Saturday, November 28, 2015


We're trailblazing into new territory here.

I've reached a stage in my career where I can just stay in one place and probably never have to move again (knock on wood).  There are many desk-jobs around the DC area for post-command guys, and not enough inventory of post-command guys to fill the jobs, so the detailer is happy to keep me in the DC area and just rotate me from one desk job to another for as long as I'm willing to stay in the Navy.  I'm thankful that we can let our boys finish middle school and high school in the same school district and not have to move again, and it's a good school district, too.

Staying here this long has resulted in some new experiences for us.

For one, we've finally lived in one place long enough that we ran out of a Costco-sized bottle of ketchup.  Seriously.  All our previous duty stations, we've had to PCS (move) before we finished off the Costco bottle of ketchup, so we end up throwing it away and buying a new bottle when we do our initial Costco food run at our new duty station.  We just thought that was so bizarre that we emptied a bottle and had to go buy another one.

It's also come to our attention that our previous PCS moves every couple of years have helped us to clean out our closets and take a truckload or two of stuff to Goodwill.

I've written a couple of times before about achieving "regular" status (part I and part II).  Usually about the time a barber or a waiter or a sales clerk begins to recognize us and remember us and our "usual" order, it's time for us to move again.  Well, we've now been here long enough to go one step beyond "regular" status at our local favorite businesses.  I'm now beginning to feel like more of a long-term member of our community.

This is our third time being stationed in the DC area and living out in Loudoun County.  We feel a sense of belonging and are well connected in our church and other extra-curricular activities.  When I go out running, there are several spots around my regular running routes that I think to myself, "Hey, that's the Smith's street," as we've come to know more and more families in our community - our sons' friends from school, friends from cub scouts, friends from church, Navy friends.  I see a couple of guys I know out mowing their lawn during my Saturday long runs.  When I started training for my first half-marathon, I liked that I was able to make an unannounced stop at a friend's house several miles out to refill my water bottles along the way. 

It gives me some comfort when a friend tells me, "Hey I saw [your son] out riding his bike on [street name] on Friday."  I like that we've been here long enough and we know enough people that chances are we're going to see someone we know, and they see and recognize our kids out and about, too.  I like when I run into families at the grocery store and remember their kids from cub scout camp or from being a chaperon for the school orchestra field trip.

Last week I was honored to be the guest speaker at a local high school National Honor Society induction ceremony.  As I was shaking the hands and congratulating each of the students walking across the stage, it surprised me that I knew multiple students.  At the reception in the cafeteria after the ceremony, I enjoyed talking with several parents that I knew and thinking about how at least one of the students I've known for 10 years.

It's nice to be a part of our community.  This is a new experience that I suspect is uncommon in most military families.

Friday, November 6, 2015

What happened to Dell?

We've owned a few Dell laptops over the years.  My first laptop was a Dell, and I've always held a high regard for Dell customer service from that first experience with them over a decade ago.

So what happened?

I suspect Dell just got too big and outsourced their customer service.

It was time for me to upgrade and get a new laptop, and I was pleased with the Consumer Reports ratings and with the specs and prices on the Dell website.  My wife placed an order for a new laptop for my birthday two weeks before my birthday.  It wasn't anything fancy or customized.  It was a standard configuration laptop listed for sale on the Dell website.  The delivery date was estimated to be September 25th. 

Two weeks later, we're a little surprised we haven't seen any email or notification from Dell.  No shipping notification.  No order status update. 

Late on the evening of September 25th, my wife called Dell and asked for a status update.  The representative on the phone was a little incredulous and said, "The estimated delivery date is September 25th, that's today."  Yes.  That's the point.  It's way past sunset and there aren't any delivery trucks on the street.  Did it even ship yet?  The customer service rep on the phone was totally useless.  She couldn't even tell us if the laptop had shipped or how soon it was estimated to ship.  She just kept insisting that the estimated delivery date was September 25th so we should just be patient and wait and see if it shows up.

Two WEEKS later, the Dell website STILL said the estimated delivery date was September 25th.  My wife called Dell customer service again, and my jaw hit the floor when the rep did the same as the previous rep and just read the status off the screen, "the estimated delivery date is September 25th."  NO SH&T SHERLOCK!  WE CAN READ THAT ON THE WEBSITE!  THAT WAS TWO WEEKS AGO! 

Am I being unreasonable to think that if the estimated delivery date has come and gone by more than a week that the company should update the orders status and revise the estimated delivery date???

ANOTHER TWO WEEKS go by.  On October 25th, the Dell website STILL said the estimated delivery date was September 25th.  My wife called Dell customer service again, and the rep proceeded to tell her that one of the components on the computer that I ordered (the Solid State drive) was backordered with no estimated delivery date, and she told us that Dell would have to cancel our order and order something different for us.  My wife handed the phone to me.  The rep tried to sell me on a couple of other laptop models that were not as capable as the one that I ordered.  So I just cancelled the order all together.

After consulting the Consumer Reports ratings again and looking at the customer reviews and prices on a few websites, I placed an order on the Best Buy website for a Toshiba laptop that was very similar to the laptop I had ordered from Dell.  It shipped the next day.  I had it 3 days later.  It works great.

Well done Best Buy.  Sadly, Dell has lost my business.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Overheard in the Shower

I've been going to the Pentagon Athletic Center (PAC) gym almost every weekday for the past year and a half.  It would be interesting if I had the data to plot a histogram of topics I've overheard in the men's locker room showers.  If I were playing Family Feud and had to guess what the top topics were, then my guesses would be:

1.  How far did you run today?
2.  Where did you run today?
3.  How hot or cold was it outside today?
4.  What muscle group did you work on today?
5.  Military career milestones - are you screened for command / when are you going to command?
6.  Orders - as in, when are you going to Permanent Change of Station (PCS)?  Where are you PCSing to?

I suspect that would cover about 80 to 90% of the conversations I hear in the gym and in the locker room.  Once in a while, you'll hear two friends talking about their kids or families. 

This week I heard an outlier for the histogram...

Two guys in the shower were talking about the musical Annie.

Then one of them spontaneously burst out singing one of the songs from Annie.

In the shower.

In the men's locker room.

In the Pentagon.

Surrounded by a bunch of other naked men.


Felt like I had stepped into another dimension.  Is the TARDIS around the corner?

What's the craziest thing you've overheard in the locker room?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Blog Celebrity and Defunct Blog Rolls

It doesn't happen often, but I am occasionally surprised to meet a stranger who says, "Hey, I read your blog!"  I recently had a fellow Navy officer come to my office for a meeting, and he recognized one of the framed pictures over my desk that was also posted on my blog.  He told me when he received orders to PCS to the Pentagon, one of the Navy officers in his new office sent him an email with a link to my "Pentagon Gouge."  Wow!  I'm honored to be included in the unofficial Pentagon welcome aboard packet, and glad to know some have found the information I've shared here to be useful. 

That gave me a nudge that I should get back in the habit of sharing things on my blog that may be of use to folks working in the Pentagon or the National Capital Region in general.

To that end, please tell me (comment or email), how do you keep up on your blog reading?  For me, I used to have a long list of blogs I read on Google Reader.  I was out at sea when Google Reader went away, and I just never recovered or reconstituted any means of keeping up to date on all the blogs I used to read.  How do you do it?  I know I keep up to date on a lot of things via Facebook.  Maybe I should change this into a Facebook page.  What do you think?