Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Connections and Associations Can be Embarrassing

I take pride in who I am for many reasons. One of those reasons is because of where I come from. One of the past chapters in my life includes the University of New Mexico where I received my bachelor’s degree. Living on the east coast, it’s not often that UNM comes up in casual conversation, but yesterday was a notable exception.

 

Louis Caldera is currently on sabbatical from the University of New Mexico School of Law. He is working in Obama’s White House where he was appointed the White House Military Office Director. Yesterday, Caldera earned a new title as a 9/11 Reenactment Enthusiast after approving a low level fly over Manhattan by Air Force One and an escort fighter.  “How Dumb Was This!" is the headline on today's NY Daily News front page photo of the Air Force One flyover.

 

Louis Caldera’s office issued a statement in which he said he was very sorry. “Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision. While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it's clear that the mission created confusion and disruption. I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused.”

 

That is one of those "I take responsibility" statements in which the person taking responsibility doesn't actually know what that term means. It is sort of New York's fault, because apparently everyone did know about it, but they didn't tell anyone about it. But that is because the Defense Department made them promise not to!

 

The Police Department confirmed that it had been notified about the event but said it had been barred from alerting the public. "The flight of a VC-25 aircraft and F-16 fighters this morning was authorized by the F.A.A. for the vicinity of the Statue of Liberty with directives to local authorities not to disclose information about it but to direct any inquiries to the F.A.A. Air Traffic Security Coordinator," the Police Department said in a statement.

What a hilarious military/bureaucratic f-up, unless you were one of those people who was shaking and crying, yesterday morning, as you evacuated your building, baffled and scared.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Planting for 2009

After two straight weeks where the low temperatures hadn’t dropped below freezing, we decided it was time to re-plant our garden today. Our garden is entirely based on our back deck, so there is no need for any large power equipment – just at least one green thumb with a little vision.

 

Last year we found that our plants did very will using Miracle Gro’s Moisture Control formula potting soil. It seemed to handle out watering schedule very well, so we ran over to Sam’s Club to pick up 2 large bags to start with. We are re-planting in the same pots that we used last year. We have one large rectangular pot that hangs from the railing, two medium sized round pots that hand from the railing, and one large pot on casters.

We began working on the rectangular pot where we placed pepper plants. One serrano, two jalapeño, and one habañero plants will be sharing this real estate this summer.

 

Last year we had very good success with jalapeño plants that were grown from seed, so we are hoping to get a jump start on this years crop by starting with seedlings this year. Last year we also realized that 8 plants generated way too many peppers for us, so we only went with 4 this year.

 

The picture to the right makes me smile, because everywhere Barbie goes she is always the cleanest person there. For goodness sake, she eats a full rack of ribs and barely uses one napkin! So, when I saw she was getting her hands dirty while we were planting, I had to take this picture.

 

I guess the lesson here is that Barbie is still the cleanest person anywhere she goes, but she can also choose to get dirty when she wants to. Ha! I don’t know if I am jealous of her skills, dumbfounded by her perpetual streak, or humbled by the fact that I am the “messy one” in our marriage. :-) No matter how you look at it, I think I may have gotten the better end of the deal!

After we were able to finish with the peppers we moved on to plant 2 rosemary seedlings in the the medium round pots. This year makes the third time that rosemary has been part of our summer garden. Rosemary is not only very resistant to heat and draught, but it is perfect for our lifestyle because we don’t need to wait for it to ripen. When we want time, we just pull a sprig or two off and take it inside. Because of this it is a ready resource that doesn’t require much planning to be useful.

 

The last seedling that we planted was a tomato. This is a plant that we are very excited to grow. Last summer we planted a tomato plant and had a catastrophic failure in July. The pot that we used didn’t drain well, and the soil began to sprout mold. That mold then sickened the plant to the point where the fruit that was on the vine stopped growing and was never harvestable. Even after transplanting the plant to a new pot that had better draining, it never recovered.

 

This year we are not only using a better pot, but a more sturdy cage, and we are also using a medium size watering globe to keep the soil moist, but not wet.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Guitar Hero Perfection

Even playing head-to-head mode, Barbie still regularly scores "Perfect" on Guitar Hero. I tend to celebrate when her score is less than DOUBLE what mine is.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Oh Happy Times!


While in Chicago visiting Bianca we decided to swing by a local mall. With only a few hours to spend with her while she was on Liberty, options were limited. So, what could be better for an 18 year old who hasn't been off base for a couple months than a trip to the mall?

While walking and sharing stories with Bianca, Barbie spotted a rare treat...Jamba Juice! Jamba Juice is a smoothie franchise from the west coast that is part of a lot of good memories for Barbie. It seemed only appropriate that this good memory also be associates with a stop there as well.

Boot Camp Foot

So, picture this: 900+ sailors just graduated boot camp; 4000+ family members are in the same room with all of the sailors. Here is the conversation that Barbie and I had with Bianca, which is the same one that was taking place with the rest of the sailors in the Midway Hall:

Barbie & Zack: Congratulations we are so happy and proud of you!

Bianca: Thank you guys for coming!

Barbie & Zack: What would you like to do for your first instance of Liberty?

Bianca: I have no idea, I just want to leave the base for a little while.

Barbie & Zack: Sure, but where would you like to go?

Bianca: I have no idea what is here. I flew here in the middle of the night and haven’t left the base since. Can we just get off the base and figure it out?

Barbie & Zack: Ha Ha, we didn’t think about that. Let’s get out of here and get some lunch and plan the rest of the afternoon.

So off to Red Lobster we went for the last Friday of Lent. After eating lunch, and hearing all about Bianca’s take on eating as a Sailor we were faced with the question of what to do. We quickly came to the conclusion that we wanted to give Bianca some pampering since she was a girly-girl in Tucson and it sounded like the Navy toughened her up a bit. The best way to do that was to head out for pedicures so that we could help Bianca loose what we all called her “Boot Camp Foot".”

This is where Bianca’s old girly-girl personality began to come out again. Her father, Beto is a man’s man. He is a contractor who is used to working with his hands. However, Bianca was able to talk him in to being her nail model to test the colors she was thinking about getting on her toes. This was hilarious for all five of us here (including Beto)!

To say that Beto was a good sport is a major understatement. We were all laughing at him while Bianca painted his finger nails. Even the 5-10 employees in the salon were laughing at us while we made a spectacle of ourselves in their entry way. This was fun for everyone and it was a great way to make sure that we were all keeping Bianca’s spirits high!

After the colors were selected, Monica, Barbie and Bianca took their seats so that the technicians could begin pampering them. The picture below is one that brings very fond memories to me. Seeing these three enjoying themselves together reminded me of seeing them at our wedding reception. Those were both very good memories!

Once everyone was finished getting their feet rubbed, painted and dried, we were again faced with the question of what else could we do together for the remaining 4 hours of Liberty that Bianca had. After she made a couple quick calls to her sisters, we decided to sprint over to a mall that had a movie theatre.

Pride, Patriotism and Family

Today we experienced a true patriotic experience as we watched our niece, Bianca graduate from Naval boot camp outside of Chicago.  We met up with Bianca's mother and father for the event which was very exiting for all of us.  Before we all made the trip, all we really knew about the event was that it would take place on a US Naval installation and that there would be a very rigid schedule.  In doing some research about the facilities at Naval Station Great Lakes all I found was graduation ceremonies were held outdoors in the summer.  Considering we hadn’t seen any summer weather yet, I was a little worried about what we could be in for.

Luckily, when we got onto the base, we were promptly escorted through security into the Midway Hall.  A very large indoor facility that was used for graduation ceremonies during inclement weather.  As we entered the facility we had to tell the Naval escorts what division our family member was in.  Initially it wasn’t clear why we were being asked this information, once we entered Midway Hall, or “the jewel” as the cadets called it, the logic became evident.  The design of the hall is set up with the bleachers elevated some 20 feet above the floor. This ensures that the people in the bleachers are able to view the entire length of the hall.

So, we found our seats above Bianca’s division # (156) and watched the rest of the crowd file in.  As the bleachers began to fill, I realized why Bianca could only invite 4 family members to witness her graduation.  When Barbie and I heard about this limit, we were very honored that Bianca wanted us to be 2 of her 4 guests.  But we also assumed that this limit was to control the chaos that the Navy expected with civilians gaining access to the base.  Boy were we wrong.  The reason became clear as the hall bleachers filled to capacity.

The pomp and circumstance began with the entrance of a small group of sailors who carried the flags of every state in the union.  As they entered the hall the conversations of pride and excitement quickly stopped as the ceremony began.  This element of acknowledging and thanking the support structures of the sailors who were graduating was woven throughout the ceremony.  As each flag was announced through the PA system, Barbie and I clapped for Arizona and New Mexico, but we cheered for Virginia.

As the class of graduating sailors entered the hall, the scale of what we were witnessing again became clear.  Bianca was one of more than 900 sailors who completed boot camp on this day.  With each graduate inviting four family members, there were close to 1000 people in the Midway Hall for this event.

Now that all of the graduating sailors were in front of us, everyone in the bleachers found themselves torn between listening to the ceremonial speakers and music while also trying to find their loved one below them.  We were easily able to identify Bianca’s division by their flag.  However, beyond that it was very difficult to spot the differences between all of the sailors since they looked virtually identical.  It took about 5 minutes to spot her.

In the picture below, Bianca is in the second row from the left, and the fourth person from the front.  She looked so serious, that I almost couldn’t believe it was her.  This did not look like to care-free whimsical girl that I had seem so often in Tucson.  I was very impressed!

The last piece of the graduation ceremony was the collective recital of the Sailors Creed.  I hadn’t seen this before, but when I read along as the graduates spoke these words I felt nothing other than patriotic feelings.

I felt very proud of Bianca when she told me that she had enlisted in the Navy.  Again, I felt even more pride when I was invited to see her graduate.  And in keeping with the trend, I felt even more pride as I stood next to her parents and aunt as I listened to her recite the Sailors Creed.

Thank you Bianca for making this sacrifice for all of us.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Steve Case & Titans of Industry

Having worked for AOL for more than a decade, I am a fan of several of the past executive leaders of this company. People like Jim Bankoff, Kevin Conroy, Ted Leonsis, Jon Miller, and countless more are arguably titans of the media and internet industries. And all of them held leadership positions within AOL. Steve Case is of course also on this list. I cannot tell you how happy I was last month to see Case and Leonsis back on the AOL campus to welcome our new CEO, Tim Armstrong to AOL. Seeing those individuals together in the same space was something quite special.

Earlier today Case was on CNBC and I saw a Tweet from him with a link to the clip he was in which was featured on the CNBC web-site. Check it out as it is an interesting look at his perspective on the current economy, where his current project Revolution stands, his thoughts on AOL, and the use of Twitter in general.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

We Both Scream For Ice Cream!

One of the wedding gifts we received last year was an ice cream maker attachment for our kitchen aide mixer. Last week we decided that since Spring has finally decided to arrive with some warmer temperatures, it was time to try and make some ice cream.

The recipe we used for caramel pecan ice cream came with the attachment, and a always we followed it to the letter the first time. As you can see below, it is pretty simple and very straight forward:

In a medium bowl thoroughly mix the following ingredients:
  • 3.5 cups of whole milk
  • 14 fluid ounces of sweetened condensed milk
  • 12 ounces of caramel topping
  • 3.5 ounces of instant cheesecake pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
Cover the mixture and chill for at least 6 hours.

After mixture has chilled, assemble the freeze bowl and dasher. Turn mixer to speed 1 and slowly add ice cream mixture. Allow mixer to churn ice-cream for 15-20 minutes. With 1-2 minutes remaining, add 2 cups of roughly chopped pecans. After pecans have been thoroughly mixed turn off mixer and transfer ice cream to an airtight container in the freezer. You have just made 16 1/2 cup servings of very yummy ice cream!

Friday, April 3, 2009

C! A! P! S! CAPS! CAPS! CAPS!

After clinching the division title, the Washington Capitals posted this Fan Appreciation Video on their web site. We suspect it may play before every home game during the playoffs as well.