Saturday, December 25, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Here's one of my favorite commercials of all time...
After seeing that, who wouldn't want to donate? Yeah, you in the back, I can see you trying to sneak out without anyone noticing. I've got my eye on you...
I kid of course. Donating should be voluntary, so let me retell, in part, a story I wrote about last year to help your hearts grow three sizes today:
In December 1994 I spent two days driving around Greensboro, N.C., in a Humvee, in my Dress Blues. My reserve unit was collecting toys from elementary schools and bank drop-off locations for the local Toys for Tots. The best pickups, I will say, were at the schools. Many of the kids donating the toys had given up a shot at a toy they wanted so their families could donate a new, unwrapped toy to a child who would otherwise have nothing.
Toys for Tots began modestly in 1947 when Maj. Bill Hendricks, USMCR(eserve), and a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to children. Since then, things have grown a bit. During the past 62 years of the Toys for Tots program, Marines have distributed more than 400 million toys to more than 188 million needy children.
Now that's a mighty big tree.
Continuing the memory ... [wavy finger motions] "Dododoloo, dododoloo, dododoloo..." Another cool part of the day I spent collecting was getting to unwrap about a hundred presents picked up from the banks. Despite the wonderful effort some folks went to to wrap up their donations, everything had to be unwrapped to make sure we weren't giving away any S&M Barbie dolls or live hand grenades. That wouldn't have been good. Moral of this story: Donate a toy, but don't wrap it up 'cause some Marine is just going to have fun tearing the paper off.
You can click these links for a list of drop-off locations in the District, NoVa or Maryland (for the last two, you'll have to select a county from the drop-down menu). Now, if you don't have time to go out, buy a toy and bring it unwrapped, (seriously, I'm not kidding) to a drop-off location you can still donate online to the Toys for Tots Foundation. According to its website, more than 96 percent of all donations go to buying toys, books and other gifts for kids, "The 4 percent spent on support principally covers fundraising expenses - not one donated dollar goes to pay for salaries or any other manpower costs."
Times are still tough for many of us this year, but I'm pretty sure anyone reading this can probably spare $25 to bring a smile to the face of a kid on Christmas morning. To put this in more concrete, understandable terms, $25 is way less than you'll pay for round at happy hour this week.
Christmas is just 10 days away, you don't want it to be your fault those kids didn't get anything from Santa, do you?
Friday, December 10, 2010
The family took a picture of their daughter Natalie every day for the first 10 years of her life. They are all compressed here into 85 seconds.
For those of you who think this might be easy, name one thing, aside from breathing and "evacuating," you've done every day for the past 10 years. I didn't include eating and sleeping because there have been days when I've done neither.
Anyway, hope you have a good Friday and a great weekend.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Sadly, it was the news we’ve all heard by now that Elizabeth Edwards, 61, had died of breast cancer. Here’s a woman who lived a life we can all aspire to emulate. Successful attorney, mother, the epitome of grace under fire – due to her cad of a husband – warrior against cancer and, I’m sure, a quiet pillar of strength who comforted others more than she asked for herself as her days drew to a close.
You may remember me writing about my mother’s battles (yes, plural) with cancer that ended nine years ago when she was 66, and I think I’ve mentioned how my brother-in-law is a 20-year survivor (he was diagnosed two weeks before he married my sister). To fight back, someone very close to me took a week off in October and raised more than $5,000 for the LiveStrong foundation by riding his bike more than 600 miles from San Francisco to San Diego. And, just before Thanksgiving, a good friend’s mother was diagnosed with what her doctors believe to be a stage IV brain tumor.
So, you ask, why are you bringing us down with all this talk of sickness and death? Well my friends, it’s because I read something yesterday at the Firecracker’s place and I’m shamelessly stealing the idea for myself.
Read this quote:
“Your life is happening right now and this is the only moment you can control. This is the only minute that really matters. If you are constantly dwelling on something that happened in the past or feeling anxious about the future, you are missing out on YOUR LIFE. Do what makes you happy in this moment and your life will be full.” – Jill Costello
I’ve never really had a philosophy on life before, but if I was forced to pick one, Jill’s wouldn’t be a bad choice. To read more about Jill Costello – scholar, champion athlete, varsity 8 cox and cancer fighter – read this Sports Illustrated article. It's a long one, but well worth every minute. While I’m not going to say it brought a tear to my eye (I wrote too many similar stories as a reporter) it came closer to anything I've read in a very long time.
To Jill Costello, Elizabeth Edwards, my mother, my brother-in-law, my brother, my friend’s mother and everyone who is fighting, fought or supporting someone who has cancer, I wish you every happiness as you forge ahead in life.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
And it does for me as well, but I also have other thoughts about a different Dec. 7 in the recesses of my memory. Twenty years ago today I set off from Camp Lejeune, N.C., as part of a small band of Marines.
We were the advance party of our battalion, leading the way overseas. Destination: Al Jubayl, Saudi Arabia. It was into an uncertain future we flew - a couple of days later it turns out. We had some oversized equipment that required a C-5 Galaxy, one of the largest planes in the world. So big in fact, the cargo bay is longer than the Wright Brother’s first flight. So we waited for our plane.
Much of the time we while were cooling our heels at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., was spent outside. In the rain. Dealing with the thousand and one details that need to be dealt with before heading into the unknown. And, as with any military operation, there was also a lot of sitting around doing nothing and trying to figure out how to steal the things needed but didn't have from either the Marine air wing or, better yet, the Air Force.
You might think doing nothing would be a good thing, but it’s not. Your mind wanders. Wanders to thoughts of what might happen when you get to where you’re going. All of us had gas masks with us and some of us, the ones Gunny Mike trusted, also had live ammo. Not all of us, believe me, I wouldn’t have trusted a couple of those guys with a loaded water pistol, let alone an M-16 with live rounds. But the NCOs from my platoon were all solid guys and we all had a couple or three full magazines.
In a way, though, it was kinda … exciting. Yes, we were headed to a potential (and eventual) war zone to battle a megalomaniacal tyrant who, at the time, did indeed have chemical and biological weapons. And, yes, war is a bad thing.
But we were Marines. We were 18, 19, 20-something years old and this is what we’d signed up for. Young men and women may join the Army, Navy or Air Force for many reasons: “adventure,” “job training” or “college funds,” but Marines are cut from a different bolt of cloth. While we may not yet have reached Heinlein’s “Everybody fights” credo, Marines really do believe in the concept of “Every Marine is a rifleman.”
We didn’t know exactly what we were heading for, but we had 215 years of history backing us up as we went.
Speaking of fighting, the one memorable event from our time at Cherry Point came the night after we’d finished up all of our prep work and before we got on the plane. After working our asses off for days in the rain, Gunny Mike finally let us have on-base liberty that last night. Much to his everlasting regret, we went to the club.
Before the night was over Gunny Mike visited both the MP lock-up and the ER. The first to bail two guys out, and the second to pick up another guy who was having a MP's German shepherd removed from his arm. Ah the things that happen when you combine ground pounders, air wing types and beer. Lots and lots of beer.
Our battle cry for the next week was, “Hey Gunny, is the club off limits?”
Over the next couple of months I think I’ll revisit more these memories. Christmas and New Years in Saudi. The terror of the dreaded “Ratch” (this is funny rather than scary). January 17. Spades played under a red-filtered light. The most honest game of Monopoly in history.
There are others, and as they come to me I’ll write about them. But for today, I’ll look back on my own personal history with a bit of pride in what I did. Also, I’ll take a moment to think about the soldiers, sailors, airmen and those beautiful creatures we call Marines who have gone and who are still in harm’s way today.
May they all return home safe and sound.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
About 15 years ago this week, a couple of big boxes arrived in the mailroom of my dorm. Inside was my very first computer, an Apple Power PC 7500. At the time, with it’s 100 MHz processor and 1 gig hard drive, it was beast of a computer. Not the very top of the line, but pretty darn close.
This computer, which I named Opus after Opus the Penguin from Bloom County, served me well for the next six or seven years. Near the end of its service, when all computers get a bit long in the tooth, it suffered a pretty catastrophic crash that required a reformatting of the hard drive. As part of the process, I renamed it Opus II.
Then the dark years arrived, the Windows* years. Although a faithful machine, Evil Opus was, to me, well, evil. Kinda like the arrival of the evil twin on a soap opera. Nothing good ever results.
The clouds parted again in 2008 with the arrival of Opus III, my Mac Mini. O-Trey has been a workhorse. Despite requiring the addition of more than a terabyte of external storage to give me a place to keep all my pictures and music, I have had no complaints...save one. As small as it is, it's not really that mobile. Or, as Roger Daltrey would sing “mo-bile.”
But guess what? That problem is no longer a problem. In fact, I’m writing this little missive from my couch while watching the Giants kick the crap out of the ‘Skins. Allow me to introduce you to Opus IV...
Oh, sorry, that was a profile shot. Here’s a better view…
And he’s ready for his close-up...
Despite being a little more than a tenth of an inch thick at its...well, thinnest, it doesn’t feel the slightest bit delicate. “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”
I’ve only had him since Thursday night, but I’m already completely satisfied. Along with untethering me from my desk, I can’t wait to use is with my camera while traveling. I’m looking forward to what I can do. In fact, the pictures here were downloaded and adjusted on OIV.
Also, following that first thought, now that I don’t have to be at my desk to write anymore, hopefully I’ll be blogging a bit more. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Only time will tell.
*This used to read "PC" but, as Seb pointed out in his comment, pretty much all computers are "PCs". So for clarity's sake and to not reinforce the whole "two countries separated by a commmon language" thing, I made the change.
Monday, November 29, 2010
The half with kids.
Remember what it was like to jump on a bed? My nieces and nephews sure do...
The funniest part? While Amelia (front left) was bouncing away, she was singing the "Five Little Monkeys Bouncing on a Bed" song. For those of you who don't know this cautionary tale, it goes something like this:
Five little monkeys bouncing on the bed.
One fell off and bumped his head.
Called the doctor and the doctor said,
"No more monkeys bouncing on the bed."
No more monkeys bouncing on the bed.
It then cycles down to "Zero little monkeys bouncing on the bed..." as they all fall off and hit their heads. I should point out she was smiling and giggling as she did this, knowing all the while she was breaking the law.
Then it was time for the funny faces picture. These kids are prodigies if you ask me.
And now on to the title attraction, Quinn and Neve:
This was closer to the end of the evening and they were all wrapped up in their wubbies. Aren't they sweet? No, I mean really, really sweet.
Somewhere, there are little 2-year-old boys who have no idea their hearts will be broken someday.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
On this most august of days, 10 November, I want to wish my fellow Marines – past and present – a very happy Marine Corps birthday.
No matter where in the world they are – at home, aboard ship or deployed overseas – Marines will hear Gen. John A. Lejeune's Birthday Message. These are the same words every Marine has heard on this day since 1921, and the spirit of General Lejeune’s message is one of the things that bind us together as Marines.
General Lejeune’s Birthday Message of Nov. 10, 1921:
On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date many thousands of men have borne that name Marine. In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the Birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.
The record of our Corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world’s history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation’s foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war and in the long era of tranquility at home generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres, and in every corner of the seven seas so that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.
In every battle and skirmish since the Birth of the Corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term “Marine” has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.
This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it we also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation and has long been the distinguishing mark of Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the me of our nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as “Soldiers of the Sea” since the founding of the Corps.
I make my living with words and one thing I was just thinking of was the sentence, “…until the term ‘Marine’ has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.” As a former Marine, I like that it is a proper noun, unlike soldier, sailor or airman. The truth is, soldiers and sailors come from many countries, and many countries have marine corps – our is, in fact, descended from the Royal Marines. But if someone says they’re a Marine you can almost hear the verbal capitalization, and you know exactly where they’re from.
Following tradition, here is this year’s Birthday Message from the new Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos:
Sixty years ago, the United States Marine Corps—as it has throughout our history—demonstrated its vital role as America’s Expeditionary Force in Readiness. Just weeks after North Korean Communist forces crossed the 38th Parallel, the First Marine Provisional Brigade landed in South Korea, forming the backbone of the perimeter around the city of Pusan. The efforts of the “Fire Brigade” at Pusan allowed for the daring amphibious landing at Inchon and set the stage for one of the most savage campaigns in our Corps’ history—the Chosin Reservoir. As we pause to celebrate our 235th Birthday, we pay special tribute to the Marines of the Korean War and recognize their contributions to our enduring legacy.
This past year marked the end of Marine Corps combat operations in Iraq. Beginning with the invasion in March 2003 and through the next seven years of fighting, our Corps acquitted itself valiantly in the Anbar province and throughout the country. Locations such as Fallujah and Ramadi have taken their place in the illustrious battle history of our Corps. Our efforts in defeating the insurgency helped to build a brighter future for all Iraqis.
For 235 years, at sea and ashore, Marines have succeeded in every clime and place . . . where hardship and adversity have often been the common thread. Today, in the rugged mountains and valleys of Afghanistan—and recently in earthquake-damaged Haiti . . . in flood-ravaged Pakistan . . . or off the coast of Africa—we continue to protect our Nation, just as we did 60 years ago in Korea.
To the Marines and Sailors deployed overseas, to those training and preparing for their next deployment and to the warriors who no longer wear our uniform . . . we honor your selfless service to the Nation. To our loved ones who endure the many difficulties that come with being part of the Marine Family, I want to extend my sincerest thanks for all you have done and all you continue to do.
Happy 235th Birthday, Marines!
James F. Amos
General, U.S. Marine Corps
Not much I can add after all that. But if you know a Marine or run across someone sporting an eagle, globe and anchor today, wish them a happy birthday and watch their face light up.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Or this one which is in color (trust me), shot at f10 for 10 seconds. If I remember my photography class correctly, f/10 is half as big as f/9 so it had half the amount of light coming through the lens for half the time. OK, it's interesting to me and probably one other guy.
This picture took a while to get, and I really need to get some gloves that have a flip-back finger. The ISO was cut in half to 200, the aperture was closed down to f/16 and the exposure was set at 5 seconds.
Sunday afternoon (after waking up late following the aforementioned party) I headed out to Rosaryville State Park in Maryland for to watch a little cyclocross race. Cyclocross, for those of you who are wondering, combines a little bit of on-road with a lot of off-road and some obstacles you have to carry your bike over. It's not for the faint of heart. Here's the start of the women's race.
Throughout the race, this woman always had a very determined look on her face. Either that or she didn't like getting her picture taken.
A little downhill going around a curve kept the riders on their toes.
Well, that's all for now. If you want to see some more of the cyclocross, check out my Flickr stream, there's a whole bunch more photos there.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
While walking down the street one day a senator was tragically hit by a car and died. His soul arrives in heaven and he’s met by St. Peter at the entrance.
“Welcome to heaven,” says St. Peter. “Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we’re not sure what to do with you.”
“No problem, just let me in,” says the Senator..
“Well, I’d like to, but I have orders from the higher ups. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.”
“Really? I’ve made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,” says the Senator.
“I’m sorry, but we have our rules.”And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.
The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him. Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people. They played a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and the finest champagne.
Also present is the Devil, who’s a very friendly guy, and who’s having a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are all having such a good time that before the Senator realizes it, it is time to go.
Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises … The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens in heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him, “Now it’s time to visit heaven …”
“Well, then, you’ve spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.”
The Senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: “Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.”
So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell...
Now the doors of the elevator open and he’s in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.
The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulders.
“I don’t understand,” stammers the Senator. “Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there’s just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?”
The 2010 campaign ends today, get out and vote and make it count. Sadly, the 2012 campaign starts tomorrow.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Very funny ... Of course, considering the double meaning of the word, that might not be such a bad thing. On a side note, I can't believe there's a Wikipedia page for this.
Somebody also had a sign reading, "Abortions for some, tiny American flags for others," a fine nod to the Treehouse of Horrors.
And the winner for one of the best costumes of the day ... You can't see it in this shot, but it was an anatomically correct penis ...
And, on a lighter note, I saw this wonderfully decorated house up on Capitol Hill. Somebody takes their Halloween seriously ...
Hope everyone who went had a good time. Now, there's one thing left to do: Get out and vote tomorrow. Going to a rally is fine, but you've got to follow up on that enthusiasm.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Although you do have to set aside the embarrassment these dogs must feel at being humiliated by their owners. I'm sure in Doggie Hell, there's a special place in the Sixth Circle for owners who dress their pets up in costumes.
Leaving aside their dogs' momentary mortification and shame, and the owners eternal (x7 since we're talking dog years) damnation, that doesn't mean the rest of us can't get a grin or two out of the dealio.
I'm just wondering how the heck they kept this little guy from shaking off the gator?
OK, this one's not too bad.