Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Year in Review

The last year has brought some pretty substantial changes to my life. I have a new job, live in a new place, and have a new car. About the only thing that is the same in my day-to-day life is the same old furniture that I have been dragging around with me from Hawaii to Guam, back to Hawaii, to Pullman for school, and now here in Bremerton. At least something has remained the same. I need some consistency in my life and I have been parking my butt on that couch for quite a while now.

As for the changes, being a nuclear engineer at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is certainly preferable to being a college student, at least for me. I am sure that some of my twenty-some year old co-workers would rather be back in college rather than working. I didn't really have anything in particular against going to school, however it is much nicer to have money flowing in rather than having money flowing out each month. In addition, while I was in school, I always felt that there was more that I could be doing for my classes or something that I should be studying when I was sitting at home which made it difficult to really relax. Now that I have a job working with classified material all of the time, I am simply not allowed to bring my job home with me. Leaving work at work is pure bliss in my book.

My new home is Bremerton. For those of you that have been to Bremerton, you may not consider this much of an upgrade for my hometown. I always liked Bremerton and I still do. I would probably enjoy living in Hawaii more, but Bremerton is better than Pullman in my book. At least here, I can find other middle-aged sailors and ex-sailors to sit around with and bitch about the state of the world. In Pullman, every place that you went was filled with college students, most of whom were much younger than me.

Another big improvement is the weather. If you hate rain, you wouldn't agree with me there, but what I really hate is the cold weather that would be around for so long each year on the other side of the Cascades. Snow is pretty to look at, but beyond that, I don't have much use for it.

I know lots of people like to ski and snowboard. I went skiing a few times when I was younger. I fell down the last time I went skiing. I never thought that falling on my butt would hurt so much. I was bruised for a week and decided I didn't really like skiing.

Another reason I dislike cold weather was a slip and fall while I was walking to the bus stop in Pullman about three years ago. I ended up sliding into a concrete curb and breaking my leg. I will take the drizzle and gray skies of Bremerton over the ice and snow of Pullman any day.

Anyway, my new job and new home are pretty good upgrades over what I had last New Years Eve. I also got a new car. I ended up trading in my old Thunderbird for a new Prius. I like the new car, but the old Thunderbird has gotten me where I needed to go since 1997. I definitely felt a twinge of regret as I traded it in on the new car. I had decided that when the next big repair came up on the Thunderbird, I would be getting a new car.

One day, while I was sitting at a stoplight, my windows started to fog up. I turned on the defogger and had steam shooting out of the vents. I drove straight to the dealer and got my Prius that night. It wasn't too much of a snap decision. I had done some research and talked to a few people that own one, and had known for months that a Prius would be my next car. I do miss the Thunderbird, but it was time for a new car.

All-in-all, most aspects of my life have gotten better in the last year. I hope that everyone else out there had productive and happy years and hope that 2010 brings joy and prosperity to your families. Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Shifting Gears

One of the things that I did not really consider when I came to work at the shipyard is how much shift work there would be. Truth is, I was kind of looking forward to working mostly days, but I have probably spent the majority of my time on swings. The last few weeks, I have been working the graveyard shift.

Although I had been looking forward to working days, I found that shift work really hasn't been that bad. There are several factors that I had not considered that make shift work easier as a civilian than as a sailor.

Probably the biggest thing is that the shifts are truly 8 hour shifts for me. I don't have to come in early for a brief and stay late to clean or to talk to the day shift managers about the shift. Granted, this is only true because I am still a trainee. The qualified guys do have to come in a little early to do a pre-shift tour and stay a little late to conduct a proper turnover, but an important difference is that as a civilian, you get paid to work extra hours. Nice. Overtime helps a lot because you get to pick up a little extra pay and management has an incentive to keep you within your normal 8 hour day.

As a nub, I have only had to work overtime a few times, and while I certainly don't want to work weeks and weeks on end without a day off, a few hours of overtime here and there are nice. It is certainly less hours than I would put in while I was sealed in a submarine far underwater for weeks and weeks on end, and I get paid extra for it!

Another thing is shift differential. I get paid a little extra for each hour that I put in between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. This isn't a huge amount of money, but it gives me a little extra money in my pocket every few weeks.

All in all, shift work is a lot better as a civilian than as a sailor. Working graveyard shift while the weather is gloomy here in the Pacific Northwest isn't so bad either, since the nights have been only a little darker than the days for the last few weeks. Might not be so great in the summer.

I will be shifting gears again after I finish work in the morning and coming back on days. Just in time for Christmas.

I sincerely hope that everyone out there has a Merry Christmas and that the coming New Year is fantastic for all of you!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sad Day In Washington

Earlier today, just down the road in Lakewood, four police officers were slain in a coffee shop while preparing for their shift.

The murdered police officers from the Lakewood Police Department are Mark Renninger, Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold, and Greg Richards. Here is a link to a Facebook page dedicated to the memory of these police officers.

The police in the area are on the lookout for a person of interest, although, at the time of this post, he has not yet been called a suspect. He has a criminal history in Arkansas, where a long prison sentence was commuted by their governor. More recently, six days ago, he was released on bond after being arrested here in Washington for assault on a police officer and child rape charges. Read about him here.

This comes just a month after a police officer, Timothy Brenton, was assassinated on Halloween in Seattle. Tragic days for those that Protect and Serve.

My condolences to the families and friends of these officers.

Friday, November 6, 2009


I remember when one of my boats pulled into South Korea for a liberty port. The briefing that we received prior to pulling into port included the dangers of drivers in South Korea. We were told that it was the most dangerous country in the world for drivers and also the most dangerous country in the world for pedestrians. I don't know if these were true facts, but I do remember a few white-knuckled rides from Chinhae to Pusan. They may as well take out the gas pedal and brakes and put in an On-Off switch because the taxi drivers alternated between putting the accelerator on the floor and putting the brakes on the floor. Truly terrifying.

I want to share a heart-warming story that I just read about a South Korean woman that passed her written driving test on (or about) her 950th attempt. The test requires a minimum of 60 out of 100 to pass. She has been taking the drivers test nearly every day since April of 2005. After spending more than $4000 in application fees, she finally passed with a 60 out of 100.

The next step is to actually get behind the wheel for the driving test.

Cha Sa-soon, I salute your perseverance. Good luck on your driving test. I hope you pass this part of the test more quickly than the written part.

Also, I would like to say Good Luck to all of the drivers and pedestrians in South Korea. You need it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Headline News

I just got home from work and thought I would like to see some election coverage. The local news hasn't started yet. I prefer not to watch election returns on MSNBC or FOX. I figured headline news on CNN would have some good coverage. I looked on the guide and saw that Prime News is on and thought that would be a good place to watch. After all, the description for Prime News is:

"The days top stories, as compiled by CNN's news-gathering unit, are presented."

I tune into to headline news and what kind of coverage do they have? If you guessed that they would be having an in-depth discussion of whether or not Anna Nicole Smith was high on drugs in the so-called Clown Video that was shot in 2005 or 2006, then you are obviously much more in touch with the pulse of CNN than I am.

CNN, you suck.

Guess I will have to stay up and watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report if I want to see something resembling real news.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Secretary of Navy Interview: Women on Submarines? Soon.

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Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy did an interview on the Daily Show last night. One of the topics addressed was that of women serving on submarines.

Some of you may have been following the long debate about this issue going on over at Bubblehead's blog. Some people are in favor of women serving aboard subs, some are opposed, and some other people probably don't really care and just want to go to the rack when they get off watch.

From what SecNav said during the interview, it doesn't seem that there is any debate going on. When Jon Stewart made the statement that women aren't allowed to serve in submarines, Ray Mabus replied "That's right. They will soon." The part where he talks about women serving aboard submarines starts just a little over two minutes into the interview.

He also said, innacurately, that there would be a delay because all people that serve on submarines are nuclear-trained. For the non-submariners out there, not all sailors that serve on subs go through nuclear power training. All the officers, with the exception of the supply officer are nuclear trained. The enlisted nuclear power plant operators are also nuclear trained. The other enlisted sailors go through submarine school.

I suspect that the Secretary of the Navy has a general idea of what sort of training that submarine sailors go through before they hit the waterfront. I guess this may be a clue that the first United State female submarine sailors will be officers, most of which are nuclear trained. No surprise if that is the case.

One of the people that left a comment on Bubblehead's blog had a link to a news article that said the first women may hit the submarine fleet in 2010 or 2011. The writing is on the wall and change is coming whether the men currently serving on subs want it or not.

At the shipyard, I have been working with the nukes from an aircraft carrier. Some of them are women. Seems like they can do the job that they are doing. Doesn't seem to be any obvious friction or inappropriate behavior between the men and women on the crew. The men and women both appear to be professional adults doing a difficult job. No surprise there, either.

When we begin to integrate women into submarine crews, it will probably result in a few rough patches on the road. We may lose some people. It will be their own fault, but they will blame the fact that we are allowing women to serve on submarines. Some people will have no difficulty aside from having a longer line at the shower. Some people won't care at all.

Most of the people who think it is a stupid idea can probably think of several other policies that have been implimented at their command that they thought were stupid ideas. They learned to adapt to the stupid policy and move on. This will be the same.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Seattle Psychic

Last Sunday, the Seattle Mariners were in Toronto wrapping up their final road trip of the year. Mike Blowers, a former Mariner and Yankee player and current baseball analyst on the Seattle Mariners radio broadcast, made an absolutely amazing prediction.

During a pre-game segment called "Pick to Click", some of the announcers are able to make their prediction about who will "click" during the upcoming game. Mike chose Matt Tuiasosopo, who was recently called up from the minors.

When making his prediction, he said that Tuiasosopo had been swinging the bat well and was going to get his first major league home run that day. The original prediction was that Tui would get into a favorable count and hit a home run to left-center field, maybe reaching the second deck.

Things got a little out of hand as the conversation continued, with Blowers predicting that Tui would get to a 3-1 count in his second at bat of the day, then he would get a fastball, and put it into the second deck in left-center field.

During his second at bat, Seattle's hall-of-fame baseball announcer Dave Neihaus calling the action:

"Left-hander's 2-1 pitch, and that's inside, Ball 3!!!"

"3 balls...I've never been so excited on a 3-1 count in my life!"

"3-1 pitch on the way."


You can hear another announcer giggling uncontrollably the entire time this was happening. Although the ball didn't quite make it to the second deck, it was a pretty amazing prediction. Wow!!

The call was featured on the Rachel Maddow show the other night. Here is a link to the youtube video of the clip from her show.

For those of you that want to listen to the clip without the obvious liberal bias associated with any MSNBC show, here is a link to an audio-only story about the call, embellished by New York Vinnie, a Seattle radio and television personality.

For a more bare-bones audio, you can hear both the prediction and the call at Shannon Drayer's blog here.

Was this a wild shot in the dark that hit the bulls eye? Maybe.

Was this just an experienced analyst making a lucky, educated guess? Perhaps.

Was this a flash of psychic ability from the Twilight Zone? Possibly.

Was this freakish, weird, and amazing? Absolutely.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I made a trip to Costco last week. It might not sound like such a momentous event, and I guess it probably wasn't. It has just been a really long time since I had a membership there. While I was going to school at Washington State, the nearest Costco was in Lewiston, Idaho and it was a pretty long drive. Certainly not the sort of drive that I would have been willing to make on a recurring basis for shopping, particularly when considering the winters in the Palouse.

A lot of the sailors that I worked with in the navy used to swear by Costco for everything. I had a membership a really long time ago, but it just wasn't something that I used often enough to justify the annual fee. Since everything is sold in such large quantities, a single guy like me just wouldn't use enough to make it worthwhile. Between deployments and weekly ops, staying home for more than a few weeks at a time was not something that I could count on. If I bought a pack of chicken breasts, I might eat a few of them, but the rest of the chicken breasts would just stay in the freezer for a really, really, really long time until I got tired of them taking up space and threw them out or gave them away. About the only thing that I could be assured of buying and using was toilet paper, but paying membership fees for a annual trip to Costco to buy twelve dozen rolls of toilet paper just didn't seem worthwhile, so I let it lapse.

This trip to Costco made me realize that it hasn't changed much. I bought some grape juice and coffee creamer and a few other items. I managed to avoid convincing myself that I needed a huge package of lasagna or two pounds of beef jerky or a gallon jar full of jelly beans, so it wasn't a very expensive trip and my apartment isn't overloaded with a bunch of stuff that I really don't need.

I did buy a rotisserie chicken there. It wasn't the most spectacular piece of poultry that I have ever eaten, but if I can buy a fully cooked, ready -to-eat chicken for $5.99, why the heck would I want to cook one? Of course, I could just as easily pick one of those up at Safeway or Fred Meyers, but I guess it will help me justify my Costco membership.

The coffee creamer was a decent deal, but not an incredible bargain. I like french vanilla coffee creamer and the stuff that they sold there has two bottles of french vanilla and one bottle of hazelnut. I don't really like hazelnut all that well, so I won't be using that. Luckily, my mom likes hazelnut creamer, so when I buy it, I can take it down to her on my next visit or give it to her when my parents come up to visit me.

Milk is something else that I have been thinking of buying there, but the packages that look like a good deal are two gallon packs. I drink a bit of milk and use it for some cooking, but only go through about a quart every week, give or take. I hate to buy two gallons of milk and have half of it spoil on me. I think I might pick up some of those disposable plastic storage containers with the screw on lids. I suppose they probably have them in 1-quart size. I can pour the majority of the milk into those containers and toss them in the freezer. I think I would get around to using it a little more frequently than those old chicken breast that I used to throw out in Hawaii.

Does milk freeze well?

I don't know for sure, but I have been single for so long, that I am not exactly a connoisseur of fine foods anyway. Should keep well enough for me.

Hopefully, I will find enough bargains to make it worthwhile to have a membership and avoid purchasing the stuff that looks a lot better in the store than it does once it is filling up my freezer or a cupboard in my apartment.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Good Barber Is Still Hard To Find

After living in Pullman for three years without finding a barber or hairstylist that I really liked, I have started a search here in Bremerton. Luckily, I don't need to get my hair cut as frequently as I did while I was in the navy, so I have a little more time to find someone new.

The first place I went to, the stylists were friendly and chatty, but the lady that cut my hair made me kind of nervous. She was rather mature and her hands were a little shaky. She also had this habit of finishing some of her sentences with a nervous little titter. It is somewhat unnerving to have someone let out a little laugh at inappropriate times.

One of our verbal exchanges went something like this:

Her: "Whoops. hehe"

Me: "What's the matter?"

Her: "Oh, nothing. hehe"

The haircut wasn't bad, but I decided not to go back.

Last month, I tried another place. There was a middle-aged woman and a younger woman working there when I walked in. The middle-aged woman stepped up to the counter and asked:

"Can I help you?"

The words seemed normal enough, but the glare she was giving me and the tone of her voice seemed to say:

"What the f&$@ do you want?"

I told her that I wanted a haircut. She kind of growled at me and told me it would be about 20 minutes. I said that would be fine and wrote my name on a sign-up list and took a seat. Next, she turned to the younger woman and angrily told her that if anyone else came in, it would be at least an hour before she would take another customer because she hadn't eaten lunch yet. The younger woman sweetly replied that she would just tell anyone else that came in to get lost. The young woman also earned a glare for that remark.

In the meantime, the middle-aged woman called a father who was bringing his son in for a haircut back to her station. I only heard one side of the conversation, but it didn't sound too promising. I heard her say quite loudly:

"I don't think you even know what you're asking for. He's gonna look like Little Lord Fauntleroy if I cut it like that!!"

Next, I heard her say:

"A bob?!?! Do you even know what a bob is?!?! He's gonna look like a little girl!!! Just let me do this!!"

Obviously, I was having some reservations at this point, but having already committed some of my time, I figured I would go ahead and stick it out and get my haircut as long as she didn't treat me so harshly when it was my turn.

After the young boy and his father left (with a pretty good haircut, I should add), she called me to the back. I gave her my standard "Finger-length on top, a number 1 on the sides and back, and blend it together" and she commenced cutting my hair. She chatted with me and seemed quite friendly the whole time. She was like the Mr. Hyde of Hyde/Jekyll. It actually turned out to be a pretty good cut.

I don't know. Maybe she just doesn't like kids.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hello, Again!!

Well, I would like to say hello to everyone again. If you happen to check in on this blog from time to time, I suppose you noticed that I haven't posted in quite a long time. I just haven't felt like making any new entries for a while.

One of the reasons, I guess, is that my life is substantially less stressful now that I am back at work and getting a steady paycheck. I think that posting on my blog was a form of stress-relief for me.

Another reason is that I live in Bremerton, where I am surrounded by sailors, ex-sailors, and shipyard workers. When I look at the people here, it is kind of like looking in a mirror, so to speak. When I was living in Pullman for school, I felt like I was living on another planet, and some of the observations of the younger generation prompted me to write a few posts.

Probably the biggest reason I haven't been posting is that I have been reading a lot fewer news articles. I guess I was just getting disgusted with news in general. I used to watch some of the cable news shows, but I got to the point where I couldn't stand to watch any of them. MSNBC should rename itself the "We Love Obama" channel, FOX should rename itself the "We Hate Obama" channel, and CNN should rename itself the "We Love Ourselves" channel.

Some of the news that has filtered through has tempted me to write a post or two, but in the end, my laziness won out. I was going to write a post about Michael Vick coming back to the NFL, but decided that the NFL has a number of convicted felons already, so it just wasn't all that big of a deal. I was going to write about the backlash from conservatives because the President wants to speak to schoolchildren. The partisanship surrounding that topic just disgusts me. In the end, I wrote about nothing.

I did find a few articles that put a smile on my face and thought I would share them with anyone that is interested in looking at them.

The first one is an article from the Kitsap Sun. Just a little story about some loud and naked guys in Bremerton. You can read the full story here. Here is an excerpt in case you don't want to read the whole story:

Witnesses said one was completely naked, one wasn’t wearing any pants and they couldn’t see the third man because the other two were on top of him, they said. The witnesses said they heard somebody yell “return of the Jedi” while the three were naked and entwined.

When officers arrived, they found three men — a 29-year-old and two 23-year-olds — on a porch. All appeared to be drunk. They were surrounded by empty alcohol bottles, according to the police report. All denied they had been involved in the incident.

“We’ve got our clothes on, must not have been us,” one said.

Well, I guess that is more like ninety-percent of the article rather than a short excerpt. Sorry.

The second article details a bad experience with some gals from Craigslist. I thought that I had read a while ago that Craigslist was doing away with the Erotic Services. I took a quick look. Erotic Services is no longer listed on Craigslist. However, there is an Adult Services section. Guess it is the same thing. Anyway, this story serves as an example of what can happen when a bunch of "incredibly intoxicated" guys get together and decide that calling the number on a Craigslist ad for some escorts is a good idea. The full story is on the Seattle Times and you can read it here. I think my favorite part of the article was probably the last paragraph:
While trying to describe the suspects to police, the men decided to rate the women on a scale of 1 to 10. Three said the women all rated a "2." But the man described by police as the most intoxicated disagreed and claimed they rated a "4."
Incidentally, while perusing the comments posted on the second article, I learned that Sir Mix-A-Lot had written a song about some of the local girls: "Bremelo." Huh. How about that? I have heard the term used a lot of times in the past, but never knew that someone actually wrote a song. I am probably the last person in the world to figure out that this song exists. Oh well.

For anyone that persevered and read this entire post, thanks for your time. Hopefully, I will be feeling a little more motivated to put a few posts up from time to time. Hope that everyone out there has been doing well.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Road Rage

When I was a teen, shortly after I got my driver's license, I almost caused an accident because I was driving aggressively. I passed a car when it wasn't safe and almost hit an oncoming vehicle. Luckily, both the car that I was passing and the oncoming vehicle made room for me to get back in the proper lane and avoid an accident. It scared the crap out of me and my driving improved instantly.

I still liked to drive fast, but I was much more careful. A $35 speeding ticket in New York in 1988 didn't dissuade me from driving fast. A $150 speeding ticket in Massachusetts did. Over the years, I mellowed quite a bit. Now, I don't speed at all, I drive defensively, and I do my best to avoid accidents.

Sometimes, it is tough to drive safely. For example, if I am driving on the freeway and try to remain about two seconds behind the car in front of me, somebody will take that as an invitation to squeeze in the space in front of me. While I was going to school in Pullman, it was unusual for me to drive without having some kid in an SUV getting right on my tail and try to intimidate me into speeding.

I just finished reading an article that made me think about my driving habits and other driver's habits. It turns out that New York City has the most aggressive drivers in the United States. Can't say that I am surprised by that. What did surprise me was the breakdown of how people respond to drivers that piss them off. Normally, if I was told that 1% of a group of people do something stupid or strange, I would not be surprised.

In this case, 1% of the drivers polled admitted to slamming their car into the offending driver's car.

In a typical drive around Bremerton, I am sure that I see several hundred other cars on the road. Does that mean that there are several people out there that think it is appropriate to slam their car into mine because they don't like my driving? Kind of a sobering thought for me. In Washington D.C, the percentage was 4%!!! Pretty scary. You can read the article here. Here is an excerpt:

Seven percent were so angry they called the police and one percent admitted they had slammed into the car in front of them.

"In Washington, D.C., four percent of drivers admitted to slamming into another driver," said Bush. "They stand out in that one particular category."

I generally do a pretty good job maintaining my cool and rarely get upset by how other people drive. I am okay with pulling over and letting people who feel that their time is more important than mine pass me by. Over the last two weeks, however, aggressive drivers have managed to elicit a few curses from me.

The most recent one was last week. I was driving on a rural highway going 55 MPH when a pickup truck rapidly approached me from behind and was tailgating so close that I probably could have counted the dude's nose hairs in my rear-view mirror. After about 30 seconds of this, I came upon a slow vehicle turnout and let the guy pass me. He honked his horn and flipped me off when he went by. Why? Because I let him pass me, I guess. Don't really get it. Obviously, this guy was a jack-ass. That guy made me cuss.

About three weeks ago, on the same highway as the one that I just talked about, three motorcycles were following me. As we were leaving a small town on that highway, one of the motorcycles passed me and started speeding away from me. He passed me just prior to a long stretch of road where no passing is allowed and the small shoulders don't allow you to pull over. The motorcycle in front of me then started slowing down to just under 55 MPH until I started catching up to him, then he would RAPIDLY slow down forcing me to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting his bike and killing him. He then sped away from me again and repeated this idiotic maneuver. It dawned on me that he was trying to slow me down so that his two buddies following me could pass me. They didn't pass me. I couldn't safely pull over to let his buddies pass me. I slowed down to allow them to pass, and the guy in front of me pulled the same crap again at lower speeds.

This insane behavior continued for several minutes until we came out of the no-passing zone. Then the two guys behind me passed me. About five minutes after that, I came to another town and the three guys were parked outside a store talking. I pulled over in front of them, got out of my car, and slammed my door. One of the motorcyclists put his hands in front of him and said "Hey man, we're sorry about that." I guess I must have looked pretty pissed off. I turned around, got back in my car and drove away. I didn't see these guys again.

Good thing they weren't driving in Washington D.C.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Phone Has Been Ringing Off The Hook

While I was living in Guam, sometime in 2001, I gave up on using a home telephone. That happened after the third time my phone was disconnected because my bill wasn't paid on time. In one case, I had to bring the Guam Telephone Authority a copy of the canceled check to prove that I had paid. In the other two instances, the payment had been in the office in plenty of time, but had not been processed. In all three instances, my phone was reconnected and the reconnection fee was waived (Gee, Thanks, GTA!!!) but I had wasted half a day (or was it Hafa Adai?) standing in line at GTA to speak to a customer service representative. In any case, I had already had my fill of GTA and became a cell-phone only household ever since. Until now.

After living without a home phone for about the last 8 years, I decided to have one installed. What a pain in the butt!! I have had the phone hooked up for less than 48 hours. I have eight missed phone calls. I haven't bothered to answer it yet because I have not given out my phone number to anyone. The numbers stored in my caller ID and the two messages that were left for me lead me to believe that all of the calls are from telemarketers.

Who ever buys things from telemarketers? There must be people out there that do buy stuff or they wouldn't call. The second my phone rings and it is not someone that I know calling me, I feel instant resentment for the disturbance, like when I was awakened from my nap yesterday evening. I just registered with the national no-call registry, so I guess the calls, or at least most of the calls, will have stopped in about a month. I hope it works.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Settling In

I got my cable hooked up yesterday and now have television and reasonable internet access. Actually, the Comcast cable modem is way, way faster than the Time Warner Roadrunner that I had while I was in Pullman. It is also pretty nice to be able to turn on the television and watch a little news in the morning before taking off for work. I had been watching Band of Brothers to pass the time in the evenings. I think that is one of the best World War II movies that I have seen.

I appreciate the comments on my last post. For Nereus, I am in East Bremerton on Fairgrounds Road.

I had to laugh at the warning to watch out for Diamond Parking. My first day ran pretty late and I didn't have a chance to look at a bus schedule, so I drove in for my second day. The parking cost $6 and I had six $1 bills in my wallet. I was having trouble fitting them into the box and ended up putting in the bills in groups of two. When I finished work and walked out to my car, there was a blue envelope on the windshield containing a $25 ticket stating that I had paid only $2 for the parking spot.

There was a number to call to appeal the ticket, so I gave it a try. I waited through a pretty extensive recording which ended by saying "If you are calling to appeal a parking ticket, please leave a detailed message after the tone."

So I waited for the tone.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

After what was probably about a minute of waiting, a diamond parking enforcement car (golf cart?) came by and it had a different phone number on the side of its door. I decided to give that number a call. A woman immediately answered the phone and I explained that I had some difficulty putting the dollar bills into the payment slot and that I had put them in in groups of two bills, but that I had paid the full $6. She told me that they had found four $1 bills in the slot right next to the one that I was putting my money in and that the missing bills had probably found their way to that slot. She ended up voiding the ticket, so in the end it didn't cost me any more than a few minutes of cell phone time.

I did get bus schedules that day and found a bus that picks me up at a Park & Ride just about a quarter-mile down the road from my apartment and drops me off at a gate that is right next to my building at the shipyard about 20 minutes before I have to be there. The shipyard paid for my bus pass, so I will stick with the bus for now.

I am getting all of my stuff put away (slowly) and everyday my apartment looks a little more home-like. It will be nice when I can come home and relax and not worry about putting another box of stuff away, but overall, I am getting settled in nicely.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Still Alive

Well, figured I would give a quick update since I haven't been online for quite some time. I still don't have regular internet access at my new place, so I decided to make a quick trip to the library to check up on stuff.

I am getting settled in at my new place in Bremerton. After the move, I decided that I still don't like movers very much. The guys that unpacked my household goods have left me a tremendous amount of work to do to before the place looks like a home. I guess I will gripe about that in a later post.

I started working at the shipyard yesterday and have had a few fun-filled days of briefs and videos and power point presentations as well as several long walks through the shipyard to get our group of newly hired people familiar with the area.

That's about all that I have the energy to write for now. Hope that everyone else has had a little more fun over the last few weeks than I have. The last few weeks have been full of the pain associated with moving, but things are looking up again.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Moving On

Moving day is almost here. The movers are showing up tomorrow to haul all of my stuff away. I have been going through all of the closets and cabinets and nooks and crannies to see what kind of junk I can get rid of. It is not as bad as I had feared. I have accumulated a lot less junk than I had thought.

Thursday is apartment inspection day so I will be doing some last minute cleaning after all of my stuff is gone. My parents were here for my graduation on Saturday and my mom decided that I needed some help moving, so she has stuck around to help clean the place up.

Moving day has always been a bad day in the past. I remember when I was packing up to leave Guam. The movers packed all of my stuff into shipping crates and I was supposed to install and sign security seals to each crate after they were nailed shut. The guys doing the moving tried to get me to sign the security seals and let them take them back to the warehouse. They promised me that they would make sure nothing went missing and that I should just give them the signed seals. I wasn't that trusting.

They got pretty pissed when they were nailing shut the last shipping crate which was only about 1/3 full. They kept going on and on about how I should let them finish nailing it shut back at the warehouse. They said they would be packing out someone else the next day and if I wasn't such an asshole, they would be able to pack my stuff together with this other persons stuff and save everyone some money. After spending the day with these guys mishandling my personal belongings, I told them I didn't care if they thought I was an asshole, but the security seals were going on before my stuff left my sight.

Another group of movers irritated me when I left Hawaii. There were a couple of island boys packing up my stuff. One of them asked me questions like "Hey Brah, You don't plan on keeping these golf clubs, do you?" while he was looking at my TaylorMade irons, Callaway driver, and Mizuno woods. I was asked twice if I really wanted to keep the golf clubs. I talked to the guy in charge of the movers and told him this guy needed to leave the house immediately. When the people that are moving you out of your house are eying your personal belongings and trying to talk you into leaving them behind, you start to worry about sticky fingers.

The supervisor talked to the guy and he stopped asking me if I wanted to leave any more of my stuff behind. Then he started bitching about how the last time he packed up a house, the guy that was moving bought everyone a pizza and sodas. He mentioned it about two hundred times. I told him the last time that somebody packed up my belongings, they brought their lunch with them. I talked to the supervisor about this guy again, only I was much louder and my language was heavily laced with profanity. Told him I wanted that guy out of my place immediately. This time, the supervisor apologized and told the guy to leave right away. When the guy told him that he needed a ride, the supervisor cussed him out and told him to call his brother if he wanted a ride that bad. Turns out, the guy had gotten the job because his brother worked at the moving company and he was already on thin ice with the boss. Anyway, he walked off complaining that the world was against him.

Anyway, the bottom line is that I hate moving. Hopefully, the guys that come to pick up my stuff tomorrow don't cause me any unnecessary aggravation. As many times as I have moved in the past, I figure I am due to get some good guys here to do the work.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Washington State University Graduation 2009

With graduation weekend upon us here in Pullman, the population of the town has swelled. There are a lot of family members in town to wish their graduates well. My parents have been here for a few days now to join in on the festivities. If you are ever going to attend a graduation ceremony for Washington State University, make sure to book your hotel room well in advance. I have heard that some of the local hotels take reservations a few years in advance for graduation ceremonies. Pullman is not a very large town and the hotels in the region are booked solid months in advance. Luckily, I have an extra room in my apartment for my parents to stay in for the weekend.

We went to campus to take some of the obligatory pictures in the cap and gown. One of the most popular spots is the sign at the entrance to the campus.

This is a picture of the line to take pictures. It was a bit longer when we got into the line, but it moved pretty quickly. The weather was pretty cooperative. There was quite a bit of rain Thursday, but it cleared up nicely ahead of the commencement ceremony.

There was a reception for the School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering graduates yesterday evening. It was a nice chance for my parents to meet some of the other students and some of the professors. We had a pretty good time. I guess I was probably about the same age as most of the parents, but I was only asked once which one of the students was my child.

We have about 2400 graduates going through commencement today. We are divided into three groups. I get to walk in the 3:00 pm ceremony. I am sure that there will be several thousand guests there today. The ceremony is also broadcast on live television here in the Pullman and there will also be a live webcast and the webcast will be archived for future viewing. If you want to know what the ceremony looks like, you can find a link to the webcast here.

It has been interesting going to school and probably an atypical experience given my age. In the end, it has been a fairly enjoyable experience, I met lots of nice people, and at the end, I get to walk out with a degree in Chemical Engineering. I guess it has been a fairly productive two and half years.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's Time To Go Home

My parents live in a small town and there are not very many entertainment options. There is a popular tribal casino located just a few miles from their house and the casino has become a sort of hang-out for locals. My mom and dad go there nearly every day. They don't really do a lot of gambling. My dad is retired and sits with all of his retired friends drinking beer, talking sports, playing keno, and arguing politics. My mom will put $5 or $10 into a slot machine and play until it is gone or until she wins a little bit of money, then she goes home and plays video games on their home computer. Later, she will go out and pick up my dad when he is done socializing.

My parents don't lose much money and it is truly a place for them to go and socialize and have fun. When it is time for them to go home, they go home. I usually go out there with them when I am visiting. I am not so good about knowing when to come home, but I do come home of my own accord when I get tired of being there. Luckily, we always drive out there so we can come and go as we please.

Some people really don't know when to come home. There are frequent announcements at the casino to tell people that the bus that brought them there is loading. They will make this announcement two or three times, then they will start to announce the absent passengers by name through the casino. There is almost always one or two holdouts that can't tear themselves away from craps or blackjack or the slots until the very last second. They won't go out to the bus until repeated threats over the announcing system that the bus is leaving without them, then they will sprint to the door hoping to catch the bus. Some of these people look pretty elderly and kind of frail. It can be kind of frightening watching them sprint for the door.

I remember one late night in particular, a wife had requested numerous announcements for her husband to come out to the car.

The announcements started with the usual: "Robert, your party is waiting for you at the security podium,"

then progressed to "Robert, your ride is leaving,"

then further escalated to "Robert, your wife says that if you aren't at the security podium in one minute, you will be walking home,"

and culminated with "Robert, your wife is going home and throwing your stuff on the lawn."

These were late night announcements and people kind of make light of these situations when someone doesn't want to come home. I just read an article about a woman that took it to new extremes. Apparently, when she didn't want her husband to gamble away the money they were saving for a car, she phoned the casino and told them that her husband was on his way to the casino with a fertilizer bomb to blow the casino up.

She wouldn't tell them her husband's name but said he was intent on blowing up the casino as revenge for losing a whole bunch of money. Unsurprisingly, this is not the woman's first brush with the law. She has been arrested several time at the casino and at other places for drinking, drugs, trespassing, and so on. She said she wasn't too concerned about the charges, but was awfully upset that her phone records were released:

She said she wasn't worried about the charge. She was more upset that police had obtained her telephone records, "violating my civil rights and my privacy."

"I thought this was still a free country," she said.

You can read the full story here. You should take a look at it. It is good for a few laughs. As they say: Life is hard. It's harder when you're stupid.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Nasty Tumble

People run up and down the stairs outside my apartment at all hours of the day and night and it sounds like a small train running through my living room. This is frequently accompanied by laughter and yelling.

Last night, while I was sitting in my living room, I heard someone going down the stairs much more rapidly and making even more noise than usual and letting out a small scream at the same time. Something about the noise made me concerned and I poked my head out the door to see if something was wrong. There was a coffee cup laying on its side at the top of the stairs and a young Asian girl laying on her side at the bottom of the stairs where she had landed after tumbling down the stairs.

She got to her feet as I was walking down the stairs to check on her. I asked her if she needed help or wanted me to call somebody or get somebody for her. She insisted she was okay and limped around trying to find her coffee cup. I grabbed her cup for her and asked her again if she was okay. She sat on the bottom stair and said she would be fine, that she just wanted to sit for a moment. I stayed and talked with her for a few minutes to make sure she was coherent. Eventually, I decided she was probably alright and she didn't seem to want me around to babysit her.

I went back inside my apartment and poked my head out a few minutes later. She was gone. I guess since she was able to get up and walk away and since I didn't see any blood, she must have been okay. Still, even if you can walk away relatively unscathed, a big tumble down a flight of concrete steps seems like it would suck.

One Week Left

The last several weeks have been pretty packed, but now I am down to my final week of classes. Two of my five classes are completely finished now so this week is shaping up to be pretty easy. I will finish another class this afternoon, and the professor told us that class today is just an opportunity for us to give feedback for the curriculum as a whole and after that is done, we will adjourn for a few drinks at a local watering hole (first two rounds on him). I have one last exam that I will take one week from today and that will be the last academic thing that I need to do to complete the requirements for my degree. I think I have enough points to pass that class even if I score a zero on the final, so I am not particularly concerned about that.

I think the thing that I am looking forward to more than anything is finding a quiet place to live. The last three years living in an apartment building with college students living above, below, across from, and beside my apartment has definitely made me want some peace and quiet. Although I will not be moving out the day that I finish classes, experience has taught me that once classes and exams have finished for the semester, there will be a mass exodus from Pullman as all the kids go home to visit their family. End result: Peace and Quiet. I will be moving one or two weeks after classes have let out, so I will be gone by the time the noisy people show up again.

Something else that I am looking forward to is being around people that can eat politely. Everybody always brings food with them to study sessions and to class. I have spent far too many hours sitting across from somebody that brings a pizza to a quiet study hall, sits down across from me chewing on pizza with their mouth wide open, and smacking on their food like a cow working on a piece of cud. Very distracting. As I write this, I am listening to the guy behind me slurping loudly while chowing down on some Cup O' Noodles. Of course, now I am just being nit-picky, but it will sure be nice to be around people my own age again.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A New Fan Convention

I guess Comic-Con is one of the most popular fan conventions that there is. I remember once when we pulled into San Diego while Comic-Con was going on. One of the guys that worked for me was incredibly excited. It was all that he talked about for about two weeks before we pulled into San Diego. He was, of course, mocked and scorned by everyone else on the boat.

When we went on liberty after we pulled into Point Loma, a few of us went to the bus stop by the mini-mart and waited to go into town. Darth Maul from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was also waiting to take the bus. I didn't know that Sith Lords took the bus, but there he was.

Anyway, everywhere in San Diego that we went, we were running across people dressed up for the convention. I had no idea that people got into movies and comics to that extent. Tens of thousands of people went to the convention.

The guy that worked for me tried to convince everyone to go with him to Comic Con. He promised that anyone that went with him would have a great time. Everyone refused. A few days went by and we left San Diego. When we got out to sea, he was telling people how great the convention was. He told another guy that worked for me that he saw Gene Simmons at the convention. This other guy was a huge KISS fan and was greatly disappointed that he had missed the chance to see one of his musical heroes.

During a field day, he was lamenting "Man, I can't believe I missed Gene Simmons!!"

A shipmate, nicknamed Wookie, said "So what? Who cares?"

"Gene Simmons, man...I missed Gene Simmons!!!"

Wookie: "So what, you missed a dude that exercises with fat women. Who cares?"

Wookie brought everyone to silence with his ignorance, followed by lots of laughter.

Anyway, the reason that this story was brought to mind this morning was an article that I read in the paper this morning. Apparently, there is a new fan convention happening in Seattle tomorrow. It is called CatchCon and it celebrates the crews portrayed in The Deadliest Catch. There were 500 tickets and they are already sold out with 600 people on a waiting list, so you are too late if you want to go and don't already have a ticket.

Apparently, the people from The Deadliest Catch aren't entirely comfortable with having a crazed fan-following. One of the captains hides his boat when he pulls in because people come looking for it.
"People are always creeping around," said Hansen, who hides his fishing boat now. "It's kind of flattering, but weird."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fort Lewis: Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy?

A sergeant at Fort Lewis has made the news. It was for allegedly committing a crime.
Pierce County prosecutors have charged a Fort Lewis soldier with promoting prostitution, alleging he directed two teenage girls to trade sex for money.

The girls involved in the case are 16 and 17 years old.
Stories about crimes that occur near a military base that involve military members frequently make it into the local newspapers. In some cases, the stories appear to be written in a manner that are trying to put the military in a bad light. Fort Lewis has certainly been in the news over the last few years. Not for little crimes. For big, bad crimes. I don't think the newspapers are picking on Fort Lewis, either. McChord AFB is the next door neighbor to Fort Lewis. A search for news stories about McChord yields results like "Air Show" or "Fireworks" or "USO Hugs and Kisses", but no stories about criminal behavior.

A sampling of some crimes committed or allegedly committed by Fort Lewis soldiers:

Olympia Police Arrest 2 Fort Lewis Soldiers:
Police have arrested two Fort Lewis soldiers following the weekend stabbing of a 24-year-old man outside an Olympia, Wash., bar.
Army Files Charges Against Soldier in Death of Teen at Fort Lewis:
Pvt. Timothy E. Bennitt, 19, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of Leah King. He was also charged with wrongful use and distribution of controlled substances and conspiracy to use controlled substances.
Soldier Sought in Abductions, Fires:
A Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade soldier accused of abducting and torturing two women is being sought on a warrant that charges kidnapping, rape and arson.
Fort Lewis Soldiers Charged in University District Holdups:
Three Fort Lewis soldiers accused of robbing University of Washington students at gunpoint last month were charged with robbery Friday in King County Superior Court.
Fort Lewis Officer Among Soldiers Accused of Skimming Reconstruction Money:

In a federal indictment in March, prosecutors alleged that Nguyen skimmed more than $690,000 in cash while acting as the civil-affairs officer responsible for overseeing millions of dollars intended for reconstruction projects and payments to private Iraqi security forces northeast of Baghdad.

Nguyen, 28, a West Point Military Academy graduate, is accused of packing stacks of cash into boxes and mailing them to his family's home.

Former Army Ranger Gets 24 Years in Prison for Bank Robbery:
According to documents filed in the case, Sommer was an Army Ranger stationed at Fort Lewis when he recruited two other Rangers, Chad Palmer and Alex Blum, and Canadian nationals Tigra Robertson and Nathan Dunmall to participate in the Aug. 7, 2006, robbery of a Bank of America branch on South Tacoma Way. The robbers, some armed with AK-47s and wearing body armor, made off with $54,011.
Admittedly, the embezzlement crime happened in Iraq, but I felt justified in including it in the list because the money was spent at or near Fort Lewis. Other than the bank robbery, which occurred in 2006, these crimes were all committed in the last six months.

What is the U.S. Army doing about this? These are serious crimes that pose a big risk to the local community. They are robbing community banks, robbing local college students at gunpoint, being very involved in the death due to drug overdose of a local girl, and pimping out local girls.

I certainly don't want to indict all of the soldiers at Fort Lewis. In fact, the soldiers that were robbing college kids were turned in by a fellow soldier after bragging about pistol-whipping one of the students. Still, these are a lot of serious crimes happening in a pretty short period of time. I have commented on these stories in the past, defending the soldiers. It is getting kind of tough to continue to comment that most of the soldiers at Fort Lewis are good people. I think that the time has come that the Commanding Officers of the base and the various units take action to protect the community. These thugs may represent only a small percentage of the soldiers at Fort Lewis, but they pose a substantial risk to the members of the surrounding communities.

I think it is time some officers at Fort Lewis get fired. I am not talking about the O-1's and O-2's. I mean guys that have scrambled eggs on their hats. They are failing in their duties and have squandered their chances to stop this crime wave emanating from Fort Lewis.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Squirrelly Situation

The situation with the ground squirrels in Finch Arboretum is rising to the level of national attention. The Spokane Parks and Recreation Department has been using a product know as the Rodenator Pro to cause small underground explosions to kill ground squirrels which are detrimental to the trees in the arboretum. I don't know if blowing up squirrels falls under the "Parks" side of the Parks and Recreation Department or the "Recreation" side of the house. It looks like the people that were blowing up squirrels in the video I found on YouTube the other day were having a pretty good time.

There is an article in the Spokesman Review that gives a little more background. The Parks and Recreation Department had already started using the Verminator Pro without making any announcements. After they had been using it for a little while, people began to call in. I guess the Parks and Recreation Department hadn't considered that people in the neighborhood would be concerned about hearing explosions in the park. Anyway, people called in to ask what was going on in the park, because it sounded like things were blowing up. The Parks and Recreation Department decided it would calm everybody down by informing the public that they were only blowing up squirrels.


Turns out that some people thing blowing up little varmints is kind of mean. How could anyone have seen that one coming?

Here are a few key points that I gleaned from the article:

Rush Limbaugh mentioned it on his show in an effort to tweak the animal rights crowd:

Radio host Rush Limbaugh mentioned the detonation plan on his show Tuesday, saying he wanted animal rights activists “to try this one on for size.”

But Limbaugh focused more on the name of the Finch Arboretum and said it was the first time he’d seen the word arboretum.

“The name for a park, is that what it is?” he asked.

The Humane Society has condemned the practice:
Spokane Humane Society Executive Director Dave Richardson called the “killing of native wildlife” a temporary, unethical and reactionary response to a problem that could be solved by limiting the animals’ food supply.
I am not going to say that one side is right or wrong. But regardless of whether you are in the "Blow 'Em Up" camp or the "Don't Feed 'Em" camp, I think everyone can agree that the people in the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department should reconsider what they are doing:
The Spokane Parks Department once lined burrows with sticks of Wrigley’s juicy fruit gum after hearing rumors that eating the gum would destroy the animals’ stomachs and kill them, Goodspeed said.
Are people that tried to kill squirrels with chewing gum really the same people that we want running around with propane and oxygen explosion generators? Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Junior is Back in Town

Things are starting to wrap up at school and the last few weeks that I have spent with my nose to the grindstone are finally starting to pay dividends. I still have a substantial amount of work to get done, but the list of remaining reports and presentations before the end of the semester is now at a reasonable level.

I have finally made enough progress that I can watch the Mariner's home opener. I am watching the pregame ceremony now. I think they will have a little tribute for Nick Adenhart, the Angel's pitcher that was killed by a drunk driver last week. They have quite a few things lined up before the game starts.

The biggest attraction of course is the return of Ken Griffey Jr. to the Seattle Mariners. Seattle is pretty excited to welcome back their favorite son and thrilled to have him wearing a Mariner's jersey. I am sure Safeco Field will explode when he is introduced.

I was pretty happy to see him back with the Mariners, although I don't expect a lot of production from him. I am just happy to have a legitimate sports superstar with no hint of scandal attached to him back in town. I am hoping to see a little bit of magic from Griffey today, but even if he doesn't hit one out of the park, I am sure he will get a very warm welcome and I am really happy that I have the chance to watch the game, even if I couldn't be at the ballpark.

Go M's!!!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Blowing Stuff Up...A Northwest Tradition

I haven't had much time to browse the news and see what has been going on. The news has been dominated today by the story of the American ship's captain that was rescued from the pirates. I am happy that he is coming home safely.

As I was browsing the Seattle Times online tonight, I ran across an article entitled "Spokane Parks to Detonate Squirrels." I thought maybe it was just a headline meant to grab peoples attention, but it turns out to be pretty descriptive of the plan.
The Rodenator Pro pumps propane and oxygen into the tunnels of squirrels, then sends an electric spark that causes an explosion. The shock waves kill the squirrels and collapse their tunnels — but in a humane way, the agency said.
Propane, electric sparks, explosions, shock waves, and collapsing tunnels ...well, at least it's humane.

I went and searched YouTube for Rodenator, and there were quite a few videos showing this machine in action.

As the blog title says, we do have something of a tradition for blowing things up here in the Northwest.

Hopefully, the Spokane Parks Department will watch the exploding whale video before they get started and take away a few "lessons learned" from that brilliant idea.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Huey Lewis & The News

The concert last night was very nice. There were lots of excited moms and kids and Huey Lewis put on a great show. I had forgotten exactly how many songs they have put out over the years. It was a great trip back to the 80's for me.

They opened with "Heart of Rock & Roll" and we also heard "Doing It All For My Baby", "The Power Of Love", "Hip To Be Square", "I Want A New Drug", and many others. Here are a few pictures from the show.

All in all, it was a great show and I would go see them again in a second. Hope everyone else has had a good weekend.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mom's Weekend

Not my mom, specifically, but Mom's Weekend for the mothers of any Washington State University Cougar. Mom's Weekend is this weekend. My mom has always declined to take part in the festivities. She is a pretty smart woman. As I have said before, Pullman is a pretty small town that is dominated by the university. Now, we add in all the mothers (and fathers that tag along) and Pullman is overwhelmed.

They have Huey Lewis & The News playing tomorrow night. One nice thing about being old enough to be the father of most of the students here is that I am as old as their parents. When they book entertainment for Mom's Weekend and Dad's Weekend, it is geared towards people my age. I haven't taken advantage of this yet, but I decided that I would take in the concert tomorrow night. I passed up on a ZZ Top concert last year, which I probably would have enjoyed a lot, but Huey Lewis & The News should be a good time.

This weekend should be quite a bit more relaxed than the last few weeks. I have gotten ahead on enough schoolwork (or at least caught up enough) that I have tonight and tomorrow night off. I will be going to the concert tomorrow night and I decided to watch a movie tonight. I am going to break out True Romance.

If you haven't heard of this movie, it is a Quentin Tarantino directed love story. There is violence, drugs, violence, politically incorrect language, violence, pimps, violence, prostitutes, violence, mafia, violence, and of course, True Romance.

It has a LOT of well-known actors: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, James Gandolfini, and Brad Pitt. This is by far my favorite Brad Pitt role. Here is a little snippet from the movie where Gandolfini meets Brad Pitt.

There is a tad bit of violence in this movie, so you probably don't want to let the kids watch it. At least, they probably shouldn't watch it until they are about 35 years old or so.

I decided I would grab some Guinness Beer to enjoy while I watched the movie tonight, so I ran down to Safeway to grab some. My ID is rarely checked when I buy beer. Today was an exception. The cashier gave me ***REALLY BIG SMILE*** and said loudly, "I know you are probably over 21 sir, but I am required to check ALL ID's for alcohol purchases." I guess he said this to show all the moms in town for the weekend that their kids can't buy booze without being 21.

He didn't need to bother with that. With the exception of two moms, all of the moms (and there were a lot of them) in Safeway were in the beer section buying beer for their kids. I guess it's possible that they were buying beer for themselves, but I don't think that 120 pound blond mama was going to drink two cases of Corona all by herself. The other two moms that weren't in the beer section were in line right behind me with shopping carts full of beer. Well, they might have asked to see my ID to put on a show, but I guess it is nice to show the parents that their babies can't buy booze unsupervised. Personally, I don't have a problem with people drinking at age 18. Old enough to vote, old enough to go to jail as an adult, and old enough to serve in the military...should be old enough to crack open a frosty can of brew.

Well, in any case, I think this will be one of my more enjoyable weekends here in Pullman. I hope that everyone else has a great weekend, too.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Accelerating My Life...Not Today

I picked up the mail last night and there was an official looking letter sitting on top of the pile. Actually, the letter looked like many others that I have received, except the return address was D.O.N. That made it official enough for me.

I was hoping that the letter wouldn't be something that I didn't want to see, so it was with a little trepidation that I unsealed the letter. Turns out, it was an advertisement from the Navy.

The letter started off telling me that It takes more than a scholarship to turn a college experience into a remarkable success. (Their bold lettering, not mine)

The next bold lettering told me Plus potentially over $155,000 while you pursue your studies. It's the Navy Baccalaureate Degree Completion Program. (They really like bold lettering)

A generous military salary, food allowance, and housing allowance could total from $2,376 to $4,300 a month all paid to me, to spend how I want!!! With no military obligation until you graduate.

I had to laugh. I wasn't even laughing at the fact that they were pitching the position of an Ensign in the Navy to a retired enlisted dude. Well, maybe I was laughing at that part a little bit, but I know there are a lot of college students out there and that they don't check the background of everyone before they send out letters.

What really made me laugh is that I will graduate in five weeks. I imagine that the Navy saves a lot of money by only offering to pay for the last five weeks of a student's college education. While I don't expect them to know my background, it seems pretty foolish not to check that I am graduating this year. This part, I would expect them to check.

Anyway, the letter finished up telling me that I should shift my career into high gear and accelerate my life. Sorry, Navy. I think I am going to shift into neutral and coast for a few weeks, then start working at a more sedate pace, but thanks for the offer.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Khmer Rouge and The Killing Fields

Cambodia has convened a genocide tribunal and has started the trial of Kaing Guek Eav. He is also known as Duch. Duch was the commander of a prison where an estimated 16,000 people were tortured and brutalized before their deaths. Read the AP news article here.

I have done a fair amount of reading and have watched numerous documentaries about the atrocities committed by Nazi during World War II and The Holocaust. The reign of terror imposed on Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge did not kill as many people as The Holocaust, it was no less brutal and resulted in the deaths of 1.7 million people.

Perhaps the reason that this particular genocide has always had special meaning to me is because we had refugees from Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia move into my town when I was in high school. At the time, my hometown consisted almost entirely of white families and Native American families. The addition of Asians was impossible to miss. I remember one guy from Laos that was 19 years old and spoke very little English. Some people laughed at him when he first came to our school because he was too old for the grade that he was in and didn't speak English very well. A few days after he arrived, he joined a gym class. In the shower, you could see scars from two bullet wounds on his back and a large scar from a knife across his chest. Nobody ever laughed at him for being different again. It was quite an eye-opener for a high school kid.

The 1984 movie, The Killing Fields, tells the story of a Cambodian reporter trapped in the country when the Khmer Rouge seized power and began to murder any Cambodian with education or foreign connections. If you have not seen this move, I would recommend that you watch it. This will give some context for the genocide tribunal that is now taking place in Cambodia.

I remember reading about Dith Pran, the reporter whose story is detailed in The Killing Fields last year. He had died of pancreatic cancer in New Jersey. What I didn't realize was that he had died precisely one year ago, on March 30, 2008. Fitting that the opening remarks of the trial of one of the butchers of the Khmer Rouge should start on the anniversary of Dith Pran's death.

If you really want to learn more about the genocide, I would also strongly recommend that you read the book "First They Killed My Father", by Loung Ung. I read this book a few years ago and thought it was amazing. It tells the tale of a five year old girl and her experiences during the genocide. Some of the stories that are in there are pretty heart-wrenching. The children were forced to become soldiers and kill adults that did not fit into the Khmer Rouge's mold of what a perfect citizen of Cambodia should be. There was another story about how guilty she felt for stealing a few grains of rice from her family because she was starving. Some pretty sad stuff in there. It was a pretty powerful book and, again, I strongly recommend this to everyone.

Hopefully, the tribunal in Cambodia will help to bring some closure to the survivors that have been permanently scarred by the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime. Justice is long overdue and I hope they find some measure of it in these trials.

Friday, March 27, 2009

New SecNav??

I just came across this AP article that says an ex-Mississippi governor will be nominated for Secretary of the Navy.
President Barack Obama will nominate former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus to be secretary of the Navy, a person familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press on Friday.
I have not personally heard of Gov. Mabus before. Guess I will be doing a little homework.

Graduation Fair

I will be finishing my last semester at Washington State University in about six weeks. We had a "Graduation Fair" here earlier this week. All of the graduating students received a notice telling us about the fair and we had to go there to order items such as caps and gowns. They will be renting caps and gowns from the bookstore starting next week, but I decided to get mine now while it is still early.

When I arrived, I was directed to stand in a line to check in with the registrar's office. I stood in line for about twenty minutes. When I got to the front of the line, they asked for my student ID number. They punched it into a computer and told me that I was good to go. The only thing that they were checking was that I had applied for graduation. The deadline for applying to graduate was several weeks ago, but they do allow late applications if you are willing to pay an extra $75 fine. None of the four students in front of me had applied yet and they were hit with the fine. They didn't seem too worried about it. I guess maybe they were spending Mom & Dad's money.

After they verified that I had applied to graduate, I got sent upstairs where there was a HUGE line. It stretched past several booths where they were asking for money. The first was for donations for the Senior Class Gift. I didn't really get this one. I guess we are all supposed to donate money so that a plaque with "WSU Class of 2009" engraved on it could be hung up somewhere on campus. I don't know. Maybe it was for something cool. In any case, I declined to contribute.

The next booth was for Jostens. I remember this company from my high school graduation days. They came to our high school to sell the students outrageously priced class rings then encouraged us to go door to door selling some cheap crap to our neighbors, friends, and families so that we could earn money to buy their class rings. Jostens was selling lots of stuff at the graduation fair. The first Jostens booth was selling class rings. I didn't even bother to look at the price. I never regretted not having a high school class ring and don't think it will bother me to miss out on a college class ring either.

The next Jostens booth was for graduation announcements. The girl that I went to the fair with purchased two orders of 25 announcements. It cost her about $180 for these fifty announcements. Wow!! Over three dollars each. Even custom printed announcements shouldn't be that expensive.

Next were diploma frames. Another Jostens booth. The diploma frames were $160 each, with a "free" cap and gown rental. I think I will go to Walmart for my frame.

I finally broke down at the last booth. This was where you actually rent the cap and gown. You can rent a cap and gown for $30. They even let you keep the cap and tassel as a permenant memento. I sprung for a souvenier tassel that was made using Crimson and Gray colors. That cost an extra $7. We don't get to wear those tassels, though. Nearly everyone has to wear a black tassel during the ceremony. I think that the Veterans Affairs office on campus will have red, white, and blue tassels available for veterans. I seem to remember that the veterans are allowed to wear the red, white, and blue tassels during graduation.

Anyway, the Graduation Fair turned out to be long lines where students were sold many overpriced items. I felt fortunate to walk out of there spending only about $37. Lots of students were getting swept up in the moment and buying lots of stuff. I guess I just don't get it. Maybe I would have been right there next to them twenty years ago, but now I think that I would rather keep dollars in my wallet. I suppose I will eventually buy a nice frame for my diploma, but I sure hope I can find a nice one for less than $160.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Uncomfortably Numb

I think that I am becoming numb to all the news coming out about AIG. This past weekend, I read about the bonuses that were going to be paid out. My first thought was that these bonuses were not necessarily large bonuses and that perhaps they were being paid out to a large number of regular employees, like secretaries and maybe that guy in the mailroom. When the news came out that a big chunk of these bonuses were over a million dollars and being paid to the clowns that are the backbone of the unit that was responsible for the multi-billion dollar losses, it didn't even phase me. No surprise whatsoever.

It kind of reminds me what I used to tell the guys in my division when they complained about getting a bad deal on the boat. I used to say that eventually, they would go numb. There isn't much difference between getting kicked in the nuts 100 times or getting kicked in the nuts 101 times. You just go numb. Even with the numbness that has set it, I really do wish that AIG would quit kicking the American taxpayer in the nuts.

Luckily, there are a lot of people out there that are still capable of being infuriated. When Senator Charles Grassley made the comment that these AIG executives should apologize or commit suicide, there wasn't much of a public outcry. I know that they wouldn't do that, because these guys at AIG have no shame at all.

The current CEO of AIG said that he finds some of these bonuses "distasteful" and that he shares the anger that many Americans feel. He also says that "Mistakes were made at AIG on a scale few could have ever imagined possible." I know these guys have contracts, but I think these contracts should have a clause that says "If you make mistakes on a scale that few could have ever imagined possible, you will not receive a seven-figure bonus."

The other news item that I have taken notice of is the wrong-headed idea that war veterans with private insurance should have that private insurance billed when they are injured fighting our wars. I have to say that Shinseki and Obama are just dead-wrong on this issue and I can't believe they have admitted that they were even considering it. I am very pleased with Senator Patty Murray, the senior senator from my state. She has already told Shinseki that this proposal would be DOA if it was sent to congress.

Since a lot of private health plans have deductibles and co-pays, it is putting a ridiculous burden on the soldiers wounded in defense of our nation to have to pay their own way for injuries sustained in the line of duty. The costs of treating these injuries would also count against the cap on the money the insurance companies pay out to a family, meaning that less money from the private insurance would be available if another family member developed a catastrophic medical condition. I suppose that they would have care available through Tri-Care, but if they are paying for private insurance, they should have the option to use that private health insurance in case Tri-Care is unwilling to foot the expense for a test or procedure. Hopefully, we will only hear one more thing about this proposal, and that will be an apology from Obama and Shinseki for even considering it.

Six Weeks Left

I only have six weeks of classes left until I graduate. I can't express how happy I will be to finish school and enter the work force. The workload has been pretty tough over the last few weeks, but I made it through and am currently on spring break. I have spent the first few days of break doing some spring cleaning in the apartment and catching up on some other things that have been pushed to the side in an effort to keep up in school.

I was having a chat with the department secretary a few weeks ago. The department secretary spent some time in the navy before she came to work at WSU and we frequently have chats about one thing or another. She was asking how everything was going and I confided in her that I was running out of steam and was ready to be done with school. She accused me of having a Short-Timer's Attitude. She's right.

I have been receiving letters from the Business School at WSU encouraging me to apply for graduate school. I don't know how many people get these letters, but I seem to be the only Chemical Engineering student receiving these invitations to apply. I don't really know why I have been singled out. I have pretty good grades, but not the best grades in the class, so I guess it isn't based solely on GPA. I haven't participated in any extra-curricular activities. I am kind of curious why they put my name on their apparently short list.

Anyway, the letters say that there is funding to accept five students into a program which results in a PhD through the business school. The funding is available for up to four years. It is geared towards engineers and actually sounds like a pretty good deal. There is a stipend available in exchange for teaching a few classes. It is actually more generous than the GI Bill. Some other benefits include a full tuition waiver, several scholarships to cover various fees and textbook expenses, expense paid travel to conventions, a free computer, and assistance in finding summer jobs. I am not really interested, but if I was ten or fifteen years younger, I guess it would be a great opportunity.

The last two years, virtually the entire class of graduating Chemical Engineering students had firm job offers in hand at this point in their final semester. This year, there are only three of us out of about twenty students that have a job lined up. Tough time to be graduating. A lot of my classmates are getting pretty anxious about finding employment. Hopefully, some companies will be making some offers soon, but the number of companies that have been attending our job fairs at the university has been down over the last year and the ones that do come are not looking to hire very many people. We did have a few engineers from some of the companies at Hanford on campus a few weeks ago. They are looking to hire several engineers, so there are some prospects out there. Unfortunately, I don't think many of the students here are interested in working there. Still, if it comes down to choosing between no job and a job at Hanford, interest may increase.

Monday, March 9, 2009

US Navy Ship Harrassed by Chinese

Update: 3/9/2009 3:48 pm: Here is another article with more details.

A United States ship operating in international waters in the South China Sea was harassed by several Chinese ships on Sunday. In this article, the United States ship is identified as the USS Impeccable. There is an article in Wikipedia about the USNS Impeccable which is an ocean surveillance ship. I suppose this is the ship they are referring to in the article.

The Pentagon says that the Chinese ships approached within 25 feet and that when the Impeccable asked them to clear a path so that they could leave the area, two of the Chinese vessels got directly in front of them and littered the path with pieces of wood. The article says that the Pentagon identified the Chinese vessels as a Navy intelligence ship, a bureau of maritime fisheries patrol vessel, a state oceanographic administration patrol vessel, and two small Chinese-flagged trawlers.

I did get one laugh out of the article. When the crewmen of the Impeccable turned fire hoses on one of the Chinese vessels, the Chinese responded by stripping down to their underwear.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fallout for December Marine Jet Crash

You may remember the Marine jet that crashed into a house in San Diego last December. At the time, I had assumed that there was probably some sort of prohibition against flying a crippled aircraft over a highly populated area and that whatever happened to the jet happened while the pilot was already over this area.

Well, you know what they say about assuming things. Turns out that there was an alternative. Air control at North Island announced three times that the plane could land at North Island approaching over water rather than over a densely populated area. Several Marines were punished for this tragic error in judgment that resulted in four deaths when the jet crashed into the house.

Four officers at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego have been relieved of duty for directing the F/A-18D Hornet to fly over the residential area, the officials said. Nine other military personnel received lesser reprimands.

With his jet having engine problems, the pilot should have been told to fly over San Diego Bay and land at another base that sits on the tip of a peninsula, the officials said.

This incident was a terrible tragedy, costing a husband his wife, children, and mother-in-law. It is all the more tragic for having been preventable.