Adventures of a Modern Day, Middle-Aged Hero, on the Glory Road(to family security)


Happy New Years

Looking back on the last year, I can't even come close to saying it was a bad year.  Yes, I spent the first 6 months of the year working in Saratoga Springs, NY, like 2400 miles from my wife and kids.  But, in the middle of June, after missing my anniversary, my wife's birthday, and my birthday, I made home in time for my daughters 8th birthday.  Score one for the good guys.

Then, after a few months home, I made the pretty major decision to quit my job at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to take a job with Washington River Protection Solutions, working on the Tank Farms at Hanford.  So, from the end of September until half-way through December I was once again away from my family.  This time though, the distance was only 250 miles, so we were able to see each other every few weeks, and I was able to be home for my younger daughters 5th birthday party and Thanksgiving...so score another one for the good guys. 

While I missed a lot of little things, I got to be home for most of the big things.  Most important, my wife understood WHY I was away, and she proved to me what an amazingly strong woman she was while I was gone.  My children never suffered for love.  My mom, the World's Greatest Nana also deserves a big check mark in the assist category. 

The good news from all this time away is that unlike many, many unlucky people and most levels of governments, our family ended the year on pretty okay financial footing.  If a miracle HAD occurred and our house in Belfair had sold in the last two months of the year, I would be down-right giddy about our financial situation.  And while money isn't everything, it is one less thing to worry about. 

The year ahead is one of transition and uncertainty.  Number one on my wish list is that the house sells quickly.  That would allow wish number 2 to be fulfilled, which is the pain-free purchase of a new house for us here in the early summer, late spring.  From a family view point, I will be with them all this year, with the exception of 2 or 3 weekends I hope to dedicate to hunting in the fall.  The other hope for the new year is that I AM able to capitalize on the increased time with my family to do something other than sit around and watch TV with them.  The opportunities to get out in the outdoors and DO stuff abound on this side of the mountains.  If those opportunities are not taken, I have no one but myself to blame.

Our plans for the night are simple.  We will be taking the kids to one of my buddies houses.  As a precaution against not making it all the way until Midnight, we will watch the East Coast ball drop.  If the kids behave and play nice with the other kids, we will stay as long as we are having a good time.  I have never been big party guy...I hate being useless in the morning the day after. 

Happy New Years, everyone.

Ah...apartment life

Like I'm guessing is the case for most newly married couples, my wife and I began our married lives in an apartment.  In our case, it was a two bedroom apartment in Poulsbo, Washington that could best be described as 'exquisitely functional'  This was not 'luxury apartment living'.  Our stove was avocado green.  There was no pool.  But, for just my beautiful young wife and I, it worked.  Heck, the Navy was even paying me well enough that we were able to upgrade from 1 bedroom to 2nd bedroom for use as a computer room/guest room.

Two year later, we moved down to Silverdale, with a beautiful baby girl, and actively working for a 2nd child, and upgraded to 1200SF three bedroom apartment.  2 years later we expanded again, buying our 1800SF house in Belfair.  Sparsely occupied at first, we swelled to fill that every nook and cranny of that house.

Now, fast forward to 2010.  Having accepted a job in the Tri-Cities, 250 miles from Belfair, we are faced with the reality of having to sell a house in a historically poor housing market, during the start of the Holiday series.  Faced with that financial...uncertainty, the wife and I decided that the right thing to do at first, was get a two bedroom apartment for us.  That would give the house 6 months or so to sell, and it would give us a  couple of solid months of financial data to decide what to do.  Hopefully the house sells, and we can look for a place out here.  If it doesn't it is still possible we will be looking for a house in the spring.  There are several older places on the market in the 130-155K range in Richland.  With a decent down payment, you are talking mortgage payments cheaper than what we are paying for our current apartment.

For the meantime though...we find our family of 4 smooshed back into a 950SF 2 bed room apartment.  Now instead of the 2nd bedroom being a computer/guest room, it is being shared by the girls(5 and 8).  No bunk beds...it is a decent sized 2nd bedroom, and so my wife has arranged things where there is enough floor space between the beds for the girls to play.  Possession wise, we did a pretty okay job of purging out some of our bigger things prior to the move(2nd couch, entertainment center, WAY too big computer desk, a couple of extra chairs and a scratched up book case).  It's the little things that are squeezing us out. 

When we got here, we still had two couches worth of throw pillows, for example.  We have several boxes worth of my wife's crafting and scrap-booking stuff, but we no longer have a craft nook for it all to go in.  I also found out that whoever originally decided to to rate my stack-on gun cabinet as a 16-gun cabinet must have painted used a couple of 3 foot long 1 X 4's to simulate guns.  Something straight up and down...with actual guns that have a significant drop between the top of the stock and the heel, the 9 long guns I have in there have have serious failure to get along issues. 

Back in the old house, our normal weekend morning routine involved me chasing the girls downstairs to the family room, while SWMBO slept in in, and I got breakfast ready.  This morning, I had to stop myself 3 times from telling the girls to go down stairs.  They are also having a difficult time adjusting to noise minimization.  Our younger daughter is a normal 5-year old girl.  She WAY more energy than both of her parents put together, and she likes jumping, dancing and pretending to bounce around like a butterfly.  Now that we are in a 2nd floor apartment, I have been trying to curtail this behavior.  She tries...but it is tough.  Heck, my life would be easier if I just let them bounce off the walls until someone complains...but we all know that isn't right.

I also never realized how horrible our cats litter box smelt.  In our old house, the bathroom off the master bedroom was The Cats Bathroom.  We left the window in there open all the time, and about once a week, or when we could smell it, we would clean her litter box.  In the much smaller not as nicely ventilated apartment, you can tell within 30 seconds when she has gone to the bathroom.  I scoop her box  in the morning, my wife does it during the day, and I do it again prior to bedtime.  It doesn't seem to matter.  Part of the problem is that she is getting older, and being a few teeth down we are giving her much more canned food than we used to.  The other part of the problem is she just STINKS.  Hadn't counted on it being THAT bad. 

SWMBO has been busy researching hand washing techniques as well as portable apartment sized washers and dryers.  From a quick glance though is looks like using a washer that only allows for 1 pair of jeans or 4 or 5 shirts at a time might be the right answer either.  Is doing mini load after min load 16 hours a day really less convenient than having to go up an down a few stairs?

Time will tell.  I just know I a NOT going to wear my underwear inside out also as a means to reduce the laundry loads. 



Just a quick thank you to Sabra, of Trailer Park Paradise for adding me to here link list...it's my first official link from another blogger, and I appreciate it. 

Joy Riding

Today at work, during an early afternoon lull in the inaction, my boss asked me if I would like to take a familiarization tour of the Hanford Site.  Not just the immediate work area to which I am becoming somewhat familiar, but some of the outlying parts of the Hanford site so I would not have to resort to a blank look when someone starts telling story's about what they USED to do on site.  It being a sunny, yet chilly day, I said sure, and off we went in his car.

For those of you unfamiliar with Hanford(technically the Hanford Nuclear Reservation), the site is quite large.  It currently occupies 586 square miles, down from a peak foot print of 670 square miles.  The size reduction so far was the result of turning over a bunch of land across the Columbia which had served as 'buffer' space between the site and the surrounding area.

Making a long story short, in 1942, the scientists from The Manhattan Project identified the upcoming need for large amounts of plutonium.  The search began for a large tract of land, with an adequate fresh water supply, far from any towns of more than 1000 people.  The Hanford site, on the Columbia River, was identified as 'ideal in virtually all respects', except for the inconvenient fact that the town of Hanford, with some 1500 people, was smack in the middle of where they wanted to build things.  This being the beginning of WWII, the Government stepped in using eminent domain, and relocated the residents of the town of Hanford, Oak Bluff, and the Wanapum Indian Tribe.

Now...don't think me TOO big of a hypocrite, but this land grab by the Feds doesn't upset me nearly as much as some of the recent eminent domain abuses.  Claiming some land for a secret plutonium processing plant to win WWII AND later The Cold War is different from the Town of New London claiming some real estate for economic development. 

1943 saw the undertaking of a large, ambitious construction project.  By the end of the war, there would be 386 new miles of road, 160 new miles of rail road, 554 new buildings, and 3 operating reactors.  The first of them, B-reactor, went critical in late September 1944, with the first plutonium being made in November of 1944.  The plutonium generated at Hanford was used in the test bombs at Trinity, and the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.  Security on site was so intense that until the bombs were dropped, fewer than 1% of workers on site knew they were working on a nuclear weapons project.  General Groves, in charge of the project, noted in his memoirs that "We made certain that each member of the project thoroughly understood his part in the total effort; that, and nothing more."  I can't even imagine that in this day of media openness(and that's not even counting wikileaks).

Fast forward now to the Cold War.  At one point in the 1960's, there were 9 reactors and 5 separate processing plants operating on site.  One unfortunate by product of all the processing was waste...both solid an liquid.  Processing plutonium into a state where you can use it to make nuclear weapons is dirty business.  64 tanks were constructed on site to hold the processed liquid waste, which is not just radioactive, but contains all kinds of scary, hazardous chemicals and heavy metals.  64 tanks capable of holding 53 MILLION gallons of waste. 

Well, it being the 60's, the goal was much more focused on winning the Cold War than protecting the environment.  These waste chemicals were pumped into these tanks with no real long-term plan of what to do with them.  By the 60's, some of these tanks were already over 20 years old(yes, meaning now they are over 60 years old.)  Most of them were already full also, meaning sometimes the older tanks MAY have been just pumped out into the desert where there contents were allowed to evaporate or drain off into the ground water table.  Yup...but hey, we won the Cold War.

At some point, it was realized that MAYBE the continued integrity of these tanks could be called into question.  Much money was spent to install new, shiny double shell tanks to hold the liquid waste until something more permanent could be done with it, and the process was begun to transfer some of this scary liquid waste into it's new shiny tanks. 

About here is where I come into the picture.  This liquid transfer is still in progress.  It's not a fast process, because after sitting in tanks for 40-50 years, not all the liquid waste is what you would call liquid anymore.  The pumps originally meant to pump it aren't up to the task anymore.  To get everything out of some of the tanks, you need to cut a hole in the top of the tank and lower a new fancy pump into the tank.  That's not a smooth operation, but it is moving forward.  Your tax money IS being wisely spent, and currently the Hanford operation is the largest environmental cleanup project IN THE WORLD. 

I work in the tank farms, responsible for maintaining the ventilation and other support equipment on the site.  During the three months I have been on site, that is what I have seen.  Other contractors are responsible for cocooning the old reactors, and digging up the pits, where they used to just back up dump trucks and dump barrels and boxes of stuff in the desert.  It wasn't until today that I go to go put my eyes on some of the other things that used to happen there.  I got to go out and drive by Hanford

I mean, just saying 586 square miles sounds big.  But...realize it is one-third the size of the State of Rhode Island.  It takes over an hour to drive north to south through the site at 70MPH.  There are several herds of elk, and lots of mule deer on site.  I have seen pictures taken of them...there are some really nice trophy's running around that no one will ever get a chance to shoot.  It was an eye opening day today.  There is some really neat history out there.  Not everything is being torn down.  B-Reactor has been successfully wrapped up, and is being preserved as a museum, and every few months, they have guided tours of the site. 

And hey...in the end, we won WWII and Ronnie won us the Cold War, so really, what is 25 Million Cubic feet of solid radioactive waste compared to that. 



Yesterday when I was talking about distractions, I left out one very important thing which had been distracting me:  Finishing Monster Hunter Vendetta, which I had been given as a Christmas gift by my amazing wife.

Well, I finally finished it about 10 minutes ago, and it took me that long to catch my breath enough to jump on the computer and talk about it.  Yes, it was that good. 

I am embarrassed to admit that I am somewhat late to the Monster Hunter International phenomenon.  While I can't say I know the author, one Larry Correia, I was at least AWARE of his existence prior to his success, through interactions The Firing Line, and Oleg Volk's The High Road forum.  He seemed like a cool guy, and I was aware that he was attempting to self-publish a novel about some kind of monster hunters.  That was about the extant of it...I may even have saw the smiley faced monster patch he described in the book, but for some reason, I never read his first book until recently. 

While I feel lame for being typically late to latch on to a pop culture phenomenon, one of the positives for not reading Monster Hunters Inc. until November is that the 2nd book was already out, and I only had to wait until Christmas to get it.  Hooray for my desire for instant gratification.

Lucky for me, based on more than a few not so subtle hints to SWMBO, Monster Hunter Vendetta showed up under the Christmas Tree(it probably helped that she also REALLY enjoyed his first book).  I read the first 250 pages in less than 24 hours, a pretty good pace for me, especially when you consider that I was still trying to be involved in family activities as the Holiday weekend drew to a close.  When I made it half-way through the book, I actively tried to put it down frequently in an effort to savor the experience.  It was tough pretty tough.  The first 100 pages fly by, then the next 100-150 pages kind of lull action wise, but have a lot of good character stuff, and then the last 60% of the book...it was tough not to devour it all at once...but...

I like reading.  While I am the type of person who can re-read a favorite book several times, I also admit that there is something special about reading a good book for the FIRST time, that will never be repeated.  I was seriously down after finishing the end of the Harry Potter and Stephen King's The Dark Tower Series'sss.  Both of them where read as quickly as possible.  While Mr. Correia's writing style and pacing make you want to tear through his book, I tried to show at least a little bit of restraint to appreciate the gift I had been given.  Today, I reached the point where I had about 110 pages left.  For a bit I thought about trying to make it last for 2 days...but there was no way that was going to happen.

If I seem like I'm frothing at the mouth with praise...I'm sorry.  It is simply that I have found both of his books so far highly enjoyable.  It's not just that he is quite obviously a gun guy who GETS IT...his books are very enjoyable reads.  Oh...I'm certain he is never going to win a Noble Prize for Literature, because his writing is not stuffy or 'the most outstanding work in an ideal direction'.  But...more importantly, as someone who once thought I might be able to turn a pretty turn of phrase, I hope he is able to earn a comfortable living doing something he enjoys.

Really...is there any reward greater than that?

I guess at some point, I should try to describe what the book is about....but...let me just say that it is Monster
Hunter International to the Nth power.  Larry does a great job of building on all the original characters, fleshing them out to make them, if not more believable, at least more the type of folks you might want to have a beer with.  He also does an outstanding job of presenting traditional 'monsters' or mythical creatures in a different light, whether it be a Lovecraftian creation like the Shoggoth, or something as sweet as garden gnomes. 

Ummm....that is all.  Why aren't you reading it yet?!?!?!?!? 



So, two things have me kind of distracted and not feeling much like posting today...the first is that nothing seems to be going on in the world.  Congress is out, there is kind of a lull going on in between Christmas and New Years.  Plus, I am trying to load books on to the new Kindle I bought for Christmas.  It was addressed to both my wife and I, from Santa, which means that we must find a way for Robert Heinlein and Larry Correia to exist alongside Katie McAlistair and Madelyn Alt. 

Oh, who am I kidding...she reads Heinlein and Larry with just as much abandon as I do.


Day of Recovery.

On a good-bad scale, the Christmas weekend ranked somewhere around a 12.  My kids were very well behaved, we had a good dinner at my dads, a great dinner at my moms(of course, I did do the cooking), and I managed to go two days in close proximity to my brother without wigging and out and doing something violent. T

Still, it was good to get home yesterday afternoon.  Looking to beat traffic and some inclement weather that was scheduled to come in in the afternoon, my wife did a great job of helping me corral the family into my truck so we were on the road at 10AM.  To deal with the forecasted rain, our high tech solution involved placing all of our luggage and presents inside black construction trash bags, and placing it in the back of my truck.  Historically speaking, I have always had pretty bad luck when it comes to properly securing tarps over my truck bed.  Placing things in black bags and tie-wrapping them shut seemed a much easier answer than stopping every 20 minutes to adjust a flapping tarp.

 The other positive to leaving early meant we made it back our place mid-afternoon, with plenty of time to unload the truck and start getting stuff put away again.  After a few days having 6 people and 1 Christmas Tree crammed into my moms apartment, it was nice to get back just having 4 of us(and a bunch of boxes) crammed into a different 2 bedroom apartment in the Tri-Cities.  Just when we starting to make progress in getting things organized, we dump an additional two 55-gallon trash bags worth of stuff into the mix. 

 Not that I am complaining about all the new stuff.  From a purely commercial standpoint, my mom spoiled the heck out of us, gifting my wife and I with several new clothing items, and a new crock-pot, toaster and a blender.  The kids made out like bandits.  About 2/3rds of what we brought home were new toys for the girls.
Prior to buying a lot, the wife and I had done the responsible thing and discussed a budget for spending on each other.  With much uncertainty about when our house will sell, and how our finances will work out paying rent for 1 apartment AND mortgage on the house in Belfair, we decided to spend a little less for Christmas this year, and then allow ourselves to spend a little more in the spring on our birthdays and our 10th Anniversary, if the situation allows. 

SWMBO did a good job of staying on budget.  The main thing I got was a new set of Compact Nikon ProStaff 10 X 25 binoculars, which I wanted bad.  When I am hunting, my full size binos get in the way, so they almost never come out of my backpack.  Hopefully, I will use these new compact ones more than I use my scope.  The Nikon was a good compromise brand...better than some, but I won't feel guilty like I would if they were Zeiss or Swarovski's the first time I bounce them off a rock or tree.  I also got a pair of carhart 'under armor' style thermal bottoms, and a few books, notable among them Monster Hunter Vendetta, by Larry Correia.  I'm already about 300 pages into it...full review will follow.

I did not do as good of a job of staying on budget.  I bought the wife two new Vera Bradley bags, a bunch of new Victoria's Secret Stuff, a new blow dryer, a couple of things off etsy, and finally, the big gift, which was an Amazon Kindle E-Reader.  That one put me over budget.  Oh well.  Luckily, we are at the point where nothing went on credit...her smile made it all worth it.

Still getting used to not having full cable in our new place.  Sometimes it is nice.  Last night for example I was able to snuggle up with the wife on the couch and watch an episode of Firefly to kill some time.  There are many worse ways to spend an evening. 

Monday was back to grind...work for me, more unpacking and organizing for the wife, while the girls get adjusted to apartment life.  At least in a few weeks, my wife will be able to take the girls outside to burn some energy as the weather approves.  My understanding of a Tri-Cities winter is that we still have another 6 weeks or so of potential snow. 

Full day of Hazardous Materials Supervisor training to look forward to tomorrow, so I had better get to sleep.  



Well, that was polite

We recently got back in the door from my moms place.  The last 4 days and three nights have taken us from Richland, to Kirkland, down to Lacey, back up to Kirkland, then headed back to Richland.  Total time in the car is about 14 hour...which I realize is not a marathon compared to some family's Holiday Odysseys, but, since my moms place is a 2 bedroom apartment, and our place is a two bedroom apartment...there is always a lot of personal space.  It's something we are just going to need to get used to.

My two girls get along very well.  None of the cat fights and hair pulling which TV and the Movies taught me to expect have materialized.  There might be an instance or two where one tries to boss the other around, trying to establish dominance, but for the most part, I am highly impressed by their relationship.  Much less chaotic than how I got along with my brother. 

Even the closest relationships need a break occasionally though.  After the last three days described above, when we finally made it back to our apartment, my older daughter just wanted to sit on the couch and read, while the younger one was crowding her to play with plastic dinosaurs and barbies(not sure how that works, but who am I to argue). 

A little exasperated, by older daughter finally said, 'Sissy...sometime we need some time alone...maybe you need some alone time in the bedroom with yourself.'

Much more polite than what my wife said as I was crowding HER waiting for my turn on the computer.  


Silent Night err...morning.

Didn't think I would get a chance post anything Christmas Day...at least not until the roast was in the oven, and I was watching The Christmas Story for the 3rd or 4th time. Here it though...7:55, and the Worlds Best Nana and I are staring at each other, actually getting a chance to drink a cup of coffee, and wondering how much longer SWMBO and the girls will sleep inn. I know the answer to how long my wife will sleep...given the opportunity, she can make it about 12 hours before she physical needs will kick her out of bed.

Me on the other hand...I really have a hard time sleeping much more than 7 and a half hours or so. My back gets stiff, my bladder gets twitchy, and once I'm out of bed, I really have a hard time falling back to sleep, so I usually don't even bother trying. I simply use the early morning for a little quite time...get the dish washer unloaded, first load of laundry going...that kind of stuff.

Well...I'm starting to hear noise from in the girls room, meaning that Present Apocalypse is crouching on the horizon...about time for me to crawl back in bed with the wife and snuggle her gently awake.

Merry Christmas everyone.


Favorite Christmas Songs #1

A quick review so far:

#17: Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
#16: Chipmunks Christmas
#15: Snoopy's Christmas, by The Royal Guardsmen
#14: Christmas in the Northwest, by Brenda White
#13: Christmas Wrapping, by The Waitresses
#12: All I Want for Christmas is You, by Mariah Carey
#11: 12 Days of Christmas, by The Muppets
#10.5 Santa Claus is Coming to Town, by Bruce Springsteen. 
#10: Album 'Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics', by The South Park Guys.
#9: Oh Holy Night, by Martina McBride
#8: Santa Baby, by Eartha Kitt
#7.5 Last Christmas, by Taylor Swift
#7 Grown-Up Christmas List, by Amy Grant
#6 Album 'Brand New Year, by SHeDaisy. 
#5 We Need a Little Christmas, by Angela Landbury
#4 Merry Christmas From the Family, by Robert Earl Keene
#3 Carol of the Bells, by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
#2 O Come All Ye Faithful, By The Celtic Women(actually, anything by them is pretty outstanding.)

And, number 1 on the list, for no real reason other than I CAN NOT change the channel if it comes on...and I always feel the need to bob my head.  Thank Gosh for the Welch.

Presenting, The Cory Band and Gwalia Singers, performing 'Stop the Calvary'.

Favorite Christmas Songs #2

Another cop out on my part, I am giving the Number 2 spot on my list to a group...in this case the Celtic Women of PBS fame.  I had seen many specials with the guys version of this group, Celtic Thunder, but until very recently had not been lucky enough to catch the Celtic Women special.  Now?  I can't get enough.  What impossibly perfect women.  Out of this world voices, and all of them quite fetching, especially Chloe Agnew, the younger and more curvaceous of the two blondes(I will tack on the 'E' in support of their United Kingdom backgrounds). If she called and asked if she could come over for dinner tomorrow night, the wife might have to bungy cord me to a chair to make me behave myself. 

All of their songs are very good, and they destroy both Carol of the Bells and 'Oh Holy Night', but since those songs have already made my list by other artists, my next favorite was 'O' Come All Ye Faithful'. 

Time flies when you are having fun.

So...December 23rd is a day that means a lot in our house, because it is the day when I finally manned up, and after a whirl-wind romance asked SWMBO to marry me. 

The amazing girl who would some day become my wife and I met through the devil that is known as the internet.  My understanding is that this is becoming increasingly common( a recent Match.Com commercial said that 1 out of every 5 relationships starts online now) but 10 years ago, it was a goofy enough concept that we used to lie to people when we explained how me met.  It wouldn't have been so bad if we had both the same story to tell people...

It's funny how life works out.  We had two close calls before we actually got to meet.  The first time she invited me to hang out on New Years with her and a friend, but I said no, because she wasn't 21 yet, and what kind of sailor does something on New Years that didn't involve heavy drinking?  The 2nd time, I was supposed to meet her at the mall, and she bailed on me.  To this day she swears she had to help a friend baby-sit...I'm still not sure if I believe her.  Because this was back before cell-phones were as common as they are now, I wandered around the mall for about 45 minutes before finally giving up.  Luckily there was a note in my e-mail, so she hadn't totally forgot about me.

Life being what it is, and there being other fish in the sea, I put her name back on my maybe list, and it had to be 9 months to a year later when she happened to be online at the same time as me, and (mostly joking) I asked if she wanted to get together that weekend.  To my surprise, she said yes.  And we agreed to meet in front of the Wal-Mart in Norwich the next Saturday.

So...that Saturday I was in front of Wal-Mart, and she was no where to be found.  I was patient though, and a few minutes later she walked out of Wal-Mart, with a bag of M&M's, that she shared with me. 

First impression was that she was the cutest girl I had ever seen in my life.  Curly, wavy shoulder length hair, an amazing smile that lit up her eyes...and a nice, shapely bottom to wrap it all up.

In the truck we went.  We spent the day in Newport, Rhode Island, bopping from shop to shop.  I quickly learned to let her walk up the stairs in front of me, because it was the gentlemanly thing to do(did I mention her shapely bottom?)  At the arcade, I got my first kiss on the cheek, when I let her beat me at air hockey.  I had my first 'oh my gosh, I screwed up moment' when she only picked at her lunch we ate at some seafood place. 

When we got tired of walking, we climbed back in the truck, and she proved she could be indulgent of me.  I spent 4 years growing up in Newport and Middletown, and so I asked if she would mind just criss-crossing Aquidneck Island, while I reminisced.  It also gave us time to talk, and get to know each other better.  I'm a sneaky guy.

The date ended back where it began, the parking lot of Wal-mart in Norwich, Ct, with a couple of nice kisses. 

I was hooked...and it presented a big problem.

Like I said, I hadn't really expected her to say yes.  When she did, it roped me into going out with her.  Cool....but....I was due to transfer in like 6 weeks.  I had just broken things off with a prior girl-friend because I didn't think there was time for that relationship to develop.  What was I doing going on a first date with a new girl so soon before transferring?  Well...at the time I told myself there is nothing wrong with having fun with someone.  She seemed like a nice girl, and she was fun to be around.  And there was that rear-end...

Fast forward two weeks...we went out a few more times, and I had to admit to myself I was well and truly hooked.  She was AMAZING.  And I was in a quandary.  I was straight forward with her...I told her I was transferring in about a month, and that the 4 months after that would be spent going to school in Portsmouth, Virginia, then when that was done, I would be moving out to Washington.  We decided to try to keep the relationship going while I was in Virginia(it's only about a 6 hour drive...less by train and plane).  She came to Virginia about every 3 weeks or so. 

For Thanksgiving, we ran up to visit one of my Aunts and Uncles in Quincy, Mass, and they gave her their stamp of approval.  My mom had talked to SWMBO a few times on the phone and seemed smitten by her.  I asked my mom is she would do me a favor...if she would mind mailing me out her old engagement ring.  Things were getting serious.

When my class shut down for Christmas, I drove back up to Connecticut for the Holidays.  Things were hectic, but finally on the 23rd, we got a chance to break away for the day.  I had big plans.  We were going to get around and enjoy some of the New England scenery.  We drove down to Avery Point, and looked out at the sun setting behind the New London Ledge Lighthouse.  Then we drove up to Norwich, to look at Yantic Falls, a waterfall on the Connecticut River.  One of my buddies had told me that when it go cold, and ice-cycles started forming around the water falls, it was a beautiful site.  Ummm....when we finally found it, I was crest fallen....there were no ice-cycles, and the falls are located behind an old textile mill.  I learned A LOT about proper research that day.  It was certainly didn't look like the kind of place  I wanted to propose at.  And by now the sun was down, so it was too late to drive back to the beautiful sunset we had left bind. 

I was crushed, and totally thrown off my game.  I had been driving around with the ring in my pocket all day, trying to build up courage and wait for that 'right' minute.  The right minute was not looking at a dirty pool of water behind a textile mill.  We started heading back to her house.  The clock was ticking, and my confidence was waving. 

In the past, we had discussed my impending move, and the fact that I wanted her to come with me, but I didn't feel it was right for her to come as just a girl-friend...so...I wasn't THAT worried that she was going to say no...but, the nervousness of asking that question is something that can't be described.  Finally...about two blocks from her house, I pulled into the parking lot of a Hostess Outlet store, screwed up my courage, turned to her, and stopped.  She had a look of complete panic on her face, like she knew what was coming, and was using telepathy to tell me 'NOT IN THE PARKING LOT OF A HOSTESS OUTLET'.

Back on the road, I switched to plan 'J' at this point, and we went to look at Christmas Lights.  After a few blocks, she was less panicky.   On one of the nicer streets...I put the truck in park, and pulled out the ring, and...of course, she said yes.  It was very anticlimactic.  Some hugs, some kisses...She loved the ring, especially when I told her my mom approved of her enough to let me use HER ring.  We went back to her place so she could show her mom, where there more hugs, kisses and tears. 

So...that was December 23rd, 2000.  10 years and two kids later...I'm glad I didn't do it in the parking lot of a Hostess Outlet Store.  I'm not sure it would have made a difference, but the story would be MUCH less impressive to our kids. 

While individual days(especially the last 18 months where I have been apart from the family more than I have been with them), as a whole, it doesn't feel like 10 years.  It would make it was easier to believe it was 10 years if she looked any different.  Oh...the hairs a little longer, and she wears it straight more now...but without makeup, and without kids in tow to offer up clues as to her age, she is quite often mistaken for being 20 instead of 30.  And she still has that butt...


Favorite Christmas Songs #3

Carol of the Bells is my favorite 'traditional' Christmas song...but it has to be done well to be a favorite. And it has to be a choir version...the Trans-Siberian Orchestra take on it is neat, but it doesn't thrill me the way a well done choir version does.

It also has the advantage of being, short, sweet and to the point.

Now it's time to start loading up the truck so we can hit the road for Nana's house!


Favorite Christmas Songs #4

This is the last 'funny' song on my list, and more than a little truthful.  It does a good job of latching onto some of the dysfunction that exists in EVERY family.  I gave the versions by Montgomery-Gentry AND the the one by the Dixie Chicks a listen, but the original by Robert Earl Keene is the best.

Pleased to present: 'Merry Christmas from the Family'.

Day Off

The company that I am working for has an interesting set-up when it comes to Holidays and Days Off.  The normal work rotation is 9 hour days every Monday-Thursday, then work every other Friday, which adds up to 80 hours, and gives every other Friday off. It's a pretty good deal, since 95% of the time I was spending 9 hours at the Shipyard anyways. 

Then to make time keeping interesting at Hanford, they have special rules for when Holidays fall on the scheduled Friday off, they have to give you an equivalent day off.  Plus, they recognized early on the NO ONE wanted to be at work the Friday after Thanksgiving, so they cannibalised Presidents Day in February to treat the Friday after Thanksgiving as a Holiday, also.  The end result is that, this year at least, the week of Thanksgiving and Christmas we were off Wednesday-Sunday without having to burn any leave.  Not bad.

Our plan is to use my moms apartment in Kirkland as our base of operations for Christmas activity.  At one point we had thought we would head over Wednesday morning, and spend 4 nights there visiting.  After talking it over with SWMBO, we decided to use Wednesday to make more apartment progress, and pack in an orderly manner for the trip, and then get an early start on the drive at 10ish Thursday.

The apartment is looking...okay.  The girls room is squared away, the living room is a living room, the kitchen is usable, and I can poop in the bathroom.  There are still 3 boxes remaining to be unpacked in the living room, and several in our bedroom.  90% of what remains to be organized can fall into 1 of 3 categories that start with the letter 'B': Blankets, Books, and Baskets. 

We have a lot of blankets.  My wife is very into quilts, and my mother-in-law makes amazing afghans, and in our house, I always really enjoyed the fact that I knew no matter HOW cold it got, we would never freeze to death.  It made it much easier for me to be a hard-ass and draw the line in the sand that the house temperature didn't need to be set over 64 degrees.  Problem with all those blankets though is that they are bulky.  Even using the big space saver vacuum bags, they take up a LOT of space. 

As for books..what can I say...my wife and I are fairly voracious readers.  I am quite certain between the two of us, we own in the area of 350 books.  In our bedroom right now there are 8 liquor boxes full of books we haven't even dreamed of unpacking yet, in addition to the 120 that were used as spacing and padding in other boxes, which are living on our dresser now waiting for a good home. 

The baskets belong entirely to my wife.  She is a woman of few obsessions, but the ones she does have, she indulges in.  When our children were younger, baby carriers were one of her obsessions...wicker baskets is one of the other ones.  Luckily, her passion for baskets has not overcome her desire for frugality, so most of the baskets are no-name things she got at goodwill, or other stores, and not fancy things from Longaburger or Peterboro.  But, like the blankets, baskets, when not holding stuff in them, take up a LOT of space.  Until we figure out ways to properly use them all, they are just land mines for me to dance around in our bedroom.

Oh well...the place is getting better, and it will be a much cleaner less stressful place to come home to after Christmas than it would have been if we had headed out this morning. 


Favorite Christmas Songs #5

As big as my manly hunting, shooting, football watching side is, I have an equally large cry at the end of sad movies and enjoy's Broadway Musicals and the occasional Glee episode side.

Most of my Musical's interest, as befits someone who came of age during the late 70's and 80's, came from Andrew Lloyd Webber shows, and the other big overblown shows the 80's(Miss Saigon, Les Miserables) and not your 'traditional' Gilbert and Sullivan type show. After years of dragging my wife to see Les Mis, Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon, I finally let her convince me to go a more 'traditional' show...Mame.

Imagine my surprise when near the end of the first act, they broke into 'We need a little Christmas'. I had NO idea that song had originated from a musical, especially not the one I had agreed to see. I just assumed it was a good Christmas song.

The version of the song typically heard on the radio this time of year is by Percy Faith, who composed and directed it. After some research on youtube, I really think I like Angela Landbury's version better. It might not be a better version overall, but it reminds me more of the musical, and the evening I got to spend with my wife. Tying it to THAT memory gets it its rating on my list.


Favorite Christmas Songs #6

Occasionally, I really perplexed by the music industry, especially in regards to why some bands make it, and some bands don't.

Case in point is the band SheDAISY.  A trio of attractive sisters from West Valley City, Utah, who can sing some pretty tight and sweet harmonies.  From a period of time from 1999 to 2006, they had 15 songs reach the country music charts, with the highest one, 'I Will....But' reaching Number 2.  Not a bad career, but...compared to The Dixie Chicks...well...a poor 2nd place.

In 2000, SHeDAISY released a Holiday CD, 'A Brand New Year.'  A very neat CD, with a good combination of re-imagined traditional songs, and a few original songs.

The best of the traditional ones is this version of Deck The Halls:

For original songs, I really like Tinsel Town...very catchy, and a highly enjoyable song to listen to ANY time of year:

Busy, Busy, Busy.

Last couple of days have been fairly busy.  Lot's of unpacking, then visiting with our friends, since they have cable and a big TV for me to watch football on, since we are sacrificing with only basic cable.  It was also a good opportunity for our kids to get out and play in the snow.  There isn't always a lot of opporunities to play in the snow in Western Washington.  When it does snow in the lowlands, it's usually big wet flakes, rapidly followed by big wet drops.  Not the best stuff to play in.

Eastern Washington snow is different.  Cold dry, fluffy snow.  This weekend we got about 2 inches, followed the by a new inch or so each day for the next two days, which was ideal.  Not enough to be a mess, but enough to keep the snow looking fresh and white, and not sandy, salty, dirty and yucky.  It was also ideal sledding weather. 

I'm not really sure that my kids had been sledding prior to this weekend.(SWMBO corrected me....they got the opportunity to go sledding last year when we visited my wife's family in Connecticut for the Holidays.).  I will clarify by saying that I had not had the opportunity to observe them sledding before.  They had a blast.  Looks of shear joy on their faces.  Glad I got the chance to stand in the snow and freeze, guarding them against puncturing themselves on the building markers installed on the hillside we chose to go sledding on.

In the real world, my wife has made really good progress getting things put away at the house.  Now if only our new apartment complex would get their dumpsters emptied in a timely manner.  Our cup runneth over with empty boxes and packing paper. 

It's still going to be a challenge getting used to living in an apartment.  I foresee a lot of playing outside with the girls to keep them from driving mom and dad crazy.  



The wife and I spent the better part of 5 hours working away in the new apartment, unpacking and trying to get things organized. She concentrated mostly in the bedrooms, while I was in the kitchen, playing with cans of stuff.

Good news: We have a lot of stuff. Bad news: Being in an apartment isn't always the best place to be when you have a lot of stuff. This apartment has better storage space than most, but it is still a challenge trying to initially get everything set up. It is a good time to figure out exactly what you do or don't have.

We are set up fairly well as far as canned supplies go. I wasn't writing stuff down, but(approximate numbers here), I wanna say we have about 70 cans of green beans, 30 of corn, 45 of peas, and 30 of potatoes, and 30-40 cans of varied beans(kidney, black and baked). Our canned fruit situation is pretty good also...between peaches, pears, pineapples and mandarin oranges. The negative of this is that when I say canned, I mean store bought cans...not home canned. Someday, I hope to be at that point.

We also have about 56 cans of gravy. I THINK I stocked up on the gravy because at one point I was trying to convince myself if we had to live off neighborhood pets and squirrels, it might be easier to stomach with a can of Campell's Gravy on top of it.

Dry goods wise, we have a lot of vacuum packed rice(like 50-60 pounds of it) and another 20-30 pounds of vacuum packed dry beans.   20 pounds of sugar, with each original 5 pound back being vacuum sealed.  And 20-25 cans of spaghetti sauce, and at least that much dry pasta. 

That is the good. 

The bad is a kind of low supply of animal related protein, and stable fats.  The pipe dream here is that if things ever got really bad(pick your scenario) that my supply of firearms and ammunition would allow me to harvest fresh protein.  Based off my lack of success LEGALLY hunting each year, I'm not sure we should count on my ability to bring home fresh squirrel from the city park on an 'as needed' basis.  Our canned protein is limited to a couple tins of spam, about 10 cans of chicken, and 100 packages(pouches and cans) of tuna.

The ugly is our flour situation.  We have our 'in use' plastic tub of flour, and one other 10 pound bag sealed and on stand bye.  We'll have to wait to see how things in the apartment shake space wise out to figure out if now is the time to lay in a supply of flour.

 Can't make squirrel pot pie with our canned green beans and gravy without the flour to make the pie crust. 

Favorite Christmas Songs #7

So far the songs on this list have been good enough that I won't change the radio station if they come on.  Now we are entering the territory where not only WON'T I change the station, but I will start pouting if my wife tries talking while the song is on, and turn up the radio when my kids try talking to me from the back seat. 

For some reason, I find myself drawn to the slightly sad making songs, or at least on the somber side of serious.  This song falls in that category, but it's also a very pretty song, sung very well by Amy Grant. 


Favorite Christmas Songs #7.5

Another late addition to the list(which probably could have been top 20 as opposed to 17 if I had thought it though more).  Left to my own devices, I would have picked the original version by WHAM for this song, but SWMBO appealed to me to give Taylor Swifts take on it a listen...and I feel it is worthy.

Big confession here:  If we had placed bets once upon a time on Taylor Swifts career path, I would have been way wrong. I thought she would have a good first album, maybe 3 or 4 decent songs...then album two would have 1 song that charted, and that would be it.

Ummm...yeah....sometimes I'm not right...what can I say.


I am bushed. Got up, went to work, and after work, met my wife at the new apartment where she was unpacking and organizing. Still a long way to go, but she did get the kids room looking the way she wanted it to, AND let the cable guy in to get our cable and internet hooked up.

Initially, from a frugality point of view, we talked ourselves into not having a land line phone, OR cable. Just live off the computer via netflix and hulu. When I started calling cable companies though, I finally allowed myself to be charmed by a 7 dollar difference between internet, and internet with basic cable. Dug in strong though over the phone line or any expanded cable package. I just know how dangerous the 'it's only 10 dollars more' thought process could get...especially once you start looking at all the fees and taxes that aren't covered as their quoted rate on these deals.

By the way...Basic Cable is VERY BASIC. No ESPN, No discovery, No TLC, no E!(no SOUP!!!!) No History!

Sacrifices must be made...for the wife it means no Lifetime or HGTV. For the kids, it means no Discovery Kids, or Hub, or Cartoon Network.

After assisting with unpacking and moving heavy items, took the wife and kids out for dinner. One of the neat things about moving to a new town is getting to learn new restaurants. Tonight, we chose a place called Apollo's Greek Restaurant. Not sure how authentically Greek they were, but the food was really, really good. More importantly, their pizza and calzones reminded the wife greatly of where she grew up in Connecticut. I guess most of the little family pizza places in eastern Connecticut are run by Greek families, vice the Italian Stereotype that exists in New York. I agree. One of the things I occasionally miss about my time in Connecticut were the great grinders and pizza you could get from the little hole in the wall NON-Chain pizza places.

Then it was back to apartment for some more unpacking, before heading back to my place for a last couple of nights. Tomorrow will be a full day at the new apartment, plus moving things out of my bachelor apartment, like guns, ammo and alcohol.

Hoping to make enough progress Saturday for some guilt free football on Sunday.


Favorite Christmas Songs #8

Originally, I had this song listed in the 11-12 range, but since this is #1 on my wife's list, I figured I would rate it up a little bit higher.  I also stuck with her favorite version, sung by the incomparable Eartha Kitt:  Santa Baby.

Christmas came early

The day has finally come. For the first time since the end of September(and 9 of the last 12 months) , I am living under the same roof as my family.

Everything today went pretty smooth from my side(the wife had a few issues with actually getting on the road, but she eventually powered through them and made it here, which is all that really mattered.

I was told that the movers would be here between 8 and 9, and the moving truck pulled into the apartment complex at 8:12. I PRAY that the cable company is as punctual tomorrow. They were done moving everything into the house and assembling the bed frames and such by 11:30. A very fast, efficient crew. I was very impressed.

I was also fairly terrified. When they were about 2/3rds of the way through unloading the truck, I was almost certain that there was NO WAY every was going to fit into the apartment. The first big pieces of furniture went in okay...it was when they started moving in the boxes that I was scared. Just seemed like WAY too many boxes to be just out stuff.

In the end, it all fit into the new apartment. As long as we leave it all packed up in boxes, it will probably continue to fit in the apartment.

Actually, when we started unpacking, I learned just HOW thorough the packers had been. They went as far as individually wrapping and padding each of our containers of salt.  In the end, I think that roughly 2/3rds of everything in a box will end up being packing material. 

After getting the living room squared away, we headed back to my corporately sponsored housing.  we are lucky that I have it until Sunday meaning we have two days to get things more organized in the new place before we have to live there.  Our first dinner in Richland was a tasty one: venison backstrap, sweet potatoes and broccoli. 

Here's hoping day two is just as good.

No., nom...

The venison jerky is thawed, and makes for a tasty breakfast. I can now heartily recommend Smokey Ridge Meats of Spokane for all your game processing needs.


Favorite Christmas Songs #9

This is probably the most conventional song on my list.  A beautiful song, that can be vocally challenging, and NEEDS to be sung by someone who can just let it fly at the right parts.  There are about 200 versions of this song on youtube, and I have to tell you, it wasn't even hard picking this one out as the best. 

I saw Martina McBride in concert once many, many, many moons ago, when she was opening for Clint Black.  Based off the fact that I was in Upstate New York going to prototype, it had to have been 1995, which, amazingly, is approaching 16 years ago.  I remember being much more impressed by her as the opening act, than by Clint Black.  Her voice is just as good now as it was then. 

One of those mysterious things, why she doesn't rule country music.  She has had a successful career, including winning CMA Female Vocalist of the Year three years in a row, 2002, 2003, and 2004.  But, she isn't blond, or 23, so, she is at a disadvantage compared to Carrie Underwood and Julie Hough, or Kellie Pickler. 

Anyway..Number 9 on my list, Martina McBride performing 'O Holy Night'.

Some guys get all the luck....

So, my boss and his family had a good year out in the field, accounting for 1 elk and 3 deers. He was so lucky in fact, that he had the gall to bitch about how much all the processing costs where going to run him at work one day. Half in jest, I offered to supplement him to the tune of a couple of hundred dollars in return for a fair amount of meat.

Somewhat to my surprise, he agreed, and the deal was done, leaving me to explain to SWMBO what I had done without her permission. That conversation went much better than I had expected, her sole concern being that I was getting a proper cross-section of meat, and not just 40 pounds of jerky. Quickly, I called my boss back to make sure I got more than just jerky.

Earlier this week, my boss ran to go pick up the meat, putting my share in his empty third freezer. With us being in between permanent abodes, we no longer have a large chest freezer, and the small upper freezer in our apartment does not have enough room for most of a deer, AND Ben and Jerry's.

When I asked the wife today what she wanted for her first official meal as a resident of Richland, she answered venison, mashed potatoes and broccoli. I explained to her that I hadn't yet picked up any venison from my bosses house. She told me I had best get on it, and thus directed, did so. My share of the venison came to two full back straps, two tenderloins, a couple of packages of sirloin steaks,about 7 or 8 pounds of jerky, and about 40-50 pounds of ground venison. It was a pretty fair deal with my boss. I can't WAIT to have back strap for dinner tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, I'm just staring at a package of jerky sitting on the counter, willing it to THAW DAMMIT, THAW!!!!!


Favorite Christmas Songs #10

Kind of copping out here...#10 goes to a whole CD< not just a single song. In this case, one of the funniest, most insanely offensive things to ever be released to the general public: Mr. Hankeys Christmas Classics, by the boys at South Park.

As a bug fan of summer sausage, I totally get Mr. Cartman's excitement as he sings about his favorite gift, a Swiss Colony Beef Log.

Favorite Christmas Songs #10.5

Somehow, I allowed this one to slip though the original list that I had made.  Heard it on the radio today and realized what an idiot I had been.

It feels sacrilegious to admit this, but I have never been the biggest Bruce Springsteen fan.  I think I slid through the generational gap on him.  Don't get me wrong...I can see what an amazing song-writer he is, and I would never disagree with the impact he has had on music, I just don't think I would have ever paid to see him in concert...although, between this one, and his long version of 'Born to Run', you can't question the energy the guy puts into his performance.

All Packed Up

Well, at 0810, the movers showed up to start packing everything at the house in Belfair.  The plan was that they pack on Tuesday, load the truck on Wednesday day, and deliver everything at the new place in Richland on Thursday, maybe even Friday depending on travel conditions in the Pass. 

Plan, Schman.  The moving crew got everything packed AND loaded today, but due to the rules on driving distances and such, the things still won't be delivered until Thursday.  That's fine.  My wife said that the crew was very professional, very hardworking, and very nice.  They were also very considerate, leaving the DVD and TV downstairs until the last possible instant so that my daughters could keep watching it downstairs.  I'm sure there was an alternative 'keep the kids out of our hair' motive for this also, but the point is, it was a nice thing to do.

Based on the original plan, my wife had arranged that the girls were going to spend the day Wednesday with Nana, keeping her company, and keeping them out of the moving guys hair.  Due to the speed with which they worked that is no longer necessary, but since Nana had also told the girls they were going to help make cookies that day, and the stuff isn't getting her until Thursday, it sounds like my wife is going to spend the day at my moms relaxing before heading over Thursday afternoon.

This has me pretty excited.  For 3/4's of the last year, I have not lived with my family. 7 months were spent in New York, far from my family, and 2.5 months was spent on the other side of the Cascade Mountains from them.  The fact that all of this was done voluntarily did not make it any easier.  The fact that my wife would not let me have a girlfriend made is still less easy.  The only thing that made it any easier is that I have an amazing wife.  She has done an outstanding job with our daughters and getting the household ready to move.  Me?  Usually the hardest thing I have done is figure out what type of beer to drink with Monday Night Football.

These circumstances also have me a little worried.  Over the last year, we have adjusted to not always being together.  We miss each other greatly, but...what if going to opposite end of the spectrum and then squeezing us into a 2-bedroom apartment for 6 months is too much, too soon.  I had more than one friend whose marriage went through a stressful time when he rotated back to shore duty, or got out of the Navy.  In each situation, Mom had gotten used to ruling the roost, and a readjustment time was required as Dad relearned his place in the family dynamic. 

Luckily, there has never been any doubt about who has ruled our roost from the start.  I don't call her SWMBO for nothing. 


Favorite Christmas Songs #11

One of the neat things with Christmas Songs is that there are usually 74 different versions of a song out there...and eventually, you will hear the right person/group do a song, and you know that you have found The Right Version. My Right Version is not going to be the same as YOUR Right Version(because you are wrong!).

For me, this is a great example of that.  No other version of 'The 12 Days of Christmas' makes me smile the way this one does.  I think a big part of it is Miss Piggy, doing the 'ba dump bump bump' thing. 

Just couldn't find the non-John Denver Edition. 

Washington State Budget Problems

Over the weekend, Governor Christine Gregoire called for a special session of the State Legislature to address the expected 1.1 BILLION dollar budget shortfall for the first 6 months of 2011.  Just for the first 6 Months we were going to be 1.1 BILLION short.  Yikes.

They didn't fix the problem.  They made it slightly less bad, cutting the short-fall by about 60%.  Then they went home.  Guess they decided there is enough money to get us through February, so the Legislature can take care of the problem next year. 

What did they cut?  About 100 Million from the Education Program, another 100 Million from Social Services, and 50 million from the Department of Corrections.  That is all they cut, and I am not going to complain about that. 

Two things I WILL complain about are the 45 Million they think that going to get from a delinquent-tax amnesty program, and the 210 MILLION that they got by redirecting Federal Funds that had been allocated for education staffing purposes. 

The last one really blows my mind.  The Federal Government was giving the State of Washington 210 Million dollars to help boost public education employment(reduce class sizes).  The State said thanks!, then moved that money to the General Fund.  What?  That would be like me asking my dad for money to pay my mortgage, then running down to the grocery store and spending it on Oreo's and M&M's.  I am on the verge of writing a letter of protest to my Federal Representatives protesting this.

As for the 45 million...whatever.  They have old outstanding taxes, and they will tell people WHO HAVEN'T PAID YET, that if you pretty please pay now, we will not punish you.  Like you haven't been punished for not paying all along.  Of course, the Legislature has on their rose colored glasses, and will spend like they are going to recover the BEST CASE estimate of 45 million.  Lame.

Lamest of all:  Christine Gregoire's first term in office(and it's not just her fault...she proposes the budget, the Legislature VOTES on it), there was a 31% increase in the states general fund budget. 8 BILLION dollars.  If spending had just STAYED THE SAME from 2004, Washington State would STILL have a budget surplus.

And in November, the people STILL voted to put a Democratic Majority back in the State Legislature. 

Just the first battle, not the war

After two previous attempts in Federal Court, the Obamacare Law finally found itself in the right court room, as U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson delivered a ruling today announcing that the Affordable Care Act was Unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. 

Judge in Virginia Strikes Down Federal Health Care Law.

Essentially, the judge is ruling that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution does NOT give the Federal Government the right to tell you to buy anything.  If today it is requiring you to buy Health Care, then tomorrow it could tell you you need a car, or wig collection, or any other kind of thing-a-jig,  So...it breaks the rules. 

I agree.  Small Yay.

Since the applicable portions of the new law does not go into effect until 2014, the judge is allowing the laws other impacts(like higher tax rates on fake tanning) to stay in effect, pending the appeal he knows the Federal Government will file.

I'm not sure which way the Supreme Court will go.  Obviously, if I was on the Supreme Court, I can tell you how I would decide...

but, I'm not.  Sometimes, if I am lucky, at home SWMBO will let me decide what is for dinner. 


Rain, Rain, go away.

The Saturday afternoon, the Pacific Coast was struck by a dreaded 'Pineapple Express', a fancy TV friendly term for an 'Atmospheric River' that channels a continuous stream of warm, moist tropical air out of the tropic where it belongs, and deposits it in my neighborhood, where it doesn't belong. 

Western Washington has a reputation of being a rainy place.  That's somewhat of a false reputation.  What Western Washington IS is a gray place, where we frequently get days and days, AND days of drizzle.  From a total precipitation standpoint, Seattle gets 37.1 inches of rain a year, less than New York, Atlanta, or most of the rest of the Atlantic Seaboard. 

Over the last 36 hours, most of the Kitsap Peninsula, and North Mason County(where Belfair is) has received over 4 inches of rain.  In addition to the active rain, temperatures have been going up, raising snow levels, and with it, putting many rivers and creeks in Western Washington over their banks.  It made the first ten miles of my trip back to the Tri-Cities the hardest part, with there being several times that I ran into THIS:

This SHOULD have been the ramp leading from Route 3 to Route 16 in Gorst, but instead it was a pond.  The detour in this case was pretty basic, just having to go through a few parking lots. 

The rest of the drive to Snoqualmie Pass wasn't bad...rain the whole time, and a couple of big puddles that caught me by surprise, but traffic was moving good. 

Finally, I made it over the Pass, and about the time I made it to Cle Elum, the rain had faded to a trickle.  Another 30-40 miles, on I-82 between Umtanum and Manastash Ridge, the clouds broke, and for a while the sun came out:

Beautiful.  Enough snow still there to frost the hills...very nice.  I love this area.  When I first learned to hunt elk it was in the area, just a little further west, on the other side of the Yakima River.  I really like the area between Yakima and Ellensburg...it looks brown and sage brushy, but down in the valleys and along the northern facing ridges, there are some nice pine forests.  If I ever win the lottery, one of the place I would LOVE to have a house and piece of land is somewhere in a triangle formed by Cle Elum, Ellensburg and Yakima. 

An earlier start got my in earlier than usual, and also kept me from sitting around the house, full of melancholy.  Today, when I left the house in Belfair, it was my last time leaving it as my home.  Tuesday the movers pack, Wednesday they load, and Thursday, I will finally get to live with my wife and kids again, instead of just being a visitor.

I give it about 4 weeks(just past all the Holidays) before they are tired of me.


Favorite Christmas Song #12

Swapped songs from my original plan here.  This song will always make me think of National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, the 2nd Funniest Christmas movie there is, right behind A Christmas Story, and right ahead of Scrooged. 

And, no one other than Mariah Carey should try to pull this song off.  Especially sad, drunk single girls at karaoke bars this time of year. 

It's also true that once upon a time Mariah Carey WAS all I wanted for Christmas.  She still ranks pretty high on the list even if it is in more of the Christina Hendricks catgory then the Rhianna or Shakira catagory. 


Having a little get together at the house today with some friends, kind of last get together to say 'Till Next Time.  I expect there will be tears.

With some of my kitchen stuff already packed, I am going basic for food stuffs, while trying to use what is in the freezer.  Cut up a couple of packages of hot links and cheese brats, then wrapped 'em in bacon, baked up to sweat out the fat and crisp them, then tossed in BBQ sauce, and will re warm them in the oven.  #2 is taking a few packages of crescent roles, and packing them full of ham and cheese to make little home made hot pockets.  My mom is bringing the fancy stuff...sweet and sour meatballs and baked ziti.  Yum.

There is also going to be some give aways...got a lot of stuff in the freezer that won't move well, and some things in the car port I just don't feel like paying to store...weedwacker, garden tools, empty fuel cans, work lights...

Back to work!

Movie Review: Tangled

To forget about my worries and the way the world was going to Hades in a Hand Basket for a while, I took the wife and kids out to go see 'Tangled' yesterday afternoon.  In case you have been trapped under a rock, or Filibustering in the Senate for the last month, and haven't seen the commercials, Tangled is Disney's update on the Repunzel Fairly tale.

There are a few differences between the Brothers Grim version, and this one, made, as usual by Disney, to sand the harsh corners of the real dirty world off the fairy tale.  Instead of Repunzel being taken by the Mother Gothel character because her father wanted a magic plant, and was willing to trade the life of his then unborn daughter for the life of his pregnant wife, she is the daughter of the king and queen, and she is kidnapped for her magical hair.  Also, instead of the attempted rescuing being performed by a prince, it's charming roguish thief.  And they added a horse and chameleon for comic relief.

Any question?  Good...ready, break!

It's a good movie.  Getting to see it with my wife and kids pushed it to a great afternoon(but for one thing we will get to later).  The plot, as you can imagine, is fairly boiler plate...girl locked in tower with only a chameleon for a friend, girl broken out of tower to go see some floating lights, evil Mother Gothel's gives chase.  Boy and girl fall for each other, broken up so Evil Step Mother Mother Gothel can lure her back to tower, realize they really do love one another, and dashing rescue.  In between there are exciting chase scenes with the worlds coolest horse, and since it's Disney, there are couple of songs and some dancing barbarians talking about their dreams.  None of the songs are as memorable as 'Beauty and the Beast' or 'A Whole New World' from Aladdin, but they are well sung.  Mandy Moore was the voice of Repunzel, and this was a well cast movie. 

The animation was well done.  Hair was very life like, and the characters faces and emotions were well done.  The added for comic effect horse and chameleon were great, and in general I would say this movie was funnier than it was romantic. The Mother Gothels character stole the show, her evil powers in this one being limited to 'Ultimate Passive Agressiveness', which seams pretty appropriate for the world we live in now. 

So, all in all, I can think of nothing negative to say about the movie.  One thing shocked me, in that occasionally, there was no doubt cleavage shown on the Repunzel character.  They said she was 18, so this was realistic, but usually in the past Disney has stuck to high cut collars and bumps.  Guess animation technology is getting to good to ignore it.  I was not offended or anything...just made me feel a little funny(and creepy) to notice it.

Okay...bitch mode on now.  The version of the movie was saw was in 3-D.  First one of the new crop of 3-D movies I have seen.  It seemed to work good, certainly didn't detract from the movie.  Now...would I have enjoyed the movie just as much in 2-D....yeah...it didn't add that much for me.  I'm not the target audience for the 'Wonder of butterfly's and lantern's coming towards you' effect.  My girls dug it.

However, for seeing the 3-D version, we were charged more money.  In fact, it cost the 4 of us $48 for our tickets.  Then, when we got inside, to get a large popcorn and large sprite to share(and a pretzel because SWMBO skipped lunch) it was another $18.  I expected the snack price, but not the 'sorry, not only no matinee price for 3-D, AND it costs extra) put me in a pretty grumpy mood for the first 20 minutes.

Luckily, the move was good enough to get me out of it. 

If you have kids, go see this movie.  If you don't have kids, wait for video and see how disconcerting YOU find Repunzels cleavage and big green eyes. 


Favorite Christmas Song #13

Christmas Wrapping. There are two other decent versions of this song out, one by The Donna's, and the other, god help us, by The Spice Girls.

For me, this song belongs to The Waitress, of 'I know what boys like' fame.

Keeping Active

Was lucky enough to make it across Snoqualmie Pass bout 2 hours before they closed it last night. Things were bad...heavy snow westbound all the way from Cle Elum to just past the Ski Areas.

So far today, I have made one dump run full of memory's, in what is my last weekend in this house while it is still our home.

Meanwhile in the world beyond my walls, things are going quickly to Hades. Nationally, House Democrats appear to be in open rebellion against Barry's tax compromise(good for them for having cojones). Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont, is pulling an honest to gosh 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' Fillibuster in the senate. State wide, Chrisine Gregoire has called an emergancy state Legislature session for tomorrow to address the 1 BILLION dollar budget short-fall in Washington.

So, with all that going on, I'm getting ready to take the family to go see 'Tangled' and trying not to think about how I am now on the wrong side of the mountains from all my alcohol, and all but one of my guns.

Happy Holidays!


Favorite Christmas Songs #14

Have to get this one on early this morning, since my evening is going to be spent driving back to Belfair(yay...get to see the wife and kids!)

I know for a fact, this song annoys the Worlds Greatest Mother and Nana.  I like it though, in all its cheesy goodness.  Note on the video...couldn't find anything approaching an official video...this just happens to be a Christmas Video someone shot a couple of years ago and posted it on youtube.

Number 14: Christmas in the Northwest, sung by Brenda White.


'Dream Act'

When I heard today that The House had voted to pass something called The Dream Act, I was hoping that it meant my older daughter would get that pony she had wanted, since that is her dream. But, no...it is actually a bill that proposes to open up an easier path to U.S. Citizenship for people who were illegally in this country prior to age 16, who graduate from high school, have no criminal record, and then complete either 2 years of college, or two years of military service.

Democrats, lead by Mr. Obama, are all YAY! for this bill. Most Republicans are all 'BOO' for this bill, saying it is just an open avenue to 'amnesty' for a bunch of illegal aliens.

As usual, both are right, and both are wrong.

First off...a there is no use punishing people who are not guilty. I mean, it was not these under 16-year old kids ideas to come to America...they came with their family. So...rounding them up and sending them back to NO ONE is not the answer.

Giving ALL illegal aliens citizenship(and the right to vote) is obviously not the answer either. I have read more than one work of fiction where one of the major plot foundations is that somehow, all illegal aliens where given amnesty, and those extra 4-8 million voters in the South-West stirred up some crazy stuff, helping to splinter an already fragile union of states. Call me a paranoid conspiracy nutcase, but, I find that to be a plausible concern.

But...let those under 16-year old kids EARN the franchise...that might work. In fact, if they threw out the '2-years of college' thing, I might even be able to get behind the 'Dream Act'. Especially if they increased the years of military service to 4. But...two years of college is Poopy Ka-Ka. That is nothing...there is no sacrifice at all involved, especially since they are probably attending that two years of college on an interest free loan.

Besides...you make those kids do 4 years in military, and there is an even money chance half of them will turn Republican on you. I mean, lets face it...the only reason Republicans are really against this plan is that historically, Hispanics vote Democrat. Over them a 50/50 split on these kids souls, and they will probably play along.

Favorite Christmas Songs #15

I was uncertain is I should start my list with three 'funny' songs in a row, but...screw it...it's list not, yours, and if my totally secular Christmas can't be fun, than why do it?

Pleased to Present, Snoopy's Christmas, by The Royal Guardsmen.


Maybe I should go pout.


Compromise is part of bi-partisan politics.  Usually neither side gets exactly what they want, and they both grumble about it afterward.  In this case the Republicans caved in and agreed to allow another 13 MONTHS of unemployment benefits for people still out of work.  In return, Obama agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts to ALL Americans, not just those making less than $200,000 single, $250,000 married, and decrease the increase(you get that?) in the estate tax to 35%, with the first 5 million exempted.  

Democrats got...ummm...bent over and back doored by Barry.  Not entirely, but that is how a lot of them are coming across.  The Dems got their unemployment benefits extended, plus a 2% drop in the payroll/social security tax. 

And in the end, what did you, your children, your grand children, AND your great-great-GREAT Grand Children get?  An estimated 800-900 Billion more added to the Federal Debt.  YAY!!!!!!!!

I am not happy with that...not at all.  I realize as someone who thinks of myself as a libertarian, I am supposed to be against taxes and such. I am also a realist, who believes sooner or later(preferably sooner, rather than defaulting) we are going to have to pay down the debt.  NOT ADD ANOTHER 800-900 BILLION TO IT.

Sigh...it's sad some people have no money and need unemployment benefits,  but some of them have already been on it almost 2 years!  How long and at what long term damage to the economy are we going to keep paying unemployment benefits? 

As for reducing the payroll/social security taxes, The Social Security Fund is already doing poorly.  This is not going to help it out.

Keeping the Bush Tax cuts going is good, I guess...I just hate hearing a married couple making $250,000 a year referred to as rich, and painted as targets of scorn.  I know a few married couples that make in the range of this money.  A middle manager married to a small business owner gets you in this rough income bracket.  They shouldn't be punished for being successful in their chosen careers.  If you want to set a threshold somewhere in the $750K-$1,000,000 range, I would not protest.

The only thing I am okay with that came out of this probably compromise today is the estate tax plan.  Prior to this, the expectation was that at the end of 2010 the Estate Tax was going to from Zero Percent, where Bush had put it, to 55% where it used to be.  That is an obscene tax rate in my opinion.  35% is still not good, but the plan is to have the first 5 million per spouse exempted. 

Of course all this is still just a plan.  What remains to be seen, and could make for an interesting week, is if the Democrats in the Congress will actually back Obama up on his plans.  Some of them are talking big talk that they might vote for what they want, and leave Barry hanging on his deal with the Republicans.

THAT would be entertaining. 

Favorite Christmas Songs #16

Going with the original one on this one...No CGI Needed please.


Favorite Christmas Songs #17

The last couple of days I have been listening more to the Christmas Stations, and watching Christmas Song videos on Youtube, so I decided I would do a Top 5 list of Christmas Songs.  But it was too tough to narrow things down to 5, or 10...and 20 was too many, because gosh darn-it, we are already less than 20 days from Christmas.  17 sounded like a good number, because that way if things get busy and I can't get on here for a day or two, I am still covered.

So, why would someone like me, who admittedly is into Christmas for all the secular, greedy wrong reasons have a list of favorite Christmas Songs? 

Because I love them...and I really do like this time of year.  People are happier, more friendly and more jolly.  They give more to charity and are more helpful in general.  In short, people act the way they SHOULD act all year round.

Be aware...these are not The Best Christmas Songs...they are simply my favorite.  Some, especially the first few, are goofy...but when they come on the radio, you know Christmas is coming(although one of the stations in Seattle was playing Christmas Music before Thanksgiving, which is wrong...midnight after Thanksgiving is MY cut off...)

So...let's start with one of the goofy ones.   Drum Roll Please.....

Can you believe this song is over 30 years old!?!?!??!?!

Ummm...Yeah...wow...nice Bill Board

Now, I'm not exactly what you would call a Religious Person.  As in, not at all.  My mom was Protestant(Congregationalist to be more precise) while my dad was Jewish.  This combined to make me not much of anything.  When pressed, I will usually try to answer by saying I am from a Jewish family, but am myself not practicing, eating a big piece of ham or bacon to drive this fact home.  If the conversations go further, I plead being agnostic, and try to let it go at that. 

I am not uniformed about religion.  I have read most of the Bible(Old and New Testament), I have read some of the Book of Mormon, as many of our friends in the Northwest are LDS.  Nice people, I just didn't find myself totally agreeing with some of the things I read in their book.  And, my big joke is that I like bacon too much to fully embrace Judaism. 

I have attended several different churches and services, but at none of them do I feel as close to....'Something' as I do when I am sitting on a mountainside in the fall, watching a beautiful sunset over The World.  At those times I prefer to think things do exist for some reason, and it's not all just dumb luck.  If I cared less what people thing about me, maybe I would have embraced some kind of Paganism or Wicca...but I am not brave enough to give myself all the way into something.  And make no mistake...if I ever did embrace a religion, I would be one of the worst converts out there.  I think I managed to convince my wife of this.  To do less would be hypocritical of me.  Why convert(or be accepted by something in the first place) if I am just going to attended services on Christmas and Easter, or light the first 4 nights candles, but then not fast all day during Passover. 

I also don't begrudge folks their beliefs.  So it made my eye twitch when I saw this today:

Apparently The American Atheists (www.Atheists.org) paid to have this Bill Board put up in New York City, and maybe a couple of other places based off other pictures I have seen on the Internet.

I have a problem with it.  I understand if you want to spark a reaction, the time to put this up in now and not July...but why, and more properly, why is it allowed?  I have to think that if someone put up a Bill Board asking Why Jewish people believe the myth and celebrate Hanukkah, or why Muslims believe their myth and fast during Ramadan, somebody would have played the Hate Crime card, and shut it down.  But, because Christians are still the majority, it's okay to pick on them?  That is what I don't like. 

If you want to have a one on one Theological Discussion and tear down someones belief structure to their face...be my guest.  I'm just not happy with attacking a whole religion just BECAUSE it is a religion. 


Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem means Seize the Day.  That is also what is meant by Dum Vivimus, Vivamus: While we Live, Let us Live.   

My goal in using that term to name this blog was to remind myself that one of the reasons I was quitting my job in the shipyard, and taking this job at Hanford was to have more free time to live my life with my family. 

Today I have not been living up to that expectation. 

First of all, I am not with my family. It's a middle of a pay period weekend for me, meaning no Friday off.  It doesn't make sense, from either financial standpoint or a safety standpoint given the rapidly changing pass conditions in December for me to drive to Belfair to see them on a normal weekend...I would get in late Friday night(maybe Saturday morning depending on the weather), and have to head back out 36-hours later to make it back to the Tri-Cities. 

This should be the last weekend I have to put up with that.  Next weekend is a Friday off, so I am heading to Belfair, and the following Wednesday, movers are packing our stuff, and the wife and kids will be here shortly thereafter. YAY!!!!  Of course no one has looked at the house yet, but sooner or later it will sell.  Or else. 

From a motivation stand point, I have not had much reason to leave my apartment.  I have completed my Christmas shopping, we have settled on an apartment, SWMBO won't let me have a girl friend...any other reason I could come up with to leave the apartment would just end up costing unnecessary money. If it was summer time, I could always go to the park or mall and watch pretty girls walk around.  Not many pretty girls walking around with it being 29 degrees.  A few weekends ago, looking down the barrel of a similar weekend with nothing to do, I jumped in the truck, drove down to the Blue Mountains, found a neat brew pub/used book store, and had a nice day.

BUT...the lunch, beer and gas for that day probably totaled $80. Not a huge sum of money, but...more than I feel comfortable spending to entertain myself on a weekend day with the an impending move AND the fact that come January I am going to have to pay mortgage for a house that doesn't seem like it will sell fast, AND rent for an apartment here.  I'm trying to avoid spending unnecessary money until we have had a few months of living with both the mortgage and the rent to actually see how the finances will work. 

I was not a total hermit Saturday...my boss was hosting a Christmas/Bunko party, so I went and enjoyed myself.  First time playing Bunko...it's a neat fast movie dice game. When my my wife moves over, I am sure she will enjoy it.  Had a beer or two or 6(Michelob Amber Bock...I dig it) and some of the best backed beans I have ever had...about three different kids of beans, some bacon, some ground venison...getting the recipe has become one of the top missions in my life. 

Today I approached hermit like behavior.  In fact, if I had not been in danger of running out of toilet paper, I might not have left my apartment at all.  But I did need to get toilet paper, so I did head out into the chilly day.  And then I got back to my apartment, and had myself a nice little pity party.

Early in the afternoon, SWMBO called.  She had planned to take my two daughters to go see the new movie 'Tangled' this weekend.  Unfortunately, our younger daughters behavior was not up to the level where she deserved a treat like that. 

It is amazing how dissimilar to children can be.  Early on we discovered that out younger daughter had WAY more of a sneaky/mischievous streak to her than our older daughter.  The type of girl who would get into the bathroom and cover herself in Vaseline, then hope her pretty blue eyes save her from death and destruction.  Or get into the pantry, and hide a handful of granola bars in her room for emergencies.

Today she came down from her bedroom and her face was covered with her mom's favorite lipstick.  And then when she was asked what was on her face, she lied of course, and said 'Nothing'.  So...my wife canceled the trip to the movie.  Younger daughter didn't deserve it, and there was no way she could just bring the older one without me there to help out. 

It wasn't my wife's intent to make me feel bad about not being there, but about half an hour after talking, it began to set in that over the last year, I have been working away from my family for almost 10 months.  The last two months I have at least been able to run home on long weekends, but...I feel I have been a pretty substandard dad and husband the last year.  Oh...hopefully once the wife and kids are here, things will begin to tilt the other direction, and they begin to get sick of me.  Today though, it was hitting me hard.  It lead to me questioning the whole move, as I have done several times since starting this job. 

The biggest question in my mind all along has been if taking this new job to make MY life easier was worth dragging the rest of the family though the ringer.  The girls know we are moving.  For a while my younger daughters sneaky ways were fading...now they are getting worse...is the stress of the impending move causing that?  Is that fair of me? 

Anyway...tomorrow is Monday...Patriots vs. Jets to look forward to. College Bowl Match ups are coming out, and I have Dave Letterman Top 10 lists to watch on Youtube.

Seize that.