Thursday, April 30, 2009

A few blog highlights

Alright, which one of my former crew-members put this idea in Jeff Bacon's head?


THIS video that June Cleaver posted is pretty cool. If you like Dancing Matt, then you'll probably enjoy this one, too.


I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Magazine Man over at Somewhere on the Masthead is my favorite blog author. He is an absolutely masterful writer and story teller.

He has been blogging for several years, and I only discovered him a year or so ago. Every now and then, he will reference a previous post he has written and link back to it, and I'll click and go back and read an older post of his. He recently linked back to a couple of posts talking about how he defeated the competition of other boyfriends and won his wife's heart. For another example of his awesome story-telling ability, check out this post. For the romantics in the audience, you should go read this post on how he revealed to his wife that he liked her more than just as a friend.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The dictionary according to BlackBerry

Dear Guy Who Programmed the Dictionary and Auto-replace feature in the BlackBerry,

I'm curious... What planet are you from?

I mean, I appreciate that the BB helps me replace words with typos, and lots of times it gets them right, but where the heck did you learn English? There are some real doozies that seem to happen pretty often though.

For example, if I mistype "haven't," the BlackBerry replaces it with "ha bent." Riiiight, like those are the two words I MEANT to write.

The other one that really throws me is when I mistype "they" and the BlackBerry INSISTS on replacing it with "thry."


(a) What the HECK is a "thry?" Note there is NO entry in the for "thry" so I'm not sure why it's even offered as a suggestion must less automatically replacing it.

(b) How in the WORLD does it come to the conclusion that "thry" (even if it IS a valid word in the dictionary) was more likely the word I wanted than "they"????

A couple of suggestions:
1) Buy an actual English dictionary. It can't possibly be that hard with all the computerized spell-check programs out there.
2) Use some sort of histogram to tell the frequency of words occurring in the English language to figure out which was the more likely word the fumbling typist intended to type.

In case you were wondering: No, my typing speed has NOT improved with time and experience on the new BB storm keyboard. I try to type faster and make mistakes, and the BB tries to help me out by replacing my mistakes with nonsense words like "thry."

Sunday, April 26, 2009


So while our wives went off to a women's retreat with church, my friend W and I took our kids up to tour the Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, MD. Overall, the kids did great and we had a really good time.

I used to think Antietam might not be such a great place to take kids, being the bloodiest battlefield and all. However, the National Park Service has really put in a LOT of effort to restore the battlefield to the way it looked in 1862, and they have lots of great ways for kids to learn about the Civil War there.

Last night, I downloaded and printed out the Junior Ranger booklets off the NPS website. They have one for 6 yrs and under, one for 6-8 year olds, and one for 9-12 year olds. Then, in another spot on the website, they have a battlefield scavenger hunt that's sort of an 12+ yr old version of the other booklets.

ES and W's oldest daughter CJ did the battlefield scavenger hunt. YB and his classmate R did the 6 yrs and under one. C did the 9-12 year old version. They all seemed to have fun with it.

The Junior Ranger Booklet

All but the oldest age bracket booklet had this activity where you try to find all these different shapes on the cannon. Even so, ES and CJ helped the younger kids to find the various shapes.

We totally didn't plan this, but had the extremely good fortune to arrive at the visitor's center just in time for a park ranger to give a 30 minute talk about the battle.




They offer a video in a little movie theater in the visitor's center every 30 minutes, but after having this awesome, interactive talk with the park ranger, we opted to skip the movie. If you have any intention of going to Antietam, then I HIGHLY recommend planning your visit around the Park Ranger's talk.

First, we sat on the grass and he told us a little bit about the events leading up to the battle and the personalities of the generals on both sides.

Next, he explained the significant geographic features of the battle. He grabbed people out of the audience to help him lay down blue ropes for the Potomac River and Antietam Creek. Then he laid out brown ropes for the roads. Then he put out little wooden buildings and bridges for the significant landmarks.

Dunker Church and the Lower Bridge (Burnside Bridge)

Then he grabbed kids out of the audience and placed them like chess pieces on the map. Again, we totally didn't plan this, but as luck would have it, our kids were all spread out along the front row of the audience. In the process of picking out the generals to place on the battlefield, he used 3 out of our 5 kids.

General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (ES on the left),
General Robert E. Lee (CJ on the right), and
General McClellan (kid in the black shorts)

General Jones (W's youngest son R)

He talked about where each general was and what his perspective of the battlefield was, and he moved them around the map to show the sequence of events on the battlefield. It was really cool.

After that, they had a Civil War reenactor dressed up in his Union soldier uniform and a park ranger talk to us about what life was like in the Army during the Civil War, what were the components of his uniform, what did he carry in his bag, and then walked through what it took to load and shoot his rifle.

They also did a cannon demonstration, but we didn't realize that was coming and had gone inside to use the restrooms and drinking fountains.

We did the driving tour of the battlefield after that and stopped several places to walk around and look up answers for the kids' scavenger hunt sheets.

For example, there are six cannons like these with their muzzles embedded in a brick and cement base. They mark the locations where six generals were mortally wounded on the Antietam battlefield. All but one of them are fairly easy to spot along the driving tour route.

Luckily, there's an explanation and a map of where all six are located at the one in the West Woods.

There are two podcasts you can download and use as your virtual tour guide. We spent longer at the visitor's center than we thought we would, so we skipped the first hike & podcast at the cornfield and headed down to the Burnside Bridge to do that 1.3 mile walk.

Blunoz Self Portrait at the Lower Bridge
(called the Burnside Bridge after the battle)

In the background of the picture above, you can see the heights above the bridge from where the Confederate soldiers could easily shoot at anybody and anything trying to cross the bridge.

YB examines the bridge from General Burnside's perspective.
The podcast was pretty cool. CJ brought a pair of small speakers that we plugged into my BlackBerry so we could all listen to the tour guide describe where we were and what happened there.

Unfortunately, we only got to listen to the first 3 out of like 7 stops on the podcast. It isn't dividided up into tracks like a CD. You're just supposed to the playback as you walk from one tour stop to the next. Well, as we walked from stop 3 to stop 4, I somehow caused the BlackBerry to jump back to the beginning of the podcast.

Unfortunately, when you try to make one device that replaces several other devices, you tend to lose some of the details in functionality. The BlackBerry music player doesn't have a fast-forward feature, so we couldn't skip through the previous 3 stops we had already listened to. We tried just letting it keep playing through the previous stops while we kept walking, but we finished the walk before the podcast tour guide caught up with us.

Note to self: Next time, take a music / MP3 player that can fast forward.

There isn't much at all in the town of Sharpsburg, but if you take Rt. 65 north out of town heading back up to I-70, there are several chain restaurants and fast food places near I-70. We went through the Wendy's drive through and hit the road headed back to Ashburn.

Overall it was an awesome day out. I wouldn't mind going back to do the other podcast walk at the Cornfield. The kids did a great job with the scavenger hunts and junior park ranger booklets, so we rewarded them with a stop at Maggie Moo's on the way home.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Workout Tunes

To start off on a positive note, I really like the new radio station they've been playing in the PAC Annex (Pentagon Athletic Center Annex in Crystal City). "Fresh" 94.7 FM reminds me of Mix 98.5 that LW and I used to listen to in Boston in the late 90's. You can listen online, too (just click on the "listen live" button on the webpage linked above). To give me some variety in the office, I have been alternating between KLOVE, WGTS, and Fresh 94.7.

So, you might be asking yourself, "Self, why did he have to listen to the music chosen by the guy working the counter at the gym? What happened to that new superwhamodyne BlackBerry Storm he bought?"

Well, funny you should ask.

It decided it didn't like making sounds. It preferred life as a decidedly MUTE BlackBerry. It wouldn't play music, and it wouldn't even play any sounds when I received an email or a phone call.

I tried calling my cell phone - nada, zip, nothing. Looking at the screen, you can see the call coming in, but not a peep from the speaker.

I tried cycling the power on and off and tested it again. Nope, still nothing.

So tonight after I got the boys in bed, I called Verizon Wireless customer service. After waiting on hold for like fifteen minutes, a very friendly and helpful customer service representative resuscitated my poor BlackBerry.

I feel pretty stupid though.

Anybody else have this problem? Are you ready for instructions how to fix it?

Step 1. Do NOT turn the power off.

Step 2. With the power ON, remove the battery cover.

Step 3. Remember, DON'T turn the power off.

Step 5. With the power ON, remove the battery.
Aside: My wife has been making fun of me because I have to tap my BlackBerry on something hard to get the battery to pop out, and she can just pull hers in and out with ease. So tonight while I was on the phone with the customer service guy and I started tapping my phone on the end table to get the battery out, she said, "Give it to me." I handed it to her... she pulled... she prodded... she shook... and then she started tapping the BlackBerry on the end table to get the battery out. I don't feel so stupid anymore. :-)
Step 6. This is a stealth step. I say that because the Verizon wireless guy won't tell you to do it, but just assumes that you did it, wait a minute or so, and ask if it's done booting up yet. Step 6: Put the battery back in.

Step 7. Wait for what seems like an eternity for the BlackBerry to reboot and do its internal software checks.

Step 8. Rejoice and do a happy dance because your BlackBerry is resurrected and will now ring when there's a phone call, chime when there's an email, and even play music for you at the gym (if you're nice to it).

Funny thing, the Verizon guy on the phone told me that other BlackBerry Storm users have found that periodically removing the battery WHILE THE POWER IS ON and then reinserting the battery will help reduce the frequency of lock-ups. Now why didn't I think of that??? I should remove the battery from my phone more often - as if that's totally normal?

I guess the practical lesson I should learn from this is to remove the battery from my phone as I walk from the bus stop to the PAC Annex so that it will be done booting up and ready to play music for me by the time I am ready to work out.

On a positive note, he said to expect a BlackBerry Storm software upgrade in the next couple of weeks that is supposed to dramatically improve the Storm's performance and stop it from locking up so much.

P.S. There is NO NEED for any comments from you devoted Apple / Mac people in the peanut gallery. I just know I'm gonna take a, "You should've bought an iPhone or an iPod," comment on this post. Thbbbbt! :-P

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dear Under Armour...

Another spring, another PRT done.

(PRT = the Navy's Physical Readiness Test we have to take every 6 months. You do as many situps as you can in 2 minutes, then as many pushups as you can in 2 minutes, then go for a 1.5 mile run.)

This was my first PRT since reporting to the Pentagon. We ran it in LBJ Park on the waterfront side of North Parking. It was actually a very nice park setting. There's a quarter mile loop trail in there, so you do six laps to make it the required 1.5 miles.

After the PRT, we went out for the ceremonial gut-bomb burger at Red Robin for dinner tonight.

When we got home tonight, I unpacked my gym bag and tossed my official Navy PT Gear in the laundry. Next will come the ceremonial burial of the official Navy PT Gear in my dresser drawer until the next time I'm required to wear it for the PRT.

The Navy adopted this new official PT uniform about a year ago. I think it looks fine, but it's NOT comfortable. I don't know why Under Armour isn't making any yet. Given the complaints across the blogosphere and in the Navy Times about how people hate the new PT uniform, UA would make a killing if they'd just make a gold shirt and blue shorts with the NAVY logo on each so that it LOOKED just like the official Navy PT gear, but had the comfort of UA gear.

To any UA executives reading my blog:

PLEASE make me some shirts and shorts that look like this. I'll be the first in line to buy some!

In the meantime, I'll go back to wearing my usual workout gear.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Reminder: Mass Transit Subsidy Distribution

Heads-up for my friends in the DC Area:

The quarterly mass transit subsidy distribution is TODAY through Friday at the Pentagon.
Effective with the April 2007 distribution, the Pentagon Mass Transit Quarterly distribution will be held in two locations. The locations are as follows. 4th floor at 6.5 corridor and 5th floor at 6.5 corridor. Those with last names beginning in A-L are asked to pick up their benefits on the 4th floor and those with last names beginning in M-Z are asked to pick up their benefits on the 5th floor.

Times are from 0800-1600 today through Thursday, and 0800-1300 on Friday.

For other distribution locations, go to this website.

Don't forget to go pick yours up!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday Rants

Some things I don't understand...

1. To whoever it is that spilled coffee all over the counter in the men's room in my office building and didn't wipe it up:

Um... why? There are plenty of paper towels in the dispenser. Do you think your mother works here and is going to clean up your mess???

2. To whoever it was that caused the urinal in the men's room to overflow and did absolutely nothing about it:

Okay, I know you may not be a nuke like me, but still, why wouldn't you at least TRY jiggling the handle of the flush valve to see if it would STOP gushing water everywhere? I was in the stall (sorry if that's TMI) and I heard you flush the urinal and then wash and then dry your hands while the urinal was noticeably GUSHING water and overflowing and SPLATTERING all over the floor. Yet you did NOTHING. "Ho-hum, not my job to fix it, so I guess I'll just let it flood the building." Luckily, before I could get up and before the water reached my feet, someone else came in the men's room, immediately recognized the casualty and source of the flooding, splish-splashed his way across the men's room, and jiggled the handle. Ya know what? The water STOPPED! What a concept!

3. To the guy standing on the sidewalk who flicked your cigarette butt into the street right in front of me:

I must say, that was quite the debonair flourish and fancy flick of the wrist you used to dispose of your cigarette butt. You must've spent a lot of time in front of a mirror practicing that move at home to get it JUST RIGHT. But dude... you were STANDING RIGHT SMACK NEXT TO A GOSH DARN ASH TRAY!!!!!!! It made you look pretty darn STUPID if you ask me.

Granted, anyone who flicks their cigarette butts in the street annoys me, but to stand next to an ash tray and do it just added insult to injury.

4. To any other husband/father types considering starting their own blog:

DON'T WRITE BIRTHDAY POSTS. If you write "Happy Birthday" blog posts for one child... and then another child... and then DON'T write one for your wife... YOU'RE GONNA HEAR ABOUT IT!!!

Happy belated birthday Sweetie! ;-)

Aside: I got LW a pottery barn coffee table she wanted...

...which the boys promptly turned into a "fort." (YB is actually IN that picture, although you can't see him.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Backtrack - Spring Break Wrap Up

We had a wonderful spring break with my parental units visiting from Oregon. Besides our two-day roadtrip across Virginia that I mentioned in my previous post, we did a lot of stuff around the house.

I installed some hoists in the garage to store our bikes up above my wife's car.

We installed some new deck lights. Here Grandpa shows ES how to use the drill.

We hung our porch swing under our back deck. It used to be our front porch swing at our last house here in Ashburn, but this house doesn't have a front porch.

It's a nice spot for watching the ducks and geese on the pond, and for watching Grandpa wrestle with ES. (I think ES was winning, but I can't be sure.)

Speaking of ducks, they've got quite the little quack mafia going on in our neighborhood. Every afternoon, we hear them coming across the grass looking for us to somehow "compensate" them in some way for their, uh... "protection."

Protection from what, pray tell?

Well, there I was... Standing at the top of the ladder in the garage installing the bicycle hoists. I heard them coming along the side of the house (quack quack quack). They waddled right around the front of the garage (quack quack quack), saw me at the top of the ladder (quack quack quack), fearlessly waddled right on into the garage to the base of the ladder and stared me down as if something BAD was gonna happen to me if I didn't pay up. FAST.

I said, "No handouts for you! Get out of my garage!"

The white duck in the front seemed to be the ring-leader. He sorta angled his head to one side and gave me an angry QUACK as if to say, "Oh yeah?" and then PFFFFFFFFBBBBBT! blew duck diarhea all over the floor of my garage.

(Don't worry, I didn't take a picture of THAT to share with you.)

I yelled at the ducks to get the heck outta my garage, and they waddled away with a continuous stream of quack-obscenities in my general direction. They waddled on across the street to our neighbor's house where the little girls quickly came out and started feeding the duck-mafia lest they get duck poop in THEIR garage. The ducks seemed to continue working their way down the street. My wife said she later talked to some of the neighbors, and they said the ducks really do hit up every house all the way to the end of the street.

Other than cleaning up after the quack-mafia, it was a beautiful weekend (last weekend). My wife and stepmom made a wonderful Easter dinner for us.

Easter Dinner at the Blunoz Homestead
(Sweet potatoes, ham, asparagus, fruit salad, and dinner rolls)

Monday we went for a tour of the Pentagon (sorry, no cameras allowed) and went downtown to the National Museum of American History.

Grandpa & YB in front of NMAH
with the Washington Monument in the background

(Aside: Grandpa probably needs a lot of motrin from the amount of piggy-back and "carry-me-on-your-shoulders-Grandpa" rides he gave while he was here.)

I've been wanting to go to the NMAH ever since it reopened after being closed for 3 years of remodeling. I really liked the new exhibit for the Star Spangled Banner. It's the actual flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write our National Anthem. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in the exhibit, but you can check out pictures on the NMAH website (click on the Star Spangled Banner link above).

Other highlights of our trip to NMAH were seeing Stanley, winner of the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge...

...and the actual C3PO costume from Return of the Jedi.

We wanted to see the Muppets exhibit, but the line was REALLY long. It's kinda sad how long the line was to see the muppets in comparison to the much shorter line to see the Star Spangled Banner, but then again I'm a history nerd.

Tuesday, ES went back to school. My dad and I got to go have lunch with him at school. Then since it was raining, we stayed for indoor recess in his classroom.

ES showing me what he wrote in his journal about Luray Caverns and Monticello.

Before my parental units flew back to Oregon, we went to Clyde's for my wife's birthday dinner. Overall, it was REALLY good. They were having a half-price special on wine, so we got a really nice bottle of Stag's Leap Petite Syrah.

Parmesan-crusted trout, potatoes & green beans.

We were a little annoyed though. Why is it whenever we shell out the cash for a babysitter to have a nice, quiet, kid-free dinner at a fancy restaurant, we get seated next to a family with noisy and obnoxious kids? I would have asked to be moved to the other dining room, but there was a squealing baby in that dining room, too.

All in all, we had a great spring break and visit with my dad & stepmom.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Whirlwind Trip to Groton

So I got back to work after being on leave for spring break just in time to find out I was tasked with going on a work-related trip to Groton.

That was quite the trip down memory lane.

I was stationed in Groton for SOBC (Submarine Officer Basic Course) and my first sea tour from 1995-1999, and I went back briefly for 6 months of SOAC (Submarine Officer Advanced Course) in 2001 and SCC (Submarine Command Course) in 2006.

As I drove down I-95 this week, my mind was a swirl of memories from the MANY times I drove that stretch of road back when I was living in Mystic and dating LW from Boston. As I passed the Allyn Street exit in Mystic, I thought, "There's my exit," and the Barenaked Ladies started singing "this is where we used to live" in my head.

In no particular logical order, here are some random observations from my quick trip to Groton...

- RI State Troopers still use the SAME spot they have always used to set up speed traps under the overpass just south of Exit 5.

- The radio ads for Bob's Discount Furniture are just as annoying as when I left Groton 10 years ago. As soon as I hear Bob's voice, I have a conditioned response to immediately turn the radio off or change the channel.

- I saw a REAL submarine on the waterfront. It was kind of weird to see after 6 months of working in the Pentagon.

- I didn't bother taking my laptop with me because I had to stay in the Susse Chalet, and they didn't use to have internet access. NOW they have a cable modem in every room! Wahoo! BZ to the Chalet for that!

- Gas pumps without the locking mechanism on the handle annoy me. I thought I was going to leave the gas pumping while I cleaned out the trash from my rental car and got my things sorted out between my carry on bag and my checked bag. But alas, no locks on the pump handle, so I had to stand there holding it the whole time.

- On the flight up to Providence, I sat next to a project manager type of guy from Raytheon. I'm always interested to hear what guys think of their company and if they enjoy working there as a mental note for future post-navy employment. He seemed very happy with working for Raytheon and said it was a great place to work.

- This is the first time I have traveled on orders since all the airlines started imposing fees for checking baggage. I just paid the fee and assumed I would get reimbursed for it on my travel claim. It wasn't until after I had already paid the fee when I was checking in to LEAVE Providence that someone behind the counter told me that if I was military on orders I didn't have to pay. NOW they tell me. They make you check in at these touch-screen kiosks, and nowhere on there does it offer you an option for "military traveling on orders." It just asks you how many bags you are checking, so I clicked "1." Then it asked for my credit card to pay the checked bag fee, so I put the credit card in.

- I was very excited to go to my old lunchtime favorite The Village Bake House on Rt. 12 in Groton before I left for the airport. I had a hard time deciding what to get. When we lived there before, it was easy - I could just have something different several days per week. When you only have ONE day to eat there though... decisions decisions.

- I couldn't find the Providence airport in my GPS. It was because I searched for "Providence Airport." When I panned the geo display over and zoomed in on the airport, I did a palm-to-forehead slap as I remembered the airport is actually called T. F. Green Airport. Duh.

- The Providence airport is small - the kind where the arrival and departure boards are still made of wood slats instead of fancy hi-tech flat screens. The good news is the lines are short and it's a quick walk to gate. Plus, in spite of its small size, it's a nice airport with a multitude of shops and eateries. That's a good thing when your flight is delayed by an hour.

- Blackberry lost 3 potential customers. I was standing at the United Airlines ticket counter and the three employees behind the counter saw me messing with my BlackBerry Storm. It quickly got their attention and they asked me how I liked it because they were all considering getting a Storm. I told them it was okay, but I can't type very fast, and it's unreliable - locks up and have to take the battery out to reboot it. No sooner did I say that then it locked up and wouldn't respond to anything I did to any of the buttons, so I got to demonstrate the battery cover removal, taking the battery out, putting it back in, and waiting for 5 minutes while it booted up again. I think all three of them were convinced the Storm is NOT the way to go.

Si tout...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ahh, Spring!

It's a rainy gray spring morning here in Ashburn, so I thought I'd take a moment to catch you up on what we've been up to (at least for those of you who REFUSE to join Facebook ;-) ).

It was the week of Spring Break for our kids. Last weekend, mother nature teased us with some really gorgeous weather. We bought some new bicycles at Spokes Etc. We figured it was about time - my wife and I have each had our bicycles for over 10 years now and they've gotten pretty beat up. Plus, I figured it's an incentive to get ES interested in learning to ride a bike without training wheels. We spent some time practicing last weekend while the weather was nice.

I also decided to start up the MGB for the first time this year and took turns giving the boys a ride around town.

ES and I going for a ride in my Limited Edition 1979 MGB

I inherited a love of MGs from my Dad. We frequently had one MG model or another as I was growing up. They are by NO means reliable cars, but they're fun to drive and the engine is simple enough that even I can work on it by myself. I was rather surprised that the MG started up on the first try and ran like a champ during our spin around Ashburn. Part of that is thanks to this awesome battery charger thing that I keep it plugged in over the winter.

Battery Charger

ES took the camera with him on his ride with me.

Spring Break Road Trip

We went for a two day road trip across Virginia. Although it wasn't intentional, our timing seemed to be perfect for avoiding the crowds. For anyone else in the DC area looking for a local getaway, I highly recommend following the path we took:

Day 1:

Left home about 9 a.m. and drove down to Luray Caverns. Got there about 11 a.m. and spent a little over an hour in the caverns.

The pictures on the Luray Caverns website don't give you an idea for the vast size of the caverns, so I tried to take these pictures with my family in them to show the relative size of things.

This is Dream Lake. At first, it seems like stalactites above and stalagmites below, but you'll notice it's a perfect mirror image above and below. Yes, that's water on the bottom giving a perfectly crisp and clear reflection of the stalactites above.
When we arrived, there was no line and we walked right in. No crowds at all. When we left, a lot more people had arrived and there was a line waiting to buy tickets.

We ate lunch at the little cafe at the caverns - big mistake. Do yourselves a favor and pack a lunch or go somewhere else.

After lunch we went through the Car and Carriage Museum right next to the caverns (admission to the caverns gets you into the museum, too). That was really cool - I highly recommend it.

Blunoz Self Portrait in the Car and Carriage Museum

They had about three dozen really nicely restored antique cars.
All of them were pre-WWII vintage.

RR... what more can I say?

Then we drove on down to Charlottesville, VA, had a really good Mexican dinner and spent the night in a hotel.

Day 2:

We got up and went to see Monticello first thing in the morning after breakfast in the hotel. Again, when we got there we waltzed right in - parked in the front row, no lines, no waits, bought our tickets, got on the shuttle bus, and rode directly up to the house. When we left at lunch time, there were crowds of people around the visitors center and lines of people waiting and the parking lot was full. I was glad we went first thing in the morning instead of driving down to Monticello from the DC area like everybody else had.

Panorama Family Photo on the west lawn of Monticello.

View south from the west lawn.

Blunoz Self Portrait on the northwest side of Monticello.

YB enjoys a quiet moment while the adults learn
about the boring vegetable garden nearby.

Happy YB enjoying a piggy-back ride from Grandpa.

ES checks out Thomas Jefferson's gravesite.

Collage of Monticello Spring Flowers

Living in Hawaii sure gave me an appreciation for flowers. The spring flowers at Monticello were wonderful, and I took a LOT of pictures. My wife accused me of being a "girl" for taking so many pictures of flowers.

We stopped to do some wine tasting on the way home and had some dinner at the Blue Ridge Grill in Brambleton. Multiple friends of ours have raved about how good the Blue Ridge Grill is, and we weren't disappointed. Great food and service with reasonable prices.

Wine tasting at Prince Michel vinyards.

Grandma played chess with the boys while
LW, Grandpa, and I enjoyed the wine tasting.

I hope you all are enjoying your weekend and get some time off to enjoy the season.

Happy Easter!

(J&J - there are more pictures, but you'll have to join Facebook if you want to see them ;-) ).

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Board Preps

Heads-up / Reminder:
The FY10 Submarine CO/XO Screening Board convenes 18-22 May.

At this year's board, Year Groups (YGs) 93, 94, and 95 will be considered for CO, and YGs 98, 99, and 00 will be considered for XO.

If you are an 1120 (submarine officer) in one of those year groups, and you HAVEN'T received an email telling you the percentages and number of quotas for this year, then please drop me an email and I'll forward it to you.

If you are in YG 93 or 98 and this is your LAST LOOK for CO or XO, then you SHOULD receive a letter from Navy Personnel Command (NPC) that tells you what the possible outcomes of this board are for you. Again, if you fall into this category, then drop me an email and I will forward you a copy of the standard letter. You should make sure your detailer has your up-to-date contact information so (a) they can send this letter, and (b) they can contact you if anything is missing from your record.

The guys who are assigned to commands in the submarine force will have the benefit of their CO receiving a letter explaining the possible outcomes for you so they can discuss it with you. The problem arises when someone is on shore duty in a tour outside the submarine force (like joint duty jobs) and is "out of the loop" so to speak and may not receive this information.

Now is a good time to review your service record and make sure it is up to date before the board. If anything is missing, you have just enough time NOW to send it in to the board. Take heed from this email sent out around the Pentagon 1120's:
Board Checklist: A copy of the checklist is posted on the PERS-42 website. The importance of an officer checking his own record cannot be overemphasized. All officers being considered are strongly encouraged to review their records for accuracy. Web Enabled Record Review is available online (details in NAVADMIN 011/09) which simplifies personnel record review. This capability eliminates the need to order a CD and provides every officer an opportunity to view the same records available to Board Members. Missing information should be forwarded using the procedures posted on the NPC website. Letters should be addressed to President, FY10 Submarine CO/XO Screening Board (Board #350). Details on the submission process are available at HTTP://WWW.NPC.NAVY.MIL/BOARDS/ACTIVEDUTYOFFICER/. Note that letters to the Board do not update the official personnel record. Additional information on personnel records management can be found at HTTP://WWW.NPC.NAVY.MIL/CAREERINFO/RECORDSMANAGEMENT/.
From personal experience, you really do need to review your record. I was surprised. Prior to the last promotion board, I reviewed my record and discovered my end-of-tour award from my previous shore tour was missing from my record. I followed the procedures to get it added back then.

This time around, I checked my record again, and found that same award is not reflected on my Officer Data Card (ODC) on the NPC website, even though it DOES show up on the Navy Awards website (NDAWS). So I had to jump through the hoops to fax it in AGAIN.

Like I said, even if you checked your record last time you went before a board and everything was up to date, CHECK IT AGAIN!