Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I could tell you but...

Except for my poor wife being sick, I declare today a resounding success.

A) We spent over 5 HOURS OUTSIDE the house NOT playing video games or legos.

B) Although they protested before we left the house, the boys actually thought it was really cool. I was absolutely floored when YB said at lunch time, "I want to come back here TOMORROW!"

Where did we go?

Well... a really cool place with a three-letter acronym.

Sorry I don't have any personal photos to show you, but cameras weren't allowed.

At the visitor's center, they issued the boys these cool visitor badges.


We got to see one of these...


We got to see this...


We got to see a section of this.

According to this open source website, we might also have gotten to see a robotic dragonfly (insecto thopter), a robotic fish ("Charlie"), and a spy pigeon with a camera strapped to its chest among MANY other really cool gadgets. SO many, in fact, that we looked at about half the museum before we stopped and took a break to eat lunch in the cafeteria. The food in the cafeteria was delicious! When asked if his chicken sandwich with honey mustard sauce was good, ES replied, "No... it's AWESOME!!!" After we ate lunch we went back and checked out the other half of the exhibits and the gift shop.

After we left there, I also took the boys by my office today so they could see where I work. Nothing terribly exciting there, but at least they can picture in their minds where Daddy is going when he goes to work.

As for the rest of our New Year's Eve festivities (if you can call them that), the boys and I played some Mario Kart on the Wii (the intro video at that website is cute). I like that we can play four people at once on Mario Kart - it devides the screen up into quarters just like XBox games do. After that, I went and picked up a pizza and some chinese food, and we had a family movie night and watched Horton Hears a Who on Blu-Ray. It was pretty darn amazing in 1080p (high definition video in case you don't speak "1080p").

Now the boys are in bed and my wife and I are watching TV in front of the fireplace. The winds are howling and rattling the house outside. We're the types who won't usually last until midnight on New Year's Eve. We would normally at least have some champagne, but my poor wife is sick today, so I don't even think we'll partake of the bottle of champagne I picked up at the Henderson Hall package store.

Looking back on 2008, I think it was a pretty darn good year for us. I had trouble picking out what picture to put on our Christmas card this year because we had so many great family pictures from all sorts of different places - snorkeling at Oahu, snorkeling at Maui, snorkeling at the Big Island, Volcano National Park and the black sand beach on the Big Island, hiking Makapu'u Ridge, hiking Diamond Head, hiking to Manoa Falls, swimming under Waimea Falls, kayaking around Chinaman's Hat, the Submarine Birthday Ball at the Turtle Bay Resort, Dave & Jess' wedding in Oregon, Crater Lake National Park, the Humbolt Redwoods State Park, Sequoia National Park, Legoland, hiking in Utah, Grand Canyon National Park, the Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City, seeing the B-2 bomber at Wightman AFB, and our new home in Ashburn. (You can see pictures of all of the above if you just scroll back through my blog posts over the past year). We successfully finished the decommissioning of the Mighty MSP on schedule and without any major problems.

Yes, 2008 was a very good year for us. We certainly needed it to make up for the tough year we had in 2007 though.

I offer you all my warmest wishes for much joy and happiness in the coming new year.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I still remember

Sorry for no new blog post yesterday.

There was only one thing I could really think about. I wasn't sure what I should write about it or if I should write about it at all. I can't deny that it's been on my mind for the past several days though.

Yesterday was the second anniversary of the MSP accident in Plymouth, U.K. (For reference, see these two previous blog posts.)

That's where it happened.
Plymouth, U.K.

I sent the photo above of the entrance to Plymouth Harbor to my family on Shutterfly the day before we left port with the caption, "That's where I'll be tomorrow."

I only knew COB Higgins for a couple of days before the accident, and I don't think I had even met Petty Officer Holtz yet. I suspect those who knew COB Higgins and Petty Officer Holtz have a much harder time with this than I do. In my case, I will never be able to erase the graphic images of their deaths that are permanently etched in my mind, nor will I be able to forget the deep, dark, heart-wrenching feeling of terror and helplessness to save them.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of ETCS(SS) Thomas Higgins and STS2(SS) Michael Holtz, as well as to all the crew and families who suffered through that terrible experience.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Grumpy weekend

It's been one of those weekends where nothing is so drastically wrong that I should be upset, but enough little things have pissed me off that it's just been a grumpy weekend in general. I keep wondering if there was a full moon out this weekend, but the lunar calendar says it's a waxing cresent moon right now.

Saturday, I was excited to get OUT of the house to do something. There was a model railroad and toy show going on at the Dulles Expo Center. Unfortunately, the boys have new toy syndrome and don't want to hear about anything that doesn't involve legos, video games, or both, much less getting dressed in REAL clothes instead of wearing their jammies all day.

I eventually convinced ES to go with me to the model railroad and toy show. Overall, I thought it was pretty cool and certainly worth the price of admission. I went there expecting to pay $7 for tickets for both me and ES, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out kids under 11 years old were free.

Passing steam engine at the Dulles Expo Center.

There were about six or seven regional model railroad clubs that had put up large displays of running model railroads. Each one of these displays was about the size of the main display at the Brunswick Model Railroad Museum, so there was a LOT to see.

One of several active displays at the Dulles Expo Center.

Most of those active displays were in the back of the expo center though, and the floor area was filled with aisle upon aisle of vendors selling model trains and toys.


ES pushes the button to catch the mail on the mail car.
(It's the third train that comes by in the video.)

We got to see a lot of unique displays like a cattle car that loaded little cows onto it and a mail car that picked up the bag of mail off the hook as the train drove by. Plus, there seemed to be a pretty popular military theme with some sort of Army train on each of the displays carrying tanks and artillery.

So please tell me... What's NOT to like about all that for a little boy???

I expected to be dealing with a lot of, "puh-leeeeeeeeease Daddy won't you buy me this and buy me that and I REALLY WANT THIS ONE!"

Nope.

ES didn't ask for a single thing. He complained most of the time we were in the expo center that he was bored and wanted to go home (interpretation: I'm obsessed with my Christmas Lego winfall and want to go bathe in my Legos). Thbbbbbt! :-P

After we got back from the model railroad show, ES was in a mood and a half and trying to convince us to lock him in his bedroom until he turned 21.

It started out with YB making some annoying noise that ES didn't like (shocking, I know). ES decided the proper thing to do was to pinch YB's lips shut. Much crying and wailing followed, first by YB due to his hurt lips, then by ES over the injustice of being put in time-out for something he said was "all YB's fault."

I tried explaining to ES that he was in time-out for HIS actions and that if he didn't pinch his brother's lips shut, then he wouldn't be in time out. If he didn't like the noise that his brother was making, then he should have LEFT the room, not physically harmed his brother.

He didn't buy it. In the angry temper tantrum that followed, he declared that it was all my wife's fault for ever giving birth to YB in the first place. My wife extended his logic a few steps further and told him, "Well, then it's all God's fault." ES's eyes got really big and he said, "Huh???" She told him if him being in time out was her fault for having YB, then it was God's fault because God gave us BOTH ES and YB to us as our children to care for and God gave ES and YB US as their Mommy and Daddy. That made him stop and think for a minute and he eventually calmed down.

Since Grammy, GG, and Papa were leaving Sunday morning, they offered to watch the boys Saturday night so my wife and I could go out for a dinner without kids. For a while there, I thought we weren't gonna be going anywhere because I wasn't going to inflict ES and his attitude on Grammy. He eventually calmed down to a point where we felt okay leaving, but I was in a pretty bad mood by that point and worried it wouldn't be a very enjoyable dinner.

On the contrary, my wife and I had a really very nice dinner together at American Flatbread. We did a half-and-half flatbread (pizza) of the two specials on the menu. One was a brie and cranberry concoction and the other was sausage, apples, and carmelized onions. Both were fantastically delicious, and neither of us had to cut up anybody else's food or tell anyone else at the table to wipe their face, chew with their mouth closed, not to talk with their mouth full, not to interupt, to sit down in their seat facing forward, and to not bang their utensils on the table. That being said, it was a downright AWESOME dinner with just me and my wonderful wife.

Sunday morning the boys enjoyed one last game of garbage with Grammy before we packed up her car and she and GG and Papa headed north.

We all went to church kind of grumpy and spent a lazy afternoon at home playing video games and/or legos.

I was pretty excited to have a family movie night tonight. We were going to watch Horton Hears a Who that the boys got for Christmas. Then ES was whining and being a pain insisting that he had already seen Horton Hears a Who. My wife, YB, and I all insisted NONE of us had seen it, and we all wanted to see it, so we outvoted ES.

I put the movie in the DVD player, and a message came up on the screen informing me that I have to upgrade the firmware on our Blu-ray DVD player in order to watch the movie. WHAT?!?!?!

It didn't look like that was going to be a quick or easy task to get done and get the boys to bed on time, so we went with ES's choise of movie - Elf. Elf is a funny movie, don't get me wrong, but I'd seen it before, and I hadn't seen Horton Hears a Who.

So that's about it for our weekend. Kind of anticlimatic.

I'm going back to work tomorrow, but the boys are still off of school. Please pray for my wife that the boys' attitudes improve and they don't drive her mad tomorrow while I'm at work. Oh, while you're at it, would you also pray that the boys will sleep peacefully through the night and NOT wake my wife (or me) up? That would be splendid, thanks!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Web traffic analysis

Two things...

1. Battle E and Junior Officer of the Year Results TBD


Update 1/10/2009: This year's Battle E results are here. This year's JO of the Year results are here.

If you came here looking for Battle E or JO of the Year results for 2008, I don't expect to find those out until the first or second week of January. Sorry! Check back later. (I've noted an increasing trend in the number of hits on my blog lately from people Googling variations of "Battle E 2008" and "Junior Officer of the Year 2008".)

Note that I posted last year's Battle E results on Jan 3rd, and last year's Junior Officers of the Year on Jan 14th. They have to have some time for each squadron to make their decisions (in both competitions), inform the boat CO's, submit the results to COMSUBPAC and COMSUBFOR, and allow CSP and CSF to compile the lists from all the squadrons and then push the message out to the fleet.

I'll post them when I get them, but I also don't expect to be the first source of this data to be posted on the internet. If you get the results and haven't seen them here on my blog, then please forward them to me, too!

2. The Gift Exchange Surge

I've read that it's sort of a faux pas for a blogger to write about how much traffic their blog gets - sort of like bragging about how much money you have I suppose.

Still, I wanted to share this observation with you in percentages as opposed to raw numbers.

I had a pretty standard average number of hits per day on my blog. Then I wrote that post about the gift exchange at my office Christmas party. All of a sudden, my blog traffic did a step-jump up with about 50% higher number of hits per day due to people Googling some variation of, "holiday gift exchange ideas."

Then, on Dec 24th, POOF! Those 50% extra hits vanished and my blog went back to my old average daily hits-per-day. In hindsight, it's not all that surprising really. It makes sense. I just thought it was an interesting web traffic phenomenon.

Si tout.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day

What a busy day.

We actually got some exercise today to work off all those Christmas cookies and goodies. First, we went for a jog on the trails and did some jump-roping. Then we went roller skating. Then we went white-water kayaking. Then we went for a ride in a mine-car through mountain tunnels.

What's that? Why yes, yes it is a little cold outside for those activities. No, I'm not really that much of an outdoor stud.

Did I mention we did this all in our pajamas?

We did them all from the comfort of our home theater in the basement with this new Wii Active Life Outdoor Challenge the boys got for Christmas.

The game uses a floor-mat sort of like I've seen for sale with other game systems. This provides a much more aerobic workout than the Wii Fit. Don't get me wrong, Wii Fit is great for balance and stretching and stregth. The Wii Active Life doesn't measure your weight or balance like Wii Fit. It just senses you hitting the buttons on the mat as fast as you can with your hands or feet.

Active Life Outdoor Challenge

Trail Jogging.

You have to jog in place to make your Mii run on the screen. The faster you move your feet, the faster your character moves on the screen, and there are obstacles like rolling logs you have to jump over.

Roller Skating

In roller skating, you sort of walk in place on the mat to move your feet, and you use the handheld Wii remote to steer to avoid obstacles.

Jump Rope.

Yes, that's me mii tripping over the jump rope and falling on the screen. I suck at jump-roping in video games just about as bad as I suck at it in real life. It was the only level I wasn't able to at least pass on the first try.

Kayaking.

In kayaking, you hold your Wii remote like it was your paddle and paddle with your arms and "lean" left and right with your feet on the pad.

Overall, I like the Outdoor Challenge a lot. It really got my heart and respiration rates up. I'll have to wear my heart rate monitor next time I play and see how many calories I burn.

It's really good for the kids, too. It has "kid" versus "adult" setting at the beginning. The kid settings are a lot easier. Plus, they keep the kids' attention because they rotate through the activities and don't stay on any one event for very long.

Besides playing Wii today, we did a lot of this...

Me and ES putting together a Coast Guard truck and rescue boat.

And some more of this...

LW and YB putting together a Coast Guard life raft.

Later, we put the Coast Guard helicopter together as a family. That was a cool activity to do together as a family. It just amazes me how different legos are today than they were when I was a kid. They make some really amazing stuff nowadays.

We also played a really good game of UpWords.

ES whispering to Grammy. ...Cheaters.

We ended up using all but TWO of the letter tiles!

Generally, I'm not a terribly big fan of tea, but this stuff is really good. The smell alone will put a smile on your face.


In case it wasn't already obvious, my wife and her family love me. LW, Grammy, and GG made sure I had my favorite pecan pie for Christmas - LW bought the ingredients and Grammy and GG made the pie.

Mmmmmm... pecan pie! :-9

It was only due to this pecan pie calling my name from home that I was able to turn down the chocolate creme brulee after our delicious dinner at Bonefish tonight.

Guess I better go fire up the Wii again...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas after action report

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Day. We had a very nice Christmas here in the blunoz household.

Last night, we were waiting and waiting for the boys to go to sleep. As I mentioned in my last post, YB was still awake when my wife checked on him at 10:18, but finally asleep at 10:35. That gave us the green light to do the things we needed to do as Santa's helpers.

I had something else up my sleeve though. I got my wife a sort of china hutch display cabinet for her antique tea cup collection, and I was waiting for her to go to bed so I could put it together. She finished with her stuff and said she was going to bed. I knew she'd be asleep within about 5 minutes of her head hitting the pillow, and so I got to work. It took me a little longer to put it together than I thought, and I didn't go to bed until 1:20 a.m.

That being said, would anyone like to place any wagers on what time ES woke me up this morning???

8:00???

7:30???

7:00???

6:30???

6:00???

Yep, 6:00 a.m. I was startled awake by thumping from downstairs. I went downstairs to find ES digging through all the presents that Santa left. Now, I'm not a morning person by any means, and my brain wasn't functioning well on so little sleep and so early in the morning. In the absence of coherent thought, the gremlins in my brain didn't know what to do and decided to hit one of the prerecorded sound-bite buttons. Granted, the "Merry Christmas, ES!" sound bite might have been better, but the gremlins opted for "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT TIME IT IS???"

ES momentarily stopped his present examination. He looked up at me with one of his pensive looks and contemplated the question.

"Yes... It's 6 o'clock," he said matter-of-factly.

I told him he could sit and watch TV quietly until the rest of the people in the house woke up, then I went back upstairs to bed.

Thank goodness the next time he woke me up was when my wife sent him upstairs to poke me at 8:00. Not very surprisingly, YB was still asleep when ES came to wake me up.

For the next hour or so, we had quite the Christmas carnage going on in the family room. I got a lot of blurry photos the boys were moving so fast...

ES shakes his stocking to see if anything else is in it.

YB empties his stocking.
I guess he got over the whole "I don't want Santa to come" thing.

ES unwrapping presents.

(CENSOR NOTE: Sorry, no pictures of groggy Daddy or bed-head Mommy.)

The family room looked like a bomb went off afterwards. Oh, who am I kidding - it still looks like a bomb went off! :-)

My wife really likes the display cabinet for her teacups. I was just a little frustrated that this morning with the lights on I discovered I installed the doors upside down. Luckily the fix wasn't too hard. I just undid the screws for the top piece and lifted it up far enough for the doors to fall out (the left door landed on top of my foot OUCH).

LW's new display case (some assembly required).
Note: Those curved parts in the tops of the doors look MUCH better this way than they did on the BOTTOM of the doors when the doors were upside down.

We spent a lazy day around the house reading, playing video games, playing ES's new Stratego board game, playing with legos, watching movies, doing puzzles, etc.

Kudos and high praises again to my wonderful wife for another awesome dinner she cooked today. She made prime rib, mashed potatoes, spinach, and garlic bread, and it was all really good. Sorry, I didn't take my camera with me to the dinner table this time, so you'll just have to believe me when I say it looked and tasted really good.

As predicted, YB ran out of steam tonight and started getting a little grumpy, but not nearly as bad as I expected. He fell asleep pretty quick.

Speaking of running out of steam, so am I. It's time to hit the rack.

Special thanks to President Bush for declaring tomorrow a federal holiday!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We had a nice Christmas Eve here in our house. Kudos to my LW for the awesome dinner she made for us. It was REALLY good.

The table set for dinner.

Salmon with dill sauce, honey-glazed carrots, dinner rolls.

After dinner we had a very nice Christmas Eve service at Christ Community Church.

Earlier in the day, when we were trying to get YB to get dressed and tried using Santa as motivation (as in, "Santa won't come if you don't..."). YB floored us with a blasphemous statement in response. He said, "I don't want Santa to come. We don't need him. We have enough presents." Never in a million years did I think I would hear those words come from any child much less a child of mine.

When we got home from church, both boys were bouncing off the walls with excitement and refused to get ready for bed. We told them Santa wouldn't come unless they went to bed. Then YB declared he didn't want Santa to come, so he wasn't going to bed. We got him in his PJs and put him in bed anyway. He was still awake at 10:18 and really starting to get on my nerves. He finally fell asleep somewhere before 10:35.

Based on past performance, I expect the boys will get up at the crack of dawn and then be tired and cranky and fighting tomorrow. I sure hope I'm wrong.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas! My thoughts and prayers go out to those who are serving our country on the pointy-end of the spear tonight and their families waiting for them at home. We know what it's like not to be home for Christmas, and we're both grateful for this time together as a family this year and for those who are standing the watch while we're at home.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Posting Sentries

My LW's mom (a.k.a. MIL a.k.a. "Grammy") and grandparents (a.k.a. GG & Papa) all arrived here yesterday after the long drive down from New York.

Grammy really had the car packed tight. I couldn't believe how many presents she brought in the trunk. Needless to say, the boys are very excited. They put the presents out under the tree, and then they posted guards to protect the presents.


I'm not exactly sure from who the guards are protecting the presents. Having the boys' stuffed animal minions guard the boys' presents is kind of like the fox guarding the chicken coup if you ask me. I thought a revision of the 11 General Orders of a Sentry were in order.
  1. To take charge of this post Christmas tree and all government property presents in view.
  2. To walk sit my post in a military soft cuddly manner, keeping always on the alert and observing everything which takes place within sight or hearing.
  3. To report keep quiet about all any violations of orders I am instructed given by the parental units to enforce, such as no handling, shaking, weighing, spinning, rolling, tossing, tipping, poking, bouncing, punching, flipping, gripping, peeking, or unwrapping of the presents.
  4. To repeat ignore all calls of chaos throughout the house from posts more distant from the guard house Christmas tree than my own.
  5. To quit my post only when properly relieved put away in the boys' rooms (because you know the boys won't put them away).
  6. To receive, obey, and pass on to the sentry who relieves me, all orders from the Commanding Officer, the Officer of the Day, and all officers and non-commissioned officers little boys of the guard house only.
  7. To talk to no one except in the line of duty (this gives new meaning to the phrase "silent service").
  8. To give the alarm in case of fire or disorder, unless such disorder is caused by the little boys in the house as a distraction for the execution of rule 3 above.
  9. To call the Corporal of the Guard Eldest Son in any case not covered by instructions.
  10. To salute give a blank stare to all officers and all colors and standards not cased.
  11. To be especially watchful at night and during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons parents on or near my post Christmas tree, and to allow no one to pass without proper authority (such as putting more presents under the tree or retrieving a present for a little boy to open).
Last night, you'd have thunk our kids had been possessed or kidnapped by aliens and brainwashed. At dinner, they were perfect little angels. They willingly ate their dinners without any fuss whatsoever. There were no exclamations of "ewww!" or "yucky!" YB actually declared dinner was "yummy" (will wonders never cease) and asked for more (he NEVER does this).

GG and Papa are VERY impressed. They commented on what good boys we have. While I am truly very grateful for our boys, they aren't normally THIS well behaved.

GG and YB reading Cat in the Hat

Then again, the presents under the tree might have something to do with it. Oh, and all the other goodies they brought with them from New York like...

SPEEDIES!!!

COOKIES!!!

COFFEE CAKE!!!

APPLE PIE!!!

Oh, and I meant to show you this picture earlier. I made it home on Friday in time to taste test the fudge (peanut butter fudge, caramel fudge, and heath bar fudge) that LW made to give as a present to each of the boys' teachers.

Mmmm, fuuuuuudge.

Man, I really need to go the gym.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pharmacy

More Pentagon Newbie Gouge...

Do any of your family members need a prescription refill? You can choose:

Option A: Let your wife bribe, threaten, and cajole the 4-year old to eat his breakfast, put on clothes, put on a jacket and get in the car, drive battling in traffic for at least 30 minutes (one way) to the Fairfax Clinic. Then she can wait in line forever with the rest of the dependents and retirees at the clinic. Meanwhile she'll try to convince the 4-year old to sit still and not touch anything and wonder what diseases he is getting exposed to while sitting next to all the other sick people in the waiting room. After she gets the meds, then she'll get to bribe, threaten, and cajole the 4-year old back into the car seat for another 30-minute car ride home. (This is what we did during our previous shore tour in the DC area).

Option B: Let your wife call in her prescription refill for the DiLorenzo clinic in the Pentagon. Stick your wife's ID card in your pocket before you leave for work. In between meetings at the Pentagon, walk 5 minutes to the DiLorenzo clinic. Walk directly to the counter because there is no line (there aren't any dependents or retirees, just the active duty folks that work in the Pentagon). Hand the pharmacist your wife's ID. The pharmacist scans the ID, spins around in his chair, pulls out the drawer with the first letter of your last name, pulls out the bag with the prescription in it and hands it to you. You walk out of the Pharmacy in less than 60 seconds. Later, divert your eyes and avoid the weird looks from other dudes walking past you on the sidewalk as you pick up the contents of your once-zipped backpack, to include pink pill cases for your wife. In spite of the momentary awkwardness on the sidewalk episode while running to catch the bus home, I think this option turned out MUCH better than Option A.

But wait! There's one more!

Option C: A friend of ours told us there is a mail-order prescription refill option here, but we haven't figured out the logistics of that one yet. That'll no doubt be easier than A or B above, but if you don't want to wait on the mail, I'd go with Option B.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Breaking Tradition

We went to YB's pre-school Christmas show last night. His class made these adorable sweatshirts...

Those are YB's three upside-down handprints.

Keeping up with family tradition, YB refused to wear his sweatshirt like the rest of his class for the show.

Cue Sesame Street song, "One of these kids is not like the others..."

However, I'm very happy to report that YB BROKE with family tradition there and he ACTUALLY SANG ALONG WITH HIS CLASS during the performance!!!

The video didn't turn out very good, but I post it here for two reasons. First, grandparents. Second, as much as it annoyed me that he wouldn't wear his cool sweatshirt, it sure made it easy to spot him in the crowd...

video


I think he had fun.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Adventures in Commuting

Man, I really do love my new backpack. However (comma) I just learned something new about the zippers.

So there I was...

I wanted to catch the "early" bus home (4:15 p.m.). I was the last guy in the office, but one of my JOs was off at the Pentagon picking up a pouch that he had to bring back to our office before he could go home.

If I left before he got back, then I had to do the secure-the-office checklist, set the alarm, lock the tumbler combo lock on the door, and sign the sheet on the door showing I had secured the space on my way out. In that case, he would have to undo the combo lock, unset the alarm, drop off the pouch, reset the alarm, and relock the door again (and also technically sign in the sheet noting he opened the room again and then sign the sheet again that he closed the room again).

I really didn't want to be a "check-valve"and bag him like that. Then again, I really didn't want to have to wait 45 minutes until the next bus at 4:50.

I went ahead and did all the secure-the-office checklist and got everything ready so all we had to do was set the alarm and lock the door. Then I waited for him at the door.

Tic.

Toc.

Tic.

Toc.

Tic.

Toc.

I tried calling his cell phone twice to find out how far away he was and how soon he'd be back, but I got his voice mail.

Having NO idea how far away he was or just when he'd be back, I decided it was time to call the ball. I set the alarm, closed the door, and was JUST about to spin the tumbler on the combo lock when he came walking down the passageway. I felt bad (sorry, D!), but what would you have done in the same situation? At least he didn't have to reopen the combo lock.

Now, I'm REALLY pushing the time limit on getting to the bus stop on time, so I start jogging down the street to the bus stop. (Aside: I LOVE these shoes. They are SO comfortable, and it wasn't even an issue to jog a few blocks in them.)

First my cell phone rang. I wanted to make sure it wasn't anyone from the office like I forgot something important there, so I stopped jogging and dug my cell phone out of my pocket to see who it was.

I finished the phone call (trying to coordinate meeting up with a friend later) and resumed jogging. Now I'm reeeeeeally cutting it close on making it to the bus on time, so I pick up the pace a bit. My backpack was flopping around on my back, so I tighten the shoulder straps up snug.

Jog, jog, jog, jog, jog-zzz, jog-zzzzzz, jog-zzzzzzzzzzZZZZZIP!

Suddenly, I felt my center of balance substantially shift. I felt like I had a wild monkey (or maybe a 4 year old) hanging onto my waist and flopping back and forth against the backs of my knees.

I looked behind me to see the contents of my backpack strewn across the sidewalk behind me.

What I learned about my backpack from this is NOT to leave the zipper tabs for the main pocket at the TOP of the backpack. The weight of stuff in the outer pockets will pull down on it and cause the main pocket to come unzipped. In order to prevent this from happening, I need to make sure the zipper tabs are left down on either SIDE of the backpack.

Stop jogging. Loosen the shoulder straps so I can take the backpack off again. Pick up contents from backpack and stuff them back in. Rezip the backpack shut. Sling the backpack over my shoulder and really start hurrying down the street to the bus stop.

Luckily for me, the bus was 3 minutes late, and I made it just in time to get THE LAST OPEN SEAT. Man that was a close call.

I sure hope I grabbed everything that was in my backpack. I'm having a panic attack that something fell off into the bushes next to the sidewalk and I didn't notice it in my hurry to get repacked and resume jogging to the bus.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pentagon Tour

8 September 2013 UPDATE - I have updated some of the links on this page, and I also wrote a new post about self-guided Pentagon Tours here.

Walking around the Pentagon is pretty amazing. In just about every hallway on every floor is some form of historic exhibit or cool thing to see.
Aside: My wife and I are total opposites when it comes to museums. I will stop and read every sign and look at every artifact and spend all day if time allows. She will browse the entire thing and be done in 30 minutes. Anyway, I have a tendency to stop and read historic signs and exhibits.
I've been on the guided tour of the Pentagon before, and I must say it's pretty darn good. I learned a lot from the guided tour. (For information about requesting a tour, see this website.)

I know those guys who give the Pentagon tours don't just spontaneously put on their dress uniform, start walking backwards and spewing the history of the Pentagon. If I had stopped to give it any thought, then I'm sure I would have deduced that there had to be some training and qualification process in there somewhere. I just didn't give it any thought until one day recently. I was walking through the Pentagon and happened upon an odd sight:

There was the standard tour guide looking all spiffy in his dress uniform, walking backwards at a steady pace, meticulously spewing Pentagon trivia.

...Only there wasn't a gaggle of civilians with "ESCORT REQUIRED" badges following him.

There was just one guy in the Army digital camouflage uniform following him. He had a very bored, disinterested look on his face as he made check-marks on a clipboard and wrote notes as he evaluated the tour guide trainee's performance. It was just funny to see.

Anyway, the guided tour at the Pentagon is totally worth it. Unfortunately, you have to sign up like weeks in advance to get the tour.

If, like me, you would like to be able to take your kids or some visiting family members on short notice to see the Pentagon, then it might be useful to have a reference list of which exhibits are where.

I couldn't find anything on a quick Google search, so I decided to write one. As I've been going to meetings here and there around the Pentagon, I've been taking notes of things I might want to take family or friends to see.
Update 12/21/08: I found a list! There is a "Points of Interest" list on the Pentagon Tours website. It has a lot of stuff that is not on my list below, but I have some things on my list that aren't on their list.  Update 09/08/13:  They took this page down. :-(
The list below is provided in the same address format as anything else in the Pentagon:

Floor-Ring-Corridor

Disclaimer: I'm a Navy guy. I spend most of my time in Navy spaces, so my list here is going to be biased towards Navy displays. If you have suggestions to add, please leave a comment or drop me an email.

Models:
4*4 Ship and submarine models (* no "ring" listed because it spans the entire 4th corridor)
4A5 Currently in service Navy and USMC models of ships, airplanes, and amphibious vehicles.
4E3 Navy & USMC Helicopter models interspersed with Navy Cross citations

Historic Exhibits:
4A6 Presidents who served in the U.S. Navy (next to the escalators)
4*6 Portraits of the previous Chiefs of Naval Operations (entire 6th corridor)
4A5 Portraits of the previous Secretaries of the Navy
4A6 Naval Aviation (half of hallway from 4A6 to 4A7)
4A7 U.S. Coast Guard (the second half of the hallway from 4A6 to 4A7)
1A4 Eisenhower (Entire hallway from 1A4 to 1A5 has exhibits spanning his entire career)
3A4 MacArthur (Entire hallway from 3A4 to 3A5 has exhibits spanning his entire career)
3*500 Antique Army recruiting posters and buy war bonds type posters (the entire corridor going out from MacArthur's statue)
2A10 to 2A9 ANZUS
2*4 Soldier Signers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. This corridor has several reproductions of large historic paintings of important moments of early American history around the time of the revolution.
2E6 to 2E7 Army's Living History Exhibit opened Dec 15, 2008. It's a pretty cool collection of Army uniforms, weapons, and historic stuff going all the way back to the American Revolution.
3A8 Antique telephones and switchboards (not terribly exciting, just cataloging that it's there)
5A900 & 5E900 - Air Force Artwork

Memorials:
4A3 Recent Navy Medal of Honor awards (SEALs Murphy and Monsoor in Afghanistan)
1*4 Quilts (besides the enormous quilts in the Metro Entrance to the Pentagon, there are several quilts on display in this corridor in addition to a couple of other odds and ends donated to the Pentagon).
3A7 POW/MIA (entire hallway from 3A6 to 3A7)
2E5 U.S. Army section of Pentagon hit on 9-11. There is a memorial at the end of the hall with pictures of each of the Dept. of the Army staff members who were killed in their offices that day. Just to the right a little ways is a diagram of the path of the airplane and an office map with color-coded desks for which people were killed, injured, unharmed, or weren't there that day.
???? Memorial Chapel where Flight 77 hit the Pentagon on 9-11. I heard this was cool to see, and I will seek it out and get an address.

Souvenirs:
3A1 The Pentagon Gift Shop is in the A ring between 3A1 and 3A10.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Eve Invitation

This is for anyone reading my blog in the NoVA area.

Not sure where to go on Christmas Eve? I cordially invite you to please join me and my family for the Christmas Eve service at Christ Community Church in Ashburn. It's at 6:30 p.m. and kids are welcome.

If you do come, I hope you'll find me and say hello.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Close Call

We had a close call last night while we were over at the house of some friends from church. We were actually just getting ready to leave when I heard a thump and sudden wailing from the basement where the kids were playing.

It was one of those weird surreal experiences where you hear distant crying and (a) somehow instinctively you KNOW that it's YOUR child crying and (b) it's got some sort of special enciphered child-to-parent data link that mysteriously transmits the message, "Holy CRAP that hurt so bad I might have broken something!"

I ran down the stairs to the basement to find YB laying on the floor at the bottom of the basement stairs with a LOT of bright red blood in his mouth, covering his chin, on his shirt, and on the carpet. In my mind, I said to myself, "ohshitohshitohshitohshit PLEASE Lord let him be okay," and started planning the route to the nearest emergency room in my head.

After we got a wet paper towel and cleaned up most of the blood around his mouth, we found the source of the blood was a busted lower lip. It wasn't bad enough to warrant stitches, but it sure bled a lot. We got him calmed down and cleaned up and had him hold an ice pack on it for a while. Today he's sportin' a swollen fat lip.

Warning: Tangent Ahead.

As we were standing there at the sink cleaning him up, I had a flashback to our last trip to the emergency room. It was during our previous shore duty tour here in the DC area. It was for the same son, only he was like 2 years old then. For some reason I can't recall, I didn't have my cell phone that day. As I drove down the street toward my house that afternoon, I said to myself, "Self, that's odd... your lovely wife's car is NOT in the driveway. I wonder where she went." I pulled into the driveway and noticed a colorful sticky note on the front door. The sticky note was left by my wife informing me that she was on her way to the emergency room with my son.

Why, you ask?

He stuck a raisin up his nose.

I mean, REALLY far up his nose.

I met my wife and the boys at the emergency room where we waited for thirty minutes to see a doctor. When we finally saw the doc, I was almost embarrassed at how shockingly simple and easy the solution was.

The doc looked up YB's nose and said, "Yep! There's a raisin up there alright. Okay, Dad, you're gonna give your son a little mouth to mouth." He proceeded to explain to me the procedure and we got to work. It went like this:

Step 1. Doc pushed YB's right nostril shut.

Step 2. Daddy (me) bent over YB laying on the table like I was going to give YB a kiss, but blew into his mouth.

Step 3. One slimy, snot-covered raisin BLASTED forth from YB's left nostril with the muzzle velocity of a howitzer.

I bet it would have been neat to watch an instant-replay in slow motion. The raisin impacted my right cheek, sending rippling shock waves across my face as it ricocheted into a high parabolic arc across the emergency room and landed about 20 feet across the room.

The doc said this technique will work for SMOOTH objects (like raisins).

Oh, and he very specifically noted that this technique will NOT work for Barbie shoes.

Um... Ow. That makes my nose hurt just thinking of it.

End of Tangent.

I wish you all a SAFE and happy holiday season. Oh, and for a good laugh and some other pointers on SAFE holiday activities, check out this Broadside Blog post.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Brunswick Model Railroad Museum

A few weeks ago, I drove to work for one reason or another and was listening to the radio on the drive home. There was an ad on the radio from MiniCooper that was something like, "One-day road trips in the DC area you can do in your MiniCooper #247... Visit the Model Railroad Museum in Brunswick, Maryland." The ad went on to describe how fun it would be to take your MiniCooper for a long drive through the country and gave you a destination to seek out and enjoy the ride. I said to myself, "Self, I didn't realize there was a model railroad museum in Brunswick, Maryland... for that matter, I don't have the foggiest idea where Brunswick, Maryland is."


So I googled it when I got home. Low and behold, Brunswick is right across the Rt. 15 bridge at Point of Rocks, MD and up the river a little ways, only about 30 minutes from our house.

Since our boys love all things related to trains, I thought it would be fun to take them there. So Saturday afternoon, the boys and I loaded up in the car and headed up to Brunswick.


We parked in the commuter parking lot next to the Brunswick train station. We actually got to see a few real live trains go by. Within moments of us parking the car, a HUGE freight train went roaring by on the rails about 30 feet in front of our car with nothing between us and the train to prevent us from walking right up to it.

I went to the museum expecting to pay $6 for me and $3 for the boys for admission. However (comma) when we walked in the front door, the lady at the counter told us that there was a special promotion going on in Frederick County yesterday and the museum was FREE!!

SCORE!!! Cha-ching! Cha-ching!

It doesn't look like much from the outside, but there are actually four floors of stuff inside. It's kind of hidden in the downtown area of Brunswick, with a small white sign overhanging the sidewalk.

On the first floor, there is a small National Park Service museum about the history of Brunswick and the railroad and canal traffic that built the town. Plus there is a gift shop and very nice, clean restrooms. Also, as part of the special promo yesterday, they had Santa there doing free photographs with the kids, but you know my kids were too shy to set foot in the same room with him.

Down in the basement, they had a special setup of a G Scale model railroad for the holidays. I'm not sure what they put in there when the holiday train isn't up.

The G-Scale setup in the basement.

On the second floor are static displays of what life was like during the Victorian Age when the town was founded alongside the railroad ("the town the railroad built"). Right as you walk in the door from the stairs, there are three colored sheets of questions you can ask your kids to help them think about and learn from the exhibits. I thought they were very useful and got us to appreciate the modern conveniences we have in our lives today.


The Parlor. Here we talked about what families did for entertainment and how they heated and cooled their home.

The bedroom. Here we talked about how many people slept in the same bedroom (Mommy, Daddy, and one child in the bed, and baby in the crib), the chamber pot and the pitcher and bowl on the bureau.

The school house. Here we talked about the desks and the chalkboards.

The kitchen. Here we talked about what they used as fuel for the stove and since they didn't have a refrigerator we talked about ice houses.

On the third floor was a sort of museum section with lots of old railroad equipment and artifacts.


Also on the third floor was a very large model railroad layout that started in Washington, DC, and followed the train through Silver Spring and Point of Rocks out past Brunswick.

Union Station, Washington, DC

That's the Point of Rocks bridge we drove over the Potomac River on our way up to Brunswick.

See, this is the real Point of Rocks bridge on our way home.

There were some small red buttons for kids to push that made sound effects along the way.

YB watching the trains go by.

It was a nicely done setup, and the boys and I enjoyed walking back and forth checking out the scenery and watching the model trains go by.



I took this video following one of the trains from DC out past Brunswick while YB was riding on my shoulders. He was very concerned and wanted to be sure that I got the cows in the video (the little toy cows on the farm next to the railroad).

Of course, after YB got to ride on my shoulders and enjoy the bird's-eye view of the railroad for a while, ES wanted a turn...

Oh my gosh is he heavy.

Given the choice between going to the Northern Virginia Model Railroad Museum in Vienna and coming here to Brunswick, I think this one was better. There was a lot more to see here. Even if it hadn't been free the day we went, I think it would have been worth the price of admission.

The down side is that you'll save some money at the Vienna museum because they don't charge admission (but they're only open one Saturday per month), and they don't have a gift shop, so your kids won't be whining asking you to buy them $50 model train sets.

So even though I have no intention of buying a MiniCooper anytime soon, thanks MiniCooper for the ad that led us to the Brunswick Model Railroad Museum!