Friday, May 21, 2010


Wow the last year has gone by fast.  It doesn't seem like it was that long ago that I wrote this post.  Thanks to the military pay scales, there are longevity pay raises every two years of service, so there is a nice pay-raise for me this year.

My career certainly has had its ups and downs, but looking back I feel tremedously blessed in the rich variety of experiences I have had.  I have said before, and I still believe, that both the good and the bad periods and events of my career have provided me with valuable learning experiences.  Although I would never wish the bad experiences on anyone and would not want to relive them, I am glad to have them under my belt and hope the wisdom I gained through them will help me to be a better naval officer, leader, husband, and father (not necessarily in that order). 

I've had the priviledge to serve with many very smart and talented shipmates in the last sixteen years, and many have had long-lasting impacts on me.  They will pop into my mind whenever someone mentions a key word or place or a song I hear.  For all of you who have served with me, I am thankful for our time together and for what you have taught me along the way.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thank You Commuter Connections!

Dear Commuter Connections,


I know I had some harsh words for you last time I tried to use your service.  However, after 19 months of commuting to work via bus here in the DC area, I finally had an occasion when I needed to go home in the middle of the day.  As I dialed the phone number for the Guaranteed Ride Home program, I was skeptic about the program actually pulling through for me.  I expected red-tape and excuses why my situation was unique and somehow didn't qualify for the service.

I was wrong. 

Not only was I wrong, I was even impressed by how helpful the operator was.  She asked for my Commuter Connections ID number.  I hadn't the foggiest idea what my ID number was.  She very kindly said that was okay, she would look it up by my name.  I told her my name, and she rattled off the street address of my office building for confirmation. 

Then she said my registration had expired. 

Doh.  (Pregnant pause - waiting for her to tell me I'm out of luck.)

Again, she very kindly said that was okay, she re-registered me on the spot and said a new card would be coming in the mail. 

Ten minutes later, I walked out the front door of my building right as a red-top cab pulled up to the curb.  The fare from Crystal City out to Ashburn was just over $70.  The cab driver just had me sign a slip of paper when he dropped me off at my car, and I was on my way.  

I'm grateful.

Thank you for a hassle-free experience and for getting me a very timely and free ride home.


For those in the DC area:  If you commute to work via public transit in the DC area, then Commuter Connections will pay for your cab fare home up to 4 times per year in the event of family emergencies that require you to go home when buses aren't running.  Don't believe their claim that they will offer you a free ride home in the event of unscheduled overtime, because you have to schedule that in advance (so much for the unscheduled part).  However, in the event you have a family emergency or sickness and you need to get home in the middle of the day, the Guaranteed Ride Home program is there for you.

Oh, and if you already registered for GRH when you first got here to DC over a year ago like me, then you might want to go back and renew your registration.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Frivolous Lawsuits Vol 4


I learned a new legal term today.  I don't say "wow" because my legal vocabulary is so extraordinary that it would be unusual for me to learn a new legal term.  I say "wow" because it blows my mind that you can sue someone for this.

Case in point:

So lemme get this straight...

You agreed to go on this reality TV show, correct?


You knew you were going to be filmed and put on national TV, right?


You drank a hefty amount of alcohol?


You made a fool of yourself in front of the cameras?


Aaaaaand now you think MTV should pay you $5 million fooooooor... what exactly?

Invasion of privacy under the "false light" tort.

Wait, but you agreed to be on the show, correct?


You knew they were going to film you and put you on national TV, correct?


So somehow it's MTV's fault that you drank too much and behaved poorly in front of the camera???

[Cricket's chirping]

I was pretty darn sure the high-paid lawyers who work for the networks would have put some sort of silly legal disclaimer in the contract about, "If I act like a dumbass in front of the camera, it's my own darned fault and I can't sue the network because it's not their fault that I'm a dumbass."

Then I looked up "false light" on wikipedia.  This part blows my mind:
False light differs from defamation primarily in being intended "to protect the plaintiff's mental or emotional well-being" rather than protect a plaintiff's reputation as is the case with the tort of defamation[1] and in being about the impression created rather than being about true or false.

So you can't sue them for defamation because (a) it's TRUE that you drank too much and acted like an idiot in front of the camera on national TV, and (b) you're not trying to protect your reputation.  However, you CAN sue them for showing the world that you ARE an idiot and because it adversely impacted your emotional well-being???  

I can imagine some circumstances in which I've done something dumb, but figured nobody needed to know, and if someone published or broadcast it then I would be upset that everyone knew I was an idiot.  In this case though, you AGREED to go on TELEVISION.  You VOLUNTEERED for them to broadcast your behavior to the world - good or bad, so if you behaved badly, then it's your own darn fault!!!

I suppose I should just feel glad that if I ever do make a fool of myself in public, I can sue people for publicizing my stupidity and affecting my emotional well being.   Ahhh, the American legal system! :-)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mark your calendars: Nat'l Wildlife Federation Geocaching Event

For folks in the DC area, here's another thing to get you out of your house next Saturday, 15 May.  (Don't worry, the Loudoun County Farm Tour is 15 AND 16 May, so you CAN do BOTH events).

Buccaneer Anna's Treasure Chest, 
a geocache we found in 2006. 
(YB is making an "Argh!" pirate face.)

Ever heard of geocaching?  If you're not sure what geocaching is and/or you would like to learn more, here are two ways to find out:

1.  Watch this simple introduction video from the geocaching website.

2.  Come out and give it a try next Saturday in Reston.  (Note - volunteers will bring their own GPS receivers next Saturday, you DON'T have to go buy a GPS receiver to attend the event.)

Cross-posted from the NoVAGO forum:

The National Wildlife Federation is beginning a new educational geocache program. They are beginning on May 15th with an event in Reston, VA.

Geocache with the whole family on May 15th!

Grab your GPS, and venture out for a fun day of WILD treasure hunting in Reston with Ranger Rick® and his pals.

Where: Walker Nature Education Center

When:  11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
(Cachers will set out every 15 min., starting at 11:15)

Who: Families with kids, ages 6-14
or anyone interested in helping and/or loaning a GPS unit to
those new to geocaching (pairing up is welcome)

Why: National Wildlife Federation is working on a new initiative to get families outdoors through geocaching. And we need your help!

Please join us Saturday, May 15th, as we embark on this adventure.
We greatly value your participation and feedback.

Please RSVP to sign up for a start time or lend a GPS:
Contact Megan Isom: phone 908-797-2561 or email isomm (at)
Or Danielle Brigida: brigidad (at)

Please RSVP with the number in your party and a preferred start time.

NOTE: The event cache is posted on and NoVAGO.
Traditional geocaching rules will apply, including bringing items to trade (with the
exception of trackables). CITO is also encouraged. (CITO = Cache-In-Trash-Out)

The boys with the Stonedam Island geocache in New Hampshire.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Praying for Tennessee

I am amazed by the almost-total lack of news coverage over the flooding in Tennessee.  How is it NOT headline news?  I have to go searching for news about the flood.  It seems like the only people who are talking about it are Navy folks who can't get orders to their next duty stations because Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tennessee is flooded out. 

Naval Support Activity Mid-South has a facebook page with photos from the base and posts regarding muster locations for volunteers and information for families displaced by the flood.

A fellow blogger Ethel shared an amazing collection of photos.  The pictures of the cars on I-24 all lined up like they were still in rush-hour traffic (except for the water up to the roofs of the cars), the car in the sink hole, and the piles of cars left after the water receded are mind-boggling.

Ethel just wrote a new post with a couple of videos.  I especially liked the point in the first video about looting.  Ethel's post also related a few stories like this one:
One of my coworkers awoke when flood waters crept onto her bed while she slept. She quickly scampered to the attic, where she was eventually rescued by boat; they literally had to cut her out of her roof. She escaped with only the pajamas she wore - she doesn't even have a pair of shoes.  

Holy crap dude.  Could you imagine waking up and finding your bedroom full of water - like up to the height of your mattress???

My thoughts and prayers go out to Ethel and all the people of Tennessee who have lost loved ones (the death toll is at 21 so far) or their homes, cars, and other family possessions that can't easily be replaced. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Military Spouse Appreciation Day

To my wonderful wife...




For the past thirteen years, you have supported me through three 6-month deployments plus countless other times of separation that didn't count as "deployments" because they were less than 56 days long.  Okay, so you weren't a military spouse all thirteen years, but you supported me nonetheless. 

When we were just dating, I loved the way you would bring me dinner on the boat when I had duty.  It was back before 9-11 and you could just show a bag of Boston Market food to the gate sentry and say, "My boyfriend is the duty officer on the PROVIDENCE," and the sentry would say, "enjoy your dinner, ma'am," and let you drive on down to the pier.

We were engaged when I went on deployment to the Persian Gulf.  With our wedding date set for the month after we got back from deployment, you had to make a lot of wedding plans without me, and mourn the loss of my dear friend Mr. C - your dad.  You had your first experience dealing with sending an AMCROSS message to the boat.

After growing up your entire life in Boston and only venturing as far as New York for college, we were married and packed up all our belongings and moved 3,000 miles across country to Monterey, California.  Three time zones away from your family and friends, and waiting for your car to be delivered on a truck while I was driving our other car off to school every day, you got to experience the loneliness of a Navy wife in a new duty station.

The timing of starting our family didn't exactly turn out according to the plan we had in mind.  Our eldest son was born just weeks before I graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School and we packed up all our belongings for yet another coast-to-coast, 3,000 mile PCS move.  Poor ES in his car seat did so well for so many hours per day in the car, but each night when he had reached his limit, he started what we called "the rusty pliers scream," (because he was screaming as if someone was pulling his toe nails out with a pair of rusty pliers). 

We were only in Groton for 5 months of SOAC, and there was a shortage of on-base housing.  They held a lottery to decide who got to have the on-base housing.  We didn't win, so we had to find a place in town.  That summer, while I sat in the air conditioning at sub school, you suffered through 100+ degree temperatures INSIDE our very small, very temporary apartment, improvising your own air conditioning system by placing a big bowl of ice in front of the fan.

Orders came for us to make another coast-to-coast PCS move, this time to San Diego.  From 3,000 miles away, we shopped for a house via the internet and placed a bid on a house we had never seen before with our own eyes.

I often joke that I would have liked to actually LIVE in San Diego again.  It was right after 9-11, and I was out at sea 50% of my department head tour.  The other 50% of the time, I went to work before the sun came up, and I went home after the sun went down, so I didn't see much of San Diego.  I went to WESTPAC three times in three years.

Our family planning worked out the way we hoped it would this time around, although that meant you were pregnant for the duration of my next deployment.  Nothing like chasing a 2-year old around while pregnant and your husband is on deployment, right?  Then, to make matters worse, the southern California brush fires came within a couple of miles of our house, and the ash fell like gray snow.  At least, so I hear, because I wasn't there to help you pack up our valuables in the car, watch the news, worry and wait to find out if you would have to evacuate our home. 

We thought the timing of the pregnancy would enable me to take baby leave after we got back from deployment.  I was on baby-leave for 3-days when I got recalled to the boat.  Another boat had broke, we were tasked to get underway to cover their ops, and the Captain wasn't willing to go to sea without the Navigator.  So much for baby leave.

Orders came for shore duty, hooray...  and yet another coast-to-coast PCS move, this time to the DC area.  I was out at sea for the last three months I was on the boat, so we packed up our household goods and you headed off to DC with the boys while I went out to sea.  You shopped for a house on your own, with a toddler and an infant in tow, bought a house, received our household goods shipment, and established our new home without my help.  Then came the tornado warnings (unusual for the DC area), and you huddled in the basement with the boys, once again alone in a new duty station far from family and friends and without my support.

We really enjoyed shore duty in DC, but the time came to move on.  This time, instead of coast-to-coast PCS orders, we got a real hum-dinger.  I was going to a boat that would be on deployment for 4 months, then in Norfolk for 3 months, then change homeports to Hawaii.  There was no point in you and the boys moving to Norfolk for that short a period of time, so you were a single mom and I was a geo-bachelor for a while and then we did a trans-oceanic move to Hawaii. 

Once again, my contribution was minimal.  You handled all the household goods packing and shipment without me.  I flew with you and the boys to Hawaii, checked into the Navy Housing office to put our name on the waiting list, deposited you in the Navy Lodge, and I got back on a plane to Norfolk.  Once again, you accepted custody of our new home in Navy Housing, you accepted our shipment of household goods, and you established our new home without my help. 

Then there was the roller-coaster ride of negotiating for this current set of shore duty orders.  DC!  Hooray!  No wait...  Hawaii! No wait...  Japan!  No wait...  Hawaii!  This time we're sure, it's Hawaii.  The honey-do list got longer since we were staying, and we started to set deeper roots in the volcanic rock of Oahu.  Then the orders came... for DC!  Hooray, we're going back to DC!  Another trans-oceanic move! 

We've been married for 11 years and called 7 different places "home."  Every PCS (permanent change of station) move for us has either been coast-to-coast or across an ocean.  None have been easy.

You have put up with so much, Sweetie, and I appreciate everything you have sacrificed and everything you have done to keep our family together and to uproot and replant our home in each new duty station.

Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Shenandoah Nat'l Park Hike - Rose River Falls Loop Trail

Today was only the second time I've been to Shenandoah National Park (SNP).  The first time was when my parents came to visit last spring and we drove through just enjoying the scenic drive on our way to Luray Caverns and Monticello.  When we drove through, I saw lots of trail head signs and nice looking hiking trails, and I have wanted to go back ever since.

The SNP website has some very useful hiking maps.  After browsing some photos a friend of mine posted to Facebook of his recent hikes in SNP, I decided I wanted to go try the Rose River Loop Trail.  It's listed as a "4 mile circuit," and looking at the topographic map of the area, I figured it was about 600 feet of elevation gain from the parking area just over 3,000 feet down to the Rose River at about 2,400 feet. 

It was a gorgeous day for a hike.  It started out at 78 degrees F when we parked the car at the Fishers Gap overlook, and it was 87F when we got back to the car at the end of our hike.

I really wanted the boys to come with me.  As of Friday night, they said they weren't going, and my wonderful wife told me to go have fun and enjoy the hike.  Saturday morning as I was about to walk out the door, 6-year old YB changed his mind and decided he wanted to go, too, so I loaded up his camelbak and snacks and we headed out.

Here are some pics and stats from our hike today:

We drove in the Thornton Gap entrance from Sperryville.

We parked at the Fishers Gap overlook.
(Note the ludicrous bicyclists in the background.)

View of the Shenandoah Valley from the Fishers Gap Overlook.

The trails are very well marked.

The metal band around the tops of the trail markers tell you mileages to key features and intersections in each direction.

My wife calls this a Buttercup.

This was the most spectacular flower we saw today, and we only saw one during the whole hike.  I'd never seen anything like it before.  It's a Lousewort.  (H/T to my flower expert, JoLee.)

Not pictured: several pretty birds and butterflies we saw throughout the hike, but were too fast for my camera skills to capture them.

YB on the trail.

If you hike the Rose River loop trail clockwise, most of the hike from the Fishers Gap overlook parking down to the Rose River Falls looks about like the picture above.  After you get to the falls though and hike back up the hill along the "river" (stream), you will see several small waterfalls and rapids.  It's a very pretty hike coming back up the hill from the falls along the stream.  

YB at the bottom of Rose River Falls

We stopped here at the top of Rose River Falls...

...ate a snack and enjoyed the soft noise of the water going over the falls.

YB and me at the top of Rose River Falls

Self portrait looking down the falls from the top.

We passed a few fishermen catching these pretty brook trout then releasing them back into the water.

This is the fire access road that makes up the last part of the loop trail.

Normally, geocaches aren't allowed in National Parks.  However, along the way back up the fire access road, we passed the Cave Family cemetery.  It's a plot of private land in the middle of SNP, and the land-owners have given permission for a geocache to be placed there.  Of note, there were several CSA soldiers buried in the cemetery.  It's clearly still used by the family with fresh flowers at the graves and recent dates on some of the newer graves.  Thank you to the Cave family for allowing the geocache to be placed there.

Trip Stats from the GPS:
- 4.59 miles hiked
- ~600 feet elevation gain (I think - I don't believe what Garmin Connect says below)
- 2 hours 11 minutes moving
- 1 hour 8 minutes stopped

Also, from Garmin Connect, you can click on the "terrain" button below and see where we hiked down and back up the hill.

I didn't know this before we went, but there's actually a very nice, reasonably priced restaurant in the Skyland Lodge.  We stopped to use their restroom facilities (which were very nice and clean) and found the restaurant was perfect for us for lunch.  The service was prompt, friendly, and professional.  The food was local, fresh, and delicious. 

YB was especially happy they had bottles of  

In spite of my feet being a little sore and the fact that I had to carry YB for a good portion of the last uphill mile back to the parking area, it was an awesome day for a hike in SNP.  I hope we can go back again to do some of the other trails like Hawsbill Peak.