Bob's Basement

Just a short, simple blog for Bob to share his thoughts.

A Few Thoughts on my 27th Anniversary

When I was a child, there was an excitement that preceded Christmas as it approached each year. I am sure that most everyone knows what I mean by that statement; whether you are longing for Christmas, Hanukah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, or even if you are an atheist that participates in some form of secularized holiday celebration. There is a sense of childhood excitement that surrounds the season; it could be the gifts, the decorations, the music, or a host of other contributing factors.

In a small way, I experience something like that feeling each week of the year; every Wednesday night for the past decade or so, my wife and I have had "Date Night." I do my best to never schedule anything that conflicts with this tradition; and as each Wednesday comes around, I look forward to going out to dinner or a movie with my wife in something of that same good-natured attitude of child-like expectation that I used to have at Christmas.

Date Night is a recent endeavor for us; which is unfortunate, but somewhat unavoidable. Both Kathleen and I went directly from living at home to being young, married, and poor; and soon after that we became parents. We were great friends in High School and our first year of college, but we jumped forward several years almost overnight; and as a result, we went from being children to being parents with barely a chance to discover who the other person really was.

Please don't misunderstand me - parenthood was a mixed blessing of training and teething, schooldays and sporting events, chaos and concerts, happiness and heartaches; and I would not trade a moment of my joys or sorrows as a parent. (Well, maybe I could do without the memories from one of my daughter's first boyfriends - and he knows who he is. Angry smile ) But that being said, Kathleen and I missed out on the opportunity to explore who we were as a couple all those years ago; which is why I enjoy each week's rediscovery that long before I loved my wife, I actually liked my wife.

There is a wonderful scene in the musical Fiddler on the Roof where the main character, Tevye, asks Golde, his wife of twenty-five years, "Do you love me?" I didn't fully understand this scene when I was younger; I simply thought that it was amusing.

<br /><a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/h_y9F5St4j0">Fiddler on the Roof - Do you love me?</a>

But in recent years, Golde's responses to Tevye's simple questions have impacted me differently.

"For 25 years I've washed your clothes,
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house,
Given you children, milked your cow.
After 25 years, why talk about love right now?

"For 25 years I've lived with him,
Fought him, starved with him.
25 years my bed is his;
If that's not love, what is?
"

I truly loved my wife on the day that we exchanged rings and we both said "I do" before our friends and family. The reasons why I loved my wife on that day are still there: she has an odd sense of humor, we complement each other well, and she is my best friend. But the trials and tribulations that we have endured together over the past twenty-seven years have changed the dynamics of that relationship.

In our marriage vows Kathleen and I promised to love each other for richer or poorer, for better or worse, and in sickness or in health; and we have endured each of those seasons in due course over our many years of marriage. It is precisely that collection of experiences that has bonded us together in ways for which a night out every week could never substitute; in much the same way that veterans of a war are bonded together in a way that supersedes the love between the closest of siblings.

Two years ago, on our twenty-fifth anniversary, I gave Kathleen a framed portrait that contains our wedding photos and the following quote from Mark Twain:

"Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century."

In many ways that sums up my feelings: I loved my wife when I was nineteen for as much as I understood that concept at the time; but now that I am somewhat older, and perhaps somewhat wiser, I love my wife in ways that I couldn't possibly have understood back then. I tell Kathleen every day that she is my favorite person; and because of that, every week may not be Christmas, but just the same - I look forward to spending each week with her all the more.

Posted: Dec 29 2011, 06:23 by Bob | Comments (2)
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The Geek's Guide to Weight Loss

I've had a lot of questions from a lot of people over the past few months about my extreme weight loss this year, so I thought that I'd post a few words to explain how I accomplished that. To put things in perspective, between the start of January, 2011, and the end of June, 2011, I lost 50 pounds (22.7kg). What's more, I've kept the weight off for an additional five months.

Here's the story behind all of that.

Falling Apart (or Bursting at the Seams)

First of all, I knew that I was really overweight.

In December of 2010 my weight reached 210 pounds. As I had watched my weight grow over the years, I had a series of "superhero" names that I called myself:

  • First I was "Porky Boy."
  • Next, I was "Fat Man."
  • Later, I was "The Obese Avenger."
  • I was rapidly growing into "The Morbid Marauder."

I made all the usual comments at my own expense:

  • "I'm in shape - round is a shape."
  • "I have six pack abs - I'm just keeping my six pack insulated."
  • "I'm watching my weight. It keeps going up, but I'm watching it go up."

I went into something of a denial phase - I started buying my pants from one particular store, because their brand of jeans were actually larger than their advertised size. So I felt better about the fact that I was wearing jeans that were advertised as size 36, when I was really wearing size 38 or larger. Even then I had a serious "muffin top" that would hang over the top of my jeans. I never tucked in my shirt in order to help disguise my condition.

I knew things were bad when a cab driver in Iquitos, Peru, charged an extra fare for my wife and me because he said that we were too fat. (Actually, he didn't say it, he pointed at me and gestured like I was a balloon inflating.)

But all joking aside, I knew that I was in trouble because my blood pressure had elevated to 170/120, which is dangerously high. (120/80 is normal.) I decided to start exercising, and in early January, 2011, I had barely made it 15 minutes into a workout before I thought that I was going to have a stroke. That's when I realized that I needed a doctor to help me get started.

With this in mind, I took a week off for vacation, and I spent most of that week visiting doctors. I saw a general practitioner who put me on medicine to control my blood pressure. I also saw a neurologist because of my frequent headaches, which were actually chronic migraines. (Undoubtedly due to the blood pressure.) I saw a bunch of other doctors for a variety of additional medical symptoms that I was experiencing, but for the sake of expediency I'll spare you the details.

To make a long story short, it seemed like I was falling apart.

Exercising and Counting Calories

Within a few days, the blood pressure medicine did the trick; I could keep my blood pressure low and complete a workout. For exercise, I bought a treadmill from NordicTrack that connected to www.ifit.com, which allowed me to track the distances that I walked each day. (Hey - if you're a geek, it shows up everywhere.) I bought several series of documentaries on DVD from the History Channel and the Discovery Channel, and I would watch those documentaries while I walked for an hour or so.

I also created a measured walking path through buildings 16, 17, and 18 on Microsoft's main campus; these buildings are connected by glass-covered walkways, so I could still walk when the weather was nasty outside. My walking trail was around three-quarters of a mile long, and it took me about 15 minutes to walk it. It's interesting, because I had never noticed before how many people put out cookies and candies in the hallways. I could ignore all of it - but it's kind of funny that I hadn't paid much attention before.

I have to stress that I did not do a lot of exercise to lose the weight - I mainly started counting the calories for everything that I ate, and I tracked those calories diligently. (I'll explain more about that later.)

My general method of calorie counting was to calculate my Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), then I would subtract 1,000 calories from that. Whatever was left was the calorie count that I was allowed to eat for the rest of the day.

Here's what that looks like:

Sex
Age (in years)
Weight (in pounds)
Height (in inches)
Activity Level

There are lots of websites that will help you find the calories for meals, although I liked http://www.livestrong.com/myplate/ the best. I also created a OneNote file that I could read on my SkyDrive and through the Office application on Windows Phone 7 where I listed the calories for the foods that I eat the most; this made it easier to keep track.

It got to the point where I would say to myself, "I really want to eat those M&M's, but I'll have to work out later to burn off those calories." I also learned to browse to a restaurant's website before going out to dinner and picking my meal by calculating the calories ahead of time. In order to help cut down on craving, I stocked my desk with a bunch of 90-calorie snack bars. Those or a bowl of oatmeal became my daily breakfast, and in between my reduced-size meals I would have a snack bar.

I should stress that I did not give up the foods that I like - it may be healthier to do so, but I don't think that's sustainable for some people. (That includes me.) I would still have pizza, or a Qdoba burrito, or a burger from Five Guys; but I would simply have less of everything. If I had a burger somewhere, I'd skip the fries. I'd only have a couple slices of pizza, instead of eating the whole pizza. Keeping the weight off is about sustainability - and eating food that I like in moderation works for me.

I should also point out that at no time was I actually hungry during my weight loss period; that's where the snack bars paid off. Instead of being famished when lunch or dinner rolled around, I could get by with a simple meal of 300 or 400 calories and be satisfied with that.

As long as I stuck faithfully to counting my caloric intake on a daily basis, my weight and the inches around my waistline started to recede.

Losing Weight (while Undoing Years of Abuse)

After five weeks my weight had dropped 20 pounds; my pants were fitting a lot looser, and a few people started to take notice. This was fuel for my self-motivation; the fact that someone could actually see that I was losing weight was great, and it made everything worth the effort. Of course, I still weighed 190 pounds, which was 25 pounds overweight, so any elation was short-lived.

As an added bonus, my weight had dropped so much that I no longer needed the medicine to control my blood pressure. In fact, the medicine was making my blood pressure way too low. One day I finished a workout and I felt a little light-headed. So I took my blood pressure, and I discovered that it was 80/60, which is low enough to pass out. (I stopped taking the blood pressure medicine immediately.)

After losing 30 pounds it was kind of cool - I could tell by looking in a mirror that my face was thinner, and more people started mentioning that it looked like I had lost some weight. But I was still faced with the knowledge that even though I had lost 30 pounds - which was significant for only two months' worth of effort - I still weighed 180 pounds, which put me 15 pounds into the "Overweight" weight range.

When I had lost 45 pounds in May, 2011, I hit my initial weight loss goal. This put my Body Mass Index (BMI) at 25, which was the high end of the "normal" range. To celebrate, I took a break from actively losing weight for a couple weeks, and I went into maintenance mode. So for the next month I continued to count my calories, and I simply kept my weight at 165 pounds.

During my brief respite from active weight loss, I had a follow-up appointment with the same doctor with whom I had met in January. He was shocked when he saw me, and he asked me what had happened. I replied that I didn't want high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and heartburn for the rest of my life. More than that, I didn't want to have to worry about a stroke or heart disease. The doctor gave me a clean bill of health, and a couple of weeks later I started losing weight again.

By the end of June or the beginning of July, I had hit my ultimate weight loss goal of losing 50 pounds, and I've kept it off since then. My waistline went down several sizes, so I have had to change my daily wardrobe through several successively-smaller sets of jeans, which was a great feeling.

Here's what my weight loss chart looks like for the year of 2011 (so far):

 

The After Effects

First and foremost - I feel great. I have no more migraines, I sleep better, my heartburn is gone, my blood pressure is back to normal, and I have lots more energy.

I'm also in much better shape. In fact, my wife and I walked the Leavenworth Half-Marathon in October, 2011; and here is a photo of the two of us crossing the finish line:

I thought that it might be good to show a set of "before and after" photographs, just so you can see the difference that 50 pounds can make:

December, 2009 July, 2011

(My thanks to Rebecca Calvo for the photos!)

How Anyone Can Lose Weight

A while ago I posted some weight loss information to Facebook in order to answer a few people's questions about my experiences; since I keep my list of friends on Facebook pretty small, I thought that I'd share some of that information here. But I also wanted to make it a little more up-to-date with some additional information.

My secret to weight loss? Microsoft Excel.

Well, it's a little more than that - but it's mostly just counting my calories and making sure that I eat 1,000 calories less per day than my Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), for which I use Mufflin equation:

  • For Men: (10 x w) + (6.25 x h) - (5 x a) + 5
  • For Women: (10 x w) + (6.25 x h) - (5 x a) - 161

Where:

  • w = weight in kg
  • h = height in cm
  • a = age

I converted this equation into the following complex Excel formula:

=((10*(B2/2.2))+(6.25*(B3*2.54))-(5*B4)+IF(B1="Male",5,-161))*IF(B5="Extremely Active",1.9,IF(B5="Very Active",1.725,IF(B5="Moderately Active",1.55,IF(B5="Lightly Active",1.375,1.2))))

Where:

  • B1 = Male or Female
  • B2 = Weight (in pounds)
  • B3 = Height (in inches)
  • B4 = Age (in years)
  • B5 = Activity Level (Sedentary, Lightly Active, Moderately Active, Very Active, Extremely Active)

To make things easier, I created the following spreadsheet to help me track my calories:

Geeky Bob's Weight Tracking Spreadsheet

If you want to use it, here's how it works - there are two worksheets in the spreadsheet:

  • On the Settings worksheet, you enter your weight, height, age, activity level, and the number of pounds that you want to lose in a week. You should only shoot for a maximum of two pounds a week; anything more is really unsafe, and your body will respond by slowing down your metabolism to conserve resources.
  • On the Tracking worksheet, you enter the date and your weight, and the spreadsheet uses this information and the information from the Settings worksheet to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) which should be below 25, and your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) which is the number of calories that your body burns just to keep you alive.

The remaining columns in the spreadsheet will tell you the number of calories that you can eat based on your weight loss goal. As you enter the number of calories that you have eaten (by using a formula like "=100+200+300") the spreadsheet will let you know how many calories that you have remaining for the day. As long as you keep your remaining calories above zero, you should be losing weight.

So there you have it: Microsoft Excel is the Geek's Guide to Weight Loss.

;-]

Posted: Nov 08 2011, 18:44 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Proud Microsoft Dad Moments

This past August my middlest daughter married her fiancé in a small ceremony that was as unique as the two of them. That being said, one moment of entertainment occurred during the service when my daughter recited her self-composed vows by reading them from her Windows Phone.

As a Microsoft Dad, this was too amusing to keep to myself, so I forwarded a photo to some of the folks in the Windows Phone division, and the story was picked up by the Windows Blog team, which published my daughter's description of the event as "First Person: With this phone, I thee wed"

"The wedding was in a little white chapel, up against a mountain, near the ocean. We wanted a simple, elegant wedding that represented us. We went through all the different weddings we'd seen - do we want to mix the sand? light a unity candle? - but we decided that wasn't really us. So we cut out all the things that weren't really us, and wrote our own vows.

"My phone is the thing I always have on me, so when I needed to write my vows I used Office on my phone. Whenever I thought of something I wanted to add, I could just jot it down. When it came to the day of, I thought maybe I should write it on a piece of paper. Then the minister said, 'Why not just read it off your phone?'

"My husband didn't know I was going to read off my phone. He said his vows off paper, and when it was my turn I looked at the pastor and she pulled out my phone and handed it to me. Everyone laughed - it made it a little more lighthearted, so we weren't bawling.

"My husband laughed, because I'm on my phone all the time, and he's on his. So I'm sure he wished he had thought of it. Now the vows are saved on my phone, and every time I want to go back and read them, I can. Meanwhile, his piece of paper is floating around somewhere - I don't even know where it is."

(photo: ©Rebecca Calvo Photography)

Posted: Sep 23 2011, 20:56 by Bob | Comments (0)
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The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

When you study history, you are invariably introduced to Carroll Quigley's seven stages in The Evolution of Civilizations. In chapter 5 of his book, Quigley describes the seven states in the history of a civilization; these are:

  1. Mixture: The mixture of diverse, smaller societies to form a unique, larger whole.
  2. Gestation: The gestation of that large society, specifically in the development of a method for accumulating an economic surplus and investing it in methods of expansion.
  3. Expansion: A period of vigorous expansion in population, territory, technological competence, wealth, knowledge, etc.
  4. Conflict: A period of major conflict between societal elements or geographical areas within the civilization.
  5. Empire: The development of a universal empire ruling over the entire civilization, which far from being a golden age represents a precursor to decay and collapse.
  6. Decay: The decay of the civilization as exemplified in the ossification of institutions and structures within the empire.
  7. Collapse/Invasion: The collapse of the civilization, usually through invasion by a younger civilization that is in the expansion phase.

Every great civilization has gone through this formula - with no exceptions.

From my perspective, the history of the United States has emerged in the following way:

  1. Our Mixture phase was pre-1750s as European settlers began to arrive and colonize the East Coast.
  2. Gestation followed the 1750s through the early 1800s as the colonists won their independence from European rule and began to establish a new nation.
  3. Expansion was from the early 1800s through the 1860s as the new nation pushed west toward the Pacific Ocean.
  4. Conflict was from 1860s through the latter 1800s as the United States grappled with the Civil War and its aftermath.
  5. Empire was from the latter 1800s through the latter 1950s as the reunified United States fought a series of World Wars and established itself as a dominant world power.
  6. Decay began in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the generation born during the post-WWII Baby Boom spat on the prosperity that had been fought for and freely given to them, and all vestiges of ethical and moral standards were removed from public education. This period was marked by dramatic rises in crime rates, drug proliferation, corruption, divorce, unemployment, abortions-on-demand, corporate greed, and worst of all - the political ineptitude which prevents anything from being done about it.

According to Mr. Quigley's formula, all that the United States have left to face are Collapse and Invasion; civilizations do not recover once they have entered the Decay phase.

What is tragically ironic is that the people who vociferously claim to be trying to save the United States, namely Progressives and Liberals, are actually doing the most damage. As Quigley illustrates in his book, when members of a civilization become so preoccupied with arguing about what they perceive are their "rights" instead of contributing to society and adhering to an ethical set of standards or morals, the fabric of civilization unravels, and eventually implodes as an emerging civilization invades and conquers.

In this present day and age, people are rushing headlong into their inevitable demise; all the while they are wearing blinders which prevent them from seeing what is obvious to the less-outspoken of their peers. It is a sad manifestation of The Emperor's New Clothes; and even though the irony is missed by those who are too foolish to see themselves as members of the deceived, future generations will have the perspective granted by history with which to judge this time period with impartiality (and thereby with greater accuracy).

Several hundred years from now, historians of that coming era will look back with amazement as they analyze how the American civilization was ripped apart by the selfish desires of those who claimed to be acting in the best interests of society.

In closing, I think the rock group Rush expressed that sentiment quite well in their song "A Farewell to Kings":

A Farewell To Kings
When they turn the pages of history
When these days have passed long ago
Will they read of us with sadness
For the seeds that we let grow

We turned our gaze
From the castles in the distance
Eyes cast down
On the path of least resistance

Cities full of hatred, fear and lies
Withered hearts and cruel tormented eyes
Scheming demons dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude
And scoffing at the wise

:-(

Posted: Sep 17 2011, 21:08 by Bob | Comments (0)
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The Days Grow Shorter...

Back in the 1980s I was a big fan of the Canadian Power Trio named "Triumph." As far as arena rock was concerned, few bands could put on a show that was anywhere near as entertaining as a Triumph concert. It wasn't just about being a fan - there are any number of great bands out there who could put on a good show if you already liked them; but Triumph put on a killer show whether you liked them or not.

At the height of their popularity, Triumph recorded what was to become one of their greatest hits, which was a song that was titled "Fight the Good Fight." Many guitar players - myself included - spent a good deal of time learning that song, and I always enjoyed playing it live in the various rock bands that I played in throughout my teenage years.

As the first official day of Autumn is just around the corner here in Seattle, the opening lines to "Fight the Good Fight" seem to take on special meaning:

"The days grow shorter,
And the nights are getting long.
Feels like we're running out of time."

As I look out of my office window, that's exactly what I see:

Our short-lived Pacific Northwest Summer appears to have come to a close, and the clouds seem like they're here for the duration. The sun is setting a little earlier each day, and within a few months the choleric combination of miserable mists and depressing dusk will shorten the average day to six hours or less of daylight. And yet the most discouraging fact that I have to wrestle with today is the knowledge that the weather will be this way for the next nine months.

[I exhale a deep sigh...] Storm cloud

Three months from now is the Winter Solstice, at which time we will confront the shortest day of the year; after that, we will at least have the small consolation that each day will be a little longer than the last, but we still won't see much of the sun until sometime next June or July.

[I heave another deep sigh...] Storm cloud

I wonder how much a plane ticket to Hawaii would cost in January? Island with a palm tree

Posted: Sep 15 2011, 19:52 by Bob | Comments (0)
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I Must Have Grown Up at Some Point, but I Don't Remember When

My middle daughter turned 24 last week. This was a significant occasion by itself, but it was made even more significant because I had just walked her down the aisle only three weeks earlier when she married a great guy from Vancouver, BC.

It seems like only yesterday that I was teaching her how to brush her teeth, how to ride a bicycle, and how to write an English paper that didn't sound like she was talking to one of her friends on the telephone.

It's the momentous events like these which make you sit back and wonder where the time went. It's been nearly thirty years since I became a "legal adult," but I still don't feel like I'm a "grown up." I still want to believe that my dad is the grown-up and I am just some long-haired kid from Arizona.

But it's easy for me to do the math - in a few short years my oldest daughter will turn thirty, so I must have grown up at some point; I just can't remember when.

Smile

Posted: Aug 22 2011, 23:18 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Dogs Versus Cats

I freely admit that I am a "Dog Person." What's more, I am blessed to have married another dog person - we both love dogs, and this is generally a good thing. My wife grew up surrounded by dogs, as did I.

My wife and I spent the first ten years of our marriage in poverty or in the military, and unfortunately being in the military is a lot like being in poverty. Sad smile Just the same, we had been married ten years before the two of us were finally able to get a dog. Our first dog was a yellow Labrador Retriever named "Barney." Unfortunately, Barney had been mistreated by a previous owner and we were not able to keep him.

Our next dog was wonderful - we got a Bouvier des Flandres, who became a part of our family for the next eleven years. We named him "Ruff Waldo Emerson," which we shortened to Emerson. I had never owned a herding dog before, and it was a lot of fun to watch the way that he took care of our family: he would patiently wait by the door for the kids to arrive home safely from school, and he would try to push me out of my desk chair when he decided that it was time for me to go to bed.

Our most recent dog was a red-haired Golden Retriever, who our son named "Rook." (Our son, Peter, was heavily into chess at the time.) Rook was a great dog, and I now see why so many people love Golden Retrievers. Sadly, Rook died of a fast-acting bone cancer when he was just eight years old. Crying face

All of this is simply an introduction in order to offer proof that I am a dog lover. But that being said, I am decidedly not a "Cat Person." I am allergic to cats, which I think is God's way of saying that man isn't meant to coexist with cats. My daughter has a cat, and her cat seems to like me more than anyone else that comes to visit - which seems to be due to the fact that I ignore it.

Here are several of my thoughts on dogs versus cats:

  • Dogs have masters, cats have servants.
  • When stranded in an avalanche, no one looks for a cat to rescue them.
  • Who cares if cats kill mice? Why not just raise mice and skip a step? My friend has cats which drag live mice into the house - ostensibly to kill them - but eventually the cats lose the mice somewhere inside the house.
  • Dogs are faithful and loyal; cats are selfish and fickle.
  • If you pet a dog, the dog thinks, "Wow - he likes me; he's so wonderful." If you pet a cat, the cat thinks, "Wow - he likes me; I'm so wonderful."
  • No one takes a cat hiking.
  • Dogs can be trained to search for explosives, provide eyesight for the blind, haul loaded sleds across hundreds of miles of hostile terrain, sense a variety of medical conditions, guide herds of animals without supervision, and a host of other important tasks. Cats can be trained to poop in a box.

The debate over which is better – dogs or cats - is ages old, and not likely to ever be resolved. But in my estimation, dogs will always be man's best friend, while cats will remain - at best - frenemies.

Posted: Jul 20 2011, 13:00 by Bob | Comments (2)
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More 511th Jokes and Humor

This 11th entry from the annals of 511th MI Company history is a continuation of the jokes that I introduced in my last post. As a quick reminder, these entries were all collected from the voluminous number of utterly useless messages that we sent back and forth between the EW platoons over the ASAS datalink system in the TRQ-32s.


The Official EW2 List of Things "Not to Do with Coffee"

  1. Don't make oatmeal with coffee
  2. Don't drink mess hall coffee after eating red lifesavers
  3. Don't drink mess hall coffee, period
  4. Don't let Paski near a full cup of coffee while on pos, unless you want to wear it
  5. Don't pour coffee on your Lt.
  6. Don't share coffee with your T&A team, unless you plan to resupply them forever
  7. Don't let Alex, Fred, or J.J. near a full pot of coffee and an ASAS Datalink
  8. Don't wash your field socks in coffee
  9. Don't use coffee as brake, hydraulic, or windshield wiper fluid (However, you can use it for rust removal)
  10. Don't yodel with your mouth full of coffee
  11. Don't puke, piss, or pop pimples in a pot of coffee
  12. Don't deploy to the field without lots of it

(J.J. Simmons and Bob McMurray, "Caravan Guard" 1989)

A Story

[Note: As if we hadn’t picked on 1LT Stahl enough, I wrote the following story about him. (Of course, D.A.T. means "Dumb Ass Tanker".)]

Once upon a time, all was well in E.W. land. The birds were singing and the jammers were jamming. Happiness just seemed to flow from everything about the EWites. Their lives were simple yet full of good cheer. They truly loved the work that they did and fancied to themselves that maybe it was important for some reason.

But then one day, "IT" came to town. The dreaded D.A.T.-Beast that they had all heard rumors of. There was no way to stop it. No way to prepare. No time to run or hide. It fell upon the helpless EWites and viscously attacked them. It tore at their very hearts as if it derived joy from seeing others suffer. It held no concept of the work that they tried so hard to do. It scarred their precious COMSEC habits. It had no life of its own, and thus it began to feed on the lives of others like some inhuman vampire of man's very essence.

It possessed no concept of right or wrong. It sought only self-importance and personal gain - the incredible irony to the role in which it chose to masquerade itself; an Army officer. By design the title should reflect an attitude of responsibility, accompanied by a genuine sense of caring for the well-being of its subordinates. But the Beast held not one endearing trait as a leader of men. A thoughtless, soulless specter shaped like a man. An empty, hollow shell that somehow tried to crush the will of others to bring itself some sadistic form of pleasure.

In its arrogance and pride, it has the audacity to raise its head in a flare of self-righteous temper and cry, "How dare you question my judgment?" when its imperfections are exposed. But therein lies its tragic flaw; for no puffed up ego that rests upon one's shoulders can lay low enough to duck through every door. Sooner or later it comes crashing to the ground at the wrong time yet in the right place, and if all luck prevails the Beast will die in some strange way. The hope remains that this mass of flesh that torments man will indeed fall prey to the traps that it laid for others, and some as yet unseen force will attack and purge this cancerous ego infection from the Beast, leaving enough to mold into a shape more closely resembling a man.

(Bob "Fred" McMurray, "Bold Lancer" 1989)

The World: Man's Future Foretold...

Life as we know it, has ended.
The nations of the world have all been devastated by a massive nuclear war.
Civilization is no more.
The peoples of the world are massing together in an effort to reclaim their lives.
The leader of the masses has been designated Emperor of the World.
The Emperor has maintained order in America the ten years since WWIII.
Very few oppose the emperor; those who do wish for a quick death.
Damnation of the rebels is personally levied by the hand of the emperor:
J.J. Slayer.
Are you damned in this Hell???????

(J.J. Simmons, Caravan Guard, 1989)

Bad DF-Ville (Sung to the tune of Margaritaville)

Wasting away again in Bad DF-Ville,
Searching for my lost OPFOR freq.
Some people say that there's an LT to blame,
But I know, that it's all TCAE's fault.

DF's and fixes, we all know what we're missin'.
We don't have a clue where the enemy stays.
"Gimme a grid square...I don't care where,"
That's all we hear from the TCAE goons.
But it don't matter, ignore the radio chatter.
Don't even bother, you'll be jumping real soon.

Wasting away again in Bad DF-Ville,
Searching for my lost OPFOR freq.
Some people say that the Blue LT is to blame,
But I know, that it's all TCAE's fault.

(Bill  McCollum, Hohenfels 1990)


That wraps it up for this post, but I have a few more jokes in my files to post in the future.

Posted: Feb 05 2011, 10:34 by Bob | Comments (0)
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511th Jokes and Humor

This post marks the 10th installment in my series on the 511th MI Company. So far I have posted all of the lists that I had collected, and I've included some stories along the way. Today's post is a little different - I also collected a bunch of jokes that the ESM squads from the two EW platoons sent back and forth over the TRQ-32's ASAS system. I thought that it might be amusing to let everyone see what we thought was funny at the time. ;-]

In the text file that I had used to collect these jokes I had added the following dedication:

These works best represent the attitudes and feelings shared by most who have sat rack upon the "Pos of Sorrow" at one time or another. They are not always intended to offend, though they sometimes do, but rather to show a rare moment of humor in what might otherwise be a dull and boring life.

To all who wear the Blackhorse, I say with the utmost of heartfelt sincerity and emotion, "Get out of the Army while you still can!"

For each of the jokes that were sent, I managed to write down who sent them and what field problem we were deployed on when I collected them.


Selected Titles from the J. Irwin Rumplemeyer Memorial Book Club

There are many titles to chose from when you join the J. Irwin Rumplemeyer Memorial Book Club. Famous authors, quality works.

  • Trotting across Zaire
  • I suck, you suck (Speak for yourself, Spanky)
  • The Spankmeister of Fulda Gap
  • Thermonuclear Racquetball: Applied theories
  • Opussum Huntin' with Billy Bob Redneck
  • The Chairborne Rangers: Tales from the Orderly Room
  • How to make two small hats from a brassiere
  • John Carter, Warlord of Mars versus Andy Griffith
  • Roadkill: It's not just for breakfast anymore
  • Tremble your way to fitness
  • Eat right, stay fit, and die anyway
  • Getting the point across with Plastique
  • The Donner Party Cookbook: Frontier recipes with a twist
  • It's not easy being a complete Putz: Biography of an XO
  • The Black and Decker home facial reconstruction kit
  • The Petroleum Jelly Diet
  • What every 98G should know, but doesn't ask.  (Who cares!)
  • Dude, get a clue.
  • Coming of age, new NCO's speak out.
  • Gandhi, story of an abused child.
  • Does Fu Man Chu?
  • Thatcher and Reagan: Portrait of a lust affair
  • The life and times of 34 extremely short Saints
  • True Confessions: I was a Democrat!!
  • "Is safe sex in a car, intercourse with the seatbelts on?"
  • How to net with a 32(V) and get a date at the same time
  • Sex and the 98G, or Wahhh!!
  • Spanking: An in-depth study of milk and ************
  • Milk:  It's not just for drinking!
  • Field Duty: It's not just a job, it's boring!!!!!
  • Toxic Dumps: A guide to vacationing in America

(By Dave Paski, "Bold Lancer" 1989)

Note: I believe that Paski's "Biography of an XO" book was in reference to 1LT Stahl, who was thrust on the 511th for several months as Company XO until our CO managed to find a way to push him off on some other unsuspecting Company.

The 10 Top Heavy Metal Albums of All Time

  1. Burl Ives - "Chainsaw Lust"
  2. Slim Whitman - "Satan and a Six Pack"
  3. Roger Whitaker - "Dance, Bitch, Dance"
  4. Boxcar Willy - "Hobo Hell"
  5. Mormon Tabernacle Choir - "Sacrifice Two out of Three Wives"
  6. Boston Pops - "Belial's Orchestra"
  7. Mitch Miller - "Backwards Singalongs"
  8. Roy Clark - "Even **** Rot"
  9. Engelbert Humperdink - "Vanity for my Soul"
  10. Buck Owens - "I hope that Roy Clark rots"

(J.J. Simmons, "Bold Lancer" 1989)

The F.B.I.'s Latest Wanted Dead List

  1. Lt. McNeil (Alias "Spanky") - Wanted for impersonating an Officer
  2. Sgt. Smith - Wanted for impersonating a mature person
  3. Sgt. Degrood - Wanted for impersonating Dumbo
  4. Spc. Paski - Wanted for impersonating Sgt. Smith
  5. Spc. Dodge - Wanted for impregnating sheep

(J.J. Simmons, "Bold Lancer" 1989)

Five Reasons Why Not to Yodel in the Woods

  1. The Boars only like country
  2. It causes diarrhea in rodents
  3. It causes spontaneous itching in embarrassing places
  4. Burl Ives would sue
  5. It turns Bill Magan on

(J.J. Simmons, "Caravan Guard" 1989)


That's it for now - I'll post more in future notes.

Posted: Feb 03 2011, 09:17 by Bob | Comments (0)
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More 511th History: The Infamous AAFES Bag Incident

Here's a story that typifies why I liked MAJ Quinn, and it provides a great illustration of the old adage that good things come to those who wait. Sorry that it's a little longer than most of my other posts.

Part 1 - The Mail Run

In October of 1990, the 511th MI Company deployed to Mt. Meissner for the month. Duty was pretty typical: you'd spend a few days pulling rotations in the vault chasing bad guys or on guard duty, and then you'd have a day off. Time off at Mt. Meissner didn't offer many activities; your options were mostly limited to playing racquetball, watching stale videotapes of AFN programming in the lounge, reading a book, playing cards, or hiking. I think that by this time the no alcohol policy might have been put into effect, seeing as how someone from another unit had flipped their vehicle off the mountain in an alcohol-related incident, so the guys that drank were deprived of that as well.

I think that I was reading a book on one of my days off when SGT DeGrood dropped by the room and asked if I'd be willing to ride shotgun back to Fulda for a mail run. The military had a two-person requirement for military vehicles, so DeGrood simply needed someone to fill the vacant seat. Even though it was my day off, I didn't have anything better to do, so I agreed to go along for the ride. Bear in mind, I was married and I lived off-post, so we wouldn't be picking up my mail on this run - this was just for the single guys' mail. I just figured, "what the heck," so I got into uniform and we drove off in MI-59.

As we approached Fulda, DeGrood mentioned that he'd like to drop by the finance office on Downs Barracks to cash a check. That sounded fine to me - I was just along for the ride. After he cashed his check, we climbed back into MI-59 - and the darn thing wouldn't start. We popped the hood and we checked what we could, but we couldn't figure out what was wrong - this day was obviously not turning out as we had expected. We had few options, so we figured that we could walk down to the PX area and catch the shuttle back to Sickels Airfield where the 511th was located, ostensibly to get the wrecker to tow MI-59 to the Motor Pool (MOPO) for repairs. It took us a few minutes to walk down to the shuttle stop, and DeGrood sat down on the bench near the stop while I leaned against the sign for the shuttle.

I had been looking towards the PX, which was in a different direction than where DeGrood was sitting. When I turned around, I saw the Regimental Commander (RCO), COL Bacevich, approaching the shuttle stop. I snapped to attention and saluted as I rendered the greeting of the day, but DeGrood was looking at the ground, apparently lost in thought. The RCO came to a stop right in front of DeGrood, who suddenly noticed that someone was in front of him and he looked up. When he recognized the RCO, he immediately jumped to attention and saluted.

COL Bacevich asked what the @#$% was DeGrood doing there, and DeGrood started to explain that he was waiting for the shuttle to the airfield when the RCO cut him off. I don't remember what the RCO was yelling at him, but I attempted to interject and explain that our vehicle had died and we needed to get the wrecker from the airfield, and then the RCO started yelling at me. I don't recall his exact words, but he said some pretty awful things and made some completely baseless accusations about DeGrood and me wasting time when we should be on duty. Bear in mind - all of this was in front of a large crowd at the shuttle stop and pretty humiliating. Eventually the RCO ordered DeGrood and me to walk back to the airfield and have our CO (CPT Quinn) call him and explain our behavior. I have no idea what expression was on my face, but I looked at DeGrood, and he looked back at me with that half-grin that he always had - that same grin that he made right after he made a joke about your wife or something. We looked at each other for a second, then we both turned back to the RCO and said, "Yes, sir." Then we started the long walk back to the airfield.

Truth be told, the walk to Sickels airfield and the 511th was perhaps a mile at the most, but it was aggravating because there was a principle involved; I was pretty offended, as was DeGrood, but I think that after we got over the initial shock of what had just happened we started to make a few jokes about the situation.

We eventually arrived at the 511th, and as we were walking down the road that led from the airfield HQ to the 511th barracks, we could see that CPT Quinn was holding a staff meeting in the cafeteria. CPT Quinn caught sight of us, and since we were obviously on foot when we were supposed to be in Mt. Meissner, he walked out to greet us and said, "This has got to be a good story." We filled him in on the details about what had just happened, and we let him know that the RCO was expecting a call. CPT Quinn said not to worry about it, and that he would take care of everything.

So now DeGrood and I went back into vehicle recovery mode. We went to the MOPO to get some of the maintenance guys to take the wrecker over to Downs Barracks and pick up MI-59. After we towed it back to the MOPO, we worked with the maintenance guys until MI-59 was back up and running. By this point it was evening - and the one bright point of my day was that my wife dropped by to pick up our mail so I got to see her for a few minutes.

Once we had MI-59 ready to go and we had packed it with the mail for everyone at Mt. Meissner, I dropped by CPT Quinn's office to let him know that we were leaving. CPT Quinn said that he had called COL Bacevich and tried to explain what the situation was, but the RCO had cut him off and said something to the effect that "CPT Quinn's NCOs had AAFES shopping bags," so he was upset that we were shopping in the PX when we were supposed to be on duty. I explained to CPT Quinn that we didn't have any shopping bags - and CPT Quinn had met us as we were walking up the the barracks empty-handed, so he knew that we were telling the truth. CPT Quinn remarked that "in that case, the RCO is simply out to save face - and he'll lie about it if he has to."

Then CPT Quinn advised us to avoid the RCO if at all possible - that's when I had to drop a bombshell: the RCO was scheduled to visit Mt. Meissner within the next few days. CPT Quinn asked if we could stay out of sight, but I informed him that I had already been scheduled to deliver the operations briefing. CPT Quinn told me, "That had better be one damn good briefing," and then he told DeGrood to stay hidden as much as possible.

Part 2 - Payback

After a few days, DeGrood and I were still pretty upset. We had talked a couple of times about whether there was anything that we could do from a legal perspective - but unfortunately the Army is what it is. If someone abuses their power and position, more often than not they get away with it.

Eventually the day arrived for the RCO's visit to Mt. Meissner. At some point they brought the RCO, his staff & entourage, and CPT Quinn to the vault, where I proceeded to give them a detailed briefing on everything that we had been doing at Mt. Meissner. I followed my briefing by giving everyone a tour of the vault area and the antenna fields, then I took them on a brief tour of the main buildings and barracks areas, and I ended the tour in the cafeteria.

COL Bacevich stuck out his hand and thanked me for a great briefing and tour, then he turned to CPT Quinn and asked, "So this is where your NCOs claim that they're making their mail runs from?" I was momentarily speechless, which wasn't like me in those days - usually I spoke without thinking. But the statement caught me totally off guard. Apparently it had caught CPT Quinn off guard as well, and he asked, "What?" The RCO cracked a smile and said, "You know, those two NCOs that I caught goofing off on duty the other day." I could not believe this - not only had the RCO completely failed to notice who I was - but he was now recounting his warped version of the story to CPT Quinn right in front of me.

At this point - I have no idea what came over me other than a complete lack of respect for my sense of self-preservation and I said, "Sir, I was one of those two NCOs." COL Bacevich was momentarily surprised, but then he picked up his story again by saying, "So you're one of those two NCOs that I caught shamming on duty?" I was suddenly emboldened by his arrogance, and I managed to keep my cool as I said something like, "No, sir - I wasn't even on duty that day. I was only in uniform because I volunteered to ride shotgun so that the single guys could get their mail." I continued to tell the real story of how MI-59 had broken down next the the finance office, how we wanted to take the shuttle to the airfield to get the wrecker, how we were humiliated in front of our peers by him, and how wrongly he had treated the entire situation.

The more that I spoke, the lower COL Bacevich's eyes sank towards the ground, and the further his staff and entourage backed away from him. I don't recall how long I spoke or everything that I said - but I know that I chose my words carefully (for a change) and I did my best to say everything in a respectful manner, even though I was making it clear to everyone in attendance that the RCO had behaved like a complete ass.

Once I had finished, COL Bacevich stared at the ground in front of me for a little bit, then he looked up at his entourage for help - but no one would make eye contact with him. He resumed staring at the ground, shifted in his feet a little, then he mumbled, "That's not the way that I understood the story the other day."

And then, before I could do anything about it, my mouth opened on its own and the following words spilled out: "That's okay, sir - let bygones be bygones. I've gotta get back to work. Thanks!" And I left the cafeteria. I swear that my brain was not involved in that final process - which is probably pretty obvious to everyone who reads this. It wasn't one of my most eloquent speech endings - but once it was said there was no taking it back.

I went back to the vault, where I met up with DeGrood (who was now out of hiding) and everyone else. As I was telling everyone what had just happened, CPT Quinn entered the vault. He walked up to me and kind of cocked his head to one side - like a dog trying to figure something out. After a brief pause he asked, "'Let bygones be bygones?' What the hell does that mean?" I replied, "Honestly, sir - I have no idea what that meant." CPT Quinn laughed, then asked if I still wanted to pursue anything against COL Bacevich. I replied that my desire for retribution had been satisfied; the RCO had humiliated me without cause, and I had humiliated him with cause.

Part 3 - Epilogue

In another of those weird, full-circle occurrences - the story didn't end there. DeGrood and I had orders to PCS back to the states when we finished up at Mt. Meissner, but fate was about to play a dirty trick on us. The Army was gearing up for the first Gulf War, and I was days away from having my household goods picked up and shipped to the states when the Army issued orders to freeze everyone at their present duty station. I did not react well to this news - but CPT Quinn was kind enough to attempt to see if anything could be done. Unfortunately, nothing could be done; this was an Army-wide policy, and the only exception to policy was if your household goods had been picked up - and I fell short by six days.

DeGrood and I were both in the same boat - we were both days away from our PCS dates and our orders were rescinded. But it wasn't just hard on DeGrood and me - there were several people who were about to ETS that were frozen in station as well. SPC Meyer's father had a heart attack, and while his father was recuperating his poor mother was trying to work their family farm by herself. I watched Meyers descend from his normal, outgoing, optimistic, happy-go-lucky self to a person who was withdrawn and quiet. I can't imagine what those months were like for him.

The 11th ACR was not going to be deployed to the Gulf, so we went into a holding pattern while every other unit in Germany that was being deployed started gutting us for everything that we had. (Radios, vehicle parts, etc.) It was around this time that CPT Quinn allowed me to go home on leave for Christmas to help alleviate some of my misery. Since my wife and I hadn't been home in three years, I have always appreciated that gesture more than he ever knew.

Skipping ahead a few months, the first Gulf War had ended, and the military started letting people ETS and PCS again. Meyers was finally able to go home, and I was really happy for him. Eventually the day arrived when DeGrood and I got our new orders - I was going to PCS on something like July 4th of 1991, and DeGrood was leaving within a couple days of my departure.

That was when the Army played its next wildcard - the 11th ACR received orders to deploy to the Gulf for post-war activities, and regimental HQ announced that anyone with a PCS date later than July 1st would have their orders rescinded. I could not believe it - for the second time in my tour at Fulda I was within days of my PCS date and I wasn't going to be allowed to transition. DeGrood didn't make the cutoff date, either - so the two of us went to see MAJ Quinn (who had obviously been promoted from CPT). MAJ Quinn said that he would try to get an exception to policy for the two of us. True to his word, he got back to us shortly after our discussion with good news - he got all the paperwork that we needed; all that we had to do was get COL Bacevich to sign our papers.

(You can see the irony here, can't you?)

So early on a Friday morning DeGrood and I made our way over to regimental HQ in order to see COL Bacevich and request that he sign our paperwork and let us PCS back to the states. We both vividly remembered our history with the RCO, but we were hoping that he didn't remember. When we arrived at the RCO's office he was busy, so his secretary asked us to wait. After a while she said that if we wanted to leave the forms with her, she would make sure that the RCO signed them, and we could pick them up that afternoon. Neither DeGrood nor I wanted to actually see the RCO, so this sounded like a great plan. We left our paperwork and promised to return that afternoon.

The hours ticked by, and the two of us decided to drop by regimental HQ and see if the RCO had signed our paperwork. We arrived at the RCO's office, and only the RCO's secretary was there. (The absence of the RCO was great news.) The secretary said that the RCO had signed our paperwork, and she handed everything back to us. That's when we noticed that DeGrood's paperwork was signed - and mine wasn't. (I swear that I am not making this up.) The secretary remarked that our papers must have stuck together, so she asked if I would leave my paperwork in her office over the weekend and she would make sure that it was signed first thing Monday morning. I hesitantly agreed - but what else was I going to do?

As DeGrood and I left the RCO's office, DeGrood turned to me - and he flashed that same half-grin again. He said, "You know what happened, don't you? I stayed hidden at Mt. Meissner and you pulled that stunt of yours - he's never forgotten your name." Of course that thought was already running through my mind, so I can't say that I found DeGrood's joke all that funny at the time, but many years have gone by and it makes me smile now.

So here's the end of the story - I spent an agonizing weekend worrying what would happen, but I showed up at the RCO's office on Monday to see if he had signed my paperwork. Those who were assigned to the 511th at that time realize that I didn't go to the post-war Gulf with them, so the short answer is - yes, the RCO signed my paperwork.

To this day I do not know if the RCO had actually managed to forget that smart-mouthed NCO who embarrassed him, or if he simply decided to let bygones be bygones.

Posted: Feb 01 2011, 03:26 by Bob | Comments (0)
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