Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Blind Side - An SEC girl loved it!

For a Bama girl, The Blind Side is a must-see movie! Even if you’re aren’t a hotty-toddy from Ole Miss, this is a Southeastern Conference football lovers must see. And the cameos by Nick Saban, Phil Fulmer, Lou Holtz, Tommy Tuberville and Houston Nutt are just the tip of the iceberg.

Leigh Anne Tuohy is the loud mouthed, tell-it-like-it-is typical NRA-card carrying girl from Mississippi and Sandy Bullock plays the role to perfection. My favorite scene is when the family goes to one of 'Big Mike's' first games and he is heckled repeatedly by one of the rednecks in the stands; Leigh Anne stands up and says, "Hey! Deliverance. That is my son and if you don't knock it off, I'm gonna come up there and make you." or something like that. But she is brash and so bold as to walk in the ghetto and tell off drug dealers who you know are packing that you just have to love her. She absolutely steals the show.

It will have you hate the NCAA just as the Bear did when he said if one of his boys needs shoes, he'll give 'em shoes and damn the NCAA. And it will have you cry in the end when Mike goes to the Baltimore Ravens in the 23rd round of the 2009 NFL draft.

I hate the line a 2 thumbs up but it sure was for me. Tim McGraw is a hoot as Leigh Anne's college sweetheart husband who apparently hit it big buying up franchises in Memphis. And Kathy Bates scores as Mike's tutor from Ole Miss who tells ghost stories about Tennessee...just in case he thought about playing ball at that god forsaken place. A definite touchdown and two point conversion!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hijacking Christmas

So I read another magazine article about hijacking Christmas and apparently this is not a 21st century phenom. It's been going on for quite some time. In the 20s, the Jews were blamed. In the 40s, it was the Commies. In the 60s, it was the ACLU liberal bastards. Now it's the PC socialists.

I was at a commander's call when the lieutenant who was "voluntold" to run the "Holiday" Party got up to give us all the schpiel on what to expect. He told us it was the "Pick your Holiday" party. That about sums it up.

Kwanza - don't know what that is.
Hannukah - a holiday that my Jewish friend forgot was going on two years ago when we had to work on Christmas day.
Yule - my Wiccan friend celebrates while surfing out in San Diego.
And Christmas - still celebrated with a Nativity scene on the courthouse steps in my hometown.

Hijacked or not. I'll continue to go to Midnight Mass and send out Christmas cards and say Merry Christmas and put up my Christmas tree and have Christmas Parties. I've decided that it's worked for 2000 years and people don't seem to be offended when I give them a Christmas gift. If they are, then that sort of defeats the purpose of the season regardless of what you call it.

So, sit on your PC crap and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

"We're in a communist country"

It's interesting to me who you meet in line.

This lady in line at Office Depot today let me know that we are in a communist country because all creativity and individualism is lost. Her beef started because she had to spend $6 on a red, 3-subject notebook with pockets.

This was tax-free weekend. The state has designated the weekend before school starts the time to buy supplies without paying taxes. Nice idea. And we certainly took advantage of it. So did most of the state's 3 million other residents.

But the woman did have a small point. As soon as you walk into all the stores, there are stands with lists from all the area schools. The lists detail what supplies are required for each school. Caiden's list requires her to have about 25 items, including a red 3-pronged pocket folder and a green one. Not yellow. Not blue. Not with cute, little kittens. One red. One green.

We have also spent the last two days scouring for clear, plastic rulers, Fiskar scissors, 2" white plastic binders with clear overlays, washable markers, one black pen and one blue pen, a zipper pencil bag with 3 holes. So I get the woman's point.

This lady also sent her child running back into the store from the checkout line 3 times because she found items in the Sunday ad for free stuff. She told me that since she was being required by the government to buy all this stuff that she might as well get something out of it.

Her tirade against government interference in her life got me thinking about how fun it was when I was a kid to do back-to-school shopping. Cool folders, new notebooks, colorful pencils with lots of different designs. I always liked the swirly ones. Pinks and blues.

During this trip, Caiden kept picking out folders with princesses and kittens on them. But they weren't on our required items list, so I had her put them back. Well, once we finally found everything and made it to the register to pay, I noticed the Sunday ad.

A free backpack with a purchase of $40 or more. I was certainly paying $40 or more. Hmmm?
What the hell?
I sent Caiden running for a pink one.

Cuts and Scrapes

I hear "Hello!" coming from the front door today. My new neighbor is calling to me as I'm straightening up the guest room. I come around the corner and he pokes his head in the door. "Your little girl's had a spill," he says to me. This is my neighbor across the cul-de-sac who was mowing his lawn in the 100-degree heat. His own little girl was hanging out in the shade.

Looking out the front door, Caiden is at the bottom of the driveway tangled up in her purple scooter with the purple tassles, holding her head. Yep, she had a spill alright.
Now, she has been gathering up the courage to go all the way down the driveway on that scooter for two weeks. Normally she goes half way and walks the rest of the way. Guess today she had it in here to make it all the way. But oops, she crashed and burned at the bottom. Poor thing had a bump on her head and all limbs had scrapes, cuts, a little blood and dirt.

Good thing I had Scooby Doo band-aids on hand. I kept thinking about how this was a right of childhood passage. Skinned knees. Toughens her up. And of course, a trip to Cold Stone cured all!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It's Time for the US to Declare Victory and Go Home -- Text from Col. Timothy Reese Memo

This was published in NY Times, July 31, 2009

Text of memo from Col. Timothy R. Reese, Chief, Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team, MND-B, Baghdad, Iraq.

It’s Time for the US to Declare Victory and Go Home

As the old saying goes, “guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Since the signing of the 2009 Security Agreement, we are guests in Iraq, and after six years in Iraq, we now smell bad to the Iraqi nose. Today the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are good enough to keep the Government of Iraq (GOI) from being overthrown by the actions of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the Baathists, and the Shia violent extremists that might have toppled it a year or two ago. Iraq may well collapse into chaos of other causes, but we have made the ISF strong enough for the internal security mission. Perhaps it is one of those infamous paradoxes of counterinsurgency that while the ISF is not good in any objective sense, it is good enough for Iraq in 2009. Despite this foreboding disclaimer about an unstable future for Iraq, the United States has achieved our objectives in Iraq. Prime Minister (PM) Maliki hailed June 30th as a “great victory,” implying the victory was over the US. Leaving aside his childish chest pounding, he was more right than he knew. We too ought to declare victory and bring our combat forces home. Due to our tendency to look after the tactical details and miss the proverbial forest for the trees, this critically important strategic realization is in danger of being missed.

Equally important to realize is that we aren’t making the GOI and the ISF better in any significant ways with our current approach. Remaining in Iraq through the end of December 2011 will yield little in the way of improving the abilities of the ISF or the functioning of the GOI. Furthermore, in light of the GOI’s current interpretation of the limitations imposed by the 30 June milestones of the 2008 Security Agreement, the security of US forces are at risk. Iraq is not a country with a history of treating even its welcomed guests well. This is not to say we can be defeated, only that the danger of a violent incident that will rupture the current partnership has greatly increased since 30 June. Such a rupture would force an unplanned early departure that would harm our long term interests in Iraq and potentially unraveling the great good that has been done since 2003. The use of the military instrument of national power in its current form has accomplished all that can be expected. In the next section I will present and admittedly one sided view of the evidence in support of this view. This information is drawn solely from the MND-B area of operations in Baghdad Province. My reading of reports from the other provinces suggests the same situation exists there.

The general lack of progress in essential services and good governance is now so broad that it ought to be clear that we no longer are moving the Iraqis “forward.” Below is an outline of the information on which I base this assessment:

1. The ineffectiveness and corruption of GOI Ministries is the stuff of legend.

2. The anti-corruption drive is little more than a campaign tool for Maliki

3. The GOI is failing to take rational steps to improve its electrical infrastructure and to improve their oil exploration, production and exports.

4. There is no progress towards resolving the Kirkuk situation.

5. Sunni Reconciliation is at best at a standstill and probably going backwards.

6. Sons of Iraq (SOI) or Sahwa transition to ISF and GOI civil service is not happening, and SOI monthly paydays continue to fall further behind.

7. The Kurdish situation continues to fester.

8. Political violence and intimidation is rampant in the civilian community as well as military and legal institutions.

9. The Vice President received a rather cool reception this past weekend and was publicly told that the internal affairs of Iraq are none of the US’s business.

The rate of improvement of the ISF is far slower than it should be given the amount of effort and resources being provided by the US. The US has made tremendous progress in building the ISF. Our initial efforts in 2003 to mid-2004 were only marginally successful. From 2004 to 2006 the US built the ISF into a fighting force. Since the start of the surge in 2007 we have again expanded and improved the ISF. They are now at the point where they have defeated the organized insurgency against the GOI and are marginally self-sustaining. This is a remarkable tale for which many can be justifiably proud. We have reached the point of diminishing returns, however, and need to find a new set of tools. The massive partnering efforts of US combat forces with ISF isn’t yielding benefits commensurate with the effort and is now generating its own opposition. Again, some touch points for this assessment are:

1. If there ever was a window where the seeds of a professional military culture could have been implanted, it is now long past. US combat forces will not be here long enough or with sufficient influence to change it.

2. The military culture of the Baathist-Soviet model under Saddam Hussein remains entrenched and will not change. The senior leadership of the ISF is incapable of change in the current environment.

a) Corruption among officers is widespread

b) Neglect and mistreatment of enlisted men is the norm

c) The unwillingness to accept a role for the NCO corps continues

d) Cronyism and nepotism are rampant in the assignment and promotion system

e) Laziness is endemic

f) Extreme centralization of C2 is the norm

g) Lack of initiative is legion

h) Unwillingness to change, do anything new blocks progress

i) Near total ineffectiveness of the Iraq Army and National Police institutional organizations and systems prevents the ISF from becoming self-sustaining

j) For every positive story about a good ISF junior officer with initiative, or an ISF commander who conducts a rehearsal or an after action review or some individual MOS training event, there are ten examples of the most basic lack of military understanding despite the massive partnership efforts by our combat forces and advisory efforts by MiTT and NPTT teams.

3. For all the fawning praise we bestow on the Baghdad Operations Command (BOC) and Ministry of Defense (MoD) leadership for their effectiveness since the start of the surge, they are flawed in serious ways. Below are some salient examples:

a) They are unable to plan ahead, unable to secure the PM’s approval for their actions

b) They are unable to stand up to Shiite political parties

c) They were and are unable to conduct an public relations effort in support of the SA and now they are afraid of the ignorant masses as a result

d) They unable to instill discipline among their officers and units for the most basic military standards

e) They are unable to stop the nepotism and cronyism

f) They are unable to take basic steps to manage the force development process

g) They are unable to stick to their deals with US leaders

It is clear that the 30 Jun milestone does not represent one small step in a long series of gradual steps on the path the US withdrawal, but as Maliki has termed it, a “great victory” over the Americans and fundamental change in our relationship. The recent impact of this mentality on military operations is evident:

1. Iraqi Ground Forces Command (IGFC) unilateral restrictions on US forces that violate the most basic aspects of the SA

2. BOC unilateral restrictions that violate the most basic aspects of the SA

3. International Zone incidents in the last week where ISF forces have resorted to shows of force to get their way at Entry Control Points (ECP) including the forcible takeover of ECP 1 on 4 July

4. Sudden coolness to advisors and CDRs, lack of invitations to meetings,

5. Widespread partnership problems reported in other areas such as ISF confronting US forces at TCPs in the city of Baghdad and other major cities in Iraq.

6. ISF units are far less likely to want to conduct combined combat operations with US forces, to go after targets the US considers high value, etc.

7. The Iraqi legal system in the Rusafa side of Baghdad has demonstrated a recent willingness to release individuals originally detained by the US for attacks on the US.

Yet despite all their grievous shortcomings noted above, ISF military capability is sufficient to handle the current level of threats from Sunni and Shiite violent groups. Our combat forces’ presence here on the streets and in the rural areas adds only marginally to their capability while exposing us to attacks to which we cannot effectively respond.

The GOI and the ISF will not be toppled by the violence as they might have been between 2006 and 2008. Though two weeks does not make a trend, the near cessation of attacks since 30 June speaks volumes about how easily Shiite violence can be controlled and speaks to the utter weakness of AQI. The extent of AQ influence in Iraq is so limited as to be insignificant, only when they get lucky with a mass casualty attack are they relevant. Shiite groups are working with the PM and his political allies, or plotting to work against him in the upcoming elections. We are merely convenient targets for delivering a message against Maliki by certain groups, and perhaps by Maliki when he wants us to be targeted. Extremist violence from all groups is directed towards affecting their political standing within the existing power structures of Iraq. There is no longer any coherent insurgency or serious threat to the stability of the GOI posed by violent groups.

Our combat operations are currently the victim of circular logic. We conduct operations to kill or capture violent extremists of all types to protect the Iraqi people and support the GOI. The violent extremists attack us because we are still here conducting military operations. Furthermore, their attacks on us are no longer an organized campaign to defeat our will to stay; the attacks which kill and maim US combat troops are signals or messages sent by various groups as part of the political struggle for power in Iraq. The exception to this is AQI which continues is globalist terror campaign. Our operations are in support of an Iraqi government that no longer relishes our help while at the same time our operations generate the extremist opposition to us as various groups jockey for power in post-occupation Iraq.

The GOI and ISF will continue to squeeze the US for all the “goodies” that we can provide between now and December 2011, while eliminating our role in providing security and resisting our efforts to change the institutional problems prevent the ISF from getting better. They will tolerate us as long as they can suckle at Uncle Sam’s bounteous mammary glands. Meanwhile the level of resistance to US freedom of movement and operations will grow. The potential for Iraqi on US violence is high now and will grow by the day. Resentment on both sides will build and reinforce itself until a violent incident break outs into the open. If that were to happen the violence will remain tactically isolated, but it will wreck our strategic relationships and force our withdrawal under very unfavorable circumstances.

For a long time the preferred US approach has been to “work it at the lowest level of partnership” as a means to stay out of the political fray and with the hope that good work at the tactical level will compensate for and slowly improve the strategic picture. From platoon to brigade, US Soldiers and Marines continue to work incredibly hard and in almost all cases they achieve positive results. This approach has achieved impressive results in the past, but today it is failing. The strategic dysfunctions of the GOI and ISF have now reached down to the tactical level degrading good work there and sundering hitherto strong partnerships. As one astute political observer has stated “We have lost all strategic influence with the GoI and trying to influence events and people from the tactical/operational level is courting disaster, wasting lives, and merely postponing the inevitable.”

The reality of Iraq in July 2009 has rendered the assumptions underlying the 2008 Security Agreement (SA) overcome by events — mostly good events actually. The SA outlines a series of gradual steps towards military withdrawal, analogous to a father teaching his kid to ride a bike without training wheels. If the GOI at the time the SA was signed thought it needed a long, gradual period of weaning. But the GOI now has left the nest (while continuing to breast feed as noted above). The strategic and tactical realities have changed far quicker than the provisions and timeline of the SA can accommodate. We now have an Iraqi government that has gained its balance and thinks it knows how to ride the bike in the race. And in fact they probably do know how to ride, at least well enough for the road they are on against their current competitors. Our hand on the back of the seat is holding them back and causing resentment. We need to let go before we both tumble to the ground.

Therefore, we should declare our intentions to withdraw all US military forces from Iraq by August 2010. This would not be a strategic paradigm shift, but an acceleration of existing US plans by some 15 months. We should end our combat operations now, save those for our own force protection, narrowly defined, as we withdraw. We should revise the force flow into Iraq accordingly. The emphasis should shift towards advising only and advising the ISF to prepare for our withdrawal. Advisors should probably be limited to Iraqi division level a higher. Our train and equip functions should begin the transition to Foreign Military Sales and related training programs. During the withdrawal period the USG and GOI should develop a new strategic framework agreement that would include some lasting military presence at 1-3 large training bases, airbases, or key headquarters locations. But it should not include the presence of any combat forces save those for force protection needs or the occasional exercise. These changes would not only align our actions with the reality of Iraq in 2009, it will remove the causes of increasing friction and reduce the cost of OIF in blood and treasure. Finally, it will set the conditions for a new relationship between the US and Iraq without the complications of the residual effects of the US invasion and occupation.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Fire at Work

Black smoke could be seen rocketing skyward 5 miles away as I drove into work this morning. My first thought was that a house was on fire in base housing or a plane had crashed.
Well it was neither.

A van had exploded at the visitor's center. And when I saw it, I thought "Holy cow!" Funny enough, the thought of a terrorist's bomb did not enter my mind. Not even once. Leaky gas line. Crazy engine problem.
But C4 or TNT in a van at Maxwell Air Force Base never crossed my mind.

And now I think about that and wonder why. It's a pretty decent target. All the major schools are there. Air War College for smarty pants colonel-to-be-types. The doctrine center is the think tank of the Air Force. The Air Force Wargaming Institute. The library (excuse me, "research center") has the largest repository of classified material outside of Washington DC.

But there is no active duty flying mission. No active duty aircraft. No nukes (at least that I know of ... I'm not really cleared at that level).

So I guess it really is just a university.
So maybe it isn't such a great target after all.

It did provide for the most interesting morning drive in I've had in 2 years.
And yes, the poor girl driving the van did get out unscathed.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Believe that I'm there...even when you can't see me.

wrapped around you like a warm, flannel blanket in front of the fireplace on a cold Colorado night;

encircling you like the swirling breeze through bamboo windchimes in the Costa Rican jungles;

Believe that it's possible... even when they tell you it's not.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


In the past ten years, I have gotten to see some absolutely incredible concerts and the music brings out all kinds of different emotions; it can make the world right or it can just make it go away for a while.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers made my skin tingle and soul scream in Dortmund, Germany, for what I consider my first major bigtime concert (Sorry Bryan Adams...first ever concert, sophomore year of college just doesn't cut it). To this day, I consider it to be my all-time favorite megashow.

Pearl Jam rocked out in Paris on the first weekend my brother came to visit me in Germany. This one came in a so-close second to the Chili Peppers show that sometimes when I think back on it, it could have been a better show. Maybe.

Oasis played a simple show that proves it's all about the way the music makes your insides relax and how it can put the world back in its place. Noel and Liam write lyrics to make you cry and I consider their show my favorite small venue show of all time.

Linkin Park was a shrieking bong of endorphins in Zurich right before we moved back to the States. An incredible show that yanks all the anger to the forefront of your mind and then out of your system for two solid hours.

Three Doors Down and Tool in Wichita, Switchfoot in Atlanta, Puddle of Mudd in Baumholder. All great shows.

But there is absolutely nothing like packing a small venue with friends that span 15 years to see a band you know personally. When you know their friends, their wives and their history.
Robbing Reality made 2 albums of original music, played all the Southern and Nashville venues; got their contract and played their last gig 6 years ago. But for one night and for a great cause, they played a reunion concert this past weekend and it has hands down beaten out every other concert I've ever been to.

The bass player was the coolest guy I ever dated. He could write lyrics in such beautiful detail the US poet laureate would be jealous. And I remember when he could barely play a G chord. He taught me how to play the only Clapton song I can still eke out on the guitar.

My sister and I spent a Spring Break in Colorado with the lead guitar player, his girlfriend and her sister playing cards, skiing and hanging out in a cabin with no television or phone. This guy can play any song, at any time, anywhere and was once dubbed the best player of the classics ever. We played guitars and sang for a week straight. He ended up marrying that girl and they now have 2 kids.

Angie, my college roommate, dated the drummer, who taught himself to play by watching MTV during high school. I'll never forget the night we were riding our bikes back to the apartment when she fell off right in front of his house. It was my fault since I let the tree branch smack her in the face. But he took care of her bike while I took her to the ER to have her two front teeth put back together.

The lead singer has a voice that when paired with an acoustic guitar can melt hearts. It's intense, sweet, scratchy and determined all at once. And the last member of the band plays drums, guitar, tamborines and I'd swear I've seen him with a harmonica a time or two. His big ole smile lights up any room. When all five of them are on the stage playing "Fifth of Revelation," it's like reading an open book of all our lives. We know that they're ready to burn through hours of rock and will push us supersonic just to welcome us to wherever we are.

Bands always create a connection with their music. Connection to reality, to hope, to fairy tales. The music floods your mind with roller coasters of feeling. When you ride the roller coaster, your head spins in a million different directions. And when it's being driven by someone you know, that connection brings a sense that all is right with the world, even as your jumping up and down, rocking out, sweating and screaming... the sheer volume of racket makes you want to jump through your skin.

All is right with the world. If only a couple of hours. So just keep listening.


Amazing show and what a great cause!
(Robbing Reality albums can be bought on Amazon)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Scored a Big One Today

It is rare for a PR professional to bring the boss around to her way of thinking. And when you do it, it's HUGE!
I need a high five!

I went in armed with statistics cause that's the way he thinks. 79% of the people I work with are between the ages of 32 and 50. The median age of a LinkedIn user is 40 and the median age of a Twitter user is 31. The use of the internet to gather news doubled in the last year over newspapers.

The boss wanted to pitch the improvements of the organization since its inception 12 years ago and thought one news article would be good.
I wanted to launch a major publicity campaign at every grass roots outlet I could think of.

I talked about Facebook. He talked about newspapers that don't exist anymore.
I mentioned blogs. He talked about print articles.

I want RSS Feeds, YouTube videos, podcasts. He's thinking radio spots.

I'm getting nowhere!

So in one last ditch effort, I pitch Twitter. It's microblogging - like texting all in one place. The boss rubbed his chin and proceeded to philosophize about the evolution of the organization.
So then I showed him a screen shot of a closed Twitter site, which just means that only those people we approve have access to it. He perked up.

I thought it would be a good idea to punch out snippets from the staff meeting. Only 12 or so people attend, which means more than 300 people in the organization get the information second hand or not at all.
When I told him I could Twitter out all the info from the meeting, he actually almost clapped his hands....SCORE!

And as he's walking me out, he clears me hot for Facebook, Podcasts, blogging, whatever. Ha! There are good days at work!

(My twitter site is in the link)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Escape through Van Gogh's "Starry Night"

John Keats is my all-time favorite poet. Being high on laudenum one night, he wrote "Ode to a Nightingale." And tonight, as I was staring at my Mr. Lee original painting of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" I couldn't help but be reminded of Keats in his high talking to a bird about life issues. Don't have to be high on an opiate to escape for a few minutes.

Stepping through Van Gogh's painting and around his cathedral, I make my way down the main street. The bright sky illuminates enough of the way that I don't need a lantern. And a lantern is what would be used because the era would be pre-19th century. I'm wearing a bone crushing corset and a heavy, wool cloak. Horses whinny from the street. The crisp air bites my nose but fills my lungs. It's quiet in a non-industrial age way. Simple. Traditional. Perfect.

This is a place that is easy to get lost in. Survival is the focus of those who live here. Not snagging the latest iPod or biggest house or computer. Friends and family are important. Community. Lanterns shine through the windows of the building in the middle of the street. Laughing strings of a fiddle can be heard. Peeking my head in, the entire town is dancing and clapping.

The wind picks up. It's louder and louder. Sounds of televisions, radios, phones blare in my head. I'm being sucked backward by the wind. It feels like I'm trying to swim through glue. Like when you wake up from being under anaesthesia. The sounds and the wind are pulling me faster and faster until I fall backward on the couch.

Back to reality.
Short trip.
Everyone needs that escape every now and again.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What's in the bag? Small child or golf clubs

Walking out of the airport, I'm following a man with strange, long white hair - Dr. Emmett Brown style - and he's pulling a long, dark blue bag with white stripes down the sides. It's a little ratty and has a long, ragged hole on the right side in the middle. Sagging near the top where he's dragging it by the handle, the bag is obviously not full.

I can't pass him because we're both headed out to long-term parking and there's only one very small path to it. So as he is meandering under the weight of whatever's in the bag, I can't help but think what could be in it. He's carrying a backpack and wearing an old-school, green hooded windbreaker. That white hair flipping over the hood in the wind. A little creepy.

At first I think golf clubs. But no guy would treat his clubs that way. And this guy has probably never set foot on a golf course.
Then I think clothes but what a weird bag to put them in. He does have a backpack so probably not.
Small child? Would fit - the bag and the style he's sporting.
Then it hit me...if this is what I'm thinking, then what the hell am I doing walking so close to him?!

I look around. No one is anywhere near us. It's getting dark. We're in a near empty parking garage. So my brain goes to rape, dismemberment, robbery. And then I remember that I was taught Brazilian jujitsu and kickboxing. Sure, I could kick his ass. He's only 6'2, 200 pounds. No problem.
No cops anywhere. Don't see any security cameras. Even if I scream, the sound of aircraft taking flight would totally drown it out. Now what to do?

Then this poor guy takes a right, goes up the stairs and out toward his car. Wow - It's a good thing people aren't mind readers!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Biking around the flightline

So I finally got my bike fixed. Well to be fair, a good friend fixed it for me. And then we decided to go riding today for PT -- 14 miles around the flightline at work. It took about 45 minutes to ride the whole thing.

What's cool about biking around the flightline is the view -- C-130s and incoming aircraft. Just watching as they fly over, getting closer and closer to me; lower and lower. The landing gear is so close I can almost see inside the wheel wells. The sound of propellers and the screech of the brakes on impact. There isn't a sound in the world that can bring up images like baseball, apple pie and mom like the sound of an aircraft on an Air Force base.

What makes this ride even better is that the perimeter road runs beside what is generously called a lake. Even though it small, it is surrounded by trees and shrubs and has enough water to satisfy an outdoorsy quick fix. The smell of fish and pine through the wind is intoxicating. There's nothing more salt of the earth than riding in the outdoors by water.

Between one of my favorite sites, the flightline, and my other favorite places, the lake, it was a ride that just melts stress away. You just gotta love being in your two favorite places talking to good friends about life or nothing at all.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Those Darn Construction Zones

Snail's are moving faster than we are!
Steamrollers and back hoes litter the median.
Tar smell pervades the air in the truck cab.
Time has stopped.
The wheels on the truck have stopped.

Screeches from the guy riding his brakes rattle my brain.
Cars, trucks, motorcycles, big rigs jam together on the 4-lane
The sun's dipped out of sight,
The 18-wheeler next to us blocks our view.

Nothing to do but wait.
Blare the hardest music we can find.
And munch on our stash of bananas.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Missed all the tornadoes

Huge water droplets crashed into my windshield last night as I drove up Highway 231 to Gadsden. The wipers flashed furiously from side to side in the vain attempt to give me a glance through the waves of water.

Hwy 231 is a little two-lane slab of road that cuts through tiny little towns buried in the Talledega Forest. Rebel flags, old trucks, huge plots of land littered with cows...that sort of thing. And I had seen the weather map before I left. Long stretches of red streaked across the map from Mississippi to Georgia and the bulk of them along the I-20 corridor from Tuscaloosa. But I had to get from Montgomery to Fort Payne by 8 pm.

Around noon, we started getting the weather notices across our computers at work. Severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado warnings, flash floods all that screeched in the blue boxes that crept on the screen and wouldn't leave until I hit the annoying "acknowledge and close" button. The plan was to leave around 5 to make it in time. So I watched the local NBC weather guy point at maps and calmly tell people to get to the lowest point in their homes because the storms capable of producing tornadoes would be in their town in 3 minutes. But what was interesting to me was how slow the storms were and how most of them were sitting in Tuscaloosa. So if I took 231 instead of the interstate, where Prattville was getting hammered, I could stay in front of the storms. There would be a break for about 20 minutes that if I timed right, I could drive right in between the two storms that would smack Wetumpka.

So I grabbed Caiden from school, threw her in the car and broke speed records to get north of Wetumpka. The radio squawked all the tornado warnings and watches in all the counties south and west and north of me. I flew toward Coosa county as hail rained down on it. I left Shelby County behind me as I tore from it's severe, flood-inducing thunderstorms. The radio told folks in Talladega Forest that a tornado had already hit the ground...I was 30 minutes from there. Lightening crashed off to the west where Chilton County was bombarded with hail and damaging winds. Water attacked both sides of my car. At some points in bad construction, I didn't even know if I was driving between the white lines of the lane.

But I made it! Then I had to repeat the entire process to get back to Montgomery. I knew the storms were supposed to keep shwacking the middle Alabama area but were slower and the lull would be in Birmingham. So the car turned into a boat and we cruised down the interstate right toward Mountain Brook. Flashes of lightening creased across the sky and at one point a sharp javelin of light cracked to the northwest that looked like the 4th of July. To the southeast, the thunder was breaking windows.

I figured no cop would get out of his car in this weather so I floored it and made it home right as the county EMS sirens were shouting their ominous warning!

Monday, February 16, 2009

I'm a sucker: Twilight

Ok when I first heard about Twilight, it was on the radio as the announcer was chatting in awe about the internet following of the vampire series and how EVERYONE was freaking out about the movie opening. I was so out of touch that I had no idea what he was talking about and when he said "vampire" I didn't give it another thought.

Then my sister told me she read all four books in less than two weeks. The only thought I had was the my sister doesn't even like to read. And she would not shut up about how she couldn't wait to see the movie.

Day after day I heard the shrieking, morning show voices on the radio endlessly talking up this movie. People of all ages would call into the show to shout about how fantastic the book and the movie were. Twilight this and twilight that. I couldn't think of anything less boring than another vampire movie. That's probably because the only vampire movie I could remember was that cheesy David Arquette high school one.

But over Thanksgiving I gave in and took my cousin to see it. Mainly because it was the only movie on that we could remotely agree on. After watching the movie, I still didn't get all the hype. It was melodramatic and over-the-top sappy. It's possible that I totally crushed my sister when I told her that.

Then over Christmas my brother told me that he read all four books in less than two weeks too. Then in late January another friend told me he read the first book and loved it. My will depleted; I borrowed his book last weekend. The first few chapters were good but then I had some real time to read and the pages flew over my fingers. There was no putting it down. I finished it Friday. Bought the second one yesterday and finished it last night. Bought the third one today and the only reason I'm not done with it yet is because I'm writing about it.

The movie was decent but wasn't fair to the original. Stephenie Meyer wrote a spellbinding series that I can't put down. The first one is 521 pages of pure foreplay. And I don't mean that like anticipation. I mean that the energy between Bella and Edward is so potent and palpable that my heart raced and skin tingled as I read. Stories should take the reader on an emotional journey and this one does that in a way no other book has done for me in a long time. Forget that this is supposed to be a young adult novel. This is a story that every single person can relate to on some level. From someone who knew absolutely nothing about it and wrote it off as just another trite vampire flick, I am totally hooked!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Best Steak Ever

Chargrilled Ribeye from Outback.....dry rubbed with coffee grounds and grilled over an open flame.

There are no words to describe ...

the way the smoke from the meat consumes your entire mouth when you bite it and the physical need to chew as slowly as possible.

the way the summertime, sun, charcoal smell fills your nose and your chest heaves with it, making you breathe heavier and faster.

the way the deep, dark, crispy flavor absorbs every pour and the swirling heady feeling forces you to close your eyes.

the way your throat moans involuntarily and your hand remains suspended in mid-air still holding the fork.

and the way your toes curl as your body tells you that you must have more.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

I love my cell phone, but.....

I love my cell phone. Truly, I do. It has big buttons on the front so that when I dial, I hit all the buttons I'm trying to hit. I can flip it open and search for football scores on the internet; check up on all my email; find the nearest gas station on the GPS; download music, ringtones, videos and pictures; and of course text everyone I know because that seems to be the communication method of choice for most of my friends...I don't know whatever happened to plain conversation but I go with it. And that is what I want to talk about today.

I've been visiting my mom for Christmas. She lives on Woodland Trail and yes, the name of the road is the best description for the neighborhood she lives in. Up on a mountain, I can walk out 15 yards from her front porch and rappel down a cliff if I want to. We watch sunsets that blanket the valley from the front porch swing. I drink morning coffee on the rockers as the sun again peaks through from the mists. I can see twinkle lights and buildings 45 miles away, past the town I grew up in. On the west side of the house is a trail down the side of a waterfall that right now is dripping with icicles. On the east side is a row of huge fir trees. And it sits on this mountain that is 20 minutes from any sort of civilization. She has no long distance on her telephone service and no internet. Cable is the newest luxury she finally put in when her kids stopped visiting during football season.

So for the two weeks I've been here communicating with the outside world has been an adventure in itself. I used to have Sprint but would have to walk down the old country road to use it. Now I have Verizon and have to walk around the house lifting the cell to various heights or swing it in wide circles to be able to send texts to friends. And to receive texts generally takes anywhere from 4 minutes to 4 hours. Yes, I actually had one delivered four hours after it was sent! And calling? Most of the time, I just wait until it's time to get in the car and drive down the mountain before I call anybody.

But, the other night I was texting 4 different people at once. Now when I do this, I have to find the best spot in the room or walk out to the 30-degree wind on the porch and face into it to get the best reception. As I was in the middle of making New Year's Eve plans with Jess, talking to Donovan about a sorority sister's party in Nashville, discussing El Tapatio with Isaiah and chatting about fireworks with Patrick, everything stopped. No reception. No replies. Nothing.

Now, since I'm new to all this texting thing, I really like closure (like on the phone when you say "bye" to someone). This has been unbelievably difficult up here in the Mists of Avalon because there is just too much time between reception in and reception out. After 10 days of it, this would be the day that I'm about to explode. Ten days of increasingly spotty ability to talk was driving me crazy. So, in one last attempt at wrapping up these four conversations-- keep in mind I had waited about ten minutes for responses and was getting impatient -- I send out four more texts. Less than a minute after doing that, the cell beeps like crazy and all the texts I had been waiting on came in. And of course, in contradiction to everything I had just sent. By the time it was through, I was heading to eat with Zaya, to a party with Donovan, nowhere with Jess and accusing Patrick of ignoring me.... arrrgggghhh!

I grabbed my keys, jerked on my jacket, ran to the car and drove down the road frantically texting again. Not going to Nashville, heading to Cookeville, Zaya was on his own for dinner and I'm sorry for assuming you were ignoring me. I love it up here on the mountain, but next time I'm bringing a satellite phone!!