Thursday, January 31, 2008

Becoming More Moderate

My friend Rick posted an interesting bit about his thoughts on the current presidential race. Unlike Rick, I've always fancied myself a Republican, forged from the political fires of the Ronald Regan years and the early Rush Limbaugh. Republican leaders were who I most closely identified with and tended to vote for when I voted (I vote in every election now).

But like Rick, I find that my views are becoming decidedly more moderate. I'd like to think this comes from age/wisdom. I think it all began with a discussion with a coworker on capital punishment, something that, until then, I had been a firm believer in. He got me thinking about it quite a bit and I eventually changed my stance, though not for his reasons. As a Christian, I suddenly realized that putting someone to death for some heinous crime eliminates any possibility, no matter how remote, that the person would hear the gospel and receive Christ as his/her Lord and Savior.

It's not just capital punishment. I find my stance on many things changing. I do think government has a role in the lives of the people it governs--to provide them every opportunity to live the "American Dream" and of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." Stepping in to help after a devastating hurricane, unemployment insurance (for a reasonable amount of time), and providing for the common defense.

I'm at the point now where I prefer not to label myself "Republican" or "Democrat." I'll cast my vote for who more closely shares my same views of government. There are no perfect candidates--frankly, I would be very nervous if one came forward who was perfect. So George, you might not smile as big as you did from Rick's post, but know that I am at least considering casting a vote the Democrat's way. Fair enough?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Two Brothers

Settling into a groove now. The days are passing by at a steady clip rather than starts and stops. Weather has moved into the area. Up until now we've enjoyed absolutely stunning, sunny days in the mid '50s to low 60s. Sunday night saw clouds and rain move in with a decided downturn in the weather. It's like Seattle here now.

Nothing new to report on the homefront. My kids' reportcards roll in this week. My oldest seems to be going through the typical early teen phase--all thrust and no vector. He comes home each and every day with a different new thing that's got him all riled up. My second son is the much more focused one. His grades are consistently over 100 and he's never veered from his goal in be an astronaut.

I think about this difference in two brothers who spend so much of their life so close together. Shouldn't they be more alike? They are so different, though, each with their own likes and dislikes, each with their own interests and passions, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. It's really interesting to watch. It's not that I love one more than the other. I guess I see their differences and love that they are so unique and growing up to be individuals, neither one better than the other, just...different.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Layer Cake and Chinese Food

I got to fly again yesterday. That's my 12th mission in a little less than a month. Can't complain because it's not often "seasoned" folks like myself get to fly this much. We got back around 6:30 last night and I ended up over at the base shoppette looking for a movie. I picked up "Layer Cake," starring Daniel Craig. I had remembered reading that this was the movie that won producers over to Craig as the next James Bond. Good movie.

I talked to my wife this morning. I think that was the first thing that attracted me to her was how easy it is to talk with her. She really is my best friend.

I have come back to the world of eating meat with a vengence. I went out with a buddy for Chinese food tonight. "Chinese food in Turkey?" YES! It was very good and made with very little cat or dog. I don't recall if there was much MSG used in the food--I'll find that out later. Seems MSG gives me funny dreams. A few months ago I had some eggrolls my wife's aunt made that were loaded with MSG. That night I had a dream my wife and I had an argument and I was so angry at her I tossed a glass of water in her face. I woke up in a cold sweat wondering how I was going to talk my way out of that one.

On the schedule for tomorrow. Time for bed.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Back to Meat and Two Good Movies

I'm four days into this vegetarian diet thing and I've decided to pull the plug. I'm tired of the lack of energy. This diet certainly doesn't support anything close to the exercise regimine that I'm looking for. I went for a run today and hit a wall. People kept pulling over asking me if I needed an ambulance. Okay, not really, but it felt like they wanted to as they drove by. There were a few worried looks. Okay, maybe they were laughing, but I know they didn't really mean it.

On to a totally different subject. I watched Kevin Costner's latest effort, "Mr. Brooks" last night. I've learned from several of his past movies not to set my sights too high, but I was actually surprised at how good this movie was. William Hurt was right in his element playing Mr. Brooks evil conscience. Even Demi Moore was good. I was pleasantly surprised and would recommend it.

I followed this movie with one of my all-time favorite movies, "The Sting" starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman. I watched it for the first time uncut (i.e. not on broadcast television) and non-stop from beginning to end. What a delight that movie is. Everything about it transports me back to the 1930's. The look, the feel, what a great movie. It's in my all time top 10 for sure.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Bitter Disappointment

Flew again yesterday. The flights are not all that difficult, just busy. When we got back the schedulers informed me that I was on a mission going to Ramstein the next day which would mean a chance for me to see the wife and kids, if only for twelve hours or so. I called Arlene and told her the good news. I've been around the Air Force and have flown these sorts of missions enough to know that things can change in a very short time, so I told her not to tell the kids. I didn't want to put my younger ones through the turmoil if things cancelled.

The mission did cancel late last night. I had to call Arlene this morning and give her the bad news. No one was more disappointed than I was, but that's the way things go. The guys are keeping their eyes out for missions to Germany for me. Hopefully one will come up before too much longer.

I've done long deployments before. Last summer I was gone for 132 days. The worst part about this deployment is that there's a chance that I can see them. Last summer there was no chance, so there was no expectations to crush. This seems worse. Of course, if I do get back, I'm sure the look of joy on my kids' faces will make it all worth it.

I'm reminded of a quote by Thomas Paine that helps bring meaning to all of this: "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Veggie Tales

I'm day two into my foray into vegetarianism. Tonight was a big test--steak night at the chow hall. I have to say that it's not as difficult sticking to this as I thought it would be. There are amazing things they can do with vegetables these days. Tonight I sampled a veggie burger. Sounds nasty, but I found it quite tasty with a dab of mustard and mayo. Soup is always a winner (tomato soup, that is), and an ample salad bar makes things easy.

So far, the nearest I can reckon the experience to is like the feeling one has after eating Chinese food--hungry again after an hour. I'm having to toss back a Nutrigrain bar in between meals to kill the ravenous hunger that develops about 2 hours after eating. I will say that this new menu plus the running is producing some quick results.

Thanks to George for warning me about the cheese and, yes, I have been enjoying the water, although there are only a few ways to serve it.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Now This is Something to Look Forward To!

Just saw a couple of teaser production photos for the new Star Trek movie due out later this year. I sincerely hope it follows in the footsteps of "Batman Begins" and "Casino Royale." I think those movies successfully returned to the roots of tired franchises and "started over" with slick storylines, good characters, and overall good movies. It remains to be seen if they can capture the "je ne sais quoi" between the characters of the original series. That's what made that series so timeless. Believe it or not, that was an observation my mother made years ago. Perhaps she too is a closet Trekkie.

I'm really curious what Martha thinks of the new movie. What say you, Martha?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Time for a Change

As I discussed in my last post, being deployed has some minor benefits (though they are greatly outweighed by being away from family). I tend to go through life looking for the pluses in things, so I guess the deployment "plus" is the opportunity to better myself in small ways. In the summer of 2006, I used my four months in Qatar to finish some professional courses and to lose 25 pounds. This deployment I've gotten off to a good start by brushing up on the C-17 tech orders and reading a book I've had on my "to read" list for some time. I've noticed several of the folks deployed here with me using the time away from the normal grind to modify their normal eating habits, mainly going vegetarian. I must admit that I'm mildly interested.

I've tried various diets over the years and it seems the biggest challenge with any diet is integrating it in with the family. The Ritter family's Friday night calzones don't fit in well with dieting, and I'm sure the kids would not take a fancy to "Friday Night SlimFast shakes." My diets are usually the ones that lose out. Again, being deployed allows a certain "focusing upon oneself" that does not normally occur at home. I've decided to give a Vegetarian diet a try.

I've been thinking a great deal about this and think that the best way to start is to work in slowly. Eggs will be on the menu for at least the first week as will milk. I'll see how this goes and reevaluate at the end of the week with the goal of cutting these out as well. I do not plan to become a full-up Vegan, so all of my meat-eating friends need not worry as I have no intention of shunning our long-standing friendships based on your culinary choices. I also plan to return to the carnivore way of life at the end of this deployment. Daddy do like a good steak from time to time.


Friday, January 18, 2008

So It Goes

I find myself with a little extra time on my hands being sans family while deployed. Rather than blissfully waste the time away parked in front of the television, I decided that I would "expand my horizons" a bit and read a few books that I've been meaning to pick up and never quite had the time for. My friend James is a big Kurt Vonnegut fan and posted a story about going to hear him lecture a few years ago. James planted the seed. I was intrigued.

I checked out Slaughterhouse-Five and read it in three days. I liked his writing style, sort of an open doorway into the string of consciousness of his mind. The story was interesting and a fascinating view of war from someone who actually took part.
I enjoyed it very much.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Couple of Quick Observations

Just about to step out to go fly, so I thought I'd record a couple of observations I've recently made. One has to do with food. One doesn't.

1. Bacon tastes good with anything. Bacon cheeseburger. On salad. I had some bean soup today with bacon flavoring. Delicious. This tenet goes right along with my "Fried Food" rule of thumb--you could fry anything and it would be good.

2. The Turkish word for "sign in" is "Garin Yapis." Yahoo and other search engines speak Turkish when you're in Turkey. Trial and error (more "error" than anything) has taught me this.

Time to go fly.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Turkish Haircut

Went for a haircut today. I was badly in need of one. I walked into the barber shop on base here at Incirlik AB, Turkey and sat down in the chair. A kind, older Turkish gentleman stepped up and began the universal barber preparation: White strip of knappy paper around the neck, apron to keep the hair off, then leaned over and said, "Sir, how vood ju like your hair?" I passed along my druthers in curt, crisp military fashion and sat back to observe his work.
I must admit this was the best haircut I've ever received. I had heard about these haircuts from friends that had been stationed here, and now I was getting to experience it first hand. Not only were my instructions followed to the letter, but I got the BONUS plan. He proceeded to trim my eyebrows, nose hair (not that it needed it, mind you), and a quick run over the ears (those of you who are 40ish know what I'm talking about). All of this was followed up by an alcohol rubdown and a "Man-sage." This made me a little uncomfortable at first, another guy giving me a shoulder massage, but then I realized that is their culture here and to just go with it.
American barbers could learn a thing or two from these guys.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Conversation With A Princess

I got to talk with my wife and kids yesterday for the first time since right after Christmas. They're all doing fine. I couldn't resist asking them how their first day back to school after the holidays went. Always good for a little chuckle.

My daughter actually enjoyed going back to school. She's a rambunctious Kindergartner and is especially adept at coloring and drawing, two skills that will set you apart at that level of one's academic career. I've tried telling my boss that I also have these skills in spades. This seems to fall on deaf ears. Anyhoo, she told me how her day went and told me about Nicholas S.'s new Wii that Santa brought him. I've heard her talk about this boy many times before. She seems to have a bit of a thing for him. After she mentioned his name I said, "Nicholas. That's the boy you like, right?"
She paused for the briefest of seconds and said, "No, not anymore, Daddy."

And it begins...

Monday, January 7, 2008

What a Movie!

I watched the Sixth Sense for just the second time last night. I remember the first time I saw it and how much it freaked me out. What a well-made movie. The benefits of renting a DVD is all the extras that come with the disk. I watched the interviews of the filmmakers and sat amazed as they discussed the painstaking effort they put in to make sure the movie was "true." That is, when someone went back and watched the movie a second time that they'd notice all of the little clues that they'd left behind. Things like the fact that Bruce Willis' character never actually moves anything that's not red (i.e. the red door handle leading to his study downstairs). It was a masterfully made movie and a wonderful story. Didn't creep me out as bad the second time.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Groundhog Day

This post is, of course, a nod to the Bill Murry flick of the same name. Life while deployed is much like the movie, same thing day after day. Wake up, drink a pot of coffee, shower, shave, go to work, come home, gym, eat, go to bed. There is no discernable weekend with a 7-day work week. Nothing really to break up the weeks. Each day rolls into the next. You try not to look to the end. It's like running on a treadmill. You don't really have anything different to look at and your only frame of reference for when you'll be done is the clock, a clock which seems to tick slower, and slower, and ssslllllooooowwwweeeerrrr...

Occasionally there are little episodes that bring a spark of life to the monotony. The other night we flew into an airfield in Iraq. The pilot I was with called to the tower and asked if the "Gunshow" was available. In that part of the world, in these days and times, my mind was running away with the possibilities of what this could possibly be. The control tower called back and said they were coordinating and for us to standby. As we taxiied by the tower, the pilot told us to look up at the control tower. The tower was all dark except for a few rooms where several large gents were posing "Arnold-style" with several of their less muscular friends shining flashlights on them. A "gunshow" a la Will Ferrell of "Anchorman." Very funny. You have to admire the American spirit and young men and women that can find humor in a place like that.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

"There goes 6 hours I'll never get back!"

I've learned over the years that if I put my previously unstated goals down on paper, I tend to focus a little more on accomplishing them. Here are a few that I have for 2008. I will probably add more as this is a working list, but it's a start:

1. Avoid flights thru Denver in the winter (see previous post).
2. Take my sons hunting with their new shotguns. Deer, rabbit, squirrel, elk, bear, cats, rats, birds, fish, cans, trees, each other--it probably doesn't matter what. It's the act of getting out there and doing it, I think.

3. Take the family Salmon fishing. I hear the fishing is great around Seattle. The thought of my 8-year-old hooking a big 10 pounder would make my day.

4. Get my family to try (and like) fish. This is dependent on the success of number 3.
5. Get up to Victoria, BC, for a visit. I hear it's really a nice town.

6. Read three of the Easton Press classics in our bookcase that have been patiently waiting for me to spend some time with them. No Cliff's Notes, either.

7. Requalify as an airdrop pilot. This is the most fun flying there is in the C-17.

8. Cook a great meal once a month. Fishsticks and fries don't count. Neither does anything microwavable.

9. Write a song for my wife. I've got to up my game on the guitar this year. My wife has listened to the same renditions of "Folsom County Blues" and "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind" for the past two years. Merely putting words to these melodies does not count either. I figure that would be a nice way to tell her how much I love her. Much better than a vacuum cleaner.

10. Make and can homemade jelly. I've been wanting to try this for years. I'm tossing around some new flavor ideas. Boiled gym sock, belly button lint, barber shop floor sweepings, gas station men's room urinal cookie, or strawberry. I'll let my kids decide.

11. Plant and (hopefully) harvest my own garden in my own backyard. I've always gotten a kick out of growing my own stuff. Legal stuff, of course.
12. Get the font scheme figured out on this blog. It just doesn't do what I want it to do. Banging on the keyboard doesn't work. I've tried that several times. No, I haven't read the directions. I'm a guy. It's supposed to come to me naturally, right?

I think this is probably a good start for now. Hopefully I'll look back on it in a year and check them all off. Headed downrange again tomorrow on another flight. Looks like I'll actually get in the seat and fly this time.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Home for the next 2 months

Arrived on the 30th badly needing a shower and very, very jet-lagged. I learned to never, never try to connect through Denver in the winter. We spent an extra day in Germany due to weather downrange. Arlene and the kids were visiting her sister in Italy for the holidays, so I was unable to see them. Agonizingly close to home. Probably for the best that I didn't go by there as an empty house is worse than being on the road. That, and I forgot my key.
Went up on a flight the day after we arrived and went in country twice. All went fine. One guy saw some tracer fire way off in the distance--probably someone celebrating the new year. As normal a flight as you can have in that part of the world I suppose.
All is well. I want to wish all my friends and their families a Happy New Year.