Jason's BLOG pages

 
 

 


Jason Grose's BLOG

June 2004

 

 

 


What's a blog, you ask? It stands for "weblog" and it's basically an online journal of daily thought. We'll see how long I can keep this up (as though I don't have enough to do!)

If you must have a title, I'll go with: The daily thoughts/rants of a Marine Officer, father, scholar, husband, marathon runner, Flash cartoonist, computer nerd.


Wednesday, June 30 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Take a bite of a sandwich and ask another passenger: 'Wanna see wha in muh mouf?'

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

I didn’t think it was possible to be MORE sore than yesterday. Obviously, I underestimated the power of lactic acid in the muscles. I’ve been corrected. I understand now. Thank you for setting me straight on this. Can I die now?

Today I was the tin man without the benefit of an oil can. But I ran at lunch to loosen things up. It worked until about mile 4 and then I was just hot and loose.

This morning was a bad combination of events. I woke up late and I couldn’t get out of bed. At least not quickly. But I couldn’t doze because I knew I had a meeting but wasn’t sure if it was first thing in the morning. So I hovered in that half sleep worry state which could be solved by getting up and checking the email. But like I said, there was the small factor of being pretty much paralyzed.

When I creaked out of bed and stumbled to my computer, I tried to log into to my Oulook Web Access (work email). But it kept giving me an error.

Switching to the trusty Blackberry, I grabbed it and saw that I had cleared it out just the other day so I had very few emails. But I had one from my boss that had the original meeting information down in the email trail. So I scrolled down.

My Blackberry is set to only download so much of a long email and this one was cut off right where the info I needed was. No problem, I’ll just ask for “more.”

Nothing happened.

I tried a few more times with no joy. So I looked into the options and realized the wireless function had been turned off. Funny, I didn’t do that. Oh well, I turned it back on.

But then it said that the battery was too low to use the wireless.

OK, I’ll plug it in and use AC power.

Oh, but on a Blackberry, it doesn’t work that way. It charges it but doesn't run off the power like every other freakin’ electronic gadget since the 1960’s!!!!!!!

Yeah, I started losing it.

NO OWA because…. It’s Quantico OWA. No resident email on the Blackberry. No Blackberry juice to get the rest of the email. No number to anyone I know who would know.

So I decided to take a shower and hopefully get enough juice to check it out before I left. Also, it occurred to me that MCRD San Diego would be in the virtual meeting and since they are 3 hours behind us, the meeting wouldn’t take place until after lunch. Why this didn’t occur to me before so I could sleep soundly, I don’t know. But luckily it didn’t or I would’ve slept until noon.

I succeeded before I left. The meeting was at 1300.

At lunch, I had my first experience with canned chicken pieces. I thought I’d dump it into the salad I’ve been enjoying all week to cover up any potential adverse taste. Well, it backfired. The salad absorbed the nastiness rather than vice versa. I choked it down.

Bad news: my 4th of July trip to Georgia got canxed due to weather. My aunt called and told me that they have been having horrible weather and the weekend forecast was for very hideous thunderstorms. One of the reason we were gong was so the kids could lounge by the pool all weekend. OK, the kids never “lounge” around any pool but in any case, my aunt pointed out we’d be locked up in the house all weekend so we decided to postpone our trip until later in the month.

So I went back and ripped up my leave papers, right? Yeah, right. I had already locked in my mind that today was my “virtual Friday,” being the last day before vacation. And if you think I was going to come in tomorrow since my plans changed, well, Jason Grose you know not well.

But there was another reason. The kids were real disappointed we weren’t going so I knew I had to make it up to them. The best way to do this was obvious. They have been bugging me constantly about going to King’s Dominion Water Park and Amusement Park. We bought season tickets and Carrie has taken the little heathens every week since school’s been out. (Somethimes child-Jason is jealous of his future kids. I never got season passes to anything except.... well, anything.)

I made the brutal mistake of promising them I’d go on any and all rides they wanted me to. They practically exploded when I said that and I didn’t realize what I was committing to. What was I thinking? What did I sign myself up for?

I will know tomorrow.

Free Advice for Today:
Remember that it's better to be cheated in price than in quality."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Bring a chair along.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

DON’T TOUCH ME!

ANYWHERE!!

That is my standard statement today. Yes, second day in the gym and we covered all the muscles not punished yesterday.

0630 is painful. 0530 is more painful. That’s when I was due at the gym and when I creaked out of my bed, respectively.

Greg was there. Greg was happy. Greg was being paid. Greg's was in "ass" status.

Shoulders: crushed.

Legs: destroyed.

Will to live: sucked out of my body one muscle cramp at a time.

We even did the wall sit instead of lunges. (That referring to my legs, not my stomach). Three sets of 1.5 minutes, 1 minute, and then an eternity of 30 seconds (the last two with a basketball between my knees. Don’t ask.) I wondered what exactly I had said or done to Greg. Then it hit me: I was actually paying money for this.

I tried to get through the day with minimal human contact and I was lucky there was no one around. Everyone was scattered so I was left to my own suffering devices.

On the way home, I stopped at the PX to buy new running shoes. I got the exact same ones I actually had on and the lady looked at me like I was nuts and then asked if I knew they cost $104. Don’t do much running, do you lady?

I also got some lifting gloves to protect my delicate hands.

On the way out, I set off the alarm and I was a bit too tired and sore to deal with this situation gracefully. I whipped around with my eyes in the air, looking rather perturbed. It was more embarrassing than anything but the lady was accusatory when she asked if I had my receipt.

“No, I grabbed these shoes and thought I’d make a dash for it giving up 17 years of faithful duty to my country so I could save $100 on shoes. You got me.”

That’s what I thought. What I said was “It’s in the bag.”

She said it must have been the shoes and the I had to stifle the comment “Ya think?” from coming out my lips.

When she took the shoes out of the box, I saw the receipt slip underneath the box as she sat it on the counter. She didn’t see this and I was just too disinterested to say anything, wondering how she would react.

The non-running lady at the other register had failed to remove the security tab. How hard is that to remember? She had even taken them out of the box, looked at each shoe (for what, I don’t know since she failed to take off the security device), and put them back in the box. You had a couple of things to cover: scan the tags, run my credit card, remove the security tag, put the stuff in the bag, thank me for using the PX. Is this seriously taxing your ability? Do you not so this for a living?

So after accusatory lady removed the security device, she put everything in the bag and noticed the receipt on the counter. She put it on top but it was ink-side down. I knew she was nonchalantly trying to get a peek at the receipt without making it look obvious. She too failed. So she had to turn it over.

OK? Satisfied? Convinced I’m not dumping my retirement pay to save a few bucks?

OK, maybe I was a bit testy.

Before I got in Truckasaurus, I noticed there was a book sale under a tent in the parking lot. Inevitably these are sales on the saddest assortment of books and this didn’t disappoint. I hardly broke stride when going up and down the aisles but one book caught my eye. It was about Joe Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff who makes life real tough for the inmates.

It was only $4 so I grabbed it. Then there was a book by Isaac Asimov listing thousands of interesting facts. It was about $7 and I thought it would make an interesting addition to my blog each day so I grabbed it.

I went up to the front where an older man was sitting like Jabba the Hut on a small chair doing not much more than occupying space. I asked him politely if they accepted credit cards and his reaction was to point to a sign that said they didn’t and he said “With these low prices, we don’t take no plastic.”

OK, first of all, I don’t like your tone. I expect the same respect I pay to you when talking to me. Second, most of your books suck and aren’t worth the supposed 90% of you claim they’re discounted. Third, why do you have to make a jackass statement like that if you’re going to point at the sign. Fourth, why point at the sign since you’re doing nothing but acting like a bloated mannequin? If you were busy, I’d understand. You likely get that asked all the time and it gets annoying to answer but right now, you are not otherwise engaged so why piss off the customer by spewing dickish statements?

OK, again, maybe the fatigue and pain was getting to me.

But I stood there for a couple of seconds wondering if it was worth it to convey all those thoughts out loud.

In the end, I turned around and put both books back where I found them (note I could have just left them anywhere) and walked out without a word. I only had $2 in cash but at that point, it didn’t matter. Treat me like that and you’ll never get a red cent out of me. Ever.

I spent a lot of time tonight in front of the computer updating the PC page. It was the only thing I culd do that didn't hurt. Somehow the Wednesday pics got out of sync (thumbnail and full size) so I had to fix that. Then I put up Amy’s combat pictures. Various other updates to include my first set of comments for my pictures that week. They seem to be popular with the students. I got a lot more to do.

I had a shining moment when my wife brought me a book she got through her book club. It’s called Battle Ready by Tom Clancy and Retired Marine General Zinni. Also, she brought in the first two cucumbers of the season from our garden. I ate them with reckless abandon and they were good. But I got this pic of them before I devoured them.

Note also, there is my laptop mouse which I absolutely love and have a spare when that one dies. Then there is my computer speaker that plays Sarah McLachlan, Enya, Dido, Black Eye Peas, Seal, Hootie and the Blowfish, Sheryl Crow, and Alanis Morrissette on a continuous rotation. Behind the mouse are pictures from way back that I've yet to scan in. The green and blue box are my drawing supplies. The video on top of that is my Drill Instructor's retirement ceremony.

Don't ask why I went into all this. I'm tired. I'm sore.

Oh, and DON'T TOUCH ME!!!

Free Advice for Today:
Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Draw a little square on the floor with chalk and announce to the other passengers that this is your 'personal space.'

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

The diet and exercise plan begins. RELEASE THE SUFFERING!!!!

The work out wasn’t until after work so the diet lifestyle change came first.

I discovered something today. Egg Beaters with a little skim milk, salt, pepper, in a microwave for a few minutes tastes remarkably like horse feces.

I had to gag it down and two glasses of water later, I had forced the bowl of dung down my throat after which I was awarded with nausea and a big bloated gut. What a great start to a morning.

I went to work and at 0930 I had my first protein bar. I have to admit, protein bars have come a long way since I first started eating them a decade ago. Then they tasted like HARDENED horse feces as apposed to the freshly laid puffy kind like I had for breakfast.

Chocolate chocolate chip. Not too bad.

Lunch came but the salad I had was, well, a little long in the tooth. So I ignored it and tried to eat the chicken pieces I brought. Didn’t warm them up. Big mistake. One of many.

Then I had egg whites which normally gives me stomach gas. But I needed the protein (1 gram for every pound each day. The trick is that you can only absorb 20-40 grams at a sitting so I have to take them in 6 times a day.)

I ran at lunch (bad idea if I could have spied into the future).

At 3:30 PM, I made my first shake. The kind I brought was a powdered little number with 17.5 grams of protein per scoop and 2 grams of carbs. With 2 scoops, I was dead center in my per meal protein goal.

The strawberry powder didn’t smell too bad but note to self: use more and cooler water to mix it with to prevent creating a huge, warm strawberry loogie. Just a thought.

Now onto the workout, straight from work.

OH MY GOD!!!!

The first part went fine. I was going along and knocking out the exercises with ease but I hit a wall and started getting dizzy. By the end I was a numb, trembling mess, covering my misery with smartass comments.

Someone asked me during the day if my personal trainer was a good looking woman. I said, well, that all depends. If you think a short, stout, black man with gold earrings is your idea of a good looking woman, then yeah, he was a hottie. They then asked why I would pay that much money and NOT get a looker. My logic was simple: if he starts to look attractive, I’ve become delirious and need to stop working out. Immediately.

The coup de gras was the final exercise: abs. When I was done, I really thought I was going to vomit. I bid farewell to the blurry trainer and fumbled toward Truckasaurus hoping I wouldn’t faint, vomit, or both before I got there. I started the A/C and laid down in the front seat for 5 minutes before I could drive. I was dizzy on the way home and it took a ½ nap to bring me back to life. Hot meal (BBQ chicken breast a baked potato), hot bath, computer time, strawberry loogie, Daily Show, bed.

I have to be back at 0630 tomorrow for lower body. Lord help me for I know not what I do.

Free Advice for Today:
Become the world's most thoughtful friend."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Listen to the elevator walls with a stethoscope.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

The hunt for Krispy Kreme on the day before the evil diet begins started at 0900.

With my son and dog in tow, I decided to go hunting, not realizing where the hunt would take me.

First came the Food Weasel (Food Lion) but I was disked a miss. Through habit, I went right to the part of the store where they were located in Monterey California's Albertsons in Sand City. Obviously this was stupid and I found myself in a deli department. Upon further investigation, I discovered that there were no Krispy Kremes to be found. I made my signature response to Alex in these type of situations by quoting the horse in Ren & Stimpy by saying “No Sir, I didn’t like it.” Long story, inside joke. Sorry.

Next stop, 7-Eleven. But there was no thanking heaven there and all I accomplished was filling up Truckasaurus.

But I was not going to be denied. As Buster sat confused as ever, I got the idea to go to a Wa Wa (yes, that’s actually the name). But once again, no joy and all I got from there is a snippet of conversation between what appeared to be a prostitute and her pimp. I caught her apparent unhappiness at him giving another young lady a ride home and luckily passed before I got any of the details.

Next stop, East Coast mini-mart. Despite the lovely smell of stale cigarette smoke inside, they too were "Krispy Kremeless" and the fine worker behind the counter had no clue where to find them.

OK, this had gone on far too long and I knew what I had to do. I knew where I could find them but they were far away, near where my daughter had her softball games. I know this because it’s where I went to get her a post-season treat after her last game. My Princess deserved nothing less than deep fried fat bombs covered in a sugary glaze.

So now I was about an hour into the quest and we finally hit pay dirt. We bought 8 of the nasties and made our way home. I was happy to have finally succeeded with a box of KKs on the dashboard. Life was good.

For the second time this morning, we passed a large reservoir of water and I decided to duck in when I saw there was a public recreation area. I knew the kids would get a kick out of visiting a lake and even though swimming nor wading was allowed, you could rent fishing boats and go tooling around the lake.

When I returned and absorbed the wrath of my wife for not telling her where I was going and not leaving a note, I explained to her what I found. We decided to treat the kids and take a picnic to the lake. Yes, I attained Super Dad status today.

Carrie went to KFC to get the chicken. The kids lounged around and waited to be told what to do. I dinked around on the computer. Two hours went by and Carrie was the only one who seemed to be doing any work so she grabbed a book and started reading it until I came out of the vortex and asked what the hold up was.

Lasers came out of Carrie’s eyes.

So I barked at the kids and we all sprung into action. After a few minutes, we were on our way to the lake.

For a mere $12, we got a fishing boat, four cushions, four life vests, an electric motor, and 3 hours of boating time. So after gorging on chicken, we collected our rental stuff and headed to the lake. Getting into the boat, I pushed away from the shore and used the oars to get about 50 yards out before attaching the motor to the boat.

It seems that the $12 also got me a battery for the electric motor which would make the motor actually turn. I failed to realize this tidbit of knowledge and did not much appreciate another boater pointing this out as we oared back to the shore.

Carrie went back to get it and she told me the old man told her he figured we’d be back for it sooner or later.

After my bout with stupendous idiocy, we had a great time out on the water. The kids took turns steering the boat and fighting with each other while I tried to get comfortable on a metal boat, trying to sneak a nap in the sun in.

Carrie pointed out that we should have brought Buster so we once again ran the boat into the shore, dropped off Carrie, and tooled around the lake until she returned with Butterhead.

The dog hates water so we knew he would not jump in. This did not prevent him from stepping on each one of us and he constantly inspected every inch of the boat. My crotch seemed to be a popular stepping stone for him.

After two hours, we had had enough and made our way back into the shore. It was a relaxing afternoon and the kids loved it. It wasn’t too hot, not many bugs were out, and it was absolutely gorgeous. Who’d have known this was a mere 5 minutes away from my house?

I was a bit testy when we were packing everything up (nap in the sun was not all it’s cracked up to be) and the kids were in rare form. I just needed to get home and have a few moments to myself, a shower, and time with my computer. Sad I know but I'm a simple man.

For the rest of the evening, I fulfilled a promise I’ve put off for a long time. When we moved here last September, we stopped in Oklahoma to visit my mother and she insisted I take her computer which she never used. It had Windows ME on it and I feel the same about Windows ME as I do Jane Fonda and the Dixie Chicks. I had tried to format it but ran into some snags so I abandoned the project, leaving the perfectly good computer to collect dust in my daughter’s room.

She finally called me on it and I had promised to work on it this weekend. Enter Sunday night, of course.

First I got everything downstairs and set it up next to my big computer so I could multitask (AKA, reference the internet and write blog entires while the other computer chugged away).

First task was to take the nasty Windows ME off and I looked up on the internet on how to do this. I found a Windows 98 boot up disk and killed the partition. Then I made another one and formatted the hard drive to scrape every last logical bit of Windows ME off. If I could actually cause pain to Windows ME, I would. Reciprocation. This went reasonably well. Scrape it, baby!!!!

Next, I tried to put in the Windows 2000 CD and start it up. Sorry Charlie, no joy. It didn’t like it. I then put in the Windows 98 floppy and it at least booted. But when I changed the drive over to the E drive and tried to run the install, it told me that it couldn’t run this program in DOS mode.

Hmmmm.

Maybe I needed Windows 2000 start up disks. You think?

The internet told me this was the case and I used my main computer and the Win 2K disk to create the 4 required floppies. When I got this done, I put the first one in along with the CD and trumpets blared. I had hit the mother load. Eat it, Windows ME!!!

My joy was short-lived when I was told that the second floppy had a corrupted file. Crap. So I got another disk (they are hard to come by in the Grose household these days, only as relics from days gone by). But this one was bad too so I decided to give the original 2nd disk another try (each time I tried and failed it required me to take out the disks from one machine to another and repeat the process. Grrrr.)

I finally got it right and the installation completed without a glitch (although it took a long time but it didn’t matter to me because I was eating homemade tacos and Spanish rice as the last meal before the diet begins tomorrow.)

OK, I had it loaded. Now to get it onto the network.

I took the cable and a flashlight to hook it to the back of the computer. Ut-oh, no place to plug it in which meant no network card. Damn!!!!

But I knew I had hooked it up though my wireless router before so I remembered that I could get the USB antenna from Alex’s room and get it hooked through there. And since the computer was downstairs, a mere two feet from the access point, I knew I’d get a hell of a signal strength.

I hooked it up but nothing happened. I found the install disk for the antenna and installed the software. It seemed to take but still no signal. I couldn’t exactly remember how I did this last time but it seemed that it wasn’t all that difficult.

I tried the router install disk but that was way off base so I fiddled and fiddled with wizards and a lot of cussing but to no avail.

After an hour of this, the thought hit me that maybe it was the USB port. I had two choices when I plugged in the adapter antenna and I chose the more complicated-looking symbol which probably meant 2.0 (I never figured out what the symbols actually mean but I figure the more intricate one was the more complicated one).

I plugged it into the other one and voila, the setup screen popped up. We were once again cooking with oil.

The fire went out.

I still couldn’t pick up the network and this is where the deep recesses of my memory prevailed. I recalled that I had enabled WEP protection which meant that I needed the WEP keys (basically passwords) for the network. They are too complicated to remember and even a pain in the butt to type out. But I got them on a Word file so I copied the file to the last remaining floppy disk and transferred it to the new (old) computer. I cut and pasted (after discovering that Word 2003 documents do indeed open up in Wordpad) the keys to the new computer, hit enter, and to my utter amazement, the network fired up like a Christmas tree. I have very little faith in successes like these (despite a pretty good success rate overall) so it was a pleasant surprise.

I hit the IE icon and it wanted me to work offline. Crap!!! I had it try again instead and once again, I was thrilled when MSN popped up with the latest news. I had done it.

So now I’m downloading the massive updates of the last 3 years for it (upon installation, it thinks it’s the year 2000) and finishing up the Blog. If you’ve stayed with me this far, I fell sorry for you but thanks.

To put a Doogie Howser line in this as a summary, I guess that Masters in IT pays off. I can remove Windows ME and install Windows 2000 and then update it through a wireless network. I’m prouder than I should be about all this.

Free Advice for Today:
Act with courtesy and fairness regardless of how others treat you. don't let them determine your response."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Say 'I wonder what all these do' and push the red buttons.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

My brother made the local paper in Seattle. Here he is:

The caption read: Christopher Grose blocks off Fourth Avenue at Madison Street for the opening ceremony of the new Seattle Central Library.

His email note read:

Jason,

Got my picture taken at the new Seattle Library opening. My boss say's it look's like a cone is going up my butt...........

We had a strange childhood...

Today, we had basketball games. Yes, back to the days of hauling kids to and fro, watching young kids play basketball, and trying not to think about things like how many ping pong balls I can fit into my mouth.

All I can say is “Oh, the inequity.” At this age (10 and 12) the range of talent is so wide that it gets downright embarrassing.

First, it was my daughter’s game. She just turned 10 but was 9 when we signed her up. The range, believe it or not, is 7-9 years old. In other words, my daughter is a towering Amazon on her team and to my surprise, she didn’t like this. She felt awkward despite us pointing out it was a good chance for her to shine on a team. Luckily, another boy showed up that was even taller than her so she felt better.

The game went OK even though it was strange that it was a step back for Stephanie. Last year she had played on a full court with regulation basket height but this league lowers the basket. Plus they were not allowed outside the 3 point line on defense. With her height advantage, she's a star rebounder.

We came home but an hour later we had to return for Alex’s game and here is where I started getting upset. The game that was in progress when we arrived was a slaughter. It was about 50 to 3 and what was upsetting about it was that it was obvious that the winning team was stacked. They had twice as many players on their team and every kid was black. This was in stark contrast with the team my son played against which every single person was white. The law of averages just doesn’t work this way.

It was also obvious that since parents could request a certain coach, the team was pre-determined and likely played together for many years. The result is that whoever is left is put on a team so the talent is woefully lopsided. Is the need to win at this level that much more important than teaching teamwork and fairness?

It made me respect the athletic coordinator back in Monterey who would have tryouts. With the help of the coaches, we would rate a kid’s abilities as a 1, 2, or 3. Then we would balance the teams with an equal number of each category in a “draft” like setting. It evened out the talent of the team so blow outs were only a function of the coaching and teamwork. Even so, we never allowed embarrassing score differences like the one I saw today.

Last week was my son’s first game and they had only had one practice. It was not pretty and I braced myself for yet another dismal season of frustration. But this week, the kids seemed to come together as a team and actually displayed talent and teamwork. They won and I felt a lot better but will still talk to the athletic director about the lack of talent-balancing overall.

Tonight we had dinner with friends we knew from Monterey. Dan, my brilliant tech support friend and fellow Marine Captain, has a wonderful family and he deep fried a turkey for us. If you’ve never been luckily enough to experience this meal, you’re missing out on a delicious feast. It also happened to be his youngest daughter’s first birthday so we had cake to celebrate. It was a great night and fun was had by all.

With as busy as we are, it felt good to take the time and spend it with friends. It’s something we don’t do nearly as much as we should and every time we do, we wonder why we don’t do it more often.

So if there is a lesson here, it’s the following:

Don't put cones up your butt,

Don't create team dynasties before puberty,

and most important, spend more time with friends.

Free Advice for Today:
Set high goals for your employees and help them attain them."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Lean against the button panel.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

Another short day at work. It was my boss’s retirement and BBQ afterwards so the motivation to get any work done was…. hampered. But I cleared the email and voicemails in time to climb into my Charlies and head to the chapel.

As I’ve shared, I start my diet/exercise regiment on Monday so you don’t have to be a psychologist to realize I have until then to eat like a gluteus pig. Or at least that’s the way I look at it. So I was surprised that my uniform fit as well as it did. I lost some pounds last week but figured I gained them back this week. I’m sure this weekend will take care of that though. LET THE FEASTING BEGIN!!!!

The retirement ceremony was done in the chapel and it really made me think about my own upcoming exit from the Corps. The LtCol had touching words to friends and family present and I kept my composure fine until the end when quite unexpectedly, the bagpipes wailed the Marine Corps hymn. Never a more mournful sound has been heard.

Carrie and the kids came out to pick me up and we went out to Lunga Lake for the BBQ. I had not been there since 1997 when I was going through TBS. We had a BBQ out there and I remember being deeply lonely without my family and knew it would be a good place to take them out to. Seven years later I was able to fulfill that thought.

I love to deal with the Top. This one is such the stereotypical Top that it’s a pleasure to be around him. If there was a mold for a Master Sergeant of Marines, this guy made it. Divorced but a dedicated father, his other loves include beer and NASCAR. Fearless of rank but respectful based on the person, he blends in with both enlisted and officer alike. You have to be careful what you ask him but he WILL get it done. He claims to be just a dumb grunt but he picks up on the computer skills he’s “forced” to learn. Always ready with a joke and a hearty laugh, he’s as much a liberty hound as he is a get-it-done Marine. The bottom line is if I had to go to somewhere where dust and bullets fill the air, I’d want this Top in my hip pocket. Better yet, I’d be in his if I wanted to come home breathing.

When we arrived, Top pointed me to the beer barrel. When I got there, I noticed two 40 ounce Schlitch Malt Liquor missiles on the top. Here is where the joking began:

“Top, what the hell is this?”

“I put the Gunny in charge of the beer.”

Gunny walks over and I say,

“What the hell is this, Gunny?”

“I don’t drink beer, Sir.”

“Wait a minute. Top, you put the ONE guy who doesn’t drink in charge of the beer? And Gunny, why would your perpetuate a stereotype like this?” (Gunny is dark green).

Gunny laughes and points to the BBQ chicken. We all laugh and Gunny says that’s what you get when you put him in charge of the beer.

Just then, Top gives me the head nod to come over to his truck. We go over there and he drops the tailgate to reveal a brand new cooler. He opens it and tells me if they run out of beer, he’s got me covered. I told him he was wasting his time and breath because if they ran out of beer, it was a foregone conclusion who I would go to for more and the possibility that he didn’t have more was as laughable as it was improbable.

But I set myself up for a fall on this. I had my family with me so a serious beer binge was not in the cards. Plus, I wanted to get on the road before the Friday traffic hit so I was only into 2 beers before we had to call it a day.

When I was saying my goodbyes, Top looked at me like I had slapped Chesty Puller. He held up a beer and looked at me with a combination of disgust and deep disappointment. I’ll be hearing about this for months.

The early exit did not work. Traffic was a mess but we left just in time. It didn’t just start to rain, it came down harder than I’d ever seen it in my life. Even at the highest setting, the windshield wipers weren’t doing the job and I worried for my wife as she negotiated the other drivers' idiocy which, like Gremlins, becomes worse when water is added. It let up when we got home but it wasn't a hard call when we decided we would not leave the confines of the house for the rest of the night.

Free Advice for Today:
Ask yourself if you would feel comfortable giving your two best friends a key to your house. If not, look for some new best friends."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Letterman's Top Ten List for June 25


Thursday, June 24, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Say 'Ding!' at each floor.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

I had an appointment with a personal trainer this morning. Early. Too early.

I decided I had gone on long enough trying to get in the shape I wanted by hit and miss (mostly miss). So I dropped $150 for the training and know myself well enough that it’ll take the knowledge that I paid real money to someone to get me into shape. If I slide, I’m throwing away money hence I’m appealing to my cheap-ass nature to pull me through.

The meeting went well and we talked mostly about diet. The exercise doesn’t start until Monday so until then: Slothdom and a Taco Bell-O-rama.

The diet mostly consists of obscene amounts of protein (1 gram for every pound of body weight). So I’ll be eating 6 times a day and no junk. No coffee. No beer. No life.

The next big event for the day was getting my little girl her first military dependent ID card. The age requirement is 10 so this month, she crossed the threshold and has been eagerly awaiting her rite of passage. My son did this 2 years ago and you’d think we were bestowing knighthood on the little knucklehead. Now it was Steph’s turn. She was to be a princess.

I tried to be patient with the family support folks. I succeeded more than my wife who, after 1 ½ hour wait, was less than congenial which surprised me because she had volunteered for Navy Relief for many years and could identify with working on an overtaxed staff.

But we finally got to the front of the line and my girl received her prize. She is now a card-carrying member of the dependent (a non-politically correct term as of late, replaced by “family member”) club. And she didn't take a "Bulldog" picture this time like she did for her Disneyland ID years ago. God forgive us but we still laugh about that one.

Next, I thought I’d take the family out to lunch so we hit the old Qauntico, Marine Corps standard: The Command Post.

Mistake.

It was busy but it’s always busy. That did not account for the hour wait we suffered before our food got to us. It was ridiculous but the reaction of the help was worse.

Maybe a waitress didn’t show up. Maybe a cook quit. Whatever the reason, there was no excuse with the way the remaining help treated us. First, almost everyone was asking where their food was which is a legitimate concern for paying customers, especially those that are Marines and don’t always have understanding bosses when lunch runs long. Some had to get it to go and a few had to abandon their order altogether.

The waitress, obviously frazzled, seemed to take it out on customers. She was curt and unapologetic with her comments, that was if you could get her attention. Appetizers at other tables showed up with the meal. My daughter had to get up and track down the waitress just to get a refill of water. No check back. I had to hunt her down by following her to the kitchen just to get my bill.

Never an apology. Nothing.

When I went up to pay the bill, the cashier (who owns the place) and the frazzled waitress were bad-mouthing and complaining about some of the customers right in front of me. Customer is always right, huh?

I’d like to say my avoidance forevermore of this place would have an effect. But the Command Post is an institution at Quantico and I think the base would shut down before the CP doors close permanently. Too bad, they made a great sandwich. But it was a lesson to the kids on how to respond to such situations; don’t patronize the place is the loudest voice. If it was a chain, I’d go up the line like my recent encounter with Friendly’s. But alas, we will just have to take our business elsewhere.

Before I went home, we hit the PX so I could buy the $100 worth of protein and supplements I would need on the new program. Strawberry whey shake powder, protein bars, xenodrine (ephedra, I miss you!), ZMaX, etc. I also had to stock up on rank insignia since I bestowed my bars on a few kids I thought deserving last week.

When I got home, CRASH! I got to bed late last night and up early this morning. I guess I started the rest portion of the exercise plan early. Yeah, I pick and chose so what of it?

The rest of the night was spent continuing my week long quest to get my PC page up to date and answering the hordes of emailers. I think my butt is becoming one with my computer chair and my posture is starting to look like a question mark. But I know being caught up is just out of reach if I could just….

Free Advice for Today:
Even if you're financially well-to-do, have your children earn and pay for part of their college tuition."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Shadow box.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

So many comments, so little time and energy.

I'm gonna cheat today and just post some of the email traffic I was involved in.


(This is in regard to the picture of the Marine shedding a tear at the Reagan funeral I posted on my homepage.)

Hi Jason -- Thanks for posting a picture of my nephew, Ethan Rocke, on your web page. Our family is very proud of him. He's a wonderful young man.


Ms. (),

What a wonderful surprise. You might be interested how I came across the picture.

I graduated high school in 1987 and in 1997 I was going to The Basic School, learning to be an Officer of Marines. I missed my ten year reunion but got in contact with an old girlfriend who saw my email on the reunion list. I had gone out with her in junior high school and had not seen her since we graduated. Since then, we’ve kept in contact via email.

She sent me the picture with the following message:

--------------------------------------------------------

This Marine was also featured in the Seattle P.I., but it was a side shot.

I found this one on Drudge.

The caption in the P.I. states:

Marine Sgt. Ethan Rocke, 26, from San Diego, cries as taps is played during interment ceremonies for former President Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

My thought on seeing the photo: Yup, me too Sgt. Rocke

I know it may sound cheesey, but I found the emotion on this soldier very moving. What a beautiful funeral out in Cali last night. If there was a way to end this week perfectly, that was it.

Stephanie

--------------------------------------------------------

To this, I responded:

I mirrored this look when I opened this file. What an incredible image. A tough Marine, named Sgt. Rocke nonetheless, symbolizing what the Marines thought of President Reagan.

--------------------------------------------------------

You see, President Reagan had a deep respect for Marines and we loved him for it. Without knowing it, your nephew symbolized the entire Marine Corps’ feelings in one shot. He is not your nephew in that picture; he IS the Corps and we thank him for saying what we felt without uttering a word.

Semper Fi.

Jason D. Grose


(This was a response to one of my Presidential Classroom students who wrote to say hello)

I had a great time last week and have not stopped thinking about you guys. You may think Marines are stereotypically unfeeling and unemotional but you would be wrong. Especially me (ask my wife). She knew I’d come home with 40 more kids tattooed on my heart and as usual, she was right.

The pleasure was all mine. Just do me a favor and reciprocate the effort some day by volunteering to do something, anything. You will then see the payback if very lopsided. I owe you guys more than I’ll ever be able to repay but I’m stingy like that.


(This is in response to my co-instructor who helped me edit my after action report and pointed out that I made it sound like I did all the work and she was not involved.)

Thank you so much for your help on this. I incorporated your changes and I beg to differ about your statement about your editing abilities. I put the positives first and will make a conclusion paragraph.

Concerning your other statement, I’m afraid I misrepresented my intent. I never meant to indicate I was writing a report reflecting the views of ALL the instructors. I thought it would be more effective to have each write their own and let the staff see the trends from individual perspectives. If I was the only one, then let them write me off as disgruntled. <grin>.

The reason there are so many “I’s” and “my students” was because I would never assume to speak for another person. I was writing the report from me to them and in that sense, I used the perspective from my inside my own skin. I’m sorry that you felt slighted and I hope you understand that I found your help invaluable. I could have never done it alone as well as we did together. That’s why I was so outraged with Brian’s situation. It was a bad day for me after I realized you might have thought your contributions meant anything less to me than absolutely essential.

The other thing you might not realize is that Marines tend to speak this way as a matter of course. It’s a cultural thing to talk about “my bus” and “my students” and it’s unconsciously instilled in us from bootcamp (“If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training …”) Even when we try to control it, the brainwashing seeps through sometimes.

Free Advice for Today:
Whether it's life or a horse that throws you, get right back on."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Letterman's Top Ten List for June 23


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Play the harmonica.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

Today flew by because I was still busy working on the Presidential Classroom stuff. During the day when I had time, I started the after action report that I’m desperate to get done. I got some good work on it and I think it will make quite a splash. I hope so because there are some kinks in the hose that need to get fixed.

I continued to get email from students from my caucus and others which makes me happy. I’m getting a string of absolutely hilarious emails from one of my favorite kids and I’m glad she’s writing me. She reminds me of why I loved last week so much.

I spent a lot of time doing rework tonight. When I pulled up my picture page at work, I discovered putting 130+ thumbnails on one webpage might have been a mistake. So I busted them up into multiple pages but this proved to be more work than I anticipated. I’ve been doing this for years and still I get shocked that it takes me hours to do something that takes a few minutes in my head. I guess I’m just advanced that way. Advanced stages of delirium, that is.

I also got to proofread a great write up from one of the other instructors about the other Marine from last week. He is a civilian and was compelled to write this. Amy, if you are reading this, don’t read this!!!

June 22, 2004

Commanding Officer
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121
PO Box 452044
San Diego CA 92145-2044

Sir:

I wanted to take a moment to commend the actions of one of the pilots under your command. Her leadership and decisiveness prevented a potentially dangerous situation from occurring.

Last week I had the pleasure of working with Capt. Amy McGrath while she volunteered her time with Presidential Classroom (PC), a non-profit organization that brings high school students behind the scenes of our nation's capital for seminars and discussions featuring members of Congress, Presidential appointees, journalists and other Washington insiders and names in the news.

Capt. McGrath and I were paired as instructors to lead a group of 40 students during their week at PC. On Wednesday, June 16, our group of students was returning in a passenger bus to the hotel after a seminar from the Central Intelligence Agency at Langley, Virginia. During the trip home on the George Washington Parkway, we heard a several loud pops and saw a spark coming from the ventilation system of the bus. A minute or so later, smoke began to rise from the vents on the side of the bus. There was the strong, acrid smell of an electrical fire. At the time, I was in the back of the bus trying to allay the fears of the students.

Capt. McGrath was at the front of the bus speaking to the driver. As I learned later, the driver wanted to continue on to the hotel and assess the situation. It was Capt. McGrath who insisted that the bus driver stop the bus as soon as possible and get the students off the bus to a safe location. The bus stopped in the right lane of traffic, as there was no shoulder on the Parkway. Capt. McGrath then directed the students to leave the bus and move as far away from the traffic as they could. After everyone was safely off the bus, she spoke with the bus driver and the police officer that arrived on scene to assess the situation, as I contacted the PC staff to arrange for another bus to pick up the students. Several buses soon arrived and returned the students safely to the hotel.

Capt. McGrath’s leadership skills allowed her to immediately assess the situation and determine that it was no longer safe to remain on the bus. Her ability to take command of the situation not only with the bus driver, but also with the students was the primary reason that no harm came to anyone aboard. I am confident that these leadership skills have been refined and displayed repeatedly by Capt. McGrath over Iraq and Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

I consider myself fortunate to have been able to work with such a fine Marine Corps Officer as Capt. McGrath, if only for a week, and hope that the leadership and action she took last week will be recognized by the U.S. Marine Corps.

Thank you, and my thoughts and prayers are with you and the other fine men and women protecting this great nation.

Sincerely,
Christopher J. Coneeney

Cc: Hon. Jack Buechner
President & CEO
Presidential Classroom

Free Advice for Today:
Laugh loudly."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Letterman's Top Ten List for June 22


Monday, June 21, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“When the elevator is silent, look around and ask 'is that your beeper?'

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

I’m still trying to catch up with rest. Last night I went to bed and the wife asked if I set my alarm. My answer was as stupid as it was doomed:

“I’ll just wake up on my own.”

At 0830 my wife asked if I was going to get up. From there, it was just a blur.

I found it humorous that I would be going to work today and everyone would treat me like I had a week off. Actually, I was looking forward to getting back to work just to get some rest.

The first thing they asked me when I walked in was “Who are you?”

“The new guy.”

“Well take that desk. That guy’s never here.”

When I got home, I set right to work on answering email and working on getting the PC webpage up. For the rest of the night, I finished up the pictures and answered email from students and fellow instructors. I guess I’m just not ready to let go.

But I’m stuck a little bit here. Those of you that know me know what an incredible smart ass I can be but as an instructor, I know that it wouldn’t be right to point out all the behind-the-scenes calamities that would be ripe for my blog. To compound the problem, I dispersed my webpage address far and wide and there are probably some of the kids that are reading this right now (hi, guys, I miss you).

It’s not that I don’t think they could handle it or that I think they are ignorant of the snafus. I give them credit for being more adult than a lot of adults I know. But it’s too close to the end and professionalism dictates I don’t reveal too much. Maybe in a few years when they become people (inside joke they will get) I will be able to post. But until then, I’ll just focus on the incredible time I had by just being there with them last week.

Some of the things I need to get done:

  • Posting the pics (already done)
  • Posting the email addresses of the instructors (awaiting the rest to give me the OK)
  • Writing the after action report in a way that shows the good, the bad, and in a way that I will be invited back next year.
  • Write comments next to the nearly 600 pictures I already posted
  • Posting the pictures students sent me
  • Writing the Blog entries for last week
  • Getting pictures made and sent to the elderly Marines I met at Arlington

I’m sure I’ll come up with others but that’s what I could spit out immediately. Plus I got a ton of email I’m attacking.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't minimize your child's worries and fears."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I was part of the Presidential Classroom Program last week and was busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest. Therefore, the backlog of life along with trying to capture this incredible week has thrown me back even farther than usual.

My solution is to pick up with my blog right here and go back and catch up with last week as time permits. Stop rolling your eyes, I can do it.

Letterman's Top Ten List for June 17

Letterman's Top Ten List for June 16

Letterman's Top Ten List for June 15

Letterman's Top Ten List for June 14


Friday, June 11, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Start a sing-along.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

I watched the funeral of President Reagan today. I thought it was a fitting tribute to a great man and a historic President.

I was interested in seeing all the former Presidents in attendance. Ford and Carter looked really old while George Bush senior still looked Presidential and distinguished. He and Barbara were sitting behind their son and it was incredible to think about the status of that group. The President and his father who was also an American President. Then there's Barbara who is both the wife and the mother of two Presidents. What an incredible life that must be; almost impossible to contemplate.

Then there was Clinton. I tried to not let my personal views color my view of him but he really did look goofy every time the camera hit him. They even caught him sleeping a few times and I couldn’t help but see SNL’s Darrell Hammond doing an imitation of his mannerisms.

I also noted that Ford and Carter were not asked to speak. This makes Clinton’s whining about not being asked look pretty stupid. Yes, George Bush senior spoke but hello, he’s the current President’s father AND was President Reagan’s Vice President.

Margaret Thatcher was looking very old and had to tape record her eulogy a few months ago since she can’t really do a lot of public speaking these days. Her tribute was touching and I thought about the irony of the British lauding an American President when you think about how we split off from them 200 years ago.

The Canadian Prime Minister: how did he get to speak? With all the clout in the Cathedral, it seemed like an odd choice. Mexico didn't get to speak so it wasn't a North American thing. But I will point out that I was impressed with the Canadian's speaking voice. It wasn't just that he didn't end each sentence with "...aye" or anything; his voice had a deep, resonating quality and it was obvious the man knew how to public speak. He was smooth and silk and his voice was very noble.

I also thought about how lucky the casket bearers were. They all were young enlisted who might not have even been born when Reagan first took office. Heck, they might have only been in the Corps a couple of years and somehow, events led to them carrying one of the most historical figures in American history. What an opportunity.

I was surprised that a lot of the speakers talked about Russia as the evil empire. A couple of them made references to it and really bad mouthed the Russian way of doing things and old Gorby was right there.

Along the same lines, they kept on noting how President Reagan turned things around and brought our country out of a dark era, etc. Carter and Ford were right there!!! Talk about awkward.

I spent the rest of the day packing and getting ready for next week. I hate packing but I’ll be in D.C. doing the Presidential Classroom program so I thought putting it off until the day before was long enough. I didn’t want to be up late.

Because I’ll be gone until next Saturday, I took my daughter out to Poncho Villa restaurant for her birthday. It was her choice and despite her choosing a Mexican restaurant, when we got there, she ordered a cheeseburger and fries. We had a great meal and talked about all the stories from their younger years we usually cover at a meal like this.

They had a mariachi band playing and I asked the waiter if he could get them to come over and sing “Happy Birthday” to my 10-year-old daughter. Not only did he set this up, but he brought over a fried ice cream sundae.

You would have thought she was crowned Miss America. She was so proud when they came over and not only did they sing her a birthday song, they did a Spanish version and then repeated the traditional one again. She had a look on her face that means more to me than anything we could have done for her. She absolutely loved the moment and was not embarrassed at all.

I sat there with the biggest grin on my face I’ve had in a long time. It was a treat for me just to see her face light up and I know she’ll remember this for many years to come.

Free Advice for Today:
Sing in a choir."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Jay Leno Monologue For Today


Thursday, June 10, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Wear a puppet on your hand and talk to other passengers 'through' it.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

This morning I went to the YMCA with my wife and we decided to get some professional help.

No, not that kind. I simply meant that I wanted to look into getting professional training from an expert. So after going 40 minutes on the elliptical machine (when I felt like doing about zero minutes), I talked to one of the trainers.

For a mere $150 for 5 sessions or $300 for 10, I could get set up on a program. He would start with a full interview, measurement, evaluation, and brain scan. OK, maybe not the brain scan but the idea was to see where I’m at and what my goals are, followed by a tailored program to meet those goals.

It sounded good, if not a little pricey, but I’m tired of working myself to death without knowing if I'm doing it right. I’m hit and miss with routine and diet, getting motivated to do 2 workouts a day and then giving up when I get exhausted. Dieting for a few days and then falling off the plan in the form of fast food and weekend binges.

I know myself well enough that I have to have a solid plan. Tell me what to do, how often, and for how long and I can do it. They set me up with a diet plan, an exercise plan, a rest plan, all tailored to my needs and wants. I get advice about nutrition such as supplements and I told them that I’m running a marathon at the end of October so they will incorporate that training into my plan. I told them my biggest desire of the program was simply to lose weight. If I can do that, my other goals (running, looking and feeling better, more energy) will follow.

So after next week, I’ll start two 6-week programs to get this done and shred myself to my goal running weight: 175. Wish me luck.

Other money-spending ventures I dealt with today was a new watch band. The old one kind of, well, the damn thing stunk. I mean a few too many exercise sessions made the leather strap a bit pungent and I’d been meaning to take care of it for weeks. For $13, I removed the stinky band and replaced it with a leather and nylon version destined one day to be just as smelly. Humans stink, especially ones that move around a lot.

Another thing I looked into was a new MP3 player. My RCA Kazoo is getting a little long in the tooth and is showing its age (about 3 years, I think). It takes a few iterations of inserting new batteries before it will actually work. The battery cover is now busted due to a little argument I had with the battery replacement problem which also involved the floor at work. Finally, it seems to be going through batteries like JLO goes through white garters. So I think it’s time to look for a replacement.

Since I bought the Kazoo, the technology has skyrocketed and I’ve coveted many different possibilities. I want to stay away from the mini-disk because they are basically hard drives which tend not to do too well while running. So that leaves me with flash memory-based models and topping out at about 1 GB. But that should be enough, right?

Costco had the Kazoo replacement now called the Lyra. It comes with a couple of features I like for $89. First, it has 164 MB of onboard memory but with the MMD card I have already, I can boost that up to 192 MB which is 1/3 more than I already have. For my running, that is enough for now. At 32 kb/s sampling, I’m looking at almost 100 songs. At 4 minutes a song, this is over 6 ½ hours of music. Enough for this hombre but it will have to wait until Father’s Day.

It also has an FM tuner so that's something I've never had, good for tuning in the TV sets at the Y. The arm band is rumored to suck but I normally set it on the machine if I'm treadmilling or I wear a butt-pack when I'm on the road.

Free Advice for Today:
Redeem gift certificates promptly."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Letterman's Top Ten List for today


Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Ask each passenger getting on if you can push the button for them.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

Today was an 80s extravaganza. Let me explain.

It turns out I was not needed for the Presidential Funeral procession. No need for an officer, I guess and as things turned out, it worked out better.

Eric, the civilian contractor I work with, planned on taking his family down to D.C. to watch the casket go by so being unashamed about impinging on his plans, I asked if I could tag along. He had no problem with that and we made plans that I would follow him home after work, park at his house, take the Metro to downtown, return via Metro, and I would burn down I95 after rush hour to get home. Sounded like a simple plan, right?

Everything was going as planned up until mid-morning. (Note this is before any of the parts of the plan was implemented other than me driving to work instead of taking the train). Then I got this email:

Jason,

I think we've got one or more tickets to Cosby tonight at Wolftrap. Interested? Lawn.

Chris

Thus began the moral dilemma. Hmmm, dead president rolling by or Cosby. This really bothered me because of the respect I had for President Reagan but I knew I’d be way back in the crowd for a one minute drive by. Seeing Coz was a once in a lifetime opportunity and he’s not getting any younger. But he was the President…

I kind of knew which way I was going to go with this but I asked around to see what others thought.

One person said to go see the coffin but then followed up with the fact that he wasn’t a Cosby fan.

Another person pointed out there’d be other presidents dropping off but how many times will I get a chance to see Coz in concert? I countered with the fact that there’s only one President Reagan and I could still see Coz in concert as long as he was still alive.

It just seemed wrong to even consider NOT going to see the coffin especially in trade to seeing a comedian icon in concert. I thought about the example I would be setting for the high school kids next week when I do the Presidential Classroom program and how I would feel later in life when I remembered I passed up a chance to see history and pay my respects to the greatest President of my time. It was this thought that decided it for me.

When I got back to my office after lunch, I talked to Eric and once again, I reconsidered my plan. I discovered the possibility to do both!!! If Coz didn’t start until 8:00, then I might have time to go to D.C. and make my way over to the Wolftrap in time.

This brazen plan opened up a dozen possible combinations of driving, taking the Metro, and scrounging rides. It also opened a Pandora’s box of advice, mostly from people who were in the know about the commuting labyrinth that is Northern Virginia.

“Go to the airport, park your car, take the Metro to DC by transferring from the orange to the blue line. Then on the way back, take the Metro, transfer to the orange line to go to West Church Falls where you can catch the shuttle to the Wolftrap. Then after the concert, take the shuttle back to West Church Falls, get on the orange back to the airport and drive home. Easy.”

I can get lost in a closet so this was a bit too much for me. After a half dozen other similar possibilities, I settled on an easy one.

I could ride home with Eric and go with him to the Metro, return with him after seeing the procession and then take the Metro to the Wolftrap. After the concert, I could get a ride from there to Quantico (on the way home for the others going) and then drive home.

All I had to do is get that ride from the Wolftrap. I emailed and unfortunately, they had 5 seats in one car and 5 people going. And just like that, the plan fell apart.

My fallback plan was to follow Eric home, take the Metro with him to see the procession, return to his station via the Metro, hop in Truckasaurus, hightail it to the Wolftrap, park, and hope to get there on time. This way I could drive home after the concert without messing with Metro.

It was a good plan but wrought with possible snafus. With the funeral procession in full swing, traffic would be gnarled and the Metro would be a mess. My chance for success was slim, I didn’t quite know how to get anywhere to include the Wolftrap, and the timeline was tight. But I was reaching for the brass ring. It was an advneture and followed my philosophy of doing stuff for the simple reason that they shouldn't be able to be done.

The first setback was when Eric’s meeting lasted 15 minutes longer than expected so we were delayed leaving the base. Not crushing but it added to the stress. I stayed calm and didn’t get my panties in a bunch over it. The night would be filled with possible time crunchers so I had to stay calm.

We got to his house, met up with his family, and headed to the Metro. I was glad to have someone with me that knew how to use the system because I had used it only once when we visited here looking for a house last year.

I bought my ticket and we all got on the yellow train to head to D.C. It took about ½ hour and when we got there, we made our way to Constitution Avenue but couldn’t get all that close due to the crowd. We had a few windows between people to see so we waited with everyone else.

I’ll admit, I can be irreverent at time. I had a small conversation with Eric, wondering how they preserved a body. I wondered aloud if it was cooled inside the coffin or even if they threw in some dry ice or something. He pointed out the embalming process ensures he won’t start decaying. It was a morbid thought but I really had never thought about it. Upon further contemplation, it would make sense that the embalming process (something I knew they did) would “dry freeze” a body and thus prevent decay. I guess in my freethinking, I just didn’t consider the lunacy of just throwing a dead body in a hot casket and leaving it at that. Duh!

Along the route they had Sailors standing at Parade Rest. The whole road was lined with military personnel facing inward. They all had formal uniforms and it was stifling hot. For this reason, I was glad that I was there in shorts and saw why it would have been a sacrifice, albeit a small one considering who it was for, to be out there in Dress Blues. It would have been an honor but a hot honor. Looking back, I still wouldn’t have hesitated stepping up for the duty if asked.

As I stood there, I thought about what President Reagan meant to me and why I was there. President Reagan has always stood out in my mind as the ultimate Presidential example. Some called him aloof but he was smart enough to delegate instead of tearing himself apart trying to solve all the problems himself. He truly loved America and the people inside it but you didn't want to mess with him. The day he took office, Iran released the hostages. Why? Because they knew Reagan wouldn't hesitate to open a whole lotta hurt on them. When you can win a fight without actually fighting, well, that's the best way to go and says a lot about the man in charge.

When the shuttle blew up, you could see he was deeply hurt and he represented what America was feeling. The speech he gave after that is likely the very best written and delivered speech I ever heard.

And when he was shot, he walked into the hospital with just a twitch in his shoulder, even though it missed killing him by centimeters. Everything about him was larger than life and I truly regret never getting to meet him. He was on my list of who I would want to have a dinner with.

Craning my neck, I tried to see the procession coming. I really didn’t know what to expect but I soon got my answer. First came the motorcycle policemen. After them, came a parade of all the service schools. West Point, Naval Academy, Air Force, and even the Coast Guard. A few of them I didn’t even recognize. Then came the bands including the President’s Own (Marine Band) and finally, platoons of active duty military from every branch marching in formation. It was gorgeous.

Somewhere in there was the limos who I suspect contained Nancy Reagan. They were limos so you couldn’t tell who was in them but it’s not like she was expected to wave to the crowd under the circumstances.

Finally, I heard the hoof clops of the horses coming and I caught the first hint of the bright colors of the American flag in the distance. The coffin, draped in the flag, was on a caisson and was pulled by horses.

The crowd fell silent.

Hats came off.

The only sound was the hoof steps of the horses and cameras clicking.

Something unexpected happened to me at this point. Like many others, I was holding up my camera trying to get as many shots as I could and was torn between getting the shots and not wanting to miss the moment. Quite suddenly, I felt a lump jump to my throat and my eyes instantly teared up.

I realized I was weeping before I knew it would happen. I respected the President and I felt honored to be there at that moment but I never imagined I would have an emotional response like I did.

I knew I was seeing a part of history but at that moment, I felt the human aspect. This man was the most powerful man in the world at one time but for all his accomplishments and revered status, he was a man. A human. Someone who answers the call of Death just like everyone must. He had one life and now it was over. Forever.

I realized that despite his place in history, he would trade places with insignificant me at this point because I was alive and he wasn’t.

The moment passed and I was left there on the side of the road with these thoughts.

A part of me wanted to stand there and contemplate what all this meant but another part of me knew I had a tight schedule. A moment of guilt washed over me but then I thought the President would want me to enjoy my life and take advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves. I know I would in his shoes, if I could be as bold as to put myself in his shoes.

But Eric wanted to hang around because there was supposed to be a flyover. I’m glad we stayed because it was spectacular. They had about 4 sets of planes performing the missing man formation where they have a lead plane, two planes staggered back on one side and only one on the other. They came swooping by as I madly tried to get some pictures of it.

The last set was coming in low and right as they passed over, the lead plane pulled his throttle back and shot straight up in the air. I didn’t expect this and instantly, my arm shot up, pointing at it and I yelled Look!!! My scream was instantly followed by the roar of his engines as the full brunt of his engines pointed downward. The effect was pretty cool and my it gave my outburst and pointing a dramatic effect.

After this was over, it was time to fight the crowd. We made it to the tunnel entrance but the crowd was stopped by the police right when we made our way to the entrance. The platform was crammed and they were trying to control the flow.

We finally got down there and were crammed into a tight bunch. The first train that came was already packed. Only a few people were able to cram on and it looked like a Tokyo subway. Eric’s daughter got on but we didn’t and were left to wait for the next train. It was hot and frustrating.

The next train came and we were unlucky. Even though we were at the front, the doors were not in front of us when the train stopped. So we had to fight to get to a door but were not in luck. We missed that one too. My time was draining away. If I didn’t have a place to be, I wouldn’t have worried but didn’t these people know I was trying to get to Coz? I could have been needing a heart transplant and it wouldn’t have mattered.

We crammed onto the next train and I was mashed up to a woman, closer than is normally socially acceptable. I assured her I had taken two showers today (once in the morning and once after the noon workout). We both were smashed up next to a rather rotund gentleman (referred to from now on as Fat Bastard) who seemed to have triple the sweat glands of a normal person. He kept apologizing to her because he too was forced to touch her multiple times in multiple places normally earning one a slap in the face.

In this situation, it didn’t matter. There wasn’t anything very sexual as being crammed in a subway next to a lot of sweating people. It was socially awkward to be touching 5 people at once and being face to face, almost nose to nose, with a stranger but nothing sensual about it. I passed the time by playing tag with Eric’s young daughter. Playing tag when you can’t move isn’t very challenging, hence the humor. My suggestion to play hide-and-seek was another stab at ironic humor. The girl was 15. Just kidding, she was about 6.

We got off the train and Eric drew me a map to get to the Wolftrap. Understand that I’m the world’s worst navigator and it had to be at Barney-level. Even that wasn’t a guarantee. I was exceedingly successful of missing a turn “you can’t miss.”

But because Eric is a master at map-drawing for idiots, I found my way and was speeding down the beltway at ticket-incurring speeds. I had about 15 minutes to make a ½ ride and was doing my best to warp the fabric of space and time. To tell the truth, I was surprised I was doing as well as I was. I thought I’d miss half the concert but I made it about 15 minutes late.

I got to the parking lot, called Chris who told me he’d meet me at the gate, caught the golf cart shuttle to the entrance, and felt the need to explain my unlikely success of seeing the procession and making it to the see Coz to the other passengers. They politely smiled. I think I scared them a bit.

I got my ticket at Will Call and was in. I made it and had only missed the very beginning. Impossible but I did it!!

In the background, I heard the familiar voice of Bill Cosby and the resulting crowd laughter. It was weird to hear such a familiar voice live and as I made my way to our “seats” I saw we were way back on the sidewalk. But it didn’t matter; this was Bill Cosby and to just hear him was enough.

The set up was simple; he was on stage sitting on a chair and holding a microphone. He had two large screens behind him but at the angle we were at, we could only see the lower half of the screens. He was wearing sweat pants and a tee-shirt and the thought occurred to me that if you get that famous, you don’t have to get dressed up for anything.

I love Bill Cosby. As a kid, I remember my father having some of his vinyl records and my brother and I would listen to them (along with Cheech and Chong but that’s another story). As I listened, I started making a mental list of what he had done. The Mod Squad, the voices for Fat Albert & the Gang, Sesame Street, a bunch of movies in the 70s, The Cosby Show, Kids Say the Funniest Things. I was astonished at how famous this man was and here I was, able to listen to him.

Most of his material was about parenthood and his childhood. I think that anyone else giving the same performance would not be well received because while it was funny, it was Cosby-funny and not stand up comedian hilarious. He was funny because he’s a famous funny person; an icon. He tended to ramble on a little and get lost in a story or get off track and never come back to the original storyline. He also tended to misspeak just a little in his stories, substituting words or phrases that didn’t make sense in the place of what he meant. But we all knew what he meant.

I got the feeling at certain points that it was like listening to your grandfather, except funnier. He was funny, no doubt, but there were long periods between laughs sometimes when he would stray a bit and it seemed he was pulling in stuff as it came to him. It was a combination of a long conversation and established comedy bits. I realized why some people make fun of his style when you see people imitating him. I could see where he could ad-lib his way into a drawn out comedy bit and prevent anyone from stopping him. How could you interrupt The Coz because he’s rambling? You couldn’t.

I was famished. I didn’t eat dinner and Chris offered me two beers that I downed without much effort. Then I was left in the heat with no food in my system and two beers under my belt. I knew I’d sweat the alcohol out before I had to drive home but I was worried about losing too much water through sweat and the heat wasn’t helping either. I had to get something to eat.

Concession stands at a concert: not exactly the combination that screams “great deals.” In other words, they had me by the short hairs and they knew it. But I had to eat so I ordered up a hotdog and a bag of chips. Handing over my $5 I felt unfocused anger. Yes I’m a cheapskate but I what angers me more is charging exorbitant amounts not based on cost to the provider but on the situation of the consumer. Blood sucking bastards.

I felt better after I ate and enjoyed the rest of the concert despite the spike in humidity as the night wore on. I was ready to go by the time it ended and when it did, it came without warning. Coz did what seemed to be a popular bit where he explains a visit to the dentist. He gets a shot of Novocain and when his mouth is numb, he very humorously explains his slurred conversation with the dentist. I had never heard this before and it was an incredible talent to talk like he did. I guess it’s one of his more famous bits and I was duly impressed. I thought he might do some Fat Albert voices but that was just wishful thinking from my childhood.

When he was done, he just ended, thanked the crowd, an unceremoniously walked off. It was a bit weird and for a second, I wondered if he was going to do the old encore bit. But the lights came up and I thought that it was classic Coz. Leave them laughing and not play the game like all others.

I smiled all the way home. Two icons of the 80s in one day. Sometimes I have to sit back and wonder how I can continue to be so blessed.

Free Advice for Today:
When you get really angry, stick your hands in your pockets."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Leave a box between the doors.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

Stupidity comes in many forms. And from many sources.

Today, I ran into a prime example and it was one coming from yours truly.

As I got in my truck this morning, it was foggy and I was surprised because I hadn’t seen fog in months. As I drove to the train station half asleep, I then noticed the sun was being diffused through the fog and appeared as a bright white disc. Cool! But what was that little black spot? (Sound of The Police echoing in the background) Was it something on my windshield? Did I have a dead spot on my retina? Was I just seeing spots as a residual effect of smelling marijuana at the Hootie concert?

I tried to get a better look at it but trees kept getting in the way and I didn’t want to wreck. It was, after all, foggy and I was certain there were dumber people than me out on the road. I shouldn’t have worried.

So there I am, only paying a fraction of my attention to dozens of different things when it popped in my head that something was going on with Venus I had seen in passing on the news. I hadn’t paid attention and then my enormous stupidity rose like a whale out of the deep blue ocean.

Keep in mind I consider myself a smart man, at least on paper. I hold an engineering bachelor’s degree and an IT master’s degree which, to get it across to my kids, I have to point out that I’ve completed 18th grade. But in spite of all this formal education, here is the exact thought that swept across my mindscape:

“That can’t be Venus because Venus doesn’t pass between the Earth and the moon.”

Now before you start, I knew it was the sun I was looking at and this is what makes my next act so astonishingly thick. I internally accepted that colossal imbecile of a thought and instantly let it flutter out of my mind. I never gave it another thought. Until lunch.

I was in the gym and happened to notice the news on one of the screens showing a close up of the sun with a little black dot on it. The first thing that came to mind was that it was indeed Venus and I had correctly pieced together the bits of news concerning this celestial event.

Then it hit me. I suddenly became aware of the mental chain of events of the morning.

I don’t know what is more frightening to me. It’s bad enough that I actually looked up and said “That can’t be Venus because Venus doesn’t pass between the Earth and the moon” but then I accepted that as a plausible explanation and actually moved on!!! Forget that I had a mental cramp concerning the difference between the sun and the moon; a thought that should earn me the title of moronic idiot alone. But then lop on top of that the ACCEPTANCE of that hideously flawed logic, without a second thought to the contrary. Yeah, sure, that can’t be Venus. Do you know how close Venus would have to get to be between us and the moon?

I swear I’m not making this up. As I analyzed the mental script of the morning, I caught just the faintest glimmer of another thought. For just a second, a second, mind you, I actually had to check my mental map to make sure Venus could indeed NOT pass between the Earth and the moon. It obviously took just a fraction of a second to dismiss the ridiculous thought but the fact that I even had to check makes me shiver.

But in my defense, I will point out that indeed, Venus does NOT pass between the Earth and the moon. THAT is a true statement.

But even MSN got it right.

Free Advice for Today:
Be as friendly to the janitor as you are to the chairman of the board."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Letterman's Top Ten List for today


Monday, June 7, 2004

For President Ronald Wilson Reagan
1911 - 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem.

- PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN, 1985

Today I found out I might be involved in President Reagan’s funeral event.

One of the Sergeants that work near me came in while I was on the phone and slipped me a piece of paper that said he had been tasked to provide security for the event. My response, written while I was still on the phone, was “Holy shit!!!”

I had asked him earlier in the day if he had been tapped for it yet since his Marines always get these kind of taskers. The last thing they did was the WWII Memorial dedication ceremony. He might think I have some super power now.

After I talked to him about it, I called up the Master Gunnery Sergeant who had tasked him with the duty and asked her if there were any slots for Officers. She said she had been given only three requirements for enlisted but gave me the name of a Major in the G1 shop. I have a bad history with dealing with Majors but this was too important to pass up so I called him.

I asked him if he could use me for the ceremony and he sounded surprised. “Are you volunteering?” he asked. I told him I was and he said they had not received any requests for Officers but they might and he would call me as soon as he knew. Toward the end of the conversation, he thanked me for volunteering and acted like I was doing him a favor.

It was my turn to be surprised. I would have thought people would be crawling out of the woodwork to get into this. I consider it an indescribable honor to participate in a presidential funeral event, not to mention my first Commander in Chief. The respect I hold for President Reagan runs very deep. Yes, it would be an opportunity to take part in a historical event but more importantly, I would be able to pay my respects to a great American who I hold in the highest regard.

The other item I wanted to post today is a response to an email I received. A father had written and told me his son was an amateur programmer who had started a degree in computer science. His son has aspirations to become a Marine Officer and his father asked me if he had any advice.

I would say just keep working toward the computer science degree. It sounds like he is a very talented person and a gentleman scholar is what the Corps wants in her Officers.

Different people will support different foci when it comes to what an Officer should study. The liberal arts advocates state that their kinds of degrees work better for theory and human interaction. I always thought that a technical degree was better because it teaches the person how to think and solve problems (the staple of a Marine, or any Officer for that matter). This is supported by the requirement of all NROTC midshipmen to take calculus and other science courses, even if they major in liberal arts. I think I delved into both with a technical communication undergraduate degree and IT masters. Both of these combine the technical aspects with the non-technical interaction aspects.

I love the geek stuff but am schooled in the business and psychology aspects of dealing with people. So if he goes technical, I would advise to take some business and psychology classes as electives. A brainiac that can’t communicate will not get very far and a communicator without technical skills will join him at the bottom of the professional barrel.

Free Advice for Today:
Eat a piece of chocolate to cure bad breath from onions or garlic."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Letterman's Top Ten List for today


Sunday, June 6, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Stare at another passenger for a while, then announce 'You're one of THEM!' and move to the far corner of the elevator.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

I mowed the lawn today. This brings the price per mow down to $233.33. We’ll get down to reasonable some day.

Other than that, it was another weekend of good old fashioned nothingness. I never even had to shower. OK, maybe too much information but the whole not shaving or showering thing is an indicator that I got to hang around the house all weekend with no obligations.

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday was my daughter’s first piano recital. It was a small affair and I did climb into decent clothes and wet down my sleep-ravaged hair for the event. I’m not an animal after all!!!

The recital was a classic kids’ piano recital affair, complete with intense interest in only your own child’s performance. Carrie made me leave my headphones at home.

Stephanie was the second to go on and each kid only played two short songs. For most of them, this was the first time they ever performed in public and you could have sliced the tension in the air with a butter knife. She did just fine playing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” (which, I learned, is actually titled “Eency, Weency Spider”) and another song I wasn’t familiar with. What I mean is I don’t know the name. The tune, I know. Practice makes perfect and our piano shares the room with my computer so I get free concerts almost every day, about 5 feet behind me.

All of the kids did a pretty good job. For $18 a week for ½ lessons, they should be playing freakin’ Mozart but that’s just my crabbiness talking.

My little girl did just fine but we have to work on her stage presence. I’ve seen autopsies on the Discovery Channel done with more facial expression than my little girl played the piano. I know she was nervous but even after it was done, she had the look on her face like she had just watched Schindler’s List.

Back to today, I spent most of it catching up on my webpage and watching helplessly as my email inbox grew to 72 unanswered emails. Have faith, all of you that have written. I get caught up a couple of times each year.

Free Advice for Today:
Avoid using the work 'impacted' unless you are describing wisdom teeth."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Saturday, June 5, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Walk on with a cooler that says 'human head' on the side.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

I’m a Harry Potter fan and not afraid to admit it.

Not only am I reading the 4th book (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) but this morning I took my family to the 10:30 AM showing of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Maybe the scariest part of that sentence is that Word had no problem with the spelling of “Azkaban.”

I won’t spoil anything for you here (another statement that will make some of you chuckle and say “As if..”), but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I think the writing is classic, good storytelling and the movies stay really close and do justice to the books.

I noted how much older the actors are looking. Harry is looking older but still Harry Potterish but Ron and Malfoy look dramatically different as they plunge headlong through puberty. And it was my wife who turned toward me in the middle of the movie to state “Hermione has boobies.” So yes, beware, Hermione does indeed have boobies now. Thank you Carrie.

Later we watched “Interview With a Vampire” on DVD. I recently finished listening to it on tape and despite seeing it years ago, it was fun to watch it for the details outlined in the book.

Unlike the Harry Potter series, the film version of this movie was dramatically different than the book. I thought this was odd since Ann Rice, the author of the book, also wrote the screenplay. I kept having to pause the movie and explain to Carrie where the departure from the book occurred and explain the reasoning for some of the plot lines. I actually got tired of the introductory phrase “In the book…” coming out of my own mouth.

One thing I did enjoy is seeing is Kirsten Dunst. I know she’s this hot young movie starlet now but for forever and a day, no matter how sexy she becomes, she will always be cute little Claudia in my eyes. I guess it’s like the father of a gorgeous woman: he just sees his little girl rather than a sensual woman. Every time I see her on TV, I always think of her as Claudia.

She did such a good job in this and really seemed like a woman in a girl’s body. It made me wonder how they explained to such a young girl the deep and dark concepts she was acting out.

And she did not have any boobies yet, Carrie.

Free Advice for Today:
Remember that almost everything looks better after a good night's sleep."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Friday, June 4, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Holler 'Chutes away!' whenever the elevator descends.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

Just another average Friday so nothing much to write about. Went to work, worked, lost power a few times, got stuck in traffic coming home, and relaxed for the evening.

So to make up for having nothing to write, here is a great article with a good point.

Done with school? Jenna and Barbara Bush should enlist
Guest Column

Bill Earls - opinion@vg.pdx.edu
May 28, 2004

If President Bush is serious about the war on terror and respects the men and women in the military, he could do something no president in decades has done:

He could suggest that his twin daughters enlist.

Why not? For the last four years, the Bush twins Jenna and Barbara have enjoyed the life that children of affluence accept as their due: education at a good college. On Monday, Barbara graduated from Yale. Jenna graduated on Saturday from the University of Texas. Grad school is not immediate, and certainly they have more options than most people their age.

The military might be an option - and a good idea.

For one thing, they could continue a family tradition. Their grandfather, the first President Bush, enlisted in the Navy after high school and flew planes into combat in World War II. Their father also served; if not in a combat zone, at least he flew airplanes. Neither Bush daughter would have to become a pilot. Instead, the military could use the two liberal arts educations in intelligence, administration or operations.

A Bush enlistment would emphasize that this war needs men and women from every stratum of society, including the affluent.

Many people think that the military is an option mostly for blue-collar and lower-middle classes. They point to large numbers of minority recruits, a disproportionate number from poorer states and counties. One reason for the publicity surrounding the death of former National Football League player Pat Tillman, killed as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan in April, was that he gave up a lucrative career to serve - which is very unusual in 2004.

It wasn't always so. In World War II, affluent young men signed up by the thousands. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's sons enlisted, as did the sons of senators, congressmen and ambassadors. Were the Bush twins to enlist, it would do more for troop morale and recruitment than all the TV "Army of One" advertisements.

Enlisting might permit the Bush twins some personal growth. One problem with privilege is that people born into it often think that the whole world operates by the same rules as their household or school: food will always be in the refrigerator, the car will always start, everyone gets interesting vacations, and most people are polite and deferential and want to do things for you. Not a bad way to grow up, but most of the world doesn't work that way.

And neither does the military. If Barbara and Jenna Bush would enlist, they would learn about a different world, one in which reveille goes off at 4 in the morning, and people dumber than you (or, in some cases, smarter) demand that you do push-ups, stand in line, shine your shoes. Someone has to stand fire watches, dish out mashed potatoes, clean heads, give up weekends, and there is nothing like doing it for a few months or years to make you appreciate what you have and the other men and women who do it.

Affluence breeds a form of insularity. Yale and the University of Texas, which advertise their diversity, are limited to people who can attend Yale and the University of Texas. There are lots of children of affluence in both places but not many Alabamans, Puerto Ricans, cowboys, children of mail carriers and cops. The military, as perhaps the most inclusive institution in the nation, has all of those. Being around that mix of people is, in its own way, an education as valuable as Yale ever provided.

Finally, if the Bush twins enlist, they will earn GI Bill money. In two or three or four years, when they apply to grad school, the federal government will pay for it.

By then, they'll be older, smarter, have a better sense of what they want to do with their lives - and they'll make better teachers, lawyers or whatever because of it.

I can imagine President Bush saying, "Sign up."

Bill Earls of Middletown, Conn., left Holy Cross College after a semester to serve in the Navy from 1961 to 1965, and he later used the GI Bill to earn bachelor's and master's degrees.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't be so concerned with your rights that you forget your manners."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Thursday, June 3, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Sing 'Mary had a little lamb' while continually pushing buttons.”

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

Hootie-Day!!!

This morning started off bad. In an effort to whip myself into shape, I decided to do 2-a-days all week. Well, "all week" is a matter of definition since the week started on Tuesday so I’ve been at this for two days before it fell apart.

Tuesday went OK with plenty of energy. I ran 4 miles in the morning and then the Rep Reebok workout at lunch. Wednesday morning was rough but I got up and ran the 4 miles but the spin work out crapped out after ½ hour and I quit, finishing up with some ab work.

That brings us to this morning where I made it up early and into work for the run but at the 2 mile mark, I lost all energy. I got out there and was sweating too much for the work I was doing and I just felt dizzy and completely without any energy. I had to walk most of the way back just because every time I ran, I almost fainted.

On the long walk of shame, I thought about the can of fruit cocktail in my desk drawer and it became evident that my blood sugar was low because all I could think about was getting to that can and sucking it down like the nectar of life.

This desire morphed somehow into a need to have a huge breakfast out in town. I knew I could sneak off and get a big old nasty breakfast in the town. This kept me going until I got back to work.

I tried to talk my way out of it and told myself to eat the fruit cocktail and then I’d see where I was at.

Luckily, a cooler head prevailed and I didn’t go. OK, maybe it was just being too lazy to walk over to the town but the end result is that I didn’t gorge myself. I knew I was going to a concert tonight and would be eating a less-than-healthy dinner so resisting the breakfast was a victory.

Carrie showed up at about 5:00 PM and we followed Eric to his house in Alexandria. It was further north than I thought but I was amazed at the lack of traffic going north. Rush hour flows out of the city in the afternoon so heading south gives Eric a clean shot every afternoon. He gets the same treatment in the morning when he’s heading south when everyone and their dog are going north into D.C. Lucky bastard.

I thought to myself that I’d be in a great mood everyday just by virtue of seeing the gridlock across the way as I happily zoomed down my sparsely populated lanes. OK, that’s enough fantasy.

We got to Eric’s house, met his family, and then climbed into their vehicle to go to the concert, making a close pass to the Pentagon and particularly the side that got munched in the terrorist attacks. I’ve still never been in there and want to go just to say I was there. I bet they'd just love that explanation:

"State your business at the Pentagon, Sir."

"Just cuz."

We got to the Wolf Trap and it was wonderful. The venue only holds about 7000 people so there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. In fact, we didn’t even have a seat; we were seated out on the lawn. Near the stage they have seats under an overhang but further out is the lawn which is a sloping meadow of grass. It forms a natural bowl so you have an unobstructed, tiered view of the stage.

We brought blankets and food. The park is very laid back and don’t even check your bags, probably because they don’t care if you bring food. That was obvious when you see that almost everyone had a spread blanket and picnic goodies.

Our group had three couples but the other couple had not shown up yet. Eric and his wife brought sub sandwich makings and we brought chips and potato salad. I’d rather eat dirt than potato salad so Carrie got me some good old coleslaw from KFC. Yes, I’m spoiled, now that you mention it.

The other couple was supposed to bring the wine and the beer but they forgot their tickets and didn’t get in until right before the concert so we ate without them, bought a couple of beers, and were satisfied with those and some sodas we brought. Nothing was going to bring this night down!

We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect night. The weather has been stormy the last few days and it seemed that the sky cleared up just for this event. We had blue skies and mild temperatures (just ask Alex). Even the bugs were kept at bay for some reason we could only guess at: we were in the middle of a sea of people so they must be attacking the outer perimeter. Plus, blankets covered almost every square inch of grass. Who knows, I’m just glad that everything was working out.

I wondered what kind of crowd would be drawn to Hootie and the Blowfish in 2004. I got my answer when I saw everything from a toddler to grandparents milling around; and everything in between. This was not going to be a rowdy crowd; no mosh pits, and I was glad to be among “normal” people. The running joke I kept getting from people who learned I was going to a Hootie concert involved marijuana and a urinalysis. But after seeing the crowd, I thought that IF I smelled any of the weed, it was probably for a case of glaucoma.

The opening band was called “Cowboy Mouth.” I tried not to think too hard about what that meant but the unique thing about them was that the drummer was the lead singer. He played high energy and the songs weren’t bad. He kept trying to get the crowd to their feet, most notably by yelling “Get off your ass you lazy bastards” slowly. He did this a few times but I was happy where my ass was, as were a lot of other people. At one point he said it as he was starting the song and when he got minimal response, they mockingly acted like they refused to play the song and instead played a guitar solo of Happy Trails. I thought this mighty ballsy since they were, you know, the warm up band. If they walked off the stage, well, we all could more easily talk amongst ourselves until Hootie came out. So easy with the threats, Cowboy Mouth drummer lead singer guy.

The excitement was mounting as show time neared. Hootie and the Blowfish are the only band I’ve ever seen in concert twice. The last time was in 1995 when I was going to college in Seattle and they only had their “Cracked Rear View” album out. But they were at their peak and mega-popular at the time.

Another factoid that you should know is that the lead singer is named Darius Rucker, not “Hootie.” He is not “Hootie” and his band is not “The Blowfish.” As misleading as this is, I guess he’s a little sensitive about this common mistake. Dude, you are the lead singer. You have a band behind you. You call yourself "Hootie and the Blowfish." And now you get offended if people call you Hootie?

When they came out, they jumped right into it by singing “Time.” They have about 4 mega-famous songs and the rest I know because I have both of their most famous CDs (Cracked Rear View and Fair Weather Johnson) on MP3 and in constant rotation on my computer. The funny thing is that because all their songs from these two CDs are so familiar to me, I couldn’t quite remember which ones were the commercially famous ones and which were just familiar because I hear them at least every third day of my life.

What came next was unexpected and a theme that repeated throughout the concert. They played a lot of country. I know, I know, it’s weird but they did. Basically, they played famous Hootie songs, a few new ones, and a lot of cover songs. They have a new CD out but it’s their “Best Of” with only one new song so they had to fill in with a lot of covers which was fine with me because Darius has an incredible voice and could make “Happy Birthday” sound great.

Of course they got to “Let Her Cry” and “I Only Want To Be With You” but they were saving “Hold My Hand” as the finale.

Meanwhile, they played some strange covers. “Walk this Way” (the Run DMC version) and “Keep Your Hands To Yourself” by the Georgia Satelites came out of nowhere but what might be the strangest choice was a bit of Snoop Dog. Yes, they had their mind on their money and their money on their mind. Either that or some honky tonk songs I was not familiar with but I think came from the 70s country and western icons.

Another great addition was “Blackwater” by the Doobie Brother. With its infectious chorus (I'd like to hear some funky Dixieland, pretty mama come and take me by the hand, by the hand, hand, take me by the hand pretty mama, come and dance with your daddy all night long…) we all sang it until we nearly fainted for lack of breath.

The pungent odor of pot did waft through at one point. Blaze on, old stoner dude. Rage against the machine and de-glaucomatize those bloodshot eyes.

I’ve been to a lot of concerts and the one thing that bugs the crap out of me is the fake ending. I mean, come on, do we have to play this little game? Are established artist like Hootie and the Blowfish still so insecure that they have to fake the end of the concert so the fans will “demand” a return and encore? This is so silly to me and I find it embarrassing that we have to go through this little stupidity when we all know they are coming back.

They hadn’t even played “Hold My Hand” and everyone knew they were going to sing it. They wouldn’t have made it out of the parking lot if they tried to get away without singing their most famous song.

So they come back (ooh, big surprise) and start playing. The lights didn’t even come up so they didn’t even halfway sell it.

I really enjoyed the concert and hesitate to write anything negative about it. Yes, there was a lot of cover songs but they were done well and were quite enjoyable. Yes, they did the old fake ending thing but that’s not enough to even bitch about. So understand that I think it was a great concert and have absolutely no regrets. But I will point out a small flaw.

“Hold My Hand” is a slow, soulful song about the love of a man to a woman. It’s a touching song and simple enough to sing along. So it was a bit of a let down when they sped it up and played a funkier version of it. I think I complained a bit about this at the last concert (or somewhere on my website) and explained that the artists must get tired of singing the same songs in the same ways over and over. But this was their best song and I would have loved to hear the slow, emotional version rather than the sped up version done in finale fashion.

Like I said, I know these songs by heart and can sing along to any of them. But I know the CD version and when the artists slide around the lyrics and change up the beat in concert, my “singing” is off and I found that I wasn’t matching Darius’s tempo.

All their other songs were done well and they stuck to the established versions, probably more than any other concert I’ve been to and that’s why I have no complaints. If they altered just one out of the many I enjoyed, I’ll call it a success.

After the concert ended, we herded back to Eric’s house and climbed in the Saturn for the return trip home. We finally got home about 12:30 AM and I went to bed feeling better than I had in a long time. A great night at a great concert listening and singing along to great songs with the woman I love.

Here is my old Hottie and the Blowfish concert reveiw from 1995.

(I just went back and read the old reveiw. I was amazed that I made the exact same complaint about the same song at the same part of the concert; the last song. Well, I'm consistent if anything.)

Free Advice for Today:
A loving atmosphere in your home is so important. Do all you can to create a tranquil, harmonious home."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Show other passengers a wound and ask if it looks infected.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

I got an email today that said there was an upgrade for a free program I use to back up all my files every night. If you recall (which you won’t so I’ll give you a link) I bought an external drive which came with some lame-ass software that didn’t work so I sought after and found a free program. I notice I never posted what it was or where to get it so here it is and I’ll throw it on my freebie page.

Anyway, I got the email and found myself in a pickle. Not really in a salt-brine mixture full of cucumbers, it’s a figure of speech. You see, the program I use works. And it works just fine. So there seems to be no need to “upgrade” under the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” concept. Other than questionable proper English involving the contraction of “is” and “not,” the saying has a point. But it bothers me that there’s a “better” version out there and I’m not using it. If I download it, it might not install over the other one thus erasing my settings. Also, it might not work.

But two things I know for sure though:

1. It will cost me a lot of time and maybe (probably) frustration
2. It will give me no improvement since it’s transparent to me right now (I run it at night automatically).

So I have to ignore my desire to have the latest and greatest and just be satisfied with the current version. This is about as easy as hitting that first commercial break of The Daily Show and NOT shoot up to the kitchen to partake in a little snack-o-rama.

Free Advice for Today:
Put the strap around your neck before looking through binoculars."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Frown and mutter 'gotta go, gotta go' then sigh and say 'oops!'

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

You might remember my letter I wrote to Friendly’s Restaurant ountlined in my May 16th blog. Well, although I didn’t get an email back from them, I did get this:

It also came with a $15 gift card and at first glance, I thought I got satisfaction. After all, I got an apology and a free meal, right? Well, sort of. The card pays for the meal alright but the experience sucked and nothing will change that. So they paid for a meal that had a bad atmosphere attached to it. I count that as a wasted morning that was paid for. It’s as though they’re saying “The bad experience is on us.”

Now I understand this is better than having the bad experience AND having to pay for it but if the company really wanted to make things right, they would have reimbursed for the meal and then given me another meal, thus saying “We’ll pay for that bad one but come have an enjoyable meal on us like we normally provide.”

Not only is this NOT going to happen, I have to redeem their apology by going back to their establishment (although I'll obviously go to another franchise). so I don;t even get the money back, I have to sit through another potentially bad experience.

Oh well, what did I expect?

Free Advice for Today:
Wear safety glasses when operating a Weed Eater or power saw."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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