Green Smoothies are Amazing

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About six weeks ago I started drinking green smoothies to help get my weight under control. Since my accident I cannot exercise at all so maintaining my weight at a healthy level was becoming a challenge. I had lost some weight with portion control and by trying to eat a little healthier but I was always hungry.

I happened to be scrolling though the channel guide one day and saw an infomercial for green smoothies. I decided to give them a try since I used to drink protein smoothies when I was an athlete.

In six weeks I have dropped an astonishing thirty pounds and have seen a number of ancillary benefits as well. First and foremost is that I actually like the reflection that is looking back at me in the mirror. My son, who hadn’t seen me in a couple of weeks said that I look ten-years younger.

I recently had my annual physical and my blood chemistry is nearly perfect. Back when I was still racing I took this for granted but since my accident, cholesterol and other heart disease indicators were heading the wrong way.

Perhaps the best thing is that I have been sleeping through the night again. I just assumed that as men age, you have to go to the restroom more often. In fact, I was going every couple of hours and it was quite annoying. I had tried all sorts of prostate health supplements which worked for a while but I still would get up once or twice a night.

So what is a green smoothie? It’s a mixture of fruits and vegetables mixed with a little water in a blender. Stay tuned over the next couple of days as I share some of my recipes.

God Bless the USA and the brave men who defend her

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A 2nd Armored Cavalry base camp along the Czech border in the Fall of 1989 just before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In August of 1987 my family waited anxiously with me at the gate as I waited to board a plane taking me to U.S. Army Basic Training. I was nervous, excited and a little scared at the adventure that awaited me.

The first few days of basic training are probably the worst because regardless of how much you think you know about the military, there’s little you can do to actually prepare you for the culture shock of entering military service.

Drill sergeants fill every minute of every day with some sort of training leaving very little down time. What little down time we did have was usually spent cleaning, shining or organizing something but every once in a while we had some fun time. One thing my platoon enjoyed was listening to the radio or as our drill sergeant called it, “going to the bar.”

Going to the bar meant we could listen to the radio as long as everyone was in the push-up position, known as the front lean and rest position, with their feet elevated on a support bar of the upper bunk of our beds which was about four feet in the air.

At first these sessions would only last a minute or two but as everyone got stronger, we could usually make it through a couple of songs before guys started to drop. Drill Sergeant Heflin was the brain child of going to the bar and he had great affinity for Lee Greenwood’s beautiful anthem Proud to be an American. In fact, he liked it so much that he made the entire platoon learn the song and often made us regale our instructors with our a cappella rendition.

So for all my fellow brothers in arms, I offer you this salute.
 

Forward – Into the Valley of Death

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I was doing some reading today about the history of America’s education system. While dated, the article was quite interesting and touched on a variety of topics but primarily focused on how reading is taught to students and the amount of money America spends on literacy.

The conclusion that I drew from the piece was that the more money America spends to educate her students the poorer they perform in the classroom. You might think that the article was written in the last few years, unfortunately, the article was written forty years ago in the 1972. As they say, “the more things change the more they stay the same.”

Fast forward to 2012 and America continues to lag behind the rest of the world despite spending significantly more per student than any other country. Why does America continue to fall further and further behind the rest of the world? There is a litany of reasons, which I won’t go into now, but suffice it to say that America needs to seriously evaluate the entire education system.

Of course the liberals will never admit that we need to make wholesale changes to the system, because they have been in the driver’s seat for the last century, and to admit we need to change things would be an admission of failure on their part and they will never do that.

Could it be that they don’t really care about actual education performance? As far as they are concerned, they are doing a fine job because our school system stopped being places for learning a long time ago and became a method of indoctrinating our nation’s children to the progressive socialist platform. Other than that, the liberal answer is to spend more money on it.

Of course this is their answer to every problem. Think about it, the war on poverty officially began in 1964 and less than a million families received government assistance, now more than fifty-million people receive welfare from the government. Not what you would call a resounding success story unless your intent isn’t to bring people out of poverty but to transfer wealth from the productive portion of society to the unproductive segment and have them become entirely dependent upon the government for their entire existence (this is how you create a socialist state). America has spent untold trillions on welfare programs with that number skyrocketing to unprecedented levels under President Obama.

In fact, according to a projection for the period of 2010 through 2020,America will spend more than $10 trillion in this decade alone on welfare programs. Where will this money come from when the country is already in debt $15 trillion and growing rapidly out of control? Think about this, President Obama has borrowed more money than all the other presidents combined and our economy has deteriorated to Great Depression lows. How can we seriously consider giving this man another four years to further indebt our country?

Liberals never take ownership of their failures always citing that their “intentions” should be what we judge them by. When that fails they pass the buck and blame anyone or anything that happens to be convenient. Heaven help anybody who publicly questions the methods of these altruists (socialists). If you do, rest assured you will be demonized by the media and receive the modern day version of a tar and feathering.

Einstein once said that “the definition of insanity was to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” That is exactly what America has been doing for a century now. Unfortunately that is the only answer the liberals and President Obama have.

President Obama’s 2012 campaign slogan is “forward!” Yes Mr. President, let’s keep moving “forward” with the same insane policies which have fiscally and morally bankrupted America. Forward – into the valley of death…

Great Men, True Patriots, Incredible Friends

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The 2ACR / 87th Chem Recon Platoon at the Nuremberg Volksfest

I recently read Ernest Hemingway’s masterpiece A Farewell to Arms and it brought back fond memories of my time as a soldier stationed in Germany. While Hemingway’s brilliant novel takes place in Italy nearly seventy years prior to my deployment it was easy to draw many similarities.

At one point during the story, Hemingway’s unit is in full retreat and he and his cohorts sought shelter in an abandoned barn. My company commander and I (I was his driver) held up in a barn over the weekend (with the invitation of the farmer of course) during Operation White Fox, which was a winter war-game played in the German countryside and cities.

It was a brutally cold while we were out on the war game, especially for a kid that grew up in Florida but the farmer and his family took amazing care of us. They allowed us to break open bales of hay to sleep on, fed us and kept us well supplied with hot coffee.

On Saturday morning the family decided to butcher a hog in our honor. The farmer noticed the knife on my web gear and asked me if I wanted to help. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity so I had the honor of shooting the pig and then got a chance to test the edge on my knife and I’ll leave it at that. It’s not a job I’d want to do now, I’d rather take a picture of an animal rather than shoot it but it was good life experience.

There was another time that my company commander and I were out selecting new observation posts along the Czech border before the fall of the Berlin Wall. We had been going pretty hard for a couple of days and stopped at a local gasthaus (restaurant/pub with a couple of rooms for rent) to have a hot meal as we had been eating MRE’s (Army field rations aka Meals Ready to Eat) for the most part. An old woman who happened to be in the gasthaus drew a picture of me and brought it over to our table. She said that I looked too young to be a soldier and that I reminded her of her brother who died during WWII.

Another similar incident occurred when we stopped to have dinner a few days later. This small town had a population of less than a hundred people but in typical German fashion, had a gasthaus and their own brewery. My CO and I were well taken care of by the family that owned the gasthaus and offered us a room for the night, hot showers and breakfast in the morning. They would not accept any payment, they were just grateful that we were there to protect them.

I also remember my first REFORGER which was a war game which simulated the Return of Forces to Germany in the event of a Soviet invasion. This battlefield simulation was also played on city streets rather than a training area. After more than twenty years, the name of the town fails me but our recon platoon took over this small community for several days. At the time it wasn’t a ton of fun because Deutsch (my APC crew mate) and I had to relocate several times. We were a two-man crew which made it difficult for us to put up the camouflage netting over our armored personnel carrier by ourselves. Like all soldiers we bitched and complained the whole time and maybe caused a little needless damage when we moved but the property owners were well compensated.

Believe it or not but we actually set up right in some family’s front yard. They were good-natured and friendly about the situation. We also received treats from some of the locals who understood that without America, they would probably still be living under Hitler’s tyrannical regime. Of course the kids loved to come check things out, we always gave them a little tour, let them climb around a little bit, and check out the .50 Cal machine gun. The kids loved to trade things and were always thrilled to receive a little tidbit from our dreadful MRE’s.

Later in the exercise we lost a simulated battle and Deutsch and I were sitting on top of our APC, no helmets on with our uniform shirts off. We were chowing down on cold Chef Boyardee right out of the can and drinking warm Cokes. One of the advantages of being mechanized is that you can carry some goodies that the ground pounders cannot which helps to break the monotony of field rations. Right on cue, the Sergeant Major of the Army began making the rounds, chatting with the troops, our platoon sergeant in tow. Then he gets to Deutsch and I and we can both see that our platoon sergeant is walking on egg shells because he knows that we are both smart asses. He made the mistake of asking what we thought about the exercise? We said “that REFORGER was a big dog and pony show so that the generals could get their jollies.” Our platoon sergeant turned beat-red until the sergeant major laughed in agreement and then started yucking it up with us.

Our final crowning achievement of that REFORGER was in the closing days, our platoon had set up a perimeter and just down the hill from where Deutsch and I were set up was schwimmbad (a huge outdoor pool) that had not opened for the summer months. Deutsch and I promptly jumped the fence with soap and shampoo in hand and took the mother of all baths while our platoon mates had to wait until we returned to base in a few days.

Deutsch and I always had a good time and we were the reigning spades champions to boot. To this day he is one of the funniest people I have ever known. Our recon platoon was such an amazing group of guys; Hatcher, Deutsch, Ammenheuser, Kosinski, Haacke – all great men, all true patriots, all incredible friends.

Returning from War

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Boarding the plane for the long journey home.

Military.com has an outstanding video of troops returning from a tour of duty. The video shows the troops walking down the jet-way after disembarking their plane and the people waiting at the gate burst into a heartfelt ovation. This of course brought back fond memories of my unit returning from Desert Storm.

We were the only unit from our post that deployed to the Middle East when Saddam rolled into Kuwait. On the way to Saudi Arabia we warranted our own 747 to get us in country as soon as possible. Conversely, after the war, since we were a unit of about 120 soldiers, there was no real hurry to send us home. We finally ended up hitching a ride with another unit the Saturday before Mother’s Day.

We landed in Bangor, Maine of all places before heading to Barksdale Air Force Base to board a bus for Fort Polk. To be honest, I had never heard of Bangor but it is the home town of renowned author Stephen King. Mr. King wanted to ensure that the soldiers returning from Desert Storm received the hero’s welcome they deserved rather than the disgraceful treatment our predecessors returning from Viet Nam endured.

The reception that Mr. King put on was amazing. I was one of the first soldiers off the plane and was immediately swamped by the friendly citizens of Bangor. Kids were asking for autographs, girls were coming up and hugging us, and of course we were able to imbibe our first cold malted beverage (beer) in quite some time.

The sense of pride that a reception like that instilled really cannot be put into words, at least by a novice like me, perhaps Mr. King could but the appropriate words fail me. To add to the shock, my family was waiting for me when we arrived at Fort Polk. My mom always tells me that was the best Mother’s Day ever.

It has been nearly twenty years since that fateful day and I would like to extend my everlasting gratitude to Mr. King and the residents of Bangor. You are all amazing Americans and I am proud to have served such wonderful people.

Now that we have been at war for over a decade, I know some people take the sacrifices that our brave men and women in uniform make for us on a daily basis. So when you see one of them the next time your out and about, please thank them for their service, I assure you it will make their day (and yours).
 

Is BlackBerry’s time running out?

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Image courtesy: techshout.com

I have been a BlackBerry customer for the better part of a decade although that will probably change with my next phone purchase.

Research in Motion (RIM), the company that manufactures BlackBerry, has fallen woefully behind in the smart phone race. As you might expect, their stock price reflects the company’s poor performance, falling from a high of nearly $150 per share in 2008 to a dismal $15 per share today. Four years ago the company was a juggernaut and a market leader, today Research in Motion is bringing up the rear among  major handset manufacturers.

RIM’s bread and butter was providing business professionals with cutting edge tools to use when they are away from the office. I remember making business trips circa 2000, leaving the house at5:00 AMto head to the airport, a full day of customer meetings followed by dinner with a client, and finally checking into my hotel at10:00 PM. The last thing I wanted to do when I finally reached my hotel was to spend hours returning emails. BlackBerry changed all of that.

Rather than build on their success by creating additional features for professionals, RIM simply ditched their hideous blue casing and repackaged their same basic operating system in shiny new black and silver cases. There has been little in the way of advancement since their original phones unless you count going from their track wheel, to a mouse ball, to a touch sensitive pad to navigate on the screen. To be fair, RIM now offers a touch screen but it does not compare to what their competitors offer.

As if Research in Motion’s pitiful lack of their namesake “research” and development weren’t bad enough, their marketing department has dropped the ball as well.

RIM’s latest effort features two young, supposedly hip DJ’s talking about their need to be connected and that BlackBerry allows them to use Twitter to update their fans about their upcoming shows. Evidently RIM has given up targeting business professionals which was the foundation of the company’s success and is making a desperate attempt to lure young users in the hope of maintaining what little market share they have left. The fact that RIM has to tout the fact that their handsets have Twitter is even more pathetic, at this point, what phone doesn’t? The ad closes with one of the worst taglines ever, “be bold, Blackberry bold.” Talk about pathetically redundant. Perhaps something along the lines of, “make a statement with the Blackberry Bold” would have been more appropriate. At least it makes sense.

If I were an executive at Research in Motion, I would do two things before your company becomes a footnote in the annals of business history. The first thing I would do is to fire my ad company, they are awful. If you’re marketing people defend them, I would get rid of them as well; they are part of the problem. The next thing I would do is to form a project team made up of the best people from the marketing department and the best from your research and development department with the goal of bringing a cutting edge phone on the market within two years.

If RIM does not take some serious steps to remain relevant their days as a company are numbered. Get back to your core competency and stop taking a shotgun approach to business. With Google’s purchase of Motorola, I guarantee they will start rolling out cutting edge handsets in the very near to compete with Apple, Samsung and HTC.

BlackBerry, your time is running out.

All of Life is Politics

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The Merovingian from the Matrix tilogy

My apologies for being away so long, I have a tendency to go through periods where I simply don’t feel like writing. Coincidentally, or maybe not, my break coincided with our internet going down for about a week during the Christmas holidays. With family visiting it made it even easier to get out of the habit of writing.

Usually these down times are accompanied by periods where I read voraciously and this time was no different. Aside from studying the Book of Matthew, I read five books and bits and pieces of others. Emerson postulated that a true scholar reads for inspiration to stimulate his own thinking and then expounds upon them with his own writing. Prior to my extended break I had been in a period where I was writing quite a bit although much of it was for my own edification, perhaps I’ll share some of it at a later date once I’ve codified my thoughts.

Interestingly enough, it was an article in the Washington Times which referenced one of my posts that spurred me back to my keyboard.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about philosophy especially as it relates to politics. The two are so intertwined it’s hard to actually separate them. I like to think of philosophy in its simplest terms which is essentially how a person thinks and perceives the world around them.

Personally, politics has become much more than those that govern using their power to influence us to their way of thinking, which is their philosophy. Politics pervades all aspects of our lives; there’s marital politics, office politics, club politics, and so on.

One of my favorite movies is the Matrix trilogy. These movies brilliant weave politics, philosophy and religion together. One of the characters is the Merovingian who has many brilliant quotes but one of my favorite is “choice is an illusion created between those with power and those without.”

Think about the last few years of federal politics. We have politicians voting for legislation without reading or having any earthly idea of what it includes simply because they agree with a certain philosophical bent. Even though polling showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans didn’t want Obamacare to be passed, those with power tried to make us think they were listening but in the end, it was an illusion and they simply crammed it down our collective throats.

All of life has become political. Our government and media have colluded to dumb down the population so that the common person cannot answer the most basic questions about current events. If you ever listen to Sean Hannity’s Man on the Street interviews, where he interviews random people on the street, you will be blown away at the ignorance of the general population. Sadly they can probably tell you all about the latest Hollywood gossip or the scores to last night’s game but they can’t tell you a thing about what’s going on in the country.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge sports fan too, I ranked in the top five-percent picking NFL games against the spread on ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘em the last two years. There’s nothing wrong with having other interests outside of politics but it saddens me that so few people are involved in the process. Hundreds of thousands of men have died to provide us with freedom and it is an insult to their memory not to exercise your most basic duty as an American… Be informed and vote.

Don’t sacrifice your gifts

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My wife and I bought my son a framed poster of one of his role models for his birthday this week. The poster is of Steve “Pre” Prefontaine and has a very poignant quote from the famous runner which says, “to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

Steve Prefontaine wasAmerica’s top distance runner in the 1970’s when he was tragically killed in an automobile accident at the tender age of twenty-four.

Like a lot of kids, Pre was told he was too small, too short or too slow to play traditional sports like football and baseball when he was growing up. Then one day, he discovered his God given ability to run long distances and didn’t waste a day of his talent from that day on.

The New Year is just a few days away and all around the world people are making all types of resolutions, many of which will be distant memories by February first. Perhaps the best resolution is simply not to squander the God given talents that we are all blessed with.

God gave us all unique abilities; Matthew 25:14-30 tells the story of how God blesses those who utilize their talents, often with other abilities which allows them to accomplish even more. However, the story also tells us that God will forsake those that squander their abilities.

So this New Year, why not resolve not to sacrifice the gift that God has bestowed upon you.

Never forget the reason for the season

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My beautiful wife and I at a Christmas party a few years ago.

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, even growing up in Florida where our only chance of having a white Christmas was a trip to the beach.  It was always the one time of year that both sides of my family came together.

I don’t have many recollections of Christmases before my parents divorced. The only one that especially stands out in my memory was when we were living in an amazing old house in the historic district in Tampa. I was a huge Star Trek fan, and that Christmas, Santa brought me the Star Ship Enterprise with working transporter and genuine, working communicators.

After my parents divorced, my sister and I always spent Christmas Eve with my mother. Everyone would gather at my grandma’s house to eat, drink and be merry. My cousins would be there, my biker uncles who looked like members of ZZ Top would be there and everyone would have a great time even though we didn’t exactly have a lot in common.

My excitement would build to a crescendo as the night wore on, until finally, I would work myself into such a tizzy, that I would have to disappear and throw-up.

Finally my dad would arrive and we would go to my other grandmother’s house and spend the night there. Oftentimes, my dad would wait until Christmas Eve to buy a tree then we would decorate it which always made the night fly by.

My dad always did Christmas right. He’d wait until my sister and I finally drifted off to sleep before putting out presents from Santa even though I tried to catch Santa in the act every year. I don’t remember how old I was before I knew Santa wasn’t real but it was later than most; somewhere between ten and twelve I think.

My first two years in the Army I was able to come home for Christmas, however, the third year, I was not. My unit was a forward deployed combat unit that was supposed to serve as a speed bump should the Russians decide to invade Western Europe. We were required to keep a certain percentage of combat strength at all times and since I went home the year before, it was my turn to stay behind. I remember being so incredibly lonely it defies my ability to put it into words. What made it worse, my family thought I was coming home since I had surprised them the year before by showing up unannounced so I didn’t get a single present or card – zero, zilch, nada. That one still hurts when I think about it, no other holiday was a real big deal on either side of my family so I built Christmas into the end all, be all of holidays.

Fortunately, we had a great company commander who asked the married NCO’s to invite lower enlisted troops that were relegated to spending the holidays in the cold lonely barracks over for dinner. Sergeant Raines was my host, he and his wife invited me and my roommate Bill over to have dinner with his family and even had a couple of small gifts for us and plenty of cold beer. Thank you Sergeant Raines.

The following Christmas my unit was waiting to deploy to Operation Desert Shield so no one was allowed to take leave. On Christmas Eve, my future wife, who was dating a friend of mine at the time, showed up at my door in a white fur coat and looked absolutely amazing, like an angel from heaven. My friend, who lived next door, wasn’t in his room so we went to a gas station just off base and she bought me a burrito which was the highlight of my Christmas. We started dating shortly after I returned from Desert Storm but that’s another story. My buddy Shawn and I spent Christmas night trying to find an open bar to dull our lonely senses, if memory serves, we couldn’t find one which was probably a good thing.

We finally got the call that we were deploying on New Years Eve ending months of nervous anticipation. We had shipped our equipment several months prior and were now just waiting to coordinate our trip to Saudi Arabia to coincide with the arrival of our equipment. My dad made the trip to Fort Polk, Louisiana to pick up my car because I wanted my sister to be able to use it rather than put it into storage. We got to spend some time together but those days prior to our departure are a blur.

So there we stood, my father and me, outside my company headquarters. It was an unusually cold and dreary day for Louisiana, one that reminded me of winter in Germany. Understandably our conversation became rather awkward, neither one of us is particularly loquacious to begin with. What do you say other than I love you to someone you may never see again? My dad and I are both rather hard men, at least on the exterior, but we both shed a few tears that day, it’s a day that’s etched in my memory forever. A few hours later, I was on my way to Saudi Arabia, combat.


Hard to believe but less than a year later was one of the most memorable Christmases of my life. Not because of any particular gift I received or some spectacular locale but because I took the girl of my dreams, the girl I knew I was going to marry, home to meet my folks.

Twenty years have passed since that Christmas and there have been many memorable Christmases since and I’m sure there are many more to come. Whether we were hosting Christmas or spending Christmas on the road one thing has always remained the same, it’s still my favorite day of the year.

I feel blessed that God has bestowed upon me so many cherished memories on Christmas day but the biggest blessing of all is the reason we celebrate the day – his only begotten son, Jesus Christ.

Never forget the reason for the season

Books are tools to unlock inspiration

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My budding library

A year or two ago, my sister gave me the book Blue like Jazz by Donald Miller. The book chronicles Miller’s life, his relationship with God, and his struggles with a whole host of issues that many men in Generation X face.

Politically, I have very little in common with Miller but our lives have many similarities, therefore, I am able to find a great deal of commonality with him. He has become one of my favorite writers because his reflections on his own life compel me to reflect upon my own life. The great American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said that books are tools to unlock inspiration; Miller is one of the authors that inspire me.

The other thing I like about Miller’s writing style is that he has a self-deprecating, sarcastic sense of humor. I use a similar style in my political writing because if we can’t laugh at the fools we elect to represent us, the only recourse would be to live life in a perpetual state of angst at the stupidity which emanates from the halls of our government; but I digress.

When I read a good book, even novels, I find myself making notes in the margins, underlining significant passages or diction. If I run out of room, I write on sticky notes, which I leave protruding from the pages like a bookmark so I can find inspirational passages quickly. It the book is truly outstanding, I often get out my journal and just free-write all of the thoughts that it spawned.

I continue to try and pass my love of reading on to my children although neither has shown a particular proclivity towards reading but, then again, neither did I at that age. In school I didn’t care for many of the books that we were forced to read. Then again, I didn’t really like being told what to do at all at that age unless it had to do with sports.

I was just a little younger than my oldest son when I heard my father and his business partner talking about Tom Clancy’s masterpiece, The Hunt for Red October, at lunch one day. When I left for Army Basic Training, I picked up a copy to read on the trip to Fort McClellan. I was hooked. The military techno-thriller unlocked my passion for reading and the rest is history…. So to speak.

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