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Jason Grose's BLOG

July 2004

 

 

 


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

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


Saturday, July 31, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"That'll wake you up in the mornin'."

- Campbell [after his wound is cauterized] from "Braveheart"

I decided that 14 miles to start with was a bit ambitious and that I would start with the 10 mile long run next Saturday. Caving, you say? Well, kind of but I could read my body well enough to know that a 14 mile attempt would leave me beaten, battered, and mentally crushed. I’ve forced myself through such runs before and I really didn’t want to go through it this time.

So what did I do? Nothing. Exercise-free weekend to recover from last week and rest up for next week. OK, I caved.

But at 5:45 AM, I awoke and decided that I would see if Sir Phil was up for a walk. We sometimes meet up on weekend mornings to take our dogs for a walk through the woods by his house. The problem this time was that I had not set this up with him and I hadn’t even talked to him since the 4th of July.

I tried his cell phone thinking this might be the least intrusive way that early in the morning. No joy. So I went ahead and called his house phone and sure enough, his wife answered. Half asleep myself, I just asked if Phil was there and then quickly added that this was Jason and I was sorry for calling so early. She didn’t sound put out at all and told me it was alright before she handed the phone to Sir Phil.

“Hey, you want to walk?”
“That’s a great idea.”
“OK, I can leave here in 10 minutes with Buster.”
“Yes, yes that sounds like a wonderful plan.”

This is a par-for-course response from Sir Phil.

Everything was going fine until about half way through the walk when I turned my ankle. There’s not much to describe it, I just took a step and my left ankle rolled, creating a popping sound like knuckles cracking. The pain shot up my leg like a lightning bolt and I unsuccessfully tried to play it off.

“Ouch, you shouldn’t do that” was Sir Phil’s response in classic Sir Phil delivery.

I hobbled around and it was a minute later that we discovered we had taken a wrong turn and had to traverse a small hill of thick vegetation with unsure footing to get back on track. Just what my ankle needed.

This was very reminiscent of my 20 mile hike at TBS when I did the same thing at mile 9. As long as I kept moving, the pain was minimized (not gone though). So I knew I could finish the walk but I would be paying for my butter ankles later in the day. Hopefully I would heal fast and be ready to run on it next week.

The rest of the day was just staying off it. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday but having frozen peas in a Ziplock, wrapped around your ankle is not prime weekend activity.

Tonight, my daughter wanted to give me a spa. I had to lay on her bed while she put a warm, wet washcloth on my face and she rubbed my hands and arms. Then I was to turn over so she could put a wet towel on my back, dry it, and use massage lotion to rub my back. By the time she was done, so was I. She was so proud of herself and was excited to do the same for Carrie. I assumed this happened because it was all I could do to get in to my bed and float (crash) off into oblivion.

Free Advice for Today:
Never forget that it takes only one person or one idea to change your life forever."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Friday, July 30, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"I didn't like him anyway. He wasn't right in the head."

- Stephen [After killing a would-be assassin] from "Braveheart"

I had a meeting at TBS starting at 0730 but since my uniform is at work, I had to go in early, change over, and leave enough time to get back out to the other side of the base by 0730. So I awoke at 0515, left at 0605, arrived at 0745, and got into my cammies. As I was about to shoot out the door, I decided to check my messages and as it was booting up, I thought to myself, “That would be funny if the meeting got cancelled.”

It wasn’t funny.

If I would have checked my email yesterday after 4:30 PM, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble and could have rode the train in. But I didn’t and for my stupidity, I was rewarded with an “early” show up time on a Friday.

I know, 0700 is not all that early but when every minute of sleep counts with a training schedule like mine, it tends to piss me off.

The “New Guy” who just got hired by the contractors we work with turns out to be an Office Space fan and we spent the better part of the morning trading one-liners and discussing the nuances of the movie. Immature? Yes. Good way to blow a Friday morning? You betcha.

We had a big meeting to day where they actually used Microsoft’s Project software. The first and last time I ever used it was version 1.0 way back in 1996ish when I was getting my undergraduate degree in technical communications at the University of Washington. It was good to see how far the software had come but Eric still had trouble with it, which made me laugh. It’s one of those programs that you can spend more time figuring out how to make it work right than the amount of time it saves you.

One free piece of advice, don’t explore the entire Office Space mentality before having long boring meetings. I couldn’t get the jaded theme out of my head while going through the very environment the movie made fun of.

After the meeting, I went to the gym and had the most unmotivated workout imaginable. I didn’t want to be there but went through all of the required steps. It sucked. But I did it.

When I got back, everyone was gone. Everyone but the New Guy. Everyone under and over me was gone. It was Friday. Hmmmm, what do you think the ending of this story is?

I wanted to go to the Exchange to look at running watches. The leather strap on mine tends to get wet and leaves marks on anything I lean on after lunch when I have successfully saturated it with sweat. Yeah, I know, lovely visual.

I’ve had my eye on the sporty Nike watch with the big numbers and angled face. I’m a Nike kind of guy (everything but shoes, ironically.) I have socks, running shorts, shirts, sunglasses, and hat. Now if I get the watch, ensemble complete.

But the lame-ass selection at the Exchange did not include Nike watches so I’ll have to get it this weekend.

I met Carrie and the kids at McDonalds and we all hit the Exchange. Alex wanted to get Super Monkey Ball 2 (don’t ask) but again, the selection was limited and did not include said monkey software. So I took the kids with me while Carrie went to the commissary in blissful independence. On the way home, I described the nuances of commute traffic to my kids. Mostly it was a 45 minute rant but they get the idea of what Daddy goes through every time he has to be on the soul-sucking intestine that is I-95.

Free Advice for Today:
Occasionally let your children help you, even if it slows you down."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Thursday, July 29, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"I didn't like him anyway. He wasn't right in the head."

- Stephen [After killing a would-be assassin] from "Braveheart"

Today was the first day of the double workout. Because I must run 4 times a week, workout 4 times a week, and rest one day, that means I must double up two days a week. I picked Mondays and Thursdays for these visits to Hell and since I came up with this plan on Tuesday, today is the first romp in excruciating fatigue.

I’m such a schmuck that my decision flow went something like this: if I’m taking a shower after the run anyway, why get up early to take one? I can just do it at work and that way I get an extra 20 minutes of sleep. Sure enough, I woke up in just enough time to shave, throw on clothes, and run out the door.

I made it in and knocked out a 5 mile run which was not too bad. Somehow knowing it’s not the last time you will sweat out your clothes in a day makes it a bit easier to complete.

But I was too lazy to shower and thought I’d just do it after my workout which was in a couple hours away anyway.

Lunch brought round 2 and I made it to the gym. I think my statement was “There are a lot of things I’d like to be doing right now and going to the gym is nowhere on the list.”

But I went and I did legs and shoulders. It was Thursday so the crowd was tapered down a bit. Despite this, most of the leg machines were packed, especially the reverse squat. There were about 4 guys working together to max out the amount of plates you could put on the thing and then blow a testicle trying to push up. No thanks, I’ll stick with the lower weights and faster reps.

After lunch was misery, pure and simple. I couldn’t pay attention and I was too tired to really care about anything but catching the early train and calling it a day. I have an early morning meeting in the morning so I could almost justify cutting out a little early. Almost.

Since I was going home, I thought I’d put off the shower until I could do it in the comfort of my own home. All I was going to do was catch the train and go straight home anyway.

This afternoon marked the first time I had to run for the train. Getting out of the office a bit late, I saw the train crossing bar come down when I was still crossing the big parking lot. I thought, “Oh crap” as I started running and thinking to myself how ironic this was since running was the last thing my body was up for.

I was caught on the wrong side as the train passed but I knew it would stop and I could get by. Sure enough, I was lucky enough that passengers were debarking and I had time to sprint to the ticket machine to get my card punched.

I thought I would have to talk to the conductor and promise him that I’d punch it at my destination but when I saw him getting off the train and going over to the other machine to help some elderly lady punch her ticket, I knew I had time. I got it punched, got on the air conditioned train, and tried to let the sweat dry as I listened to my headphones and read my book. All I was really thinking about was getting home for sweet napping nirvana.

When I got home, that’s just what I did, too tired to shower. I fell asleep so hard that when I awoke, I had no idea what time, day, year it was and when I gathered my senses, I realized I had slept away all the time I gained by coming home early. But I felt good and it was the rest my body needed.

But then I was too relaxed and figured I’d be getting up to shower in the morning. So if you’ve been keeping track, I put off the shower at a half a dozen opportunities and ended up really nasty by the end of the day. This, my friends, is called false justification combined with irrationalization.

I watched Office Space again tonight but this time with Carrie. It was so good I didn’t even mind watching it a second time in as many days. I will be buying this on DVD and watching it many, many times over.

Free Advice for Today:
Never pass up a chance to be in a parade."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Whom do I send? Not my gentle son. The mere sight of him would only encourage an enemy to take over the whole country."

- Longshanks from "Braveheart"

Tonight I saw the light.

I saw a movie that has affected me deeply. Now don’t go and think I saw some spiritually stirring movie but I have a new entry on my top 5 movies of all time. The movie: Office Space.

Created in 1999 by Mike Judge (creator and voices of Beavis and Butthead), this movie is an instant cult classic for the Dilbert-Hell, cubicle IT corporation drudgery that many modern yuppies live through each day.

To tell the truth, I can’t figure out what is the best aspect of the movie: the constant stream of classic sound bites and one-liners, the great characters, the dead-on annoyances of working in an office, or just the classic combination of all these things. I would and have put this on my top 5 movie list that everyone must see.

I will be making a page dedicated to this masterpiece so watch for that on my site. It’s just too good NOT to dedicate some time and effort to capture the beauty of this comedic time capsule.

Today also marked my 17th anniversary of going into the Marine Corps. On this day in 1987, I started my first day at MCRD San Diego going through the three month hell called Marine Corps Boot Camp. Today, I didn't even realize it (like most years) until I got home.

One year (#13, I think) I was at the 29 Palms Officer's Club drinking a beer when I struck up a conversation with a Major. He asked how long I had been in and I looked at my watch and told him 13 years to the day. It wasn't until that moment that I realized it was my anniversary.

This year, no one remembered until I brought it up over dinner. I know it seems silly to most people but it's a milestone for me every year. What a hell of a day that was and to think I'm still at it 17 years later seems surreal to me.

Free Advice for Today:
Remember that life's big changes rarely give advance warning."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it."

- Malcolm Wallace from "Braveheart"

Back at work. Back to the grind. Back to the steaming pile of crap that built up after 3 whole work days away from the desk. But I felt good after a very restful and cleansing trip to see my aunt and uncle. So that carried me until lunch.

As part of my marathon training, today was a 7 miler. I was smart enough to grab my trusty Camelback but dumb enough to also grap a tank top. The result was a life-saving reserve of water during the heat of the day and a raw shoulder area where the Camelback rubbed against my bare skin. A decent trade.

The run was very challenging. I knew it would be hot and I took it slow. But this only prolongs the time in the hot, muggy world of Quantico lunch time outside. I ran toward the front gate, took a left at Purvis (making a mental note that it should be called “Perverse” instead because it is nothing but a huge uphill followed by smaller rolling hills) until I get to the main street to the back gate. Taking another left (by McDonald's), I ran back toward mainside until I hit Lejeune Hall and my time was up. I had to guess at the distance based on time because the entire loop is 8 miles, so I’m told.

By the time I got done, I was soaked. My cotton tank top weighed about 10 pounds and was plastered to my chest. Yet another bad clothing choice. I was just about as spent as I could get. Welcome to marathon training.

When I got home, I was a drooling mess. Not good for much, I spent the majority of the evening trying (unsuccessfully) to catch up on email. Some of you might have given up on expecting an answer back from me but rest assured, I’m still adhering to my claim that I answer every email I get… eventually.

Right when I got into the swing of things, my beautiful daughter came to me and asked in the sweetest manner if I would take her to the video store. Carrie had worked all day getting ready for the 4H camp they are going to next week and was more tired than I was. When Steph asked her, she gave her a very rare “Not tonight” and so I was the next in line. The kids rarely ask me to do things like this and the fact that it meant enough to her to ask meant she really wanted to go. How could I possibly refuse?

Her main goal was to get “The Princess Diaries” in preparation for the sequel coming out soon. By the way, I remember Carrie and I went to see this in the theater a couple of years ago and amazingly, I enjoyed it. I also remember that their attempt at “making the gorgeous girl look plain and frumpy” was wildly unsuccessful. Just because you friz her hair and put glasses on her doesn’t hide the fact that she’s a natural beauty. Nice try but thumbs down on the attempt.

I gathered the kids and even Buster for a trip to Hollywood Video. Buster was to stay in Truckasarus during the excursion which seemed to catch him by surprise when we showed up.

In the store, I encounter Mr. Loudtalker on the Cellphone guy. It seemed very important to him to go to the video store and then walk aimlessly around having a very spirited conversation with his girlfriend and making sure everyone knows exactly what personal angst they are going through. Unbelievable.

Steph was crushed when they were out of both VHS and DVD version of her movie. I got the biggest pout face from her that I’ve seen in a long time. She settled on an old Olson Twins video. Alex opted for a video game (of course) and I actually grabbed Office Space. I had heard a lot about it and it was featured on the “I Love the 90s” series so I thought it was high time I watched it.

When we got home, I finished out some email and called it a night. The run had taken all my mojo and I collapsed on the bed at the end of the day, oblivious there was an outside world. Marathon training is so much fun.

Free Advice for Today:
Remember the credo of Walt Disney: Think. Believe. Dream. Dare."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Monday, July 26, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"I love you. Always have. I want to marry you."

- William Wallace from "Braveheart"

Today we had to bid farewell to my aunt and uncle. For 4 days we have enjoyed their company and hospitality much like what has happened ever since I could remember.

Going to Aunt Shirley’s and Uncle Kenny’s house was always a cause for celebration as kids as well as adults. My brother and I would eagerly sit in the car as kids with our faces up against the windows in eager anticipation of what was to come. When we’d get there, my brother and I would bolt out of the car, letting the car door swing and stay open as we raced for hugs.

As a gift, my Aunt Shirley wanted to load me up with Robert Ludlum books after I mentioned that I was interested in reading the Bourne series. I should have known better, knowing she would gift me with the whole set at the mere mention of interest. She bought me the Bourne Identity (Book 1), The Bourne Ultimatum (Book 3), and The Bourne Legacy (Book 4). There was a mix-up when I told her I already had book 3. It got translated into “I have Book 2” and so now I have 2. I will get book 2 off the web.

The drive home seemed longer than the drive to get there. It always seems that way when you are really anticipating a fun trip. Sitting in the car for 8 hours is never all that fun but it was bearable since traffic wasn’t horribly offensive.

When I got home, I had a million things to do. First on the list was to chastise myself for not taking an extra day off to catch up on all the others. I had email out the kazoo and had not done a very good job keeping the BLOGs up to date, despite bringing my laptop.

I decided to get a jump on my marathon work up schedule. I thought I had a 3 month work up to the marathon which would put the start date at August 1st. When I opened it up, I realized it was a 4 month work up schedule and I was a month behind.

I was so mad at myself because this is like the third time in a row that I’ve screwed this up. Normally I just misjudge the dates and by the time I realize, I’m behind. Yet once again, I fumbled the ball but this time because I totally forgot the time span.

As penance for my idiocy, I have a 14 mile run this Saturday. My longest run in the last few months was 5 miles. In fact, I haven’t run more than 5 since the marathon in May.

I rearranged my training schedule up to the Marine Corps Marathon on October 31st and this is what it looks like. In case you are wondering, the red numbers denote a workout as well as a run for that day. Ouch.

Week
Mon
Tue
Wed
Thur
Fri
Sat
Sun
Total
7/26/2004
5
7
W
5
W
14
Rest
31
8/2/2004
5
7
W
5
W
10
Rest
27
8/9/2004
6
8
W
6
W
16
Rest
36
8/16/2004
6
8
W
6
W
17
Rest
37
8/23/2004
6
9
W
6
W
12
Rest
33
8/30/2004
6
9
W
6
W
19
Rest
40
9/6/2004
5
10
W
5
W
20
Rest
40
9/13/2004
5
6
W
5
W
12
Rest
28
9/20/2004
5
10
W
5
W
20
Rest
40
9/27/2004
5
6
W
5
W
12
Rest
28
10/4/2004
5
8
Rest
5
Rest
20
Rest
38
10/11/2004
5
5
Rest
5
Rest
12
Rest
27
10/18/2004
4
6
Rest
4
Rest
8
Rest
22
10/25/2004
3
4
Rest
Rest
Rest
Rest
RACE
33.2
Free Advice for Today:
When someone let's you down, don't give up on them."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"In the year of our lord thirteen fourteen, patriots of Scotland, starving and outnumbered, charged the fields of Bannockburn. They fought like warrior poets. They fought like Scotsmen. And won their freedom."

- Narrator from "Braveheart"

I seem to have a trend developing here in Georgia. I’m waking up earlier and earlier to run for a couple of reasons. The heat is the most obvious factor and the earlier I can run, the better it feels. Or more precisely, the less pain there is involved. The other reason is because I don’t want to squander time away from my family while on vacation. If I can knock out the run early, then I can spend more time with them.

So I was up at 8:00 to run and was met with a cloudy morning which made the direct sunlight a non-factor but I had to deal with the mugginess. I’d have to deal with that anyway and I knew this would be the last run here. Yes, I can and do get sentimental about things in a matter of days.

I spent some time today working on my aunt and uncle's laptop. They had a dead laptop they said was not worth tinkering with and after my aunt told me they had taken it in to someone, I believed them and didn’t waste any time on it. I concentrated my efforts on their other one.

When doing pro bono computer work for family, the main thing you want to do is not make anything worse on a computer you are trying to fix. You always take a chance by messing with one because if something goes wrong and it’s worse off than when you started, you get blamed.

I had some diagnostic software on my laptop but no way to get it onto theirs. They had a high speed modem so I first tried the USB plug connector it got its feed from. I unhooked it and connected it to mine but after looking for drivers, the “Add New Hardware” wizard gave up and wanted a disk. They didn’t have any disks so I was stuck.

I knew all I needed was a thumb drive but I failed to bring mine. I found it frustrating that I had software on my laptop and no way to get it from mine to theirs. Finally, I discovered they had a box of CDRs hidden in box.

You have to understand that my aunt and uncle are not very computer savvy. The disks happened to be there because my dad gave provided them during a visit. How this transpired I have no idea because he’s less technologically versed than his sister but luckily for me, they were there and I was able to get the software transferred.

Later I discovered that if I just simply plug in a LAN cable (that I happened to find in the same cache as the disks), I was up and running with my laptop. I think they had DSL though because when I would use the Internet on one computer, it would freeze out the other.

The antivirus program I put on their laptop froze the system solid. I realized they had the dreaded Windows ME operating system and I wondered aloud why I have been cursed to deal with this substandard version of Microsoft at its worst yet again. I think THAT should be considered a virus. A big, nasty one.

I had to go into Safe Mode to take it off (The antivirus software, not Windows ME, unfortunately). I discovered this necessary after about 10 attempts and corresponding restarts.

The thing that worried me the most is that I had done a Windows Update before this and I wasn’t for sure if it was the update or the antivirus software that was killing the system. I took off the AV as described above but when I tried to remove the update, it took about 1 second so I knew all it really did was to take the name of the update off of the “Add or Remove Programs” list without really stripping the actual update. Luckily for me, the frozen computer thawed after the antivirus software was removed so I was basically at square one after many hours of meddling with the laptop.

The next thing I did was to download a bunch of spyware detector/removal software. When I ran the first one, I found 210 known spyware files. Yikes. I wasn't surprised after my aunt told me she had cleicked "yes" when a popup asked her if she wanted information about adding smiley faces on her emails. After she did that, the whole computer started going nuts with popups.

Lastly, I put some links on the Internet Explorer interface and improved the Outlook interface for them. I created a couple of folders where they could drag emails and dump them into their own folders. Uncle Kenny liked this, likely tired of having junk mail and Aunt Shirley’s email interspersed with his email.

My aunt had complained about a quirky behavior she was very tired of. She says that she would regularly be typing an email and since she is a key-watcher like me, she would occasionally look up at the screen only to find that she had somehow jumped up a few lines and continued typing over previous lines.

I concluded that she was probably bumping the touchpad and/or buttons while typing. To solve this, I offered to disable the pad in favor of a mouse. The mouse I had in mind was my beloved laptop mouse from Microsoft that I received from my Microsoft hookup: Paul. A couple of years ago he gave me the little optical mouse and I loved it as much as Microsoft developers who bought out the Microsoft employee store the day the mouse arrived. In fact, I loved it so much that he gave me another one (his old one when he found another one) which I kept in my closet in waiting for the other one to give out. Even though the little guy had been with me for years and showed no sign of letting up, I thought it a good cause to donate to my aunt and uncle. It had been with me through my graduate work and on countless trips around the United States and now it would live out its days with the Ganns.

I disabled the touchpad and brought my aunt downstairs to show her. I was actually asking permission to do it via instructions from my uncle. If she wanted to use a mouse, it was OK with him. I brought her down and soon discovered she had never used a mouse.

This was a strange and new experience for me. I had become so accustomed to everyone knowing how to use a mouse that the thought of someone not really having the hang of it was a totally foreign concept. It was like coming across a person who didn’t know how to use a telephone or drive a car. I absolutely didn’t expect to be teaching my aunt how to use a mouse tonight.

We brought up Solitaire. What most people don’t know is that Microsoft originally developed and included Solitaire in their basic Windows program for the sole purpose of teaching people how to use a mouse.

But then we had a different problem: Aunt Shirley hadn’t played Solitaire since she was a child. So Stephanie and I taught her how to play and then walked her though using a mouse. It was slow going and I found it fascinating put myself at a level where the most basic computer skills were new. She got the hang of it pretty fast except for the double-click.

I tried to remember back to when the mouse was new to me but could not recall a time when it was not second nature. The closest I could come was the remember how frustrating it was to use my brother-in-law’s roller ball mouse. I couldn’t quite get the hang of it and didn’t even like to check my email at his house because I’d have to nudge the ball with three fingers and try to click the button without moving the ball. This was much of the same procedure my aunt was going through and because I could empathize (and she was Aunt Shirley, of course), I had infinite patience with her.

We finally called it a night and my aunt assured me she would get the hang of it. I never doubted this but she kept promising she would work at it. For her, learning the mouse was the lesser of two evils since she couldn’t stand having her emails ruined by an errant bump of the touchpad.

Free Advice for Today:
Treat your company's money as you would your own."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Saturday, July 24, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Before we let you leave, your commander must cross that field, present himself before this army, put his head between his legs, and kiss his own arse."

- William Wallace from "Braveheart"

I awoke a little earlier to knock out the run but at 0900, the Georgia sun still makes you pay for moving at all outside. The route had become old hat and I could concentrate on the running and not the path. The dirt road was hilly but I knew where the end was and I was able to handle the hills better. That’s the 90% mental part of running. I was 90% mental by the time I was done.

It was a good thing that I ran because I was about to go in the hole again with my exercise-to-food ratio. Aunt Shirley and Uncle Kenny wanted to treat us to the Waffle House. Once there, all bets were off. Bring on the artery-cloggers and don’t be shy with the portions!!!

We couldn’t sit together since 6 was too many in a party for the old Waffle House. So the men sat at the counter and the women in a booth. The men waited in silence for their food and the women cackled like hens. The men ate in utter silence while the women alternated between conversation and food intake. Both sets thought it was a great time. Such is the world of men and the alien world of women.

I almost got to pay for the men-meals. The waitress set the check down as Uncle Kenny was not looking and I snagged it to put in my pocket. After I was done, I got up to go to the empty register but I was too late. Two other customers had a similar idea and it would have been too obvious for me to be standing there for too long. In the world of Uncle Kenny, you must accomplish stealth bill-paying quickly and suffer the consequences afterwards.

I started walking back to the seat to wait for another opportunity when I passed the girls’ table. The thought occurred to me and I impulsively handed the check to Carrie, hoping she would understand and pay the bill. She looked at me funny, took the bill, and proceeded to set it on the table. It MAY have hit the actual table but I doubt it. Like a snake striking, Aunt Shirley snagged the slip of paper and in an identical lightning movement, she handed it to Uncle Kenny who somehow met her handoff half way. Before I even recoiled my hand, Uncle Kenny had the bill and was reaching for his money clip. After that, I knew it was no use. I would sooner get back my virginity before I got that check back and we all knew it. Carrie blew it but of course she blamed me for a much-too-obvious handoff. Again, such is the alien world of women.

After consuming enough breakfast to choke a whale, I lumbered off my bar stool and got into Uncle Kenny’s 2002 Jag. I tried to explain to Alex what it meant to drive in such a luxurious automobile but I think it was lost on him. How do you explain the concept of high-end luxury sedans to a 12-year-old?

The men were off to hunt. The women were off to gather. We were going to Wal-Mart to get a list of food supplies and a gift for the Boy. The women were off to the mall to see what they could find and to take care of Steph.

We were done in as long as it took Uncle Kenny to wheel down the appropriate aisles and Alex to decide on a video game. The girls were dancing around the mall with flowers in their hair singing of sunshine and unicorns. At least that’s my vision of it.

We got back to the house and were utterly shocked we had beat the women back. Actually, we knew we had many hours to ourselves and enjoyed the pool and silence for the hours it took the girls to finish their dancing/flower-wearing/unicorn-sunshine singing.

I had been lucky. The previous day’s thoughtlessness in the sun hovered on the edge of a blade. I knew it was going to be close and either I’d be Joe Lobster Chest or if I could teeter the scale a micron to my side, the burn would turn the corner to a tan. It was a photo finish but I succeeded.

So I drove home the tan by spending the rest of the day at the pool with the kids. I didn’t tempt my luck by forgetting to lather up with the sunscreen and kept a close eye on my bronze-bound chest.

After risking my life several times coming down the slide on variety of surfaces that included inner-tubes, air-mattresses, my back, my chest, and other parts of my anatomy that caused Dad to take a break with a couple of golden Corona complete with lime, I was rewarded with some of the best steaks the human race has ever concocted. Whatever cow gave her life for this piece of perfection did not die in vain. She can hold her cow-head high up in cow-heaven.

Another day at Gann-Nirvana.

Free Advice for Today:
Hold a child's hand when crossing the street."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Friday, July 23, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Who is this person that speaks to me as though I needed his advice?"

- Longshanks from "Braveheart"

Even in paradise, there are dues to pay.

I woke up and knew I had to run. It was penance for my discipline failure yesterday so after sleeping in until 10:00, I decided I better put some shoe on pavement. There was the little details of hot Georgia weather, having no clue exactly where to go, and hilly surroundings to contend with but I wasn’t wimping out. I already destroyed my diet so I had to make some progress even if it was just to keep an even keel.

I found a road leading past a soccer filed and followed it onto a dirt road. My intention was finding a 20 minute stretch of road where I could turn around and complete a 40 minute run. I got lucky because the road led into a shaded forest with houses set back from the dirt road and what appeared to be a horsing community. It was a hot morning but I found a running path and was happy to be doing something constructive (or destructive if I go by the way I felt).

When I got back, I was soaked. Even though it was a short run for me, the mugginess took its toll and I walked into the house looking like I had just jumped in and then out of the coveted swimming pool.

After cooling off, the real business of the day was at hand: relaxing by the pool. I know, but someone must lead this life.

You would think that after my burn-a-thon a couple a weeks ago, I would have learned my lesson. But you assume I’m, you know, smart. For the last couple of days, I have continued to peel on my chest and stomach. This gave the ever-so-attractive look of white flesh hanging off my body. When I would rub it to get it off, it just made smaller flakes all over or rolled up into small snakes of skin. To top it off, it was only my chest and stomach since my arms and shoulders had been conditioned through running in tank tops before the burning session at the lake.

So I applied sun block 500 for albino vampires before I even went to the pool. The rest of the day was alternating between sitting in a beach chair until I was covered in droplets of sweat (sexy, I know) and jumping in the cool, clear pool water for a refreshing respite before starting the process all over again. Don't worry, the Coronas and lime took away the stress involved.

I was having so much fun that I wasn’t paying attention and before I knew it, it was the end of the day and I had not reapplied the sun block. So the sun saw this and decided I needed to pay for such a foolish oversight. Extra UV rays for Jason, coming right up.

I really thought that I had already paid my dues to the sun god and my chest would withstand a single coating at the beginning of the day. My wife’s eyes told me different at the end of the day when she informed me I was red as a fire engine again.

“What, this? Naw, it’s fine” as I touched my chest which felt like my finger was an acid-dripping rusty knife. Great, I had done it again. I am not a smart man.

During the day, my cousins came over; Mike and Angie. Mike is a few years older than I am and played at Notre Dame and then a decade with the Atlanta Falcons. Even though he’s been away from football for a few years and lost what he claims to be some of his football size, he’s still a man of gigantic proportions. Just the thought of him tackling me makes my bones ache. Add pads to that and a dozen of his buddies and I start to whimper. When he went flying into the pool with arms outstretched as my son was just coming up for air, I was amused to see Alex’s eyes the size of dinner plates. Now imagine he actually landed on you with nothing under you but Astroturf and you get an idea of what level professional football exists.

His sister, Angie, came over with her three sons. These kids have no chance but to be gargantuan human beings. They have the Gann blood which is proven to be potent enough to create giants even though my aunt is about 5’4”. But add into the mix the Hardee blood (Dad is 6’4” and large proportioned) and you have three little boys that will someday tower over everyone they meet.

Aunt Shirley and Uncle Kenny treated us to a Mexican dinner at a local restaurant. I was carb starved and the meal was gluttony in its rawest form. I double-fisted the chips until they were gone, only to be replaced by another basket. By the time my food got there, I was feeling the rush of carbs and the effects of the margaritas. I ate in pure bliss with my family and my favorite aunt and uncle. Life was just beyond description and I realized that I had not been quite that happy in the moment for quite some time.

You can likely finish this story without even reading on. Let me recap: spent all day at the pool after running in the heat. Drank many Corona during the day and got fried at the pool. Ate a criminal amount of Mexican food and help down a pitcher of margaritas. By the time I got back to the house, I had a better chance at birthing a baby than I had at staying awake for very long.

For the second time in as many nights, I hit a large, relaxing bed with my lovely wife in total comfort. I was afraid my heart would just go to sleep out of pure relaxation. Just as it happened when I was a kid, I slept in total peace in a house of pure family love.

Free Advice for Today:
When you lose, don't lose the lesson."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"One day you will be a king. At least try to act like one."

- Longshanks: [to Prince Edward] from "Braveheart"

I got out of the house pretty cleanly. Carrie “said” 7:30 so that we’d get on the road by 8:00 but I thought this was silly since we all knew we would be shooting for 8:00. So that’s what I kept in MY head as a goal.

We left at 8:15.

We split the driving up so it didn’t seem so bad. With my headphones, MP3 player, magazines, and book I’m editing, the day went by quickly and we actually arrived 2 hours sooner than we had last Thanksgiving. For lunch we had stopped by Wendy’s and I decided my diet was a lost cause for this vacation. If I could keep up my running, I could minimize the damage. And damage there would be, starting with two Wendy’s burgers, fries, and Coke. My body welcomed the nastiness like a long lost friend but afterward, the grease and fat took its toll and I thought it unfair that I reward my body with what it wanted only to have it make me feel like crapola.

Arriving at my aunt and uncle’s house is always a joyous event. Aunt Shirley was there and she was just as excited as she could be to have us here for the weekend and she poured all her affection over the kids. The kids, naturally soaked it up like a sponge. This woman was made to please kids and she’d showed no sign that she slowed down over the years since I was a child.

The big event was getting into the pool. Ever since Thanksgiving when we were here and the kids saw the pool, they had fantasized about jumping in it. Steph told me on the way that she had 3 things she was looking forward to on the trip.

1. Spending time with family
2. Swimming in the pool
3. Playing pool (billiards)

Alex had a similar list but included bacon. Aunt Shirley had introduced us to the amazing contraption that you hang bacon off of and microwave it, producing the crispiest bacon imaginable. If you’ve ever had microwave bacon before, you know it can be pretty nasty but this little gizmo actually makes it crispy and the kids loved it.

Of course Aunt Shirley had to make a ton of it when we were here last November and then buy us one as a gift soon after. So when we were coming back, bacon scored high on Alex’s wish list and it follows that Aunt Shirley was ready to make pounds on top of pounds of bacon this trip.

Later, Steph amended her list to include riding the small tractor my Uncle Kenny uses to mow the backyard. This, of course, was totally doable according to Uncle Kenny. I think the kids found out what I knew since the 70s: Uncle Kenny’s physical size hides a heart just as big for those that earn his affection. I think the kids got to him in spades.

The pool was a gift from the heavens. The hot Georgia afternoon combined with the long car ride made the pool more inviting than I can describe. So it wasn’t long before we were out there and the kids were splashing around.

They had bought this house with the pool already there and it’s a 9 feet deep, oddly shaped pool with a hot tub. But the big draw is the slide. The owner before was a builder and got all the supplies at cost. The slide would have cost many of thousands of dollars but he got a tremendous discount and Uncle Kenny says there aren’t many like it because they are expensive. Whatever the background, it’s a bunch of fun and the kids took full advantage and acted like they were at their very own water park.

We were not the only guests. Two of the grandchildren were here in the form of a 14-year-old daughter of Mark, their eldest son, and a 15-year-old daughter of Mike, their youngest son. The girls were staying with “Mi-Mi” and “Poppy” for a few days. They were your stereotypical teenage girls on summer break: they slept in and spent a lot of time swimming in the pool.

Having Gann blood meant they were destined for height. Mike’s daughter, Mindy is a statuesque blond who seems destined for modeling while her younger cousin, Taylor, is the brunette version of tall teenage beauty.

They were unaware of exactly how I fit into the family tree so I had to explain it to them and they were shocked that “Frankie” was my dad or that he even had any kids. It was a bit comical to watch realization spread over their face when I described my place in the family.

After a big day on the road, reuniting with the Ganns, and swimming in the pool, dinner was the final touch to send us into official exhaustion mode. The kids got two single beds in their own room and we got a room of our own with a king size bed and a bathroom. It was like staying at a luxury suite and without Buster, we will sleep on acreage tonight.

Free Advice for Today:
If it's not a beautiful morning, let your cheerfulness make it one."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Quote of the Day:

William Wallace: "Why do you help me?"
Princess Isabelle: "Because of the way you are looking at me now."

- Scene from "Braveheart"

I got a package in the mail yesterday from an author writing a book about a Marine. I’ve been in contact with him for some time now and gave him some background information about boot camp and other things Marine. He is a retired Air Force officer and I found it flattering that he would feel so strongly about the near-spiritual feelings Marines have about the Corps and the public has about the Marines. He writes about it so well that I find it ironic that it takes an Air Force officer to adequately convey the essence of the Marine Corps. But he nails it.

He sent me the manuscript of a book he is writing and wanted me to check a couple of the chapters for “Marine Trueness.” Here are the edits I sent back to him for chapter 1 and chapter 4.


Ch 1


OK, here is what I found last night.

I will note the paragraph number starting with the first full paragraph when referring to them on a page.


Page 3, para. 1: “…they were supposed to be guarding their fellow troops…

Troops” is an Army term. We don’t use it. We say “Marines” and it’s an important distinction.


Page 5, para. 2: “…in just two weeks inside the intentional zone of Iraq.

I don’t understand what you mean by “the intentional zone of Iraq.”


Page 5, para. 3: you should capitalize “Logistics Vehicle System” especially since you are providing the acronym.


Page 6, para. 1: “…he was a part of helped relieve the 1st Marine Division, 5th Marine Regiment…

When listing units out, you start low and work up. So if you are talking about “1/5” it would be the 1st battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. If you meant it as you wrote, it should be the 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division or 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division.


Page 7, para. 4: “…using weapons a soldier grasped, loaded, and fired.

You must be very careful when using the term “Soldier” because it’s strictly used for Army. It’s insulting to refer to Marines as soldiers in any context. Reading this paragraph I understand that you were probably trying to convey the concept of fighting men in general but you are talking specifically about Sean in this paragraph so you should replace it with “Marine.” I can’t stress enough how sensitive Marines are to this terminology.


Ch 4


Page 60, para. 3: “…and historic mansions --- in a word, all of the creature comforts one of the country’s premier resort spots can offer.

I’m not quite sure what THE “word” was. Did you mean “creature comforts?” If so, that’s not “in a word.


Page 63, para. 1: “The battalion was part of a division.

You skipped a level. A battalion is part of a regiment. A regiment is part of a division.

Also, you go onto say that “so many divisions make up the mother of all fighting forces…” I don’t know if you want to clarify it but there are only 4 divisions in the entire Marine Corps (3 active and one reserve). But this could get tricky and interrupt your flow because there are also the same number of wings which are the air equivalent to a division. So, there are 3 active divisions, 1 reserve division, 3 active wings, and 1 reserve wing. And this doesn’t get into the support structures (CSS or Combat Service Support).


Page 65, para. 2: “Sean’s recruit class had...

Sean is part of a platoon. As a whole, they are always called “platoon.” Never, and I mean NEVER, are they referred to as a “class.” These are the little details that Marines WILL pick out and you will lose credibility at the first slip.


Page 65, para. 2: “…had a staff sergeant and two sergeants.

These are proper nouns as ranks. They should be capitalized. We (Marines) get capitalization-happy because we are so respect-oriented and it comes out in our writing style. Even if an editor would argue this, I would say you will gain much respect from Marines by showing it in the form of capitalizing Marine rank titles.


Page 65, para. 2: “It is the ranking DI, called the senior drill instructor...

Same argument with capitalizing Senior Drill Instructor. I would argue it was a proper title and you list it as an acronym but above all, you would have Marines baring teeth if you failed to capitalize it. Remember, to a Marine, not capitalizing it is like not capitalizing “God.”


Page 65, para. 4: “Incentive PT in Sean’s class...

Change “class” to “platoon.”


Page 66, para. 0: “One of the most dreaded exercise is the bends.” And later “… to the right path with bends, he is said…”

You MUST change this to “bends and thrust.” That is the name of it that every Marine for the last 50 years will recognize. Just saying “bends” makes you sound like someone on the outside looking in. Believe me, Marines will pick this out.

You also might want to point out that it is a 4-count exercise. This is terminology Marines will recognize and it points out that there are 4 distinct steps (bend down, thrust feet back, pull feet forward, standup). Also, the whole process is considered 1 repetition. Lastly, the DI can control the pace by counting for the recruit faster and faster.


Page 66, para. 1: You talk about the surround sound yelling. You never use the term every Marine will look for in this paragraph. The term is “stereo.” When the DIs come at you and yell on each side, it’s called “DI stereo.”


Page 66, para. 3: Capitalize Senior Drill Instructor.


Page 67, para. 0: “’Sir, this recruit wasn’t aware that he did, sir.’

Three things: a recruit would replace “he” with “this recruit.” As silly as it sounds, it would be yelled ’Sir, this recruit wasn’t aware that this recruit did, sir.’

Next, you should capitalize the last “Sir” since it’s a direct proper noun.

Lastly, think about providing an exclamation point since he would be yelling it. While you’re at it, I would think about capitalizing everything a DI says and ending it with an exclamation point since everything they say, they yell.


Page 68, para. 0: “They closed ranks for one of their own, for a Marine brother.

You can’t refer to him as a Marine yet. Not only would this rankle Marine readers but the recruits don’t think of themselves as Marines inside their heads. The thought would be “They closed ranks for one of their own, for a recruit brother.” As a recruit, it denotes the same respect and closeness to each other.


Page 68, para. 3: “... being sent to the physical condition platoon.

It should be “Physical Conditioning Platoon” and should be capitalized (proper noun/title). Here is another place where you don’t mention something that EVERY Marine will be waiting to read. Somewhere, you have to refer to it as the “Pork Chop Platoon.” Every Marine will look for this and it just begs to be pointed out. It will also establish you as “in the know” just as leaving it out will put you on the outside.


Page 70, para. 0: “... required to memorize the United States Marine Corps rifle creed.

It’s officially called the Rifleman’s Creed and should be capitalized (literary work).


Page 70, para. 3: this paragraph talks about the scoring. It’s a points system so it’s not “250 shots on target.” A bullseye is 5 points so for a perfect score of 250, you need to hit 50 bullseyes. You only shoot 50 rounds. There is a 5-ring, a 4-ring, a 3-ring, and if you hit anywhere on the paper outside the rings, it’s 2 points.


Page 70, para. 4: “Targets were located 200, 300,and 500 meters away.

It should be yards.


Page 71, para. 2: “The station called slide for life…

Slide For Life should be capitalized. Proper name.

Also, capitalize all of the stations you list at the bottom of this paragraph (Alligator Bay, Dirty Name…)


Page 71, para. 3: “… recruits run a six-mile conditioning march.

Is it a run or a march? I think you meant march so it should read “… recruits hump a six-mile conditioning march.”


Page 72, para. 0: Capitalize “Team Week” in all three occurrences.


Page 73, para. 0: Capitalize “Meal, Ready to Eat” especially since you use the acronym.


Page 73, para. 3: “This man had been a major pain in the butt…

Change “man” to “recruit.” Recruits aren’t men, they are recruits.


Page 74, para. 0: “…the entire team by one whimpering man,…

Change “man” to “recruit.” Recruits aren’t men, they are recruits.


Page 74, para. 2: Capitalize “First Sergeant


Page 75, para. 1: Warriors’ Breakfast should have an apostrophe at the end (plural possessive)

Free Advice for Today:
Remember that how you say something is as important as what you say."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"It's fine Scottish weather we're having. The rain is falling straight down and kind of to the side like."

- William Wallace in "Braveheart"

Today is day 2 of doubling up on my workouts. I’m going to Georgia on Thursday so I have to get my workouts done early in the week. So yesterday and today I ran at lunch (bring on the sweat) and worked out at night at the YMCA.

I was feeling bad about abandoning my family at night so I had an idea that actually worked out. I took my son with me to the gym and we both worked out together. It was great.

Alex is 12 and he thought it was the greatest thing to go to the gym and work out with Dad. For me, it was a chance to spend a little time with him and encourage him to get involved in physical fitness. It also provided a good pace for my workouts since I am supposed to rest between sets anyway. The unintended benefit for me was that I had to really concentrate on form because I was showing him how to properly do the exercises.

To him, I’m like the strongest man in the world. We would do the same exercises and he would obviously do a lot less weight than I was pushing. From his perspective, I was lifting an astronomically larger amount of weight than he was but I tried to show him why that was. I didn’t want to crush his forming ego and really made a big deal of the successes he had.

Free Advice for Today:
Stop and watch a farmer plowing a field."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Monday, July 19, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"I came home to raise crops, and God willing, a family. If I can live in peace, I will."

- William Wallace in "Braveheart"

Last week I watched “I Love the 90s” and while I thought it was a good series, I’m easy when it comes to nostalgia. I had no complaints (other than the annoying dancing baby and not enough of Hal Sparks) until I read some of the message boards. Seems people were pretty put out that Friends was not mentioned along with a lot of other shows.

But what bugged me the most were the commercials. For two hours, 5 nights in a row I was subjected to the same commercials over and over. Here are some of my random thoughts about it.

It will be a long time before I eat at the Olive Garden. The guy discovering his new “usual” irked me so bad I had to inject my own dialogue. When they tease him about what he’s going to order, I would scream “SHUT UP, YOU DUMB JACKASS!!!” and pretend to backhand the lady who made the snide comment. My term for the visual of her flying back due to the force of the blow was “six legs in the air.” For the rest of the week, all I had to say was “Six legs in the air” to get my wife to roll her eyes.

I will never, and I mean NEVER dial down the center, 1-800-CALL-ATT for any reason. Carrot Top should be shot in the head, multiple times. He had a duo of offerings that made bile rise in my throat. First it was the Wild Wild West theme where he tries to pick up a saloon girl. Then there was the “Carrot Top as a masseuse” theme. I had really horrible, violent, bloody musings while watching these commercials.

Two sisters, one gets skin cancer. Yes, serious subject but through sheer repetition, I really didn’t give a rat’s ass. I lost all humanity over this commercial and just the fact that a major skin care company pretends to really care about skin cancer really smacked of self-serving scare tactics.

Veet: I hate it. I hate the commercial. I hated seeing the commercial over and over and over and over…. Leg-shaving products are never a favorite of any man but this one had some leggy waif jumping around and a guy playfully grabbing at her. OK, I can see reality in this up to this point but then they show him blindfolding her and shaving her legs while she giggles incessantly. Wait a minute. This has never happened in the history of the Universe. Who writes these stupid commercials? Answer: women.

But there was good ones that didn’t make me want to tear the skin off of my face. The MSN commercials were great. One of them involved the concept of a little girl telling her parents that a schoolmate claimed he dug a hole to China. The MSN Butterfly Guy then takes her around and they research the claim, ending with her taking him to task for the claim.

What endeared me to this commercial was the cute little girl. She was so adorable (and not that fake, trying too hard to be adorable adorable) and had the funniest one liners delivered as matter-of-factly statements:

“He couldn’t dig through all of that magma.”

But for some reason, the thing I looked forward to the most in the commercial was the little picture in the corner when she was online talking to presumably a Chinese official to see if he had seen any new holes in China. The picture was just her little head which I assume identified her in this video chat. It just looked so funny. OK, you had to be there but it was a crack up if only to me.

The other MSN commercial was my wife’s favorite. It starts with a man and a woman arguing and trading “You’re wrong” yells with each other. Here’s how it went:

Man: “You’re wrong.”
Woman: “No, you’re wrong”
Man: “You’re wrong.”
Woman: “No, you’re wrong” (she storms out)
MSN Butterfly Guy playing darts in the background: “You know you’re wrong, right?”
Man: “Yeah.”

He then spends the rest of the commercial trying to make it up to her and finally has to go to the ballet with her to make things right. Carrie likes it because the first exchange represents about half (if not more) of our arguments.

Free Advice for Today:
When giving a speech, concentrate on what you can give the audience, not what you can get from them."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Sunday, July 18, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"The king will be dead in a month and his son is a weakling. Who do you think is going to rule this kingdom?"

- Princess Isabelle in "Braveheart"

Today I had to put on my “Mr. Computer Guy Fix It” hat.

I had two goals in mind that involved both of the kids’ computers.

For Steph’s, I had ordered a new video card because the sole reason for the computer’s existence is to play the coveted Toontown which takes an annoyingly complicated and precise set up to work. Neither one of my kids computers will play it and it’s been a point of contention for some time now.

I thought that it was down to the video card for the girl’s computer so I popped the $50 card I ordered online into the little micro-miniature “made by dwarfed elves” computer case and turned it on.

No joy.

It still was trying to access the old onboard video so I had to take that off (drivers). Once I did, I had to reinstall the drivers for the new card. But this didn’t work either so I updated the DirectX. Why? I don’t know. It's all part of my random troubleshooting scheme. I figure it randomly screws up for no apparent reason so that's the way I should fix it.

Then I went online and downloaded the latest drivers for the new card. For some reason this also brought back the driver for the onboard video. Why? Again, I don’t know.

So I removed them again and then when I thought I got the video card working, I tried Toontown but I could hear but not see it. Why? You know the answer.

At the same time, I had my son’s computer down by my main one because last night he started to get a simple “Out of range” error on his screen. Whenever he would start it, it would look like it was going to boot up and then I got the error. That was it; no explanation, no possible way of troubleshooting.

I started it up in Safe Mode (a move that’s about as quick as a drawing of a glacier moving) and it worked fine.

I really did not want to mess with it so I decided it was high time I just scrape the damn thing and reload Windows. A hard drive needs a good scraping every once in awhile if only to have the satisfaction of scraping everything off it. More pragmatically, to get rid of extraneous crap that builds up on it. Plus, I had just done it to the girl's computer so I felt fairly confident I could do it with little hassle by chipping away at it all day.

So I dragged it downstairs so I could be next to a working computer and connect directly though a cable line for the updates. Everything was going fine but I spent many hours running up and down the steps between the two computers as they played Murphy’s Law with me all day.

Back to Stephanie’s computer, I tried a half a dozen other things that I couldn’t possibly remember. Some were successful and most were not. One thing that might have made a difference is going down to my main computer and opening up two ports that Toontown said were necessary. I have no clue if I did it right but I do know a couple of things:

1. It started working shortly making these changes and restarting my main computer
2. I likely opened my computer up for any hacker to come in and decimate my entire network.

But Toontown works upstairs so there you go.

Alex’s Toontown problem proved a bit more elusive. Reinstalling Windows 2000 solved the “Out of Range” error but it still hung up while trying to load Toontown.

My Gunny had given me a video card that I was going to try but when I popped open the case, I discovered I had a video card in it that I wasn’t using. I went ahead and took it out and tried to put Gunny’s in but soon realized they were different kinds and I needed a PCI card like I just bought for Stephanie. So I put the other one back in and tried to work on it.

It was an old Diamond Multimedia Stealth 3000 so I went looking all over the net the find an updated driver. The Diamond site had a driver for Windows 98 but I didn’t see anything for Win2000. I downloaded it anyway and my mood was buoyed when I saw that it supported Windows NT. But when I extracted the file, it was a confusing mess of trying to copy a batch file from the CD (which it wasn’t on CD so WTF?) and to a floppy disk. I gave it a try but after fumbling for over an hour, I deemed it in the “to hard and it won’t work anyway” category.

So I spent most of the rest of the night updating all the software on the computer and calling it good. I think I’ll see if the laptop works for Toontown and then the boy can have that. But for now, that’s all I could handle.

Free Advice for Today:
When starting out, don't worry about not having enough money. Limited funds are a blessing, not a curse. Nothing encourages creative thinking in quite the same way."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Saturday, July 17, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"You have bled with Wallace, now bleed with me."

- Robert the Bruce in "Braveheart"

The kids had their last game at the Y this morning and it couldn’t have ended soon enough. Actually there is one more week but since we are going to Georgia next weekend, it was the last week for the Grose family.

Stephanie had twisted her ankle at practice and combined with the fact that she was not really into the game and the other team had a gargantuan player who scored every time he got the ball (which was every time), the pain of watching this mess was long and constant.

Alex’s game was even more frustrating. His coach got so fed up last week that he said it would be his last week. Carrie said she overheard him telling another parent he was going to be out of town but he was around during today’s game, although not as the coach. One of the kid’s grandfather’s had stepped up to coach the last two games but most of the kids gave up when the coach did.

The end result was that we only had 2 players at game time and only 3 after a small wait and as the game started, we had 4. Here is where it gets interesting. The other team put out 4 players and we started the game. But as we proceeded to beat them, they put out 5 players which I thought was pretty much a jackass move on their part.

We kept up with them and right before halftime, another one of our players showed up. The game was neck and neck for the last half but the other team pulled ahead in the last two minutes to beat us.

The only good things about the whole thing was that they were killing them 4 on 4, keeping up with them when it was 4 on 5, and barely missed beating them in an even match. Plus, Alex got to be in the entire game and he did magnificently. I was very proud of him but I was glad it was his last game.

This experience prompted me to think about coaching next year. I know Carrie and I could do better and give the kids what they deserve. Who they give us doesn’t matter; we always MAKE a good team. The only problem will be the lax refereeing and the lopsided talent they don’t evenly distribute. But you can’t complain unless you are part of the solution, right?

Two funny/sad things to note from the gym.

First, there was macho work out guy. He’s a big guy and obviously works out a lot but a few things just weren’t right. First, he had that superior air about him and the walk where his chest was a little too far out and his arms bowed out and hardly moved which just screamed “I’m so huge my muscles are taunt all the time.”

Next was his shaven legs. Ewww. Then there was the Clark Kent glasses that I haven’t figured out yet. He had that pseudo-deep voice and I couldn’t help but hear his conversation with the Y workers (who seem to only work out and make cell phone calls). As I was fumbling with my headphones to shut out the world, I heard him loudly talk about another guy who lifts way less than he does and always has an excuse for not finishing a workout. The way he talked, you just know that this is the highlight of his day and if there is no one in the gym to watch him, the workout is almost not worth the effort. He reminded me of Elaine's boyfriend on Seinfeld (What was his name, Puddy?)

Number 2 situation was a guy and his teenage son. The father had obviously just started a program where he puts his watch beeper on interval and rushes from machine to machine on a pace. His poor son was following him everywhere and the saddest part about it was that the father NEVER stopped correcting and somewhat berating his son’s form as they moved from machine to machine.

How did I know he just started? Well, the father had a gut with tiny arms, tiny legs, and was sweating profusely. Good on him that he’s motivated but it bothered me to no end to hear his little watch going off every 10 seconds and him constantly lecturing the boy on form. It was sad.

We tried to re-implement date night but it didn’t work out too well. It happened to be date night with my wife so the kids stayed home and we went to see “The Anchorman” and get a bite to eat.

The movie was incredibly stupid. I mean it had the vibe of Dumb and Dumber but not as funny and even less of a plot. It was a 90 minute mediocre SNL skit. I love Will Farrell but for $11, I could have passed and caught it on DVD. A few good laughs but only if you really like Will Farrell and forget that you paid money to get into the theater.

After the movie, I was not in a great mood but a little better than as of late. Carrie wanted to try out a gourmet cheeseburger place so we went found it and parked. It was not a good sign that there were people waiting outside. I was not in the mood to wait for a hamburger. When we asked how long it would be, they said 50 o 60 minutes. I couldn’t turn around and leave fast enough. I was NOT going to wait that long for a burger and fries.

We started driving around and Carrie suggested TGI Fridays for the 4th time when I finally said to her, in no uncertain terms, that I did not want to go there and if I did I would have agreed one of the other three times she suggested it.

Well, as you can imagine, that didn’t go over too well so I was not talked to for the rest of the evening. So we went home and neither of us had anything for dinner and I finally turned off the light at about 11:00 after flipping through the TV for 3 hours.

A representative ending for the week I had.

Free Advice for Today:
Give yourself an hour to cool off before responding to someone who has provoked you. If it involves something really important, give yourself overnight."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Friday, July 16, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Lower your flags and march straight back to England, stopping at every home to beg forgiveness for a hundred years of theft, rape, and murder. Do this and your men shall live. Do it not, and every one of you will die today."

- William Wallace in "Braveheart"

Today was a “2-fer” in the workout department. My new (and ever-evolving) workout schedule goes something like this:

Mon: work out at lunch
Tues: run at lunch
Weds: work out at lunch
Thurs: run at lunch
Fri: run at lunch, work out at YMCA after work
Sat: work out at YMCA
Sun: wonder how my life became so congested with working out

So I ran again at lunch and if you have ever been in this area in the summertime, you can picture the scene. Running in the heat creates a wide gap between the way you look afterwards and the energy expended. I was dripping wet and felt like hammered animal waste but I only ran 5 miles. But I ran.

When I got home, I took a little nap and then went to the YMCA for the second part of my workout. Friday afternoons are great to be in the Y because hardly anyone is there. I got through my workout and to my surprise, it went fairly well. Oh, yes, there are always those certain exercises you just dread but overall, I got done with the workout and was happy to complete a full week of the above schedule. Only 5 to go before I finish phase 1 of the plan.

I also saw the grossest of the gross today. God bless him that he’s working out and he’s obviously come a long way. I shouldn’t say anything disparaging but I just can’t help it. The guy must have lost hundreds, yes that’s “hundreds,” of pounds but he had yet to lose the flesh. So it was just hanging off of him like he was wearing a wet, baggy suit of skin. It just wasn’t the site I wanted to see while trying to grunt out that last set of chest workout.

Free Advice for Today:
Learn to listen. Opportunity sometimes knocks very softly."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Thursday, July 15, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"The Almighty says this must be a fashionable fight. It's drawn the finest people."

- Stephen in "Braveheart"

The Oprah had a riveting show today. Raping babies. Yes, when there’s news to be delved into, leave it to The Oprah to come up with the scoop. Do we really need to cover this? Does anyone think this is NOT one of the most horrible things imaginable?

Carrie had it on downstairs and I didn’t even want to be picking up pieces of it so I locked myself in my bedroom upstairs and read my book. This is one time I don’t really mind burying my head in the sand over. Yuck.

Combined with my new workouts and 2 hours in front of the TV every night this week (“I Love the 90s”), I found that staying up to watch the 11:00 PM Daily Show was next to impossible. I floundered through “resting” during commercials and missed most of it tonight. And I know this is almost blasphemous because I’ve praised Jon Stewart so much in the past but he is becoming more and more liberal, anti-Bush, and downright insulting these days. I’m finding it harder and harder to overlook.

On a totally unrelated note, my chest is starting to peel. After last Sunday’s bake-fest at the beach, the pain subsided yesterday and the peeling started today. I was able to peel great sheets of thin layers off and it didn’t hurt at all. In fact, I was compelled to do this. Why? Unknown. It just beckons me like the toenail fetish I have where I’m not satisfied until I peel it just a bit too far back to cause bleeding and pain. But like I said, no pain here yet an irrational desire to peel and just a smidgen of itching.

Aren't you glad I shared?

Free Advice for Today:
Visit Washington D.C. and do the tourist bit."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Not the archers. My scouts tell me their archers are miles away and no threat to us. Arrows cost money. Use up the Irish. Their dead cost nothing."

- Longshanks in "Braveheart"

It stormed today. And I mean like "you really did something to make God mad" kind of storm.

My son, of course, was quivering with excitement, running from window to window to assess the damage. I was catching my daily nap and enjoying the patter of rain outside (ideal napping weather) when all of the sudden, an underwear-filling clap of thunder exploded right over my house. I really thought a tree had shattered or something.

Buster was not amused.

I got up and looked around only to find a massive amount of rain coming down outside and my son in a state of stuttering excitement. The thunder kept coming and Buster became more and more unamused at the entire state of events.

Then came the hail. It started coming down in popcorn-sized pellets but soon turned to pretty good sized chunks. My only thought was that Truckasaurus would have a few new dents in it. Alex thought the world was coming to an end.

After another hour of hard rain, the storm passed and the excitement was over. All except for the constant re-telling of every nuance courtesy of my son.

Here are some pics of the event.

Free Advice for Today:
Never interrupt when you're being flattered."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"There's a difference between us. You think the people of this land exist to provide you with position. I think your position exists to provide those people with freedom. And I go to make sure that they have it."

- William Wallace in "Braveheart"

Tonight was the first night of a week long “We Love the 90s” show on VH1. They are covering 2 years per night from 9:00 to 11:00. Of course this leads right into The Daily Show from 11:00 to 11:30 so the bottom line is that I’m becoming one with the couch all week.

I couldn’t stop laughing at the stuff they brought up for 1990 and 1991 tonight. One of the more memorable things was the Dee-Lite “Groove Is In The Heart” video. One of the comedians who they interview for snide remarks about a range of subjects is Hal Sparks and he absolutely cracks me up. This will come dangerously close to “you had to be there” but here it goes.

They cut to him making some of the weird sounds in the song and he does the one, well, rather than trying to explain, just listen to the original clip. (after "1, 2, 3...")

He nailed it and for some reason it was amazingly funny. I think it had something to do with the fact that everyone remembers that but didn't know they remembered it until he did it. Why he would pick that out and then imitate it escapes me because it doesn't seem funny on paper (or possibly in this blog) but it came across as memorable.

I remember the first time I saw that video was when I was in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. Carrie was sending me tapes of shows and one of them was just an entire tape of MTV. It was neat to see the videos but just as important was the commercials, believe it or not. Anything that was a piece of home was valuable.

As we all gathered around the TV, the video came on and if you’ll remember, it’s a psychedelic experience with weird camera angles, swirling backgrounds, and not to mention the three weirdoes that made up the group. I remember just sitting there thinking to myself, “What the ^%$%$#> is this?” I wondered what had happened to the world since I had left the States a mere months prior to seeing this.

By the way, I think I would be perfect to be on this show. I can make fun of things. I do it every day. I would be ideal!!! I think there should be a grass-roots effort to get me on that show. OK, ready?….GO!

The other part that made me laugh out loud was when they were comparing MC Hammer to Vanilla Ice. Here was the line that did it for me and was delivered in a totally dead pan manner:

“I think Vanilla Ice was better because he could rock a mic like a vandal and could also wax a chump like a candle; neither of those things MC Hammer could do so I think Vanilla Ice wins.”

Free Advice for Today:
If you know you're going to lose, do it with style."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Monday, July 12, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"It's all for nothing if you don't have freedom."

- William Wallace in "Braveheart"

I’m horribly behind on email and I have little to convey today so I’ll keep this short.

I d id my first solo workout at lunch in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon on Halloween. Everything went well but since the weights were listed on my sheet based on the YMCA machines, I learned quickly that different machines, like the ones at the Quantico gym, consider weight relative. In other words, I looked pretty silly sometimes when the weights didn’t correspond and I had too much weight on the machine.

It didn’t help that my chest looks like the Martian surface. The sunburn is worse than I thought and all day I was reminded of my little oversight yesterday at the beach. Only every time I moved or when I didn’t. Only those two times.

Oh, I almost forgot. I ran into a Major who, as a Captain, was one of the SPCs when I was going through TBS. It was another weird situation where someone from my past who was an authority figure was magically transformed into a somewhat equal (he is a Major, after all). But we chatted like friends and compared notes on people we knew. Weird.

Free Advice for Today:
When opportunity knocks, invite it to stay for dinner."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Quote of the Day:

Princess Isabelle: The king desires peace.
William Wallace: Longshanks desires peace?
Princess Isabelle: He declares it to me, I swear it. He proposes that you withdraw your attack. In return he grants you title, estates, and this chest of gold which I am to pay to you personally.
William Wallace: A lordship and titles. Gold. That I should become Judas?
Princess Isabelle: Peace is made in such ways.
William Wallace: Slaves are made in such ways. The last time Longshanks spoke of peace I was a boy. And many Scottish nobles, who would not be slaves, were lured by him under a flag of truce to a barn, where he had them hanged. I was very young, but I remember Longshank's notion of peace.

- Scene in "Braveheart"

Today I decided it would be a good idea to take my family to a lake and go swimming. I’m writing this in brutal pain due to a lobster-red effect I have all over my chest. Yes, my olive-skin failed me and I’ve been overexposed to radiation to a painful degree.

Random thought: if I was exposed to any other painful radiation such as a experiment gone bad or terrorist attack for example, I’d be freaking out. But since it was just from the sun, it’s no big deal other than the discomfort. OK, thought over.

We got up and went to Lake Anna which I found was only about ½ hour drive from my house. The bonus was that it was all back roads so I didn’t have to deal with traffic and any time that happens, life is NOT a big bowl of animal waste.

To all of you that think living with me would just be the funnest thing ever, I proved this morning that you would be horribly, catastrophically, monumentally wrong. I’ve been in a funk for a few weeks now and when my funk collided with the wife’s funk who had put up with me long enough, well, the immovable object met the unstoppable force. It started after my son accidentally spilled the contents of the ice chest in the trunk trying to help and I snapped at him unfairly.

My fault but it started a chain reaction. After things cooled down, we got on the road and headed to the beach.

It was $4 to get in and then an additional $4 per adult and $3 per child to use the beach. Then we had to wear these gay straps around our wrist or ankle so that we looked like we’d been tagged by the forestry department. I chose the ankle which was a mistake, seeing how I have a white band around my ankle with deep crimson red skin flanking it on either side. It was also too tight around my ankle and just resulted in pissing me off in a general sense all day. Yes, sometimes that's all it takes. Ask Carrie.

After being shook down to the tune of $18, we made it to the beach and found it was pretty nice. It had a grassy area where you could set up as to avoid the sand (which appealed to my “Princess” ways.) We got set up and hit the lake water which was a nice warm temperature.

The beach was not crowded, was clean, and there were no birds which I found kind of strange. There was little wind and almost no bugs. Bathrooms were nearby. All and all, it was a great beach and we had a pretty good day.

I was caught in that area where I didn’t want to put any more sun block on because I was going to go in the water again soon and then the same reasoning held because we were going to leave soon.

“Hello. I’m the piper. It’s time, Jason.”

When I got home to take a shower, I removed my shirt and I almost heard my chest humming. I looked like a Coke can.

The shower was meant to clean me off. It might as well been acid coming out of the shower head.

My only thought was to get some aloe lotion all over me but it was almost empty and I had to coax it out by slapping it against my palm. I got a layer on but it didn’t do much for the blinding pain.

I decided to take a nap to escape the pain and laying on my chest (why, I know not) resulted in the loose shirt I was wearing creating a random crease pattern on my beet-red chest that looked like a tangle of messed up sheets. And they were deep. More pain.

I applied the aloe again (tap, tap, tap, tap against the palm) but nothing was going to lesson the pain.

I deserve this, I know I do. You don’t have to tell me, I know. OK, don’t rub it in. I’m being properly punished for my actions today and my general stupidity. Can we move on?

Good news: my new Lyra is working fine. I read up on it and it said to update the firmware right out of the box. In the frenzy of all the things I tried to do with the first one, I’m not sure if I did that but I also found out that the Lyra only works with FAT and I had formatted the MMC card with the default FAT 32. These two things might or might not have been the problem with the first one but the bottom line is that I have 7 hours worth of 32-bit-sampled music at my disposal now.

Other good news: I may have been an ass and I may be a burnt up idiot but I’m not being shot at and I enjoyed a day at the beach with my family. So it’s a good day.

Other updates: Tripod is STILL dead.

Free Advice for Today:
Be ruthlessly realistic when it comes to your finances."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Saturday, July 10, 2004

Quote of the Day:

Robert's Father: "At last, you know what it means to hate. Now you're ready to be a king."
Robert the Bruce: "My hate will die with you."

- Scene in "Braveheart"

OK, I’ve been on the defense since I posted the playlist of my Lyra on the July 7th Blog. Here is an exchange that might explain some of them from someone who questioned some of my choices. (Yes, I’m being lazy and reusing an email for my Blog entry. Live with it).

The words in black are from a friend while my comments are in blue.

Like everyone else on this planet, I have my reasons for my music preferences. Maybe some need explaining. Get prepared to see me as you've never seen me: more human.

"Proclaimers - 1000 miles...good song...like Steven Curtis Chapman's version since I'm a Christian rock music nut....he's good...."God is God" off Declaration is a good song..."

This song was big when I was going through MECEP Prep (college prep course run by the Marine Corps where we spent 10 weeks in bootcamp style learning mode. Double pace, weekly tests, uniform inspections, insane PT, etc). It was a rough 10 weeks and this song will forever be a snapshot of those early mornings when mind, body, and soul suffered.

"Cypress Hill?! I have two things to say to you.....what are you on....and give me some..."

Some songs I like just for the power of the delivery. I know what this song is about and I don’t agree with it but I just like the beat for the running.

"Iris used to be my favorite song (7th grade)...I sang it in an audition (albeit crappily) and got the part...yay"

Just a beautiful song. And I can relate to the line "...and I don't want the world to see me, 'cause I don't think that they'd understand..." I think there are times in everyone's life when everyone feels that way.

Sixpence...another good Christian contemporary band (i almost abbrev. "contemp" here but didn't want it to look like "Christian contempt")

I love the lead singer's voice. She's just adorable-sounding and it's a "happy-sounding" song. And how many times does a person hear a beautiful sounding woman singing "Kiss Me" to you? I know, there should be a better reason than that but there isn’t.

"Cranberries are sweet..."

I always liked "Linger" despite the fact that I sing it to my son when he farts. Another reason I included it is because I found the acoustical version and a line jumped out at me that I had never heard before.

"... so why were you holding her hand, is that the way we stand, were you lying all the time, was it just a game to you..."

I had never listened to the words and never actually knew what the song was about. When I heard that line, she said it with such hurt and emotion, it hit me in the gut and I realized what the song was about.

For me, it just takes a little novel moment like this and I'm hooked.

Ok...this always gets me when people whine about how shy I am....since I call myself a "writer", that includes various educational rap songs...including one about Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII I wrote to "lose yourself" (called "lose thyself") At one point in my high school career, I donned a book sock (doo rag), a friends' bling and a X large jersey and sang my version of Ice Ice Baby (about Henry VIII) in front of the entire school....including the penguins, I mean, sisters...(they aren't nuns...I learned that the hard way)

I know Eminem seems like a weird choice for me but you'd be surprised. I hate Eminem (or however you spell it) but the power he delivers in this song combined with the message inspires me. While I was never a poor white-trash rapper growing up, I was a poor white-trash kid with little opportunity until I joined the Marine Corps. So some of the lines speak to how I felt about joining the Marine Corps to escape poverty.

(Enlisting in the Marine Corps)

"Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity To seize everything you ever wanted-One moment Would you capture it or just let it slip?"


"You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo,"


(The anger I kept after breaking out of childhood and into adulthood)

"No more games, I'ma change what you call rage Tear this ... roof off like 2 dogs caged"


"Best believe somebody's payin the pied piper"


"Success is my only ... option, failure's not"


(Bootcamp)

"So here I go is my shot.

Feet fail me not or not this may be the only opportunity that I got"


And finally, a motto I've proven.

"You can do anything you set your mind to, man"


Go REM....I listened to everybody hurts on repeat when this guy....we'll call him "Matt"...blew me off....finally got me through it (I nailed him in the gut last karate class and after our match he keeled over in pain....hahaha...well, okay, maybe not "keel" but the story sounds bitter...urgh...better...)

Another song that I like because of the beauty of the song even though I didn’t even know what "Losing My Religion" meant for a long time. (It's a Southern term meaning to lose one's temper). It was also the first song that I ever heard the mandolin played in and I loved it. I know, I'm odd.

Kelly Clarkson? A Marine listens to Kelly Clarkson?......wow. 'nuff said.

OK, you got me. While this in no way represents any actual or implied support of the entire American Idol craze, I get hooked by powerful delivery. When she kicks it into overdrive with the chorus, I have to admit my heart speeds up a little and that's good for running.

mommas and papas...i actually like them....very good.

Thanks. I'm a sucker for perfect harmonies.

YES! Another Loreena McKennitt fan! Dude, I never thought I find another one...she's like totally awesome!

Mummer's Dance will always and forever remind me of my sweet Seattle. For me, it's a dead-on representation of the Starbucks-drinking, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing culture of the great Northwest.

Blind Mellon "No Rain"...my theme song...after "Casey Jones"...

Wondreful "Beatlesque" song that I love to sing along to. And since I'm an incurable nap-taker, I can identify with the line: "... and I don’t understand why I sleep all day..." Too bad the lead singer drowned in his own vomit after taking too many drugs.

Chili Peppers...otherside - their best song

Spending so much time in California, the Chili Peppers take me back. Good for running.

billy IDOL!! YES! I have Rebel Yell, I am not ashamed of admitting...

High School. Yes, I lived the original Billy Idol days and I miss them sometimes. The power and the rage were/are intoxicating.

Tears4Fears....Got Shout stuck in my head throughout the entire 1st term of school since the student coucil's theme was "shout" and had it plastered around the school....

The beat is infectious. This was junior high for me and the idea to "Shout" seemed very appropriate. Plus, I won their tape (yes, tape) off the radio (Songs From the Big Chair) in 10th grade.

Black Eye Peas ---- someone should cook them now before the music gets any worse (my sister listens to them...i just can't...not me)

I could be accused of being seduced by the female lead singer (Fergie) because she is ... she's... well, she's not hideous ugly. But that would be shallow of me. Actually, she has a great voice and the fusion of the different styles is actually pretty motivating which, again, is good for running.

Stacy's mom is disturbing...

OK, I'm guilty on this one. Like "Take On Me" by Aha, the video is more than the song and results in the song being a hit. I thought the premise was pretty funny and when they got Rachel Hunter to do the video, it just became "that song with Rachel Hunter in the video." But the song got in my head and I wanted some recent songs on my playlist. I'm not proud of this.

thong song? you're living in the 90s, man....no no no...

I thought this song was a joke the radio was playing on the morning show when I was in 29 Palms. I had no idea it was an actual song. Then it got popular and I got found myself hooked on the beat. It's a great pace-setter but the theme is obviously racy.

true colors is prettiful...

... but I'm still a sucker for a beautiful song. This one rates up there with "Time After Time" as Cindy's greatest offerings. I almost had to hand in my man-card for listening to this.

I can't believe you had the nerve to type Shakira directly above Metallica....Unforgiven is one of their best songs...I found a link to it in Russian and my teacher says it's a perfect translation...i'll learn by the end of...my life...

Guilty again. I was walking through a Wal-Mart in Monterey, visiting the sight and sound department as usual when I passed the wall of TVs. There was a woman dancing on the screens with wild blond hair doing this belly-dancing thing and singing this salsa-sounding dance-beat heavy-bassed song. It might have been one of the most exotic things I'd ever seen. It was this combination that made me stop dead in my tracks, mouth agape, unashamedly standing there staring in the middle of the store like a little kid. I thought, "WWWWho is this?"

But to redeem myself, after a bucket of ice-water over my head, I realized I really did like a couple of her songs. They're powerful and running-worthy. Would I like it as much if she looked like Hillary Clinton? The jury is out.

Metallica was the result of a deployment. Every time I went on deployment, I was subjected to the music that everyone brought so I would come back to listening to something else. After 3 months of Metallica, I got past my resistance to heavy metal and actually identified with a lot of the lyrics, especially Unforgiven.

Oh, and the order was compliments of WinAmp's "Generate a Playlist in HTML" feature.

OKay, even I'll admit that I was humming "what if god was one of us" while I was biking the other day, so yeah, that's good...

I can't believe some religious folks got upset about this. It's a good song with a novel question. I like the beat and the video was memorable if only because she looked so pretty in it and in all other pictures I've seen she looks just weird.

Paula cole...muy excellente, el capitan

Muchos gracious. Another beatnik type most people wouldn't think I'd like but she has an incredible voice. Plus, "I Don't Want to Wait" is actually about a woman singing about her man coming back from war. It's a very pertinent statement about military issues.

baha men? oh boohoo

Sorry about that but it gets the blood pumping for running. Plus, I'm a Washington Husky so whattya gonna do?

collective soul....why pt 2...coolio...their lead singer just gets hotter with time...not that that matters, of course (wink wink).....or should you care, I assume Chris Isaak rocks my socks....and I had a song by him stuck in my head when that **** Matt first said Hi to me....still not bitter....hahahaha

"Why, Part 2": The guitar riff just spoke to me. It's a must for running to. Unlike Shakira and the Black Eyed Peas, looks had nothing to do with it being on my list. But for you, I understand.

Every list I ever make will have Wicked Game on it. What an incredible song and if that wasn't enough, the video was mind-boggling. The haunting song with the black and white, clouds rolling in double time, Chris Isaak's movie star looks romping on a beach with a model... it just doesn't get any better than that. Perfect video for a perfect song and a perfect song for a perfect video.

missy elliot....oh man oh man.....and to think I thought there was hope for your musical taste.....looking down the list...sir mix a lot? uh oh

Maybe the dirtiest song (in company with Thong Song, OPP, Rumpshaker, and Baby Got Back) on the list but I like the beat. Plus, I found out what the unintelligible lyric was. Here is the snippet:

"Is it worth it, let me work it
I put my thing down, flip it and reverse it"

Then there is a line after that which makes absolutely no sense. The secret is that it's the second line played in reverse. It sounds really cool if you ignore what she's singing about.

Finally, Sir Mix-A-Lot. Maybe one of the funniest songs in history. Yes, it's a tribute to the posterior and yes, I lose a great deal of moral high ground by enjoying it, but he's from Seattle and the song is just plain hilarious. Sorry, we can't be perfect all of the time.

Ironically, there is no Sarah McLachlan on there and you can see how I feel about her on my website. I'll save that for another email.

Free Advice for Today:
When you realize you made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Friday, July 9, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“They are saying goodbye in their own way. Playing outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes.

- Argyle Wallace in "Braveheart"

Like I promised, here is the story behind Tripod.

It all started after I left 29 Palms and we were visiting Seattle before starting the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey California. We took the opportunity to take a vacation to the Northwest and while we were at it, we shot over to Boise Idaho to visit my mentor and friend, Shane Maxey.

While in Idaho, we visited a mall and the kids wanted to hit the pet store where I kept myself busy looking at the puppies. We didn’t have Buster yet and I was pining for a dog; a situation my wife was not too keen about. But I could dream.

Stephanie had other plans. She was looking at getting a hamster and was laying it on thick over the previous weeks. I don’t know what spell she cast but somehow she convinced Carrie to agree to a Teddy Bear hamster that only cost $8. What Carrie was thinking I don’t know but it likely had something to do with her having a beloved pair of these little monsters when she was growing up.

The argument went like this: it only cost $8 and Lindsey (Shane’s daughter) had an old 10 gallon fish tank we could have for free. This was rounding out to a cheap pet for the girl, right?

Bedding, wheel, toys, house thing, food, and a dozen other items I wasn’t too sure the purpose of. Then the coup de grat; an entire habitrail system. How we went from $8 and a free tank to all of this is still under investigation but the end result is a lot of money on the newest addition to the Grose family.

We got it back to Seattle and the kids were excited beyond words. They doted over the little guy, which Stephanie decided to call Maisey (don’t ask), and all was well for a few days.

I had to fly back to Monterey alone to make the July 1st check in date and since housing wasn’t ready until August, the family was going to follow in trace later in July.

Ironically, the morning I was to leave, something happened. This was karma at its best because back in 1987 on the morning I was leaving for bootcamp from Carrie’s parents’ house, we discovered their beloved hamster had died. This was due to letting it roam around the backyard during my farewell BBQ the day before and it’s generally accepted it ingested some of the bug spray Lyle had put down a few days earlier. The family was devastated but I had more important things on my mind at the time.

Fifteen years later, a similar but "other end of the spectrum" event unfolded. Scott, Carrie’s youngest brother, came walking in through the garage where we were keeping Maisey, and asked why there was a lot of them. He’s a kind of a jokster so we thought nothing of it but he was adamant. We all went out to see what he was talking about and to our surprise, Maisey had given birth to about a dozen babies.

Wonderful. This hamster thing was getting better all the time.

Within a couple of days we had drama of the highest level. A couple of them died which Maisey promptly ate. One was kicked out of the nest and she wouldn’t take back in. One was a runt.

This provided a not-so-welcome opportunity to educate the kids about life. Death, cannibalism, natural selection: yeah, all the lessons were there in full living color for us to explain to our two wide-eyed children. Of course I was gone in Monterey so I got most of it in updates over the phone.

The kids did their research over the internet and found that you weren’t supposed to touch them for 2 weeks and that they needed someplace quiet. So Carrie left them in the garage and checked on their progress daily.

At one point, Carrie left a little piece of cloth in the cage for the mother to use as bedding. Maisey promptly snagged it and wove it into the nest. This would become significant later.

When the time finally came where the kids could touch the babies, there was a runt and two others left out of the bunch. Carrie had to separate them or they would kill each other (great family bonds they have) and she intended to take the babies to the pet shop. But Carrie noticed that the runt wasn’t moving around too much and she discovered that what had happened was that the cloth that the mother had used became wrapped around the baby’s leg, cutting off the circulation and “killing” the leg. The mother had wrapped it so tight and since we couldn’t touch the babies for 2 weeks, we had no idea of the situation.

So the baby dragged this dead leg around until it just fell off. When they decided to take all of them to the pet shop, I think my daughter put it best:

“Who would want to buy a three-legged runt?”

So they kept the mom and the runt. After all of the drama, we were left with 2 vermin.

The kids wanted to name the baby Jerry. I thought this very humorous because of the political incorrectness of naming a handicapped hamster “Jerry” as in “Jerry’s Kids” but their intent was Jerry as in “Tom and Jerry.”

I went with “Splat” and when asked why, I explained that was the sound it would make if I threw it against the wall. But in deference to its lost limb, I went with a secondary name too: Tripod.

When we got to Monterey, Maisey got out of her cage. I don’t know how the little teenage mother did it but she was gone one morning, never to seen again. Fine, if you think you can make it on your own, more power to ya. I figure she was a snack to some lucky Monterey wildlife creature. We often left the back door open so she must have smelled freedom and gone for it.

But her son did not fall far from the tree. Despite its obvious handicap, Tripod managed to make a series of escape attempts. It got out one night and I chuckled as I imagined to doing its three-legged scurry across the floor. It had adapted by using its tail as a sort of 4th leg, although I still imagined the “thump-thump-thump” of a three-legged walking pattern.

We found it the next day.

A few weeks later, he did it again despite a reinforced cage. A few days after that, I saw something scurry under the oven. I pulled the cover off the bottom and found Tripod staring right at me. I wasn’t about to reach for the little bastard because every time I handled him, he either bit me or pissed on me.

CARRIE!” came my response as I awoke her from a sound sleep.

“The rat is under the oven.”

She got up, got him, chastised him for getting out, and put him back in the cage.

This started to impress me. First, it was getting out of more and more secure cages. Second, it was adapting and learning from its previous mistakes. It stayed hidden for a few days this time. I thought to myself he was like the Borg and the next time he got out, he would put all the hard-earned lessons a hamster can retain and do a Rambo-type of survival stint where we’d never find him.

He bided his time and one night a few weeks later, conditions must have been right. In the morning, he had made a run for it. My thought was we’d never find him.

Weeks went by and the kids were depressed. Maisey had never been found so we assumed Tripod got out the door and met a similar fate. After all, how long could a 3-legged hamster last in the wild? We even cleaned out the cage and put it in the storage closet, accepting we were down to Buster in the pet department.

Carrie screamed. It was weeks later as she was cleaning out the hall closet and saw something move in the back. It was Tripod and she scooped him up. Upon further investigation, we found some interesting items in the nest he had made in the back of the closet. There was the chewed remains of a canvas bag for a bed. But the most interesting thing was the chunks of half-eaten dog food. He had actually snuck out at night and snagged Buster’s food, dragged pieces back in his three-legged way, and stored food. We figured he was drinking Buster’s water to survive, too.

It was impressive that the little bastard had escaped for a third time, survived for weeks on stolen dog food and water while keeping out of site. This does not say much for Buster but I begrudgingly gave a measure of respect to the little guy for surviving and learning from his previous forays out of the cage.

Carrie fixed the cage in such a way that he would never again escape and it stayed that way for three years.

Our household is the Land of Everlasting Pets due to Carrie’s care and love habits. She would force the kids to keep the cage clean and she herself would give fresh water and veggies to Splat just about every day, along with high pitch whistles and talking. We all shake our heads but Tripod would always respond in kind.

I don’t know how long hamsters are supposed to last but I do know it’s not as long as Tripod lasted, especially considering it was the runt and only had three legs. But last it did and seemed to lead a happy hamster life. It would use its wheel and we even had a ball for it which Carrie would let it roll around the house in. She had to keep me from playing “Bowling for Dollars” with him when centrifugal (or is it centripetal) force would paste him to the inside wall of the ball as I whizzed it down the hall.

Father Time started taking his penance though as Tripod lost an eye (adding Cyclops to his name list). How something in a cage all day loses an eye, I’m not sure but it happened. Carrie said he started scratching at it and then would not open it. So then he was missing a leg and an eye. But he kept going.

In the last few months, things got worse. He seemed to have lost the other eye (Ray Charles) and then started using his wheel less and less. Toward the end, he just sat in one spot and slept. He would drag himself over to the bowl and eat, only to return to the same spot and go back to sleep.

My guess is that he starved to death when he couldn’t drag himself anymore. He was a stubborn old coot though and lasted much longer than anyone thought possible.

Stephanie was the one who discovered his passing. She came out on the deck where we were all standing and said that Jerry wasn’t moving and he was cold. I got up to check and sure enough, he was gone. I scooped him up in the little lid (the one that stopped his exo-cage excursions) and took him outside to see Carrie one last time. Carrie didn’t want to even see him and I asked if it was because it was “Ewwww” or “Ooooh.” She said it was both and it just upset her.

I took a shovel and with the kids at my side, we went to the side of the house. We picked a spot and when I jumped on the shovel top with both feet, I hit a boulder and the handle jerked back right into my crotch. Good one, Tripod, with your last breath you spit on thee.

The kids took it well (they had stopped playing with it a long time ago, especially after we got a guinea pig) and watched as I dropped him in the shallow hole. Just like that, I put the dirt back and packed it down with my foot. The kids put some wildflowers over the spot and we put the plastic top to the cage over the flowers.

So ends the story that was Jerry/Splat/Tripod/Cyclops/Ray Charles. May you rest in peace.

Free Advice for Today:
When parents introduce you to their children, say 'I ahve looked forward to meeting you, because your parents are always bragging about you.'"
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Thursday, July 8, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“If anyone brushes against you, recoil and holler 'Bad touch!'”

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

Life and death continues at the Grose household.

The theme is more “Death” today so be prepared.

What a day. Nothing much was happening most of the day and then Blog entries just started flying out of nowhere.

Boring stuff first: I walked at lunch because I knew I’d be working out after work This didn’t stop my from ending up soaking wet in the Virginia sweltering Hell. I hate this place, weather-wise. OK, I feel better. Death connection: I felt like dying even after just walking.

I made such a big deal out of my new MP3 player and after spending hours last night putting the songs on there, I ran into trouble this morning riding the train.

Tangent rant: I showed up just in time to catch the train as it was pulling up. Without thinking about it, I hopped on, took a right and found myself in a very snazzy car. Are these new cars they just installed. Oooooh.

Fat chance. I discovered I was on a dreaded Amtrak. I would rather swallow a Honeybucket than ride on one of these but by the time I got my wits about me, the conductor had pulled up the stairs and I was stuck. I wasn’t even sure I should be on it.

I asked the rider in front of me if this was the 7:50 or a really late Amtrak. He told me it was the latter and my heart sank.

“Am I supposed to be on this?”

A lady piped up, “If you have a ten trip ticket, you are OK.”

I did so I felt a little better. But the air didn’t seem to be on so I was sweating all the way into work.

What I entirely expected came to pass. I was busily trying to get to the end of my Harry Potter book (Goblet of Fire) and not only was it was getting juicy, I was anticipating the thrill of finishing a 734 page book. From the corner of my eye, I saw the fat conductor standing there. Here we go.

“Yes?”

“Ticket?”

“Right here around my neck in clear view.”

“Can I see it?”

I held it up so he could get his scrutinizing look at it and looked at me like I smelled of baked butt fungus.

“Where are you going?”

“Quantico.”

“You can get out there.”

“You mean the exit?”

To this he said nothing but walked off. Five minutes later, yet another conductor was standing there to interrupt my reading.

“Yes?”

“Ticket?”

“Right here around my neck in clear view. In fact, it’s right where it was when the other conductor asked for it.”

“Where are you going?”

“Quantico. Just like I told the other guy.”

“I’ll be three cars back so unless I can get the conductor to open that one for you, it might be quite a trip when you debark.”

“Your assistance is admirable.”

Five minutes go by and I sense yet another presence. I look up and it’s the second guy again.

“Yes?”

“I got him to open that exit when you get off.”

“Really? Just for me, the paying customer? Thanks but let’s just get it out of the way. Is there possibly anything else that you have to tell me between here in Quantico? Anything at all, let’s get it out right now because I would genuinely love to finish this trip without a 4th interruption, 4 more than I normally get when I ride the VRE.”

I think that did it because I didn’t hear from anyone again. I really detest Amtrak but they start it. Believe me, if I can help it, I don’t get on their trains.

OK, back to the death theme.

While I was walking to the train station from Truckasaurus, oblivious of the hassle I was about to stumble into, I had my headphones on and enjoying my new Lyra. Then it started skipping. How does a solid state flash memory system with no moving parts skip digital music? I didn’t know but it got worse and worse until I finally had to turn it to the radio. The fuzzy radio. This did not bode well for the new MP3 player.

At lunch when I walked, I gave it another try and it seemed to make a slight recovery in the middle of the walk. But then by the end it was skipping again. When I got back to my office, I turned it off and on a few times but then it just gave me an error when I tried to turn it on. It said that there was a bad or missing system file.

WWWWWhat?!?!?!?!

Pissed-meter: pegged.

I would just have to wait until I got home and see what happened when I plugged it in the computer.

Zoom… another tangent. I’ll get back to the Lyra but I’m going chronologically here (sorta).

I went straight to the gym for the 4th of 5 sessions with my trainer. I was a little apprehensive because I just didn’t feel all that well and the only other time we did this particular workout, I felt like vomiting or fainting in no particular order.

I got through it and felt a lot better having accomplished it. I guess it helped that I talked to a contractor today who lost 75 pounds since January by just cutting carbs and walking. At least I don’t have to go through something like that. I gave him some advice on running (start by walking 9 minutes and walking 1 and then when you feel up to it, go to 8 and 2. Keep going until you get to running 9 and walking 1).

After the workout, I went home and was too tired to attack the Lyra right away. There was other drama to attend to.

The rat is dead. I will expound on the whole Splat story in tomorrow’s Blog but to cut to the chase, the 3 year old Teddy Bear Hamster we got in Idaho on vacation finally went to the big running wheel in the sky. My daughter found him dead in the cage. Don’t be sad, he lived much longer than he should have, had lost both eyes somehow, and started out as the runt with a missing leg (hence on of my many names for him: Tripod).

So I had to do the whole "bury him on the side of the house" thing where I jumped on the shovel top with both feet only to hit a boulder and have the handle jerk back right into my crotch. Good one, Tripod, with your last breath you spit on thee.

The kids were OK with it (placed flowers and the plastic top to his cage over the spot) but Carrie was the most upset. Animals love her and that’s the real reason the little bastard lasted so long. She talked to it in high pitch squeaks and gave it fresh veggies all the time. I had a pellet I used to show it and told it it would die from lead poisoning one day.

After this was done, I dealt with the Lyra. I plugged it in and after several iterations of freezing my computer and acting all kinds of weird, I resigned myself to getting my songs off it and have Carrie return it. Even this proved difficult though.

At first I thought I could just copy the songs onto the computer and maybe just reload them. I got the songs off the external card but the internal memory would not give up the songs (OK, it did but I didn’t want to wait the 70 minutes it thought it needed just to copy them). I wanted to have a list that I could reuse when I put them back on and decided the actual files were the best bet.

When this didn’t work, I decided to just open up the file and do a screen capture. That way I could see what files were on there and reload them. Though normally a simple task, I wrestled with that too until I found out that I had to take off the F-Lock off my keyboard.

Tangent off the tangent: this is an annoying feature of my Microsoft keyboard because when I restart my computer, it leaves the F-Lock off and then when I push F12 to preview one of my webpages in Dreamweaver, it tries to send whatever is active to the printer. Pisses me off every single time.

So I got the screen capture, pasted it to a Word document (which only worked if I unplugged the USB cable to the Lyra) and saved it.

The situation further degraded to just getting the damn songs off the Lyra so I could put them back on. Well, re-read what’s happened so far and then use your magical powers to surmise if it worked out.

I couldn’t even get them off the Lyra and it kept freezing up my computer until I yanked the USB cord connected to the Lyra. Fine, I give up.

I just reformatted the damn drive and then put the system files back on. But I couldn’t leave it at that so I copied about 5 songs onto it and listened to it, just in case.

Skip to my Lou, skip to my Lou, my darling…

Game, set, match. Remove the files and call it a night/eternity for the Lyra. The bastard goes back tomorrow and I will try again. If it does the same thing, the Kazoo will forever hold a special place in my heart and the Lyra, as well as all RCA MP3 players in general, will never grace the Grose continuum again.

Death train.
Dead songs.
Dead muscles.
Dead Tripod.
Dead Lyra.

Today was a bucket of sunshine.

Free Advice for Today:
Never tell anybody they don't have a good sense of humor."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Stare at your thumb and say 'I think it's getting larger.'”

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

Rebirth.

Like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, a Lyra came into my possession via my wife’s Costco trip. So of course I spent most of the night messing with it and getting the songs onto it. It’s never too early to cost you a night of free time; the first of many.

The day started at 0533 when I realized I needed to get my butt out of bed an get ready for my 0630 meeting with my personal trainer. I sat up, downed a big mug of water, and as if on cue, the phone rang. It was Greg telling me he got called into his other job (corrections officer) and would have to reschedule. I was only half irritated with this since it meant I would get more than 5 hours of sleep but my hopes were dashed as I laid there unable to go back to sleep. WTFO? So I got up and messed around on the computer until I decided to make my way into work.

At work, it was a short/long day. Short due to the fact that I had a 1300 meeting in Crystal City so my day at the office was cut in half. Long because we ended up leaving Crystal City at about 1600 heading south. Yes folks, commuter’s Hell.

But half of that was in the carpool lane (we had 3 people) an the other half was just the Gunny and me. I got home at about 1745, just in time to be really tired. Shortly after, Carrie arrived with the coveted Lyra.

I’m one of those people who have to read the directions. So a-readin’ I did go. It was a lot of the basic stuff (shock hazard, don’t eject the card while playing, don’t keep snagging the cord while on the treadmill and flinging it to the ground where it hits the treadmill and is further tossed upon contact with the tread. You know, the usual stuff.)

I always have a certain stress factor because it seems that they want you to install the drivers and software in a very specific order and if you hose it up, things go really bad. So I followed along Barney-style to make sure I didn’t screw it up.

I screwed it up.

It wasn’t my fault. It’s counter-intuitive not to plug it in.

“Here’s a disk but don’t follow these directions if you don’t NOT have Windows 98 or Windows ME unless you have them but not both and then only if you install them only on a machine with compatible drivers. If so, consult your computer documentation.”

I guessed I skipped the first step because it only had to do with Windows 98. I have XP. It thought I should be duly punished for this and left it ambiguous.

It had me put the disk in and install some system application program. Why, I’m not sure but I am sure that if I don’t, bad things will happen and I will be a substandard human being.

After that I was to install the Music Butt Munch software, which I have very similar feelings with genitalia shock therapy. To make matters worse, it wanted me to remove the current version I had on there; a version I took great pains to get right long ago and is actually a later version than this new disk. But like a lemma, I obliged.

OK, I got the system application. I have the Music Butt Munch (zzzzzap!) and now I’m ready to plug the Lyra in. I do so and a variety of things happen. First, a new drive letter shows up. Well, that’s good, right?

I push it and it says that it’s not formatted. That’s bad. I don’t want to format it because I assume there is software on it that it needs to run.

So I backtrack and reinstall everything up to this point. For some reason, it has me start the computer over again this time. Hmmmm, different than last time.

Turns out that it upgraded Music Butt Munch to the latest version (8.2) so that was good.

I threw caution to the wind and reformatted the drive. It worked and I put a test song on it (Headstrong by Trapt). Now it had two songs on it: the one I put on there and an annoying little song it had on there by default. But the confusing thing was that the annoying song didn’t show up when I accessed the drive through my computer. Strange.

Also, I noticed that it was only accessing one drive and not 2 (the internal and the 64 MB MMC card I put in it). No matter what I did or where I looked, I couldn’t find the other drive.

Then I popped out the card and noticed that I had no drives. Lo and behold, it was only seeing the card and not the internal!!! Did I have to format it? Did I have to turn it on? Nothing in the documentation told me this so I simply started crying. Just kidding. But I was getting pissed.

Here is where divine intervention comes in. The directions for deleting a file told me to make sure the Lyra was off. The thing was plugged into the computer and I pushed the off button but nothing happened. So I kept pressing it and suddenly, it said it was “switching.” After it was done, I could see the other drive on my computer and there was the annoying song. So of course I deleted the little bastard right away.

Quite by accident I discovered that you have to switch between the internal and external drives by pushing the stop button. Nowhere in the documentation does it mention this little factoid.

Kazoo wouldn’t have played with my emotions like this.

Now I had it figured out and it was time to put some music on.

I knew I should have waited.

In the old version of Music Butt Munch, you had to use their crappy little interface to get the music on the player. Now it shows up as a drive so you can drag and drop songs on there. But you still have the problem of lowering the sampling rate to get more songs on there. But with my handy dandy conversion tool (which gives right-click functionality to convert to a variety of sampling rates), I could bypass Music Butt Munch altogether.

Here’s how I did it. I created a folder in my MP3 file for the songs I wanted on the Lyra. I then went through my collection and copied what I wanted into the folder. Of course I grabbed way too many but at 128 KBPS, I could cut it in half when I converted it. It was a little more than half so I had to make some decisions. The final size was 201 MB and I had a total of 197 MB.

After I got a copy of the full files in the folder, I just chose them all, right clicked, and an hour later they were all converted to 64 KBPS. Then I dragged them over to the Lyra but they wouldn’t all fit so I had to split them up and treat the internal and external as separate drives. Not as clean as I’d like but workable.

7 hours of music, Baby. Here is what I picked (don’t laugh).

The Proclaimers - I Would Walk 1000 Miles
Len - If You Steal My Sunshine
Heavy D & the Boyz - In Living Color
Cypress Hill - Insane In The Brain
Goo Goo Dolls - Iris
Rob Base - It Takes Two
House of Pain - Jump Around
Will Smith - Just the Two of Us
Sixpence None the Richer - Kiss Me
Beth Hart - LA Song Out Of This Town
Cranberries - Linger (acoustic)
Eminem - Lose Yourself (Album)
R.E.M - Losing My Religion
Kelly Clarkson - Miss Independence
Everything But The Girl - Missing
The Mommas & Papas - Monday, Monday
Merill Bainbridge - Mouth
Loreena McKennitt - Mummers' Dance
Blind Melon - No Rain
Heavy D - Now That We Found Love
Animotion - Obsession
Murray Head - One Night In Bangkok
Naughty By Nature - OPP
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Otherside
Billy Idol - Rebel Yell
Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax
Jesus Jones - Right Here Right Now
Falco - Rock Me Amadeaus
Herbie Hancock - Rockit
Tevin Campbell - Round And Round
Wrecks N Effect - Rumpshaker
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Scar Tissue
Real Life - Send Me An Angel (Extended)
Tears for Fears - Shout
Black Eyed Peas - Shut Up
Terrence Trent D'arrby - Sign Your Name Across My Heart
Eminem - Sing For The Moment
Onyx - Slam
Someday - Sugar Ray.mp3
Southside - Moby ft. Gwen Stefani.mp3
Stacy's Mom - Fountains Of Wayne.mp3
Start the Commotion - The Wiseguys.mp3
Super Duper Love - Joss Stone.mp3
Superstar - Cypress Hill.mp3
The Freshman - The Verve Pipe.mp3
The Reason - Hoobastank.mp3
The Way - Fastball.mp3
Thong Song - Sisco.mp3
M.C. Hammer - Too Legit To Quit
Toy Soldiers - Martika .mp3
True Colors - Cindy Lauper.mp3
Tubthumping - Chumbawamba.mp3
Turn This Mutha Out - MC Hammer.mp3
Unbelievable - EMF.mp3
Underneath Your Clothes - Shakira.mp3
Unforgiven - Metallica.mp3
What I Am - Edie Brickell.mp3
What If God Was One Of Us - Joan Osborne .mp3
What It's Like - Everlast.mp3
What Would Happen - Merideth Brooks.mp3
What's Up - 4 Non Blondes.mp3
When Its Over - Sugar Ray.mp3
Whenever Wherever - Shakira.mp3
Paula Cole - Where Have All The Cowboys Go
Black Eyed Peas - Where Is The Love
Baha Men - Who Let the Dogs Out
Tag Team - Whoomp! (There it is)
Collective Soul - Why PT2
Chris Isaak - Wicked Game
Tone Loc - Wild Thing
Terrence Trent Darby - Wishing Well
Missy Misdemeanor Elliott - Work It
Sir Mix-A-Lot - Baby Got Back
Goo Goo Dolls - Black Balloon
Puddle of Mudd - Blurry
Young MC - Bust A Move
The Mammas And The Pappas - California Dreamin'
Crazy in Love - Beyonce Knowles Ft Jay-Z
Fiona Apple - Criminal
Crimson and Clover - Joan Jet.mp3
Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover - Sophie B. Hawkins.mp3
Days Go By - Dirty Vegas.mp3
Drive - Incubus.mp3
Every Morning - Sugar Ray.mp3
Fly - Sugar Ray.mp3
Freshman (acoustic) - Verve Pipe.mp3
Gangster's Paradise - Coolio.mp3
Get Jiggy Wit It - Will Smith.mp3
Going Back To Cali - LL Cool J.mp3
Good Riddance (acoustic) - Green Day.mp3
Headstrong - Trapt.mp3
Heart And Soul - T'pau.mp3
Hello - Evanescence.mp3
Hemmorhage in My Hand - Fuel.mp3
Here Without You - Three Doors Down.mp3
Hey Mama - Black Eyed Peas.mp3
Hey Pretty - Poe.mp3
Hey Ya - Outkast.mp3
Home - Bone Thugs and Harmony ft Phil Collins.mp3
I Don't Wanna Wait - Paula Cole.mp3

Here are some links to back in the day when I had these kind of troubles and/or blog interactions with Kazoo.

October 19th, 2002

January 31, 2004

June 10, 2004

and of course...

July 6th, 2004

Free Advice for Today:
Make every effort to attend weddings and funerals."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Tuesday, July 6, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Wear 'X-Ray Specs' and leer suggestively at other passengers.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

Life and death at the Grose house

Over the last few weeks, we have been keeping track of some babies. Carrie noticed a bird flying in and out of a hanging plant on our porch, under the awning. Curiosity getting the best of her, she took the plant down and found a nest with bird eggs.

Weeks went by and her and the kids tracked the progress of the eggs as they started to hatch. Now the little chicks look like this.

It’s been a wonderful experience for the kids as they check on them every couple of days, during which the mother screeches at them.

I learned on Snopes that it’s a myth that a mother bird will reject chicks handled by humans. Seems they don’t have much of a sense of smell. But here, read for yourself.

When I informed the kids of this, they instantly wanted to hold the birds but we obviously had to put the kibosh on that. And I’m not allowed to kill any birds with my pellet gun in the back yard anymore. Oh well, I’m now up before them anyhow so no need for murderous rampages.

But for every life that is created, another one is sacrificed. So it was today when I had to bid farewell to a good friend. We had been through a lot together and as I laid it down in it’s final resting place, I commented:

“You had a good run. In fact, many good runs.”

Yes, I’m deeply saddened to report that my beloved Kazoo MP3 player finally went to the big Napster site in the sky. I wept.

It happened after a long sickness. For a long time, it started to go through batteries faster and faster. It also had trouble starting with a new set of batteries. I guess it didn’t help that I kept snagging the cord while on the treadmill and flinging it to the ground where it would hit the treadmill and be further tossed upon contact with the tread. This happened twice in the last two weeks and I guess it was just too much for the little fella.

I joke but I do get sentimental about absurd things like this. I thought about how many miles that little MP3 player went with me. It was there during numerous marathons and many more training sessions. Not to mention two 50 milers. It kept me company on the long Saturday runs in Monterey and the early morning runs when only me and the wolves were awake. It played on through the deserts of California and the forests of Virginia.

I definitely got my money out of it (just under $100) and the funny thing is they don’t even make any more of them. Its replacement is the Lyra which Cosco has for about $80. It has 128 MB (the Kazoo had 64 MB) internal but the real advantage is that I can use the same 64 MB MMC card I got for the Kazoo. So I’ll stick with RCA.

But it will have to fill some big shoes. I’ll be all like making fun of it, calling it rookie, and tell it how it doesn’t measure up to the Kazoo. It’ll get all bitter about being compared to an older version and will try harder to impress me but I’ll be relentless and tell it how even though Kazoo was half the player he is, Kazoo had double the heart. I’ll get a big “K” tattooed on my chest and a picture of it painted on Truckasaurus with the inscription “Rollin’ for da Big K! Gone But Never Forgotten.”

The end came too quick. I was getting ready for work this morning and it wouldn’t turn on. I put in new batteries even though I knew the ones in it were fresh. It just wouldn’t turn on. I held out my arms to the side, looked up, and screamed “Nooooooo!!!!!” which echoed through the entire neighborhood and somewhere down the block, a couple of birds took flight and then there was silence save for my inconsolable cries.

I took the opportunity to see what it was made of and after taking out 4 screws, I had it apart. I don’t know what I expected but it was just two little circuit cards with a bunch of little components. I put it back together (surprised I could actually do it) and for a minute thought that maybe that would fix it. I put the batteries back into it and it just wouldn’t respond. I took out the batteries, reinserted them and tried again. After doing this a few more times, my wife came over and gently placed her hand over my fumbling hands and whispered “He’s gone. Let him go. He led a good, long life and he’s in a better place now.”

Through blurring tears, I thought I saw a quick flash of the key icon on the LED screen as though it was saying goodbye and then I thought I saw a wisp of something rise from Kazoo and I knew the end had come. What was once my Kazoo was now an empty husk.

Its burial was next and I retired it with full military honors.

Free Advice for Today:
Never set a drink down on a book."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Monday, July 5, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Make explosion noises when anyone presses a button.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

OK, this has gone on far too long. I’m have hit maximum laziness and I must get some structure back in my life.

I know it’s getting bad when I’m waking up at 10:00 and still tired all day. Sad. Very sad. I should have planned and did something this weekend (you’re just now realizing that?)

In desperation for something to do, my wife and I went to Circuit City to get some RAM for my daughter’s computer. It was limping along with 64 MB and nothing much would run on it. Hey, give it a break; I got it for free from my mom. It’s a 700 MHz system that came with Windows ME (pause for violent lurch) and both video and audio were on the motherboard. I upgraded it to Windows 2000 but for the all-important Toon Town, I needed more RAM and a video card.

I spent more than a few minutes trying to figure out exactly what I was dealing with. I opened it up to try to get a part # from the motherboard so I could see how much RAM it could handle. After Googling a bunch of suspected numbers, I came up with nothing. So I started looking through the documentation to see what I had. But I ran into the annoying concept of providing the same documentation for multiple versions of computer to save money. I finally figured out what I had and went to the HP site where I found out I could jack up the system up to 512 MB of RAM. OK, now we’re getting somewhere.

I did some searching around the web for the kind of memory I needed. I was ignorant that “PC100” was a very common type of memory but assumed that is what I needed. I will point out here that no matter how smart you think you are about computers, there will always be these little, simple, “widely-known” facts about them you will have no clue about. In other words, there will be some of you saying “He calls himself a computer geek and has an IT masters but didn’t know about PC100 memory?”

To you I respond with a very dignified “Kiss my ass.”

I looked at a few places thinking I could get a deal on the web. It all hovered about $80 for a 256 MB stick but if it was a lot lower than that, I didn’t feel like I could trust it. So I gave up and decided to see what I could get in person at Circuit City. It occurs to me that it’s now worth it for me to spend a little extra $$ and get what I know is good right now than to save 5% after hours of research and then ordering where you have to wait and wonder if your underwear will soon be missing.

It wasn’t a hard call at Circuit City. They had what I needed for $80 but that was after a $45 mail in rebate. I absolutely hate mail in rebates. Almost as much as I hate Windows ME and reality shows. But suffice it to say I hate mail in rebates with enough intensity to melt diamonds encased in dragon scales.

I also looked at video cards but the cheapest one was $80 and the guy gave me a website where I could find a less high-profile one. I didn’t need the latest and greatest; just something to run Toon Town. Again, that’s the metric.

When we got home, I put in the RAM (with just a bit more than a little trouble since I had as much room as 10 people in a sipper cup to work with) and fired it up. It worked great but didn’t quite reach the goal. Toon Town told me that the video was woefully inadequate. Oh well, for $80, my daughter can now play solitaire REALLY fast.

I need to get back to work tomorrow. This house-slothing is really getting to me.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't buy cheap picture frames."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Sunday, July 4, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Carry a blanket and clutch it protectively.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

Another lazy day and lazier than yesterday, if that's possible. I gotta get back to work or I’m going to melt into my furniture.

I spent some time finishing up the Gunny Popaditch story and posted it on the site. But for the rest of the day, I basically went from furniture piece to furniture piece reading my Harry Potter book and wondering why I was so listless.

One other thing I did accomplish was to watch Blade. I saw that Blade 3 was coming out and since I had never really watched any of the first two, I rented them. But I made the mistake of letting my son watch it with me. In hindsight, maybe letting a 12-year-old watch a rated R movie might not get me into the Dad Hall of Fame. Just a bit too much blood, violence, cursing, and sexually suggestive scenes. OK, all of them. Oops.

The movie wasn’t all that good but it was watchable. Maybe the second one will be better. Hell, they made a third but that doesn’t mean that the first two were block busters.

I decided it wasn’t worth fighting the traffic and humanity to go see a live 4th of July show. The two choices we had was on the base and downtown D.C. Both would have involved a lot of patience, none of which I had any of so we bagged it. We saw a big show last night and let ours off too. We settled for watching it on TV. I know, I'm a wet blanket.

Barry Bosworth was hosting it. As hokey as that was, it got worse when one of the Gibb brothers was brought out to sing some “hits.” As you may know, one of them died recently and the lead singer, Barry, was not the guest. It was the other one (obviously since dragging out a dead guy would have been a tad morbid.)

He sang a couple of huge Bee Gee hits but the problem was, he was only the back up singer. So it was kinda like hearing the song but mostly, ... not. He had a couple of back up singers to sing the parts normally reserved for him ad he sang his brother’s part. It just didn’t work and overall, it was just sad.

This extended time off thing just isn’t all it cracked up to be. When I’m working all I want is more time off and now that I got it, I discover I need structure in my day or I start molding.

Oh, and only one person noticed that there was something wrong with the sign I posted the other day. Can you pick it out? I didn't until someone emailed me and boy did I feel dumb.

Free Advice for Today:
Remember that your character is your destiny."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Saturday, July 3, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Announce in a demonic voice: 'I must find a more suitable host body.'

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

I think the Latin term is “Butticut Sitticus.” Yes, folks, we did nothing much more than sit around all day and do a whole lot of nothing.

At some point in my massive laziness, I took the kids out for the only excursion of the day in order to buy some fireworks. We are going to a big show tomorrow so we thought we could get the kids some fireworks and they could launch them tonight. The kids agreed wholeheartedly, of course.

When I was a kid, I would spend the summer in Seattle with my dad and despite him not having a lot of money, his childish nature assured that we would spend an exorbitant amount of money on fireworks. Add to that the fact that there were Indian reservations that sold all kinds of illegal goodies and we had the making of getting our hands half blown off every year.

Dad would slide each one of us $50 and we could get whatever we wanted. Looking back, I have no idea how he afforded $100 worth of fireworks but he did.

Here is where the difference between my brother and me comes in. I would spend hours pouring over everything they had to offer and normally buy great quantities of small firecrackers. My brother, on the other hand, would gather as many of the big offerings as $50 would get him and be done within minutes. We had the same routine in the candy aisle.

This would occur weeks before the 4th of July so while Dad was at work, we would spend the day blowing up various items: aluminum cans, ant hills, our hands. You know, the normal stuff. Inevitably we would get a quick fuse or try to light one whose fuse was snuffed out right before going down into the body of the black cat (the name, not an actual cat. We only tortured tabbys. Just kidding, lighten up, geez.)

When the 4th came, we had about 1/3 of the fireworks left but the best part was yet to come. We played a game every year of “Catch the Bottle Rocket Stick.” I know it sounds crazy but every year we (my dad, my brother, and me) would line up in the back yard or down by the river, and light off pop bottle rockets. As they rose and exploded, we searched intently to spy the stick falling back to earth and the goal was to catch it before it hit the ground. Sometimes it was easier than other times if some of the packaging stuck to the red stick and the whole thing came down like a whirley-bird. But sometimes it would come down at Mach 5, cutting through the air like a dart heading straight down.

We would risk twisted ankles and concussions while we jostled for position. It was a great time and the score normally didn’t get out of the single digits for any one person.

Back to the present, I wasn’t about to give my kids $50 each. I would have, probably, but I knew Carrie would have a kinipshun so I gave them each $20 as we headed out the door.

My plan was not all that complicated. Find the nearest fireworks stand and because it was in a city area, I knew we were destined to go with the “Safe and Sane” category; neither of which sounded all that fun.

When we got to the tent, I told the kids they can either buy stuff individually, in a box set, or combine their money to get a bigger box. It didn’t take they long to decide to go in together and get a box. But of course they wanted the sparklers so I checked my wallet only to find I had all of $2. But when I noticed that they took Visa, I knew it was time to be a hero.

They picked the $40 box and I made sure this is what they wanted. I then took them over to the $25 box and told them they could each get one of those instead if they wanted. Instantly, the comparison began. They were in the midst of deciding this when Stephanie took me over to the sparklers and told me she couldn’t decide between the really long ones and the short ones. I grabbed some of both and said I’d buy them.

After much internal and external debate, they decided to stick with the $40 single box and I asked them if there were anything else they were really hoping for. There was a box of these strobe things they liked so I bought a couple of boxes.

The total came to just over $50 and for that I got a couple of ecstatic kids who thought that going over by $10 was the biggest coup in the history of the Universe.

The one thing I wasn’t going to buy was the $500 box that was about 8 feet tall. It had so much stuff, it would take us a week to cook all the stuff off. I asked the kid working there how many they had sold and he grinned when he said that was the only one they had and they get a bonus if they sell it. He said I could really help him out but to this I simply said “yeah, right.

But for a second, I thought about it. Yes, I’d be dead at home but I’d be a hero for the rest of my life in the kids’ eyes. It was tempting…

When we got home, we decided to invite the Patches over to see the fireworks. They had planned to go to a church show tonight by us but when we invited them over to our house, they decided to come. The funny thing was we could see the big fireworks right from our deck so everyone got the best of both worlds.

We let the kids light all the fireworks after putting down an oil leak drip pan in the backyard and watering down the area around the “launch pad.” Some were good, some were not so good but $50 bought me about an hour of the kids having the time of their lives. It was worth it just to witness their excitement.

Then there was Buster. The stupid animal is scared silly of water but light a shower of fireworks and he’ll race right up to, oblivious to the fact that he WILL singe his dumb dog face in the process. Didn’t seem to phase him. I swear he’s catastrophically retarded.

We had to lock him up and when it was over, he kept barking ferociously at the popping going off in the neighborhood. Daisy, the Patch canine, has the opposite reaction, cowering in the bathtub. But she loves water. Dogs (shaking head confusedly)..

Free Advice for Today:
Never be too busy to meet someone new."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Friday, July 2, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Pull your gum out of your mouth in long strings.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

OK, time to do a little catch up. Nothing much happened today except taking the kids to see Spiderman 2 so it’s a good time to get to some other things.

Behold the hodgepodge:


Spiderman was long and comic bookish. Go figure. Kirsten Durst looked frumpy throughout (hopefully on purpose) and Toby McGuire only looked cool when he was getting his web on. The octopus character was very un-movie star-like (fat and not handsome like you’d expect a star to be). Other than that, the FX were pretty good but it dragged in places and smacked of obvious moral lessons. OK, maybe I was in a bad move or maybe it’s just that I was never a big Spidey fan. But with lines from Mary Jane (the name bugged me) like “Go get ‘em tiger,” I was a little disappointed. That line is ruined forever after King Pin.


Weird things seem to always happen to me, both good and bad. Here is one good one that I will simply describe through email correspondence.


Here is an email Buster got from a fan:

Hey Dude,

This is Monk. I'll send you a photo of me...I currently live in Kentucky with Amy's folks...I'm moving to Texas in a month....

Later dude,

Monk

Here is what Buster wrote back:

Monk,

I see your humans like to strip away what little dignity you possess just like mine. We won’t mention the pumpkin outfit my first Halloween.

I've never been to Texas but I hear dog butts are particularly savory there. Let me know.

I need to go drag my butt along the carpet as I use my front paws for traction. Thanks for the photo. I barked at it for a 1/2 hour.

Buster



Here is the sign we bought yesterday at Kings Dominion and it only cost me one of my kidneys.


Here is a caricature my daughter had to have before we left.


And here is my aspiring artist/daughter rendition later that night.


The mail brought me the latest book my work has been published in. It’s called The Older We Get, The Better We Were by MSGT Andrew Bufalo, USMC (Ret.). The three stories of mine that are in there are:

Sergeant Maxey

Are You There, Sergeant Major?

Captain Stromberg

I reread them last night and as a true testament to my opinion of these stories, I actually enjoyed reading them and was impressed I had actually penned them. That’s unusual since I’m my own worst critic.

The first book he published was called Swift, Silent, and Surrounded. My stories in that one are:

The Ride Over

Scuds and Suds

Lance Corporal Scott

They both can be purchased from http://www.usmcstories.com/usmc_stories_002.htm.


Oh yeah, and Marlon Brando died today. No big effect on me but it's a sign of the times.

Free Advice for Today:
Evaluate yourself by your own standards, not someone else's."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Quote of the Day:

“Blow spit bubbles.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

Kings Dominion. With the kids. Under the agreement I would do anything they wanted.

I have seen stupidity and it is me.

Carrie, my wife, does not like drops which takes her out of the running for almost every amusement park ride ever devised. Due to her aversion, I felt bad for the kids since their joy increases exponentially when Mom or Dad join in such life-threatening rides. Combine that with my guilt for canceling the Atlanta trip and you have the predicament I had today.

I thought I was not all that frightened of these rides. But I’m not all that thrilled about them either. I was never a roller coaster lover so when we arrived at KD yesterday, I had an early butt-puckering moment when I saw the insanity. The one that caused the involuntary contraction was called, and I’m not making this up, the “HyperSonic XLC.” My guess of what the “XLC” stood for was “eXtreme Lamenting and Crying.”

This roller coaster, if you can call it that, started by accelerating from a standstill to a face-altering 80 MPH in 1.8 seconds, shooting the riders about 100 feet before turning straight up 165 ft. It’s literally the steepest roller coater in the world (90 degrees up). My comment upon witnessing it was “What the #@$# is wrong with these people!?

I never actually found the stones to accomplish this one. “Maybe next time” was my answer, convincing my fence-sitting daughter that we had to save something for next time.

So I avoided that and we looked around the park for awhile. It’s a Paramount theme park so it had some cool movie props. They had the Forrest Gump bench right in the open where anyone could sit on it. We didn’t have our camera because we left it in the car until we hit the water area so alas, I'm pictureless in regard to this. Crazy, I know. They also had the Indiana Jones prop (little gold head he was trying to grab at the beginning). I love this stuff so it was neat to see.

The kids were intent on hitting the nearly dozen roller coasters and I wish I could detail them all here but they all blurred together in one horrifying collage of terror. I kept most of my promise to go on any and all rides but that doesn’t mean I had to quell my deep-seated fright. I’m not kidding when I tell you what these things were called:

  • Ricochet
  • HyperSonic XLC
  • Rebel Yell
  • Triple Spin
  • Shockwave
  • Hurler
  • Launch Pad

The Hurler should have been the Rattler. It was an old wooden contraption that vibrated side to side so violently that I think my DNA was scrambled.

On one of them, they took a picture right as you were dropping an insane distance and I wish I had bought the picture. I had my mouth wide open in a primordial scream that made me look skull-like. Yeah, loads of fun.

The Shockwave dropped suddenly and then fed right into a loop the loop. Amazingly, I enjoyed the loop. The dip, not so much.

After a half dozen fate-tempting adventures, we decided to go over to the water park. The kids love the wave pool and it was a chance to kick back and let the day’s activities sink in as I suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The food thing was going OK. It was both easy and difficult for the following reasons. Difficult because there were fries, burgers, chips, cotton candy, and various other forbidden delicacies everywhere. Easy because of some of the behemoths I witnessed wallowing around in bathing suits. I saw things that should never be seen. The protein shakes and bars were easy to eat after that.

Once we had hit most of the amusement rides, it was the kids’ turn to expose me to water park horrors. We started off easy with Shoot the Curl. OK, not bad but you could feel the seams and I felt my back rake over the imperfections.

It was a bit dicier with Baja Bends which twisted around in the dark for about 10 seconds. I moaned all the way down.

The Wave Swinger were tubes that intertwined but weren’t too bad. The lines were the worst part.

But the elephant at the tea party was hands down, Night Slider - the world's tallest enclosed dark tube slide. You climb up this huge tower, questioning your sanity, and wait at the top for your turn in the guillotine. The first time, we took the purple slide which was the other offering on the platform. I hadn’t the onions yet to go into the blackness so Alex and I chose the calmer of the two. But I have to admit, the moment before committing to the ride was a distressing if not nightmarish moment indeed. Once again, I moaned all the way down.

When we got done with that, it was time to pay the piper. We set out to climb the stairs of fear once again and when we made it to the top, Alex was chattering up a storm, earning his nickname: Sir Talk-A-Lot. I was injecting assurance and outright lies to calm the both of us. He was nervous but God bless him he was up there and fighting his internal battles against petrifying fear. I told him bravery is not the absence of fear but the ability to control it. I told him it was OK to be scared, even normal, but the important part was how he reacted to it. At this point, he was hanging on every word and it was a golden opportunity to teach him a valuable lesson.

I had to go first. When it came my turn, I took a look down and for a heart-stopping moment, I really didn’t want to go down that tube. But the boy was watching as was a couple of dozen others so I had little choice. I gave the boy the thumbs up and took a deep breath as I pulled my body forward.

I missed it. It all went by so quickly and my mind must have shut off because the next thing I was conscious of was splashing through the water at the bottom. I was disappointed because I felt like I really missed the experience. But I gave the thumbs up to the boy and my heart swelled with pride as I watched him fling himself into the tube. Two seconds later he emerged and he was all smiles, guaranteeing me that it wasn't scary at all. I’ll take your word for it, Boy.

He wanted to go again but this time, get his sister. We went back over to the wave pool where the girls were and he never stopped describing what it was like and how he felt to overcome his fear (he's terrified of heights and the dark).

Somehow he convinced Stephanie to go and we all went up again. This time I was determined to actually experience the thrill. Alex went first without hesitation. Stephanie was scared but since I had done it and Alex had too, she wasn’t going to chicken out. She’s one of the most fearless little girls I’ve ever met and that’s why it broke my heart to witness the internal struggle with fear she raged while waiting her turn.

When it came her turn, she stepped up and did it without hesitation. Amazing and better than I had done the first time.

Now it was my turn and I had a calm about me. I launched myself into the tube and down I went, 77 feet straight down. I would be lying if it didn’t still produce a pucker factor but at least I got to feel it this time. Why humans do this I don’t know but I accomplished it. Check in the box. Thank you, I’m done.

We went back to the water park to explain to Carrie what we all did and the kids were a steady stream of excitement about the whole thing. I was so proud of them.

But there was still more to accomplish and I wanted to do the HyperSonic XLC, the Drop Zone, and a couple of others I was scared silly of. We decided the Drop Zone was the nearest so off we went.

Only one time before have I ridden one of these kinds of rides. And it scared the bejesus out of me so what possessed me to do it again is still a mystery.

The Drop Zone is a 332 foot tower ride. You are suspended in a seat around the pole with your feet dangling as it rises to the top. Once there, it drops you and hopefully stops you before gravity snuffs you out.

The kids and I got into it (Carrie would sooner crap out a Volkswagen than voluntarily ride on this) and I hoped my reaction would be better than the last time I rode a similar ride years ago. Stephanie wanted to go on it because she was not allowed at Disneyland when she came up less than an inch too short and the jerk attendant wouldn’t budge.

Alex was scared. Like I mentioned, heights are not his bag and this played centrally to those fears.

We were latched in and as we ascended, the familiar fears came flooding back. At first, it’s OK. But as we rose, it seemed we were pushed more forward and more precariously on the edge. I know this was an illusion but that didn’t stop the terror rising up in my stomach.

The boy felt it too. About halfway up, he exclaimed “Oh my God, are we really going to drop from this high?” What the hell am I supposed to say to that especially since I knew it’s about to get more scarier?

“It’s alright, Boy.”

I was talking more to myself at this point. Screw the boy, I was battling my own terror. (just kidding). (Kind of ).

We got to the top and my fight or flight reaction was in full effect. If I could have ran, I would have. I was scared. I mean "spaz-out" scared. I moaned.

The wait seemed like it was days and I was negotiating with myself not to yell and to handle the situation. Let’s get this show on the ….

Pure, undiluted, shocking terror. I was falling. The air was pushing up my eyelids despite me trying to squeeze them tight. I could not yell for that would require some semblance of control of my faculties. I was simply frozen with raw fright.

My legs shot out straight and resembled steel rods the entire way down. Two things floated back into reality for me as we got to the bottom. First, Alex’s voice says “That wasn’t scary” even before we stopped. I almost laughed at the timing of his statement, almost too quickly which conveyed the opposite of what he was saying.

Next was my wife laughing at me. She was sitting right in front of where we were and caught my entire reaction. Glad I could provide some comic relief as I beshat my pants.

That was it; I was done. No more rides. No way, no how, no debate.

The kids wanted to go again. Be my guest. They did and then it was old hat. Kids are weird. They also went on two more rides by themselves as I stayed true to my statement that I was done as done gets.

We called it a day after that and went home tired and happy. It was a good day with a lot of thrills involved. I’ve read where the chemical reactions that go on inside your body as a result of thrill rides are the same as sexual desire and intimate emotion. Therefore it’s a good idea to take a date to an amusement park because the fear elicits the same emotions as desire.

But maybe I’m wired different or my new DNA make up prevented normalcy because I was in no mood to do anything but sleep deeply when I got home. A shower, some food, and thankful thoughts about being alive after tempting fate were the main ingredients to the rest of the night.

(Here is my putzy Blog from almost exactly a year ago when I went to a wter park with my kids in California.)

Free Advice for Today:
Read between the lines."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


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