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


Road Tripping

Well, we are just about packed up to hit the road.  Tonight, we are headed to visit the World's Coolest Nana.  We will stay there for the night, then SWMBO and I will be leaving the girls with The World's Coolest Nana for a few days, while we head south for a romantic two nights in Portland, Oregon.

I have driven through/past Portland before, but have never really done much in the town, so this is the first trip there for both of us.  I only have a few things planned out...I would like to visit Powells, which is a huge book store downtown.  Then, I have reservation for dinner Friday night at the Portland City Grill, and one Saturday, I think we will spend most of the day walking around the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry...looks very neat.

Normally, I would try to plan things out more...but occasionally this habit upsets the wife.  With this schedule if  she we decide to not get out of bed until 10am...that is okay.  On the old system, I would be pushing her out of bed to hit some breakfast place I had been scouting out for 6 months or so, then, spending exactly 3 hours and 12 minutes at the museum before going to do something else...

Theoretically, this way of doing things leaves more time for snuggling, which is a good thing.

Who is John Galt?

Woke up this morning and saw a promising thing...one of the Top 10 'Trending' items on Yahoo right now are searches for the Atlas Shrugged Movie, coming out April 15th.

I watched the trailer, and am quite intrigued.  I read one guys blog where he got all pouty because the movie doesn't have any stars in it 'This was supposed to have Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in it!' 

Good.  I want the movie to be about the story, not about the stars.  For the record, the actress playing Dagny Taggart is already much more beautiful than I pictured her in the book.  I just hope that, with the film only getting a 'limited' release, that either it is in my area, or it goes to video rapidly.

Please do enjoy.



I like girls that wear Abercrombie & Fitch

In order to avoid allowing any negative news stories to affect the happy fog of love I have been in for the last few days in regards to my wedding anniversary, I have gone to the length of avoiding all news outlets if at all possible.  Alas, I was not able to hide from the world forever, as finally my own wife let me know about a story that had tripped her trigger.
In this case, the controversy in question is directed at clothing company Abercrombie & Fitch, who had the poor judgment(and taste) to release a ‘push-up’ style bikini aimed at the highly competitive 8-12 year old bikini wearing crowd.
A &F has since acknowledged their lack of judgment(but not taste) and is changing the marketing strategy and verbiage to address the bikini as ‘padded’, not ‘push-up’, and saying that it is probably ‘suited’ for girls 12 and up.
Many moms(including my wife) are fairly outraged over this development.  Me?
My older daughter is rapidly approaching 9-years old…and I am not sure I see much difference between a 9-year old in bikini, and a 9-year old in a puch-up/padded bikini.  Neither one is something I would choose to put my daughter in. 
I have gone off before about how it’s a shame that it requires actual effort to find what I think are ‘age appropriate’ clothes for young ladies.  But, this being a capitalist system, not all blame can go to Abercrombie & Fitch.  They would not have put the money into designing, producing, and marketing these bikini’s if market research hadn’t told them that SOME people would be willing to pay $20 to put their 10-year old girls in ‘padded’ bikini’s. 
If you really want to play the ‘shame on you’ game, find the folks that have already bought these for their little girls. 


Correct Terminolgy

One of the things that I learned in the Navy’s Nuclear Power Program, along with ‘Attention to Detail’(which I don't always follow) , is the importance of using correct terminology.  This was fine with me, and went along hand-in-hand with my desire for somewhat correct grammar. 
This last weekend, I had two separate encounters with improper terminology…one of which frustrated me, the other one which was heart-warming.
Since our anniversary dinner is always pizza, I decided to make something special for dinner on Sunday.  The ‘most special’ thing I had on hand was deer tenderloins, which are special indeed.  Having never worked with whole deer tenderloins before, I did some looking around on the internet machine to locate an appropriate recipe for them.  What I encountered was a startling lack of consistency on the part of most people in regards to the use of the terms: Tenderloin, Loin, and Back-Strap.  It was frustrating because over 80% of the recipes talking about tenderloin eventually worked the term ‘back-strap’ into them.
Eventually, I just decided to wing it myself.  I whipped up a marinade of olive oil, Worchester sauce, soy sauce, a little Bulls-eye, a good amount of brown sugar, and I then made an inspired decision to add a few tablespoons of Huckleberry Cordial that I bought at Black Heron Distillery, just outside of Richland.
After soaking in this mixture for most of the day, I butter-flied the tenderloins length-wise, and seared them in a pan.  I then finished them in the over, but not before placing a few slices of bacon and some blue cheese crumbles inside the split open tenderloins. 
It came out more than a little okay. 
Yesterday morning on facebook, my mother posted something on the order of ‘Wishing my son and daughter a Happy 10th Wedding Anniversary’.  It was very sweet of her.  Of course, someone felt the need to comment on how strange/weird it was for her son to have married her daughter.  Ha Ha. 
My mother went on to explain how she had always treated my wife like a daughter, and that she didn’t use the term daughter-in-law very much.  She was telling the truth also.  One of the things that has always made my life easier is how well my wife and mom got along.  This was especially true early on in our marriage, when my wife was getting used to living 2800 miles away from the rest of her family.  My mom was her mom…there has never been any use of the in-law terminology, which is nice.  Television and movies would like us to believe that there is no way a man’s mother and his wife can get along…
Then again, they would also like us to believe that Smurf’s are 3 Apples Tall


Omens and Superstitions

Following our cute little wedding in Virginia, my new wife and I hosted a reception/party a few days later for our family and friends in Connecticut.  For table centerpieces, we decided that I would go to Home Depot and pick up whatever cute little potted flower arrangements they had on sale.   As luck would have it, what they had were nice little cactus arrangements.  I bought one for each of the tables, with one larger one to put on the main table.  At the end of the reception, we gave away all of the pots except the one on the main table...that one we kept for ourselves. 

That pot has been through a lot...a week in the back of a U-Haul trailer, going from Connecticut to Seattle...2 different apartments and a house in the Kitsap area, then a 250 mile move from Belfair to Richland.  At one point, there were 5 different varieties of cacti and succulents in the pot...soon, there was only one left on there.  For some silly reason, my goal was always to get that cactus to the 10-year point...I would have felt strangely worried if something had happened to that cactus.

Despite everything though, much like the love my wife and I feel for each other, that cactus is still growing:

From a purely commercial standpoint, my wife and I were good to each other for our anniversary.  My wife was sorely lacking in the diamond stud earring department...I had wanted to wait until I could buy her a nice pair...and so I finally did.  3/4 carat total weight...I'm not sure of the color or clarity, but they sparkle like diamonds are supposed to, and they are big enough to catch attention, but not so big/gaudy that I feel the need to put an armed guard on my wife. 

To go with her matched earrings, she got me a matched set of Kelty Redwing 3100 backpacks.  We have always been pretty good about keeping supplies on hand, and supplies in the a plastic box in the wife's car...but we have never been really good about keeping 3-day BOB's ready to go.  These Kelty bags look to be ideal for what I want.  They are a little more expensive than military surplus bags, but I like the fact that they don't scream 'Mall Ninja' or 'Operator'. 

Sometimes, love is practical.

Happiest Man in the World.

10 years.  1 Decade.  It used to feel like such a long time.
On March 28th, 2001, I was lucky enough to get married to the World’s Most Perfect Woman. 
The ceremony took place in Virginia Beach, at the Miyazaki Japanese Garden, located in Red Wing Park.  It was a small, civil ceremony…just me, her, a State of Virginia Licensed Marriage Commissioner, and two guys from the class I was in Virginia attending.  We stood in the middle of the little red bridge, and it was as sweet and ideal as any wedding has ever been.
I’m not going to pretend that every minute of the last 10 years has been perfect…it can’t be.  It’s the lows that allow us to appreciate the highs. If Doc Brown showed up with his Delorean, and offered to let me fix everyone of my mistakes that had ever led to a bad spot…I would have to decline.  I’ve read too much time travel sc-fi to risk it.  There is no way to guarantee I would still end up going home to the same amazing wife and kids after work tonight.
There will be no fancy dinner tonight.  We have a family tradition we started the first night of having pizza on our anniversary. 
After the wedding ceremony, I had planned that we would go from Virginia Beach to Baltimore, a good stopping point on the way back to Connecticut.  Wanting to be romantic(and not finding the I-95 Corridor very romantic), I planned a route that would take us over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, and then up the length of the scenic Delmarva Peninsula.  This would be the first one of my mistakes that I would not fix…instead of slightly over 4 hours to get from Virginia Beach to Baltimore, it took almost 7 hours.  And yes..it was a pretty drive, but when we finally rolled in to our hotel, it was too late, and we were too fried to think about heading out for dinner…and so we order in pizza. 
The next day we enjoyed the Inner Harbor Area of Baltimore, and visited my Aunt and Uncle that live in Glen Burnie.  We headed out from their place after dark, heading into the teeth of a late season Nor’Easter that proved I know NOTHING about installing a tarp over a load in a pickup truck.  We had barely made it 40 miles when we decided enough was enough, and we ended up spending the 2nd night of our Marriage at a truck-stop motel, outside of Aberdeen, Md.
That night was a rough one for me…pizza one night, and a truck-stop the next was not how I had planned on my married life starting.  I was fairly certain it wasn’t how SWMBO wanted hers to start either…but…she held me, and gave me strength, as she has been doing all along when I needed it. 
Like-wise, I have given her the strength she has occasionally needed.  Less than a year after we were married, we lost a pregnancy at 20 weeks.  It was rough…you are past the normal ‘miscarriage’ time frame, and starting to think happy thoughts.  She actually had to deliver our daughter, and then watch as doctors did nothing, because it was ‘too soon’.  I don’t blame the doctors…there was no chance to save Virginia…she was beyond even the micro premie stage.  It was still a dark time for us…a lot of couples at that point might have just said this isn’t going to work…but we did…and we did it for each other.
Ten years is a long time…especially in our modern day and age…I can’t picture my life without her and the kids, but then I worry, because doesn’t every married person feel that way, until they do decide they can live without each other?   I know my wife had her doubts…but it was really early on…and totally forgivable. 
During our drive cross-country from Connecticut to Bremerton, I allowed the first two days to be nice, slow and romantic.  We stayed at a bed and breakfast in New Hampshire, and then a nice hotel in Niagara Falls the next night.  My opinion was that after that, it was time to put some miles behind us.  I probably should have shared that opinion more clearly with my new bride. 
As we sped across the country, several times she expressed interest in pulling off the freeway to look at touristy-type attractions, and several times I said ‘no’.  Somewhere in South Dakota, I decided to humor her.  We stopped at The Corn Palace…and we stopped at Wall Drug.  Both were lame, and lacking the tact, good sense, and desire for self-preservation I would develop late in our marriage, I let her know that they were lame, and that’s why we didn’t stop at other places.  It was a done issue as far as I was concerned.
Fast forward a few years…probably to our 5th Anniversary.  I made some comment about how I had never had any regrets/ 2nd guesses about us being together.  She blows my mind by telling me that she did.  She admitted that the night after we stopped at Wall Drug, and I went out to pick up dinner, she called her mom and said maybe she had made a mistake, and that she wanted to come home.
Her mom(bless her heart) told her to suck it, and give it a chance.  She did…and here we are 10 years later, still going strong.
There is no guarantee I we will still be married in another 10 years.  There is no guarantee I will make it home safely at the end of each day..it’s one reason I make sure before leaving my room in the morning, I give my wife a kiss on the cheek, or forehead.
She might not always be awake enough to feel it…but I am.    


Where do you draw the line?

 The following headline caught my eye in the Seattle Times:

 Coal Quandry as State Considers Shipping Dirty Fuel Overseas?

A few days ago, the State of Washington reached a deal with TransAlta Corporation to have TransAlta replace it's coal-fired boilers in Centralia with natural gas-fired ones by 2025.  These two plants are responsible for roughly 10% of Washington States 'Carbon Footprint'...so...it's a good thing for the children. 

Of course, TransAlta isn't doing this entirely out of the kindness and goodness of their corporate hearts.  Washington State has pledged about $55 Million to help with the transition, as well as allowing TransAlta to make long-term coal and natural gas price deals. 

I'm not the biggest believer in 'Global Warming.  I do not doubt we are in the middle of some form of climate change...I just don't know how responsible we humans and our bad habits are for it.  And if I had to choose between increasing the long-term risk of 'global warming' and increasing the short-term risk of financial ruin for the State of Washington...well...maybe I shouldn't have gotten rid of some of my silver the other day.

Now...having gotten their way with the coal plants, the environmentalists are trying to go a step further. 'How have we really helped the environment if we are just going to sell all that stinky, evil coal to China and India, so they can burn it even faster and in a less controlled manner than we are?'

I'm willing to agree it's a somewhat valid question...welcome to the Law of Unintended Consequences.  What do they want us to do...leave a valuable tax-base raising commodity in the ground?  Get real!  Very clean-cut to me.  If you have something legal, that you can't use now, and that someone considers valuable, and they are going to pay you for it...you sell it.  Duh.  Fairly clean cut to me.

My wife had a slightly different view on it.  She tried to apply it the garment/textile industry, which was a horribly run(from the employee viewpoint) industry for a long time.  While government regulation made the industry safer for the worker, it also made it more expensive for the consumer...which is why some companies went overseas to sweat shops full of little kids and underpaid women.  My wife was trying to make a point that by supporting companies that use sweat shops, you are endorsing their behavior...and would this be any different than supporting India and China polluting the environment with our coal than us polluting it with our coal?

I could see what she was getting at...but while I am totally against abusing 
women and children(they have such horrible pictures from inside those sweat shops)...it's harder to consider it when those women and children live overseas...and even a horrible sweat shop job is 10 times better than the average employment for their area. 

Talk about self-rationalization.  Luckily for me, the people with real morals always protest loud enough for me to realize when I should stop shopping at K-Mart for a bit because their clothes come from un-pure sources.  

Even tougher for me to visualize than horrible corporate abuses happening to women and children overseas is the abstract of 'environmental damage'. 

So...all I really know for now is my line lays somewhere between sweat-shops being bad, and selling coal to India and China being a necessary part of our fiscal future. 


Hi-yo Silver, Away!

I haven't always been this way.  'This Way' meaning a 'prepper'.  When I was young, single, and in the Navy, I didn't need to worry about preparing for anything.  It was just me, and Uncle Sam was going to take care of me.

Besides...if anything bad(TEOTAWKI) ever did happen, I was going to end up as a member of the ruling military elite...so, hooray for me. 

I can't exactly put my finger in when it happened, that I started thinking that we ARE living in 'The Good Old Days' and the chance of something going terribly wrong is getting higher each year, and being somewhat prepared for social/economic upheaval might be nice.  But, it did happen.  A lot of it was caused by a good friend I made that was a bit off the edge of the map itself.  Nate was not just a little bit of a prepper...he was all out survival type.  His dream was to be able to quit working for the shipyard and move to Idaho, where he could start a pig farm.

He has since quit the Shipyard and taken a job working at the Idaho National Laboratory.  Not sure he has his pig farm yet, but he's closer to it.

One of the things Nate got me collecting, other than just canned food, were the precious metals...gold and silver, and lead and copper.  Lead and copper were east...I understood them at least...I just went from someone who bought just what I needed for a trip to the range, to the type of guy who picked up an extra box or two every trip to the store.  Now, I'm one of those guys who buys it in 50 pound orders over the internet machine.

Silver and gold took me a little more to get into.  Silver, because of the price difference, was easier to get into.  I did some research, and decided that it would be easier to convince my wife that silver was a good investment if we started with pretty stuff.  For me, that meant bullion coins...in particular, I started with Australian Lunar's and Kookabura's.  Then I bought some Britannia's, some Pandas, some Libertads, Maple Leaf's, and even a Silver Eagle or two. Very pretty coins.  The wife was very impressed with them.  After a while, was buying 5 and 10 ounce bars...

Gold...well, gold is expensive.  After laying in a fair amount of silver, I decided to start getting some gold.  I mean...if we found ourselves in a 'leave the house situation, did I really want 5 pounds of silver to clink around in my bag?  My first order of gold was some fractional Maples Leaf's.  I picked them over Gold Eagles because they we slightly cheaper.  I love being patriotic and all, but...frugal is nice sometimes too.  While these coins were pretty also...they were tiny.  Quarter ounce gold coins and smaller than a nickle...tenth of an ounce were smaller than a dime.  Handling small gold coins is no time to be unorganized...blink and you could have misplaced a few hundred bucks.  And yes..this happened once of twice.  Such things were always found again, but not after several minutes of increased heart beats. 

In his book 'Patriots' Rawles goes to great lengths to express his opinion that in TEOTWAWKI situations, gold is not going to be very useful...it is too dense a form of wealth.  He even feels that your standard one-ounce silver coins are too much.  What Rawles always talks about, but I have yet to get around buying, are the big sacks of junk 90% silver quarters and dimes. 

I was just never able to bring myself to pay fifty or sixty bucks for a 10 dollars face value worth of dimes...no matter the silver value of the coins...it just felt...silly.  And gosh-forbid I do anything silly. 

Let's fast forward now...Over the last two years, silver has gone from under $13 an ounce to peaking over $38 an ounce for a while. There reaches a point where a guy shifts his thoughts from long-term TEOTWAWKI to a little bit of profit taking.  Besides, if I convert some silver into cash, and then convert the cash into a new gun, and then some lead and copper...I am still stocking up on precious metals.  Even Rawles would approve...in his world .22lr bullets are almost as useful as silver dimes and quarters. 

So...I compromised with myself.  I went through my collection and got rid of some stuff that was redundant...a few Lunar's and Kookabura's that I had doubled up on, and a few 5-ounce bars, for enough cash to officially put myself on the PMR-30 waiting list, and get a lot more ammo. 

When silver tops $50, I might look back on this a little sad...then I could have sold the same amount of stuff to get a PTR-91 and some ammo. 



As we continue to work our way through the options offered up for viewing on netflix, my wife and I have now started watching 'Dexter'

What an amazingly fascinating T.V. show.  I have only watched two of the episodes so far...and I just can't get over how totally wacked out this series is so far.   The character of Dexter, with his complete lack of human emotion is terribly intriguing...just watching him guess(sometimes wrongly) at how people are wanting him to react...quite an acting job.  Even better is his adoptive father, the cop who taught him how to get away with what he is doing.

Every time SWMBO and I latch on to a new series(like Bones or Buffy) we start out trying to savor things...but we aren't the savoring types...as good as Dexter is, I give us about three weeks to make it through the 48 episodes on netflix. 



I wonder just what the total would be.

The Washington State Patrol went and stepped in it recently, sending out a letter to all licensed gun dealers in Washington, asking them to report the 'names, date of births, addresses, phone numbers, date of transaction and serial number from the purchaser.' for any AR-15's sold since July of 2010. 

The whole story is here.  Apparently, the State Patrol realized that they were missing an AR-15(remember...law enforcement folks are more responsible than you, and deserve special treatment), and decided that a good way to track it down would be to ask all gun dealers to report every AR sale since their gun went missing. 

Engaged heavily in damage control, State Patrol spokesman admits that they should have made it clearer that this was a 'request' and no one is legally obligated to provide any of this data.  Almost universally, the gun stores quoted have said no, mostly addressing what a shear pain in the butt it would be, without trying to get in to the politics. 

There is some politics involved though...State Representative Matt Shea plans to deliver protest letters signed by 36 state Senators and Representatives to the Governor and head of the State Patrol. 

If the State Patrol had provided a serial number for people to keep an eye out for, it would have gone much easier. But, then, they wouldn't have gotten all the juicy data they wanted. 

Most alarming to me is that they are asking for records since July...does this mean that this AR could have been missing for almost 9 months before anyone realized it?  I guarantee you I KNOW where my AR is. 

I almost wish some of the research was done though...I'd be highly curious to see how many EBR's have found loving homes in the last 9 months. 

I chose...poorly.

Yesterday afternoon, we had a company wide all managers meeting at the end of the day.  After the meeting, my boss proposed a little bit of 'team building', of which my amazing wife was highly supportive.

Our 'team building' took place at a local pub named Jackson's, and there are many wing-less chickens running around now because of my companions and I.  There is also a lot less Coors Light in the world...all of which might be okay, except my boss decided that for desert, we should switch from Coors Light to Red Hook Long Hammer IPA.  My stomach, full of more than my share of the 100 wings we bought, was not pleased with this decison. 

Even less pleased was my wife.  I'm not sure it was the fact that I came home all happy and proud for eating 30 wings(hey, as was picking up the slack for those less motivated than me), or that I was out late, because I was home by 7:30, and got to read my girls their bedtime story.  It was the horrible, horrible things my body was doing shortly after I got home, and the fact that I was pretty useless/miserable the rest of the night.  The combination of high sodium wings and beer....well, I am not as young a I used to be.

I blame it on my wife...if she wasn't so amazing, cool, and understanding, she wouldn't let me do things like this to myself. 



I'm not a big fan of 'old movies'.  I'm not the biggest fan of 'old actors'(old being anything that happened before I was born.)  I won't dismiss something because of it's vintage(I like 'The Guns of Navarone'(1961) and 'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly(1968))...I'm just not fascinated by black and white movies, or particular actors.  My wife for example, is a pretty huge fan of Rock Hudson and Dorris Day. 

I can still remember the first time I flipped through TV, and 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' was on.  My breath was taken away by the passionate, gorgeous brunette playing Maggie.  When I asked my wife if she knew who the actress was, she told me Elizabeth Taylor.  It's not often I call my wife a liar, and even in this case, I was not crazy enough to actually use those words...I just expressed my doubt that there was any way that this ravishing creature was the same crazy lady who had been married 8 times, and was Michael Jackson's friend. 

As everyone out there knows...my wife was right...once upon a time, Elizabeth Taylor was an amazingly gorgeous woman...she would no doubt qualify as a Top 10 All-Time Beauty.  And now, she is dead.  One can hope she felt she lived a full life. 

R.I.P. Richard Burton's Wife(twice)



A couple of days ago, a friend of mine posted a link to this story about a father in New Zealand who turned his own kids into the police for bullying. 

My friend addressed it as a positive story: 'Look at this dad who decided to draw such a hard line against bullying that he turned his own children in to the police'  He was also 'so enraged' that he sold his 17-year old's car, and his 15-year old's horse. 

I read the story and had a totally opposite take on it. 

The father in the story finally 'had enough' when his two children BROKE THE JAW of a 13-year old kid.  That isn't turning your children in for bullying...that is turning your children in  for ASSAULT! 

Three weeks prior to his children attempting to reenact the curb stomping scene from American History X on this kid because he wears glasses, the father had been told, by his kids school, that his children had been bullying this kid.  When given the chance to DO some parenting this guy missed the boat...he waited until his kids broke someones jaw to turn them in to the police, because he lost control of them.

This father is not a hero...he's an example of failure.


It's all about maintaining balance

I got off work a little early today, and came home to find out the wife had planned a pretty healthy dinner for us...fresh spinach tossed with a raspberry vinagrette, with sliced chicken, sliced strawberries and feta cheese on top. 

Unable to abide with all the healthiness in my house, I promptly opened a Guinness left over from St. Patrick's Day, and went to work on making a batch of Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Cookies.  It was my first time making them...and I can't wait to do so again. 

My only warning to people would be not to make them unless you have at least half a gallon of milk in the house...they are that rich.

Old Mother Hubbard...

Once upon a time, I was one of the biggest hawks there was.  If the answer to a problem could be found via military action, I was all for it.  Why waste time with diplomacy when we had the worlds most powerfull Navy and Air Force?  As someone who as serving in the military, I didn't even feel like a hypocrite for having this attitiude, since my butt was out on the line also. 

All that being said...it is strange that I am not 100% behind what is going on in Libya.  I am not againt it by any means, it just doesn't give me much of a warm fuzzy, either.  Heck...prior to about a month ago, I was unaware there was ANY kind of organized resistance in Libya.  For most of the last half of the previous decade, Muammar was making efforts to work Libya back into somewhat 'normal' relations with the West.  Other than a somewhat harsh crack-down on some protesters last month, Libya had seemed pretty quiet. 

If a harsh response to protesters in any reason for the international community to step in and decide who gets to run a government, we should count our blessings there was no U.N. around to step in after MacArthur and Patton put down the Bonus Army, in 1932.

Part of my leeriness is not having any real data on the ‘National Transitional Council’.  I know that is it made up primarily of ex-members of the Government, and folks that left back when Muammar came to power…but I really have no idea if they would be any better/fairer as leaders than Muammar himself has been.  Historically speaking, we have not always had the best of luck when deciding to replace the leadership of other countries. 

My real concern though, is that in our attempts to intervene in Libya, the U.S. has the potential to be exposed.  I’m worried that this cruise missile strike, advertised as the first steps of enforcing a ‘No Fly Zone’, could be the only step we have.  The Ye Old Military Cupboard has got to be getting pretty bare.  Following the Reagan years, the military speak was that we were supposed to be able to handle 1 major conflict, and then two smaller ‘brush-fires’ simultaneously.    That was 20 years ago, and I know things have gotten smaller since then.   I would HATE to see the U.S. Military exposed when we can’t follow through on our commitments in regards to a third regional dispute. 

It’s kind of starting to feel like a Tom Clancy book, out there. 


Now, that's an entertaining movie...

 For Date Night last night, the wife and I went to see Battle: Los Angeles. 

To steal a line from a review I read prior to going to see this movie: This is the movie Micheal Bay wishes he could make.

Total popcorn flick...I'm not sure there was much more than about 20 minutes without gunfire/explosions in the whole movie, and 10 of that was during the whole 'character development' part at the beginning of the movie. 

What I really like(and this is based of alien movies like 'Contact' and 'Signs') are movies where they don't keep you guessing about the aliens.  In Battle" Los Angeles, there is no guessing, because they start the movie with fighting, and THEN roll you back 24 hours to introduce everything. 

The plot?  Well...aliens invade the Earth to steal our water.  Aaron Echhart plays a Marine Staff Sargeant who is getting ready to retire.  He's a combat veteran who won some medals, but might have got some guys killed, including the brother of one of the guys in his new unit.  That lets folks doubt him, AND gives him a chance to win them all back.  Their Marine unit is initially sent into the conflict zone to retrieve some civilians behind the lines, but the mission quickly becomes survival. 

I like alien invasion flicks where the aliens are tough, but not invincible...no force fields, or regeneration powers.  Just fancier guns than ours.  Our bombs and tanks can kill them, you just need to hit them enough to keep them down.  This movie also does a good job of addressing the  whole .223 vs .308, in my mind at least.  They have to shoot these aliens A LOT to keep them down.

This movies about 17 times better than Skyline which the wife and I went an saw last year.  I would go as far to say it might even be better than Independence Day...although it's tough to compare...ID was flashier, bigger...this one if a much grittier movie....I can't/won't compare it to Saving Private Ryan...but maybe the Big Red One, or even, A Bridge to Far. 

To continue with the Independence Day comparison, we do get to the point where Aaron Eckhart's character gets to give hi big motivational speech...and in this catagory, there is some fail.  I was MUCH more ready to go kill some aliens after Bill Pullman's speech in ID than after Aaron Eckharts monologue. 

Still...very good movie...almost two hours long, but it felt like about 45 minutes.  Most worthy of paying the extra cash to watch/listen to it at the theater instead of waiting for it on video. 


That's not why I hoped you were calling....

Earlier today, my phone rang,  Caller ID said it was my real estate agent.  Full of hope, I answered it.

Instead of word of an offer on our, house, he was calling for quite the opposite reason: proposing that we lower the asking price.


It's something my wife and I had talked about doing at some point...our agent was just saying now is as good a time as any...April, May, June is the peak selling time....and if we want to sell, now is the time to be aggressive with the price. 

Sigh. He should have a different phone number when he calls with 'bring me down' type stuff. 


After starting yesterday full of unexcitement at the laundromat, I stayed at home and rode herd over the children while my wife went out to get her hair did.  After returning home with her smoking new hair(I'll have to take pictures in the sun...she's got her natural dark brown, then about three shades of dark red 'lowlights'...as Borat would say 'very nice') we loaded up the car for a road trip. 

Following my first visit to the Oak Creek Feeding Station last Sunday, I thought my girls might get a kick out of seeing 150 elk in one location, so that was out first stop.  At this point in the season, after being fed hay at a feeding station for almost 4 months, this is really only one step away from the zoo, but these are still wild animals, and my girls, even the wife, did have an appropriate sense of humor.  I feel like with my daughters and the outdoors, I am facing a similar challenge as I am with shooting...keeping an interest peaked while not pushing too much. 

The feeding station has a neat little visitors center, staffed by volunteers.  On this particular Friday, there were about half-a-dozen older gentleman gathered there, swapping lies stories.  The funny part is it's not the 'Save The Environment' granola types that at there...it's the same guys that are going to be chasing these elk around in the fall again, doing their part to ensure a sizable herd makes it through the winter.  My wife says she can picture that being me when I am one of those 'older guys'.  As usual, she is probably right. 

Right outside the window of the visitors center, they have a bucket of food, and scale, and the hope is some of the elk will step on the scale while they are eating.  While we were there, a nice looking 5-point obliged...kind of surprised me though...he only weighed 461 pounds.  One of the gentleman visiting pointed out with the milder winters, cow elk on the Olympic Peninsula are 100-150 pounds heavier than that.  

Then it was back in the truck.  Prior to leaving the house I had made quick notes to about 7-8 properties I wanted to drive by.  My wife and I are both thinking that if we are going to spend another year(at least) renting, maybe this is our window to buy some vacation land.  Naches is one of the areas we both like...sage brush and Ponderosa Pine country.  The first few places we drove by were more agricultural properties. 

Heading back through Naches, I threw the wife a bone, and we stopped at La Kat Gallery, a neat little place in where they sell a lot of very nice, and reasonably price, reclaimed wood furniture and accessories.  Assuming whatever new house we buy has a 'guest room', my wife and I have both always thought we would go for a North Woods Lodge type feel.  If so, we will be visiting La Kat again.

There were another couple of properties between Naches and Ellensburg I wanted to look at, so off we went on the back roads north of Naches.  One bunch of properties looked very nice, Conrad Ranch.  There were three or four lots for sale, 40 acres-100 acres, going for $800-1000 an acre.  Once upon a time, it must have been a nice 1000 acre ranch, that is now being split up in to 40 acre minimum estates...rolling sage brush hills and canyons, close to the Oak Creek Wilderness Area.  It was better than the farmland south of town, but still not exactly what we are looking for.  There are some covenants there that might crimp our building style...they want houses, not a park model dropped off for recreation use. 

Just north of Lake Wenas, we found a piece of property that is what we are looking for.  10 Acres for $35,000...less than 30-seconds after we pulled onto the dirt road leading to the property, we jumped a herd of 15 mule deer.  Realistically, we know we can't afford a hunting spread of our own, so we need something that borders state land, which this piece does, backed up against Umtanum Ridge.  If we were buying right now, this would be the kind of place I would be very interested.

Property research done, we headed up to Ellensburg via dirt roads.  We had been climbing throughout the afternoon, soon found ourselves driving though 3 inches of snow, which did not impress SWMBO.  You could tell she was not pleased by the way she stopped crocheting to grip the door handles. 

Dinner time found us in Ellensburg, where we had the best dinner ever, at a place called the Yellow Church Cafe.  It was the third time we have eaten there, and it really deserves it's own post.  All you really need to know is that all told, I spent 5 hours in the truck with my family yesterday, with the Yellow Church Cafe being the bait all along...and it was worth it.  My children were amazingly well behaved at dinner, despite being cooped up in the truck for a long time(usually, when we finally free them from a vehicle, they are all bouncy and crazy). 

The only really lame part of the day was the drive home after dinner...Ellensburg to Richland via Vantage.  It was 100 miles of dark, twisty roads, and I was wishing for a time machine. 

I would do again today in a heart-beat.



I began my beautiful Friday off the way I do most of my Friday's off...making a run to the laundromat to catch us up:

Then I was going to come home and engage in another prolonged rant about how bad it sucks to be at the laundromat at 6:35 on a Friday morning, and how having to pay $9 to do 4 loads of wash is a hidden expense I really didn't plan for...

But then I got home to happy, smiley daughters who volunteered to help put their clothes away, and some of my frustration went away.  And then, before I could get fired back up again, I was reading the latest updates from Japan, where they would give their left arm to be able to get laundry done for $9. 

I have thus far avoided any discussion of what happened in Japan...mostly because with my 18 years of Nuclear experience, I might accidentally let some facts get into a very emotional discussion.  Plus, what's the use.  There are two sides to the argument...Nuclear Power plants are something we need for the future, and we just have to deal with the risks, or Nuclear Power Plants are bad, and will make us all die from cancer. 

The people that get it, get already.  If you don't get it...then no amount of facts will convince them.  It's kind of like gun control that way. 

Once again, it's a matter of dealing with reality.  There is not much that humans can design that will stand up to 9.0 Earthquakes and 40-foot tsunami's  It is not a criteria you design for...even in California, you plan and design for 6.5-7.0 earthquakes, and then pray something stronger hits far enough away you survive. 

I keep hearing on the news that in the end, things in Japan will end up being 'worse than 3-Mile Island, but not as bad as Chernobyl'.  That is a null comparison...in terms of I-131 released(what everyone is worried about ending in in their thyroid) 3-Mile Island released 15 Curies...Chernobyl released 17,000,000 Curies...over 6 ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE worse...the gulf there is big enough to put the Grand Canyon in.  A better comparison might be the Green Run testing done at Hanford in the late 40's...when OUR government released 8,000 curies of I-131 to let the Air Force practice plume tracking.

Things in Japan are not comparable to Chernobyl.  Every effort is being made to minimize exposure...I have seen training videos of Chernobyl...soldiers were flat out lied to about the risk.  Last I had heard, the 50 volunteers that had stayed on sight in Japan had been extended up to 60 Rem of allowed exposure...for reference purposes, the US Legal Occupational Exposure limit if 5 Rem...most companies will establish a local control level at 10% of than, and work up from there.  The 50-50 dose(where 50 percent of people exposed could be expected to die) is in the 450-550 Rem range.  These workers who have remained on site deserve to be treated as heroes...but it's not like they have signed their own death warrants yet.

Perhaps the person most sobered by all this is my wife.  Part of the last few days has been me explaining to her that if this ever happened on my ship, or at the Shipyard, or if something similar happened Hanford...that I would be one of those 50 guys. 

Yup...doing laundry is A-okay.


Amateurs Night

Many moons ago, when I was a younger, less wise man, I was attempting to live my life as Hollywood had led me to believe a single sailor was supposed to live his life...working hard and playing harder.  While I was never an alcoholic, it is likely that during this period of my life that I was drinking more than the average American...or European.  Or fish. 

I was not alone in my pursuit of fun and adventure, and the folks I used to run with(before they also became responsible family men) used to scornfully refer to Saint Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mardi Gras, and New Years Eve as Amateurs Night.  In other words, it was when all the non-professional drinkers would end up at the bar, and just get sloppy drunk.  It was also a time when you could count on seeing extra police patrols out, making things more challenging for the folks like me, who we quite able and drinking and driving in a responsible manner.  Staying home and drinking alone was much easier on your car insurance rates.

My opinion of these nights has not changed...even though I would now be considered an Amateur myself.  I am spending my exciting St. Patrick's night at home with my daughters, and while I did have a Guinness with my dinner, and am now drinking a Killian's while I watch Wipe Out, I am WAY more excited by the idea of home-made Corned Beef Hash for breakfast Saturday than I am of the fact that is St. Patrick's Day. 

I never thought getting old would mean I would hate the Irish...

How did I miss THIS story!?!?!?!

Once again, we have another story that makes me glad I did not choose a career in law-enforcement.  
Yesterday, at work, I read a quick ‘blurb’ story about a gentleman in Pennsylvania that is suing The State, it local police force, and several named police officers in Civil Court, hoping that something stick to someone. 
As presented in the ‘blurb’ story, this guy is suing because his 24-year old son doused himself with gasoline, and that while responding to a domestic abuse call at the 24-year olds girlfriends trailer, the police shot him with a tazer, and his gasoline soaked clothes(and the 24-year old inside them) caught fire.  He died a few hours later from the injuries received. 
Having never experienced it, I have been led to believe by various novel and movies that burning to death is one of the worst ways to die. Still, based off this ‘blurb’ to me at least, we are looking at a no brainer…if you want to be a dummy, and pour gasoline on yourself, and not listen when you are told something by the police…well, death by stupidity looks like a very probable outcome.  I was left hoping that the courts through the case out.  Sorry dad, your son died from a case of the Stupids, and  I feel badly for the police officer who didn’t expect this kid to burst into flames when he was shot with a tazer. 
Unable to believe I had missed a story back in 2009 about a kid busting into FLAMES after being tazed, I did a little research, and found another article, with a little more detail.  Even allowing for the fact that the details come out of the fathers lawsuit, meaning they are from his point of view, it caused me to reevaluate things.  Not change my mind, but, it proves that having more details to make a decision with is better. 
The father is alleging that the police officers should have known his son was mentally ill, as he had twice previously threatened to kill himself.  Maybe dad…but is there any documented mental illness?  Other than in Mayberry, I don’t expect a police officer to be familiar enough with people in his response area that he will know who has threatened to kill himself. 
Next, the dad says the police should have called ‘a Crisis Intervention Team’ to deal with is distraught son.  I’m kind of sad every town might feel the need to HAVE a Crisis Intervention Team.  In this case, the police were responding because the 24-year old had previously been told to leave the residence.  Their job was enforcing that order. 
The next few points need to be taken as a whole. The father says his son was ‘not armed, not actively resisting and didn’t present a threat to the officers’.   He also states there was enough gasoline fumes and that his son was still holding a container when the officers decided to taze him.  Obviously…what the dad is trying to get at here is that he feels the officers should have used physical force instead of a tazer, because his son wasn’t a threat, even though he was holding a container of flammable liquid.  Heck, for all the officers knew, there could have been acid or bleach, or lye or ANYTHING in that container. 
I am one of the first people to jump on the ‘tazers are being used too much’ bandwagon.  I think that a lot of times when in the past police officers would have talked their way through a situation, they are reaching for the tazer to end things more rapidly.  I also feel that after profession quarterbacks and football coaches, police officers are one of the jobs most open to mainstream media second guessing.  Having every tough decision you have ever made examined in minute detail can’t be easy.
Looking at everything here, it  is pretty clear to me, 2500 miles away though the internet machine, that this kid was looking to commit suicide by cop.  I am still left feeling pretty bad for the officer that actually pulled the trigger on his tazer.  He didn’t go to work that day wanting to burn someone to death. 
But I also understand a father who is trying to grasp at straws, trying to find someone other than himself to blame for his son being horribly dead. 


Laugh until you cry

Yesterday, I was hanging out with a buddy of mine, and he had me watch a video on youtube that I had not previously seen:

I’m going to admit that I sat through the whole thing, and I watched quite amused.  In particular my friend and I were entertained/stunned by his profuse sweating and heavy breathing…just from eating.   The entertainment value I gained from watching this video was so high, that I had to make my wife watch it when I got home 
Halfway through my 2nd viewing, a strange thing happened though…I pretty much stopped laughing, and started having one of my sensitive ‘There but for the Grace of God go I’ moments. 
I have always been overweight.  As a child in the late 70’s and 80’s, I qualified as at least chubby(although by modern standards I might have just been fitting in.)  Through my teenage years, I was lucky enough that playing football, and much more important, wresting, helped to keep my weight down.  Actually, it wasn’t that I kept my weight down…it’s just that I lost enough weight in wrestling season that it took me 9 months to put it back on…then wrestling season started again, and the process would repeat.
Boot camp was good for me…I’m not sure I lost any weight, but I did move it from my waist to other areas.  Physically, it wasn’t any tougher than football or wrestling season had been(remember…Navy, not the Army or Marines).  After boot camp, standards are allowed to slack a little bit…and with no wrestling season to rein me in, the weight just kind of crept on…5-10 pounds a year.  When I got out of the Navy, it kept going.
At the end of wrestling season my senior year, I weighed 167 pounds…and not many people would call me chubby…my size 34 jeans were loose on me.  In November, when I reported to New York for some off-station work, I decided I would use the time being away from my family to get aggressive about weight loss.  The first day I went to the gym, I weighed in at just over 280 pounds…almost 120 pounds more than I had weighed in 1993.  And really, that is just 7.5 pounds a year.  I lost 35 pounds while I was in 35 pounds during the 7 months I was in New York…and in the 8 months I have been back with my family, I have put 5 of it back on(just about a 7.5 pounds for the year rate).
What I’m getting at, if imagine if I hadn’t lost 30 pounds for wrestling my Junior year of high school…I went into wrestling weighing 205.  I got down to 175.  My senior year I started at 200, got down to 167(we won’t talk about the healthiness of these weight-loss attempts…let’s just say runway models could learn from wrestlers.)    
If I had not taken an interest in wrestling…this kid could be me!  And that terrifies me.  It terrifies me because I still like to eat.  I am overweight.  My wife weighs a few pounds more than might be considered ideal for her height.  We have two little girls that have an opportunity to be so beautiful it hurts…how do we keep them from going down the path I went down?
The obvious answer is setting a good example.  Stop after one serving at the table…help get them active….lose some weight ourselves….all things we are working on.  I will NEVER see 167 again…but I could get down to a pretty fit 210-220.  I’m bigger in the chest and shoulders than I was back then, but medically, getting rid of the weight around my waist is the best thing  I can do for myself…and my girls.
Another thing I need to do, is tell my girls how impressive they are, and how their worth will never be tied to how many pizza rolls they can eat in two minutes, like this kid thinks his is.
Now…if we want to talk how many rounds they can put in the 10-ring in 10 seconds, that is something worth can be tied too. 

I see more stories like this coming.

The Seattle Times had a story today about how it's looking like the Washington State History Museum might be a casualty of budget cuts in the near future.

The proposal calls for placing the museum in 'mothball' status so that when happier economic times roll around the museum can be reopened.  Manning would be decreased from about 20 folks down the minimum required to keep the exhibits from gathering too much dust, and it is expected that doing so could save Washington Five Million Dollars in the next two years.

Five Million might not seem like much when staring a several BILLION dollar deficit in the face, but, in truth, cutting a lot of $5 Million dollar things is the way the budget gap will be cut.  While it is sad to think that THE Washington State History Museum might have to close, it's the right thing.  What it really comes down to is things the State determining what the difference is between it's conveniences and needed services, and making the conveniences pay for themselves.

A big example of this would be the State Ferry system.  With the exception of a few islands in Puget Sound, the Ferry system is a convenience...wait in line for a bit, then sit in the car for a bit while riding a boat, instead of actively driving around on overly crowded freeways.  It is NOT a needed State Service...so it shouldn't be run at a continual loss. 

The best numbers I could find on the Internet machine were from the 2005-2007 budget.  The Ferry System's budget is broken down to an Operating Budget and a Capital Budget.  The Capital Budget covers improvements to the Ferry System:  New Boats, and contruction of new terminal structures.  The Capital Budget is funded by State taxes(mostly the gas tax), some Federal Funding, and bonds.  The Operating budget covers manpower, gas, and operational maintenance.  It is funded by more gas taxes, vehicle registration and title fees, and finally, revenue from the riders.

To be fair, historical revenue from paying riders have accounted for 70-75% of the Operating Budget, or about 45% of the TOTAL budget.  Focusing strictly on the Operational Budget, a few of the routes, The Seattle-Bainbridge Island and Edmonds-Kingston, pay for themselves...and then some.  Some routes, like the ferry to Vashon Island, come in at about 23% return.  Ick. 

This has seen a dip the last few years: as passenger fees have increased, rider usage has decreased at an increased rate...which raises the question: How much are people willing to pay for 'Convienience? 

Obviously, the answer is different for different situations.  Someone in Bremerton wanting to get to Seattle is looking at a 1 hour ferry ride, or 65 miles drive south through Tacoma, that could take upwards of 2 hours depending on traffic.  Bainbridge Island to Seattle is about 35 minutes by ferry, or 95 miles and 3 hours in a car...finally, there is the Kingston-Edmonds jaunt.  It is a scant 25 minute ferry ride...but realistically, 3.5 hours to drive down through Tacoma and back up past Seattle. 

One of the solutions I can see is fixing the price scale.  Taking a car on the ferry on any of the three routes I described above costs the same amount: $12.15 during winter months(price goes up during tourism season.) 

Don't you think people would pay more to cut a 3 hour trip to 30 minutes than they are willing to pay to cut 65 mile drive down to an hour?  A 600% increase in time/frustration saved HAS to be worth more than a 150-200% return.  Keep increasing the fares on those routes until people stop using the ferry.  The you will see you gas tax revenue and Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll numbers go up!

Another solution is setting a minimum passanger count for some runs.  Right now, as a form of public transits, much like the buses and trains, the Ferry's run on time.  That means on some runs, during the midday lulls and on non-travel weekends, you will see Ferry's running at 30% capacity.  No way is that run paying for itself. 

Making the Ferry's pay for themselves could save the state 500 MILLION dollars.  If it's worth shutting down THE Washington State History Museum to save 1 percent of that...then what are we waiting for?

Especially now that I am on the dry, ferry free side of the State. 




Following the (almost) obsessive way in which my wife and I blazed through Bones and then Buffy, we are making a dedicated effort to get more diversity into our viewing habits.  It was with this is mind then that we settled down to watch the movie ‘Monsters’ last night. 
‘Monsters’, not to be confused with ‘Monster’ in which Charlize Theron and Cristina Ricci get all scarified, is a British Sci-fi/suspense flick.  Filmed for under $500,00 using ‘guerilla film-making’ techniques: filmed on location, with minimal scripting and actors, and just using whatever people happened to be around to be the extras, it is a pretty good flick. 
A couple of quick scenes, with some story-telling in between set’s up the movie: About 6 years ago, a NASA launched space probe crashed to earth on the U.S./Mexico border.  New species and changes to existing species were noted, and so a large portion of Northern Mexico has been fenced off as the Infected Zone.  The military maintains this zone, controlling outbreaks of the ‘creatures’ with superior firepower.  Early on we can see that the creatures are dangerous to military convoys, but immune to say…an air strike.
The two main characters in the film are a young blond girl who needs to get back to the US, and a world-wise, but sometimes sleazy photographer that her rich dad has hired to get her back to the US. 
Of course, their journey isn’t as easy as hoping on a plane and flying home.  They have to first take a train to the coast, and then catch a ferry up the Atlantic coast.  The movie never quite goes into why her rich dad doesn’t hire a chartered airplane to fly her home…probably would have made for a short movie. 
Needless to say, things go poorly on their way to the coast, and the girl misses the last boat, causing her to need to travel by, truck, foot and boat THROUGH the Infected Zone north to The Wall that the Us has built to keep the creatures out.  Along the way, we are treated to some suspense-filled nights, and some deep symbolism in regards to building walls along our southern border to keep undesirables out.  There is also some character development, as we learn maybe the pretty rich girl isn’t as excited to get back to her life as she should be, and the photographer isn’t as sleazy as he seemed. 
You aren’t kept waiting too long on the aliens…they appear all through movie as silhouettes, and really the only way to describe them is as giant land octopuses.  They are strong, but it might have been more intimidating if there was a 2nd group of smaller, faster ones. 
My first instinct is to give it 7 out of 10, but allowing for the manner in which it was made, and it’s budget, I give it 8 out of 10…I would rather watch 75 movies like this than one minute of Battlefield Earth.


It was a good plan, except for that one small detail...

It seemed like a perfectly good plan, and a fairly pleasant way to spend a Sunday.  My boss and one of the other guys I work with proposed running over to the Natchez/Bethel Ridge area and spending some time poking around in the hills looking for shed antlers.  Being a good husband, I bounced the idea off my wife real fast, and called my buddies back with a hearty ‘Heck Yah!’ 
Looking about a 1.5 hour drive, my boss wanted to hit the road at about 6am…get the driving done, then have breakfast at a little greasy-spoon place called the Wood Shed before heading up into the hills to do some looking.  I was WAY crazy to agree to 6am…especially since I totally forgot about the whole Daylight Savings Time thing.  In fact, it wasn’t until about 9pm that night, when my wife asked me to please set the clock forward when I went to sleep that I realized what I had agreed too. 
I’m tough though, and at 6am, I was where I was supposed to be…and by 6:20 I was fighting hard to stay awake in the back seat of my buddies Dodge 3500.   Things were going exactly according to plan as we pulled into the restaurant for breakfast…we even had to wait 5 minutes for the place to open at  8. 
The Wood Shed is a combination gas station, convenience store, restaurant and bar located at the base of Bethel Ridge…very much the last outpost prior to getting in the woods.  I have frequented the convenience store and gas station during hunting season, but never worked up a suitable excuse to visit the restaurant/bar…we had plenty of food and beer at hunting camp.  Thus said, my imagination has had plenty of time to come up with what kind of a stereotypical greasy-spoon backwoods restaurant The Wood Shed must be.
I was very pleasantly surprised to find out I was wrong.  The Wood Shed was very clean and tidy inside, and shortly after we arrived, a few groups of very reputable regulars showed up.  The special was biscuits and gravy, eggs and hash-browns, which left very little for my table-mates and I to discuss, other than what meat to order with our breakfasts.    Breakfast was very tasty…with the biscuits being split and toasted prior to the gravy being ladled on…this was a nice touch.  About half-way through breakfast it started snowing outside…it was a very picturesque scene, and I was WAY wishing it would have been my wife at the table with me instead of the two chuckleheads I was with.
Following breakfast, it was back in the truck to head up the hills, and we hadn’t been driving more than 5 minutes before we saw a herd of about 30 elk on a hill side.  The only problem was, the bulls were still running around with their antlers.  It’s kind of difficult to look for shed antlers then they ain’t been shed yet. 
Hoping we just dealing with an isolated Super Bull that might not have dropped his antlers yet, we took a quick detour to the Oak Creek Wilderness Area feeding station.  We pulled into the parking lot to find the hillside literally littered with elk:

What a strange  set-up.  Everyday at about 1:30, they spread bales of hay for the elk, to keep them going during the winter…but this was 9 in the morning, and the elk were already there, just waiting.  And yeah…it looked like all the bulls still had their antlers. 

Crestfallen, we drove on, and drove, and drove some more.  It wasn’t a bad day…drove through some beautiful county: north out of Natchez on the back roads to Ellensburg, and then east Vantage, then we cut south-east across the northern part of the Hanford Reach National Monument.  There, we got out and did some walking.  Found a few bone piles, but no shed antlers. 

Then it was home again, for an enjoyable evening, snuggling on the couch with my wife and kids. 
Who’s have thought a day that began with me engaging in manly pursuits and eating biscuits and gravy would end with me sniffling away watching a great movie with three of the world’s most Amazing Females. 
It’s why we live our lives.



Because a good movie is going to be a good movie no mater when it is watched, my wife I usually use our limited trips to the movie theater to watch movies that might not be the 'best' movie of the bunch, but rather a movie that would benefit the most from being seen in a theater vs. at the house.  Therefore, it's not uncommon for us to be WAY behind the power curve on watching movies that 'everyone' else has seen.  SWMBO and I have yet to see 'Fargo' or 'The Big Lebowski', while we have seen both Transformers movies. 

A perfect example of this would be the fact that we just got around to watching 'Up', one of the most universally acclaimed movies of the last few years.  It's 98% rating on Rotten Tomato makes it the best reviewed widely released movie of 2009, beating Zombieland and Inglorious Basterds.  It won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, the third of 4 in a row for Pixar. 

That's a tough buildup to live up to...but, if anything...'Up' exceeded my expectations. 

It was a neat movie...great story, with WAY interesting characters.  I can not picture Carl being played anyway other than how Ed Asner played him...it was perfectly done. 

All of that were things that I expected.  What I didn't expect was the depth of emotion in this film. 

I make no secret of the fact that I am a crier(well, if it was a secret, it isn't now)...but it's not when you would expect.  I'm pretty immune to standard 'tear-jerker' stuff.   It's the poignant stuff that gets me...the missed opportunities and people heroically die to save others.  I cry at the end of 'Backdraft', and 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Charlotte's Web'(I was 9!) and even at the end of stupid movies like 'Armageddon' and 'Pearl Harbor'.  Let's not even talk about 'Watership Down'(I was even younger then 9!)  As you can see, it's been deeply ingrained and reinforced in my personality. 

While it was a great movie, and at times a very funny movie, 'Up' also had some of the saddest moments in a movie I have had to deal with in a long time.  It could be that it is just an averagely sad movie, but the things that make it sad are hitting me at time when I am very vulnerable to those particular things.  The opening seen and the monologue that followed are 100% spot on examples of a life together, and how the real world can conspire to steal your dreams.

That's probably laying it on thick...but there are Carl and his wife, Ellie, with their bottle of change they are saving to fill in the last page in their Adventure Book, and stuff keeps happening.  Through all that though, they obviously still love one another, having a relationship that is very enviable. 

It is kind of where I find myself now.  I have started a new(well, 6 months ago it was new...not sure how long I can play the new job card) job, in a new city with my family.  We are currently renting an apartment that we do not like(hate is too strong, but at the rate the dislike is growing, it could be hate someday).  Because our house in Belfair hasn't sold yet, we are rapidly approaching a point where we will need to make some decisions, namely, do we rent month to month here, or do we just find someplace we might like a little more, like a small house with a yard to rent, and then sign a 1-year lease to let things happen as they will with our old house. 

Both these options are lame compared to my one-time goal of jumping feet-first into buying a house in the Tri-cities.  Renting long term upsets me...I know, from a straight monthly 'goes in/goes out' standpoint that with what we have for a down-payment, I can buy a house in the 175K range, and come out with a mortgage a few hundred lower than what I will be paying in rent...the challenge comes in convincing a lender of that.  I am not sure that I can get approved for a 2nd mortgage before getting out from under our first one. 

Continuing to rent is also a smarter move from a professional view-point...I am still not sure I made the right decision job-wise.  Currently there is an investigation underway at my new job that has 4 people suspended(with pay).  Things are as tense as they have ever been, and I am not sure that ANY outcome to the investigation will make things better.  Plus, there are real estate concerns.  In September, The Stimulus money runs out, and 1800 people will be laid off...not to mention that some of the projects at Hanford ARE starting to make progress, and that means jobs will be going away.  Just deciding to rent for a year should give the local housing market a chance to do it's shimmy, and then I can get into it next summer....if I haven't decided to run away from this job by then. 

So in this case, the smarter thing is also the more cautious thing...and as Carl learned in 'Up', sometimes the safe route keeps you from living your adventures with the one you love.  But, as Carl also learned in up...sometimes it is the boring times you remember. 

Like sitting on the couch with your family, and looking over your two beautiful girls, and realizing that your wife is crying also. 



My wife and I decided to snuggle in and watch the movie Daybreakers last night.  I remember being intrigued by this movie when the trailers were first out, as it was portrayed as neat twist on the vampire movie.

Sometime in the near future, a 'vampire plaque' hits the world.  A funny thing happens though...rather than fight it, Buffy style, a large enough portion of the population, fearing for their own mortality, accepts the blessing of being immortal for the small price of needing to drink blood and not being able to go out in direct sunlight.  Once the majority accept this, everyone else is along for the ride.

One problem with this ideal world...when more and more people become vampires, then there are less humans left for the vampires to feed on.  As uninfected real humans are captured and rounded up, then Matrix Style, they are hooked up to machines where they are kept alive and 'farmed' for their blood.  Sam Neill runs the 'evil company'(we know they are evil because they are 'MULTINATIONAL' and employee security troops) that is farming humans...but they also have a research branch, headed by Ethan Hawke's character, who are trying to find an acceptable blood substitute. 

As the movie gets rolling, we learn this blood substitute is really important...as, there is less than a 1 month supply left of human blood to feed the vampires.  But, it's not ready yet...and early tests with it cause vampires to projectile vomit...and blow up, which might be even harder to get out of clothes.  We then learn that when vampires don't get enough human blood, they begin to 'devolve'...they get ugly, grow wings, and get CRAZY!  If they get hungry enough that they feed on other vampires(or suck on their own wrists) they get really bad, really fast. 

Obviously, this will cause problems.  We also learn that Ethan's character has brother issues...it seems his brother turned him against his will, and Ethan refuses to drink human blood, because Human's are people too!!!! 

Things are looking bleak until Willem Dafoe shows up.  He is a member of a band of human survivors. We learn Willem is a cured vampire.  Ethan Hawke, much more interested in a cure than his artificial blood, sets out to see if he can recreate the circumstances that 'cured' Willem, experimenting on himself.  At this point my wife asked my why what they did to cure themselves would work.  Stunned that THIS was the point she decided to seek clarification on, I told her hey...at least they don't glitter in the sun.

At this point there is some fighting, and some betrayal...you see, a lot of people don't WANT to be cured so they can die of cancer.  There is more fighting...we learn the vampires explode in neat little fireballs when they are staked...much more satisfying than dusty puffs of wind like on Buffy.   The big climax is where we learn that there is a much easier way to pass on the cure than what Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe did to themselves.  And then there is much more gore, and the movie is done. 

It's not a bad flick...say about a 7.5.  Ever since Jurassic Park, I have liked Sam Neill.  In this one he plays a good, cold bad guy.  Willem Dafoe makes movies better just by being there, and while he is no Agent Smecker, he chews some scenery.  Ethan Hawke seems to be the same character he is in every movie...not sure what it is my wife sees in him...all I ever see is angst.  One of the things my wife noticed about the movie is the smoking.  Since the vamps don't have to worry about cancer, everyone smokes...SWMBO said it felt like she was watching a movie from the 1950's...

Compared to the other 'The Vampires have won' movie, 'I am Legend', I liked 'Daybreakers' better. 

That might just be because even though 'I am Legend' was better than 'Omega Man', it is still not as good as it COULD be.