"Not the victory but the action. Not the goal but the game.
In the deed the glory."

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Flags of Our Fathers

Flags of Our Fathers opened this weekend here at LSA Anaconda. Our original plan was to go Sunday night, but due to a Husker hangover we pushed it back to last night. Wow. I had high expectations as I read the book on my way back to Iraq from leave and it was very moving. I think I'll go so far as to say that the movie does the book one better. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the movies tells the tale of the six soldiers involved in the flag raising on Iwo Jima during WWII. I have to admit that before reading the book and seeing the movie I didn't know much about either the flag raising or Iwo Jima. This is the story that the movie tells.

Iwo Jima was one of the costliest battles in the Pacific theater. 20,000 Japanese soldiers had built an underground fortified complex on the island, and were prepared to fight to the death. They knew that they could not win, but were prepared to die to slow the allied advance. It is estimated that 18,000 of the Japanese died in the 40 day battle. The allies desperately wanted this island to provide an air base for the planned upcoming invasion of Japan. Over 7,000 Americans were killed and another 15,000 wounded.

Early in the battle, the Marines fought inch by inch to take Mount Sirabachi, a volcano on one side. Once they had taken the hill, the picture above was taken. Immediately, the picture was recognized as an epic one, and was ran on the first page of every major newspaper which immediately sold out. The people responsible for the War Bond tours were desperate to raise enough money to keep the war going, and the decision was made to bring the soldiers that were still alive out of the battle field and back to the States to help raise money. On a side note, can you imagine if the gov't had to borrow money from civilians to pay for this war? I don't think we would have Baskin Robbins in the dfac or probably any bullets for that matter.

The movie tells essentially 3 different stories at the same time. The battle for Iwo Jima and the flag raising, the war bond tour, and then the author's search for what happened, as his father was one of the men in the picture. Some reviews that I read knocked the movie as confusing due to the constant era changes, but I thought it was easy to follow, although that could have been because I read the book recently.

I really can't say enough good things about this film. It was very faithful to the book, I didn't notice one thing that I thought was missing or mis-represented. The acting was phenomenal. Ryan Phillipe has really grown up as an actor and carried the movie as John Bradley, a Navy Corpsman and the authors father. When I first heard that he was the star I thought there is no way Sebastian is going to pull this off, but I should have know better than to doubt Dirty Harry. Adam Beach (you may have seen him in Windtalkers) delivers a haunting performance as Ira Hayers, a Navajo Marine. Barry Pepper, the sniper from Saving Private Ryan and a young Joe Galloway in We Were Soldiers, is very solid in a supporting role as Marine sergeant Mike Strank.

The battle scenes are terrifying, very similar to the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan. The conditions on the island were absolutely horrendous, as the invasion force had no cover and were shelled with machine guns, mortars, artillery, and small arms fire. They had no where to go but straight into the fire so to speak. But, this movie is different from Saving Private Ryan in that there isn't the climatic battle scene. Instead, the real impact of the movie for me was watching the soldiers on the war bond tour. They were hailed as heroes and celebrities and were taken from town to town to help raise money, literally just weeks after the battle ended with the horrors of the war still fresh in their mind. Although relieved to be out of the war and safe at home, the soldiers share the feeling that they aren't heroes, they were simply doing their job, and the real heroes are lying dead on an island in the middle of the Pacific.

One scene in particular really drove the point home. One of the soldiers said that he wasn't a hero, he was simply trying not to get shot. He saw things, and did things, that no person should ever have to do. He wonders if his sergeant would be ashamed at some of the things he was forced to do. Keep in mind that these young men fought and survived the bloodiest battle of the Pacific campaign but felt guiltily about their role.

I guess that is how I feel at times. I'm in the rear with the gear, so to speak, and although still in a hostile area, I pretty much go about my day without a care in the world other than how long the line is going to be for chow today. I don't mean to say that I want to be in harms way, I'm perfectly happy here at my little desk with internet access making sure the legal operations of the 1-167th Cav are running smoothly. Every role, even the desk jockeys like me, are needed to keep our guys that are doing the fighting, killing, and dying equipped and ready. But, to say that I'm at war or in combat is a little bit of a misnomer. Sure the guy in the next village over keeps tyring to hit me with mortars, but he isn't a very good shot so the odds are pretty low of that actually happening. My biggest hardship is the separation from my family, other than that I don't have it too bad. Luckily, I don't think they'll be asking me to go on tour as a hero anytime soon to raise money. I'm still proud of my service over here, but there are definitley many more that have sacrificed much, much more than me. And they are the true heroes.

Monday, October 30, 2006

NY Times + Omaha = Love

I can honestly say that I never expected to read anything good in the NY Times about O-Town. I signed up awhile back to get the daily headlines from the NY Times emailed to me (lots of interesting stuff from the center of the Universe). Imagine my surprise when the following op-ed piece by Richard Dooling appeared in my inbox. The full story is here. The article addresses the falling real estate prices around the country (the topic du jour for the sky is falling crowd) and suggests that one solution is to cash out of the coast lifestyle and find a new home in the Midwest. Some highlights:

What if it is time to cash out? Where do you go? If you sell on either coast, then you need to find real estate somewhere that the housing bubble missed. Guam? American Samoa? Wait, how about eastern Nebraska? Downright frothless when it comes to housing: the median home price here usually chugs along at the annual rate of inflation and never goes down (up 4 percent last year, up 22 percent over the last five years).

Before you recoil in horror at the thought of living in Omaha, a city of 414,000 souls, consider that this year Money magazine ranked it seventh of the nation's 10 best big cities to live in, ahead of New York City, which ranked 10th. O.K., now you may recoil in horror.

So, why do people live in a state with high taxes, no mountains, no ocean beaches, no lakes to speak of, no major professional sports teams, no grand old museums or dazzling science centers? The three answers you hear most often from Nebraskans are: (1) quality of life; (2) good schools; (3) wouldn't moving be kind of a bother?

Surprising stuff. Now, there are some jabs at us simple Midwestern folks, which is to be expected, but all in all is a decent read. Of course, if you are reading this, live in New York, and are actually thinking about moving to Nebraska, don't do it. You won't like it. We don't want you. See, we aren't all that friendly. Unless of course your name is Ol' Buddy B than you are welcome any time.

Here is some other stuff I've been accumulating from around the web:
  • Dance your cares away. Worry is for another day. Let the music play. Down in Fraggle Rock. Yup, there is a movie is on the way. I think we'll be there on opening night.
  • This article is on everyone's favorite topic. Regardless of your stance on immigration, this should make you laugh. Or maybe not, but I laughed so there.
  • Paint ball guns are for sissies. We need armor!

Tomorrow is Halloween of course. Benjamin is daddy's little scarecrow and is quite the cutie. I am going to dress up as a Legal NCO for the first half of the day. Then my costume will be an out of shape sweaty guy at the gym. That is about it. Not really a trick or treat kind of town where I'm at, so you can rule that out. I'm sure there will be something good at the chow hall though. Enjoy your holiday and stay safe.

Friday, October 27, 2006

CNN Sucks

Most of you that know me know that I am fairly even tempered and rarely get excited about much. Well, I've been excited for over a week since I saw the news that CNN was airing a video showing insurgent snipers shooting our troops. In the name of "journalistic integrity", they have chosen to air video that they secured from our sworn enemy. I haven't seen it, and won't see it, but from the description it depicts the insurgents laying in wait for our soldiers, planning their shot, praying to Allah for help, and then shooting, possibly killing, the soldiers that are protecting CNN's right to free speech. I am really at a loss to understand who thought this was a good idea. That video is of someone's son or daughter that is serving their country voluntarily (they may not have volunteered for this mission but they volunteered to join the Armed Forces). Can you imagine if that was your son/daughter/husband/father/brother/etc, and you either saw it flipping through the channels or someone emailed you the video off the internet? Is knowing the pain that this will cause to Americans worth the story and the ratings? I guess the answer is yes if you work at CNN.

You can read CNN's response here if you can stomach it. You have to scroll down a little bit, as Madonna's adoption is now the top story (who else besides me could care less about Madonna stealing a baby from some father that doesn't speak English). Some of the highlights are:

Of course, we also understood that some might conclude there is a public relations benefit for the insurgents if we aired the material, especially on CNN International.

You think? Wow, I'm glad that we have this kind of brain power behind this network. Of course, the media could care less about aiding and abetting the enemy, so I don't know why I'm surprised.

We also understood that this kind of footage is upsetting and disturbing for many viewers. But after getting beyond the emotional debate, we concluded the tape meets our criteria for newsworthiness.

Substitute "ratings" for "newsworthiness" and I think you have something here. I've got an idea, how about we air some counter-footage of some of our snipers doing their thing? I bet that our guys are at least 10 times as accurate and deadly as the insurgent hacks. That would be still be upsetting and disturbing, but the question is would it help push CNN's agenda?

That decision, as well as the decision to build a piece around the sniper tape -- in fact, all the decisions about this story -- were subject to hours of intense editorial debate at the highest levels here at CNN.

Oh, well at least you thought about it first. I guess that makes it okay. I'm sure the mothers of the 10 soldiers that took a round for you, Mr. Highest Level of CNN, won't mind the footage of her son being shot by the enemies of America shown to the whole world.

Blackfive, who is one of the most well read military bloggers out there, has a nice summary with a little stronger language than I used. You can check it out here if you don't mind a little profantiy.

I for one will not ever watch a minute of CNN again. Ever.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Best Movie of the Year?

I've seen a lot of movies during this deployment. From the train up at Shelby, where we would watch DVDs in the barracks, to the flight over here on the plane, to the MWR tent in Kuwait, and finally here at the Sustainer Theater, I would guess that I've seen, oh, maybe 100 movies. Some of these I had seen before and was rewatching, but many were new.

I think that I am ready to declare my pick for best movie of the year. Drumroll please. And the winner goes to... The Departed! We saw this Sunday night, and it was phenomenal. It was supposed to open Friday, but we got hosed by the powers to be deciding to have military American Idol at the theater instead of the movie. Jerks. The story was interesting, lots of suspense, and the acting was unbelievably good. Damon and Dicaprio are the leads, and both are outstanding. I haven't been a Leo fan since the Basketball Diaries, but he is really, really convincing in this role. Marky Mark is also great. Jack is Jack, and Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin round out the cast very well. This isn't necessarily a family movie due to the violence (think Goodfellas) but it is definitely something you should check out.

Flags of Our Fathers opens Friday night here so we are definitely going to check that out as well. I read the book on the way back over here from leave, and it was really well written and I hear the movie is outstanding as well. It tells the story of the battle for Iwo Jima, one of the bloodiest battles of WWII. It focuses on the image of the flag raising, and the story of the soldiers that participated. I have the Rotten Tomaotes web site linked on the right, if you are ever curious about how the critics are rating movies you should make this your first stop. What they do is they pull in most of the movie reviews for a particular movie and aggregate the ratings to give you an idea of what the critics are saying. This is nice becomes sometimes one critic doesn't give you the whole story, and with this website you can see all of the ratings at a glance. Anything over a 70% approval is considered "fresh", anything under is "rotten." For example, The Departed is a 92 and the Grudge 2 is an 8. That gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect. Another good website for movies that the Hammer clued me into was the Internet Movie Database IMDB, also linked at right. What I like about this is that it has some really nice links between movies, actors, directors, etc. If you are trying to figure out what movies someone has been in you can just search and then follow their career. From there you can see who else has been in movies with them, what they have directed, etc, etc.

Good news from Iraq! AFN is doing us a solid and picked up the NU vs Okie State game, so another Husker party is in the works. It will be 1030 pm our time, so not too bad. I would think if both us and Mizzou win and stay in the top 25 than that game next week will get picked up as well. Actually we have a good shot at getting A&M and CU too. Good times will be had by all, provided of course we pull in a few Ws. No room for mistakes at this point of the season.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Another Heartbreak, Texas Style

I think I read somewhere that sometimes talking about your pain is an effective technique to help get over intense times of grief. So, I am going to attempt it. My first thought this morning when I got up was that I was going to pretend like yesterday never happened. But denial never helped anyone. I am going to post some pictures from our grill out and party first and then share my thoughts on the game, so those of you that don't care about the Skers can check out early.

As mentioned, the game was on AFN at 1900 here in Iraq. Now, when the game is on at 0300 only the diehards show up. For a prime time game, especially between 2 ranked teams, the fans come out of the woodwork. Our First Sergeant (head enlisted over HHT), 1SG Cleveland, organized an outdoor barbeque out on the patio that he just built. They had it all, brats, burgers, chips, salad, pop, NA beer, and 2 flat screens to watch the game on. The S1 showed up in force of course, we even picked up some nice steaks to get our grill on. You can find more pictures on Hammer's blog as well.

This is an early shot of the patio and people starting to gather. I'm checking out College Football Gameday, one of my favorite shows.

Beans and MAJ T running "Grill Zilla." This has been MAJ T's pet project while we've been here.

Another shot of Grill Zilla. This has been entirely fashioned from spare parts found around the base here. The grill on the left is a rotisseire and the one on the right is a charcoal grill. We cooked our steaks on the little Webers up front to avoid the brat and burger backup.

SSG Johnson, me, and the Hammer enjoying a NA beer and a cigar.

More people gathering and getting close to game time.

Steaks on the grill!

SSG Johnson was the grill master, and my t-bone was..... you guessed it, Awesome! Best cut of meat I've had in Iraq without a doubt. We even timed it perfectly so that we started eating right before kickoff and finished up just as the game started.

By the time the game got started I bet there were close to 30 people gathered around the tv. It was a fun way to watch an entertaining, although heartbreaking game. For me, this one ranks right up there with any of our Texass losses as far as pain. I felt after the game like somebody had dug my heart out of my chest with a dull spoon. I almost threw up at the end I was distraught. In no particular order, here is what I thought was good and bad about the game:

The Positives

  • Unlike Solich coached teams, Callahan's teams are always in games. I remember a time where if we got down by more than 7 the game was all but over. In this game I wasn't nervous being down in the 4th quarter as we can move the ball when the game is on the line.
  • Brandon Jackson is a stud. That TD was phenomenal against a great Texas defense. We watched in disbelief as the TV coverage switched to his brother during the run. Hammer and I were discussing and can't remember that ever happening before. Ever.
  • Halftime adjustments were outstanding. The second quarter was pretty sad as far as pass protection and run blocking, but the second half was entirely different. Taylor with time to throw is a good thing. Night and day picking up the blitz and pass rush.
  • I was really impressed with our defense. They kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win. Lots of big stops when we really needed them. Texas was leading the nation in points scored per game and Blackshirts kept them off their game for the majority of the game.
  • I wish I could have been there in person, because it sounded like the crowd was a loud of any in recent memory from start to finish.
  • I thought the play calling was solid, it was clear early that we weren't going to be able to run right at them, so we threw the ball more. I was worried we were going to keep trying to pound the rock but we had to take what the defense was giving. Once the pass pro help up we were then able to move the ball and then work some nice runs in.
  • I liked the pass call on the last 3rd down. If you complained that Cally was too conservative the last few weeks, then you can't complain that he wanted to seal the victory. The fumble sucked but I don't think the play call was the problem here. I went back and forth on this, as punting to them with less than 2 minutes and no timeouts would have tough for them to score, but this is Texas and if we are 2 yards away from the win, I say go for it.

The Negatives

  • Special teams. Wow. For this late in the season we had some bonehead plays that could have (and maybe did) cost us the game.
  • Turnovers. Goes without saying that they killed us.
  • Dropped passes. A couple of big ones that hurt us.
  • Penalties. Some dumb ones. We needed to be perfect and we weren't.
  • Clock management. No excuse for this at the end of the game. I don't know why we didn't call a timeout when they pushed the ball inside of the 10. At that point they are a chip shot away from going ahead, let's start calling timeout and save some clock.
  • I still can't believe that Texass threw the ball on 3rd down in double coverage. I know our corners are not very good but that is a risk that I wouldn't take. We came close to picking it off and ending the game. I really don't get it.
  • The return on the last play was lame, especially since we just needed 3 points. Run the ball right up the field and save the clock.
  • I am not going to let this go until someone confirms it for me. I think on the first hail mary, that the ball either hit Nunn in the hands or the helmet. Did anyone else see the same thing?

Bottom Line

  • 3 Fumbles in the last 4 minutes (McCoy fumble on sack, Nunn fumble, Texass fumble on final drive). All go to Texas. Just one goes the other way, and we win. You can argue they got the bounces, but alot of it was good coaching and hustle. Cryer celebrates instead of seeing the ball and going after it. Nunn's ball goes right to the defense. On the last fumble, an o lineman is 15 yards down field to recover the fumble. That hurt.

I think in a few days I'll be able to see some positives. Like we stayed with the number 5 team and had a chance to win. We still control our destiny in the North. We proved we are back, somewhat. For me, I think the only consolation is that this loss was incredibly painful. This is a good thing I think. Back in the day, I took each loss personally and was sick for days after a loss. In the last 5 years, I've kind of gotten used to the Huskers getting beat in big games, small games, at home, to Kansas, whatever, and been able to respond with a shrug and a memory of better times in the past. Last night, the pain was back, which shows how far this team has come. So, back to work, gotta somehow put this one behind us, and get ready of Okie State next week. go big red (lower case due to my Husker hangover).

Friday, October 20, 2006

Weekend at the Movies

I'm sure that most of you remember the Deal or No Deal post from some time ago. I hypothetically asked the question if there was a list somewhere of worst talk shows of all time. Sure enough, I stumbled across this article a few weeks ago. If you can think of it, it probably exists on the internet somewhere. The article is titled Talk Show Disasters, and here is how they broke it down:
  • The Queen Latifah Show
  • The Tony Danza Show
  • The Marsha Warfield Show (forgot about that one, wow)
  • The Caroline Rhea Show
  • The Chevy Chase Show
  • George and Alana
  • The Pat Sajak Show
  • The Magic Hour (!)
  • The Roseanne Show
  • The Tempest Bledsoe Show

No Howie?? I demand a recount!! The article has pictures and fun facts if you want a little more info on why exactly they picked these.

I also found quite a few lists of worst movie sequels ever. Sadly, Road House 2 didn't make any. Most likely this is because it is too new. Saying Alive is the top of This List from Entertainment Weekly. Caddyshack 2 had a strong finish at #2. The rumor is that they are making a Usual Suspects 2, which seems pretty unnecessary to me. I mean, seriously, the first movie is one of my favorite movies ever. What are they going to doing for a sequel? Have Verbal Kint pop up in some new town where they don't know him and play the same con? I don't get it. But, it goes to prove that if Hollywood thinks they can make a dime selling moviegoers a crappy product, they'll do it.

I'm pretty pumped for this weekend. The Departed is playing at the post theater tonight, so we are going to check that out. Since it is opening night, we'll have to get there early to get a seat. I've been waiting for this one since I saw the trailer while I was on leave. Sadly, The Grudge 2 has already passed it at the Box Office, which proves the point that a good movie isn't a requirement for a good showing at the box office. AFN picked up the NU vs Texass game for Saturday night. The PX had some t-bones, so we are going to take it up a notch and do some steaks before the game. The nice thing is the game is 7:00pm our time, so we don't even have to get up in the middle of the night. Should be fun. Go Big Red!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Sandbox

The folks that bring you Doonesbury have recently started a new blog called the Sandbox. Well, it isn't really a blog per se, but a collection of articles from different military folks downrange. In their own words:

Welcome to The Sandbox, our command-wide milblog, featuring comments, anecdotes, and observations from service members currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. This is GWOT-lit's forward position, offering those in-country a chance to share their experiences and reflections with the rest of us. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. The Sandbox is a clean, lightly-edited debriefing environment where all correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted. And contributors may rest assured that all content, no matter how robust, is currently secured by the First Amendment.

I submitted a story last week and they decided to post it. You can find the Sandbox here. My story is currently on the top, but they post a few a day so it will start moving down the list. The permalink for my story is here. There is alot of good stuff out there, many different perspectives and experiences from people both here and in Afghanistan. Go check it out.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Game Day in Iraq

The Husker season has really helped our time go by quickly here. Every game is a milestone, and with each Big Red victory we move one week closer to coming home. Between our fantasy football league and the college football games, we are hoping that the fall will fly by and it will be January before we know and time to start thinking about coming home.

I've mentioned this before (as have SGT Hanseling and SSG Johnson) that game days are still a big deal here. Due to the time change, the game was scheduled to start at 0210 our time. Ouch, worst possible scenario. Basically in the middle of the night, so sleep must be sacrificed in order to listen to the game. Plus the game was pay-per-view which meant no shot of AFN picking it up, which meant that we would listen to the game on The S1 is semi-famous for having a pretty good showing at our late night parties, and our office has quickly become the place to be for the game.

SSG Johnson had the great idea this week to get our grill on. He bought some beef patties (at least we think it is beef) from the PX and then we snagged the buns, cheese, sides, etc. from the DFAC. I must admit, at first I was a little skeptical of how the whole thing would turn out. We can get burgers every day in the DFAC so it sounded like a lot of work for not much benefit. Let me be the first to say that I couldn't have been farther off. The burgers were fantastic. Our master chefs, SSG Johnson and SFC Kerchal, grilled them to perfection. Pics are below.

SSG Johnson getting the coals ready.

Our main dish.

Meat on the grill. My four favorite words.
We are talking about getting crazy next week and picking up some steak from the PX. It won't be a prime cut from Leon's but sometimes you have to make do. The sacrifices we make...

We should get the Texas game on AFN, and with the 1100 am start time we actually will be able to watch at a semi normal time (1900 IZ - we started our daylight savings time already so we are currently 8 hours ahead until you folks back in the States switch over). 3 weeks ago I would have said that the we didn't have much chance against Texas. I'm not so sure right now. Here is what I think we have working for us. Our game plan the last few weeks has been to grind the ball on the ground, build an early lead, stop the run, and force the other team to throw it every down. Texas's run attack has not been dominant, and I think we have a good shot of shutting down the run early, forcing their freshman qb to beat us at Ol' Grandma. If we have success with the pass rush I think we have a shot of taking the game into the 4th quarter, where it is anybody's ball game. If we can stay in the game until the 4th quarter, I like our odds at home.

I was surprised to see Missouri get beat by Texas A&M and Colorado hammer Texas Tech. I'll say this about the rest of the season, you can't point at one game on the schedule and say it is a gimmie win. I think we'll see a lot more games this year like the last few, tightly contested games whether on the road or at home. We need to be ready to play every week or we'll get beat. One thing to remember is that we aren't the Huskers of the mid 90s, so going on the road and getting a win is a big deal, whether we win by 18 or 80. It would be nice to see us put some of the teams away after building an early lead, but I think Coach Cally is content at this point to keep the offense simple and let the defense win games. The only problem with that is our porous secondary, the opponents are only 1 play away from a big td at anytime. I don't know about you, but if I was a Husker defensive coach, I would be scared to death by Okie State and Adarius Bowman. He had 300 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns this week against KU (see story on 300 yards!!! 4 touchdowns!!! Do you think they like the Jones/Grixby matchup? I'm having nightmares already.

I mentioned this before but I really like it when Iowa loses. Especially to Indiana. Ouch. Georgia losing to Vanderbilt was pretty crazy as well. Hated to see Adrian Peterson get hurt for the rest of the season. Bad deal. So, I was watching the end of the Florida - Auburn game last night. Great comeback by Auburn. On a side note, I picked the upset. I also won our weekly Husker pick 'em for the second time to become the first 2 time winner and undisputed champion. When you factor in that I missed 3 weeks while home on leave you will better understand my dominance. I am predicting that I will every week from here on out. Starting with the Husker upset next week! Anyway, back to the Auburn game. So Auburn is up by 4 and the last play of the game is Florida making an attempt at the old lateral, shovel, pitch play to score a touchdown. They end up fumbling the ball and Auburn picks it up and takes it to the house (they don't play). Meaningless points, right? Not so fast my friend. Immediately my thoughts go to the industry that is college football gambling. Florida was favored so no impact to the spread. But I am thinking to myself that there is no way that play didn't impact the over/under. Sure enough, Hammer told me this morning that the over/under was 40 points, and this play moved the game from "under" status to "over" status. (For you non-gamblers out there you can bet on the total points scored by both teams and whether it will be over or under a certain number, in this case 40 points). I had visions of guys with their mortgage payment on the unders thinking they are golden until the last second of the game, and then screaming at the tv for the defender to just take a knee. Priceless. The good thing is they can just double their bet on a few NFL games, and then when they lose those bet the farm on Monday Night Football. Someone is going to end up homeless becuase of this one hook and ladder play.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pictures from Leave - 5

Benjamin and I hanging out in the kitchen.

LC's BBQ in Kansas City. We went to KC for a night, hit the Plaza and Worlds of Fun, but the highlight of the trip was eating at LCs. On your next trip to KC I highly recommend that you stop here and get lunch. It isn't cheap or clean, but the food is outstanding. You won't be disappointed. Once you've had brisket from here, you won't be able to eat it anywhere else for some time.

Veggie tales before night-night.

Benjamin and Buddy on the slide at the park.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Anaconda 10 Miler and Stetson Update

I'm sure everyone back home has been anxiously waiting to find out how the Anaconda (Army) 10 miler went. I am pleased to announce that the race was a complete success. First of all, SSG Johnson decided Friday morning while shaving that he was going to run as well, even though he hadn't really been training. I think he was on the fence a little bit on Sunday, but due to the constant negativity from some of our co-workers that he couldn't do it and he was stupid for trying (I'm paraphrasing here) he was committed by the time we went to bed Saturday. In spite of only running up to 4 miles at once prior, he ran with me the whole way, and it was really nice to have someone to talk with for the entire run. So give Brad a big hand for crushing the 10 miles like a pro. There were over 500 people running, which was about 4oo more than last year, they even ran out of race numbers they had so many people sign up.

As I mentioned before, I was hoping to run in less than 90 minutes (9:00/mile pace). With the help of my trusty Garmin Forerunner (a GPS enable device that gives you pace/distance/time updates by the second), we started out just under 9:00. We actually were able to slightly improve for the first few miles, and were running closer to 8:30 by mile 4. I had thought that due to not having run over 4 miles for about a month that about the 6 mile mark I would start to get tired and slow down, but that didn't happen for me until close to the 8.5 mile mark. By that time we were so close to finishing that I was able to power through it. We came it at 1:25:53, which worked out to an 8:35 pace. To top it all off, I wasn't even really sore afterwards and feel fine today, with the exception of a small blister on one toe. All in all, it was a great event. By the time we finished eating, showering, and getting ready, it was game time for our tape delayed Husker game. We successfully avoided hearing the score and were able to watch at 10:00 am our time. Good performance by the Huskers, I think that anytime you can go on the road in the Big 12 and get a W, it is a good thing. Cosgrove must have read my post last week because he definitely mixed it up with some pressure and even some dime defense. I'm sure that was I was the only one that noticed this and commented on it, so you have me to thank for the defense performance. We've already started emailing AFN to try to get the K-State game picked up. Wish us luck there.

SSG Johnson and I at the finish line.

These medics ran the entire race in this gear. PTs and running shoes are for sissies!

I am also pleased to report that my Stetson has arrived (see previous post here). Our New Jersey unit has a connection with the Stetson guys so we get a discount. Now, it comes looking like an Amish hat, so there is some work involved in getting it to look like a Cavalry Stetson. SFC Kerchal and CSM Hall helped me out. I can't tell you too much about it, that would be like David Blaine giving up the secret to how he levitates. I will say there is an industrial steamer, tomahawks, chicken parts, and horse hair involved, but that is all I can say.

Here is the Stetson. Inexplicably, the Flying Squirrel diagram is still on Hammer's white board, even though it happened like 4 months ago. Obviously he either doesn't have enough to work to do or is holding on this former glory. Because of too many incidents like this, the diving boards are closed, which means we pretty much quit going to the pool.

SFC Kerchal and I looking cool. Sabers ready!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Leon's Ribeyes - A Gift from God?

I like steak, to put it simply. All kinds of steak. You name it, I probably like it. My favorite steak though is a 20 0z ribeye from Leon's Neighborhood Grocer. You just can't beat it. There was a time in my life when I didn't know much about steak. It was a dark time that pains me to remember it. I would roll into SuperSaver, pick up the cheapest cut they had in the cooler, burn the crap out of it and dump half a bottle of A1 on it. I thought I was eating well. Luckily, one of the side benefits of hanging out with my now wife is that her brother Dan is a certified grill genius. We cooked big ribeyes after the Nicholls State vs NU game and they were fantastic! Definitely one of the highlights of being home.

Here is a picture of Dan and I while I was home on leave.
So, Dan took one look at my operation about 8 years ago and knew that I needed help. Actually I needed a grilling intervention. He took me under his wing and instructed me in the proper technique of:

  • Going to your neighborhood grocer instead of the big chain.
  • Talking directly to the butcher, and either selecting a fresh cut or having him cut one for you if there isn't one to your liking. Again, if you are at SuperSaver there is no way the 15 year old at the meat counter knows anything about meat so asking for a fresh one to be cut is probably only getting you a blank stare.
  • The bigger the better - if you are going to invest a couple of hours in the experience why get yourself an 8 oz sirloin? For a normal event, you are okay with a 16oz. For a special event like a Husker game, you should really be in the 20-24 oz range, with the smaller cut for the non-conference/KU/Baylor's of the world and the bigger cut for the OU/Texas/Bowl Game/etc. I remember a graduation party (I think it was my undergrad from UNL but they all kind of blend together) where we pushed up close to 32 ounces. Anything less is un-American.
  • Know your cuts. The ribeye is of course the king of steaks, but every once in a while you want to mix it up with a T Bone or a Strip to keep the defense honest
  • Dan is from the spice rub school of thought as opposed to the marinade, so that is how we roll. Only one choice here, seasoning from Misty's in Lincoln (which you can buy online Here, do yourself a favor and pick some of this up if you haven't already). The standard or old blue is the best for steak, I like the BBQ for chicken. The thought process here is that you are better off with the freshest cut of meat as opposed to a new day old cut that sits overnight in a marinade. Controversial, I know, but like I said, that is how we roll.
  • Charcoal is preferred, but I don't own a charcoal grill so most of the time I bow to the convenience of natural gas. Plus that is what Hank Hill likes. Preferably you should use a Weber grill. It just tastes better that way.
  • Take your time. We are in no hurry. Get some chips and salsa to munch on so you don't rush. I like Santatias (do yourself another favor and get these as well if you can find them, sometimes in the ethnic aisle) and Pace medium salsa, sometimes a little queso dip to spice it up a little bit.
  • You must, I repeat, must, drink some sort of malt beverage while grilling. It is scientifically proven that if you don't, you will burn your steak. I'm not kidding, I have years and years of grilling data to back this up, every time I have made the choice not to pop a Blue and Chrome once that meat hits the grill, things have turned out badly. Don't take the chance, pick up a 6 pack and avoid tempting fate. Don't overdo it though, you've made an investment in dinner and the last thing you need is to get all goofed up and pass out on the deck.
  • You want a medium heat to cook on. Indirect heat is the best. With a 2 inch thick steak you can't just throw it on the bottom rack on high, you will burn the outside and not cook the middle.
  • Okay, this part is important, so pay attention. You only want to turn your steak once. The key here is the the aforementioned medium heat and second rack. I like my steak medium rare so I try to cook it about 90% through before I flip it. This took me years of practice but I can now effectively hit the 1 flip almost every time. You will struggle the first few times, but practice makes perfect.
  • NO STEAK SAUCE ALLOWED. If you need A1, you messed up somewhere along the way (bought a steak from SuperSaver or overcooked your steak because you didn't have a beer in your hand).
  • Sides are up to you. We usually do a spud but it is personal preference. Keep in mind with your cut of meat when planning the sides, with a 20 oz ribeye you don't need a salad, beans, potato, and corn. One side will usually do it. The main goal here is the steak, so don't fill up beforehand. That is a rookie mistake. If you don't clean your plate than your buddies will make fun of you.

Well, it is hard to do justice to all that Dan has taught me, but that is a pretty good synopsis. This is a good cliff notes version, to really learn you have to get into the classroom and do some grilling under the master's watchful eye. Dan loves the Leon's steaks so much, he ended up coaching for their Leon's Midget Football team. They have won the city title 2 years in a row. SSG Johnson is also a coach as well. Brad did a post here abbot this year's team. I believe the team is 2-1 right now. Maybe Dan or Brandee can update everyone with a comment?

Here are some example pictures of the process. These are from our going away party at Camp Shelby. You probably have seen this already but they are always fun to look at. Dan and my father in law (Chief Weber) arranged for the steaks, and Brad's dad hauled them down to Mississippi. We grilled them up our last night in the States. I still think about how good they were. Like I said, Misty's won't steer you wrong.
Steaks on the grill. One of my favorite phrases in the world.

Friday, October 06, 2006

10 Miler vs Husker Game Update

You have to click on the picture to enlarge it, but it is worth your time. I'm all for people that burn the flag getting burned in the process.

Good news on the Husker front. While not getting the game live, they are going to air it tape delayed at 1000 am Sunday morning. I think this time we really have the Hammer to thank. We all sent nasty emails to the programming people at AFN after they cancelled the NU vs KU game at the last minute. We got a canned response saying, sorry, we thought baseball was more important. Most of us said oh well and went on our merry little way. Not Hammer, he continually emailed this guy until he broke down and agreed to hook us up. So, I can both run (or jog/walk) the Army 10 miler in the morning and then catch the game. The only challenge will be not hearing the score before then, so for those of you at home please don't email me any Husker scores, news, updates, rumors, pics or anything else before noon on Sunday (your time). Your help is appreciated! And Go Big Red!!!

Trip to the Zoo

More pictures from while I was home. We took a trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo with my family. The weather was great and we had a fun time. The only negative of the day was that we had a flat tire and had to drive there on our spare tire, which is a donut, while the other one was getting repaired. The bad thing was we took the interstate, and could only go 50mph. The trip there wasn't bad, but on the way back we counted two people giving us the finger and 2 honked horns (all by truckers). We did make it home safely though.

Me, Bonnie (my brother's wife), Benjamin, Rik, and Jeff on the carousel. Ben loves the carousel, as soon as he saw it he pointed and made his "I'm excited" sound, which is kindof a grunt but a happy one.

Benjamin touching the big globe. I think it was like 20 tons are somewhere in that vicinity.

The family with the gorillas.

My mom, Benjamin and me.

Me, Benjamin, and my dad by the fishes. Sorry I'm in so many of these.

Benjamin and I, Bonnie is in the background.

Good times were had by all.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Pain or Pleasure?

As many of you are probably aware, I do some of my best thinking in the shower. It is one of the few places a man can go to be alone for a few minutes. Except for here where you get to shower with 10 of your closest friends. It is not as bad as basic training where you have to share a shower head as we have individual stalls, but they are in a big room and you have to see other dudes naked, which is never any fun. Anyway, I was thinking through my week this morning and had a startling discovery, I have 2 concurrent activities scheduled this Sunday morning at 0600. Hard to believe I know. Here is the breakdown.

First, there is a road race every year in Washington, D.C. called The Army Ten Miler. According to the website it is the biggest 10 mile run in the world, drawing 24,000 participants this year. Here is a little bit about the run from the website:
  • 10-Miler Shadow Runs - A number of 10-mile shadow runs are being coordinated overseas to run in conjunction with the official, 8-Oct-06 Army Ten-Miler race in Washington, DC at the Pentagon. These 10-mile shadow runs support soldiers that serve in harm's way and demonstrate the Army bond around the world.Army Ten-Miler Supports Soldiers - All proceeds from the Army Ten-Miler go to soldier and soldier family MWR programs. Read more at Army Ten-Miler Proceeds Help Others.

LSA Anaconda is hosting one of the Shadow Races, which I signed up for when I got back here from leave. Now, I was running quite a bit before I left for home, and was up to over 20 miles a week with a long run between 7 and 9 miles on the weekend. As you can probably imagine, I had better things to do at home then go run, so I only ran a total of 7 miles in 3 weeks. I've only had 2 weeks to re-prepare, and with my body adjusting to the time zone here pretty much all of last week, I haven't put very many miles in yet. But, I can still struggle through and am not necessarily worried about finishing, but probably will have a hard time with my goal of running at 9:00 pace. Usually once I commit to something I like to follow through on it.

Second, as I realized in the aforementioned shower, the Huskers play Iowa State this weekend, and of course the powers to be have scheduled another night game, which means we'll be getting up in the middle of the night at 3:00am Sunday (we started daylight savings time here so we are currently only 8 hours ahead which is really taxing my math skills). BTW, it would be nice if we could have a noon or 1:00 kickoff every once in a while which would be 10:00 our time. Can somebody arrange this for me? After the dismal performance of the defense this last week, I am fully expecting that we'll be in another tight game this weekend. So, around 5:00ish, when I should be heading to the race, the Huskers will be mired in an epic battle with the Cyclones, probably somewhere in the 3rd quarter. Husker football has been taken to another level this year for us fans over here this year, as it is often the highlight of the week and really gives us something to look forward to.

So, you can see my dilemma. I would like to participate in both activities, but probably can't. On one hand, I love my Huskers and that is pretty much the highlight of the week. Plus, there is a chance that AFN will try not to screw us over this week and televise the game and not baseball (jerks). I can say that I would watch the 1st half, and then leave, which would be okay if we were up 28 to 0, but if the game is close at all I doubt that will happen, you know peer pressure and all. On the other hand, I've told people I was going to run and it is one of the things I've been looking forward to since my JAG buddy from Florida that was stationed here told me about it when I first got here. Plus my running buddy and good friend back home did a half marathon a few weeks ago so I have the innate desire to keep up with the joneses so to speak. What do you think????

Pictures from Leave - 4

Latest installment of pics from when I was home. I have like 200 of these (digital cameras rock!, thanks to my co-workers at ConAgra for hooking me up before I left) so this may take awhile to work through all of them.

Me and Rik on the way to the Nicholls State game. I wasn't drinking yet, that is my "I can't believe I'm in Lincoln on the way to Memorial Stadium with my wife" face.

Husker fan in the making. Benjamin celebrating the big win.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pictures from Leave - 3

More pictures from my time at home. Here is the first picture I took. We stopped on the way home from the airport and picked up some co' beer. This is about 5 minutes after we got back to the house, tasty.

We had my family over the next night for pizza. My sister-in-law Bonnie made this cake. It was also as tasty as it was patriotic. Did I mention that I gained 7 pounds while I was home? This cake, along with my mom's carrot cake that she brought over, were partially responsible.

Benjamin driving his car. I can't think of a way to work tasty in here. This kid likes the car and his wagon a lot. I also got him a bubble mower while I was home that he really likes to push around. We'll have him on the real mower by this time next year I'm sure.

So, I mentioned yesterday that AFN, our 10 channel cabel provider, was carrying the Husker game. Burnham went out late yesterday to check what channel the game was on and said he couldn't find it. At first I wasn't worried because I figured he had it screwed up. Then SSG Johnson went out and couldn't find it. At this point we were in full panic mode. The Hammer found a link on the AFN website that said the game had been pre-empted for, get this, the Astros/Braves baseball game due to the MLB playoff implications. Are you kidding me? So the St. Louis Cardinals September meltdown and complete inability to close out the Astros is costing me a Husker game on TV in Iraq? It is not like we can just run down to Brewsky's and have some wings and a pitcher. I haven't been this angry since Kiley and Booms went off the air.

All was not lost however. We can get the radio broadcast on, so we still got up at 0230 and came into the office to listen to the game. I only have this to say about the game, we need to do 1 of 2 things. Either come up with a pass rush from the front 4, or get the heck out of our base defense. From what we could gather we basically sat back in the zone all night and let KU pick us apart. At some point (like after KU passed the 500 yards of total offense mark) you've got to start making some adjustments. Also, our secondary isn't very good. But you knew that already. Brad made the comment that we really gave our upcoming opponents some good film to watch to spot our weak points. Should make the rest of the season interesting.

Some other observations from around the NCAA:

I love seeing Iowa lose. Couldn't be happier. I don't like anything about this team. Nothing makes me smile more than knowing that Sheldon, Lisa, Tanya, and John will be crying themselves to sleep tonight. Ha ha. Ohio State should march into the Michigan game unbeaten barring a meltdown as they have a pretty cake Big 10 schedule, but this team doesn't look to be one that will overlook any opponents. They don't inspire the kind of awe that last years Texas or USC teams did but I really don't see anyone beating them. We could up with Ohio State vs West Virginia title game this year, which would be pretty lame. Michigan looked solid. Not quite as good as my Michigan dynasty team on NCAA Football 2007 but close.

I read something funny on (which you should check out if you like sarcastic sports commentary and is quickly becoming one of my new favorite websites). Someone posted during the Michigan State - Illinois game that Michigan State was 12:09 away from being kicked out of Division 1. I feel bad for their fans, they let a huge win against Notre Dame slip away last week and then lost to Illinois, the Big 12 doormat, at home. Ouch.

Colorado has lost 9 games in a row dating back to last year. Double ouch. They'll probably still play us tough though. Iowa State needed a 4th quarter comeback to beat Northern Iowa, a I-AA school. In a sign of how far our program has fallen, we haven't won in Ames since 2000. We are going to start emailing AFN today to get that game on as ABC has picked it up for the 7:00 game next week (regional coverage), hopefully as a makeup for getting jobbed this week at the last minute.

Arizona State got crushed for the second week in a row. I wonder if they miss Sam Keller? Rudy Carpenter threw 4 interceptions last week and was 6 of 19 for 33 yards this week with 1 interception. 33 yards!!!! And Keller is running our scout team.