. I suggested we go down the little hallway toward the dentist office which seemed like a good idea for all of them since it was lit and away from the dark Tower Room. Up to this point, the oldest brother who had announced he doesn’t believe in ghosts, announced he had had enough and wanted to go. His brother instantly agreed. But by this time, we were half way down the hallway and we got to the closed door of the dentist office.

There was another door I didn’t know about to the left and it looked like an old style, maybe original door (the hotel is very old). I tried it and it was open. At this point, even I was a little spooked so the kids must have been outright terrified. The door led to another door but looking down it, it was just a staircase and I assumed a fire escape. We left it there and the kids wanted to get going.

Going back towards the Tower Room, the kids reiterated that they desired to leave but I wanted them to at least tour the square room. We took a quick (and I do mean quick) walk around the room and I could tell the kids really wanted to end this little adventure.

As we walked back to the elevator area, I noticed that the room was pitch black (something I didn’t notice before because the light from the open elevator door filled the ante room when we came in). So we all stood at the entrance for a moment and I know my hesitation added to the stress of the moment. Then we heard some creaking sounds coming from the elevator and we all froze. Then the “M” lit up. Then the “1.” What I knew but the kids did not was that when you request an elevator from any floor, the status shows up on the panels on all floors. But to the kids, it looked like the elevator had a mind of its own.

We stepped in the room and I couldn’t find the button due to the darkness. When I found it and pushed it, the small light seemed to light up the whole room. We all waited for the elevator and I could feel the stress hanging in the air.

If that door would have opened and ANYTHING would have been in it, I would have had 5 insanely screaming kids on my hands (all drowned out by an insanely screaming man, of course). At the earliest opportunity, the kids tumbled into the elevator and a sigh of relief filled the little cage as the doors closed.

Leaving the hotel and getting back in my truck, the entire ride home was filled with the discussions of the adventure. Different versions arose and each insisted they saw various ghostly images. Their little imaginations just kept going and it occurred to me that they were not quite old enough to be ashamed of their fears. One even said that even though he doesn’t believe in ghosts, those kind of situations still “freak” him out a little.

I think this is one night they will remember for a very long time.


Thursday, March 20, 2003

Today I saw an interesting video. I don’t usually watch BET and listen to rap too much anymore but this one caught my eye and ear because it was a song I recognized.

But the combination was a bit eclectic. What I heard was Bones, Thug, and Harmony singing the song Home. What was so interesting about it was that old Phil Collins himself added his soaring chorus to his 1980s hit Take Me Home.

I’ll have to admit, BTH did a good job and I liked the style of the song. I think it captured the original haunting quality of the original hit. It just looked weird to see Phil Collins with Bones, Thug, and Harmony. I mean Phil is cool and all but there could not be a whiter man than him trying to look thuggish. But the chorus makes up for it. You get your chorus on, Phil!!!

Did anyone else see the Iraqi interview last night when a fly kept attacking the Iraqi official. Right in his face, on his beret, back to his face. I kept laughing. In other words, this guy was analogous to a piece of $***. How fitting.

The French can kiss my a$$. I mean, it’s bad enough that they pussed out of the UN thing but I had at least a morsel of respect for them standing up for what they believe. Then when the war started, they stated they were still against it but if Iraq used chemical weapons, that would change everything and they’d be willing to help out. You know what, Frenchie? Take a position and stick with it. Like Joker pointed out, “This recruit knows that if he reverses himself, the Senior Drill Instructor will beat him harder!!!”

It’s like the old saying “You either love him or you hate him.” Usually when someone says that to me, I’m at the “hate” end of the spectrum because it’s usually just a euphemism for saying “The guy’s a dick.” So I say, “The French; you either HATE them or you HATE them.” (spit).


Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Unless your living in a cave somewhere, you know a lot of things are going on today.

As I type, we are launching cruise missiles into Baghdad. Good Morning, Iraq. Let me introduce you to a few dozen telephone poles full of explosives and that know where they’re going. Time to reap, dumbass.

Is it just me or is the CNN Breaking News Baghdad scene look like it has a big penis sticking up to the left? It may be an Arabian style building but by golly, it looks like a penis.

On the personal note, I got my orders today. Seems I’m going to training command at the end of the year. Quantico, here I come.

I did my taxes today, too. Say what you will about over-paying taxes so that the government can use my money to earn interest while I get none of it, but the amount (which rhymes with “thineteen nousand”) is nothing to whine about.

I got my teeth cleaned today. The dental tech, an older woman with a punishing flossing technique, was a bit chatty but likeable. She insists the dental office is possessed by the ghost of a young girl. She says that faucets just turn on by themselves and toilets flush on their own. Why a ghost would choose these things to do is beyond me but go figure; they’re ghosts.

In another case, a student was waiting for the elevator after an appointment and heard a girl laughing in the elevator. Assuming that people would be exiting the elevator when it opened, he stood aside but when the doors came open, no one was there. OK, after this story I was a little spooked because I had to take the same elevator down after my appointment. Nothing happened except I listened real closely. ANYONE could have scared the bejesus out of me at that moment.

Lastly, I sunk a one-handed, under-handed, half court shot at the beginning of basketball practice today. HEY, I HAVE 3 WITNESSES!!!!

All kidding aside, my thoughts today were dominated by the young American men and women who stand poised on the border of Iraq ready to face the most defining moment in their lives up to now. I fear only for chemical and biological attacks. I know they can fight but NBC warfare really worries me. We will win, no doubt, but at what cost? Any loss is too many but unfortunately necessary in the times we live in. I just pray the loss will be minimal so those men and women can come home soon where they belong. They have my respect and deserve all of ours. God Bless them all.


Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Today we had a talk with a one star General who will be my boss when I go to my next assignment. He is also the convening authority in our chain of command which means if we get in big trouble, he’s the man who would apply hammer to pee-pee.

The funniest part of his speech was when he was told he was going to the Middle East recently. He told his wife and she said “O.K.”

The next week, he told her their son was going over there. The General said, “She was not so ‘O.K.’ with that.”

That got a good laugh from the crowd.

Two things struck me about this:

1. Later, the General was told he was NOT going after all. This tells me that even a General gets jerked around sometimes.

2. How tremendously crushing it must be for a Marine General to be told to stay home and then have his own son be sent to fight. Unfathomable.


Monday, March 17, 2003

Tonight, I watched the President give Sadass Insane 48 hours to get out of Iraq. I welcome this. The decision has been made so the time for protesting is over. Until the decision is made, it’s an American right to voice your opinion. But when the gun has been cocked, as it was tonight, it’s time to shut your face and start supporting the men and women who are sitting in the hot desert, waiting to do what they are trained to do, free Iraq, and get home. The longer this is delayed, the longer they have to sit there and suffer while the world wrings its hands.

At this point, all the protesters are doing is helping the enemy. Put down your signs, accept the President’s decision, and thank God there are men and women willing to risk everything while you sit and whine about a decision that’s already been made. You don’t have to like it, but you damn well better support it.


Sunday, March 16, 2003

Yeah, it’s been awhile. And thanks to my ONE friend who bothered to email me with concern. I could have been rotting on the floor in my house or held captive by a group of savage beauty queens in thong bathing suits without anyone inquiring about my absence (hey, if I get to make up the scenario, I’ll do so to my advantage! What do you care, you didn’t even email your concern for my MIA status!)

I’ll sum up my absence by saying that last week was one hell of a ride. Long days and a nagging sickness kept me from BLOGing and for that matter, just about anything else that didn’t concern databases, 3-tier architecture, Dreamweaver, and Access.

Tonight, after spending 5 hours finishing up my financial class final paper, I treated myself to watching The Lion King (once again) with my daughter. Here are my thoughts on the subject:

- One of the best movies ever, animated or not
- Say what you will about Shaft but Rafiki is one bad mother!!! His martial arts scene fighting the hyenas is classic.
- I still get tingles during the following scenes:

  • When Simba’s reflection turns into Mufasa at the water hole
  • When Rafiki screams maniacally at Simba who is running away, back to the Pridelands.
  • When Scar slaps Simba’s mother and they show Simba jump up with lightning behind him.

And the grand-daddy of them all: when Simba ceremoniously marches up Pride Rock to declare his ascension as the rightful King. When Mufasa whispers “Remember” and Simba opens his mighty jaws, the roar that spills forth is only equaled in the movies with the Karate Kid’s crane kick and Rocky’s boxing victories.

On a funny side note, there is a not-so-subtle scene that cracks me up every time I see it. When Nalla and Simba meet up again and they are frolicking around, they take a playful tumble down the side of the hill and Simba lands on top of her. The next shot is looking down on Nalla’s face and she gets a look on her face that any adult male will instantly recognize. It all but screams, “Come and get it!” The next shot is of Simba looking down, recognizing the dinner bell, and giving this look that says “IT’S GO TIME!”

The animators, likely knowing they were sliding dangerously close to a PG rating, chose to have the scene cut to the two young lovers rubbing heads together. But we all know what happened. Let someone tell me there wasn’t that victory roar just a bit earlier in the movie. We know exactly when Simba became the king.


Monday, March 10, 2003

Tonight, I will dream of Dreamweaver. After 8 straight hours of working with it today, I have tattooed its basic functionality to the inside of my retinas and traded my sanity for 3-tier architecture basics. So rather than bore you with details I paid dearly for in my quest to rate the title of “webmaster” (I feel more like a “webslave”), I will attempt some other random thoughts for my BLOG.

I know, as a respite from my insane schedule lately, I picked up a book that I could curl up with before losing consciousness each night. I always thought this was a good plan in general but was less than consistent in action. I’m one of those people who start books quite regularly yet finish any very rarely.

The book I chose was On Writing by Stephen King. Actually I chose it during my trip to Hawaii 3 months ago so I guess I re-chose it. Because I harbor some deep fantasy to write a book someday, I thought learning from one of the masters was wise.

The beginning was an autobiography and as entertaining as it was easy to read. No stress, just sit back and soak it in. That was the beginning. The next part was a bit different.

Remember, I chose to grab a book for an escape from taskers that fill my every waking moment (and many sleeping ones, too).

After going over some of his pet peeves (many of which are frequent habits I have in my own writing) he had the nerve to give me an assignment! His point was that to write like he writes, you have to let the story flow out as it happens, without any notion of how it will end. In other words, he doesn’t believe in plot. Just think up characters and a strange situation, and see where it takes you. To practice this, he graciously provided a scenario to write about and wanted me to rewrite it to see where it leads me. Afterward, he encourages the reader to email the story to him where he may (or may not) read it.

The nerve! I picked up the book to get a break from hard work and writing is some of the hardest around! He really expects me to spend my valuable time sitting around writing something for him that he may or likely will NEVER read?! He really expects me to…

Yeah, I put it on my list. I’ll get to it soon.

I hate living with this compulsive personality sometimes! But as the tagline quote on my email states: “And you know you can’t become if you only say what you would’ve done…”

The bad news is that I can’t really go forward with the book until I complete this 6 page task. But I should probably get to that 8-12 page paper for my Financial Management class before I do the story thing, huh? That would be the smart thing to do, huh? The responsible thing?

Damn it, that’s what I thought you’d say!!!


Sunday, March 9, 2003

I am a sick man. I mean, in more ways than one.

For 4 days now, I’ve been the most miserable creature on Earth, trying to cope with a cold or flu thing. My wife, afflicted with the same sickness a week ago, bravely marched on and never missed a beat. Me? Not even comparable. Women, in these situations, have superhuman strength. Men, specifically ME, mutate into quivering puddles of putrid worthlessness (I mean, more than usual, of course).

The vicious circle in all of this is the sickness makes me not able to run and not running makes me feel worse (again, another facet of my “sickness”). I missed Thursday’s run and had to delay my Saturday run to Sunday due to my son’s early morning basketball game. All tolled, it was four days without running and I was staring down a 20 miler.

Here is where the third facet of my sickness rears its ugly head. I had been sick for 4 days during which time I had not run and now I was going out for 20 miles of running torture. Um, hello? I have seen the stupidity and it is me!

My brother once told me his philosophy on marathon running which went “I don’t even want to do something that feels GOOD for 4 hours!” Today, I must echo that sentiment. At about the 10 mile turn-around, I started questioning my sanity. I’ve sometimes started out feeling strong and been destroyed by the end of a run. Today, I started out weak and went for the longest training run of the season. But again, it had to be done. And it was done. I made it, not in record time, mind you, but it was completed. My split time was 1:35 and the return shamble was a whopping 1:56.

Through all the pain, I must admit that as far as the sickness goes, the only time that I feel “not sick” is when I’m actually running. That was the case today because before: felt like hell. During, only the run was kicking my buttocks. After, endorphins helped out but when they wore off, I felt like someone who ran 20 miles while sick should feel: like a bucket of smashed buttholes.

Suffice it to say that I was took sluggishness to a whole new level today after the run. I had to keep checking my pulse just to make sure. And to my angelic wife, I must give a tip of the hat for taking care of me, putting up with my lack of doing anything worthwhile today, and foraging through her sickness with the grace and courage I currently do not posses.

I’m now going to dissolve two Alka-Seltzer Cold and Flu tablets in a small glass of water, crawl into my bed, and quietly whimper until the sandman cometh.


Saturday, March 8, 2003

I have been remiss in keeping my dog clean. Every few weeks when the mutt starts to get ripe, I manage to corral him into the tub (not without more that a bit of head hanging and cowering to the nether-regions of the house) for a good old-fashioned wrestling match. The only reason my wife allows this canine circus act is our agreement that I scrub the tub afterwards – a chore she hates to the very depths of Hell.

Call it being busy, being distracted, or, more accurately, being lazy, but this little show had been delayed for about a month. What’s worse is that I was also a week past due in applying the Advantage medicine that keeps ticks and fleas off old Buster. The once a month application was a bit behind schedule and he had not had the pleasure of being called “greasy grimy gopher guts and marinated monkey butts” by my wife (her little ditty about the oily liquid applied to his fur. Yeah, she’s bonkers.).

So today when I was busily sitting around on my couch, Carrie starts petting Buster and suddenly exclaims “What is THAT?!” By the way, that’s something you usually don’t want to hear from your wife when petting the dog. As she pointed out a spot on his neck, I pulled the fur back a little to see a rounded, grey balloon-like bubble the size of a lima bean sticking straight out. My obvious reaction was “What the HELL is THAT?!” It looked kind of like a big mole or something. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good because my first thoughts were that there was something seriously wrong with Buster and/or the vet bills were about to skyrocket.

What most of you have probably guessed by now, I did not know: it was a bloated tick. But what I did know is that the little parasite was coming out no matter what it was. Grabbing the needle-nose pliers (why not?), I got him into the bathroom and proceeded to do what I had to do. I was a bit concerned that it may be a part of his skin and that I was pulling off some kind of boil or mole. But Carrie, who was helping calm the beast, pointed out it wouldn’t grow over night like that. So with reckless abandon, I grabbed the little bastard and pulled. After a couple of tries, I got it and it “popped” off. What I saw was quite disgusting; a collapsed body with blood trickling out the end with little legs sticking out. I then realized it was a tick and started to wonder if I had gotten it all out. After going in a couple of times with some tweezers, I realized I had removed all I was going to get (and that Buster was going to let me).

Once again, the Internet came to the rescue to show me what to do. The old wives’ tale about dogs dying if the head of a tick was left inside was untrue. The site said “If you are unable to remove the entire head, don’t fret. This is not life threatening. Your pet’s immune system will try to dislodge the head by creating a site of infection or even a small abscess.” Neither was very comforting but it said it wasn’t life threatening. Easyfor the Internet to say, thinks Buster. (actually, the only “thoughts” occupying Buster’s head likely have to do with food and his private areas.)

A couple things I learned from this little experience:

1. Ticks are really bastard little creatures
2. Ticks are really nasty when you yank them out
3. Ticks can blow up to the size of lima beans when they’re feasting on animal blood (see #2)
4. I am capable of an immense amount of guilt for neglecting the care of my dog.
5. Dogs are really forgiving and will still lick your face after you painfully remove blood-sucking creatures from their necks which were only there because you were too lazy to apply the medicine once a month to prevent the situation.

Out of sheer guilt, I got off my butt and gave Buster a bath, even in my cold and/or flu-ravaged state. All is well now and I’ve received the requisite forgiveness from Buster.

BTW, I didn’t scrub the bath tub. I’m a bad man.


Wednesday, March 5, 2003

If you are a parent, there are things you are going to say. The one thing your should NEVER say is “I’ll never say that when I’m a parent.” You will.

Yesterday, my patience gave way after hours of studying and the kids were bickering about whose turn it was to quote their favorite Sponge Bob episode (you know, important stuff) and I succumbed to a parental staple.

“Don’t make me come in here!!!”

As it came out of my mouth, I gasped and looked around to find which one of my parents had snuck in the room to make that announcement. Please tell me I DIDN’T say that line. I think my hip spontaneously exploded when I said it, too.

Others you should try to avoid (although you will not):

“Don’t make me pull over!”
“When I was your age…”
“Do you want Daddy to get involved in this?”
“No, we’re not there yet.”
“Did you brush your teeth this morning?”
“Where’s your mother?”
“I’m not asking, I’m TELLING!”
“Because God made it that way” and closely related is,
“Because I said so!”
"QUIET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

“Why are you not asleep yet?”

"YOU stop whining and YOU stop teasing!"

There are hundreds more but the most important is one that should be said every day, many times. I find it unimaginable that some men say their father never said it once out loud, thinking it was unmanly.

Rubbish.

I tell my kids every day “I love you.” And I mean it.


Tuesday, March 4, 2003

When I was in 29 Palms, I ran my long runs every weekend just as I do here in Monterey. But in all that time (3 years) I only had to “pull over” two times to make things right in the cellar, if you know what I mean. I wore this fact as a badge of honor (kinda a sick mental image, don’t ya think?). It wasn’t because there was all of ONE tree along the 4 mile road I ran nor was it because I had an aversion to popping a squat in the desert. It was simply because I just never had to go. I heard about people who had the habit but the concept was foreign to me.

I continued this streak (poor choice of words, I know) until a few months ago and now, I can’t go for a Saturday run without a baggie of TP safely tucked in my running bag. I do not question this fact, but chalk it up to life changes. Who knows. Life goes on and I assume there are worse changes to come anyway.

Why do I bring up this subject unfit for polite company? Well, I’ve been fortunate enough to find a port-a-john at the 5 mile mark of my current Saturday route. What makes this strange is that it’s in the middle of nowhere, tucked on the edge of an abandoned Army camp way back in the woods of Fort Ord. Even stranger, it gets serviced every Tuesday, according to the little sign off sheet inside. There are a lot of bicycle races in the area so maybe that’s the reason. Whatever it is, it’s a blue diamond in the Ord rough for this running hombre.

Now my little ritual includes hitting the five mile mark and taking a bit of a break. This may be a bit Pavlovian, similar to my SHITCON ratings, but it’s a huge upgrade from leaning against a tree while standing in a field of poison oak (the other alternative all along the route).

While sitting there last week, trying to contemplate my luck at getting to use a rather clean bathroom in the middle of nowhere, I noticed a sign on the inside wall that read “Do Not Use For Drinking Water.” Now I’ll point out that this little facility did not have a makeshift sink like some of the higher end models do. It was simply a crapper with a pee funnel on one side. So why the sign? Has this become a problem? Some deranged idiot would have to consciously choose to somehow wiggle his arm, shoulder deep, through the toilet seat and scoop out the blue chemicals if he wanted to fill his water bottle.

I say that if you are that stupid, drink all the blue liquid you can stomach. You get your poisoning on, dude!

My other thought was that if someone was either stupid enough to do this, stupid enough to even consider this, do you think a simple sign would deter his efforts? I mean if the lurching, convulsing seizures resulting in chemical ingestion is not enough of a hint…

Then again, imbecility is not easily thwarted. Just watch “You Gotta See This.”


Monday, March 3, 2003

I get what I deserve when I watch TV but that doesn’t stop me from getting infuriated at commercials that assume galactic imbecility on my part.

Take for example a commercial I saw hocking posterpedic mattresses. It’s bad enough that they show the “regular” mattress scenario that’s in black and white with some ugly slob tossing and turning with an exaggerated, pissed off look on his face (much like mine when I’m watching this). But then they show a beautiful woman in full vibrant color serenely enjoying a comfortable sleep in the posterpedic (missing the covers, amazingly enough) while harp music plays in the background. Where'd the fat guy go?

This I can take. But where I drew the line was the claim that the mattress was made with “Space Technology.” What?!! You actually want me to believe that this mattress is superior because it was made with technology having to do with space? Really? You're going with that, are ya?

Let me break it down for you. First, I’m not a scientist, but the last time I checked, everything in space orbit is in freefall which means there appears to be no gravity acting upon anything (notice I did not say “there is no gravity”? There is, but the freefall makes it appear that… never mind. If you don’t understand, email me). Second, there is no need for thick mattresses. When astronauts want to sleep, they just strap themselves in (as to not bounce around the capsule while sleeping). Yes, they likely have a thin pad but no mattress. What for?

Therefore to claim that this posterpedic mattress is the one used by astronauts (not said but implied and hopefully swallowed by the gullible consumer) is an insult to anyone with the slightest hint of common sense. By adding in the claim that your product benefits from “space technology” and this somehow puts it ahead of the competition is a ploy that went out in the 60’s when space travel was jumping out of the science fiction stories and onto the evening news.

I rant and rant but I have no doubt that the phones rang off the hook at the posterpedic call center. “Yeah, please send me that space technology mattress the astronauts use. It MUST be the best!”

And make sure you call in the next ten minutes to get the space pillow. Nothing worse than having nowhere to place your weightless head when it’s floating there in space. Just strap the pillow it so both of them can float about together. Morons.


Sunday, March 2, 2003

I read an article about the “latest illicit drug cocktail,” or “polydrug”, called Sextacy. It’s a combination of, and I’m not making this up, Viagra and Ecstasy. I guess this is a big problem because people are combining these drugs, obviously unscientifically, and getting off on the combined effects that could be dangerous to their health and their “significant other’s” recovery time.

The article says that most users (99%) are gay which to me, means that encountering a user would be the worst of situations: a love-sick, overly affectionate gay man with an insatiable erection. I guess there is a worse scenario if you add PCP to the mix so he’d have super-strength. Yikes.

The other names it goes by are “Trail Mix” or “Hammerheading,” that last one I assume evolved from the ability of the user to um, perform, for drug-extended period of times.

But before you start thinking it’s a victimless crime, the most humorous quote in the article comes from a substance abuse officer who states that men who use Viagra and don’t need it are susceptible to a “very painful, unpleasant erection that won’t go away for up to four hours.”

Good gracious! Four hours?! It kind of changes the old cliché of “This is your ( ). This is your ( ) on drugs. Any questions?”

Yeah, has it been four hours yet?!?!!?


Email -- jason@grose.us
Web -- http://www.grose.us/