Nov 13, 2004

The past few weeks have just whizzed by. I kicked the cold I had in about a week. My dad came to visit me a few weeks ago. I had to work on the Thu he was here, but I was able to leave a little early and I arranged for a tour of the Pentagon for the both of us. It was a pretty interesting tour – they took us all around the building and we also went to the area where American Airlines flight 77 crashed in to the building on 9/11. There was a very simple memorial there and a small chapel too. Friday we saw some sites and then went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai. Like Alegría, it was simply amazing.

Sat we visited the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. This was an amazing museum! The facility itself is one of the largest hangers in the world. They have a good number of aircraft in the building… including a Concorde jet, a Boeing passenger jet, fighters and the best of all… the space shuttle Enterprise! But we didn’t get to see the Enterprise up close – that wing of the museum was still being prepared but has opened since our visit. The Enterprise actually never went into space. It was released from a 747 and used to test out the aerodynamics of the shuttle before the others were made. I need to get back there to see it soon.

We went to church on Sun and had lunch with some friends and kicked back. I had to work Mon but we managed to see and visit a few other places before he left the following Thu. We took a drive up to Ft Meade, MD and checked out the NSA’s facilities from afar. My dad worked there back in the 60’s and we just wanted to see how it looked. The place has grown quite a bit. One cool thing, there is a small museum there called the National Cryptologic Museum. They have a mish mash of technology and devices used by the US and other countries during the years to ensure that data and information was and is kept secret. One of the coolest was a German Enigma machine that you could play with. We ventured around Ft Meade and found the house that my dad lived in the second time he was stationed there – that was cool. It was amazing that he could remember where it was – we were in the area and the street names were familiar. We drove up this one street and he was like, “that’s IT!” It was pretty cool.

Other than that, we ventured down to the national mall and also made it over to Ford's Theatre, where President Lincoln was assassinated. One of the highlights was a fabulous dinner we had at Harry's Tap Room in Clarendon/Arlington. We started off with a large order of steamed mussels. Then we each had a pair of tenderloins cooked medium-rare. For a buck, you can have your beef slathered with a sumptuous sauce. My dad had the horseradish and I had the peppercorn mustard sauce. We also paired our steaks with a glorious red wine. It was simply a fantastic dining experience! Then we cross the street and had some cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory… yum! All in all… a great visit with my pop. We had a great time and I enjoyed spending time with my old man. Thanks dad – I had a great time.

Since then – I haven’t done much. I started taking my video production classes at Arlington Independent Media. My field class was pretty cool – we got some hands on with a DV camera. Apparently, the DV cameras are pretty darn expensive – about $25k for the whole unit. I was a little hesitant hoisting that bad boy onto my shoulder. They told us about one guy that didn’t mount one new camera on a tripod once… it fell off. He’s still paying off the repair. My studio class was equally interesting. We went over how the studio works and how the cameras work and about all the lights and such. Then we spent some time analyzing TV commercials and what methods they use to convey their message in 30 seconds. We’ll spend quite a bit of time doing that every class. So far, I think that the field class will be my favorite. After I take these two classes, I am going to take a digital non-linear video editing class. This will be similar to the video editing I do at home on my PC, but more advanced. Should be fun!

In the news… the elections are over! No more political ads and hype. I have to say that the buzz over the election was higher here than any other place I have seen in the country. It wasn’t bad, but I found myself getting into some heated political conversations – I have never done that before. It was a trip! I caught myself and couldn’t believe it. Arafat passed away this week. I don’t think region will ever see peace. I can’t believe that they were not prepared to have someone take over if he passed. At work, we all agree that the rumors were in fact true. He had passed away earlier in the week. But Muslim doctrine states that a person must be buried within 72 hours of the death. So, they kept him ‘alive’ on a heart lung machine long enough to make all the funeral plans and then pulled the plug when they were ready to make it happen. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that – but they sure had a hard time keeping their news under wraps.

The weather here has turned much cooler. The highs in the past few days have been in the 40-50s and lows in the 30s. I quite like it, but you have to layer like crazy – at least I do. I get hot quick and have to be able to remove layers to be comfortable. I am adapting to this new schedule okay. With my classes Mon and Tue nights and small group Wed night, I usually have to catch a nap right after work, then wake up, shower, eat, go to class/group, come home and sleep a few hours before I have to get up for work again. I leave Thu night open to relax. I have been assisting a gentleman from church with his home computers for a few weeks now too. He calls me up and I make a house call as necessary. Lately I have been putting in about 3-6 hours a week. I work quickly, he pays me well and we continue to have a good business relationship. I’m just getting his systems to work better and quicker, cleaning up and adding features that he wants. It’s good because it helps keep my skills up. I have also been building server racks at work – which keeps my work skills honed too. And I have been doing some server stuff that is new to me, but I have picked it up quite well and can use these new skills in the future.

Work is going quite well. I have settled in with my coworkers and conditions have improved. I am staying busy and the time is passing well. We have determined that, barring en extension (which we don’t think will happen,) we should be on our way back to Ft Hood to redeploy at the end of March 2005 and should be home sometime at the beginning of April. We will have accrued a nearly month of leave and will be on leave the last month or our tour – or so we think. More details to come…

I have managed to get the entire Thanksgiving week off as Holly will be visiting me! Woo hooo!!! I’m looking forward to a relaxing time with my sweetie. About half the guys will be working and half got the weekend off. So, it will be opposite for the rst of the holidays… the other half get Christmas off and we’ll have to work. As it stands, I am scheduled to work Christmas and New Years eves and days – my regular morning shift. I really don’t mind. Holly doesn’t have enough time to come up again, so I don’t mind working so that everyone here can spend time with their families. I have to admit though – it will be strange working Xmas and NY days. I’m hoping I’ll be able to at least venture over to somebody’s house later Xmas day to have some semblance of a Xmas experience. We’ll see.

I promise I’ll post more regularly from here on out. I got so busy – and the schedule change kicked my butt too. That about wraps up the past few weeks.