Friday, December 09, 2011

Book Review of Robert McCammon's: The Five

First off, Robert McCammon is my favorite author bar none and I consider Boy's Life one of the best works laid out in the English language.  But that and the review below are both personal opinions, I wrote the below for

"This story flows like a river"

With every word of this book, Robert McCammon builds an elaborate web that goes across the American southwest, an epic and yet still a personnel battle between good and evil, makes you question your decisions and lays the groundwork and the reasoning behind deeds done later. The heroes of this book are hugely flawed, and the villains even after doing horrible crimes, aren't beyond redemption. The book is magic but it's not quite a fantasy, there are magical elements. It's the magic of what lies under our perceptions and the movers that are behind the scene. 

The book takes place from the viewpoints of the band members, their manager and a damaged Veteran of the Iraq war who was at the point of suicide at the beginning of the book and see's a music video that the band made protesting the war and it touched him.... but not in a good way.

Like most of McCammon's work, at the end of the day, you'll leave after grieving, laughing with joy, shivering in the shadows, saying, "Oh no!" and falling in love with the characters and feeling hope for the next day.  Good job Sir!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Key West

Back in Key West, groggy first day on the ground, I would like to say its from partying hard but we just got in late last night due to flight delays from the Lemoore fog that filled the cetral valley like milk in a cup.  A midnight trip to Dennys of which in hindsight, sleep would have done me more good.

On the medical side of the house, so far so good.  Hopefully I'll get a pole in the water tomorrow.  The bride missed this trip, she has her final for her Masters degree in a couple of days.  Yawn!  Even a bad day in Key West is better then a good day in Lemoore! 

Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Where Soldiers Come From

"From a snowy, small town in northern Michigan to the mountains of Afghanistan, Where Soldiers Come From follows the four-year journey of childhood friends who join the National Guard after graduating from high school. As it chronicles the young men’s transformation from restless teenagers to soldiers looking for roadside bombs to 23-year-old combat veterans trying to start their lives again, the film offers an intimate look at the young Americans who fight our wars, the families and towns they come from — and the way one faraway conflict changes everything. A co-production of Quincy Hill Films and ITVS in association with American Documentary | POV, with funds provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (90 minutes)" 

Watch Where Soldiers Come From - Trailer on PBS. See more from POV.

Veteran's Day # 8 for DITB

Have you gone out and hugged a Veteran today?  This year might being a close to the Iraq conflict and a general wind down.  Military budgets are also slimming down, peacetime doesn't need as many mouths to feed and boots on the other side of the world and as any period of history can show you, this is never a smooth transition.  In this time of cuts, there are still many people who are supporting the Vet.

Knott's Berry Farm Veterans Day Tribute, 1st through the 24th of November is free for the military person and a guest, each extra person is 17 bucks.

Here's a list of 195 military discounts which I'll put on my sidebar later

Stores & Services Offering Military Discounts

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blackhawk ride around NAS Lemoore

My department does the flight physicals for the local National Guard folks up in Fresno, as a gesture of good will, they called us on Friday and asked if we would like a ride.  So I gathered the people who were able and up we went, here's a video.  Thanks guys, we had a great time!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Camping Kick

My wife is a technophobe who married a cyberpunk geek.  With her treasured AAA membership, every time we drive by one of those stores, she can’t help herself and has to grab a stack of maps which she puts in stashes all over, behind seats, glove compartments and luggage. 

Me?  Since GPS and Google maps came out, I like knowing how far I am from my destination and being able to find out what’s interesting around me and with smartphones, everything is connected.  You have a friend on Facebook, with that app and a couple of clicks, you can call them, click on their address and get turn by turn directions to their house or even spookier, to their work, someone else is looking for their contact info, in less than 10 button pushes you can that zipped over to that friend without even typing in a letter (which I did earlier today in less them then I thought possible).  You can find good places to eat, times for movies, balance your check book and be in touch news just about anywhere.

But over the last few months, I’m getting a feeling how thin that cyber spherical is once you leave the highways and the online reviews.  The Brides maps are coming in handy, in fact, we have been buying the expensive maps from the National Parks because we need the detail when we’re out in the middle of nowhere.  Some of the roads we've traveled on, we've gone down and have only passed one or two cars in in a day of travel.  Yet, we’re still noobs out here compared to the folks who hike the John Muir trail.  

It is interesting going out to the edge of a map and seeing a road that goes in a mysterious way and finding where it leads.  We’ve had some grand adventures lately using this method and found things that we haven’t been able to find in the internet. 

I know we’re not the first people who have been to any of these places but we get the feeling that they’re rarely seen and from what we can tell, the people that see them don’t post them online.  Maybe I’ll show you something new.

Anyhow, here’s a video of our last trip and by the way, have I mentioned that I’ve been selected to transfer to NAS Whidbey Island in the spring? 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tales from Afghanistan

Since I'm not the same milblogger that I used to be, let me point you to a rising talent and close friend Nate.  He deployed a couple of weeks ago and started blogging over at Tales from Afghanistan.  He tells a good tale. Keep your head down brother, I'm looking forward to turning up a bunch of cold ones with you.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

If money could have bought a cure…

I’m feeling a bit guilty today, you see, back in 2004 I had 16 thousand or so songs on my 160 gig external hard drive in Iraq and at that time maybe 10 thousand pictures.  Once of my Marine buddies wanted asked to copy some of my music and I said sure.  He plugged it into his Mac laptop and it changed the format of the entire hard drive and I lost everything.  Well, all of the music anyhow, I still had the pictures. 

But I was stressed out by Iraq and it made me so angry that I swore to myself, I will never buy a Mac product.  I did get over that angry outburst but when I had a choice between Apple and something else, well I’m a Zune and PC user and use a Creative Zen for Audiobooks.  And I really do love the IPad and since I’m a photographer and video maker, Mac’s do sort of rock. 

Steve Jobs changed the face of the world and if anyone seemed more then human, he did.  He has passed away earlier today, but no one can say his life was wasted.  Tonight, I’ll put an Apple product on the wish list.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


A few snap shots of what September 11th means from friends in blogland what I really found out in this search?  That many of my old blogging links are dead or haven't blogged in years.  I deleted a bunch of links and need to move some around it looks like.  This is what happens when real life intrudes in your cyber life.  I've decided to leave the blogs up of those who posted in Iraq but quit when they got home but here is the stories I found about 9/11...

Before Some Soldier's Mom went to Prescott, she was there, Drunken Wisdom remembers Rahma Salie, MaryAnn remembers, Taco answers his daughter and this is from One Marines View.  

Fixing my links took an hour and a half but looking through them, not many of my old friends writing about it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A Decade...

Tonight, I’m sitting in front of a flat screen TV watching Frontline on PBS, my dogs snoozing on both sides of me and my beautiful wife working out on the elliptical on the other side of the room.  I have 14 squadron Corpsman, of whom I herd like cats and spend an extraordinary amount of time trying to keep my programs at work running on a day to day basis.  Life is full and busy, both professionally and personally. 

A decade ago today, all I was responsible for was child support and some other minor bills, not a care in the world other than making it to my next paycheck.  My entire world stretched out to a dozen or so people, my connection to the world and was though Morning Edition on NPR on the way to work.  I had taken a hiatus away from the world as a whole and couldn’t imagine anything dragging me back in to it. 

Little did I know…

I grew up on September 11th, 2001, a part of my childhood died that in disbelief.  I came back into the Navy a changed man, I wasn’t the rebel who had joined because he was running from something at 18, I was a man with a focused goal to do something that had meaning and had a core of fire burning bright inside of me.  Since, ten years have gone by, I’ve spent a quarter of that time in a war zone in a country that I was a bit vague about the location just ten years before but has since become my home away from home. 

With OBL (I won’t spell his name out) no longer in the picture, much of that anger that I had as faded.  Today, I can’t name anyone that I hate and have left many of those emotions on the other side of the world.  Each year on this date, I’ve thought about how much has changed for me, I’ve wrote about it here, here and here and maybe this year, I think I’ve come to the point where we need to start working past that event and start healing and maybe atoning for things that anger made us do.

I for one, am a better man then I was before that day.  I love the person I’ve grown into and love the richness of the people in my life with all of their differences.  I still grieve for the loss that day but I think that it is time for people to start looking at other people as people again and to once again value human life, beauty and dignity.  This glamor of anger that has been cast over much of the world needs to come to an end because I think a lot of people are tired of it.  Not that I’m going to be the guy to make it happen but I’m sure there are people out there like me who believe the same thing.  I’m just putting my thoughts on the internet and maybe some of these folk will too and eventually if enough of them speak up, that will add up to a voice that might turn a mind or two down a different path. 

I'd welcome you.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day Dustman Camping Trip

Reminder to self, when driving Neal (my Toyota Tacoma with 265,000 miles, named Neal because it’s 220,000 miles to the moon and we’re currently driving back), not to run the A/C when going from a couple hundred feet elevation to 7000 feet of elevation.  

Our trip started out with an almost disaster (or disaster if you’re not me, even though I’m a corpsman, I have a degree in automotive electronics).  If you’ve ever been to Sequoia National Park, it’s a small winding two lane road that hugs a bunch of cliffs and climbs out of the San Joaquin Valley by way of the 198.  Currently there’s a 3 mile stretch of the highway where the construction crews are doing road construction and the road shrinks down to one lane, there are traffic signals that allow small groups of drivers go every half hour or so. 

I had just missed the prior group and had just stopped at the light when the lower radiator hose popped out of the radiator with a loud bang and a cloud of steam.  It sounded like a bomb, making me, the bride and the people in the cars in front of me jump.  I got out, with a rag on my hand, took off the radiator cap (it was okay to do, since all of the pressure was coming out of the line that was hanging out the bottom).   Then popped the hose back on and tightened clamp holding it in place and with my head (wearing sunglasses as eye protection) well away, started pouring water back in the radiator.  I had a crowd around by then exclaiming, “holy crap”, “it sounded like a bomb”, “I don’t know what I would have done”.  So I poured water in until it gushed back out, let it settle then poured some more in, turned the engine over so it would not seize up.  This is where I made my mistake, instead of filling it all the way up, I filled it out till the water gushed out again which allows for cavities of air in the engine. 

The light turned and I thought it was okay for a while and made it half way and the temperature topped out and I knew exactly what was wrong and pulled over under a tree where the construction guys normally parked.  I guess they had Friday off.  We sat in the shade,  and let it cool until steam stopped coming out my overflow tank then pulled the release pin letting the pressure equalize.  When it had, I started pouring water in till it started hissing again, waited for 15 minutes, added more water until it was full.  Two park rangers came by and offered help but I told them I had it under control and I did.  After an hour of letting it cool off, got behind the next group and drove the final 15 miles to Lodgepole Campground and check into the campsite that my wife had reserved. 

We pulled in a bit late so all we did was set up camp and I made chili from scratch, yes, here is a picture if it if you don’t believe me.

And drank a few stress beers and was whipped at Scrabble, whew, what a day! 
View of the night sky at Lodgepole

Over Huntington Lake

In case you don't make the drive

Lake Thomas A Edison

Pretty in the wild too

A few tidbits about Lodgepole, there are flushing toilets but no showers in the campsite itself.  If you’re planning on reserving a spot on a holiday weekend, do it months in advance in order to reserve the specific campground you would like.  (There is a website which contains information for all federal campgrounds.  Each campground also has a link to information about that site, including maps of each individual camp site so you know if you are close to a river, or right next door to the port-a-potty!)  Expect all sorts of traffic on holiday weekends for non-reservation campgrounds, the back up was easily 2 miles.  Hint: arrive early to those so you are not left homeless for the night.

The next morning, we got up, broke camp and made our way to the to the next camp site at a place called Lake Thomas Edison and I would gage Neal’s health on the drive down the mountain and if he was still doing alright, if not, make a side trip home to get another car (or get towed because I was wrong).  Neal was fine, according to Google maps, Lake Thomas Edison was 146 miles away, we had to drive down the 180 into the edge of Fresno and then back up into the Sierra Nevada’s  by way of the 168.  Go ahead and Google Map it, that will give you an idea of what the drive is like, that that idea and add in 22 miles of a single lane road, going along the sides of cliffs, around hairpin turns and through rocks at ten miles per hour dodging traffic and loggers and to hit the summit of 9500 feet then up and down a few other smaller mountains and eventually back to 7500 feet.  Not my brightest move considering Neal almost bit it the day before but I’ve never been known for my brightness but made it we did.

I’ve driven some crazy roads in my day but this road took the cake, in matter of fact, they even sell tee shirts that say I survived the drive to Lake Thomas Edison.  We checked in at the Vermilion Valley Resort (at Lake Edison) and once again set up the campsite. 

I'm not the only one who thought the road was crazy 
Top of the hill

Made it to the top, half way there
Night Sky at Lake Edison

This place is out in the middle of nowhere, it’s used as a stop off point on the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail and is the most remote camp ground accessible by automobile.  Advice before driving out here, make a reservation, camp sites are 19 bucks a night, there’s a general store and a beautiful lake and Mono springs where you can hang out in hot water.   Fill up your gas tank at the bottom of the mountain and top it off again when you get to Shaver Lake at a place with a big sign that says Gas right before you hit Shaver Lake, it’s cheaper.  There a lot of climbing up and down big steep mountains before you reach your destination and believe you me, you don’t want to be stuck out here. 

We woke up Sunday morning and after that drive, decided to stay another day.  We went to the lake and played in the water with the dogs, washed the brides hair and that afternoon went on a hike up to the top of some local mountain and ended the day with a game of Scrabble (I won) and ended the day typing this long overdue blog post.  Typing in front of the camp fire, two dogs at my side, a beer and a bride the other.  This is the life.
She's rushing me to shake herself

Margot checking out what's under water

Gatsby gets treated like the Honey Badger (if you don't know what I'm talking about, look on YouTube)

Tomorrow, we hope to make it back to civilization with a little under a half tank of gas, if you’re reading this, it looks like we did.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Lenovo z570 Core i7

Back in 2008, I needed some more processing power to put together my squadron's deployment video and purchased a Toshiba gaming laptop which worked great for what I needed but lately, I've noticed that it struggled with processing HD movies and handling what my new camera put out. The thought of a new laptop was lurking in the back of my mind.

Well a couple of weeks ago, one of my dogs (I believe!), knocked over a beer onto the keyboard and my trusty Toshiba wouldn't turn on. So I field stripped it, taking everything apart and cleaning it with alcohol and put it back together and it worked well, except for the keyboard and had to plug in a USB keyboard. So I back up everything on an external and started thinking about my next portable brain.

Last weekend, we came up to San Jose for the Fourth and went to Fry's Electronics (if you don't have one in your area, it's a geeks Disneyland) and I went to the tech gal and asked, "What's your best deal on an i7 processor laptop this weekend", and she said, "we just got a truckload of these Lenovo laptops that haven't even hit the floor yet" and I said, "Sweet!"

So a grand later (the laptop was 799, got a two year doggie warranty and a CD for the bride), I was the happy owner of the laptop in the title of this post. Here's my Amazon review of the same system.

5.0 out of 5 stars Great deal for the price, July 7, 2011

At the time of printing, this might be the lowest price Core I7 laptop on the market, solid metal body which does not feel cheap at all. A huge 750 gig hard drive, keys were felt smooth to use and not too much bloatware. The sound is great and I was a little upset by the loss of a fingerprint reader until I realized that it had built in facial recognition software called Lenovo VeriFace which turns on the camera and it puts a Borg circle thing around your right eye and automatically logs you on (this StarTrek gear impressed me and my coworkers)

No USB 3.0 (at least I haven't found it yet) which should be automatically included with any I7 processor, the mousepad takes some getting used to with the pebbled surface, while I like the keyboard, the number keys and the keyboard are squished together. The metal surface is nice but a fingerprint magnet. No Blueray player and only 4 gigs of RAM. Also, finding stats on the Lenovo website such as max RAM, what exactly is under the hood, those guys need to do some work on their web development, a polished product like this should be backed by good customer support online and PR, instead, you have to fight in circles to dig out gold nuggets of information. Also the included documentation in the box is skimpy.

A great buy for the price, beautiful and quick laptop with a top of the line processor for half of the price I paid for my last laptop. So far it seems to do my HD video processing well which is why I upgraded. For a big purchase like this, so far I've had little buyer's remorse and would likely make the same purchase again.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A Wedding Cake Weekend

Back in 2009, I posted some pictures of going to a steampunk event called Skeleton Key and my friend Nate took a liking to a girl who was in the picture.

He said something like… oh, new Facebook search, you can pull up your old messages, on September 9th 2009, he said exactly this-

“I've decided 2 things

1. San Diego needs to have events like skeleton key. That looks badass, and I'm sick of my goth/dark clothes collecting dust in my closet!

2. Your friend Saija; WOW. I am tres impressed my friend!”

I had just got my Blackberry sometime around that time and was going to copy and paste this to a message to her but through some outlandish twist of fate, I pasted it on her wall instead. A month later, they met in person and they were like 2 peas in a pod and the funny thing was, part of him knew, the first time that she Last year, he purposed to her and this Saturday past, put a ring on her finger.

When she friended him and he saw the post on her wall, he vowed that he get back at me for it and he did by making me the Best Man at his wedding and for my bride’s part, the Maid of Honor. Best. Wedding. Ever.

Saija was gorgeous, we all looked sharp in the tux’s and the girls were breathtaking. Goth themed wedding with a lot of personality, open bar, a great photographer (I haven’t seen her pictures yet but she was smooth) and good friends to hang with. Sorry I would have posted more pictures of the wedding party but was busy getting pictures taken of myself.

Congrats Saija and Nate, we're proud to have been the pivot to get you to this point and look forward to many many years of martial bliss between the two of you. And traveling to Finland!

Afterwords, I took some of the pretty flowers on a photo safari around Balboa Park to play with the 7d.

To top it all off, we knocked off the biggest bad guy on the planet and turned him into fish food! Last weekend rocked!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring Break with the Son

Collin is out for the week and here's some pictures from the adventures we had last weekend in Davenport Beach. He's 17 and almost as tall as me, man I'm getting old, one of my new check-in's last weekend at the squadron was just a year older then him.

Here's some pictures and a video I took, enjoy.

Friday, April 08, 2011

For Hire

World renowned blogger, medic, photographer & mechanic. If this sounds like something you need to record your next trip into the badlands after the zombie apocalypse, trip or wedding. I’m your guy, can do photos, video, fix anything, machine, body or spirit and write about it, also a fair shot and a decent cook. Flexible is my middle name, will work for money, geek gear, food, beer or gas, in that order.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

A photo shoot with Fall of a Tyrant

A while back (months and months), one of my buddies told me to come and check out his band, being an average person of this internet age. I went to the bands website and was appalled by what I found. The pictures sucked (really, they did) and that they sucked so bad that I offered my photography services for free of charge to fix the problem, perhaps even shoot a video for them (my ulterior motives were to add on to my portfolio, perhaps other bands who had crappy websites would come forward to ask for pictures after seeing what I did for these guys). So last while I was off in Key West last month, I get a text message from Jason (lead singer of Fall of a Tyrant) asking if I could come out when I came back and take some pictures. Being the middle of the night, I texted him back to remind me when I was awake. So with the bride in tow, we went out to Club Retro in Fresno, an all ages non-profit music venue. We arrived and got permission from the powers to take pictures and below is a sample of what I came up with and a link to my Flickr Set. The band did a great show and I hope my pictures and video reflect that.

Pictures were shot with the Canon 7d, video with the trusty Iraqi Canon S3. I would have done the video with the 7d but the DSLR works better under scripted settings and I need a computer with more punch to edit the high def video.