Tag Archive for 'Navy'

4 Sporks in 7 Years

I must say much has changed in my life in the last several months. I suffered through a drama-packed job situation which is still settling and I had many opportunities to learn and do new things. Below are the details of some of the more interesting events of the last few months :

  • *I have changed jobs on 2 occasions with the possibility of a third coming
  • *I achieved Security+ and Network+ certifications (to get bonuses and add resume filler, currently prepping for CISSP & CEH), and a Cloudshield Certified Developer Certification
  • *I lost my fourth spork in recent memory at work (probably stolen again)
  • *I took a Christmas vacation to Colorado with my immediate family where I learned how to … quickly … put on snow chains and of the value of owning a Subaru in snowy conditions
  • *My motorcycle has broken down to an extent
  • *I have been prepping for the whole grad school routine again
  • *I finally finished Jades Robot Costume only to have her declare that she will no longer be known as Pickle
  • *I ran Warrior Dash as Lt. Dangle, and lost the keys to the cruiser (this one must be told verbally. I could spend all day writing about it)
  • *I may have determined what the hell is wrong with my weather station
  • *And finally Laura got a job … just kidding

Jerb Drama
The biggest life changer in the last few months was without a doubt, my job situation. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the DoD contracting process, a contract and its allocated positions and financial resources are usually reassessed or bid on annually. I worked with a small company developing software for a NIDS/NIPS system deployed by the Air Force. Most of my coworkers were rather unconcerned about losing the contract since our company had it for many years and since the government was relatively happy with our products. In fact when the negotiations for the contract were being made the contracting office and people affiliated with our work requested that bidders provide a detailed and technically specific development plan consisting of several hundred pages of information … in like 15 days in an apparent attempt to ward off bidders. Despite all of this, I was still pessimistic. I just had a weird gut feeling about it all and several small signs popped up as we closed in on D-Day. On the last day of our work we still hadn’t received an answer as to our future. Only then did I begin to see a shift in the moods of many of my coworkers. We all had to pack our stuff to avoid having to be escorted back onto the premises in the event of losing our jobs. The next night we finally received an email from our interim team leader who was rather shocked himself when saying “we did not get the contract”.

So like that I went from being the happily and gainfully employed breadwinner of my family to an unemployed software engineer (yeah think Office Space again). The good news when these things happen is that the company who wins the contract typically hires several of the old employees to fill gaps in technical skills specific to the project. This was also the case this time however the winning company grossly underbid on the contract resulting in all of the former employees having to walk the fine line between taking care of themselves and taking care of friends and former coworkers. In a way it resembled the shittiest game of musical chairs ever played, where those left standing when the music stopped playing had to drastically alter the lifestyle etc. For whatever reason I happened to land in the lap of L-3 Communications which was subcontracted by the winning company to provide developers, and for what it is worth I consider myself very lucky that I did. They are a very large established company who take good care of their employees, and they provide a $5000 bonus to me if I can get somebody hired … *wink*. That being said I do miss Meritec and my old coworkers. I was wonderful working with all of them.

I have since settled in again and though I still feel rather stressed concerning my new more senior role with the project, I have learned a great deal and can honestly see myself leading a development team in the near future. The biggest setback so far with the new company is that I lost my friggin spork AGAIN! I don’t know how or why but the damned things keep disappearing from my desk drawers. I know how asinine it might seem to think that someone is walking around stealing sporks, but we have caught no less than 3 people in the act of tossing our drawers late at night for CDs/DVDs/Pens etc. I will be the first to admit that one of them was almost entirely my fault since I probably left it in the break room. The others just walked off mysteriously. I am thinking about installing an alarm and/or booby traps. A bunch of crap it is.

Professional Development
So now that I am with L-3 (which offers certification bonuses) and since I have witnessed first-hand how quickly I can be out of a job, I decided to go certification crazy. I pretty much spent all of December reading Security+ and Network+ books to prepare for examinations. I learned earlier in the year that CompTIA had decided as of 2011 their A+, Security+, and Network+ certifications would expire every 3 years or so, unless a bridge examination was paid for and passed. Since I took both of mine in December I am certified for life (with the completion of CPEs).

I decided to use a Prometric testing center to take my first test, Security+. I had been studying for about 10 days or so, and had the material down pretty damn well sans some of the specifics regarding digital cryptography methods. The nearest testing site with an available date was located by the airport. I assumed that each test site would be fairly similar and quickly purchase my voucher to take the test at 2pm.

I woke up early on the morning of the test and rifled through my note cards and practice exams. Sometime around 10am I received a call from the test proctor who asked if I was taking the test at 2:00. When I informed him that I was, he asked if I would rather take it at noon or even 1pm. I told him I did not want to move it up because I was driving to San Marcos after the test and moving it up would require me wandering around somewhere for an hour or two. He then had the nerve to inform me that he was there until I finished my test and that he wanted to get out of there by 1pm to do something. He kept pushing his case on the phone, and eventually as I became more and more pissed, I gritted my teeth and told him I will be in at 1pm.

I arrived at 1pm and he immediately quipped that he could have been home by now. Again I was left rather speechless. I figured I would just go in, knock out the test and be on my merry way. I sat down and began the 100 question test. The first 10 or so questions were alien to me. It was crazy. I had studied very hard, I knew my way around my study material and could pass any assortment of 100 questions out of their 500 or so question test bank with a 98% average. The actual test however asked oddly worded questions that were either tricky or outdated. Often times the questions concerned subject or acronyms I had never even heard of. I was about halfway through the test when my little panic alarm went off in my head. I sat there dumbfounded and embarrassed, finding it hard to swallow that I was going to fail a friggin Security+ exam when my job was to develop secure software for the friggin DoD. I actually contemplated walking out and saving Joe Gotztago his hour or so and returning home to study for a test retake. After a few minutes of starring at the screen I became a bit more rational and thought; F-it you are here, you spent 2 weeks studying this shit, if you fail you are going to crash and burn not walk out.

So on with the test. Another 10 questions down, another 2-3 marked for review. It was about this time that Joe Gotztago apparently retreated to his little Civic and began BOOMING baselines through the wall. I really couldn’t believe it. Being a Kramer I quickly deployed our famous “I can fuck with you worse than you can fuck with me” game plan and made it a point to sit there and review every friggin question to the last second of my time limit. Honestly I was done reviewing at about the 1 hour mark but I wanted to stay there, stare at the wall, stare at the camera, pick my nose, and doodle on my scratchpad. At that point I didn’t care if Joe Gotztago was missing the birth of his first born child, my ass was planted like a Chia Donkey. I pressed the submit button about 20 seconds before my time expired and prepared myself to receive a proverbial kick in the sack. To my absolute surprise I was informed that I had passed with a score of 860 or some such, with 750 out of 900 being passing. Don’t ask me how. So on the way out Joe Gotztago was pissed off and kept commenting that he wanted to be home, and that next time I should sign up for an earlier test. I just smiled and nodded and walked out the door knowing damn well I would never take a test there again, and that I would be able to look forward to a couple of study free nights.

I wish I had an awesome story for the Network+ exam. I really don’t. I studied hard again, picked a Prometric testing site in Austin, and passed it rather easily with an 880 or something (90%).

Currently I am studying for my CEH exam next month at a much more leisurely pace.

Halloween
Alright so on to Halloween. I wanted to do something over the top this year but I could not figure out what. I wanted to hit one our costumes out of the park, but was afraid time constraints would lead to 3 ground outs (there Laura are you happy? … I used a baseball reference). I spent some time looking around at Electro-Luminescent lighting. You can buy it fairly cheap and sew it into jackets, etc. I thought about sewing some into my motorcycle jackets so that when I give my bike gas the sound of the engine would cause it to glow more (they sell audio sensors). I really wished I had the time to make something like this. Oh well maybe next year. While searching around for Daft Punk patterns and pictures I stumbled across a guy who created a friggin Daft Punk replica helmet. <-- I am still amazed by that. That served to remind me that I am no artist and that I should stick to simple shit. So for me I only had to visit one costume site to fall in love with the Lt. Dangle getup. I spent a couple of months growing out my wannstache. Logan’s costume was not an issue since she inherited Jades from last year. I had asked jade 8-10 weeks before Halloween what she wanted to be and for some reason or another I drew a sketch of a robot and she was sold. I had a pretty good idea how everything would look and fit together, but I could not figure out how I was going to create the flashing panel buttons on her chest. Originally I figure I would just buy stain glass tiles and wire some Christmas lights behind them, however the light would not diffuse correctly and it frankly looked horrible. I then though I would purchase an old Simon game off of Amazon or EBay and mount that sucker to her chest box. Do you have any idea how expensive those things are nowadays? Like 100 bucks! I ended up going to cheap and shitty route of just cutting rectangles out of rubber mats we bought. It took a few weekends to finish everything. It all came out rather well except for the stupid buttons … oh yeah and except for the fact that I made her eye holes too high and that the lights mounted on her shoulders prevented her from turning her head too much. Most of our neighbors were in fact impressed and requested to get pictures of her etc. I suppose the costume would have been less glamorous to them if they would have stayed on the porch long enough to realize poor Jade had to remove her robot head entirely between houses just to be able to see and move. Oh well. Simple fixes for Logan’s robot next year right?

Christmas
This was the first Christmas I spent back in San Antonio where I was comfortable enough financially to take a vacation. Since I like an 80 degree Christmas about as much as I would like rooming with Glenn Beck, we decided to head up to the southwestern corner of Colorado. Of course since everyone else in the Northern Hemisphere were had to make out arrangements a few months ahead of the trip. After calling no less than 20 places we decided to stay two nights at the Elk Point Cabins on Vallecito Lake, about 30 minutes Northeast of Durango. We also had to make reservations for 2 nights in Cloudcroft, 1 night going up, and 1 driving back.

Once we knew the trip was on, we began looking around for stuff to do. I found out Santa was going to give Jade and Logan Polar Express tickets to the Silverton train, so that took care of one evening. The hostess of elk Point Cabins suggested a horse pulled sleigh ride around the mountain as another fixture in the trip. we figured we would leave the rest of our trip unplanned since we might want to split up or do something else etc.

About two weeks before Christmas I woke up early to begin studying for my Network+ exam. I glanced at my phone as I typically do early in the morning and noticed something wrong. I have a pseudo-live image of Cloudcroft (up to 30 minutes old) as my phone wallpaper. That morning when I looked I saw a huge pile of something and a bunch of chaos. I quickly went to the upstairs computer and logged on to pull up the high resolution feed and looked in amazement as I realized a large portion of the historic downtown district (3 shops) had burnt down. It was a very sad scene since it was approaching their most profitable tourist season, and since the shops were nearly 100 years old, and since we would be visiting that very place in 14 days or so.

So on to the trip. there wasn’t really any excitement until we reached Colorado (except for Laura forgetting all of the girls snow clothes for whatever reason). I had checked the Durango weather for the last week and was actually afraid we would get up there and not see any snow. There was about 4 inches or less of packed melted/refrozen ice/snow at our cabin when we got there, but as we headed down into town that quickly disappeared. We went shopping in Durango and hung around town waiting for the Polar Express ride at 6PM. Weatherbug had changed their forecast to 100% chance of snow that night and the entire area was put under a Winter Storm Warning. Naturally my mother and father were a bit nervous about this since they came up in her Chevy Malibu, and since they aren’t accustomed to dealing with snow. We all decided to buy groceries in town in case we ended up snowed in at the cabin.

That night after the polar express ride we drove to the cabin together, played a few gamed and prepared for our winter storm. The owner of the cabins randomly gave us a nice set of snow chains that had been left behind by a previous renter. We moved my father’s car up to the top of the culd-a-sac so that he would not have to drive it up a steep embankment in snow and ice. I went to sleep that night very excited. Every time I would wake up I would roll over and try to peak outside to see if the snow had started. Around 4AM I finally fell into a deep sleep.

I woke up cold at 6:30AM or so. I shuffled out to the main room to see my dad fighting with the fire place. He immediately informed me that it was snowing. It wasn’t coming down very hard though. My dad and I decided to drop my mom’s car off at the local one-stop stop about 2 miles up the road and directly across the lake from our cabin. We figured the plows would operate more regularly there and that we would have a better chance of finding help etc if we needed it. Before taking it there I had to put on those damned snow chains. Wow that was quite the adventure. The gloves on they were too bulky for me to put on the chains, however if I took them off my hands would freeze and literally not work. It probably took us an hour or so to get them on. By the time we were done the snow was coming down like angel shit. We returned back to the cabin tired and dirty. We spent the rest of the day sledding, fighting, eating, and playing games. It was one of the best days I had in years.

ForrsterFor the next 24 hours it snowed and snowed and uh … yeah snowed some more. The place looked like Michael Irvin’s coffee table. There was about 20-26 inches on the ground the next morning and I started to wonder how much the Forrester could handle. We had to head up a semi-steep hill with about an inch of ice underneath it, and my ground clearance is only 9inches or so. As we assessed the situation the snow actually stopped falling. We took advantage of the weather and quickly hopped into the car to drive to the Malibu to dig it out and bring it back to the cabin. It took several attempts to make it up the hill since the plows left a rather nasty 3 foot embankment. The depth of the snow and the ice on the hills gave me fits even with all-wheel drive. After using about half of my clutch plate I blasted through the wall of snow and onto the cud-a-sac. From there it was smooth sailing to the general store.

Thankfully the snow was very lightweight and made for some easy shoveling. We had the Malibu out in no time and were heading back to the cabin. I already mentioned that both of my parents were petrified of getting snowed in. Honestly when I woke up that morning and saw that 2 feet had fallen I was beginning to wonder too. The plows did a good job with the roads, and the snow chains and all-wheel drive did the rest. It only took us about 2-3 hours to pack both vehicles and begin our trip back home. By the time we made it down to Durango the roads were in a condition that warranted removing the snow chains. We did run into more snow showers on the way home and the road was packed with snow for a hundred miles or so. Other than that and our stop at Ruidoso, the trip home was quiet and uneventful.

All 4 of my girls don’t work now
So my two daughter are much too young to work. My wife hasn’t worked since my oldest was less than a year old (approaching 7 years now). However my motorcycle at 37 years old has always worked, that is until a ride home from work mid-December. I was approaching a stop light and as I down shifted it shut off entirely, almost as if I had hit the kill switch. Due to its age the bike often acts in peculiar ways. I had become familiar with its eccentricities through riding it frequently. THIS though was new. I know I did not stall it. Once I came to a stop I put it in neutral and hit the start button; nothing. It wouldn’t even turn over. Normally this would be a battery issue except that my head lamp was on full blast and that I had no issues starting the bike only 3 minutes or so earlier. So there I was in the dark on a bike that wouldn’t start, in a rather remote are about 11 miles from my house. I looked around to see if I could determine an obvious culprit, which I couldn’t. Since the area was flat it would not be that easy to jump it. The only option I had was kick starting the thing.

Now I had read in a book or two about the difficulty of kick starting a bike, even when it is warm. I had never tried it though. The situation I found myself in was such that I had no other options than to see if I could make it work. I sat upright pulled out the kick start pedal and went to town. Stomp – right foot rest pedal to the shin – Lift – repeat. This went on a good 25 times until to my utter delight the bike started. Of course by then my shin was bruised to hell and back but I couldn’t care less. I had kick started my bike, something other cyclist that have never ridden a bike older than 1979 or so have never experienced.

So once I got home I tinkered around with it again. I charged the battery up and tried to start it and got the same results. I suspected a short, but tracing the starting switch the starter motor, I found none. I originally suspected the starter motor, but that wouldn’t explain why it just randomly shut down in the first place. In fact, I still don’t have an explanation for that. I did order a battery from O Reilly which I will pick up on Tuesday. I am keeping my fingers crossed that one of the cells was bad in the old one. With luck she’ll be working again soon.

Belated Gallery Update
Below are the galleries I recently updated, including our Christmas adventures.

Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Road Shots
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->New Mexico
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->New Mexico->Cloudcroft/Ruidoso
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->New Mexico->Carlsbad Caverns
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado->Polar Express
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado->Durango
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado->Vallecito Cabin

Holidays->Christmas 2010
Holidays->Halloween 2010

Blog Bundling on Volleyball

Men’s All-Navy Volleyball Team

Volleyball has come and gone. It didn’t seem like it was too long ago when I was stressing out each night in my barracks room about being cut from the team due to my poor camp performance. With about 10 days left in the camp I found myself on the starting team, and was getting increasingly comfortable with our setter. My progress however was painfully slow. It seemed that every time I would dust off an old cobweb, I would uncover another. By the time we arrived in North Carolina for the Armed Forces Tournament I was feeling a tad more confident.

Our first match was against the Marines. I was quickly reminded how fickle sports could be. Physically we were prepared, but mentally we were all somewhere else. I don’t really know how to describe it. It was if hold music was playing in our heads. Some of us, myself included, had deer in headlights looks the entire match. We lined up on the court with our 6 starters, me playing OH, and in a blink of an eye we lost the first game 25-17. The next two games followed suit. This was one of those matches that went by so fast that we didn’t even have time to adjust. Instead of seeing the entire game from a bird’s eye view, each of us seemed focused at a micro level on a few individual things. We weren’t really outclassed; we just mentally took a crap. Not having a coach there hurt us a lot. Worse still we faced the problem that would haunt us for the rest of the tournament, finding an emotional floor leader.

Our veteran player John arranged to have the girls coach act as our head coach while we were playing. The next match against the Air force went a little better, but again, we lost in 3 games. Each subsequent match got a little closer and a little better until we finally beat the Army in our 5th match. By then it was too little too late. I was reminded 138139 times by our coach and various female Navy players that I needed to get excited and pumped up after each point despite the outcome of the point. I suppose I used to be an excitable guy however long ago. When it comes to volleyball, I just like to play. I think the only time I can “ManRa” as they call it, is when the other team is talking trash, or when they are a bunch of @$$holes. Each branch was pretty cool to us, so I just did my thing, smiled and prepared for the next point, to the dismay of many of our girls. Since I am a huge San Antonio Spurs fan (25 years strong) I might attempt to blame my new-found stoicism on Tim Duncan. Yeah … I think that’s what I will do.

Apparently several other members of our team had also been counseled. Some of the Navy girl’s parents who were watching asked them if we (the guy’s team) even liked playing. It was a very weird situation. We all knew how to play, but no one could really bring the ManRa. It wasn’t that we were playing bad, but that we weren’t a bunch of cheerleaders. The two games that we did get emotionally involved in we kicked ass. All 6 starters interacted at on even keel, taking turns attempting non-chalantly to motivate the team. I spent many nights analyzing the matches in an attempt to figure out what I could do (sigh *mentally*) to help.

Physically, my play was on and off. I had a bad first match against the Marines, a descent second match against the Air Force where I logged 15-19 on kills, and a bad third match against the Army, when I decided passing was not very important to win. My last 3 matches where we played each branch again were a bit more consistent. I typically got about 15 kills, and passed at or around a 2.1, whereas in the first three games, I would either pass perfect, or horrendous. After about the 3rd match I spoke to our setter Aaron about running 32s on the outside when I was in transition. We did it by chance and quickly noticed that the other branches had a very hard time dealing with the quick inside sets when our middle was also going for a well-passed quick. I believe we even had two matches were I was perfect from 32s hitting 10+. It was funny watching each team we faced adjust to it by stacking their setter or opposite way inside. Due to my shoulder being all jacked up, I still had tons of angle hitting room. Eventually they stacked so far inside on the last match that I had about half the court to turn to when swinging line. That, and sporadic good digging, were my only real successes. Despite everything, two other Navy guys (our Opposite Carlon, and setter Aaron) and I were selected to represent the Navy in the CISM world games (*read below for how that went comically wrong*).

It took me a while to warm up to all the Navy guys, but I already miss them. We had a very cool team. Everyone was easy to get along with. I am slated to be out of the service soon, and have been researching reserve jobs. Personally, I would prefer to join the Air Force Reserves. Knowing that if I did, I would never play with any of the guys again, I have since swayed toward joining the Coast Guard. If I am lucky enough, I will line up again with many of the same guys as a Coast Guard reservist and offer a little payback to the other branches.

The Navy Strikes Again
As I write this, I have an 8 week old travel claim that has not been paid, an 8 week old Tuition Assistance Request that has not been approved, and my ship is forcing me to take an early out by threatening to blow off navadmin 273/06 and deploy me despite the fact that I have not been back from Afghanistan for 6 months. I also received a sub-par eval while I was in Afghanistan (a 3.1) despite earning a Meritorious Service Medal, which by the way is about the highest medal any of our 300 crew members CO included, have received themselves. I should also mention that it is taking an act of God to get any progress on resolving my ankle issue. Apparently the GOOD medical care is reserved for the military members dependents, as they are the only ones that get to see real doctors. We get the expertise of quacks that may have an associates, score in the middle range of the ASVAB, and who like to use silver nitrate incorrectly to cauterize a toenail (future story). All that being said, my dealing with the organization or lack thereof of the sports office took the cake.

I first need to mention that everyone I spoke to was very nice, and that they all attempted to be helpful. In fact, I am not quite sure why it is all broken. We weren’t even told that camp was postponed. We each had to call and find out. We also did not receive valuable information, including what we need to bring and have done prior to arriving to camp, until about a day before we left. Needless to say that most of our team arrived to Jacksonville unprepared. Ironically the three guys that would end up being selected for the CISM team after the tournament (Carlon, Aaron, and I) all took it upon ourselves in camp to fight tooth and nail to ensure that we got our passports in time, (one of the things that was not passed down to us). We each filled out all the form, got everything signed, and went out of our way to rectify that situation.

It was a month or so later, at the All-Armed Services Tournament, where we (three of us) anxiously sat awaiting our names to be called to the CISM team that we learned of our Shakespearian fate. We were each told under the table to make preparations to travel to Rio De Janero for a month. So when the last name was called, and all three of us were still sitting, it was quite a punch in the stomach. Afterward, the Navy Sports Representative informed me that I had been selected, but that our passports had not come in yet, and that they would not take any of us. I cannot tell you the last time the Navy did not send anyone to represent men’s volleyball. All I know is that we each moped back to our barracks and sat around feeling kind of shell-shocked. The morning rolled around soon enough, and as we were boarding the plane, we were each presented with one last little kick in the groin when we simultaneously received text messages indicating that our passports had arrived. ARRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG! The US team placed ninth and even won a match against Venezuela. I frequently checked up on them, and felt sick with envy daily. None-the-less I should be thankful I played at all. I could have spent the time on the ship.

Woooooooooooah

Lots of things going on. I feel like I am standing, feet buried, ankle deep in wet sand, with a 500 ft Tidal wave coming at me at the speed of sound.

I received my award for serving in Afghanistan shortly before I left to go play volleyball. It is my first official award and it is substantial. My medal and ribbon rack is nice and stacked now so I can walk around in my uniforms now with a little pride.

I left a couple of weeks ago to play volleyball for the Navy. Officially this is the first time I had to “try-out” for a position. For whatever reason I left a big shit on the court the first few days. Honestly it was very embarrassing. I cannot recall ever playing so bad. I am still playing sub-par but I have improved significantly. Volleyball has always been something I was never nervous about since I was typically one of the top two players on the court at any competition. Here, I am nervous. It may be because of what is at stake, this being my last opportunity to play for the Navy team before getting out, or perhaps because it may be my last opportunity to play competitively with ankle surgery possibly on the horizon. Presently I am aiming to make the team, and contribute at the All-Armed Services Tournament. I am am able to do so I may be selected to represent the US Armed Services Team in Rio De Janero. Obviously that would be unreal. Presently I am Jacksonville, FL for camp. There is a very interesting group dynamic in that we seem to have all extraverts sans me, so it is a bit hard to keep up with everyone’s group-happy itineraries. Today we have an absurd amount of rain and wind. It was almost like being in the middle of a tropical storm. I even forced myself to walk out against the wind to get some videos of the waves crashing in and the sand flying around. I cannot recall the last time I saw rain. It had been months at least.

I really have to start getting super aggressive with job searching. I have made a goal of applying for 25 positions weekly. I am targeting Colorado Springs, Portland, Brunswick, Dallas, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, and (other) parts of Tennessee, Washington, New Mexico and Alaska. The idea of changing everything in my life in the next few months is a bit nerve racking. A new job, hours, location, etc. Who knows what lies ahead?

The stock market has been very friendly recently. I was able to put away a descent amount of money while I was over in Afghanistan, and in returned have netted an average of 30% on all tickers I have owned for more than a month. The others are also on their way up. I still wish I had more to invest but what’s a guy to do. A day isn’t a day without me checking up on my money. I can see how so many people tend to micromanage their investments.

A new mindest

Most of you know I am in Kansas now training for my deployment to Afghanistan. Thus far we have spent the majority of our time learning about culture and the languages used over in Afghanistan. The tactical insight demonstrated in our training changed my mind about the Army and the thought process of our military as a whole. I heard things I never thought I would hear, and though there is certainly the possibility that is is all too late, I feel confident that we at least now know how best to conduct operations over in the middle east. In a nut shell we now openly admit several things;

  1. Our tactics in both wars were horribly flawed and needed drastic revision.
  2. Though we have ousted both insurgent governments we are still technically losing the war.
  3. We presently foresee the necessity of maintaining a presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan until 2013 and likely longer.
  4. What we are doing in Afghanistan is good, that is the intentions are worth the fight. However it will take a ridiculous amount of commitment from both the Afghani citizens and ours to suffer through the long process of rebuilding a country.
  5. Bush and his military advisers as a whole are completely moronic and continue to damage the campaign to this day.
  6. General Petraeus knows his stuff.

The majority of the training hammered home the idea that our priority over in Afghanistan is not to gun down Taliban and other insurgent groups, but to build rapport with local tribes and to assist in developing the security of the country by advising the ANA and ANP. Through this, the ANA and ANP will be able to police their own countries utilizing proven tactics, and eventually we will be able to pull out of the country. Since the ANA and ANP are allies with the US and essentially UN projects it is important to put an Afghani face on and policing or security issues that take place. This helps reinforce the ideal that the Afghani’s are in fact progressing and are responsible for providing security.

This new approach completely surprised me. Gone are the days when we strap on our weapons before gathering the necessary intel and accessing our goals and methods of achieving them. I could only think if this had been done to begin with we would already be much more successful than we are presently. That being said we are making a difference. I can assure you that. Unfortunately for us (UN Troops) that means we must interact with the Afghani people consistently without weapons and armor since it is important to be seen as peace-keepers and not the aggressors we had originally been thought as. This necessary tactic puts us in more danger than we would have been in the “fire at anything that moves campaign”. That being said the danger is worth it. The Afghani people are a beautiful and cultured people with a uniqueness and history unlike any culture I have ever experienced or read about. My only goal for my augmentation is to associate a positive face with America to at least a handful of Afghani’s.

I have created a gallery for training so you guys can check out our picks located here. There are several in there of our training including our interaction with real Afghani nationals and of course our humvees. I have been laying low here, and thus far my only real job is a humvee driver. They are not as fun as one would think. They are gas guzzling pieces of shit that are responsible for about 60% of combat deaths in Afghanistan! Apparently it is much safer over there to travel by foot or even by four wheeler, than it is to utilize even an armored humvee.

The language and culture classes have been amazing. I have met many native Afghani’s including a Dari translator that looks exactly like my dad, exactly. Kind of scary actually. Check out the image here. While I am on the subject of the gallery I want to mention/explain the pictures of our chief . I decided early on in training that he looked a lot like a built Flavor Flav, so that is why that picture is in there (thanks Alan for bringing my idea to life). After that he began to give me a bunch of shit about being from Texas, so naturally we made him a cowboy and hung his invitation throughout the barracks. Typical boredom shit.

For those of you that are interested in the crazy balancing act that is the War in Afghanistan, check out my video gallery here There are many very educational and informative videos. This war has changed a great deal and I think the most upsetting thing to me and I would imagine to other troops is that it has almost been forgotten, pushed back into the shadows during the time of the great crises in Iraq.

Update: I am still trying to figure out why embedvideo is taking a dump on me thus not allowing me to post my Afghanistan videos to my site. They are however posted on Google Video and can be seen by clicking the below links:
Counter Insurgency Tactics
Taliban PR Tactics
Democracy And Elections In Afghanistan
Bin Laden Video
Taliban Dynamics
FOB Life

I will fix the problem and post more images/videos later. For those of you who are really interested, I recommend watching the movie the Kite Runner.

Catching up

Day27: Saturday, 27 October, 2007 – 48 Days until I return to my family.

We began the day with an underway replenishment somewhere up in the northern Atlantic. I had heard rumors that we would soon be running into some weather. When we stepped out onto the weatherdeck the wind was very brisk and it was quite obvious that we were in for a storm. About 45 minutes into the unrep, the rain began to come down. At first it rained moderately, but after a few minutes it really began to poor. I estimated the wind during the squall to be at about 35-40 Knots topside. We are all unbelievably soaked, but it was very fun. Photos of the unrep are located here. I also posted a couple of cool unrep videos on our video gallery. One shows the emergency breakaway (when the music starts playing on the intercom) though I am afraid to say at half our normal speed. Check them out here. Alas I remembered to post the images from our first underway replenishment and Maine sail away. The are located at First underway replenishment and Sailaway respectively.

Today we are in Rhode Island looking for a good singletrack mountain bike trail/range. We snapped some shots of our short journey and hope to have many more interesting pictures by tomorrow. Todays photos are posted here.

For all of you mustache fans I have posted some images of me being retarded on the boat. The mustache brings out a new 80’s, pop, porn- star personality in me. Check em.

Shipboard Life

Where to begin………..

Just when you reach your limit, when you think that you can no longer take all the crap that comes with the navy, you go out to sea. You stand on the weather deck rocking and rolling and take in the view; ocean as far as you can see.

Day1: Monday, 1 October, 2007 – 74 Days until I return to my wife and children

Wow, this is indeed what navy life is all about. It began when we sailed down the Kennebec River. There was a ceremony near Portland for all the BIW employees and families to say goodbye to the ship as we sailed by. Well over a hundred sailors manned the rails in their dress blue uniforms. I slept through it since I had to work all night. Shortly afterwards I went topside to take one last photo shoot. I will certainly miss Maine. The photos are located here. The air temperature was about 55 degrees with a crisp 20 MPH wind. It was a very nostalgic moment.

Monday night I went outside to take a look at things. I opened the door to the Hilo hanger to walk out to the flight deck. All I could see was pitch black aside from about 10 lit cigarette butts about 10 feet in front of me. I walked up and listened to the phantoms talk and quickly and easily identified all of them. I then realized that out of say 250 people on the ship that I could just about identify every single one by voice. So we proceeded to talk and laugh and tell stories out in the dark, our own little pitch black party of 10. At some point of time our eyes began to adapt and we could make out the outlines of our faces. The moon came out and lit up the ocean. I was in awe at the new experience. One of my more pessimistic and resentful friends agreed with me that times like this make it all worth it.

Day2: Tuesday, 2 October, 2007 – 73 Days until I return to my wife and children

I awoke after sleeping for 5 hours and wandered out side. The boat was really rocking and rolling, and couldn’t help to laugh at people running into things, or even getting thrown into things in passage ways. I felt a bit delirious since my sleep schedule had been insanely inconsistent or even non-existent. I had been assigned to work from 8 PM to 8AM and I am still unable to force my body to sleep until 6 PM. I took a gander outside to see what was going on to and noticed the seas were a bit rough, at least for my nominal experience. The ship was cruising along at a good clip when all of the sudden it just stopped. One of the phone talkers on the flight deck informed me that a whale was directly in front of us. This happened a couple of more times. Once I was able to see one come up for air on the port side about 200 yards out. I attempted to video tape it but doubt that I got anything. Shortly afterwards my boss wanted to clean our swabs (mops) since they had become rancid after weeks of use. He drilled a hole in the top of the handle ran about 60 feet of rope through the hole, tied it off and tossed it overboard behind the ship. I watched as it skipped along in the massive wake of the ship. Check out the videos here.

I now have to sleep with my rack straps secured to keep from falling out. It seems that the seas are slowly increasing. We already had somebody fall out and get stitches on their forehead and nose. Apparently we are expected to endure 16 foot swells in the next few days, and from what some of the saltier sailors, it should be entertaining.

This afternoon I went to the aft gym to lift some weights. There is nothing like squatting a descent amount of weight on a platform that is rolling about 10 degrees to the left and right. I am not sure it was such a good idea.

I realized today how much my life has changed in the last 6 mos. Little, eccentric, things I took for granted. I no longer dream about anything that isn’t Navy related anymore …… ever. I am on a boat, I fall overboard, the ship catches on fire, I am swimming with friends, watching a movie with friends, whatever. It is always navy related. I did daydream today of what it would be like with Doogel walking around on the ship. I kind of snickered at the idea of her trying to keep her feet as the ship rocked and rolled.

I am still trying to convince whoever needs convincing to let me sleep out on the weather deck during the day. The weather is about perfect at 65 degrees with 30 mph gusts. If we had hammocks I would not use my rack at all.

I thought today that we aren’t too far off from where the movie the perfect storm took place. Guess what? This is the time of year it took place as well. I saw many fishing vessels off the starboard side today and wandered if any of them had been acquainted with the crew of the Andrea Gail.

Day 3: Wednesday, 3 October, 2007 – 72 Days until I return to my wife and children

I worked until 8 this morning and turned in only to be woken up at 1300 by a coworker who calmly attempted to inform me in my stupor that I was being called on the 1MC to participate in underway replenishment drills. As is typically the case, nobody whatsoever within my chain of command informed me that I was part of the underway replenishment team. Nothing like some more negative PR for me. Needless to say I was quite upset, but I got up, changed quickly and hastened outside. Once outside I realized how far south we have traveled. The air was stagnate, hovering around 80 humid degrees, a far cry from the cool weather we departed from in Bath. During our little training exercise I was fortunate enough to see a very large sea turtle swim by. The shell had to have a diameter of about 3 feet. Several times we traveled through dense, warm mid-day fog. All of us topside were looking for the Black Perl

Tonight, for dinner the movie “Knocked Up” was playing. I immediately became home/wife sick since Laura absolutely loved that movie. I found out shortly afterwards that it may be possible to call my family one of these nights using one of our satellites and an ATT calling card.

At about midnight I decided to go out to the flight deck and take in the view or lack thereof. After I while I noticed repetitive splashing noises nearby. Once my eyes were used to the darkness I looked over the side to see two dolphins swimming alongside the ship, darting under the ship, and even jumping out of the water. It was quite a site. I imagine we were moving about 10 knots, and the dolphins were easily keeping up with us, and often displayed bursts of speed. When a swell would come in I would get within 6 feet of them. That was one of the coolest experiences yet for me in the Navy. They swam with us for about 30 minutes or so and left.

Tomorrow is underway replenishment. I plan on being busy pretty much all morning and night. In fact, in the next two days I will probably get about 8 hours sleep. The good news is that we are pulling into Norfolk tomorrow for a short time. Perhaps I can use my computer or even my phone then.

Day 4: Thursday, 4 October, 2007 – 71 Days until I return to my wife and children

I awoke early to prepare for underway replenishment. I had no idea how crazy it would be. I again, saw about 15 dolphins/porpoises to my port about 200 yards out. They weren’t around for more than a few minutes. An odd thing about them was that their dorsal fins were black. Once we pulled alongside the replenishment ship, I got into a trance. Two ships, totaling well over a thousand feet in length, cruising along quickly with about 100 feet between them. The current between the ships was outright ridiculous, as whitecaps sloshed around, and seas varied 16 or so feet periodically. (I was actually measuring on the hull markers on the replenishment ship). I am guessing again that we were going about 10 knots. After riding along side and doing nothing for about 30 minutes, Ozzy Osborn’s “Crazy Train” began to blast out of the speakers on the ship. I immediately thought what the hell is going on? When I looked back over at the replenishment ship I noticed that we were pulling away from it very quickly. Apparently we were doing an emergency breakaway drill. Within seconds the ship was at 30 knots. I don’t think I have the verbal capacity to illustrate how amazing the scene was. All I can say is this; try to imagine a 600 foot long ship going about 45 mph through 8 foot swells while banking to the starboard side about as hard as imaginable. Man that was fun. Waves were rushing over the lower deck as we dug into the ocean. I could not believe how much power this ship has. I pulled away like we were in a friggin car. The replenishment itself took about 3 hours or so. My job was to hold a line that was secured to a phone. It ate up my hands pretty good, but my job is actually kind of fun. Photos soon to come.

Day 5: Friday, 5 October 2007 – 70 Days until I return to my wife and children

The day began early. I had to be in to work at 4:30. I felt extremely tired. I hadn’t slept the previous day and was only able to slip in an overnight nap before the morning shift. Though it seemed to take forever, 8:00 rolled around and I went to my rack for some much needed r&r. I woke up around noon, to call my wife and sister to catch up. We had pulled into Norfolk early in the morning, and I wanted to take advantage of the cell phone service. Doogel and Chunk were both their typical selves; Doogel being too occupied being Doogel to talk to me much, and chunk muttering a bunch of words in her native Chunk language. Of course, I interpreted them as, “Give me a milkshake, a steak, and some gummy worms”. It was nice to talk to Laura briefly. I am hoping she will be able to purchase a nice car on our behalf soon. Other than that I slept throughout the majority of the day.

I was able to take a few blurry pictures of the dock in Norfolk. They are located here.

Day 6-10: Friday-Wednesday, 5 October 2007 – 65 Days until I return to my wife and children

The last few days have tested my patience extensively. Today was the first day I received a full 7 hours of sleep since the last time I wrote. Every single day from 0900 to 1200 we ran drills, naturally, during the best hours of my sleeping pattern. My mood, motivation, and demeanor went south quickly, and I found myself living not by the day, but by the minute. I attempted to arrange to call my wife several times, but it seems as though naval technology was not extended to encompass communications with loved ones. As it stands, service is expected to be restored tomorrow. I feel much better today mostly due to being well rested. I began the most extreme fitness program I have every embarked on today. I expect to burn between 1500-2000 calories practically daily from exercise and lifting alone. Hopefully that will tone me down quickly.

Day 11: Thursday, 11 October 2007 – 64 Days until I return to my wife and children.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I am getting somewhere from a personal standpoint. I can see who I want to be on the horizon. I am resonant.

Sleepless in Maine

Hello all,

It has been a while since I posted anything, and with good reason. I have literally worked about 100 hours a week now for a few weeks. I am a walking zombie. Today I had a day off, meaning that I only had to work 8 hours. I fell asleep, slept through a shipboard fire drill without even hearing a damn thing and woke up just in time to get dinner before the galley closed. It seemed kind of weird that when I woke up I felt worse than when I went to sleep. I had some messed up dream that kind of put me in some sort of funk, so I decided to jump on my bike and bike up to a coffee shop or should I say THE coffee shop. Anyways they have connectivity here, so that is good.

I don’t know how much longer I can keep up this schedule. Honestly, I am having to gut check myself as I am increasingly more demoralized by my situation. For those of you who do not know I am going through the Navy’s right of passage into shipboard life, ie. busing tables on the mess decks 15 hours a day. I have developed a habit to likening work situations to comical but real life situations that are common to people. Todays thought:

You have surely heard a story when a man or women gets intoxicated enough that they wake up the next morning next to a person they wish they never woke up next to. That seems to resemble my career now. I think to myself, holy shit what was I thinking? Only here, in my life, I cannot get up, walk out and leave a bogus number. Nope, she knows where I live, where I sleep, and she has my number. There is no escaping this ugly, lustful, bitch named the Navy.

Yesterdays which was popular among some of my jovial and respectable higher-ups:

In the movie Monsters Inc, Monsters run around scaring kids in order to power their city by somehow capturing the energy created by fright. I think our ship has stolen that idea. Only it is not fear that they use for energy, they use sorrow, and anger. Every time the lights flicker or the television starts to go out, somebody will walk in and tell me that I have extended hours, and guess what? Whoosh, television comes up, lights stop flickering. It is like on out ship I am the friggin nuclear reactor. I cannot be happy or surely we will experience a black out. There is a certain level of sorrow and demoralization required for the ship to operate effectively.

I would imagine I would fair much better if I got to see my kids and wife even weekly. I cannot tell you how much my heart aches when Jade says, “daddy you gonna come see me” or “I gonna come see you on the spaceship in Maine”. Out of all the clever little saying and offerings of advice one endures in a lifetime is there one more true than “you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone”?

All the venting aside there is nothing I really can do other than push on, living day by day. All I have to do is make it. That is it. Everything else is insignificant. All my other problems are moot. Maybe I will watch Shawshank Redemption again. Maybe I will crawl though a river of shit and come out clean.

Moving on

Hello everyone,

Well, time has flown again. I just moved aboard my ship this week. Man I cannot begin to tell you how hectic that was. Imagine trying to pack a couple of backpacks to live off of for 6 mos. It is a daunting task to say the least. Tonight will be my first official night of sleeping on the ship since last night I only “napped” for about 3 hours without the use of sheets or pillows. I could go on and on about the eccentricities of the shipboard life but I will spare you that for now. Perhaps I will be able to post some images soon.

Jade has been melting my heart with a variety of touching, and humorous conversation pieces. It seems every time I call her she throws something else out there to floor me. Below is an excerpt from out conversation last night:

Jade: Where you been?

Me: I am in Maine.

Jade: Where’s your airplane?

Me: It is here in Maine.

Jade: I go see you.

Me: Yes, honey I would love for you to some see me.

Jade: I go see your spaceship.

Me, Laughing:Yes you can come see me spaceship.

Jade: I go put my seatbelt on.

I am currently doing all I can do to make arrangements for both kiddos to come up once in the next 4 months. I am unsure how realistic that would be, but the hope of re-uniting gives me something to look forward to.

Since I now live on board the ship and since I have no access to the internet there, I will only be able to post every couple of weeks or so. As I mentioned before I am in the process of creating a new shipboard gallery.

I hope all of you guys are doing well.

Talk to you later,

Shane

Here in Maine

Hello all,

I apologize for taking so long to follow up on my first entry. I am sure the world was at a literary loss without my random thoughts. So I am in Maine now, which is an outdoor paradise. There are biking trails and campgrounds every few miles. I have learned to rely heavily on the outdoors for stress relief, which is both a testament to the beauty up here and the monotony and misery of my present assignment. Nothing new for those of you who have not spoken to me in a while. I miss my wife and kids, and often feel alone up here, but I am using that feeling to develop myself. I wonder is one ever gets to old to do that. I am 28 now and cannot help to think I may have procrastinated on that one. Oh well. The navy life is humorous. For those of you interested in joining any military service I offer the following advice; lose any bit of common sense you have before you join. There is no place for it in the service, and it will only cause you heartache and confusion. That being said, I am a fighter and have not rolled over yet. Perhaps I will come out of this a better person. During the more trying times I often fantasize about laying around on a cold weekend with my kiddos, wrestling with them, while my bikini clad wife serves me cold beer and my English Bulldog (Paco) waddles around. I should also mention in my fantasies that there is a new car and more importantly a new Triumph Thruxton in our garage which for the sake of information is apart of our new house out in the moutains. Feel free to use the above run-on sentence as a Christmas list for me. Without those thoughts, the outdoors, and Music, I would probably be in some turnip worshiping cult by now.

On another note, I have hit the 200 pound plateau up here. I am unsure if that is due to heavy weight lifting and descent eating or to a slowing metabolism and frequent beer nights. Either way, my body is changing drastically and I often find myself amazed at my recent photos.

I should be arriving back in San Diego sometime in mid December. Our Christmas plans are still undecided, but I look forward to a good deal of time away and maybe doing some cross country snow shoeing somewhere. I cannot think of anything else to bore you with right now, but I will make an honest effort to keep everyone up to date more frequently from now on. I should have my gallery up and running soon. It will include tons of pictures from Texas, California, Arizona, Illinois, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Maryland, Maine, Utah, and most importantly Iowa. Can you hear the sarcasm in the last bit of that sentence?

Shane




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