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Thursday, September 25, 2008
Neighborhood sightings

Last night I saw a 4-point (I think) buck across the street from my house. We stared at each other for a bit while I muttered, "Soon, Bambi. Real soon."

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Where were you?

Hmm, where do I start?

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned it here before, but I've been playing World of Warcraft for over two years now. I only mention that now to explain why I read Matt's blog.

I was intrigued by one of Matt's recent posts, so I'm going to pick up on his meme and answer the same questions he did. The question I'm answering is, where were you when these historic events occurred (adding a few of my own, since I'm an old fart, unlike Matt, who's a young fart. And Canadian. Not that there's anything wrong with that.). These aren't exactly in chronological order, so I apologize if this is a little confusing.

Assassination of President John F Kennedy

This event wasn't a part of Matt's list, but it's the first significant world event from my memory, so I thought I'd add it in. I was an elementary school student in a small town in Texas, about 150 miles away from the events in Dallas, Texas, on that bright November day. I recall being herded by our teachers to stand outside and watch the US flag being lowered to half staff. For a young child, though, this was still a rather abstract event (at least until I got home and saw the solemnities on TV), so our spirits weren't dampened when we went to my classmate Dave's birthday party after school. What can I say? We were little kids.

Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

On January 28, 1986, I was a Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy, stationed in Maryland, preparing for a routine deployment to Commander, Middle East Force, aboard various ships in the Persian Gulf. As it happened, I was at home, off work that day. The way I remember it, my wife at the time called me from work to tell me about the Challenger's demise. I didn't have the TV on, so her call was the first I'd heard of it. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day watching the news reports.

Matt also mentions the Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster (since he was actually alive for that event), which I recall as spending much of the day watching the news reports, but since it was a Saturday, and I had a couple of young kids to care for, it doesn't stand out in my mind quite as much.

Reagan assassination attempt

I was on a rotating schedule and shift work in 1981, so I happened to be off on that Monday morning. As with the later Challenger tragedy, my wife called me from work and I turned on the TV to watch the events of the day unfold.

Operation Desert Storm (to include Operation Desert Shield)

I participated in both of these operations during my career in the Navy. At the time, I was stationed in Rota, Spain, and deployed to various ships in the area. For Desert Shield, I spent time on various vessels in the Mediterranean and Red Seas (USS Silversides, USS John F Kennedy, USS Dallas...that's a submarine, an aircraft carrier and another submarine, for those who aren't familiar with these ship names), and for Desert Storm, I spent time on a couple of submarines (USS Grayling and USS Finback).

As a side note, I completed my submarine qualifications aboard the Grayling, which enabled me to wear dolphins on my uniform. To those who may not be familiar with this stuff, it's a big deal, especially for someone who wasn't permanently assigned to a submarine. Also, the flag in my retirement shadow box was flown aboard the Grayling.

September 11 Attacks

By pure coincidence, on this fateful day, I was once more at home, although this time I was actually working rather than having a day off. I had the NBC Today show on as background noise while I was working, and about 8:45, the report of an aircraft flying into the North Tower of the World Trade Center caught my attention. The way the reports were presented didn't instill much concern in me at the time, since I figured it was a stray general aviation aircraft that lost its way and tragically hit the WTC.

Approximately 15 minutes later when UA 175 crashed into the South Tower of the WTC, I knew this was a deliberate attack on our country. The matter of who was responsible for these attacks was immaterial at that point; the important point was that these were deliberate attacks.

Since I live roughly 20 miles west of Washington DC, all of this became much less abstract when AA 77 crashed into the Pentagon. This instilled panic within DC itself, which resulted in complete gridlock within the city, as I recall. Warnings, evacuations, the end, it showed how utterly unprepared DC was for this type of event.

My wife at the time ultimately pulled our kids out of their elementary school, despite the fact that we lived only about 250 yards away from the school. Rationality wasn't the order of the day at that point.

Of course, we watched the collapse of the various buildings within the WTC that day, but that pretty much sums up the significant, unique aspects of 9/11 for me.

Hurricane Katrina

The weekend tragedy itself doesn't stick out a lot on its own in my mind, but I felt the impetus to travel to Louisiana to help out as a radio operator (based on being a licensed Amateur Radio operator). That was a rough time for my last marriage, though, and I separated from my then-wife a few months later, so I wasn't able to go lend a hand.

Fall of the Soviet Union

Most of this time, I was stationed in Europe (Greece and Spain), and we didn't have a lot of access to the news, so all of this happened without me being able to pay much attention at the time.

The Millennium

First off, I tend to regard dates as arbitrary things, so January 1, 2000, didn't carry a lot of significance for me (especially since the 21st Century didn't begin until January 1, 2001). I don't remember anything specific about this night, although I'm sure it was spent at a friend's house.

John Lennonís death, Kurt Cobainís death

John Lennon's assassination was tragic, but I don't recall any particular effect at the time. Cobain's death had much less effect on me than the deaths of Mama Cass, Jimi Hendrix, etc, but that's probably mostly due to generational differences.

All this reminiscing is making me tired. Chew on it while I snooze.


Where's my cane?

I just came to the realization that once our next President is inaugurated, for the first time in my life I'll be older than either the President or the Vice President.

Oh, my.


Friday, December 12, 2003
The Poisonous Elixir of Dependency

I try to keep in touch with my home town of Brownwood, TX, by browsing the web site of the local newspaper, the Brownwood Bulletin. While the news items helps me get a feel for some of what's going on "back home," I find I enjoy the Op-Ed columns the most. And of all the Op-Ed columnists, Chris Crews is my favorite. Today's column, Reaping rewards of the politics of dependency, so closely mirrors my own thoughts that I could very well have written it myself.

Well, except for the fact that Chris is a much better writer than I am. But still.

While Chris's column is my "Favorite of the Day," I also enjoyed a guest column written by Jim Mullen, author of It Takes a Village Idiot. While Jim apparently hails from New York, he precisely captures the reaction of many folks to the forecast of snow. I've been gone from Brownwood for too many years to know if people have that sort of reaction back there, but around these parts, he hit the nail on the head. Upon hearing the forecast of snow two days hence, our local Village Idiots rush to the Washington Beltway to abandon their cars now, in order to beat the rush. You can read Jim's column, Falling snow and screaming of a white Christmas, here.

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Thursday, August 07, 2003
Tornado definitions, hints and tips

For those of you who aren't familiar with tornadoes and are hearing news coverage of this, Xenos from the InterWARN Forums put together a short glossary to help you understand, and I have shamelessly stolen it and reproduced it here.

Fujita Scale: Scale used to measure wind speeds of tornadoes and their severity.

F1: A laughable little string of wind unless it comes through your house, then itís enough to make your insurance company drop you like a brick. People enjoy standing on their porches to watch this kind.

F2: Strong enough to blow your car into your house, unless of course you drive an Expedition and live in a mobile home, then strong enough to blow your house into your truck.

F3: Will pick your house and your Expedition up and move them to the other side of town.

F4: Usually ranging from Ĺ to a full mile wide, this tornado can turn an Expedition into a Pinto, then gift wrap it in a semi truck.

F5: The Mother of all Tornadoes, you might as well stand on your front porch and watch it, because it's probably going to be one hell of a last sight.

Meteorologist: A rather soft-spoken, mild-mannered type of person until severe weather strikes, when they start yelling at you through the TV: "GET TO YOUR BATHROOM OR YOU'RE GOING TO DIE!"

Storm Chaser: Meteorologist-rejects who are pretty much insane but get us really cool pictures of tornadoes. We release them from the mental institution every time it starts thundering, just to see what they'll do.

Tranquilizer: What you have to give any dog or cat that lived through the May 3rd, 1999 tornado every time it storms, or they tear your whole house up freaking out of their minds.

Moore, Oklahoma: A favorite gathering place for tornadoes. They like to meet here and do a little partying before stretching out across the rest of the Midwest.

Bathtub: Best place to seek shelter in the middle of a tornado, mostly because after you're covered with debris, you can quickly wash off and come out looking great.

Severe Weather Radio: A handy device that receives messages from the National Weather Service during a storm, though the high pitched, shrill noise just as an alarm sounds is quite disconcerting, because it sounds suspiciously like a tornado. Plus the guy reading the report just sounds creepy.

Tornado Siren: A system the city spent millions to install, which is really useful, unless there's a storm or a tornado, because then, of course, you can't hear it.

Storm Cellar: A great place to go during a tornado, as it is almost 100% safe, though weigh your options carefully, since most are not cared for and are homes to rats and snakes.

May-June: Tourist season in Oklahoma, when people who are tired of bungee jumping and diving out of airplanes decide it might be fun to chase a tornado. These people usually end up as contestants on Fear Factor.

Barometric Pressure: Nobody really knows what this is, but when it drops, a lot of pregnant women go into labor, which makes for exciting moments as their husbands are trying to drive them to the hospital and dodge tornadoes at the same time.

Cars: The worst place to be during a tornado (except for a mobile home). Yes, you can out run a tornado in your car...unless everybody on the road decides to do the same thing, and then you're in grid lock.

A Ditch: Supposedly where you're supposed to go if you find yourself without shelter or in your car during a tornado. Theoretically the tornado is supposed to pass right over you, but since it can lift a 20-ton truck and uproot a three-hundred-year-old tree, I'd take my chances on outrunning it in a car.

Mobile Home: Most people are convinced mobile homes send off some strange signal that triggers tornadoes, because if there's one mobile home park in a hundred mile radius, the tornado will find it.

Earthquake: What any Californian would rather go through on any scale of severity instead of facing a tornado.

Tornado: What any Oklahoman would rather go through on any scale of severity instead of facing an earthquake.

Twister: Slang for tornado. It's also the title of a movie starring Helen Hunt, which, incidentally, everyone in Oklahoma thought was corny and unrealistic until May 3rd, 1999.

Power Flash: One of the most reliable ways to track a tornado at night, it's the term used when the tornado hits a power line and a bright light flashes. It's also the emotion experienced by meteorologists when they get to make the call to interrupt prime-time must-see TV and a million dollars worth of advertising to track a storm for viewers.

Here are some phrases you might want to learn and be familiar with:

"We'll have your electricity restored in 24 hours," means it'll be a week.

"Power is going to be out for a week, so buy a lot of supplies and an expensive generator," means it's going to be on in twelve hours, probably as soon as you return from Wal-Mart with your generator.

"It's a little muggy today." means "Get outta town. It's getting ready to storm."

"There's just a slight chance of severe weather today, so go ahead and make your outdoor plans." Ha. Ha ha ha ha.

And the BIG TIP of the day:

When your electricity goes out, and you go to bed at night, be sure to turn off everything that was on before it went out, or when it is unexpectedly restored in the middle of the night, every light, every computer, your dishwasher, your blow dryer, your washing machine, your microwave and your fans will all come on all at once.

1) You'll just about have a heart attack when they all come on at the same time, waking you from a dead sleep.

2) Your breakers will blow, leaving you in the dark once again.


Monday, July 14, 2003
Back from California

I spent last week in Monterey, CA, visiting my son, Boyd Jr, and my daughter-in-law and granddaughter, Melissa and Kiara. My daughter Kristin was there, as well, so it made for a great week. In addition to spending time with my loved ones (whom I haven't seen since last year), I had a chance to revisit the Monterey area. I was stationed at the Presidio in 1975, so it was interesting to see what had changed, and what hadn't.

One of the first places I wanted to see was the old two-story apartment building where I lived back then. I was certain it would have been razed and replaced with something nicer, but it was still standing, and had even been fixed up a good bit. Of course, I didn't have a look inside, but it looked like a much nicer place than it was 28 years ago.

Fort Ord was the big military installation when I was there before, but it's closed now. Some of the housing is still in use (which is great for the many junior enlisted folks at the Presidio, I'm sure), but most of the entire fort is boarded up. Much of it looks like a cross between a ghost town and a slum. It wasn't a very pleasant-looking place back in the 70's, but it's really depressing today. Oh, and they still have a PX and Commissary, so that's a great benefit for the military folks.

The Presidio seems much larger than it was in the past. As I recall, the post more or less ended at "the top of the hill" where most of the barracks were located. Although the Presidio extended beyond that point, I never once ventured back there. Well, I did last week, and many, many barracks, sports facilities and a PX were constructed. I don't know what those new barracks were like on the inside, but they had a very attractive exterior. The sports facilities included a gym and a field (it looked like a football field through the trees) upholstered with artificial turf. Very nice.

Time had also twisted my memory of where various things were located. I had a hard time locating the general location of the building that housed my classroom back in the 70's, and when I finally found it, it was still among about five other identical buildings, so I couldn't figure out exactly which one was "mine."

We also visited the beach in Pacific Grove, which was as beautiful as ever, and Fisherman's Wharf in the heart of Monterey. There's some beautiful scenery around there, and I was glad to share it with my young 'uns.

But it's good to be back home, too. I'll miss seeing Boyd Jr, Kristin, Missy, and of course Kiwi, but that's just the way it is. Never enough time together, too long apart.


Monday, June 30, 2003

I was alerted to another article regarding Field Day in an area newspaper, The Winchester Star. In addition to describing the activities surrounding Field Day, it also describes in layman's language some of the background behind Amateur Radio. A worthwhile read.

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Today's Washington Post carried an article on the Loudoun Amateur Radio Group's Field Day activities over this past weekend. I learned this because of the emails and phone calls I started receiving, telling me that my photo was on the front page of the Post's Metro section. Unfortunately, they misspelled my surname, but it's still kinda neat to get your picture in the paper.

I'm a tad embarrassed since I'm one of the newest members of LARG, and there are many folks who contributed much more to our Field Day efforts. I hope no one gets too bothered over my photo's prominent placement.

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Thursday, May 29, 2003

Last week, I visited my family in Texas. I had a great time, of course, seeing both my brothers and my father, not to mention my stepmother. They're all always in fine form.

My brother, Dan, is on the Atkins Diet like me (as is his wife, Debby). Well, not like me, because he's more faithful to the diet than I am. But he sure showed me some additional ways to help me stay on the "straight and narrow," not the least of which was by making homemade ice cream. Zowee! That's some good stuff, and pretty much indistinguishable from the "non-Atkins" sort.

Dan is also very skilled at barbecuing on his smoker (you know, the kind that looks like a 55-gallon drum lying on its side, with a separate firebox attached to one end and a chimney at the other end). I've had this kind of smoker for several years, but I've never used it much and I've never been very happy with the results of my efforts on it. Dan has really showed me how to do it, though. I smoked a roast on Memorial Day, along with some salmon. The roast was fantastic, the salmon was pretty good, but a little dry. I still had some "heat management" issues, but I'm going to keep at it so I can get it down pat.

My oldest brother and his wife, Dick and Judy, are on a variant of the Atkins Diet. As far as I could tell, it's the standard low-carb Atkins Diet, with a twist: for one hour a day, you can eat what you like, whether it's on the diet on not. I haven't seen anything like this before, but it makes a certain amount of sense because you don't feel "starved" for things that you routinely deny yourself.

Dad and Rusty are the same as ever. It's always such a pleasure to visit with them. Although I tried to get Rusty to just cook whatever she wanted to and don't worry about my diet, she still worked hard to make the meals low-carb. It's always great to reminisce with Dad, look through the old pictures from my youth, etc.

So that's the latest with me. I don't expect I'll have another 3-week hiatus; my computer's back to full health. I might actually do something with my photos soon!

Okay, maybe not. But it's definitely a possibility!


Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Yesterday morning on the way to work, I heard on the radio that severe weather had passed through Missouri, Arkansas, and I thought I heard Tennessee in there, but I didn't catch all of it. Once I got to my desk, I started poking through the latest news to confirm if Tennessee had been affected. I found that tornados had hit Kansas pretty hard, but I didn't see anything on Tennessee. Obviously I wasn't paying close enough attention.

Last night I got a call from my ex-wife in Lexington, TN, asking if I had heard about the storms. This was my first clue that maybe my quick search that morning wasn't quite as thorough as necessary. Melissa told me that tornados had ripped through Jackson (the near-by "big town"), killing several people, demolishing the main Post Office, and had also come into Lexington. The Johnson Controls plant in Lexington (what locals call "the metal plant") had its roof blown off, and homes just to the north of it were destroyed. The metal plant is less than a mile north of Melissa's house, so the tornado was very close by. Several trees in the neighborhood, including a huge, stately oak at her father's house, were uprooted by the wind. She and our two kids, Kristin and Sean, and Sean's girlfriend April huddled in the bathroom while the storm passed. While the worst of the weather bypassed them, they didn't get much sleep that night.

Lesson learned: don't depend on for your "bad weather" news stories.


Monday, May 05, 2003
Our weekend

We had an intersting weekend. I played in a company golf tournament on Saturday. It was my first time out on the golf course this year, and the rust was pretty obvious. Our team ended up in second place, though very little of that was due to my contribution. The other three members of my foursome were much better than me, fortunately for us.

Sunday brought a busy afternoon. Nicholas went to one of his friends' 7th Birthday party, and they went to a nearby Laser Tag place. They all had a great time there. While he was at the party, I went to a Skywarn Advisory Meeting for the local Sterling, VA, Skywarn program. I've just started with that program so I couldn't really contribute much, but it gave me an opportunity to meet some of the people I talk to on the radio.

While Nicholas and I were off on our own activities, Megan and Lisa went to the George Mason University Patriot Center for a demonstation by the South Korean national Tae Kwon Do team. They really enjoyed their outing.



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In loving memory
Dr Edward N Garrett
1925 - 2004

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