Sunday, September 30, 2007

Unintended Consequences Part II:
Shape-Shifter Towels

This is an old story, but it came to mind when I was thinking about unintended consequences earlier. My wife got these awesome kids' bath towels with an animal-head-style hood. Here's Greg wearing the shark towel:

We initially only had three of them. The problem arose that if we had just used two of them and put them in the laundry, then there was only ONE of these special towels left and TWO little boys who wanted to use it.

I thought I was so smart in the way I convinced our oldest (the "rational" one) to use a plain towel and let his younger brother use the animal towel. I told him the plain towel didn't have an animal on it because it was a shape-shifter towel (see also Calvin & Hobbes' transmogrifier). He asked what a shape-shifter was, and I explained to him that a shape-shifter was a magical creature that could change forms from one animal to another, so with THIS towel he could be ANY animal he wanted and he could CHANGE what type of animal he was WHENEVER he wanted.

This was a big hit with Brian...

Unfortunately, it was also immediately a big hit with Greg, too, and now neither little boy wanted the previously-coveted animal towel. They both wanted shape-shifter towels so they could be whatever animals they wanted. It turned into a sort of elaborate game of ro-sham-bo. "I'm a snake! sssssss!" "Oh yeah? Well I'm a mongoose and I'm gonna eat you up!" "Oh yeah? Well I'm an eagle and I'm gonna eat YOU up!" "Oh yeah? Well, I'm a..."

...Not exactly what I intended to happen.

P.S. Luckily, this effect was short-lived. Greg only wanted the plain towel because he saw his big brother wanted the plain towel (monkey-see-monkey-do). In subsequent bath nights, Greg reverted back to wanting the animal towels, and Brian continued to want the shape-shifter towels, so everything was good. Amy eventually found us some more animal towels, too. :-)


Last night, I finished reading the second book of Christopher Paolini's Inheritance trilogy - Eldest.

Some of the details of the end were a little bit predictable, but it was an exciting battle nonetheless. I look forward to reading the third book whenever it comes out.

Unintended Consequences Part I:
Fishies vs. Bugs

You never know what things you say or do with your children may come back to haunt you someday. Two came to mind this morning. I'll tell you about one now and the other later.

Back when I was stationed in Norfolk, we would frequently have to drive through the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. Also, when we would drive from VA up to visit Grammy in Mass or NH, we'd drive through the tunnel in Baltimore.

Just to be silly, I used to tell the boys they had to hold their breath while we went "under water", then while we were in the tunnel we would pretend to point and wave at the fishies swimming by. It was cute. We laughed and giggled at how silly it was.

Then we moved to Hawaii...

In order for us to go to church over in Kaneohe, we drive on the "interstate" that doesn't go to any other states - H3, and it takes us through a long, dark tunnel under the mountains and over to the other side of the island of Oahu.

Greg, our youngest, thinks it's incredibly funny to wave "hi" to the fishies as we go through the tunnel. Brian, our oldest, being the logical, rational thinker that he is (just a wee bit of sarcasm there), get's extremely upset with Greg and tells Greg that we're NOT underwater and all that's above us are BUGS. The result is this back and forth argument - FISHIES! No, BUGS! No, FISHIES! No, BUGS! No, FISHIES!

It drives Amy and I nuts. No matter what we say to them, they can't seem to give up the argument over fishies and bugs. I even tried placating Brian's sense of logic by telling him there was a LAKE on top of the mountain and that Greg was waving to the fishies in the LAKE, but Brian didn't buy it.

It doesn't stop at the end of the tunnel, either. They will continue to argue about the fishies and bugs for the entire rest of the drive down the hill into Kaneohe.

We did find one means of respite though. Normally, we used to take my car on "long" drives (relatively speaking - we're on an island after all) because it's a hybrid and gets better gas mileage. My car doesn't have the frills of my wife's car though. Last week we took Amy's car for the first time, and the boys watched Star Wars on the DVD player in the back the entire way to Kaneohe and didn't say a peep. I think Amy and I were holding our breath through the tunnel - not out of tradition from the Hampton Roads Tunnel, but because we were waiting for the bugs vs fishies fight to start in the back seat. We were pleasantly surprised. We may just have to take Amy's car whenever we're going to go through the H3 tunnel from now on.

Thank goodness for DVD players in cars, eh? I don't know how my parents ever survived those LONG drives across country from CA to CO or FL without a DVD player in the car.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Best Friends

My heart aches for my boys right now. I have been through the experience of moving away from my best friend many times over the years. I remember how sad I was - especially the first few times. Over the years, I guess I sort of got used to it and learned to accept it as a part of life.

The first best friend I remember was Eric Olsen. He lived 5 houses down from me in Chula Vista, CA and we were like two peas in a pod from Kindergarten through 2nd grade. His dad was a Navy helicopter pilot. At the end of 2nd grade, we moved up to San Pedro, just outside of LA (about 2 hours north of San Diego). I saw Eric once after that, when his mom brought him up for a visit, but we were too young to really keep in touch via mail or phone.

Next, up in Long Beach, my best friend was Stephen Bruce. I think we met in like 5th or 6th grade. His dad was on the USS NEW JERSEY. Of course, at the end of 6th grade, we moved BACK to San Diego (and my previous San Diego pal Eric had since moved to the east coast). Stephen came to visit me once down in San Diego, and we were climbing a tree in my backyard when he fell. It really did some bad stuff to his vertebrae and he was in a back brace for like 6 months after that. I did keep in touch with Stephen for a while after he transfered to Norfolk. His dad retired out there, too. When I went to Norfolk for a midshipman cruise in '93, I looked him up and actually got to pay his family a visit.

In 8th through 10th grade, it was Jimmy Osbourne in San Diego. Jimmy had a very long-lasting impact on me. It was Jimmy who got me to listen to 91X (radio station in San Diego) and to appreciate Depeche Mode, the Cure, New Order, Oingo Boingo, among many many other bands. I went to my very first concert with Jimmy - Oingo Boingo at the San Diego Sports Arena in 1986. We went to many more concerts together after that. Then I moved to Oregon. I have still had a chance to see Jimmy on and off over the years. Our moms are friends, so I still get updates on how he's doing.

I don't keep in touch with anyone from high school in Oregon. I was kind of a social outcast there. Most of my classmates had grown up going to school together since Kindergarten, so they weren't sure about this dude who just moved there from California.

As an adult, I've done a little better keeping in touch with friends, although the PCS moves and resultant goodbyes still accumulate. We have a handful of friends who we are very close with, and thanks to the wonders of the internet, we're able to keep in touch with across country and around the world. We continue to hope that our next transfer will take us back to being in close proximity to some of our old friends from previous duty stations.

Anyway, getting back to the point - Our neighbors across the street had two little boys the same ages as our two boys. The boys were inseparable and very close friends. They're leaving this weekend for their new duty station in Norfolk. We had dinner with them one last time last night at P.F. Changs, and it was a difficult and sad goodbye. Here's a pic of the last hugs goodbye (in front of the P.F. Changs horse) before we parted ways.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Double Standards and Hypocrisy

My 6-year old son attends a Catholic school. We're not Catholic mind you, but we just moved to Hawaii and we'd heard very good things about this school. I went to a Catholic university after all, and it wasn't so bad. :-)

Our son's teacher informed us that the kids would not be allowed to dress up or otherwise "celebrate" the pagan holiday of Halloween. This, in and of itself, doesn't really bother me. Bear with me here.

The school is going to have a fall festival. Wanna take a guess what the theme of this festival is?


Yes, they get to dress up as pirates and participate in pirate-themed activities for the fall festival.

So let me see if I get this straight...

1) The kids are NOT allowed to dress up as firemen or doctors or cowboys or angels or princesses or astronauts or power rangers or Luke Skywalker or cute animals and "celebrate" a holiday that, although it may have some pagan origins, has become so widely commercialized and ingrained in our society that it's lost it's original pagan meanings.

2) The kids ARE allowed to dress up as murderers, thieves, and scoundrels and celebrate the profession of piracy.

Somehow that just doesn't make sense to me. Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to say they shouldn't be able to have a pirate-themed fall festival either. Like Halloween, I think "pirates" have become a commercialized popular icon through rides at Disneyland and movies like Pirates of the Caribbean. (Heck, I just took my kids to see The Pirates of Penzance.)

The two policies just seem very contradictory to me. I thought about writing to the school about it, but I figured they'd say, "Ya know what? You're absolutely right! We're hereby CANCELING the fall festival!" I don't want to ruin the fall festival for the kids, so I just decided to vent about it here in the blogosphere instead.

...My sons will still have fun dressing up as a Military Policeman and as Luke Skywalker after school gets out on Halloween this year.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New Running Shoes

Saturday morning I ran in the USO Ford Island 10K. I didn't run to win the race. I just ran to say I did it and to be a supportive member of the team going from my boat. I managed to run 3.5 miles in 40 minutes before I stopped to walk for a little bit and let my heart rate come down a bit. I finished in 1 hour and 17 minutes. Our TEAM from the Mighty MSP won first place (they used the top five times from each time to determine the team winners). We had 15 people in our team. One of our guys took 3rd place overall. Five of our guys placed in their age group. What was our prize for our team winning? ...$75 worth of chocolate.

Well, I wore a hole in the back of the heel of my old running shoes, so I decided it was time to get some new ones. I tried to find some before I ran in the Ford Island 10K on Saturday morning, but started my search too late. The thing is, I've been trying to run at least 3 miles per day / 3 days per week, so I put a good number of miles on my shoes.

I went to the NEX (Navy Exchange) first. They had some nice shoes. Most of all, I liked that they segregated them by aisles of high-arch (cushioning), stability control (flat feet), and normal shoes. Unfortunately, all they had in the high-arch section for me were sizes 8, 9, 14, and 15. They might have had more in the back, but there was one sales guy working there, and you had to take a number and wait in line for him to help you.

I found a good website, (actually recommended by my friend Rich). Using the "Perfect Fit Finder" on the website, I clicked on "high arch" and "under-pronator" (my feet tend to roll outward), and it gave me a list of shoes that would work well with my feet. I printed out that list and took it with me to the mall in search of shoes.

At the Foot Locker, the first girl who tried to help me saw the list in my hand, heard me say the words, "high-arch" and "under-pronator" and quickly realized she was in over her head. She excused herself for one reason or another, and next thing I knew, I had the store manager helping me. He was actually very helpful and brought out several pairs of shoes for me to try, but none of them were the ones I was most interested in off the list. He could tell that he didn't have my "glass slipper" if you will, and so he recommended I go to either the New Balance store down at Ward Center or to the Running Room.

We went to the New Balance store Saturday afternoon. The lady watched me walking in and could tell that I was an under-pronator and recommended the New Balance 1061s, which just happened to be on the top of my list from the roadrunnersports website and had really good user reviews. I tried them on and it was so comfortable that it was like putting on my favorite old pair of running shoes.

We'll see how they hold up at Command PT on Wednesday. We have Command PT every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday when we're in port. Normally on Mondays and Fridays, we do about 25 minutes of warmup calisthenics before going for a 2.5 mile run. Guys have the option of splitting off to swim in the base pool or go to the gym, as long as they are doing some form of physical exercise during PT time.

Wednesdays we are starting something new though. We're meeting at the base gym and having a personal trainer named Mark lead us in some insane circuit training exercises. First he led us through some warmup exercises with a lot of running in place (alternating butt-kickers and knees-high). Then we ran the steps of the bleachers around the basketball court (up the steps, down the steps, counter-clockwise around the basketball court to the next set of steps, up the steps, down the steps, counter-clockwise to the next set of steps...). Then he had a series of about two dozen exercise stations set up around the edge of the court that we each rotated through. I was absolutely drenched with sweat last time we did it, and I look forward to doing it again for another great workout.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

I feel old. Today happens to be my 35th birthday, so I'm not really that old. It's all relative though, and I'm one of the oldest guys I get to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Being the XO, the only other officer older than me is the captain. In the crew, only the two master chiefs and a couple of the senior chiefs are older than me. Most of the crew is in their low twenty-somethings. That simple fact in an of itself doesn't make me feel old. It's the interactions I have with my younger crew members that drive the point home. For example:
- I first started feeling old when I made a joke in reference to the Johnny Carson show and nobody in the room knew what I was talking about.
- Recently at lunch in the wardroom, we were talking about "classic" movies, and I was alarmed to discover I was the only one who had seen either Star Wars or Back to the Future IN the movie theater.
- My taste in 80's music has become a common theme in hail-and-farewell gag-gifts (Billy Idol hair wig and collection of 80's music on CD for example).
- In May, we had 205 midshipmen rotate through spending a day at sea on a submarine. We took 24 midshipmen at a time out for 24 hours of submarine life, and the first several groups included 9 women. I sat down to lunch in the wardroom, and the girl sitting next to me looked AWFULLY familiar, but I just couldn't place where I knew her from. We had the midshipmen each tell us their name, what school they were going to and what their major was, and where they were from. We got to the girl sitting next to me, and she said she was from all over because her dad was a submariner. The Captain asked, "Oh yeah? What boat was he on?" She said he was the CO of the TOLEDO, and that's when the light went off over my head. When I was a JO (junior officer) on USS PROVIDENCE in Groton, CT, I rented a house in Mystic with two other JOs. Our next door neighbor was then the XO on the BOSTON (and later the CO on the TOLEDO), and he had a cute little girl named Katie who was like 7 years old. Yep, here was little Katie... now an adult and wearing a uniform and sitting next to me at the wardroom table.

Thankfully, someone recently gave me a bullet to put on the OTHER side of this "it's all relative" argument. Last Friday, we did a VIP cruise where we took out a couple of dozen local business and industry leaders to show them what life on a submarine is like. Shortly after they embarked and were being welcomed in the Crew's mess, I walked in and someone introduced me as the XO or "second in command" of the submarine. One of the ladies in the group gasped and said, "He's so YOUNG!"

So yeah, age IS relative, but I find with the demographics of most of the people I work with, the only evidence I normally see is from the "I'm old" perspective.