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Bart

Quick update:

* Had a great time in Seattle.  Caught up with a bunch of friends, including some pros and conrunners I've been friends with for 20 years.  (Crap, 20 years!!!  I'm getting old.)

*My shoulder has interesting MRI images.  I peeked.  I will see the doc on Tuesday.  I'm still gimped up, but at least I'm making progress.  If the vertebrae is trashed and/or nerve restricted, probably a good thing I'm not in Afgahnistan.  I still would rather be there in many ways, but that's the old warhorse hearing a bugle.  I know guys in their 70's who still twitch to the call.

*Work is speeding up.  I lost my other engineer to NASA in Huntsville, Alabama.  If you know of mechanical/chemical and maybe civil engineers who want to work on weird design projects ranging from weapon systems to pressure vessels to new marine craft to downhole tools to airframes to chemical reactors to simple product design..... let me know.  I'm about to to get swamped and need more hands on the bilge pumps.

*I've transfered to a training unit.  Its weird for me -- they don't even have weapons in the unit.  WTF.  But it will give me a chance to learn some things as well as get various aspects of my life straight.  Well, relatively speaking.

*I have gotten back to my fiction writing, at least in spurts.  I'm catching up with my military correspondance courses.  I'm hoping to get the shoulder fixed so I can get back to the gym as well as back to fencing and/or kung fu.

*The boys are doing well.  They still need therapy and for their sake I'm glad I'm not leaving any time soon, but they are doing well.  I hope to go to WorldCon in early Aug. and bring them.  I'm hoping to recruit at least one other adult, maybe Cheryl (Dad's wife) as she won't be interested in all the parties at night.

*Krista appears to have been assimilated into the gumbo known as South Louisiana.  She misses her family greatly, as well as the mountains and forests, but she also feels at home here.

Otherwise, my life continues to be the placid, uneventful, carefree existance it has always been.  More news as we beat it into submission, tie it up, and make it do dressage.

Current Mood: busy

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Hi all,
 
I'm back home.  I returned home late Thursday.  Friday I got the boys back, Zack, my youngest, 5 years old, is sick.  Work is piled up.  I'm behind on my Command & General Staff College work for the Army (mandatory ossifer eddication).  Next month I start with my new unit.  I'll be drilling in the Houston area, but since I normally get in late the day before drill, do stuff with the unit, then haul ass home to be home that night, I may or may not have a chance to see friends in the area.  I am also hoping to have time to see my old unit off, as they ship off to mobilization in mid March  Towards the end of the month I'll be back on the west coast, this time for NorWesCon as I continue to try to keep at least one paddle in on my writing as well as (hopefully) see some old friends out that way.
 
Yes, life goes on, as much as you want to take a break.
 
Monday's funeral went very well.  The Catholic church back home filled up during the visitation period prior to my dad's funeral mass....people from all walks of life as well as from all parts of his life.  I was in my Class A's so between my face and the nameplate, everyone knew who I belonged to.  I think the only thing we didn't have was any of Dad's (or Mom's) Army friends, but after being retired 20 years, that circle of friends had been well dispersed.  I did get some emails from those days, so the word did get out a bit. 
 
The Mass went well.  I did the first reading, then the responsorial.  I got to the psalm of "I will fear no evil, though I walk through the valley of death" and choked up for a few beats, halfway between crying and laughing, as I almost said what my Dad used add to it..."for I am the baddest motherfucker in the valley, and evil shall fear me."  The funny part was all of the military people (and old school military spouses) heard the same thing in their heads at that pause.  My sister, Elizabeth, read the second reading, and Father Benoit did a great homily.  The boys and Katie's daughter Aiden (Katie is the daughter of Cheryl, who Dad just married in December) took up the gifts.  Rayma had brought them down for the day.  The boys did great with everything and Rayma was very supportive.
 
After the services we went to the cemetary.  I had already put together a mixed case of wine from my Dad's "cellar" for the military honor guard out of Fort Polk.  Part of their job is to do their duty, be unobtrusive, and slip away quietly.  I knew I wouldn't have a chance to do anything for them after the service, so I took the time to shake each of their hands and thank them beforehand as well as get the case of wine to their van.  The graveside services went very well.  The weather was beautiful.  The military honors went without a hitch.  I had choked up a bit thanking the soldiers, but when SGT Vargas, the team NCOIC, marched to me after the playing of Taps with the folded flag (Dad was cremated), he locked eyes with me and it steadied me.  We traded slow-count salutes as part of transfering the flag to me, and then I presented the flag to Cheryl.  It wasn't easy, but the vets there told me later I made it look good. 
 
After that, it was back to my Dad's place, Welcome Hall, for the wake.  My sister and I scattered a small packet of ashes where my mom's ashes were interred in the backyard by the big oak tree with a swing.  It was a proper wake...lots of great food, great drinks, and great conversation, none of that mauldlin crap.  I ditched out of the Class A's and had on a blazer, tie, and slacks...my Mom would be proud I'm able to dress myself properly when the need arises.  I cannot say enough about all the wonderful help from the people of Franklin.  We didn't have to cook, run an errand, or do a lick of cleaning the entire time, and plenty of food was put up.  It may seem trivial, but it took a lot off of the family's shoulders as well as gave the community a concrete, meaningful way to show respect.  The women were running the show (of course), and in addition to all of the mundane daily things they helped with, they were also reminding me and Cheryl of different things to be done, things to consider long term, provide suggestions on how to go about some of the things, etc. 
 
Krista came down with me to help out with things and she told me repeatedly she could see how well the community came together, how they were minimizing potential drama, doing coordination so you didn't end up with 15 plates of crawfish fettucini and nothing else, etc.  Bless her, but Krista even pitched in using her old skills from being an Army troop -- she scrubbed out the bathroom, to include getting in there with a toothbrush.  It gave her a bit of time to herself doing a fairly mindless, familiar task ... my counterpart to that is shining shoes ... plus it was something that was needed.  The "Casserole Brigade Colonels", as we called the lovely ladies running things (the grand dames of Franklin, to include Miss Alice, Mike Foster's wife) were rather taken with Krista and let her help out a bit more than some of the local residents as well as provided her with hours of conversations.  Krista later told me she learned a lot about Franklin, and more specifically, about my family, in the process.  Oddly enough, she didn't go running screaming into the bayou or grab the car and punch out, leaving rubber all the way up Highway 90.
 
A lot of people couldn't make it, and I appreciate the warm thoughts sent by all.  Cheryl is doing very well, all things considered.  We stayed a few extra days so we could go with her to a charity event Weds. night (good thing I packed a bunch of extra clothes).  We even did a bit of dancing, bringing things full circle from Mardi Gras and the ball.  Cheryl misses my father terribly, but I'll be going back regularly.  For one, there is a lot of business to settle.  Next week I'm going back to for the reading of the will.  Plus, there are business issues down there, both family-related and otherwise, that my dad used to handle which now falls to me.  Dad and I had talked about getting a small office down there and having a receptionist to handle local things....that may be happening sooner than later.
 
I miss my Dad terribly...but I have to say he went out well.  He had one of the best weekends of his life, had his morning coffee, and then check out so quick he was still holding the paper when he was found.  Dad and I had talked in detail about his wishes, so I'll be sure Cheryl will be taken care.  The week was good...I got through the grieving process fairly well, had enough to do to keep me busy but not so much as I was overwhelmed.  I even got the old fashioned "hard core toasting" out of the way that first night with a bottle of Jack Daniel's Single Barrel that had been dedicated to Dad and Cheryl by Mr. Jimmy Bedford, the master distiller.  Everyone in the house had a sip....then I kept sipping and that bottle never got closed.  Krista's mission was to keep me out of the bayou and pool, just for the simple fact she didn't think she'd be able to pull my fat ass out by herself.
 
Life goes on, and the best way to remember and honor my father is by living.  Its been a repeated theme in my conversations with Cheryl and others.  So while I miss him, and there is no replacing him any more than anyone could possibly replace our mother (who died in 2003, shortly after my return from my first mobilization), he had a great life and truly made a difference throughout his days.  A lot of his military contributions won't be known, given the nature of his work, but his works after his Regular Army career was no less active and no less important to those around him.
 
Now, if I can finally get this %*$*$#( malfunctioning shoulder diagnosed and fixed so I can crank up the PT and lose the weight Mardi Gras and the week of excellent food following my Dad's death the Weds after Mardi Gras..... <grin>  .... as I said, life goes on.  I hope I was able to paint enough of a picture to share this time with you.  Again, thank you for your prayers, support, and good wishes. 
 
Love
 
Bart
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From the mouth of a Ranger... if there is any doubt of whether we can win or lose, listen to this person.  This is why we serve.  This is what it feels like to serve today, and to hear the partial truths in the media and our own politicians speak against us, either directly or in saying they support the military by cutting the resources to do the missions.
 
 
The sad part is...I've heard the same thing from Rangers, Special Forces, straight leg grunts, and others who served in Vietnam and can tell you proudly of how the South repelled the North, without US ground forces and only foreign aid and air supprot.  It wasn't until the US gov't cut military aid and no longer flew air cover did the Soviet-backed North was able to take and hold ground.  Post-Cold War documents show that the majority of the fighters and the lead tank battalions were all manned by Soviets under false colors....they had to stack the deck because the South beat the North decisively without any allied ground forces. 
 
Are we going to face this again in Iraq, with all of the foreign fighters and foreign supoort bent on killing Iraqis and tearing down the Iraqi government, elected by the Iraqis?  I've seen the unmarked mass graves in Vietnam as well as Iraq, done to hide atrocities.  They look no different than the mass graves of Nazi Germany or Stalin's Soviet Union.  Is there any doubt about the unmitigated evil under Saddam, or that the enemies we face publicly claim they wish to recreate a Taliban-style regime in place of fledgling democracy?  The military in Iraq, particularly the troops that leave the wire and work with the Iraqis, have no doubts about what they are doing.  Its a shame the those who aren't there are so quick to discount, discredit, or flat-out ignore those realities in favor of appeasing distracted masses for votes.  Anyone who speaks out in favor of our goals in Iraq is attacked as a "right wing wacko" -- no diferent nor justified than the legitimate beef that some on the right attack any dissent as "traitors."
 
GEN Patreus, who has served under several presidents, is an honorable man and was discounted as a peon of the administration before he said the first word or issued his report.  In my opinion, in doing so they also discredit every member of the military.  I don't like either party...I never have.  The current political mess in D.C. sickens me, more so than usual.  If we can't stand up for what's right as a nation when its difficult, then its no different than a firefighter, EMT, or cop who quits and walks off the site if their buddy gets hurt.  We honor our cops and firefighters who fall in the line of duty and laud the circumstances they earn those honors, but we sweep medals for herorism and other measures of success under the rug.  We'll give the lists of the dead, but never mention if someone earned a Silver Star.  We should treat our military dead at least as well as our domestic first responders, who are cited for bravery in the papers and broadcast media and are not treated the same as those who die of a heart attack, a traffic accident, or other non-heroic eventualities.
 
The Iraqis are fighting and dying for their freedom.  They lay down their lives for the US personnel daily, without recognition in the press or many politicains.  We promise the Iraqis, and the entire world, we are the champions of freedom.  I'm proud to defend the Consitution.  I'm proud to support fundmental freedoms and democracy.   I'm not always proud to be an American.
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First... I had a great time on the trip.  First some time in Hawaii...my first time there.  I was just in the Waikiki area, but despite the tourist aspect I plan to go back.  I checked off one of my "things to do before I die" list.... no, not the extended weekend with Angelina, but I did learn to surf.

Then the trip on the USS Stennis.  I definately learned about at least some major aspects of Navy life, gained knowledge (and respect) for the (junior) sister service, and realized there is no way I would want that career.  I could make it work if I had to...but I would rather pull convoy duty than be stuck in floating can.  I defiantely gave my new digital SLR a work out, building my stock library once again.

Finally, a week with the Krista, Jason, and the kids.  I definately feel I am part of the family, and that my own family has grown by four.  Weirdly enough, while I was underway and out of touch, they did the numbers for their lives and how cost of living is outstripping raises, etc....and have decided to move to Louisiana.  Wow.  But, Krista made friends while here, and we're all helping them scout houses, school districts, etc.  I really think this will work for them....and it won't hurt my feelings to have my extended family move TOWARDS me for a change.

So...back at the office.  I have drill this coming weekend.  Work and military is brewing a bit, but I'll enjoy the calm (as well as batten down any loose items).  I had a great weekend in Franklin.  It was my dad's birthday so his fiancee threw a dinner party for him...and it turned into an informal engagement party as well.  The boys were great with all the adults.  Mack is seriously swimming without his floaties, even is charging up the slide and jumping into the deep end on his own.  They have been all over me with hugs, plus they really enjoyed all the pictures and stuff I had brought back.  How many dad's get their stuffed tiger to go supersonic in an F18 then pull door gunner duty with live rounds, providing security for air ops.  Well, as the helo crew said..."that tiger has at least as many combat hours as half of us, no problem."  Wish I could have gone up....but me and umpteen other "Tigers" wanted to, too.  (A "Tiger Cruise" is when the ship comes off duty, steaming for home, and family members can sail along, under supervision of course.)

Yep....winds are picking up, I need to get out some maps and figure what courses to chart next....but not just yet.

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OK....a poor attempt to reference Shakespeare, its not like I'm the first person to misappropriate the odd line. 
 
Sorry for the operational silence.  Its not intended.  I put my Father's Day comments here, but other than that, I've been off line in terms of posting things.  It may be counter-intuitive, but I'm waaaaay more busy than in Iraq.  Even with 12 hour shifts plus the extra hour of handoff....off shift is off shift, and its not like you're going all out all 12 hours every day.  Plus...its not like there seem to be a lot of stuff of interest.  Every month it seemed like there was something really neat to send home.  Here....I guess the activity is so hectic it seems constant.  So this may be a bit long....hardly a surprise.
 
In fact, I've been working on this email for about 2 weeks, off and on.   I think I'll get time to do it, things happen, and its another 3-5 days gone by.
 
I recently spent a great weekend in Franklin visiting my Dad and the rest of my new family.  Since my sister has shut down the Hanson House B&B and Cheryl has moved in with my dad, I have gotten to spend more time with her, her daughter Kaitlyn, and Kaitlyn's girl Aiden.  In fact, Kaitlyn even invited me to go out with her boyfriend and all of their friends to celebrate the last one of their "friends forever" group turning 21.  Yes...its a very odd feeling to realize I'm almost exactly twice their age...and that it doesn't seem that long ago for myself.  That is, until I put a year on it.  We had a great time--went out to the several bars and nightclubs at the Cypress Bayou Casino, run by the Chitimatcha Indians near Franklin.  It took me a few drinks to "come off alert."  Then it was back to the normal Bart antics of joking, clowning with the other clowns, questionable dancing skills (which are not improved by adding or withholding alcohol), flirting, and general silliness.  Yeah...at least as bad as I am with the boys or when things get silly at the office.  As Pam of Slinky's has noted, "Bart, acting his age? Sure, if you consider him to be 16."
 
Ouch.  Hey, its not ALWAYS that entertaining.  Sometimes I'm fairly quiet.  I think that's when people worry more.
 
Yeah...I'm now able to get out every so often and relax, have a good time.  Its taken a while.  I have the depression mostly beat down, but elements of the PTSD/Iraq/crappy homecoming situation/general anxiety are still there.  If I'm in a crowd that is someplace new, or sometimes in traffic, or other similar situations I unconsciously switch into "alert mode."  If the vehicle stops, a little countdown timer starts for how long I can stay in one spot safely.  If I'm in a crowd I'm checking for potential threats, 3rd party security (meaning "anyone not with my team"), good exits, likely ambush or sniper holes, expedient weapons....ok, I'm not that bloody paranoid.  A lot of this is stuff I learned as a kid living in big cities...then it got honed over years of  training...then REALLY sharpened in a big way in Iraq.  It usually operates under the surface and I can usually turn it off.  Usually.  Fortunately, we had some really good briefs on this, plus I have my Dad (Vietnam vet), Krista (Somalia vet), Mike K (1 year ahead of me in Iraq) that helped me realize what it is.  Because I'm unconsciously trying to resolve signals that don't match the surroundings, it can make me anxious or short tempered.  It also can flat wear me out, something I realized after one of our days at the Smithsonian.  Instead of being a poorly defined ball of anxiety or whatever, I can go "oh, that's what's poking at me" and generally turn it off, or at least down a notch.  Sometimes a drink or so helps damp it down.  And sometimes I know its just a good time to keep my butt at home and chill.  I've been able to deal with it all without meds or intensive help...but part of that is I got help early on and didn't try to gut it out, saying "nothing is wrong" or "I'm too tough to let it get to me."
 
Enough of this trivial stuff.  This is far more important -- Mack is swimming!  WOOHOOOO.  Two weekends ago I talked Mack out of his "floatie suit"...it is sort of a shortie wet-suit looking thing (by Body Glove), but had floats front and back that makes him look like he should be in the Incredibles.  The boys even thump each other in the pads just like us big kids did with our body armor in Iraq.  But...no longer, as Mack skinned into some regular shorts, jumped in...and took off swimming!  He not only made it the width of the pool with his own Mackpaddle stroke, he even managed the length a few times.  He kept asking me to stand further and further away, pushing himself a little bit more.  Zack hasn't given up his Mr. Incredible Junior suit, but he has just taken to swimming with his face down in the water and eyes open.  That was one of the big milestones we learned in Water Safety Instructor years ago.  Being a Franklinite bayou rat, I can't recall NOT swimming.  I'm just glad my boys are enjoying swimming so much and are getting more comfortable in the water.  It was just one of those really good Dad Days, to be there when they do something new.
 
At the end of June I took Mack, Zack, my dad, and his fiance Cheryl by train to Washington D.C.  We went first class....for about the same price as a coach flight, you can get first class (private compartment in the sleeper car) on the train.  When you throw in all your meals are paid for and its an overnight trip, so its also a hotel expense covered...its pretty cost effective.  The boys had a great time.  I wanted to do this because I always enjoyed the trains growing up in Europe when my family was stationed there.  It took a day and a half to get there, which was just about perfect for the boys.  Unfortunately, I also had a large job that I had to grind out (blast modeling of multiple buildings for insurance-related work), so I had to bring work.  Fortunately, Dad and Cheryl were great with the boys.  Once we got to DC we went to the Museum of Natural History one day and the Air & Space Museum the next day.  4-5 hours was about all the boys could do before they hit saturation, but it was a blast.  Fortunately, all the questions they pitched were things I could handle, so I still have that thin patina of credibility.  I know it will be gone with the onset of puberty when they know everything and parents are stupid.
 
We also had a chance to see some of my closest friends, Rick and Toni, along with their son Mick and newest addition Brendan.  I had met Toni years ago when I was at AIT, I was regular Army enlisted, she was in the Army Reserves as a private.  Over the years, 19 of 'em now, we have stayed in touch, both received commissions, hers in the US Coast Guard (as did Rick, also USCG and a fellow "mustang", or prior enlisted making officer), were at each other's weddings, had kids, all of that.  They are also some of the boys' godparents.  I have seen Toni a few times in the last few years, but its the first time I've seen Rick since returning from Africa and first time meeting Mick or Brendan.  It was really great to connect with them again.
 
So...let this be fair warning....it may take years, especially with all the gov't sponsored interruptions to my life, but you never know when you may get that phone call or email saying "I'm coming to your area, lets go do something fun like drop a building, go skinnydipping in the neighbor's pool, go for dinner, whatever you're up for."
 
 
Gotta love us Americans.  A tragedy strikes, and the humor (and t-shirts) are out before the smoke settles.
 
It also bring us to work.  I've given up on trying to find trainable winged monkeys.  Besides, the idea of airborne poo flingers may give my landlord twitches.  I have talked to two engineers, new to consulting but with great experience, who are open to the idea of us working together.  They are working out of their homes, so part of the deal is I'd provide office space.  Billie has great fluid systems (hydraulics, pumps, etc.) background, Jason has thermofluids (heat exchangers, HVAC, etc.), and I have structural, pipes & pressure vessels, and lots of computer modeling (3D design, FEA, CFD, Kinematics)...between the three of us we have most of the field covered. 
 
Add to this we now have Carrie.  Carrie ROCKS!!!  OK, she's not as rockin' as Elizabeth is, but she's young and learning, still has not achieved her full ROCK potential.  We had initially hired her to help with some of the admin "dig through the old company to get stuff to make IRS happier" stuff.  She has a great work ethic and is pretty darn smart...so I asked if she was interested in doing the 3D design with Solidworks.  She's still working through the tutorials, but she has a definite knack for it.  We still have Wendell for any major work--he had worked for me before and has been to two of the Solidworks training classes on top of many many years of work in Autocad as a mechanical designer.  However, he has a real job these days and is working in his spare time on the stuff for us.  Carrie will be a tremendous help by taking some of the smaller jobs off my plate--too small and needing too fast of a turnaround to use for contract work.  I'll be there to help her as needed, but I'm seeing that she'll be taking off with this stuff pretty soon.  She can also hold the fort for days when Elizabeth needs to be elsewhere, so we have some continuity there as well.  There are some other plans we're working on, such as getting a former employee Cynthia back (a kickass graphic designer, looking at adding her into the Solidworks mix as she already does 3D work), but bottom line is we'll have several people able to do the design work and several engineers such that nothing stops if someone is gone on vacation or is out sick,  I'm working at getting the business side similarly set up.  This way maybe I won't have to drag work home all the time, or drag work with me when I'm out of town.  As always, we have some large projects in "hang fire", just waiting for the stars to align and money to appear...in such cases we can use more contract or maybe throw enough money to make them jump ship....but I'm concentrating more on the steady growth.
 
Yes, there is also the issue of "what of Uncle Sam sends Doofus on another year long vacation?"  It can happen.  My old unit, the 412th ENCOM, just stood up one team to support an engineering brigade going to Iraq and another team to support the US Army Corps of Engineers offices in Iraq.  Some of those guys came back a month after I did.  Some of those guys were also on my 1st mobilization as well.... making it 3 mobilizations in six years....about the same as the Regular Army.  As much as I may have empathy for the Regulars--its their full time job.  They don't change employers to go overseas.  If they come up for military schooling, they leave country and make their schools.  If they need replacements, they get them.  The Reserves and Guard do not get that consideration for school, and I know several soldiers who have lost opportunities, to include promotions, because of multiple deployments.  If a Reserve or Guard unit loses a person...suck it up, you work with the loss.  If you lose your job while you're gone, "don't worry,  you'll be deployed again soon."  No kidding, I overheard a Regular say that to a Reservist who was worried about losing a job back home.  They just don't get it -- as evidence by every freakin' idiot with stars that whines about "how stressed their troops are so we need the Reserves to be mobilized to give us a break."   Geez...they mobilize us as it is because we do stuff they can't do in addition to what they can do....now we need to burn more bridges at home so they can spend more time at home?  Definitely a case of the Dilbertian "anything you don't have to do must be easy."
 
So...3 mobilizations in 6 years. Ain't that a great way to make your employer and family happy?  Divorces are going up, and its harder and harder to get hired as a Reservist or Guardsman.  They won't say "we don't want to hire you because of you may have to do your duty", but its there...but to be fair, 70% of US businesses are small businesses and they can't afford to lose 5-20% of their workforce (depending on the size of the company) when duty calls.  There are no incentives or breaks for businesses.  As a business owner (now on my second business with employees), I completely understand.  So in addition to making it so anyone can go on vacation without an aspect of the shop grinding to a halt...yes, I would like to have a job to come home to, to have clients feel they can trust me to provide solutions one way or the other.  Plus we have a good time at work, we get interesting jobs to work on, and it gives me the chance to be there for my boys every day as the after school care is "bring them to the office".  We also have the flexibility to go on school field trips and the like.
 
What else?  Hmm...well I'm now the Assistant S3 (Operations Officer) for the 420th Engineer Brigade, headquartered in Bryan, Texas.  Football season will be fun, as I'll be in the heart of Texas A&M country.  GEAUX TIGERS!!!  Depending on traffic, I'll be driving either through Alexandria (before cutting west) or Lake Charles & Houston, so I may be doing some of that aforementioned pestering of friends in that direction....time permitting, dang it.  In case I haven't kept you up in some time...I went to the Knob Creek Machinegun Shoot with Val, helped her show off her new project and saw some old friends.  The divorce was final in April, we still have to do property.  Last year I was nominated to represent my unit in the National Society of Professional Engineer''s Federal Engineer of the Year program.... I ended up being the top "green suiter", meaning I was the "Army engineer unit" representative for the entire Army...and by virtue of being the only Army nerd in the top ten for the entire federal work force, I was also the top Army engineer for 2007.  The Army has a bunch of labs and US Army Corps of Engineer offices who also had representation at the National Press Club.  It was very humbling to be picked over guys with PhD's...or even just a steady Federal job, as I only had that 15 months of my last mobilization plus my normal Reserve time that allowed me to be eligible.  The coolest aspect of that was my Dad was there with me in D.C. in Feb., in uniform, as was my commanding general (412th is a 2-star command).  I got a nice plaque I forget to put on my "here are my qualifications, give me money" wall.  By contrast....Carlie at Slinky's got the "Sexiest Bartender in Baton Rouge" award from a local magazine and got a crapload of prizes worth actual money....so you can see what pays better, being hot or being a nerd. In May I went to Chicago for a conference and saw one of my penpals from Iraq, Claire, and made friends with a bunch of cool people like Lane and Doug.
 
Next week I leave for Hawaii.  Wait wait wait...don't hate me yet.  I'm doing this to link up with the USS Stennis and go on a Tiger Cruise from Hawaii to San Diego, then up to Seattle.  NOW your can hate me! LOL  I have been adopted by the son of a fellow writer, Mike Picray.  Both sons and his daughter enlisted in the Navy.  John, my sponsor, is in the Engineer section, so I get to see what my counterparts in the water-going side of the Navy does.  (I've already worked with the SeaBees.)  I'll link up with Jason and Krista in Seattle before returning home.  I'll be heading back to Seattle in November to present a peer-reviewed paper, "Risk Mitigation and Reliability Lessons Learned in Iraq", at the big international mechanical engineer conference...then that next weekend drop south to Portland for OryCon (a science fiction convention) where I'll be one of the panelists there...yes, a week or so of utter nerdiness.
 
Speaking of being a nerd....I've let my professional photography slack for a while.  Part of it is I didn't have a professional digital camera...in the last several years its gotten to where you just can't shoot film for most things anymore.  I now have a Nikon D80 with some serious glass and flashes.  I can also use my old lenses with it, too.  I've had to turn down assignments since being home, now I can get back to shooting for profit.  I have been shooting for fun and been doing darkroom work...yet another change is there is almost no darkroom stuff sold locally anymore.  Its frustrating, but fortunately I can order most of what I want and all that I really need, so I'm back to doing art prints again.  I'm teaching Mack how to print...in stages, as he has only so much patience, but he was very proud to sign his name as "printed by" on some of the stuff I shot in D.C. at the Air and Space museum.  I have a few friends who have been VERY patient about me, as they've been wanting me to shoot their nudes/semi-nude art prints...now that my darkroom is up again, I'll be doing that, too.
 
It's not all work.  I am getting out every so often.  I see Mike and Chris whenever I can.  I try to keep up with old friends like Adrienne and Tom (now engaged, YAYYY!), Laura, Heather, Dave, Staci (working on Child #2!!) and others.  I get out to the monthly beer tasting at Slinky's fairly regularly and we even sponsored a wine tasting there.  I have dated a bit....a bit of a challenge as the 50% of the time I have the boys I'm all about the kids...and then I have (at least) one weekend a month on duty, plus work.  I don't have a free time to see anyone, including a girlfriend, on a frequent basis.  Throw in the fact I have kids and recently divorced...that pushes off others.  As one woman told me, "You're too damaged."    (She asked, "are you conflicted about your divorce?"  What did she expect?)  However...I'm not looking for a girlfriend, either...at least, not as the term was used back when I was young and single, before kids & careers took priority in my life.  I'm more interested in making friends...and from there, whatever develops is on a solid foundation.   
 
Last night the a/c went out...with the heat index being 108.  Still...didn't feel horribly bad.  I guess my standards have changed. LOL  I took the boys to the big hot air balloon event here this weekend...they had a lot of fun.  I tried out my new camera...its different, but its cool.  I did ok with the fireworks, but having a camera in hand kept me "on the job" and a bit more dispassionate despite the screamers sounding like incoming, the green sparklie ground-fire jobs looking like Soviet bloc tracers (typically incoming, particularly if you're flying), etc.  Saw the "pretty boys" from the Special Forces precision sky diving team...I worked a little with the Golden Knights and have a fair idea of the duty...but its a good break from the field, let alone the more interesting places they go.  The a/c is somewhat repaired, but not totally....what is it with trips and things breaking?  Last time I was leaving the a/c iced over and needed freon...the time before a ceiling fell in.  Just more joys of being a house owner.
 
Mack and Zack start school Monday.  Mack is in 1st grade, Zack is starting pre-K, both going to Sacred Heart.  Wow...when I mobilized last time, Mack hadn't even started school and Zack was all of 2 1/2.  Time flies. 
 
So...if you want more timely news from my warped part of the world, I tend to do fairly well with direct emails.  Otherwise, you'll have to wait for another one of these.

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If anyone wants to track me down during Norwescon, the best way is to find any panel I'm on.  I'm also likely to be at any panel Krista Wohlfeil is on.  My room is 424.  Thurs, Friday, and Sat. will be a bit busy, including the nights.  I leave Seattle on Monday.
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Helllooooooooooooooooooooo   Nurse!!

Its been a hectic day, but am packing for Seattle!   I get in Weds afternoon, set up my "road shop" for work, and start shovelling.  Ah, the freedom of being to not be tied to the office and work anywhere.  It means I can't get away from the office because I'm working everywhere. :)

No worries!  I'll have a great time, as always.  Just looking forward to seeing new friends and old.

Current Mood: bouncy bouncy

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