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Jason Grose's BLOG

April 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, April 28, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“ACCEPT THAT SOME DAYS YOU ARE THE PIGEON; SOMEDAYS YOU ARE THE STATUE.”
- UNKNOWN

I know I’ve been slacking on the BLOG but give me a break, I’m recovering from the lunacy of running 26.2 miles. Yes, I completed the 2003 Big Sur International Marathon on Sunday and feel like I’ve been put through a blender. A rusty one.

I don’t have very many pics (only the ones my family took at the end) but go here to see how I did. There will be more pics once I get the cheap-o disposable camera developed and I nag my friends to develop their pics. Meanwhile, I’m finishing up the stories (hence the BLOG dry spell) and preparing for Saturday when I’ll run the Lone Pine Wild Wild West Marathon. God help me.


Thurday, April 24, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“When I'm feeling down, I like to whistle. It makes the neighbor's dog run to the end of his chain and gag himself.”
- Jack Handy

My dog, Buster is a disgusting animal. I love the little knucklehead but the fact remains; Buster is pig-butt nasty sometimes.

Yesterday was my last training run before the Big Sur Marathon coming up on Sunday. This week is just a maintenance week and I was only slated for seven total miles, four of them on this final run. Because of the short distance, I decided to treat Buster and bring him along despite my initial reluctance because he was recently washed (an event worthy of its own BLOG entry). But I thought “What the Hell” and plus, he gets so excited when he realizes he’s going with. The dumb animal loses what little mind he has and the sheer joy he displays is almost worth the hassle of taking the crazy little bastard. ALMOST!

I put the collar on him after getting him to sit ("Sit, Buster. No, sit. Sit Buster. Sit boy. Sit. Sit. Sit Buster..."). Of course he’s a bundle of quivering excitement by this point and can barely contain himself. Then I attach the leash and no matter how many times we go thorough this little routine, he instantly bites the leash which, every time, results in me screaming at him “NO BITES!!” This protocol is repeated every single time. Stupid mutt!

At first, Buster is a tugboat and strains the extension of the leash. Then he will stop suddenly and I will normally stumble over him. Then he looks at ME like I’m harassing HIM. Cat on the horizon? Instant dislocated shoulder as he bolts. All this repeats itself through a dozen iterations until we get about ¾ mile on the route where we leave the housing area and get out into the woods. Then I let him go to discover the wild regions of Fort Ord.

Ford Ord is an abandoned Army base with hundreds of square miles of training areas connected by perfectly good paved roads. Because the base is closed and to prevent the need to maintain the roads, vehicles are not allowed on the endless miles of road to these distant training areas. The result is a runner’s dream; miles of paved roads through woods without any cars. It’s also perfect for dog owners except for those dogs who decide the call of the wild is a bit too appealing. There are mountain lions and plenty of deer out there but for the most part, it’s a safe wonderland for the canine persuasion.

This particular run, which I was trying to savor and reminisce about the hundreds of training miles I’d put in to prepare for Sunday, Buster was behaving better than usual. I had an extra distraction of trying my new gators (sock-like wraps around my ankles intended to keep rocks and sand out of my shoes). The result was two little ovens on my feet that kept slipping above my shoe line thus providing no protection. (They are going back tomorrow. I tried but they’re just not for me).

Back to Buster; we got to the two mile mark where I decided to walk a bit. After all, this was just a stretch run intended to get me out there but not wear me down. It also gave Buster a chance to wander around without me worrying about him keeping up with me. We turned in on a side path and I walked for about 5 minutes while Buster frolicked like dumb dogs tend to do.

As I hit the turnaround point, I kept an eye out for Buster and was pretending I was alone and tried to capture the feeling of coming upon a large animal (Buster is about the same size as a mountain lion). I saw a flash of tan fur about 20 feet ahead, 5 feet off the path. In case you’re wondering, I succeeded in getting that little jolt of adrenaline I was looking for when you realize you are not alone way out in the wild. I know, but the long-distance runner's mind has to cope somehow.

As I got closer, I saw four paws in the air, then disappear. I heard grunting and a bit of thrashing around. I wondered what the hell he was doing and when I got close enough, I realized he had found something he liked and was flailing around in it much like a cat does with catnip. He rolled, mashed his face in the ground, and basically had a doggie-orgasm over whatever he had just discovered.

One step closer, I noticed that the focus of interest was dark and the thought hit me that I’d have to wash him because he was getting filthy. The next moment was one of the most disgusting realizations I had ever made.

The best description of what I saw is what I concluded was the vomited internal remains of a small animal. I would say it was “fresh” but only in the sense that whatever it was, it was still moist. The truth of the matter is that it was wet, squishy, and more than a little ripe. Yes, semi-rotted internal organ animal vomitus. And my confoundingly stupid dog was wallowing in it.

I yelled at him through dry heaves because he stuck like raw hell. But he didn’t seem to care. Stupid dog!

We ran the rest of the way home and I took him straight to the shower. My poor wife came out of the back room and was greeted by Buster’s newly discovered fragrance. “What the hell!!?” was her initial reaction as I explained the situation.

Old Buster got his second bath in as many weeks and he was none too happy about it. I scrubbed him like a prisoner with lice, rinsed him, and repeated (just like the bottle recommends). The smell was of Biblical proportions when added to water and an enclosed area. I scrubbed the dumb canine until my fingers were sore.

Later that night, we noticed that his neck still had the faint hint of Eau de Carrion so we got washcloths and did spot scrubbings. Again, a dog far from his happy place.

All this time, Buster looked at us once again like we were harassing him. I am absolutely positive he made no association between his little gore slathering and our continuing perceived persecution. Thus ended my training for the 2003 Big Sur Marathon.


Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“THE PASSIVE VOICE IS TO BE AVOIDED.”
- Unknown

I had no time to write a BLOG today because I'm trying to catch up on my marathon stories from last year (this year's races start on Sunday). But not to gyp you out of an entry, here is one of the stories (and the best) that have patiently waited a full year to be written. It happened during the 50 mile endurance run last year:


The Snake Story

Along about mile 40, I was bonking. Bonking is a term that endurance participants use that means that your body, and mind soon to follow, starts to break down. In other words, you start losing it physically and mentally. At mile 40, I was a stumbling example of such a state (“Look, kids, that shell of a man is bonking!”)

It started with a stomach ache that quickly turned to a cramp, and by “cramp” I really mean a jagged hack saw straight into the gut. As I bent at a 90 degree angle, my legs decided it was a good time to join the chorus. They started twitching (“Hey Jason, down here. How do you feel about a little muscle seizure?”) and before long (about 4 seconds), the dizziness set in. The net effect was that I was scared silly. I had gone 40 miles and was pressed for time. If I went down now, it was all for nothing. Secondary to the dishonor of going down was the realization that I was in the middle of nowhere with no one around. I’d likely be there until dark before anyone missed me. Not a great moment in the life of Jason.

My vision tunnel started closing, getting smaller with each rhythmic heartbeat. When it closed, I knew it was quite literally “lights out” for me so with all the will I had not squandered, I concentrated on staying conscious. At the last moment, with a pinprick of light left, the tunnel reversed its progression and started widening. I would live to see another minute.

As I recovered from this and in the heat of success, one sudden, encompassing thought entered my head: I have to take another dump. And NOW! (such is life in the world of endurance lunacy).

I trotted off the side of the path and searched out an accommodating facility. I was in an open field of sage brush and sand so it came in handy that this kind of race strips you of all your pride when it comes to baring what God gave you. I wandered here and there until, to my utter disbelief, I came across a perfectly formed natural toilet.

This boulder was about knee-high, flat on top, and split down the middle in an inverted V-shape. About 3 inches into this widening crack was a smaller crack that led into the heart of the boulder. I couldn’t believe my eyes; a natural-formed commode in the middle of nowhere (yes, I did consider the possibility of hallucination but thought, so be it. Whatever it was, it was about to be shat upon.)

I didn’t have time to ponder over my luck and barely stripped my gear in time to tear down my racing shorts and point the business end at the boulder. I will spare you the gory details but imagine a steamroller vs. a bottle of Hershey’s Syrup. Now turn the intensity knob three full rotations. You get the idea.

As though this confession is not embarrassing enough, the rest of the story is impossible to explain without admitting another detail that I would normally exclude. But for the sake of continuity, let’s say I might have somehow caught a peek of my work. I don’t know how it happened but I was NOT admiring my work. Can we move on now?

When you spend an entire day in the middle of the California desert, you become accustomed to seeing the same natural colors. Therefore, it seemed strange to see a bright florescent orange (something you don’t normally see in a desert) down in the second boulder crack. My first thought was “How could a piece of litter get all the way out here and all the way down there?”

I just had to get a closer peek, despite the toxic environment of my own making. Upon further inspection (a half an inch closer), the true identity of the mystery appeared before my eyes much like those Magic Eye posters come to life when you finally “get it.”

A moment earlier, my ass had been mere inches away from a coiled up, very poisonous King Snake.

“What if” point of view: My body was broken down, I had just almost fainted, I was dehydrated, and I was cramping all over. After barely making it to the Rock and spewing forth sweet relief, what if my exposed anus was viciously attacked by a poisonous snake? IF I lived to tell about it, what would I tell? How would I tell everyone who asked (after a period of convalescence) “How did the ultra-marathon go?” I shudder to think what COULD have happened but my simple answer would have just needed to be “A real pain in the ASP.”

Snake’s Point of View: very ugly if you take the title literally. Here was Sly the Snake just chillin’ in his rock, minding his own business. Suddenly he hears some rustling and then the sun disappears and is replaced with a full moon. Just as he’s wondering what to do (Attack? Bolt? Wait and see?), a jet of excrement spurts forth violently and in one unforgettable moment (even for a snake), he is Sly the Shit-Covered Snake. What does he tell his friends? How does he clean up? How does he align this in his mind with anything he has ever experienced?

For a moment, I just stood there as these thoughts raced through my head. No way had I just released my churned bowels on a poisonous desert snake and lived to tell about it. From that moment on, the rest of the race seemed trivial. Still, to this day, I wonder what ever happened to that poor snake. Whatever the outcome, I bet he's the local advocate for avoiding that particular boulder for the rest of his days.


(Rather than dropping one monster BLOG today, I wrote a 4-day catharsis and will break it up accordingly. Unlike the normal entries, they are in time order from top to bottom. Tomorrow, I’ll resume the normal format.)

If you know me and don’t like me or if you DON’T know me and don’t like me, read on. This is a very special BLOG entry that you will deeply enjoy.

I know I’ve been ignoring the BLOG (not that I got any complaints! Anyone out there?). I let a few of life’s minor setbacks explode into a supernova of despair, frustration, anger, and all-around “sucks to be me.” Here is the timeline:

Friday, April 18, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“Anger is a brief madness.”
- Horace, 20 B.C.

I tried to install software that was supposed to play DVDs on my computer (I don’t play them but becauseI'm a moron, I felt it necessary to have the ABILITY). The first software I tried came with the high speed video card I bought. I might as well have opened the computer and crapped inside. Install, no workie, reinstall, no workie, uninstall and reinstall, still no workie. Finally I found another disk that came with the card which had a PowerDVD program. This, I’m proud to announce, worked as advertised and after all that, I can now continue to never play a DVD movie on my computer. But I have the ability.

That night, I took my poor wife to dinner where I sulked.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“IT SHOULDN'T BE LIKE THIS!!!!”
- Capt Grose

I spent the day trying to hook up hardware and software to my computer which would enable me to transfer my VHS home movies to digital form. After a day of fiddling with the VCR, miles of cables, and flakey software, I was left with the ability to see the movies but not hear them. So I compensated by yelling a lot.

I tried everything I knew to include replacing the default Windows XP drivers with the drivers on the disk. No workie. I thought, hey, maybe they have even NEWER drivers on the website. 3 hours of downloading later, I learned that yes, indeed, they had newer drivers and also that they make no difference in my sound problem. I updated the DirectX (something I noticed in many of the fixes for known problems on their website, none of which addressed my particular conundrum). Guess what… no help. (pause for your shock to dissipate….)

I finally had to call UNCLE and live with the fact that I could not make this happen (a very bitter pill) until I got help … someday (A.K.A., never).

After admitting defeat and because I’m as domesticated as a lap dog, I was herded to the TV to watch a movie with the missus. To my surprise, it was a very good movie; Red Dragon. I’ll write about it on my movie review page when I get caught up.

Later that night, it was the annual duty of hiding 80 plastic Easter eggs around the house for an Easter morning hunt starring the kids. I’ve come to realize that there are only so many places you can hide a small plastic egg and at 0200 in the morning, the care factor is measures in nanometers. Also, an Easter bag hidden in the kitchen trash between the container and the plastic lining will not be found.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“Life is like a box of chocolates and I keep getting the dog turd with piss coating and diarrhea filling.
- Capt Grose

Easter started somewhat well despite my funk about the prior two days of computer woes. I went to church (if you get there late, you’re sitting on a fold out chair in the back!). When we got home, we had to pretend we weren’t in a fight (my mood had taken its toll on the wife) for the kids' sake. The kids, blissfully ignorant, were only interested in their hunt and for the next hour, we watched them detonate with ecstasy every time they found an fake egg.

My mood lightened as the day went on and after a huge turkey brunch (and the requisite nap), I decided it was time to get on my newly tuned-up motorcycle and go check out the Big Sur Marathon course I’d be running in a week. I donned all the required gear and was sweating profusely by the time I got on the road. I figured I’d fill the gas tank up about 5 miles down the road but the bike had other ideas. About 2 miles down the road, on the onramp to the highway, the bike decided it wanted to stop. It may have run out of gas, I’m not sure, but when I switched to the reserve tank, I realized the battery (which I had charged just enough to get to the bike shop) had not been charged during the tune up. Therefore, I was stuck on an onramp with a dead bike and no phone. I was really trying not to go nuclear at this point.

As I hiked back to civilization in my layers of clothing, the sweat that trickled into my eye reminded me how lovely this weekend was rounding out. When I got to a pay phone, I called home only to realize my wife was talking on the phone. Never mind that pesky call waiting; she had important things to discuss. So I walked the rest of the way home to find her on the phone. I was not happy. We’ll just skip ahead at this point with a very irate wife and the remnants of a screen door in my wake as I left to get the dead battery.

I brought the battery home and put it on the charger, hoping I wouldn’t get a ticket. At this point, I’d be almost disappointed if it WASN’T there. No shock would cross my face if I went back and the bike was gone, in a twisted heap, plastered with tickets, or destroyed before my very eyes by an errant meteor. It was just that kind of day.

When I got home and tried to recover, my son came to me and told me the computer was acting funny. He was trying to load a game (Roller Coaster Tycoon 2) and it froze up. This dumb game has always been a little suspect because it always rearranges my icons and “pops” the screen like a DOS-based game. I didn’t know if it had anything to do with the trouble, but he was as good a person to blame as any (not really, I assured him he was not to blame).

When I saw that it was frozen (yes, my brand new, state of the art $1300 machine) I performed an intricate diagnostic protocol. I turned it off and rebooted.

When it came back, many of the icons on my desktop were the plain-jane “I don’t know what this is” icons and some of the icons showed up normal (My Computer, My Network Places, Adobe Acrobat, Barbie's Playhouse ... oops).

Some of the other quirks were as follows:

The mouse was operational and the task bar worked, sometimes. The side bar (My Computer) popped out from the right side when you ran the mouse to the right (normal) but when I clicked on an icon, it gave me the hourglass and then just sat there like I was the stupid one. I could get to the control panel but if I clicked anything, it just seems to do nothing. The screen saver (Webshots) rotated backgrounds like normal. Everything I described happened in Safe Mode, too. It was safely f$%^ing up. All of these symptoms were pieces to a puzzle I couldn’t solve and that made me more irate by the minute.

Wondering what I had done to God and/or Humanity to rate such a day, I took the computer apart and reseated everything. I unconnected and reconnected everything. Nothing helped. I unplugged the network cable, no difference. Not even a bunch of yelling helped and I couldn’t understand why. But I think the dog will need psychological counseling. I’ll likely be right next to him.

I thought about removing all the video and DVD programs I installed the day before but I couldn’t get that far before it froze on me. I also considered “rolling back” to the last operational setup but same problem; couldn’t get that far. The next step was a voodoo priestess but none of them work on Easter so that was out.

If the thing was hard down and just didn’t work, I could accept that it was broke and go on with my life. But things weren’t that simple. It offered an ever-diminishing ray of light that I just couldn’t ignore until every shred of humanity was stripped from my soul.

During one of the thousand reboots I tried, things seemed to get back to normal for a moment but when I started Outlook, it couldn’t find my PST file. I looked in My Computer and discovered that the system didn’t see the entire E drive (the mammoth 200 GB Western Digital). I then restarted the computer and things were back to the FUBARed state described above. This only happened once but it prevented me from giving up, much to my dismay (as well as the dog).

The next time I rebooted, it came up with the “Found New Hardware” wizard that stated: "This wizard will help you install the software for PCI Multiport Serial Controller…” I didn’t know if this was the USB expander card or the IDE interface card for the large hard drive. I thought maybe I have to install this and it would fix the hard drive problem which might fix the entire problem. Yeah, and while we’re fantasizing, let’s say that would fix my sound/video problem and hell, why not; the bike as well.

If there is a silver lining to this story thusfar, it’s that I went back to my bike with a semi-charged battery to find that it was unmolested. I threw the battery in, filled it with some gas, and sped home. Why I was not pulled over for no gloves and a forgotten wallet is beyond explanation.

To recap my situation at that point (which I did very loudly to the chagrin of Buster, once again), my video editing investment did not work. My brand new $1300 computer didn’t work. My $450 tune up to my bike bought me a 4 minute ride (plus a 45 minute hump) and a stranded bike. It was late. I was pissed. My family was miserable. So I was forced to do the ultimate recovery scheme. Yes, I pulled out Forrest Gump and stayed up to the wee hours of the morning watching it. I learned that life is like a box of chocolates and I keep getting the dog turd with piss coating and diarrhea filling.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“Fire is the test of gold, adversity of strong men.”
- Seneca, 1st Century A.D.

Like a teenager trying to undue his date’s bra for the first time, I fumbled upon the problem after an restless night’s toss-fest. My brand new Western Digital 200 GB hard drive had crapped the bed on me after only two weeks of faithful service. It was my data drive so my main drive (120 GB) was unaffected. My outlook on life, on the other hand, was not as lucky.

For the rest of the day I desperately tried to salvage any info I could get. All I saved were my MP3s that I transferred over my network (but I had them backed up so all it saved me was loading the disks again). What I lost was about 2 weeks worth of sent mail and whatever was in my Inbox (please send again if I didn’t answer). Plus, I lost a couple of minor updates to my webpage I hadn’t transferred. Other than that, all I had on there was all of my program disks backed up. It was a pity to lose them but it was just extra backup.

That night we had dinner guests and I had to act like a human being again. It was actually a nice dinner and I had a good time. A friend of mine and his girl were in town and he was shipping off to the Middle East in a few days so it was a traditional last chance evening to be with friends before shipping out. But immediately upon their departure, I turned back to Hyde and picked up where I left off.

The night ended very unceremoniously when I removed the hard drive and got the computer fully operational with only the one main drive. All that I had to do was put the sides on (arguably the easiest step of a maintenance procedure) and call it a day. A very shitty day but a day nonetheless. But obviously my debt to God and Humanity was not paid in full because it the course of trying to put the sides on, it became harder that what it should have been with the cables connected. With more than a little pissiness, I unhooked the cables (once again) just to get the sides screwed in. After wrestling with it for too long, I got the sides secured and put the cables back on. The last cable was the video cable which had an adapter so my VGA monitor could plug into the DV card slot of the high speed (and useless) advanced video card.

The damn thing would not go in. Then it got offset and stuck. After four days of this shit, I just snapped. In a blind rage, I yanked it forcefully and the adapter fell apart. Now, the monitor was inop until I got an adapter. I was livid.

I sat in my chair with that broken adapter in my hand for almost an hour, so angry I was paralyzed. I did nothing but think. Was this worth it? Was I just not cut out to work with computers? Should I be like Ted Kysyzski and adopt Ludite beliefs? (no, I didn’t consider becoming a terrorist!). I really tried to take inventory on my abilities, temperament, and options. I had been a lunatic for 4 days and for what? I think I was most angry at myself and inability to solve the problems. Then the inability to maintain temper fed on itself as it snowballed out of control.

Finally, I lumbered to bed, willing this horrid day out of existance and praying for a better replacement.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“INSIDE EVERY PROBLEM; THERE IS ANOTHER ONE WAITING TO GET OUT.”
- Unknown

Still feeling down, I awoke and headed to the computer store to buy a replacement adaptor. My little adaptor tantrum cost me $20 but I got it home and it worked.

Later, I called Frys and was dismayed at their lack of customer services. They only had a 15 day return policy and it had been 17 days. The help desk (a very loose term as far as I'm concerned) told me that the manager could override that and to come in with the drive. I explained I lived an hour away and so if she’d phone transfer me to the manager, I’d appreciate it. She said the managers don’t talk to people on the phone and I’d have to come in. I explained that I live an hour away and I wasn’t about to drive two hours round trip just on the off chance that a manager, who wouldn’t talk on the phone, would MAYBE let me slide two days and exchange my drive. Plus, since I didn’t have the box anymore, my refund/exchange would be charged a fee. Thanks for the computer deals but Fry’s, you can kiss my ass.

I then called Western Digital and they came through by sending me a replacement after which I send the defective drive back. My only complaint here was that I had to pay the shipping costs for the defective part despite having paid for a defective drive, losing many hours of time and effort, and terrorizing my poor dog in the process. But to echo what you probably just said and what they thought: that was my problem, not theirs.

When my wife thought it was safe to talk to me again, she tried to ask what was wrong, other than the obvious . She pointed out that my reactions were uncharacteristically extreme (not uncharacteristically, mind you, just more extreme). On top of all I’ve explained, I knew in the back of my mind what magnified my emotions. I’m almost embarrassed to mention it but it really had a factor on the stress-camp I’ve been attending.

In 5 days, I’m running in the first of three marathons, all taking place within a month. I’ve been training for a year and now the time if coming where I must perform. Enter, the magnifying glass.

I have to go now; my poor dog is having a neurotic seizure and my wife is ready to cram an entire computer up my can.


(Rather than dropping one monster BLOG today, I wrote a 4-day catharsis and broke it up accordingly. Unlike the normal entries, they are in time order from top to bottom. So if you haven't read it, start ABOVE at the Friday, April 18th entry.)


Friday, April 18, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“Anger is a brief madness.”
- Horace, 20 B.C.

I’ve been told that unlike wine, bad news does not get better with age. I learned that in spades today when I went to pick up my motorcycle.

I should have known not to go when I was in a bad mood but they had called me a few days ago telling me it was ready. So after wrestling with some DVDS software I was attempting to fix on my computer, I could put it off no more. I went to see the damage.

It’s my own damned fault. I have a 2001 Suzuki GS500E and it’s been known to sit in my garage for months at a stretch without a ride. I was too cheap to buy a cover so every day, my poor bike suffered through the salty dew of Monterey mornings. I finally broke down and decided to take it in for a clean up. What I didn’t expect was that it was my wallet that got cleaned.

1st phone call: “Yeah, we checked it out and took it for a ride. Runs a little rough. We have an hour invested already so we’re gonna give it a basic clean up and see if cleaning the carb helps.” I made a mental note that they charge $70 per hour. Cha-ching!

2nd phone call: “We got it cleaned but the throttle still sticks a bit and the valves are super tight and might need adjustment. That will take another hour but I’ll split that with you since we got 3 hours in it already.” (sound of record scratching in my head.)

3rd phone call: "Um, we ran out of imaginary lies and since we know we have your testicles in a stainless steel walnut cracker, we just thought we'd call and let you know that we're taking the rest of the day off, riding your bike for an all-nighter to Tijuana, and will charge you for the prostitutes we will be enjoying." (OK, maybe they didn't make that last phone call).

But what could I do? I had no argument, I let the poor thing sit there and I’m lucky it ran at all. I’m still paying for it and let it dilapidate in front of my eyes. My guilt was their profit.

As I walked in, I knew it was a bad combination: I was in a pissed off mood since the computer kept choking on me (“You’d think for $1300 bucks, I could run a DVD without my system freezing!!” screamed Jason at his seemingly disinterested monitor) and I knew I didn’t want to hear what the cost was going to be for the bike. I was hoping not to headline on the next Cops episode.

The pain struck me between the horns to the tune of $460. At the beginning, I was looking at about $200, MAYBE! To be fair, I did get a $70 cover to protect my investment but still that left 4.5 hours of labor and the rest in parts (of which I expected to find “anal probe” on the list).

I was so pissed that all I wanted to do is get my bike and go. My anger was not as much as the fleecing I took but the fact that I let the bike go which put me in a situation where I’d have to pay these freakin’ bandits to make things right.

I will be riding more in the future and taking care of my born-again baby. THAT’LL shown them. Bastards.

On a good note, I took my wife out to a nice steak and rib dinner. It was our monthly date night and we had a gift certificate from the kids we coached in basketball so it somewhat offset the hemorrhaging of money today. I was still in a funk upon arrival but after a Coors Light and an artery clogging cubic butt-ton of animal flesh, things settled back to normal. A trip to the local Borders (yes, I’m a boring bibliophile at heart) brought up the end of the evening and now that I’ve done my mental vomit on this entry, I can dwell on the truly wonderful life I have.

Now all I have to think about is:

- I’m only on page 190 of an 800-page book I want to find time to read (About Face by Col David Hackworth)
- write a short story as dictated by Stephen King’s On Writing book.
- get all my home movies on CD with the new hardware/software I bought
- get my weekend run in
- read the dozen back issues of the only two magazines I subscribe to (Runner’s World and Smart Computing).
- Work on my Flash cartoons
- watch an Oscar movie
- Finish my movie reviews
- Update my webpage
- Write two letters that have been pending for weeks
- take my little girl for a requested motorcycle ride
- wash the dog
- call my brother
- burn some school back up files on CD for a friend
- Answer any email I get (yes, I’m still hovering at my “zero-pending” INBOX status!!!)

I guess I should also do some school work. Yeah, I probably need to work that into my schedule. Goes with the “graduate student” thing, I suppose.


Thursday, April 17, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“I plan on living forever. So far, so good..”
- Unkown

Since we are moving soon to Quantico and we are pretty confident that we will be there for a full 4 years to round out my career, my wife and I decided that we should buy a house. Sounds simple enough, right? After looking into it today, I considered tackling a less complicated venture. I have it narrowed down between mapping the unicorn genome and building a holodeck out of spare dishwasher parts.

In my one-day research attempt, I concluded that the easiest route would be to get a realtor and let them take care of the details. Easiest? Yes. Most economical? Not by a few dozen light-years. In my experience (a phrase no junior Officer should ever utter), using a realtor is akin to the sound of a bar of Dial hitting the shower floor in the local Gray Bar Hotel. When I had to sell my condo (a very bad investment for a sergeant going through college), I had to take out a $5000 loan (intended to get my Officer uniforms) just to pay the realtor fee after the sale. Needless to say they will never find the body (OK, but that’s how I felt at the time).

This morning, my idea started out as buying a brand new home built to my specifications (I know this sounds ambitious but a friend of mine in the exact economic situation I am, made it happen). By mid-morning, my ambition had been downgraded to buying a 0-5 year old house. Lunchtime: renting. Hell, If I would’ve continued, the Grose family could be reached at the local YMCA.

A few things I discovered that I never knew:

  • There are just under 145 trillion details about buying a house that are all aimed at snagging your underwear out while lifting the money right out of your pockets.
  • The more points (or percentage of the cost) you pay for, the lower the rates they give you for borrowing the rest of the money. This is also known as “it costs to be poor.”
  • A house in “Fredericksburg, VA” could be anywhere within a land area equal to the moon’s surface but is most likely on the very outskirts away from the Marine base.
  • You have to calculate property tax, mortgage tax, and taxable tax tax, and 42 other local/imaginary taxes, add it up, amortize it, multiply it by pi, and then divide it by your shoe size just to figure out your monthly payment which is probably not accurate anyway. Some sites have a calculator that does this after you punch in the figures but it comes back and informs you that you have the IQ of a paperclip if you think you can afford the house and/or that any bank will loan you enough money unless you put up your kidneys in the trade.
  • Online realtors with their pictures on the site just look like they are saying “Deal with me, I’d be happy to sodomize you.”
  • I’ve misspelled “realtor” and had Word tell me so in every instance since I began this entry.

So I don’t know if my dream will come true or not. It’s no secret that a Captain with 16 years makes just under $1500 a month in housing allowance and that limits my choices. Plus, it would be hard to be further apart between where I’m at and where I’m looking to buy and still be within the continental U.S. So if I go with a realtor, (misspelled it again), I’ll have to endure the telephonic version of the prison rape scene or drop the couple of hundred bucks to scramble eastward and try to close the deal within days.

… now if I just sync this holographic projector unit with this spin cycle timer …


Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“We are born wet, naked, and hungry. Then things get worse.”
- Unkown

My wife is the luckiest person on the face of the earth. I don’t say that because she married me (or the entry would have started by questioning her judgment). I say she is lucky because she just is. Luckier than everyone around her when it comes to situations that are dependent on random chance. But not with the huge winnings like the lottery (or she’d be buying lotto for me and we’d be rich.) It’s just the little things for fun like picking straws, board games, cards, etc.

Case in point: the first time she learned to play poker, a friend of mine was over and showed her the basics. He dealt out five cards for five card stud. I warned him that she is insanely lucky and sure enough, as his explanation flowed, he turned her cards over to reveal a full house. She ended up winning the next 6 hands straight. There wasn’t even a tinge of surprise on my face.

If there is a drawing at a party, she will win. At an event where they call out ticket numbers to win small prizes: bingo. And yes, BINGO, too. To me, it’s a foregone conclusion. If she’s in the game, you’re not.

Recently, I found out that the online registration for the 2003 Marine Corps Marathon went online May 1st. But on May 1st, it was not really the registration. Because the race has become so popular, you register FOR THE LOTTERY and if you win, you are allowed to register for the race. (Yes, you are registering for a lottery chance to win the ability to pay $80 which will in turn allow you to run 26.2 miles. Crazy, huh?).

Anyway, can you see where I’m going with this yet? I woke up early on May 1st and put my name in the hat. But that wasn’t good enough for me, was it? I had to make sure (I will NOT miss this race!) so for a little extra insurance, I wanted to enter twice to increase my chances. As you can imagine, they frown on this and will disqualify you if you enter more than once. So what was my solution? Sign up Carrie, too. If we both get in, I have 6 months to talk her into running her first marathon. If she gets in and I don’t, there is going to be a rather ugly Ms. Grose running that day with a curious resemblance to a bitter Marine.

The first drawing was today and they contact you via email to tell you if you got in. If you didn’t, they send you an email every week until either you get in or they fill the race.

You know, it should have been no surprise that the first email to pop into the email box bright and early this morning was a congratulations email to Carrie from the Marine Corps Marathon. Her entry was picked. Well kiss my ass!

My email came later. Sorry, Charlie, maybe next week. Kiss my ass again!!!

As a extra kick to the stones, I noticed that the drawing actually went on April 14th! Not only was she picked on the first try but an entire day before the official start of the lottery. Such is the luck I live with. But I’m not bitter. Really, I’M NOT FREAKIN’ BITTER SO LAY OFF OK!!!


Monday, April 14, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are missing.”
- All Monterey Drivers Except Me

Traffic is the scourge of the Earth. I’d say that I hate traffic but I don’t know of anyone who actually LIKES traffic. Nevertheless, I think I have a deeper, more primal level of cosmic aversion to it.

For 4 years I commuted from Renton, Washington to Seattle when I went to the University of Washington. On a clean run, I could make it to school in less than 20 minutes. That’s assuming there was a nuclear war that took out every vehicle except mine which would be electromagnetically shielded. In a more realistic scenario, I would trudge along at a whopping 4 miles per hour and end up at school 1 ½ hours past the time I left. To make up for this, I left at about 0400 but sometimes I got caught coming home and sat in traffic with the added benefit of being obscenely tired. I aged at twice the speed because of this and will die 4 years sooner as a result.

Those four years solidified my deep disdain for traffic that lasts to this day. Even here in Monterey, the traffic is not bad by comparison but when I do get caught in the morning rush hour, I have zero tolerance. I mean like zero on the Kelvin scale!

Let me describe this average scenario:

First, let’s all agree that when you are on the road, everyone ELSE is an idiot, except you. This will save us some time and yes, I understand that from the perspective of your car, I’m an idiot, as long as you understand the reciprocal applies. We will also base our scenario on making an 8:00 AM class and the fact that I live less than 6 miles from the school gate, the entire trip via highway.

Now that we got that straight, let’s look at the stratified versions of idiocy here in Monterey. They differentiate themselves by time therefore they are temporal idiots.

If I leave at 0700, only a few people are on the road and I have no trouble, making them only minimally idiotic. But sometimes they get in my way for no apparent reason so they sporadically delve into the moderate to high idiot category.

If one of the kids wake up and wants to talk, thus delaying me by even as little as 10 minutes, I might run into a new breed. The imbeciles start hitting the road between 0700 and 0715. They have the habit of riding side by side (a school of imbecii) and blocking the road from anyone (me) to pass. Thus, they are imbeciles.

If I lose my wallet and am delayed a couple of more minutes, I’m forced to deal with the next category which are the morons. The moron is the guy who weaves in and out of traffic at breakneck speed just to get in front of you and then go 5 miles per hour under the speed limit, despite clear road in front of him. Combining with the never-ending flow of imbeciles that are already choking the road, traffic starts to grind to a halt in places.

An additional 3 minute delay will put me in the dire straights of dealing with the final flavor of morning commute idiot: the retard.

The retard crawls onto the road at the worst time possible because it’s when you are hopelessly late and under normal conditions, would have enough time to make it to your destination. But the retard rears it’s ugly coffee-drinking, cell-phone talking head and you might as well throw in the towel. The retard doesn’t seem to know where he’s going nor does he care when he gets there. Saddling up to the imbeciles and morons, the puzzle is complete, resulting in complete gridlock. Everyone is going in the same direction yet no one is moving. Complete idiot saturation (minus 1).

They won’t let me mount rocket launchers to my truck so I must sit there and take part in the idiocy parade, trying not to think about the hideous parking situation I will be rewarded with as a result of my tardiness.

For these reasons, I make a goal of getting in and parked by 0700. That way, all of the imbeciles will still be trying to start their cars with their house key, all the morons will still be brushing their tooth, and all the retards will still be picking their ass in their sleep.


Sunday, April 13, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“Literature is the immortality of speech.”
- August Wilhelm Von Schlegel

 

I did it!!!!!

Let it be known near and far that on Sunday, this 13th Day of April, in the year of our Lord, two thousand and three, at approximately 8:30 P.M. Pacific Time, I, Captain Jason D. Grose, successfully cleared out my Outlook Inbox completely.

Oh, wow, I never expected this. Um.. where to start… first I’d like to thank all those that made this moment possible. Thank God for giving my fingers the strength to succeed. I’d like to thank my publicist (wait, I have no publicist!) and much thanks goes out to all those people who said I could do it and to all those who doubted me, I have to say I told you so.

(music starts)

No, no wait a minute, I’m not done. I’d like to say hello to my junior high typing teacher, wherever you are, for making me pound away on that manual typewriter while you scowled at me over cat-eye glasses. I wouldn’t be here today without your relentless, oppressive teaching methods. But I still look at the keyboard when I type!!!

And to my high school writing teacher who taught me how to put together intelligent paragraphs and to Stephen King who taught me how to write a story. I’m still learning.

Lastly, I’d like to thank Bill Gates who’s vision gave me the ability to receive hundreds of emails from anyone who reads part of my webpage and then asks questions about things I’ve posted elsewhere on the page.

(music starts again)

OK, OK, it’s just so overwhelming…..

Seriously, this is the first time in many months I’ve been caught up on email. OK, maybe I have 219 stashed emails about web tips from an automated mailer but I don’t have to answer them, just read them.

And I joke about the email I get but the truth of the matter is that I feel blessed to get so much as a result of my webpage. I have always promised that I will answer each one I get (eventually) and although that has become challenging as of late, I’ve succeeded so far.

If you notice, I also posted a massive update to the page this weekend. I’ve been working pretty much for 5 days getting caught up on email and the webpage and for one fleeting moment, I can claim to be caught up. Tomorrow will bring another wave of emails but for this singular glorious instant, I have climbed to the top of the mountain and pronounce victory!!!


Thursday, April 10, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“DIPLOMACY IS THE ART OF 'LYING'...THATS WHY MARINES MAKE LOUSY DIPLOMATS.”
- Unknown

This BLOG entry is severely overdue. It should have been written back on April Fool’s Day so let’s pretend this is a reverse AFD joke and the joke is I waited until now to write about it. I know, not much of an explanation but hey, April Fools!

I had actually forgotten it was April Fool’s Day so when I got an automated email from OddTodd saying “OOPS” and gave a link to his page, I just thought it was him messing with automated mailing software and accidentally sending out accidental, unfinished email.

When I got into school, I dutifully checked into his page to see what was the latest on the “Daily Fact I Learned From the TV” page he maintains. But much to my surprise, what I saw was an official-looking letter saying, in effect, that the FCC had seized his page due to copyright infringement because he uses MP3s in his cartoons. I swallowed the hook and the obligatory line and sinker to boot.

The first thing I thought was “Sucks for him” (I know, selfish but the “Better him than me” thought is one I’m sure he would subscribe to if the tables were turned. Guys can do that. Chicks aren’t wired that way). Right on the heels of that thought came the twitch of fear when I realized that I too use MP3s in my cartoons. I read through the letter and was tempted to pop over to my own page to see if I was in trouble. The letter looked real and sounded all legal and proper.

At the bottom, he had a link to check out what the future of his page was and before I checked my own page, I clicked it and an OddTodd cartoon started up with the central theme, you guessed it, April Fools.

Here is the email I sent him:


tOdd,

Yes, I swallowed it hook, line, and sinker!!!

At 0700 this morning when I got into school, I logged on and read with great interest your latest legal battle. It really spooked me because I have a couple of music snippets in my cartoons and I was this close to logging onto my own site to see if it was shut down, too. I mean, I really believed the letter and was floored when I clicked on the link and saw the cartoon loading.

Great toon by the way and I never expected it so soon after your last one (not meant to be a jab but I guess it was).

Congrats, you were the only person who “got” me today.

Flash on, my friend!!!!


He wrote back saying that many people didn’t click through so the gag lost some of its punch but if it means anything, the joke worked exactly as he planned on me. I guess he can revel in that, for what it’s worth.


Wednesday, April 9, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“There are old warriors and there are bold warriors. But there are no old, bold warriors.”
- Military Proverb

I’ve been busy today doing something for the first time in my life: I set up my own computer network at home. With the help of a few frantic phone calls to the Guru, I got my home network set up and now I have two computers connected by a switch. Yeah, it’s only two and yeah, their only about 4 inches apart but the fact remains that I set it up AND IT WORKED! I can even see each other's files so in essence, I have one huge (ok, more huge) computer. Next stop: become a Borg.

Today, Baghdad was liberated. There was dancing in the street and the big spectacle was the statue of Sadass himself being ripped down. It kind of just bent over and was still connected at the bottom, though. The best thing was the people celebrating and taking to the statue with sledgehammers. In America, that would land you in jail. In Iraq, under normal conditions, that would land you dead. Painfully and slowly.

But what really got my goat was a diplomat talking about mending fences with Germany and France by sliding them some of the rebuilding contracts after the war. Until he talked about it, I really didn’t give it any thought but it occurred to me that despite any humanitarian reasons we started this thing, if there are monetary benefits to be reaped and since the German and French decided not to play, well guess what; you lose out on the goodies.

Let me get this right; when it was time to pony up for the fight, you shied away and now that there might be some profit to be made through reconstruction, you want us to let you in on it? All the benefits, none of the risks?

We took the chance, we paid the price, we took the heat, we committed the troops, we lost some good men and women, we did the right thing. You? As an Officer and a Gentleman , I am forbidden to finish this thought but suffice it to say it is my opinion we will both reap what we sow. But with that said, I have little doubt that the politicians will cave for diplomatic gain and let you in on the contracts eventually. But know that you are benefiting from the blood, sweat, and tears of AMERICAN and BRITISH sacrifice and courage. I hope you choke on the free lunch.


Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Quote of the Day:
"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing."
- Benjamin Franklin

Picking up where we left off (remember, I bought the guts to a new computer?). On the way home, as a token of my appreciation, I took the Computer Guru to his favorite eatery. OK, it was In and Out Burgers so maybe no an eatery. More like what the name implies but I digress. After a full afternoon of computer shopping, what could be better than a couple of greasy burgers, lard-soaked fries, and a strawberry shake. I could actually hear my arteries hardening.

Although it was not too late by the time we got home, Dan was feeling sick (no, not because of the gut bombs we ate; he was ill before that although formed grease patties probably didn’t help the situation.). We agreed to get to work on the “we can rebuild it… we have the technology..” project in the morning.

If you know me, you know what’s coming. Do you really think I have the self-control to have all that techno-nerd stuff in my possession and let the minor fact that I was clueless where to start discourage me? Really? (BUZZZZZZ) Wrong answer, I couldn’t wait to get it inside and test what little patience I posses.

I hauled my loot inside, cleared the kitchen table, and the "Doctor was In".

Did you know that it requires about 7 tons of cardboard and packaging to make a computer? It was like Christmas in Nerdville.

To give you a sense of the level I started at, the first thing I did was put the processor chip into the motherboard. Flush with initial success, I felt my two front teeth start to protrude past my lips. I got the board together and screwed into the tower (although the simple mechanical part had me stumped. Copper stilts. Who knew?). I had to open my old computer for a road map. Hmmmm, that must be the flux capacitor...

I followed the directions and had to make wild assumptions (guesses) at certain points but a few hours later, I was just about done. I got the memory it, all the leads hooked up inside, wrestled with the ribbon cable, inserted the hard drives, disk drives, etc and hooked up the seemingly over abundance of internal fans (is it really supposed to have 7? I don’t think servers have that many!).

Without the help of Super Dan, I had the thing almost completely done and then decided my stupidity status was in jeopardy and decided to plug it in (Smart thing to do: wait for Dan and see if I hooked the basics up right thus preventing massive explosions). But hey, you only live once (which is like saying “I thought I’d wear protection but hey, how many times are you in a Jamaican back alley at midnight?”).

I took the chance (with the computer, not Jamaica!) and hooked up the power. The good news is that the fans turned on. OK, so 10 years as an avionics technician for Harriers bought me the ability to hook up power to a computer. The bad news: nothing else happened. No beep, no sirens, no 10,000 pound daisy cutter explosion. Nothing but fans, and lots of them.

I thought this was pressing my luck so I left the rest until morning. I had a few questions (“Should the smoke be that dark?”) and confusion points but I felt safe knowing that just about anything I hosed, Super Dan could come to the rescue.

I went to sleep that night extremely tired (I equate 2 hours of driving, 3 hours of shopping, and 5 hours of assembly to a marathon except after a marathon, I’m less destroyed) but the fact of the matter is that I didn’t break anything and basically put together a computer. It’s sad that I took so much pleasure in the fact but it’s not often I avoid disaster in such situations. Notice I didn’t say “succeed”? What I said, and meant, is “avoid disaster”. In my life, that’s a major success in its own right.

More to come...


Sunday, April 6, 2003

Quote of the Day:

11TH COMMANDMENT - COVET NOT THY NEIGHBOR'S PENTIUM.

I’ve been busy for a few days. Sorry about the BLOG drought.

Specifically, I’ve been busy to the tune of $1300. That’s how much my new computer cost or, more accurately, the makings of my new computer. Friday I went to Fry’s with a friend and we went hog wild. We were there on a mission to buy the parts of a computer and put it together. You might say this:
a. proves I’m a computer genius
b is mighty brave of me
c. is mighty stupid of me
d. none of the above.

The correct answer is “d” because my friend is a genius-extraordinaire and I knew that no matter what mess I made out of the whole thing, he could fix it. He’s like wicked-smart, unlike me who is confounded by shiny objects.

If you’ve never been to Fry’s and are really geeky with computer stuff like me, I can only describe it as “Shock and Awe” (I know, a flagrant cliché overused as of late but it really fit). It has an Egyptian motif (don’t really know why except maybe Egypt -> sand -> silicon -> chips.) and is a big warehouse with wall-to-wall nerd dreams. I made it ten feet in before I had a 120 GB Western Digital hard drive in my basket (yes, my spree required that I check my penis in at the door and get a shopping cart.)

The next step was to get the chip and motherboard. We headed to the back which felt like leaving the script kiddies to the aisles and going back where the serious Poindexters roam. This back wall had approximately 148 billion choices of motherboards. My head was spinning as I rubbed elbows with hardcore technophiles and I felt seriously outmatched as I tried to comprehend the array of choices, culminating my informed preference for “the pretty blue one.”

Luckily for me, there was a package deal where the card and the chip came together in a bundled price. Fine, I’ll go with that because I had a better chance at differentiating between competing designs of the Space Shuttle. Great, two choices made, 3E8 to go.

At first, it was exciting but then my testosterone kicked in and two things started working against me. I had to make comparison decisions over and over and over again. For a man, this is deadly, akin to poison. This really started wearing me down. Second, I had to shop for 3 hours. This is the first time I actually got tired of looking at computer stuff and I actually started wanting to go. It was a very foreign emotional state for me.

The experience was also very multi-ethnic for me. One of the chip guys was white American hopped up on about a gallon too much coffee. He handed us off the a Japanese man. The CD/DVD drive aisle saw an Indian and the check out lady was of some Middle Eastern descent. The one they all had in common was a very loose grasp of the English language (the coffee guy may have not suffered this affliction but he spoke so fast, I thought I was in a Federal Express commercial in the 80s).

All and all, it was a great trip and I got to blow a rather significant chunk of cash (with the explicit authorization of the missus, of course). The parts I bought, when assembled, would result in a computer worth twice the money and I had a free expert to help me through it. Hence, the hermit act all weekend. I got very little sleep over the next two days.

I will continue the assembly story in another BLOG but for now, here is what I walked out with:

Motherboard with 2.4 GHZ Pentium 4 processor (the 3 GIG was 200% more expensive!)
1 GB RAM (for only $100! Unbelievable)
CPU fan (to keep things cool)
Western Digital 120 GB hard drive (for my OS and programs)
Western Digital 200 GB hard drive (for my data and just because it was friggin’ huge!)
5-port switch to set up a home network
Radeon 7500 AGP All-In-One video card (so I can video edit, too)
Cendyne Combo CD/RW and DVD player (wasn’t that the company who made the Terminator? Yikes!)
USB 4 way hub (you can never have too many USB ports. I have 7 now)
Fudin computer case (this was the actual name!!)

Extras just because I was there:
Memory stick reader (small size for my Sony stick)
Active Sport Ear buds that loop around the ear


Thursday, April 3, 2003

Quote of the Day:

"Dogs - even mad dogs - fight, and the losing dog, if he can, runs away.
But no wolf runs.
For a wolf wins every fight but one, and in that one he dies."


- Gordon R. Dickson

There are unwritten laws in academia that I think should be written. Not only written, but tattooed backward on the forehead (so they can read it in the mirror) of some of the dumbasses I go to school with.

Take for example, yesterday. I was in a two hour fatigue experiment disguised as a class. The concept was that since we have to do this humongous project, the professor wanted to bring in speakers to pitch their latest funding source, er, I mean, research that we might want to use as our project. So all of us free laborers sat there and had to pretend not to realize that we were being recruited as cannon fodder, coffee-fetching pissons.

The first speaker was not too bad and lasted only about 30 minutes. She actually tried to use the “You will be the groundbreakers, in the Hall of Fame, and known as the innovators of the project that put it on the map” sell. Then she said our work would cease to exist in the next iteration because it’s a spiral development. But we’d be the trailblazers!

On to the meat of the story; The next speaker. From the moment he opened his mouth and pure, untainted, 100% refined boredom spewed forth, I knew I was in trouble. This man was boredom incarnate. I actually wondered if he realized to what degree his omnipotent boredom reached. It was galactical!

The presentation was boring. The presenter looked and sounded like he collected sand as a hobby. The overheads (yes, mighty archaic in this age of Power Point) were messy eyecharts only discernable by guys named Elvin.

I thought I might have been too rough in my assessment and that I might just not be interested in the subject. It had a lot to do with telecommunications and space based technology (satellites, etc), which after two full quarters of study, I still have nightmares about. So on the sweet, sweet break (which the professor had to jump in after an hour and save us), I decided to go outside and reminisce what fresh air and sunshine were like. Once out there, I started talking to a couple of my classmates and it became very clear that I was not the only one on the boredom bus. One guy headed for the coffee cart in an attempt to chemically jumpstart his consciousness. Another just sat on a beach looking defeated and battle weary. We discussed our situation and all agreed, quite vigorously, that this was quite possibly the most boring event we had ever been exposed to.

We filed back to the slaughterhouse, excuse me, classroom, and Mr. Personality never skipped a beat. I have to give it to him, he very adeptly jumped right back to the exact 27 digit coordinate of boredom that we had left at. It was like falling asleep and continuing the same nightmare you had the night before.

Because of this catastrophic dullness, the class sat in stunned silence for almost the entire presentation. It was difficult to come up with even an intelligent sounding question that would disguise the utter confusion or Biblical disinterest we all felt. I thought we all had the same plan, ride this turtle to the end and just gut it out.

Looking at the clock, we had just about 5 minutes left (although you’d never know it because there didn’t seem to be much rhyme or rhythm to the presentation). I had explored every sitting position my butt would allow and was trying to balance my excitement of ending this mess with the combined pain inflicted on me to this point. Just … a …. bit…longer…..must….hold …. it…. together….

The unwritten rule that needs tattooing is the following: Thou shall not asketh an involved (and normally stupid) question with less than five minutes to go in a boring class.”

This is known people! It really should not require reminding. You sit there in stunned silence like the rest of us for two stinkin’ hours and you pick the last two minutes to unload your dumbass question that ONLY you could possibly be interested in hearing the answer? Do you really think he will have the situational awareness to keep his answer short? For God’s sake, he doesn’t even know how mind-numbing boring he is! He has no sense of time or feel for audience interest level so what makes you think he’ll honor the class ending time?

Maybe it was a micro-spark of interest that found its way through the haze of dull but whatever it was, it set off an entire new spiral of boredom. With no regard to the clock, they started an exchange that can only be explained as geek intercourse.

And so as not to deny you of the cherry on top of this shit-sundae, after ten minutes past the end of class, the real professor called it. The following statement came out of the speaker’s mouth after peeking out the door and I’m not exaggerating: “There doesn’t seem to be a queue at the door for the classroom.” At this point, I couldn’t decide who I wanted to strangle harder, the speaker or the student who asked the dumb question.

But I think that for one fraction of a moment, he might have sensed the all-encompassing cloud of disinterest permeating through the room and quickly followed up with the bonus cherry for this little story: “I guess I can stick around if anyone… wait, I have to meet someone at 3:00 so I guess I can’t stay. I have to leave.”

WHAT?! Let me get this straight, after boring us for almost two hours, running over time, YOU are telling US that you have to leave and acting as though we kept you from your timeline? Oh, that’s rich.

Moral of the story:
Yes, there is such thing as a dumb question if only for its timing. In fact, to the student who made the mistake of egging the speaker on: the only stupid question is the one YOU ask. So shut the !#@!# up next time you want to ask your “Look at me, I’m smart” question. Better yet, do it after class so as not to subject the rest of us to your geeky reach-around fest.

Know the unwritten rules before you get them stamped on your grape! With an icepick. A rusty one.


Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Quote of the Day:
"IF IT HAS TIRES OR TESTICLES...SOONER OR LATER IT WILL GIVE YOU TROUBLE."
- Unknown

Some days I feel like I’m a little Pomeranian dog with narcolepsy (the sleeping disorder, not intercourse with dead bodies, you perverts!!).

Getting back to my point, I’m all “rush, rush, rush… flop.” Take today for example, I got up at my usual 0600, well, 0600ish. OK, about 0630 but this is not the thrust of the story. I got up with the plan of getting a run in, getting into school about 1000, go to class from 1100-1200, and get some school work/errands done for a few hours. (Yes, my Wednesdays are gleefully wide open!) Sounds like a good plan, huh? But like all battle plans, it was doomed from the get go.

I got up and while stretching for the run, my wife awoke. Because it takes almost nothing to kick start my procrastination into high gear, I talked too long and then the munchkins got up. And of course the dog needed playing with. More stretching. More talking. More procrastinating. Finally at about 0730, I took off on my run (totally “unstretched” by then).

The run went OK (8 miles) but my headphones were uncooperative by feeling the need to keep popping out of my ears and so they had to take a timeout. Some days are like that, some aren’t. No rhyme nor reason, just is, which sets an inquiring mind like mine abuzz with irritation. But I let them live, this time. I've been known to execute summarily on the spot in such cases

When I got back, my old nemesis was waiting. I saw a few yellow dandelions poking their head up, daring me to come after them. This was the first of a long line of time vortexes today. I grabbed my trusty Sword of the Weed (really just a small tool that looks like a screwdriver) and went into combat, hand to weed. An hour later I emerged from the battlefield victorious with the remains of my enemy on my hands and a plastic bag full of corpses.

The result of this little frolic? It was about 1020. Cue the Pomeranian.

Into the shower, dry off, fix the hair, apply the shaving cream, shave, lotion, pitstick, t-shirt, socks, trousers, shoes, belt, shirt, belt again, finish the hair, pack the computer, pour the coffee, add milk, add sugar, grab a yogurt, grab a spoon, fill the water bottle, wallet in pocket, ID in shirt pocket, sunglasses on, coat on, water bottle in coat pocket, sling bag over shoulder, keys in right pocket, grab coffee mug, grab water bottle, shit--back door is open-- close door, rush to truck--- time on deck: 1045.

I then race down the highway like a maniac just begging to be pulled over. With my recent relationship with the police, this would go over wonderfully. I make it to school but nary a parking place to be found except on the opposite side of the campus. I look at my watch: 1058. Right then, the thought hits me that I have one stinkin’ class today and I can’t manage to get to school on time for an 1100 start time. What the f….?!?!?

I get into class (the one I whined about in yesterday’s BLOG) and luckily, he had started late and was still in the current events story (about small storage devices like USB keys, if your interested).

I was hot, sweaty, full of adrenaline, and irritable. OK, let’s learn something!!

After class, Glenn (my thesis partner) and I went to set up our travel paperwork through the school. Once there, I met the worker I’ve known all my career . You know what I mean, the government worker who knows it all, to include that you, the customer, are a complete idiot, and that you are wasting her time. Spouting off jargon and procedures like we work there too, she graciously lowered herself to our level and we muddled our way through the process.

Getting that done, I was in a position to get ahead on a few projects. So naturally, I goofed off by surfing the web for about an hour until hunger got the best of me and I decided to go home. Once there, my erratic pace of the day combined with the small lunch I ate, combined to fulfill my narcoleptic explanation above. The best description I can come up with is simply “TIMBER!”

I slept for about an hour. But when I woke up, I was in a sour mood (don’t know why) and sprung into action. I got some old clothes on and got my motorcycle ready to take into the shop. After months upon months of neglect, I thought I might want to get it checked out just in case things had rotted off such as gaskets, o-rings, tires. I’m not a mechanical genius so I felt that the experts should take a look for the low low price of $70 per hour. What a deal.

While riding the bike to the shop, the weather decided to turn ugly. For a moment, I really thought I was one of those cartoon characters who has a black cloud following just them. It started raining when I sat on the seat and ended just after I got there. Yeah, funny. Laugh it up.

When I got home, it was time to eat and after that I got to work on some web page design. I had agreed to redesign the NPS MWR webpage in my “free time” and have gone beyond putting it on back-burner status. It’s been down behind the stove with an old French fry and a few unpopped kernels of popcorn.

The other day I described my 1/2 marathon as a root canal by a proctologist. This MWR website is a proctological exam by a dentist. A bad dentist. With fat fingers. And an affinity for Marines.

Suffice it to say that I slaved over the damn thing for most of the night and didn’t get very far. Ahhh, the fetid stench of disgruntled workaholic.

Maybe this describes why I feel like a narcoleptic Pomeranian. I go full speed and then drop. Full speed, drop. Lick my privates… oops, maybe the analogy doesn’t map perfectly but you get the idea. I just sometimes feel like I’m running a sprint race on a treadmill. A lot of work but not much to show for it. Then when I get a chance to catch up, all systems come to a full stop. I may never crack this vicious cycle until I find a way to do away with that pesky sleep thing.


Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Quote of the Day:
"NEVER PLAY LEAPFROG WITH A UNICORN."
- Unknown

I’ll admit, I’m not the greatest student ever created. I receive good grades and all but most of the time, I’m the guy who sits in the back and just takes in the lecture. I’m not much for “discussion” classes. I do the readings, I complete the assignments, and I generally know what’s going on but in class, my nature is just not that engaging most of the time. When I do ask a question, it’s short, it’s relevant, and it’s precise. Normally, I just need a small logic link to connect the concept and I believe one viable definition of learning is the art of knowing what specific questions to ask.

This brings me to today’s rant. There are 4 people in my curriculum that annoy the dog piss out of me. Now, don't get me wrong, I like most of them on a personal basis but nevertheless, in class they test my ability to maintain my biblical beliefs, specifically “thou shall not kill.” This quarter, in one class, I have 3 out of the 4. May God have mercy on my soul.

Let me build the caricatures for you and see if you’ve known similar personalities:

Einstein in His Own Mind: this is the one who truly believes he knows more than the instructor in all instances, all subjects, for all time. He constantly feels the need to raise his hand and pontificate endlessly. This usually takes the form of a short intro that loosely has to do with the subject and then spirals tangentially off into a fictitious scenario (many times with characters, voices, and direct quotes for each character). At the end, normally around the time I’m finishing up ripping my cuticles back to the knuckle, he concludes and leaves everyone, to include the instructor, with one overriding thought: was there a question in there somewhere? It’s painful to watch the professor try to handle this situation. It’s the one thing I fear most when I contemplate my future as a teacher some day. How do I handle these people without using four letter words and/or severe blows to the head and shoulders?

Rude with an Attitude Looking for a Feud: This one uses an accusatory, combative tone as though you just called her mother a crack whore. When she “asks” a question, it normally is about a very minor detail clear to the rest of the class because of its simplicity or irrelevance to the overall topic. She lives in the weeds and has no qualms about arguing venomously way back on the bunny trail. Like Einstein, she is prone to long-winded, irrelevant speeches that leave the instructor without a possible response and the rest of the class deeply interested in the possibility of standard issue muzzles. Of all the classes I’ve had with this person, only one professor has ever called her on her behavior. After she dragged us along a very windy monologue in her usual abrasive manner, he just looked at her and said “That’s interesting but has nothing to do with what we’re discussing.” On similar occasion, he dropped the following line on her: “This course is a mile wide and a foot deep. You just went 13 inches.” He’s my hero.

Cruisin’ Foreign Bruisin’: This may be indigenous to the international flavor of NPS but it proves that American Officers do not corner the market on annoying behavior. This foreign student is closely related to the Einstein flavor above but with the added bonus of predicating almost every broken English sentence with the phrase, “How do you say… (long pause)…” When this windmill starts spinning, I normally have thoughts such as if it’s possible to fit my entire fist in my mouth. Like the others, he leaves the instructor with a situation involving awkward silence and no exit sign within sight.

For all the faults I perceive in these people, they have one thing I do not; they have no problem regularly engaging the professor in class (even if it means bringing the class to a screeching halt). Some might say that’s the backbone of graduate education and the difference between undergraduate and graduate approaches. I tend to absorb the information presented, synthesize it with the reading, and form my own opinions after private reflection and study. That’s my approach and it’s worked for me. It’s also probably why these students annoy me so much; their approach is different than mine but until interruptions like theirs are lopped into the same category as public smoking, I guess I’ll have to live with the second had smoke.

All I have to do is last until September graduation without standing up and yelling “SHUT YOUR #&^*% SEPTIC DRAIN BEFORE I …” well, you get the idea. Pray for me because I’m close to the edge.


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