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November 29th

Dude.  The BEST Thanksgiving away from home EVER. 

Jason and I left Wednesday around noon in the middle of some pretty serious rain and headed toward Newark for our flight to Gulfport, MS.  Along the way we met up with Ed who was cruising along in his Volvo.  We started playing cat and mouse a bit on the Palisades Parkway and before too long we had come to the fork in the road that either takes you to the turnpike and ultimately the airport or into Manhattan via the George Washington Bridge.  I was in front of Ed and he thought I knew where I was going -- not that I didn't -- so he followed me.  I took the wrong fork and instead of heading into Manhattan (I can't STAND driving in NYC) I cut through a gap in the concrete dividers just before the toll plaza and did a U-turn to get headed back the other way.  Ed didn't make it in time and got stuck headed across the bridge into the city.  We got back on the right road and gave ole Edward a call to see how he was doing.  Jason was on the phone with him and I could hear Ed yelling and cursing and all kinds of unhappiness coming from his end because it takes a solid 25 minutes to get out of NYC once you're headed towards it.  Pretty funny stuff listening to Ed, who rarely raises his voice, yelling like that about how we had led him the wrong way and on and on...  It wasn't my fault, ok maybe it was, but he made it out and got to his plane on time.

We got to Gulfport around midnight because of some serious delays, but Jason's best friend from home, Craig, picked us up and we headed straight to the resort casino he works security at.  Didn't lose too much money in there and after awhile we finally left and headed to WaffleHouse.  Haha, what a great place.  Oh, and I permanently borrowed a coffee mug from there with the waitress' permission.  Now I'm the only one I know who has a WaffleHouse mug.  We finally made it back to Craig's apartment around 4 or something and crashed.

Woke up the next day and headed up to Neely, the town Jason grew up in.  Ok, now to get a really good feeling for what Neely is like, imagine the deep south from a long time ago somehow sealed in a time capsule and protected from the rest of the world.  The people are all genuine, hard working, honest, and respectful folks who like things the way they always have been around there. 

Jason's 2nd cousin, Dylan.  He's 7 years old.

Not that they all live in hand-made log cabins up in the mountains and the Deliverance banjo song is playing everywhere you go, not at all.  They're just the exact opposite of the rude and greedy jerks that live in NYC, you know what I mean?  Good people.  The Hillmans, Mr. Cotton (nickname from his childhood) and Miss Eva, made me feel right at home and reminded me alot of my parents, only more "country."  Mrs. Eva was always cooking some kind of food or offering us sweet tea or coffee or just talking the whole time I was there and it was just great.  I got to meet just about everyone in their extended family and once they found out I was from Arkansas and not "one of those damned Yankee's" it was all good. 

We went out in Jason's backyard and shot the hell out of some rifles, pistols, skeet, and all of Jason's buddies were embarrassed that a "city boy from Arkansas" could out-shoot them in just about everything.  It's not my fault my father, at one time, was on the Army Rifle Team and taught me a few things...

Me, Craig, Jason, and Ashley. 

Jason, Mr. Cotton, and Lady.

Later that evening I got my first deer.  Ok, so it was a doe, but that's not illegal down there and I dropped it where it stood at 100 meters.  Craig hounded me the rest of the weekend for shooting a doe and not a buck, but we didn't see anything besides this one so whatever. 

Mrs. Eva cooked venison the next night.  Courtesy of "The Arkansas Doe-killer."

The next night we went over to a guy named Clark's house and hung out for awhile while the rest of the good ole boys showed up.  After a few hours of BSing and telling stories back and forth we all jumped on 4-wheelers and took off.  Jason's cousin, Laura Lee, rode with me and it was a great time trying to follow those crazy rednecks wherever they went. 

I only rolled mine once, but everything was ok and I didn't get hurt too badly so whatever.  Everyone had a good laugh and we kept going.  We rode for about 3 hours and got back at 1 in the morning and after playing cards for awhile and telling some more stories we finally racked out. 

From left to right is Ashley, Rachel, Craig, yours truly, Laura Lee, Clark, and his wife, Sara. 

Saturday we had a skydiving "appointment" set up at www.goldcoastskydiving.com, but the winds were too high so we didn't get to jump.  It's all good, we came back to some more good home-cooking from Mrs. Eva.  Every time we'd eat she would keep offering more.  Craig and I would look at each other like "dude, one of us has got to tell her to stop or we'll all explode".  GOOD food.  Most excellent.  That night we went to a Southern Miss basketball game and after we watched them beat McNeese State 100-74 we spent some time shooting pool and having a few beers.  Good times. 

Anyway, it was a friggin awesome time overall and they all told me I have to come back sometime to visit.  I figure this summer I'll stop by and see if I can't have any more fun than this past weekend. 

-Tom

 


 

November 23rd

WOW!!!!  Great trip to DC.  AWESOME.

Sunday afternoon we took a bus down there with some other kids from my MS455 class and got to our hotel around 8:30 that night.   We found out where we were staying after we got on the bus.

Yeah, the Ritz-Carlton.  Wow.  West Point put us up in the Ritz.  Unbelievable. 

Ok, to give you an idea of the luxury of this place, an extremely well dressed man wearing a top hat opened the door for us as we walked in with the words, "Welcome, gentlemen, to the Ritz-Carlton.  Enjoy your stay with us."  I realize that's not the most profound thing to say, but it was the way he said it that really got me.  It was the total opposite of white trash.  Polished, refined, impressive.  You get the picture.  In the lobby were grandfather clocks and what looked like Persian rugs along with cabinets of china and silver lining the walls.  We passed a lounge full of highback chairs, cherry and oak tables, a grand piano, and a magnificent fireplace. 

This was a ridiculously nice place.  Anyway, we checked in, got our room keys, and headed to the elevators.  That's when I saw the chandelier.  In the elevator.  Dead serious.  Our room had classical music playing on the radio when we got inside.  The bathroom had marble tiling and the softest towels I've ever used along with Turkish bathrobes hanging up for us to use.  The beds had 9 bajillion thread count sheets on top of a goose-down mattress and incredibly comfortable pillows.  We found the stocked mini-bar and, even with the high prices you had to pay to replace whatever you consumed, decided you only stay at the Ritz once in a long time so why not?

Ok, enough about the hotel.  One more thing though, I did order room service. 

Monday morning we got up early and headed to the Defense Intelligence Agency.  It's kind of like the CIA for the Department of Defense.  We got 5 classified briefings on the types of things they do there and where they get the info from and who it goes to and it was rather informative.  We were briefed by some rather nerdy officers, but it was cool.

We were released around 1:30 that afternoon to do as we pleased under the condition that we visited at least one monument in the DC area.  My buddy Mike Gold is from around there so he got us to the Metro (subway system) and we headed toward The Mall. 

Abe Lincoln.  A good dude.

 

The WWII memorial which just opened last Memorial Day. 

 

Taken from under the "Pacific" tower of the WWII memorial.

 

Good stuff. 

 

No words of mine are needed for this one.

 

I don't know who placed these, but of all the monuments in DC and things to remind you of what happened in the past, this one really got to me.

 

Makes you stop and think...

 

I headed back to the hotel around 6 and took a nap until Brennan, my roommate, and I got some dinner and met up with the rest of the guys at an Irish pub around there somewhere.  Good times. 

This morning we all met down in the lobby again around 9:00 and headed out to the Cryptologic Museum which was a collection of all the crazy spy gadgets the National Security Agency has ever used in it's secret dealings inside the borders of other nations.  We saw all kinds of radios and codebooks and signal analyzers, but the most interesting thing, to me, was the German Enigma machine captured during WWII. 

This was the machine the Germans used to encode ALL of their messages during WWII.  We captured one, figured out how it worked, and used it against them to rid the waters of German U-boats.

Before we left on the trip we though we'd get a tour of the NSA, but all we got was a drive-by view as we started to head back north to WP.

Yeah, I know it's blurry, but I was in a bus on a bumpy road. 

You can still see how the building is completely blacked out and except for the blue sign at the gate that says "National Security Agency" you'd never know what it was.  This is the largest intelligence gathering agency in the nation, and they're the ones that own all the real "super-spooks" and spies.  Cool stuff, but I don't think I could ever do that.  I'd rather blow stuff up, and, after the day is done, go home at night.

So that was the trip to DC.  It sure beat going to class for no reason and having to participate in "Fall Clean-Up" with the rest of The Corps to help rake leaves and pick up branches around post. 

That's all for now.  Oh, one more thing.  As of right now, I'm up $4,200 overall in my stocks, not counting my IRA.  Rock n roll.

Hope everyone has a great Turkey Day.  I'll be in Mississippi with one of my best friends, Jason.  We'll be 4-wheeler riding, deer hunting, skydiving, and hanging out with the Hillman family.  Should be a great time.

-Tom

 

 

 


 

November 21st

Busy weekend, but I've got a totally sweet week coming up.

I finished the comparative book review I had to write on 2 books about General George S. Patton.  I didn't read every single page of both books, but I would be amazed if I get below and A on this thing.  We'll see.

We had Thanksgiving Dinner in the mess hall Thursday night.  Good times.  Before we went I posed for this picture.

No real reason, it just seemed like a good idea at the time or something. 

 

My good friend from high school, Kenny Bierman, gave me a holler Friday.  We sat next to each other in physics class all during our senior year and he was one of the kids who thought I was absolutely nuts for enlisting straight out of high school.  Funny thing about that is he just got back from Iraq as the navigator on a C-130.  He graduated from Oklahoma University a few years back, got a commission in the Air Force, and now he's so busy flying missions that he takes pictures like these when he gets sent to places like Iraq.

A random Iraqi equipment graveyard.  Friggin Air Force...  DO SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE!!! 

 

An Iraqi Mig-21. 

 

Friday night I didn't do a whole lot, but Saturday morning I watched the parade before the last football game of the season and the last home game we'll ever watch as cadets.  I wanted to see the parade because I've always been in them and I've never actually seen one from the stands.  Well, when we came up as prepsters I saw one, but I don't count that because it was like 57 years ago or something.  Anyway, it looked good and it was kinda nice just sitting there watching for once instead of being out there worrying about how straight our lines were and junk like that.

The jump team did a demonstration for the crowd before the formal part of the parade started.

 

After the jump team our Pipes and Drums band played a few Scottish tunes for the crowd.

 

My company, C-2.  Normally, since I'm a firstie, I'm the one all the way in the back and on the far left as you look at the picture.  We're positioned because of our height.  See how the tallest guys are in front and right and it slopes down from there?

 

The football game.  Jeez what a cold and wet football game to watch.  I mean... uh... IT WAS THE GREATEST.  Bobby Ross almost had a few heart attacks and tore into the refs a few times for bad calls, but we couldn't seem to get a break.  Whatever, Army/Navy's coming up soon and it's gonna be great.

The really cool part about the game today was that it's THE LAST TIME we'll set foot in Michie Stadium until graduation week.  Wow.  We're getting there.

Saturday night after the game I actually did homework for about 4 hours.  Yeah, seriously.  My engineering partner and I are the architects for a simple bridge we're designing and building in class made of K'Nex toys.  It's actually kind of fun, but we definitely did schoolwork on a Saturday night to get it done.  When we carried our bridge over to Mahan Hall (the engineering building) to test out our design we got all kinds of funny looks from people headed to tailgate parties.  We were working Saturday night because of where we're headed Sunday.  I'll get to that in a bit.

Around 9:30 Erika suggested I take a break so we went to see the new movie National Treasure.  Great flick that, from what I've heard, closely follows the ideas in the books The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.  I haven't read either, but someday.

Today I'm headed to DC for a trip section (field trip) with our MS455 class (Comparative Military Systems) to see the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and spend some quality time helping to deplete the local bars of their Yuengling and Glenlivet.  I'll post pictures when I get back Tuesday night. 

-Tom

 


 

November 18th

We had the Sosh run today.  For those of you not familiar with that, we have a class here called International Relations.  It's offered by the Social Sciences Department, but we shorten that to just Sosh.  The big research paper due about this time each semester turns into quite the spectacle when people turn it in because historically cadets have always waited till the last minute to write their paper because it's ridiculously long and it SUCKS.  Because they wait so long, they're usually working right up until the last minute and so they have to run to turn it in by the deadline of 1600. 

People have turned it into a competition to see who can come up with the best costume to wear to turn in their Sosh paper and this semester had some pretty decent ones.

Some random kid wearing his Full Dress coat and a wig.  You can see the "brown bomber" folder in his hand we have to put the paper in to hand to the instructor. 

A bunch of people borrowed the Superintendent's "Black Knight Mobile" to get a ride to the Sosh building.  I counted 8 people in/on the car and in the trunk.

Scooby Doo and The Cat In The Hat.  Random, but it works.

More random costumes.  That one kid is wearing Santa Claus lingerie.  Ok...

A legit Sosh runner trying to make it to Lincoln Hall before the deadline.  Most people doing the run use the bricked sidewalk; this one went cross-country.

Too much Ben n Jerry's ice cream can really slow you down...

My buddy Drew Holler.  He sacrificed an As For Class uniform for his costume.

My roommate Colin doing a legit run to make it on time.

A chariot of Cows pulled by plebes.

The chariot a little closer.

George Bush chasing Osama Bin Laden.  He caught him a bit later and kicked the hell out of him. 

This one's from last year.  Ed was P. Diddy running the NYC Marathon and I was his trainer.  The funny part about this one is that I did the "run" with an empty folder because my paper wasn't finished yet, but I had promised Ed I'd do the run with him.  Seriously, though, who doesn't finish their paper, but does the Sosh run anyway with an empty brown bomber???  This guy.

 

This one's from awhile back.  My good friend Braden Hestermann, now a medical platoon leader stationed at Ft. Bragg, decided he'd push the envelope and see what he could get away with.  The only thing covering him is the book the Dean hands out about how we're supposed to document research papers.

 

This week has been rather hellacious and it's not quite over yet.  We had a MilArt paper due yesterday.  I got it done, but wow.  Not fun.  Mine was about The Red River Campaign in Louisiana during the Civil War.  A campaign none of you have ever heard about because it was a horrible failure on the part of the Union and it's simply an example of how not to try and take over Shreveport, Louisiana.  Enough of that.

I lost some money in the stock market yesterday, actually quite a bit, but I made it back up today.  I lost $1700 yesterday, but made $2100 this morning so it's all good.  Actually, when I say "this morning" I mean the time between 9:31 and 9:37.  This is a tricky game that's seriously all about timing.  I knew this particular stock would spike right at the opening bell of the market, but I also knew everyone else had the same strategy I did which was to buy in with a ton of money, make 20-25%, and get the hell out before you got stuck owning a ton of shares worth nowhere near what they were worth literally minutes before.  I friggin' did it.  I owned 3000 shares of Altigen Corporation (ATGN) for exactly 6 minutes and in that 6 minutes I made over two thousand dollars.  Rock n roll.  Gotta pay for my own parachute rig and gear somehow, right? 

I've had more than a few people ask if I'll invest some of their money.  I want you all to listen carefully because this is very important: NO.  What I'm doing is risky as hell and I'm by no means an expert.  It's true, on the whole I'm about $3600 ahead compared to how much I initially started investing a few weeks ago, but my nerves are pretty much shot.  Once last week my roomie Colin came in from class and saw I was having a rough day because I was just sitting at my desk with my head in my hands and he asked if everything was allright.  I told him I had lost over $5,000 dollars that day and we both got really quiet.  I made it back this week, but for awhile there I wasn't sure what I was going to do.  It's all good now.  I'm back in the green by a comfortable margin and I'm playing the game much smarter than I was. 

Anyway, things are good overall and less than a week from now I'll be in Mississippi with Jason over Thanksgiving leave.  Can't get here soon enough...

-Tom

 


 

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