Jason's BLOG pages

 
 

 


Jason Grose's BLOG

September 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, September 29, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“I USED UP ALL MY SICK DAYS, SO I'M CALLING IN DEAD.” 
- Unknown

I woke up to a perfect morning; perfect by my running standards, that is. Overcast and cool. I decided to run the path by Maple Valley Highway and I was glad I did. I had a great run and enjoyed the typical Washington weather. Coming back I got some kind of weird energy and was practically sprinting the entire 3 mile return trip. Not complaining at all!!!

The big event for the day was going over to Paul and Alison’s for dinner. Carrie and Alison have been friends since junior high and Paul works for Microsoft. Not only has he been a friend for many years, he now bestows free gifts upon me every time we meet. He gets tons of giveaway items as part of his job and he never fails to share the wares, much to my excitement.

To say that Paul and Alison are busy people is like saying the Pope is a little Catholic. Paul does a lot of traveling so Alison is left to handle their two boys. Add into the mix that they just moved into a new house and Alison had her identity stolen recently and you have a couple of slightly stressed friends. It was good to sit down with them and have dinner and there was plenty to talk about. You never like to see your friends stressed, especially when you are going through a relaxing phase. It worked out perfect because the kids played together, Alison got to catch up with Carrie, and Paul and I talked technology. Paul is as far ahead of me in technology as I’m used to being ahead of people around me. It was good to be the student and I soaked it up like a kid during story time. He showed me all his latest gadgets and software and for a couple of hours, we were like a couple of kids. I really enjoyed hearing all the latest from the Mothership.

Then it was time for the attic. In the attic, Paul kept his loot and ascending there was symbolic of rising to heaven. Being a gadget geek, I get disproportionately excited about the little stuff he gets to give away. Some of it wasn’t so little, evidenced by his first gift: the not-yet-released Office 2003. It comes out next month and he gave me a beta version that expires November 30th but he assures me he can fix that for me. Even if he can’t, I can get it for $50 from him. When he gave it to me, he might as well be handing me a golden goblet. When I got home late, I tore it open and gawked at the 12 CD set (it’s the full version with server tools, advertisement disks, and a few I have no idea what they are yet). I stayed up past midnight watching the promotional disks and reading the booklet. Yes, I was an uber-geek and wallowed in my nerdiness. I was in dork nirvana.

Paul gave me Microsoft pens that lit up, a handful of card holders (the kind that have a retractable cord), a crazy promotional pen that looked like ammunition for a high tech weapon (he had to take 12 of them through an airport and thought for sure they’d have a tizzy when they scanned his carry-on. They didn’t. Let’s hear it for Homeland Security). He gave me a little hoop and ball for my office, little clear Microsoft stickers you can put on stuff to make it look like it was made by Microsoft (most of which I use to put on unsuspecting people’s Apple computers), a 32 MB, USB memory pod, another laptop mouse that I absolutely love, a full size mouse with side buttons, and even a high quality backpack to carry all of the stuff home. I was dizzy with excitement as Carrie forced our departure. Talk about some departing gifts!!!!

Am I friends with Paul because of these hook ups? No, we were friends before he worked at Microsoft (I never got any free pancake mix from him years ago) and we will be friends even if I never get another Microsoft goodie from him. But I have to come up with something to reciprocate that has to do with the Marine Corps but I can’t think of what it could be. I toyed with the idea of setting up a personal website for him and administering it for him. This might be the only thing worthwhile and I’m still giving it a thought. I’ll have to see what he thinks.

I went to sleep tonight happy. I had seen good friends, received some exciting new toys, and had nothing pressing to do tomorrow. Vacation is so relaxing when you let it.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't whine.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Sunday, September 28, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“I USED UP ALL MY SICK DAYS, SO I'M CALLING IN DEAD.” 
- Unknown

No rest for the weary!!!!

I woke up and knew I had to get a run in, even though every muscle in my body was screaming at me for more rest.

“Shut up and get out on the road!!!”

Sometimes being pi-polar sucks, especially when one of the personalities draws from Marine Corps thinking.

I was glad to get out once I started and the day was splendid; one of those Washington days that convinces thousands of visitors to move here. It was cool, sunny, and crystal clear.

When I was younger, I wouldn’t be caught in civilian public without a shirt that screamed my association with the Marine Corps. I don’t know when I outgrew this but it’s a huge reversal since now all I want to do is blend into the crowd and not draw any attention to myself. It’s a matter of getting away completely and existing as Jason for awhile rather than answering to “Captain Grose.” I can never get completely away since my mind has been wired to the USMC grid but no longer do I need civilian attention to the fact that I’m a Marine.

I had to get the run over with because the Mariners were playing their very last game and I was going to take Alex with my brother and me to see it. They played at 1300 so the insane pace continued.

I love my brother but there are just some things about him that clash with my personality. It’s not his fault or mine; just two different people with different priorities and part of participating in this life is compromise.

If it was up to me, I’d be seated in my seat at precisely 1245 with food and drink at the ready. My brother’s idea of an event follows a little different timeline. We stopped at the store for something to drink despite only having a half hour before the game starts. Once we get there and find out that the game is sold out, we look for scalpers. After we get the tickets, we hit the Taco Bell to get something to eat. When we start heading to the gate, he decides to get some food to carry in even though we can hear the roar of the crowd reacting to the 1st inning of baseball. I have a hard time being a Roman in Rome.

The game was a great event. Starting with the scalpers, the event was a unique experience I love to revisit every time I’m in town. The guys scalping are usually very pushy black men with toothpicks hanging out of their mouths who instantly befriend you and just as quickly scatter after they either sell you their tickets or realize you aren’t going to buy them. Paying $15 for $10 dollar tickets in the third deck to a game that already started is maybe not the most financially sound decision but as these things go, was not all that bad.

Seeing a professional baseball field for the first time as I walk through the causeway is always a magical moment. The green is so bright and the view so rich, it just takes my breath away and I was hoping to give that to my son, just as I got it from my dad so many years ago. With the new Safeco stadium, there is really no bad seat so even though we were on the third tier way in the back, we could see the entire game clearly.

It was the last game of the year and we played the A’s who were going to the playoffs while we were not. The irony was that it was the A’s who knocked us out of post season play and in this series, we had beat them in both games. We ended up sweeping them with a 9-3 pounding but they were still going to the playoffs while we were going home.

The game was special for another reason. Edgar Martinez will likely retire after this year so this was his last game. Out of all the Mariners, Edgar has been my favorite for a few reasons. He spent his entire career with the Mariners, never getting to play in the World Series. He possesses something you rarely see anymore in professional baseball: loyalty. He’s been a premier designated hitter and could have made much more money with other teams but he stuck with Seattle and that means the world to me.

He was also involved in the most emotional sports memories I posses. When I was going to college in 1996, he was part of the Mariner team that had an unbelievable year. Game after game they would come from behind and win, eventually coming back from a 13 game deficit to almost get to the World Series. The entire town lived Mariner baseball and Edgar was a big part of the success, smacking essential hits at the time needed, raising the excitement level to heights I’ve never before (or since) experienced.

I captured what may be his last Major League hit on my digital camera. Too bad he almost hit into a double play, saved only by a throwing error. When he finally got out, the game stopped for five minutes as he received standing ovations from the crowd. He came out of the dugout and waved to the crowd which sent us once again into a cheering frenzy. It was truly an emotional moment.

We all enjoyed the game and we swept the A’s with the final score of 9-3. I was glad to continue a long tradition of father and son at a baseball game and Alex was just beaming. The fun of the day continued after we got back to Carrie’s parents’ house where the family had gathered to see us. Since we had got in so late the night before, this was the first time I got to see them and we all enjoyed each others company late into the night. It was good to be home and we felt comfortable, like we always do when we visit. A great start to a great vacation.

Free Advice for Today:
Do it right the first time.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Saturday, September 27, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“DON'T USE A BIG WORD WHERE A DIMINUTIVE ONE WILL SUFFICE.” 
- Unknown

Today marks one year I've been BLOGing. It's been an interesting year and the longest time I've spent with a journal. I discovered BLOGing last year after a series of emails with a stranger and then tried out an online BLOG service. It didn't take long before I discovered I could maintain the BLOG better by myself so this format was born. While some nights were harder than others to make the entries, the experience overall has been very beneficial and I plan to continue to spout off my views, catalogue my life, and practice my writing. It's the cheapest therapy I know.

At the bottom of each entry, I will provide a link to the same entries of years past. I find it interesting to read the entries of what I was doing/thinking/going through the previous years.


I know I got lazy going to school for two years. I know that a 0500 wake up when your in the Fleet is “sleeping in.” These things I know but it doesn’t change the fact that an exhausted Captain and Mrs. Grose woke up groggy and tired to begin the first leg of our trek to Virginia.

Things went smooth as we loaded the truck (walking past the sewer drain that reeked of human waste a few dozen times) and as a testament to our improved ability to plan (put to the test over the last couple of weeks) we actually got on the road 20 minutes earlier than planned. We were stunned speechless.

I was going to be good. I was going to resist. I did not feel the pull of the Krispy Kreme. I was going to get on the road and leave it behind.

“Daddy, are we going to get donuts?”
“No.”
“But Daddy, you said that anytime we go on a trip, you will get donuts for breakfast.”

This is the conversation I had with my 9 year old daughter. She was relentless and seeing her angelic face look at me while she meant every word, I knew it was useless to resist. I had to succumb to the donuts. They took the morning.

I limited myself to two chocolates and two glazed. I ate one of each, ended up downing another later, and in a spectacular display of self-control, I let one die. It was not easy and it beckoned me for help but I had to let it go. It was a brutal scene which will haunt my nightmares for decades to come but I had to cut myself off. I can still hear the echoes of its cries.

We stopped by the friends’ house who were watching Buster and true to form, Buster just about broke his back wagging his tail. He was extremely worried about the next move and kept running to the truck, not wanting to be abandoned once more. He was ready to go.

The trip was as uneventful as most all-day drives go. Once on I-5, we just headed north until midnight. I saw idiocy in Biblical proportions but the fact that I just graduated and was on vacation for a month, deferred my anger to manageable levels.

Just outside Eugene Oregon, we hit a full-on traffic jam that stopped I-5 dead in the middle of nowhere. My reaction was a calm “What the hell?!?!” After awhile, I noticed that many of the cars had banners, flags, bumper stickers, license frames, etc. all urging the Oregon Ducks. Because I now have a ten pound brain, it only took 20 minutes to figure out that the football game just let out and that was the traffic we hit. Yeah, I’m a quick study.

Frustrated, we took the second opportunity to get off the road (I figured everyone and their dog would take the first exit) when we saw a Sizzler sign. It was time for dinner and we thought we could let the traffic dribble away while we ate.

I broke my cardinal rule of traveling; I committed to an exit where I couldn’t directly see my destination. If I have to get gas, I won’t take an exit where I don’t actually see the station I’m going to. Same with food. But I broke the rule and just like it always happens when I break this rule (and why the rule exists), I got the bottom of the exit only to be told that the Sizzler was a mile away. They lure you off and then spring the trap and you end up traveling for miles out of your way to get to the promised service. Bastards!!!

Let’s recap: About 10 hours of driving, stuck in traffic in the middle of nowhere, starving, promise of Sizzler but a mile away. Ticking time bomb…

We follow the signs. We hit the eternal stoplights. We look. We search. We drive. My blood pressure rises. After about 3 miles, I have to admit defeat. False advertising and now I’m at my boiling point.

We ended up turning around and hitting a Wendy’s. I was in a funk and it seemed to take forever which didn’t help matters. Buster whips me in the eye with his tail when we stop so that added to my mood. I think I started to turn a shade of green as my shirt started tearing in the back.

When we got done, we also needed gas. In Oregon, you cannot pump your own gas and have to depend on the attendants which in this case, took the form of a large, sweaty, dufus whose idea of customer service was seriously lacking. We pulled up and waited 5 minutes before he even came over. Then I got out and did my own windows (so much for “full service”, huh Dufus?) to pass the time and then we waited another few minutes before he decided to come back after the pump was done. Thinking that we could just give him the card to run through the pump, I handed it to him. He hands it back with a slip of paper, telling me to pay the cashier. Lovely.

Carrie had about 4 people in front of her and they all were attempting to pull off some hereunto never before attempted financial transaction akin the day-trading with the pimple-faced cashier who had the urgency of purpose approaching that of a snail on valium. We spent 3 times the amount of time it would have taken me to pump the gas just because Dufus needed a job that he was obviously under-qualified to handle. That’s a great system they got going there in Oregon.

When we finally pulled back on the highway, we realized we had just blown over an hour getting a “quick” bite and filling up. Luckily, the rest of the trip was without incident and we pulled up to my brother’s house at midnight. We spent an hour visiting but we still had a 20 minute trip to Carrie’s parents’ house where we had to unload the truck while trying not to wake anyone. We managed to do this and it was such a wonderful feeling to be “home.” First leg of the trip: complete.

Free Advice for Today:
Every person that you meet knows something you don't; learn from them.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Friday, September 26, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“BE NICE TO YOUR KIDS. THEY'LL CHOOSE YOUR NURSING HOME.” 
- Unknown

Graduation day started bright and early at 0500. OK, it started early at 0500.

I stumbled out of bed and headed toward the Navy Lodge where I was to meet the transport driver at 0600. For you that have been keeping up with this story, you are probably taking bets on when he actually showed. At 0600, I called his cell phone and he tells me he’s in Salinas and would be 45 minutes late. Of course you will be; why should the leopard change his spots now?

The next call I got was at about 0700 to tell me he was lost. After much questioning, I discovered he was in Carmel and had bypassed Monterey completely. And this is a professional truck driver who is supposed to make it across the country with my car?

We gave him directions back and he finally showed up at 0745. It ends up there were two shipments from the same company and they were following each other. Ironically, the leader of the other group had the EXACT same experience as I did. Bad customer service, no call backs, late arrival times. We compared notes as we were waiting and it was spooky how similar our experiences were to include having the whole mess dumped on our laps when the primary left town early. I think I was a bit more abrasive than him but that’s likely due to the Marine Corps vs. Navy approach to getting screwed.

The drivers show up and we get all the inspecting, paperwork, and signatures taken care of. Everyone was surprisingly calm about the entire thing (except me) and it was funny to see about 20 men, all tired and worn down from the stress of finishing a thesis, graduating, and moving. We all zombied around like we were lost.

This threw everything off I had planned for the morning so I had to regroup. Carrie came and picked me up and we took Glenn to school, as promised. We then rushed back to the cottage where I got ready and had Carrie take me back to school with my uniform in tow. I wanted to get my last signature from Student Services and hand in my check out sheet, thus washing my hands to the entire process. Carrie waited for me (it was only supposed to take a minute) but when I got in there, there were others waiting and then I got a chatter. Where is the bored, ultra-efficient, cold, government worker when you need one? She wanted a bunch of information and I even had to fire up my computer to get my thesis title (Design of an Effective Visualization for Naval Career Information Summary and Evaluation) for her. Finally she gave me the green light and I rushed outside to get my uniform and send Carrie on her way (she had to get the kids ready and back by graduation).

I went to my lab where I met Glenn and we changed over to our blues. We were laughing because it always seems like you are rushing to get into the uniform no matter for what occasion, and usually in a strange place (closet, bathroom, lab). When he flew the President, he said this would happen all the time.

We made it out into the mustering area and just as expected, we were practically the only ones on time. We stood around for and hour while everyone filtered in. It was a good opportunity to talk and see people. Half the people I didn’t know and half of them I hadn’t seen in months. Such is graduate education.

My good friend, Dan Boersma, never showed up and it worries me. He was one of the people at the car drop off and got a ride back to his hotel when his wife never showed. We didn’t see him again and hope everything is OK with his family. It was kind of a bummer that he had to miss the graduation ceremony, especially since I consider him one of the, if not THE, smartest one in our curriculum.

The moment finally arrived and we marched into King Hall to the flashing of hundreds of cameras. I had no idea where Carrie and the kids were and I tried to look around to find them. It wasn’t until I was seated that I found them in the balcony, to my immediate right. I waved to them and saw my kids’ faces light up. They were the only people there for me this day and the most important. They had sacrificed a lot for me to get this degree and I was glad they were there to share this special moment with me.

The ceremony was a wonderful time. The guest speaker was Lieutenant General Conway, the MEF CG that fought in Iraq. Not only was he a very big player in recent historical events, he was also a very engaging speaker. His speech, delivered with a booming voice, alternated with humor, war stories of Iraqi Freedom, and advice for the graduating students. I was absolutely captivated and it was the first time I had heard a ceremonial speech that I didn’t want to end. I made a mental note that it was exactly how I wanted to come across if I ever have to give a speech to a group of people. But I doubt if I will be sporting three stars on my shoulder <grin>.

Our digital camera was missing the memory stick so we got no pictures of the event. With all of the stress and rushing, I really didn’t care at the time and wanted to just get things settled out. After the ceremony, we went to the reception but didn’t stay long. I was in my blues and as proud as I was of everything that was happening, I was eager to get out of the constricting uniform and continue my mad rush to take care of all the final details. We went back to the lab and changed back over before leaving the lab for the last time. I had spent so much time in that little room and now it was time to leave the key on the desk and walk out for the last time. There were so many “last times” this day that the moment just melted together with all of the others.

I don’t know how traditional KFC is to an occasion like graduation but that’s what the family wanted. We gorged on bird and it was good. So good, in fact, that all I wanted to do was lay down and let the fatigue ofthe last few days drain from my body. But, alas, this was not to be. We had to get the truck weighed full for the DITY move so we loaded it up and barely made it to the scales before it closed. Great, more rushing.

We did manage to continue another tradition: the last meal with friends before PCS. We had done this with the Garzas and the Sbragias but since we were pretty much the last of our group, we figured it would just be our family but we set it up with Glenn and his family to eat together at El Toritos. We had a great time and it was good to spend it with someone I had spent so much time with over the last few months; a good celebration of a good relationship and a fitting farewell to a great tour of duty.

After a full day, it would have been nice to go back and relax for the all day drive the next day. But again, this was not to be. We had to get everything ready for the trip because we were leaving the first thing in the morning. We packed, sifted, crammed, organized, cleaned, and hauled all our stuff so in the morning it would be a matter of getting everything in the truck.

Finally, late into the night, we collapsed on the bed, unable to believe the events of the day. We were exhausted and in denial that we had actually taken care of everything that needed to be done. I was happy to be done and for the first time, took a stab at analyzing my accomplishment. I was too tired to get my mind around it and came to the conclusion that: I’m getting too old to go full bore all day for days on end. OK, maybe not but it’s a hell of a lot harder than a decade ago!!!

Free Advice for Today:
Brush your teeth before putting on your tie.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Thursday, September 25, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“There cannot be a crisis this week; my schedule is already full.” 
- Unknown

I went to battle today. To say that I was an animal was a bit of an understatement.

Sometimes a man has to make a huge pain of himself if only to save the self-respect of not rolling over when he is getting royally screwed.

After not getting a call last night from the car transport company, I vowed to start calling them when they opened at 0700. I had already had to call the other fellow customers and admit that things were not going as planned. Even though I had nothing to do with it, I still felt responsible.

At 0700, I started calling and kept getting voicemail. Then I was on hold for 20 minutes. When I finally got to the dispatch, he sent me to my POC and I got voicemail again. I left a message but still received no call back. I was getting just a bit miffed at this point.

After another round of being on hold (the recorded profuse apologies were making me angrier by the second) I got through to customer service and I explained my (their) problem. The lady tells me that dispatch won’t be in for another half hour (despite my earlier conversation with him) and that she’d make sure they’d call me back right when they got in. This was 0740.

At 0900, I couldn’t wait any longer and was white hot. I called and it took another half hour of hold to get through to customer service. This is when my cork popped. I explained in no uncertain terms, from square one (because it was yet another employee), what I was promised, where they had failed, and what I thought of their customer service. She did not appreciate that but I explained to her that I understood this was not her fault but she was the representative of the company so either fix it or send me on to someone who can. It was not long before she patched me through to her boss. She had a bad day, I’m sure.

The boss listened to yet another round of my fury where I explained the situation and how I had been wronged. I was promised a call on Wednesday. I did not get one. I had 9 other people who set up 9 different agendas based on the promise that their cars would be picked up on Thursday morning. Not only was I not getting the contact I was promised but I was not getting responses to the many messages I left nor the calls promised to me as a result of my own attempts at contact. We paid them $5500 to ship these cars and I couldn’t get even the simplest answer.

This guy promised to call the dispatch, get in contact with the driver who was somewhere in southern California, and have him call me. I told him that if this plan failed, I wanted a call back from him personally.

A couple of more hours went by.

Finally the driver called and said he was in LA, in traffic, and would not be in until between 8:00 and 10:00. By this time, I was simply worn down and just wanted him to get here. I made all of the calls and passed the info and said that the driver was to call me at 9:00 for a more solid arrival time.

He called in the middle of the season premier of Friends (yes, I do watch it and am a big fan) to tell me he would be real late and if it was OK if we could meet him first thing in the morning. Again, I was just worn down. I called everyone and we all agreed to this. I think everyone felt bad for me because they knew how much angst this was causing me.

So for what it’s worth, I announce that no one should ever do any business with AAA Advantage Auto Transport from Tempe AZ. I know I never will and will warn everyone who will listen not to use them. My Shit List is written in permanent ink.

On the good side, we had graduation practice today and compared to the service nightmare I had already experienced, the normal frustration of a ceremony rehearsal didn’t bother me at all.

I did note and interesting thought. Every time I’m a part of a graduation ceremony, I’m always part of the cattle. What I mean is that when I graduated high school, an accomplishment to be proud of, I was one of hundreds that day so while it was special, I was a face in the crowd. When I graduated college, an even more special moment, I was still one of a cast of thousands and the master’s degree recipients were the kings and queens of the day. Now that I’m getting my master’s degree, a monumental accomplishment, I’m part of the large crowd again and the three students getting their doctorate degree are the singled out special ones. It makes me wonder what would happen if I go for my doctorate degree. Will I have my moment in the sun or will there be a uber-doctorate being awarded?

OK, I'm tired and I have to meet someone I will try not to snap at at 0600 tomorrow. I hate dealing with people you have to depend on (and pay for the privilege of being let down to boot). In other words, I hate moving.

OK, I'll go to bed now.

Free Advice for Today:
No matter how dire the situation, keep your cool.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“When you starve with a tiger, the tiger starves last.” 
- Unknown

Today was the day. What day, you ask? Why THE DAY, of course!

On September 24th, 2003, I received the verification form from the thesis processor, congratulating me on the completion of my master’s thesis. In other words, I got my green card!!!!

This accomplishment was not without the last spit of stress from a dying project though. In the morning, my thesis partner picked up the signed thesis from the department chair and took it over to processor. By the time I got in, I met Glenn and he told me they had told him to send the .pdf file and we could come and pick up the green card. If it was only that easy in reality.

Dumb enough to actually believe this, I rushed to my computer and sent the file immediately and waited about five minutes before calling. I got the answer I dreaded:

“Well, I have to look it over and my email was broken yesterday so I there are some others before you I didn’t get to yet. I’ll send you an email."

For a guy who wanted instant satisfaction, this hit me hard. Trying to sound like it didn’t bother me, I asked how long it would be and she said by the end of the day. Glenn had an appointment for his daughter at Stanford so we agreed that we’d get it tomorrow.

I had many more (yet less important) loose ends to take care of and spent my morning trying to take care of them until I received the most welcome email of the last two years.

In my excitement, I rushed over to the building where I knew the processors lived but I didn’t know where in the building. I ended up circling about the entire building before finding them (a fact that I found humorous and slightly annoying). I thought to myself “Gonna be a bitch to the bloody end, huh?

When I found the office and was giddy with expectation, the processor was helping an older man who I assumed was a professor or something. I took one step in the office before I noticed this and they both looked at me. I made the “oops” face and backed out, hoping she would say “Oh, can I help you, we were just talking.” Yeah, fat chance. He was having some kind of problem with the disk he brought over and I was there for 10 minutes waiting for them. In my state, I found it a little irritating that she didn’t even acknowledge my presence but pessimistically knew this was part of the birth canal.

While I was waiting, a friend of mine approached. He was there for the same reason and told her he was late for a meeting and that he’d come back tomorrow. This totally blew me away since I would have camped out there all day, knowing my green card was so close. Major Bill Eger, USA, is once cool customer. I was like a kid on Halloween staking out the house that gives out full size candy bars.

Finally the older guy left the processor’s office and I stood there politely. And I stood there. There I stood. Hello? Finally, she turned to me and said “Are you waiting for me?

(“Must not kill the processor. Must get green card…”)

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Name?”

“Jason Grose, er, Captain Jason Grose.”

“Oh yes, we talked earlier today. Did you say you were leaving early?”

“No, you told me to send you my special abstract and come and pick up my green card after 1330.”

“Really? Um, I thought we had agreed that I was going to get to it today and… yes, here’s your pdf but I still haven’t got to it.”

(MUST NOT KILL!!! MUST NOT SQUEEZE NECK UNTIL EYEBALLS POP OUT LIKE WET GRAPES!!!)

“You sent me the email.”

“What email?”

I got out my laptop and opened the email. It was sent by Nita (Dragon Lady), the other processor.

“Oh, Nita took care of yours. She’s two doors down.”

Good thing I let her live. I even overlooked the fact that I had wasted 15 minutes waiting for the wrong person.

As I walked down the hall, I had a sinking feeling. Too many things had gone slightly wrong and I just had the feeling it wasn’t over. There was something nagging me…

“Name?”

“Captain Jason Grose.”

(Blank look.)

“Oh, yes, Jason. Come in. OK, do you have your signature page?”

WHOOP, there it is!

Glenn had taken the thesis with the signature page over in the morning and tried to show it to the other processor. She didn’t seem interested in it and now I knew why: they wanted to see it only when you had sent the PDF and were picking up the green cards. Since Glenn didn’t talk to THIS processor, it didn’t matter what Glenn had done earlier. I was screwed.

Where was the signature page? Right on my desk in the lab, located the next building over. Another ant bite on my ankle.

I threw my bag in her office and told her I’d be right back. I rushed down the stairs, heading for the exit but before I even saw daylight, I remembered the keys to the lab was in my bag and no one was in the lab this morning. Back up the stairs I went and got my keys (Ouch, another ant bite).

As I ran across the quad, I realized I was not handling this gracefully, like an adult, and not even near like a Captain of Marines. I was running around all excited and irritated like a kid. Nothing like the cool character Bill who would come back tomorrow.

I got the thesis, brought it back, and handed it to Nita. I was ready to be bequeathed with my hard-earned reward so earnestly desired. With a smile, she handed me… a thesis survey form, a booklet, and a number two pencil. I suppressed a small scream that threatened to escape my trembling lips. Thirty questions and thirty bubbles to fill in.

Sweating from the unbecoming run across the quad, I wanted to make a pattern to convey my true feelings but since there were no bubbles for “I” and “O” and “N” and “T” and “G” and “V” and “F” and “U” and “K,” my plan fell through.

This survey was wrong on many levels. First, to give it to the student when they are waiting for their green card is introducing a great deal of bias. Most won’t give a rip and those that do, are so elated about the prospect of getting their green card, it introduces a euphoria that taints the true feelings. I had a combination of both feelings.

I had to laugh at some of the questions. It was obvious that the questions were pointed to justifying the NPS degree program against civilian university programs. The wording was so slanted and the desired answer so obvious, it was an apparent ploy to pump up the satisfaction rating elicited from the students.

“Compared to the civilian counterpart, NPS is able to offer a learning environment with exposure to a wide range of foreign military officers.”

Now how would you NOT agree with a statement like that? Why was it even asked? Most of the questions were just as difficult to offer a dissenting view and I found it distasteful to be treated like a pawn in their survey game. But hey, like I said, at this point I was not up for political squabbling (thus playing into their game) and for the questions that had a semblance of opinion, I tried to remove my rosy (green) glasses. You tend to have better memories, think higher of people, and justify the academic ordeal when you are near the end of it and looking back. It’s just human nature.

I finished the survey, wondering what the next hoop would be.

“Where is your thesis partner?”

(“If she says he has to be here, I WILL choke her. I will.”)

“He had to take his daughter to a medical appointment.”

At this point, forgive me Glenn, I would have taken my own green card and make you come in and jump the hoops. I’m not proud of this but I was desperate and I have learned in life that if you show this kind of desperation, people will withhold the very thing you are desperate for just to watch you squirm so I was trying like hell to be nonchalant.

She pulled out two green cards and with that smile again, she put them in front of me and offered her hand and congratulations. There it was, the elusive green card. I felt like grabbing it and running until I couldn’t breath. I was so happy, all was forgiven. I thanked her profusely, took her picture, and had her take my picture with the green card. I’m so cheap, it sickens me.

Free Advice for Today:
Beware of the person who has nothing to lose.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Monday, September 22, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“NEVER LOOK BACK UNLESS YOU INTEND TO GO THAT WAY.” 
- Unknown

Today was the equivalent of finding a $20 bill under a pile of gorilla dung. I had to sift through the bad to get to the good.

Stress was the buzzword for the day and as I recently commented in an email, the worth of a man is defined not in what happens to him but how he reacts to adversity. Well, today, I was somewhat worthless.

It started with taking my truck into the shop, again, because the ignition switch seized up yesterday. This, after taking the truck in because it was running rough last week. They charged me about $400 and then on their test drive, the fuel pump gave out. How convenient. That was another $300 and not even a rose or a dinner to go with it. If you do the math, that’s $700 for “running rough” and then the day I get it back, frozen ignition. I was, what's the word, oh yeah, livid.

This little situation affected my sleep because I was ready to go to blows with the dealership. Other details added to my surly attitude because the movers were arriving at 0800 to 0830, the dealership opened at 0730, and my daughter needed a ride to school at 0800. I wasn't sure how we were going to accomplish this but we got up early and when I went to start the truck, the battery was dead. I was about to go nuclear.

We had to jump it and I had no accessories but we made it to the dealership. They were running late (of course) so I had to send my wife home to take Steph to school and lo and behold, the movers show up early. Carrie has to tell them she’ll be right back, a fact that they didn’t like but I couldn’t really care any less, and she took our daughter to school followed by picking up my irate butt at the dealership.

I took the time to explain the entire scenario to the greeter (not the mechanic, mind you, because then there'd be some direct responsibility involved. This trick is mirrored at the other end when you pick up your vehicle and have to deal with the cashier who knows nothing about the repairs. Disassociate the responsible party from the customer is their business model). He wrote down a few scribbles, much less than what I conveyed to him. I pointed out as part of my $700 reaming, they replaced an ignition module and maybe that was not needed if the problem was misdiagnosed and should have been the faulty ignition switch. Of course, without checking and having no way of knowing, he justified the replacement saying there might have been some corrosion on the chip located in the distributor cap. I would have been more satisfied with “I don’t know, we’ll take a look.” But like they scenarios always are, I was at the mercy of professional justifiers and had little recourse but to authorize their robbery. I like mechanics about as much as I like lawyers, although I recognize them both as necessary evils.

When we got back to the house, the movers were waiting. Why is there always one guy in the group that you don’t like, don’t trust, or just gives off a bad first impression? This time this guy was in the massive form of the head mover. He was a big, tall, long-haired man with an attitude that just oozed. A few clipped comments he made really added to my general bad mood and I figured I’d end up kicking him out of my house at some point during the day. He didn't know it but he was dealing with a man possessing a fuse measured in microns.

I got ready for school and left, mostly to get out of their way. Part of the good news for the day was that I met with the assistant thesis advisor and got his signature on my thesis. But because of my mood, which tends to dictate my luck, the good thing was immediately followed by a bad thing: my main thesis advisor was nowhere to be found. I went back to my lab and worked on a couple of different projects until I was ready to come home. My son, for some reason, was getting out of school at 1335 and since I had the only running vehicle, was forced to come home early and get him.

At about 1255, right when I was ready to leave, I gave the advisor one more (of many) calls on the off chance that he was in and he was. I raced over to get him to sign the thesis and after that, I took it down the hall to the department chair. He promised to read it tonight (over 100 pages of something that would put a caffeine addict to sleep) and have it signed tomorrow. Score!! But beware, bad usually follows good and yes, I was paranoid by this point.

The new ignition switch was almost $300. Touché.

After I picked up the boy and went home, I was in no mood to be around my house that was being invaded and ransacked. I took my daughter and slipped away to Borders where I read a little bit of Madeline Albrecht’s new book and a hacking magazine. I was tired, peeved, and brooding so what better place than a bookstore? I fit right in.

After a couple of hours, I got the call that the coast was clear (cell phones are great conveniences but I was polite by turning it to vibrate and talking really quietly for the minimum amount of time to tell my wife I was coming home, unlike the irritating lady in line who announced to the entire store that she was indeed in Borders before transmitting her entire conversation through the entire store).

When I got home, my house was just a shell of its normal sanctuary. We went and got the truck back and as I reeling from the bill, I couldn’t wait to get home and lay down. I needed to let the day slip by and try to grasp onto some semblance of serenity. This would have worked if they wouldn’t have packed my copy of Cannery Row I was ¾ finished with. This, of course, set me off again. So I started in on my next book, Hitler’s Mein Kapf. How fitting that I try to soothe my anger with the writing of someone whose anger destroyed him and almost consumed the world.

I thought I should run so I went out of a 6 miler when the sun started going down and to my surprise, I ran well (just over 8 minute miles). Wonders never cease.

So now my home is upside down, I’m out of any comfort zone and routine, and pretty much failed my first day of moving stress.

Hey, at least I got the BLOG out. I will not pray tomorrow doesn’t bring more adversity. Rather I pray that God gives me the strength and patience to deal with whatever comes my way. I hope I perform better than today.

Free Advice for Today:
Create a little signal only your wife knows so that you can show her you love her across a crowded room.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Thursday, September 18, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“Mind is everything: muscle - pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am becasue of my mind.” 
- Paavo Nurmi, won 9 Olympic gold medals in long distance running

I thought I was good at Word for Windows. I really did. I even considered myself an advanced user and often helped others with the intricacies of the word processing monolith. A Jedi was I until I had to play the format game with my 7 MB thesis. I was reduced to a cussing novice.

Today, I received my thesis back from the official formatter at NPS, also know as The Dragon Lady. I had heard her referred to as such and didn’t really know why until I talked to her. I must admit that I believe my formatting, as frustrating as it was, was quantum levels above the average student who puts little effort in the detail required of formal writing. For that reason, I think the Dragon Lady was much more forgiving of me and I concluded that she received the nickname for three reasons:

1. She likely pounces on the less skilled students whose thesis she has to mangle and their interpretation of her comments earns her the nickname
2. No one gets a green card before fixing their thesis to her standards
3. She has a heavy Oriental accent

I received the thesis back today with a few edits (all bulleted lists need to be .5 inch from margin, references in table and figure titles, date accessed in references, etc.) and after making them, I went through the monkey show of saving it to a PDF file and printing the 103 page Goliath. This is when I noticed that one of the figures did not translate into PDF very well and was all goobered up. I guess Visio talks to Word OK but with PDF, to talkie-talkie. I won’t go through the pain I endured to fix this but suffice it to say I had to recreate the entire figure. I was quickly losing my patience and after a few hours of all this, I was ready to scream. Dan was in the lab and was just laughing at me because he had gone through the same pain last quarter. I had to murder him.

In the end, I got the thing done and all I have to do is get signatures. Glenn is back in San Diego with his family and the second reader won’t be back until Monday so next week, I will hopefully get a clean sweep on Monday and get the coveted green card by Tuesday.

I have to point out something that’s going on at my school. Let me remind you that I’m going to a school consisting of mid-level military officers, not to mention adults. Keep that in mind.

It started yesterday when the school announced that they were kicking out two civilian venders that sell coffee and Thai food in the central court. Basically, they want the MWR to take over these functions to make enough money so they don’t have to cut any other MWR functions (yes, expand operations to cut back on losses).

The first reaction was a large groundswell from the business department whose studentry wrote long-winded email pontificating all the concepts they are being taught in the business school. It was both sad and humorous how academic and obvious they were about applying these theories to the coffee cart and the “Love Shack.” You’d think they were writing an acquisition paper for the latest whiz-bang military weapon system.

If it was only this, it might have been but another passing annoyance we get plopped in our email every day. But the emails were going out to everyone on campus and therefore, since even military officers lose basic common sense when it comes to email, the responses started flying into the collective mailbox of every account.

Just when you thought the annoyance factor was pegged, the entire matter degenerated to the inevitable flavor these things always do. Someone let loose with an acidic description of his total lack of interest which in turn spurned a drippingly sarcastic response which, if you haven’t noticed, does not come across in email. Even considering the sarcasm, he crossed the line of decency, especially in a public forum.

Well, this obviously caused a whole new round of “jump on the idiot” and the saga continued.

When it started to wane, someone wrote the Collective and asked to be taken off the list. This motivated a dozen people to do the same so the emails kept coming. And comng. And coming....

I thought about writing all of them and telling them to knock it off but knew that this was just adding to the problem so I thought I could just ride it out. A few people, stratified by rank, called for a cease fire but to no avail.

I found it so hard not to add to the problem by writing the following:

“STOP. Just stop. No, do NOT reply to this or any other email on this subject. There is no ‘List’ so don’t ask to be taken off. Do you not realize that by the very act of responding to these emails, you are perpetuating the annoyance? Just do NOT respond. No, don’t think you have to get the last word. Don’t thank me or tell me I’m right, wrong, or a blithering idiot. Don’t acknowledge, don’t offer any of your penetrating insights in the matter, just kill this beast now, finish up your finals, enjoy your two days off, and try to remember that you are Officers in the military service of your country. Now hit delete and let the matter take its dying gasp.”

Free Advice for Today:
Begin each day with your favorite music.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from taking a swing.” 
- Babe Ruth

One week. No BLOG. Should be some kind of excuse huh? I should recap what’s happened in a week, huh? Forget it, too much time has passed and the only excuse I got is, well, I just haven’t felt like writing. Yes, as simple as that.

I was hit with some weird fatigue last weekend and slept all day Saturday. It took me a few days to recover but I think I finally shook it. I felt like I was on ship; sleep till your hungry, eat till your tired. My running has suffered too and I can’t seem to go more than 5 miles without breaking down. I had to stop at mile 1 of 12 last Saturday and walk home. I made it up on Sunday but it was like running on broken glass. For two days, my legs felt like they had been through a blender.

On the good side of life, I sent in my thesis to the format checker yesterday. They are supposed to have it back in two days when I’ll get all the signatures and hand in the final version. Then I’ll get my green card. No, it’s not THAT kind of green card; it’s the sheet of paper that says your thesis was accepted. To me, it’ll be like Charlie tearing back the corner of the Wonka Bar and seeing the golden ticket.

Today, I attended my last class at NPS. Here’s a strange fact: I’m getting a master’s degree in information technology management from the Naval Postgraduate School and on the last class of the last day, I take part in my FIRST VTC (video teleconference). We were hooked up to the DON CIO (Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer) and since I was on camera, I had to look like I was:

1. Awake
2. Interested
3. Comprehending
4. Not looking at myself in the feedback screen

All of this took considerable effort but I managed to pull it off. Oh, and I took away the fact that the mean salary of a CIO is $250K/yr with a range dipping down to $193K. This means even if I was the worst CIO in the biz, I’d still make over 5 times more than I currently make. Just some food for thought.

I checked my junk email account I use and was thoroughly disgusted with the subject lines I saw (quite a feat). I’m amazed that the majority of them have to do with my male endowment, either improving the size or using it for a variety of purposes to include young ladies of questionable morals, barn yard animals, and crazed coeds. I also received many emails wondering if I’ve heard, if I’d got the message, regarding our conversation, and the thing I asked them to send me. Does this really work on anyone? And what’s up with the crazy string of letters at the end? What’s the purpose of those? I figure it has something to do with either the automated mailer they use or a way to get by (unsuccessfully) the spam filters.

Tonight I had dinner with my thesis partner who piloted Marine 1 for the President before coming to NPS. I prodded him with questions and tip-toed up to the “I can’t talk about that” line. The two of us have spend hours together researching, writing, and editing our joint thesis together so if he halted the line of questioning with ME, it means something. I asked him about the procedures they taught him if the helicopter went down. Basically, he told me that the Secret Servicemen on board (although he didn’t tell me how many) would take care of the situation and, as he put it, “The President would be well-taken-care-of.”

One interesting thing he noted is that whenever they take off, there are 3 identical helicopters and they zoom around in and out of formation to confuse anyone watching. Not even the pilots know which one the President’s on.

Oh, and the paint job is a cool $1 million.

The Marine you always see saluting as the President steps off the helicopter is the crew chief, picked from among his peers to fill that post.

When the President is on board, it’s Marine 1. When the VP is on board, it’s Marine 2. When a head of state is on board, it’s State 1.

OK, that’s about it. I’ll try not to be gone as long next time.

Free Advice for Today:
Never deprive someone of hope; it might be all they have.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“There is only one sure way to fail and that is to quit.” 
- Unknown

Today was kind of a waste. Actually, it would be better categorized as an exercise in procrastinating the things I need to get done by doing things that don’t need to be done. I’m quite good at this.

My Wednesday class was cancelled so I had no reason to go today, except for the guest speaker they had speaking today. Um, yeah.

But I did get a good 6 mile run in, research the possibility of reselling domain names and selling Marine Corps stuff on my site, and wrote a memorial page for my cats. Oh yeah, and I came up with a rough draft of the last chapter in my thesis. That’s the main item I was procrastinating.

I got an email about domain reselling and then spent an hour researching the concept. I discovered that domain reselling is very scammish-sounding and a lot of companies would be glad to lift $100 a year to get you started. No one was really all that clear about what you needed or exactly how the whole thing works but they really seemed to want you to pay up and discover it as you go. Plus, it sounded a bit technical for my current abilities so I backed away slowly.

But as is my way, I immediately took a tangent toward the concept of selling Marine Corps stuff on my site. I receive so many requests for gift ideas concerning Marines, that I thought I could provide nice but relatively inexpensive gift items for little profit. It would be worth it for me just to provide the service to those that visit my page and would help to offset the cost of maintaining the page. That way, I wouldn’t have to depend on donations.

That was the idea so I scoured the Internet looking for wholesalers. I didn’t have very much luck and after a couple of hours, I decided to write the experts for help: two sites that I always plug. I wrote them the following letter:

My name is Captain Grose and we’ve corresponded before. I run my personal webpage and have you linked.

I have a strange request for some assistance. I get a lot of email asking about gifts and such and wanted some advice about how to get started offering a very limited selection of retail novelties involving Marine Corps items. My main target audience are the people wanting to get something for their newly boot-camp graduated Marine.

I understand this will be somewhat poking into your business but my intent is to offer just a few items I personally endorse and at a price that covers costs with very little profit. I think I have a pretty solid consumer base that reads my page but the problem is, I don’t know where to get the items or how to go about finding an American wholesaler, preferably a Marine.

I want to keep it small enough that I can manage the online “store” without a company or complicated software: just an “out of my garage” type of thing, correspond via email, maintain the page by hand, etc.

If you have any advice, I’d appreciate a little help. Thanks.

I got two very different responses. The first had a respectful tone but made it clear that they didn’t want to help me because it would cut into their own business. Welcome to the business world, Captain Grose.

The second was completely open but informed me of some of the downsides of doing something like this, namely that there is hardly anything that is pure American-made anymore and even if only 1% of it is made in America, it can claim the title “American Made.”

The next thing he pointed out is that I need a wholesaler permit. Damn.

Then I need to buy in bulk which means a $100 to $300 investment. Damn in bulk.

So as I should have known, it’s not as easy as I thought and I will definitely have to be serious to make it happen. I am a horrible businessman and just wanted to have a few things that people will want to buy, get the orders, and ship them out personally. I thought about some of my favorites such as mugs, little EGA stickers you can put on envelopes, pens, etc. I just don’t know if I can produce a consumer base but I guess if I really knew how to do that, I’d already be set.

Oh well, at least I got the cats’ memorial page done. It had been a link on my site for years and now I finally sat down and made the pages. Check it out.

Oh, and notice the new format on the front page and send me some feedback (marquee, colors of the side bar, rollover link styles, etc).

Free Advice for Today:
When adults are sick, care for them as though they were children.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” 
- Booker T. Washington

It’s been a few days and I’ve just haven’t had the gumpsha to sit down and write a BLOG. Nothing major, just busy and tired.

Saturday, I had a horrendous, shameful run. What was supposed to be a 20 mile training run ended up being a good 13 miler and then 7 miles of bonkville. By the end, I was running 2 minutes, walking 1 minute. It sucks when it gets to survival mode.

My two major complaints about the run was that the entire first hour, I needed a toilet in a very bad way. This may have been a contributing factor to my less-than-stellar performance at the end because for the first hour, my running style was a bit off. I ran along a public trail so the first opportunity to “have a seat” was at a beach port-a-potty. That was the longest hour in a long time!!! Even afterwards, I didn’t feel 100%.

My second complaint was stopping by the 7-11 and buying two bags of ice for my post-run ice bath. As though having a terrible run wasn’t bad enough, I got stuck behind an old lady who decided right then was the right time to turn in some lottery tickets. This process played out for about 5 minutes as she had a story for each ticket and had to decide which scratch tickets to redeem them for. It normally humors me to see people roll their lottery winnings into more tickets ("Can I take this ticket that's worth something and exchange it for one that is worth nothing, please?") but at this moment, I was in no mood to deal with such public stupidity. It almost pushed me over the edge to learn that the two bags of ice I was holding cost $1.79 each. Now I’m a cheapskate, I’ll admit, and I’ll also admit that in the grand scheme of things, I won’t really miss $4. But we’re talking frozen freakin’ water! The most abundant substance on the earth!!!!

Sunday, I went in to school and worked on my thesis until it was time to come home and get ready to go to a friend’s house for dinner. I had a great time and talked shop (he’s a fellow Adjutant) while watching football. Is there any greater way to spend a Sunday?

Monday was a full day of thesis work and then Monday Night Football with Glenn. We had a better run than the Saturday fiasco but then again, 5 miles is a bit different than 20.

Today, I tested my patience by going to the DMV to renew my California driver’s license. They instituted a numbering system vice a line system and either I’ve hit the place before at abnormally slack times or the new numbering system is causing delays orders of magnitude longer. It took me over two hours to take care of my 5 minute business.

At first, my wife accompanied me but I told her to go and I’d call her to pick me up. As she left, I had to get up and move because someone (I suspect the old man seated in front of me) decided to let the DMV customers waiting for service smell the inside of his asshole. Repeatedly.

I swear, common courtesy in public is dead. As dead as what was coming out of that old man.

I had planned ahead and brought the user’s manual to the computer system I will shortly be in charge of. 122 pages of edge-of-your-seat reading. It seems that after my master’s degree in information technology management at NPS, where I’ve been exposed to state of the art computing assets, I will be in charge of a DOS-based mainframe system with a Pong-like interface.

I read my little manual while the automated voice called out letter-number combinations like a round of BINGO in Hell. Everything was in slow-motion until G-96 was called. I was G-97.

After almost 2 hours, I was on the brink of getting on with my life when the realization hit me that it would cost money and I had no idea what I had in my wallet. I quickly opened my wallet and found $14. I then grabbed my wife’s cell phone she left me and dialed home. Right when I heard my son’s voice say “Hello?” I then heard “G-97” over the intercom. Naturally, I spazed and hung up the phone. I grabbed everything I had (which was just a bit more than I could carry gracefully) and stumbled over to the window, hoping that they wouldn’t skip over me. Right when I got to the counter, the cell phone rang. Loudly.

So here I was trying to talk to my wife and the lady at the counter, hoping not to piss either off. I told Carrie what was happening while potentially irritating the lady behind the counter. I said to my wife that all I had was $14 and I had no idea how much it would cost. As though to answer me, the lady looks at me and says “It will be $15.”

Classic.

Luckily for me, the lady had some trouble entering my data in the computer and it took long enough to allow my wife to arrive with the one dollar I needed. It seems that “Fredericksburg” chokes the California DMV computer system.

Just like combat, all that time with nothing to do and then total pandemonium all at once, when it counted.

Free Advice for Today:
Take lots of snapshots.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Friday, September 5, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“If you think you can, you're right; if you think you can't, you're right.” 
- Henry Ford

Another “full” day at NPS and the fact that it was a Friday made it almost blasphemy that I was even there on a Friday without class. But I’m glad I was because my thesis partner and I got a lot done on the thesis, sitting side by side and getting the chapters into the template. I discovered that even though I consider myself an advanced user of Microsoft Word, I can still be stymied with the simplest stuff. Styles can really bite you in the privates.

We also had a meeting with our thesis advisor, a professor who holds a doctorate. He’s been hands-off in the thesis department and with three weeks left, this is really the first meeting of consequence with him. Luckily, he liked the first draft of our paper and only had minor changes. Glenn and I were extremely happy about it and it looks like if we keep up our pace, we will be done by the end of next week.

Late in the day, I stopped by MWR to help with the webpage I made for them. A little bit of this, a little bit of that and I was off. Tonight was date night with my daughter so I had to get home. Of course she wanted McDonalds and swimming so that’s what we did. As I sit here with stinging eyes and reeking of chlorine, my mind hasn’t strayed far from the longest training run to date for this marathon cycle. I’m going 20 miles in the morning and hope for a good run (like last week’s 19 miler).

At dinner, I thought about the acknowledgment page of my thesis and considered who I would thank. I want to include my 10th grade math teacher, Mr. Maxwell, for getting me interested in math and scholastics in general. There’s the Marine Corps who taught me how to be a man and specifically SgtMaj Wertjes who taught me how to be a Marine. My mentor, Shane Maxey taught me how to be an NCO and father and Major Phil Patch taught me how to be an Officer. Then there’s the best teachers of them all: my kids who taught me how to enjoy life through kids’ eyes again and my wife for teaching me what’s really important in life.

A darker side of me wanted to thank my step-father who, when in 1980 his 6th grade step-kid asked him to teach him about that cool new computer thing he had, plopped down a foot-high stack of manuals and told the kid to read all of them, leaving the request at that.

Guess what, Rick, I earned an engineering bachelor’s degree in technical communications and now I have a masters of science degree in information technology management. I earned them from teachers, not manuals. You don't make the ack page; I succeeded not because of but rather in spite of.

Check mate.

Free Advice for Today:
Never acquire just one kitten. Two are a lot more fun and no more trouble.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Thursday, September 4, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“Hell begins on the day when God grants us a clear vision of all the gifts which we have wasted, of all that we might have achieved, of all that we might have done which we did not do.” 
- Minotti

I learned a lot of things today.

First, I learned what I will be doing for the next few years for the Marine Corps. It seems I will be the BNA System Sponsor for the Formal Training Branch of Training Command. What, you ask, does this entail, you ask? Well, I’m not quite sure but it sounds cool. I’ll be working 60 seconds away from the train station that drops me off and picks me up so that was a major coup. In fact, I was told that if my desk was any closer to the train station, I’d be selling the tickets.

I also learned that there is not a single map of the buildings on the Quantico base anywhere on the Internet. It’s rare I get stumped looking for something on the Internet (the last time being when I got the urge to get a picture of the famous Ronald McDonald I grew up watching, without make-up. Before that, it was the lyrics to the In Living Color theme song by Heavy D and the Boyz).

The next thing I learned is that making a dynamic webpage using a free Brinkster site and having connection string problems can waste the majority of the day. Finally at the end of the day, I nailed it and got it working but not before sending an email SOS to Brinkster. I used the oldest trick in the book because I registered the site for the women’s tennis team at NPS and left the name neutral. So when I emailed for help, I signed it as “Anna K.” on the assumption that any Brinkster worker-bee geek would take faster notice of a female name. It took all I had not to sign off as “Bambi.”

Tonight, I had Glenn over and we went on a five mile run before gorging ourselves on pork chops and beer. We watched the season football opener and had a great time just drinking beer, watching football, and talking. It’s a nice break after two full days of solid school work (Believe me, I know how lame that sounds and the reality of full work days coming soon is weighing heavily on my mind).

The last thing I learned was that I have 1 month and 18 days of my GI Bill left. At the current rate, that translates to about $1400 and that means that I can take Microsoft Certifications for free. If it costs $1000, they just knock off a month's entitlement and I have $400 left. Bachelor's degree, master's degree, Microsoft Certifications: does the Corps' nipples EVER get raw?

Free Advice for Today:
Look for opportunities to make people feel important.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“Never esteem anything as of advantage to yourself that shall make you break your word or lose your self-respect.” 
- Marcus Aurelius

Freak out mode has officially begun.

Three weeks. I have three weeks to complete my thesis, finish the web page I’m doing for grade, and get ready to move. With the help of gallons upon gallons of coffee, we’ll be just fine (“we” being myself and the other 5 of me that I see when I look in the mirror). Oh, and lest we forget: marathon prep is at full throttle (20 miles on Saturday). All I have to say is....wha, wha, what happened?

My freak out mode officially began by waking up at 0620 and getting into school an hour later (and an hour before I normally wake up). I was amazed how much I can get done by locking myself in a small room and going at what needs to be done. If it not for nature calling, I would likely have been in there, in the same position, until I peeled my butt off the chair at the end of the day.

By the time I got home, I thought a cat nap was in order but I was informed that my daughter’s open house was tonight. If she wasn’t looking so forward to me going, I would have sooo skipped it but like a good father, I stumbled my way to her class where she sat proudly when the teacher praised her. At that moment, it was worth it in spades.

But it was not all milk and cookies (actually, no milk and cookies were served at all which is good because I need to fit into my uniform for graduation). My 4th grade daughter was chosen to be in a split class with 4th and 5th graders. I considered it a compliment because they only chose students who were independent and could handle the situation. Obviously my daughter is doing better in this situation than the whiner, I mean father, in front of me. He was belly-aching about his kid not getting the 4th grade education he deserved. I took as much of this as I could before speaking up.

The tricky thing was that the kids were present so I couldn’t be as blunt as I wanted to be. What really pissed me off is that he was complaining publicly and thus undermining the special status we convinced our daughter she had for even being allowed to be there. He highlighted that it was a necessity and if you listened to him, it wasn’t an honor to be there.

"Mommy, why did that bad man with no hair shove Daddy's head in his bottom?"

So I started by asking the teacher how they had chosen which 4th graders would be in the class. Just as I knew, they were hand-picked by their 3rd grade teachers. I then highlighted this fact to Mr. Crybaby and also pointed out that our kids don’t have to deal with the “problem children” normally present because those kids would not be in the class. I said the kids need to know they were above average to be there. It gives them valuable exposure to the world of 5th grade they would normally not see and it gives them a chance to be more independent. Lastly, I said that it’s incumbent for the parent to pick up any perceived slack since this class was the reality. In other words, stop worrying about the class and concentrate on helping your kid. School isn't just a place to drop off your kid and have him or her returned full of knowledge. Newsflash you idiot; you have to be involved with your child's education and fill in any gaps. Gasp!!

I swear, you just can’t please some people. He took a compliment and made it into a complaint. Amazing.

After I was done, I noticed the teacher’s eyes giving me a big “thank you.” Just then, one of the 5th grade mothers spoke up and complained that the 5th graders were considered on the bottom rung of the 5th grade ladder, assuming they took the top of the 4th and bottom of the 5th and stuck them into one class. I just about choked.

I guess I just don’t play well with others. I try but I fail.

Free Advice for Today:
When a child is selling something for a dime, give a quarter.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“THE REWARD OF A TASK WELL DONE IS TO HAVE DONE IT.” 
- Unknown

I hate to stereotype but you be the judge: who is this guy?

A. A cool high school quarterback and prom king
B. An outgoing, straight-A student with a lot of friends who knows nothing about computers
C. My senior high school pic
D. The geek teen responsible for creating a variant of the MSBlaster virus

Gee, how did you guess? Yes, this doink is responsible for the second, albeit less damaging, virus that crapped out thousands of computers around the world. Could there be a more dead-on stereotype than this kid?

The article said that he’s been let out on the stipulation he not get on the Internet. I think the possibility that he will refrain from the net is quickly approaching zero.

“Sure Judge, Reinfeld is it? Yeah, I’ll stay off the web, I promise.” (Later that day, the judge’s credit is shot, his bank account is drained, his phone bill reaches 7 digits, and his hard drive is filled with child pornography as he hears the sounds of sirens and screeching tires pull up to his house.)

I love what the article had to say about him:

“Neighbors interviewed by the Associated Press described Parson as a big kid who drove too fast, changed his hair color often and spent a lot of time on his computers. Neighbor Curtis Mackey said the allegations surprise him. "I didn't think he had the smarts for it myself," he told the news service. ‘The profile kind of fits. He kind of liked to be alone a lot.’"

So to sum up, this delinquent goon zooms around the neighborhood with colored hair and spends his free time alone, banging away on a computer. Plus, people around him think him too stupid to create something like a computer virus. Wow, the kid shows real promise.

Wait a minute, I zoom around my neighborhood with shaved hair, spend my free time alone, banging away on a computer, and people not only think I’m too stupid to create something like a computer virus, but their right!! Oh my God, I might be below the people I belittle (pause for thought…) Naw.

At least I can take solace in the fact that he’s ten quantum levels above me on the “Geek Look” scale.

(In case you're reading this Mr. Parson, please don't destroy my life through vindictive rage. Thanks.)

Free Advice for Today:
Always offer guests something to eat or drink when they drop by.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Monday, September 1, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“COURAGE IS DOING WHAT YOU'RE AFRAID TO DO. THERE IS NO TEST OF COURAGE UNLESS YOU'RE SCARED.” 
- Unknown

Tonight was a total flashback to the 70’s.

I slothed in front of the TV and watched hours of VH1s retro show about the 70s and was reminded of so many repressed memories. I think they should have stayed repressed.

Here is a list of my revelations:

1. My brother stabbing my Stretch Armstrong to see what was inside wasn’t unique
2. I didn’t know “Brick House” was about fat women
3. Fashion in the 70s is still hideous to behold
4. I had no idea what Candies were but my wife had a pair
5. The Mean Joe Green Commercial is cheesier than what I remember
6. Linda Carter as Wonder Women still stirs pre-pubescent emotions in my, I mean, me.
7. Captain Kangaroo is really scary-looking to me now
8. Rubbing the blue stuff on the ring-around-the-collar sparked a vivid memory for me
9. Starsky and Hutch come off as uber-gay now
10. Ponch strikes me as the last person I’d expect to cling to his cheesy celebrity status (NOT!)
11. I have deep resentment for the Village People
12. The Sweat Hogs would have had their asses beat handedly by any rival gang
13. The Swedish Chef had real fingers
14. Anything to do with Studio 54, including the grainy footage, really turns my stomach
15. Lonnie Anderson does not have human DNA. She looks like a cartoon.
16. I still want to watch Shields and Yarnell move like robots
17. Rocky’s big uppercut to Apollo Creed still sends a rush of adrenaline though my system.
18. Someone who can do a Chewbacca imitation makes me laugh out loud
19. “Chewbacca” does not cause a red underline in Word which tells me that Bill Gates is geekier than I feared.
20. Lou Ferrigno’s face as the Hulk was more scary than the concept of gamma rays
21. Simon the game can still kiss my ass
22. Pop Rocks were way cooler for the person eating them than for those who had to listen to the chemical reaction from the outside.
23. Bo Derrick’s existence was a ten to me as a kid but as an adult, I’d give her about a 6.
24. If we’re talking about her modern look, let’s drop that to a 3. OK, maybe 4.
25. Shirley Jones still looks like a mom to me even though I’m probably older than she was in the 70s.
26. Charlie’s Angels did nothing for me as a kid. The only thing I thought was cool about Farrah Faucet was that she was married to the Six Million Dollar Man.
27. Mister Roger’s house always confused me a little bit but I always liked the stop light. Don’t know why.
28. Is it wrong that Cindy Brady did more for me than Farrah or Bo when I was a kid?
29. I’m now proud of myself that I really disliked Kiss as a kid. How ya feelin’ now, Kiss fans? (Sad thing is, they’re probably still proud.)
30. Both Kermit’s and Grover’s arms crack me up

Free Advice for Today:
Believe in miracles but don't depend on them.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


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