Wednesday, October 31, 2007

'Tis the season

Yep, it's that time of year again, folks. Drive onto any Navy base any morning in the fall or spring, and you'll see large groups of sailors in PT gear gathering on the athletic fields to do their pushups, situps, and running their one and a half miles for the PRT.

I have earnestly embraced the culture of fitness and I'm working on breaking the cycle I have gone through each sea and shore tour. In case you didn't know, being on a submarine is not exactly conducive to staying in shape. The food is fattening (at least the food that tastes good is fattening - there are no healthy alternatives that are enjoyable to eat), and there's very limited resources for exercise - limited both in time-off and in available space or equipment. On a typical 688-class submarine, I think you'll be lucky to find one or two exercise bikes, and maybe a rowing machine or a stairmaster. On the MSP, this is the first boat I've been on that actually has a treadmill.

When I left college, I was in decent shape. I was never a PT stud. My roommates in college always made me sick. They were on the 3-mile-per-year running program. In other words, they would merely show up at the PRT twice per year and run their 1.5 miles in like 10 or 11 minutes without any sort of preparation. I'm not a fast runner, and I've always had to get out there running regularly at least a few weeks before the PRT in order to get a passing run time.

Over the course of 42 months of my JO sea tour, I pretty much never exercised when we were underway. When I was standing 3-section watch, I just valued my sleep too much. Do your pre-watch tour, eat, stand watch for 6 hours, eat, do after watch reconstruct for a few hours (that was back in the day of paper plots and drawing by hand a reconstructed geoplot of what happened during your watch - man I feel old) , attend training, do your divisional paperwork, do your radcon audits and surveillances, do your training binders, review your PMS schedules, resolve whatever other crisis-du-jour had arisen, try to get 5 hours of sleep, pre-watch tour, eat, go back on watch. I think back then the "health nuts" would sacrifice some of their sleep in order to go exercise, but it just wasn't worth it to me then. Then there's the fact we had a prior-served White House chef in the galley, and the food was pretty darn good! By the time I finished my JO sea tour, I had gained 25 pounds from my college weight.

Then we went to Monterey. Whoa! Real quick tangent here...
For any of you reading this and wondering where to go for shore duty, GO TO MONTEREY!!! I mean, seriously, you get PAID the salary of a LT (or higher if you go later) to go to SCHOOL full time and get a FREE masters degree. It's more than that though - it's the LIFESTYLE! You sign up for which classes you're going to take each quarter, so you have some control over your schedule. I generally organized it so that I had a class from 8 to 10, then I went to the gym from 10 to 12 (including changing and showering, etc), then I had lunch from 12 to 1 p.m., then I had a 1 to 3 p.m. class, and then I went home. Better yet, classes were Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday-Thursday. Fridays were for labs, so if you were in a non-engineering program (like, say, National Security Affairs), that meant no labs, so you had every Friday off. The engineering students referred to NSA as "No Studying Allowed". We called it the "book of the night club" because it was like, "Here, read this 300 page history book in two nights and be ready to discuss it at our next class." There's a great paved bike path all up and down the coastline through Monterey, and I loved going for long bike rides around Pacific Grove. We also did a lot of scuba diving there. I was already scuba certified, and LW got certified there. So if you think you're going to stay in the Navy for another sea tour anyway, why bother taking your chances on "the slate"? If you sign up for NPS, you're in! No questions or uncertainty in where you're going (and I highly doubt they'll pull any one out of NPS to go on an IA assignment).
Anyway, getting back to my point... By the end of my first shore tour, I had gotten back into good shape and got my weight back down to my college weight.

Then I went to sea duty again. It was immediately after 9-11 and everyone was lobbing tomahawks into Afghanistan or Iraq (except for us - somebody had to make sure things stayed calm and under control in other parts of the world). I spent 55% of my second sea tour out at sea and crossed the international dateline into Westpac 3 times in 3 years. During the time I was in port, I was working 12-hour days 6-days a week on average. Luckily for me, my CO had embraced the culture of fitness back then, and we had Command PT built into our in-port routine two or three days per week. That helped keep my weight in check, but wasn't quite enough given the amount of time we spent at sea and the lack of time for exercising at sea. So by the end of my three years as a DH, I had regained those 25 pounds I lost during shore duty and was back to my previous sea duty weight.

Then I went to NRO. Wow. What an absolutely awesome place to work! Not just in terms of the really cool super-secret stuff that I can't tell you about, but also in terms of facilities. They have an awesome gym there and you can sign up for a free personal trainer or any one of a number of free workout classes. There are a lot of nice trails outside for running through the beautiful parks of Northern Virginia when the weather is nice, or there's a couple of dozen treadmills to use when it's not so nice out. In the cafeteria, they had a salad bar like a mile long with dozens of fresh fruits and vegetables. I actually ENJOYED eating salad for lunch there almost every day (I had a weakness for Mexican day - I know that comes as a big surprise to those of you who know me well). My last PRT I ran before leaving DC, I made my best 1.5 mile run time ever - even better than when I was a midshipman! And... I lost those 25 pounds and was back at my college weight again.

Leaving shore duty to head to Groton for sub school and back to sea duty again, I dreaded what would happen to my physical shape. LW got me this awesome Polar heartrate monitor watch, and it does a fitness test that measures out in VO2. Leaving shore duty, my fitness test VO2 level was 48. In spite of the 12-hour days at sub school, I tried to go to the gym and run on the indoor track several times per week, so my fitness test only dropped to 44 by the end of sub school. Then I flew out to meet the MSP on deployment and went into the vampire routine on mission. I was CDO on the midwatch every night and in or near the control room most of the time, so I didn't exercise. By the end of deployment my fitness test score was down to 25 and I had gained back my sea-duty weight (turns out my metabolism has not improved with age), and not happy with my level of physical fitness. So I started pushing hard to get back in shape again. I made an effort to get to the gym in port, or use the treadmill or exercise bike at sea. I was a geobachelor then, so I tried to eat-right with healthy snacks and dinners. By the time we left Norfolk in July for our change of homeport to Pearl Harbor, my fitness test was back up to 37. My goal for the transit from Norfolk to Pearl Harbor was to run at least 3 miles per day on the treadmill. I almost made it. The ONLY day I DIDN'T run was the day we went through the Panama Canal, and I think that's a fairly good excuse. By the time we arrived in Pearl Harbor, my fitness score was up to 45.

Now, I'm working hard to maintain it. Thanks to the example set by my CO on my DH tour though, I saw that it was feasible to put Command PT into a normal in-port routine. So the COB and I have put Command PT into the MSP's in port routine to promote the Navy's culture of fitness. I think our Command PT program has been a pretty good success. I get lots of good feedback about it from the crew. We muster up three times per week and the COB leads us in warm-up exercises, then we go for a run around the base (sometimes we get some other guys to volunteer as guest PT leaders). Guys who want to swim instead can go to the pool right by where we do our warm-up exercises. It has really worked out well for us over the past three months here in Pearl Harbor. I just hope we can continue to keep it up through the shipyard.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Concessions - an ironic full circle

Whenever we move to a new duty station, we go through the experience of trying to find a new church home. This task was much easier before we had kids. When it was just the two of us, it was easy to go to a different church every week for several weeks until we decide which one to stick with. With kids though, it takes several weeks of going to a church before they start to recognize the Sunday school teachers and the other kids in the class and start to feel comfortable with you leaving them there. So each time we just visit a church to "check it out," it's nearly impossible to get the boys to stay in the Sunday school and they would frequently end up in the sanctuary with us.

We don't claim to be members of any given denomination of church. It varies from one duty station to the next. I was raised going to a Lutheran church, and LW was raised going to a Congregationalist church. I went to a Catholic university, and as a result, I had to take 9 units of religious studies in order to graduate.

Warning! Tangent ahead...

Both the best and the worst class I took in religious studies was "Christianity and Its Practice." This class was all about the different denominations of Christianity. Each week, we studied a different denomination, and each weekend we attended a church service at that type of church. The following week, we would write a paper about that church and what we learned from the experience. So, for example, one week we studied the Baptist Church, then went to a worship service at a Baptist Church that Sunday. The next week we would write our paper on the Baptist church while we also studied the Episcopal church in preparation for the following Sunday, and so on and so forth... From that standpoint, it was an AWESOME class. I enjoyed it tremendously and learned a lot about different practices and traditions in Christianity. It was a great class.

I say it was both the best and the worst class I took in religious studies because of the Catholic priest who taught the class and his spin on the class content. He claimed that the class was all about ecumenism, which sounds good and noble. However, the way he presented his introduction to each "branch" of the church was like this: "Here is the history of when and what caused this branch of the church to break away from us, the true church. This is what's wrong with their beliefs and what they have to do in order to come back and rejoin us in the true church." He just came across very pretentious and snobby. Also, when I wrote my weekly papers, I refused to spew the Vatican theology on what was wrong with that church, so I got a D in the class. Please don't take this the wrong way. I'm NOT bashing the Catholic church. I'm just bashing that one very close-minded priest, that's all.

Anyway, what got me on that tangent was thinking about what a great class it was to set me up for future PCS moves and finding a new church home in each duty station.

End of Tangent - Resuming My Original Line of Thought.

So when I was on my JO tour in Groton, I found a church home in Old Mystic Baptist Church (OMBC). OMBC is an "American Baptist" church, which I would have told you back then was a more traditional-hymn, low-key type of church and did not appear at all like what I thought a stereotypical baptist church was.

After LW and I first met, we spent every weekend together. In fact, the first weekend we met, I took her with me to OMBC on Sunday morning. If I didn't have duty on the weekend, then I'd go up to Boston and we'd go to Park Street Church. If I had duty on the weekend, then she'd come down to Groton and we'd go to OMBC.
Aside: This was back in the days before terrorist threats when LW could show a bag of Boston Market food to the gate guard and say, "My boyfriend is the duty officer on the PROVIDENCE," and the gate guard would say, "Okay, have a nice time," and let her through the gate.
In any case, the style of the two churches was very similar (traditional hymns, similar worship service format and prayers, etc) and we each felt comfortable in either church.

After we got married, our next duty station was Monterey. We tried several churches there, but none ever felt "right" to us. We became very good friends with our neighbors Steve & Kim, though. They introduced us to KLOVE (for which I am and will be eternally grateful), and they also invited us to their church, FPC (First Presbyterian Church) in Salinas. Having grown up with traditional hymns played on an organ, I was a little uncomfortable with the contemporary Christian music at FPC. I mean, it just seemed WRONG to have electric guitars and drums in CHURCH. However, we really enjoyed the worship service overall, and the fellowship we shared with Steve & Kim. So we made a concession to "get over" or "put up with" the contemporary music at FPC for the rest of our time in Monterey.

Now, to FPC's credit - they played a mixture of traditional hymns and contemporary music. After a couple of years of listening to KLOVE and going to FPC, it had grown on me. When we got to our next duty station in San Diego, we went to Eastlake Church. Eastlake Church is ALL contemporary music, and I loved it!

Then we went on to DC and found a church home with Christ Community Church (CCC) in Ashburn, VA. The music there was mostly contemporary with a few hymns thrown in here and there, and I loved it!

Now, here we are in Hawaii. We've decided to make our church home FPC in Kaneohe, but it came with another concession... it's all traditional hymns, NO contemporary music.


So why the concession (and hence the blog post)?

Going back to earlier in this post, I mentioned how "church-shopping" is a lot harder with kids than it was without them. So the kids play a large role in the decision. I wouldn't say we would choose a church solely based on the kids' liking it. If we did, I'm sure we'd find some Church of the Patron Saint of Legos and All Things Star Wars that served seventeen varieties of candy, cookies, and ice cream for snack and played video games all morning long. However, we would definitely NOT go to a church where the kids were NOT comfortable. So, in bubblehead terminology, I guess you could say it's a tripwire or a go/no-go criteria for us in finding a church home. Did that make sense? A better way of saying that using some of that college philosophy and logic class would be: The kids liking the church is necessary but not sufficient for us to choose it as our new church home.

So anyway, the fact that ES was almost immediately comfortable at FPC, and actually likes to go was an immediate big thumbs up for FPC. It was a big hurdle for us to get over so quickly in our search. I mean, it's not just that he doesn't protest us taking him there, but that when we didn't go last week he was asking us why we weren't going.

YS is a different story... It took us a long time to get him to stay in the nursery / pre-school at CCC back in VA. After many weeks of seeing the same people, he eventually grew to like staying there with Nanny. So far, he's refused for us to leave him in the pre-school at FPC. (I suspect part of this may go back to this thing about Daddy taking off for 10 months and betraying the trust he had built in me being there all the time on shore duty - see previous long rambling post on that topic). Luckily, FPC has these neat little bags set up for small children in the sanctuary with coloring books and crayons. This morning LW pointed out to me that we never would have put up with this with ES and we would have forced him to stay in the pre-school, so why were we being lazy with YS?

She had a point. There was no way we'd ever get him to go willingly until he felt comfortable with it. So this morning I went with YS to the pre-school class. I should have done an ORM worksheet for sitting in one of those teeny-tiny little kid chairs. Uncomfortable as it was, it was important for YS.

I sat there in that chair that was about a third as big as my butt and drew pictures for YS and held them up for him to see from his vantage point curled up in a ball in the hallway outside the classroom. I told him he was being a hermit-crab and drew a picture of a hermit crab for him.

Eventually, I went out in the hallway, picked him up and brought him into the classroom to sit with me. Soon the free-time was over though, and we sat down with the rest of the kids on the floor for the lesson. I was actually very impressed with the pre-school Sunday school teacher and the "regulars" in her class. There were at least a dozen kids there. She sang a little song about "It's time to read the Bible." Then she asked the kids, "How many parts are there in the Bible?" A loud chorus came from the kids, "TWO!"
"What's the first part called?"
"The OLD testament!"
"What's the second part called?"
"The NEW testament!"
"What's the OLD testament about?"
"God's people!"
"What's the NEW testament about?"
"Jesus!"
I thought that was pretty impressive from a group of 3 and 4 year old kids! She went on to cover a story about David as a shepherd from the old testament, and she used a story board to put up little pictures to illustrate the story. Then the kids all did an activity sheet where they put stickers of sheep behind David and a sticker of the shepherd's staff in David's hand. I think it'll be great for YS... once he gets to know the teacher.

Lest you think we're going to FPC just for the kids, Pastor Dan Chun is a great speaker and we've really enjoyed his sermons. He instantly made me feel at ease the first time we attended FPC, but that's another long story, and LW says I ramble too long and put people to sleep with such long posts. So I'll stop now and let you get back to doing something more important with your day.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mid-Week Rants - A New Meaning for MSP

Rant #1 - I told the Chop (supply officer) to order us a new brow banner. MSP has taken on a new meaning: "My Spare Parts." It's like someone is holding a ginormous vacuum over the command passageway hatch (it used to be the weapons shipping hatch, but we don't have any weapons to ship and we don't have a weapons officer anymore, so now it's just a personnel access hatch). Guys wearing every ballcap from every boat on the waterfront are descending upon our ship and casing the joint for anything we have that's nicer than what they've got. I'm actually glad we have forward shore power in right now so that they have to use the command passageway hatch. That way, I can hear when people are grunting and exerting themselves trying to push equipment up the ladder and out the hatch. The CO, the COB, the Chop, and I have had to put the kibosh on seabags and armloads full of MSP stuff being sucked up out of the hatch. I hope we're getting the message across to the crew and our topside watches are being vigilant to stop anyone who tries to cross the brow carrying anything that isn't accompanied by a DD1149 (the official document to authorize the transfer of material from one command to another).

Rant #2 - Without saying anything negative about any particular people or organizations... Today I had a flashback to my first experience working with civilians (both "govies" and contractors). I had just reported to my new shore duty job, and I had never before worked with government civilians much less contractors hired to do important jobs for the government.

Let's see, how does one start a sea-story from shore duty? "Once upon a time"? No, I think I'll start with, "So there I was..." So there I was, new in my job and attending one of my first meetings. Note that my job had been gapped for years before, so I didn't get a turnover from anyone on what my job was supposed to entail. This was supposed to be an in-progress review (IPR) or status update on a project. We, the U.S. Government, were paying this civilian corporation large sums of money to do some analysis and provide us a report of the results.

Wait, hang on, first - you may want to get out a sheet of paper and something to write with. This is kind of like one of those word-problems in grade school math you always hated. Just jot down a few notes here and see if you connect the same dots that I did during this meeting.

The project started on September 1st of that year and would cease being funded on December 31st. This meeting I attended was on December 8th. So everyone is all happy and smiles and saying hello and how are you (subliminal message: there is nothing to be alarmed about, everything is fine, these aren't the droids you're looking for...). The contractor representative gets up in front of the conference room and shows us pretty powerpoint slides that show they're 50% done with this scenario and 60% done with that scenario and 45% done with this other scenario. NONE of the scenarios were 100% complete - they were ALL in some state of partial completion between 40 and 70%.

Now, at that point, alarm bells were going off in the back of my head that this project was in trouble. If you just take that piece of paper of yours and draw a graph with Sept 1st on the left and Dec 31st on the right side of the x-axis, and draw a percent scale on the y-axis. Starting at 0% on Sept 1st, and drawing a line through roughly 50% complete on December 8th, where does the slope of that line take you to on Dec 31st? Alternatively, on what date will the line reach 100% complete?

To make matters worse, my new government civilian employee counterparts were just smiling, shaking their heads, and saying, "Okay, great, thanks for the update." I wanted to jump up and down and throw a fit that there was NO WAY on EARTH they were going to finish the project on time (especially considering everyone was about to leave for two weeks of holiday leave), but since I was new, I bit my tongue. I figured MAYBE, just MAYBE, I didn't quite understand how things worked around there and I should learn some more before I go throwing stones.

Low and behold... We came back from our holiday leave, and there was all this hate and discontent and gnashing of teeth in the office about how the contractor corporation had not finished the project and the funding ran out and oh-me-oh-my what are we going to do now??? I was like, well, DUH! You didn't SEE this coming??? I could've told you this was going to be the result back at that IPR on Dec 8th!!!

As much as I loved my shore duty job, it frequently drove me nuts to work with people who would not give concrete answers and just glossed over things with a few popular project management buzz-words in order to make it seem like they had everything under control and it was all going to come out fine.

Anyway, I had flashbacks this morning. Luckily, when the alarm bells went off in the back of my mind, I didn't have to jump up and down or throw any stones because there was a very wise and experienced O-6 there who was throwing the BS flag and calling people out when they gave non-commital answers. I was very glad he was there.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

San Diego Fires - Updated 24 Oct

Update 24 Oct: OMG... Seeing this AP photo from Rancho Bernardo, I felt like someone just socked me in the gut. Those used to be peoples' houses. This area is just north of Mirimar in San Diego County.
It breaks my heart to think what those families must be going through. I mean, as an adult and as a Christian (and sitting here in the comfort of my la-z-boy recliner), I can (theoretically or philosophically) put the material loss aside and be thankful for my health, but how do you ever explain that to your kids?

I remember shortly after my family moved to Northern Virginia, there was a tornado warning and my wife and kids had to hide in the basement for an evening. Even though nothing happened, my ES was terrified at the mention of the word "tornado" or of strong winds howling around the outside of our house. Can you imagine how much worse it would be if something HAD happened to our house then? The kids who lost their homes in the fires will be traumatized for some time to come.

To everyone in San Diego County, you continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.

Looking at the maps of the fire boundaries and the evacuation areas, the northern fire is very close to the homes of some close friends of mine. Chris & Cath, Dave & Kate, Dave & Eva - I hope you have safely evacuated from your homes, and I pray you're safe and sound. The southern fire is approaching my mom and grandpa's place, but it's still a safe enough distance away that they're not in the evacuation area (yet).

Update 23 Oct 2007 at 1747 Hawaii time: My mom sent me this website for a really good map of the fire boundaries and evacuation areas.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weekend Recap
...and a tangent on Self Portraits

This post started out as a short weekend recap, but evolved into a much longer rambling.

Didn't do as much as I would have liked this weekend, but then since I was out at sea last weekend it was nice to have some time to just veg and relax.

Friday night we did the fall festival at ES's school that I already wrote about.

Saturday we did some shopping and went to the farewell party at the Eng's house.

Sunday morning we ended up skipping church because YS slept in until 9:30. LW and I were starting to worry something happened to him in his sleep. Both boys are normally up and clicking away on the computers by 7 a.m. at the latest. When LW and I get up in the morning, we have to forcibly remove the boys from our computers in order to check our email. Yesterday, YS was super tired and cranky and did NOT want to go to bed even though it was way late after the farewell party. Normally, putting our boys to bed late is just a recipe for disaster, because they'll STILL get up at their usual time the next morning, and then they'll just be tired, cranky, pains in the arse all day long. Luckily for us, YS slept in way late this morning, and because we were out late we didn't want to wake a sleeping dragon. As a result, I'm happy to report that he was very pleasant to be around all day today. ...I wish I could say the same for ES (went to bed late, got up usual time, was cranky off and on throughout the day).

Once everyone was up and about, we loaded up our Camelbaks and went for a hike over on the windward side of the island in Kaneohe. We went looking for a geocache along a nice trail in the Friendship Gardens. Although we didn't find the geocache, we still enjoyed the short hike and the view from the top.

Entrance to the Friendship Gardens

The boys on the trail.

How on Earth did they get this thing all the way up here?

I always take a self-portrait on the trail.

Why do I take all those self-portraits anyway? That brought to mind a story actually. I wish I could go back and thank some random commander I met in Coronado in the summer of '92. It was SWO week during CORTRAMID. CORTRAMID is Career Orientation and Training for Midshipmen. You spend one week with the sub force, one week with the surface warfare guys, one week with the aviators, and one week with the marine corps to help you make an educated decision on what you want to be when you grow up (or graduate from college and get commissioned).

Back when I was a midshipman, everyone was still high on Top Gun and feeling the "need for speed." As a result, the aviators didn't have to do much in the way of recruiting - they had more applicants than they had slots to fill. Aviation week for me was spent in Whidbey Island doing a lot of sitting around waiting, going to the gym, goofing off, hiking, going on ONE ride in an A-6 Intruder (which was awesome), sitting around waiting, going to the gym, and more goofing off.
The other three weeks though, the sub guys, the SWOs, and the Marines actually tried to let us see and do as much cool stuff as possible so we might consider signing up for something else besides being a Tom Cruise wanna-be.

So, getting back to the point, there I was... It was SWO week and we were spending our day with the "gator freighters" (amphibious assault ships) riding in amphibious landing craft on the beach at Coronado. I was going around taking pictures of all sorts of cool stuff. Some commander saw me and said something to the effect of, hey, let me take your picture with that in the background. Not that I asked for his advice, but he just offered up that later on in life, the pictures I took would be more interesting to me if they had either me or someone else I knew in the picture instead of just random scenery.

I've followed his advice ever since then, and he was absolutely right. I could look up a picture of the White House or the Eiffel Tower on the internet anytime, but a picture with me in it and the White House or the Eiffel Tower in the background shows that I was there. It dates the picture. It also shows what I looked like way back then, who I was there with, and at what phase in my life I visited there (before or after getting married, before or after having kids, etc).

Of course, when you're in public places like that, you can always ask some other tourist nearby to take your picture. When I got into geocaching and going on long hikes in the woods, I worked on my skills at taking my own picture with my palm pilot camera - as proof that I found the geocache and to document my adventures.

This was perhaps the first blunoz self-portrait,
just after I discovered geocaching and just
before the Army-Navy football game.

This is one of my favorite blunoz self-portraits
hiking in Northern VA with my ES (that's
the Potomac River in the background).

...So how's that for a random ramling??? I totally didn't know where this post was going to go when I started.

Retaliation: Second Salvo

We had a farewell party for our Nav and Weps last night at the Eng's house. I absolutely love pecan pie, and last night, LW made this absolutely awesome chocolate bourbon pecan pie. I tried telling the other people at the party last night that it was horrible so there would be plenty of leftovers for me, but they didn't buy it. Unfortunately, my second salvo here lacks the power of a decent photo because I forgot to take a picture of it before hand. Well, at least I took a picture of what was left of it...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Saturday morning odds and ends

A smattering of random items this morning:

  • Lord help us! ES has discovered how to Google. I came downstairs this morning to find he typed in "apache helicopter" and was looking at Army websites for pictures of... well... Apache helicopters. After I came down, he asked how to spell "sub hunter" (because we were reading his library book about cruisers and talking about the helicopters that hunt for submarines). I'm very afraid to see where this will go. What pray-tell will he Google next??? It might be time to invest in some parental controls on the computer - anyone got any recommendations?
  • We went to ES's school fall festival last night. I must say, there were a lot of really well done and cute pirate costumes there - especially my Nav's kids. What threw me for a loop though, was sitting behind us was this family where the mom was cussing at her daughter. I mean, the poor girl looked to be about 8 years old or so, and as far as I could tell she wasn't doing anything egregious or misbehaving (not to imply that it would be okay to cuss at your kid if they WERE misbehaving). I mean, it's a Catholic school for cryin' out loud! (Again, that is not meant to imply that it would be okay to cuss at your kid if it wasn't a Catholic school.)
  • I think the highlight of going to the fall festival though was getting to meet Alyssa. Every day, ES comes home from school and we ask what he did at school. Typical response: "Nothing." So we dig a little deeper, "Who did you play with at recess?" Typical response: "Alyssa." A little while back, when he told us he DIDN'T play with Alyssa, we asked why not, and found out some other rotten little boys in his class had been making fun of him for playing with a GIRL, so he wasn't playing with Alyssa anymore. My heart sank. We explained to ES that it's perfectly okay to be friends with a girl and that those boys weren't very nice. We also gave his teacher a heads-up so she would watch out for the teasing, too. Since then, it hasn't been an issue, and we've gone back to "Who did you play with at recess?" "Alyssa." So it was nice to finally meet Alyssa last night. Her dad's in the Air Force and they just moved here from Okinawa, so she and ES both have the "I just moved here" thing in common.
  • While my MIL was here visiting, I was going upstairs to watch Heroes on the old TV in our master bedroom. Now she's gone back to Boston and I've started watching Heroes downstairs on the HDTV - OMG what a difference!!!
  • We're very excited for the Dish Network installation guy to come on Wednesday. The local cable TV here is super-lame and non-user-friendly. We had Dish Network from 1999 in Monterey all the way up until we left Virginia in June, and we miss it. I'm just worried he won't be able to get a good angle on the satellite from our location in housing. We're on an east-west running street, and slightly downhill from the house to the east of us, so somehow we have to find a way for the satellite dish to look around the house next to us to the east.
Okay, ES wants the computer back so he can Google something else. Have a good weekend all!

Role Reversals

Warning: Long, rambling post ahead.
Get a cup of coffee and make yourself comforatble...

Observations on how my relationships have changed with my eldest son (ES) and youngest son (YS) over the past few years cycling between sea duty and shore duty (with a few tangents here and there):

My ES was only 9 months old when I reported to my department head tour. Over the course of the next 3 years, I spent 50% of my time out at sea, and when I was in port I was working very long hours. I joke with LW that I would have enjoyed actually "living" in San Diego. Occasionally I poked my head up through the hatch and looked across the bay at the downtown San Diego skyline. I'd say to myself, "Self, you live in San Diego! What a great place to live!" LW and ES had a ball with annual passes to Sea World, the Zoo, Legoland, etc. I didn't really realize just how much I missed until our follow-on shore duty.


My favorite picture of LW and ES from during one of my first WESTPAC runs.

I did, however, notice that ES didn't recognize me when LW and ES flew out to meet me for a port call in Pearl Harbor in 2002. That hurt a little. It took him a few hours before he warmed up and stopped treating me like I was a stranger. After that, I started making videos of myself doing things with ES - reading stories, doing puzzles, drawing pictures, etc, so that when I was gone, LW could play the videos and he wouldn't forget me again. LW called it "Daddy TV" and said it was a wonderful respite that allowed her to take a shower without interruption. Later when I returned home from a long time out at sea, ES came running up to me on the pier and clearly remembered me well. Even so, I still didn't quite realize just how much of his growth and development I missed.

My family shortly after arrival in DC for Shore Duty

When I reported to my desk job in the DC suburbs, ES was 3 years old, and YS was only 9 months old. Over the course of the next 2 years, I spent a LOT of time with my family. I mean, when I finished my dept head tour, I had like 69 days of leave on the books. When I left my cushy desk job two years later, I had like 9 days of leave on the books. Take a moment to consider what that means. In those two years, I earned 2.5 days per month x 24 months = 60 days of leave earned, plus the 69 days I already had on the books comes out to an inventory of 129 days of leave. I left with 9 days of leave. That means I had to take 120 days of leave in two years!!! That was AWESOME!!! (Orlando, Boston, Lake Winnipesaukee, San Diego, Orlando, Aruba, Lake Winnipesaukee...) But anyway, I digress...

I spent my last three months on the boat out at sea, so LW flew out to DC, bought a house, had the household goods delivered, and got settled in over the summer. When I flew to DC to rejoin my family and walked into 9-month-old YS's room, he took one look at me... turned around and took off crawling away from me (he wasn't crawling when I last saw him in San Diego). So during those two years of shore duty, I saw my YS crawl for the first time, learn to walk, learn to talk, and learn to run. That really drove home to me how much I had missed of ES's development while I was on sea duty.

It also shaped the relationships in our family. ES was a total Mommy's boy and had to have Mommy do everything for him. YS was a total Daddy's boy and had to have Daddy do everything for him. I mean, if YS fell and got a boo-boo and LW was standing there right next to him and I was all the way on the opposite side of the house, YS would run crying PAST LW to seek me out for consolation. I guess I got used to this paradigm in our relationships (LW & ES, me & YS) and just assumed that's the way things would stay.


YS and Daddy in the pool at Lake Winnepesaukee

YS and Daddy hiking in Northern Virginia

...Then I was a geobachelor for 10 months...

When I left for sub school, I thought I was only going for a couple of months and then we'd be back together again. I had orders to a boomer out of Bangor. I was going to finish sub school just before the holidays, enjoy a nice drive across country with my family and spend Christmas with LW's family. I was going to go to a month-long school in Bangor. Then the boat I was going to was going to be in drydock for a while, so I wasn't going to be away from my family for long.

Homecoming Hug
(7 months after leaving for sub school)

Well, the Lord had other plans in mind for me. A couple of weeks into sub school, one of my classmates quit, and I got an ORDMOD (orders modification) sending me to the MSP. So after sub school, I spent a weekend and had a pretend-Christmas with my family and then flew out to meet the boat on deployment. We were on deployment for another four months after that, so there was no point in LW and the boys uprooting from our house, friends, school, and church in DC and moving to Norfolk. Then, after our return to Norfolk, we were only there for 3 months before we left to do our homeport change to Pearl Harbor, so again there was no reason for my family to move to Norfolk. Besides, we ended up getting sent to Kings Bay to offload our deployment weapons in order to support doing 2 weeks of midshipman ops (that's another story for another post), so we weren't around Norfolk much at all before commencing our month-long transit to Pearl Harbor.

ATTENTION! I'm finally getting to the POINT of why I started this post!

So following 10 months of being apart, I'm now reunited with my family in Pearl Harbor, and I have been observing that there has been a role reversal between ES and YS. Now YS wants MOMMY to do EVERYTHING - console him when he gets hurt, read stories, brush his teeth, say bedtime prayers, put him to bed. He will be right next to me as we walk up to a cross-walk, but when it's time to hold someone's hand to cross the street, he will leave my side and run back to LW to hold HER hand instead of mine. He's even gone so far as to refuse to let me buckle him into his carseat on occasion.

Looking back and trying to think about it from the boys' perspective... When we went to shore duty, ES was used to me being gone and relying on LW for everything. For YS, at the beginning of shore duty, I think he just all of a sudden found this adult who doted on him and that he didn't have to fight with ES for attention (because ES was so reliant on LW). By the end of shore duty, I don't think YS remembered me ever going away. We went to shore duty when he was 9 months old and for the next two years I came home almost every night, and he grew very close to me. I suspect the 10 months of sub school, deployment, and geobacheloring kind of betrayed the trust that YS had in me. He learned he couldn't rely on me and shifted his dependence to LW.

ES on the other hand has become very huggy and cuddly with me. He wants ME to sit next to him at dinner. When YS goes running back to grab LW's hand to cross the street, ES comes running forward to hold my hand. I find that ES is now at an age where he is just soaking up knowledge like a sponge and is interested in all sorts of cool stuff. He brings home library books about Apache helicopters and cruisers and stealth bombers for us to read. He's become obsessed with snorkeling lately, and it's been really cool going snorkeling with him. He wanted me to take him to his very first Tiger Scout den meeting on Tuesday night. That was awesome. We had a great time together. How did I get to be the dad of a 6-year old anyway?!?!

Aside: As part of the first Tiger Scout meeting, each of the boys had to fill out a short survey about themselves, then get up and read it in front of the group to introduce themselves. I was very proud of ES for getting up there and doing the introduction. That is NOT his forte. He's normally very shy around people he doesn't know. So I was very happy that he actually got up there in front of the other boys and read his sheet:

Name: ES
Partner's name: Kevin (in Tiger Scouts each kid has to have a parent there with them)
I joined Tiger Scouts because: I want the snorkeling badge.
My favorite food is: Candy.
My favorite TV show is: Sponge Bob.
My favorite sport or activity is: Snorkeling. (I was both very surprised and very proud of him for NOT writing "video games.")

Anyway, it seems ES and YS have swapped roles / favored parental units from shore duty to now. Don't get me wrong. It's not like YS doesn't love me or do things with me anymore, but he definitely favors LW now. While I miss the previous relationship I had with YS, LW is happy that he no longer treats her like chopped liver. I'm excited to have this time with ES to do things like snorkeling and Tiger Scouts. I'm also curious how future transfers will impact my family relationships.

Hawaiian tidbits

The four most interesting Hawaiian words I have learned so far:

Makai and Mauka: Asking for directions from a local here requires a change of reference in geography. While we, non-native Hawaiians, tend to think in terms of North, South, East, and West, the native Hawaiians do not. For them, everything is island-centric. So there are two important Hawaiian words you need to understand:

Makai means toward the sea.

Mauka means inland, upland, or toward the mountains, or if you're at sea it means toward the shore. In weather reports here, you will hear mention of "mauka showers." Indeed, on most days since I have arrived here, if one takes a gander mauka, one will see the peaks of the mountains hidden in clouds, and we have frequently found it raining on the the H-3 highway going across the middle of the island while it's bright and sunny everywhere else.



Hokupa'a: I took my boys to the Bishop Museum. They have an observatory and a planetarium there, and we attended a show in the planetarium on how the Polynesians sailed between Hawaii and Tahiti using the stars for navigation. One of their main reference stars was hokupa'a. Hokupa'a is Hawaiian for "stuck," and it's the Hawaiian name for the North Star (because it's stuck in the north sky). I thought that was pretty cool.



Le'ahi: I recently picked up a copy of O'ahu's Hidden History. One of the first things I learned from this book is the Hawaiian name for Diamond Head is Le'ahi, or "head of the tuna." I thought that made a lot of sense, because if you look at it from the Waikiki side, it really does look like the head of a tuna.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sailor, Rest Your Oars



Admiral William J. Crowe, Jr., United States Navy (Ret)

January 2, 1925 – October 18, 2007



My sincerest condolences go out to the Crowe family on the loss of a fellow Submariner and a superb Naval Officer.

Growing up as an officer's kid in Reagan's navy, I remember watching the episode of Cheers when Admiral Crowe walked into the bar. That was SO cool! I also watched the TV in amazement when Admiral Crowe got to visit the Soviet Union in the beginning stages of easing tensions with the Soviets. Later, as a midshipman, I read his book, In the Line of Fire, and it was an inspiration to me. What I took away from reading that book was that you shouldn't worry about stereotypical "dead-end" jobs in the Navy or what jobs you're "supposed" to do in order to advance your career. Admiral Crowe routinely deviated from traditional norms in submarine officer career paths and did outrageous things like get a masters degree (gasp!), and later even worse he got a PhD (the horror!), and did weirdo things like JOINT duty (somebody get a straight-jacket). More importantly, he got to see and do some really cool stuff in the non-traditional career path he made for himself. One could say he planted the seed in my mind that justified me getting a NON-engineering bachelor's degree and a NON-engineering master's degree, and seeking out a joint duty job early in my career. As much as I enjoy being a submarine officer and as I have said before, the best thing about being a submarine officer is being out there on the pointy-end-of-the-spear doing the cool tactical stuff (sorry, can't tell ya about it). There weren't many submarine shore duty jobs that really appealed to me, so I advanced my education and I went to an awesome joint duty job (again, sorry, can't tell ya).

I found it interesting to read in his book how much he "rocked the boat" with his appearance on Cheers and his decision to take Mike Wallace from 60 Minutes with him on his trip to the Soviet Union. Everyone advised him not to do it. He definitely was NOT a conformist.

After my dad read the news, he sent me an email of his recollections of interactions with Admiral Crowe on active duty. Dad spoke very highly of Admiral Crowe, and his stories "checked with chart" as far as my feelings about the Admiral.

God bless you, Admiral Crowe, and thanks for the inspiration you've were to me personally.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Retaliation

Okay you ladies who make us drool with pictures of the Heidelbeere Crumble and the Samoa Brownies, check THIS out.



My LW made some AWESOME Smokey Sweet Potato Chicken Stoup (thinner than stew, thicker than soup) with chicken, sweet potatoes, carrots, and celery from a Rachel Ray recipe. She put the whole chipotle pepper in, too, and it had KICK! The quesedilla with red peppers on the side went great with it. You know the food's good when it makes your nose run!

SO TAKE THAT!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The MSP Battle Flag

Loping Squid asked what was on the MSP Battle Flag....


Along the top are each of the Battle E's. It's hard to see in the picture, but on the left side are little mini-maps of each deployment theater (all are mini-maps of the Mediterranean, and one is of Africa). On the right are a set of crossed-daggers for each spec-op. Along the bottom are each of the Meritorious Unit Commendations (MUC) the boat has earned.

We actually didn't realize this was a flag until the ship's inactivation ceremony back on June 22nd. Turns out, it was started by Admiral Lotring when he was CO. Somewhere along the line, someone forgot to turnover that it's an actual FLAG along with the contact info for the lady that kept it up to date for the previous COs. At the Inactivation Ceremony, Admiral Lotring asked us to pull out the flag and we said, "What flag?" It's been in this display case in the FCML (Forward Compartment Middle Level) passageway. When we pulled it out, the Admiral kindly chastised us for not keeping it up to date with all the deployments and awards. Luckily, HE still had the contact info for the lady who did the sewing on it, so we sent it off to her to get it updated. We received it back from the sewing lady just in time during our port call in San Diego so we could fly it on the bridge as we pulled into Pearl Harbor for the first time.

Barge, Sweet Barge

Our new home alongside home...




In preparation for going into drydock and turning our boat into razor blades, we got to inspect our barge today. It's actually really nice! It's basically a floating four-story office building with SO much SPACE! The floorplan layout is very similar to the barge I was on during SRA in San Diego, but that barge was pretty old, beat up, dirty, and didn't have any frills. THIS barge is really new, clean, wired for LAN, wired for cable TV, air conditioned, with a full-functional galley and a gym. The CO's stateroom is enormous with a desk, a conference room table, and a couch. There's a shared head in between the CO's office and the XO's office, and the XO's office is like four times as big as the XO's stateroom on the boat. There's so much office space, I think just about every officer and chief will get a desk in an office. Check mine out...

My new office...



Yes, those black things behind the desk are a mini-fridge and microwave.

Sweet!

Catching up...

It took me a while to catch up on reading all my favorite blogs (plus one new one). Here are some of the highlights from while I was gone:


For those of you who have been to both California and Virginia, cast your vote on Loping Squid's blog for whether In-n-Out is better than 5 Guys or vice versa. It's a tough call, but I still think In-n-Out is better. I may be WEE bit biased since I grew up in SoCal though.


For those of you who know what "boat smell" is, cast your vote on the Wives On Edge blog about whether you do or don't like the boat smell. During my JO tour, my wife used to make me take off as much of my uniform as human decency would allow outside the door to our apartment before I came inside. I think she's an odd-ball though. I think most submarine wives associate the "boat smell" with their DH being home from sea, and therefore a good smell. I also really liked how C described her, "knight in amine-smelling khakis."

If you're in need of a laugh, OMG... I had tears streaming down my face and almost couldn't breathe I was laughing so hard from reading June Cleaver's posts over last weekend - and especially the one on 10 October about door-to-door salesmen.

I'd like to welcome Joe and Samantha to the blogosphere. Reading their oursublife blog brought back a few memories from my JO tour and being a newlywed in Groton.

Comments like these are why we're really glad to be back on a boat again with a great bunch of wardroom wives. I think my wife had to endure a lot more questions like that when I was a geobachelor in and out of Norfolk and she stayed with the boys in the DC suburbs. As much as I loved living in Northern Virginia, we really missed the camaraderie of a tight-knit wardroom. It's nice being back in a circle of friends who understand what submarine life is like and don't torment you with such questions.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mighty MSP's Last Underway
on Nuclear Power


Mixed feelings about our final return to port (RTP) today. We just completed the last underway on nuclear power for the Mighty MSP. On one hand, it's nice that I'll spend the rest of my tour in port and going home to my family every night and not missing any more birthdays or anniversaries. On the other hand, the best part about being a submarine officer is being at sea doing the really cool tactical stuff on the point-end-of-the-spear (Sorry, I can't tell ya).

We flew both the Minnesota State flag and the MSP Battle Flag on our way out last week and coming back in today.


A lot of the families came out to Hickam AFB to watch us drive out last week...


...and again to watch us pull back in today.


We pinned on the LAST set of gold dolphins to be earned on the MSP yesterday.

The Chiefs cooked up an awesome surf and turf dinner for us last night (steak, crab legs, shrimp, corn on the cob, baked potatoes with all the fixin's). Afterwards we lit the smoking lamp and enjoyed cigars in the wardroom, chief's quarters, and crew's mess. Then, of course, we had to wrap it up with the traditional pizza night for midrats before pulling into port. (Did I mention the PRT is in two weeks???)

I think we managed to play cribbage after every lunch and every dinner. Plus, we enjoyed catching up with our wives on HIMYM. We watched one or two episodes after dinner each night, and there was a lot of laughter around the wardroom table. I think the most legendary episode was the Atlantic City episode with Barney playing that Chinese gambling game.

On the down side, the "boat crud" got passed around and I got hit pretty hard. My sinuses are all stuffed up and I'm coughing and have a sore throat. My wife LOVES it when I get a cold and lay in bed incessantly coughing (just a wee bit of sarcasm there).

Before I came down with the boat crud, I went for a run on the treadmill. I didn't plan it very well though. After the NEWPORT NEWS collision, the sub force changed what our minimum safe depth below PD is (those of you former bubbleheads know it used to be 150 feet). Well now, we start from a bit deeper, and as a result we use a pretty hefty up-angle on the ship to quickly drive us up to PD. Needless to say, I didn't take our PD plans into consideration when I went to run on the treadmill, and it ended up being a pretty hard UPHILL run for a little while there. I kept meaning to install some sort of a protractor with some string and a weight to monitor the ship's angle when I was on the treadmill, but never got around to it. Now, well... it's OBE. I'll make a note to self for the next time I go to sea - who knows when that'll be!

It'll be pretty weird saying goodbye to my Nav and my Weps next week. When you go into the shipyard for decom (decommissioning), they take away your Nav and Weps, and one of the JOs gets to step up and be the "forward department head."

So, I'm not looking forward to being trapped in the shipyard, but hey, I am excited to spend time with my family enjoying Hawaii!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Happy Anniversary Sweetie!

9 years ago today at Park Street Church in Boston...


Happy Anniversary, Sweetie. Sorry I'm not home to be with you today, but you are in my thoughts and prayers, and I can't wait to come home and be with you again! I really enjoyed our pre-anniversary dinner at Sam Snead's before I left - that was a great idea you had.

Uniform of the Day

OMG! I've heard of pulling a fast one on an Ensign and convincing him to wear black shoes with his whites or convincing him to wear some silly uniform combination that doesn't exist. I think you see one of these poor saps at the Navy Birthday Ball or the Submarine Birthday Ball every year wearing some uniform different than everyone else because his "shipmates" hooked him up and told him it was the "uniform of the day." I suspect that's what happened here, but this is the first time I've heard of a lieutenant, and someone supposedly smart enough to pass the Engineer Exam falling for something like that. My CO and I were laughing pretty hard at this one we got on email today from Naval Reactors...

"ALL,

I have received several queries about the uniform shift date for DC this Fall, so I wanted to make sure everyone got the word... We have already shifted to SDBs (shift was on 10/1/07). On this same topic, we have had several PNEO candidates show up wearing incorrect uniforms lately... During the last exam we had a guy in choker whites (with medals!), a guy in SDBs, and a guy in poly-wool khakis, all on the same day... A regular fashion show! Please make sure your PNEOs know what to wear. Thanks.

V/R LCDR K..."

Monday, October 8, 2007

Weekend Recap
(updated Monday afternoon)

So Saturday, we went to the swap meet at the Aloha Stadium. We got this awesome Hawaiian quilt...Saturday afternoon we went to the NEX (Navy Exchange) to have my Emerald Shellback certificate framed as a birthday present from my M-I-L, and then cooked some burgers on the grill for dinner.

For Sunday brunch, we went to Haleiwa Joe's in Kaneohe. It was a great breakfast buffet overlooking the Haiku botanical gardens. Here's what the view was like from our table...
Sunday afternoon, we went to the Kahala Resort over on the other side of Diamond Head to watch the free dolphin show (only paid $4 for parking)...


Then we went to Hilo Hattie's. OMG! This was my first time to HH. It's like the Hawaiian Shirt Shopping Mecca. Plus, they've got quite the operation going with the cultured pearls there. The lured us in with their typical pitch making us think we'd "won" a chance to pick out an oyster and see if it had a pearl in it. Of course it had a pearl in it, then they lured us into buying the settings for it. But hey, I got my wife's anniversary present taken care of, so it was all good (although our checking account balance is substantially lower now).

Thanks to good ole Chris Columbus discovering America, we got to enjoy our Monday morning over at Ko Olina in Lagoon #4 (the southern most one). We had perfect timing and arrived just as somebody was leaving, so we got a parking spot there (Lagoon #4 is desirable because they have bathrooms there). The beach there is perfect for little kids - very gradual slope and no waves. Our younger son (YS) was jumping in and splashing and swimming and having a ball. Our eldest son (ES) wanted to go snorkeling, so I took him out to the edge of the lagoon and swam amongst dozens of brightly colored tropical fish.



Blunoz & ES watching the fishies.


We were having a nice enjoyable time mostly looking down at the fish in the rocks. Then I looked up in front of us to find myself staring face to face with a baracuda. This is similar to what I think I saw (image from Wikipedia)...


I wasn't exactly sure if I should be worried or not, but I didn't want to wait and find out (especially with a six-year old in-tow), so I said to myself, "self... SWIM AWAAAAAY!" and we swam back to shore. Now, here in the comfort of my la-z-boy, I read up on them and understand they aren't that dangerous, but I won't intentionally go close to them just in case (especially if wearing shiny objects that might be mistaken for small fish... like my watch... or my wedding ring...).

ES and I walked down to the southern end of the beach to find a geocache while we were there, too.

(1) ES with GPS. (2) ES found it! (3) ES with the cache and a travel bug.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Chuck

It's nice being back in a regular routine at home (as opposed to being on deployment or our hectic preparations for interfleet transfer or driving the boat halfway around the world, etc). I'm catching up on some old shows and picking up a new one - Chuck.

I thought it was pretty funny when I Googled "Chuck" the top two links that came up were to this new TV show on NBC. Chuck is a regular geek who works at "Buy More" for the "Nerd Herd." I missed the beginning, but somehow he is in an accident that results in the contents of some super-secret national intelligence computer being downloaded to his brain. Now the NSA has put an agent in as a "coworker" of his, and the CIA has put in an smokin-hot blond agent at the nearby Weinerlicious as protection for him. There's all sorts of spy-story action, intrigue, explosions, gun-fights, etc, but all with a geeky sort of slap-stick to it. It's like a geek version of Alias. (I was never a fan of Alias, although LW was an Alias addict). Chuck is actually a pretty darn funny show - check it out!

My other addiction right now is Heroes. Thanks to Bubblehead raving about it, and reading a WIRED magazine article about it while we were on deployment, I decided to pick it up season one on DVD. I've been watching about one episode per night, and LW is being so kind as to set up the DVR to record the new season when it starts.

We've also got the DVR recording our other favorite show, How I Met Your Mother. I'm dying to watch season two on DVD. In case you haven't seen it before, HIMYM is narrated by the main character, Ted, telling his kids about his love-life and how he met their mother. Sounds odd, I know. It's actually really funny. LW sent HIMYM Season One with me on deployment, and we watched it in the wardroom in the evenings after dinner. I got the whole wardroom hooked on it. It became required viewing for newly reporting officers (including the PCO) so that they would understand our vocabulary - for example: "suit up!", "high five!", and "legendary!" Or, when someone is consciously deciding to procrastinate a project, "Let Future-XO and Future-CO worry about that." Then later, when the previous procrastination came back to bite us, "Darn it Past-XO and Past-CO!" Anyway, I was out at sea while season two was on, and it just came out on DVD. I've got it in my hands now, but I'm being good and waiting until we go out to sea this week so we can watch it together in the wardroom (LW already watched season two while we were out at sea). After we get through season two though, I'm not waiting around on the rest of the wardroom to watch season three on the DVR.
Aside for HIMYM fans (skip ahead if you've never watched before): Incidentally, if you are already a HIMYM fan, the DVD has some really cool special features on it. For example, there's one video-collage of Barney's many variations of the "high-five" in rapid succession. High Five! Phone Five! Low Five! Little Five! I was surprised how many there were. There is, likewise, another video collage of all of Barney's different "Suit Up!" moments. In the interviews with the cast, they said that the "legendary" thing was totally unintentional. It looks like they have some similar things on the CBS website for season two, but I'm not going to watch those until I finish watching season two.
Oh, here's a great little 2 minute sample of HIMYM (and some of our wardroom vocabulary):


You gotta love YouTube!



Speaking of DVRs... What on earth did we do before the days of DVRs??? The first time I really realized the impact in had on our lives was when LW flew up to meet me for a port call in Bangor, WA a couple of years ago. My eldest son's favorite cartoon back then was called Max and Ruby (about two rabbits). It came on at like 6 o'clock in the morning, but it didn't matter because the DVR was set to record it, and our eldest could watch it whenever he woke up and whenever else he wanted to during the day. Well... fast forward to us sitting in the Navy Lodge in Bangor. Eldest says, "I want to watch Max and Ruby." LW and I tried to explain to him that it just wasn't on at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. This was just a totally unfathomable concept to the poor boy. "Just push the buttons!" he would say, holding the remote control out for us to do the magic that made Max and Ruby appear on his demand. We quickly learned that when going on trips, we have to bring DVDs of the kids' favorite shows with us.

I must admit, it's rather nice not having to watch commercials anymore... most of the time anyway. There are those annoying times, like tonight, when you catch-up with a live show and can't fast forward anymore, then you have to sit and wait. LW and I have been known to hit the pause button and go do stuff around the house and come back a few minutes later to resume watching time-late so we can fast-forward through the commercials.

We're finding that we miss our Dish Network. LW wasn't sure if it would work in Hawaii, or if Navy Housing would allow us to put up a satellite dish, and thought the local digital cable would be fine. I do NOT criticize her at all for her decision to sign up for the local digital cable while I was gone. Unfortunatly, the cable service here is totally LAME. The DVR is very non-user friendly. It won't auto-tune to the shows you tell it you want to watch, it only flashes a reminder to tell you something is on. When you hit the channel guide, it just shows ALL the channels that exist, regardless whether you subscribe to them or not, and it won't let you set up a short-list of your favorite channels to quickly browse. So I'll skim down the channel list and say, "Oh, I wanna watch that!" and click the button, and an error message will pop up that we don't subscribe to that channel. Gee, thanks. Plus, we have separate DVRs in each room and have to set up each one individually if we want to be able to watch a show in any given room.

So I'm going through the process of getting Navy Housing to approve putting in the Dish Network satellite dish so we can get back to having a favorites-list and a dual-tuner / dual-recorder DVR that'll feed both the family room and the MBR TV. I think the housing office's rules on applying for installation of a dish violates the FCC rules and constitute an "unreasonable delay," but I'm going to try and get it approved peacefully / without raising a ruckus.

It actually comes out to be about the same price per month as the digital cable here, but with so much better functionality. There are some sunk costs in terms of the installation fee for the digital cable, but there was no way for us to know in advance how bad the cable service was here.

I wonder how many states are changing their official "state flower" to the satellite dish? I know I heard the joke in California when we lived there. Then I heard the same joke in Virginia when we lived there. Now we're about to help the "flower" infest Hawaii.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Still getting used to Hawaii...
(I fixed the links)

How is it that I'm enjoying Sam Adams Octoberfest tonight, but it's like 80 degrees outside? Have I mentioned that autumn is my favorite season back on the east coast? My mother in law is here visiting and she said the trees were starting to turn color when she left Boston. My lovely wife (LW) and I got married in Boston in October. I wanted to have a parade across Boston Common as part of the wedding to enjoy the fall foliage, but somehow that idea fell through the cracks. It actually ended up raining on our wedding day, so the parade wouldn't have worked. We took our visiting family members on a bus tour of Boston the next day though.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining about enjoying life in paradise. I took some leave this week since my eldest son had a school vacation. Yesterday, we went down to the Hale Koa pool. It was amazing to both my eldest and youngest sons swimming like fish and totally fearless in the water. When I left them here in Hawaii in June before I flew back to Norfolk to drive the boat around through the Panama Canal, they enjoyed going to the pool, but didn't really like water on their face or go in without floaties on their arms. Now, they're both jumping and swimming and diving down to pick toys up off the bottom.

There are lots of things I look forward to doing around the island as long as we're in this tropical environment. ...but I'll still miss the changing seasons.