Thursday, April 30, 2009

So Amazed by It All

Its been a nother whirlwind of a week.

Tonight, I attended a lecture at the Museum on the Battle of Dai Do (Vietnam). General Bill Wiess who was the Battalion Commander at Dai Do had sat near me during Docent training. I'm always surprised that he remembers me - - he remembers who all of us Docents are. I told him I would be blogging about the lecture - - so he gave me a copy of the script so I gotta spend some time on it to get it just right.

The amazing thing about the battle is that a battalion took on and stopped an entire NVA division from over running the Dong Ha Combat base. The number odds were just incredible - - so that story and some pictures will be coming later this weekend.

I am really thankful for some wonderful people in my life.

First of all, my co-workers. You guys make coming into work and slaving away in my cube worth it. Thank you for the cubicle humor and taking mine tongue in cheek. One of my goals for this week that I hoped to accomplish was to maintain my sanity. Yes, I put that in my weekly report last week. I think I accomplished that goal - - I think. There was some maniacal laughing a few times. Oh, and some crying on my drive home the other night, but other than that, still sane. I also asked my immediate manager if someone could clone me, if anyone knew how to do that. He e-mailed me that cloning wasn't an option until version 6.4 of our software.

Dang it!

So anyway, no cloning for me.

Much, much thanks to my co-worker whose name is almost the same as mine - - YOU ROCK! She helped me out with a lot of revisions to a big document and some of its smaller cousins we have to deliver. I told her I'd kiss her feet - - if we weren't in a serious work environment.

Then yesterday after a long, long day at the office, I came home to a note in my door. It was from my friend K. She had been in the neighborhood for freecycle and really felt the need to tell me that I was loved and that God must have thought I could use some encouragement. I got moist eyed - - sorry didn't cry - - I had gotten that out on the actual drive home. God is just so awesome how he works through people. Thank you K for the note!

Then, I came down to read my e-mail and I had a message from one of the gals in my Bible study, she sent out a calendar for us to put our available dates so we can plan another beach trip. She put the funniest photo on the cover. I'd share it with you but its the girls in my small group and we are in a funny pose and she put the "thought" bubbles over each of our heads. OMGoodness! I laughed so hard that I did cry. No one would 'get' the inside jokes we have in our group.

I am just so amazingly blessed!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Message from Kim regarding her husband

The following was posted by my friend Kim: and she asked her friends to pass it on.

Ladies and Gentlemen,I am providing a link to a video, so that you may see and "hear" my very "unconventional", but special message.BEFORE YOU WATCH THE VIDEO........PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING:

Please disregard my tired appearance in the introduction. Since they took my husband John to Mannheim Prison on the evening of 16 April 2009, I have been dilegently working on my computer and networking over the phone, in regards to getting the word out for the plea of Clemency for all 3 soldiers; MSG John E. Hatley, SFC Joseph P. Mayo and SGT Michael Leahy Jr.

I am working at this from morning to 03:00 a.m., every night. The reason I am so tired, is not because of what some may think. I am tired from the sheer excitement of hope and of all the miracles that keep showering down, despite the outcome of these trials. That is why I look a bit tired!

There is just too much to be happy about in life and I am so thankful for the phenomenal show of support for "all three" of our heroes.The "singing" portion is loud enough so that you will NOT hear my voice, since I cannot carry a tune. I chose this particular song by Celine Dion at the time my husband's company, Alpha Company 1_18 IN ............(now called 1-2 IN, 172 BCT), were fighting in Baghdad, Iraq for OIF-06-08.

In that particular deployment to Baghdad, our BCT had 109 fallen soldiers, whereas in OIF-02 Tikrit, our BCT had 43 fallen soldiers. In addition, there were an incredible number of injured soldiers as you can imagine, with this level of casualties.

Recently, April 5th, 2009 we lost another soldier. SPC Israel Candelaria Mejias, a beloved soldier. I have since spoken to his widow and she is doing very well, the best she can, as you could imagine.I know first hand, that families and especially the soldiers are still trying to process this loss, in their include many, many others.

So, now is the time to sing again. For the first time, it is now on video. Please listen to the lyrics carefully. When the verse says, "Don't surrender in this thing called love", please subsititute that word with "DEPLOYMENT". I will "mouth" that word, as you will see. In the lyrics, there are elements of "hope" and "belief in a higher power".My important message is for all the wives from Alpha Company 1_18 IN, who's husbands are back in Iraq again and of course, for all the other military wives out there: Continue leaning on your higher power (your faith), to stick together, support one another, love one another, be quick to forgive, to be patient and mindful, to not give up, when you are lonely or scared - to do what you can to lift yourself up and most importantly, to lift up others!!!

The best thing of all, is that this song and it's lyrics and meaning, apply to all challenges in one's life, not just deployments.The video is not perfectly done and that's ok. I think you will agree.:-)Thank you for your time in viewing this unusual video and please, feel free to pass this link and or everyone!!!!

A very special thank you to Mrs.Tanja Almario for providing the video camera, her personal time and enthusiasm in the making of this video. Tanja is the proud wife of 1SG Jerry Almario, HHC 1-2 IN, 172 BCT.[I tried my best not to wiggle around so much, but I just get so excited!!! Ladies from Alpha Company, don't laugh too hard now and be nice!!!!! oOOoaahhahaa!!!!]Keep those chins up and continue making every day, the best day of your life!!!!!

Only one more week for submitting clemancy letters on behalf of SFC Joseph Mayo (On April 22, there were two weeks, as this was six days ago I think the end of this week is the deadline)

Please send to: Peter Kageleiry
RE: SFC Joseph P. Mayo (Received a sentence of 35 years)

P.S. Mrs. Mayo is a great friend of mine (Kim's) and one of the greatest human beings you would ever hope to know in your life. They have a beautiful little boy, a lovely girl who is getting taller every day and a new baby girl. She is the consumate, military wife. In addition to what I just wrote about her, I realized that the networking (to get the word out for her husband's Clemency) is smaller, in comparison to the phenomenal show of support for my own husband. I just found this all out today and it is my mission and hopefully yours, to do what we can to help honor her.............................and her husband, who is a hero to so many. He saved lives and is an honorable man, husband, father and soldier. Thank you for your time.

Petitions of clemancy for MSG John Hatley may be sent to : Mr. David Court , John's civilian attorney Above, is Captain Allison Mc Featters, John's Military attorney

And by the way, I wouldn't post this if I were not writing a letter myself.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Live from Iraq - - It's Major General Oates


Major General Oates joined the Milblog conference to tell bloggers how he uses blogging as a leadership tool. From his standpoint, future leaders would be ignorant not to use this forum.

He has used his blog, Task Force Mountain, as a way to take the pulse of this troops and their families. He has used comments from soldiers, spouses and veterans to make improvements to Fort Drum. Oates finds that people, especially soldiers are more candid in their responses in the comments section of a blog entry than they would be to his face.

A father of three daughters in their 20s, Oates said he wanted to open a more effective way of communication with his soldiers. He saw how his daughters used the internet and blogging to communicate with their peers. With majority of his soldiers about the same age as his daughters, he decided to start blogging. He pointed out that other flag officers might not be as comfortable using a blog as a form of communication because they are uncomfortable with the technology.

"You're dealing with a bunch of 45-55 year old officers who are uncomfortable with blogging because they don't understand the medium, because they didn't grow up with it."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Morning at the Tank Farm

Oh how I miss the smell of diesel fuel, oil, paint and dirt!

A tour of the Tank Farm, aka Virginia Military Vehicle Museum and soon to be the National Museum of Americans in Wartime, was the final stop of the 2009 Milblog conference. Usually in the fall, they have an open house and it has been years since I have been. I was very excited about this tour today.

All of the vehicles belong to Allen Kohrs. He started collecting in 1982 and one by one, he acquired one vehicle after another. In the fall, they bring out all of the vehicles and do many demonstrations. Yes, all of these vehicles run. Its really cool.

So the big highlight, was the chance to drive an armored personnel carrier or take a ride. I took a ride with a group of boys who had gone for a ride about 5 times. These kids were SOOO excited about everything. I had a small accident. It slipped my mind that I should want to hold on. So when the vehicle hit a nice bump - - I flew up and hit my head. It hurt. The boys piled off and were talking about how I hit my head. There was no blood. I am fine - - well, still as 'normal' as I was before I hit my head.

Let me show you some of the stuff.

This is the Jeep that started it all.


See, I really was there. This is me in the M113 that was a prototype that the US Army tested. Versions of this vehicle has been used by the US Army since 1960.


Below is an M11917, the first tank built by the US. They found this at a scrap yard in Georgia. The owner had bought it as scrap but couldn't bear to scrap it so kept it for years as his personal 'treasure'.


I learned something very interesting about quality assurance. To assure that the plates were bullet proof, each plate would be shot. If the plate was in a crucial place, it was shot several times. The bullet marks on the left are from armor piercing rounds, the four marks in the middle are from regular bullets. The chief of their restoration showed me the marks on several plates.


This is the tank's turret, it is in the process of being restored.

DSC_0941 DSC_0930 DSC_0934

I believe the tank below is an M42 Duster, being restored.


Now for the fun, select guests were given the opportunity to drive an armored personnel carrier.

DSC_0988 DSC_0996

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Milblog Conference

The Milblog conference was a great experience. I met some nice people and picked up a lot of great information. In addition, I got some good motivation regarding the things I'd like to blog about and the direction I think I should take Scuttlebuttfuzz.

I met and spoke with Liberal Army Wife (LAW) who was sitting in my row. So nice to meet her in person and to put a face with a blog. I also met Army spouse Rebekah Sanderlin who blogs about Military life from a spouses perspective at the Fayettville Observer. Her blog is Operation Marriage.

It was also cool to see, in person and in three dimensions the people behind some of the other blogs that I have read. I guess I'd call these the "famous" bloggers like Troy Steward at Bouhammer, Andrew Exum at Abu Muqawama, Bill Roggio of Long War Journal and Matt Burden of Blackfive.

There are some new blogs I'm going to have to check out after hearing their writers speak.

One very cool panelist was Major General Michael Oates, commander of the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum. He came to us live from Iraq. He runs a blog called Task Force Mountain and says that it has proved to be a great communication tool with the soldiers.

I am looking forward to tomorrow's morning event at the Tank Farm. Again, so much to write about, so little time!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Screening of "At War"

At War

This evening, I attended the screening of "At War", a documentary on the war in Afghanistan. It is the best documentary I have seen on any of the current Areas of Operations (AOs) in the war on terror.

Check out the trailers here:

The official movie site is

The film maker, Scott Kesterson, was not a professional film maker/photographer, but a 40-year old construction company business owner with a passion for photography. He was a fan of documentary film maker David Leeson's online photography group and pestered him with questions about becoming a photo journalist. Leeson took Kesterson under his wing and mentored him for a year before Kesterson set out on a one year embed in Afghanistan.

The difference with this documentary is that it does not have any narrative. It is well edited raw footage. By well edited, I mean it flowed well. The footage wasn't edited to fit a particular message - - other than this is how it is.

The screening this evening was at the 4th Annual Milblog conference. Kesterson and his mentor/producer, Leeson want to use "new media" to promote this film that was shot in 2006. Troy Steward, author of the milblog Bouhammer, who sponsored tonight's screening said that the goal is to get enough people talking about the film over the internet that a buzz will be created and will entice a theater chain to pick-up the film or to get a television deal. Currently, several army commands have had the film shown to their units as training prior to deployments to Afghanistan. I personally think this would be a cool special programming thing at the museum (even though this is all Army - - no Marines).

As a civilian, this documentary brought me closer to the fight than anything I have ever seen before. You got to see the chaos of battle, the tenderness of treating injured and sick Afghans, the frustration of training Afghan military, the sadness of losing a soldier (as seen from the American, Canadian and Afghan military point-of-views). In one segment, Kesterson is filming two American military advisors (a captain and a sgt) to an Afghan military post nicknamed "The Alamo". The surrounding hillsides are controlled by the Taliban. At one point, the post had been hit every night, stronger attacks than the night before and their ammunition was bottom of the barrel. Kesterson and the two American military advisers actually filmed good-bye messages to their families because they were so certain they would be making their last stand that night.

Strong film. Strong perspective of what it must be like to be boots on the ground. I give it a strong, two thumbs up recommendation.

It runs about 2 hours, a little long. It is also not the most kid friendly regarding language, but hey, I'd expect a lot of people, including myself to be using the F word a lot while being shot at. The times that death is shown, it is done tastefully. While there are many fighting scenes, I didn't have to make any escapes which would surprise the folks who know how jumpy I am. So, violence wise, R rated movies are way more violent, if you can believe that.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Faithfulness and Fallibility

Last week was a tough week. You all may have read my rant about work. But you did not hear my disappointment at the outcome of a trial that a friend of mine has been going through.

Some of you may be familiar with the trails that have been going on in Germany regarding soldiers accused of killing four Iraqi insurgents in 2007. Below is a link to the BBC's coverage of the final trial.

Sgt. Hatley is the husband of my friend Kim.

I met Kim through blogging. There was a group of us who were blogging on Yahoo 360 almost 3 years ago. I got hooked from a friend I had made through the museum. She of course was a Marine wife, so many of her friends were other Marine or military wives. Oddly, me not being a military wife, I really felt a connection with several of the women and enjoyed sharing comments and the snippets of their lives. I've met a couple of them in person over the course of the past few years and they are all such neat ladies and I am so thankful I have met each one of them. Maybe as travels or future assignments work out, some of the rest of us will meet for coffee and an in-person chat sometime.

Kim is a neat person. Her blogs were whimsical and fun, despite her husband being in a long drag out deployment to Iraq in 2007. I really admired her spark for life and her excitement over red lipstick. Gosh, her blogs were such a breath of fresh air for this civilian who often times took life WAY too seriously. Kim went to work at the commissary as a bagger to earn money to buy a new truck as a gift for her husband when he returned home - - I never knew you could make that much money bagging groceries. She also took us through a fitness journey as she tried to get in amazing shape for her husband before he came home, and she did, and won some award at the gym for her success. She also gave us glimpses into the grief that could accompany being a military spouse.

Of course then there was the "Situation". That is what she referred to it over this past year, sharing her thoughts with a group of us in private blog entries on Multiply. As each trial concluded in a conviction and as it grew closer to her husband's trial, she shared sadness, uncertainty for what the future held, making plans, and the joy of living each day to its fullest.

I think that last thing, living each day to its fullest, is the thing I will always take away from getting to know Kim through our blogs. Gosh!

I once confided in her that I don't think I could be as positive as she was being through all of this. I'd be angry with my husband, I'd be angry with the Army, I'd be angry with the other men. I'd be just plain angry with the whole situation. She pretty much told me that she was choosing to be positive and choosing to live each day to its fullest, we never know if we are going to get another day.

Here is the thing that really gets me about this whole trial. The Iraqis her husband captured were clearly insurgents. I believe that whatever they did, they did with the welfare of their men at heart. I understand the prosecuting attorney's comment regarding that the conviction shows that the US Military has higher standards than everyone else. I get that. I also understand the prosecuting attorney's comments regarding that this outcome should send a message to US soldiers to not take matters in their own hands. I get that too. However, I can't help but wonder if some soldiers may think it better to not take prisoners. I wonder if it would have been better had they just killed Iraqis when they found them in the building surrounded by an arsenal.

In additional, earlier this month, that former navy sailor that had passed classified information to Islamic extremists regarding US ship movements in the middle east was sentenced to 10 years in prison. I find it odd that an action clearly meant to harm your fellow sailors and Marines as well as your country, has consequences of only 10 years. Yet, actions meant to protect fellow soldiers carries a sentence of 25 to life.

In a message Kim posted this weekend to their friends, she said that despite everything, she and John will still try to make each day the best day of their lives. She believes that God has a purpose for everything. She wrote that while she should be her saddest, she finds that she is the happiest she has ever been. This is because of the things that she has witnessed through the trail and she will share when she has a chance to do so.

Please keep Kim, her husband and the other men and their families in your prayers.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Houston, We have a problem.

Apollo 13 ranks up there as one of my favorite movies. I like it because of the team work and problem solving that are involved. It is just so amazing what people can do when they really have to do it. Often times, this movie comes to mind when I'm sitting at the round table with my co-workers and we hash out a plan of attack for a software modification or how to fight one of the fires that inevitably ignites. I imagine us throwing all the pieces we have available to us with the challenge - - "This is what they have, build an air filter."

I learned a lot of problem solving and management skills while volunteering in restoration at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. If you need someone to take a helicopter apart or unlock rusted brakes on a soviet tank - - I may have some ideas. I have learned how to improvise, like the Marines in Restoration often did because they didn't have something they needed to get the job done, but the job needed to get done never the less. I think I've been able to apply those lessons to my day job.

Throw me onto a computer system I've never used before - - I can figure it out. While I don't know how to code, I value my teammates who do and who, over the course of the past two years, somehow understand me and my input to things. So often we have had those moments of "This is what you have to work with, and this is what it needs to do, do it." Sometimes it seemed impossible. I was thinking about that this afternoon. What a privilege it has been for me to work on this system and be a part of it all. How improbable it has been for me to be here doing what I do. After all, I got Ds in my accounting and computer systems classes. I have the realization that God does show his strength and power through our weaknesses. I shouldn't be here doing what I do and be successful at it. Yet, here I am.

We survived the software modification from hell. If ever there could seem to be an evil force just wanting to prevent this thing from happening. It sure seemed like it was upon us.

Of course, as we began to run the processes in production, something blew up. There was no reason we should have gotten the error, but we were able to isolate the issue and were in business within half an hour. All of the parties to this task work in different parts of the building so we often communicate through IM. We had a group chat going (btw, I will NEVER attempt to set up a group chat ever again - -every time I do, I end up inviting everyone in the whole department, yes, hundreds of people - - material for another blog) But anyway, we figure out the problem and I go and jinx us by IMing, "This just can't be easy can it". The entire IM server crashed!

Holy dark side of the moon, Batman!

We couldn't communicate with each other. Frantically I tried to re-connect and got my tech lead who calmly replies, "ya, the server must have crashed." But within two minutes it was back up again -- like having traveled to the dark side of the moon.

After that things went smoothly and the processing results turned out as expected. I can not tell you how happy I am about this fix and that it is FINALLY done. For now.

It was a great end to a day that began with some system user sending an e-mail complaining about the "system error" that was causing him to re-do something for the third time and his superiors weren't happy and he wasn't going to take the blame for our "system error".

Man, I'll tell you. I had to get up and take a lap around the floor to cool down. I confirmed with my co-worker that the "system error" was user stupidity. And I gave her the reader's digest explanation of why he has to do the process over for the third time. Might help if he selected the correct choice from the drop down menu. He only has two options to pick from. Call me crazy but if the first option didn't work the first two times, maybe you should pick the other option the third time. But hey, you know, maybe he figured, "Third time is a charm." She was very PC in her reply and told him that if he still required a letter for his superiors, we would provide one.

We haven't heard back from him.

Then I got my favorite kind of stupid user help request. "We have an XYZ and the user manual does not tell us how to process XYZ. So we did 1, that didn't work and tried to do 2 and 3 and that didn't work either."

My reply, out loud to myself was, "Really, there were no directions in the user manual on how to process XYZ? Did you READ the user manual? Did you call the help desk for help before you did 1? When 1 didn't' work, did you call the help desk to find out what to do before attempting 2 and 3? Let me guess, NO." Unfortunately for them, I wrote the user manual. I know what is in that puppy. I responded with the three sections in the manual which are all titled "How to Process XYZ in situation X". Then I also broke the bad news to them that because they had done #1 when the manual on page 108 tells them in the first sentence of the first paragraph to NOT do #1 because right now, it messes the data up and there is nothing we can do right to fix it. Then I broke even worse news to them, that had they called us when they did #1, I would have told them to leave it as it was. But since they then did #2 followed by #3, they REALLY messed the data up and we might not be able to fix it at this point. Bottom line was, they could no longer do anything with that data and it might be months or - - never - - before it was fixed.

By the way, I think I write pretty good user's manuals. I call it blond proofing. I do the step-by-step, screen shot by screen shot, excruciating detail. If you just follow the pictures, you will do it right.

Clearly our users are blonder than I.

Oh, wait, I'm a red head now.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is it Friday YET?

I really could use it to be Friday. This has been a hard week already. I'm exhausted. However, I know there are people going through more difficult trials. So I've done my venting to the people that can actually do something about it and to some of my select friends who are fabulous listeners. I am so thankful for my friends. I don't know what I would do without them.

I look back on my life 5 years ago and my temperament is so different. While I am still under much stress, I feel so much more at peace. So much more content, if that makes sense.

Just so you all know, I haven't forgotten about posting the chapel updates - - parts of the walls are going up. There are a bunch of other happenings too and upcoming much going on. I have so much to write about but so LITTLE time to do it.

Good news is we FINALLY completed a system test of a software modification. Holy Hot Circuits, Batman! was that an ordeal. Nothing is ever as easy as it should be. Why is that?

Since work isn't 'clothing optional', I've GOT to get some laundry ironed and things straightened up tonight so I can handle all the things going on the rest of this week and weekend (I hope I can make it to the gym, I hope, I hope!). And I will make every attempt to get the chapel updates up for you to see.

Oh ya - - US Navy SEALS R-O-C-K!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Crowded Day, Interesting Guests

There were over 2,000 guests at the museum today. It was a steady stream all day with large groups walking in 20 minutes before we closed. It is interesting how many people are surprised we only stay open until 5 p.m.

My morning started out as a floater than working the Iwo immersion. One of the first guests I talked to was a young German man, probably in his 20s, who was going through the galleries in reverse. So I told him this. He looked at me confused and said something that sounded like, "I'm forange." My brain was working so I understood that as 'foreign'. So I tried again with another word for backward - reverse. I managed to communicate and I showed him where to start. I asked if he was German (I'm getting really good at identifying accents). He said he was and asked if I could hear that in his voice. I asked if he was here on vacation. He thought for a second and said, "Holiday". I shook my head - -holiday, vacation same thing. I wish I could speak some foreign language. Spanish especially.

In the afternoon, I worked with the front door Marines as a greeter. All three of us were constantly talking to someone.

One of our guests, whom I greeted but didn't recognize, was John Thomson Jr., the former coach of the Georgetown Hoyas, and his wife. I had no clue who they were and I treated them like any other guest. Yah, pretty much the entire cast of LOST could come into the museum and I would have no clue who they were.

One of our Marine Corps veteran guests walked up to me, very upset and wanted a comment card to lodge a complaint. Holy twisted intestines, Batman! A complaint. EEEK! When he said that, I found a comment card handed it to him and told him I was so sorry to hear he wasn't happy about something. One of the Marines asked if there was something he could do to resolve it. The veteran says, "Every darn thing in that gift store is either made in China, Japan or India! I want to buy one US Marine Corps item that was made in the United States." I breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Oh, I am so glad its that and not that one of us was rude to you or something." The veteran went on to speak his mind some more on the issue and I replied, "I hear you, but we don't do the buying for the bookstore."

To be honest, I kind of feel the same way the veteran does. However, I wonder, are any products made here in the US anymore? Yes, yes, material for another blog.

Sgt Maj Estrada (ret) also made an end of the day visit. He was wearing some really dark sunglasses, I think to be incognito, and was asking one of the other docents at the desk a question. The Marine standing next to me was staring at him, thinking "that guy looks REALLY familiar". And almost inpreceptibly, the Marine says, "That's Sgt Maj Estrada." Estrada lifted up his sunglasses and smiled at the Marine and made some comment about him recognizing him through the glasses. Estrada was the Sgt Major of the Marine Corps prior to Kent, who is the current Sgt Maj.

Ran into Sgt. Workman. He brought his son ( I can't believe how big he is already and so adorable!) to the Easter Egg thing they were having for kids at the museum. His book is going to be coming out sometime soon, I'll let you all know when I learn of it hitting the stores.

When I was working the Iwo Jima immersion, I had a group of 4 (husband, wife, baby, 5 year old daughter and husband's friend) that I put on the Higgin's Boat. As I was shutting the door, I heard the father (a young Marine) say to his daughter, "O.k. Kitten, here's the plan, when the ramp opens, you drop your gun and pack and we'll swim away from the beach, o.k."

Silly, but I thought that was a sweet comment. I'm sure if any parent were riding in spirit aboard a landing craft with their son or daughter as they entered a battle, would want to spirit their child away.

There is more progress at the Chapel. I'll post pictures when I have more time.

Have a great Easter everyone!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Somali Pirates Experience a Twist of Historic Fate

Somali pirates got a taste of what it might mean to mess with American flagged vessels today. The American crew on the first American flagged ship to be hijacked disabled their vessel before retreating to safe areas where they re-grouped and then over powered the pirates. While the pirates escaped the ship in a life raft with the captain, a US Navy warship is now on the scene.

What I have heard on the news is that it is the USS Bainbridge.

Here is the ironic twist of historic fate.

The first US ship to be taken by pirates was the frigate USS Philadelphia, captained by Captain William Bainbridge (which is who the USS Bainbidge is named for). This was 1804 in the Mediterranean and the pirates were the Barbary Pirates.

In attempts to evade the pirates, the Philadelphia ran aground on a sand bar. After a day of futile attempts at dislodging the ship and a motionless night at sea, Captain Bainbridge decided to surrender. His crew and the Marine detachment on board were dismayed. Journal accounts from those Marines say that the Marine commander tried to talk Bainbridge out of surrendering. But when the pirates brought in ships with cannon and started firing closer and closer to the ship, Bainbridge raised the white flag. He and his crew were taken prisoner, along with the ship, that the pirates had no problem dislodging from the sand bar. All were held ransom.

Then, President Jefferson, refused to pay the ransom and sent in the Marines. What results is a victory at Derna, Lt. Presley O'Bannon becoming one of the first bonafide Marine Corps legends and the birth of the Mameluke sword tradition. In addition, the pirates left the Americans alone, European powers saw that our young country would stand up and fight for its rights, and the US never paid any tribute to the pirates.

I do realize this was the abbreviated version of things. If it is true that the USS Bainbridge is the vessel responding to the modern day pirates, boy, what a full circle of things.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

With the Hordes at the Cherry Blossom Festival

What was I thinking? What were WE all thinking?!

I braved the hordes of locals and tourists in DC to view the famed cherry blossoms on Saturday.

I made a completely incorrect assumption about how it would be. Relaxing.

Not even close.

The first indicator of the morning was heavy traffic on I-66 heading toward DC. I wasn't really worried as I planned on taking the metro in. When I arrived at the metro, there was a line OUT of the station. ARE YOU KIDDING me? Its not like this during rush hour. Don't know why but thought it might be better one metro stop closer into town. I think I was able to get one of the last parking spots in the satellite lot to the satellite lot.

It was standing room only on the train. By the time we got to the Smithsonian stop, it was such close standing room that you were practically in the clothes of the people next to you. I have never been that close to strangers since July 4th 2000.

Logistics was pretty bad at the Smithsonian stop. The were only allowing people to exit the station on the Mall side, not on Independence Avenue. Would have been nice had they told us that as we were exiting the train. Some people, such as myself who are "natives" wouldn't have headed for Independence Avenue which would have been the less crowded exit. The platform was so crowded that people on incoming trains had a hard time getting off. Police kept directing people to move as quickly as possible to and "JUST exit" and figure out where you are once you are out side.

Outside was a mad house. Police were blocking the entrance to the mall side of the Smithsonian station saying that entrance was Exit Only. Again, something that could have been communicated earlier and differently - - like with BIG banner signs or something. But you know, what is completely logical to me is usually not logical to others.

So I snapped this picture of the Smithsonian Station entrance/exit after I was out of the crush of people and could breath AND open the camera bag.

Now the fun would begin in trying to contact my friends whom I was to meet.


I was late arriving. There were so many people around that I could have been standing next to a friend and not even known it. I was overwhelmed. I don't do well with crowds. My friend had left a message on my phone. I left one on hers and started walking in the direction of our intended destination, The Jefferson Memorial, Tidal Basin and the cherry blossoms.

As I was walking toward the Washington Monument, I noticed this amazing shadow it was casting. This was taken at about 2:00 p.m. on the west side of the monument. It was incredible, I have never seen the sun line up with the pinnacle of the monument in this way.


I love taking flag pictures and with the back lighting from the sun, cloudless blue sky and intense shadow on the monument, this turned out pretty cool, even if the flags are in the "wrong direction"


I walked around the monument and took this picture from the South side. As you can tell, it was VERY windy. I never really noticed all the details in the sandstone. So beautiful!


On the east side of the Washington Monument, from its mound, you get a beautiful view of the Jefferson Memorial. I will have to do some photo editing at some point to get rid of the porta potties. Who the heck decided this would be a good place to put them, I don't know.

However, this was the landmark my friends and I used to triangulate our locations and meet up. They actually saw me first (probably because of the hair).


This is me and my friend A. We are in small group Bible Study together. It was tough to get pictures, you had to be assertive in grabbing a spot and in keeping people from walking in front of your photographer.


This is the Jefferson Memorial from just west of the paddle boat doc. There were no paddle boats out in the Tidal Basin as I think there was probably a small craft warning or something because of the waves from the wind.


Here you go, the crunch of people. Pretty much every inch of the railing was occupied.


This is the gang from church (minus one gal who had to leave early for work). Two other gals from my small group were down on their bikes but we never ran into them. Its been fun to see everyone's pictures on Facebook. We were all there at about the same time but managed to miss each other.


This is the Washington Monument from the Jefferson Memorial side of the Tidal Basin. Yes, those are white caps.


On the Jefferson Memorial side, it seemed like there were fewer people. Maybe it was there was more room to spread out. This is me. I would have to say, I was very pleased with my hairspray. The front and parts of the sides of my hair are not long enough to go back into the elastic. With my baby fine hair, I was so sure most of it from the front would be blown out of the elastic and in my face all day. I considered wearing a baseball hat but then opted to plaster my hair with hairspray. That worked.


Getting back home was a feat. One of the girls had to leave us to head in to work. When she returned to the Smithsonian station, she was told it would be a two hour wait to get down into the station. She called us to warn us as she headed to a different station.

All of our Washington, DC land navigation experience went into action. We ended up walking across the Memorial Bridge into Arlington, VA to catch the train at the Arlington Cemetery station. Our intention was to get onto our metro's line at Rossilyn but when we saw the train pull in, it was so packed that no one could get on. So we got back on the blue line and headed to the station just beyond Smithsonian, changed lines there and were able to make it back home. What a mess!

I think if I ever go down to admire the cherry blossoms again, I will take an early day from work and head down during the week.

We are expecting high winds and thunderstorms the next two days. That pretty much spells the end of the blossoms for the year.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Who the Heck Trained That Cat?!


That is Ranger sitting on the night stand next to my bed. That is actually his semi ticked-off expression.

I'm hurting this morning from the swim. I forgot how much your stomach muscles work and my forever stiff neck just kills! Getting up was really hard. However, the morning tuna treat routine is quite the motivator for Ranger. Good Grief!

I suppose he's lucky that I'm so mild mannered because anyone else I know would probably have killed him by now. So the alarm clock goes off. I hit snooze because "HOLY LACTIC ACID Batman!" I'm really sore. I slept well so that was good. Ranger begins by jumping up on the bed and landing on my stomach in the vicinity of my bladder. Then he walks up my body and sticks his nose up mine. I push him off. He sits next to me on the bed and bats my face with his paws. I cover my face with the blanket. He starts 'digging' at the blanket and now Scout is on the bed, on my stomach, purring and kneeding away at my stomach in the vicinity of my bladder. I roll over.

Ranger climbs over my head (all four paws manage to touch my head) and sits on the night stand where he proceeds to start knocking things off. I'm thinking, "Dude! You are so killing me!" as I throw the blankets off and swing my legs over the side of the bed, still laying in bed.

Ranger jumps off the night stand and the stinker grabs my big toe in his mouth. I move my foot. He bites my big toe again and gives me the "Get the heck up lady and give us our tuna treats!" meow. I ignore it. He bites my toe again! And HARD!

Alright, ALRIGHT! I'm up already. Geez!

Who the freakin' heck trained this cat?!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Desperate for Sleep: Will Hour Long Swim Help?

First of all let me just tell you that suffering from insomnia really, really, REALLY stinks. They had some statistic in a training class I attended that said a human could survive weeks without food but only a few days without sleep.

I haven't had more than 4 hours of solid sleep since I was on vacation. My problem is my brain doesn't shut off. I think about all that I have to work on and get accomplished the next day. I wake up from a sound sleep worried about stupid little things like remembering meetings or something I need to bring to work for someone. I have a notebook on the nightstand to write these things down otherwise I lay there repeating, "Don't forget the coupon for so and so."

Then there are the dreams. When I'm stressed about something, I dream that I am drowning in whatever it is that I'm stressed about. When I worked retail, at Christmas time I dreamt of drowning in clothes, let me tell you inhaling a big, fluffy, wool sweater is very distressing. When something isn't working right with the software I'm working on, I can't stop thinking about it, trying to resolve the problem in my head. I have had some good revelations at 3 a.m. but then I'm really cranky and annoyed by everyone the next day.

I will admit, I am at that point where I'm feeling cranky and annoyed by everyone. I really have zero patience. In addition to being cranky, lack of sleep makes me completely inarticulate.

The guys in the cave (our tech team sits in a windowless, vent less room that was once a closet) found it quite funny yesterday after I managed to some how gum up the test server and I was trying to ask them if they could reboot the thing only I couldn't think of the word "reboot". So I'm asking them to do their magic "thing" they do while I'm doing some little dance trying to physically describe it. Finally it came out "can you just punch it or kick it or something to make it work." One of the guys shook his head and said, "Yah, I think either of those options would work." While the two other guys just looked at me and laughed and requested I do my little 'dance' again.

So anyway, lack of sleep is killing my brain cells and causing my body to do strange convulsions or gyrations or something in my attempt to act out what I'm trying to say. ARGH!!!

Exercise has always helped even out my sleep patterns - - so besides getting back in shape so I can fit into my cute spring dresses and skirts, I'm hoping to stay consistent with my workouts so I can actually start sleeping again.

Today was my first day swimming laps. I haven't swam laps since last summer. Long gone are my days of doing a 500 in under 10 minutes. However, it wasn't long ago that I was swimming 2 miles several days a week. I want to be able to do this again.

Today's swim was humbling. Very humbling. You know how there are people who can just run miles effortlessly without ever having to train. That used to be me with swimming. Clearly that isn't me anymore. I did a 100 and my arms were SCREAMING! Let me tell you, I didn't even swim that fast. The pool was crowded so we had to swim circles and I could get a 30 second rest after each length while I waited for the person in front of me to get a good distance ahead. I did this for an hour. I have no idea how many laps I swam. I am tired. My arms feel like rubber. So I think I will be able to sleep tonight. Yay!

I am so glad that tomorrow is FRIDAY!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Museum Virtual Tour is Now Open!

Hey everyone, phase 1 of the museum's virtual tour is now open.

Click here to take the tour.

Its really pretty cool. Phase 1 is just Leatherneck Gallery. The rest of the museum will be rolled out over the course of the Year. The World War 2 gallery will be next to open in May, and that is a pretty big gallery. Be sure to check out the additional information provided by the docents.

In other Museum News, the Secretary of the Navy has awarded the museum staff, Marines and docent volunteers the Merit Award for Superior Achievement. According to the Chief of Visitor Services, this is equivalent to a civilian version of a Navy Unit Commendation. The award is being presented tomorrow at 1430 (2:30 p.m. civilian time) in the Leatherneck Gallery.

I will not be attending the ceremony as I'll be at my day job. Its been very busy, and that is all I have to say about that.

If you haven't visited the museum yet, I hope this gets you interested in a live visit. While this virtual tour is AMAZING the real thing is so much better.