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Jason Grose's BLOG

April 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.


Friday, April 30, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know "why" I look this way. I've traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved.

- Unknown

After unsuccessfully finding an IHOP after walking for 45 minutes down the road, we returned to settle on Denny’s for a glutinous display of breakfast eating in the form of the Lumberjack. I figured I could gorge seeing how my body needed energy for tomorrow’s festivities. Well, it worked for an excuse, anyway.

Sufficiently stuffed to the gills, we headed out and zipped through the desert in our convertible Mustang. Yes, we had a convertible and yes, we were in the California desert but being a cool guy with the top down requires you to be a bit chilly. And we’re not that cool anyway so we waited until we were about 40 miles from Lone Pine before we dropped the hood.

It was good to visit the desert again and I found myself just staring out into the open expanses for 3 hours, just soaking up the beauty. There’s something primal, raw, and gorgeous about the spring desert and after spending 5 years in California, I realized that I missed the place. Virginia is not the same and it became evident to me that I am a West Coast kind of guy, specifically the desert. Will I ever live there again? Likely not. I believe I’m Washington-bound and will reserve the desert as a nice place to visit.

If you know me, you know I am a sentimental creature of habit and tradition so we had to stop at the Taco Hell 40 miles from our destination. Last year, we stopped there and were waited on by two enormously fat teenage boys who bickered like an old married couple. Part of me wanted to see them again, reinforcing my affinity for cyclic experiences but this was not to be. Sir Phil and I both agreed they must now be doing research at MIT.

As for me, I had had enough Mexican food (strange, I know) so passed on the opportunity to get yet another burrito. I figured I was pushing my luck in the first place by downing the mucho macho burrito last night. I’ve concluded that some tradition are really stupid. That was one of them.

Rolling into Lone Pine was a comforting familiar event. This was the fifth year I had done so and since very little changes in this desert/mountain town, it once again brought me back to fond memories. It was early in the morning (we are still on East Coast time so everything was done early on this trip) and since we couldn’t check in until the afternoon, we blew through town and decided to do the start line recon like every other year. Why we do this is again, a force of habit and seemingly unnecessary after so many years but that proved to be false when we took a wrong turn and ended up on a parallel road to the start line. Ironically, this was the same road last year that I ran up when trying to crack 6 hours and barely made it across to the correct road on time. This time was less urgent but valuable so that we would not repeat the mistake tomorrow morning when it would be dark and we would be groggy.

After taking a few pictures, we headed back to town and decided to take a stab at checking in early. We were in luck because they had already cleaned the room and they let us check in.

This year’s accommodations were the worst yet. The corner room we got was nothing more than a small square room with two beds, a sink, and a TV. The Jack and Jill bathroom that the room had once shared with the connected room was no longer accessible to this room. The other room was the room we had last year and we were unaware that the other room did not have access. I guess wedging my foot on the adjoining door last year was unnecessary. Who knew?

The first order of business when we got in the room was easy. Drop all our crap, shut the drapes, and indulge in a late morning nap. At least that’s what I tried to do but since the TV was on and I glimpsed my favorite Star Trek episode (they’re on the planet where what they think becomes real. I love Finnegan, the bastard!) and I had to fight my fatigue to watch. Finally, I got a nap in but it was short-lived due to loud people checking in next door. Using our room! Pawing over OUR bathroom!!! OK, I was a bit bitter.

After wasting time in the room, it was time to explore the one-horse town, minus one horse. We hit all the happ’nin’ spots: the video store, the knickknack store, the grocery store, and a new entry this year, Jake’s Saloon. And since you can’t go into a saloon (with saloon doors none the less) and not have a beer, that’s just what we did. I introduced Sir Phil to the game of, well, I don’t know the name but it’s the one where you slide metal pucks across a long, sandy table and try to get as close the edge as you can. I went on to beat his ass but I won’t gloat. But the ass was beat and beat decisively. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find ass that had been beat to the degree that I inflicted on Sir Phil. The beaten ass was legendary. They’ll be talking abut it for years at Jake’s Saloon.

That’s where that Sir Phil received an ass beating, the likes of which have never before been witnessed in these parts. It was beautiful in its horrid viciousness.

Milling around town for awhile, we visited a gem shop and I got the kids a bag of polished rocks. I know this doesn’t sound like much of a gift but they will be thrilled. The rocks are of different size, shapes, and colors but all are polished. With all of the traveling, it’s getting hard to come up with unique gifts. For my wife, I got here something I thought was very unique and look forward to seeing it in our house. It’s a large sphere of Labradorite about the size of a cue ball. What, you don’t know what Labradorite is? Where’ve you been?

OK, I had no idea either but it’s a shimmering dark green stone found in Madagascar. This cue ball cost me about $70 but it was so beautiful (and I was running out of options) that I decided to splurge on it. Wow, that sounded real bad but you know what I mean. Keep in clean, people.

Gifts for the family: check.
Knick knack ogling: check
Grocery store: check
Weird guy at the movie rental place: check

The only thing left was to get our marathon bags at the local grade school cafeteria. We must have hit a lull in the action because when we arrived, we practically had the place to ourselves. I almost got sucked into buying a shirt from the 2000 race because the one I have has seen better days but I decided to save the $5. I will likely regret this.

This year, the race organizers decided it would be prudent to charge the participants for the pre and post race food as part of the entry fee, jacking up the price a bit. They did this without checking with us and unwittingly interfered with a most sacred tradition.

Because we had “bought” the meal, it was difficult to pass up the spaghetti dinner they had to offer. I assume they did this because of the likely low sales during former years. So we indulged in the spaghetti and salad they had to offer and before I knew it, I had stuffed myself which destroyed any possibility of eating at The Pizza Factory. The chain was broken. The tradition destroyed. This year, they’ll still toss ‘em and they may in fact be awesome, but the two of the Four Horsemen in attendance this year would not be privy to the fact.

Picking up the bags afforded us another of many views of the one we dubbed “Wonder Woman.” Sir Phil had spied her in town while we where wandering hither and to and she was not hard to spot. I will admit that she was not too difficult to look at but because we are basically adolescent children, she became something of a running joke (excuse the pun). Now before you write me off as a letch, I will inform you that there is a reason I will reveal later of why she was memorable.

Wonder Woman stood out because she was one of those people whose appearance was somewhat of a contradiction. Again, I will admit she was a beautiful woman but the contradiction occurred between her face and the rest of her. She was obviously an athlete and had the slim, toned body of a young woman in phenomenal shape. No one can fault us for noticing this, although I will probably receive at least some blame from my bride. Believe me, dear, I could find no one else that puts up with the likes of me so there’s no danger here. But I digress.

Wonder Woman’s contradiction occurred because although she had a body worthy of our new nickname for her, she was older than her body would have you assume. She was not ugly, mind you, and in fact quite pretty but the signs of Father Time had appeared in the form of a more mature-looking face. She looked like an attractive woman in her mid 40s.

More on her later.

The rest of the night was spent in the hotel room drinking water and Gatorade while watching Gladiator ("Strength and Honor"). I really didn’t intend on sitting through the entire thing since it was a tradition thing more than an interest in the movie thing. I always liked Braveheart much better but Gladiator was the tradition so that’s what we had to watch.

So you see that it was surprising to me that I really got into the movie. I enjoyed it much more this second time than the first and I ended up sitting though the entire thing again.

With heroic themes dancing in my head, I turned over for a hopefully good night’s sleep. It was only 9:00 PM but to us it was midnight and we had to get up at 0400. I hate to compare running to combat but it really felt like the eve before a battle. The excitement mixed with fear was palpable. That’s one of the reasons I love it.

Free Advice for Today:
Avoid negative people."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.

- Unknown

And it begins.

My fifth trip to Lone Pine started today and by far, it’s the wildest premise yet. Taking a page from Sir Phil, my plan is to fly from across the country, drive for hours, and then run 26.2 miles through the desert in order to make the return trip. Total cost, about $500.

I woke up to finish packing since I waited so late last night to even start. I was a little wary that I had forgotten something so I printed out my Access travel query (geek, I know) to make sure I had everything I would need. I really didn’t want to put this process off because I have the Parris Island trip right when I get back and will be extremely sore and tired.

After packing, checking, and checking some more, I felt like I was ready and actually had about a half hour before Sir Phil was due. I spent a little time with the kids and wife, aware that I’ve been too busy the last few days to spend the time with them that they deserved. Looking back, I really couldn’t say how I would have done things different to make more time but I felt a little bad just the same.

When Sir Phil showed, we loaded his car and headed to BWI. It was a long trip to start off our even longer trip so we left at 0830 to make a 1215 flight. The drive through DC was scary but uneventful. There are many places along our route that I would be mighty frightened to break down in. Even stopping at a McNasty’s to relieve ourselves was an exercise in risk management. I was, um, nervous.

The first leg of our trip took us from Baltimore to Dallas. I was lucky enough to get a window seat with no one next to me and I started to think that American Airlines was the way to go. We even left on time so I knew that Delta was a sad imposter of an airline compared to American.

I plugged in my headphones to my CD player and pushed play. Nothing. I looked in the battery compartment and found out that the thing would work much better if I put batteries in it. I had put my bag in the overhead and didn’t want to go through the trouble of getting it down so I figured music was out of the question. Then it hit me, take the batteries out of the tape player I brought (to finish up “Angela’s Ashes”) and use them for the CD player.

I transferred the batteries, plugged the headphones in, and pushed play.

Nothing.

I flipped open the CD compartment and found that the Sarah McLachlan CD I THOUGHT was in there was in fact, I have no idea. But I did know it wasn’t in the CD player and the CDs I brought with me were in the bag. Crap, no music and my patience was quickly coming to an end so I resigned myself to listen to my book on tape.

About half way through the flight, I got up to stretch my legs and took advantage of the fact to grab the batteries and CDs out of my bag. Well, the batteries ended up being in my other carry on luggage which I was unwilling to dig into. So I grabbed my CDs and decided I could deal with the swaparoo until we had our layover.

We got to Dallas (deep in the heart of Texas, clap, clap, clap) and were exposed to the full gaudiness of the Dallas airport that obviously is trying to perpetuate every stereotype that’s ever existed about Texas. It was both horrid and hilarious.

The second leg of the trip was not as fun. Although it left early (take note, Delta) and I got to see the movie “Paycheck” (which was pretty good, I’ll have to admit if you look over the glaring inconsistencies and suspend everything you understand about reality for two hours), there was an event that ruined the entire plane ride.

We came very close to crashing into another airplane.

I was sitting there with about ½ hour left of the flight, reading my book, when all of the sudden, with no warning, the plane tipped to the right and dropped like a rock. At least that’s how it felt to me as I inexplicably ducked (like that would help) as I grabbed onto my seat. There had been some turbulence along the way so I was a little on edge (even though it coincided with an action scenes in the movie) but this was totally unexpected.

Nothing was said about this episode and I was pissed. When we got to the gate, the captain calmly explained that we had to make a small evasive maneuver to avoid another plane in the area. That’s the excuse? And they think this is OK?

While I was exiting the plane, I fully intended to give the captain the hairiest of hairy eyeballs but he was busy explaining to someone else who was obviously as upset as I was. The only thing I overheard is that we were rather close and that’s why we felt a sudden thrust. Thrust? I felt a drop.

Whatever happened, it scared the bejesus out of me and made me lose a bit of my dignity (the ducking maneuver).

Our next mission was to get a rental car and since neither one of us had made a reservation, we were out of luck in Ontario because the NASCAR was in town. And you know how I feel about NASCAR.

It seems they sucked up all of the compact cars and here is where it really gets unsat. We went down the line of car rental places and all of them were out of compacts. When we found the one that actually had one left, the guy actually admitted that the price was jacked up due to so few of them being available.

We had to go with a convertible mustang (I know, not much of a sacrifice) and we got it at the “full size” rate. I thought that was nice but it was still $49 per day instead of the normal $29 for the compact. But we got a real cool guy car and we could ride with the top down. That is, if it wasn’t cold. Because even cool guys get cold and unless it’s in the 90s, that puppy’s staying buttoned up, thank you.

We got some of the driving out of the way and finally got into a Best Western. Not the best decision, price-wise, but it was a fitting end to a long day of traveling. Sir Phil got it in his head that we needed the mucho macho burritos from Del Taco because we had it in 2000. In the airport, we had Taco Bell (yes, there is a Taco Hell in the Dallas airport) so my Mexican food quota was full for the day. My gut hurt and then I stupidly filled it full of a monstrous burrito. I am not a smart man.

After this glutinous display we decided to walk to the store and get some water, fruit, and Vaseline (no snide remarks, it’s a legitimate shopping list for runners on the eve eve of a marathon). As we were waiting forever for Sir Phil to get through the line, the guy in front of him was the 25th customer and got to spin the giveaway wheel. It was obvious this guy had no interest at all for this but spun the wheel. His big reward: a box of granola bars that he immediately handed to the transient that happened to walk in at the moment.

Surreal.

We finally got back to the room and after watching Kingdom Hospital (really, really weird) I had no trouble falling right to sleep. Tomorrow, we travel, make our triumphant return to Lone Pine, and get ready for the big race.

Free Advice for Today:
Keep a pad and pencil by every phone."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.

- Unknown

Today was another day of my father-in-law showing me how much of a failure I am at home improvement. He didn’t do this purposely or with malice, but just by his example, I got to see how little I really knew about handy work. But give me a computer….

I just couldn’t keep up with him and tired of just standing there handing him tools. I had so much to do and felt guilty about letting him alone to work on MY house. But things had to get done.

I worked a bit on my real estate agent’s website and got things ready for my trips. I checked in with Lyle every once in awhile and tried to help where I could. Three straight days of doing this stuff and I was starting to look forward to taking the trip, if only for the rest of a marathon!!! Lyle’s abilities and endurance was incredible. He just didn’t seem to get tired or bored. Come to think of it, we have a lot of things in common but him with handy work and me with computers. OK, I’ll go with that just to make myself feel better. If we were really on parallel levels, I’d be programming an OS that makes Windows look like DOS.

Despite a full day working at various tasks, I still managed to find myself starting the packing process at 11:30 at night. How I waited this long is still unknown but not unexpected. Somehow, I knew it would come to this: tired, irritable, and hurriedly trying to get everything together for an event a year in the making. The only saving grace is that Sir Phil is not showing up until 0830. Maybe I’ll get a decent amount of rest (but I doubt it).

Free Advice for Today:
Fill out customer comment cards."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut.

- Will Rogers

How many times have I heard the snide remark “I’m not an Officer, I work for a living”? Well, today I guess I wasn’t living up to my officer status because I worked my butt off.

In the continuing adventures of my in-laws visit, my wife’s uber-list reared its ugly head yet once again. I decided that I should drive my kids to school since I had been ignoring them lately and we had such a physical day yesterday. They needed the extra rest and I got a few minutes with them on the way to school, interrupted only by Buster’s stupid head that was in the way because he just HAD to join us.

So many things happened today that it might be difficult to recall them all, especially since for the second time in as many nights, I’m so tired that my central nervous system might give out any minut…………………….

OK, I’m back.

The first thing we tackled was laying cement in the drainage setup that we accomplished in front of my garage. Well, I mixed it and help shovel it into the cracks but none of this would have been possible (nor attempted) if I didn’t have a certified expert in the form of my father-in-law. My trust in him is implicit because I know that he always knows what he’s doing and even if he misjudges on something (rare), he could fix it ten different ways to Sunday. McGiver has nothing on this guy.

I must admit that it’s pretty manly to be out in the driveway and mixing cement. Not that I looked like a cover of a Harlequin novel or anything but it was good to use my blistered hands (from hammering yesterday. Shut up!)

We poured the cement (or was it concrete? I don’t know, the wet gray stuff that turns to hard grey stuff) and then we turned our attention to the driveway. Whoever did the driveway when it was new didn’t exactly finish the job correctly. The side of the driveway was crumbling so we decided to fill it in with a finished cement (concrete?) barrier. Lyle-McGiver set it up, we poured the stuff thus extended the driveway and I officially completed my first endeavor involving cement, er, concrete, um hard grey stuff.

Our next project was planting a flagpole (is that how you say it?). I had an idea where I wanted it but it just happened to be in the exact spot of the fallen tree, compliments of the hurricane last year. The stump was ground but not completely taken out so I thought it would be tough digging the hole necessary to sink a flagpole (that sounds better.)

When I started with the shovel, the earth gave way rather easy and I was prematurely hopeful that this would be easy. What the hell was I thinking?

The first 8 inches was a piece of cake. Then I hit a snaggle of roots and was stopped cold. From then on, it was a centimeter at a time and degraded to digging with my bare hands until I finally got about a foot and a half down.

Dig, scrape, pull, scratch, poke, and for my efforts, I get a few finger-fulls of dirt at a time. It was just the kind of work I was skilled enough to handle so I sat in the sun and did just that.

After I was sufficiently scorched, we (I) decided that it was damn deep enough and poured cement into the hole. I realized that it was a lot like making pizza dough in that one molecule too much water in the mix made the stuff too runny. But we avoided this scenario and had perfect cement, concrete, or whatever. Let’s just call it cement or I’ll be writing all night.

Filling the hole just wasn’t good enough; we wanted to make sure we established a base that could take a direct missile attack so we filled the first two sections of the hallow aluminum pole with cement and let it set.

My next job was to dig a trench from the house to the flagpole for the light wire. The problem was that in a few spots, the dirt was thin and let’s just say that the city ordinance of 18 inches down might have been slightly abused. We had about 20 yards to cover so I got to tear a line in my yard and bury the wire. Again, something I would never even think about attempting without Super-Lyle around.

Meanwhile, Lyle was working on hammering a hole in the inside wall of my garage. He wanted to put in a light switch and two more outlets on the wall facing the front yard (“Uh, Ok” was my informed response) so we could plug in the flag light.

I guess it’s a matter of perspective. I always saw and considered my walls as solid objects that couldn’t be easily tore into. A somewhat permanent object in my mind. Lyle, on the other hand, has no qualms about tearing a gaping hole, running some wire through the inside of the walls, and hooking up the ends for some juice.

I don’t have enough space on my hard drive or time in my life to run through all the amazing things Lyle accomplished or the dicey trouble spots we got into and Lyle got us out of in the course of the day. He tore a hole in the wall and welded a copper pipe to protect the wires. We dug underneath our sidewalk to get the wire through and we buried the cable. He provided another outlet and a switch that connected to the power from the ceiling of the garage.

He also installed a spicket outside (for some reason this house had only one and it was in the front) by crawling under the house and adding plumbing off of the main line. While down there, we discovered that the house had a big filter system attached to the main line which meant our entire water supply to the house is filtered. The bad news is that you are supposed to change the filter every three months and we had changed it exactly zero times so the clogged filter was killing our water pressure. The good news is that the former owner left a dozen filters down there. Ahhh, the joys of home ownership, especially when you have the home improvement skills of Anna Nicole Smith.

Inside, Carrie and her mom were painting the wall red. Yes, you read right: RED. Carrie has been watching to many of those home improvement shows with the gay guys and annoying women. They had to put a primer on because if not, it would turn pink. I only know this because that’s what the lady at Home Depot said and since I’m in it for a cool one G, I’ll have to go for broke in the advice department.

They put the primer on and the first bucket of paint didn’t quite do the trick so we had to get another one. The red was… well, red. Yes, Texas Chainsaw Murderer, Stephen King REDRUM, blood-splattered red in all its glory. It turned out better than I thought since the whole room has red stuff here and there but it’s not something I’d do myself. Hell, I just sleep here.

Free Advice for Today:
Never forget your anniversary."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier'n puttin' it back.

- Will Rogers

For the second time in the last 15 years, it rained on me when I was with family visiting Washington D.C.

The first time was in 1990 when my mom lived here and today, I had Carrie’s parents with me as we saw the sights. It was a day of walking, viewing, more walking, getting wet, walking, and finally, fighting zombism by the time we got to the Air and Space Museum.

We started early by taking the 7:50 AM train. The kids whined despite letting them skip school, oblivious that I was spending over $7 a pop for each person, each way, to ride the train for the 1 ½ hour ride to downtown. OK, maybe I might have used some of my free vouchers but still. Now it's me doing the whining!!!

Once we got there (an enjoyable train ride, I will admit), we found out that the museum didn’t open up until 10:00 so we had about 45 minutes. Plan 2 was to visit the monuments that were “just over there.” If you have never been to D.C., let me proclaim that stuff looks a lot closer than they are, on a map and in person. We thought we could just meander over to the Washington Monument. The meandering took on a life of its own. It was about half way there that the sky opened up and decided we needed to get wet. And I mean real freakin’ wet.

When we made it to the monument (after about a millennium), we found out that we needed tickets and although they were free, the next available time was noon which once again gave us about some time. Oh for two.

So we did the obvious; let’s just pop over and see the Jefferson Memorial real quick. I will pause for the laughter to subside from you that know the Washington D.C. layout. After about 20 minutes of walking in the rain, it became readily obvious that this was a bad idea so we reversed our meandering and headed toward the White House. So to summarize, it was almost noon and we had started our day heading to bus at 7:15. and we had seen exactly squat.

We ended up finding the White house visiting center which was not anywhere near the actual White House. It was stashed in the entryway/ball room of some big building and was actually pretty interesting. It showed a bunch of the old furnishings and plates and stuff like that. I always get a kick out of the actual stuff. Carrie thinks I’m nuts but that’s the neatest part of going to the Smithsonian for me: the actual stuff. Don’t give me no mock-ups or replica. I want to see the real thing, Baby!

We got done there and after more walking, we found ourselves on the backside of the White House, getting to see the famous residence from afar. Because of the increased security, I had a better chance at seeing more detail of the Moon than the White House. But there it was, the seat of the most powerful office the world has ever known. I don't care who you are or the politics you ascribe to; that's pretty darn impressive.

While taking pics, I had to stop myself from making snide remarks to the young girl with a picture of President Bush on her shirt with a “Ghost Busters” slash through it. But she obviously didn’t have a problem with taking pictures in front of the White House. Oh, the hypocrisy!

Finally, we decided to make our way back to the Washington Monument and the rain and walking started to take its toll on all of us. I had to karate chop Alex in the neck just to release my pent up frustration, crushing his Adam’s apple. OK, not really but we all got a little testy.

I was wondering what was actually in the Washington Monument. Office space? Admin shops? Storage space? Alien autopsies? I got my answer: nothing. The damn thing’s hallow except for an elevator shaft that takes you to the top in about 70 seconds. There are a plethora of phallic jokes I can make here but will leave it to you to think up your own innuendo.

Once at the top, you are allowed to walk around to four windows facing each cardinal direction. The space is tight and if you look up, you can actually see the ceiling sloping inward to make the point of the monument. The views are spectacular and I got some really good pics I’ll be posting soon. But I did get a moment of vertigo and I was for certain that the whole thing was collapsing for just a split second. If anyone would have been looking at me right at that moment, they would have seen a look of terror and a hand raising to my head as the vertigo sparked off a sharp pain in my head. The moment passed and I was back to normal but for just a sec, I was not doing so good. I quelled the desire to scream out because that would have been, you know, embarrassing.

The next stop was the Jefferson Memorial which I had never been to. Neither had Lyle nor Sharon so we headed over there and might have been the only people ever to visit D.C. and not be able to find the Jefferson Memorial. We walked for what seemed like forever in the rain until we finally found it. We thought it was a good idea to walk along the tidal basin and that turned out to be a GREAT idea until the putrid smell of rotting fish filled our nostrils. It was very undignified. I got a pic.

I must say that the Jefferson Memorial is, well, unmemorable. It’s just a round structure with a big statue of Jefferson in it and even though it’s pretty much the same as the Lincoln, it just doesn’t stir the soul like the Lincoln. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me and the fact that it took a lot of walking to get to it but it was kind of a let down. They need to work on that because I was unimpressed and I have a lot of pull in this town.

Our next attempt was finding the Lincoln Memorial. Now you thought a family unable to find the Jefferson Memorial was funny, we had a harder time finding the Lincoln. Yes, OK, there’s that 500 foot phallic symbol to serve as a landmark but we still did a lot of walking to find something that is by all means and measures NOT hidden to the general public.

On the way we stumbled upon the FDR Memorial and the most interesting thing about it wasn’t the brass statues. I noticed a guy who was either a Secret Serviceman or really wanted people to think he was a Secret Serviceman. I’m talking long coat, slacks, collared shirt, sunglasses, and earpiece. I watched him and he went over to talk to another guy dressed like him and as we came closer, we saw there was a lot of them hanging around. When they started bunching up, we knew who they were guarding. It was… I have no idea. Some guy with white hair and his blond wife. I guessed it was a foreign dignitary but whoever it was, he was getting individualized service from a park ranger. I started snapping a bunch of pictures which I knew made the SS real skittish and I have pictures of the hairy eyeball to prove it.

We ran into them a couple of times and I swear they thought we were going to jump him. I made no effort to quell their fears and tried my hardest to look dangerous and unpredictable. My Uncle Jed hat and baggy fleece coat probably didn’t put them at ease.

“This is Fox 4, we have a situation here at FDR. There is a suspicious individual with a hillbilly hat and baggy coat snapping pics of The Sparrow. Request assistance. Bring in Deep Burrow, the cavity search team. Stat!”

When we got to the Lincoln, we all were about ready to snap off our legs and turn them in for a fresh set. I took all of the obligatory “Forrest Gump” reference pics and the MLK vistas. I also got WAY too many close-ups of ole Abe. A digital camera means virtually unlimited film at no cost which translates into very loose picture-taking criteria.

At last, we were ready to head to the Air and Space Museum in the peculiar situation where we were dead tired and entering the museum. Normally, you go in fresh and come out a weak husk of your former self. By the time we walked the Mall (replete with thrown away pro-abortion signs from the day before and hundreds of ripe port-a-potty “crack shacks”) and got to the museum, life was not as good as it’s ever been. The kids were whining up a storm to match the weather and the rest of us were not doing that hot either (a scary concept for me in particular since I’m supposed to be in marathon shape right now).

The first thing we did as we entered (after the crack team of security professionals stopped their jaw-jacking and searched every inch of our persons) was go to the food court. We were all starving by this point and even the McDonald’s sounded good. It was cheap, easy, and fast. (Put in your own joke here). So we filled our depleted bodies with the junkiest crap this nation has to offer and despite the quality of the food, our bodies soaked it up and we felt like we could tackle the museum.

We had two hours and trying to see any Smithsonian Museum in two hours is like trying to do your taxes in 5 minutes. It just ain’t gonna happen.

I felt kind of bad for the lesser known exhibits because the “big” ones get all the attention. But this didn’t stop me from going right to seeing the Apollo 11 command module (first men to walk on the moon), the Friendship 7 (John Glenn, first American to orbit the Earth), and the Gemini that had the first American space walk. I also saw the Spirit of St. Louise and the Wright Brothers plane. Cool stuff but my batteries ran out somewhere near the Washington Monument and my back up batteries were obviously as fresh as I was and conked out right after getting into the Air and Space.

The time went by and we all had had enough. We were ready to call the day of sightseeing to an end and get on the train. On the way back, we all fell asleep almost immediately and it was a good thing that the end of the line (literally) was our stop in Fredericksburg. An hour and a half later, we made it to Truckasaurus and shuffled home too tired to even complain.

It was a good day and I got a lot of good pictures I will post on my website. I find myself taking pics with the thought of my webpage in mind and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad. I come up with captions for the pictures as I’m taking them and try to remember details that I can write about. Enjoy the moment, you say? Naw, I’m too sentimental and prefer to play the “remember when” game and have the pics to remind me what a great time I had.

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

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“If you're riding' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there.

- Will Rogers

Home Depot: the money receptacle for half my paycheck.

I must explain that my father-in-law makes Bob Villa look like, well, like me. I have the home improvement skills of a sea anemone. Lyle, my father-in-law, could build an entire house by himself from pouring the cement to electrical to woodwork to plumbing to mechanical, etc. He also knows automotive and basically anything that has to do with repair. I am pretty good at handing him tools.

Lyle’s idea of a vacation is traveling from Seattle to Virginia to spend a couple of weeks improving my house. On the other hand, when I take a vacation, it’s a contest to see how much running, sleeping, and reading I can do while still registering a pulse.

Carrie had been building a list for months and when Lyle showed up, she hit him with it with full force. She took him around like a foreman and showed him what she had in mind and then he ticked off a list of supplies we would need as Carrie scribbled notes. For my part, it was all I could do to hold down my maniacal screaming as I estimated the cost of all this. Yes, I know, free labor, but that does not cover materials. Although in the warped world of wives everywhere, the mere fact that we were saving money on one thing negated the sum of money we were to spend on another. Chick math. Don't even try to figure it out.

This is where Hope Depot comes in. 2 ½ hours and almost $500 later, we emerged the store with 3 carts full of “stuff.” Let me share some observations about the trip.

1. Home Depot is full of men that know a lot more about home improvement than me.
2. Home Depot is full of women that know a lot more about home improvement than me.
3. The women that work at Home Depot scare me. I mean like scream-scare.
4. I can’t keep a straight face when someone asks “What size screw you lookin’ for?”
5. There are approximately 165 trillion different variations of copper paraphernalia.
6. I know the use of one of these: the tubing.
7. Wandering through Home Depot will make you want stuff you don’t know how to use.
8. A person will become numb to prices to the point that a $7 piece of wood seems like a bargain.
9. I have no idea what the difference between PVC and CPVC is. And I don’t care.
10. Every child you see in Home Depot looks like they have been imprisoned.
11. Cement blocks and cement mix are located at opposite ends of the enormous Home Depot warehouse. Why?
12. The concept of male and female copper fittings seems filthy.
13. Plastic carts will hold about 8 bags of cement mix but will not be very happy about it.
14. The parking lot for any Home Depot is always packed full no matter what day of the week or time that you go.
15. There’s no music in Home Depot over the PA system.
16. There are wood cutting tools that I’m certain are designed solely for mass murders who cut apart their human prey.
17. An employee dragging some drainage pipe across the cement floor makes a sound that makes me want to buy one of the specialized “wood cutting” tools.

When we got home and unloaded our bounty, we got right to work. Right in front of my garage, water collects and we (meaning "Carrie") wanted to build a drainage system to flow the drain water into a nearby drain. This required us to bust out the blacktop to build a ditch in front of the garage. So with hammer in hand, Lyle and I took turns smashing out the black top to make room for the plastic drain tube (with grate on top that set me back to the tune of about $15 per segment. Before you ask, it took 5 segments.)

Two hours later, I was certain why I don’t do home improvement. The most embarrassing part was that I got two blisters on my hand from swinging the hammer. Pitiful, I know. Hey, I’m a computer geek and runner. If I used my hands more often, I wouldn’t be so disgraceful with the pull ups.

We finally got the ditch made and set in the gratings. We will wait until Tuesday to lay the cement around it because tomorrow we are heading into Washington D.C. to do the tourist thing. I can handle all day walking but ask me to swing a hammer? Well, if I have to…

Free Advice for Today:
Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

- Will Rogers

Today I got a call from my real estate agent wanting me to build her a webpage. We had gone back and forth on this since October but never followed through with the deal. We would just never coordinate to make it happen so it was kind of a surprise that she called me out of the blue. I didn't have any projects in the hopper so I relented (pause for the audience to realize I was being facetious).

She was ready to commit to the project and she caught me when I was too so she came over and we spent some time going over what she wanted. I found a service that is tailored for real estate agents’ webpages but it was still too complicated for her to build. So she wanted me to do it and I did all the research. It’s a pretty slick service and I spent a few hours playing around with it. It’s all Flash-based and professional looking and I knew I could design a great website. I mean a professional one, as opposed to my home-grown geek site you are reading right now.

In a couple of hours I did just that and phoned her for some info. I needed a photo of her and some other items to start the page. When I had her go to the temporary URL to see what I had done so far, she freaked. She thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread and wanted me to do the whole site. Sure, I have no other things to do. Why not.

After fiddling around with this for awhile longer, I had to get back to being an adult and we had to leave for the airport. Carrie’s parents were coming to visit for a couple of weeks and we had to pick them up at BWI. So getting most of the way to Dulles didn’t help us very much. We had a “miscommunication” which means Carrie told me BWI and I Mapquested Dulles. This little factoid escaped us until we got near Washington D.C. I was more pissed that I couldn’t blame it on her than I was that we were heading toward the wrong airport.

In desperation, we made a call to our ace in the hole, Sir Phil, who got us back on the right track and we made it to the correct airport just in time.

Everywhere we’ve lived, we’ve been way far from any airport so we always have to travel for hours to pick visitors up. In Yuma, we had to travel for 3 hours just to get to San Diego or Phoenix. In 29 Palms, it was all the way to San Diego (unless someone wanted to spring for the air fare to get into Palm Springs). In Monterey, it was a couple of hours to San Jose. Now, we have to go from Fredericksburg to Washington D.C or even worse, BWI. Richmond is a possiblity but no one ever flies into there. Why? I don't know but they don't.

We picked them up and made it back to the Quantico area where we had to eat before we sacrificed one of the kids. I was leaning toward the boy but we headed off a heated argument by finding a Mexican restaurant. The boy is half Mexican so technically...

Pancho Villa never tasted so good and after a mug of beer that was pretty much a glass barrel with a handle on it, Carrie took over the driving duties for the rest of the night and I played "Stretch The Bladder" until we got home.

You might think I wouldn’t be thrilled to have the in-laws here, as the stereotype goes. But you would be wrong. I love my in-laws and look forward to spending any time with them. I know, very un-husband-like but I see them as close to me as my own parents. That’s why I didn’t really mind spending my Saturday afternoon and night driving to get them from the airport. Even if we did get lost on the way which somehow was really Carrie’s fault. Don’t ask how, it just was.

Free Advice for Today:
Write 'Thank You' notes promptly."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.

- Will Rogers

We got our new bed in and as much of a hassle as it was (and as much as it pisses me off to admit it), it’s AWESOME!

Back in my November 6th, 2003 blog, I describe how this whole fiasco started. Over the ensuing months, we received excuse after excuse, delay after delay until I got fed up and told Carrie to tell them where they can put their bed. We were forking out over $2K and we couldn’t get them to stop lying to us. First, it was blaming the delay on it being a California king, then it was the claim that they had to have it shipped from Europe. “It’ll be here in 6 weeks” was a common, reoccurring statement.

To quell our mounting frustration, they gave us a $100 gift certificate so we bought some cool lamps. Then when it started being ridiculous again they knocked another $100 off the price.

Nevertheless, I was fed up and I told Carrie to have them cancel the order. When she tried, they promised it was only 3 weeks away. We fell into this state of uneasy tension and a “we’ll see” attitude. I was ready to cancel the order anyway but Carrie told me she really loved the set and there was no other place we could get it.

It finally came in and they delivered it when I was at work. I think it was a good thing that I wasn’t present because I would not have been to kind. But when I got home, this is what I saw.

OK, I have to admit, it’s pretty cool. Carrie calls it a very “masculine” setup and after years of living among frilly décor, I was rewarded with a medieval motif. Now, not only do I sleep on acreage (California king, Baby) but the set has a very manly look and feel to it. Awesome.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't be afraid to say, 'I made a mistake.'"
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

- Will Rogers

Yesterday, I whine about the heat. Today, they turn on the A/C. This sets a bad precedent.

It happened when I was away (shamelessly wallowing in the air conditioned office down the hall where we keep our computers cool) and when I returned, the cold air was flowing. I looked like the Indian in the 1970’s commercial when he saw people littering. Tear drop and all.

I did some research today on my promotion. It looks like I won’t be accepting the promotion for a few reasons. It incurs a two year obligation after promotion so unless I get promoted by September of next year, I would be eating into my retirement date. Checking the lists, I would MAYBE make the below zone for the board and the chances are slim not only of getting in the below zone, but getting promoted out of it. The third strike is that even if the first two impossibilities occurred, the chances of actually getting promoted by my drop dead date rounds out the Trio of “Yeah Right.”

I’m OK with this. I never thought I’d make it past my current rank and that’s all I ever wanted to be. I’ve risen to heights I never though possible anyway so I’m not bitter. I know I would have made it given time but the simple fact is, I just ran out of time. The retirement pay does sting a bit because it’s about $350 per month more for the rest of my days with the promotion but hopefully, my civilian job will make that look smaller than a military paycheck makes it appear.

Not much I could do about it anyway unless I wanted to stay in but I promised a pretty lady a long time ago that if she stuck by me in the crazy gun club for 20 years, I’d get out and we’d get a house and the whole American dream thing. She kept her end of it (so far) so I better be satisfied with what I got.

Anyway, if I stay in, I would have go back to administration after a 5 year absence and it would also cause a gap in my technical job experience. So I think I will bow out gracefully, thank the Corps for 20 years of taking care of me, and hope I reciprocated what they invested in me.

Anyway, “Major Grose” is just missing a good ring.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't ever watch hot dogs or sausage being made."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Always drink upstream from the herd.

- Will Rogers
The h e a t i s s l o w i n g t h e d a y ...

I know I said I shouldn't complain about the heat because of our troops in Iraq but I got nothing else. The day's events are tainted by the overall misery that the heat produces and it's hotter here than there, at least for now.

Plus, I ran into this argument when I was miserable in Saudi and again in cold weather training. Just because there is someone somewhere in a more miserable situation does not lesson the misery another person experiences, albeit less than that someone. If you do not buy this argument, then there would be reason to complain about anything. There is always someone somewhere hating life more. Then again, maybe that's an argument for the argument.

I think the heat's getting to me.

So I'll finish up by updating my life: the toe is doing better. With a little tape and motrin, I can get through the pain (also easier since I didn't work out today but that's beside the point).

I'm counting down to the marathon on May 1st and finding it harder to run. Bad sign.

My in-laws are coming in Saturday and I'm off next week before I leave on Thursday.

So I'm trying to tie up loose ends, trying to forget that it's hot as Satan's privates at work, and fighting sympathy sleep for my future, marathon-depleted self.

This should have been in yesterday's BLOG but here is a pic of a soccer field I felt my boy was playing on.

Free Advice for Today:
Never criticze your country when traveling abroad."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back in your pocket.

- Will Rogers

I had to make a very difficult decision today. I've written about my son's soccer team before but it came to a head today when I watched the second game of the season.

My dilemma was this: I wanted to pull my son from the team for a specific reason but I didn't want to have him think that when the going gets tough, you quit.

Here's my rationale. The team sucks and if it was only that, I wouldn't even think about pulling him. If all the kids were just learning the game (1/2 have never played) and performing their little hearts out, so be it. But that's not the case.

My big problem is that the kids are not being taught the game of soccer. I could detail a dozen examples as proof but it all comes down to the fact that none of the most basic skills were being covered, most heinous being teamwork. So the situation is that my son hates being on the team, knows no one, and the coach is not teaching them what they need to know to play. It's like they've regressed 3 years back to the time where they just kick the ball, swarm it, and kick it again. No positions, no passing, no coordination. This is what 6 and 7 year olds are allowed to do to get them used to the game. This is not what 12-year-olds should be doing. They should be at a level where the concept of competitive play and organized teamwork is stressed.

So in my mind, it was a waste of time. Alex's time he puts in at practice and our time getting him back and forth. I justified it by realizing that the league was not keeping up their end of the bargain by providing a coach and an environment that taught the skills needed to make a team and teach the game. I see this as an injustice to my son.

You might say that I shouldn't judge because I wasn't trying to solve the problem. "You get out there and coach." I agree with you and I wish I could. For two years, I coached tee-ball, baseball, and basketball; all of which I had very little experience in. I thought I could do better myself and I was right.

If my schedule allowed, I would get out there and help but the fact remains that with my commute, it's not possible. So I did the next best thing and paid the funds to get my son involved. But I'm not getting what I paid for.

It was really hard for me to make sure I was doing the right thing and even harder to explain it to the boy.

"If you all were being taught how to play but your team lost every game, I wouldn't mind at all and you would finish out the season. But I will not stand by and allow them to waste your time, make you feel bad about your performance, and force you to go out on the field of battle unarmed."

Of course he was glad to be off a team he really never felt a part of. I hope I did the right thing...

Since my buddy in Iraq has been sending me email that I've been posting on my Blog, I've received a lot of feedback from people wanting to know how he's doing. So I created a page for his named Sweet Lou Brings Freedom To Iraq. I will continue to post his emails here.

Free Advice for Today:
Take a kid to the zoo."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Never miss a good chance to shut up.

- Will Rogers

I broke my toe. I didn't mean to, I just did.

Not only was it in the most unlikely manner, but I managed to break it in a two-episode manner. Here's how it happened.

At my job, we were granted a quarter of a million dollars worth of Dell servers. That's a whole convoluted story in itself so I'll leave it at that. But 15 of the 30 servers were ready for pick up so I drove in; a job for Truckasaurus. We loaded up the servers in no less than 4 trucks (yeah, a quarter mill transported in some pick-up trucks; such is life in the "Get it done" world I live in) and transported them to our building.

These damn things were in big crates and we had to manhandle them off the truck, through the building, down two flights of steps, and into the storage basement. It's the "down two flights of steps" that my story picks up.

It really was no one's fault. I was going forward and my partner was walking backwards down the steps. As we neared the bottom, he started picking up more speed than I could keep up with in my bent over "this can't be good for the back" position. Not wanting to drop an expensive server, I lunged forward to keep up and misjudged the number of steps, thinking I was on the last one.

Here is where it gets fuzzy. I caught the edge of the last step that I didn't anticipate was even there and my ankle started rolling. I caught the potential sprain but in the effort, my foot somehow rolled forward and slightly to the side, slipped off the step, catching the top of the boot toes on the floor as I shifted to save my balance. Somehow I ended up barely hanging on and I thought no harm was done.

We continued to unload the boxes for another half hour and my toes stung a bit. After we were done, I went back to work and the pain was nothing but a small annoyance. I thought I had maybe peeled back the toenail on one of my toes but when I checked, nothing.

By the time lunch rolled around, it was a dull pain but wouldn't stop me from running. This is where part 2 comes in. We were running out by the flight line (where they keep the President's helicopter, Marine 1) and noticed that I was favoring my left foot due to the pain in the right. I had to alter my running style and as a result, I failed to lift my left foot over a small obstacle on the path. As I tripped, I thrust my right foot forward to catch the full weight of my falling body in an attempt to keep from driving my teeth into the pavement.

Result: I didn't fall but I think that did the toe in. We finished the run but by the time I got back and took off my shoe and sock, I discovered I was the proud owner of a bloated purple slug occupying the place my 4th toe used to reside.

It was a hard call to go to medical or not. First, my disdain for medical is legendary. On the one hand, even if it was broken, they would eat up my whole afternoon, give me some motrin, and send me on my way. But on the other hand, I needed to know if it was broken because I wanted to know how long it would take to heal. It's a considerable difference between healing a stubbed toe and a broken one and I have a marathon in two weeks.

I decided to go and just as I figured, I waited in the waiting room with my throbbing foot and was herded through the process. They took x-rays and in the end, told me it was broken and said they couldn't do anything for me except give me some motrin. Oh, and to stay off it. Actually the doctor knew I was a runner and she said she wasn't going to actually tell me to stay off of it because she knew I wouldn't so she told me to buddy tape it to the neighboring toe and be careful.

I believe it was the running/trip that broke it. When I got home, I iced it and for some unknown reason, I slept most of the afternoon and night away. I think it may have had more to do with the heat since they not only DON'T have the A/C on in our building but they actually still have the heat on. Not good on a 90+ degree day in Quantico. But I tried to curb my complaints because although I had a broken toe and worked in stifling heat, I wasn't in Iraq and getting shot at. Perspective, my friends.

Since my buddy in Iraq has been sending me email that I've been posting on my Blog, I've received a lot of feedback from people wanting to know how he's doing. So I created a page for his named Sweet Lou Brings Freedom To Iraq. I will continue to post his emails here.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't accept unacceptable behavior."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“There are 2 theories to arguing with a woman...neither works.

- Will Rogers

This morning I took Buster over to Sir Phil’s house so we could go for a long walk. I like the spoil the little bonehead every once in awhile. (I’ll leave it up for interpretation who I mean.)

But I awoke at 0411 as a result of a very scary and vivid dream. For a guy who loves sleep so much, getting up voluntarily at this hour on a day off is just plain bizarre. In my dream I was with my brother on the catwalk of a hotel. We were on the 4th or 5th floor and in the dream, he was kidding around and charged at me as though he was going to throw me off (a common scare tactic he did throughout our childhood).

Now remember, this is a dream so it doesn’t have to make sense. Somehow, he climbed over the two-bar railing in his gesture and lost his balance. Right in front of my eyes, his hands slipped and he fell backward. I watched in horror as he fell, losing sight of him for only a second as he passed behind a picnic canopy in the courtyard below. He fell back into my field of view just as he was hitting the ground which he did in a sitting position with his hands down. Instantly, he grabbed his wrist and started screaming. I was terrified but at least glad he was yelling because I knew he was alive. He hit hard and it scared me that he was writhing in pain.

Then I awoke and couldn’t get back to sleep. Too real. Too vivid. Too much emotion to sleep any more.

I got up, wrote out some blog-work, and read my book until it was time to head out to Sir Phil’s house.

Buster was excited and we had such a good time that we took two hours to walk in the woods. The morning was another beautiful, crisp-yet-comfortable event. Daisy, Sir Phil’s German Shepard, is quite insane and would flop down in mud puddles for no apparent reason while Princess Buster avoided even getting dirty if he could help it. Carrie says he's my dog all the way.

When I got home, it was an industrious day indeed. I mowed the lawn, gave Buster a bath, and took a shower. Carrie was already at a 4H event that I was supposed to take the kids too at 1:00 PM so I got them ready and fed them lunch at Taco Butt. Getting out into the middle of the Virginia back country (is that a banjo I hear?) we took a hayride out to the different stations. The event was at a big farm and the teens had set up these different stations where you were supposed to visit. Carrie had the little cesspool full of frogs and tadpoles so all the kids hung out there to catch the little critters.

For me, this little fun-fest lasted about ½ hour and then it became readily apparent that I was due for a return home and a thoughtful spell in the bed. I bid my family farewell and returned to the house to get some rest. And rest I did. I made up for 2 hours of missed sleep and woke up feeling groggy but rested.

I got a call from my best friend Rob. It would take many more pages to let you in on all the stuff I’ve done with Rob but the short story is that he was my best friend during my Saudi deployment in 1990. He was a fellow Marine and ended up getting out and going to college to be a doctor (he brags to his friends of my accession from enlisted to officer and I brag about his as his rise from Lance Corporal to doctor). He is now a resident in Florida.

I was his best man at his wedding and have always dropped whatever I was doing when he had a life event (wedding, graduation, etc). Well, he got divorced a few years back and I got a call today to come to his wedding on September 4th. This was great news since I had my own views of his first wife and knew that Rob was a diamond waiting to be found. Looks like someone finally struck it rich and I’m not talking about his doctor status. Rob is one of the finest human beings I’ve ever known and I’m ecstatic to hear he’s starting a new life with his new bride.

Here was my speech at his first wedding reception.

Here are some pics of the good doc and his new bride.

Beauty and the beast. Rob and his beautiful finace, Lindsey. (Rob's the beast, BTW, just so there's no mistake.)
Do I detect a height differential here? I think I do. Rob got himself a tall glass of water. Lindsey got herself a knob-headed, big-mouthed Irish whisky.
Rob, TELL ME this isn't you in a teacup. For the love of God tell me you didn't send me a picture of you in a teacup. Chesty is crying.
She must be a wonderful person if she can take THAT and make him 1/2 of a great looking, happy couple.

Since my buddy in Iraq has been sending me email that I've been posting on my Blog, I've received a lot of feedback from people wanting to know how he's doing. So I created a page for his named Sweet Lou Brings Freedom To Iraq. I will continue to post his emails here.

Free Advice for Today:
Every so often, invite the person in line behind you to go ahead of you."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.

- Will Rogers

This morning was the Quantico Base Down and Dirty 8K race. Although I was slated for a 12 miler as my May 1st marathon wind down comes to an end, I decided 1/3 of that was good enough. Sir Phil had roped me into this race months ago so it would have to do. OK, shady excuse but I'm going with it.

Running the OCS trails was not a difficult concept because I knew it was only less than 5 miles. The fact that it was on a root-infested, muddy trail bothered me more but not enough to even get the pre-race jitters. It was going to be a walk in the park and I knew it.

The first thing that was on my side was the weather. The morning was a cool, breezeless affair with a brilliant sun greeting me when Sir Phil drove up in his old Spitfire. He had a communication error with his wife who he thought would be joining him so I got a call at 0615 asking if I wanted to carpool after all. Sure, I thought, why not. It’s not often you get to drive in a foreign sports car almost as old as yourself. And the fact that my ass was mere inches from the ground and I had to use my hand on the ground to disembark added to the experience.

The run was uneventful. There were a few ugly hills to go up and a few mud holes to try to get around but over all, it was just a spooky vibe since I hadn’t ben on these trails in a decade and the last time I was there, I was not a happy camper. I was a candidate and therefore not fit to claim human status.

I finished in a pitiful 49 minutes because we hung back with a few people from Sir Phil’s office. Like I said, it was a walk in the park and I had no grand expectations of speed or even claimable energy expenditure. I was just there to be there.

The most memorable aspect of the whole race was the random number I was assigned along with the race title. The result was classic and I was getting laughs, thumbs up, and more than a few “Right On!!!” comments. In response, I told everyone I had to pay extra for it. Here is what I’m talking about (and I'm not making this up):

Freakin' classic!!! I didn't even know until I got my packet and when I saw it, I said, "Hey, Sir Phil, check it out!" When I pulled out the bib, I then threw my arms in the air in triumph yelling "YES!!!" as Sir Phil bent at the waist to expel his hearty laughter. For a reserved guy, this was a compliment of the highest caliber.

While I was doing my running thing, my wife took the spawn to Kings Dominion. I was crushed that I couldn’t join them in waiting in long lines for boring, over-priced rides and bump elbows with the mass of humanity. I had to suffer at home with a complete day to myself. Somehow I muddled through.

I decided to not let the motorcycle incident from yesterday get the best of me so I hopped on the bike and went for a 40 mile drive on a road through the woods. Again, it was a spectacular day and the ride was gorgeous. I know I complain about traffic a lot around here so it’s strange to find a 20 mile stretch of open road through the woods around here. But that’s what I found and I enjoyed myself immensely.

When I got back I decided I should go to the library and go to the used book sale. I know, wild man on the loose but if you know my book fetish, you shouldn’t be surprised. What you will find surprising is that despite the gymnasium-full of books, I didn’t even buy one of them. I claim to be a bibliophile but I am in severely amateur status as a result of seeing so many books I had neither the knowledge of nor interest in. It was a sad collection so I gave up and came home to the personal library I’ve collected. As my wife pointed out, I think I have enough books to last me for awhile!

Speaking of which, I finished To Kill A Mockingbird and The Starr Report today. TKAM was a great book I had never read as a child, although I’m told it’s almost mandatory so how I sidestepped it as a youth is a mystery. On the other hand, The Starr Report was the official report about President Clinton’s affair with Monika Lewinsky. I had started it a couple of years ago when I downloaded the Word file. It hung out on my computer desktop all these years and I just committed to finishing it a couple of weeks ago. I will restrain my views on the subject but at least when I discuss it for now on (more specifically, when I get cornered into talking about) I will at least be able to say I read the report from cover to cover.

Since my buddy in Iraq has been sending me email that I've been posting on my Blog, I've received a lot of feedback from people wanting to know how he's doing. So I created a page for his named Sweet Lou Brings Freedom To Iraq. I will continue to post his emails here.

Free Advice for Today:
Remember that no time is ever wasted that makes two people better friends."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco.

- Will Rogers

One more thing to put on my list of things that drive me nuts: gasoline.

Not the price, although that is rant-worthy but what I’m talking about is just the reality to use the stuff. I’m no grease-monkey and in fact, I hate getting near anything as smelly and volatile as fuel. But when you own a motorcycle, it’s just a reality you must face at one time or another.

Such was the case today when I decided to take my son for a ride. The idea was to get ready, drive down to the gas station, fill up the bike, and just go. That was the idea.

I’ve done my bike an injustice over the years by having it and not really riding it as much as I should. It was great to have in 29 Palms because of the warm, dry weather along with the open, expansive desert roads, especially through Joshua Tree National Park. But in Monterey, I really didn’t ride it as much as I could have, should have, or had the opportunity to. I simply ignored it and with the moist, sea air, I did it no favors as far as upkeep.

The result of this continuous lack of upkeep is that my battery is shot. I have a charger but the battery won’t hold a charge for any significant amount of time. The problem with this is that I can get it started but I don’t trust it to turn back on if I get somewhere far away. As you can imagine, this is a problem when you want to get away and not worry about being stranded. I've been stranded before and it's not fun.

My son and I got ready, donned our helmets (safety first!) and climbed on the bike. I started the bike, or more accurately TRIED to start it and not too surprisingly, it didn’t start. Crap!

We got off the bike and since I didn’t want to attempt a ride with the boy with a dead battery, I told him we’d postpone it. I made a decision then and there that I had put up with this long enough and it was time to pay the piper (assuming that’s the nickname of the local motorcycle shop worker who will sell me a new battery).

To make up for this, I took my son to the store because my wife needed butter (how domestic, I know) and I took the opportunity to fill up her car and grab the gas cans. I could take care of all this and get the boy some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (he likes Phish Food like his old man).

Here’s where the gas thing comes to a head. I got to the gas station, unscrewed both caps, and proceeded to fill both containers without incident. I screwed the lid on as tight as I could but when I picked up the larger one, gas dribbled out the “sealed” opening and I knew this would be a problem.

I already had a bit of gas smell on my hand (something that really bothers me for some reason) and I really didn’t want the trunk of my wife’s car to reek. I tried to seal it tighter but that’s all there was so I got some paper towels and set them on the trunk bed before placing the canister inside. I could see this had Mission Impossible written all over it since I would have to drive home without the damn thing moving. Yeah. Sure.

We go to the Food Lion (or as the Patches call it “Food Weasel”) but they were out of Phish Food. I got the butter and when it was $1.50 more than what I saw advertised, I did something I never do: I questioned the price. The guy looked at the receipt and said “Do you have a VIP card?” I gave an intelligent answer of “Huh?” The lady behind me said “I do” and proceeded to hand the guy a card and he turns to me and says “That will be $2.07” (down for $3.60. for butter. I KNOW!). So I gave him the money wondering how the price dropped by me just questioning it. It wasn’t until I was walking out of the store before I realized a few things:

1. The advertised price for the butter was for their lame membership club (something I rate up there with “false advertising”)

2. The lady had “loaned” me her membership

3. The employee not only let her do that, he almost instigated it and accepted it as a matter of course

4. I didn’t say as much as a “Thanks” to the lady

This last point was not because I’m a thankless jerk with the social skills of Buster but because I really didn’t know what was going on until I walked away. Sorry lady and a belated “Thanks” that you will likely never see/read.

We went back over to 7/11 to see if we could score some Phish Food but alas, it was not meant to be. Sorry boy, sometimes you strike out with the old ice cream hunt.

When we got home, I opened the trunk and as I pessimistically expected, a wave of gasoline-filled-air wafted from the truck. The can had shifted around and the paper towels were wet. I cleaned it out as best I could and have no idea of how much actually spilled but all I knew is that it was enough to start my sour mood.

I took the smaller, non-leaking can and poured it into the motorcycle. I was going to put this off since I wouldn’t be doing any riding today but then it occurred to me that my hands already somewhat smelled like gas so I might as well fill ‘er up. The can went in good and I actually thought I would have an easy gas experience this time. (author chuckles).

The tank was pretty empty so I dumped the entire contents into the tank and decided it needed to be topped off. I grabbed the other container and figured out its complicated spout configuration (not a straight-forward ordeal to say the least). As I carefully and gingerly aimed the nozzle at the hole in the tank, I realized that I had filled the container up too much and I would have to just do the old tilt and jam, hoping to get the nozzle in the tank before gas spewed forward. I had one shot at this.

I made the commitment and the lip of the nozzle just barely caught the edge of the hole, obstructing my forward progress for just a moment. I had but a split second to recover and I almost made it before the fuel came rushing out but I was distracted by the fact that gas was gushing out the “sealed” cap at the base of the container nozzle. It was like a gag dribble cup, but no as funny.

So now I had gas seething out the cap and I had barely missed the nozzle into the tank hole, resulting in gas not quite finding its proper flow into the tank. I saw gas spread over the top of the tank, into the engine, and pool on the floor before I gave up. There is that point where you think you can recover but it became readily apparent that this was not going to work. I indicated this by yelling a few choice cuss words and my son very diplomatically left the garage and drifted into the house.

I ended up cleaning the gas with an old rag, transferring the gas from bad container into good container, and going with the container I had initial success with. But this did not help my mood an I was thoroughly pissed off by then. So much for “doing” things that needed to be done. I was not going to attempt anything else for the rest of the day that depended on patience. I had none left.

Free Advice for Today:
Ask for double prints when you have film processed. Send the extras to the people in the photos."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“WHAT IS RIGHT IS OFTEN FORGOTTEN BY WHAT IS INCONVENIENT.

- Unknown

I thought about my communication ability today.

I can express myself in writing whether it’s professional or blog-material. But unlike my civilian counterpart at work, I’m not as quick on the live delivery. I have no fear of public speaking but I would rather sit down and bang out my thoughts on the computer and then edit it. What I’m not as good at is coming up with the words on the fly and sounding as smooth as I’d like. Eric is always impressed when I capture the essence of a problem or a meeting by writing a summary and I’m impressed by his ability to field questions.

So long story short, I may not be as funny in person as I am in the BLOG, unless I have a few beers in me. To tell the truth, I’m a rather reserved and serious person who does not say much in public or social situations. But when I get going and feel comfortable, I tend to loosen up. That’s where the beer comes in but obviously there is a fine balance. Too much and I’m the idiot who only thinks his wit is impressive.

That was the case a few years ago when I had one of my lowest “celebration” moments. My wife and I went to a get-together (what older people call parties); a reception with an open bar, if I remember correctly where I had a lot of two things: beer and carrots.

Fast-forward past the increasing idiocy as my consumption level did the same and you find me with my head against the passenger side door of Truckasaurus. My wife was driving us home down I-5 when it became extremely necessary to expel the contents of my stomach.

My idea was simple: roll down the window and let the wind take away the nastiness, thus no clean up. It was brilliant!!!

I rolled down the window and the cool night air was like a free peek at Heaven. Appreciative of this joyful moment, I proceeded to puke my guts inside out.

It was not a good night to be driving behind Truckasaurus that night.

I really believed I got away with it. I was feeling much better and nothing to clean up. As we pulled into our parking space at home and I stumbled out of Truckasaurus, I wondered why the back panel was fuzzy. What I soon discovered was not fuzz but a thin, perfectly even coating of beer and stomach fluid-soaked carrot sheen across the back panel.

I was neutral either way but my wife was not amused.

Ignoring my desperate need to just get inside and drift away from this world for a dozen hours or so, my wife lambasted me with a series of quite disparaging remarks. My penance was to clean it up right then and there, lest the neighbors see the mess the next morning and label us as some of “those” people.

She brought me a pitcher of water and I tried to flow the carrot-coating off. I first tried just pouring the water out but the night air had dried the putrid layer and finally I just said screw it and used my hand to rub the water into it and get most of it off.

My wife was still ill tempered about the whole thing (she’s not too hip on the whole vomit thing) and finally let me go inside where I never broke stride as I passed through the front door and out the back to continue my puking fit. The problem here was that our back door faced an open field so the sounds of my ab workout echoed throughout the neighborhood. And it was not a happy sound.

But to prove that my wife is a great sport afterall, she felt sorry enough for me to go to the all-night Taco Bell and get me some late-night craving food. How I ate it, or even had the desire, seems unlikely looking back at it but I did.

She told me she could hear my guttural lurches clear down the road as she zoomed away.

Drinking is great.

Free Advice for Today:
Remember that the more you know, the less you fear."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“You can go anywhere you want if you look serious and carry a clipboard.

- Unknown

My wife bought me butt paste.

After a couple of years of writing this blog, that might be the most intriguing lead in that I’ve come up with.

It all started the other night when we were watching the Dave Chappell show. Other then the liberal use of the term “bitch,” we laughed at a skit involving a sleeping aid that turned out to be a big bottle of barbequed ribs. They did it like a real commercial and at the end, the announcer spouted off some of the possible side effects, ending in the hilarious affliction “mud butt.”

Then my wife told me about some product she heard of called “Butt Paste.” Let me pause for you to wonder in amazement at the high brow conversations around the Grose household. I thought she was kidding but she was not. Someone had come up with some concoction for diaper rash and people started calling it butt paste (nice).

Add to this story the fact that I couldn’t find the jar of Vaseline I normally use for the long runs I take and had to revert to the even older jar I deeply dislike because it has a “baby powder scent.” I’ll take my Vaseline unscented, thank you, given the choice. It’s sad I have a preference but there you have it.

Today, this is what I found waiting on the bathroom counter.

As funny as it seems, I can actually use this butt paste (Again, a sentence I never imagined I'd type out). Hey, you run a marathon and then see how funny chapped nether regions is. Who’s laughing now, Mr. Raw Crotch?!?!

According to the website,

In the 1970's, a pharmacist named George Boudreaux created this incredible ointment to provide effective diaper rash care. Since then, it has been shown to be effective in treating other minor skin conditions such as: heat rashes, hemorrhoids, chaffed skin, jock itch, bed sores, abrasions, shingles, feminine irritation, poison ivy and oak, minor burns, chapped lips, fever blisters, and more.

I really don't want to know what the "...and more." could possibly be. I think your list is sufficiently complete, Mr. Boudreaux.

On a totally unrelated topic, today I saw a new Alanis video and found out she has a new album coming out May 18th. In the video she gets her hair chopped and ends up with a short do. As monumentally nuts as she is (see the words to “You Oughta Know” and “Your House” and then try to argue with me she isn’t bonkers), I still like her music probably because it marks my college days. When I was going to college, her “You Oughta Know” song was the battle cry for every jilted chick on campus (which was 98% of all except freshmen, who wouldn’t reach Jiltedville until after their first year).

But I like her rage.

In the latest email from my buddy in Iraq, he met Ollie North and he's starting to sound more and more like me every day. I think he idolizes me which is understandable, being a Mexican runner with two kids and an NPS degree and all. See, he copies everything I do.

Hello Everyone,

Well I never thought my walnut size bladder would come in handy, but it did today. Most of you know I am a runner. Not a very fast runner, but I try to run everyday. It's my sick hobby. Well those that run realize the necessity for proper hydration. The heat here isn't extreme (yet) but the afternoons do get warm, so I drink at least 3 liters over the course of the morning. This equates to about 20 trips to the bathroom. Well, during around trip 9 today, I walked out of the tent and almost tackled Oliver North who was just walking by. I had heard that he was on our compound, but didn't bother to give it a second thought. The Commandant of the Marine Corps was here for 4 days and never saw him once, so it is easy to stay out of the limelight and not be bothered if you just mind your own business. So there I am almost knocking him over and he is obviously en route to where he needs to be and I asked him if I could get a picture with him. I didn't really give him an option, because I had my camera out in seconds (I always have my camera in my pocket with a fresh charge) and was handing it to his camera man.

I don't want to insult anyone's intelligence, but Oliver North is now a reporter for Fox News, but is a retired Marine LtCol who was made famous for taking the heat during the Iran Contra Hearings back in the 80s. He has tried to spark a political career (ran for the Senate) but has not had much success. He has authored some books and now works for Fox. He is controversial and people tend to really love him or hate him, but I won't get into that. I have always liked him. I admired the kind of "can do" attitude he had when he was active duty in the Marines. That "can do" attitude probably had something to do with his downfall too.

So, back to my little experience. He agrees to take to the picture and the camera guys is framing the picture for the shot, and he says," this is going to take a while...the timer is on for some reason". So I am thinking that Oliver North isn't going to wait for this...this needed to be a quick grin and shoot, so he could move on. So there we are staring at the camera...watching the blinking red light blink quicker...waiting for the shot to actually take and after what felt like 30 minutes of awkward silence and a fake smile, the camera finally snaps the shot. Unfortunately for me, I only have a five second smile and that was the longest 15 seconds of my life. Ollie took a good picture but I look like I need to go to the bathroom...which I still did.

I have no idea why the timer button was on, but I must have hit it when I handed the guy the camera. I am glad Ollie was a good sport because I would have been mad to have missed the opportunity. Afterwards, Ollie wanted to do an exclusive report on me and my life, but I declined because I didn't want the Iraqi bad guys finding out about me. Okay, so I lied about that last part...but it started to sound pretty good there for a second.

Free Advice for Today:
Overpay good baby sitters."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“AVOID CLICHÉS LIKE THE PLAGUE. (THEY'RE OLD HAT).

- Unknown

I hate being hit in the head.

I guess no one really likes it but I have an extra bit of red-hot hate reserved with being hit in the noggin. I’ve always been this way and have even been known to bark at my own kids when they accidentally hit me in the head. I just go mental and I guess I’d make a lousy boxer: one punch to the head and then I’d go bonkers and exhaust all my energy in a fit of rage before being pummeled without energy left to defend myself.

Today I encountered a head-hitting scenario of the worst kind: no one to blame. This is how it happened.

I was dutifully pecking away at my computer this afternoon at work when I pulled my foot back and it hit the lever that controls the pitch of the chair. Suddenly, I was thrust forward with a loud “CLANK” and ungraciously thrown forward. Other than my ego, no harm done and in an irritated state, I reached down to figure out which of the three levers controlled my now-forward-pitched chair that I had to fix to bring it back to normal.

My first blind try ended up lowering my entire chair in one hissing drop. Now I was sitting chest level with my desk AND pitched forward. PISSCON 2 in effect.

Since the blind groping method wasn’t working, I decided to lean forward to see which of the other two levers I should try. In my pissy state, I leaned forward and my forehead, right above my hairline, caught the leading edge of my computer desk. My head snapped back but I tried to play it off and ducked down to continue my search. Of course I was now in pain, pissed off, and embarrassed in case someone was witnessing this event.

The next lever I found did nothing and it took a couple of adjustments before I figured out how to use the last one. Then I had to adjust the height and lock down the tilt. After this was done, I casually went to the bathroom to see if the throbbing line of pain across my forehead was a glaring gash or just felt that way.

There was no visible mark since it was above the hairline but it hurt for the rest of the day.

The worst thing about it was there was no one to blame. So when I got home, I beat the dog mercilessly. For an hour.

More news from my buddy in Iraq. I offered to send him some Astroturf for his tent and this is what he sent back:

Thanks for the offer to send me Astroturf, but with my new carpet, I have doubled my property value. I should be able to turn a big profit when I sell my "apartment". Who ever does replace me in September will actually make out since I have no intention of bringing back the few creature comforts I have acquired. I too have the cardboard box furniture. For future references, the heat ration box is a lot more sturdier than the MRE box. I am thinking about opening my own cardboard box furniture store since I have become an expert at dumpster diving.

Thanks for thinking about me and all the other service members out here. That makes it all worth while. Take care my friend.

I wrote back:

Oh, and about your furniture idea: it's already taken. It's called Ikea.

And of course, yet another great cartoon I received today, labeled "Organizational Chart":


Free Advice for Today:
Be punctual and insist on it in others."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“YOU KNOW YOU HAD A GOOD TIME THE NIGHT BEFORE WHEN YOU LOOK FOR THE CLOTHES YOU WORE AND THERE AREN'T ANY.

- Unknown

Last night I taught my kids how to play Monopoly. I meant to just get them started and hit the sack early but as these things go, I was up to midnight explaining the “Get out of jail free” concept.

My son, or who I now call my Little Donald Trump, couldn’t even sit down when the game got started. He kept snapping his fingers absentmindedly because he was getting into it. Scary.

When you teach kids a game like this, you have to read the rules and although I thought I knew all about the game, I learned I didn’t know a Baltic Avenue rent sum's worth.

For instance, no where does it say you put $500 in the pot for free parking. Nor does it say you have to dump all the taxes in there.

I was clueless that you could legally put only one house on a property and that you had to keep it even across all properties.

Another point I never knew is that on some things, you can pay 10% of your worth instead of the fee. But you have to choose before you actually count up how much you’re worth. Go figure!

While my son was juggler-thirsty, my daughter was both persistent and gullible. She had the last green property (sorry about the technical terms) that Alex needed and he asked her if he could buy it. She was about to give it to him for $300 (the same amount she bought it for). I asked her why she would do that if he needed it so bad and she would not only receive zero profit but would allow him to put houses on the property. Girls! (just kidding, Sweetie).

I explained to her the folly of her plan and Alex offered her $350. I told her not to be bullied and to only accept what she thought it was worth. He told her to name her price and she asked for $120 over the going price. He agreed, got the property, and proceeded to fleece her.

It got to be midnight and I called a moratorium on all financial transactions until the morning. They have spring break all week and I thought midnight would be a good stopping point. Yes, that's my entry for Dad Of The Century.

I’m told Alex finished the financial beating in the morning until they got bored and steph conceded. Girls!!! YOU MUST FIGHT TO YOUR LAST DYING BREATH AS THE SPECTOR OF THE NETHERWORLD WRAPS HIS BONY FINGERS AROUND YOUR CONSTRICTING THROAT AS YOU SPIT YOUR LAST BREATH INTO HIS ROTTING SKULL!!!!! I mean, um, don't give up so soon, Sweetheart.

It rained all day today but I got my 3 mile run in. It felt good to run again and to work out some of the kinks. Let me clarify, it felt good at first but then the ghost of Saturday’s 20 miler came back and I felt like hammered dog crap by mid-run. Add to that it was raining, windy, and cold and you have my run in a nutshell.

The only other item of humor today was this cartoon someone sent me.

Free Advice for Today:
When in doubt -- smile."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“WE DO NOT STOP PLAYING BECAUSE WE ARE OLD. WE GROW OLD BECAUSE WE STOP PLAYING.

- Unknown

We decided to wait until the 11:00 AM service. Actually, “decided” is used liberally here. When we slept in to 9:00 AM, it was kinda decided for us.

I felt bad because the kids finally came in and said they had been awake since 8:00 waiting for us. If they would have come in then, I would have grumbled but would have got up. It used to be that I’d get up at 6:00 AM on weekends just to have a few relaxing hours alone in front of the computer. Plus, knowing the kids were chomping at the bit to find the Easter eggs we hid, I wouldn’t have minded the wake up call whatsoever. AFTER I woke up. (I’m a grumpy morning dude, as my family will attest).

I never got into the whole Easter egg thing. I’ll be one of those granddads that hovers over my grandkids but as a Dad, I’m just not into it. Yes, I get a thrill out of watching the kids get excited but I guess since I never had that thrilling of an Easter experience, the whole Easter thing is pretty much lost on me. Every year we would go to my grandmother’s house in Arkansas City, Kansas and that was a good memory but most of the time it was a lot of boredom. We would have ham (I hated and still hate ham!) and the adults would sit around and talk.

Maybe it was tainted for me in 1986 when I was kicked out of the house I was living in on the Friday before Easter (long story) and was desperately trying to find a place to live. That year I spent Easter with my then-girlfriend, now-wife’s family. So that was a good memory but it had a bad shell around it.

This year, we got up and the kids searched the house for plastic eggs containing… nothing. We also hide their baskets which was a raging success this year because it took Stephanie a couple of hours to find hers and Alex didn’t find his until after church and a few hints.

As I stated above, I hate ham so Carrie made a turkey. And what is turkey without mashed potatoes, dressing, corn, rolls, and wine? Yes, we had a Thanksgiving spread and afterwards, I had a lot of things to think about (my not-so-veiled euphemism for taking a nap). I had another 2 hour fest in me and with turkey in my gut, I explored the world of Napdom

When I think of what I’m really thankful for, I think that I’m the luckiest man alive for having a family like mine. The food, the candy, the house, all these things fall to such a low priority when I look at the family I have. It really put it in perspective when I read an email from a good friend who is serving in Iraq. It is the best way I can end this blog if I want you to stop and think about life.

Hello Everyone,

I just got back from our Easter Vigil celebration. It was pretty nice considering the austere conditions. Our chapel is in a theater looking room (see mek chapel pic) but it is in pretty bad condition. Like most of this camp, the infrastructure is old and deteriorating. You can't really tell from the picture, but it looks like it is half way though a demolition process. None the less, we are grateful to have a safe place to pray.

There was actually a sad story about today's celebration. For those of you who are not aware of the Catholic religion, we are rich in traditions and symbolism. Today was the blessing of the Pascal candle (see pascal candle pic). This is also known as the Easter candle and this will be the candle that will be lit throughout the year. Well, the Catholic chaplain didn't bring one of these with him. He didn't bring a lot of the things that he needed to establish a new chapel.

Well, I would have never of thought that Fallujah would have something in common with Albany Ga...both towns only have one Catholic Church. It is more surprising that they would have one in a country that is primarily Islamic, but our chaplain found it as a blessing and visited. We were told that though they are a small and poor community, they gave us the Pascal candle that you see in the picture. They also gave us some of the other things that the chaplain asked for.

Well, the sad part that I was referring to was that the one guy who was helping our chaplain was shot for helping the Americans. He is now paralyzed from the waist down. Here we have a civilized person, someone merely showing a helpful hand for fellow Catholics and he is punished.

The majority of the people here are just like him. They are not all bad people here. Most just want to get along with their lives. Most understand why we are here and are grateful. It is frustrating for them though because things have gotten worse before they will get better. It's that whole short term pain for long term gain dilemma.

Under Saddam, they had no civil rights, but most of them had jobs. These jobs didn't pay much money, but it put food on the table. Now we have turned this countries economic system inside out and even the low paying jobs have disappeared. There is a plan with billions of dollars set aside to jump start their economy, but we can't get there with the minority who are disrupting the process. These idiots want us to fail so they can run this country their way. It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. I try to keep an open mind. I try to look at it from their point of view, but it doesn't add up. I know that these people who claim to be led by their god will have a rude awakening when they meet their maker and I know that that man that helped us get an Easter candle has a ticket to a better place. It is just a shame that it has to come to that.

The camp that I am at has an interesting story to it. It was actually an Iranian terrorist training camp all the way up to the last war. The story is that the Iraqis were training Iraqi sympathizers from Iran here. I don't know what these terrorist were ever responsible for, but the idea is that their primary purpose was to go back to Iran and raise havoc there. So, I often daydream while I walking around or sitting in a room or observing the surroundings, wondering what those guys were doing here. What did they do in that same theater we use for a chapel? Did they run the same dirt trails that I run everyday? Who slept in my room? I just often wonder. This place was a breeder of hate and evil and now we are here trying to spread peace.

You know, I am taken back by the gardens around here. For terrorist, they sure like flowers. Even though we are surrounded by desert, there are bougainvilleas all over the place (see flowers pic). I can recall having one of those plants in my back yard when we lived in Monterey. It looked like a dead vine when we moved in and I was in the process of digging it up when someone (maybe Cathy) told me that it was a nice plant. I spent the next year and a half care and feeding that plant and though it did end up blooming and producing pretty flowers, mine never looked as lush as the ones that appear to be growing wild here! I even spotted a few rose bushes blooming today. Maybe the terrorist were funding themselves though a nursery operation.

I know some of you have sent packages and letters and are wondering why I haven't written back thanking you for them. The reason is that we haven't received any mail in a week now. We aren't getting much feedback here, but the rumor is that all the mail is sitting in a warehouse awaiting transportation. You all know what is going on around here so the limited transportation assets are rightfully supporting the priorities at hand. No word on when we will get the mail, but there is another rumor going around that one of the mail trucks was attacked and that some of the mail was lost. I obviously won't know if any of your packages were included in this until we get the stuff out of the warehouse, but I will let you know when I get something so you know it made it here.

Yesterday was a great day here. The little PX got a shipment of carpets in. These are only 5'x3', but just the right size to put by our beds so we don't have to stand on the cement. I had seemed to miss the previous shipments because they were never in stock, but I got the second to last one this time.

It is probably funny to read about someone being excited about a piece of carpet, but you take those simple creature comforts for granted. I have attached a pic labeled room so you can see my new carpet, my cardboard box shelves and my little plastic drawer set that is the biggest piece of junk (it falls apart every time I touch it). It is actually pretty cozy considering where the Marines surrounding Fallujah are sleeping tonight.

Continue to keep us all in your thoughts and prayers. Thanks for the support. Happy Easter!

Free Advice for Today:
Stay humble."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“GOOD LEADERS DON'T THREATEN SUBORDINATES. EITHER PUNISH THEM OR FORGIVE THEM; THEN GET ON WITH THE TASK AT HAND.

- Unknown

Today’s BLOG is easy because nothing much happens after you do a run like I did today. Twenty miles is a hell of a long run. I don’t say that to complain or to brag; just to state the obvious.

I got up later than I wanted to (of course) because I refuse to use an alarm clock on the weekend. I got up, got ready, and traveled the hour to get to Mount Vernon. Yes, THE Mount Vernon where old George lived. It’s also the start of a long, paved trail with mile markers. It was a much better day than the last (and first) time I’d run this path mostly because it was not cold enough to freeze my spleen this time.

For some odd reason, I ran without the normal handicaps I normally posses. I didn’t feel slow, fat, drained, winded, or slothly for most of the run. In fact, the first ten miles came and went without much effort or pain. I thought it strange because I hadn’t run this effortlessly for a long time but I knew what was the likely cause. Running is mental (I mean "a mental game" not "mental" - crazy-mental!!! Nevermind.) and I had resigned myself to running 20 miles and that the last five miles would be arduous. When you get this in your head, the first 15 miles normally go by fine. I know it sounds strange but that’s the way it goes.

I also set myself up for success from the beginning because I had to stop by my work area before in order to retrieve my running pack. This gave me the opportunity to, well, to…. I got some thinking done.

I got to the path, geared up (running pack, camelback, hat, sunglasses, earplugs plugged into the mp3 player with new batteries, Vaseline slathered in the nether-regions, etc.) and set out to my 10 mile turnaround point.

There was a moment where I passed two kids fishing and as I ran by, one of them was pulling a fish out of the river. I thought how perfect the timing had to be from the time I awoke to the time it took to drive there, get ready, and run the two miles to end up at that exact spot to see this kid yank this fish out of the river. I doubt if the fish thought so, if the fish think about these things at all, but if they did, would he see the irony of the events converging together? These are the kind of things one thinks about when one runs for 3 ½ hours!!!

As expected, I started breaking down at about mile 16. My legs were wondering what the hell I was doing, my water ran out, and my feet were starting to rebel. The Vaseline I had liberally applied had worn off so I was creating heat in places you don’t want to get raw. In other words, life started to suck and I knew I was at the point that every runner faces: when you have to decide if you are a runner or just acting like one.

I managed to get to mile 19 where there was a small park. I hit the port-a-potty and geared myself for the final push. I saw a water fountain and took the opportunity to get one last mouthful of water for the final uphill mile to blissful finishing. I let the water run for about 10 seconds and thought to myself that I was thirsty enough not to care what it tasted like.

I was not that thirsty.

It tasted like it had been filtered through a dead man’s asshole. I know that’s graphic but I had to get across the level of nastiness. As thirsty as I was and as much my body yearned for relief, I couldn’t stomach the excuse for water I had in my mouth. The little I did swallow, I worried about making me sick. I mean real sick. Like for days.

I finished that last uphill mile and coming across the finish line, I was more relieved that it was over than I was that I had accomplished 20 miles. I must have looked horrible to the other people milling about the area but I didn’t care. I didn’t even feel compelled to tell them I had gone 20 miles. I just wanted those two Gatorade bottles I had in my car. And the two bananas. And the Aleve. And the Tylenol. And the box of raisins. OK, my body was a little famished.

The ride home was a misty dream. When I got home, I just sat there, wondering how I could ask my legs to do anything else. Obviously, they weren’t talking to me and I couldn’t blame them. I swiveled around, putting my feet on the ground and with all the strength I had, pushed myself up into a standing position and looked like Bambi when he first tried to walk.

It took me about 5 minutes to gather everything and take a shot at getting into the house. I walked slowly and pitifully into the house where I gave a weak “Daddy home, Daddy home, Daddy home.”

A shower and plate of lasagna later, I was back in bed for the next two hours. When I awoke, I felt better but not 100%. At least I was content in the knowledge that it was the last big training run for the marathon coming up on May 1. I proved to myself that I was ready to put myself though 26.2 miles.

For the rest of the evening, I tried to stay as immobile as possible and managed to watch TV for most of the evening. I watched SNL and was surprised that Janet Jackson made fun of herself so much. I don’t know how I stayed up so late and even managed to help my wife hide Easter eggs for the kids. Tomorrow I will be recovered enough to enjoy Easter. Hopefully.

Free Advice for Today:
Never leave fun to find fun."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Friday, April 9, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“WE PREACH THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO OBEY AN UNLAWFUL ORDER...BUT GOD HELP THE LAD WHO MISJUDGES THE LEGALITY OF MY ORDERS.

- Unknown

I found out late last night that I had the day off. My boss emailed me and they had given a 72 to us so I had a free day. After missing Wednesday because of sickness, I felt a little guilty. That lasted for about 4 seconds.

Why is it when I can stay up as late as I want, I crash at 10:00? That’s what happened and I slept in until 8:30 AM. What’s up with that?

I took the wife to lunch at a Chinese restaurant. OK, let me say that square rice cubes filled with green something; just plain wrong. I also did not appreciate the wasabi, fried shrimp craplets, flat baked fish slabs, and the “tiny lobsters” are crawdads you nasty people!!!

It would be easier to explain what I do eat: deep fried chicken things, oodles and oodles of noodles, fried rice, egg rolls, and chicken wings. That’s it. Two servings of this and the buffet is complete.

Since I sat through Jersey Girl for our anniversary, I got to pick a movie. Dawn of the Dead it was!!!

Dawn of the Dead kinda sucked. I thought it would be better because I heard it was but it was just your basic gore-fest with spooky jump-outs. Like most of these kind, there were plot holes the size of dump trucks and more than a few groaner lines (the ones that make you groan). But the realism was kind of spooky and I did think about the concept after I left the theater. But just didn't feel good afterward. Oh well, what did I expect?

When I got home, I mowed the lawn (let’s hear it for the riding mower!!!). Now the cost-per-mow is down to $700 but I’m working on it.

The other thing of note for today is that at some point last night, I was viciously attacked by mosquitoes. Right wrist, left ankle, lower back (on the spare tire), and back of the thigh. When or how this happened is beyond me. The only time I was in shorts yesterday is during my run and I was, you know RUNNING, most of the time. So the sneaky little bastards are infiltrating somehow.

Two links I want to show you, both from the same website. I found it buried in my favorites and decided they are worth revisiting.

The Fat Project chronicles two people trying to gain as much weight as possible. If you like my humor, you’ll love the commentary. They have pics, too.

The Stinky Feet Project is a guy trying to see how bad he can get his athlete’s foot to get. Warning, this is not for the faint of heart but mesmerizing nonetheless.

Bonus: his “Date My Sister” story is pretty good too.

Lastly, my cousin sent me this picture of a camel spider she got from a friend in Iraq (the pic, not an actual spider) and asked if I'd encountered them when I was there.

My answer was:

"Hell no. If I'd seen that, I'd still be screaming like a little school girl. Criminy!"

She sent back a Google-searched explanation:

Camel spiders are one of the fastest running arthropods. Although they have four pairs of legs, they run using only three pairs. The first pair of legs or pedipalpi are held up in front of them and used in a similar manner to the antennae of insects. They have very long, silky setae and are constantly moving in order to locate and pick-up prey. Despite their fearsome appearance and their strong bite, solifugids are unlikely to harm humans. In the past they were considered venomous and extremely dangerous but it is now thought that the only risk of injury resulting from them is caused by shock or infection following a bite. There is no evidence of venom in any part of their body.

My final answer was:

OK, so they don’t have venom but that doesn't answer the mail when my ovaries explode as I find one crawling up my leg. Harmless my ass!

Free Advice for Today:
When you need a little advice, call your grandparents."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Thursday, April 8, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“A MARINE IN DRESS BLUES CAPTIVATES THE LADIES--YOUNG AND OLD, FAIR AND FOUL.

- Unknown

My son had his first soccer game tonight.

You’d like to say your kid’s team is good. I cannot say that. Our team, it, well, not to sugarcoat it, really su…. is challenged. I hold no animosity toward any of the kids or even to the coaches. I’ve coached before and I know it’s tough and as long as the coach is giving his time to give it a shot, I’m not complaining. The kids are just that: kids. They are doing their best and while it’s a shame, as long as I’m not out there adding to the event, I have no complaints.

I seem to be in the minority in this area. I don’t get too excited as a spectator unless my son is darting down the field and has a shot. I only encourage and never discourage. I root for my team to win and not for the other team to lose or do poorly. Again, I seem to be in the minority here.

I got there straight from work and made it just in time. I had never met the coaches before and when I saw them, I had to laugh in spite of myself. These two men, they say themselves, have lived in Virginia all their lives. God bless them for volunteering their time but the sight of them makes a humorous moment. The head coach is a skinny little man with a shaggy grey beard. No mustache, just the beard so the Abe Lincoln thing adds to his classic hillbilly look. With his accent making the illusion complete, I chastised myself for imagining him with his arms straight down in front of him, fists balled, and legs alternating kick-outs to the side.

The assistant coach was 300 lbs if he was a pound. With a scraggly beard, baseball cap, and black shirt with no sleeves, I couldn’t stop myself from staring at this perfect hillbilly duo. If he would have called the head coach “Pa,” I likely would have fought stomach cramps for the rest of the day.

The game started and the score quickly shot up to 5 zip. My son did a lot of standing around and it wasn’t hard to tell a few things.

First, he plays up to the level of the team. The last two years, he was a superstar on the team and could be counted on to take the ball to the goal. Today, he hardly moved.

Second, the team does not know how to play together. IF they passed, which was rare, it was between kids who knew each other and it was obvious Alex knew no one, or at least well enough for them to feed him the ball. Kids were all over the field, high kicking, and booting it hard every chance they got. It reminded me of years ago when the little ones just swarmed the ball, kicked it, and swarmed again.

Third, the opposing team have played together for years. They were passing to each other, doing triangles, and obviously had plays planned out. After the first half, it became obvious that they were told not to score any more goals. They just kept passing to each other and would not challenge any of our players who had the ball (which didn’t matter because all we would do is boot it down field). Even with this condescending treatment, we never came close to scoring. It was painful to watch for an hour.

My wife was not the silent sufferer through all this, as I was. I finally had to get up and walk away because my ear seemed to be her impetus to voice her displeasure. She’s much more competitive than I and I got tired of the complaints. I started to get irritated with the other parents from the opposing team because of their enthusiasm at our expense. But then I thought how I’d be in their shoes. I wouldn’t have been as vocal as they were but I can’t fault them for enjoying their children’s domination.

One thing that did miff me a bit was when I learned that the other team had played together for years. This meant that the teams were not split up fairly to spread the talent across all the teams. With parents able to request certain coaches, a dynasty could, and obviously was, built thus leaving the scraps, newcomers, and first time players to gather on “scrub” teams. I will be calling the league and if this is the case, they will have one less player on the scrub team.

I ran today and also managed to work it out to actually attend the marathon on May 1st. It was touch and go for awhile but I have to transition right over to another trip to Parris Island right when I get back. I almost had to eat the $230 plane ticket and $70 entrance fee because of a business trip.

Am I ready for the race? I don’t think I am but I never think I am. Worried? Yep. Here is last year’s adventure. Bone up on the history if you're following.

Free Advice for Today:
Exercise vigorously."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“A MAN IS A SUCCESS IF HE GETS UP IN THE AM AND GOES TO BED IN THE PM AND IN BETWEEN DOES WHAT HE WANTS TO DO.

- Unknown

I stayed home sick today so I don’t have much.

Last night, I saw OddTodd on TechTV and loved it. He seemed so down to earth for such a weird guy. It was weird seeing his cartoons on TV and even weirder to see him do “The Voice.” But he insisted on covering his mouth which was odd (duh!). I wonder if he curls his mouth or something. What’s scary is that to know this, he would have to do the voice in front of a mirror.

In between my bouts of unconsciousness today, I managed to submit a “Wednesday’s Screwups” entry to his site. Here is the one I sent:

OK, this is a good one.

It was the day before my first day in college. I was an 25 year old active duty Marine sitting in my in-laws house trying not to be too nervous. Watching TV alone, I grabbed a play basketball hoop my kids had laying around and I absentmindedly stuck the rubber sucker thing on my thigh. It stuck a little bit but not much. So I wet my finger and coated the business end to which I was rewarded with a powerful stick the next time I put in on my thigh.

Watching TV, I continued my absentminded nervousness and started sticking the thing to my cheek, somehow soothed by the push-pull-pop routine. Then I started on my forehead which gave an even better pop when I pulled it away. I did this a few times before throwing it aside and going into the kitchen. My wife looked at me and said “What’s on your forehead?”

Nothing” came my response.

“It’s red.” She stated.

I ran to the mirror and sure enough, I had given myself a huge round hickey covering my entire forehead. The laughing by my family was bad enough but no amount of subtle makeup could hide my shame and I had to attend my first day of college with an uber-hicky on my forehead. An angry, deep red one that lasted a week.

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

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“THE GREAT MAN IS HE WHO DOES NOT LOSE HIS CHILD-HEART.

- Unknown

Not much happened today except I ran 8 miles at lunch and I’m real tired so I will wimp out and post an explanation about mp3s I sent to a friend.

MP3s are just files like any other files. The extension is .mp3 instead of .doc or .html. An average song takes up about 4 MB. The songs on a CD take up much more than that but MP3s use special encoding and lower sampling rate to crunch the data into a smaller package. I’m not a sound freak so a 4 MB mp3 is just fine with me.

MP3s are mostly for computers but some of the newer sound systems (car, home) will play them. But don’t think because it plays a CD that it will play an MP3. Some of the smaller devices play mp3s exclusively. I have an RCA Kazoo and keep over 100 songs on it (but they don’t make them anymore). It cost me about $100 a couple of years ago. These devices (mp3 players) are very popular because they hold a lot of songs in a small, lightweight device. Ipod is such a device but crazy expensive ($400). I wouldn’t spent over $100. The other advantage to this is that your music does not skip or wear out. These things last about 10 hours on two AAA batteries. I would look into the Rio brand.

So how do you get mp3s? Well, taking a song off of a CD and converting it to an MP3 is called “ripping” and although it sounds illegal, it isn’t. You are allowed to do this if you bought the CD. It’s only if you share it do you get the music industry on your back. There are several free programs that will do this for you. You can even use the Media Player that came with your Windows. If you need to know how, let me know.

Once you have the MP3 on your computer, you use Media Player or WinAmp (both free) to play them on your computer. They work just like a normal stereo after you load (telling the program where you store you mp3, hopefully in a directory made just for that) onto a “playlist.” You play the play list and every time you do, you get the same songs. You can set it to randomize for variety.

The peer-to-peer stuff you hear about is when you share music (or other files) with others. The way this works is you download a program that connects into a server. The server actually holds no files, it’s just the connector. It has a list of all the files each person connected is offering to share. So you query the system, wanting, for example, Fear by Sarah McLachlan. It gives you a list of the people connected who have that song. If you opt to download it, the server connects your computer to theirs and the transfer is made. The file you get is just as good as if you got it from the CD (although only as good as the person who ripped it and may contain viruses).

You can see why the record industry is up in arms about this. Much like radar detectors, it’s not illegal to have these programs or use them but it is illegal to transfer copywritten materials to others (OK, maybe not a good analogy). The companies got away with the scheme because they claimed they housed no copywritten materials and they were right. So now the recording industry is going after those that actually download the copywritten materials.

Free Advice for Today:
Take a nap on Sunday afternoons."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Monday, April 5, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“ONCE A DAY, ASK YOURSELF, WHAT AM I DOING THAT I SHOULDN'T AND WHAT AM I DOING THAT I SHOULD.

- Unknown

If you recall my credit card fiasco when they double billed a hotel stay in 29 Palms, you will recall I thought it was settled after two failed faxes, long delays in phone queue hell, 2 months, and numerous “hand-offs” where I’d have to explain my dilemma over and over. All for $42.42. Finally I got someone who I thought would be helpful and they said they’d take it off my bill. That was a couple of months ago.

Today I got a letter telling me that I signed a receipt and so the charge was justified.

Nevermind that I documented the whole thing and pointed out BOTH charges, telling them one was legit and one was the extra charge two days later. The “documentation” they sent me was for the one I owned up to.

So tomorrow I have to call, wait in phone queue hell again, and explain the whole bloody mess to yet another representative. I was a bit peeved about this and will have a rather difficult time keeping my cool. It is the 4th time I’ve had to deal with them on this subject and we are back to square one.

Needles to say after they fix this, I will immediately, and dramatically, tell them to close my account and let them know that they lost my future business because it took them 4 months (and counting) to straighten out a simple double charge on my card.

Of course this will not matter to the rep I am talking to because they are earning minimum wage in some phone sweatshop and could care less if Jason Grose closes his account. They will finish their shift, go home, and return the next day for another day of dealing with dissatisfied customers. This is my often-repeated gripe about business these days: they separate the customer from the decision makers by introducing a “customer service” layer who do not have a vested interest in keeping a client. They still get paid the same amount no matter what and thus have no incentive to satisfy a customer unless you get real lucky and happen upon someone with an unjaded outlook if they are somewhat new to the industry.

On an unrelated note, while writing an old friend (old in the sense of having known her since junior high, not that she’s old or anything. Sorry Stephanie) tonight, I outlined a typical night for me these days. Here was my depressing and need-to-be-changed routine:

6:15 arrive home
6:20 lay down
6:30 eat dinner
6:45 lay down again
7:15 get up and go to computer
9:30 get pulled away to say good night to Steph
9:35 back to computer
10:00 get pulled away to say good night to Alex
10:05 start Blog
11:00 Desperately try to finish Blog and get to TV
11:02 Get pissed off for missing first two minutes of The Daily Show
11:15 Make popcorn on commercial break even though I said I wouldn't
11:30 Watch Leno monologue
11:45 Carrie turns off my lamp

Free Advice for Today:
Never pass up a chance to jump on a trampoline."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Sunday, April 4, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“NEARLY ALL MEN CAN STAND ADVERSITIES. IT YOU WANT TO TEST THEM, GIVE THEM POWER.

- Unknown

This morning was Daylight Saving (no "S" on the end, according the the official site) Time.

Spelling & grammar

The official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.

Saving is used here as a verbal adjective (a participle). It modifies time and tells us more about its nature; namely, that it is characterized by the activity of saving daylight. It is a saving daylight kind of time. Similar examples would be dog walking time or book reading time. Since saving is a verb describing a single type of activity, the form is singular.

Nevertheless, many people feel the word savings (with an 's') flows more mellifluously off the tongue, and Daylight Savings Time is also in common usage, and can be found in dictionaries.

Part of the confusion is because the phrase Daylight Saving Time is inaccurate, since no daylight is actually saved. Daylight Shifting Time would be better, but it is not as politically desirable. In fact, scientifically misguided politicians sometimes misunderstand. In 1995, the British Time (Extra Daylight) Bill was introduced by John Butterfill, attempting the impossible -- to legislate extra daylight. The bill did not pass.

Spring forward my ass!!! That means I lose an hour of sleep and don’t even try to tell me I will make it up by getting to bed an hour earlier because you know that ain’t gonna happen! It was so much easier in Arizona when we didn’t have to worry about it. I’ll be draggin’ ass for a week.

Today I spent a fair amount of time figuring out how to make a backup on my external drive. The software it came with doesn’t work at all.

Retrospect, you SUCK!

No, Jason, you suck more because you can’t properly use the software we created.

No, Retrospect, you infinity suck because I as the user (and a relatively advanced user at that) was unable to set your program up easy enough to make it useful. Sorry but any way you slice it, you failed to make the user’s experience worthwhile and get them to the endstate of using your product.

Crap.

I then tried another free program but to no avail. I found a third program and it was freeware (my favorite kind) so I tried it and it took 4 hours to make a backup. That was last night. So this morning I decided to do it again to see how long the incremental backup would take.

The program promised that it only makes backups of the files that have changed. Well, 4 hours later, I beg to differ. Checking the log, I found that it had backed up everything again. At least it overwrote the files but still, that’s a lot of wear and tear if I have to go through that every time I want to back up (which is nightly if I can get it to do it incrementally).

I went to the website of the guy who wrote it and found out he maintains a help forum. So I posted my problem and hoped that he would help me. I know it’s freeware so I can’t be too demanding but I would just like to have something that works.

The other thing I want to write about is a couple of emails I got from friends in Iraq. It really hits home we are at war when you get letters like this. They aren’t boasting or playing the brave Marine. They are simply letting me in to their day to day existence.

The first one is an old running buddy. He is a Major serving with 7th Marines. Here is what he had to say:

Hey,

I'm back online now....for a while at least. So fire away with your "pithy" wit.

Also, I haven't received the Penthouse magazine yet. WTFO?

It rained mud yesterday (sand storm + rain = muddy rain) not sure how much more of a shithole this place can become...oh yeah, it's going to be ass-crack hot here in a few weeks too!

We had a rocket attack last night too, pissed me off because I just started to watch a DVD and I had to go get in my hole with my helmet and flack on and all that. I'm sure you can appreciate the pain in the ass it was to get accountability for HQ Company (although it's getting better since this was the third attack in a month).

Fortunately no one was hurt. On the first attack the air wing a couple of weeks back had a KIA and there were a couple of WIA as well, none from my company. Don't worry, we'll get this asshole. We call him the "rocket man". He's a dead man.

Livin' large in Iraq!

Semper Fi

And here is another one from a good friend:

Hello,

Nothing exciting to write, but I hadn't done the "shotgun" email in a few days and some where wondering if everything was alright. I am sure you have all seen the news about what is going on. Everything is alright, but someone summed up the other day when they didn't get any mail during mail call..."I guess you have to write to be written too."

In addition to this, we have been having a problem with our network so if you are writing routinely and you don't hear from me daily, don't worry. I saw a quote in something I was reading from someone who was responding to a complaint from a family member back home about not hearing from their loved one with all that is going on and the quote made sense to me. "No news is generally good news, because if something did happen, there would be a rush to notify the family." So keep that in mind. I am sure (wife's name) would let everyone know if there was a problem with me, but it is nice to know so many of you are thinking about me.

Everything is going fine here. Just settled into my routine. Most of the time I don't know what day of the week it is here. I completed my first month in Iraq on 1 April...6 more months to go for me. I got my first care package this past week. I wanted to publicly thank my Jan, (wife’s) Mom for sending me my first care package. She sent me some good stuff, but my favorite was the popcorn. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love popcorn. It took great discipline on my behalf to stretch the bag over a three day period, but it all gone. Ahhhh, the finer things in life.

The mustache is coming in pretty good. If they would let me grow a beard, I think I could blend in outside the camp! The temperatures are still relatively mild (80s) so I have been getting my daily run in around the camp. I should be a stud (even better than I am already...yeah right) by the time I leave this place. I am going to have to cut back on the goodies at night though if I plan to stay slim. I think I will just run farther. I know I have lost some weight here though...it is amazing what happens when you cut out beer from your diet!

Free Advice for Today:
Own a comfortable chair for reading."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Saturday, April 3, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“CLEAN MIND...CLEAN BODY...TAKE YOUR PICK.

- Unknown

We all got up this morning to go to Alex’s first soccer game. It was a thin excuse to gaff off my long run (bad Jason!) but when we got to the field, absolutely no one was there. When we got home, Carrie called the parks hotline and sure enough, all youth sports had been cancelled due to the rain. The funny thing is that Carrie and I were not looking forward to sitting in the cold all morning, Stephanie was less interested, and even Alex had little desire to play.

So instead, we all went to the 10:30 showing of Home On The Range. The kids loved it. Carrie and I? Well, let’s just say that we were glad not to be in the cold. Listening to Rosanne as a cow for two hours was a bit painful but we got through it. The best part was the preview for the upcoming Harry Potter movie. The worst part was the singing and sappy story. My kids better take good care of me when I get old because they owe me.

Afterwards, we went to the public library. I wasn’t 5 feet in the door before I had three novels in hand. They were selling books in the entrance for $2 a piece so I picked up Rainbow Six and Without Remorse, both by Tom Clancy and The Price Of Honor by Colonel David H. Hackworth. When will I get to these? Dunno, but I got ‘em.

Then I proceeded to peruse every single book on tape they had. I normally do this and it takes about an hour. I ended getting a bunch (too much) that I will renew multiple times because it’ll take more than 2 weeks to get through the stack.

It occurs to me that I have about 3 hours per day commuting so that’s 15 hours per week. That’s a lot of books on tape. I should be getting through these faster. Wonder where the time is leaking to…. Hmmm.

Free Advice for Today:
Never buy anything electrical at a flea market."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Friday, April 2, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“WE'RE ONLY YOUNG ONCE. HOW LONG THAT 'ONCE' LASTS IS UP TO US.

- Unknown

After a monstrous meeting (1 hour turned into 3), I was let loose on the world a little early. I didn’t get good sleep for some reason last night and was grateful for the couple of hours to beat the traffic home.

That’s what I thought was going to happen.

I had my wife come pick me up so I wouldn’t have to wait for the train and as it turns out, she wishes I would have taken the train. When we got on the highway, it was backed up and I had absolutely no patience. You would think I’d be thankful for getting out early but the thought of being off and then stuck in traffic made me real frustrated and crabby.

My deepest ire was reserved for the cell phone user. It’s bad enough we have too many people and too little road to deal with here in Virginia but add to that a little rain and the tendency for people to get on their cell phones and you make a bad scene worse. Time and time again when I finally got a lane open and sped around a person that was holding up a half a mile of cars, it would be the idiot yapping away on their cell phone, oblivious that they are the cause of the horrendous traffic snarls. So I naturally swerve into their lane, missing them by inches and hopefully causing their hearts to race.

I don’t know if it was my mood or what but I must have run into a dozen people playing out this same phone scenario. Everyone seemed to be on the phone and going 25 miles per hour below the speed limit and 20 car-lengths behind the person in front of them. I was not pleasant to be around.

By the time I got to the train station to pick up Truckasaurus, I was so cranky that all I wanted to do was get home and not leave again until I had to. The people were just getting off the train when I arrived. Yes, it took over an hour to go on a thirty minute ride.

The ride from the train station to home was exacerbated by my mood so the traffic delays, unusual even for Friday midafternoon standards, fuelled the fire. I was ready to kill by the time I got home and vowed to stay put. My wife’s comment was “Gee, I’m glad I came and got you.”

The only thing that chipped away at my bad funk was a letter from VRE when I got home. I lost my tickets the other day. It seems they found my tickets and sent them to me. I should have been happy but because of my state, I found the letter a bit condescending. You be the judge.

Free Advice for Today:
Properly fitting shoes should feel good as soon as you try them on. Don't believe the salesperson who says, 'They'll be fine as soon as you break them in.'"
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Thursday, April 1, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“THE USMC HAS CUSTOMS...THE USN HAS TRADITIONS...THE USA HAS REGULATIONS...AND THE USAF HAS HABITS.

- Unknown

I suck at April Fools Day jokes. I’m not that much of a practical joker to begin with so this one day a year when you are supposed to exercise your joksterism, I’m at an utter loss.

Last year, OddTodd got me good when he put up an official-looking front page to his site that said that his site had been seized because of copyright infringement in the case of a few heisted MP3s he had on his site. I find it ironic that this was before all of the lawsuits as of late in this arena.

But he got me good because I thought his site was busted which depressed me but also made me jump to my site immediately just in case they found something on my site to get me on. It took me a minute but I soon discovered his joke and I had played right into his hands. Touché, Sir OddTodd, touché.

But with this said, I found it a little sad that he tried something very similar this year. Come on Mr. Odd. You are better than that! (This from a guy whose apex of practical joking is a whoopee cushion.)

I was a bit unprepared when my daughter came up to me all upset when she couldn’t think of a joke to play on her brother last night. The only ones I could think of were just plain mean and not something you want your daughter doing to your son. I came up with putting baby powder on his hairbrush (after discarding putting something nasty on his toothbrush). But then it hit me.

In a M*A*S*H episode, I remember when the camp conspired against Hawkeye because he not only was the biggest practical joker, he was an expert on spotting and averting jokes intended for him. So everyone made it look like they had a big secret joke ready for him and Hawkeye spent the entire episode trying to discover what it was to the point that he barb-wired himself to a chair in the middle of the camp all night. The joke was that there was no joke and just to watch him overreact to a potential trap that was never set.

I thought this to be a perfect joke for my daughter to play on her brother. I told her she’d have to sell it and to make him believe she had a joke in mind. I was not there for the salesmanship but I imagine she oversold it. At the end of the night she told me she let him in on it and she was all proud of herself. I doubt if the boy was “got” but she thinks so and that’s all that counts.

Free Advice for Today:
Before buying a house or renting an apartment, check the water pressure by turning on the faucets and the shower and then flushing the toilet."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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