Jason's BLOG pages



Jason Grose's BLOG

November 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.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

What’s worse than having to travel 11 hours for Thanksgiving? Have to drive it back after an unforgettable visit.

Not much to report except that everyone on the entire Eastern seaboard decided the hit I-85 today. I was the tired-looking one right smack dab in the middle.

We made it home uneventfully (except that it took us a disproportionate amount of time to get the last 5 miles thanks to Fredericksburg traffic) and all I wanted to do was get to bed. I had to get to work early and all was going well until I started fiddling with the computer.

I thought it was fixed after uninstalling Office 2003 and installing Office XP. But alas, after many hours of wasted effort, I had to send out this SOS to two of my friends:


You are the smartest people in this area I know. Any suggestions on who to ask?

Problem: Outlook 2002 freezes when I access the calendar, causing my blood pressure to skyrocket.

Symptoms: When I try to change the calendar view to month (or mess with it at all), the whole Outlook program stops responding and uses 100% of my CPU until I cancel out the program.

Background: I installed the beta version of Office 2003 but it expired at the end of November so I decided to take it off before it stopped working. I completely uninstalled Office 2003, making sure my .pst file was properly backed up (and I tested to make sure the .pst file installed on my laptop version of Office XP. It did.).

Next, I did a complete install of Office XP and repointed Outlook to see my .pst file. I had a bit of trouble because it didn’t like it (would not send and receive) but I read up on it in the Knowledge Base and found out that I should go to the mail option in the Control Panel and make a new profile. Instead, I copied the existing one, renamed it, and everything seemed to work fine until it started freezing when I accessed the calendar.

I then checked for patches for Windows but none were needed.

I checked for Office patches and installed service packs 1, 2, and a few other patches. Still froze.

I did the detect and repair. No help.

I completely uninstalled and then reinstalled Office XP (twice). No help.

I made a new .pst file and tried to copy all of the Outlook folders over, piece by piece. When I did the calendar, it choked again.

I tried to export the .pst file from my laptop and import it into the problem child. It froze while importing the file (twice).

I can still check email but it seems my calendar is broken. I have a lot of data there that I don’t want to reenter.

Pop up reminders work, also.

The version of Office XP I’m using is from NPS so I don’t know what support options I have from Microsoft. I already scoured the Knowledge Base with no luck.

If you can help, please let me know before I do some 7th degree Kung-Fu on this damn computer.

-- Jason

I went to bed less than happy.

Free Advice for Today:
Say 'please' a lot.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

The morning was another relaxing one until we went out shopping for electronics. My cousin Angie, the youngest of the trio, married and had three boys years ago. Her husband, Scott, shared a trait that assured him of fitting in with the Ganns. He is big, just like her brothers and father. I mean football big and if it wasn’t for 5 torn ligaments in college, he too would have been an NFL alumnus. Just what the Ganns needed, another giant in the gene pool. The three boys have no chance but to become physical Supermen. It will be interesting to see them as adults. I will know the answer to the question of “how in the world did they get that big?”

Scott wanted my Uncle Kenny to go with him to shop for a TV and other electronics since their house had been hit by lightening, frying most everything plugged in. Uncle Kenny’s presence was requested not because he knew a lot about electronics but simply because he knew business and he knew people. In fact, Uncle Kenny knew very little about electronics but woe be the salesman who attempts any high pressure antics in his presence.

As a nod to me, Uncle Kenny did what he does best and what has made him successful over the years in business: he surrounded himself with people that were experts in their field and had them do the tech work. He wanted me to go on the assumption I knew all about electronics. I was flattered and played my part only when asked, not wanting to interject my unrequested opinions. So it went that Scott asked Uncle Kenny, whom he trusted implicitly, and then Uncle Kenny would confer with me.

We ended up getting a big screen LCD TV, a video camera, VCR/DVD palyer, and a variety of other items. I steered them toward Panasonic when asked because I had success with the brand and told them that like brands were better if possible. It was fun to pick out expensive equipment but not as fun as taking it home. At least I got my first taste of holiday shopping crowds. A bitter taste.

Mark and Nancy showed up and I was once again glad to see them. Mark is the oldest of the cousins and like the others, is as tall and big as he is friendly. Because of the age difference, we were not ever all that close but have always had a warm relationship. Sharing a common family, we became closer as adults and every time I can remember us talking, I’ve always walked away with the feeling that I really like my cousin Mark. What a great guy. His wife, a rare shorty in a family of giants, has always been outgoing and friendly. She spent a long time drawing pictures with my daughter and I could tell it was a time that Stephanie will remember as a defining moment in her memories of the Ganns.

Tonight we had a weenie roast in the backyard. At first, I wondered why we planned a weenie roast when it was going to be in the sub-30s. The neighbors must have thought we were all nuts.

We started a big bon fire and to my surprise, I was sweating most of the time. We all sat around, ate hot dogs and smores, and talked about anything and everything that came to mind. Kids ran around everywhere and the feeling of family and togetherness prevailed. Everyone was there and for the third day in a row, the Ganns got together as a family. This fact did not escape my notice and I thanked all of them for taking the time and effort to do it. Even though they live close, it’s a rare event when everyone can get together, much less three days in a row. I was utterly shocked and proud at the thought that my family’s presence could be partially responsible.

Free Advice for Today:
Remember other people's birthdays.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Friday, November 28, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

Today we did a whole bunch of talking and relaxing: two things I’ve perfected.

For dinner we planned to meet at a Mexican restaurant but it was closed for renovation. Even with the highly organized, highly successful Gann family, it seemed out of place that a little unforeseen and unpredictable glitch in reality would invade their plans. I thought those kind of things only happened to me and not the ideal family. But they proved to me something that I always knew: it’s not what happens to you but it’s how you react. Without missing a beat, they found another Mexican restaurant and we proceeded to have a great time.

The plan for the night was to go to Michael Joe’s playoff football game, despite the fact it was really cold and Michael Joe likely would not play as a freshman. The thrill of a high school football game was barely affected by the bitter cold. I had four layers of clothing on plus a wool blanket and still whined about the cold. I had a great time and was amazed at the size of high school kids today. It was not surprising to see MJ at 6’1”, 197 lbs considering his dad’s proportions but there was a kid on the other team, a 12th grader, who was (and this is NOT a typo), 6’9”, 350 lbs. What errant biological misfire could produce such a beefatron?

The game was fun but I was ready to leave by the end, gathering my testicles from under the bleachers. When we got home, I was tired merely from the constant shivering. The fire felt good and I once again lost consciousness, content in my aunt’s and uncle’s house, thankful for another day with them and the one ahead.

Free Advice for Today:
Watch a sun rise at least once a year.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Me on travelling songs from my Thanksgiving Essay

I awoke in a king size bed at 0630. After “sleeping in,” I was eager to get up and go walking.

No, I don’t mean exercising, I mean Memory Lane.

My Aunt Shirley’s house is a family museum of the Ganns. She has a penchant for photography (a statement my Uncle Kenny would find amusingly understated) and decorates her house with the best decorations of them all. I was treated with viewing pictures I had looked upon as a child, intermingled with new pictures of grown up versions of people I only knew as children. Not only did the people in the pictures bring back memories but one level out, the memory of a particular picture, elicited memories as well. I spent an hour and a half alone but not alone. I looked at every picture and delighted in the past I sometimes hazily remember. Mark and Mike with prepubescent bowl cuts. Angie with the flamenco outfit on her child frame. Black and white pics of people generations ago.

I had a wonderful time and by the time anyone got up, I had successfully scanned the entire house. So many memories. All good.

Mike is the 2nd of two boys, Mark being the oldest. Angie is the youngest and rounds out the Gann children. We had Thanksgiving dinner at Mike’s new house and the guest list included a total of 20 people for the celebration. I am always proud to tell anyone who will listen that Mike was a defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons for 9 years but despite his celebrity (which he shuns completely), he is still my cousin and a hell of a father and husband. The fact that he towers with dizzying height and proportions makes it a little hard to forget but it didn’t take long to see him for what he is: kin. To me, he’s just Mike and that overshadows the fact he happened to play a game for a living once.

Dinner was everything you would conjure up if you had to make a stereotypical Thanksgiving dinner. All the fixings were there but most importantly, a current of family pervaded the gathering. I stuffed myself with all of it and felt full in more ways than one. I expected nothing less and was not disappointed.

I thought about the men and women stationed overseas and a sadness touched my heart. I can vividly remember the feeling of wanting holidays to just come and go as fast as possible, even wishing they just skip over. I thought of the celebrations going on in their absence and the undercurrent of sadness from missing a loved one. I then thought about how much pride I have in these volunteers who answered the call to defend this great Nation and was humbled by their dedication. When I heard that the President had made a surprise visit to the troops, my heart swelled with pride. He is a President and they are men and women who deserve the service each gives the other.

This was truly a great Thanksgiving.

Free Advice for Today:
Overtip breakfast waitresses.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

Mapquest said 9 hours and 20 minutes. Mapquest never took the trip on the busiest day of the year. Mapquest over-estimated the general intelligence of the average driver on I-85.

I took a big chance before I left and decided to uninstall the beta version of Office 2003 because as of November 30th, it would not play with me any more. Somehow, I got away with it and it only cost me ½ hour past my planned departure time. I was lucky. Dumb, but lucky.

Not much to report about the drive. It was long. It was boring. It was sitting on my ass all day. But in the end (excuse the pun), it was worth it.

The trip was to Atlanta where my aunt and uncle live. The sister of my father, my Aunt Shirley has always been that aunt you rave about and the one you want to be if you ever become an aunt (a major challenge for me). She leaves lipstick on your cheek and makes a huge deal out of even the merest of accomplishments. She listens to you whether you are toddler or adult with equal interest and kids sense her genuine love. I still categorize myself in that group, by the way, when I visit.

My Uncle Kenny is the classic no-nonsense, does not suffer fools gladly, big, teasing, headstrong, roll up your sleeves and make it happen type of role model. This, combined with his 6’4” frame with a heart to match, qualifies him as someone anyone would desire to be related to. He is simply “My Uncle Kenny.”

Getting to their place made the car ride worth every numb appendage and you would never know that my wife had only met Aunt Shirley once, years ago. Introducing everyone seemed wrong since we had been in contact for decades but the fact remained, they had not seen Alex in 6 years and had never met Stephanie. Not that you would have known because we knew the red carpet was laid out and would continue for our stay. I kept warning the kids to be careful of what they asked for because it would magically appear in the presence of Aunt Shirley and Uncle Kenny.

They were in the hot tub within a half hour.

Free Advice for Today:
Look people in the eye.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

Today was a red letter day for a simple reason. I met a Colonel, a SGTMAJ, and a General and the one I cared most about happened to be my Drill Instructor 16 years ago. I’ve had only one interaction with him since becoming an Officer and that was over the phone so today’s meeting face to face was a surreal experience to say the least.

The opportunity arose when we had a meeting across the base. Since I take the train in, I must depend on the kindness and automotive transportation of others. The meeting was over a system I knew little about and tried feverously to act interested in but only managed to take notes on the lexicon that is program management. If you’ve ever been a part of a project, you will recognize thinking “outside the box” and “breaking paradigms.” It kept me sane through the meeting where I partook in buzzword bingo. I’ve been reading/living too much Dilbert lately.

Before the meeting. I ran into the first of a trio of memorable people from my past. My old CO from Tanks was working in the building and seeing him in an office environment was like seeing Patton behind a desk. It just didn’t seem to fit. The good Colonel shook my hand and seemed genuinely pleased to see me again and despite our contact over the last few months, I think he would have been glad to see Sirhan Sirhan. For all the legendary lineage, Quantico is still HQ and that means cubicle Hell. I wouldn’t be surprised to read about the Colonel going postal one day. Soon.

After the bingo meeting, I asked my ride if he had other business, which he did, and I eeked out a 15 minute window of opportunity.

With cotton in my mouth, I walked onto the Recruiting Command floor and sought out the Sergeant Major. My boots were walking on air as I was escorted to his office and I watched as a Sergeant walked into the office and looked at the desk, which I could not see. All I could see was the reaction of the Sergeant and I knew the Sergeant Major was in when I saw the expression of the Sergeant catching the Sergeant Major’s attention. It was not unlike the sheepish expression of a young version of myself approaching a younger version of the Sergeant Major. I saw the respect. I saw the tinge of apprehension. I knew he was just around the corner. My heart beat a little faster.

I could hardly hold myself back from barging in and thankfully, the Sergeant nodded me in after telling the Sergeant Major there was a Captain here to see him. I felt the irrational urge to slam my open palm against the bulkhead three times and announce my presence. After all these years, not a day had passed.

The Sergeant Major was on the phone and he flashed a big grin and a head nod as I entered. Physically, the man had only changed in minor ways a life of a Marine requires. He told the phone he had to go and hung up quickly as he sprang to his feet and thrust out an eager hand which I met with an iron grip. These same hands had guided me, adjusted my drill movements, and welcomed me to the Corps on graduation day so many years ago. Symbolically, these were the same hands that guided my movements for a decade and a half through endless missions and even a war. These hands never abused me but never approached covered in velvet. These hands were responsible for so much of what I am and they had never led me astray.

With this in mind, what do you say to someone upon first meeting? Why, you babble in one long sentence like a moron, of course.

I think (I’m really not sure), I described what I’m doing at my current assignment and then caught him up on everything since graduation. He reciprocated by doing the same and I found out some startling info, like one of my Drill Instructors, SSGT Garcia, got out of the Corps as a Master Sergeant and is now a manager of a motel in Jacksonville. This brought to mind a bevy of funny Flash cartoons I could make injecting a DI into a motel service scenario. "I see you der, guest, you'll pay for dat in da mornin..."

The problem was that I only had 15 minutes or my ride was going to leave. I was painfully aware of the fleeting time and wanted to stretch out our conversation to hours, if given the opportunity. The end came too quick. I wanted to stay. I had to go.

As I left, I realized I had taken up the Sergeant Major’s valuable time and there were people waiting for him. I don’t think he would have ever pointed it out at the time. To converse with him on a somewhat equal footing, to see him as a man and as a Marine, eye to eye, was a enlightening experience. For just a moment, I saw a man who, like me, dedicated some of his best years to the Marine Corps and endured the highs and lows of Marine life. It felt somewhat like coming full circle and accomplishing something I had unconsciously striven for all these years: living up to the lofty expectations taught to us from the beginning. If I could be found worthy by the very man who instilled the expectation, well, I guess I can take that as proof that I did good. Even after all these years, his approval is the very definition of success for me. Such is the effect of a Marine’s Senior Drill Instructor.

As a treat, whether intended or not, I got a bonus flashback. After I dismissed myself, I was walking to the outer office when I heard an all-too-familiar bark. The Sergeant Major was not talking to me but a Master Sergeant waiting for him. The Sergeant Major playfully chastised the Top for standing around, not doing work (as a result of waiting for some dumb Captain to return the Sergeant Major’s ear). But the booming voice was unmistakable and I froze in my tracks. I am not exaggerating, I stopped dead cold. I shot a look over my shoulder and years evaporated as Recruit Grose was standing there with a scared/confused/hesitant look on his face until I realized he was not talking to me. Sheepishly I continued my stride which was flash-frozen a moment before. My last image as I left of him exactly mirrored the one I had carried for 16 years: him standing with hands on hips.

Semper Fi, Sergeant Major.

Free Advice for Today:
Have a firm handshake.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

I’m back to the races.

This morning, we had the Quantico Turkey Trot and for some unknown reason, I came to play. I have been working out almost every day but only running a mile to warm up before the workouts. Regardless, I felt good and despite the agreement to have fun and run at an 8+ minute pace, well, it didn’t turn out like that.

Sir Phil came over at 0715 and I had loaded my microwave into the car. The house we bought came with a built in microwave and we have limited counter space so it was my job to get rid of the old one. I decided that my workspace on the base was a perfect candidate. That way, I didn’t have to walk the 40 feet to the one in the break room. Maybe I’ll get to the point where I never have to even leave my desk!!!

We got to the gym where everyone was waiting for it to open up and we were finally let in (after watching the workers gab to each other in full view, they knowing full well we are outside waiting to come in but it wasn’t QUITE 0800. Asses!)

I’ve noticed that some of the help at the gym are not all that impressed with their customers. Some of the attitudes include the “I’m so hot, I can get away with talking to you any way I want.” Well, that don’t work for me so I foresee a bit of friction.

It ends up we didn’t even need to go into the gym because they had set up the registration and packet pick up at the field where the race started and ended. I had procrastinated and missed the early registration and had to register on race day. This is again when I hit the attitudes wrapped in playful banter. Maybe I just haven’t got on board with the ab ladies’ interaction but I will give it time, giving them the benefit of the doubt.

The race was a five mile run and Sir Phil had goaded the people at his work to run it again. This seems like a reoccurring theme. They showed but I was running with Sir Phil and when the race started, we began to run, quickly losing the gang.

We started passing people right away and I realized I felt absolutely no pain. I was cooking and had the energy of the groove right away. I’ve been running long enough never to question it and if it’s there, just let it go for as long as it lasts. We kept reeling people in and even accelerated up the first big hill. I will point out that Sir Phil was behind me, telling me to go ahead and push it. I think he sensed I had a spark.

It wasn’t until mile 3 that I even felt anything resembling effort. Sir Phil was a bit less vocal about the pace but somewhere, I realized it was very important to go with the goofy energy and pull myself from the ashes of the Marine Corps Marathon like a Phoenix. Yeah, it was only a five mile run but my last attempt at an organized race had resulted in bitter disappointment. I’ll take what I can get.

The last mile really bit. I knew I was going to have a good run but the hyper-speed seemed to go away and then I was left with just plain strife. I was glad to see a good straight away down the main drag but the thought would not go away that I would die in the last mile and lose everything I had gained in the first 4 miles.

The last half mile consisted of the hill in back of my building and it was a monster. I was very much hating life on the way up but I knew exactly how far it was to the end since it was the route I take every day to the gym. I decided to get into a pace and finish in style.

In a race that you don’t really know the route, combined with starting to die at the end, every foot counts. You just want the damn thing to end and when I crested the hill, I saw the stadium. I was excited but I knew there were little dangers consisting of the terminal route to the finish line. As I feared, we had to go past the stadium, take a right, and do a lap before we get to finish. I hate this so much because you just want to end it and you have to do this little spin to get to the end.

Of course, I pulled the bastard move I always do and accelerated at the end, passing all sorts of people. The only one I felt remotely bad about was the little kid but who knows, maybe he was a spectator running his dad in or something. We’ll go with that.

My time was 37:35, although I started as I crossed the start line which was a little past the official start. That works out to about 7.5 minute miles which I’m happy with. Sir Phil, on the other hand, was not so happy. He wanted a fun run and I chided him that he bitches at me for running slow in the marathon and for running fast in this one. He pointed out that in neither one was I maintaining the stated and agreed upon goal of each race. I just smiled and was comforted that I was back in pseudo-running shape.

After the race, we delivered the microwave, stopped at the package store so Sir Phil could get some liquid goodies, and then it was on to Fredericksburg where we went to a brewery. They make microbrew and Sir Phil has got me hooked. I get to fill up my big bottle for $2. It took a bit longer than I wanted and I was oblivious of the fact that I was still in running tights and even still had my racing number pinned to my shirt. We got the tour of the facility and learned that brewing beer is an intricate art I will likely never want to indulge in. The most fascinating part was that they actually introduce a certain amount of bitterness to the beer…PURPOSELY!!! What the hell?

I got home and had lunch and took my nap. My body had awoken at 0500 again and after the race and a good meal, it was more than I could resist. Everything was fine until a massive hamstring cramp decided my naptime was to come to an abrupt end. I did the old plank movement the rest of my body writhed in pain. Payback for the run, I guess.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing (and cleaning up a week’s worth of dog crap. With my schedule, I’m not home during daylight hours so I get to go crap hunting every weekend. Carrie’s view: my dog, my crap-searching duty.)

We are traveling to Georgia for Thanksgiving and since we won’t be here next weekend, the kids wanted to put up the Christmas tree. I started a fire for them and my son was all into this decorating, fireplace, Christmas music thing. He bopped around in his Santa hat and was all excited. They get their Christmas spirit from their mother and I worked on updating my page which I desperately needed to do. So we all got to do things we wanted and I popped in every once in awhile to see their progress. They were Santa’s elves working hard for the holidays.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't confuse foolishness with bravery.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Friday, November 21, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

I got word that Col Mauldin, my Regimental CO at 7th Marines, was going to be on base today. I went to the head shed on the chance he was there and I was lucky to find him talking to the Chief of Staff. I waited outside the office and when he came out, I totally shocked him by standing up with a smile and extended hand.

“Grose! What are you doing here?”

“I just checked in last week and heard you’d be on base today so I tracked you down.”

He was glad to see me and we gabbed for a few minutes. I was surprised to hear he was retiring soon and I reminisced how he wanted to start a war somewhere when he was 7th Marines so he could fight the Regiment. He told me he got to go to Northern Iraq with a special convoy before the war started. I noted how much of a huge target he and the General who was with him would have been up there. Crazy old Colonel!!

I also had my first “S&G Metting” today. S&G is a restaurant in Q-Town and when we go there for a meeting, we eat. Yes, it’s a thinly veiled excuse to go and get some chow.

I also had a long discussion with some of the civilian programmers that work with me. They have limited knowledge of the Marine Corps so I try to fill them in as much as I can. They seem genuinely interested and I get to tell all my sea stories. One of them also wants to start running with me so in a couple of weeks, I’ll not let him bail out no matter how much he whines.

Today was also the day that Sir Phil finished up his 6 week class up at Ft. Belvoir and started working on the base again. I met up with him at the ab class at lunch (where I did a pitiful job at keeping up with the insane instructor). Later, I met him at the train station and gave him a ride home from the drop off point. We have running plans for tomorrow.

Tonight was date night with my wife so I took her to a nice steak house and the hour wait was no problem since we bellied up to the bar and talked. We had a great dinner and had a long discussion about everything from her education plans to my new job. It was a great night and well worth doing at least once a month.

Free Advice for Today:
Never say, 'My child would never do that'.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

It finally caught up with me today.

The 5 hours of sleep per night thing was doable for the first three days of the week but today, the piper showed up with hand extended.

All day, I was walking around in a daze and the unseasonably warm weather did not help things out. The only high point of the day was that I got to wear my new cammies. They are the new digital kind and I went around asking everyone if they could see me.

By the end of the day, I was a zombie and when I made it home, I ate dinner and crashed in flames. At 1930. I laid down for a post-dinner rest that turned into light out for the old Grosemeister. I was out for the count and nothing was going to change that.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't carry a grudge.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

I saw something this morning that I never want to see again.

I took the early train to work and was walking along a dark road toward my building when I saw a deer dart across the road. Then I saw another. A minute later, I saw two cars coming down the road and five seconds before it happened, I clearly saw what was to come. The deer was running at a tight angle in the same direction as the lead car but at an oblique. I could see that the deer was going to bolt across the street at a tight angle where the driver would never see him.

Sure enough, the deer jumped in the way and **POW**, the truck grill nailed the deer about 30 feet in front of me. The poor animal was propelled forward and the first thing that hit the ground was his side and then proceeded to barrel roll right in front of me. The truck was only going about 25 MPH but it was enough to send the dumb animal rolling. The deer tried to recover and made several attempts to get up but had a hard time. After a few tries, he finally made it to his feet and ran off but his back legs looked a little off.

So the deer had a very bad day and the driver must have been wide awake. My own reaction surprised me because I really didn’t think I would give a rip either way but I found myself suddenly depressed. I guess when you own a dog that could have easily been on the receiving end, it hits a little close to home (excuse the pun).

Even though I was working on only 5 hours of sleep, I decided to try to keep my M-W-F workout schedule going and hit the gym. I had a great workout and once again saw a colonel I knew from 29 Palms. He is currently the CO of the Expeditionary Warfare School, formerly Amphibious Warfare School.

After the workout, I changed over and got my butt to day 2 of the Action Officer Course. Just like yesterday, a lot of good, valuable info presented by an endless parade of briefers. I’m glad I did it but I’m more glad it’s over.

I had to break early for chow becauseI had to make it over to Lejeune Hall. This was significant for three reasons:

1. It’s where they were handing out the free train coupons
2. It’s where the base commander works
3. It’s the Major Dad building which they show at the start and anytime they want you to know the scene is at HQ.

The walk took me over a half hour which wouldn’t have been so bad if it didn’t start to rain the minute I got outside. The depressing thing was not that I was soaked to my underwear but that I was walking on the main drag in the pouring rain and not a single person stopped to offer the good Captain a ride. Why this pisses me off is because I would have stopped for anyone caught outside in a rainstorm on the base.

I got my tickets but just barely. I guess you have to send in the form which I did two days ago. I explained this to the guy but I was not in the system and he told me that it takes 5 days before they can issue tickets. I was about to choke him right there at the base head shed. I had the form, which I had faxed, and gave it to him. I explained I had just walked a half hour in the rain on my lunch hour an that I had just checked in so was not able to get it faxed before Monday.

Maybe it was the animalistic glean in my eye or the can opener and box of whoop ass I started opening but he “did me a favor” and bent the rules. He asked if I was willing to go to the Pentagon within the next few days and I explained to him in the most diplomatic manner I could muster at the time that I really didn’t want to go all the way to the Puzzle Palace. He “caved” and gave me the coupons which turned my tone way to the “thankful” end of the meter. He gave me $300 worth for November, December, and January so I got a free 18 days worth. I was strangely thrilled at this.

Free Advice for Today:
Be romantic.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

Death by Power Point.

The idea is sound: I checked into a unit that has more moving parts than a German clock so they put together a two day course that runs me through all the functions of each subpart. I liked the concept because it would take me forever, if ever, to learn all the relationships and functions of each to the whole.

In reality, though, I sat in a warm room with 10 others and had 14 people give 14 different Power Point briefs from 0830 to 1630 with an hour break for lunch. By the end of the day, I was wondering if my entire fist would really fit in my mouth and if it was true that a person cannot lick his own elbow.

Like I said, the concept is a good one but much like boot camp, I’m only glad I did it after the fact.

The man running the show was a civilian with a familiar name. When I got to talking to him, it ends up he was the Regimental XO right before I was transferred to Regiment. I had heard his name a lot but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember if they were good or bad but no matter what, he couldn’t have been worse than the man who replaced him. It was fun to catch up with people we both knew. It just seems so strange to deal with a civilian who you know used to be a LtCol. It just seems easier and I think we are both more at ease. It’s amazing how a uniform can change the dynamic of communication and interaction.

The LtCol parade went on all day and there were points where I was just dying a thousand deaths. It was around the dead time right after lunch and I could think of a million things I’d rather be doing. In the end, I learned so much about the command and about subunits that I didn’t even know existed. The briefs were valuable but a chore to sit on my butt all day without PT. I realized that I was used to scholastic 50 minute increments and a max of 3 or 4 sessions per day. I will have to build my tolerance to sitting in meetings all day. I never knew that would be something I’d have to work at getting used to.

This morning on the train, I swear I saw Agent Smith from The Matrix. He came on the train and sat across from me and my mind’s voice said “Hello Mr. Neo” in that scary, matter-of-fact voice of Agent Smith. BTW, I noticed that the actor is also the king of the elves in The Lord of the Rings. That’s a scary dude but a geek icon. He’s in two of the biggest nerd series of our generation. Impressive.

Free Advice for Today:
Never be ashamed of your patriotism.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Monday, November 17, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

My job is becoming an intertwined weave of contacts. Already I’ve met three guys from the lab I shared at NPS, three others that I knew from NPS classes, two LtCols from my 29 Palms days, and a Captain from Tanks. My former boss at Tanks is here as well as his old boss, now a full bird who works up at the Pentagon. The good thing is that most of them are valuable contacts for my job so my relationships promise to help me a lot. What a great deal!!! All this, not to mention my Senior Drill Instructor who is now a Sergeant Major. It only took me 16 years to build a contact list that actually helps me in my job.

I hit the gym this morning and did chest and triceps. I was dismayed at the small number of exercises it took to finish up. My criteria was “Will I be sore tomorrow?” The answer came back, “Yea, buddy!!!

The gym here is spectacular and very un-Marine. Normally we have a small, renovated hanger or asbestos-ridden dilapidated shell of what used to be a building with equipment not much better that cement in a coffee cans at each end of a bar. This new one is only 4 months old and has all the latest equipment, and a lot of it. They have TV’s mounted on the wall in front of the bikes, Stairmasters, treadmills, with places to plug in your headphones and the ability to adjust the station and volume. I could get used to this. I already have.

At lunch I decided to do the ab workout. They call her BWC (Bitch With Clipboard) and I didn’t think that at all. Well the thought started sneaking in my head after about 15 minutes into the 30 minute workout when I could toast marshmallows on my gut. I discovered I have the grace of a three legged deer when I try to do ab exercises, especially toward the end. I'm glad I have a day to recover before I do it again on Wednesday.

The rest of the day, I continued to set up my computer, got a new high speed phone, and a meeting with a Major and two LtCols. I find it amazing I can follow and even contribute to the issues so early in the game. The LtCol in the meeting didn’t know me but recognized me from the gym. Sometimes gym time can help in strange ways, especially in the Marine Corps.

The meeting ran long and I had to take the later train but I was OK with it. Everything went smooth even though I got stuck behind “CME THRV” who decided that 10 miles under the speed limit was acceptable down a one lane road. When I got the chance, I zoomed past her only to get stuck behind someone who had a bumper sticker declaring the benefits of an autism program. Just who I wanted to get stuck behind.

I think I’m getting used to a 0415 wake up time because I was not destroyed tonight. Scary.

Free Advice for Today:
Cut your own firewood.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“You have to understand, babe. This is the one time in the year we're as vain as women when it comes to our appearance.” 
- A Marine explaining our attention to detail in our appearance for the Ball

I awoke at 0530 and forced myself to stay in bed until 0615. Finally, it was not use and I got up. I guess with my early mornings, it’s back to early wake ups on weekends too.

Right after the sun came up, I got to work on the rest of the wood. I thought it wuldn’t take all that much time but like these things normally work out, it did. I worked for hours splitting wood and separating the “problem children” from the rest in a pile I like to call “That #@^*^% Pile.”

I didn't go to church like I should have but I talked to God a lot about the wood. Does that count? Didn't think so.

I got through the work without hurting myself which surprised me. I decided to take a break, knowing I’d put forth a lot of physical exertion without the benefit of breakfast. I decided to put the wheelbarrow together but picked the wrong time: I was tired and irritable.

I think I’d have better luck putting together the Space Shuttle, blindfolded and drunk. The instructions sucked and I ended up summoning Carrie out of bed to help. I could do dumb physical exertion on my own but intricate brainwork in such a state was not my forte. Carrie came down half asleep and put up with my ravings. God bless that woman.

After it was put together, I started hauling the cut pieces to the backyard and stopping only to split an uncovered piece of wood in the pile. This went on for many more hours with the only casualty being my patience, manifested in my yelling aloud when a stray piece of wood hit my ankle hard when Carrie dumped a wheelbarrow load of wood near me. I may have said a few unkind words at her but she took it. I’m unworthy, I know.

By the time we were done, sweeping the driveway and raking some nearby leaves in the rain for good measure, I stumbled into the house totally exhausted. This was my relaxing weekend.

Shower, nap, football, food (the local Taco Bell has no tostatas. I might have to torch the place), nap, computer, fire, food, computer, Skipbo with the family, get ready for tomorrow, bed. That’s the rest of the day.

I’m already sore from the wood thing and it’s only Sunday night. Hopefully I can move at 0415 tomorrow morning. But, I get to take the train (giggle).

Free Advice for Today:
When undecided about what color to paint a room, choose antique white.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“OK, who's hand is that on my ass? PLEASE tell me that's your hand.” 
- A Corporal in a closely crowded line.

Today, I met my Gunny at 0900 to get some free firewood. He laughed at me when I told him I paid $125 for wood and told me he knew someone in the work area who had 9 big oaks go down last May. He had them cut up into manageable sizes and the wood was free for the loading.

I use the term “free” loosely here because as it turns out, it really was not free. We got there and loaded up both my truck and the Gunny’s truck (no easy feat that involved a lot of sweating despite using a wheelbarrow and three grown men and my son helping.)

I dumped it in my driveway and we went to Home Depot to buy some supplies. Home Depot really didn’t mean much to me before but now that I’m a homeowner, it ranks up there with a computer place like Fry's.

After going through the options for all the axes, I settled on a wood splitter of a very manly variety. I got a wheelbarrow, opting not to pay the bloodsuckers $10 to assemble it (a decision I’d soon regret). I also got a maul which also, I’d soon regret.

I was like a kid at Christmas when I got home, itching to perform the manly chore of splitting the wood. I was a lumberjack, by God!

The first couple of logs went OK but then I decided to go for a big bastard and use the maul. I made a huge swing to make a crack and it bounced off like rubber. Fine, I’ll get the maul. I put it in the crack, pounded it in just a bit, and then wound up for a full swing…which I missed and hit the fiberglass handle right on the maul, shattering the “indestructible” handle all the way to the metal core. So much for the kid’s new toy and my face reflected the situation.

I worked for a couple of hours and worked up a good sweat. The ax still worked but the fact that it was broken a bit bothered me. I would have spent longer at all this but I had company coming at 1600 and I had to get showered (and my requisite nap, of course).

We had the Patches over and just as I suspected, we had a great time spending time with them. Sir Phil had not been over since we got all of our stuff moved in and I was proud to show off my new house. We had a great dinner at our dining table and even the kids got along. With the fire, football, and beer, the night was very enjoyable. After they left, the day’s events caught up with me and I felt drugged. I went to sleep content. Good day.

Free Advice for Today:
Pay your fair share.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Friday, November 14, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“You would be AMAZED at how we Sergeants Major can ruin someone's career. We're sort of like the Mafia.” 
- SgtMaj, building up to a story about some disciplinary action he took against a wayward Staff Sgt

I rode the train and it was Nirvana this morning. I must apologize to Sir Phil for bugging him with numerous phone calls last night, asking about the procedure. It ends up if was rather simple and painless.

It started off on a good foot when I found a five dollar bill on the steps leading up to the platform. A good omen.

The trains they have here are incredible. I walked into the main cabin and grabbed a seat that had a table on it and the whole ride was so smooth that I could place my coffee cup on the table without it sliding off or tipping over. I read a Marine Corps Order about the computer system I’m responsible for (as exciting as watching painted ice dry and then melt) and before I knew it, the automated voice told me that Quantico was the next stop. The whole thing took about 30 minutes and I was the only person to get off the train, probably because it was 0540!!

I worked out, played with my computer at work, and completed the check in process. I’ve been finding it hard to get to the meat of my work because I’ve been taking care of all this initial stuff and look forward to next week to get clicked in to what I’m supposed to do.

Yesterday I went to cash sales and spend $187 on the new digital cammies that came out while I was at NPS. We can still wear the old ones and I thought that wearing the old ones would give me a salty, old Corps look and thus was not worried about not having the new ones when I showed up. But for some reason, I got the feeling when I saw people in the old ones that they gave off a look of behind the times. Maybe it’s my need to have the latest and greatest but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it said something about the Marine who didn’t take the time, effort, and expense to get the new cammies.

The weird thing about the new ones is that you don’t have to iron them. You wash them, throw them in the dryer, shake them, and put them on. They have permanent creases and you are not supposed to starch them. The new boots are suede and you can’t polish them. This created a conundrum for me. On the one hand, I liked the fact about the old cammies that you could tell something about a Marine by the way they wore their uniform. You could tell if they spent a lot of time polishing their boots, iron and starch in their cammies, etc. You could also tell who didn’t give a crap and their uniform reflected it. With the new ones, as cool as they are, removes the ability to size someone up in this way.

Today, I met my wife for lunch and we ate at the Command Post. It’s a small pub in Quantico and even though it never seems packed, most Marines around the globe know of this USMC-motifed establishment with memorabilia of everything Marine over the years. Since we were in Q-Town, we went to the Marine Shop because the cash sales didn’t have small covers for the new cammies. Of course the Marine Shop gouges you ($9.50 for the cover, $2.00 for boot bands) but they had what I needed. I also met Capt Walters, my old 7th Marine HQ Company Commander. In a scene I’m sure the lady at the counter has seen played out countless times, we recognized each other and had a catch up discussion. They don’t call Quantico the Crossroads of the Corps for nothing.

After lunch, I took her to my work and introduced her around to the Gunny and the Major. To my surprise, the Major told me to take off for the day and spend it with the wife. It was mighty nice of him even though I was looking forward to getting some work done in the afternoon and riding the train home. But I was also dead tired and needed a little nap because tonight was boy night and I was exhausted so it ended up a good thing.

But before we could get to the promised nap land, I had a few errands. We dropped off all my cammies and my covers at the cleaners to be ready Monday. I shall be digital by Tuesday.

But the real chore was going to medical to get my family signed up for We Don’t Even Tricare and get my blood drawn for an overdue HIV test. As stated earlier, I was tired and that translates into being grumpy. Combined with dealing with medical, you just know a rant is coming.

The lady at the counter was less than ideal when it came to customer service. Since most support functions to now include healthcare has been turned over to a civilian contract, the result has been that the civilians that now sit behind the counter have no respect/fear/concern with military personnel.

I had the next number and for 20 minutes, I had to stand there and listen to this stupid women gossip and carry on about everything except the medical situation she was supposed to be dealing with. While I steamed, I watched the group of elderly men and women patiently waiting for their pills. I watched as the pharmacy personnel moved with the sense of purpose normally associated with a houseplant while these bona fide heroes sat trapped in a sterile waiting room. I was saddened that these men and their wives, who dedicated their entire life to serve, now had to wait endlessly for people who didn’t seem impressed or motivated to get this process moving.

When my number was called, I walked up and was informed that the request for a blood draw was not in the system and I’d have to track down the doc who ordered it and have him put it in the computer, after getting in the line to get my record. I just about lost it.

It ends up that when I was waiting in line and loudly explaining to my wife the deficiencies of their methods, the nurse at the records counter, a young Navy enlisted, offered to check my PPD and enter the order for the blood draw. That’s the way it USED to work when we had our own people working the system. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than now.

When I returned, it ended up that Miss Talk-A-Lot drew my blood and I was done. I didn’t have much trust that she wouldn’t make a mess of it but it seems she’s competent enough to draw a tube of blood without causing a huge bruise.

We went home after that and I had a nap for the ages. I woke up refreshed and appreciative my new boss let me go early.

Tonight I took my boy to KFC and then met up with my wife and daughter to watch Elf with Will Ferrell. It was great movie (a little sappy) but Will Ferrell was at his best. I laughed out loud many times.

Free Advice for Today:
Start meetings on time regardles of who's missing.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“Just so you know, I am a Roman Catholic. I have no problems with any other faiths because when the Inquisition comes back, all you heathens are are going to burn.” 
- SgtMaj during one of the classes he was teaching

Second day of the job. Lots of check in to still do. Traffic was a horrendous nighmare where I died a billion fiery deaths.

With a little more sleep to work with, I made the early trek once again, hit traffic at 0530 once again, and wondered how my life would progress if I had to deal with this.

I had a revelation while sitting it horror-traffic yesterday: I’ll pull the old Wimpy routine and tell the Gunny that I’d gladly pay him next week for a train ticket today. My idea was that I could get a ten trip ticket from him and then next week when I get mine, I can reimburse him. That way I could take the train forevermore starting Friday. Ahhh, the thought of a stress free commute almost made me giggle.

Things worked out even better than I imagined when I asked him and he gave me $100 worth of coupons and told me to keep them. You might be thinking this smacks of impropriety or taking advantage but let me explain. Every 3 months, the ticket Santa comes around and disperses 3 months worth of coupons to each commuter who qualifies. You trade these coupons for train tickets which you use to take the train. But the Gunny has built a stash because we travel so much that he has extra coupons that would expire before he got to them so why not hook up the new Captain? I saw no problem in it, evidenced by the big bear hug I gave him (not really).

While I was writing this, the song My Baby Takes the Morning Train came on my computer. Irony.

(Did I just admit that I have My Baby Takes the Morning Train on MP3? I guess I did.)

Today was also the day I bugged enough people to get my computer. I hooked it all up myself in my office and turned it on, admiring my handiwork. With all the harassing, I finally got the computer and then with no small amount of sweat, effort, cussing, and prayer, I got it hooked up. I turned it on and stared on the log in screen. And stared….

“Gunny, is my account live yet?”

“No, Sir.”


By the end of the day, I had my account but it was right before I wanted to leave. Of course I stayed a bit too long setting things up and got out at 1715. I knew I was ski-rewed in a big way because I was driving into the mouth of the 7th ring of traffic Hell. I braced myself but there is no way I could have been prepared for what I was in for.

It started with a bigtime rookie move. I came to the intersection of the main road out of the base and it was stopped. I wanted to take a left but the lane was solid through two cycles of lights. Cars had backed up behind me that I knew wanted to turn right (a clear shot) and I stupidly caved to pressure and took a right thinking I would just take the back gate out. Stupid!!!

I remembered that the Gunny said the back gate was harder to get out than the front so I decided that I should pull a U-turn and get back in the stopped line. Stupid again!!!!

It took me 25 minutes to get back the two blocks I just gave up. It then took me another 20 minutes to get off the base (a total of about 2 miles).

Phase one of my anal intrusion complete. Now it was time to get onto I-95 heading south. As you probably guessed: gridlock. I had a bit of a run for a few miles but then I hit a solid mass that was not even moving. I hear on the radio that an accident shut down two of the three lanes at mile marker 137 (my exit is 130) and I was at 139 at the time. I think I was on 95 for 1 ½ hours, not even going fast enough to register on my speedometer and my foot was asleep and cramped from working the clutch. Oh, and I was irate. That helped a lot.

I finally got past the accident (the “bad” Jason hoping they were really, really jacked up..) and wanted to go home but I knew a couple of things:

1. I needed gas and was worried I would become part of the problem on the highway.
2. I needed to get the train tickets and recon the train station for parking, etc.

So off to downtown Fredericksburg I went and did these things. I had Sir Phil on the phone to explain to me the intricacies of getting in, parking, and getting out, so with the knowledge in my brain housing group, I took off for home.

Sweet, sweet home. I left work at 1715. I pulled in my driveway at 1930. But I got tickets, I got a schedule, and I got a plan. Fredericksburg to Quantico commute via I-95: KISS THE HOLE IN MY ASS!!!!!!

Free Advice for Today:
Learn how to use the Internet.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

The first day back at work and I’m almost too tired to write. It’s not that it was physically taxing or anything, it’s just that after a month and a half of being off, 0430 came mighty early. Maybe if I didn’t wait until midnight to go to sleep, it would have been a little more sane today.

I woke up with the excitement of the new job but felt the weight of 4 ½ hours of sleep when I’m used to double that. I got ready and got out the door only to be met with traffic at 0530 on I95. Unbelievable.

This combined with the ride home convinced me beyond the shadow of a doubt that the train is the way to go but the coupon man doesn’t show until next week so I might be in for a painful week of stop and go traffic.

When I got in, no one was there to open the office so I jogged into town to get a fresh haircut. Being in Q-Town brought back some memories that I would rather keep repressed and it doesn’t surprise me that the barbers were open at 0545.

After getting back to the office and unloading all of my uniforms, I changed over to the alphas for check in. For everyone else, it’s just another day but for me, it’s potentially the last time I check into a duty station. For some reason, it still causes me a bit of PFC stress to be in alphas and running around to get signatures. Everyone was happy to help the new Captain but part of me still kept an eye out for a SgtMaj ready to pounce on the new join. Some things are just too deeply embedded to ever go away.

After sweating profusely, I got through most of the signatures and changed over to cammies. I had to get the medical and dental portion signed, but not before getting a flu shot and a PPD. Damn vampires. I skipped out on the blood draw for HIV though, deferring it until Friday. I figured two needles a day was my max.

Next was getting Truckasaurus registered. I made sure I had everything with me because it was raining and I had to park far from the entrance. Confident I had all bases covered, the first question I was asked was the number of the DoD sticker I already had on it. Shit!

Out in the rain I went to get the numbers. When I got back, they had me fill out some paperwork and needed to see my driver’s license. SHIT!

Back out in the rain. I was pissed but I got my stickers and was pretty much complete with the check in.

The rest of the day was spent talking to the Gunny, the civilian programmers, the Major, and the LtCol. The over-riding theme was “Hey Captain, welcome aboard. I’m gonna have to get you to open up your mouth a little wider to fit this fire hose in. That’s it…” WHOOOOSH!!!!

With the lack of sleep, I was ready to go home but my most harrowing part of the day was yet to come. The ride home took 1 hour and 20 minutes of stop and go traffic in the dark, rainy night. I was a spent shell casing by the time I got home, inhaled my dinner, and got things ready to do it again tomorrow. It’ll get better. It’ll get better. It’ll get better. It’ll get better. Maybe if I keep saying it…

Actually, I felt pretty good about the day (except for the fatigue that was exacerbated by the flu shot) and think that I have a huge opportunity to do good things here. The system I’ll be working on promises to revolutionize the way training is tracked in the Marine Corps and has the ears of a few generals. The people I work with seem motivated to make it succeed and welcome my input, despite my newness to the project they seem to have poured their life into. It’s exciting to be a part of something people are excited about. Now all I have to do is contribute and not fall asleep at my desk.

Free Advice for Today:
Never make fun of people who speak broken English. It means they know another language.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

The word of the day this morning was “sore.”

Yesterday we hit the YMCA (which I am now a proud card-carrying member, wait, but not in the gay sense. Thanks Village People!) and worked out for the first time in a long time. Since I got off the diet, I have to keep the weight loss going by trading carb-denial with exercise. I tried to keep it light but nevertheless, my chest was on fire this morning.

Also, as a result of my constricting uniform, which is constricting if it fits, left me a bit stiff this morning. My throat felt like I had been punched there. I looked OK but I was being tortured all night last night.

To round out the pain, I pulled a few rookie moves in the gym yesterday, not the least of which was rolling my ankle while mounting a curl machine. Yeah, Joe Cool. I also nailed the meat of my thigh with a bar that was sticking out and bumped into another machine at one point. I was Jerry Lewis!!!! But the lingering pain was not my ego but my ankle. I have the ankles of a newborn or butter, pick your own analogy.

So it was good to get back in the gym and work the lactic acid out. I had a great workout and felt great afterwards. Nothing much more happened today except to think about all this free time that will come to a screeching halt. I know I will beg for this kind of time very soon but coming off of so much leave, it felt like just another free day.

One thing I’ve forgotten to mention throughout my BLOGs is that Sarah McLachlan’s new CD came out and I rushed out to buy it on the 4th, the day it was released. For those of you that don’t know, I have this near-dangerous obsession with Sarah McLachlan. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m a lesbian at this point.

I don’t know how it started but many years ago, I heard Building a Mystery and enjoyed it in 1997 but didn’t think much of it. When I got to 29 Palms the next year, I was transferring all my CDs to MP3 and discovered we had her CD. When I listened to the whole thing, I realized she had the best voice I had ever heard. Her music was also relaxing and I started playing it while I was sitting at the computer.

Well, things started getting out of hand when I started getting more of her CDs and discovered I was absolutely infatuated with her music. I’ve taken a lot of crap over this from numerous sources but I’ve never hid the fact that she is my favorite musician. I used to drive my Marines crazy by playing her CDs over and over while in the field. They even mentioned it on my going away plaque.

She’s been with me in every marathon, most of the hundreds of miles of training runs, over in Kuwait, in the fields of 29 Palms during numerous exercises, and countless hours on my computer. She’s just one of those artists that I can listen to in the background constantly, much to the dismay of my wife who puts up with it.

So when her first album in 5 years came out, well it was an event not to be missed by the lesbian Captain. I snagged it, threatened the family with painful death if I was disturbed, donned headphones, and absorbed her new album. I put reminders on Outlook to let me know when she will be on TV (Regis, Leno, Letterman, Oxygen Channel, etc). Like I always knew, her voice in a live performance is as rich and powerful as it is on the CDs. She did a concert on TV with Avril Lavigne opened for her and it was comical to hear Avril monotone her way through her songs. It wasn’t hard to tell how much the studio helps her songs. When Sarah came out, it was even more obvious who was the singer in the group. I sat there mesmerized.

But I wouldn’t be me without a gripe so here it was. I’d listen to Sarah sing “Happy Birthday” or the ABCs but my favorite song she sings is called Fear. There was no video for it but it showcases her range, hitting high notes that are just jaw dropping. Even better than Mariah Carey’s voice (who ironically, I can’t stand), the first time I heard this song, she hits a long, high note I just knew was the tippy top of her range and then in the next moment, she took it one level up and I was speechless. I was hooked after that.

But they never show her singing Fear. Maybe it’s harder to do live but I think she has it in her. Yet I’m left hoping after every appearance I see. I hesitate to complain because hearing her sing anything live is a treat but just once, I’d like to see Fear. I would also like to see her live but so far, no concerts have come close enough and the one that is coming to Baltimore next month is sold out. Ebay can get me in for a few hundred dollars but my infatuation only goes so far. I’m weird but not nuts!!!

Free Advice for Today:
Put the cap back on the toothpaste.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997

Monday, November 10, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown


Happy birthday, Marines!!!

The Marine Corps birthday is today and she’s 228 years old. Marines, no matter where we are, stop and celebrate this day every year. I did it in Saudi and they’re doing it in Iraq.

Also every year, we have a formal ball and it happens this year that they planned it on the actual birthday (many times it’s celebrated on the Friday before or after). Carrie and I got tickets to the ball even though we just moved here and knew absolutely no one. We never miss the chance to get gussied up and celebrate the birthday.

I insisted, like I do every year, that my wife get her hair put up for the event. This year was no different but we didn’t know the lady at the salon would be like a slug on Valium. She had a 1300 appointment and it Carrie didn’t get home until 1630, in a tizzy of course.

I had spent most of the day relaxing and getting my uniform ready. No matter what, it takes hours to get it ready. I don’t know why, it just does. And every year, I have to look at my old ball pictures to make sure of a few details. The curse of perfectionism matched with forgetfulness.

I was OK until the last minute details started eating away our time. We had to get the kids over to the babysitters. The hair fiasco set us back and we had to rush (like we always must even if we start getting ready days before the event). While my diet had done its job, the new collar insert (made of cardboard but feels like unfinished metal) was slowly choking me to death. My Adam’s Apple was applesauce within the first half hour.

Htting traffic while being choked to death is a very frustrating even. I couldn’t swivel my head very well so I had to take a lot of chances and once I missed the turn to get to 95, I was more than a little bitter. I drove like a maniac the rest of the way and we got there just a few minutes late. No one would imagine I was a raving lunatic just minutes prior. No one except my beautiful wife. In other words, things went as usual.

We enjoyed the ball even though the moment we stepped in, we didn’t know a soul. I did find the civilian that I had met Friday and got him to point out my new boss who I introduced myself to. I saw a LtCol (among the man) that I knew from 7th Marines and during dinner, a friend from my Adjutant days made a surprise appearance.

It was a good night where I got to meet some of the people I would be working with. Surprisingly, many of them were civilian, self-appointed nerds who work on computers. There’s the Microsoft guy and the Oracle guy. Finally, I found people who speak my language and who think nothing of talking computers for hours on end. I hath found mine home and its name is the Nerdery.

The special guest was a retired two star general and they also had a young Marine fresh back from Iraq. He was in a wheelchair as a result of his wounds but it was a graphic reminder of what we do and what we Officers are responsible for.

The rest of the night belonged to Carrie and I. Over the last 16 years, she has been by my side, supporting me through this crazy life in the Marine Corps. She’s lived through the many ups and many downs and it always came back to depending on each other. I would not be where I’m at without her and the Ball is a special time each year we get to spend time together celebrating the birthday as well as our marriage.

I received an email from a girl who was going to ball for the first time. Here is the advice I told her:

  • Arrive 15 minutes early and get in the picture line the second you walk in the door. The line will be huge if you wait. Don’t forget to bring a check to pay for the pictures.
  • If you drink, dehydrate yourself the day before and be thirsty while your at the cocktail hour. You'll see why.
  • The events usually go like this:
    • Cocktail hour: drink socialize, get your pic taken. Your fiancé should introduce you by name to anyone you meet.
    • Ceremony: You go to your table and watch the great ceremony
    • Presenting the colors
    • Cutting the cake (first piece to oldest Marine, second to youngest)
    • Reading of the traditional message from General Lejeune
    • Reading of the message from General Hagee (current Commandant)
    • Speech by guest of honor
    • Meal
    • Dancing
  • When you go to the bar (right after you get your pic taken), get two drinks. The line will soon get very long.
  • You are not allowed to go to the restroom during the ceremony so that's why you want to be thirsty. Plus, when the ceremony portion is done, dozens of people will rush the restrooms.
  • Allow your date to pull your chair for you and when you intend to leave for any reason, tell your date and he should stand first and pull your chair out. If the other men at the table have their heads on right, they should stand when you leave and come back. Don’t just shoot up unannounced because it will cause those paying attention to try to stand up suddenly in a gentleman like manner.
  • No one should sit down at the table before the guest of honor sits at his, except if you are pregnant.
  • Don't forget your glass or mug when you leave. You normally get a commemorative glass or mug that you take home.
  • Don't talk about religion, politics, or gossip. Don’t ask any women when they are due even if it's obvious they are pregnant.
  • Read the paper so you are up on current events.
  • Have fun!!!
  • If you are in sight of a Marine and his wife who looks like they've been in awhile, follow their lead in the ceremony. Stand when they stand, etc. Hell, I still do this!
  • Other than the men standing when you come to the table or leave, don’t worry too much about protocol. You will not be looked down upon if you use the wrong fork. Most won’t know themselves so just have fun and try to get the table talking during dinner. Nothing is worse than being stuck at a "dead" table.
Free Advice for Today:
Never give up on anybody. Miracles happen every day.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Sunday, November 9, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

Today, I visited my aunt who I haven’t seen in 10 years. She’s my mother’s younger sister and is married to a career Army soldier who retired some years ago.

We traveled the 2 hours (&^%$% traffic!) to their house and it was good to see family again. I had more in common with my Uncle Allen than I thought, despite his jabs at the Marine Corps. His son is in the Air Force, serving on a bomber for many years. Their other two daughters showed up with their kids so we had a house full of people.

We had Mexican food, and I mean a lot of it. We had about 15 people there so we all crowded in on a huge table to feast on tacos until we couldn’t move. It was the swan song for my diet and I absorbed carbs through my throat before they even hit my gut. I called my brother to listen to me crunch into the first taco and he called me a bastard. Music to my ears.

Stuff myself silly. Watch football. Talk with family. It was a good day.

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

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Saturday, November 8, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

I got my router set up the other day. Today, I decided to tackle the wireless portion of the “wireless router.”

I thought it wise to tackle a portion at a time so I first hooked up the laptop and with a little tweaking, got it to recognize the network. Score!

Then it was my son’s computer and that went off without a hitch (except the monitor looks like a postage stamp but that’s the fact of life in a hand-me-down world).

My daughter’s room was the real test because it was the furthest away. I got it hooked up but it had the weakest signal.

In less than an hour, I had connectivity between all of them and things were good.

Next step, change the SSID. I wanted to change the standard name of the network because it makes it harder for people to get to, supposedly. Whatever my lingering doubts were, it’s always better to change the default of anything just in case. So now I had to go from computer to computer and change the name. This again went off with little heartache.

Now the big one: encryption. If they are going to give me 128 bit encryption, then I’m gonna use it. The router allows four keys for this and they let you put in a pass phrase that it then uses to make a 128 bit key in hexadecimal. I did this on the router and then it was time to give each computer the key.

The problem started right away when I noticed the software on the receiving computers didn’t quite work the same. It gave you the ability to recreate the pass phrase but when it translated it, it put it in all four entry fields of all four keys.

My answer to that was to do it manually. Trying to type in a bunch of letters and numbers (is it a 1 or an l? Is it an o, O, or 0?) was getting me nowhere because one slip caused major problems.

Then I got the idea to cut and paste them into a document and then change the font to courier which is easier to read. This was not much better so I thought I might just cut and paste the codes in but since the router was using encryption now, I couldn’t hook up through the network to download the Word file that had the codes.

They thought they had me!!!! I got out my memory stick and copied the file. Then I took it to the laptop and finally had the file on the laptop. I cut and pasted the values, hit apply, and I had connectivity. Now to do this with the other computers.

Alex’s worked fine but Stephanie’s didn’t like the smart stick hardware. I tried a floppy but that didn’t work either. The only thing left was to burn a whole CD for those four codes. Nothing doing!!!!!

In the end, I had my wife slowly read out the values while I typed them in, all the time stewing that in this age of technology, with a wireless network, fast internet, and 5 computers at my disposal, I had to resort to dictating and retyping. It worked but it rubbed me the wrong way.

Finally, I had conquered the beast and the network was operational.

Throughout this process, I got to learn the router software pretty good and even set up some site blocking. After my kid typed in www.butt.com and www.fart.com just to see what it gave him, I decided a little filtering was necessary.

Free Advice for Today:
Be forgiving of yourself and others.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Friday, November 7, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

Today is the big day. I still didn’t know what exactly to do since I couldn’t get in touch with my boss. Will there be anyone around on the edge of a 4 day weekend? Will I get the check in process even started? Who will I meet if my boss is gone? Will they yell at me like they did at bootcamp?

After 16 years, you’d think I’d have this down but part of me still considers that last question. I guess it’s that PFC still inside me.

I called up to make sure I knew what I was doing and got in touch with a Major. He told me that I could just poke my head in and do the minimum, saving all of the other check in to next week when everyone would be here. He told me to wear cammies. This caused me a bit of stress since I knew that a Marine always wears his alphas when he checks in. But I had authority so off I went.

Climbing into cammies for the first time in 2 years was weird. The boots felt heavy and the ironed uniform just didn’t feel quite right. I know it won’t be long but at first, it takes a little bit to get used to. Picle suits and Dumbo boots.

The first place to go was getting a haircut. I was very aware that I was in uniform and that I needed to salute but there were no Marines outside the PX. After the haircut, the transition was complete and it felt good to have a cover slide over a shaved head again.

I met with the major and he showed me to a civilian who was going to give me the lay of the land. My boss was TAD so he would give me the tour and I could check the area out. After getting filled in on what I’ll be doing, I got my orders endorsed but the admin people were already gone so I just wandered over to the office I’d be working. Unfortunately, the Major that I’d be working with was also gone but I caught up with the Gunny and he told me a few things about the job. It seems they just moved so things were in a bit of a reorganization. Welcome back to the Fleet.

I got my first taste of the traffic I’d hit on the way home every day. Seems like all of Virginia gets on the three lane I-95 in the afternoon. Gridlock of stupidity. It took me an hour to get home which means about 30 MPH average. Lord give me patience.

Tonight I also re-instituted date night where I take my daughter out the first Friday of the month. After going through the options (swimming, Chuck E. Cheese, movie, Borders), I opted for Borders and then a movie. For the second day in a row, I was at the theater but this time, it was Brother Bear. Let's just say I enjoyed that she enjoyed it.

Free Advice for Today:
Floss your teeth.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Thursday, November 6, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

With all the work we had been doing lately, we decided we should go to a movie. And what other movie is there to see but the last installment of The Matrix?

OK, the movie kind of sucked but it did have the very best battle scene I have ever seen in a movie. I won’t spoil it, OK, I will: when the Sentinels came spilling through the hole, holy screamin’ eagle shit!!!!! It took my breath away.

Other than that, more confusion like the second one. The whole series has a Biblical parallel (Neo = Jesus, Armageddon, an omnipotent power, etc.). I think the first one was a marvel and the rest were just trying to catch up.

After the movie, Carrie wanted to show me the couch she wanted so we went there and like you can guess, we ended up buying it. I liken couch shopping to bra shopping. Not a lot for me to do and if it works for the missus, fine. For only $1200 I got a couch and my argument that the one we have works just fine no longer holds water.

After my date rape at the couch store, we went to another furniture store to look at bed sets. Yes, the California king we have is not good enough. It requires a headboard or real sleeping cannot take place. The matching nightstands are also a dire necessity. How have I slept without these items for so many years?

The store we were in was of the annoying variety that have salespeople who converge on you (much like the Sentinels in The Matrix) and never leave you alone. Listen, Skippy, we are looking, we can find our way, and stop trying to make small talk in the hope of snagging your little commission. If we find and we like, we’ll let you know.

Obviously, all bed sets are made out of forged gold hammered to look like wood after being filled with rare diamonds. No other way could they justify the costs I saw. Set after set, even though half off, topped over $1000. I just kept imagining the amount of computer equipment I could get instead. The wife wasn’t envisioning computer equipment. Even when I said that we were the only ones that see the damn furniture in our bedroom (hopefully), she pointed out that when we show people the house, they see it. Oh, so we are spending over a grand so a friend can take a quick look and say “Huh, nice.” I see the benefit now. It’s all so clear to me now.

It came down to a set she really liked, from the first time she saw it. I asked her if she really liked it and she said she did so I snapped off my penis and said “OK, then let’s get it.” Again, if it makes her happy…

Final note: the couch will take 4 weeks. The bed set will take 6 weeks. But they were willing to accept our payment that day. They are such great people, really looking out for my interests. Now, I have to go and convince myself I still have a Y chromosome.

Free Advice for Today:
Buy great books, even if you never read them.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

Today was my 35th birthday. Wow, 35. For those of you that are older and say “I only wish I could say I was 35!” I say “kiss my ass.”

I don’t feel 35. Actually, age does not bother me because I know I’m in better shape and in a better life situation that a lot of people my age or any other. Maybe 40 will be tough but mid-30s doesn’t slap me around yet.

One thing I didn’t foresee is that I would be on my diet on my birthday, thus negating any kind of cake or such. Carrie made me a steak and stuck a candle in it. Sad but true.

For my birthday, my wife bought me a leather executive chair to replace the old computer chair which has a distinguished history. It was originally Coach Don James’s (the Dawg Father) from the University of Washington. I was working security one night and noticed that they had put his old chair out by the dumpster after remodeling his office. A truck back-up, a heave, and I was traveling down I-5 with a pretty good (and relatively new) chair. Gotta love the collegiate sports program's waste and abuse program at UDub.

My new chair took an hour to put together (again, following the directions to a T) and I was rewarded with a brand new, comfortable computer chair. I am such a lucky man.

Free Advice for Today:
Live beneath your means.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

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Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

Because I had an itch to be even more geeky, I went out and bought a wireless router for my home network. I figured with highspeed internet always on, the bad guys would soon be pinging my little network. Plus, I was in serious jeopardy of losing my Nerd Card if I didn’t get a router.

I went with Netgear on the advice of an even geekier friend. The new technology, for the uninitiated, is the 802.11G, up from the B version. Bottom line is that it’s faster and much, much cooler. We geeks must have the latest stuff for bragging rights.

The sticking point was the price for the wireless cards I need for each computer. I was pushing my limits with the G model so I settled on a neat little piece of gear that looks like a pen drive. You plug it into a USB port and it acts as your card. This way, I can use it for my laptop and the kids’ computers. The only drawback is that it only operates at the B model speeds but you gotta give up something. I will work on getting the other cards when I win the lottery. It’s tough to justify to the wife when she understands very little about what this stuff does.

The setup for the router went incredibly smooth. I follow directions down to the letter on everything, including blenders, telephones, and even bad-aids and VCRs. The Netgear Quickstart manual left out the instruction to plug in the power supply to the router and because I turn into a mindless drone when I’m following directions, it took me awhile to figure out it wasn’t plugged in. I felt dumb. Real dumb. “D” “U” “M” dumb.

A bit of confusion ensued when I got about halfway and the thing decided to finish the set up process without me. All of the sudden I was connected and I was faced with the choice of trying to forge ahead or calling it divine intervention. I decided to look over the directions but luckily, discovered everything was cool. I was hooked up.

When things go so right, I have to push until they go wrong. I don’t know why, this is just me. I got to wondering exactly how this router provides this much-touted protection against bad guys. I mean, I didn’t set anything up to filter them out or anything and I didn’t get any pop ups like Zone Alarm telling me that I’m under an impenetrable force field.

To solve this mystery, I called my external brain, Dan, and asked him. He didn’t know either which told me that it was not all that important to know. But he did say he thinks that the protection is not as much as people think it is and to consider a software solution on top of that, if effect, a defense in depth. It’s good advice but the Zone Alarm keeps messing with my network so I’m hesitant to go with it. After dabbling in this for the rest of the night, I was content just to have my network up and be able to see my laptop drives. I went to bed in a “geek content” state.

Free Advice for Today:
Plant flowers every spring.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Monday, November 3, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

I’ve been in a running gun battle with some jerk who was supposed to bring me a chord of wood. It was bad enough that he showed up and refused to stack it, despite what the lady on the phone said he’d do. But after I stacked it the next day and did the measurements, it only ended up being about 66% of a chord.

After numerous calls and promises from him, I still haven’t seen any wood and now I don’t even get call backs. I guess 0430 wake calls everyday is going to be necessary.

He doesn’t know who he’s messing with.

Free Advice for Today:
Use the good silver.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Sunday, November 2, 2003

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

To fill the BLOG today, I'm sending an interchange between me and a reader concerning ribbons, badges, and medals.

I have one question I have been meaning to ask you but the is absolutely no hurry since it has been breaking in my head for a year or so. In your branch or any other branch, can you wear ribbions and/or medals that you earned as an enlisted, once you become an officer? You are probably the only person on the planet I know that would know the answer to that. My dad was a warrant officer when he was in Viet Nam. He flew helicopters. He always wore a helmet with Cpl stripes on it. Once we got out of Viet Nam we went back to being an E6 and fixed helicopters in Italy (where I was born) I don't think he ever wore the warrant officer ensignia his entire life. I think they are still in a plastic bag some place.

Here was my answer:

We have to make a distinction here between ribbons, medals, badges, and stripes.

You earn ribbons and medals for doing different things as a reward. Now all medals have an associated ribbon but not all ribbons have associated medals. I could earn a medal for something and when I wear my dress blues with medals, I would wear the medal. If they instead stipulate the uniform is with ribbons, I would only wear the ribbon. But if they say with medals and I have an award that does not have a medal associated with it, I would wear the ribbon on the other side (medals always go over the heart). You will forever wear the ribbons and/or medals no matter if you become an officer. Once you earn them, they are part of your uniform forever.

Badges are what we earn for marksmanship, rifle and pistol. We wear them only with our ribbons (never with medals). You requalify every year so you have a chance to improve the badge. We are also authorized to wear special badges we earn for high level marksmanship competitions. They are worn below the ribbons, over the heart. Again, you wear what you earn but there is also a little bar you can put under them that tells how many times you qualified as expert (the highest). This also carries over from the enlisted.

Enlisted Marines earn stripes that represent their rank. I had three up as a sergeant but when I was commissioned, I don’t get to wear these anymore. They are replaced by my officer rank insignia. Enlisted Marines also earn service stripes (hash marks) which you get one for every 4 years of service. They are the straight bars you see on the forearm of the green uniform. I had earned two but you lose them once you become and officer.

Free Advice for Today:
Sing in the shower.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Email -- jason@grose.us
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