Jason's BLOG pages



Jason Grose's BLOG

January 2004




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.

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it.... and if it stops moving, subsidize it.

- Ronald Reagan (1986)

Today was pseudo-wasted on playing with my Kazoo.

Before you go getting any ideas, let me explain that I have an RCA Kazoo which is a small MP3 player with 64 MB of memory. A little history is in order which will lead into why I was spending hours with this little gadget.

Years ago, I was looking for a replacement to my little tape player I used for running. It was getting so pitiful that I was burning MP3s onto a CDs, taking it to my stereo, and making a tape off of the CD. Lame, I know.

So I shopped around and at the time, the Kazoo was a hot little item. I plopped down the $100 and had me 64 MB of unskippable, digital music to run to. But I soon found out that not many MP3s fit on this thing. Doing the math: 4 MB per song on a 64 MB device works out to about 16 songs. Not a great replacement for a two hour tape.

My next step was to buy a memory card for it which added another 64 MB for a total of 32 songs. I lived with this for awhile even though the longer runs over 2 hours started to get stale with repeating music.

One day while I was complaining about this to a friend who also had a Kazoo, he asked why I didn’t lower the sampling rate so I could fit more songs on the player.


It ends up that you can lower the sampling rate when you transfer the song, in essence skipping every other bit of information and thus cutting it’s size in half. This degrades the music a bit because of the skipped info but since I was using it for running, my breathing, heartbeat, footfalls, screams for help, and ambient noise destroyed any nuances of the music anyway. I just needed to listen to something and it didn’t have to be CD quality, or even MP3 quality for that matter. A passable facsimile of a hum would suffice.

After hearing about this capability, I immediately went to the software and looked where Dan told me to make the setting. I couldn’t find it. After much head-scratching, we discovered that I had a trial version of the Music Match software and he had a full version, despite both of us getting the software included when we bought the player.

I installed his copy and sure enough, I had troubles getting it on my computer. Installing it on XP required you to do this, not that, and before this, but not before that, and ignore the instructions in the package but go online and download this before even thinking about doing that. I was dizzy trying to figure this out but after much trial and error, (and wailing and crying), I got it installed. Lo and behold, there was the sampling function.

I set it to 32 BPS and downloaded over 100 songs onto my Kazoo. I will point out that this takes forever and the Music Match software is one of the most counter-intuitive software crapware I’ve worked with. I find myself spending as much time trying to figure out what I want to do as it takes to do it, which is a significant statement if you saw how long it takes to download songs onto the Kazoo.

But this is not the end of the story. I was happy with my 100 songs and left them on there for a long time. Then about a year ago, I wanted to put on some different songs but all I remembered was that it was a big nasty process that I couldn’t remember all the steps to. This is likely why I didn’t change the songs in over a year.

The situation was further complicated because it some upgrade frenzy, I had upgraded the Music Munch software (not the full version because that would, you know, cost money) which actually somehow reverted me back and I had lost the sampling capability again. When I contacted Dan, he had lost his CD. By the time he found it, I upgraded again and found a way to do the sampling. Of course it took an entire day, a theme that I encounter no matter how smart I think I am.

So I had the songs I wanted on there and here we are, a year later, ready to go over this again. Because I’m an idiot and don’t learn from my mistakes, I went on another upgrade frenzy sometime during the last year. But this time I was lucky, so I thought, because the sampling capability was there.

So I started by erasing all the songs on the Kazoo. I know, not a great start but I was determined to get this done and this would force me to figure it out. I had found the cable buried in a box when I was looking for something else and it occurred to me that if I was specifically looking for that cable, I would have never found it. A fit barely missed.

Now it was time to wrestle with the software. And oh, what a wrestling match it was. In fact, that’s what they should call it: “Wrestling Music Match.”

I consider myself reasonably intelligent but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to make a playlist. While I was trying to figure it out, the program kept trying to pull up my old playlists but since I have changed my directory structure since I last used the WMM software, it could not locate it. Of course it tried like the dickens and tied up all my system resources, sometimes to the point that I had to give it ye ole three finger salute: Ctrl-Alt-Del.

I tried this, I tried that, I tried it with a baseball bat. Each time, it took a lot of time for the transfer and I was getting more than a little irritated. I checked that the sampling rate was as low as possible and then had to go out and pick specific songs. I could not do a batch transfer because the program calculated the size of the files BEFORE the sampling reduced the size so if I dragged over too many at once, it would claim I didn’t have enough space. Irritating.

So one by one I picked. Dragged. Waited. Over and over. It was taking hours but I soothed myself by thinking I was going through all this for hours and hours of help during long runs.

About half way through, I realized I was only going to get about 60 songs onto the player which confused me since I had well over a hundred before. Thinking hard about it, it hit me all at once. The lowest sampling rate the software offered was 64 BPS where as before, it allowed 32 BPS. You don’t have to be a genius to see that I would get half the music that I had before.

By this point, I was tired, annoyed, and defeated. Fine, if the gods only wanted me to have 60 songs, I was all out of mojo to fight it.

The next thing that happened was that I had the new Evanescence songs but they were in WMA format. My Kazoo no likey WMA so if I wanted them on my player, I’d have to convert them to MP3. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I remembered that I had downloaded a free program that gave me right-click capability to convert formats. When I tested it, it worked!!! Things were looking up.

I then made a discovery. When I chose the MP3 format to convert to, it gave me several sampling rates to pick from and I’ll be damned if the lowest one was 32 BPS. Now understand, I had spent hours picking song by song which 64 BPS songs made my list so the thought of starting over with this new information was heart-wrenching. But I thought that if I converted all of them using this technique, I could choose them all as a group to put on the player rather than picking and choosing. Was it worth it? Should I chance it? I could feel a uber-spasmordac seizure bubbling up if all didn't go well.

I made the decision and for the umpteenth time today, I erased the contents of the player. I then choose all of the songs (about 99) and converted them. It was working but took over an hour. I then had to judge where the halfway point was and measure the files because my player is split with 64 MB onboard memory and 64 on the little card. It was not smart enough to do the crossover automatically.

The last step in this painful process was to put these 32 BPS songs onto the player and hope for the best. But if you haven't been following closely, you'd miss a key step that somehow my mind latched onto. I had to make sure that I turned off the Music Match sample function now that I already had the songs in a 32 BPS format. If not, it would try to sample my 32 BPS songs with a 64 BPS filter. Either my 32 BPS quality would have taken up twice the space for no apparent reason, or more likely, the fabric of space and time would have ripped open.

I’m happy to say that after almost a full day of fooling around with this, I succeeded. All I wanted was some new songs on my MP3 player but it took most of the day to accomplish this. And you know what the bitch about the whole thing is? I will likely take another full day to do the same thing the next time I decide to do this. Why? Because like childbirth, I will have forgotten the pain and will make the same mistakes. That is unless I go back and read this BLOG first…

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

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Friday, January 30, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Yesterday the President met with a group he calls the coalition of the willing. Or, as the rest of the world calls them, Britain and Spain.

- Jon Stewart

If you have not been following the drama about the intrepid Lance Corporal, start here before you read on.

Today, I received a response from the young lad. Here is what he wrote:

To: Captain Grose

Dear Sir:

Last week I wrote a rebuttal to your review on the book "JARHEAD" by Anthony Swofford. Although I disagreed with your opinions the way I replied lacked tact, bearing, and was conduct unbecoming of a Marine.

The way I came across your review was by doing a search online for "JARHEAD." The link brought up your review and because of ignorance on my part I did not notice the links that would bring me to your homepage. Because I lacked attention to detail in that respect I did not know you were a Captain in the Marine Corps. However, even if you had not been a Captain that still would not excuse my use of foul language and utter lack of respect.

I did not display any of the leadership traits of a United States Marine and disregarded the Corps Values instilled in me at boot camp. I apologize for the way I went about responding to your review and in turn, bringing shame upon my unit. Through this mistake I have stopped and realized that my attitude and belligerence will ruin my career as a Marine and give all people outside of the Corps a slanted and wrong idea of what the Marine Corps is all about. Please forgive my inappropriate behavior and actions.

Sincerely, Lance Corporal (Name withheld by Captain Grose)

More to come on my reaction.

Free Advice for Today:
Avoid sarcastic remarks.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“The first thing I did when I took the baby home was dangle him over the balcony.

- David Letterman

Day Infinity of the Defense Travel System class.

The group of instructors that get paid for this are reasonably intelligent people, one even being an MSCE. But I think they’ve been on the road doing this for a bit too long and need a break. I feel for them because I’ve seen the range of users they’ve had to deal with. I think I was a breath of fresh air because I picked up on everything they taught and didn’t ask many questions. With others, well, the instructors have the patience of angels.

One thing that did bother me, though. One of them insisted on pronouncing the word government as “gub-mint.” At first I thought it a bit humorous since this guy was obviously intelligent. But as you can imagine, the word came up many times and each time: “gub-mint.”

The other annoying habit this particular guy had was his use of animated gifs in his Power Point presentations. By now, it’s pretty much common knowledge that animations in PP presentations are cheesy and amateurish. There is no faster way to broadcast your minor league status than to have these animated gifs in your presentation. And his were chocked full of them, every slide. For no apparent reason, I found this cumulatively annoying.

I had to cut the post-lunch portion of class today to give a TIMS presentation to the quarterly TECOM IT meeting. They held it in a small VTC room and when it came to my turn, I gave the standard brief. What I didn’t expect was that my boss’s boss showed up and I found myself giving a brief in front of the man who brainchilded the system. Great.

I did OK and it marked a milestone: it was the first time I had given a presentation in front of a live audience and VTC members. There were people from 29 Palms, the recruit depots, and a few other places looking/listening in. For me, it was a last minute tasker that I rolled in and presented. No sweat.

I left for home in a clear to partly cloudy mood but for some reason, the entire commuting population of Virginia decided to suffer collective, spontaneous retardation. I left at normal time, caught the 5:09 train, and tried to head home. When I got to Fredericksburg and to Truckasaurus, even getting out of the parking lot took twice as long. The reason: not apparent.

As I made my way home, I started to discover that every leg of my journey was clogged with red tail lights. I was getting more and more irate because there were no readily obvious reasons for this situation. I knew I was screwed when I hit a point that I’m usually flying through (one of the few portions of my commute that I get out of 3rd gear), was backed up for miles.

I ended up getting home at 6:45 and not very friendly. I don’t know what it is about a hard commute but I ate and then sprawled on the couch to watch TV for the rest of the evening. I don’t even think if there was a fire in my house could I have ejected myself from the chase.

Free Advice for Today:
Never tell anyone they look tired or depressed.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

- P.J. O'Rourke, Civil Libertarian

I want to thank to bastard who created the W32.Novarg.A@mm virus. Thanks for sending me a couple a hundred emails in the last couple of days. Take your "Hi" and your "status" and cram in your non-sunshine container.

Yes, I got hit and it was one of the very few times I had ever been a victim of a virus. I don’t know how I fell for it so I’ll have to blame it on my wife or kids. Way to go.

The weird thing is that Norton caught it but couldn’t clean nor quarantine the file. So it just kept on popping up a window that said it detected it but couldn’t do a damn thing about it. I went to the file it told me was infected but I could not delete the file. Sneaky, Mr. Virus-Writer, very sneaky.

So I naturally turned off the notification function from Norton and went to the Symantec site. I saw they had a special cleaning tool so I down loaded it, turned off my system restore function (I’m not that gifted to know that; it told me too), and launched the .exe from Norton.

It started cleaning my system alright and even fixed the registry (that deep, dark place that even Satan is afraid to visit) but as the tool did its thing, it occurred to me that the author of the virus had won. It took forever to scan my whole system and while that was going on, I didn’t want to do anything on the computer so in effect, the virus writer kept me from my computer for over an hour. I was pissed. The bastard had succeeded. I will see you rot in Hell for all of eternity until your black soul screams for the sweet release of death. Ok, maybe a little over the top but I'd give him a good Dutch rub at least.

People like that slay me because they are obviously smart enough to do a cool programming trick but they use their talents for stupid crap like clogging up the entire Internet with self-replicating email. And when they get caught, they get a slap on the wrist. I hope they rot in Hell.

Speaking of Hell, I survived day 2 of the Defense Travel System class. I’m not even blaming the instructors because they are doing the best they can with an immensely boring subject. But I get so frustrated when they have to go Barney-level for the LOLITS. I mean although I’m smarter than the average bear when it comes to computer, I’m no genius and as far as I’m ahead of the LOLITS, others of you are that farther ahead of me. But today took the cake and it had nothing to do with DTS. It was Windows/Computing 101.

In a nutshell, we were supposed to replace a portion of a long alphanumeric code with a wildcard. For example, we wanted to make dfd$#&^DHB^1444e^^ into dfd$#&^DHB^*e^^. Notice that I am just replacing “1444” with the wildcard “*.

That’s it. That’s all we had to do.

The explanation took ten minutes because the instructor wanted them to place a curser in the middle of the “1444” and then double click. This would choose the “1444” and then all they had to do was push the asterisk button (which I always call the “splat” button). Of course this blew the LOLITS cerebellums like wild balloons on the loose. They screwed it up like Hogan’s Goat. I was already three steps ahead and had just highlighted it and put the splat in. There, done.

We won’t even get into the fact that the instructor had to explain how to push the shift and 8 keys (instead of just saying “the asterisk key”) or she had to go over the control c and control v functions. Ahhhhhhh!!!!!

OK, maybe the class is getting to me.

The good news is that the ice and snow are melting and I’m in little danger of falling on my ass anymore (anymore than usual, I guess). Other good news is that it looks like I’ll get a 4 day business trip to Orlando late next month. Oh, and I finished Grapes of Wrath on tape and started Killer Angels today.

Bad news includes that I have to skip the after-lunch portion of class tomorrow to give a TIMS brief. Maybe that’s good news. Other bad news is that I didn’t PT again today and it looks like the week is a wash as far as exercise goes. I've gained 400 pounds.

OK, that’s about it. As a parting shot, here is what the virus cleaner told me after it was done. Bastard virus authors!!!

process: explorer.exe (terminated)
process: document.pif (terminated)

registry: HKLM\SOFTWARE\CLASSES\CLSID\{E6FB5E20-DE35-11CF-9C87-00AA005127ED}\InProcServer32: (Default) (value set to "WEBCHECK.DLL")

C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Local Settings\Temp\document.pif: (deleted)
C:\RECYCLER\S-1-5-21-507921405-1965331169-839522115-500\Dc9.zip: (deleted)
C:\System Volume Information: (not scanned)
C:\WINDOWS\system32\shimgapi.dll: (deleted)
C:\WINDOWS\system32\taskmon.exe: (deleted)
E:\System Volume Information: (not scanned)

W32.Novarg.A@mm has been successfully removed from your computer!

Here is the report:

The total number of the scanned files: 258651
The number of deleted files: 4
The number of viral processes terminated: 1
The number of registry entries fixed: 1

(If any of your super smart guys can glean any useful information from this and trample willy-nilly through my computer, please don't. It's had enough rape and pillage for one week and I'd hate to wish the Dutch Rub scenario on you.)

Free Advice for Today:
Be a student in some kind of class.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“You know how old Harry Potter is in the book? Fifteen. He’s at that awkward age – he’s too old for Michael Jackson and too young for Demi Moore.

- Jay Leno

If yesterday was snow day, then today was Ice Day. The big difference was that I actually went to work this morning.

I got up at 0530 and called the PAO number to the base (a number I found out existed for just such events). This morning it told me that the base was in code yellow (like the snow you don’t eat) which means that the base was operating but “reasonable delays were permitted and a liberal leave policy was in effect.” I guess that means take your chances in coming in. If you don't want to risk your life, it'll cost you a day of leave.

I really could not justify another day at home so I got ready and decided to brave the forces of nature. I should have known it was a bad idea when my car was an ice cube. I wanted to take the Saturn because Truckasaurus is only 2-wheel drive and light in the trunk, making driving on ice a bit dicey. It had rained overnight leaving a thick layer of ice all over the 5 inches of snow.

I tried to open the car but all 4 doors were frozen shut. So I was forced to take Truckasaurus because I could get the doors open. Oh well, I was just going to the train station and Truckasaurus has had a good life.

I went about 20 MPH all the way to the station and felt like an old lady. I’m deathly afraid of driving on ice and the last decade in California assured me I was not ready for the Virginia Bobsled Team.

I made it to the train and the ride in was uneventful. Getting into work, without falling on my ass, I'll point out, I made some calls and discovered the Defense Travel System class was starting and I couldn’t really get out of it. Four days of learning about the Department of Defenses new travel system. Yes, watching painted ice dry, melt, and then evaporate.

The class started at 0830, which was good since I got there about that time. Not only was I forced to take this God-awful class, but I had to beg to get a seat since I hadn’t bothered to make a reservation. Lucky for me the weather kept some of the seats open. Yeah, REAL lucky for me.

Because the class goes all day with only an hour for lunch, I knew I had no time to PT. So I didn’t even mind trudging across the base in ankle-deep, crunchy snow. It was the only PT I’d get so across the base I trudged.

The only interesting thing about the class for me is that it’s a web-based system and the instructors travel all over the place to give the class. So I was more interested in the techniques they used and the design of the interface because my system has similar interaction with the user. And… that’s about it. Four days of travel system equals bedsores on my ass.

For lunch, I made the trudge back over to my office and may I point out not one bastard stopped to give me a ride. I over cooked my frozen Smart One so instead of whipped potatoes, I had a hardened mass of dehydrated something or other. It was nasty so suffice it to say, I had a small portion of turkey and gravy for lunch. Then it was in the snow to trudge back and make it just in time for more blissful travel system learning.

We had 10 people in the class with half being Marines. The other half was Little Old Ladies In Tennis Shoes (LOLITS), the euphemism for civilian office workers who, by the most part, are little old ladies in tennis shoes. What I found intriguing (after looking at it in my unique way) is that the Marines were always done right away while the LOLITS took their time in confusion. It made me realize that Marines are, by nature, goal-oriented and wanting to get the mission done immediately. Right now. “NEXT!”

On the other hand, the LOLITS had all the time in the world and were in no rush to do anything. They were going to be there all day if they used a sense of urgency or not. I know it’s mighty stereotypical but it was so evident.

They let us go a half hour early but it still took me 2 ½ hours to get home. I had to make the final trudge back to work to change over and then get to the train which was late. The base shut down at about 2:30 so everyone was gone already.

I have to talk a bit about something I saw on the train ride home. It was the evil comb-over atop a rather fat man with a walrus-looking mustache. I find it incredible that someone, anyone, would possibly think for one moment that a comb-over is better than the chrome dome they possess. This guy had an obvious matte of long hair originating on the side of his head, which he flopped over. Now it’s bad enough that the stringy lines made it readily apparent to the most casual observer that it was a comb-over but it was intensified by the fact that the hair clumped together to form greasy bands. These ropes laid across in a way that showed alternating hair and bald skin underneath. I could almost hear Christine Aguilera sing "Beautiful" in the background.

I couldn’t stop looking at him. I was amazed and started wondering how he kept the obvious heavy mass of hair to stay draped over his skull. Was it hairspray? How does it look in the wind? How about the shower? Good Lord, stop thinking about it!!!

Just as I was contemplating this, the person on the inboard side of his seat needed off the train so Mr. Over de la Comb stood up to expose a rather obese gut. As he did, the tissue-thin illusion of hair fell to pieces, almost to answer what I was thinking. His scare-do flopped forward so that the tip was well below his chin in a cascading avalanche of floating side-o-head hair , covering his face with ropy clumps of hair. The dome was in full view and I sat there stunned at the scene. For a moment, he didn’t seem to know or care because he let it be. Absentmindedly, he brushed in back in a sweeping motion and the comb-over was back to its scary cradle. This same thing happened when he bent over to take his seat again and I was once again mortified. Just when I thought it couldn’t look worse (comb-overs in general strike me as comical), he proved me wrong. It was both fascinating and nasty.

You might think me a bit mean to describe this but I must point out that it is pure vanity that these people choose to partake in this ridiculous attempt at hair coverage. They have the choice of either showing their baldness or trying to make it look as though they have a full head of hair and what gives me a chuckle (along with the willies), is that they choose the worse-looking of the two options. Not only are they not fooling anyone, but they are making a mockery of themselves. If you are bald or balding, hey, I can’t fault you for that. The DNA is trump. You are bald. Sucks but that’s evident.

But when you attempt the comb-over, I point out that you are still bald so you begin at the worst of the first situation. Now that we’ve established that, it follows that anything else is just more bad juju on top of the first suck factor. Now let’s add that you are trying to fool the general public. Strike two. It’s not working. Strike three. And for the final blow, not only is it not working but you look like a fool.

In conclusion, I would say that being bald may not even be the first strike, unless you have a head like mine (when my head is shaved, it looks like a gold ball on a tee). But some skulls look good exposed. Embrace it. Even if you are not blessed with an exposable grape, it beats the comb-over a 100 ways to Sunday.

Free Advice for Today:
Discipline with a gentle hand.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Monday, January 26, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.

- Douglas Casey, Classmate of W.J. Clinton at Georgetown U. (1992)

Last night they predicted snow, and lots of it. They were right.

At about 8:00 PM it started snowing and I got my hopes up that the base might be shut down. Even as an adult, I wanted a snow day off. By the end of the night, a few inches had accumulated and the kids’ schools were closed. But I knew they wouldn’t make that determination for the base until the morning. I stayed up too late on the assumption (I know the old saying so save your breath) that I wouldn’t have to go to work in the morning.

I woke up at 0500 to check the Internet. I had already accepted that I had the day off so it would be a big disappointment if I had to trudge into work. My main fear was to get all the way there and then have the base close and have to fight my way back. The snow was about 5 inches deep and I knew it would be hell on the roads.

When I logged into the local radio station, it said the base was in a “Code Blue" and closed. Code Blue? What the hell is Code Blue? More like “Code Blew.”

I knew that Code Red meant that it was shut down and that’s what I was looking for. I seemed to remember that the blue meant that it would open late but the information didn’t tell me how late. Crap!!

I turned on the TV and watched about a half dozen stations and every time I flipped, the closure list would be down in the “B’s” while I was looking for “Q.” Others were on “S” and I kept flipping around until I got to one that was coming up on Q. I was excited and then… it went to commercial and the ticker went away. CRAP!!!!

Finally I caught one and it said the base was opening 2 hours late. Damn it! I really didn’t want to get on the roads today because I knew they’d be a nasty mess.

I went back to sleep for awhile and when I got up, nothing had changed. I decided to email my boss to see what he thought and he returned my email by saying to call the class I was supposed to attend and get a reservation. Fine, I’ll take that as a “stay at home.”

Boy was I lucky because a few hours later, the base closed and they sent everyone home. If I would have gone, I’d be there just in time to turn around and fight my way home among the galactically retarded. The blind dog found a bone.

So did I take advantage of this day and get a bunch of things done? You know me better than that. I did accomplish some stuff such as shoveling the driveway for PT. The YMCA was closed so I couldn’t get to the gym so I had to be satisfied with shoveling snow. It was a work out but not like a treadmill and a cross-country machine.

It occurs to me that I’m simulating cross country skiing but when it snows, I refrain from doing the very activity that I’m simulating. But to be fair, I don’t have the equipment. Plus it’s cold and I’m a hopeless wimp when it comes to the cold. Let me run a marathon but don’t make me shiver.

So I shoveled, cleaned off the trampoline, helped my daughter make a fort, took some pictures, and studies a little for my EWS class. I could have done more but hey, snow day.

Free Advice for Today:
Take more pictures of people than places.'
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Friday, January 23, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

- James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)

As promised, I’ve decided to describe a “situation” I’ve been dealing with. Let me set it up.

If you’ve read over my page and stumbled across my review of the "book" Jarhead (spit!), you know how I feel about this travesty of the written word. If not, you need to read this before you continue.

Back? Good.

The other day, I get a rather unexpected email. I have left the spelling and expletives in tact so I warn you, it’s a bit raw but I felt it important to leave it in tact, other than the identification information which will become important as you read the rest of the BLOG.. (hint, it is NOT Swofford, the author of Jarhead, in case you're wondering)...

Hey there dude,

What the fuck is your deal? You say this book is shit beacause it doesnt promote the marine corps enough? What are you, a fucking recruiter? Do you want every book about the marines to be fairy tales, promoting the marine corps to be some righteous fucking organization where devil dogs are either training or doing MCI's? You get offended when he talks about jerking off or overseas whores or getting sand in his dickhole? Well what the fuck do you think happens in grunt units? You gotta be from some pogue-ass unit where everyone sports their devil dog tattoos proudly with high and tights. A place where everyone wears USMC t-shirts around base and drives cars that show off some huge Eagle Globe and Anchor or those faggot "OORAH- IT"S A MARINE THING" bumper stickers. Is every Marine supposed to be like that? We call those people either "boots" or "pogues" where i'm at. One of th worst parts in your paper is how you have a shit-fit about Swofford not capitalizing the word "Marine." Is it supposed to be like the Bible, where they capitalize "God," "Him," "Son of Man," etc?

What about the part where you wrote "His conversations between his fellow Marines are canned, full of clichés, and what an anti-Marine civilian would imagine a band of idiotic killing machines would talk like and about."

What do you think grunts talk about? (I realize that members of STA platoon are snipers, not grunts, but I also know that they have there share of degenerates that make the corps what it is and always has been) But seriously, do you really think grunts talk about "winning hearts and minds" and respecting their enemies as people? Fuck no they don't. Do yourself a favor and stop pretending you're Gunny Hartman with all this "my Corps" verbal diarrhea. Take your band of brothers shit and shove it. That shit is for boot camp and recruiting stations. Saying he's being "disloyal to the Corps," God forbid someone doesn't believe the Marine Corps to be Gospel. The bottom line is, the grunts, as degenerate and imorral and fucked up as we are, will always be the heart of the Corps. We're trained to destroy the enemy, not be fucking politicians and upstanding citizens. Fuck that.

Sincerely Yours, Lcpl (Full Name) (Unit Designator)

OK, where to start.

When I first read it, I thought it was some civilian who didn’t like my review. I could deal with that. I learned long ago to take my own advice and not waste time responding to my critics. As I kept reading, I could tell it was a Marine but assumed he was not active duty anymore and just some disgruntled Swofford-clone who got wind up his skirt by talking to Officers like this. Fine, but still not worth my time.

So you can imagine how I felt when I started to get the feeling this was a young active duty Marine. Then the bomb hit when I read the last line. The thing that startled me the most was that the LCpl gave me his full name and unit with the email. That told me he:

  • was not too bright or
  • didn’t actually write it but his buddies were playing a joke on him or
  • was unaware he was actually talking to an active duty Captain of Marines

Great, now I had to deal with it. It was almost a dare and any Captain worth his bars wouldn’t, couldn’t let this go. Despite being compelled to act on this, I really had no choice in the matter. As an Officer and just as important, as a formerly enlisted Marine, I could not let a breach of this magnitude exist without reaction.

As far as the content, I make it no secret that I don’t agree with Swofford. If this young Marine agreed with him and disagreed with my assessment, good to go. We do not aim to deny independent opinions or even disagreement with authority. I may not agree with this Marine’s assessment of the “grunt” mentality (probably ammo for him to admit I’ve never been a grunt), but I spent years in an infantry regiment. Whatever our views and differences thereof, it boils down to the fact that I cannot overlook the tone of the email.

And it doesn’t matter who he THOUGHT he was talking to. If he knew I was a Captain (my website makes it obvious and the only other place the review shows up is at Amazon.com where I identify myself as an active duty Captain) then how could he think he could get away with such blatant disrespect? And if he thought I wasn’t a Captain, is this how we Marines want to come across to the public? Either way, the attack cannot go unchallenged.

When I got to work today, I talked to my Gunny about it (as any good Officer would do). We discussed many things about it and to my Gunny’s credit, he was incredulous that this LCpl would do such a thing. He asked what I was going to do about it and I told him that at first I wanted to call the Marine’s Sergeant Major. Then I reconsidered and thought it should be handled at a lower level and considered the Company 1stSgt. I gathered the information I needed and had numbers to everyone from the Marine to the Company Commander.

The Gunny asked a very insightful question before I made the call.

“Sir, are you reacting to the content or the tone?” It was a great question and I assured the Gunny that my beef was not with his disagreement with my review but for the disrespect expressed in the email.

I put off making the call to think about the different scenarios that could unfold and how I would react. To admit the truth, I was a little wary of calling despite my enlisted background. I have chewed plenty of ass in my time and am confident that I could go nuclear in a way that would honor my background. But as an Officer, I knew that was not the best path. Discussing it with the Gunny, I told him that it was such a weird situation because Marines are rarely as blatantly disrespectful as this. I mentioned that despite the Marine Corps’ reputation, it would be easier for a Navy or Army Officer to react to this because they most likely dealt with it more often. I simply had never had a Marine be so boldly disrespectful and compare it to my 11-year-old son flipping me the bird and telling me where to go. At first, you would just stand there stunned.

I decided to try to call the Marine directly just to see if he was really this off kilter. It was a no-win situation for him because if he turned suddenly respectful when he found out it was me, I would have simply started out by saying “Oh, so NOW you are respectful…” and then gone from there. Maybe it’s unfair but I would have lost what little respect I have for him for reversing himself (another “Full Metal Jacket” reference I’m sure he will cringe at if he reads this.)

On the other hand, if he was just as bold, I would have to end the conversation quickly so he wouldn’t dig his grave any deeper. I would then go up his chain.

But I wanted to talk to him to find out if it was indeed him, who he thought he was writing it to, what he thought it would accomplish, how he could think he would not get a reaction after signing his rank, name, and unit, and if he was drunk. I was really trying to give him the benefit of the doubt and find any underlying reason for such destructive behavior.

It ends up he was out in the field so I was put on the line with his Gunny who was the acting Company 1stSgt. I told him the basics and he wanted to put me on the line with the company XO, a 1stLt. I ended up reading most of the email to the 1stLt and he couldn’t believe it. He asked me to send it to him and they would definitely deal with him.

Here is what I sent, which describes a couple of other points we talked about:


To understand the email, read this first: http://www.grose.us/books/jarhead.html

At the bottom of this email is LCpl (NAME WITHHELD)’s email.

Reading through it, I wanted to make it clear that I don't have issue with his opinions (although I hope they are not the (HIS UNIT) norm). Rather, as a one-time Lance Corporal myself, I can't for the life of me understand what compelled this young Marine to so blatantly disrespect someone he had to know was an active duty Captain of Marines. Both my web page and the Amazon site (where it's also posted) clearly states who I am so as much as I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, I can't bring myself to believe he was ignorant of his target. Even if he was ignorant and thought he was talking to a civilian or non-active duty Marine Officer, is this the way we want him presenting himself, (HIS UNIT), and the Marine Corps to the public?

While I'm compelled to jump right in knee-deep, I know enough to leave this at your level. While this is clearly a breach of article 89, I think there are better ways to handle this without making a permanent mark on his record. It is for you to decide but in the units I've served, I think a session with a strong 1stSgt would be my route. I'm not gunning for this kid but can't let this go by without some attempt at course correction. I'll leave that in your hands.

But for my own closure, please give me some feedback about what happens. You or (COMPANY COMMANDER) can give me a call anytime.

Semper Fi.

The XO’s response:

Sir - I just handed LCpl (NAME WITHHELD)’s email to his platoon commander, SSgt (NAME WITHHELD), who will be taking care of the matter from here along with the 1st Sgt. I would be surprised if you didn't receive an apology in the near future. I'm going out to 29 Palms for a week for some predeployment training (going back to Iraq) and (COMPANY COMMANDER) is leaving the company, but I will follow up on this when I return.


More to come, if appropriate. Please note that I did remove all identifying information to protect the guilty. Some might question the propriety of me posting all of this but I made the decision to do so because I think it's important for people to understand that not every single Marine is without faults in judgment, tact, and attitude. You may apply that to me depending on which camp you're in on this subject but if so, all the more reason for me posting it.

Free Advice for Today:
Stand when greeting a visitor to your office.'
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Madonna is coming out with five children’s books. In one of them, we find out that Goldilocks isn’t a real blonde.

- Conan O’Brien

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I watched American Idol. As I stated last night, after they get through the initial misery, I don’t watch the actual talent. I hate reality shows but I count the first American Idols as unrestrained comedy.

Last year was the first time I saw it and I really did not like Simon at all. But as I watch it this year, I understand his frustration and really like that he is saying what everyone else is thinking. The lame talent is wasting his time and he’s not happy about it. How those three don’t go on a shooting rampage, I don’t know. I would make Simon look like Paula if I was on the panel and then end up being led away by an Officer of the law.

But now that they got past the first part, I will not watch it. I say I hate reality shows but every once in awhile, I end up in the fishnet with all the other tuna. For example, I was sucked into watching My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé which had a bit of a twist. They have an actor playing the fiancé who has to convince the bride that he’s playing the game too. Together they must convince the bride’s family that they are in love and are getting married. Of course the actor is making it hard for the bride to pull it off and the family is clueless so it’s a double trick. God forgive me but I really enjoyed it. I had to take a Lysol bath afterwards.

Here is an interesting comparison, at least for me. After reading the last two entries (Jan 21 and Jan 22), go back and read similar entries about last year’s State of the Union Address blog and American Idol blog. OK, maybe it was interesting just to me.

Free Advice for Today:
Have a friend who owns a truck.'
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.

- G. Gordon Liddy

Yesterday night I watched the State of the Union Address and I must say that I’m impressed with President Bush’s speech. Of course the Democrats had to be disagreeable and as expected, the liberal portion of our society had to flail about and discredit his points. That aside, let me share some things I noticed.

If you tuned in right at the start, they told you that in case of a catastrophic event, a member of the Cabinet had to be squirreled away (my term, not theirs) so that he could rebuild the American government. The guy they picked was the Secretary of Commerce. THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE!!! That’s who would take over in a cataclysmic disaster if the upper echelon of American government was taken out? Really? Is that what you’re going with? Wow.

Senator Kennedy was being Senator Kennedy. Shaking his head during the speech, to me, seemed disrespectful no matter what his views were. No one can claim he doesn’t get his chance to express himself so why must he behave in such a manner? Agree with the President or not, he’s still the President ofthe United States and for that, a little more respect is warranted, especially in such a public forum.

The whole clapping thing was getting on my nerves. I wish I would have stop-watched it because I guess a full 1/3 of the speech was in wait mode. I did find it a bit childish that in a civilized society, the partisan reactions were so divided. The Democrats and Republicans took turns standing and cheering but they all had the political sense to agree on the patriotic moments. But what surprised me were the military chiefs. Normally, they just sit there like Stonehenge because they are not supposed to appear partisan to either party but last night, they stood at almost everything (after looking at each other for what appeared to me to be non-verbal agreement).

No one could tell me the answer to this next question. The President mentioned Colonel Quadafi (spelled 86 ways 'till Tuesday depending on where you look) and it occurred to me that if you are a dictator of a country and have virtually omnipotent power, why stop at “Colonel” when assigning yourself rank? And are there any Libyan generals? If so, then do they outrank the country’s leader? Think about it. A quick Google search yealded some facts:

  • born in 1942
  • born in a desert tent near the town of Surt
  • attended Libyan military academy in Benghazi
  • also attended royal military academy at Sandhurst England
  • took over Libya's leadership in 1969
  • military overthrow of Libya's monarchy (came into power)
  • Colonel And commanders and chief of Libyan armed forces

Did anyone catch the guy sleeping? The camera did and I bet he claims he was looking down reading something. But we all know, the Sandman was all over the dude.

I loved it when the President said the Patriot Act was expiring in a couple of months and the Democrats, who I have to assume want it to die, cheered like banshees. After that died down, the President told them that the terrorists are on no such schedule. That shut the Dems right up and the Republicans cheered. How are you going to argue against that? Classic.

The female ambassador to Iraq was next to the First Lady. That must have been awkward. I wonder how she felt about the whole “we liberated your country” thing. I mean if she was brought up on the anti-American rabble most Iraqis have been soaked with all these years, she has to feel some hatred inside. Maybe not.

The event ended with the Democratic rebuttal and the first one they went to was Senator John Kerry. First of all, I have a pet peeve of reporters asking questions that only have one answer. I deeply hate that and you see it all the time on TV.

“The lessons you learned about loving family and cherishing the time with your kids, will you take those back to your home?”

What the hell are they supposed to say?

“Nah, not really. I really don’t think I will love my family and kids. I think I’ll just keep doing what works for me, you know, with the crack pipe and all.”

So this reporter asks Senator John Kerry some lame-ass one-answer question, served up to him so that he can take the obvious anti-Bush position. After the third time in a row, I lost it and yelled at the TV: “SCREW YOU, KERRY!!!”

Unfortunately, my wife’s name is the phonetically matched name: Carrie. She looked up from the magazine she was reading and I had no idea what the deal was. I looked at her and she looked at me with a mixture of disbelief and humor. Then it hit me and I spent the rest of the night apologizing, telling her she knew very well what I meant. It just came out about as wrong as it gets.

OK, I must wrap this up but I have a couple of things I’ll mention as a preview to tomorrow’s BLOG.

First, I spent the last three nights watching American Idol just to see the horrific performances. After they get through the misery, I don’t watch the actual talent. I hate reality shows but I count the first American Idols as unrestrained comedy.

Second, I got an email tonight from a young Marine who took exception to my review of Jarhead. If it was just that, I’d call it a difference of opinion. But either he was unaware that I’m an active duty Marine Captain or he is the dumbest glutton for pain I’ve come across. You see, among the explicatives and name-calling, he was beyond disrespectful not only to me as an Officer but even as a civilian if that’s what he believed me to be. The dumbest part is that he provided his full name and unit so tomorrow, I’m going to start with his Sergeant Major and go from there. Depending on how that goes, I will try to get him on the phone and see how brave he is when talking directly to me. Promises to be an interesting evolution tomorrow.

Free Advice for Today:
Be a good winner.'
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

- Winston Churchill

Today was a half day and I took the other half off… sort of.

Ok here’s what happened. Carrie and I saw the little ones off to school and decided to hit the YMCA (where we pay $56 per month to be a member of the formerly uber-gay meeting place) and get a work out in. Not that it’s part of the story but I had a great workout and sweat like Hugh Hefner on Judgment Day.

When we got home, I took a shower and got ready for my half day at work. I actually planned on being a bit late since the train times I had to choose from was 0930 and 1208. I would let myself slide on the ½ hour. As I got ready, I had a light lunch topped with a cup of coffee. I was in a great, yet different, routine and got to the train station in plenty of time. I figured today was going to be a waste because of the short duration (I was going to be on the road almost as long as at work) but I was ready.

Just one thing. I had pounded water during the workout, had a Gatorade afterwards with lunch, and had one cup of coffee. Do you see where this is going?

Despite my bathroom visit right before leaving, I found myself in a bad state by the time I got to the train station. And you guessed it, no bathroom anywhere near the station. That’s ok, I thought, the best I could hope for was a bathroom on the train and if that failed, well, I’d have to suffer until I got to work.

These are the thoughts that went over and over in my head as I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally at 1230, I decided that the train wasn’t coming and that it was more important to get home to a bathroom than anything else. It wasn’t hard to convince myself that this was the logical course of action because it would not be worth catching the next train. By the time I got in, I would only have a little while before I was getting ready to leave. I didn’t want to drive and face the southbound traffic in a few hours, especially since I knew nothing was going on at work.

So the decision was made and I bolted. I got stuck in traffic (of course) and tried to call my Gunny to tell him of my situation (not coming in, not that I had to pee so bad it hurt). My boss was gone all week so I knew things were slow at work. I couldn’t get through on my cell phone so I waited until I got home. But I had no luck on the land line so I sent him an email (not the greatest method but all I had).

The deal was this: I would work issues via email which I had access to. I would take care of business doing the telecommuting thing and see how it worked.

Well, things didn’t work out like I had planned. First of all, I did more work at home than I ever do at work. I was whizzing through email and reading up on stuff and before I knew it, I had spent 4 straight hours on the computer. I took a break and then spent another 2 hours reading and writing. I thought this was supposed to be EASIER!

The other thing that didn’t work out is that the one time I don’t come in, they want to have a meeting. I discovered my boss was in fact not away and questions were flying back and forth, calling for a meeting I hoped would be slated for tomorrow. Suddenly the email stopped and I figured what happened was that my boss came in and dealt with the situation offline, calling a meeting. I won’t know until tomorrow.

I feel that in the situation, I did the right thing and in the end, I got more work done than if I had come in. But I hadn’t cleared it and for some reason, it just didn’t feel right. I’ve never had to check in or out because I’m an Officer but I couldn’t shake the feeling of being “caught.”

Free Advice for Today:
Marry only for love.'
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.

- Mark Twain

Today, I was brutally forced to visit Charles E. Queso (the code name for Chuck E. Cheese that no longer works since the kids picked up on it).

I was content with staying in my robe all day, let my facial hair grow, and take naps when the mood hit, A.K.A. every 10 minutes. But then my wife rudely pointed out that I had promised the boy a visit to Sir Charles and I was caught like a rat (get it?). I moaned, whined, complained, grumbled, cried, and stomped but the fact remained, I had made the promise. And did my boy let me out of it? He’s related to me, isn’t he? We were on our way.

Going to Chuck E. Cheese is pretty much like hanging out in Hell’s waiting room. Except that there are more evil little ones around.

We get there and the first thing required is to get branded. They stamp your hand with a number so that you won’t make off with a kid. I’m convinced it’s more so that you’ll take the ones you brought but I can’t prove it. Whatever the reason, I now had a huge, glow-in-the dark #42 emblazoned on my left hand. Moo.

For a mere 10 dollars, we got 40 tokens and then 10 more for a bonus because they care that much about me as a person. Yippee!! The rides/games at this particular establishment only required one token (or 20 cents for you math wizards) so for chump change, you can frolic on dried-piss-covered rides to your heart’s content.

I had to put on the brave face when my son asked me if he was too old for this place and I had to convince him not only that he was not too old, but I was absolutely thrilled to be there. I expect my Oscar nomination in the mail any day now.

The only claim I can brag about is my 100,000 Skee Ball shot. I rolled the dimpled orange ball up the ramp and it dove right into the little hole in the corner and for one spectacular moment, I was the Master of the Universe. Take that, you little bastards…oops, I mean, hey, did you see that?

We also played a baseball game where you launch a little pin ball and whack it until you get three outs. The boy got 17 points and I was impressed. I, on the other hand, got an out on the first ball and then only scored 9 points. I kicked imaginary dirt on the imaginary umpire. He threw me out so I left and bet on the game, getting shunned from the Pin Ball Baseball Hall of Fame for all of eternity. My book comes out next month.

I have never been a “game” person and don’t even play them on my state-of-the-art computer, despite knowing that I have a system that most gamers would envy. So going about playing these Chuck E. Cheese games was an exercise in good fathering techniques. I almost thought I was having a good time once but then I realized was wrong. Actually, it was fun to watch the boy have so much fun but the actual game playing myself was just something to endure.

After the game playing, we wanted to cash in not only the tickets we won but a bag full of tickets Alex had saved from Monterey. This particular establishment had a “Ticket Gobbler” that you fed the tickets to and it spit you out a receipt to take to the counter for only the highest quality toys. As we fed all the tickets in, we realized that despite what the teenage worker told us, the machine was not counting the Monterey tickets. We don’t know how many we fed into it before we realized this so we had no way of telling them how many we rated. So we stopped and decided to go to the counter and have them count them out for us.

Of course this was like asking the Pope to attend a strip bar. It wasn’t exactly like they wouldn’t do it, we never asked. It was just that there was just one monumentally bored teenager behind the counter and Augustus Gloop and his pig-like mother at the counter couldn’t decide to piss themselves if their pants were on fire. Gee, do you want the spider ring or the rainbow eraser for the $120 worth of tokens you spent? Let’s take 5 hours to decide.

We decided to save the rest of the tokens and tickets to come back another day. Good Lord, did I sign on for another visit. I did, didn’t I? Why that sneaky little…

Free Advice for Today:
Don't be afraid to say 'I'm sorry.'
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Friday, January 16, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Russell Crowe is marrying his girlfriend, Danielle Spencer. Here’s how the seating will work: On one side, friends of the bride. On the other, Ron Howard.

- Craig Kilborn

The first precept in war is "Know thy enemy." This is an interesting email I received that I thought I'd share.

Hello, It’s me again in Bangkok, Thailand. I guess the purpose of this e mail is to try to explain to some readers of your website the mindset of many of these extremists (i.e. terrorists) in the Middle East. I have a little insight into Arab society after living in Iran and Saudi Arabia until I was about 15 years old, prior to moving to the United States to boarding school and then eventually college.

In a nutshell, I believe many of these extremists lack the ability to sympathize, or more importantly, empathize with others outside their society or clique. It’s this ability to “know by seeing through the eyes of another” that can make a man compassionate, rational, and understanding. Right now, there are a lot of youths out there in the Middle East who are highly impressionable, have no responsible role models, and are without decent career prospects. They feel that they are “nobodies” if you will.

Then comes the role of the extremist religious leaders who use that weakness, and low self-esteem, and teach these kids that they can and will be worth something if they follow the “teachings” of the Koran, and accept their responsibility to proactively participate as “martyrs” or terrorists in the name of God. According to what they are taught, and reinforced ideals from the extremist leaders, these kids go from “nobodies” to being God’s messenger or right hand man. By the time they reach this stage, the perversion of their religion is virtually complete. They are completely blind to the outside, and have only one objective….to create havoc upon others in the name of a great religion. It’s ironic that hateful acts are used in the name of Allah when most religions expressly forbid this.

When I think of Middle Eastern terrorists I also think of Timothy McVeigh. From what I’ve read of his execution, he defiantly glared into the CCTV cameras which were broadcasting to the family members of the victims. I think I know why. You see, he had to believe what he did was justified. The other alternative is too horrible to comprehend, such as to recognize the truth and admit yourself as being a mass murderer of men, women, and children. I think it’s a very similar, if not identical mentality with terrorists and those that support, admire or become suicide bombers.

Let’s face it, most of us have the ability to rationalize or justify our own actions. Very few of us have the discipline or courage to regularly examine and admit what we are doing or thinking could be wrong. It’s more convenient, and comfortable to make excuses and say, “I’m right in what I do and think,” versus “I was very wrong, and I am sorry.” You see, it’s a necessity for the terrorists to believe what they are doing is right. It’s easier, comfortable, and empowering to think that you are “God’s right-hand man” carrying on his message. Could you admit to yourself that you are a blood thirsty, mass murderer, who has no honor, no compassion, no humility, and is held in contempt by most in the civilized world?

The enemy, according to many of them, is us, the people of the United States (and some allies), and our “decadent” ways. They feel we represent a deviant society of womanizers without morals or beliefs in God. Isn’t it ironic when they call the US decadent and filled with infidels, considering that their ideal Heaven after they die is feasting like a glutton, and having handfuls of virgins to fornicate with?

Views of people’s respective religions are causing problems. I do not necessarily lean one way or another when it comes to various religions. I believe that people in every country have their own unique way to worshipping their Deities. I don’t think there is a right or wrong religion…..just different societies and cultures that worship and show love and respect to their respective gods. If there is only one God, or several gods, you cannot expect every society and culture to worship that God or gods in an identical manner.

To extremists, every religion, or practice that deviates or differs from their own is wrong. Unfortunately we are now in a fight with those people who only look forward to death, and the only way to redemption and Heaven is being killed. I’m not saying that they will win by any means, but it will be a difficult and bitter fight to the end…which I think is a long ways off. This type of enemy is probably the most dangerous, if death in battle is something they strive for.

Look at Iran. It’s already been about a quarter of a century since the Shah was overthrown, and Khomeni came to power. Talk about extremism! Only now has it begun to warm up a little bit, with moderates gaining influence, inch by inch. And they are still some years away from having leaders preying on peoples’ fears (by using violence and intimidation) to a country run by the people, for the people. I left Iran when I was five or six years old. What I do remember of the country is that it was beautiful, and I had some good childhood friends, both American and Iranian. I hope to go back there one day soon. Sadly, due to the political environment, it may never happen for me.

Only a handful of thoughtless, inconsiderate, ruthless, hateful, racist, and murdering arrogant people changed our world forever. Unfortunately, there are many more that share in their ideals, and this will drag on and on until their respective governments take charge, and punish the religious leaders that preach hate and intolerance. Ironically, they are two elements forbidden by the Koran.

Free Advice for Today:
Seize every opportunity for additional training in your job.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“It is rumored that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez want to star in a remake of Casablanca. This will be the perfect film for people who liked the original but wished it was terrible.

- Tina Fey

Today, the magic of mass communication struck again.

I sent my “meeting dementia” BLOG entry to a good friend I met in the gym. He passed it along to some people and suddenly, it branched out and I got feedback from many people. Some of the people I knew, some I didn’t, and some didn’t know they knew me until they made the connection. Whatever their status, the feedback was good which is a relief since I’ve had negative varieties of feedback in the past. For some reason, the Officer Corps has been the only group of people to attack.

If you read the entry, you will notice that the very punch line of the story is that the meeting could be about just about any meeting aboard the base. I knew that anyone who read it would be able to identify with the seemingly universal nuances of meetings. I crafted the story so as not to identify anyone in order to protect the guilty. Even though I rarely write anything that I don’t want publicly disclosed, the feedback I got from the unexpected spread of this story gave me pause when I saw some of the ranks involved. There is a slight chance that someone could take offense and perceive my writing as irreverent. No such thing happened but when you see an email in your Inbox from a LtCol, pucker factor spikes for a moment. Luckily everyone seems to like it.

OK, enough of that, except to say thank you for all those that emailed. The fact that I can get vicariously rewarded for NOT concentrating on the meeting subject and instead, surreptitiously absorb the dynamic in general is funny in itself.

I got a summons for jury duty. I don’t think that the $15 per day is going to pay for a plane ticket from Virginia to Monterey, CA. I could just ignore it but somehow that seems wrong. I should call them. Jury duty would be a great subject for the BLOG but my gut tells me that I might be able to eek out stupidity when I contact them and get accused of trying to skirt my civic duty.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't be afraid to say, 'I don't know.'
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“[I]f the deponent is the person who has oral sex performed on him, then the contact is with -- not with anything on that list, but with the lips of another person. It seems to be self-evident that that's what it is. . . . Let me remind you, sir, I read this carefully … ‘any person, reasonable person’ would recognize that oral sex performed on the deponent falls outside the definition.

- President Clinton responding to the definition of “sexual relations”

I saw part of Conan O’Brien tonight and they had the actor who played Smeagle from LOTR. These kind of interviews always interest me because I love to see the people behind characters, especially animated ones (characters, not people).

He relayed a story where he was looking over one of the LOTR books on a plane and a stewardess bent down and condescendingly told him that they had made a few movies out of the story. He politely agreed but said that what he really wanted to do was jump out at her, grab her neck and say “Is that so, my Precious?” in his character voice.

When he did this, he used the voice and the sight of seeing that voice come out of a man was eerily cool. The nthey pointed out that the character had no penis. Now that's just eerily NOT cool.

I told myself I wouldn’t get into this so I’ll make it quick. They shorted my travel reimbursement because I didn’t provide one receipt. They paid me the food allowance so they believed I was there for that day but they must have assumed I slept outside and was trying to get over on them by claiming the outrageous scenario of actually renting a room like the other nights I was there. This was strike four for this one simple claim and I’ve been steaming about it for two days. They couldn’t have called me, using the contact information I was required to provide on the form. If I didn’t know what the outcome would be, I'm tempted to leave off the contact info on my next one just to see if they’d kick back the claim because of a lack of contact info they wouldn’t use anyway.

So I have to make a supplemental claim and walk them through the situation like they were toddlers. See, I knew I couldn’t make it through without a bit of bile bubbling up.

Free Advice for Today:
Never cheat.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Nothing is rich but the inexhausible wealth of nature. She shows us only surfaces, but she is a million fathoms deep.

- Ralph Walso Emerson

It took me two hours to get home last night. I got on the 5:09 train which normally puts me at home at about 6:10. But not long after boarding, the train slowed down to a crawl and we were told that the train in front of us was having some trouble. So we crawled along. It was not so bad since I had not seen Sir Phil in a week and we talked the whole way.

When I got to my truck at about 6:15, I started on my way home but since I had taken the late train in, I was in the “uncool guy parking” and had to wait behind a sea of red lights to even get out of the train parking lot. When I broke loose, I made OK time until I hit one of the choke points of my ride home. The light is not timed and not only does it back up every day, but the green only lasts a few cars. To make things even worse, there was an accident at the intersection which required the presence of a fire engine, two police cars, and an ambulance, all with their lights going wild. They weren’t exactly blocking the intersection but after a few eternities of waiting for the column to move, I got two cars back and they decided it was high time they put a fireman in the intersection to stop all traffic.

Now this would be fine if the truck was leaving or, you know, anything was happening. But after a couple of more light cycles, nothing happened. No emergency vehicles came or went and I guess the fireman had decided to stop messing with us and got out of the intersection.

I got home very tired and pissed off when I realized it was after 7:00. Some days I can handle the commute, some days I feel like it sucks all my free time and spits out a husk of a man to drool in front of the TV until the Sandman overcomes him.

Free Advice for Today:
Know how to drive a stick shift.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Monday, January 12, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“I am Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq. I am willing to negotiate

“President Bush sends his regards.”

- An American soldier

Today I got to thinking about all the stuff I want to do, all the stuff I started, and all the stuff I WANT to start. Just for the sheer fun of it, let me take a stab at it:

Flash cartoons: I got all I need but the time. I started with the Flash Burns series and even did a Semper Flashback episode, even though it was lame while I was learning the program. But the ideas are there and I want to make those cartoons. I even bought the www.semperflashback.com site but have yet to put it into action. My main worry is that I get sucked into creating and before I know it, eight hours have passed and I’m all pissed off. Never good enough.

Web page design: if you don’t buy my full plate claim, what do you think of an offer I have to get paid $100 an hour to create and maintain a website. The offer is there but have I made the call? No. Why? Don’t know.

Running: my distance running has fallen off the shelf. I’ve been doing about 45 minutes of cardio each day but with the combination of winter in Virginia and no place around my neighborhood to run, I’ve let my endurance fade away. I used to be able to do the treadmill but that has become more of a chore than anything else. I really miss Monterey when it comes to running.

Piano: yes, I want to learn to play the piano and even have one within ten feet of where I’m writing this. I found a free website (yes, everything I do is tied to this computer) called the Piano Nanny which I’ve started twice. My daughter plays but I just haven’t made the big commitment yet. I say I want to learn but the truth is closer to “I want to play.

Site Updates: I have a folder on my computer that I keep all the cool stuff people send me and the idea is to empty it out by formatting the stuff and putting it on my page. I have a ton of cadence emails and checking just now, I have a total of 107 items.

Email: If you’ve watched the page, on April 13th, 2003 I was so proud to have an empty inbox that I took a screen shot and posted it. That was the last empty inbox that I’ve had and am even failing to accomplish my secondary goal: keeping it to one screen-full of unanswered email. And they just keep coming.

Reading: I slowed down on this because I’m so tired at night. It’s not just books but the 3 computer and 1 running mags that pile up.

Programming: would like to get into Javascript but alas, haven’t even made the first step.

Family Album: I eventually want to scan all of the pictures on my family albums and make online versions. I started picking away at this recently but those are just my digital photos: all my albums from over the years and still waiting as is my father’s collection I got a few months ago.

Learning Oracle DB: I have two books and this would actually help me with my job but so far, scattered attempts.

Motorcycle: I have a 2001 Suzuki 500SE that has not seen a Virginia road. I can blame this on the cold but the fact remains, I’ve let it languish in my garage over the last year.

OK, the list goes on but I’m too tired and now depressed to continue. At least I’m doing pretty good with the BLOG. I just can’t imagine ever saying “OK, that’s it. I’ve got completely caught up with everything. Now, what’s next?

Free Advice for Today:
Win without boasting.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Friday, January 9, 2004

Quote of the Day:
“To punish me for my contempt fo authority, Fate made me an authority myself.”
- Albert Einstein

For the first time in three weeks, I had to pull a full week at work. I was surprised how much stamina I lacked.

I was tired all day and had the mental weakness of a person who is just trying to slime through a Friday. Yes, it happens to the best of us.

A 1000 meeting popped up and I braced myself for a painful one. Everyone in the food chain all the way up to the LtCol was attending so the danger of a lifeforce-sponge was near. The subject was going over the new improvements to the finance module of the system I’m working on and the programmers were presenting it to the two main finance users. I was there to get exposure to this system and in that sense, it was valuable. But after 2 ½ hours, I was ready to feign death to escape.

It wasn’t that the content was not interesting or that I didn’t need to know this but after about an hour, my mind started to gel. By the program managers own admittance at the end of the meeting, after most everyone else left, the meeting was somewhat disjointed, unorganized, and basically a train wreck. I didn’t think it was that bad but he seemed to hold his people accountable for a veritable disaster. My only complaint was the length but that’s always my complaint.

One of the big things that I learned (outside the subject matter) was the difference between the programmers and the project manager. I already had learned about this and common sense told me that it should be this way but to see it in action was enlightening.

The programmers, God bless their incredibly intelligent hearts, are less adept at getting their vast knowledge across to the users. This is the reason I like the program manager because he possesses the ability I spent 4 years as an undergrad perfecting and never got to use to its beautiful potential. He can take that technical jumble of ideas and translate them into the plain language of the average person. Every time he spoke, I understood what the programmers were trying to say. Because of my background, I knew more than the users did about what was going on but even I got lost in some of the technical details. That’s when Eric would jump in and explain it very intelligently in a way that made it crystal clear in my mind. I respect him for that ability and see how valuable it is. With that ability coupled with my technical background, I’m starting to sense just how valuable those combination of skills and am starting to understand what everyone has been telling me.

After the meeting, I felt numb. I was so tired and felt drained, although I had done very little up to this point. It was too late to go to the gym because I had another meeting at OCS so I ate a rice bowl and waited for my triumphant return to OCS.

It was less triumphant than I envisioned because it was in the admin section of the school; somewhere I didn’t have anything to do with when I was there training. I had been in the area a few times since those harsh 6 weeks so many years ago but the cringe factor never seems to go away.

I spent the rest of the day trying to catch up and almost got myself going to a late gym workout but I waited too long and got sucked into another meeting. This one wasn’t as bad but because it was the third of three, my mind was putty.

This was the state I was in when Carrie and the kids met me at about 5:00. We had made a family date to go bowling on base so they met me at work and we would go home when the traffic died down. I was tired but happy to have the day, and the week, over with. I had filled my plate toward the end of the week and then lost the endurance to finish strong, opting to take care of things next week.

The bowling went great and was much cheaper than out in town. It was $2 per game and we played two; one more than I should have when I started falling to pieces on the second game. The kids were having a good time and I picked it up at the end to beat their little asses. Oops, I mean we all had fun. Alex had a lousy first game so the second game brought him out of his funk (he’s just like his mother). Steph did good overall but her little arm got tired at the end of the second game and had to resort to granny bowling. With a couple of beers, some fries, and some candy hearts, the night was enjoyed by all.

Afterwards we swung by TBS to show Carrie and two monumentally unintersted kids where I spent 6 lonely monthes without them. We then hit a Mexican restaurant where they brought me a glass barrel full of beer. When Poncho Villa says large, believe dat!

So I had a hard week, a hard day, stuffed my nasty pie hole full of Mexican food, drank a cubic butt-ton of beer, and got home about 9:00. Yeah, you guessed it; about an hour later I was bitin’ the pillow.

Free Advice for Today:
Never compromise your integrity.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Thursday, January 8, 2004

Quote of the Day:
“Christina Aguilera and Justan Timberlake were forced to cancel a week of shows because during rehearsal a giant scaffold collapsed. Neither singer was injured, but workers promise to try again next week.” 
- Conan O’Brien

I went to medical today and got the results of my “discomfort.” Go here for background.

I arrived, checked in, and resisted the desire to ask if I was on Schindler’s List. That was the name of the doctor and I thought it would be funny but that thought was immediately replaced with how profoundly corny it would sound.

It had to be a woman. Throughout this ordeal, at every turn, it’s been a woman involved in determining the state of my affairs. Why should the last link be any different? This time, it was a pretty young Ensign. Great, is there any other females that want to talk about my testicles? Anyone? Are you sure because it’s OK, there’s been a lot here and there’s pictures. Last chance…

Without fanfare, she tells me I have epididymtitis. What, you don’t know what that is? Well perusing through the Digital Urology Journal, an upbeat little periodical I faithfully read every chance I get, I’ll have a little class:

The epididymis is a structure which lies on and around each testicle (be mature and stop laughing!). It functions in the transport, storage and maturation of sperm cells originating from the testicle (where else would they originate from, my elbow?) When a man (or a very confused woman) complains of scrotal pain (that’s a great name for a website!!), acute or chronic epididymitis is far and away (the movie with Tom Cruse?) that most common diagnosis. Acute epididymitis (say this over a few times. There is nothing cute about it!) is usually more severe involving more significant swelling and pain than chronic epididymitis. Epididymitis which lasts more than six weeks is considered chronic epididymtitis (Not the split hairs but if you have scrotal pain for more than 6 weeks, I’m calling it something different than chronic anything!).

Symptoms and Causes
The symptoms of epididymitis include scrotal pain and swelling (take a break here and let that rest on the palette.) The pain or swelling may be mild or severe. At times the epididymus may become so inflamed that a patient is unable to walk (due to pain) (Really? As opposed to due to swelling? “I’ll catch up with later, Bob, I gotta haul these damn things up the stairs. It’ll take a few minutes.”) Infection may also become so severe that it spreads to the adjacent testicle. Such cases may cause fever and, rarely, abscess formation. (What? Hey, I didn’t hear anything about this. Criminy, Schindler, WTF!?)

Most cases of epididymitis are not severely disabling; usually the pain and swelling is not severe (this had to be written by a woman. Not severe, huh? I’m here to tell ya, lady, don’t delve into regions you hath no first hand knowledge!). It is common for pain to increase as the day progresses. It has long been thought that straining or strainful work was a contributory factor in epididymitis. (I’ll second that.) Recently, however, this has been considered to be less of a factor and infection is now considered the most common cause of epididymitis. (what? You guys are on crack! I think after my PFT when I was visiting the 7th Ring of Hell, I would argue that exercise had a bit to do with my discomfort!) The infective agents most likely to cause epididymitis are the bacteria which commonly cause other urinary infections. (Hey, now wait just a minute Missy! Are you suggesting something here?) A much less common cause of epididymitis is the gonorrhea bacteria. (GAAAAHHHH!!! I need to go take a Lysol bath!!!!!)

The treatment for acute epididymitis is well accepted and effective. It includes antibiotics therapy (got it), bed rest (I’m totally OK with this), scrotal support ("supporter") (uhhh…. no.), and oral anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Ibuprofen) (or morphine???). Each of these modes of treatment is important (sorry, still not doing the scrotal sling). Chronic epididymitis is more of a problem (though less severe) because it's symptoms seem to persist even after the initial treatment (great. Just a ray of sunshine, ain’t she?). In these cases a second round of therapy may be helpful (“Hey, second round is on me!!!”). Beyond this, longer term anti-inflammatory medication is recommended. Surgical treatment for chronic epididymitis is an uncommon last resort. (Stay away from me you morbid bastards!)

So that’s the story. I get antibiotics for three weeks and that should be that. Anticlimatic, I know but that’s the breaks.


Today was a day to run into people. At medical, I ran inot a guy I went to TBS with 6 years ago. It’s always a dicey situation when you run into someone at medical.

“What are you here for?”
“Growing a third testicle. You?”
“Gonorrhea. 8th stage.”
“Really. Good luck with all that.”

My buddy was not really there for that but it was good to see him again.

At the gym, I ran into another MECEP grad who I went to MECEP prep, OCS, and TBS with. We were never good friends but it was a blast from the past, nevertheless.

I was also recognized by a young Marine I absolutely had no clue who he was. It seems he was with Tanks when I was the Adjutant but it’s a little disconcerting to be recognized when you have no recollection of the other person.

I had a meeting at the Marsh Building, which seems to be the repository for just about every Marine Corps contact I’ve ever known. I went there on business but then wanted to shoot downstairs to say hello to my former Tank CO. The Colonel welcomed me warmly and took a half hour out of his busy schedule to reminisce. It was a great time and I always walk away feeling good when I meet with him. The only embarrassing part was our lack of contacting him and his wife for a dinner. It’s one of those obligations I truly look forward to fulfilling but just haven’t followed through with.

On the way to his office, I ran into another tanker I knew back in 29 Palms who was about to get out. It was like the Night of the Living Dead; bodies coming at me from all angles.

Returning downstairs, I saw a major who graduated NPS a year before me and had handed off a project for a local community group to me. I let the thing slip away (in concert with the other end of the relationship) but it was good to see him again.

A person can only take so much past blast in one day.

Free Advice for Today:
Whisper in your sleeping child's ear 'I love you.'
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Quote of the Day:
“Your very presence spoils the respect of the class for me.” 
- One of Albert Einstein’s teachers at age 15

I met with a two star General today. It was my belated incall with the CG and as I sat outside his office, I was hit with that now-familiar wave of “How did I get to this point in my career?” This was a Major General in the United States Marine Corps and I was, well, me.

I felt no nervousness whatsoever, except the protocol level. Drilled into me from the beginning, when you report to a senior, you march in, stop smartly two paces and centered in front of the desk standing at attention, and announce something like “Captain Grose reporting for duty, Sir!

This level of formality is rarely used in the officer Corps but this was a two star General!!! How much more of a junior-senior relationship can you get? Do you do it and look like a fool or don’t do it and chance looking like a scumball?

The General let me off the hook by rushing toward me as I entered the room, shook my hand and asked me to sit down before I even got a chance to open my mouth. It should not be surprising, he’s obviously dealt with this situation before; it’s second nature to him now. But for the record, I was prepared to do the proper reporting procedures. Damn the risk, I’d rather look foolish if not needed than look unprofessional if needed and I failed to follow protocol.

The meeting went well and we spoke of many things not related to my job. I found myself sitting in a room just shooting the bull with a major general. Just one in a long line of surreal moments as of late.

With incalls, there’s a little game that is played. I am required to provide a bio so the General can read up on my background. Any smart officer will look up the General’s publicly accessible bio and get a similar background on him. Then during the meeting, the General will incorporate a few details about your life and when appropriate, I would draw upon my knowledge of him. It’s an interesting chess match.

After talking about a variety of subjects, the General asked if I had anything else, a cue that our time together was coming to an end. I said no except that I would be coming to him asking for more bandwidth when we get our system running and I think this took him by surprise. The standard answer is “No, General, thank you for your time.” But then again, I’ve never been standard.

Free Advice for Today:
Count your blessings.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Quote of the Day:
“Violent crime is way down in New York City. In fact, the only way to be assaulted now is to marry Liza Minnelli.” 
- David Letterman

OK, we need to be mature about this. In keeping with the honesty theme and my latest admittance that I have no “common sense filter” (hi Stephanie!), I must be true to the BLOG and tell you what happened today. It’s a follow up on my medical appointment last week.

Yes, today I had an ultrasound. Now you might be saying “Why Captain Grose, I didn’t know you were expecting.” To which I would reply, “Kiss my ass, Corky!”

I won’t go into the details because I covered that in the last entry but because I can’t bring myself to use the medical terms, I will just say that they needed to take a peek the boys. Why? Well, just because. Read the last entry.

OK, now that we got that straight, I can get to today. I arrived at medical once again hoping that I could get in and out with minimal damage to my self-respect. Walking through medical with my shiny Captain’s bars, I attracted more attention than I would like from the other patients, which added to the discomfort of why I was there. If they only knew, they may not have given me such respectful glances. For some reason, I always seem to be the most senior person at medical and my presence has a disproportionate distraction to all the young Marines waiting to be seen. I got a constant barrage of “Good morning, Sir.” I really wanted to say back to them: “Good morning. Yeah, I’m here to get my stones ultrasounded.” That would have put things in perspective.

I get to the radiology department and sit in the waiting room, trying to maintain any dignity and hoping that the cute young nurse at the desk will not be the one. In no other situation can I think of would I would prefer a man when dealing with an erogenous zone. Funny how these things work.

The nurse calls me into the exam room and I thought “Sure, she’s just showing me to the room and Dr. Handlemeorbs will be right in.”

It was not to be. To my horror, this cute young nurse started asking me about my situation and it became evident that she was to be the photographer. In no time, she gave me three sheets and explained an intricate combination of layering the linen in preparation for the procedure. She stepped out and said I had five minutes.

In about one minute, I found myself removing the uniform and the realization came over me that the rank-respect I had enjoyed, in fact used as a shield, was being stripped away and now it was “Jason,” sans trouser, against the world.

Here’s what she wanted me to do. Sheet number one was to go over my legs, high north, if you get my drift. This was to create a little shelf; kind of like a white linen buffet offering. Sheet number two was supposed to be over my gut, low enough to cover the naughty bit not involved. The net effect was like a rubber dam at the dentist: only the important area exposed at the buffet table.

Sheet number three was the kicker: “just put it over the top for your comfort.

For my comfort? Let me get this straight, you want me to hoist my change purse up over one sheet, girdle my Y-chromo against my gut with the second one, and then you hand me a third sheet thinking that will soothe my condition? Oh yeah, much better. I almost forgot my man-area was strung up like a trapeze set-up!!! That did the trick!

Five minutes after she returned with another young sailor who was there because he didn’t want to miss something like this! Actually, it’s a law thing but the fact that their combined age probably exceeded mine by only a few years degraded my dignity another couple of notches. That and it was a very COLD walk over to medical but I digress.

I have to hand it to her, she handled the situation professionally (pardon the verbiage). The lights were dim (likely for my “comfort” again) and the entire procedure was the most asexual experience you could imagine. I fully expected the lubricant to be ice cold but I discovered that they have little heater/holders for it. That was nice because, you know, cold, viscous lubricant. Not good times.

This angle. That angle. Don’t forget up under there. Can you move this there and I need to get here. Push up there and there and hold. Perfect. OK, now push inward from both sides. Good. Point where the pain is. Right here? OK, move your finger.

There were only a few slips in professionalism. First, it probably isn’t a good idea to talk about your personal life to the witness when you are peering into a man’s most private of areas. Just a suggestion. I’ve always hated the habit doctors have of talking as though you are not there. It’s worse when it’s about you but, like this case when the procedures is “delicate,” any conversation other than to the patient about the situation at hand (again, sorry about the verbiage) is pretty much a bad idea.

Strike one: she almost scratched her nose with the examining hand
Strike two: she took off a glove
Strike three: she almost used the ungloved hand to reexamine

If there was a strike 4, it would be that she giggled and told me about it.

After about two dozen shots of “me,” she told me she was going to show these to the radiologist and that I could relax. Many a day I’ve sat in a darkened room with no pants and leisurely took in the atmosphere while my bait and tackle was ensnarled into a Flying Nun, turban combination.

What was taking her so long? Common sense dictated that I had a potential problem with part of my body and the fact that it was in a taboo area made no difference: part of my anatomy was in distress and needed medical attention. But I couldn’t stop thinking they were giggling out there. “Look, look, look, it’s his…you know… *giggle*…”

When she returned, she said she wasn’t allowed to tell me anything (and then proceeded to tell me everything) but if the doc saw something odd (outside of looking at sound waves bouncing off my privates?) the doc would have followed the nurse in to talk to me. That was supposedly a good sign that they were willing to wait until Thursday when I had a follow on appointment so my regular doctor could discuss the results. She told me I could get dressed and to use the sheets to clean myself up.

OK, that was good news and to boot, I got to put on my shield of authority and regain some of my dignity back, albeit encased in Presidential mandate. But I couldn’t escape the fact that there I was, stripped at the waist, and told by a cute young nurse to clean myself up and let myself out. I was embalmed in lubricant in places you don’t want to be and the thought of being in the “Welcome to the Jungle” video kept invading my head.

As I strolled out of the medical building, skillfully averting the eyes of anyone in the radiology department, the thought struck. They still had those pictures. It may not matter to anyone but me but the solid fact remains: somewhere they have pictures of the Captain’s buoys. Damn!

What a humbling experience.

Free Advice for Today:
Call your mother.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Monday, January 5, 2004

Quote of the Day:
“You’ll never amount to anything, Einstein.” 
- One of Albert Einstein’s secondary school teachers.

Part of my new job is to go to meetings. I accept this as part of the payback for my master's degree but that doesn't mean I have to ignore the fact that I live in the World of Dilbert. Today, I was summoned.

Like most of these meetings, I had no clue what it was about, who exactly was giving it, and what I was supposed to get out of it. Despite having the Powerpoint slides ahead of time, I showed up with the understanding that I was not likely alone in my ignorance. I am convinced that the majority of people in the majority of these meetings feel like they are interlopers waiting to be revealed. So we all sit there knowingly and try to look like:

a. We understand
b. We are interested
c. We have a firm grasp of the reason why we are there
d. We are not thinking about what's for dinner that night

The cast of characters:

The Speaker: a distinguished doctor who handled himself expertly and who you could tell was schooled in public speaking.

The Wheezing Man: next to me whose cholesterol level looked as though it had 4 digits and that he could blow at any second

The Eager Beaver: had a question about every point which sent the discussion in tangential spirals at every turn.

The Vocal Female: spoke up in a way that made you wonder if the speaker had spoken ill about her lineage before the presentation.

The Sleeper: had no qualms about resting ample chin on equally ample chest.

The Pauser: gets recognized, pauses for a long time, asks part of his question, stops, uncomfortable silence ensues, pattern starts again.

The details of the meeting, for this venue, is irrelevant. Meetings are meetings and this showed all of the signs of being a classic case. What wasn't standard was the room we held it in. Deep in the heart of "The Death Star," yes, this is what they call it, on the third floor, we found the announced meeting place after searching through what can only be described as Cubicle Purgatory.

Upon entering the room, we were met with emptiness. We arrived on time and were the first on scene; a sign of things to come. As the start time fell away, people filtered in and soon there was a full house of mostly civilian clothed people and only a few "uniforms" as I've discovered we are referred to as.

What made this room unusual, as I my eyes scanned around in a desperate attempt to find something interesting, was that even though it was a windowless meeting room on the third floor, deep inside the Death Star, there were flies and wasps gently strafing the room. Upon further inspection, I suddenly noticed that the floor was littered with ladybugs, of the dead variety. Looking around, I saw that the entire floor was covered with them and ascertained the obvious: boredom kills ladybugs. I assumed that they got caught inside the room somehow and then were subjected to such monumental boredom that they dropped to floor in droves. I saw this as a bad sign, much like pigeons in a coal mine.

Two-thirds into the meeting, I was wondering if it was true that a person cannot put his elbow in his ear. Organizational theory finally gave way to an identification system where someone could check out a 32 bit seed from a central authority and then tack on a unique 32 bit suffix to create a DoD-wide unique identifier. This was the only thing that really made sense to me and I was floored that this simple idea mushroomed into a calliope of massive confusion. Many of the people there just didn't get it and it made me wonder how a number of people in the room can understand amorphous concepts in "program-management-ese" with apparent ease but when it comes to something logical and concrete, they fall to pieces.

Towards the end, my bladder had been stretched to its limit, not helped by the quart of water I pounded before the meeting. When the strain became too much, it occurred to me it was a good opportunity to escape, I mean excuse myself, and get to the bathroom before the meeting broke when everyone would bum rush the two urinals. Without fanfare, I walked out and it felt good to be on the run. When I returned, the meeting was still in full swing and the moot thought entered my head questioning if I had missed anything. I hadn't.

Eventually, the meeting died on the vine with not much of an ending. People just started to get up and leave; a chain reaction started by yours truly. The speakers had mentioned that they had to give a brief at the Pentagon which didn't seem to affect the questions (yes, about the ID scheme) so in a lull, I stood up decisively. It worked and people started following suit.

To be fair, there was one moment in the meeting that I felt a sense of importance. The speaker mentioned that the Secretary of Defense had seen this brief and liked the ideas it contained. For just a moment, I thought about how far I had come from a pisson, junior enlisted Marine pup in a sea of other pisson, junior enlisted Marine pups, to listening to briefs tailored for the highest echelons of our government.

The moment passed and I wondered if insects fart. I never came away with an answer for that.

Free Advice for Today:
Once a summer, run through a yard spinkler.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Sunday, January 4, 2004

Quote of the Day:
“We want the ball and we’re gonna score.” 
- Mark Hasselbeck to the ref after winning the OT coin toss in the 2003 playoffs. Hasselbeck went on to throw an interception and Green Bay ran it back for a game-ending TD

Today I went to church for the first time in many, many months. It’s not that we consciously decided to stop going but we kept coming up with excuses not to attend (we just moved, stuff to do around the new house, ear wax to clean out…). The New Year was a good time goal to start going once again.

Going to a new church is always a bit nerve-racking. You don’t know anybody and depending on your mood (OK, my mood) you might not WANT to meet anyone. I can be very social or very unsocial, depending on the direction of the wind. Today, I was not that social so just put myself in observation mode. I would just observe and see if this was a place we wanted to be. It was OK but that was it. We will likley keep looking.

Over the years, I’ve gone through several stages of Christianity, and then slid up and down the spectrum. As you may guess, in times of loneliness and/or stress, my beliefs become more eager and in times of prosperity, they tend to loosen. I understand the folly of this but like many things in my life, consistency is a problem in this realm, too. But I once again made the first step and will once again dedicate myself to getting to know my God.

Speaking of football teams imploding (well, we weren’t but that’s my segue and I’m sticking with it), I watched my Seahawks blow it in overtime. You would think by now, I would be used to this but I realized that no one on the current team has a direct link to all the lean years when I was growing up and never having a winning football team. I know there are fans with more vested in the team (my brother, for example) but it really bit to spend over three hours watching the Hawks blow it by throwing an interception run back for a game winning touchdown.

Not that I’m venting because of the loss but it really bothers me to see dreadlocks hanging out a professional football player’s helmet (The intercepting GB player had this, but... OK, so it exacerbated my opinion! Happy?). I view it as the exploitation of a loophole in the uniform regulations. Professional football teams are held in strict compliance to NFL uniform regulations and even have a person on each team whose sole job is to go around before each game and note any discrepancy in the league uniform protocol. The list is compiled and fines are levied. Remember, these are college educated, millionaire, full grown men.

So a few years ago, the league decided that the hair hanging out of the helmet was allowed. Since then, players have taken this decision to preposterous levels and I think it degrades the look and therefore the institution of professional football.

The decision stated that, as far as game play goes, the hair is a part of the uniform. This may seem strange but the distinction was necessary to categorize the hair flopping around as eligible or ineligible to use while tackling. As a part of the uniform, it is legal to grab onto it in order to tackle a player.

This I would like to see. It would take only one head being snapped like a dry pretzel stick before the league to decide this is unacceptable. Unfortunately it will take the potential permanent injury of a player without the sense to keep his hair inside his helmet before the league reverses this. Then everyone will feel sorry for the dumb bastard and NFL films will make a piece on the tragic accident that curtailed his almost assured Hall of Fame future.

OK, maybe it IS high time I got myself back in church.

Free Advice for Today:
Promise big. Deliver big.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Saturday, January 3, 2004

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

And people told me I was nuts when I ran two marathons a week apart and then an ultra-marathon (50 miles) two weeks later. Read this article about two guys nuttier than me!

British adventurers complete run tour in NYC

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Two British adventurers accomplished what seems impossible. They ran seven marathons in seven days on six continents, finishing up in New York on Sunday.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes and longtime expedition partner Mike Stroud crossed the New York City Marathon finish line in 5 hours, 25 minutes, 46 seconds, ending their weeklong journey.

They had arrived in New York late Saturday night after completing an overnight marathon past Egypt's ancient pyramids and through empty Cairo streets.

"We're the sort of people that like a challenge," Stroud said. "Instead of we can't, we say, 'Why can't we?"'

In all, the pair ran 183 miles and had about 45,000 miles of air and ground travel.

The idea started when Fiennes -- who is related to actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes -- called Stroud in January and asked if he wanted to scale Mount Everest. Stroud, a doctor, said he did not have time for such a trip. Instead he proposed running seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.

The trip was nearly derailed in June, when Fiennes had double bypass surgery following a heart attack. Instead of canceling the trip, Fiennes said he wanted go run. His doctor gave him the go ahead.

They were going to start in Antarctica, but they had engine trouble and could not make it to the continent. So they started in Patagonia in southern Chile and ran a 26-mile course along the waters of the Magellan Strait in 3:45.

The next leg was on the Falkland Islands, a makeshift replacement for the missed Antarctic leg, which they completed in 4:31.

Up next were marathons in Sydney and then Singapore, the toughest of them all. Running through 90-degree heat, Stroud needed medical attention briefly and finished 42 minutes after Ranulph's 5:24.

"I felt I was a goner," Fiennes said.

Neither would not give up. The two traveled to London, where they followed the route of the first Olympic marathon in 1908. After that they traveled to Cairo and then headed to New York, where they would run the only organized marathon of their trip.

Stroud carried a mini-defibrilator with him in case Fiennes started feeling ill. Stroud had ailments of his own. He lost the nail on his big toe and was urinating blood.

The 59-year-old Fiennes was once described by the Guinness Book of World Records as the "world's greatest living explorer" for leading more than 30 expeditions, including the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth, in 1982.

Free Advice for Today:
Hire people more for their judgment than for their talents.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Friday, January 2, 2004

Quote of the Day:
“When the boss is talking about improving productivity, he is never talking about himself.” 
- Unknown

This BLOG animal is an interesting beast.

Sometimes I get behind and then it feeds on itself because I don’t want to start another entry without catching up with the others. Therefore, it gets further and farther behind. Then I have a choice: do I try to catch up or cut my losses and jump back in?

When I try to catch up, I find myself trying to remember things from the past and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I remember much more than I thought I would.

When I cut my losses, I realize how much I miss out when I go back and read my BLOGs; days I’ll never again remember. So in that respect, it saddens me. But sometimes, it’s tough to sit down and bang out a BLOG when I’m so tired or had a day I’m not all that eager to rehash.

I guess what I’m saying is that this BLOG, like most of my projects, is more work than I first expected. It would have likely died long ago if not for three reasons:

1. The feedback I get from people who, inexplicably, get a kick out of reading about my daily life.
2. The release I feel when I get something off my chest. Sometimes writing it out can be very cleansing.
3. The thought that some time down the line I will have a record of my moments that otherwise would be long forgotten. More importantly, so will my kids.

So I guess I’ll keep going but in order to purge my files, I’m including a partial post from last summer when I went to my sister-in-law’s wedding. It was particularly tough to keep up with BLOGs during this period and this partial entry has been hanging around my temp file (the Word doc where I write daily entries before cutting and pasting onto the page) since then. Rather than keeping it as a constant reminder of entries that will never get written, I’m including it here and calling it good.

Rehearsal Dinner. After leaving Karen’s parents’ house, I was feeling a little strange and was immediately thrust into three other colliding worlds: that of my own family, that of my wife’s family, and that of Mark’s (my soon to be brother-in-law) family. I felt kind of dizzy.

They decided to have the rehearsal dinner before the rehearsal so we all met at a steak and ribs joint where we could consume copious amounts of seared cow flesh until we all felt like Tyrannosaurus Rexes. As is the custom, I was seated way at one end of the table next to one of the groom’s third cousin removed who could have been one of the Survivor finalists as far as I knew.

“Hi, I just came from my ex-girlfriend’s parents’ house. Have you met my wife? She’s the sister of the bride.”

It was one of those places where you can throw the peanut shells on the deck and I entertained my kids by going on about how they really need to clean up the place if they expected people to eat there. I had been good up to this point, shedding weight and running everyday so I was confident about the fit of my uniform the next day. Yeah, you guessed it, I lost all discipline in the face of free beef and gorged myself like a fat kid at a buffet. When all was said and done and the smoke cleared, I had consumed my own weight in ribs and steak. I felt like the girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory after eating the dinner gum. The Oompa-Lumpas came out, rolled me away, and my wife worriedly scampered after us with a tissue in her hand.

We got to the rehearsal and I was designated the kid-corraller which I had no problem because:

- two of them were my own evil spawn

- two of them were my brother-in-law’s Scott’s impossibly-cute munchkins

- two of them were my other brother-in-laws boys who think I hang the moon

- I was as bored as a man can be at a wedding rehearsal

My comment to the groom was “If someone tells you to do something and that person has ovaries, shut your mouth and do what your told.”

I had to explain to him that this had nothing to do with him. It’s the bride’s day to be the princess and all the other women’s opportunity to cluck their way around, making such a fuss that the bride thinks she is the Queen of the Universe. It’s his job to do what he’s told and try not to get in any female’s way.

Free Advice for Today:
Acknowledge every gift, no matter how small.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1998

Thursday, January 1, 2004

Quote of the Day:
- Unknown

Happy New Year!!!

Last night, I tried my best to even attempt a former shadow of myself by staying up for the big celebration. Sir Phil came over in the absence of his sick family and we all sat around, drank, ate, and talked. It was a fun evening and the fact that it WAS a fun evening rings in the fact that I’m getting old.

Where are the days when I’d be piss drunk before it even got dark and then would party until 0300? Well, maybe I wasn’t that hardcore but the thought of sitting around and “talking” until 9:30 (yes, that’s how long Sir Phil lasted, he being even older than me) on New Year’s Eve was not even a faint whisper of a good time back in the day. Hell, Dick Clark lasted longer than I did and he’s a refurbished robot these days (joke courtesy of Sir Phil).

After Sir Phil left, I scoffed at his early retirement and proceeded to change over to my PJ’s. Yes, I were ‘em, what of it? It wasn’t long before the two beers and three margaritas took their toll and I found myself “resting” on the bed upstairs. I tried to watch VH1’s One Hit Wonders but at about 1100, I started biting the pillow.

At precisely 1158, my son decided I should be informed that we had two minutes before the new year. I stood on shaky feet and stumbled downstairs where the rest of my family was enjoying Dick Clark’s 100th New Years Celebration. I sat there and watched the ball drop on Times Square and wanted nothing more than the damn thing to finish so I could go back to bed. A real animal, I know is your thought.

I got up early, ridiculously dehydrated considering the little amount of alcohol I consumed, and took Buster over to Sir Phil’s who said he found a good dog run. His dog, Daisy, liked to get up at the crack of dawn and get herself walked. For some reason, this is OK with Sir Phil, probably because he claims she is the only female in the house that actually likes him.

So we met at 0700 and proceeded to spend two hours walking through the woods as the pups ran about like idiots. Sir Phil and I talked, drank our coffee, and just had a plain good time in each other’s company. I find these exchanges rewarding on many of levels including the advice I get, the stories I get to hear and tell, the reminiscing we share, and just the company. It’s not often you become friends with an old boss and continue that relationship for many years down the road.

The rest of the day was spent watching The Matrix Reloaded with my son and in front of my computer. Yes, the second Matrix movie kicks buttocks and with a DVD, a person (me, for instance) can walk through all the fight scenes and marvel at the detail.

As I was dutifully ignoring my family today, my daughter walked up, gave me a note, and walked away. The note simply said “PLEASE DRESS FANCY FOR DINNER THANK YOU.”

So when dinner came, I excused myself to my room and doffed my sweats and robe ensemble and donned slacks and a sweater. I had no idea what the occasion was and it ends up it was a mystery to my wife, too. We dressed (even the boy, even though we had to threaten his life) and had a nice dinner of chicken strips, rice, and sparkling cider. The table was set with the nice glasses and cloth napkins. When I inquired about the reason for the “fanciness” no answer was forthcoming. I guess the girl just wanted it that way so that’s the way it went.

Free Advice for Today:
When a garment label warns 'Dry Clean Only,' believe it.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1998

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