Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Made it safe to San Jose

The traffic driving up here was actually went smoothly after I expected to drive through the storm of the century and lots of accidents. It did rain but not till after I was on the Grapevine and then it wasn’t too bad. Glad I missed the big one. I suffer a fear of getting snowed in while on leave or away for the weekend. It happened to me once in the 90’s but I did make it to work on time but the dread still sticks with me. Laugh all you want, just let me enjoy my fears. Have a great weekend, I’m signing off for now and going to spend some quality time with the wife.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holidays, it’s time to drive

I got back from 29 Palms last week and within an hour of getting in my warm home, was struck down with a cold. It was freezing out there in those non-insulated, non-heated tin shacks, in fact, I almost got snowed in on the drive home (note, it’s pretty easy to snow in a Californian), I don’t remember it ever snowing in this part of the Mojave Desert.

(here's a picture of the ride home from my cell phone)
The rain has hardly let up in the last week and in 2 days, I join the hordes of holiday travelers making their way from one place to another and I’m sure the weather is going to make the entire endeavor a nightmare for some. One of the fears I’ve developed well since I joined the military is getting trapped someplace by the weather. Now in the days of cell phones, it’s not as big of an issue as it used to be, everyone I know is in my contacts, social networking of another sort that doesn’t involve the internet.

The plan is, I’m driving up to San Jose on Christmas Eve to spend it with the brides family, pick up the son on Sunday and come back to work on Monday. Tuesday afternoon start my leave and road trip it over to Arizona with the runt and sometime during these drives, introduce him to Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book on Audio and see how well that settles in his head. Sunday, he flies home to be replaced by my wife who is coming in to take over as my road tripping companion.

In all of this, I’m sure there are going to be adventures, sorry readers about the blogging dead air. My writing tends to go out the window when my head is filled with snot. 29 Palms was a good experience and I think I learned my lesson on the trip and don’t see the need to repeat it for a while.

Merry Christmas all, may there be warm hugs awaiting you at the end of your journeys from missed friends and family, I know there will be on mine.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

29 Palms

I’m off in another land, another desert but this time with less internet access. I have a Sprint wireless card and Sprint seems to be the only carrier that works out here at Camp Wilson (a camp located in the middle of 29 Palms) even so, the service is really spotty. A common sight to see out here are small clumps of people that at first glance look to be smoking but when get closer and see that they’re all talking on cell phones and waving them in the air to try twisting that last little electron out of the ether. These little gatherings are hotspots that Sprint receives service even so, still not strong enough service for my broadband card. Hopefully I’ll be able to drive over to the main side of the base and log on and post this.

One thing about the Marines that doesn’t change much is Camp Wilson. It’s like going back to the 50’s, living in can shaped structures (quonset huts), cots, multiple sleeping bags in the winter and a sheet in the summer. Nights are cold and his place has never seen climate control, just layer on more clothes at night and take them off in the day. It’s difficult to dress to cover all of the bases because the wide temperature fluctuations.

Changes? The exchange is a little bit bigger and has the largest selection of beef jerky I have ever seen, in all seriousness, I think beef jerky takes up a 5th of the store. And someone thought it would be funny to have an ice cream truck drive by with music playing, I'll post pictures later. The only improvements on being here instead of Iraq is that you can drink a beer at the warriors club and in general the people out the front gate don't want to shoot you. Sleeping conditions are generally a little bit better forward, they're trying to keep us happy out there, 29 Palms was built to get us ready for whatever they could throw at us. Some things never change.

At least I’ll be home by Christmas hanging out with the lovely bride and son, for now, I’ll just try keeping my guys healthy and concentrate on making it home safely.

Mini Reunion

(I wrote this a week ago but this was the first time I've been on the internet)

One of the wonders of social networking is the ability to gather people who share a common element. Before my trip to Prescott, I had told two classmates that I would meet up with them on my next trip out and left a comment about that on Facebook. Other people from my graduating class started pinging in and so we decided it was as good excuse as any to set up a meet on the day following Thanksgiving. 8 of us gathered at a local watering hole called The Outpost Saloon. My 3 beer limit went out the window and I had to call an old friend to give me a ride home, thanks Theresa, I owe you big!

In a couple of years, our 20th is going to be coming into view. I wish we had Facebook and Myspace for the 10th, with a couple of messages back and forth, it was easy to set up this little gathering. Looking forward to testing the power social networking with the 20th. Here’s a picture of the gathering, we all had a great time.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Mario Kart Love Song

When you're trying to explain the why of playing video games to your wife, this guy does the best job I've ever seen, now if only I could carry a tune.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008 take one

I woke this morning (actually Thanksgiving morning) to the smell of a smorgasbord of pies baking in the oven, crashed out on my mom’s couch, my nephews Corbin and Mason were sitting on the floor looking up at me. “Uncle Sean, you snore!” Yup, I’m home.

My mom’s a restaurant owner, she did own a dine in place up in Seligman, a small town on Route 66 but sold the place a couple of years ago to retire for a while, that plan lasted a little over a year before she got bored and she opened up a takeout Thai food restaurant in Chino Valley. Low overhead and she had all of the equipment just sitting around, waiting to be put back to use. Like me, she hoards tools that can be used towards a future endeavor so setting up was simple.

Her and my stepdad had came down to San Diego earlier this week serving the dual purpose of driving my Tacoma to San Diego and renewing her Thai passport. The closest place to do this was the Thai Consulate in LA. I requested special liberty on Tuesday and drove them to LA during which time, I introduced her to Audio Books, specifically, a story by Orson Scott Card called Ender in Exile. After finishing in less than an hour, we went out to lunch at a local Thai place and voted on a stop by Knott’s Berry Farm since I could get the three of us in for a total of 15 bucks using the Veteran Day Tribute.

I wasn’t able to talk either of them onto any of the roller coasters but did ride Bigfoot Rapids and a train ride through a mountain, got to show the small town folks the big city when I get a chance. Wednesday, after work, I drove them to Prescott and plugged in the Audiobook again. I have turned my mom into an junky, when we got to her house that night, we didn’t go to bed until we finished up the last half hour of the book.

Thanksgiving day, we had 6 pies, 2 turkeys, a ham and assorted side dishes, maybe 15 people in the house which is actually a light Thanksgiving load for my family. The last time I was here, it was standing room only, new parties would show up eat their fill only to have new people pop in and take their seats. This year was just a family affair. It’s good to be home, Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Lessons learned this trip, Sprint sucks out here, if you live here and have Sprint, don't even think about getting wireless internet, it's slower then a herd of turles stamping though peanut butter.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Beast is Gone

Back in 2000 when I was taking my sabbatical from the Navy and working as a mechanic, I purchased a 1989 Diesel Suburban. I had a lot of tools and wanted something I could load everything up into that had an alarm system and got reasonably good gas (in this case diesel) mileage. She served me well but I admit that she did break down several times when I really needed her. Went through 2 transmissions and a rear end so eventually I got a few vehicles that were reliable across long distances and new cars started taking up the bulk of my driving.

The burban stayed in the back burner, I used her to move around town and she was my mobile storage unit. The years of strangers saying “Doc, don’t you think it’s time for a new car” (maybe 15), the times when she left me abandoned in the middle of the desert (twice) and the little bits of her that died (many) started to add up. And I discovered that yes, I was able to live without her, I’ll probably miss taking naps in the back seat till the day I die but it was time to let go and set her free.

So over the last few weeks, I have been running an ad on Craigslist and last night, I got a phone call from an excited buyer with a handful of cash, I gave her a final kiss goodbye on the hood and like that she was gone. I’m a little sad but its better this way, I didn’t have the time and patience to give her the love and tender loving care that she needed and with new excited owners, I think she’ll do just fine.

I think a period in my life just ended.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Tagged" as a "Bookworm :)"

One of my favorite Soldiers Angels Kathi tagged me as a bookworm (or as she says "who is the most voracious reader I know!". Guess that's saying a lot.

The rules are: Pass it on to five other bloggers, and tell them to open the nearest book to page 56. Write out the fifth sentence on that page, and also the next two to five sentences. The CLOSEST BOOK, NOT YOUR FAVORITE, OR MOST INTELLECTUAL!

The closest book to me is sitting on a stack of books on my bedside table, Sherman Alexie's "Ten Little Indians" and here what it says on the 5th through 10th sentence:

"Hey, now," I said. "I thought this was a bipartisan dinner?"
"It is bipartisan," said the second Replublican husband. "I used to be with Senator Gorton. Nobody ever worked in his office."
Slade Gorton is a famous Indian fighter who wants to abolish all Indian tribes.

With a random spin of the blogging bottle, I pick (people who might fill this out)

I've always wondered whats lurking on her shelves so ArmyWife ToddlerMom,
Let's pull Carla of Some Soldiers Mom into this too,
Lets take a glance at what's going on on the front lines with Joe of Fobbits need ice cream too if he has time to fill these things out and my old buddies at Seth, Crazy Lawsuit Game and my favorite ex-burrito maker Doombunny of You Are Not Special

Sorry guys, tough questions that people want to know.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Chestnuts roasting over an open fire..

…well in a toaster oven anyways. The bride has taken on upon herself to show me all of the best of the local area around San Jose. The other day we went on a cruise along Skyline Drive. It’s a road that goes along the ridgeline of the Santa Cruz Mountains in a twisty and heavily wooded path, beautiful and definitely scenic drive. So we’re driving along through these huge trees intermittent with fog and sunlight. Stopping at all of the overlooks and taking pictures when we see a hand painted sign saying “Chestnuts 100 yards”, being in no hurry, I pull over and drive up this dirt path a couple of hundred feet away from the road to a motor home with a dozen cars in the parked in a parking lot.

There’s a guy there with a stack of 5 gallon buckets and leather gloves and I ask how this is done, he points down a dirt path and says “The chestnut trees are down that way about a hundred and fifty yards and you pick them up off of the ground.” My wife and I don’t even know where chestnuts come from at this point. We soon find out they come out of pods that look like they came straight of the Doctor Seuss book The Lorax.

We picked up a pound of chestnuts for 5 bucks and after another beautiful drive back down to San Jose we cut X’s in the side and put them in the toaster oven for 8 minutes. Heather and I ate a quarter of what we picked but the person they were a real hit with was Gatsby (the dog). He’s been fixated on them all day, we think we’ve found his favorite food and it’s not a meat product, weird.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Mystery Spot

Saturday, the bride and I drove down to Santa Cruz and she said she wanted to bring me to the Mystery Spot. I thought she meant someplace to surprise me but instead, we went to “The Mystery Spot”, touristy place located just inland of Santa Cruz, California. According to legend, it’s a circular area of gravitational anomaly that is 150 feet in diameter. Supposedly, there are changes in gravity, perspective and the direction of magnetic north. I don’t know about the last since I didn’t bring a compass with me, I do remember seeing this place on the travel channel a few years ago. We pulled out of Santa Cruz driving inland on Market Street and there’s a little drive pull off on the left hand side of the road with this sign (the picture is of the back of it)

and a short drive down this spooky little road in the woods

Parking is 5 bucks and 5 dollars per person except if you’re military and it’s totally free (except for the parking, thanks guys)

You get your tickets and get assigned to a group with a form up time and here the guide shows how the height of people change between two places only a couple of feet apart. The tour takes 45 minutes of which the guide spends most of that time trying to confound you. It was fun but I still have trouble believing that there is a spacecraft or magma vortex buried underneath. The wife did feel like she was going to fall over the entire time she was there but in a past life, I was an avid rock climber so sharp slopes are natural. Here are some pictures but you’ll have to make your own judgments over the mystery. It’s fun and easily worth the 5 bucks that they charge and Santa Cruz of "Lost Boys" fame is a beautiful city of which I hope to spend more time of in the future.

The worst sound ever

I drove up to San Jose last Friday and one of my ways to pass time on long cross country drives is to catch up on friends on the phone. Why waste all of that time. I was on the phone with Wendy from Chromed Curses when I suddenly hear a squeal though the phone and a crash and she says, “I gotta go, someone just rear ended me!”, I said “Bye!”.

A couple of hours later, I call her to make sure she’s alright and she is, the bumper on her PT Cruiser is toast but she able to drive away. She was stopped behind two other people and a lady in a black truck plowed into her rear end but she tells it better then me over at her place.

It’s always been one of my fears talking to someone driving hearing them get into an accident and now I have. Just glad it wasn’t worse.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Road tripping San Jose and some thoughts about Veteran’s Day

I’ll be out of town hanging out with the bride this weekend but I wanted to put a post up with a few thoughts on Veteran’s Day before I left.

I served all throughout the 90’s without really thinking about what it means to be a veteran. It was peace time and being in the military was just another job with a lot of travel perks and interesting people to meet. The only weapons I saw were at the range and could identify countries by the names and flavors of the bars outside of the front gate.

We’ve been at war for 5 years and I can honestly say, I haven’t visited a single bar out side of any gate. Being a veteran during a peace time is a different experience then during war. Now, there is always someone out there who is more then willing to punch your card and people look at you differently. You can see the thought cross their eyes, “what kind of action did he see?” You tell someone that you’ve been to so and so warzone an X amount of times and get the evitable “I’m sorry”.

Don’t be sorry because there is nothing to be sorry for, as a member of an all volunteer force. It was a conscious choice on our part to sign up during a war. There is not a single person that enlisted that doesn’t know what they were getting into, in the early part of the war, that wasn’t always true but all of those enlistments have since expired. War isn’t for everyone nor should it be, in this transparent world, much of the mystery of being at war is gone. Log on to your favorite Milblog, check out some military videos on YouTube, watch the History Channel, CNN or Fox and you can get snapshots of just about every aspect of what we do. It’s not easy nor is it the fun vacation club that I remember from the 90’s.

So every Vet you shake the hand of this weekend who is currently in the military, don’t say “I’m sorry” say “thank you” for the conscious choice we made of knowing exactly what we're getting into and still be willing and able to make that sacrifice.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


That the fifth of November is always my birthday.

I’m actually doing a somewhat political post, since the election is over, I'm not going to sway anyones vote. As a pretty middle of the road guy, I admit, liked both candidates and choosing between the two of them was a bit difficult but in the end (well 3 weeks ago) I mailed in my vote. I liked that they didn’t seem lean heavily one way or another and if you listen closely, a majority of their disagreements were just semantics. My takes?
Being from Arizona and being in the Military, John McCain has always got my vote for Senate and in 2000, I was excited that he was going to run and it was the only time in my life that I wished I wasn’t an Independent so I could vote during the primary. He’s a class act. This time around though, it’s a much more complex world then the one of 2000, lots of moving parts in the air and gratuation 695 out of 699 at Annapolis and his age, I wasn't sure he could handle it.

Obama, stuck a nerve with me, he’s a mixed breed American Mutt like myself, raised by his mother with his father out of the picture. Being the editor of the Harvard Law Review is a fairly big deal, with the list of problems the next President is going to receive, he's going to need to be smart and quick on his feet.

So up until maybe a month and a half ago, I was still undecided. Then the emails started coming out, claiming he was Muslim, sworn into office using the Quran, the test messages with video of him turning into a monkey, the anti-Christ, a terrorist and some just racist, talking about lynching, more lies then I could shake a stick at. Were they trying to swift boat him? Growing up, I had my share of racism around me, I was one of the few non white kids in my school, it didn’t matter that I grew up there, I looked different and it became a regular thing to trip me or try fighting me. I have friends on both sides of the isle, but didn’t receive anything as mean and viscous as these emails, well a few Palin jokes which were actually funny.

There are other reasons why I choose to vote for Senator Obama which I won’t get into, but the reason here had nothing to do with the candidates, both of whom I admire, respect and believe would do a great job. No, this part of my vote was against the bigots and narrow minded people who came up with this crap and are feeding it to the people who forward everything. Please, before you forward an email, perhaps you should fact check them at someplace like or , not all of us are sheep who believe what these emails say and to us, for whom truth is important, sending us a lie is a big deal.

So sorry, Carla, Wendy, Jason, Toni, Teresa, Ronnie, Jim, Matt(s), AWTM, Kim, Dad, Amy and actually most of the who’s who of my sidebar, sorry for not hopping on your band wagon and for being a disappointment. I had to make my own path. And for the other people, congrats, let’s hope we made the right decision.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Knott's Berry Farm Veteran's Day Tribute

Don't forget, from the first of November till Thanksgiving, all Veteran's and one guest can get into Knott's Berry Farm for free, addional tickets can be purchased for 15 bucks. It's a great deal hands down, just make sure you try out the Silver Bullet, it's much more fun then the silver bullet that I give out. Ask any of my Marines. Details of the Tribute can be found here. I'm going to see if I can get a party of my guys who want to go.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Before the Sun

We rose and showed up at 5, just the 7 of us on this bonding exercise and drove down to the pier. We went on a charted trip with H&M Landing, military rate 55 bucks.

The sunrise off the ocean that morning was one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in years. But I’ll let you see for yourselves.

Below is my favorite picture of the day

We pulled out past Cabrillo and went north a short ways right off the coast
and after a brief instruction on how to deep sea fish.

Ahhh, coffee...

Mike's second cup before leaving the bay

I'm still not awake

We stopped and they said to drop lines. Basically, each person has a deep sea fishing pole with a 4 ounce sinker and a minnow that you hook through the upper mouth out through the top of the skull. Drop the line till it hits the bottom and yank when you get a hit or when you think you get a hit. During the morning, I had pulled in 5 fish, 4 were keepers and they were all red rockfish (which I found out later, were very good eating).

It just looks like Bud Light

Some pictures of all of us.
for good luck

And some of the fish we caught (this one was tasty)

Mike's tasted fishy, mine was way better.

He was so happy to have finally caught something that I didn't have the heart to tell him it was too small.

I thought it was going to choke on this fish

The crew cleaned the fish for us on the way back

and the seabirds went nuts, forming a chain of flying feathers on the side of the boat.

At the end of the trip, we were bushed but I had to stay strong and awake and get pictures of everyone passed out.
It was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time, it’s been a couple of years since I went fishing. I think I’ve had a long enough break from the water, H&M Landing, thanks and great job!