Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Teenage Independence and ORM

Did you know about this?

At this very moment as my fingers clatter across the keyboard, there are not one but TWO separate 16 year old girls sailing solo around the world. Each are attempting to earn the title of the youngest person to sail solo and non-stop around the world.

Jessica Watson was the first to depart her home on the east coast of Australia about four months ago. She has already crossed the Pacific and is most of the way across the Atlantic on her way toward the Cape of Good Hope.

Abby Sunderland left her home in Southern California heading south a few weeks ago. That ended up being a sort of shake-down cruise because she had to pull into Cabo San Lucas for repairs. She has embarked again on her around-the-world cruise a few days ago and just crossed the equator southbound.

There's a fair amount of open-press criticism of these girls' parents for allowing them to take on such a challenge.

I have mixed feelings about it.

I've written before about how much I appreciated my parents fostering my independence and giving me a "long leash" so-to-speak. Most of my friends parents would never let them do half the stuff I did as a teenager - such as solo international travel to Canada (from San Diego - that's a long trip), Japan, Korea, and England, or driving hours to the Oregon coast to go scuba diving for the weekend. The former-proudly-independent-teenager in me thinks it's awesome that Jessica and Abby's parents trusted them to embark on such an ambitious journey.

However, my perspective has changed significantly as a naval officer and as a parent. I'm sure Jessica and Abby are both very responsible and trustworthy, but there's more to it than trust.

As an officer in the Navy, I have had Operational Risk Management (ORM) chiseled in the back of my head and traumatically reinforced in watching two shipmates lose their lives in rough seas. In layman's terms, ORM is all about cost-benefit analysis. Are the benefits of doing something worth the risks, and if so, what things can you do to reduce the likelihood and severity of the risks?

In the case of my solo travels as a teenager, I think my parents exercised good ORM. In each case, I may have been flying alone (as a passenger on a major airline), but I was staying with friends of the family at each destination and knew where and how to seek help if I needed it.

From an ORM standpoint, I don't think letting your teenager (boy or girl) sail solo around the world passes the cost-benefit analysis. In the Navy, we use justifications like "national security" as the benefits for taking such risks. What possible benefit could possibly be worth the risk of death in rough seas or a collision or a medical emergency in a civilian recreational sailing vessel? Each of these girls are sailing thousands of miles from shore and have little to no hope of rescue or assistance. What happens when one of them gets appendicitis and needs emergency surgery? On a nuclear submarine, even though our corpsman is technically qualified to remove an appendix in an emergency, we will fully employ the many thousands of shaft horsepower under the hood to hurl us toward the nearest port for a MEDEVAC (medical evacuation) of a crew-member with symptoms of appendicitis.

Backing up just a bit, I mentioned above that Abby had to pull into Cabo San Lucas for repairs. It turns out, she wasn't the only one. Jessica Watson also required a stop for repairs before she got very far from home. Between reading that article about Jessica and watching some of the interview videos on Abby's website, I have serious doubts about each of these girl's qualifications to embark on such a journey. As a submariner, we go through a lot of qualifications, and they start out with basic system knowledge - understanding the theory behind the how the equipment operates so you can then understand your equipment's limitations and operating precautions. Reading the article about the Jessica's accident and watching the interviews with Abby didn't give me a warm-fuzzy feeling about either of their technical understanding of the capabilities and limitations of their gear.

Aside: One of the first things I learned during sailing lessons in San Diego Bay with aircraft carriers and cruise ships passing by was the "BGT Rule" (Big Gray Thing), a.k.a. the law of gross tonnage. Jessica didn't really violate the BGT Rule because she was in the rack and her radar alarm didn't warn her there was a big-ass many-thousand-ton merchant (63,800 tonnes to be exact) about to turn her into road kill flotsam. Can you imagine if Jessica's collision had happened in America? If it had, there certainly would have been some wacko frivolous lawsuit filed soon thereafter blaming the radar manufacturer for the collision because the proximity alarm didn't go off.

Sorry, I digress. Back on topic now.

As a parent, I will encourage my boys to be responsible and earn the level of trust and independence so that they can go forth on their own. We all have to let our kids go out into the world on their own someday. Even when they have earned that trust though, it is still my responsibility as a parent to provide a safety net and to provide that "forceful backup" we talk about so often in the submarine force. As their ISIC (Immediate Superior in Command), it's my responsibility to evaluate their training, qualifications, equipment, and readiness to embark on adventures that will take them away from home and out of range of my ability to render assistance. Based on what I've seen and read on Jessica and Abby's blogs, if I was their father, then I would not have allowed them go to on this around-the-world cruise solo.

I'm sure if Jessica or Abby's parents and supporters read this, they will say that they did carefully evaluate the risks and implement safety measures to mitigate those risks, like having a "ditch bag" of emergency supplies in case they have to abandon ship. Personally, I think the ditch bag is probably more for easing the parents' fears than an actual, practical life-saving measure (unless she ditches like 100 yards from some tropical island). Going back to ORM - even with things like a ditch bag, there is a RISK of a small craft like these sailboats succumbing to rough seas, or the single crew member getting washed overboard, or colliding with a merchant (or, gulp, dare-I-say - a submarine?), all of which hold the possible outcome of death to that single crewmember. Again, what's the benefit of this endeavor? What's to be gained that makes it worth risking the death of your daughter? That's permanent. You can't turn back the clock to undo death. It's too late - no amount of lawsuits will bring your child back from the dead.

It just doesn't pass the ORM test.

Although I don't agree with the decision to let them go in the first place, now that they are out there on their own, I am praying for Jessica and Abby's safety. I wish Jessica and Abby all the best and sincerely hope they both make it home safe and sound.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What's in your attic?

H/T to my good friend CC.

Check out picture number 9 in this set. What a gold mine (at least to the John Hughes fans in the audience).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sailor, Rest Your Oar

I read in the news that EMC(SS/DV) John Conyers was electrocuted while doing maintenance on USS RONALD REAGAN on Friday.

Actually, I first found out about it from seeing fellow submariners joining the RIP Chief Conyers Facebook page. I didn't know Chief Conyers personally, but looking at the number of fans of the page (500 and growing) and the pictures of him with his family, at his promotion to chief petty officer, on USS BREMERTON, and in various port calls on deployment, it looks like he was a respected shipmate and loving husband and father. My thoughts and prayers go out to EMC Conyers' family and shipmates as they cope with such a tragic loss.

Sailor, Rest Your Oar.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I don't know anything about the specifics of what happened on Friday, but it sure gave me flashbacks to one of my worst duty days ever. I was the Engineering Duty Officer (EDO) on USS PROVIDENCE one weekend back around '97. The Ship's Duty Officer (SDO) and I had just sat down to lunch in the wardroom when we heard screaming and a commotion coming from somewhere outside the wardroom.

As I backed my chair away from the table to stand up, one of my electricians came bursting into the wardroom yelling to call an ambulance. I say "my" electricians because I was the Electrical Officer at the time, so it was a guy from my division in addition to being a guy in my duty section.

He had been trying to reinstall a fuse in a fuse panel without tagging out the fuse panel. For non-Navy readers, you are supposed to secure power to a panel and hang a red danger tag on the breaker before you do any work in the panel. In this case, the electrician figured it was okay, he was just going to swing the panel door up and hold it open with one hand while he pushed the fuse into place with a pair of insulated fuse-holders with his other hand.

Well, his first hand slipped and let go of the door to the panel, so the panel door slammed down and pushed his other hand into the live electrical panel. The resulting arc vaporized a quarter-sized hole in the palm of his hand. The good news was that it instantly cauterized the wound, so there was essentially no blood, just a very big and very painful hole through his hand. He was in the Yale Burn Center down in New Haven for a while after that undergoing multiple reconstructive surgeries. When he returned to work it was in medical LIMDU (limited duty) status at one of the shore commands there in Groton. It was a very sad loss for our crew. He was one of our best electricians.

Needless to say, it left a deep mark on my conscience, and I've been pretty anal retentive about electrical safety ever since then.

Pentagon Gouge: Lowe's Military Discount

In the past, stores like Lowes and Home Depot have offered 10% military discounts on holidays like Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. In case you hadn't heard, Lowes just decided to give their 10% military discount ALL DAY EVERY DAY! BZ to Lowes!

So don't be disappointed if you missed the President's Day sales last weekend with all the snow piled everywhere. Go to Lowes when it's convenient for you and just take your military ID card with you.

Aside: I've always been partial to HD over Lowes. Just to be fair to HD, I did search around to see if they also offered it, but found no info about HD offering a discount outside of the holidays.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Snowmageddon 2010

First, there was the 33 inches of snow we got Friday night through Saturday night (5-6 Feb). That wreaked all sorts of havoc on the DC area.

Between the snow on the ground, the local infrastructure's inability to quickly dig us out, and the prediction of more snow to come, the local schools just plain shut down for the week. No school until Tuesday (after the Monday President's Day holiday).

Tuesday night into Wednesday (9-10 Feb) we got a blizzard with another 8 inches of snow and white-out conditions that shut down the snow plows and power outage repair crews.

The DC area ended up getting the most snow in one winter since 1898.

Here are a few pictures from around our house from Snowmaggedon.

The aftermath

Our Street
It took a while for VDOT to get out to the secondary residential streets like ours, so we were snowed in for a bit.

You'd think I captured the beginning of a waterfall,
but no, it's frozen there just like that.

Defying Gravity

As the snow peeled away, you could see the brick pattern on the snow.

Bird tracks around the bowl of bird seed we set out.

Icicles weighing down branches in our back yard.

Ice or candle wax?

Loudoun County kept reminding everyone to dig out their fire hydrants and make sure their address is visible for police, firemen, and ambulances trying to respond to emergencies. The point was driven home for us, and I was glad I cleared the snow around our fire hydrant. The weight of the snow caused one of our neighbor's rain gutters to come crashing down off the side of the house, and it hit and broke the natural gas line going into their house. Next thing we knew, there were 6 fire trucks of various sizes on our street, and they immediately went to find the fire hydrant (just to be prepared for the worst if an explosion happened).

I came under attack when I got too close with my camera.

I'm thankful for this snow storm in some ways. For one, my boys actually look forward to and enjoy going out to play in the snow. If it had been a quick snowfall that sent us all back to school and work right away, then it would have maintained its status as a novelty. At first, the boys would spend more time getting suited up in their snow pants, jackets, mittens, hats, and snow boots than they would actually spend outside playing. The first little bit of snow that got in the top of one of their boots or touched their cheek from a glancing snowball would send them back inside whimpering.

The snowstorm lasted long enough that the boys went out to play many times. Each time they went out a little bit longer and a little bit farther from the house. Now, they actually enjoy and look forward to going out to play with the other neighborhood kids down the street, and I'm glad they've had that experience. They may come back in to get warmed up again, but they will go outside to play three or more times a day.

Traditional Blunoz self portrait.
See our pond in the background?

Meanwhile, back inside the house... satellite dish reception.

I wish I took my camera with me when I waded out through the snow to dig our satellite dish out. It was buried in a mount of snow.

...and battles raged.

At a loss for words.

Shhhhh! Don't tell him he got to practice his math and spelling skills when we played UpWords. That would spoil his whole week off of school.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snowed In? Need something to read?

For any of you who are stuck at home due to snow (like me) or maybe bored at work and looking for something fun to read, grab a cub of coffee and get comfortable.

I've written before that one of my most favorite blog authors is Magazine Man over at Somewhere on the Masthead. MM has been MIA for a few months, ever since he got a new job and had to relocate his family across country (something we in the military are used to doing every couple of years, but not something the average civilian family has to deal with very often).

Now, after no posts since mid-October, MM's blog has come back to life, but with a new author. MM's dog Blaze has taken over the reigns and written a cliff-hanger tale of moving to their new home here. After you read the cliff-hanger, you'll want to read the sequel here. MM even updated the profile page for the blog's author, and it's pretty funny, too.

If you enjoyed reading that and don't remember my previous recommendations for MM, then you should go back and read this post about Blaze, too.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Northern Virginia Kayaking Resources

Updated 7/5/2014.  As I am trying to use this page to plan my own paddling excursions, I am finding several of the links aren't working.  I am going through and fixing the links to the maps and temperature and river conditions pages.

Updated 6/30/2013.  I'm planning another tubing trip for my church, so today I went through and updated the ratings for the outfitters based on the Yelp, Google, and BBB websites.

Wait! Don't skip this post just because you don't own a kayak or canoe! If you're in the DC area and have any interest in just giving it a try, then I highly recommend scrolling down to the "Outfitters" section of this post. There are several places you can go to get out on the water for a couple of hours and see if you like it - either alone or with a guide. You could go on the Sunday evening guided paddle with Jack's Boathouse, or you could go on a brunch-and-paddle or paddle-and-dinner trip on the Antietam Creek, or you could do the paddle-and-wine-tasting or boats-and-brewery. Try it! You might like it!

I wrote this post and then realized in hindsight that some people might skip over it because they don't own a kayak or a canoe, so I added that disclaimer up front. Now, back to my original post...

Yes, yes, as I write this, it's still Arctic-polar-bear-butt-cold outside, temperature in the teens and 33 inches of snow on the ground (and another 10-20" expected today and tomorrow). Even so, I keep gazing at my kayak up on the rack in the garage and longing to get back out on the water.

To make up for it, I research places to go kayaking. I keep googling and going back to the same sites over and over again for resources, so I am creating this post as an easy reference point to for future paddle planning.

To start off in searching for nearby places to paddle, I have found a couple of useful websites:

Ben's Kayak Site has been a wonderful starting point for my kayaking research. He has a Northern Virginia Paddler's Access page that links to interactive maps of the Potomac River, Shenandoah River, Antietam Creek and Goose Creek with annotations describing the locations along each waterway where you can put-in or take-out. He includes pictures if he has them, and he details how many cars you can park in each location. The two limitations of Ben's site are they are limited in scope to those places nearest his (and my) hometown (not that that's a bad thing), and he doesn't provide any description of the water conditions or obstacles between entry points (and that's okay, because he provides very useful logistical information about getting there and back). under the "Go Paddling" pull-down menu, select "Places to Paddle" and then "Virginia." My one complaint about this list is that it's just an alphabetical list of place names. If you don't know where it is, then you have to click on it, read the description, then go look for it on a road map.  Update 7/3/2011:  While they still have the alphabetical listing, has added a GIS feature (map) that shows you launching locations.

However, while I prefer Ben's interactive map for the places near home, the website lists several places to paddle that are easy day-trips from our house, but outside the range of Ben's map. See, for example, Bull Run or Occoquan River and Occoquan Reservoir. I didn't even know Bull Run was a place you could paddle until I read about it on The write-ups describe entry and exit points, parking availability, and provide insights into what to expect along the water. Plus, this website is where I discovered a link to the second source of water levels I use (see the link below to the Virginia Tech site). also has reviews on gear and some cool kayaking t-shirts for sale.

Loudoun Outdoors Guide has a map showing locations of Loudoun Parks where you can get in and out of the water, and links to pages for each park.

Maps: Aside from Ben's interactive web-based map above, some of the local outfitters that offer day-trips have river maps showing not only where the access points are but also the gouge of what to expect on the water (rapids and obstacles). Here are some quick links (I'll update this list if and when I find more maps):
Water levels and flow rates:

Water Temperatures:

Local Outfitters:

Jack's Boathouse. Right under the Key Bridge in DC, you can rent a kayak or canoe by the hour here and paddle on your own. We did their Sunday evening guided paddle past the monuments and around Roosevelt Island, and it was AWESOME.

Yelp: 4.5 stars (49 reviews) - that's pretty even more amazing
Google: 4.5 stars (11 reviews) (More reviews, still very highly rated)
BBB: No search results (no news is good news)

River Riders. I coordinated a flat-water tubing trip on the Shenandoah River for my church with River Riders, and we all had a lot of fun. They also offer kayaking and canoeing trips. I have to admit, when I planned our trip with River Riders, I didn't realize how many different outfitters there were to choose from, and I didn't do any research into the business. While I admit they weren't the best-run operation and I sent an email to their management with recommendations for improvement, our group still had a lot of fun that day.

Yelp: 3.5 stars (42 reviews)  (Upward trend since my last update in 2010.)
Google: 17 (16 reviews) - Google's rating system calls this "good to very good" (3rd in a list of 5 possible grade-groups)
BBB: A-Big Improvement since my last update in 2010.

River and Trail Outfitters. I have not done any trips with them, but their trips sound really cool and I want to try a couple of them. The thing that most interests me most about their site is the cool combo-trips like paddle-and-wine (tasting), boats-and-brewery, Antietam Creek kayak-and-brunch or kayak-and-dinner.

Yelp: 3 stars (16 reviews) - Downward trend with a lot more reviews this year.
Google: No rating (8 reviews) - No reviews in the past year, mixed good and bad reviews.
BBB: A+ (Zero complaints and good record with BBB)

Downriver Canoe Company. Back in September 2009, I made some plans with Downriver to do a birthday paddling trip, but other factors prevented me from being able to take the trip. I was pleased with their responsiveness and willingness to accommodate my requests.

Yelp: 4.5 stars (16 reviews) - More reviews this year, still highly rated.
Google: No rating (5 reviews) - ALL reviews are positive, but no reviews in the last year. 
BBB: (Still) No search results

Shenandoah River Outfitters. I haven't been out with them yet, but they have a good record on Yelp.

Yelp: 4 stars (10 reviews) - More reviews this year, still highly rated.
Google: No rating (3 reviews) - Mixed reviews, but too few data points to draw any conclusions.
BBB: (Still) No search results

Antietam Creek Canoe.  I haven't been out with them yet, but I'm very interested in trying one of their trips on Antietam Creek.  They offer livery services on Antietam Creek and do tubing trips similar to the outfitters on the Shenandoah River around Harpers Ferry.

Yelp:  5 stars (2 reviews)
Google:  No rating  (1 review) - the only have one review, but it's "EXCELLENT"
BBB:   No search results

Clubs: If you already have a kayak or canoe, then chances are you're like me and looking for ways to get out on the water. I'm still new to it and not totally familiar with the local waterways, and I don't feel 100% comfortable with exploring new waterways on my own. It's better to go with people who know the area at least your first time out. These local clubs offer group paddles to get out on the water with other people who know the area and can lend a hand if you run into trouble.

Chesapeak Paddlers Association (CPA) offers group events and has several local sub-groups such as the Pirates of Algonkian that meet up on Wednesdays for a 6 p.m. short paddle.

Paddlers Access Network (PAN)
looks like an awesome resource, but I question if there is anyone keeping the site up to date. PAN seeks to contact property owners and advocate for paddlers to be able to access waterways from private property. Their website lists points where paddlers are and are NOT allowed access to the water. See, for example, this entry on Goose Creek - the owner said that paddlers MAY go past the "No Trespassing" sign to get into the creek there. That's awesome!

The problem is, it looks like most of the data is 2004-ish. I don't see any new data, and I received no response when I tried emailing the point of contact. Even so, the data that is there could be very useful in planning an outing on the local waterways.

Monocacy Canoe Club (MCC). After doing some clicking around from the PAN website above, I ended up on the MCC website. The MCC website is most definitely up to date and actively managed, and it looks like they have a pretty active calendar of activities set up for 2010. They also appear to have some good links to water levels, ratings of local waterways, etc.

Canoe Cruisers Association
(CCA). I found this group as a link off of the River Trail Outfitters website. It looks like they have an actively managed site and schedule of events. Their schedule for 2010 looks pretty light as it stands now, but I realize it's the dead of winter as I write this and it might be unrealistic to expect them to have their schedule planned out for the spring and summer yet.

I've picked up two books so far on kayaking around the DC area.

Sea Kayaking Virginia: A Paddler's Guide to Day Trips from Georgetown to Chincoteague.

I highly recommend this book by Andrea Nolan. She starts off with a very good overview of paddling in Virginia - seasonal variations and cautions, recommended gear, etc. Next she provides a nice regional map showing where each of the chapters of her book will take you. Then, within each chapter, she provides excellent maps showing the routes she took on each of the waterways she reviewed, good descriptions of what to expect along the way, and side-bars with information about the local wildlife you are likely to see. This is an excellent resource for learning about the sites she has reviewed and planning a day trip there. The only downside on Andrea's book is that she only includes one site in the DC area (out of Jack's Boathouse, down the Potomac River past the monuments and back), but it's a fairly thick book that covers a lot of sites along the Chesapeake.

Sea Kayaking the Baltimore / Washington, D.C Area.

Kevin's Short Summary: a mile wide and an inch deep. This book by Michaela Gaaseurd is nice because like Ben's website / unlike the website, she offers regional maps showing the general location of the paddling sites she has reviewed in her book. She gives a pretty good written description of a handful of certain spots across the region. However, there are no detailed maps of the waterways, and the small black-and-white photos don't give you much of a feel for what the area is like. I'm glad to have it as a reference, but it's not a stand-alone.

I do owe a special note of thanks to Michaela for answering a question I couldn't answer anywhere else. I had searched high-and-low and all over the internet trying to determine if you could paddle onto the Tidal Basin. On page 7, she specifically states, "you will not be able to paddle into the Tidal Basin by the Jefferson Memorial." Thank you for putting that question to rest.

To Do List:

After all my clicking around and reading here and there, these are the places currently on my "to do" list for future paddling trips (in no particular order of priority or importance):
  • Antietam Creek
  • Monocacy River (Done 24 April 2010)
  • Bull Run
  • Occoquan River

Pentagon Gouge: Cell Phones

Happy Snowmaggedon Day everyone!

The Washington Post proposed several names for this storm. They used "snowpocalypse" for the storm that happened just before Christmas. My favorites that they suggested for this storm were "snowmaggedon" and "SnOMG!"

As you can see in the pictures above, we got 33" here in Ashburn. It came down faster than the snow plows could keep up, and word in the news is that it'll take a couple of days to dig us all out. The local schools being closed aren't that much of a surprise - they close at the mere mention of snow. The real indication of what a bad storm this was is the fact that above-ground Metro service is shut-down, and there is no bus or VRE train service today either. On one of our two worst snow days last year, Loudoun County canceled commuter bus service for the day, but the rest of the DC area was still in business. This is the first time I've seen all of the DC area above-ground public transit canceled.

I hope everyone got the news that the federal government in the DC area is CLOSED today. In case you didn't know, you can go to the OPM website to check the operating status of the government (normally).

Note that you can also sign up on the OPM website to receive email updates. Sunday (yesterday afternoon), I received an email from OPM announcing the closure of the Federal government on Monday along with a notification that the OPM website was down, so I might not have known if it wasn't for the email. However, the Washington Post did announce it, too.

I had actually written the blog post below in advance for posting as this morning's Pentagon gouge, but it actually seems fairly appropriate considering only underground Metro service is in operation today. Here's what I originally intended to post today.

Are you new to the area or otherwise in need of a new cell phone?

If you spend any amount of time on the Metro, then I recommend Verizon. No, Verizon didn't pay me anything for this endorsement. Why Verizon? They have the best coverage in the area, particularly in the Metro. I was amazed to go down into the underground Metro stations and find that I still have service, or that I have some service actually on the Metro trains between stations.

Thanks to my friends over at Two DC, now I understand why.

That being said, I have noted significant spots with no coverage inside the Pentagon, but I attribute that to ginormous size of the Pentagon itself. I would be interested to hear from anyone else who works in the Pentagon if they have evidence of one cell phone company having better coverage than another.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

SuperBowl Commercials

Wow what a Super Bowl. What a come-back for the Saints. At the end of the first half, I thought the Colts had it in the bag. I didn't have any "dog in the fight" so to speak, so I didn't really care who won. However, I always enjoy watching the game and the commercials.

In case you didn't see them, you can watch the Super Bowl commercials and vote on each one (thumbs-up or thumbs-down) here on YouTube. Although, flipping through the videos on YouTube, I note that not all of the ads are there, and some of the ads I don't remember seeing at all. Also of note, the ad with the most controversy around it, the Focus on the Family Ad, wasn't included in the YouTube lineup.

Here's my recap of this year's Super Bowl commercials. As I watched the Super Bowl, each ad that came on I put into one of the three categories below.

Cool: These companies got their money's worth, and their advertising agencies deserve some kudos.
  • Doritos - anti-barking dog collar
  • Doritos - little kid "keep yo hands off my mama and keep yo hands off my doritos"

  • - the wonder-kid who saves lives and does monumental things still needs help figuring out which car to buy, so he goes to

  • TRUtv spoof on the Punxsutawney Phil groundhog, only it's a Pittsburgh Steeler football player that gets pulled out of the tree stump, and when he sees his shadow, they declare 6 more weeks of football.

  • Bud - The Bridge Is Out (and there's a Bud truck on the other side). You could tell Bud spent a lot of money on their entire ad campaign. The fact that I despise Bud in general may bias my opinion on this, but most of the Bud commercials didn't do anything for me. The "bridge is out" commercial was kinda funny though.

  • NCIS head slap. You would of course expect CBS to run commercials for their own shows, but CBS really put on a good show of making significantly better than average TV commercials for the Super Bowl. Like the NCIS commercial that ran sort of alike a documentary explaining how the head-slap has replaced the handshake. Overall, I give a thumbs up to CBS for not just putting in plain commercials for their TV shows.

  • VW - a new spin on the old bunch buggy game. Instead of punching each other for bugs though, it was for any VW they saw.

  • - An old and gray-haired Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) visits a hotel in that same old monster of a green station wagon with the wood paneling on the sides.

  • KGB - Sumo Wrestler. Two skinny little nerds are given two different smart phones, thrown in a ring with a Sumo wrestler, and told to look up how to say "I surrender" in Japanese.

  • eTrade baby - He's actually grown into a toddler, and now he's having girl troubles. Milk-a-holic. :-)

  • Google - A series of over a dozen Google searches that described a couple's initial meeting, courtship, marriage, and expected baby.

  • Comcast's "Don't Fall for FIOS" was pretty funny.

  • had a commercial with kids saying a modified pledge of allegiance about our national debt.

  • Vizio - the robot arms picking up samples of everything from the internet (including the Numa Numa guy) and dropping it into a box.

  • Career Builder: "Casual Friday" where everybody at the office was wearing tighty-whities

  • Bud Light: LOST spoof. One character finds a working emergency radio on the plane and they can call for help. Another character finds the plane's stash of Bud Light. All the other characters run toward the Bud Light.

  • Honda - everybody knows somebody who loves a Honda

  • Dodge Charger - you can make me do this and that and anything else, but I'm gonna drive what I want.

  • Snickers ad with Betty White playing football with the guys

  • Acura: The ad with the life-sized kid's toys out partying.

Weird: a.k.a. "a swing and a miss." You could tell these companies spent some money on their Super Bowl ads, but they missed the mark. These are commercials that make you scratch your head and say, huh? Then again, maybe they were just hoping that weirdness factor would make their name brand stick in your head.

  • The nuts and popcorn commercial with the people swimming, doing tricks, and jumping out of the water to get the nuts and popcorn like they were trained dolphins.

  • Doritos - the funeral where the casket was filled with doritos

  • - The Beaver violinist
  • Most of the Bud Light ads

  • Bridgestone Tires - The guys with the killer whale in their SUV.

  • Dr Pepper Cherry: A little KISS (with midgets dressed up like the band KISS)
  • Intel: Robot in Cafeteria. I missed something. I didn't get it. What was the point?

  • Dockers: No Pants. Guys marching through a field in tighty-whities singing a song about "no pants." What the...???

  • Dove for Men - kinda funny storyline, but at the end you're like huh? What did that have to do with Dove soap?

  • Teleflora flowers in a box.

  • All of the Coca-Cola commercials. What was up with them tonight? I'm a big fan of Coke, so it's not even like I was predisposed against them like I was with Budweiser, but all of Coke's commercials tonight just seemed... off.

  • Denny's Free Grand Slam - All the chickens are going nuts.

  • FLOTV - Jason's spine has been removed, and he's holding bras for his wife shopping in a department store and helping her pick out lavender-scented candles

Lame: These commercials made me say to myself, "Self, seriously? How much money did they spend to put that ad on during the Super Bowl???"

  • Lame: Papa Johns, Sketchers shoes, Mrs. Paul's Fishsticks, Freight Rail Works

  • Lamer: Carmax dramatically smart with the beaver and the parrot

  • Lamest: Boost. That was so lame, CBS should be ashamed they allowed someone to pay them to put it on TV

Did you watch? What was your favorite ad during the Super Bowl?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thankful Thursday

This morning I'd like to offer up two shout-outs.

1. Pentagon Post Office

I recently visited the post office in the Pentagon for the first time. It's inside the Metro entrance off to the right hand side (in the E ring / back to back with the Hall of Heroes). When I first walked in the door, my heart sank a little because of the number of people in line and the fact that there was only one lady working the counter.

Little did I know... If you look up the word "efficiency" in the dictionary, you will see a picture of Ms. F. C. Manning. Okay, so we've all met some customer service type people who are efficient but generally achieve that efficiency through some level of sacrifice to professionalism, courtesy, or manners. When it came my turn to step up to the counter, I was very pleasantly surprised. Ms. Manning was the epitome of professionalism, courtesy, and good manners in addition to processing your business efficiently and getting you out the door.

Thank you, Ms. Manning. You're awesome!

2. Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES)

I bought a pair of Oakley sunglasses at the Bolling AFB Post Exchange ("PX") back in June. Recently, one of the arms broke off. It's well within the 1-year warranty period. Unfortunately, I never filled out the warranty card and didn't save the receipt. Even though I can find the transaction on my credit card statement and I have the original box with the price sticker on it, Oakley customer service said that wasn't good enough and I needed a receipt from the store. If not, then I'd have to pay $50 for the repair.

I said to myself, "Self, why not try contacting the PX to see if they can get you a copy of the receipt?"

From the AAFES website, I sent an email with details of the date, time, last four digits of my credit card number, and transaction amount from my credit card statement. I didn't really have any expectation they would be able to help me out, but I figured it couldn't hurt to ask.

Low and behold, I got a phone call from Ms. Kathy Williams at AAFES, and within a matter of moments, she emailed me a copy of the receipt. She was extremely kind, courteous, and helpful.

Thank you Ms. Williams!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pentagon Gouge: Prayer Breakfast

In case you haven't seen the posters in the Pentagon or if you are only intermittently in the Pentagon like me, the Pentagon National Prayer Breakfast is next Wednesday, February 10th, 2010, in the Pentagon Library and Conference Center (PLCC), room B6, from 0630 to 0800. The guest of honor is Vicki Yohe.

I'm posting this a week early because the chaplain told me the main room normally fills up, and they have to expand into a couple of side rooms where you can watch on video monitors. You can call the Pentagon Chaplain's office if you'd like to reserve a seat for the main room.

Flyer Side 1
(Click on image to enlarge)

Flyer Side 2
(Click on image to enlarge)

In addition to this special Pentagon National Prayer Breakfast, I found out on the Pentagon Chaplain's website that they also have a weekly prayer breakfast at 0700 in the Pentagon Library and Conference Center.