Friday, October 10, 2008

7 Things

My dear friend, Misty of Misty's Musings tagged me for this. Normally, I don't participate in this sort of thing, but how can ya say no to someone named "Misty"?

Ok...the rules......

1. Link your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I'm going to have to plead the fifth on part of the rules, as I have no one I can tag to further participation. So, since I have already accomplished Rule #1 (see above), I'll begin working on Rule #2 and see what happens.

Fact #1 -- I'm a REAL city boy. When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, my dad got a job in the Chicago area. I lived there until I was 18 when I joined the Air Force.

Fact #2 -- I have twice been to the North Pole. Once in the air and the other on the ice. By the way, there is no red and white striped barber style pole there. I looked and looked and couldn't find it. It must be on the South Pole.

Fact #3 -- I have a great sense of direction (as opposed to someone else I know). I can look at a map and not need it thereafter even if I'm driving 2,000 miles...which I have done many times.

Fact #4 -- In my teenage years, a friend of mine and I were instrumental in saving hundreds of lives in South America. My friend is a HAM...amateur radio operator...and one evening, we intercepted a general call for help. We copied down the information, contacted a local hospital and told them the story and lucky for us, the person who took the call was also a HAM. He then contacted the people in South America, made arrangements to have the needed medication sent there and my friend and I were featured on the front page of the Metro Section of the Chicago Tribune, the largest paper in the city at the time. I got the friend has the story.

Fact #5 -- I am also known as Ashrunner and for good reason. If you have read my previous posts, you know I have had up an up close and personal encounter with a volcanic eruption. But it wasn't my first. I also experienced the Mt. St. Helens eruption. But those aren't the only disasters I have experienced. Two major earthquakes also rattled my chains, one in The Philippines and one in Italy. Both didn't let up with the shaking and continued rolling minor tremors through the areas.

Fact #6 -- I have spent a lot of time with some rather famous people. One of them was Billy Joel. He was at Clark AB to put on a USO sponsored concert, but prior to the show, we gave him a tour of the base. I was his "unofficial" escort. We spent the day discussing world news regarding the up-coming Gulf War One. I have also spent time with Dorothy Hamil, the Olympic ice skater, the late Bob Hope and a number of others whose names escape me.

Fact #7 -- Ok...a weird one now. I can not drink a drink out of a glass which has ice cubes in it without a straw. I must have a straw. If I don't use a straw, I actually fear swallowing an ice cube and choking to death on it before it melts.

Well, there you have things about me no one cares about 8v)

As for the number 3 and 4 rules, since I don't have anyone I can tag to do this, I'll leave it to those of you who read this blog and decide they want to do it. Just follow the rules (as close as possible) listed at the top of this post.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Visitors from the East

I spent most of last week in the company of my mother, her sister, my cousin and her husband. They came to Oregon from Illinois for a visit and to see the gorgeous beauty of this country.

For the most part, I acted as a tour guide for the group, and took them to local areas well worth seeing...and of course, I took along my camera.

It had been so long since I spent any time in the high country, that I actually felt like crying when I returned. There are two spots in central Oregon which are my favorite top two favorite spots in the state. The top spot on the list is the McKenzie Pass area. The pass, along the McKenzie Highway, is located between the North Sister and Mt. Washington in the area of Belnap Crater. The view there at the right time of the day, is absolutely spectacular.

Unfortunately, the area is still blocked by snow and the pass is closed until the end of July at the earliest. I'll get there again...I hope. And when I do, I'll once again be awed by what I see.

The second place on that list encompasses a large area of central Oregon and is known as Newberry National Volcanic Monument. I got to know this area before it became a national monument. Though not a lot has changed, it does cost more to get into the park and some places I could go before, I'm not allowed to go to now. Not that I would these days as my Davy Crockett days are long gone, but it would be nice to go there if I could.

There are so many volcanic features throughout the caldera, that a person could spend a lifetime inside the volcano studying it all. Among other sights, are the Big Obsidian Flow, Central Pumice Cone, lava flows, smaller obsidian flows, pumice flats, two lakes formed by the collapsed summit, a beautiful waterfall and Paulina Peak.

The peak is the highest point at the monument at 7,989 feet. It can be driven to along a gravel road cut into the flanks of the mountain. The drive itself is interesting, as in spots, you're driving the edge of a three hundred foot drop to oblivion. But the views from the roadway are gorgeous and well worth the time. One of my most memorable trips up to Paulina Peak occurred in 1992 when I took a friend of mine up there. We were in an old Ford pickup and the road was extremely wash-boarded at the time. Since the drop offs were on the passenger side, my friend from St. Louis wasn't accustomed to looking out his window and seeing nothing at road level. He certainly was glad when we finally made it to the top.

Once at the top of Paulina Peak, the views are spectacular. On clear days (few and far between these days in the summer wildfire season), a person can easily see into the states of Washington and California. To the north, Washington's Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams are easily seen. Further north, Mt. Rainier can be made out on the horizon. To the south, Crater Lake in Oregon and Mt. Shasta in California grace the distance landscape. I have seen what I believe is Lassen Peak, a volcano which erupted in California in 1915.

Still looking south but moving more to the east, a person can easily make out Fort Rock and Hole-in-the-Ground. In the distance, the flats of the Great Basin show and further south, the fault block system of the Hart Mountains.

There is much more to see in the High Desert area of central Oregon. And I hope to someday be able to visit the areas I have been before, along with those I haven't seen. In the meantime, I'll continue to do what I can to see what I can and when I do, I'll have my camera and record it for all to see.

I have posted some of the photos I took from Paulina Peak during my recent visit at my Flickr site. Although it was a nice day, my views were limited due to smoke from the California fires.

I do hope you enjoy my photos and if you decide to visit the central Oregon area, I do hope you enjoy your visit. But please...just visit...don't plan to stay 8v)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What's in a Word?

A few minutes ago, the Top Chef reunion concluded and it reminded me of something from my past. Yes, I watched Top Chef and my favorite chef - Antonia - didn't win. I can't cook worth a squat, but I enjoy eating food and watching some really cool dishes cook is interesting.

Anyway, what happened to trigger a memory was all the dead air during the show. When the chefs were being interviewed, or while they were cooking away, four-letters words flowed from their mouths. I spent 20 plus years in the military and four-letters are just words to me. One of my favorite cartoons is a Doonesbury strip. It was during the build-up phase to the first Gulf War. The star of the strip was talking to the person next to him who related he was too old for war. He then turned to Doonesbury and said, "Hell, I don't even remember how to use the f-word."

Doonesbury looked at him and said, "Just use it like an adjective."

I love that particular cartoon. I cut it out and stuck it on the wall next to my desk. I loved it because in a way, it rang true.

The last job I had in the Air Force was that of a public affairs specialist. I could work on the base newspaper, edit the paper, write news releases for public release, conduct tours of the base, arrange for speakers to attend civilian functions and a variety of other jobs. But the one job I enjoyed the most was working with the civilian media.

My baptism of fire so to speak was when I worked at the US Air Force Survival School at Fairchild AFB, west of Spokane, Wash. I arranged several media interviews with survival instructors and had my own radio show on a Spokane station where I interviewed an instructor about survival techniques unique to the Inland Empire area. It wasn't difficult working under those conditions.

However, to make sure I was ready for anything the media might throw at me in the future, the Air Force sent me to DINFOS, the Defense Information School, in Indianapolis to learn more of my trade. During one of the courses, we were lectured on how to handle the tough, hard-hitting news questions which seem to always happen at a news conference. After the classroom discussion, we were given scenarios to study and then we would be put in front of the camera and be interviewed by a local reporter.

My scenario was that of a mid-air collision of two US Navy Blue Angels during an air show. No one was killed, but the pilots ejected and private property had been destroyed.

One of the things they told us was when you are asked a question which takes several minutes to ask and in which the reporter is making a number of unsubstantiated points, that we not answer the question at the end, as that will validate all the points made during the asking of the question. The proper thing to do is to ask the person to repeat the question. Most of the time, they will ask only the actual question the second time, leaving the unsubstantiate crap off. When the interviewee then answers the question, there is no other points being validate.

So when my turn came to be interviewed, I got up went to the front of the class and began my exercise. The first question I was asked was what happened. So I gave a brief statement of events, highlighting that everyone survived and the private property destroyed would be compensated for. Then added that a board of qualified officers will investigate the cause of the accident.

The reporter then went into a long, drawn out question berating flight training, demonstration teams, and the military in general and ended it all with the question, "Is what happened today worth the cost?" I looked at her, remembered the training and asked her to repeat question. You'd figure they would throw a curve at ya and they did. This reporter asked the exact same question, almost word for word and ended with the same question.

I figured if I asked her to repeat it again, I'd get the same practiced question, so there wasn't any reason for me to do so. Instead, I cocked my head to the side, squint just so slightly, looked the reporter straight in the eye and said, "Shit happens." Well, everyone cracked up, including the reporter who told me to sit down. I actually got through the exercise without answering a single question. But it was a learning experience for me and that was the entire purpose of the training.

Following the survival school, I was assigned to Columbus AFB, Miss., where I had a couple of run-ins with the media, but for the most part, they treated me good and weren't any trouble. After that assignment, I went to Thule AB, Greenland. There wasn't any media there to worry about except for those who travelled through for one reason or another. I have an interesting story about a Scandinavian reporter who brought all sorts of trouble down on my office and commander of the base...but it's a story I'll save for a future post.

Following Greenland, I was assigned to Elmendorf AFB, near Anchorage, Alaska. It was there where I really came under fire, and from when the memory surfaced.

About a year after my arrival at Elmendorf, the base was holding their annual air show. On that particular weekend, I had the on-call duty. It was the on-call person's job to field telephone queries from the media, obtain the required anwers, clear the information, then pass it on to the requestor. Not a hard job, but one that could take a long time to accomplish since we had to have everything reviewed by the three-star general on base before we could release it...and that was a pain in the ass.

Early in the morning of the air show day, I had been contacted by the command post on base and told that rising flood water at Galena AS, located on the north side of the Yukon River in the interior of Alaska, was going to force an evacuation of the site until the waters resceded. That wouldn't have been a big deal except for two things. First, the evacuees were being flown into Elmendorf during the air show; and second, the two Alert F-15s were being relocated to Elmendorf.

Now, this incident took place at the height of the Cold War. Soviet aircraft were constantly making moves towards US airspace, and Alert aircraft at two sites in Alaska, Galena being one and King Salmon Airport being the other, would be launched to intercept them before they reached our airspace. It was a cat and mouse game, that was played seriously by both sides.

As soon as the C-130s carrying the first of the evacuees to Elmendorf landed, an announcement was made for the show attendees that a real world situation had developed and that it might cause some delays in the scheduled flying activities. That announcement was all the local media needed to flood me with phone calls. I took all the questions (at the time, I had no data what-so-ever) and told each reporter I would get back to them as soon as I could. After getting the required information, I located my counterpart who worked for the general, told him what I had, and he basically gave it the nod of approval as it was strictly harmless facts.

I then proceeded to call back the reporters and pass on the information to them. At one of the call-backs to one of the local newspapers, I was asked another question. The reporter asked if the relocation of the Alert F-15 aircraft posed any problems with the reaction time of the aircraft should the Soviets decide to head our way again. My mind instantly went through a number of scenarios of what would happen with each answer. One of those instant thoughts was that if I said I would get back to you, the reporter would think there was a problem and wouldn't believe anything I got back to him with...and I didn't want that. I also thought that if I answered the question right then and there, without the general's approval, I would probably being damaging my career. But my job at the time was to help people understand the role of the Air Force in their day-to-day lives, and not do anything which would portray the Air Force or this county in poor light. So I answered the question right then and there. I told the reporter it in no way affected the response time of the Alert birds.

The next day my boss and I were called to the general's office. He wanted to know the story surrounding a headline in the morning's newspaper which read: Air Force evacuates Galena: Officials say they can still do their job...or something like that. Inside the article, I was quoted as saying the change in location of the aircraft had no affect on our ability to intercept any Soviet intrusion. The article also talked about the evacuation and flood waters, but the general knew about those questions. Fearing the worst, my boss and I waited for the hammer to fall. But it didn't. The general was so impressed with how I handled the situation, that he stated that from that point on, no one else, other than my boss or I, were allowed to talk to the media about anything, and best of all, we were to use our own judgement as to whether it the information needed to be cleared by his office or not.

Eight months later and hundreds of media queries, I was again in tricky situation and facing the news media. On a Friday afternoon, an F-15B model, a two seat version of the single seat air superiority fighter, took off with an enlisted man in the back seat. The back seater was being given an incentive flight for doing a good job as a crew chief. Two hours into the flight, the aircraft disappeared off radar and never reappeared. We immediately dispatched search teams to the last known radar position of the aircraft and I went to the Rescue Coordination Center which was my job when any search and rescue was occuring. As soon as I got there, I knew we wouldn't be doing a lot of searching that day, as the weather in the area was bad.

In town, the media had found out that we lost and aircraft and I was being flooded with calls regarding the lost aircraft. Since we had not been able to contact the next of kin I was unable to say anything regarding the lost aircraft. Everyone who called knew what we lost. But since I wasn't verifying the information, no one was using it. When I finally could release the information, it was late in the day. I explained about the poor weather conditions in the search area and that we would try again Saturday.

The next morning, I got up and went to the RCC and found the same thing going on which we had the previous day. The weather was just too rotten to do any searching. So, I again called the media I had contacted the previous day, told them there wouldn't be a search that day either and headed home after making sure I had a good battery in my beeper. The news that night made mention that bad weather was thrwarting attempts to locate the missing aircraft and that we would try again Sunday which according to forecasts, would give searchers a good window in which to operate.

The next morning, there was a lot more interest in the lost aircraft, as the news of it had been picked up by national outlets. By 6 am, I had already had half a dozen calls and I knew more would come in. So I called back the earlier callers and as others called, told them I would hold a news conference at one of the gates at noon.

At the appointed time, I was at the gate and so were dozens of news media. Everyone from radio to newspapers to television were there, waiting for what I had to say. Armed with the latest information, I made a short announcement that we would begin a extensive search of the target area at 2 pm when the weather would begin to clear from the area. I then added on the known facts and finally, opened it up for a question and answer period. Most of the questions were simple to answer...until a television reporter from Seattle raised his hand.

I acknowledged him and he began his question. It went something like this: "I have sources which have told me that you didn't loose the aircraft at all, that the pilot actually flew the aircraft across the straits and turned it over to the Soviet for a substantial reward. Do you have anything to say about that?"

I looked straight at the reporter and without hesitation said, "That's a stupid fucking statement. Does anyone have a serious question?"

There was a moment of silence, then everyone, except for the reporter who asked the question, burst out laughing. That statement basically ended the news conference. The reporters headed back to Anchorage to file what they had, I headed back to the RCC to monitor events. Four hours later, called the media again to tell them we had located the crash site.

And it was nowhere near the Soviet Union.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

June 7

It's June 7, 1944 and war is raging in Europe. The day before, Allied units from Great Britain, Canada and the U.S.A. stepped off troop carriers and into a wall of death.

The reason? To rid the world of a dictator...a mass murderer. Thousands died on June 6, 1944...thousands more in the days which followed. Less than a year later, the war in Europe was over. A war which began more than four years earlier, was over. Europe was free of oppression.

Now, it's June 7, 2008 and all I heard about on the news was Obama this, Hillary that. The Democratic nominee race is finished, the presidential race is five months away and news organizations throughout the U.S. could only talk about a Wannabe and Has-been.

What really got me though, was this website. In honor of the anniversary of June 6, 1944, the owner of this site designed a cardstock model of a Stinson L-5 Sentinel. The aircraft was used throughout World War II as an observation plane, a small transport and was nicknamed the Flying Jeep. While you are on Roman's site, look around and see what else he has to offer.

Readers of my blog (the few, the proud, the readers of rarely published material) know I enjoy cardstock modeling. I have designed my own models based on the Flintstones world of comic fame. And those who go to the Stinson L-5 site above might realize why I am writing this. Clicking on Flintstones above will take you to where my models are hosted. And, I would like to thank Rick "The Webdude" for giving my creation space to roam the world. You can check out more offerings scrolling on the link for my models and can go to the Webdude's homepage.

But the fact remains, it took a website of a talented person in the Ukraine for me to see something which honored those who fought and died, and those who fought and survived the battle on the beaches of Normandy, France 64 years ago.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Taking Everything in Stride

I often see something somewhere which reminds of something somewhere which happened to me. Most of the time, those happenings are personal to me and I'll only share them with my better half if I ever find her. But then there are the ones that to me are so comical, that I want to share them with the world so someone somewhere can find a reason to laugh.

Well, one of those somethings occurred yesterday and I am still smiling about it.

I was watching television at the time (don't remember the program) when a commercial for a long lasting gum aired. The advertisement began with a man walking along and suddenly a goat runs up and slams into him. He gets up and the goat does it again. The commercial then goes on to spread the name of the product around and regularly scheduled programming continues. But I was laughing at a past experience to much to remember much after the man got "rammed."

Ten years ago I lived in a mobile home located on the property of a family north of Prineville, Oregon. The landlord had a number of acres of land and some of it was set aside for animal. At this particular time, there were goats in the fenced area. Two of the goats were billys who were crafty fellows. Somehow or another they would get out of the pasture and would then be found munching on garden plants around the houses. When that happened, my landlord, Don, and I would go out and each pick one up and carry it back to the field and release it with the rest of the herd.

After a while, the billys began to realize that when they had escaped and the humans came near, they would be unceremoniously removed from freedom and placed once again within the confines of the herd. I guess they loved their freedom, as they soon began running off to other areas of the various nearby gardens and grab a quick bite before running off again. It would then take both of us (sometimes my mother would assist us) to corner one of the goats before we could grab him and carry it back to the pasture. However, this didn't last long.

The goats soon learned they could kick and wail about we wouldn't attempt to pick them up. So, we started roping the goats and leading them to the pasture. This worked for about half a dozen time before the billys started thrashing about. The first time it happened, I ended up with a nice rope burn as the goat suddenly dart off, pulling the rope through my hands. After that I began wearing gloves and when they would thrash about, I'd wrap the rope around my hand and start pulling harder.

But doing that was very hard on my arms and shoulder. Besides, anyone driving by and seeing the happenings would swear there was some sort of animal abuse going on. But it was something that had to be done. After all, no one wanted to a goat to go missing.

The odd thing was, every time we put the billys back in the pasture, we would walk the fence line to see if we could find how they were getting out. And every time, we were stumped. We speculated that they were climbing on the hood of a car in the field near the fence and leaping over. However, the dirt and dust on the hood was undisturbed. We looked for areas where they were getting their nose under the fence and wiggling through, but couldn't find anywhere that looked to be happening. We finally decided they were just leaping over four foot or so fence line, which neither of us really believed since we never saw them jumping at all. We were stumped.

One particularly hot afternoon, my mother and I, along with Don and his wife, were relaxing under the shaded back porch of my landlord talking about things. We were all sort of watching the goats in the field for some reason when it happened. As we sat watching, the two escape artist goats walked over towards the wooden gate and when the first was about five feet away, it lowered his head and took off. It hit the gate to the side of the latch causing it to fly open just long enough for the goat to escape before the gate slammed shut again. Without a pause, the second goat followed suit and both billys were free with no evidence of their escape showing anywhere.

Well, we on the porch couldn't help but start laughing. After weeks of trying to figure out how the goats got loose, they made their escape if full view for our enjoyment. After we finished laughing, Don and I got up to herd in the goats. They evidently realized the error of their ways, as they were standing within 10 feet of the gate staring at us. I told my landlord I would circle around the other side of the garage so if they tried to escape capture via that route, I would be there to cut them off. But those critters must have known they were busted, as they just stood there as my landlord checked out the gate, then opened it. At the same time, I grabbed one by the horns and led it back through the gate.

I then turned around to herd the other one back inside and as soon as I grabbed one of his horns, he went spread-eagle on the ground. I grabbed the other horn and attempted to wrestle him up, but he fought me the entire time, remaining on the ground with all four legs splayed out to the side. Don decided he would grab the goat by the back end and lift, but the billy squirmed enough to prevent him from getting his hands underneath. The goat was actually fighting us to keep his freedom.

Finally, I got down on my knees, wrapped my arm around the goats neck and with the other controlling his head (and horns...which wasn't easy as this goat had strong neck muscles), I rose up and was able to drag the goat through the gate. Oddly enough, as soon as he knew it was a lost cause, he gave up fighting me, making my job a lot easier.

To prevent further escapes, we tied down the top and bottom of the gate and then went back to the shade of the back porch.

There were no more escapes after that, and several months later, the entire gaggle of goats was sold and moved to another pasture where Ben and Jerry (my names for the two escapees) could plot new dashes to freedom.

But I'll never forget watching those two goats ram the gate and escape. Nor will I soon forget the fun I had getting them back into the pasture.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Rocky and Bullwinkle

Wednesday evening, I recorded the newest Mythbusters for later viewing and found the time to watch it last night. The show was interesting, in that they were tackling Alaskan Myths.

I lived in Alaska twice for two years and loved every moment of the time I spent there. I spent most of my time in the Anchorage area, but I did work for short periods of time in other areas. As I said, I loved the state. Alaska is definitely the land of extremes and amazement.

In the Mythbusters show, one of the myths they were tackling was whether or not you could lessen damage to your car if you speed up when hitting a moose in the middle of the road is the only recourse a driver has. They sort of proved it wrong, and I sort of knew they would. Moose legs are really long and most cars would go under the moose bringing it right into the windshield. As they were discussing their experiment, I thought back to one of my first moose encounters in Alaska.

It happened shortly after I arrived at Elmendorf AFB. I was tasked with driving an F-6S fuel truck containing low grade aviation fuel to Six Mile Lake. Once there, I was to refuel several Civil Air Patrol de Havilland Beavers. The lake was called Six Mile Lake for a was six miles from main base area along a dirt road cut through some of the thick on-base Alaskan wilderness.

I went out to my truck, inspected it, climbed in, did my radio check and drove off. The trip was uneventful for the first couple of miles and I was enjoying the scenery around me as I drove along. Most of the other workers in my job didn't like the Six Mile Lake run as it was long and dirty (dirt road, remember?), but it gave me the chance to get out and about and see things I wouldn't normally see. As I neared the midway point on the outbound run, I came across a sweeping right turn with woods on the left and an open prairie on the right. I also noticed a moose just entering the open field. The moose was on a fast run away from something, or wanting to go somewhere mighty fast.

As I watched the moose heading towards the road, I realized there was a very good chance that if both of us remained at the same speed we were going, that a collision would occur. Not wanting to damage government equipment, I decided I would slow down and let the moose cross in front of me. But as I began doing that, the moose also slowed and the collision again seemed likely. I decided the moose was slowing to eat or something and again applied pressure to the gas peddle and sped up. By this time, I was halfway through the turn, the moose was off to my right requiring me to lean forward a little and turn my head far to the right to see it and I needed to concentrate on navigating a washboard section of the turn.

I hadn't gone fifty feet, when BAMM! and the several ton fuel truck I was driving, began rocking. I knew what had happened and slammed on the breaks and came to a stop at the apex of the turn I was making. I immediately leaned forward and to the right and looked out the passenger side window of the cab. There, 20 feet away, I saw the moose. It was heading back into the woods from the direction it came, but it wasn't running. It was walking...slowly walking...and staggering. It's head was down and swaying from side-to-side as it walked. I got out of my truck and walked around to the passenger side, keeping an eye on the large creature heading away from me.

I wasn't much more than 40 feet from it, but it was ignoring me and my truck. I watched it for a moment and then looked at the side of the truck. There in the passenger's door, was a large dent. It wasn't there when I checked the truck out prior to departure...and my stomached cringed. How would I explain this to my boss? I looked closer at the dent and realized there were moose hairs around it. That would help, I thought. I went back around to the driver's side, reached in for my radio and keyed the mike.

"Fuels 4 to Control," I said.

"Go ahead four," came the reply from the dispatcher.

"A moose has hit my truck and damaged the door."

There was a long delay and then a new voice came on the net.

"Say again, four?" said my boss.

I repeated what I said and after a few seconds, came my boss' voice again.

"Where did you hit the moose?"

"I didn' hit me."

"Is the truck operable?"


"Finish the mission and bring the truck back to dispatch when finished."

After acknowledging the order, I glanced back at the moose who was now reentering the woods from where it came, started the truck and drove off. I finished my job and made my way back to the dispatch office. When I arrived there, everyone came out to see for themselves just what happened. I showed my supervisor the dent the moose made. While looking it over, they had also found moose hairs in the area of the dent and shook their heads in amazement. After I explained to them in more detail what had happened, we all retired to the office area where I got a cup of coffee.

As I stood at the bar sipping the hot liquid, my section chief, or boss, walked over and said, "Jones was able to pop the dent out with little effort. There was also a little damage to the pump section of the truck. You think it just didn't like yellow trucks?"

"Either that," I said, "or it was blind or just plain stupid."

That wasn't the last encounter I had with Alaskan wildlife. Stay tuned for more moose stories from The Last Frontier.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Who? Me...A Smart Ass?

I wasn't a good student in school. In high school, I failed and had to retake in summer school, English. One of the last things my English teacher said to me, was, "Never get a job requiring the use of the English language."

Well, the Air Force didn't hear that and made me a journalist. I had never had any training in it, but I was a quick learner. Within a year, I had made my way to editor of the paper and I turned into a pretty good one, taking several Air Force level awards and placing third (out of five) at Department of Defense level during my 16 plus years as a public affairs specialist which included the journalist job (I spent my first four years as a fuels specialist).

One reason I did well in that job was I wanted to learn the job. It was better than pumping gas to an airplane, which I didn't mind doing when I had to, but the public affairs job sounded a lot better.

These days, I use my writing skills for blogging (you know that already if you are reading this) and for writing short stories and several novels I am working on. I also have a lot of experiences in my life I can rely on and modify in one way or another for certain areas of my writing. Being in the Air Force, traveling the world, helped me with gathering these experiences.

But what also helps me with my writing in my broad knowledge base of things. Like I mentioned above, I catch on quick to things...especially things I want to learn about. I know a lot about a lot of things. I know about earthquakes because I have experienced several killer quakes around the world. I know about volcanoes because I have experienced several eruptions around the world. I know about astronomy because I became interested in it when was 14 years old. I know about birds and bugs because I photograph them and want to know what it is I have created an image of. There are a many other topics I am knowledgeable of, because I wanted to learn about those things.

Because of my knowledge, I have been called a smart ass, a know-it-all, and a few other things. I have also been disbelieved when I answered a question about a topic so obscure that few people even knew what the question was about. But that's me. I love to share my knowledge of things. It comes partly from my military career where I was in a public service position. I would give tours of the bases I was stationed at and have to be able to answer any and all questions thrown at me. So I learned about the places I visited and objects which would be seen along the tour route.

But these days, I don't give tours of anything. I only occasionally do something new which peaks my interest, such as card modeling. I thought it would be fun to create my own card models. So I did. I selected objects from one of my favorite cartoons, The Flintstones. If you go to the website here, and scroll down about halfway, you'll come across my stone age designs. They are available free for downloading and printing. Then with some scissors, Xacto knife, white glue and a little time, you can create your own stone age world. There are other designs from other people, all free for the downloading, but if you go there, don't forget to locate the designs from Ashrunner and look at them. If you do, let me know what you think of them.

But I still have a lot of knowledge in my brain I use. When I can, I pass on that information to others. Recently a friend of mine commented about our relationship being so one sided. When I asked for clarification and was told that I have taught this person so much about a lot of things, while I have gotten very little in return. Well, I don't pass on my knowledge with the expectation that I get something in return. Knowing that I have added to someone else's level of knowledge is a good enough feeling for me. When I was writing news stories, knowing at least one person read any particular of mine, was enough for me to continue. It's the same with sharing my vast database of knowledge.

I love learning something new and I retain that information because you never know when that information will come in handy. But you need to know that the information you are passing on is the correct information. I have made mistakes with my information in past. But I try to limit those errors in fact as much as possible. But there was one time I was wrong and that one time was the impetus for me to learn as much as I can about as much as I can. That incident happened when I was in the fifth grade.

More on that later, but first a some background is needed. When I was four or five years old, I was staying at my aunt's house in Alvin, Illinois. While I was there, a thunderstorm developed. Not long after that, we heard of a tornado warning on the radio. My aunt's family, being accustomed to this sort of thing, gathered up all the children, and led everyone down into the basement. We had tuned in the local radio station we waited for the "All clear." When it came, we went upstairs and checked things out. Things were okay on my aunt's farm, but on the late news that evening, was a story about the damage done to a farm not far from aunt's place.

A photo of the damage was shown and I looked at that black and white picture on the round
cathode ray tube of my aunt's television set with fascination. I also listened as the announcer said, "This is what the tornado did to the home of (I can't remember the name so I'll just say:)
John Smith of Alvin." On the screen was a picture of a tree which had been broken and tossed against the house. That picture was burned in my mind forever, along with what the announcer said.

The next day, my father came out to pick me up and he went out to see the damage himself. He took his camera with him and took a photo of the house damage which I had seen the night before. This is that image.

Flash forward to the fifth grade for me. It was science class time and we were learning about storms. At one point in the class, the teacher asked, "Does anyone know what a tornado is?" Excited that a question was asked which I actually knew the the answer to, I raised my hand. The teacher raised his head, pointed to me and called my name. I stood, fully prepared to give my answer. Now, remember, I was young at the time the above incident happened and it did make a lasting impression on me. I can still see the image on the television screen to this day taken from a slightly different angle than the photo.

I cleared my throat and proudly blurted out my answer. "A tornado is a walking tree which goes around destroying houses."

I slowly sat back in my seat even as the laughter from the rest of the class got louder and louder. I couldn't believe I was wrong and when the smiling, head shaking teacher finally calmed the classroom down, he pointed out the error of my description.

I vowed at that point in time, I would never again volunteer to answer any question in school. I also vowed that I would learn as much as I could about everything.

If that makes me a smart ass, so be it. 8v)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Rockin 'n' Rollin in the Midwest

Things were shaky today for people in the Midwest. A 5.4 magnitude earthquake rumbled through a number states in the early morning hours, followed by a smaller aftershock several hours later.

From what I have read, the quake was felt as far away as Atlanta, Georgia. It was definitely felt by a friend of mine in Lexington, Kentucky. However, my mom who lives about 200 miles north of the quake area, didn't feel it. She was asleep like a lot of people at the time the the temblor rolled through. But something woke her at the time of the quake...probably it rolling through.

I remember my first "felt" quake. It was in 1968. At the time, I was working in an animal hospital on the south side of Chicago. The animals in the back room where I worked started acting strange, then the cage doors started rattling and I could feel a rumbling. I could almost hear something, but the critters in the place were making way too much noise for me to know for sure. Not long after that, one of the front office people came back to tell me there had been an earthquake.

Several years later, I was in the Air Force, stationed in extremely seismically active, Alaska. My first quake there was an interesting one. I was at an off-base mobile home where myself and two co-workers lived to get away from the barracks life. I had just come back from a dental appointment, and sat down in a swivel-rocker to read my mail. The noon newscast was just beginning and suddenly, I saw the announcer dive under his desk. A split second later, just after I had opened a letter from a friend in Ohio, my chair started swiveling and rocking on its own. Then it was over. I looked around and then looked at the television screen and had to laugh. The announcer had poked his head up over the edge, looked around, then got back in his chair and said, "If you don't know, the Anchorage area has just experienced an earthquake. More on that as it comes in."

Several months later, during the early morning and I was out on the tarmac refueling a C-141 Starlifter. At the time, I was watching a distance aircraft in the landing pattern. Suddenly, I started swaying side-to-side and I looked towards the control tower. I couldn't see it moving, but I could see ripples in the runway. I looked again at the aircraft in the pattern and it was still coming in. When I went back to our dispatch office, I was told there had been an earthquake.

There were a few more minor rockers during my time there, but after I left Alaska, I didn't experience another earthquake until I was reassigned from Texas to northern Italy. Prior to my arrival there, there had been a series of quakes which brought devastation to a number of towns and I was heading into the area of the worst damage. After my arrival, things were rather quiet. The area was being cleaned up and life was returning to normal. Then another quake rolled through. This quake occurred early in the morning as most of us slept. However, it woke everyone in the barracks. I know, because as soon as it finished, the entire building was heard to say, "Holy shit...did you feel that?" Then a line formed at the urinals.

For me, that quake was interesting. I woke just before the shaking began. At that time, one side of my bed was up against a wall. Hanging on the wall, right above where my crotch area was (and still is), was a 4-point, mounted deer head I got in Texas. As soon as the shaking started, I looked up at the mount and said, "Don't fall...Don't fall," over and over. It didn't fall, but it did get moved to a different part of my section of the barracks room.

Later in the morning, I was at work and was being interviewed by a radio announcer from the Southern European Network, a division of the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, in Vicenza, Italy, about 100 miles south of Aviano, where I was. I recall the announcer asking me what the morning quake was like and as soon as he finished, an aftershock hit. I had just reached for my little, yellow plastic coffee cup and couldn't immediately figure out why it kept moving just out of my reach. Then it hit me...EARTHQUAKE! I stood up and looked at my supervisor who was rushing out of the office and was frozen with what I was seeing.

I worked in a cinder block building and the wall I was staring at, was painted cinder block. I was watching waves move through the cinder blocks. I could see them actually bending and not crumbling...and I couldn't figure it out. Then the shaking stopped and slowly made my way outside the building. The entire cast of characters who worked in the headquarters for the 40th Tactical Group was out there. I was the last to leave the building. About 30 minutes later when engineers had given the building an okay for occupancy, we were allowed back in. More rumblers moved through the region in the days which followed, but none like that one.

I didn't feel anymore earthquakes until I was reassigned to Anchorage, Alaska in 1983. I hadn't been on base for more than two weeks, when a very strong, quick quake occurred. I was just walking into my office when it hit and almost as quickly, finished. When I entered the office, I saw the person I was replacing halfway out the window of the building. He had a mortal fear of quakes and would do anything to avoid them, including jumping out of a third floor office window to make sure the building didn't collapse on him. But the quake finished before he could leap, and he was spared the consequences of what might have happened on landing.

It was in Alaska, where something really strange happened regarding an earthquake. It was a year or so after I had arrived there. I was in a new job as the community relations advisor for the base. I was sitting at my desk in the office I shared with our media relations NCO, when I felt dizzy and put my head down. My office mate noticed something strange with me and asked if I was okay. I looked up at him and said, "In 24 hours, we will have a 5.2 earthquake," and I went back to work on some paperwork. The NCO with me, shook his head and went back to what he was doing. This took place at 3 pm.

The next day at 2:58 pm, a 5.4 magnitude earthquake hit. I had missed it by two minutes and two degrees of magnitude. However, soon as it finished, the person in the office with me gathered some notebooks, forms and pens and walked out. He went to another of the offices and told everyone what had happened. For the next several minutes, people would walk by my office and look inside at me, then walk away. The person in the office with me during that incident, refused to work with me after that. Our office areas were rearranged and I was considered a really strange person by everyone. Sorry, Tom. I didn't mean to upset you.

After I left Alaska, I felt minor quakes in Honduras while I was on temporary assignment there. None of them were big, just little shakers everyone laughed at. But in the summer of 1990, I was in The Philippines. On a nice July day, I worked a little late in the office and when I finished, went out to the bus stop to await transportation to my barracks. As I stood there talking to two Filipina women, a quake hit. It was so strong, and so long, it actually knocked me on my ass and began bouncing me around. As I sat on the roadway acting like a rubber ball with the quake, I recall looking towards our legal building across the street. It was a cinder block building and again, I could see waves moving through the cinder blocks.

As soon at that quake was finished, I got up, brushed myself off and went right back to my office. As I entered the front part of the office, my boss was walking through the door. He looked at me and said, "Where did you come from?" I told him I was at the bus stop when it hit and then the phone rang...and rang...and rang...and rang. It didn't stop ringing for several hours. By that time, several coworkers were in helping out and I was sent to the command post to help coordinate things there and answer media queries during the night hours. I worked the night hours there for six days before things returned to normal.

That quake was a doozy. It registered 7.8 on the Richter Scale and produced thousands of minor aftershocks. And personally, I believe it was the beginning of the end for Clark AB, as less than a year later, Mt. Pinatubo erupted and destroyed most of the base.

I haven't felt another quake since I left The Philippines in November 1990. However, in 1994, I was on the Oregon coast with my nephew. We were talking and walking along the shoreline when he asked me something. I don't remember his question, but I remember my answer. I looked at him and said, "I could tell you in two hours, California will be hit by one hell of an earthquake...but you wouldn't believe me." Two hours or so later, California was devastated by the Northridge Earthquake.

These days, I keep my thoughts to myself and hope someday to feel the frantic rumblings of a quake again. After all, they are Mother Nature's roller coaster rides.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What's in a Name?

I am a man of many names. Yes, I have alternate identities.

There is my give name, then my nickname and my online name.

As for my given name, my parents gave it to me shortly after I was born. I guess most folks get named that way.

My nickname is Bear. It is something I picked up somewhere along the way during my adventures in life. However, it didn't start out being what it is now. My nickname has gone through a variety of changes until it finally settled down. During my military career, I was called The Mad Russian (a reference to what, I don't know), Ol' Yeller (a reference to a small, plastic, yellow coffee cup I used for a long time), Larry (a shortened version of my given name), Enzo (the Italian version of Larry) and finally, the early stages of my final nickname, Kodiak and Grizz (a reference to my rough, tough NCO attitude resembling that of a grizzly bear).

During my second assignment to Alaska, I didn't make a good impression on my bosses at first. Several errors on my part made them question my capabilities and after several changes in my job positions, I was finally placed in media relations where I handled almost all media queries regarding the base. It was in that position which I made a name for myself and was one of only two people on base authorized by a three-star general to talk to the media. I'll get into that in a future post.

During that assignment, I worked for the 21st Tactical Fighter Wing commander in the public affairs office. However, there was also the headquarters for the Alaskan Air Command on base and there was a public affairs office there also...and they were higher up the chain of command. In other words, my office was subordinate to them. The command office was run by a full colonel who had a good sense of humor. Shortly after the general told him I would be included in the short list of people able to speak for the Air Force at Elmendorf AFB, the colonel began calling me Kodiak. If you know my last name (Sobkoviak), it's not a far reach from the last six letters. He also developed a joke regarding the nickname.

First, let me explain something. In Alaska, there are Brown Bears...big mean Brown Bears. There are also bigger and meaner Kodiak Brown Bears...known as Kodiak Bears. Now for the joke. This colonel enjoyed telling the joke around me, and I didn't mind it, as it added to my reputation. It went like this:

Q. What's meaner than a Brown Bear?

A. A Sub-kodiak!

Well, the nickname Kodiak came about and it stuck....for a while.

Fast forward to Scott AFB, in Illinois three years later. Someone there had heard about my Alaska nickname and mentioned it to someone else. For some reason however, no one liked it, but a new one came about, which was actually a growth of Kodiak. Someone there began calling my Grizz, in reference to my rough demeanor similar to that of a Grizzly Bear.

Several years later, I was transfered to Clark AB, The Philippines. One of the first things I did there, was join an intramural softball team. When I did, I was asked what number I wanted and name I wanted on the back of my shirt. I picked the number 26 (for Billy Williams, my favorite Cubs ballplayer) and my then current nickname, Grizz. But the people at Clark didn't like calling me Grizz, so they started calling me Bear.

The name stuck and when someone asks me what they should call me, I said, "Bear." The nickname Bear for me was popular with everyone on base who knew me. Clark was my last assignment in the Air Force and was badly damaged in a volcanic eruption. During the aftermath of the eruption, everyone left on base (about 1,200 at first) carried multifunction radios around for communications. The radios were capable of clear air transmissions, private channel transmissions, scrambled transmissions, telephone calls, and a few other things I can't remember. When you needed to contact someone, you would say call-sign of the person you wanted to contact, then your call-sign on the clear air channel. Everyone could hear what was said on that transmission.

However, if you wanted to talk privately to the person, you would punch in a set of numbers for the person you were calling and talk away and no one would be able to hear the conversation. It was a rarely used capability as there were limited channels for private conversations, but the higher ranking officials often used the private channels to talk between members of their staff.

However, there were several times when I would get a private channel call from my boss regarding something I needed to do. Generally, he would punch in my code and say, "Bear?" into the mic and wait for my reply. Then there were several times when the vice commander needed to contact me and he would do the same thing, but follow-up with his call-sign. At first he would say my call-sign, then his. But then he began saying, "Bear...(his call-sign which I don't recall)." The first time he did it, it took me by surprise. But I got used to it. Then one day, the general in charge of the post-Pinatubo activities called me. "Bear...Gator here." I grabbed my brick (what we called the heavy, brick sized radios we carried around) and replied, "Bear here...go Gator." He asked me to track down my boss and have him contact his office immediately. I replied in the affirmative and that was that. I was the only person on the radio net who would be referred to by his nickname, rather than call-sign.

Today, people still call me Bear to my face. I have promoted a book about Clark AB in which I am prominently featured in the final 100 pages. The author of the book uses my Bear nickname in it and some of my friends have picked it up and now use it when calling me.

Finally, there is my online persona. If you're reading this post, you know the title of my blog. Ashrunner's Rants. I also have Ashrunner's Photo Safaris (my Flickr account) and all the forums I belong to, I am known as Ashrunner.

I developed that persona when I first started an online life many years ago. It was somewhere around 1993 or 1994 when I joined AOL. I had actually tried to use Ash Warrior as my nickname there, but for some reason (probably too many letters) it wouldn't take. After several moments of thought, I decided since I've had three volcanos dump ash on me, and once, was forced to flee the occurrence, that Ashrunner would be a good name to use. So I entered it, it was accepted and a legend was born.

For the most, I'll answer to any one of the names listed here. But if you see me in person, please call me Bear.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

It's Almost Time!!!

Ahhh...Spring....warmer weather (usually -- it snowed here last night)...the renewal of life for a not-so-world-famous nature photograher like me (see my not-so-world-famous nature photographs here). It's also the end of Spring Training!

March 31 is the beginning of the Chicago Cubs' regular season of baseball. It's also the beginning of the 100th year of the Cubs not being World Series Champions. That fact doesn't mean a lot to me. What does mean something to me, is that the Cubs have not appeared in a World Series game since I have been around and that's been going on 57 years!

Sure, I have seen the Cubs in the playoffs. I've seen the team play in the league championship series, but I haven't seen them progress further than that...and yes, I would like to...someday.

Every year, Cub fans the world over, dust off their blue or white jerseys, their blue ball caps with that red C in the front ( doesn't stand for the Cleveland Indians), their leather gloves, and head to homepage of the Cubs to see what's in store for the coming year.

But the true Cubs fan has been following what the team did over the winter, what has happened during spring training and for the past month or so, has been sitting around the bars of the establishments surrounding Wrigley Field making their predictions for the coming season, arguing with friends and blowing off remarks they consider stupid.

I almost wish I was there.

But I am in central Oregon and though there isn't a nearby major league team (Seattle is about the closest) and the sports announcers never talk about the Cubs, I still do what I can to follow my team.

Yes, the Cubs are my team. They have been for as long as I can remember. I have posted some of this in previous posts, possibly here and definitely on some of the other blogs I have used, but it's the CUBS! and it's soon Opening Day and I am going to repeat myself again 8v)

My earliest Cubs memory is one of me, my dad, my uncle and my grandfather going to a game at Wrigley Field against the St. Louis Cardinals. It may not have been my first game, but it is the first game which I retain somewhat of a memory. I recall getting my first look at that expanse of green as my father walked up the catwalk with me on his shoulders and I knew I loved baseball at that moment.

We took our seats down along the left field line, back up away from the wall and waited for the game to begin. I don't have much of a memory of that game as it was played, but I was hooked on baseball. Maybe it was the cheering crowds around me, but I knew I liked baseball and I liked the Cubs.

Over time, I went to many more games. I was at a game in the early '60s which was the last away game Stan Musial played for the St. Louis Cardinals. I was at a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers which Ken Holtzman lost a no-hitter in the top of the ninth with one out. He went on to pitch two no-hitters for the Cubs. I watched great players such as Willy Mays, Lou Brock, Maury Wills and many others play against the Cubs. And win or lose, I loved every minute of each game.

I spent time in the right field bleachers during the summer of 1969. The Cubs were headed to the World Series that year...until the New York Mets came to town. The Cubs dropped the series to them, dropped out of first place and the Mets went on to take it all. That was the year of the Miracle Mets. I went on to the join the U.S. Air Force a month after that season ended and I lost touch with a lot of what the Cubs were doing. Letters from home or friends would mention them during the season, newspapers where I was had the standings and I always knew where to find the Cubs...I only had to look near the bottom of the National League standings. But I still loved the Cubs.

One of the things I remember from the 1969 season was Jack Brickhouse. He started the "Die Hard Cubs Fan Club that year. Of course, he was the first member of the club. For a certain amount of money, your membership got you some Cubs items, a card declaring you to be a Die Hard Cubs Fan, with your membership number (mine was 11,000 something by the time I got around to joining the club). I proudly showed that card to every baseball fan I met until my wallet was lost and with it, my membership card. But I remained a Cubs or lose.

The one thing I didn't like about my military movements, was that they normally occurred in the off-season. Most of the time when I would go to Chicago on leave, baseball would still be in hibernation. Even when I was in Chicago during the regular season, the Cubs wouldn't be. It was almost like I was being punished for losing my membership card. But I did make a game in the late '80s against the St. Louis Cardinals. I was sitting along the right field line in the lower level with my brother, enjoying the game. I mentioned the right field line, as that was the side of the field most of the Cardinal fans sat. You see, the Cubs and Cards are rivals. So, when the Cubs play in St. Louis, a lot of blue invades Busch Stadium (or whatever it is called now) and when the Cards are in Chicago, a sea of red shows up and occupies the right field area.

The Cubs lost that game, but that's not what I remember most about the game. Sometime during the seventh inning, a Cardinal fan in the upper level, dropped down a Teddy Bear with a noose around it's neck. It dropped to about 10 feet above and in front of my brother and I. Around us, Cardinal fans were cheering...I was booing...and I was one of the few booing. How that person above us knew to drop that effigy in front of us was probably an accident, but it was a cool one.

That was the last Cubs home game I went to. Even when in 1995, I lived for a little under a month four blocks away from Wrigley Field...but the Cubs, of course, were on the road during most of that time, the days they were home, I was busy with the reason I was in Chicago.

I also remember the first time I watched the Cubs play not in Wrigley Field. It was around 1966 and the Cubs and White Sox every year, played a benefit game at Comiskey Park, the south side home of the Chicago White Sox. A friend of mine was going and his dad invited me to join them. So off we went. When we got there, we purchased bleacher tickets and made our way to the outfield seats. Before we got there, we were told by an Andy Frame Usher that the bleacher area was full and that they had roped off the warning track for fans to watch the game from. We were some of the first people to walk out of stadium and onto the playing field for the game.

We made our way over to the right field area and stood there right in the front of the crowds, against the ropes, waiting for the game to start. When it did, I was thrilled to see Billy Williams heading out to play right field. He was my favorite Cubs player and is still my all-time favorite Cubs. Several innings into the game, during a change of pitchers, Billy walked over to where we were. I had just gotten a Coke and was standing there when he came over and asked if he could have a drink. I handed him my cup, he lifted the lid and took a good drink, placed the lid back on it, and handed it back to with a thank you. Needless to say, I was beaming. My favorite player had just taken a drink of my Coke, while I stood on the warning track, watching professional ballplayers play the game. It was a great evening for a Cubs fans...even though the Cubs lost.

But that wasn't the only time I saw the Cubs play outside of Wrigley Field. I did see the Cubs play in Houston's Astrodome in 1985 when I was assigned to Kelly AFB, in San Antonio, Texas. I was almost thrown out of that game. My brother who lived in Dallas at the time, came down for a visit and we decided to drive to Houston for the game. Nolan Ryan was pitching for the Astros (the only time I saw him pitch), but he left in the fourth inning with a sore elbow. Anyway, we were sitting right at the wall along the left field line, about 30 feet from the left field wall. Around the middle part of the game, an Astro was at bat with a man on second. There was fly ball hit to the left field area down the line and Gary Matthews, the Cubs left fielder came running over. He didn't get to the ball in time and it hit in foul territory and bounced over the wall.

I said, "Nice try, Gary," and he started to reply, but suddenly stopped and looked at the umpire with a shocked look on his face. I turned and looked at the ump and he was signally a ground-rule double. I glared at the ump and at the same time yelled, "Are you nuts?" He came running over to me and we began a running argument which lasted a few seconds and ended with him saying, "Be ruling is law," and he sat down next to a ball boy there for the bullpen. He wasn't one of the base umps, but a line ump placed where he was due to the odd angle of the field there made it difficult for the third base ump to see well.

The two weren't far from us and I watched the ump lean over and then ask the ball boy if the ball was fair or foul. The ball boy, wearing an Astro's jersey top, said, " was a foul ball." Hearing that, I yelled back at the ump, "You see? You blew it." Well, the inning then ended and the ump got up, walked over to where I was and we started the argument up again...a little less intense this time. In the end, the ump apologized and the game went on. And of course, the Cubs lost...all because of a ground-rule double that wasn't....not really, but the final was something like 4-0.

When I was stationed near St. Louis in the latter part of the '80s, a friend of mine and I twice attempted to go see the Cubs play in Busch Stadium. Both times, the Air Force had different plans for me and when the day came, I wasn't in town to go to the game.

Over the years here, I have followed the Cubs best as I could. I watched on TV, a stupid Cubs fans interfere with an foul ball out that cost the Cubs the league championship against the Florida Marlins. I watched on TV the Arizona Diamondbacks sweep the Cubs last year in the playoffs. And I will watch the Cubs, win or lose, as often as I can here.

Why? Because I really am a Die Hard Cubs Fan!

My only regret this season, is that during interleague play, they don't play the Cleveland Indians.