Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs

From the book On Combat by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

"Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself.
The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?"

- William J. Bennett
In a lecture to the United States Naval Academy
November 24, 1997

One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me: “Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident.” This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another.

Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.

Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.

I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin’s egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful. For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.
“Then there are the wolves,” the old war veteran said, “and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy.” Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

“Then there are sheepdogs,” he went on, “and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.” Or, as a sign in one California law enforcement agency put it, “We intimidate those who intimidate others.”

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath--a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.

The gift of aggression

"What goes on around you... compares little with what goes on inside you."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Everyone has been given a gift in life. Some people have a gift for science and some have a flair for art. And warriors have been given the gift of aggression. They would no more misuse this gift than a doctor would misuse his healing arts, but they yearn for the opportunity to use their gift to help others. These people, the ones who have been blessed with the gift of aggression and a love for others, are our sheepdogs. These are our warriors.

One career police officer wrote to me about this after attending one of my Bulletproof Mind training sessions:

"I want to say thank you for finally shedding some light on why it is that I can do what I do. I always knew why I did it. I love my [citizens], even the bad ones, and had a talent that I could return to my community. I just couldn’t put my finger on why I could wade through the chaos, the gore, the sadness, if given a chance try to make it all better, and walk right out the other side."

Let me expand on this old soldier’s excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial; that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids’ schools. But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid’s school. Our children are dozens of times more likely to be killed, and thousands of times more likely to be seriously injured, by school violence than by school fires, but the sheep’s only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their children is just too hard, so they choose the path of denial.

The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn’t tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, “Baa.”

Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog. As Kipling said in his poem about “Tommy” the British soldier:

While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind,"
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind.

The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door. Look at what happened after September 11, 2001, when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?

Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.

Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, “Thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes.” The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, “Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference.” When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

While there is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, he does have one real advantage. Only one. He is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population.

There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory acts of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.

However, when there were cues given by potential victims that indicated they would not go easily, the cons said that they would walk away. If the cons sensed that the target was a "counter-predator," that is, a sheepdog, they would leave him alone unless there was no other choice but to engage.

One police officer told me that he rode a commuter train to work each day. One day, as was his usual, he was standing in the crowded car, dressed in blue jeans, T-shirt and jacket, holding onto a pole and reading a paperback. At one of the stops, two street toughs boarded, shouting and cursing and doing every obnoxious thing possible to intimidate the other riders. The officer continued to read his book, though he kept a watchful eye on the two punks as they strolled along the aisle making comments to female passengers, and banging shoulders with men as they passed.

As they approached the officer, he lowered his novel and made eye contact with them. “You got a problem, man?” one of the IQ-challenged punks asked. “You think you’re tough, or somethin’?” the other asked, obviously offended that this one was not shirking away from them.

“As a matter of fact, I am tough,” the officer said, calmly and with a steady gaze.

The two looked at him for a long moment, and then without saying a word, turned and moved back down the aisle to continue their taunting of the other passengers, the sheep.

Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I’m proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.

Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, “Let’s roll,” which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers--athletes, business people and parents--from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.

“Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?”

"here is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men."
- Edmund Burke
Reflections on the Revolution in France
Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn’t have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.
If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior’s path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.

For example, many officers carry their weapons in church. They are well concealed in ankle holsters, shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked into the small of their backs. Anytime you go to some form of religious service, there is a very good chance that a police officer in your congregation is carrying. You will never know if there is such an individual in your place of worship, until the wolf appears to slaughter you and your loved ones.

I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, “I will never be caught without my gun in church.” I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a police officer he knew who was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas, in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down 14 people. He said that officer believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy’s body and wait to die. That cop looked me in the eye and said, “Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?”

Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would call for “heads to roll” if they found out that the airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids’ school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against them. Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, “Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones were attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?”

The warrior must cleanse denial from his thinking. Coach Bob Lindsey, a renowned law enforcement trainer, says that warriors must practice “when/then” thinking, not “if/when.” Instead of saying,“If it happens then I will take action,” the warrior says, “When it happens then I will be ready.”

It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.

Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: You didn’t bring your gun; you didn’t train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by fear, helplessness, horror and shame at your moment of truth.

Chuck Yeager, the famous test pilot and first man to fly faster than the speed of sound, says that he knew he could die. There was no denial for him. He did not allow himself the luxury of denial. This acceptance of reality can cause fear, but it is a healthy, controlled fear that will keep you alive:

"I was always afraid of dying. Always. It was my fear that made me learn everything I could about my airplane and my emergency equipment, and kept me flying respectful of my machine and always alert in the cockpit."
- Brigadier General Chuck Yeager
Yeager, An Autobiography
Gavin de Becker puts it like this in Fear Less, his superb post-9/11 book, which should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation:

"..denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn’t so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling. Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level."
And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the day when evil comes.

If you are a warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be “on” 24/7 for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself... “Baa.”

This business of being a sheep or a sheepdog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-grass sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nantucket, I applaud you!

Nantucket not only recycles most of their trash, but their landfill is actually shrinking. Click here for more.

If they can do it, so can the rest of us. Hopefully it doesn't take too long to figure that out.

The associated article is here. Looks like it's catching on.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Work update:

Finally got email/network access on Thursday. It's amazing how much more work I can get done when I don't have to drive to the library, email a document to myself, drive back to work, kick someone off their computer, just to print a page. Or, save it on their desktop to email to someone else...

I love earthquakes. But...

This? Very scary.

That's seventy-nine earthquakes (map), starting at an 8.0 (!!) and aftershocking in the 4s and 5s for days.

The biggest earthquake I've personally experienced was probably in the 5 range. I cannot imagine going through what the people in that part of the world have been going through. And this, of course, is just one of the many earthquake disasters in recent history.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Finally officially working, but...

still without internet access at the office. Grrrr.

Duties: The Family Readiness Support Assistant (FRSA) serves as the administrative assistant for the units Family Readiness Group (FRG) Program. The incumbent performs a variety of clerical, technical, and administrative duties, and implements and maintains family support services for family members separated from the military sponsor due to mobilization/deployment or other duty requirements. Contribute to combat readiness by promoting efficient and effective communication. Demonstrate sensitivity to the diverse needs of mobilized or deployed soldiers and family members. Maintains oversight of FRG activities and updates the commander. Provide assistance, information, referral, and follow-up on all areas of FRG programs. Identifies family readiness requirements and participates in the development of local programs and policies. Maintain knowledge of latest changes in the FRG Program, Army Family policy and community resources. Assist with maintenance of the unit's virtual FRG and AKO websites.

See how much of that requires internet? Communication? Mostly via email. Websites? Obviously on the internet. Keeping in the loop? Yep, all the information distro is via email.

What's the holdup? I submitted paperwork for my background check near the end of August. The proper procedure is for the powers-that-be to start/finish my background check at the same time I'm waiting for my official paperwork to get through the system so that I can get my ID/computer access card. The paperwork for the card happened faster than the background check. So, the intelligence folks at my workplace submitted the request for network access with an old clearance investigation. Hopefully it'll still work (it did at Ft Jackson a few years ago), but if not, I'm hoping they'll check the system on their own and see if the background check has been completed and run with that.

Until then, I'm trying my very best to be patient, and running to the library with my personal laptop to handle the internet stuff that needs to be done. Not very efficient, but it'll work in a pinch.

I'm enjoying the job so far. Lots of fantastic people. I'll be very happy to be completely up and running.

How cool is this?!

Co-workers discover they're really brothers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Another wow.

If all goes according to plan, cancer survivor Kyle Garlett will compete in October's Ford Ironman World Championship, a grueling triathlon made up of a 2.4-mile ocean swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile run. And he'll do it with another man's heart pumping in his chest. "I don't think there's anybody who wouldn't consider me a success story and a survivor," Garlett said.

His medical issues began in 1989 when he received his first Hodgkin's disease diagnosis as a high school senior. In 1995, during his third battle with the cancer, doctors ceased his chemotherapy treatment when they discovered it had weakened his heart. Two years later, Garlett learned he had secondary leukemia as a result of chemotherapy to treat the Hodgkin's, and three more years of chemotherapy ensued. And after five years on the waiting list, he received a new heart in 2006.

Now, the 37-year-old savors his body's capabilities. "It's kind of like the starving person who all of a sudden finds himself in front of a buffet. And now I've got the buffet. I've got my all-you-can-eat plate, and I'm just loading it up," Garlett said.

More here.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

Almost there...

I was called tonight by my soon-to-be boss. Yes, a job offer is extremely imminent!! Plus, I didn't think I would start working until October, but apparently funding has come through to start me as soon as the paperwork can be completed.


Fer real, transparent aluminum!

Oxford scientists have created a transparent form of aluminium by bombarding the metal with the world’s most powerful soft X-ray laser. ‘Transparent aluminium’ previously only existed in science fiction, featuring in the movie Star Trek IV, but the real material is an exotic new state of matter with implications for planetary science and nuclear fusion.

In this week’s Nature Physics an international team, led by Oxford University scientists, report that a short pulse from the FLASH laser ‘knocked out’ a core electron from every aluminium atom in a sample without disrupting the metal’s crystalline structure. This turned the aluminium nearly invisible to extreme ultraviolet radiation.

''What we have created is a completely new state of matter nobody has seen before,’ said Professor Justin Wark of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, one of the authors of the paper. ‘Transparent aluminium is just the start. The physical properties of the matter we are creating are relevant to the conditions inside large planets, and we also hope that by studying it we can gain a greater understanding of what is going on during the creation of 'miniature stars' created by high-power laser implosions, which may one day allow the power of nuclear fusion to be harnessed here on Earth.’

The discovery was made possible with the development of a new source of radiation that is ten billion times brighter than any synchrotron in the world (such as the UK’s Diamond Light Source). The FLASH laser, based in Hamburg, Germany, produces extremely brief pulses of soft X-ray light, each of which is more powerful than the output of a power plant that provides electricity to a whole city.

The Oxford team, along with their international colleagues, focused all this power down into a spot with a diameter less than a twentieth of the width of a human hair. At such high intensities the aluminium turned transparent.

Whilst the invisible effect lasted for only an extremely brief period – an estimated 40 femtoseconds – it demonstrates that such an exotic state of matter can be created using very high power X-ray sources.

Professor Wark added: ‘What is particularly remarkable about our experiment is that we have turned ordinary aluminium into this exotic new material in a single step by using this very powerful laser. For a brief period the sample looks and behaves in every way like a new form of matter. In certain respects, the way it reacts is as though we had changed every aluminium atom into silicon: it’s almost as surprising as finding that you can turn lead into gold with light!’

The researchers believe that the new approach is an ideal way to create and study such exotic states of matter and will lead to further work relevant to areas as diverse as planetary science, astrophysics and nuclear fusion power.

A report of the research, ‘Turning solid aluminium transparent by intense soft X-ray photoionization’, is published in Nature Physics. The research was carried out by an international team led by Oxford University scientists Professor Justin Wark, Dr Bob Nagler, Dr Gianluca Gregori, William Murphy, Sam Vinko and Thomas Whitcher.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy 3rd, Kaden

Today, please remember...

Flowers arrived at Capt. Marissa Alexander's office at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on June 3, 2005. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Leroy Alexander, was half a world away fighting with the Special Forces in Afghanistan, but he had found a way to send a floral arrangement to his wife, who was five months pregnant with twins. "He called me and asked me what building I worked in. He said he had to update some records," Alexander said. The flowers lifted her spirits.

But a few hours later, her emotions would be thrown into a tailspin. Alexander saw two Army officers in dress uniforms knock on her front door. One of the officers started to talk: "We regret to inform you..." If he said any more, Alexander doesn't remember. "The next memory I have is in my kitchen, banging on the floor. I just couldn't believe it," she said. The good feelings from flowers delivered a few hours before were gone, replaced by shock, pain and mourning. A roadside bomb had made her a widow.

Staff Sgt. Alexander now lies in Arlington National Cemetery's Section 60, where 500 soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. For years Section 60 has been the one of busiest parts of the cemetery. Every day new burials bring precision marches, the somber tones of taps and the nerve-rattling three-gun salutes.

Then there are family and friends who come to the graves to make an emotional connection to their lost loved ones.

Memorial Day weekend brings even more activity and more visitors. Adults, even some uniformed generals, walk slowly between the rows and rows of headstones, looking for a familiar name. But small children often seem to find the cemetery a place to explore, even play. Their smiles and curiosity remind grown-ups that even in a place synonymous with death, life goes on.

A sense of community has emerged in Section 60. "I've come here at times and I've met people who were paying remembrances to their loved ones. You become friendly," Capt. Alexander said. "You see each other sometimes and you make a friendship because you know that your loved ones died for the same cause."

Angie Capra's husband is buried a few yards from Leroy Alexander. Air Force Tech Sgt. Anthony Capra was an explosive ordnance disposal expert, killed trying disarm a bomb in Iraq. "Other widows will come by and put something on there for me if they don't see me. They'll put down flowers. It's kind of a community," Capra said.

More than flowers adorn the graves in Section 60. Visitors of all faiths have picked up the ancient Jewish tradition of leaving a small stone on the headstones to show that a visitor had been to the grave. In most cases these are pebbles found near the grave. But some people have taken to leaving colored glass beads or elaborately painted stones with shamrocks or words like "hero."

Capra recently found a small Yoda figure on her husband's grave. She doesn't know who left it, but it must have been a friend, because her husband loved "Star Wars." "We never know who puts stuff" on the headstone, she said.

Some mementos leave one to wonder about the story behind them. Like the headstone topped by a tiny bottle of Tabasco hot sauce. Or a set of dog tags with a name that didn't match the name on the headstone. There is another topped by a small Lego toy, perhaps left by a child whose father died in a far-off land before they even knew each other. Or the grave adorned with an empty bottle of Bud Light, a rubber duck and a candle. Nearby an empty Wild Turkey bottle is the lone addition to the grave of a soldier who died in a country where drinking alcohol is strictly forbidden.

Capra has found a variety of items on Tony's headstone. "Coins, lots of rocks, candy. My husband was a candy freak," Capra said. "There was a cross. A little necklace, Mardi Gras beads during Mardi Gras season. Anything they have they'll put on top to show that they are thinking about them at the time." Alexander seems to draw strength from the items she finds. "Someone came and did a picture of Lee, and it was a hand-drawn picture. I thought that was very interesting," she said. "People who haven't been seen in years will leave a note of some sort. It's nice to know that you've been remembered after all of this time. To know that we have friends who still love and support us, that is just wonderful."

Section 60 has been called the "saddest acre in America," and without a doubt sadness abounds. But so do comfort, support and even an occasional smile.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why...? Was it worth it?

I'm about as anti-NRA as a sane, rational person can be. Read this:

May 24th, 2009
Two killed in Arizona standoff
Posted: 05:32 AM ET
(CNN) — Two people were fatally shot and another five injured — including a police officer — during a standoff Sunday at a home in Arizona, authorities said.

The multiple shooting in Mesa occurred when a man got into an altercation during a graduation party, said Sgt. Ed Wessing, a spokesman for the Mesa Police Department.

Authorities did not immediately say what led to the altercation.

The suspect went to his car, got a gun and shot two people dead on the front lawn, Wessing said.

Police were eventually able to persuade him to leave the house and give himself up, Wessing said.

The injured included a 10-year-old who suffered a grazing wound to the head. The suspect also fired at police who arrived at the scene. One officer was shot in the arm, Wessing said.

All five suffered minor injuries, he said.

Mesa is a suburb of Phoenix, the capital.

^ — CNN’s Sara Pratley contributed to this report.

So rather than just haul off and punch the guy (which I don't condone, but it's better than what happened), he went to his car and got his gun. Killed two people over an argument. About what? Was it worth spending years in prison to be right?

I know it's too late for this country (in that changing the laws won't remove guns from our society), but I'd be lying if I said I never thought about moving somewhere else with stricter gun laws.

Let's do a time warp!

The geoblogosphere is doing a call for posts (an Accretionary Wedge). While this isn't strictly a geoblog, geology is my thing. So, readers, where and when would you most like to visit to witness and analyze an event in Earth’s history?

Suppose you have a space-time machine to (safely and comfortably) watch an event unfold; which event would you most like to see? Why? What do we already know or hypothesize about that event that appeals to you, or that you would like to test? What would be the result, the upshot, of knowing more about this event? You do not necessarily need to limit yourself to Earth, nor to the past. You do not need to limit yourself to a particular instant if peeking several times over a period of minutes or ages helps you envision the evolution of something. You do not need to limit yourself to environments that could support life as we know it... imagine being able to take a time-sampling of magmatic composition from 10 miles below the surface as a nascent mid-ocean ridge opens up, or examining the circumference of the vent during one of Yellowstone's mega-eruptions! I'll tell you, this technology is basically magic. (See the third law here.) Feel free to toss in a few "also-rans" of your favorite day-dreams, but please develop one. This isn't intended to be just a set of lists.

Anyone? If you'd like to play along, please either leave a comment here or post in your own blog and leave me a link.

My baby is three today!!

Pictures will follow. We're having a (very) small get-together with our best friends. Presents, cake, and probably hours on the playground in our backyard.

Happy birthday, K-Kaden!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Found this here.  Click on the image to enlarge.

Text of handwritten note:

Note: Just to let you know it is not that we don't believe in things like that it is just misleading when you speak about it being billions of year old, when we all know that the world is only about 6000 years old, so why would I pay so that you can misslead my children, your world is just a revolving, our's has a start and an end. God created the world he created animals and man all in the same week. It was also Adam who named all the animals, they will do the essay rock and minerals, but it might not be 5 pages long, and not about billions of years ago, it'll be according to the Bible

Oops, it's been way too long...

So, the thesis is finished, submitted, and I'm all graduated and stuff. Now I'm looking into that whole job thing.

I have some bites out there to some federal government positions. One is super convenient (right down the street from J's summer child care location, but for not so much money), one is fantastically wonderful (but quite a ways away and I'm not sure how my experience/education will compare to the others who've made it to the referral list), and one is middle-range money and the same distance away as the fantastically wonderful job.

And of course I'm still applying.

I called to inquire about the convenient position - they referred my resume to the selection official three weeks ago and I've not heard from them. I figured the interviews had happened already and I should cross it off the list, but the helpful lady on the phone says it took her four months to get through the hiring process. Wow, for a GS-5 job?

As is typical, the federal process takes The last time I went through this process, it only took about three weeks to get the notice of referral, receive the call for the interview, and then the call for the offer. Guess I need to get used to hanging out at home.

I'm open to lots of things. I'm going into this job search with an open mind. Sure, I know what I'd like to end up with, but I'm not sure if I can get everything I want. Rather like house hunting, I'll put up with a few things I'm not happy with if I can get the things on my 'must have' list.

Friday, April 24, 2009

And I wait again...

So, I just sent off my thesis draft. Just for kicks, I went back and looked at my first one. Wow, what a major difference. That's why she gets paid the big bucks.

I know length has nothing to do with it but draft one was 35 pages, draft two was 45, draft three was 52, and draft four is 63. It definitely still needs finesse, but I think the bones are there. Last night (and the night before), I just couldn't think. My analysis and conclusions were just *poof* gone. Today, I was on a roll. Good thing, 'cause she wanted it back today. 

In other academic news, I got the last of four PPT presentations turned into my GIS professor yesterday. I spent the morning doing some research on the paper he wants me to write - my last requirement for my last class. Unfortunately, it's a 2500-3000 word requirement, which is roughly 8-10 pages. Bleh. However, it's on a topic I'm interested in (GIS in education - he wanted it to mirror my masters research, but there's no way to add GIS into my ability group thesis, so I went with a more broad topic) and there's TONS of stuff out there. (Which means I have a crap-ton o' papers to read!)

Oh! I just got an acknowlegement email from my advisor. She got it, will read it over, and get comments back this weekend.  She knows the deadline is coming up fast, and I hope the rest of her life takes a break for a day or two so she can focus on ME. 

She wants to have it out to the committee early next week and schedule the defense 5-10 days (ish) after that. But first, she has to approve it for committee. 

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Why is it...

that the faucet closest to the hot water heater takes the longest to emit warm water?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Still some work to do...

Finally heard back.  

While there's quite a bit of work yet to do, I'm confident that we'll be able to get it together.  Hopefully by graduation, but I've been told I can participate in commencement even if it's not completely done.

Works for me, now let me get back to it...

Sunday, April 05, 2009

A new kind of anxiety...

I emailed the first full draft of my thesis to my advisor on Friday.  She sent me a reply soon after, saying she'd look at it and get comments back the next day.

I hovered near my laptop all day yesterday.  No comments.

This morning, I emailed back: "Is it so bad that you're still writing comments?"  She replied that she's still looking through it and she'd respond in a few hours.

Those hours have come and gone...

This is an entirely new kind of anxiety for me.  Having never done this before, having no rubric (so to speak) on how to write up a thesis for this particular project, I have no idea if what I've written is even the ballpark with 'good enough'.

Is it just needing a bit of tweaking?  Does it need to be overhauled?  Do I need to delve into the statistics a bit more (please no!  I've had number nightmares for weeks now!)??

Please, just let me know.  The waiting sucks.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Recent pictures of the boys

One of Justin at the top of Pike's Peak.

And Kaden's new 'do...

Bribed with ice cream

Finally got Kaden's hair cut yesterday.  I'll try to get a picture soon.

It was moderately successful in that the hair got cut but he wasn't too thrilled with the idea.

We'll try again in three months.


Source: The Denver Post

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mind boggling...

You would think as a geologist, I'd have a pretty decent grasp of big numbers.  4.6 billion years?  Sure, that's a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG time.  I get it.  

I thought I was ok with 'trillion' too until I just read this:

Courtesy the credit crisis and big bailout packages, the figure “trillion” has suddenly become part of our everyday conversations. One trillion dollars, or 1 followed by 12 zeros, is lots of money but have you ever tried visualizing how big that number actually is?

For people who can visualize one million dollars, the comparison made on CNN should give you an idea about a trillion - “if you start spending a million dollars every single day since Jesus was born, you still wouldn’t have spend a trillion dollars”.

Amit goes on, so please hop over there and read the rest.  Stretch your brain a bit.

From the CNN clip, a trillion $1 bills stacked up would reach a third of the way to the moon.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

It's the little things...

Part of moving a lot means finding new establishments to do business with every time you move.  Today's frustration ~ finding a place that will cut Kaden's hair.

Now, this sounds easy enough on the surface.  His hair is too long.  Take him to HairCutzRUs and get it cut.  Well, no.  He's two.  He hates getting his hair cut.  Doing it the 'normal' way amounts to torture.  Seriously.

Last time, a friendly hair stylist (Great Clips near the Target in Manhattan, KS) suggested cutting Kaden's hair while he was sitting on the floor playing with his toys.  It was a total success.  He only fussed a little bit and I had the lady cut his hair as short as she could get it.  I tipped quite well, Kaden was happy, and I looked forward to a repeat performance the next time.  I had hoped that we could slowly wean him into the 'normal' way.  A few pain-free haircuts and we'd be scot free!

Alas, we moved before we could try it again.

Today, I went to another Great Clips.  It was practically empty.  Perfect, or so I thought.  There were two ladies working.  One had a customer, the other wasn't busy.  We went in, I explained what we needed, and asked if there would be anyone there who was willing to try it.  She looked unhappy about the idea and went to talk to her manager in the back.  When she came back out, she explained that they'd be unable to meet my request because 'it would be unsanitary.'  

Now listen, I wasn't asking/demanding/requiring her to do it.  If she wasn't willing, at least she could have asked the other lady working.  But no, she didn't even give that a chance, just when whining to her manager.

Um, I'm not asking you to eat your dinner off the floor, merely kneel down for a few minutes while MY SON sits on the floor.  My toddler son who has his hands on anything and everything during the day and is constantly sticking things in his mouth anyway.  My request.  I'm perfectly willing to deal with whatever might be unsanitary on your floor.

Grrr.  Fine.  

I'll try that store one more time another day in hopes to find someone else willing.  It's convenient.  It's cheap (I even had a coupon for $6.99 today).  And it was another Great Clips employee who even gave me the idea in the first place, for cryin' out loud.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Another net theft

Seriously, if someone could give me the idiot's guide to the correct way to do this (and by 'this', I mean that whole trackback credit thing), I'm all ears (eyes)...

I'm speechless right along with this one:

To say that I was shocked, appalled and dismayed on hearing the "volcano monitoring" comment in your speech following President Obama's address to Congress would be a massive understatement.

You, and anyone who thought that including that comment in the Republican rebuttal was a good idea, are guilty of the dangerous and pervasive attitude of willful ignorance about science that has sadly pervaded the government of this country in the past eight years. It is extremely frightening that you, the governor of a state that recently experienced a major natural disaster, think that the paltry amounts spent on volcano monitoring in our country are a waste of money.

It is simply appalling that you cannot be bothered to educate yourself about some of the most basic knowledge that geologic science has to offer. Volcanoes are extremely dangerous and costly phenomena. The people of states like Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California, depend on volcano monitoring to preserve their lives and livelihoods.

Perhaps you think that $140 million is too high a price to pay for the thousands of lives that were saved by volcano monitoring during the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption? Or the millions of dollars in commerce and countless lives that are preserved by monitoring Alaskan volcanoes which lie in the flight paths of major shipping and passenger airlines? Are you the least bit aware that a major volcanic eruption could produce enough ash to reach even Louisiana, disrupting or shutting down air traffic for thousands of miles and crippling our country's airline industry? Or that an eruption or collapse of Mount Rainier could kill or displace tens of thousands of people with ash falls, pyroclastic flows and mudflows?

Lack of monitoring and communication caused the needless deaths of 23,000 people in the 1985 eruption of Nevado Del Ruiz volcano in Columbia. Would you prefer that we, a technologically rich country with the expertise and resources to prevent such a disaster, should eliminate the very monitoring programs that enable us to do so just because politicians like you can't be troubled to learn about why they're so important?

Your attitude toward volcano monitoring as a representative of our country's government is irresponsible and potentially deadly. If you suggest that we should discontinue volcano monitoring simply because you refuse to make the effort to understand it, then you are making yourself personally accountable for the lives, property and money that will be lost in volcanic eruptions. I am sure you will be happy to explain to the American citizens who will suffer from your recommendations why your state deserves funding to monitor and mitigate the hazards associated with flooding and hurricanes, but their homes and lives are unworthy of protection.

$140 million is a small price to pay to prevent the millions, possibly billions of dollars in property and commerce and tens of thousands of lives that will be in danger in the event of a volcanic eruption in the United States. Even now, Redoubt volcano in Alaska is showing signs that it may soon erupt, and the effects of such an eruption will not only impact the people of Alaska, they will affect the oil, fishing, and airline industries as well. Saying that we should discontinue volcano monitoring in the midst of a potential volcanic crisis is stupid, irresponsible and ignorant.

Blind adherence to politics is one of the reasons that America is in the middle of an economic crisis today. Don't make it worse by adding natural disasters to the mix.

You have, in your callous, ill-educated and ill-considered words, grievously insulted the men and women of the geologic community who have dedicated their lives to protecting others from natural hazards such as volcanoes. They do their work for the sake of ordinary Americans who, on their own, have no way of understanding or preparing for volcanic eruptions. You show enormous disrespect for the scientists who safeguard the safety of those who live in the shadow of active volcanoes.

I am truly frightened by anyone who claims to represent American citizens in public office by making such irresponsible and, frankly, stupid statements about scientific endeavors that he has made no effort to understand. You, and anyone who supports you in this statement, are unworthy of being responsible for the safety of the American public, and I hope that those in charge of our nation's budget will rightly ignore your hideously bad ideas.

From here.

ETA: And he's standing by his idiotic remarks:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's swipe at federal spending to monitor volcanoes has the mayor of one city in the shadow of Mount St. Helens fuming.

"Does the governor have a volcano in his backyard?" Royce Pollard, the mayor of Vancouver, Washington, said on Wednesday. "We have one that's very active, and it still rumbles and spits and coughs very frequently."

Jindal singled out a $140 million appropriation for the U.S. Geological Survey as an example of questionable government spending during the GOP response to President Barack Obama's address to Congress Tuesday night.

The governor, a rising Republican star, questioned why "something called 'volcano monitoring' " was included in the nearly $800 billion economic stimulus bill Obama signed earlier this month. 

"Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington," Jindal said.

But Marianne Guffanti, a volcano researcher at the U.S. Geological Survey, said, "We don't throw the money down the crater of the volcano and watch it burn up."

The USGS, which received the money Jindal criticized, is monitoring several active volcanoes across the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Hawaii. One of those is Mount St. Helens, about 70 miles north of Vancouver, Washington, and neighboring Portland, Oregon.

The volcano killed 57 people when it erupted in 1980 and sputters back into action periodically, most recently in late 2004 and early 2005, when it sent plumes of steam and ash thousands of feet into the air.

USGS researchers are also keeping a close eye on Alaska's Mount Redoubt volcano, about 100 miles from Anchorage, which is predicted to go off again within a few months. Its last eruption, in 1989, disrupted air traffic and forced down a commercial jet that sucked ash into its engines.

"If we can give good information about what's happening, that system of diversions and cancellations all works much more efficiently," Guffanti said. "And fewer people are delayed and standard business is resumed quickly."

Louisiana is no stranger to natural disasters itself, having been devastated by hurricane Katrina in 2005. But Timmy Teepell, Jindal's chief of staff, said the governor stands by his statement.

"That was just one example of wasteful spending in the largest government spending bill in history," Teepell said. "The governor made it clear that we need to grow jobs, not government."

The $140 million line-item for the USGS includes not only monitoring, but also replacement of aging equipment "and other critical deferred maintenance and improvement projects."

The spending could provide new jobs "no different than the amount of money you would spend on building a street or building a bridge or something," said Danny Boston, an economist at Georgia Tech university in Atlanta, Georgia.

Pollard, a former Army officer who has served as Vancouver's mayor for 14 years, said USGS equipment used to keep tabs on volcanoes is frequently damaged or destroyed. He said he wasn't sure how many jobs the money could produce, but, "For us and the people who live closer to it than Vancouver, it's important."

"We lost lives the last time, and we could lose them again," he said.

Found here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Making of a Military Wife

Not sure about the netiquette for this, but I read this here  at today and found it post-worthy:

Making of a Military Wife

What does it take to be a military spouse? The answer is much more complex than the superficial “attractive” card or the absurd “gold digger” judgement. It takes a lot to be one of the few, the proud, the military wives…

Perhaps one of the most crucial characteristics in a military wife is her strength. She has to hold down the home front when her better half is deployed, often taking care of a house, children, pets, school, and a career. As a Marine wife, I am accustomed to hearing that I have “the toughest job in the Corps”. I don’t know if it’s any harder than being in a war zone, but being a military spouse certainly isn’t an easy title to bear. You have to be emotionally, mentally, and even physically strong (to help carry all that gear to and from the family car)!

Financial savvy
When the family unit is together, the military spouse is often responsible of the budget. She pays the bills, puts money into savings, buys the groceries, buys what the children need, allots money to her spouse, and-if by some chance there’s money left in the bank- she may buy something on sale for herself. When her husband is deployed, it’s even more important for a military wife to have financial savvy. With all the special duty pay coming in, she needs to be able to keep it straight and put her husband’s hard-earned money to good use (i.e. savings, paying off debt, buying necessities).

Shopping smarts
A military spouse can often be found cutting coupons, comparison shopping, and searching for sales. This is because she has shopping smarts. Being on a budget, like many military families are, requires one to research and scout out the best bargains for food, clothes, household goods, entertainment items, etc. The smart shopping military wife may also be spotted buying groceries at the Commissary or things for her family at the Exchange, because she knows how to use these savings-centric stores to her advantage.

Another important quality for a military spouse is to be independent. It’s almost a necessity, really. Being clingy is futile, because sooner or later, her husband must go fulfill his call of duty in a country far, far away. But it’s not just in times of deployment where a military wife must be independent. She has to find her own interests, instead of becoming so wrapped up in her husband’s career that she loses her own identity. She also can’t rely on friends and family as easily as civilian wives, because family is often far away and friends PCS often.

Organization is a key trait to being a true military spouse. When her husband calls frantically explaining how much trouble he will get in for losing his weapons cards, she must be on QRF (Quick Reaction Force). Bounding into action, the military wife will find exactly where his beloved weapons cards are -due to exceptional organizational skills- and drive like mad to deliver the goods before SSgt. Anonymous finds out.

A military spouse must also be flexible, because almost everything in the military is “tentative”. She might have a romantic Friday night planned, babysitter in-place, and find out her husband must work late again. This requires flexibility, and a healthy dose of patience, not to get upset at her hubby, the government, or “The Man”. It is important for her to keep in mind that plans change, and there’s nothing that can be done.

A Personable Demeanor
It’s beneficial to the military wife if she is personable, because she will more easily make friends. She can talk to anyone about anything, is friendly and welcoming, and is eager to help. All of these traits are important in a world where every two to four years, an entirely new circle of people comes into her life. In order to gain and maintain a support system, a military spouse makes new friends easily and quickly. She finds other moms and arranges play-dates, chats up the newly married neighbors for a double date night, and bonds with her husband’s co-workers so when planning a party, she knows exactly who he’d like to invite.

The ability to be creative is another survival skill in the life of a military wife. It arises in many situations from whipping up a quick dinner recipe from scratch to planning a special birthday for her child with homemade decorations and cute, creative invitations. Because of her need to be thrifty, quick-thinking, and flexibile, the military spouse’s ability to be creative is almost instinctual. I know plenty of spouses that find creative ways to work from home, redecorate for little money, and plan the sweetest things for their husbands during special times (like Valentine’s Day and homecoming).

Military wives come from all walks of life and pursue many different interests; but they certainly have these traits (and trust me, many more) in common!

This entry was written by Brittany Landers, posted on February 24, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Thursday, February 19, 2009

It feels great to be productive

I have one last class before graduating in May.  Actually, I don't need it to graduate, but I do need it for an additional grad certificate I'm working on.  The instructor agreed to let me undertake an independent study due to our move.

He's assigned five rather large assignments.  I finished the first one today.  Hopefully he'll get a chance to look it over soon so I can get started on the second while I'm still motivated.

Ahhh, it feels good.  I can't wait to be DONE with all of my lingering K-State responsibilities.


I had to take a break this morning to find a book in all the moving boxes.  I tore through the garage, the master bedroom, anywhere, looking for it.  No dice.  Darrell comes home for lunch and finds it within the first three minutes of looking.  Hmph.

Anyway, the book was found, the project was completed, and I already know what I'm doing for the next one.  Works for me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Almost a week?

It's been a crazy busy week:

Wednesday - packed up the little extended stay apartment, J's parent-teacher conference, we sign for our keys to the new place
Thursday - the movers are here!  Woo!  E comes to stay for the weekend
Friday - Darrell and I play musical cars dropping K and E off at day care, the three of us (Darrell, Justin, me) drive all over town getting errands done
Saturday - all the kids are home, Darrell babysits and organizes, I go out shopping for random organizing stuff and new window treatments for the boys' rooms
Sunday - see Saturday

E has been a joy to take care of these last few days.  Sure, she and Kaden go after the same toy occassionally, but Kaden has been very brave sharing his room and his things.  We've been having Justin and Kaden sleep in Justin's room, giving E her own space to sleep.  I know Justin is looking forward to having his room to himself, and I am positive Kaden wants his room back.  But, all three of them have behaved themselves wonderfully.  It's been fun getting to know E a little better.

Tomorrow, I have to get to work on stuff for school.  No more excuses.  I'll be so glad when all of my K-State responsibilities are OVER!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Another 'typical' military hardship...

I got a call an hour or so ago.  My best friend's stepmother died suddenly.  Setting aside the tragedy for a moment, this normally would have been logistically difficult for her.  She and her husband have three kids at home, one a very young toddler.  The drive to the funeral is about seventeen hours.

Fortunately, she and I are living in the same town again.  We met in Kansas while our husbands were stationed at Fort Riley and were in the same english composition class at Kansas State.  Our friendship strengthed while the guys were on their first Iraq deployment.  After that, she and her family left for Alaska; we went to South Carolina.

Amazingly, we're back together again.  Rather than take the toddler on the long road trip, she's able to leave her with us.

One of the reasons I left the Army was that Darrell and I were required to have a 'Family Care Plan' as we were a dual military couple.  An FCP requires both a short-term and a long-term care provider.  The short-term person is the emergency "ack! we're deploying in three days!" provider.  The long-term person would then travel down to our duty station and take over or transport the kid(s) back to their own home.  I'm guessing that most families had the same problem we did - the only people I knew and trusted well enough to watch my child were also in the Army and would be deploying along with us.

Having friends and family at 'home' is rare.  My best friend and I are very aware of how special it is that we're stationed together again.  It's times like these that make us both so thankful for our friendship and our close proximity.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Not all about military moving is as easy as unpacking, though...

The down sides of moving often aren't as easily handled as the physical move.

Our kids are getting older.  This is the first time Justin has moved in the middle of the school year.  He's handled it quite well, fortunately.  And as he continues to get older, his friendships will be harder to maintain over distance.  For now, a few phone calls and emails work for him.  Kaden is too young still to be concerned about keeping in touch with friends, but he still has to deal with adapting to a new daycare.

Also, employment for me.  Last time, I was going back to school at Kansas State University.  They welcomed me back with open arms.  This time, I don't have a clue how long it will take to find a new job.  Fortunately, we don't need me to work in order to pay our bills.  However, I'm going to go insane if I don't find something regularly productive to do with my days.

For now, I have my thesis to write, a project to finish, and one last GIS course to work on.  If all goes well, all three of these will be done by May.  I hope I'm not still unemployed by then.

Military moving

Contrary to popular belief, military moving isn't that bad.  In fact, we usually make money on it.  If you choose to do all the work yourself, you could actually make quite a bit of money on a military move (ie: DITY moves).

We've done that and unless we find ourselves in a financial emergency, we're not likely to do it again any time soon.

Instead, we'll let the professionals handle it.  

They came and packed up all of our stuff in one day.  All we had to do is dismantle the electronics (TV, computer, etc) and set aside stuff we didn't want packed.  They do the rest.  In fact, it's better to NOT do any packing yourself, as they Army won't pay for any items that are damaged if the owner packed them.

So, you basically just sit back, stay out of the way, and watch the movers pack for you.  Bliss, I tell ya!

On the receiving end, they'll unpack the truck, putting everything where you want it, and unpack as much or as little as you choose.  They'll even take the boxes and packing paper with them.

I generally choose to have them unpack the kitchen and the boys' rooms.  I like to do the rest myself on a slower pace.  My best friend had them unpack EVERYTHING on her last move, to force her to find 'places' for everything quickly.  Both methods work quite well.

I love figuring out where the easy stuff goes (forks, bowls, and pots for example) and despise figuring out where the hard stuff goes (random stuff that's been in the garage for the last few moves).  But it's all part of moving with the military.

Financially, we're still making some money.  Combined with my scholarship money, our tax return, and the last bit of Iraq pay, our last credit card balance is about to take a steep nose dive.  Hopefully by our next PCS (permanent change of station), that'll go to our future (investments) instead of our past (debt).  I'm pretty sure that'll be the case.

Moving often disrupts our dining life...

One of the silly yet most challenging parts of being a military family and moving a lot are our dining choices.  We love a good Chinese buffet and a Mexican restaurant with fantastic cheese enchiladas.  Finding these diamonds in the rough can be expensive, as we try one place after another in our desperate attempt to find the new favorite places.

So far, we've been to one Chinese buffet.  Horrible.  Very few choices.  Not very tasty.  More expensive than it should have been for such a limited number of entre choices.  And so the search continues...

Now, I happen to be a member of a wonderful message board with ladies all over the country (and a few countries around the world).  I've recently hit a local gal for suggestions.  Score!  Now we can hopefully reduce the time and expense of finding some likely places to fill our 'favorite restaurant' category.  Thanks Elaine!

Kaden might be hitting his wall...

Kaden has been rather cranky lately.  I wish I could explain to him what's happening so that he'd understand.  Just a few more days and he'll have his bed and his couch and his toys back.  Soon, kiddo!

He's been stuck on the movie "Cars" lately.  He watches it on D's laptop and as soon as it's over, he's yelling for more.  *laugh*  We're hoping to find some of those Cars wall stickers for his new room.

Justin, too, could use a bit more space.  He's hanging in wonderfully through all this upheaval.

Darrell's battalion is redeploying from Iraq currently.  I love seeing all the "Welcome Home Daddy!" signs.  I get teary every time.  Unfortunately for Darrell, that means he doesn't have anything to do.  He'd rather have something to do.

I, on the other hand, have plenty to do and no motivation to do it.  I have no excuses.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

No major plans for the day

Justin wants to go to Target and get a big Bakugon with his allowance money.  I also need to return a baby gate we recently bought there.  It's floppy!  Who designs a baby gate that flexes?  All you have to do is push on it and it pops out.  Odd.

At some point, we need to go to the commissary for some food shopping.

That's all we have planned.  It's been years since we've had 'normal' weekends and we don't know what to do with them.  *laugh*

Friday, February 06, 2009

Love it when a mistake ends up in MY favor!

I called all the utility companies today for the final payoff info since our mail is in forwarding la-la-land.  Took care of getting those payments set to be mailed out (love online banking!)

While I was making phone calls, I figured I'd find out what our last vehicle payoff amount is.  We have this loan through a pretty small old-school bank.  I actually was given a payment book when we bought the car.  They don't have an internet account system where I could check the balance along the way, so I've been estimating.  We've made several large payments over the last couple of years, so really, I only had a vague idea what the balance was.

Well, was I WAY off!!!  It's about $2500 LESS then I was expecting.  And oddly enough, it's within $200 of our tax refund.  Sweet!

Thanks to the extra money from Darrell's Iraq deployment, we've been able to pay off four of our six credit/loan accounts in the past 16 months.  If I get a job in the next couple months, it's conceivable that we could be out of consumer debt this year, and possibly even pay off my last student loan soon after that.

I.  Can't.  Wait.

We have nothing invested for retirement, other than the years Darrell has with the Army.  We're way behind the power curve, but I'm hoping 2010 will turn that around.  And, if things go according to the Army's current plan, Darrell will be back overseas again some time that year (*cue rolling eyes here*) which means we'll have a few more dollars to throw at a retirement fund.


D and I dropped by the new place again this morning.  The living spaces look so small without furniture in them!  *laugh*  We were looking through windows still, haven't been able to get inside...  The bedrooms upstairs are bigger than we've ever had, though.  Well, the master bedroom is a bit smaller than our South Carolina house, but the boys rooms are much bigger than they're used to.  Here's hoping we can contain most of their toys UPstairs.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A bit of good and a bit of blah...

The good: Kaden is doing MUCH better.  Woo!

The blah: I stopped by the new place this afternoon.  They've ripped out all the carpet!  Now, this is good as we'll get new carpet in the bedrooms and the stairs.  It's also good because we'll have laminate wood floors on the upstairs hallway and the whole downstairs.  However, it's bad in that we have two young boys who make a lot of noise.  We're going to be sharing walls (it's a townhouse) and I have a feeling our neighbors would have prefered us having wall-to-wall carpeting.  *laugh*

Also, my job stuff appointment didn't go as well as I'd hoped.  Basically, I had a crappy paying GS-3 job at Ft Jackson.  Even though I'm qualified up to a GS-9 (depending on the job), they can only offer me the equivalent of a GS-3 with this spousal priority placement thing they have going.  I have to apply and compete for anything better.  Uh, yeah.  That will definitely be happening.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Took a drive over to the new place today...

And it was open!  Score!  Let's go take a look!  Or so we thought. 

Turns out it was being painted.  Normally, I wouldn't care, but they were using the professional sprayers and I'm wearing purple (the walls are the usual rental boring white).  Bummer.

Anyway, we took a look around the building.  The gate in the backyard fence needs to be adjusted/fixed.  There's a cool playground directly behind the place (Kaden's going to LOVE it).  There's even a small basketball court with normal goals on two sides and shorter goals on the other.  I think we'll get Justin a basketball for his half-birthday in a few weeks.

We get the keys in just over a week.  I plan on going back and checking again over the next few days.  Maybe we can catch the carpet cleaners or something so we can take a look around.


Darrell and I also dropped by to see how Kaden is doing.  He calmed down in just a few minutes after I left this morning and has been doing fine since.  Even went outside without his blanket!  He's never been one to need his blanket, but it's sure been helpful for this transition.  A few more days and we won't even bring it with him any more.  Yay!


I should be getting a phone call from the guy at CPAC today about my job stuff.  *crossing fingers*  Darrell should be getting his unit info today.  *crossing fingers*  In reality, I doubt we'll have either happen...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Carried over from my facebook:

25 Random Things About Me

1. I love being a mom. But staying at home with the kids would be torture for all of us.
2. I feel like my thesis isn't rigorous enough to earn my degree. But, if my committee thinks otherwise, who am I to complain?
3. I hate looking for a job when I don't really care what job I get. (Not entirely true, but the chances of me getting the job I really DO want are slim to none...)
4. I would love to get a dog, but it'd have to be the perfect dog (doesn't chew or slobber, is completely house trained, etc) - but, we're moving on post and they have a two pet limit. And we already have two cats, so I guess no dog any time soon.
5. I'm more of a homebody than I ever thought I'd be. I do enjoy spending time outdoors, but I hate bugs. I've heard there aren't as many mosquitoes in Colorado Springs, so I'm hopeful. LOTS of beautiful places to experience here!
6. I don't like to sit down and watch a movie. But if someone else puts one in, chances are good that I'll watch it with them.
7. I can't decide which type of pickle I want on my tuna sandwiches, so I usually do half sweet and half dill. If I'm really hungry, I'll make two sandwiches, one for each pickle type.
8. I would happily exist the rest of my life eating only pasta, fruit, and ice cream.
9. I love learning. I'd much rather watch some show on Discover Channel than watch the latest "reality" show or prime time drama.
10. I'm not big on phone calls. But I'm completely content to IM people all day.
11. I can't seem to find a pair of jeans that fit right. I've spent way too much money on pants that end up disappointing me. Who had the brilliant idea of putting stretch into jeans? They fit fine when I put them on, but 15 minutes later, they're saggy. Gah!
12. Haagen-Daas Chocolate Chocolate Chip ice cream is by far my favorite. Green mint chocolate chip (with chocolate shavings) is a distant number two. Followed by a rich plain vanilla. Yumm.
13. I misspell "ya'll" all the time and I don't care. Yes, I know it probably should be spelled "y'all" but it looks dumb that way to me.
14. I've recently fallen in love with honey crisp apples.
15. I've been craving steak lately. Wonder if it's the altitude? I know I need more iron...
16. My achalasia is getting worse again and I'm sticking my head in the sand about it. "Terrified" is too strong a word, but I'm more than concerned about the treatment that I'll probably have to have done to help it.
17. I love Mt.Dew. I try to cut back or *gasp* give it up, but I can't honestly tell you I hope I'll be successful some day.
18. I love my kids. I feel like I don't give them equal attention, but it's hard to be "fair" with a toddler that just needs more than my 3rd grader.
19. I can't seem to keep my blog updated. I try, but I haven't found the right balance between maintaining enough anonymity (should I even bother to try??) and giving more complete updates on what's happening in my life.
20. Most of my best friends are people I've met online. I've met most of them in person since then. I love it, they're friends I can take with my when I move and maintain the exact same relationship.

21. Speaking of moving, I really love not staying in the same place all the time. I love moving into a new house. I love the excitement unpacking the boxes. However, I don't love learning to drive around in a new town.
22. I bought a GPS for my husband for Christmas. I use it more than he does.
23. I never wear my engagement ring. Instead, I wear my $50 wedding band. It's worth more to me than the rest of my material possessions combined.
24. I never again want to live without wireless high speed internet.
25. I still hope one day to experience being in space. I'll never be able to live without gravity (do a Google on #16), but I still want to see it in person.

A much better day for Kaden...

Thank goodness.  

I stayed with him for about an hour at drop off time.  He wasn't happy about me leaving, but at least he was smiling and enjoying himself there before I told him I was going.

I stopped by at lunch and he was eating happily.  I got a big *thumbs up* from the lead teacher.

When I picked him up, they said he didn't cry a bit once he calmed down after I left.  He's still hanging back a little, but I'll take it!  Whew!


Darrell and I both had incredibly frustrating days.  Nothing that can't hopefully (eventually) get fixed, but irritating nonetheless.  We should find out his unit tomorrow.  I should find out what jobs I'm qualified for in the priority placement program (spousal preference for federal jobs on post).


I am SORE.  I went to the gym and ran/walked for five miles yesterday, and another run/walk/elliptical/lunges five and a half today.  Tossed in some crunches and modified pushups for the heck of it as well.  My legs are going to be screaming tomorrow.  It already hurts to sit.  Yeow!


While this extended stay apartment has been serving us nicely, I can't wait to get our stuff back and be living in our new place.  Next week!

Monday, February 02, 2009

So much going on...

I have all intentions of reviving this thing.  If you read it, please leave comments from time to time so I know I'm not talking to myself.

The latest news...

Darrell should find out his duty unit today or tomorrow.  This will determine when he deploys next.  It shouldn't be until 2010 at the earliest.  By that time, President Obama's withdrawal timeline may play into when Darrell leaves (and to where).

I'm unemployed and hating it.  Yes, we can go quite a long time on just Darrell's income alone.  However, I've never not worked unless I've been a full time student.  Yes, I have my thesis to write, an individual study class to work on, and a project to finish, but I need to work.  For ME.  I should be finding some information out tomorrow about how I fit into the 'spousal priority placement' program.  Here's hopin'...  While I'm looking for a civilian gig, I'm hoping to find something within the federal government I can make a career out of.  The best case scenario would be to get involved in the geospatial intelligence community, but I doubt that will happen at this duty station.  Until then, I want something I enjoy that has some upward mobility potential.

Justin is enjoying his new school so far.  He's going to school on post, so all the kids are used to being the 'new kid' at school.  He makes friends so easily (although he's terrible with names) that I'm not worried about him.  We signed him up for the after-school program; luckily one of his classmates goes to the same place so J's all set there.  

However, all is not well in Kaden's world.  So far, he absolutely hates his new day care.  I know he'll learn to enjoy it, but for now it's a painful experience all around.  He's hardly eating, he cries off and on all day, and it breaks my heart.  Still, he'll have to get used to it eventually, as I do plan to be working full time soon.  I'm very surprised he's having such a hard time.  It's only been a couple of days, and Darrell and I are hoping he adjusts sooner rather than later.

For the time being, we're staying at an extended stay place until we sign for our on-post townhouse.  It's essentially a small apartment.  They allow pets, so we only boarded Cammi and Mo for one night.  Thank goodness, as I imagine we'd have been murdered in our sleep if we'd had to leave them there the full three weeks we thought we might have to.  Cammi especially was not pleased when we picked them up the next morning.  She even growled at me.  And I'm her favorite!

It is absolutely beautiful here.  We love living near the mountains!!  We've had a little snow, a few warm (60+) days, and a lot in between.  Every morning, I take a moment to admire our natural surroundings; it's a heck of a lot different from Kansas!!