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Jason Grose's BLOG

March 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.


Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“THE PYGMIES WORRY WHEN THE ELEPHANTS DANCE.

- Unknown

I pulled a bonehead play today. I took the morning train and put my ticket holder in the slot in front of me so the conductor could see it. I sometimes do this, sometimes not, but rarely do they even check. As we got closer to Quantico, the train slowed down and they said something about a problem ahead so they had to slow it down. We crawled along and before I realized it, we were closer than I thought to my stop so I gathered my things and rushed to the door. It wasn't until I got to the office did I realize I had forgotten my tickets.

The irony is that a month ago, my Gunny was complaining about leaving his full 10 trip ticket on the train and I remember thinking to myself that it sucks to be him and not caring much. Oh, how the tables have turned. But mine was worse.

I not only had the 10 trip ticket I was using (with about 4 rides left) but two other unused 10 trip tickets plus two free one-ride tickets they give out when the train is more than ½ hour late. The benny of those is that they are good across all zones (while the ones I normally buy are only good between Fredericksburg and Quantico). I had a schedule in there too and what I hoped to be my saving grace: my business card.

I hoped that a military person grabbed it for the simple reason that we get free vouchers to buy the tickets so are, in essence, free. So there would be no value in the tickets for them because if they are like me, they would have extras anyway.

Or a conductor could have grabbed them. Or an honest person. Thinking about it, there was a minority of people that would have to grab them for me to never see them again.

When I got to the office, I called VRE and reported it to the lost and found. If they turn up, I have to go to Union Station to recover them. I thought, hey, that's easy, I could just take the train all the way to D.C. and return to work on a return train.

But there was a problem: I had no tickets. Oh, I had vouchers at home but I didn't want to blow a $30 voucher on a $6 ticket to Union Station. I'm sure I could work out a combo that would work but I was too lazy.

I had to take care of today first of all so I borrowed a ticket from a co-worker to get home on, knowing I could cash in a voucher tomorrow morning to get more tickets. If my tickets showed up, I could give him one of the free ride tickets back. If not, he would have to wait until I got another free one.

But this still didn't solve my problem of getting to Union Station. I guess I could borrow another one-tripper and then give him back the two I recover when I get back (note that I would be using yet another to get back from Union Station) so it would cost me a total of three free tickets to correct this.

As of tonight, no one called or emailed. I'm trying to have faith in the honesty of others. I'm really trying.

This is what I get for being stupid.

Free Advice for Today:
Savor every day."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“ANYTHING WORTH FIGHTING FOR IS WORTH FIGHTING DIRTY FOR.

- Unknown

Tired. So tired. Must sleep.

I've adjusted my schedule so that it goes something like this:

Monday: Run at lunch
Tuesday: Work out in the morning, Run at lunch
Wednesday: Work out at lunch
Thursday: Run at lunch
Friday: Work out at lunch
Saturday: Run in the morning

So far, my ass appears to be kicked and it's only Tuesday night.

Tired. So tired. Must sleep.

Free Advice for Today:
Be polite."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“THERE IS ALWAYS ONE MORE IMBECILE THAT YOU COUNTED ON.

- Unknown

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood? As much wood as a woodchuck would if a woodchuck could chuck wood, of course.

I have never seen a woodchuck in my life. Today, I had two independent sightings far enough away from each other to be fairly certain that they were not the same one.

At lunch, I headed out the front of my building and I saw a small animal scurry away. I had no idea what it was. It looked like either a giant guinea pig or a beaver without the flat tail. Whatever it was, it startled the crap out of me and I was about to smack down some serious hurt on the beast, or run away like a scared girl. Either or.

I went on my run wondering what the hell it was and mentioned it to my office mates when I returned. They knew about it and told me that the woodchuck lives there under the stairs. Why am I not informed of these things? Hello?! Scary woodland creature over here!!!

When I left the office in the afternoon, this time out the back toward the parking lot, I saw another one scurry up a big hill and into a burrow. Two in one day when I had never even seen one in 35 years. Spooky.

Tonight, I made the total conversion and will be handing in my man card shortly. I continued my goal of getting all the Sarah McLachlan music I could find and ended up at her official website. When I saw that they were selling a CD with a few of her songs performed with the London Orchestra, I hopped on the opportunity to buy it. But it told me that I had to be a member of her official fan club which cost $10 per year.

I said goodbye to my testes and dropped the money. I am now an official member of the official Sarah McLachlan Fan Club. I felt shame I had never encountered as a fan of her music. Being a card-carrying club member of any fan club, independent of my preference for her music, was the final sign that I was awash in a vast ocean of estrogen. I didn't even bother to buy the CD and just went to bed instead of downing a keg of beer and blowing my brains out.

Free Advice for Today:
Never betray a confidence."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“WE OCCASIONALLY STUMBLE OVER THE TRUTH. BUT MOST OF THE TIME, WE PICK OURSELVES UP AND CONTINUE ON.

- Unknown

I thought I'd sleep in. Since when is 7:30 sleeping in?

I geeked out on the computer, trying desperately and unsuccessfully to catch up with my webpage for most of the morning. Over dinner last night, we decided to make the commitment to buy a riding lawnmower so we all got ready and headed to the mall.

The first place we hit was Costco because I also decided to get an external 120 GB hard drive for backup. I was overdue getting this and since the price dropped to $150, I thought I'd feed the hardware refresh monster.

The next place was the mall and I went right to Sears. My thinking is that I can never go wrong with Craftsman so I headed toward the lawn and garden section. I was shooting for around $1000. The "around" bled to almost the 50% range and you can guess which direction that was.

I was a babe in the woods, knew it, and didn't care. Talking to the salesman, I learned which of the two motors was the best (Kohller, by the way). I also cornered another salesman, asked him, and he answered the same.

I went with the $1400 model for a few superficial reasons. The one they had was last year's model and the floor model. Because of this, they knocked off 10% of the cost. Plus, I wouldn't have to put it together and I could take it home today.

Good enough!!

When I got it home and unloaded it, I couldn't wait to mow my lawn. I had my neighbor look at it with me just for the "Ooh and Awe" effect. For $1400, there better be some freakin' "Oohs and Awes"!!!

Then I got to work mowing. Now since I had only done this once in my life (last Fall when I borrowed my neighbor's John Deer), I looked like the amateur I was. I must have shaved off years of life trying to get around corners, jerkily going back and forth, and trying to come up with a logical pattern/approach to my lawn. It was not pretty but I got done with the front and back while only sucking up one dog turd. It was obliterated.

You would think I would leave well enough alone but I wanted to clean the mower. My neighbor assured me that it would only take about 2 minutes to drop the mower.

An hour later, I was very nervous as well as grass stained. We had pulled the little pins and got the thing apart but getting it back together proved to be a challenge. We made some progress but in the end was left with a single pin left. Not good. When we finally figured out where in went, the pin we had left was too big for the hole. So we had to figure out which pin went where. In the process, we lost two pins in the grass. It was like Keystone Cops and when we finally got it put back together, I vowed to take the damn thing in once a year for professional maintenance regardless of cost. I would rather spend my money than my time and patience (both of which I have desperately little of).

By the way, I made the mistake of cracking open the packaging to my external hard drive at 10:00 PM. I should have waited. I realized that I had looked forward to getting the drive for so long but the event was dwarfed by the purchase of the lawnmower.

"Oh, yeah, that drive."

An hour and a half later, I could get the computer to recognize the drive but the backup software didn't work and nor did the "One Touch" button so prominently touted on the box. So I guess I'll just do drag and drop backup manually. Sigh.

I should have been in bed two hours ago. Such is my routine.

Free Advice for Today:
Leave the toilet seat in the down position."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“When you don’t know what you are doing; walk fast and look worried.

- Unknown

No rest for the weary.

Sir Phil wanted to go running so I agreed to meet him at 6:00 AM. I claim temporary insanity.

We headed to the base and took off from the commissary parking lot to do "The Loop" which was an 8 mile run. The run went by quickly because I had not seen Sir Phil in a couple of weeks and I dumped all of my stories into his ear until I could hardly talk or run without considerable effort. He is not fond of my 9 minute run, 1 minute walk approach to running but I managed to get a few breaks in.

After the run, we changed over in the bathroom and Sir Phil started his commissary shopping. I thought that would be it but he had a few more errands to do and since he was driving, I was along for the ride. We went to pick up an ink cartridge, pay for his couch fabric, and eventually got to his house where I helped him get the hood off of his old Spitfire. I was tired and wanted to go home but I thought it only proper that I help even in a little way with the vehicle that I will be entrusting my life in during a roadtrip this summer.

When I got home, I piddled around the house until my wife reminded me that I had promised a proper anniversary dinner. I guess the Taco Bell before the movie yesterday wasn't going to cut it so we made plans to go to the Olive Garden.

We love the Olive Garden and it was her first choice. I was fine with it until we got there and there was a line out the door. Obviously we were n't the only ones with this idea but at the desk, they said it would be only ½ hour. They had wine tasting so if you gave them a quarter per shot, you could sample a variety of wines. Believe it or not, I'm not a big wine guy (I know, weird, huh?) but I agreed to try whatever passed as white zinfandel. To my surprise, it was really good which was the same conclusion my wife came to. Much more to my surprise, it was $22 per bottle. Do you know how much Coors Light I can get for $22? The romance was just oozing out of my pores.

We got our seats and it took awhile for the waitress to come over. I ordered spaghetti and Carrie ordered another simple pasta dish but since we were starving, we were really waiting for the salad and breadsticks. Again, it took longer than usual to get to our table but we were enjoying each other's company.

Minutes went by. Then more minutes. Then a whole butt-load of them.

It was getting to that point that you realize you are getting bad service. Other tables who had been seated after us were getting their meals. We finally got a visit from our waitress who promised our meals would be coming up soon. This process was repeated 3 times and when a table next to us had been seated, ordered, served, completed, and left, I had had enough. I got up to talk to the manager.

I introduced myself and calmly informed her that I was here with my wife celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary. She took the bait, smiled, and congratulated me which I followed up with the statement that we had been waiting an hour for our meal. Her face dropped and she started apologizing profusely which I told her we had heard from our waitress 3 times. She asked me where I was sitting and then told me she would get on it right away.

What happens in this situation is always the same. We started getting a parade of employees flowing to our table to apologize, over and over and over again. The first in line was our waitress who tried to tell us about the computer crashing and reorders and the like. We assured he we did not blame her but just wanted our meal. A few minutes later we had another waiter show up, apologize profusely, and tell us he was taking over the table. Fine. I just figured our first waitress was going off shift but throughout the rest of the meal, I noticed she was still helping other tables.

Next to visit was yet another server we had never seen and he apologized profusely, but more importantly had our food. It seemed alike a lot of drama up to this point but we were glad to get our feedbag.

A few minutes later, the manager came by and, you guessed it, apologized profusely. She said that while ABC laws prevent her from picking up the drinks, she was going to comp the meal. She also encouraged us to have desert and that too would be on the house.

I was impressed. Luckily, we had no other plans and the wait provided us with an opportunity to talk. The discomfort of knowing we were experiencing bad service tainted the experience a bit but that was just my ego. With a free meal, I considered us getting the better of the deal and was satisfied.

But I had one more trick up my sleeve. I excused myself on the pretense of using the restroom and cornered our new waiter. I told him that we appreciated the free meal and understand they cannot comp the drinks but I had planned to surprise my wife with a bottle of the wine we both liked. I didn't want him to think I was trying to take advantage of the free meal deal and asked him to bring it to the table with the bill.

It worked perfectly and he showed up a little while later with the wine in a box. Carrie was pleasantly surprised and I thought I was getting a great deal since we got the meal and the wine for less than what the meal would have cost in the first place. But then when I looked at the bill, I saw that the deserts we had ordered were charged. He obviously did not know the manager had offered to comp it.

Now I was in a bit of a dilemma. I was getting the meal for free so should I push for the dessert too? I thought about the delay we sat through and decided I should take them up on their offer. When I pointed it out to the waiter, he instantly understood, apologized, and said he's take care of it right away.

So at the end of the evening, I got to spend a couple of hours alone with my wife, have a tasty Italian dinner, a bottle of wonderful wine, and a dessert I wouldn't have normally indulged in for the sum total of about $25.

Happy anniversary!!!!

Free Advice for Today:
Make the punishment fit the crime."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“If you are good you will be assigned all the work. If you are really good, you will get out of it.

- Unknown

I really didn’t feel like going to work today but I knew I had to. Not only did I have no excuse to skip it, I had the after action report to get to and my travel claim. One of the pieces of advice I picked up from the ones I put at the end of each Blog entry was to submit travel vouchers the day you get back.

So I drug my lazy butt in, late of course since I didn’t feel like doing the early morning thing and at I felt like after 10 days away, an extra hour at home was justified. Or two. OK, maybe a few minutes more.

No matter how justified these things are (or as justified as I can convince myself), I always feel skittish when I walk in late. Right when I got in, the first thing that they told me was that my boss wanted to talk to me. Shit.

But first things first, I had to use the restroom so I entered and who should be there? You guessed it, my boss. Oh well, I just told him I was just about to come see him after I was done and he told me to stop by right away. This cannot be good.

When I got to his office (after stopping by and getting something to write on and a pen), he sat me down and asked what I had on my plate for that day. I told him my AAR, my travel claim, and then the mountain of email that had been building up. He said that the net was down and that he had another mission for me. He ordered me to go ahead with the AAR but to call me from Fredericksburg and tell him how the weather was from there. He asked me if I could handle this mission.

I grinned and knew where he was going with this. I told him I could tackle that mission and told him it came at a fortuitous time because I got in late the night before and it was my 16th wedding anniversary yesterday. I then I proceeded to tell him the Rose Garden DI story. After that, he told me congratulations and to get busy with my mission so I thanked him and left as soon as I could.

As much as I wanted to get home, I had to make up for some lost time. I stopped at the PX and bought a anniversary card. Then I stopped at Costco to get some roses. Now to understand the commitment this takes, anytime I have to enter the Zone of Death that is the mall area by my house, we’re talking serious time and patience requirements. I learned long ago that Costco is the best deal with roses because they sell them for $12.99 for two dozen. Yes, that’s right, 24 roses for thirteen bucks.

It’s always funny to see the look on people’s faces when you are carrying a big bouquet of roses. They either give you the romantic smile or the look that says “Wow, you must have really punted one into the stands. Poor dumb bastard."

I got in, got out with minimal pain, and proceeded home just in time to catch my wife returning home from walking the dog. With a flourish, I presented her with her card and roses. What a guy!

I then told her we should go to a movie and I suggested Dawn of the Dead. There was silence from the top room when I announced this and as thick as my skull is, I figured it wasn’t at the top of her list. Sixteen years of marriage at work there, buddy.

I rattled off the other choices but I knew which one she’d go with. So soon we were zooming down the road in Truckasaurus to see Jersey Girl. Yep, 2 hours of Ben Affleck, J-Lo and Liv Tyler. It wasn’t as bad as the trailers before the movie though. When you are at a chick movie, they assume you will be wanting to see other chick flicks and the previews are like going to a lesbian Lamasse class with a folk singer guest chanter.

Only two things made it worth it. First, George Carlin was George Carlin. Absolutely classic. Second, seeing the Elf Princess as the average sexy librarian type with a penchant for sexy conversations did garner a bit of my attention. I’ll be honest when I agree with my wife about her being a little more filled out than former roles but it’s hard to deny she was not hard to watch.

So after treating my bride to Taco Bell and then ogling Liv Tyler for a couple hours while on my anniversary date, my status as Super-Husband was complete.

Free Advice for Today:
Never be the first to break a family tradition."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Important letters that contain no errors will develop errors in the mail.

- Unknown

Today marks my 16th wedding anniversary and how did I spend this auspicious occasion? Why, traveling from Parris Island to Washington D.C., of course.

My plans were solid: make it into D.C. by 2:00 PM and beat the rush hour south to get home by about 3:30 so I could spend time with the women who put up with me all these years. But this was not to be and I will place the blame squarely on Delta.

As much of a positive attitude that I tried to maintain, the morning set the tone for the rest of the day. Yes, it was my anniversary and yes, I was going home after 10 days away, and yes, I had an incredible encounter yesterday so I should be happy right? I was but events conspired to whittle away my joy.

We had to give a make-up class the first thing in the morning because the Internet took a dump last week and we had to cancel a class. It was the only connectivity problems we had in two weeks and it was to a population of people that didn't really want to use our system in the first place. So when our system crapped out first thing in the morning, it was a bit difficult to look them in the face. We had to resort to a Power Point presentation.

"Imagine if you will..."

Right after wiping the egg off our faces, we raced to the airport to catch our planes. I have to go through a military travel contract so I get sent through Atlanta before getting to D.C. Eric gets a direct flight and his plane left earlier so I had to get him to the airport early which I didn't mind because the Savannah airport had free high speed Internet connectivity.

This is the point that my mouth got me into trouble. I checked in and started chatting with the ticket counter worker. I mentioned how my one piece of luggage was like a fat lady in a small dress which prompted her to want to weigh it before she would take it. She said that they had a limit of 50 lbs per piece. I knew my bag was packed to the gills (I had to sit on it and rip apart my finders trying to close it) so it was a big relief when she put in on the scale and it read 48 lbs. But then she noticed she had put the corner on the edge so it touched the other scale and made me re-weigh it. It was 58 lbs.

I just stared at her with a pleading stare. She said it would cost $25 extra and I knew I wouldn't get reimbursed for it. I asked her if it was really that important seeing how it was just over. It seems our earlier banter didn't mean a damn thing and she said that she could let me get away with 54 lbs but not 58. I was starting to seethe. I spent a very long time last night cramming everything into that bag and even my carry-on backpack was busting at the seams. Somehow I had crammed my uniform to include the big bulky boots in the suitcase at the last minute and broke a few laws of physics getting it in.

I was so pissed at myself for opening my big mouth as I had to open it and take a few magazines and my shower bag out. Cramming it into my carry-on, I now had to deal with an even heavier bag plus to get to anything, I had to practically tear everything apart. Arrrrr! (Yes, I unexplainably turned into a pirate at this point).

I closed the bag and not knowing if it met the weight requirement, I went over to the counter but the lady was helping someone else. Another employer waved me over and for a moment, I was worried that my 4 pound alibi wouldn't be honored. He weighed it and it was 53 lbs. He let it go without comment and I thanked him, giving the hairy eyeball to the lady as I left. "Curse you, Evil Hag!"

The next stop was the bathroom and I only mention that because as I was washing my hands, I heard my name over the intercom to return to the ticket counter. What now? Were they going to give me more grief about the bag? I thought we were past that, people!

It seems I forgot my cherished poster tube at the counter. As valuable as that was to me, I guess I got caught up in the moment and bolted without thinking.

I wandered down to the gate, through a security checkpoint with practically no travelers in my way, and got to my gate. Empty. I looked at the board and my flight was listed as "Delayed." No time, no explanation, no nothing except "Delayed." Classic.

Of the three or four Delta gates in the area, only one had anyone to help and that one had a line with dozens of people waiting. The line was not moving as the "helpers" stared at computer screen with a telephone crooked into their ears. With my newly heavier bag, I was not about to stand there in line so I found a seat and waited. I was at the right place so couldn't miss my flight completely.

This went on for about an hour, my departure time long since come and gone. I finally saw the line was down to two people and hopped in it. I was not very jovial at this point.

When I got the front, I told them I was on the "Delayed" flight.

"Oh yeah, that one will now be leaving at 1205 now."

"Were you planning on telling anyone? You know, like the passengers? Maybe put it, oh, I don't know, on the board over there?"

"Sir, we already have you booked on it and we will be boarding at about 1130."

"That's great but what about my connection in Atlanta?"

"You are going to miss that."

"No sh.... I mean, that's obvious but what are you going to do about it?"

"It looks like they have you booked on the 2:30 flight but you get in at 1:00 and if you hurry, I could book you for the 1:30."

"That would be very big of you. What time does that put me in to DC?"

"About 3:30."

So I went back to my seat and waited, knowing that I would be hitting the afternoon rush hour but I still had a faint glimmer of hope I could miss the bulk of traffic. Silly man.

You might be able to foresee the continuation of this story. Yes, the plane was late and therefore I was late getting into Atlanta. (Pause for the audience to gasp in disbelief). I got in at about 1:25 and pretty much figured I would miss the 1:30 connection. But I had to try so I rushed to the other side of the airport as fast as me and my boulder disguised as a backpack would allow. I got there at 1:33 and the gate was deserted, to include the plane. Once again, there was only one Delta employee within choking distance so I waited in line.

I should have never had them change my reserved seat on the 2:30 to the 1:30, knowing there was a snowball's chance in hell they could get me to Atlanta on time. Now I would be getting into DC at 4:30 which would leave no doubt that I would be facing the ugliest traffic on the East Coast. And that was IF I could get a seat on the 2:30. I was beyond livid by now.

I finally got to the front of the line and I told him in the most pleasant voice I could muster (which was anything but) that I was ticketed for the flight that just left.

"Oh, you missed that one" stated Mr. Obvious.

I snapped. "No, I didn't miss it. It was your flight that got me here that put me here late so I didn't miss a damn thing. I need to get on the 2:30."

"You will have to go to gate A18 and book it." (this was the gate I had just came from and this suggestion threw gasoline on what was already a raging fire.)

"No, I just came from there all the way here. I should not have to walk all the way back there to get me on a flight that your airline screwed up in the first place. You are a Delta employee and you have a computer right there so why don't you just book me on the flight so I can get home 2 hours after you were supposed to get me there."

"I'm sorry Sir, all re-bookings take place at gate A18. Just go there, pick up a phone, and a Delta representative will re-book you."

Can you start to see why I will never voluntarily use Delta Airlines?

When I got BACK to where I started, there was a Delta rep leading people to the phones. When I walked up to him, he must have seen the look in my eyes because instead of pointing me to a phone, he asked if he could help. I gave him a curt explanation and he frowned and said

"He could have taken care of that at the gate. Here, let me see your ticket."

With that, he scanned it and the machine spit out a print out.

"Oh, you are already booked for the 2:30. Here is your new ticket."

I had a mixture of rage and relief. It did not help that when I looked at the new ticket, it was at the same gate as I had originally talked to Mr. Obvious. Yet again, I headed down the causeway to once again return to the gate. I knew when I got there that it was best for all parties involved that I didn't talk to the rep at the desk. Something to do with assault and battery.

So I sat there and stewed until they started calling off zones. When they called zone 1, I looked at my printout and could not find a zone anywhere on it. Scanning down the piece of paper, my blood ran cold when I got to the bottom. It said that I had to check into the counter to get a seat assignment. Mr. Helpful didn't inform me of this and the first thought I had was that if I go up there and they have no seats left, there would be a nuclear holocaust.

So I had to deal with Mr. Obvious again and when I got up there, he never met my eyes but instead stared blankly at the screen. I slid my ticket to him and he took it without a word. For the next 2 minutes, he rattled his keyboard and looked confusingly at the screen. Every muscle in my body was tensed as I tried to withhold my anger. Finally, he handed me a ticket and to my surprise, it was an emergency exit. Not to my surprise, I was, of course, in zone 8 which all but guaranteed that there would be no overhead storage by the time I got on the plane. But I had a seat.

Without a word, I parted company with Mr. Obvious and got on the plane. I seriously considered a cocktail.

Sure enough, I got in to D.C. late so I was looking at rush hour traffic in Washington DC. After paying ransom for Truckasaurus to the tune of $165, I headed out of the airport and sat in traffic for the next 2 ½ hours which, considering the traffic, was quick.

When I got home, I was greeted with balloons, posters, and hugs. My kids had put a lot of work into welcoming me home and I thought my dog was going to break his own back by wagging his entire body. But I learned long ago that the first person you hug and kiss upon returning home is your spouse. It was our 16th wedding anniversary and I had finally made it home.

Free Advice for Today:
Accept a breath mint if someone offers you one."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“THREE CORRECT GUESSES IN A ROW QUALIFIES YOU AS AN EXPERT.

- Unknown

Red letter day!!!

If you recall, I tried to go to the museum gift shop on Saturday but the director told me that the guy who runs it had car trouble and would not be in. I came back on Sunday and it was closed again for the same reason. When I said that I would be back on Monday, he told me that the shop is closed on Mondays and Tuesday. Crap.

Fast forward to today. We were busy running around and like what often happens, I found myself in a dead spot right before lunch. We were at the RAC and the sound of DIs booming at poor recruits was getting passé (for me, not for them) so I told Eric I was going to get a haircut. I was tired of being nasty in the land of anti-nasty, from a permanent personnel standpoint, that is. Recruits, by definition, are always nasty and that's more the reason to keep my hair squared away.

Finding a parking spot on Parris Island is like finding a virgin in a brothel. After circling a few times, I found a spot in front of the museum. Wait, it's Wednesday and I had forgotten about the gift shop. Lo and behold, here I was!! I decided to run in real quick, take a look around, get the haircut, and get back to the RAC. It was not to be, exactly.

When I entered the shop that was finally open, I nodded to the older gentleman at the counter and did a cursory lookover. I was about to leave but because I was feeling a bit spunky, I suddenly turned to the man and asked "How's your car?" This elicited a curious smile and a bit of confusion until I explained how I knew. He said it was fine now but he had a hard time getting the parts and hence the need to close the gift shop for two days. He then asked me where I was from and when I told him I was from Quantico he said,

"Oh, Quantico. I'm going down there later next month. I need to see some friends, talk to some people, maybe sign some posters..."

I interrupted "Whoa, wait, what posters would you be signing?"

With a sheepish look he said "Oh, um, well, that one." And with that he pointed above my head on the wall. When I looked up, my heart almost stopped before lurching out of my chest. He was pointing to the poster that read "We Don't Promise You A Rose Garden" and had a Drill Instructor right up in the face of some poor recruit.

I was stunned into silence and only managed to grunt out a few syllables while pointing from him to the poster. As the realization washed over me, I was at a total loss of coherent words. He was likely used to this reaction and he stood by patiently while I stumbled for appropriate words or in fact, any words.

"That's, that's you?"

"Yes" and that marked the last thing he would say to me for a long time. I took a deep breath and dumped the contents of my brain like a little boy hyped up on sugar.

I told him that it was the first Marine Corps poster I bought. Back in 1990 I came to Washington DC to visit my mother and when I took her to 8th and I to see the Silent Drill Team, we visited the museum and I got the poster because I had always wanted it since I first saw it in high school.

When I got it home, I had it mounted to a foam backing (not a cheap endeavor especially on Corporal's pay) and proudly displayed it everywhere I went from then on. Of course 16 years takes its toll and it got bent in more than a few places to the point that my wife just rolled her eyes when I insisted on putting it up.

Because it has been in my direct eyeline just about everywhere I studied, read, contemplated, or just zoned for the last decade and a half, I have committed every detail of the picture to memory. True to form, I've over-analyzed the shot over and over. I'm amazed what the poster conveys such as the intensity of the moment without the stereotypical scream normally depicted of DIs. The eyes say it all and it's more than just an act. Those eyes are legitimately enraged and bore through the wilting private like lasers. The proximity of the DI to the private is highlighted by the DI's brim actually being under the brim of the private's cover. The DI is not looking away but is searing the private with an unwavering stare so close that there is no question that the DI has no fear, embarrassment, or hesitation to invoke his will on the private. This captures the DI legend to a T.

He (eventually) told me the picture was taken in 1968. He was actually on his way out of the Marine Corps, waiting at the depot after a fresh tour as a DI. They told him he was picking up a platoon despite his insistence that there must be some mistake because of his short time. Then, as is now, no one wanted to hear that and they made him pick up the platoon. They also told him there would be a journalist snapping pictures for a book.

An interesting fact about the picture is that he is standing on a foot locker. The recruit was extremely tall so to get in his face, Sergeant T (or "Chuck", as I got to know him) needed a little help. I asked if he ever got in contact with the recruit again and he said he had wanted to for years but could never identify him. He found out recently that the Marine had been identified as a Gunny someone knew and Chuck is researching to try to find him. I asked how anyone could identify the recruit from the picture since you can barely see him and he told me that it was the eyelashes. What a way to be remembered.

The other thing that took me by surprise was that the picture was taken inside in a squad bay. For some reason, I thought it was outside.

The Marine Corps convinced the journalist to let them use the pictures for a series of recruiting posters and they picked out the now-famous picture from a series taken that day. This Sergeant Taliano then became the most anonymously famous face in the Marine Corps and to this day is known as "The Rose Garden DI." Yet another strange combination of words.

After talking his ear off, I knew I had to get going and get my haircut. I told him I would be back before he closed because I wanted to buy another poster (knowing he'd sign it) and a few other items. I had originally been looking for a couple of shirts for my kids but all I could find around the depot was "My ____ is a Marine" with the blank filled in as son, daughter, nephew, niece, boyfriend and even grandson. But none of them had "Dad" other than the toddler sizes. I guess not many recruits come through with 9 and 12-year-old kids.

But my ulterior motive was to get my camera so I could get a picture. So I promised him I'd be back later in the day. It worked out that it was sooner than I expected because when I got back to the RAC, it was time to go to lunch and we had been invited by our host to go to the on-base restaurant. I got the idea to invite Chuck to lunch but thought he would politely refuse because he didn't want to close down the gift shop (and was likely tiring of this insane Captain that won't leave him alone).

When we got to the museum, I ran into Chuck in the entryway. I asked him if he takes lunch and if he had yet to eat. He said yes and no so I told him it would be my deepest honor to take him out to lunch. Note that I was invited to lunch and now I was inviting someone else but I didn't care; this was a chance of a lifetime. To my surprise and joy, Chuck accepted and we had a pleasant lunch together. I felt a little bad ignoring the others but I got absorbed in the conversation that mostly involved Chuck and me. Being a long time resident of Parris Island and somewhat of a legendary figure, he had exposure to a lot of Marines over the years and I enjoyed hearing of some of his stories.

After lunch, I took him back but still did not have my camera. I told him, once again, I would return to purchase my items. I had just a slim window of opportunity because I had a meeting in the afternoon so I raced back to my hotel room and grabbed my camera. I got to the gift shop and asked him if he would do me the honor of taking a picture with me. He was delighted and we posed in the stereotypical staged picture taken by a civilian who didn't know me, Chuck, or the poster.

At this point, my nerves were a little frayed. I wanted to ask him something and had been nervous about it all day. This was my only shot and time was short. I turned to him and said,

"Chuck, I know you've put up with me all day and I've asked a lot but I'd hate myself if I didn't ask you one more favor. I know it sounds goofy as hell but I would like to get another picture but this time if you could turn your head and get THAT look..." (as I pointed to the famous poster) "...and I will be the private."

He just started laughing (a good sign) and said "You know, Captain, every once in awhile I get that request and the last person to ask was General Holcomb. I would be delighted."

With that, I was on Cloud 9. I was just hoping it would turn out and to make sure, I grabbed the camera and zoomed it to frame our faces. I was not going to put this picture in the hands of a stranger for fear of a repeat performance of my picture with General Al Gray some years ago. Let's just say it's a great shot of me and the Commandant from the neck down.

I said we'd go on three and when I got to two, I looked down and away like a down-trodden recruit as I saw in my peripheral vision Chuck bend at the knees to get the same height ratio and then he turned to me. For a moment, it was strange to "feel" his intense stare I had seen over the years. That moment is forever caught and here is how it turned out.

Right when they took it, I rushed over and grabbed the camera. Right when I pushed the review button which lets you see the last picture taken, the batteries went dead.

AHHHHH!!!!!!

But right before the screen went blank, I saw a flash of the photograph in the little window and knew I had the photo I would cherish for the rest of my life. I told Chuck what happened and promised to send it to him. He just laughed and I thanked him profusely. I felt like a teenage girl but was as happy as I was unashamed.

I got a new copy of “The Poster” and sure enough, he signed it. Now I will take it home and get it framed where it will hold a place of honor in my home as long as I have one.

The last think I told Chuck was that I assumed he had a thousand points of contact at Quantico but you can never have too many. I gave him my card and told him that if he needed anything, to call or email me. To my surprise he told me that all his contacts had either left Quantico or got out so he could use my help. I asked him to do me the honor of calling on me at any time and I would move mountains for him. If I can help him when he comes her late in April, it might be too much for my old heart to take.

When I finally left, I went straight to my laptop and popped in the memory stick to see my prize. Sure enough, I pulled up the picture and it turned out better than I had hoped. I somehow nailed the look of the private and other than a 35 year old difference in age, Chuck had that same fire. Even the folds on the back of his neck was the same and I was delighted at being in an updated rendition of the poster I idolized. How can I find the words to express my feelings? I can’t.

I’m playing with the thought of making a mock up of the poster and putting my picture in it but it would be to feed my personal lunacy and sense of humor. Chuck told me of a bootleg someone had done up and changed the words to say “We Don’t Promise You Shit!” Someone brought one to him to sign but he refused, citing how good the Marine Corps had been to him and how he couldn’t sanction such a statement. Hopefully, my updated poster will not ruffle any feathers because I just have to give it a shot. And here it is.

Free Advice for Today:
Watch less TV."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“IF IT LOOKS EASY; IT ISN'T. IF IT LOOKS TOUGH; ITS IMPOSSIBLE.

- Unknown

Today was a special treat because I got to visit where they make the monsters. I know that sounds harsh but it's the easiest way to convey the reality. In no way should it be interpreted as any disrespect; quite the opposite. Simply put, if my visits with Marine Corps Drill Instructors has been a treat for me up to this point, visiting Drill Instructor School is like getting access to the Mother Ship.

It was the day before graduation so all the soon-to-be DIs were busy cleaning or "field daying." It was a constant source of amazement when they would pop to attention and give me a loud greeting every time I came by. Over and over again. No matter how many times I entered their area, I got the same enthusiastic greeting. What was strange about this is that these were Sergeants, Staff Sergeants, and Gunnery Sergeants. In the DI School environment, they acted much like recruits and the gap between their motivated submissiveness and their soon-to-be motivated dominance was unsettling.

They were in PT gear and I could tell they were in incredible shape, ready to launch into recruit training with an almost vibrating expectation. I envied them but I knew they had earned it. In fact, I found out that one had been dropped the day prior. The thought of going through 3 months of intense DI training and then being dropped two days before graduation almost made me choke. But it proved to me that the Marine Corps will not allow anyone through DI School unless imminently qualified, even up to the last day of instruction. It speaks to the quality of those that do make it.

Speaking with the instructors at the school was like talking to Stonehenge. I don't think they meant to be like that but their intensity was profound. They were professional, respectful, and to the point. The environment they live in is so intense that it bleeds into their personalities. They are the gatekeepers to the most coveted of all Marine specialties and feel the weight of thousands of Drill Instructors of the past and must also consider they are affecting the future of millions of Marines. What a stressful responsibility but one they were obviously up for. They continue to be the ones who make the Marines who make Marines.

Free Advice for Today:
Keep your watch five minutes fast."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“ALWAYS REMEMBER TO PILLAGE BEFORE YOU BURN.

- Unknown

Today we got to go out and see the automated weapons range. Basically, there are pop up targets and the recruits get to shoot at them. An automatic scoring system records their hits and then prints them out. Seems pretty cool and all high techish. They wanted to see if they could feed their scores into our system and make up the relays using the lists from our system. With all the advanced technology they were using, they did not understand the concept of a comma delineated file. Funny how that works.

I got to see more recruits. Most of them lose their mind whenever I get within 10 feet of them and I feel sorry for them. They look tired, wrinkled, stressed, sweaty, and eaten by bugs. But it seems the DIs let up a bit on them in the field when there are live rounds around. Imagine that.

An update on the pick up platoon: we heard that a recruit escaped that night and made a run for it. Unfortunately, he headed toward staff housing so imagine his surprise when he ran smack dab into DI housing. Sucks to be him. It didn’t help that he was still wearing the reflector strap all new recruits wear their first week. I guess a wife turned him in and they put him right back in the platoon. Way to make a name for yourself early on.

After the day’s events, I had to move out of the hotel I was staying and move into the Temporary Lodging Facility because some big brass meeting was going on and I could only reserve the room at the nice hotel through this morning. Eric and I got rooms and we noticed that there was this white window frosting effect on the inside of some of the windows. Eric happened to have one of the room and after dropping off my stuff, I met him outside where he asked me if my room smelled. We went back in and I told him it just smelled a little like peppermint but then he took me to his room.

I dry heaved. It’s hard to explain what his room smelled like but baked ass comes to mind. Maybe a little like ode de septic. After gagging a few more times, I couldn’t help but laugh. I may have found someone with worse luck than me.

I went back to my room to change over for PT while Eric went to get a new room. When I came out ready to run, I saw Eric still in regular clothes and politely asked him WTF? He said that the second room’s phone did not work and he had to get a third room on the second deck. I laughed again. He said he had to prepare for a brief tomorrow and would skip the run so I was stuck running alone.

When I got back, we went out for Mexican food and picked up a guy we met during the day. He was with the Department of Treasury and is contracted to design the new ID cards. The lieutenant he came with had friends in town so Graham was on his own. I had met him a few times before and I knew he had never been to Parris Island and asked if he wanted to join us.

I think he was waiting for the other shoe to drop. He’s not used to people he hardly knew asking him to join them for dinner and then not want anything. We had a good dinner and talked about our experiences. A Captain with 16 years in the Marine Corps, A Department of Treasury worker whose job takes him to places like Afghanistan, and a technology contractor made for eclectic dinner conversation. It seems Graham used to work for Exxon in the Big Pants People department because he did the whole Lear Jet and limousine thing. But tonight he was in a little Mom-and-Pop Mexican joint with a military man and a techno-geek. We all had a blast.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't leave a ring in the bathtub."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“SUBORDINATES WILL DO WELL ONLY WHAT THE LEADER CHECKS.

- Unknown

(On this day in 1991, I returned safely from Saudi Arabia after Desert Storm)

I slept like a champ once again. With nothing pressing to do, I guess catching up with my rest was the thing to do. Did I feel lazy? You bet your ass I did.

I went to the coffee shop to work on my laptop but the air was out and despite the comfortable weather outside, inside the coffee shop was hot. I stayed for awhile but was getting uncomfortable and didn’t want to spend the day in a coffee shop. But before I left, I heard two DIs talking. I had to stifle a laugh when one of them said to the other:

“Last night I had a kid throw up. He was laying down and it went straight up and straight back down. It was pretty cool. Did the same thing this morning. Almost made me throw up, though. My stomach started getting queasy. I just started yelling.”

I could just picture this scene because a DI would never let up on a kid. Instead, likely stress him for making a mess before sending him to medical. But to once again see behind the scenes and hear the DI’s actual thoughts was funny and interesting.

The rest of the day was a spend-o-rama, as my wife would put it. I got a pennant for Alex, a couple of stuffed animals for Stephanie, and a couple of ID holders for Sir Phil. For me, I got a shirt, two bronze statues (one of a DI yelling and one of a recruit skulking), and various other items. Although I bought more than I usually would, I was careful not to buy anything big. My suitcase already looked like a fat lady in a little dress.

I went over to the clothing store and there were a bunch of recruits on their liberty Sunday they get the week before graduation. Many of them were in line for the phone so I picked out one, told him to come over to me (which Im sure scared the bejesus out of him) and I asked if he had called home yet. He told me he hadn’t so I handed him my cell phone. I said I would be shopping and to find me inside when he got done, but to take his time.

I got done shopping and when I returned, he was still talking. He started to cut off his conversation but I motioned him not to. Instead, I told him I’d be over at the barber and to come get me when he finished. I returned a few minutes later because the barber shop was full and about to close. I just sat in the sun in front of the clothing store for ½ hour until he came up to me and told me he was done. I started talking to him and he told me he hadn’t even got a chance to talk to him during processing because he had no money. I guess his family didn’t have a lot of money or he didn’t want to call collect but whatever the reason, he hadn’t talked to them since he left for bootcamp.

I stayed and talked to him for another ½ hour and told him a little about the Corps and what to expect next. After a few minutes, his buddies joined in and I found myself talking to a half dozen recruits. They were obviously excited to graduate and I told them to try to get their DIs contact info when they graduate. They will want to contact them someday. I went on to explain the training that the DIs have to go through and just how "cream of the crop" a DI is. I doubt if they realized how the DIs were made and I could see some realization wash over them as I explained.

I spent the rest of the day sight-seeing and then we were invited to dinner. Eric got back and our host at PI invited us to his house for some fried chicken and beer. We were not about to pass up an offer like that especially since the restaurant food thing was getting a little old. It was a great dinner and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. To see a home life complete with a teacup Chihuahua and children made me miss my own family but I was glad to be part of the friendship for the night.

It seems that most nights ended the same. Get back to the room, dead tired, and feeling guilty that I had not put in more keyboard time. I had done no reading and without internet, very little site of BLOG updates. So I did the thing I do best in these situations: turned on the TV and vegged for awhile before crashing like the Hindenburg.

Free Advice for Today:
Forgive quickly."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“BASIC GRUNT RULE - NEVER PASS UP A CHANCE TO EAT, SLEEP, DRINK, OR PEE.

- Unknown

Why I needed so much sleep I’ll never know. Going to bed early, I thought I’d be up early. Nope, got up at about 8:30 AM for a ridiculous sleep marathon of about 11 hours. What’s up with that?

Like I always do, I actually woke up at the normal time (about 6:00 AM) but knew that if I got up, I would be facing a 12 mile run. So it was easy to turn back over and float in and out of sleep for a couple of more hours. Finally, knowing that I didn’t want to piss away the day, I got up.

For a moment, I considered gaffing of the run until tomorrow. I’m so easy sometimes but luckily, I stayed strong and convinced myself to us-ass the bed and get on the pavement.

The run was a chore. I wanted to go 12 but my body was not cooperating so the distance ended up being more like 9 miles. I felt heavy, slow, and weak. I ran out toward the golf course and eventually hit a historical landmark which was a good excuse to stop for awhile. That and I hit the swamp so the turnaround point was kind of a no brainer.

I found a few interesting things on this little tour. There was a fort that was said to be the original French foothold on this continent. They erected a monument in the 20’s and then in the 90’s, they figured out it wasn’t exactly where they thought it was and was instead a few hundred yards away (oops). But they did figure out that it was a Spanish settlement there so they kinda saved face but they didn’t move the monument.

The rest of the tour was one of those paths that have little signs along the way explaining different things. How long do you think I stayed at the wildlife signs? Right, about none. But there were interesting things like a trench built by Marines to practice trench warfare back in WWI. Since then it flooded and now is marshy like everywhere else around here.

Another interesting thing I came across was the wreckage of a bomber. There is an airfield near here and in 1958, two pilots had a little trouble. They both survived but they just left the hulk there. It was all rusted out and mostly rotted away and what I found interesting was that there were loose pieces everywhere. I would think that by now, souvenir hunters would have “collected” everything loose from the site. I thought about it but that wouldn’t be right and my wife would just roll her eyes. Plus, imagine getting a large chuck of metal through the airport. “Oh that, it’s a piece of an old bomber I stole from a national historical landmark.”

I made my way back after my sudden interest in historical monuments that had nothing to do with a break from running. It was a “kissing your sister” run in that it really wasn’t all that satisfying. But I accomplished it and was ready to get on with the day.

My basic instinct would have been to stay inside all day but I knew I’d hate myself if I didn’t get out and look around. So after a shower, I headed out the door to take some pictures of the famous Parris Island.

First things first though because if I don’t check email early in the day, I get the shakes. The only option I had was to go the library and I realized I wasn’t the only one with this idea. About a half dozen Marines were in the library doing the same thing. I don’t know why but I can find dozens of things to do on the computer when I’m at home but today, I checked my email, read a few things from OddTodd, and was ready to leave.

Next I visited the drill field. I got as close as I dared and even with the full zoom on my camera, I only got distance shots. I laughed at myself because I felt a bit skittish because I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to get up close and get some pictures. I was in civvies so they didn’t know who I was but if I was challenged, all I had to do was tell them who I was and there wouldn’t have been any more question. But that didn’t matter. They were DIs and despite my rank, I was not looking for any confrontation. So I stood on the periphery and got the best shots I could.

My next stop was the base museum. I think the most interesting thing there was not any exhibit. It was the recruits that were allowed to go in while I was there. They were recruits so scared of their own shadow and every time one would wander near me, I would receive a “Good morning Sir” and every time one passed me, it would be “By your leave, Sir.” I noted that when a group passed by, only a few said anything and I thought to myself that was ripe for a DI to overhear and yell at them. Because some of them said it and some did not should have given them a clue that someone was doing something wrong and all would be punished.

As I was standing there, I saw a DI come in and I instantly recognized him as the former SGT, now SSGT Ford from my days at Tanks. He had always been a large, muscular man who played on the Tanks football team with me but in my memory, had always been calm and laid back. Now he wore a black belt and I doubt if any of the recruits in the museum would agree with my assessment. He remembered me when I introduced myself and we had a good conversation. It was weird to run into him, just as it was equally strange for him, I assume. As we spoke, he would excuse himself and bark at a few recruits who were being recruits. This may sound as though it was done for my benefit but I doubt it. f you observe DIs, you will see that they don’t hound recruits just to show off nor do they do it sporadically. It’s constant attention and just because they are talking to an old acquaintance doesn’t stop them from keeping the pressure constant.

The exhibits showed mostly uniforms across the years then there was an entire other wing where they concentrated on archeological digs in the area. I swooped through that one without even hesitating because it was about as interesting as watching a bunch of rocks (get it?).

The last thing that caught my attention was a collection of pictures and bios of famous people who used to be Marines. I was delighted to see so many people I recognized and never realized they were Marines. I chastised myself for not having a piece of paper to write some of them down. There was Captain Kangaroo, Imus from Imus in the Morning, the Everly Brothers, Jonathon Winters, the guy who played Pauli in the Rocky movies, the guy who played BJ Honeycutt, George Pepard, Tyrone Power, and as I was afraid of, many more that I don’t remember right now.

As I was standing there reading the last of these, I had backed myself into a narrow hallway and from my right, I heard the familiar “Good morning Sir” and “By your leave, Sir.” Without looking, I greeted them and said “Granted” which was immediately followed by another, then another. Looking, I realized that an entire platoon was coming by on their way to the little theater. The greetings multiplied as the bulk of the platoon caught on and I made my away against the crowd to get out of the hallway. I just bolted out and let them all enter or I would be there all day returning greetings.

I started to feel like I was living life underwater and realized that my morning run was catching up with me. I went back to the room and caught a one hour nap and watched some TV. Again, I knew I’d hate myself if I sat in the hotel all day so I got up and went about the base and took some more pictures which I will post on my site.

With nothing better to do, I ended up at the movie theater and since it was free and I was on time, I decided to watch “And Along Came Polly” with Jennifer Aniston and Ben “Way to go, Focker” Stiller. It was a good movie for a free movie but I’d be a little miffed if I had actually paid money to see it. But it killed a couple of hours.

Returning back to the room, I spent the rest of the night doing laundry, watching TV, and fixing dinner. I stayed awake long enough to watch SNL but that was only because I had to wait for my laundry. Let’s just say that Jessica Simpson is easy to look at but difficult to listen to and watch act.

Free Advice for Today:
Say 'thank you' a lot."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“IT IS NEVER CROWDED AT THE FRONT.

- Unknown

Getting up early to run wasn’t going to happen. With only about 5 hours of sleep, it was tough enough to get up and ready. With a strong cup of coffee to guide me, I got mentally prepared to give the class.

I say that as though I’m some important lecturer but it’s closer to the truth to say that Eric is the driving force. I introduce the class and then hand it off to Eric who does most of the lecturing. I go around and help those that fall behind and interject points that Eric forgets. At the end, I help answer questions and take notes on feedback. Eric does most of the demonstration and we just naturally fell into our respective roles. We worked well together.

One of the roles I filled that I didn’t even realize was that of a calming force. I say I didn’t know this because it didn’t become apparent until I had to leave for a class and upon my return, Eric mentioned that there was one particular Drill Instructor that was a bit vocal about his dislike of the system. Eric handled it fine but I wondered how much less Eric would have had to put up with if I was there.

The fact that my presence kept them in line just floors me. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that when an officer is around, enlisted Marines act differently but in a crowd of DIs, I would see myself as the least intimidating or behavior-modifying force in the room. I had returned before the class was out and I didn’t notice anything from the particular DI he pointed out which told me that he was much less difficult once I entered the room. Incredible.

After class, we went back to the hotel, changed over, and went for a much needed run. We were both tired but got in a 40 minute run and were refreshed. It was a cooler day than yesterday and we found a shady road out by the Weapons Training Battalion. By the time we got back, we gave ourselves a half hour and then we headed out to Savannah. It was St. Patrick’s Day, after all.

I am a quarter or so Irish but with my Mexican blood, you’d never guess. Ironically, Eric looked almost full Irish with his red hair but is actually 100% Swedish. Looking at us, you’d never know I was the more Irish of the two.

We got there late and that meant that 90% of everyone we saw was drunk as ten monkeys. The other 10% were children and I think some of them might have been “celebrating.” OK, maybe not but to be fair, most of the drunkards we saw were very young themselves and I found myself feeling like the old man: “These darn kids!

Since I was driving, I drank soda all night and watched the crowd. Like I said, everyone was drunk and when you are sober, being around a bunch of belligerent kids wore a little thin. We had fun walking around and watching the spectacle and saw some of the most outlandish hats, beads, shirts, etc. I’ve never been to Mardi Gras but as I’m told, this was a lot like it minus the flashing.

Likely the most disgusting thing about the evening was the turkey legs. One of the street venders sold big turkey legs and while I thought this was a strange St Patty’s Day tradition, I found out later that the boardwalk where we were at always sold them. Regardless, it occurred to me that it was a bad combination: the novelty of a huge turkey leg for a bunch of drunk idiots. Sure enough, there were hundreds of discarded turkey legs in various states of decay littering the boardwalk which made for an interesting (nasty) smell. Ahh, my first taste of Savannah was shaping up well.

We found a burrito place and had a spectacular meal. I found it surprising that we could find a good meal for $7 since normally they jack up the prices at an event like this but we ate huge burritos despite it probably not being the most healthy choice.

The sights and sounds were mesmerizing. They supposedly dyed the river green but it was dark by the time we got there and the water looked like it had a green tint anyway. More visually compelling was one of the bands playing on stage. They were wrapped in cloth like old-time mummies from head to foot. They weren’t that bad but I gotta think it will be an embarrassing look back in future years for the band.

"Dude, remember when I got stoned and said we should all dress up like mummies? Dude, I was totally kidding."

With our observance of drunk people complete, we decided to head home. We got a little lost and found the more seedy part of Savannah to include the nudie bar (Rainbows, as I recall) and were really hoping the car would not break down. If so, all I'd have to do is run faster than Eric.

Another late night and we were bushed. We’ve got to get more rest.

Free Advice for Today:
Wave to crosswalk patrol mothers."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“THUNDER IS IMPRESSIVE BUT LIGHTNING DOES THE WORK.

- Unknown

I was too excited to start teaching to be tired in the morning. After getting ready, grabbing some breakfast, and getting to the classroom, we started our ½ hour classes back to back to back all day.

The morning was cloudy, muggy, and warm. Classic PI, as I understand.

It will be hard to convey what it was like to stand in the front of a room full of Drill Instructors; these human symbols of everything I hold in the highest regard. They called me “Sir” and I tried to hide the fact that I felt like a kid invited to the adult table for dinner. As the day wore on, I asked many questions, under the auspices of “polling the user to improve our product.”

Of course this was true but only half (or less) the intent of my thirst for info. I could ask everything I ever wanted to know about the day in and day out intricacies of a Drill Instructor’s life. There is no way I can list the questions and answers here and I won’t even try. To do justice to what I learned, I would have to spend days explaining. They will just have to leak out of stories, references, and explanations elsewhere on my webpage.

This went on all day and we finagled our way into observing the moment the incoming recruits arrive. Again, mere words fail me. I cannot properly describe what this opportunity means to me. And again, under the auspices of witnessing procedure, we were allowed to be the fly on the wall, witnessing the most famous moment of a future Marine’s life: Getting off the bus.

Since they bring the recruits in at night, we had to wait until 11:00 PM. But to make sure things went right, the Sergeant that was escorting us wanted to take us to receiving and introduce us to where we would be watching. Showing up, we were introduced to the duty DI and got a quick tour of the facility and how the receiving procedures work.

“Come on, little Jason, pull up a chair at the big table.”

Through an incredible stroke of luck and timing, two recruits showed up as we were standing there. Normally, the vast majority of the incoming recruits come in to the local airport and are bussed to the receiving barracks at night. But some of them that are local are transported and show up at various hours of the day (hence, the duty DI. A kind of demon in waiting.)

While we stood there, the Staff Sergeant who was just talking to us in a hoarse but otherwise normal voice and manner, grabbed his Smokey, put it on his shaven head, and transformed in front of my eyes.

Bolting out to the van, he grabbed the side door and slammed it open.

“GET OFF THE BUS!!!”

Out of the van stumbled a young man and young woman, with masks of sheer terror. The DI barked command after command, getting the teenagers on the famous yellow footprints. The thought hit me that these two unfortunate kids were getting a 2:1 ratio with the DI. Yikes.

The DI began the training by barking out a standard speech that I’m sure the two kids will only remember as a continuous scream.

We watched (and I took plenty of pictures) as this drama played out. The scared kids were run into the building and quickly put to task filling out paperwork. Since the bulk of the recruits were due in later tonight, they were sat in a classroom and told, in no uncertain terms, to sit with eyes locked forward. I’m sure they were relieved to have a simple requirement to just sit and do nothing else. They can’t screw that up, right? Wrong, a recruit cannot do anything right.

We asked a few questions to the DI and he was happy (or as happy as a DI can be) to answer them. Every once in awhile he would excuse himself, don his cover, and go rip open one of the recruits, come back, and be back to “normal.”

We left, went back to the Q, changed over, and went for a run on The Island. We only went for 40 minutes and it was muggy but just the thought of hitting the same pavement as 1000s of tortured ghosts made the experience a bit unreal. Eric continued to be exposed to my vast knowledge and memories of the Marine Corps and I’m sure he’s about ready to take me out and hide the body.

We got back, changed over, and went out to eat for dinner. The commissary is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so we couldn’t stock our rooms up with cheaper and healthier choices so we hit Applebees. I once again lost any semblance of self control and ordered the porterhouse. It was good and I was in a food coma by the end. Eric was probably ready to slit his own throat after yet another couple of hours listening to my mouth run.

But the big event of the day was yet to come. We were due back at the recruit admin center. We were witnesses and not prey. After witnessing the event, this time from a better vantage point than the back of a recruit’s head, I was humbled at what happens to both the recruits and the Drill Instructors.

We got there at about 11:00 PM but the bus was not due in until about midnight. The two recruits that were already there were sitting in the classroom with their heads on their desks. It may sound harsh but the truth of the matter was that these two were getting rest that they would sorely need in the next 2 days and it was more than their fellow recruits would get.

We stood around and discussed procedure but basically were trying to ignore the elephant at the tea party. Soon, the bus would arrive and we would bear witness to many versions of individual Hells being branded into the recruits’ memories.

We stood around until the word came down that the bus was arriving. The DIs grabbed their covers and bolted out to the front as we followed with rapidly beating hearts. I commented that there were massive amounts of adrenaline flowing through those two DIs and we took our spots out of the way where we could watch.

The bus stopped and we could see the teenagers inside, petrified. The looked around with haunted looks and it was evident they were suffering a thousand deaths while nothing happened. Life would get worse very soon but the anticipation was palpable. Amazingly, some in the back appeared to be joking and laughing a bit, likely a reaction to the stress hanging in the air. But the vast majority were worried animals looking around for the predator.

The delay ended.

The DI bolted up the bus steps and I tried to watch every nuance as fast as I could absorb it. I thought about that first recruit in the first seat watching the DI board the bus. He was inches away as the smoky cover appeared from the top down and as more and more of the DI appeared, so did the terror, I imagine. I remember.

We could not hear exactly what was being said but it wasn’t important. What we did hear was a rather loud explosion of venom spewed across the frightened kids sitting on the bus. This lasted about 30 seconds and then the DI bolted back down the steps as the recruits crowded the aisle and flowed off the bus in a terror wave. As each recruit emerged, he or she (yes, there were young ladies mixed with the males) were met by two DIs screaming for them to get off the bus and onto the famous yellow footprints.

I was amazed that no one fell because they were pouring off the bus at mach 5 (although not fast enough for the DIs of course) with coats, bags, and a variety of paperwork. Recruits never know exactly what to bring but it doesn’t matter because it’s all taken away once they get processed.

The scared kids made it to the footprints and I looked into their faces. Unmasked terror. It was both sentimental and depressing for me. I know it’s necessary, I know it’s temporary, and I know it’s universal. But looking at these kids at a pivotal moment in their lives (which will remain pivotal for the rest of their lives), I had a combination of awe and empathy. I remembered my own thoughts when my feet were on those prints and how scared I was. There was no way to separate that from what I was witnessing but I also had the view of everything that will happen to them and even 16 years of events and how this 3 month period will affect everything they do.

As they lined up, the DIs continued to lay on the stress. The kid nearest to me on the next-to-last row was so scared that he failed to stand directly on the footprints provided. How scared must you be to not be able to follow the instruction to put your feet on the yellow footprints painted on the street? The kid stood right behind the recruit in front of him so that his toes were touching the heels of the recruit in front. The others in his row aligned to him and then the last row did the same so that the last two rows were too close.

The DIs had yet to notice this, barking at the recruits toward the front. I found myself rooting for those recruits, mentally begging them to fix it before the DIs see the mistake. But it was not to be. The DIs made their way back and saw the mistake, levying punishment to both rows in the form of individual attention. For the ones that were just following suit, it did not matter. All of them got the first of many exposures to DI wrath.

When they got this straightened out, the DI gave a standardized speech involving their new existence, the death of the concept of “I,” how they will address DIs, how quickly they will react to orders (never fast enough, of course), and how many thousands of Marines have started right where they stand.

Afterwards, they were herded toward the building and split into two lines, one for males and one for females. This seemed to be a bit easier for them but there were still mistakes made which was rather humorous from our safe vantage point. The DI told the first recruit in each line to open the door and act as a doorstop. With each instruction barked, the DI followed with a “SAY YES SIR!” which was followed immediately by a weak imitation of the response. This was never good enough and the DI made them say it a few times, each time louder than the rest. The training-through-repetition concept began.

The recruits ran inside and we followed, feeling like interlopers. On the inside was a big open room with a duty desk at the back. Between that and the entry doors are rows of metal, one-piece chair/desks (probably so they can wash the tears, vomit, sweat, and fear off of them). The desks are used for the recruits to fill out the paperwork but for this particular group, they herded the recruits into a classroom toward the back of the building.

For the next hour, we interviewed the processing Marines on their procedures and saw bits and pieces of terror-moments. One of the more interesting moments was the call home.

To make sure that Mom and Dad know that their baby made it to the depot and were in the capable hands of Marine Corps Drill Instructors, the recruits were allowed (forced) to make a call home. But it isn’t a leisurely chat. Like all things in this new world, the process is just that: a process. And a scary one.

They lined up at attention behind a bank of phones. When told to do so, they picked up the phone (still at attention) and dialed the numbers with a shaking hand that returned to their side once the numbers were dialed. Then they were instructed what to say and with a loud and robotic voice as a result of fear and not instruction, they said this:

“THIS IS RECRUIT GROSE. I HAVE ARRIVED SAFELY ABOARD MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND. PLEASE DO NOT SEND ANY FOOD OR BULKY ITEMS. I WILL CONTACT YOU AGAIN WITHIN 3 TO 4 DAYS VIA A POSTCARD. GOODBYE!”

At this point, if the recruit does not hang up (probably a result of a confused parent pleading for more information), the DIs are right there barking “HANG IT UP!!!” which probably doesn’t set the parents’ worry at ease.

One kid went through this and held on to the phone. The DI yelled for him to hang up. The kid froze. The DI yelled again, this time louder. The kid still didn’t move and I think to myself “Hang up, you moron. What the hell are you thinking, just hang up!” I could not think of a situation this kid could possibly be in to chance a one-on-one encounter with a DI. At this point in the process (and throughout training), it’s of the utmost importance to make yourself as invisible as you can as often as you can.

The kid finally snapped and yelled back “SIR, THIS RECRUIT’S NOT SURE IT WENT THROUGH, SIR!

I’m not sure what that meant but kudos on the kid for having the stones to say it and saying it in the correct format he was just taught. And it shut the DI up as he considered if he would accept this explanation. The DI got distracted and started yelling at someone else so I guess the kid got away with it. I hope he savored the flavor, he will not taste it again.

The next thing we did is to visit the barber who was in a room toward the back of the building. Of course there was no apparent reason why we should witness this process but we didn’t care. We made our way back to the small room that had a line of recruits waiting for the famous cut. The barber was the classic aloof who took on an air of bossiness absorbed from being around the DIs (something I remember and despised when I was a recruit, just like now.) The cut took about 30 seconds per head but I saw a slight difference. When I went through, they asked us if we had any moles on our head. If so, we were instructed to put a finger on it so the barber would not cut it. This did not happen now and I wonder what happens when they strike mole. Can’t be a happy moment.

A funny moment happened when I came back to the main room: the DIs had stationed a recruit in the hallway who was instructed to yell “GET BACK IN THE CLASSROOM!” as the recruit came back from the barber. I had got a vivid introduction to this when I got a drink of water, stood up, and the recruit yelled his instructions to the exiting recruit. I just happened to be a foot in front and got an earful of the scared recruit.

Another goofy moment happened when we passed the recruit on the way to the barber, I heard the DI take advantage of my presence by instructing the recruit on how to properly address Marines. I knew that I would get a greeting on the way back and so when we returned, I rolled it around in my head and wondered how they wanted me to address the recruits. I figured a standard return of the greeting was the way to go so as I got nearer, I said in my head “Good evening, Recruit” a few times. As silly as it sounds, I was a bit nervous not to screw it up. I said it a few more times and was ready. When I got close to him, I heard “GOOD MORNING, SIR!

I thought he screwed up and I hesitated. I fully expected “Good evening, Sir” but when I heard say “morning” instead, it threw me. I kept walking and only managed to mumble out “Good morning.” Looking at my watch, it was 1:00 AM. I just knew the DI was thinking “Way to go, Sir.

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the recruits. At times they were lined up, toe to heel, and just stood there waiting. They were instructed not to look anywhere but at the head of the recruit in front of him so the only movement was the uncontrolled shaking that was readily apparent in some of them. I just couldn’t look at them because I could vividly remember the feeling. It was good to be there and see it again but it brought back some dry-mouthed memories of being in receiving barracks in 1987.

We stayed until about 0130 and there was not much more to see. The recruits would stay up all night getting indoc’ed, inprocessed, and doing everything from getting their first issue of gear to packing away their clothes they wouldn’t see again for 3 months. These recruits would not see sleep again until tomorrow night and although it will be 8 hours, it will seem like a blink of an eye and end with the realization of where they are and what they are doing. It’s a harsh moment.

When we got back to the hotel, I was drained. Not only by the late hour but the experience of what I just saw. I felt a certain amount of guilt that I was crawling into a bed in a quiet BOQ. I fell asleep with the faces of those recruits bouncing around in my head. Their lives will never be the same.

Free Advice for Today:
Learn to disagree without being disagreeable."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“DON'T TELL ME YOU DIDN'T HAVE TIME. IF YOU SLEPT LAST NIGHT YOU HAD TIME.

- Unknown

Here I am again, going through the traveling goat rope of getting from Virginia to Parris Island. This was first time “solo” so I made sure that I gave myself plenty of time to get to the airport. I’ve been known to get lost in the shower so it was important to leave gobs (yes, that is an actual metric in my world) of time.

Unlike most of my life experiences, this went off without a hitch. I hit I-95 with minimal traffic and Truckasaurus found his way right to the airport so quickly, that I had time to do a little curbside checkage before letting Truckasaurus rest for his 10 day stay in parking. Is $2 a good tip for the guy at the curb? I never know. Maybe it was an insult but I’m thinking not since my luggage made it to Savannah with everything in tact (I think). Maybe he spit on it, no wait, that’s when you piss off the fast food worker.

The first item of business was splurging. I got it in my head that I needed $65 slippers from Brookstone. Did I actually need these? No, but ever since I saw them, I looked for something similar and couldn’t find them. In the department stores, all they have are the cheap Totes that fall apart. I am a slipper aficionado and in my never ending quest to spend too much money for the most minor things, I knew I had to get these high speed slippers. They have the space-foam like the high speed pillow (yes, I got that too some time ago) that mold to your feet. I’ve turned into such a comfort hound (AKA, Princess).

So I walk into Brookstone and try on the extra-large and large sizes, back and forth, until the snooty salesman likely thought I was a bit insane. I was right on the border, size-wise, and finally went with the X-Large (take notice, ladies).

To pay for this, I figured it was my splurge item with the TAD money I would be getting. With full personal justification, I pulled out my government credit card and laid down the plastic. I considered it a travel item (sort of) and I would be paying for it with the money I got for this trip.

When Niles (as I will refer to him as, for obvious reasons) swiped the card, no joy. I was instantly knocked down a few rungs of the social ladder in Niles’ monocled eye and like Thurston Howell III, I took great offense to such treatment. I had to wait while he tried and tried but after calling my card in (seeing that I’m such a swarthy character) and waiting some more, he finally got to talk to someone and in short order, determined my card was not good enough. “They denied the card and didn’t tell me why.”

I gave him another card and the transaction went though but to the expense of some of my dignity. I went to a quiet area and called the credit card company to gently discuss why my card was denied. After my initial barking, I was informed that the card is only authorized at certain locations having to do with travel (food, hotels, car rentals, cat houses, etc) but not Brookstone. OK, that’s a new one for me.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. Flying to Atlanta, waiting, and flying to Savannah, I found Eric waiting for me at the other end. I rented a car (getting in the slowest possible line) and found myself alone in the baggage claim area (other than Eric) waiting for Alamo to get lapped by a glacier. We finally got a car and headed to PI.

Parris Island: the legendary home of Marine Corps recruit training. It gave me the willies to come aboard (my second time, the first time being two weeks ago for one day) and we checked into the billeting. Dumping our luggage, we headed out and found a Ruby Tuesday restaurant and for the second time in as many days, I contributed to the Ruby Tuesday Corporation to the tune of about $25.

By the time I got back to my room, I was bushed. But since I’m the way that I am, I unpacked all my stuff and got everything ready for the morning so all I had to do was stumble toward the shower and fall into my clothes in the morning.

I was on Parris Island. I had not PT’ed in two days. I had performed a glutton-fest on ribs and chicken. I was tired. I was nasty. I was done. I was hoping no DIs would show up in my dreams.

Free Advice for Today:
Mind your own business."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“FIXING THE PROBLEM IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN AFFIXING THE BLAME.

- Unknown

I’m going to Hell.

Yesterday when my wife asked if we were going to church in the morning (something she does almost every week). I didn’t answer (something I do almost every week). We had not gone in awhile and I was about to blow it off once again until my daughter looked at me with pleading eyes and asked if we could. I still did not answer but I knew we would be going.

When I awoke this morning, I bumped my wife and asked if we were going to church. This caused a flurry of instant movement since we had only an hour to get ready and get there. Everyone but me and the boy was excited.

It’s not that I don’t believe in God, I just get really bored in church. I also had a ton of things to do to get ready for my business trip but I knew that it was the best thing to take my family to church. So we got ready and went.

The reason for my first statement was because instead of listening to the pastor, I scribbled down my to-do list of things to pack and things to do to get ready for my trip. I know, I know. But as a very weak defense, the pastor was in Africa and we watched a videotape of the pre-recorded sermon. OK, maybe not a defense, even a weak one.

After church, the kids wanted to go home so we dropped them off and I took my wife out to lunch. The restaurant didn’t open for about 20 minutes after we arrived so we walked around Costco and the mall. We looked at external hard drives (drool), LCD monitors (double drool), and continued our argument about lawn mowers.

Our neighbor has a nice riding lawn mower that he insists we can use any time. He’s really friendly and I think he really means it. My wife is not to fond of this arrangement and wants to get a mower. So my argument is that if she wants me to mow it with our own mower, we will get a riding mower. She’s leaning more towards the $1000 cheaper route and getting a self-propelled mower. I tried to explain to her that with the size of our yard and the heat/mugginess that is to come, I’m not going to be pushing a damn mower for a few hours each week, especially if the neighbor is willing to let me use the rider.

So the arguments go on. But let me reiterate I will not be out there for hours, sweating my ass off every week during the summer. She points out that if we get the self-propelled mower, the boy is old enough to help. I don’t know, I just don’t know.

The rest of the day was packing. Because I’m, you know, a geek, I decided it was high time that I make a database with a checklist of things I need to pack. I thought about just making it easy and going with the Word document but it eventually evolved into an Access database. My teeth bucked.

I think I have everything (according to my database ***buck-toothed grin****) and am ready to finish the last-minute items in the morning. I realized it takes a lot of crap to live on the road for 10 days. I’m getting better at packing but I’m a creature comfort kind of guy. I noticed that most of the stuff was pleasure items. I must have my comfort!!!!

Now if I can only stop being a heathen and pay attention in church.

Free Advice for Today:
Remember the ones that love you."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“ANY BIRD CAN DRIFT WITH THE WIND. IT TAKES AN EAGLE TO FLY AGAINST THE STORM.

- Unknown

Days like this are easy to BLOG. I ran and then did practically nothing else all day.

I got directions to a running path last week which started at Mt Vernon. Yep, started out at George’s house. I got up early and headed north for almost an hour before I got to the parking lot and when I emerged from my comfy, warm car, I was hit with bitter cold. I whined to myself like a little girl.

What was worse and just like last week, I had a imminent need in the waste management department. And just like last week, nary a bathroom to be found. Asking an older gentleman where I could find such a respite, he informed me a mile down the path. Wonderful.

I got ready to go and sure enough, a mile down the path was a park where I found salvation. Things were much better after that.

This path not only goes on for God knows how far but it is all paved and marked at each mile. What a find!! I was not all that confident I could manage the 20 miler on my schedule and after a few miles, I realized that it was out of my reach. After much haggling, arguing, deal-making, bribery, blackmail, crying, begging, threatening, and a hearty game of rock-paper-scissors, I agreed to turn around at the 8 mile mark for a grand total of 16 miles.

There was a moment at the 7 mile mark, while in deep contemplation in yet another restroom, that maybe I could get to that 10 mile marker but by then, I knew that I should keep to my 8 mile plan. I still had to return all the way to the car, after all.

The run was a cold bastard most of the time and I cursed myself for not bringing gloves. That’s all I would’ve needed because my hands were the source of most of my discomfort. It was better in some places but most of the way, I felt like I had ice-sculptures for hands.

But the tradeoff was a spectacular view and a paved path the entire way. I’ve found my training path and it will only get warmer. In fact, I’ll have to go earlier and earlier each week as the temperatures rise. But it beats last week when I was running root and leaf covered trails, up and down. Much better than that crap.

The run back was not a happy event. It started getting pretty tough and I was counting the mile markers too closely. I may have stumbled into “The Groove” a couple of times for very short periods but the majority of this run was drudgery at its nastiness. I have to blame it on my lack of working up to these distances but that can not be helped now. The run back was filled with the overriding thought of just getting to the finish line. I hate it when its like that.

The car ride home seemed to take forever, even though I didn’t get caught in any traffic. But when you are going 80+ miles per hour, people tend to get in the way anyway. Again, my overriding thought was getting to the end, showering, eating, and taking a nap.

And this is exactly what I did. And it was blissful.

Like I said at the start of this entry, days like this end pretty boringly. I started to watch Men In Black with my kids but at about 11:00 PM, Carrie walked in to a blaring TV and three backs facing the ceiling. We were all sacked.

Free Advice for Today:
Be wary of the man who's 'all hat and no cattle.'"
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“STRONG LIKE BULL; SMART LIKE TREE.

- Unknown

Today was a day I pretty much knew how it was going to go. When you resign yourself to a full Friday, it makes it easier when it happens. This is not a complaint since Fridays are supposed to be full days but when you have an inkling that it will be cut short, and then goes long, it really bites. But today was not of that caliber.

We went back out to TBS for one more sweep of anyone who we needed teach. Of course showing up unexpected on a Friday around lunchtime was not the greatest approach and we found more than a few empty offices. We finally found someone we needed to teach and I had an interesting conversation with one of the SPCs.

I didn’t know exactly how to frame the question but the gist of my curiosity was how long did it take to stop feeling sorry for the lieutenants, forget that you made the same dumb mistakes, and treat them like most SPCs treat them (without feeling like a hypocrite). This was not an indictment and I didn’t want them to feel that way. I simply wanted to know how long it took to get over the feeling that you did the same dumb crap they do but now have to be the responsible adult.

I got a chance to meet and talk to another Captain on this subject and when I asked how long it took, his answer came without hesitation. “The first time they do something incredibly stupid, the exact opposite way you just told them to do it seconds before.” He also said he’s been in situation where a lieutenant would say they wanted to be Marine Officers to lead Marines but then when they walk away, he heard them tell his buddies lieutenants that he didn’t care about this infantry crap and just wanted to fly. You can imagine how that went. Fart in church-like.

We continued to talk about it and it was evident that he cared about his responsibility. He did not get upset over honest mistakes, only the ones that were profoundly dumb. He says it didn’t take long and recognized that my question was that of honest curiosity. All of them go through it and have to don the cloak of responsibility when it comes to teaching leadership, despite the mistakes the SPC made himself just a few short years prior.

We had a branch meeting at 2:00 PM and I knew it would go to the end of the day. I’m going on a 10 day trip starting Monday so I knew this was necessary. Boring, but necessary. By the time I got out of there, I had a list of things to take care of and had to take the later train.

When I got home, I took my son to The Passion of Christ. My wife had already seen it, something I wanted her to do before we let the kids see it. After seeing it, she said that Alex should see it but not Stephanie. But not for reasons you might think. If there were ever any reason to expose kids to violence, this would be it. That wasn’t the problem. The reason she suggested that Steph not see it was because it was slow in some parts and she thought it would not carry Stephanie’s interest. On this point, Alex was marginal but we thought him old enough. The violence was never an issue.

So what did I think of it? Well, it was violent, that’s for sure. But so was the death of Jesus. I think it was important to show the degree at which He suffered and that was what this film did. I mean, in most pictures and statues, He has a trickle of blood coming down from the crown of thorns, drops coming off His hands and feet, and a wound in his side. If you go see this movie, you will see that there was a bit more to it than that. I think it told the story and was a stunning depiction of what happened.

Does it create anti-Semitism. You mean the ones that tortured the Son of God? Those guys? I can see where they would get all in a tizzy over this but I did not look upon the torturers as Jews. They were human men. They were mankind. They were us, not “them.” WE, as a human race, are to blame, not a select portion. Looking at it that way, the protestors need to just shut up and accept what they, but more importantly, WE did.

My view on taking my 12-year-old son is that it was a great way to show him the level at which Jesus suffered. As a 36-year-old man, even I had no real concept of what it was like until I saw this. My son has a head start now that I never had.

Free Advice for Today:
Kiss slowly.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“ANYONE WHO THINKS THAT THEY'RE INDISPENSABLE - ISN'T.

- Unknown

Part of my job this week was going into The Basic School and introducing our new computer system. Three things affected me about this. First, it was weird being at TBS as a Captain since I went through the course as a lieutenant/student. To be on “the other side,” I enjoyed NOT being in a lieutenant status and all that entails at TBS.

Second, I got to see the everyday world of different people. What we had to do was go in there and show them how to use our system but because our visits were ad hoc, we were constantly interrupted by their daily grind. We didn’t mind; we knew that we were impinging on their day and had to be patient. But it was strange to look at their world; the conflicts, the missions, the arguments, the chiding, the boredom, the frustration, the interaction of senior and junior, the relationships, and the humor. It made me realize that every shop is a Universe in itself with people and “grooves” of their own yet they had so much in common. Over and over I noticed these things and I felt privileged to be privy to these everyday interactions.

Third, change management. It was a daunting task to walk into a shop and announce yourself as the bearer of a new system. People are set in their ways and any introduction of a new system is instantly and universally looked upon as an extra rock in their pack. It was easier when I outranked them, I’m sad to say, but I took great effort to minimize that fact. I tried really hard to show them how this system would help them and how dedicated we were to make their like easier, not harder. Using personality, humor, logic, and example, we tried to show them how the system would work, and work to their advantage.

Now I’m not too thick to realize that some of the head nods were in deference to my rank and that all those I outranked did not “see the light” but instead were obeying orders. For those, I had to just depend on the system showing them what I already knew. If they were forced to use it, that’s unfortunate but maybe when they use it, they will come to the conclusion themselves. Hopefully.

When I got home, I also continued my latest Sarah obsession/project. I completed copying all of the lyrics, formatting them, linking them, and posting them. It was a hell of a project but it’s done. And what benefit do I get now that it’s done? Well, I’m not quite sure but it’s done. I know, I’m weird.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't drive on slick tires.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“THE ONLY THING MORE DANGEROUS THAN A SENTRY WITH A LOADED PISTOL IS TWO SENTRIES WITH LOADED PISTOLS WHO CAN SEE EACH OTHER.

- Unknown

Obsession coupled with being the King of Beginning Projects (Yet don’t finish them very often. Just in limbo).

That’s what happened tonight. I got home and was really tired but not too tired to continue on my Sarah Project. I got it in my head that I need to make a discography page and that bloomed into snatching every lyric from every song Sarah sang. This turned into a larger endeavor than I anticipated but they always do.

So I scoured around and ended up going to her sight and getting most of the lyrics there. Problem was, I had to cut and paste every song into Word and then take off the web formatting. Then there was and interesting problem involving her songs. On her site, she did not exactly follow capitalization rules and ended up NOT capitalizing most of her lines. So because I just can’t let that go, I had to go line by line and repair the oversight. It was a pain.

I finally finished for the night at 11:00 PM, in time to watch The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. I just can’t miss that, you know.

Free Advice for Today:
Choose the apartment on the top floor.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.

- Edward Langley, Artist (1928 - 1995)

Last night something spectacular happened and it has kept me busy for all of my free time since.

I don’t know how to even unveil this and convey the importance I place on it. Undoubtedly, the level of importance I place on this will equal the level of confusion you will have for my excitement.

I will just post what I started to write about it on part of my webpage I’m building (hence the taking up of my free time):

Not a day goes by that I don't listen to Sarah McLachlan sing whether on my computer, MP3 player, or in my truck.

I make no apologies. Despite a reputation as a "chick" artist, I proclaim from the mountain tops that I am an unapologetic fanatical worshiper of the music of one Sarah McLachlan. Yes, that makes me a weird animal, having a Y-chromosome and all but for years, Ms. McLachlan has topped, by a wide margin, my list of favorite artists.

On the pages I’m creating, I will attempt to express the reasons for what you might consider an odd preference as my favorite among a wide variety of my musical interests.

Why would I do this? I don't know, that's what nutty fans do I guess. But first, I must let this out before I explode....

I was driving home yesterday and it hit me that since Sarah came out with her new album, she might be touring. I made a mental note to check out her website when I got home. At about 10:00 last night, I opened her homepage and clicked onto her concert link. For a few years when I clicked this link, all I got is a disappointing statement that Sarah is not touring at this time. So you can imagine my heart-pumping shock when my screen filled with concerts.

You have to understand what this means to me. I'll admit that I'm a bit prone to celebrity awe but Sarah McLachlan is quantum leaps above my interest in other celebrities. Not to the dangerous level but enough to make her music a very real part of my life. The thought of seeing her in concert instantly shoots the event up to the rank of "Best Concert I've Ever Seen" and that's without even going yet.

With great excitement, I clicked around until it told me that I had to go to Ticketmaster. I don’t like Ticketmaster because I think they are a monopoly and their service sucks but they are the only game in town and I’d pay Satan himself for Sarah tickets.

When I got to Ticketmaster, I searched around for the nearest location and discovered that she was coming to Maryland which is about 90 minutes away. My heart was going nuts. I chose the “Best Seats Available” option without even giving a picosecond of thought about the cost and hit search.

My heart sank as Ticketmaster told me that the best seats available were way out in the lawn. Looking at the graphic, this was way behind all of the floor level seating and pretty much guaranteed Sarah would be a beautiful speck on the horizon. I thought this so unfair since I would be willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money for front row tickets. If ever there was a candidate for front row seats, I'm the One. Name your price, I’ll pay it.

I spent a few seconds sulking and wondering how life could be so cruel. I even reran the search. As expected, no miracle popped two front row seats up on the screen.

My next try: Ebay. I knew I would get fleeced but I didn’t care. A search for the tickets only tuned up a few for the California concerts. I seriously considered air fare! I told you, I’m put the fan in fanatical!!!!

I then started casting my net out wider. I looked all up and down the eastern seaboard and was getting pretty depressed that no one had any floor seats left. I tried to put it out of my mind that it was all the radio stations and promotional big-pants people who had sucked up all the prime seats. My wife was trying to console me by pointing out that I would want to be in the stadium even if I wasn’t close. It was better than not going at all. True but I had to get good tickets. Failure was not an option.

As a final effort, I checked New York, not really thinking that I would get close since NY is such a big venue. When I put in the “Best Seats Available,” it came back with this:

Seat location: section A1, row 20, seats 11-12.

My heart palpitated. Stopped. Flipped. Made a lunge to escape my rib cage.

I looked again to see if what I saw is what I saw. I couldn’t believe it and it was more amazing when I realized how close this was. I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. Don’t ask me why but I have been this stoked about anything for a very long time.

Next, let me explain why I have yet another reason to hate Ticketmaster. They show you these tickets and then they give you a two minute time limit to accept them before they kick you out. I was trying to figure out if Columbus NY was too far away, even though I had accepted that there was no such thing as “too far away” in this situation. I wanted an idea, though about how much travel this was going to cost me.

I must not have made the time limit because by the time I pulled my head out of my butt, Ticketmaster told me I took too long. I was a dozen flavors of pissed off as I hurriedly punched in the information again. If the tickets got snagged by someone else in this minuscule time frame, we’re talking Supernova!!!

To my amazement, this is what it came up with:

Seat location: section A1, row 19, seats 11-12.

Note that I had row 20 before!!!! Does there need to be a clearer sign than that?

The rest of the process was just as nerve-wracking. They only gave you 3 minutes to put in the personal information and 2 minutes for the payment portion. I was so nervous that I was getting pissed at the pressure applied. As the final kick in the pants, they wanted to know my 4-digit code to identify my credit card. It wasn’t where it said it should be and the only thing close was a 3 digit code. With no other choice I punched it in, convinced that it would reject the credit card and throw my tickets back into circulation where some exec would absentmindedly snag them on a whim.

I got a confirmation email that said I had them reserved but there was another email they send to confirm my credit card went through. I bit nails until it came through and if finally did.

I’m going to see Sarah McLachlan on August 11th, 2004.

Anyone who has prior knowledge of my feelings toward this artist would appreciate the profound meaning of that statement.

Grose got tickets to the McLachlan concert? Yeah, I know him and that means he can die now.

It’s about 5 ½ hours away and there is a lot of planning to take care of. I have a cousin in NYC but I don’t know if she has room for us. Do we drive? Do we take the Amtrak? (not after discovering it would be $400!!). Do we go up the 10th and stay two nights? Do we go up Friday and stay the weekend and a couple of days with my cousin? What about the kids? What about the dog? Can I bring a camera? Should I write down the songs she sings so I’ll remember the order? Will I be disappointed? Should I still go to the Maryland concert, too? Would that ruin the experience? Would my wife stand for it? Am I thinking about this too much? Is "yes" your final answer?

I was so excited and had to let it out somehow. So in classic form for me, I turned to my webpage and performed a flurry of work to start something I’m curious why I had never done it before. I started a "Sarah" page and laid out the design. It got pretty late so I had to cut myself off or I’d be up all night.

Today, I had a great day. Not even the condescending treatment of a certain someone could chink my armor today. I’m not even interested in outlining the day’s events because Sarah was the overriding news of the day (actually yesterday but it bled over to today).

This evening, I spent a few hours designing some more stuff for my Sarah pages just to siphon off my excitement. There is more work to be done but I’ll post what I have. I put all her discography on a page complete with thumbs of her album covers. I plan to create a page of lyrics for each songs and link them. What I discovered by doing this is that even though I’m a nutball fan, there is a lot of her work I don’t have. She is a lot more prolific than even I thought and I have a lot of collecting to do to call myself a big fan.

OK, gotta go.

Free Advice for Today:
Have good posture. Enter a room with purpose and confidence.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Monday, March 8, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“There is no distinctly native American criminal class save Congress.

- Mark Twain

At lunch today, I continued my training despite my legs feeling oddly like someone had cobbled me overnight. Coming down the stairs first thing this morning, I had to put one foot down, next foot on same step, and repeat this all the way down, wincing. Yeah, running trails is great.

Stretching before my run was an exercise in pain management. But as these things normally go, I had a great 5 mile run and as I got going, once the numbness hit, I felt rather good. But it was back to Planet Pain once I finished and cooled down.

This afternoon, I had a test for the class I’m taking. I left a bit early to stop by the store because on the advice of Sir Phil, I wanted to try a few recipes. Now before you start thinking I’m putting on a skirt and baking muffins, I mean I got an education of Jim Beam and thought that 36 was a good age to start discovering what all the fuss is about. I’ve always been a Coors Light in a longneck bottle type of guy and my sensitive metabolism added to my proclivity to dehydrate quickly kept me away from the hard stuff. Plus, I shall never become alcoholic for two reasons: I can’t handle the hangovers I believe to be worse than the average person and I get sick before I get ripping drunk.

So for the first time in my life, I went in to a store and bought a bottle of Jim Beam Black Label. As I understand it, the Black Label version is aged 8 years as opposed to 4 years for the regular stuff. Might as well go for the good stuff, seeing that the price difference was a whopping $3.

So I’ll start off with a shot of Beam and Coke. Then I saw one that called for a shot of Beam and 7-Up. This will be my speed at first, before I start getting fancy. So I’m well on my way to becoming a snob drunkard. I’ll stop when I start wearing a smoking jacket, thin mustache, greased back hair, and beckoning my wife by yelling “Oh, Belvedere…” (If you knew my wife, you'd know just how funny that joke really is.)

Either that or when I’m swinging around an empty bottle yelling obscenities, slurring through 80’s songs at the top of my lungs, and wearing a t-shirt stained with a variety of condiments. You know, either or.

And don’t think the irony of delving into the world of hard liquor and starting a crash marathon training schedule is lost on me. What did Forrest say about being a smart man?

The next thing on my shopping spree was running shoes to the tune of $105. The new Asics Kayano X are in and I had to get them. I was turned on to the Kayanos a few versions ago and have stuck with them, despite their groin-kicking price tag. I actually got my mom the buy 3 out the last 4 pairs but I couldn’t wait for a birthday this time. I’ve stated before that I find it irony of the highest order that this woman who insisted on buying us the Target special shoes with the plastic connecter when we were kids is always willing to spring for the high end running shoes as gifts these days.

I was never a believer of the high priced shoes until my mom bought me a pair one time and ever since then, it was an investment I (OK, mostly “she”) was willing to make. Whoever said running was a cheap sport never got serious about it. With wicking shirts, MP3 players, high-tech shorts, special socks, running hats, sports sunglasses, Camelbacks, energy gels, Advil, ibuprofen, physical therapy and the list goes on, I would tend to argue with anyone who says all you need are shorts, shirt, and shoes, thus low on the expense scale.

After all this was done, I went to take the 50 question test and was amazed at how difficult it was. I had missed the review because I was on a business trip and even the instructor stated that the test was unusually difficult. He started to explain that for the average guys like us, the technology details were too deep for the course and I had to interrupt him to point out that I had an IT master’s degree and that the reading even confused me (note that if he knew me, this would not be a shock, degree or no degree). I added that not only was the reading painful but it didn’t prepare me for the test.

Of course this was true but more to the point, I was hedging my performance on the test he was about to grade, much like complaining about a non-existent cramp or feeling of sickness before a required exercise event. I passed with a 90% so I was happy.

OK, that’s enough, I got a bourbon and coke to get to.

Free Advice for Today:
Know how to change a tire.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Sunday, March 7, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a healthy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.”

- Ronald Reagan

After committing to the marathon yesterday, I figured I should figure out the training schedule. Normally, I commit to a three-month buildup with the following schedule:

Date
(Mon)

Week
Mon
Tue
Wed
Thur
Fri
Sat
Sun
Total
6/23/2003
18
5
6
rest
5
rest
10
rest
26
6/30/2003
17
5
6
rest
5
rest
11
rest
27
7/7/2003
16
5
6
rest
5
rest
8
rest
24
7/14/2003
15
5
6
rest
5
rest
13
rest
29
7/21/2003
14
5
7
rest
5
rest
14
rest
31
7/28/2003
13
5
7
rest
5
rest
10
rest
27
8/4/2003
12
6
8
rest
6
rest
16
rest
36
8/11/2003
11
6
8
rest
6
rest
17
rest
37
8/18/2003
10
6
9
rest
6
rest
12
rest
33
8/25/2003
9
6
9
rest
6
rest
19
rest
40
9/1/2003
8
5
10
rest
5
rest
20
rest
40
9/8/2003
7
5
6
rest
5
rest
12
rest
28
9/15/2003
6
5
10
rest
5
rest
20
rest
40
9/22/2003
5
5
6
rest
5
rest
12
rest
28
9/29/2003
4
5
8
rest
5
rest
20
rest
38
10/6/2003
3
5
5
rest
5
rest
12
rest
27
10/13/2003
2
4
6
rest
4
rest
8
rest
22
10/20/2003
1
3
4
rest
rest
rest
rest
race
7

It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that I’m severely behind the power curve. In fact, I have less than two months left so I have to cut it down to the following schedule (RED = training I missed):

Date (Mon)
Week
Mon
Tue
Wed
Thur
Fri
Sat
Sun
Total
 
18
5
6
rest
5
rest
10
rest
26
 
17
5
6
rest
5
rest
11
rest
27
 
16
5
6
rest
5
rest
8
rest
24
 
15
5
6
rest
5
rest
13
rest
29
 
14
5
7
rest
5
rest
14
rest
31
 
13
5
7
rest
5
rest
10
rest
27
 
12
6
8
rest
6
rest
16
rest
36
 
11
6
8
rest
6
rest
17
rest
37
 
10
6
9
rest
6
rest
12
rest
33
9
6
9
rest
6
rest
19
rest
40
3/8/2004
8
5
10
rest
5
rest
20
rest
40
3/15/2004
7
5
6
rest
5
rest
12
rest
28
3/22/2004
6
5
10
rest
5
rest
20
rest
40
3/29/2004
5
5
6
rest
5
rest
12
rest
28
4/5/2004
4
5
8
rest
5
rest
20
rest
38
4/12/2004
3
5
5
rest
5
rest
12
rest
27
4/19/2004
2
4
6
rest
4
rest
8
rest
22
4/26/2004
1
3
4
rest
rest
rest
race
rest
7

It’s not fun jumping into a 20 mile week when all I’ve been doing is about 4 mile runs each day but I have to get in shape. I don’t want a repeat of the Marine Corps Marathon in 2003. So after doing some research on some local running paths, I found that “local” was about an hour away for any decent trails.

Last night I had spent over an hour getting ready for it and planned out my run. I had everything from toilet paper to MP3 player. I had my GPS, a bag of raisins, Carmex, spare batteries, a Camelback full of water, and two Gu packs. For the post-run suffering I had two Advil and two Motrin 800 mm horse pills.

So this morning, I woke up and drove the distance to find a place called Fountainhead Regional Park. It said it was closed but I saw some cars parked outside the gate. Likely other crazy runners doing the same thing I did: slipped the gate and found my way to the trailhead. I was, of course, a bit nervous of getting caught before I even started. I found a big sign that kind of outlined the trail and it said that it was 6.5 miles to Bull Run Marina. I decided that would be my turnaround point and hit the trail.

Two things bothered me from the start. First, the trail was just that: a leaf covered, twisting trail with roots, some sucking mud at places, and hilly. It was TBS all over again. I hate that kind of running because I’m constantly thinking about foot placement and can’t get a rhythm. But I wasn't about to waste that drive and I was on a compressed schedule to get into shape.

Second, since the park was officially closed, the bathrooms were locked. Let’s just say about a mile into the route, a few hundred feet off the trail, I contributed to the fertility of the woods. 'Nuff said.

I felt good at first, other than the foot placement thing. I was up fairly early, in the woods on a nice day, once again training for a marathon. Good music was in my ears and I was content to feel familiar stimuli. This lasted until about ¾ of the way to the turnaround point.

I wouldn’t say that it began to suck, although it was getting less blissful. I was going past my comfort zone, the self-imposed distance of about 4 miles but I knew I was shooting for the 13 mile mark so that made it a bit easier. The hills were making it tough to maintain the “run 9 minutes, walk 1 minute” routine but I did my best. The batteries in my GPS gave out around mile 5 but the path was well-marked with mile markers so I didn’t need the GPS.

By the end, the trail had taken its toll on my legs. My ankles really ached and my mud-caked shoes were causing a great deal of pain on my feet. But I made the distance and was glad that I did it but even more glad when I reached the end. Training day one, complete. Only hald a marathon but it was a start.

The drive home seemed longer than the drive there. I was worn out and called ahead to the angel that I call my wife. She offered to have tostadas ready when I got home and I took her up on the offer. After a quick shower to get the mud off of my legs, I gobbled my lunch in a race to get to a nap. I slept hard for a little over an hour and would have gone longer if my bladder and temperature wouldn’t have wanted otherwise. I think my internal thermometer was a little wacked since I was ice cold.

I’m glad I made the run and more glad that the weather has taken a turn toward spring. It was a long winter in the gym and on the treadmill. But tonight another storm raced it and now we have freezing rain.

What a day.

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

Saturday, March 6, 2004

SUPPLEMENTAL

I’m breaking BLOG protocol here because Saturday’s entry was getting long and I had to cut it off. So I will carry over a Blog-worthy event here from Saturday before I start on Sunday’s.

When Sir Phil returned to claim his spawn, I had him sit at my computers so we could make our logistics for the 2004 Wild Wild West Marathon.

Yes, I finally committed to it because Sir Phil had already sighed himself up and if I didn’t go, it would break the tradition I’ve maintained since 2000. Don’t believe me? Read this and then use the links at the bottom to read the rest of the years’ attempts.

Anyway, the first thing we did was to call Sir Bashman, one of the other Four Horsemen who started this crazy tradition 4 years ago. We were hoping the Bashman could participate since he missed last year and the only real excuse this year was for the final Horseman, Brentalingus, who is frolicking around in Iraq trying not to get dead. Like that’s an excuse.

So we called Bashman and he was a strong maybe. His job keeps him on a tight rein but seeing how we questioned his masculinity, we might have tipped the scales.

With that knowledge in hand, we booked our flights and made a hotel reservation for the night before the race. I also paid for my entry so we were pretty much set.

So let me make sure you understand this.

  • We live in Virginia.
  • We are taking vacation time and paying $240 to fly to Ontario, CA.
  • We are then renting a car and paying for a motel for the night, amount unknown.
  • In the morning, we are driving for a few hours to get to Lone Pine, CA
  • We are paying for another motel without a bathroom ($42, yee-haw Dow Villa!!!)
  • We wake up the next morning and for the $75 entry fee we paid, we will run 26.2 arduous miles through the Inyo Mountains. (This is the 7th hardest marathon in the US).
  • We will then shower and drive many hours back to Ontario, CA
  • We will pay for yet another hotel to collapse and cramp into the fetal position most of the night (in seperate beds, you sickos!)
  • The next morning, we will fly the width of the country and get back late into Baltimore
  • We will pay to get our vehicle out of the outrageously priced parking and drive another couple hours to get home.
  • We will then get up the next day for work.

Yeah, that about covers it.


Saturday, March 6, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Talk is cheap except when Congress does it.”

- Unknown

I was going to take Buster over to Sir Phil’s this morning for our not-so-consistent walk in the woods but we had a wind and rain storm. Sorry Buster. Good thing I didn’t tell him. He get's so hopeful and then so depressed.

But in the excitement of our plans last night, I left my bag over at Sir Phil’s and had to retrieve it before he left to do whatever it is that he does (likely to involve bourbon). When I got over there, I offered to kidnap his youngest daughter for the day, releasing him to go do his own thing. His wife and other daughter were at a 4H weekend and I thought my kids would like having another 11-year-old in the house. So with her and my forgotten bag in tow, we returned to my house.

OK, I’ve had enough of this email attack. And I’m not talking about all the infected files I’ve been getting for weeks. I think someone hijacked my email address somehow and is sending spam in my name. How do I know this? Because all week, I’ve been getting 100 returned emails a day. Most of them are from a mailer daemon or other automated failure notices. So that tells me that I’m only seeing the ones that got kicked back. So if you got something pilfering Viagra, sorry, it wasn’t me.

Speaking of Viagra (wow, now that’s a messed up lead in), I got kind of a scare today. It may be a hoax but one that definitely got my attention. Here is what the email said:

 

Administration of www.shadowcrew.com online store would like to thank you for your purchase of Viagra tablets. Couple of words about our products and services. Viagra is a prescription drug used to treat erection difficulties, such as erectile dysfunction, which also refers to as an impotence. At this condition men do not experience normal erection, necessary for the sexual act. VIAGRA works only in reply to sexual excitation and does not influence reproductive function in any way. Your tablets will be sent to the address specified by you within 24 hours. You should store VIAGRA at temperature below 30 degrees in original packing and out of reach of children. Do not take preparation after expiry date which is located on top of the package. We are the only official dealers that offer you tablets in original packaging. We guarantee to refund your money during 30 days.

If you never purchased this product please contact us at: 1.888.575.6398 To cancel this purchase please contact us at: 1.408-817-2800 To change the shipping address on the order: 1.877.999.8779 If you suffer any side effects please contact: 1.866.963.9696 For bulk purchases please contact: 1.703.547.2000

Thank you for choosing www.shadowcrew.com
We are the first - the best.


What? Go ahead and make your jokes but I never ordered it! (Sure you didn’t. Ye doth protest too much.). No really.

The first thing I did was to call the 1-888 number, knowing it was toll-free. All I got was a communications company’s menu-purgatory. I was smart enough not to call any of the long distance numbers. I also clicked on the website but it took a real long time to load so thinking it was harvesting something on my computer, I stopped that most ricki-tic. I wouldn't suggest you click it either.

Next, I checked my credit card online. No charge. Looking over the email, I notice there is no invoice number so that’s a good thing. Normally they would provide it on something like this. Plus, how many legit companies give that little disclaimer at the bottom?

To be on the safe side, I’ll watch my bills and hope nothing comes of it. Anyway, I wouldn’t be responsible to pay for it, right? RIGHT?! God, I hate these %$^#$ scammers/spammers. I have neither the time nor the patience (mighty Jack Nicholsonish, don’t you think?) for these idiots who could suck away part of my sanity and free time.

Free Advice for Today:
Send your loved one flowers. Think of a reason later.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Friday, March 5, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”

- Mark Twain (1866)

Today was going to be a short day because we were having an office party starting at about noon. Unfortunately, it was held at Hooter’s and my desire to go to Hooter’s was pretty nonexistent.

Why, do you ask? Am I not a red-blooded American male? Well, I am but an establishment that banks on the allure of big breasts and tight shorts is just a bit distasteful to me. If I see a beautiful woman in public, fine, females are beautiful creations. But when I’m put in a situation where the main event is the physical beauty, I don’t feel comfortable gawking, or expecting to gawk, or pretending not to gawk, or…. see, the whole thing just throws me off. Plus, why would one purposely put himself in a situation where he could even be slightly aroused, knowing nothing good can come of it. If you act on it, you dishonor yourself and your family. If you don’t act on it, why would you want to exercise your resistance? Is that fun? Not for me so I stay away.

My wife was happy with my decision, too.

Looking forward to an early day, I finished up things at work and called Sir Phil. He invited me to a picnic and offered me a ride home. Well, I guess I wasn’t going home early but I didn’t mind. I was invited to a good old wholesome BBQ on the shores of the Potomac.

After helping him pick up stuff at the store, we came back and got things set up. It was a nice, warm day along the shores of the river and added to the fact that it was Friday, my sense of contentment was palpable. I was just glad to be among friends and relaxing in the sun.

Even the ride home was not as bad as a Friday afternoon on I95 normally is. Sir Phil dropped me off at Truckasaurus and I followed him home. He needed some help moving some stuff and I needed to give him a ride to his other vehicle. His wife had taken their eldest daughter on a 4H weekend and he didn’t want to keep the car at the school all weekend.

Before I left, we got into a conversation and hatched a plan for a road trip. I had never actually been on a real road trip. I mean the one where you don’t shave, bathe, or have much of a contingency plan if something goes wrong. To make it more adventurous, Sir Phil has an old convertible Spitfire (real old but I’m not a car-guy so forgive me). He’s had this old thing for years and keeps tinkering with it, hoping for the day when some dope will bring up the idea of a road trip. I guess I'm that dope.

The more we thought about it, the better it sounded. To hop in a car that you are not really sure willl make it out of the state and drive with the top down across the US just to see what we find could be a lot of fun. Plus, think of the digital pictures and BLOG entries!! (I know, I'm a real wild one with my digital camera and laptop).

I know that two old guys (one mid-30’s, one mid 40’s), each sporting master’s degrees, two kids, and short hair in an old POS does not exactly spell out rebel yell but let us have our fun. I'll keep you informed.

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

Thursday, March 4, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“MAY THOSE THAT LOVE US, LOVE US AND THOSE THAT DON'T, MAY GOD TURN THEIR HEARTS. AND IF HE DOES NOT TURN THEIR HEARTS, MAY HE TURN THEIR ANKLES, SO THAT WE MAY KNOW THEM BY THEIR LIMPIN'.”

- AN IRISH PRAYER

Here is something from the Justice Files.

Back when the US were preparing to bomb Iraq, some peaceniks decided they should travel to Iraq and have the Iraqi people place them at certain sites so that the US would not drop bombs.

Common sense aside, I’ll refrain from pontificating about this obvious traitorous act.

So these people spend all this money to travel all the way to Iraq and hand themselves over. Where do the Iraqis put them? Near schools and the civilian populace like they had intended? No, they put these idiots near military targets. Showing that neither side was as stupid as you would suspect, the peaceniks packed up and high-tailed it out of there.

That they expected the Iraqis to use them in any other way is deeply humorous to me. That they scampered away is icing on the cake.

If it was just that, I’d mark it as a great example of justice. But there’s more.

I just found out that since the US mandated that all US citizens leave Baghdad before we attacked, these human shields were subsequently fined to the tune of $10,000 for their actions.

I laughed for many minutes when I found this out.

Free Advice for Today:
Keep good company.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight; nothing that he cares more about than his own personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free; unless kept so by the exertions of men better than himself.

- John Stuart Mill

I had been wading through Carl Sagan’s Broca’s Brain for a few weeks now. I wanted to finish it up today so I took the unprecedented move of taking it with me on the train this morning in order to knock out the last chapter. This I did but I was a bit stressed because it was going to be close to my stop and I was racing for the final page. I know this is a stupid, self-imposed stress but I didn’t want to be left with one more paragraph when I had to get off the train. I got through it but the result was a rushed ending to a rather boring book. Here was my review:

 

This was not as good as I hoped. It's a collection of essays covering many subjects from space to God to magic. Carl Sagan is famous for conveying complicated subjects in terms that the average Jason can understand. This early work must have been before he perfected that talent because I found that following his logic was a bit rigorous. I don't claim to be a genius but he throws around some concepts that didn't matter how many times I read it, it wasn't getting through. He spent way too much time disproving the work of some wacko who thought that Biblical events were caused by cosmic near misses. Too many pages, Dr. Sagan, if I may respectfully point out. On a personal note, there were points that made you think about the Universe and our place in it. Also, I couldn't stop thinking that I'm reading his deep thoughts and now he's dead.

That about covers that.

I actually got done as the train was slowing to my stop and I just had time to put the book away, put on my backopack, and sit back down. As I stood back up to disembark, the corner of the seat hit the tape recorder and started to play. I thought, great, just what I wanted. But as I fumbled forward, my hand hit another button and it was about 4 seconds before I realized I might have hit the fast forward or reverse button. Pulling it out of my jacket, I saw that I had indeed hit the fast forward.

Let me point out for the sake of this story making sense, that despite my Borgish ownership of just about every high tech gadget one person should possess, the tape recorder I use is a portion of fecal matter. I don’t know why, maybe because the technology is so outdated that I never invested in a decent player. But whatever the reson, it's an annoyingly antiquated tape player.

Ok, now that you know that, you may understand my stress. The tape recorder, being the electronic equivalent of the Edsel, has troubles actually moving the tape forwards or backwards consistently. What’s worse is that this ability, or should I say inability, is intermittent. And we all know how I feel about intermittency, especially with electronic devices.

I figured that since I fast forwarded for 4 seconds, I should just reverse it for that long. Sounds reasonable, huh? Well tell that to Mr. Junk Box!

I tried and hit play but it didn’t seem to move the tape. I did it again. No joy. Then I did it for a long time and I got a different, hereunto never before heard portion which meant I had no idea where I was at. So I reversed it for a long time but even though it was somewhere different, I didn’t recognize it so obviously not far enough. A few more rounds of this and I had no idea where I was at. How did I go from a simple 4 second movement to having no clue where I was at? At one point I even took out the tape to see if I could turn it over and fast forward, thus actually reversing the other side. I suspected it was not even moving the tape at certain points.

Well, then I drop the tape on the ground and put it back exactly opposite of what I thought. So the little fast forward and reverse game, even if functioning correctly, would never get me to a point in the tape where I recognized it (I had not listened to that side yet). This made things worse because I was zipping all over the place on the tape.

Again, how the situation deteriorated to this was unfathomable to me.

What’s worse is that I was wasting my valuable listening time. I only had from the train station to work, less than a ten minute walk and I wanted to get in some listening this morning (remember, I had used the train ride to finish reading my book).

So by the time I got to work, I had not found the spot, I was pissed, and convinced that the tape was not even moving. I got some scissors an tried to turn the spools manually but even that didn’t work. Finally, I rigged it so I could put in the tape without shutting the lid and watched it jerkingly turn the spools. Bastard piece of #$%#$.

I finally got to a place I knew I had been before and had to swallow the fact that all I did was cue it up for the ride home. When I looked up, one of my coworkers was staring at me.

 

“Dude, don’t ask. Just read the BLOG tonight.”

Free Advice for Today:
To fight the blues, try exercising.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.

- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

So I’m heading for the train this afternoon and I’m a few minutes early when I hear the warning bells. By the time I get to the tracks, which I have to cross, the road arms are down and I can see the train coming. The train is never early and most of the time late so I can’t figure out why this is happening. I have to rush to get my ticket punched and turn about to get on the train. I ask someone if this was the 4:39 and he tells me it’s the Amtrak that is 20 minutes late. I realize this is the direct train that makes no stops until Fredericksburg, where I debark.

What? Did this really happen? A stroke of luck and fortuitous timing that turned in my favor? It was so, unexpected. To what did I owe this stroke of luck that put me home about 45 minutes earlier than usual?

I just had to ask.

I tried to downplay the payback luck. There always has to be a payback. This time it was in the form of ending up with nothing to listen to or to read on the way home for the first time since I moved here.

Normally, I’m overburdened with input such as books on tape, books, magazines, or CDs. But through a strange combination of events, I finished tape one of The Time Machine and reaching into my bag, I discovered I had forgotten to stock up on the rest of the tapes like I normally do. I guess I was out of practice since the end of last week was spent traveling. I also made sure I grabbed a magazine (one of the many that pile up, much to my wife’s dismay) this morning but in a rush to make the 7:00 AM train, I left it in Truckasaurus after ignoring that little voice in my head to put it in my bag when I grabbed it off the pile. So no tapes, no magazine, and checking my bag for a printout of a manuscript I’ve been meaning to get to, I scored yet another miss. All that was left was listening to the snoring Amtraker next to me.

When I got home and after dinner, I got into yet another vendetta that consumed my evening. I wanted to fix a form function on my webpage where users can submit feedback to my email using a form. It used to work and just had not transferred it when I redesigned the page so it was a dead link on my homepage.

Pulling it over, I noticed that when people submit the form, it just sits there. Sure, it sends me the info but there's nothing to indicate to the user that anything really happened. So I thought it would be prudent to design it so that it would submit it and then send the user back to my homepage. Sounds simple, huh? And I thought that an industrial strength program like Dreamweaver MX would make the process easy. Do I have to tell you what direction this all went?

It was not readily obvious, despite my search all over the functions of Dreamweaver. I tried and tried. I could get it to submit or I could get it to jump to another page. But to have both seemed like I needed a signed note from God. What I did discover is that in one of the Internet Explorer updates, they put in a little pop up that makes you wait a few seconds before acknowledging that you are sending form contents via email. This programmed timed delay really chapped my hide.

Tangent: speaking of chapped, I broke a golden rule today in that I either removed or did not have access to any of my pre-stationed Carmex stashes from their mandated positions (one at home on the dresser, one in my bag, one at work, one in my running pack, one in Truckasaurus, and one in my wife’s purse) and failed to return them, resulting in a cataclysmic Carmex emergency. If you know what that is, no explanation necessary. If you don’t, I can’t explain it to you. Suffice it to say I died a thousand deaths riding home today, lips like cured sand packed in salt.)

OK, back to my story. I turned to Google and visited dozens of sites that kept telling me how to submit a form but none of them would tell me how to jump the page to a desired follow-on page. After a few hours of doing this and ignoring my family, I threw in the towel and swallowed the bitter taste of my failure coupled with wasted free time, and sent an email to the smartest Dreamweaver guy I know. I hadn’t emailed him for months and now when I did, I basically just called for help. I wouldn’t blame him for not ever answering but I felt better sending the message in a bottle, even if that bottle was basically thrown in a bucket.

I was about to un-ass my chair when I suddenly took another shot at it. I just had to get an extra serving of disaapointment. I was getting nowhere, again, when I finally came across a question and answer posting that asked my EXACT question. I was dumbfounded.

Seems you need to use Javascript, of which I can’t decide if I know more Jack or his fecal matter about. I cut and pasted the example into my form and then fiddled (yes, that is a computer term and if it isn’t, it should be). For some reason it had parts of it commented out and considering I don’t know the language, it made it that much harder to fiddle.

When I thought I had it, I ran a test and sure enough, it sent an email and subsequently sent me to my homepage. Wow, is this what success tastes like?

You would think I wold be content but you know I couldn’t leave it at that.

When I looked at the email, the body was blank but had an attachment with the extension “.ATT.” I logically followed with the obvious question “WHAT THE HELL?!?” What’s worse is that I got the “I have no idea what this format is” icon which meant my computer had clue none about what program to open it with. I told it, hey, try notepad. When it opened, the info was there but it was all smashed together and where spaces should have been, there was plus signs.

So you can call it sort of a success because it was readable, I’d know how to open it, and the user would only see a push of a button and a wisking away to my homepage (although I'm stuck with a "Go" button instead of "Submit" now). I don’t know how to score that but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth by the time I was done. When I thought about it, maybe it was because no matter how long I stared at the Javascript code, I could not figure out exactly why it worked. There is no reason I should know the syntax (despite my breadth of programming classes) and it would be a matter of just learning it (it’s not all that intuitive so would require exposure rather than just raw logic).

On one hand, I had a problem and stuck with it until I solved it. I got to the answer and it worked. On the other hand, I blew most of the night, didn’t understand the code that I used, and the answer was less than elegant And y ou want to know the funny thing? I don't really care much for the actual form and hardly anyone ever uses it. Did that lessen my thirst to conquer it? Yeah, right.

However that pays out, Scrubs tipped the scales a bit further on the happy side. I love Scrubs, it makes me laugh out loud, even if I'm thinking about code at the time.

And that, my friends, is another glimpse into the world I live in. Now hurry and pop back out before you do any permanent damage.

Free Advice for Today:
Become someone's hero.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Monday, March 1, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.

- Mark Twain

I figured that since I had such a harrowing experience with the logistics of my last business trip, I would get ahead of the game for the next one. That will teach that nasty trip goul!!! So there! I know, lame.

So the first thing I did when I got to work was to fill out the travel claim paperwork. I had actually started it before I left and wanted to get it in as soon as I could. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no place to claim mental anguish and psychological damage. Calling Delta the illegitimate child of Satan probably wouldn’t help things, either. So I just questioned the lineage of all who had wronged me and moved on.

My next goal was to make the calls for my trip in two weeks. I got a room at the same great inn but they only had rooms for the first week. I was on my own for the second week but found the temporary lodging facility. I know, sounds real inviting, huh? It’s twice as expensive and half as nice, so I’ve heard but for $50, I can live with it. And like the commercial points out “It’s not like I’m actually paying for it…

I called up the travel agency with the sole purpose of getting ANY airline except Delta, the latest headliner on my fecal list. Well, not only do they contract through Delta, meaning I had no choice in the matter (a recurring theme with Delta and me), but they also have no direct flights to Savannah. This means, you guessed it, I would be taking the EXACT SAME FLIGHT as my fiasco last week. Lovely. My laptop will receive those BLOG entries with pounding strokes to the poor keyboard.

So I got my hotel and my flight. The last thing was a first: I get a rental car. I’m 35 and have never actually rented a car before. The need never arose and now that I rate one for the trip, I feel like a kid impersonating a grown up. I mean, they are actually going to trust me with a rented compact car? Are they nuts? Do they know what goes on inside my head??? Obviously not because in two weeks, Alamo is handing over the keys. Dolts!

The rest of the day was spent doing my favorite activity: a meeting! This one was a video teleconference (VTC) so it had the added benefit of showing me how good my “I’m not bored, I’m really interested” look is, in vivid color. I realize that no matter how hard I try, even if I’m interested, I appear to be profoundly bored. I even tried different expressions but they all came out the same: Morris the Cat.

After the meeting-a-thon, I had class tonight. It’s a two hour class once a week I take and I had no time as of late to catch up with the reading. So there I was, skimming over the material like a champ right before class and trying to get my teeth into some golden nuggets. I’ll catch up with the reading but for this period of instruction, I had to make due with skimming. Fortunately, I already knew a fair amount about the subject so I came out unscathed.

Two out-of-the-ordinary things happened tonight. First and saddest, I found out that an uncle of mine (mother’s sister’s husband) has two tumors in his brain and has been given 18 months to 2 years to live. Harsh. They live about an hour away and we will visit them this weekend.

The other was on a higher note. Last summer I visited my father who now lives in Kansas and he gave me his photo albums so I could scan pictures of my childhood and put them on my webpage. I just started the project a couple of weekends ago and came across three pictures of a family who I had not thought about in years. My father and his friend had worked together at Federal Express in the 70s, were good friends, and spent a lot of time together. My older brother and I visited our Dad in Seattle during the summer and we often did things with this family who consisted of Jim, Pat, and their newborn, Sean.

Two of the pics have all three of them and one was of just Sean as a newborn. I noticed his name and date of birth was on the baby pic and it occurred to me that he would be in his 20s now. A quick Google search of his uncommon name brought up some references to him at UW with an email address. I wrote him the following cryptic email:

 

Is your Dad Jim and your mother Pat?

In this age of junk email and spam, I thought this was enough information to make him curious yet accurate enough to elicit and answer. Here is what he wrote back:

 

Hi Jason,

Yes, my Dad is Jim and my Mother is Pat. How do you know my parents? Nice to meet you? Where are you from?

Sean

I then spilled my guts and he responded by sending me a current picture of him and his two younger brothers (very surreal since I had never seen him except as a baby). It seems He passed on my email address to his parents. They have not heard or seen me since I was 10. I’ve changed a bit, at least physically.

Free Advice for Today:
Fill out expense reports the day you return from your trip.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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