What’s Next for Larry?

December 1, 2008 at 6:14 pm | Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

Apparently the FBI swooped in and arrested the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama on multiple charges.  He sure did pick a dirty way to try and strike it rich.  I can’t help but wonder, if he called on the peaceful law-abiding citizens of the city to don sackcloth and ashes last Spring in response to a high murder rate, what is he going to make himself do now?  Hairshirt?  Bed of Nails?  Probably neither.  After all, this is just a mistake on the part of the FBI.  At least that’s what Larry’s saying these days.

(He did join in on the sackcloth while on stage last Spring).


My Exciting Saturday Night (with video)

November 29, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Dogs, Jesse | 4 Comments

I put an update on Jesse’s condition at the end of the post- he’s doing really well. He’s still in the hospital though and I spent part of my Saturday night visiting him. I brought him some of his food from home (which he ate- a very good sign) and a stuffed frog toy. This particular toy is his all-time favorite and I always have at least one new one on hand. He’ll keep the toy intact for anywhere from a few minutes to a few months. It seems to be totally random. However, there is always a point when he decides it’s time to rip the toy open, find the squeaker and remove all of the stuffing from inside the toy. I take away the squeaker, throw away the stuffing and give him back the carcass which he plays with for months. He had an intact frog when we left NJ that got ripped open sometime in the last two weeks. It’s pretty pitiful looking and I didn’t want to seem any stranger than I probably already do to the hospital staff, so I chose to bring him a brand new one rather than bring the carcass in for him to play with (even though he would have loved the carcass). Come to think of it, most people I tell about the carcass think I’m strange for just calling it that. Continue Reading My Exciting Saturday Night (with video)…

Going into Debt

November 29, 2008 at 5:30 pm | Posted in Dogs, Jesse | Leave a comment

I have to admit that I haven’t been very patient or understanding about most of the complaints I have heard/read in the news related to the mortgage crisis While some of the stories I have heard have been from people who sound like they were genuinely mislead, most were not. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point I completely lost my patience. Was it the people who were complaining about having to default on an investment property they bought that suddenly was worth half of what they chose to pay for it during the height of the housing boom? People who bought houses with no money down, a monthly payment they could barely afford and an adjustable rate mortgage assuming they would have increases in their income sufficient to cover the increase in their monthly mortgage? Something else? Whatever the cause was, my patience went out the window long ago and the “rescue”/bailout of the financial industry has bothered me for quite some time.

I’m just not comfortable with large amounts of personal debt and it seems that my definition of “acceptable” debt is very different from most of my peers (both in amount and type of debt). In the spirit of full disclosure, I will admit that there was a period of time when I was a young college student that I did not use credit cards wisely. I made some pretty stupid decisions, but I worked my way out of it and learned from it. Since then I have been careful about personal debt. I have a decent chunk of student loan debt, but it’s all from grad school and is quite a bit less than many other people in my profession have by the time they graduate and start working. It still makes me uncomfortable though. A year ago I had to get a car and was having a hard time because I didn’t want to buy a new car without knowing what my income was going to be this year (I knew the job change was coming up). I bought a reliable used car from a co-worker with a little help from my Dad and now have no monthly car payments. When I moved to NJ I was moving into a situation where I couldn’t bring most of my furniture, so I sold what I could and donated the rest to charity. As a result, when I moved here from NJ I didn’t have much to bring with me. I had obtained a couch from a friend my second to last year in NJ and it came with me, but is in bad shape. I really wanted to replace it in the next few months, but decided that I just need to get a nice slip-cover and wait a year. I can’t tell you how many people have told me I should just go to one of the furniture stores that offers no-interest/no-payment plans and buy one that way. I’d rather wait until I can pay for it in full and not have to worry about the monthly bill or eventually owing interest if I don’t manage to pay it off in a year. Basically, I really don’t like taking on new debt- particularly large debt- and most types of debt make me uncomfortable.

Well, today I found my weak spot. I opened up a brand new line of credit for what to me feels like a large amount of debt to go into. I have a new account with Care Credit to pay for Jesse’s vet bill. The initial line of credit is for $3,000 and it will cover the estimate for the current care he is receiving with a small amount of the credit limit remaining, but I think I’m going to end up paying cash for some of the services as well. Emergency Vet Care and hospitalization are expensive. I’m waiting on test results (a large portion of the charges are for a variety of tests he needs) and I’m hoping for the best, but it’s entirely possible that I’ll still be paying off the debt even after he is gone. He’s my Jesse though, so I’m doing anything I can to get him healthy again. Keep your fingers crossed for good news- some of the results should be in soon.

Thanksgiving (Belated)

November 29, 2008 at 5:14 pm | Posted in Dogs, Jesse | 2 Comments

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I had been invited to a co-worker’s home to celebrate and was looking forward to the day, but plans changed.  When I got home from work Tuesday night Jesse was lethargic and very much not himself.  I took him to the vet on Wednesday and she took some blood, ran a few other tests and gave him a physical.  She sent us home with some prescriptions and an appointment for a follow-up visit today.  Jesse hadn’t eaten on Wednesday (very unusual for him) and still didn’t look good, so I decided to stay home on Thursday.

Wednesday night I purchased a turkey breast and cooked it in the crockpot with some vegetables on Thursday.  It turned out pretty good which kind of surprised me- I’ve never cooked a turkey breast in a crockpot before.  Here is a picture of it when it was about an hour away from being done:

Not the clearest picture ever because of the steam, but it was good.  Jesse still wasn’t himself and spent most of the day on the same spot of the living room carpet like this:

This isn’t normal for him.  Even worse, he was hardly eating at all.  I finally got him interested in boiled chicken with rice and he at pretty well.  It was a long day though.  Today he saw the regular vet who had some test results back from Wednesday (bloodwork) and the results weren’t all good.  They weren’t the worst case scenario either, but it’s still not clear exactly what is going on.  Right now he is sitting at a local specialty clinic and hopefully just finished the x-rays and ultrasound in addition to a few other assorted tests.  The veterinarian we saw is supposed to call me as soon as the radiologist gives him a report on the ultrasound.  I’m worried about him.

Is Change Starting?

November 8, 2008 at 3:35 pm | Posted in Challenges, Deployment, Mental Health, Military | 3 Comments

No, this is not a political post even though I did use one of the “buzz words” from the recent campaign cycle.  This post is actually about attitudes toward mental health problems and treatment within the military.  I’ve written before about some of the policy changes made by the Department of Defense and new programs under development in an attempt to reduce the stigma of mental health care within the military.

I haven’t noticed much in the news about DOD efforts to reduce the stigma of mental health care in the months since those posts and had started to wonder if the efforts were real or if the statements were for show.  This morning I read an article about Army Major General David Blackledge who served two tours in Iraq commanding Civil Affairs Units and now works at the Pentagon.  As we’ve come to see in Iraq and Afghanistan, the demarcations between the front-line/ “at risk” troops and those in relative safety are much more ambiguous than in previous wars.  IEDs, rocket and mortar attacks are equal opportunity hazards.

Maj Gen Blackledge was treated for symptoms of posttraumatic stress following an incident during his first deployment when he was injured and his interpreter killed following a convoy ambush.  He was again injured during his second tour and experienced symptoms again.  While I haven’t located a biography online, I did find this announcement of his promotion from Colonel to Brigadier General in 2003, so it would appear that Maj General Blackledge has continued to advance in the ranks since receiving treatment for his symptoms.  This is particularly important given that one of the top five barriers to care identified by OIF/OEF veterans is “It could harm my career” (endorsed by 44% of the respondents to the RAND survey).

In the article I read today, Maj Gen Blackledge is quoted as saying:

“It’s part of our profession … nobody wants to admit that they’ve got a weakness in this area,” Blackledge said of mental health problems among troops returning from America’s two wars.

“I have dealt with it. I’m dealing with it now,” said Blackledge, who came home with post-traumatic stress. “We need to be able to talk about it.”

I’m glad to see that he is speaking out and that active duty servicemembers are being given examples of leaders who have sought help, continued to advance in their careers, and are comfortable “going public” with their story.  I do believe this needs to be expanded though- including both NCOs and officers from different branches of the service with different deployment experiences.  In my research for this post, I discovered that this article with Maj Gen Blackledge going public may be just the start of a new DOD initiative to reduce the stigma of mental health care.  It looks like it has taken this long for stories to start hitting the internet and airwaves because DOD has been working on establishing a comprehensive effort.  I found some interesting information about it online and will post about it in the next few days.

Irritating Phrases

November 7, 2008 at 5:51 pm | Posted in Rants | 1 Comment

I read a story in the Telegraph today about a list of the Top 10 Irritating Phrases compiled by researchers at Oxford University. I have to admit that I’m guilty of using some of the phrases on the list from time to time (#2 and occasionally 3, 4 or 1). I couldn’t help but notice that some of the ones I find to be the most annoying didn’t make the list. Maybe because they are geographically specific to parts of the US and the research was conducted in England?

For example:

1. “On line”…..as in “”Next person on line”, “I was standing on line”

This particular phrase seems to be very popular in the Northeast and truly grates on my nerves. Hello, if there isn’t a line painted on the floor then you aren’t standing ON line, you are standing IN line. I eventually got over the urge to correct people who were saying it, but it bothered me right up until I left NJ.

2. “Cut off “….. the light, radio, etc.

Just to be fair I thought I should probably include one from the South. Being raised in Texas, to me “cutting off the lights” meant that someone didn’t pay the power bill and their electricity was being turned off. In the south, telling someone to cut off the light is synonymous with telling someone to turn off the light.

3. “The five” when used to refer to I-5 in California (or “The 15” or whatever other iteration a person decides to use)

The article went on to state that:

Mr Butterfield said: “We grow tired of anything that is repeated too often – an anecdote, a joke, a mannerism – and the same seems to happen with some language.”

I have to agree with this. Last week at the vet’s office, every third word out of her mouth after I answered a question was “wonderful”. It was pretty irritating- especially when we were discussing what are possibly tumors that will need to be sampled and evaluated by a pathologist. Call me crazy, but I don’t consider the potential for my dog to have cancer to be wonderful. She wasn’t our regular vet and looked like a new grad, so I’m going to cut her some slack. Bedside manner with owners can be difficult to develop and she did at least listen to me.

What do you think should be included in a US version of this list?

Internet Funnies

November 7, 2008 at 12:40 am | Posted in Fun Stuff | Leave a comment

I recently found out about a website/project called A Softer World (my brother pointed it out to me). It is a collaboration between two artists who take a series of three photographs and add text turning them into something kind of like a comic strip. It’s a little hard to explain and the sense of humor in them won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I find them funny. There’s some good variety too. Everything from entries about current events, veiled political statements (possibly unintentional), to the oddly strange and funny. I haven’t made it all the way through the archives yet. Feel free to post a link in the comments if you see an entry you like better than these.


November 7, 2008 at 12:17 am | Posted in Blogging | Leave a comment

I know it’s been a while since I posted, but don’t worry- I haven’t orphaned another blog. There have been some changes in my life recently that I’d like to call small, but I guess are actually kind of big. Since my last post here I worked my last day at my old job, moved over a thousand miles and am now days away from starting a new job.

When I wrote about my grandmother’s death, I called myself a “Geographic Orphan”. The move kind of brought some of that back. I had developed some strong relationships in NJ and wasn’t very excited about moving away from a newly developed support system again. I know a lot of my readers are military or milspouses and you’re probably thinking “Boo hoo, poor you” while rolling your eyes right about now, but I really do feel like it is different when you are a civilian moving in and out of different civilian communities. The movers are in the minority. Even though I had already made the decision to move, and I do think it is the right decision both professionally and personally, separating from the life I had in NJ was difficult. The two days of freezing rain and snow during my last week there made it easier, but it still wasn’t what I would call fun.

This blog has been changing over time too. I’m not sure exactly what it is changing from or what it is going to be. I don’t expect it will become a very focused blog like deployed milblogs are and I won’t be writing about work, but there are some issues that matter to me that I will be posting more about. Just don’t expect much in the way of political posts-those tend to attract too much attention from the kind of commenters I don’t want to encourage. I do like reading them however and encourage you to check out the new blog Four Horsemen of the Obacalypse. I’ll be reading there and maybe even commenting from time to time. Anyway, thanks for sticking around.

Big Day!

October 29, 2008 at 11:44 pm | Posted in Aggies, Blogging | Leave a comment

I knew today was coming eventually, but didn’t expect it today.  I’m not a big-time blogger and my traffic tends to ebb and flow in tandem with my posting frequency.  However, I have noticed from the sitemeter statistics that I do have some regular readers (despite the depressing number who just read the RSS feed and only drop by to comment once in a blue moon).  Not only that, but some of the regulars are people I don’t even know!

I hit a milestone today that I’m excited to hit in less than a year.  Even better- I didn’t have sitemeter when I first started blogging so I *really* hit the milestone a while back.  Anyway, here it is:

Visitor #3,500 came here via a search engine looking for posts about the Texas A&M Fish Drill Team and found their way to this post from way back in July.  I’m not going to post about every milestone reached (no point), but I will forewarn you all that I am excitedly anticipating comment #500 and have a plan.  It’s a good one too!

New Additions to the Blogroll

October 28, 2008 at 7:26 pm | Posted in Deployment, Interesting Reads, Military | 5 Comments

I wrote once before about one part of blogging I don’t like- orphaned blogs. Now I have been guilty of orphaning a blog or two in the past, but it was always after no more than a handful of posts and generally no readers other than spambots. A lot of the milblogs that I have come to enjoy reading have been orphaned. I tend to keep the links in my bookmarks for quite a while and go back checking for updates. I’m usually disappointed, but every once in a while I get lucky.

Recently, an orphaned recruiter milblog has come back to life. Station Commando had a blog (Recruiting Tirade) when he was a recruiter. Recruiters seem to have a pretty high blog orphan rate BTW. Anyway, SC is back and posting under the title Conversations in the Desert. From his first few posts it sounds like he’s been through a lot since the old blog, but has found his way through. Other than the goodbye post, his recruiting days are no longer in the archives. However, he is now serving in Afghanistan and is posting about his deployment.

I also have a new link up on the sidebar for Embrace the Suck by Mud Puppy (as far as I know he hasn’t orphaned blogs yet). Mud Puppy is about to head to Afghanistan and has been posting since mid-Summer. I know I had to have ended up at his blog from a link, but have no clue where it was. He’s got some pretty funny posts, just be forewarned that he definitely has an infantry-style sense of humor. I have to tell you that I am amused to no end by his nom de plume.

Every time I see a comment or post with his blog name, I have flashbacks to a college zoology course. The course had a lab where we dissected a number of different creatures including….a mud puppy. The ones we dissected were basically like the salamanders you see in pet stores on steroids. My lab partner and I were doing fine until we had the mud puppy opened up and were trying to identify the reproductive system. When we compared the insides to our books we were kind of confused and had to call the TA over. Once she was at our station the TA confirmed our suspicions- our mud puppy was a hermaphrodite. Keep this story in mind when you read his posts and maybe you’ll understand a little better why the connection amuses me so much.

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