Summer Dogs

This is a wonderfully fun video of dogs and water.  Of course, it’s another story when it comes to bath time …

The grocery store, the meat, and the kids

I watch these cooking shows, and they always have a chef who grew up in a family where everyone revolved around the kitchen. That was never the case in my house. I’m not sure my mother enjoyed cooking, or at least for the entire family. When she said, “I’ll throw something together,” it was often cause for concern. She tried, but I know how hard it is to do something well if you don’t enjoy doing it. I don’t like cooking myself.

So the food was just not good. In fact, when I joined the Army and ate in the mess hall in basic training the first time, I was shocked at how good food could taste.


My mother always shopped at this one grocery chain. This particular year, they were the victims of a butcher’s strike. None of us realized the implications of that.

She went shopping as usual, and picked up the ground beef that was on sale. She threw a meal together with the meat and served to us for dinner. My father eats so fast that he doesn’t taste anything, so he was already halfway through while my brother, mother, and I discovered the meat was spoiled. Nothing ruins your appetite faster!

The following week she goes back. Buys more meat on sale. Same result.

Third week, she went back. This time when she came back with the meat, she asked all of us to smell it to see if it’s bad.

My father waved it off, telling her that he couldn’t tell anything. So she came to me and my brother, and of course, the meat was bad again. None of us wanted anything to do with the meat after that because it was obviously spoiled. Smell is one of the senses that brings back instant memories, and there are some no one wants, like spoiled meat.

The following week, she went to the store again. For some reason there was a huge disconnect here with my parents. It was a two person job to go shopping since my father was the driver, and no one thought about going to a different grocery store. For some reason, my mother either couldn’t tell the meat was bad or didn’t have the confidence to make the call. The latter was possible; she’d grown up in an era where women were taught that they weren’t supposed to have opinions. But the result was the same. She couldn’t tell if the meat was spoiled, my father said he didn’t know, so the kids got the job of checking.

We refused.

After that, the next shopping trip was at a different grocery store. Finally!

Grocery Store – 0; Hamburger – 0; Kids – 1.


so Not ready — scariness on guard duty

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I always have to laugh when I see the Army commercials. They promise Action! They promise Adventure! Trust me. If you have those things, you’re probably in trouble and don’t want it.

One of the standard details I had was guard duty. It went to all the lower enlisted (of course), and a sergeant of the guard was in charge of us. We’d go out on two hour shifts, and it always seemed like one of those was in the middle of the night — and during winter. In fact, I saw my first snow on guard duty.

We were on exterior guard, which was manning the gated entrances to the post. The guard post had been plopped at the side of the road, a battered shack with multiple coats of paints to match the post commander’s color preference. This time, it was brown. It was the kind of place where everyone cared enough to have it there and be serviceable, but didn’t care enough to maintain it. A lot of Army stuff is like that.

Inside it was just enough space to turn around in. I remember how my boots clomped on the wooden floor. It was just a plank laid across the bottom. Not even finished or painted. Like I said serviceable. A shelf had been built out for a battered black phone that only called into the guard shack. A heater chugged constantly to push out a wispy bit of warm air, so all we could do was go inside for a few minutes and warm up. It didn’t stay in the shack very long.

We also had a porta-potty twenty feet away or so. Around, the road was lined with telephone trees, the Douglas firs. The trees were like patient sentries, brown and green in the darkness.

Mostly we spend our duty bouncing around, trying to stay warm.

Then the phone rang, a harsh jangle in the darkness. I thump back into the guard shack and pick up the receiver. Instantly, I get a staccato of a man machine-gunning out an alert. There’s an armed and dangerous criminal roaming around in the woods!

It’s a one way call and might even be a recording. His only instructions are not to approach Mr. Armed and Dangerous. Hey! But what if Mr. Armed and Dangerous approaches us? We’re, like, you know, in the middle of nowhere and all alone.

So we wait and watch the woods, and eventually the sergeant of the guard comes and picks us up. It’s a bit anticlimactic, but seriously, Action and Adventure isn’t always a good thing.

Next up will be “there’s Organizing my way and then there’s the army way,” same military channel, same military time tomorrow.

Lost in the woods with a Lieutenant

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Admittedly, my reputation precedes me. For years, I thought I had no sense of direction. I could get lost amazingly easy, and with a map. But I’m also visual spatial, and directions are supposed to be easy. It took me well after the army to realize that it was the maps and the directions that was messing me up. If I go to a con in Baltimore and try to follow Google or AAA directions, I’ll end up lost in Washington, DC for an hour or two. But if I just have the appropriate exit numbers and transition points, I’ll have no problems whatsoever. A lot of times, I just need to simply go and I’ll head in the right direction.

The maps are the problem, and sometimes it’s really easy to over think what you’re doing and end up messing it up. Which is what happened with the lieutenant.

We were on a land navigation course on Fort Lewis. Pretty much, you go out into the woods with a map and find a certain number of points within a specified time. I was paired up with one of the lieutenants, which was very strange. Usually they didn’t participate in any training; they just came and inspected it.

So he’s got the map, and it’s one of those army terrain ones. It uses lines to show elevation and depressions. Great in Washington State because of all the land shapes, but not so good in Saudi Arabia with all the shifting sands.

The lieutenant orients the map, and we find the first couple points. Then we’re walking and we come to this road. It’s fenced off from the course. There’s a road on the map. The lieutenant orients the map again and announces this isn’t the right road.

I look at the road and in my head I’m thinking that it is it. But he’s the lieutenant and I’m the lower enlisted, so I merrily follow him.

Two hours later …

We finally find our way out of the course. We didn’t find any more of the points, and we were over an hour late. We were one of the last groups out of the course.

Next up will be “What it’s like carrying an M16 rifle” so tune in, same military channel, same military time tomorrow.

When Kittens Attack – Video

Just some cute for hump day. Enjoy!

The Army Private and the Potato

I’m not a cook. I don’t really even like to do it. I watch these chef shows and I hear how these women and men had families that revolved around the kitchen and cooking. That never happened in my family. The kitchen was pretty ugly, and I’m not entirely sure my mother liked to cook.

So when I joined the military, I had a distinct lack of any cooking skills. KP — Kitchen Patrol (or as I heard when I was a kid, Karve Potatoes), was largely in the past. Soldiers trained in cooking did the meals and contractors cleaned the dishes. Plus, since I was a barracks soldier, I ate in the mess hall, so my meals were made for me.

Then, one day, our female first sergeant decided to have a unit organizational day. An organizational day is an event that usually occurs on the weekend and the soldiers are ordered to come so they can have fun. (You did catch the problem with that sentence, right?) It’s usually a meal, some music, some dancing.

“I need a person from each platoon to make potato salad,” she said. I was one of the few lower enlisted in my platoon so guess who got stuck on this work detail?

I had to show up at oh-dark thirty on Saturday morning with about five other people. I was a little nervous because I didn’t know how to cook anything. Then First Sergeant told us we were going to peel potatoes. Sigh of relief. Okay, sure I could do that. Just give me a potato peeler.

The first sergeant handed me a big chef’s knife.

“I don’t know how to cook, First Sergeant,” I said. “I’ve never peeled anything with a knife.” In fact, when I watched my mother peel the skin off apples, it had scared me to death. It was entirely too close to important things like fingers!

“Of course you can,” the first sergeant said. She sounded like I was making stuff up because, well, all women know how to cook.

Being the good army private, I still had to follow the orders. Usually the leadership doesn’t care how you do it, only that it gets done. The other soldiers — all male — got started peeling potatoes.

I studied the knife. I studied the potato. My stomach was all queasy at the thought of trying to pare them like my mother had. I really liked all my fingers. Hmm. An idea occurred to me. Might work.

I chopped off the ends of the potato. Ta-dah! No more skin. This was so going to work. I rotated the potato and whack! Sides are gone. I kept turning the potato and cutting off anything that looked like potato skin.

Mission accomplished!

I got about two potatoes done before the first sergeant realized that, yes, I had been telling the truth. She was horrified because I was cutting off huge chunks of potato. I was quickly put on something else that didn’t require the use of sharp implements and vegetables.

The bad part is that we didn’t even use the potato salad.

The fun of adventuring versus real life

It’s always a lot of fun reading a good action-adventure thriller or watching a movie or TV show.  We know it’s all a fantasy and that the protagonist will escape unscathed, but it’s a lot of excitement and adventure.  But those adventures we read or watch doesn’t doesn’t quite reflect reality…

Using the bathroom

A basic thing everyone would need to do, but conveniently not discussed.  The army used outdoor latrines in the field, and the women always hated them.  At best, it was a stinky enclosed space where you wished the gas mask would work on it.  At worst, you went behind a bush and hoped you didn’t get the local flavor of poisonous plants like poison ivy or poison oak in embarrassing places.

The men have it lucky here because the adventuring clothes are made for their convenience.  They can park at the side of the road, unbutton, and go.  Women?  Well, to use an army latrine, the women had to take off their rifle and put that aside.  Then they had to remove the gas mask, which fits around the waist (how it was supposed to be worn), or could be worn kind of like purse.  Then off comes the equipment belt, which has ammunition pouches — loaded with six heavy magazines;  two full quart canteens; and suspenders.

I hope you didn’t need to go urgently.  Heard from one female soldier: “I’ll have peed in my pants by the time I get all this off.”


Food’s another thing that kind of gets glossed over.  Usually we see our intrepid adventurers sitting around a campfire, food already made.  Somehow, they’ve got a pot for stew and some energy bars that are supposed to sustain the adventurers during their adventuring. An energy bar has about 200 calories.  That’s not going to last a long time.

Cooking outside is also harder than it looks, especially trying to make it taste decent.  When I was in Desert Storm, our battalion had two active duty units and two National Guard units.  Because the National Guard met once a month, they didn’t have hardly experience cooking out in the field.  Since they were on one shift, our meals went from pretty decent to gut-wrenching bad.  It seems pretty hard for someone to make hot dogs taste bad, and yet they managed.


Sleeping outside always seems to shown as just another place to sleep, or largely ignored.  When I was in the Girl Scouts, I hated camping out.  The ground was always hard and uneven, and that sleeping bag didn’t help much against how cold it was outside.  In Desert Storm, we had the added problem of scorpions crawling into our boots overnight.  Then there’s that pesky problem of having to use the latrine in the middle of the night.  I’ve just gotten this sleeping bag all nice and warm, and it’s cold out there.  The desert temperature might drop forty degrees overnight.  Who wins?  Warm sleeping bag or bladder?

What else can you think of?

NO! Don’t Let it Snow, but “Make it So.”

A rendition of “Let it Snow” with Star Trek The Next Generation characters.  But I could do without that evil four letter word, snow.