Thursday, March 30, 2006


I've been on the road since Sunday and since I have my laptop thought I'd pop out a quick post.

We arrived in Paris Monday morning. After a quick nap, I headed out for a run. I ran from the hotel to Notre Dame, which is about 4 miles away when running along the Seine river. I sat for a bit on a bench there, then ran back to the hotel. As I reached the Eiffel tower, the wind shifted to a headwind, and my heartrate shot up for the last half mile or so. My throat was bothering me when I finished and I felt progressively worse throughout the night.

Since then I have been to Bombay and back, all with a miserable cold. It sucks flying like this! Today was my turn to fly so I had hot tea for my throat, drank 3 liters of water for hydration and used a whole box of tissues blowing my nose, all during an uneventful 9 hour flight. We arrived in Paris this morning and I took this picture from the bus as we were pulling up to the hotel:

I realize this is not the best picture, but you can see the buds on the trees (pink) in the foreground. I think Paris will be in full springtime bloom in just a couple of weeks!

Since I'm not feeling well and I need to rest for the flight home tomorrow, I am not going out to dinner. Instead, I am having my favorite standby: fresh mozzarella cheese and cherry tomatoes with vinaigrette salad dressing (caprese salad by Notsocranky) along with une baguette and some pineapple juice.

I love to go to European supermarkets and pick up treats to bring home for Cranky and the kids. Here's what I'm bringing home tomorrow:

As we say in our house, it's tasty deliciousness!

When I drive into the garage tomorrow night, it will go something like this:

**door to house flies open, 3 grinning kids squeezing in the doorway, waiting for me to turn off the car**

Raymond, age 6: "What did you bring me Mom?!"

Cranky (standing behind kids): "RAYMOND, I told you not to ask that!"

Mary, age 11: "How was India mom?" (being 11, she's knows better than to inquire about treats)

Bob, almost 3: "Dad moved the skateboard ramps!" or some other exciting event I missed while flying.

**hugs, kisses, walk in house**

I open my backpack and give everyone a treat....

I can't wait to get home!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

C4C Notsocranky goes Mach 1

(CS-01 squadron patch)

After finishing BCT I was put in cadet squadron 1 (CS-01), nicknamed Mach 1. This would be my squadron for my "freshman" year. Freshmen are not called freshmen there -- my official title was C4C (cadet 4th class) Notsocranky, but I was called a 4 degree, a doolie, or just hey you! Doolies were not supposed to talk anywhere except the gym & it's surrounding fields, the academic building (Fairchild Hall) and in your dorm room. We walked on the sides of the halls, "greeting" upperclassmen, by name if they were in our squadron. (e.g. "Good Morning, Cadet Dickhead!") Outside, we greeted generically, "Good Morning Sir! First Takes Care of its own!" Again, if it was someone in our squadron, we used their name. The second part of the greeting was squadron specific and changed periodically to keep it interesting.

We had to walk on the smaller white tiled lines on the terrazzo, unless we were in formation.

In the squadron, we had many jobs. We were in charge of "calling minutes", which was a countdown of sorts to each formation. (There were at least two formations each day during the week.) We stood in the hallway, at attention, loudly announcing, "Mach 1, there are 10 minutes until the noon meal formation. The menu is: hamburgers, fries, pie. The uniform is: athletic jackets. There are 10 minutes until the noon meal formation." In between announcements, we would read something (studying) by holding it up in front of our face, still at attention. What did we study you ask? Typically, it would be our "Contrails" book that was issued during basic training.

I carried this book in my pocket at all times so the writing is worn off the cover and spine. I was responsible for knowing everything in it -- aircraft and missile inventory of the US and Soviet Union, quotes from famous generals and presidents, the Code of Conduct, poems, names of everybody in our chain of command, and many more fascinating facts! It also held many slips of paper with my required daily knowledge such as the menus of the day, or anything else I was currently being told to know. I memorized all the cadets in the squadron who held a position, or job -- e.g. Squadron Commander C1C Thomas B. Dickhead. (Yes, middle initials were required.) Looking at my Contrails book, I see I memorized 40-50 names and positions each semester. Gee, I wonder why my first year grades sucked?

Classes were mostly typical freshman courses I guess -- English, Math, P.E., History, Computer Science, Behavioral Science, and a language (I took Japanese*) Another class I took was PMS. I didn't even realize how funny this sounded until I called home:

Mom: "How are your classes?"

Me: "Not bad, but I don't like PMS"

---a brief silence ---

Mom: "What?"

Me: "PMS, I don't like the instructor."

Mom: "Is that a class dear?"

---lightbulb comes on in Notsocranky's head ---

Me: "Oh! I should say Professional Military Studies!"

From that point on, my parents and sisters liked to joke with me about PMS. I had that subject every year!

I had some trouble staying awake in class. All classed were considered military formations and therefore subject to punishment. Being late or sleeping in class could result in an academic penalty as well as a military punishment (at the instructor's discretion). We were "encouraged" to stand up in the back of the classroom if we couldn't stay awake. Math made me particularly sleepy that first year, so my grades suffered. But my favorite course that year was Engineering 110, a basic civil engineering class. After deciding to major in C.E., I needed to start "applying" myself in Math, which meant staying awake and taking notes. Somehow I pulled it off.

Computer Science also gave me some trouble.** Halfway through the semester, I was failing. Wow, I had never failed a class in my life! I was given an academic advisor who told me I should voluntarily sign up for the "How to Study" class. It would help me if I was considered for academic disenrollment later on. Yikes! As it turned out, the "study" class helped me quite a bit. One of the most useful things I learned was how to take a multiple choice test. After reading and discussing the techniques, I took an actual multiple choice test from a junior-level course I knew nothing about. I scored an above-average grade on the test! With my new study techniques and after many nights in the computer lab, I squeaked out a "C" in the class.

I learned an lot in that first semester and still had a long way to go...

*When receiving the "strategic language" briefing, the Japanese spiel mentioned a field trip downtown to a restaurant. Apparently was hungry when I signed up.

** It wasn't until many years later when I met Cranky that I started to enjoy computers.

Friday, March 24, 2006

On Top of the Hill?

Yesterday I had a very relaxing birthday. I managed to avoid almost all household chores and Cranky took Bob and me out to one of my favorite restaurants for lunch.

After dinner, we had this:

It was supposed to be an after-dinner surprise, but my 2 little boys just can't keep a secret. Not that Cranky was very sneaky either. After school, my 6-yr. old asks, "Did you have a good day Mom, it IS your birthday..." As I am saying yes, Cranky says, "Oh yah, that reminds me. I need to go get spark plugs." He and Raymond go "to the auto parts store". Later on, during dinner, Bob says, "I'm going to have cake!" So I ask Raymond, "Hey, does that cake have spark plugs on it?" He looks at me, very confused, and says "No, but Dad and I got you a birthday cake!"

The boys just crack me up.

One of my birthday cards said, "Don't worry, you're not over the hill yet..." then inside "At the very Tippy-Top of the hill, looking down, maybe, but not over the hill!!"

Does that mean I've peaked? I hope not.

I really don't feel any different today. Hmmm....

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Big Bucking Chicken!

I'm sitting in front of the tv with my laptop, reading a little bit and the new burger king commercial comes on. It's an ad for their chicken sandwich. I hear the guy singing but I'm not watching the tv, and I HEAR: "big F**ing chicken". I thought for sure it was a comedy skit (Comedy Central is on our tv a lot), but when I look up, I see a cowboy riding a BIG BUCKING CHICKEN! I ask Cranky, "what are we watching?" and he tells me it's a commercial, a real one! Wow, they got me good.

I will say, however, it doesn't make me want to run out to eat at Burger King. Even this creepy big-plastic-headed-guy makes me feel more like eating a whopper...

If anyone can find a link for this commercial, I would appreciate it. I haven't had any luck...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bring Me Men (and Notsocranky), Part 1

Okay, so maybe it's because I'm about to turn 40, but I though it would be fun to write about my USAF Academy experience.

Ever since I was about 12 years old, I wanted to be a pilot.* My mother recalls my 7th grade proclamation, "I am not going to college, I'm going to be a pilot!" I soon discovered that I needed to go to college to be an Air Force pilot. My aunt who lived in Colorado Springs told my mother about the Air Force Academy located there. Mom sent for the catalog and I read it cover to cover. It sounded like a great place.**

I am the youngest of four daughters. For the first 18 years of my life I was "following in my sisters' footsteps". My mother knew everything about everything that came up -- "when your sister was in school..." etc. I was tired of hearing that so decided I wouldn't go to any college my 3 sisters had attended. The Air Force Academy (USAFA) sounded better and better. It was far away from home (NH), it was a great school and probably most important, offered a way for me to become a pilot. I managed to get an appointment*** and off to Colorado I went in the summer of 1984 for Basic Cadet Training (BCT, or "beast" as it was called).

Wow, what an adventure! Kids from all over the country, beautiful Colorado scenery and of course, the military stuff. **** I quickly learned how to march, but always had a hard time keeping a straight face while being "trained" (translation: being yelled at) by the upperclass cadets. The only "down time" I managed to get during BCT was to skip chapel. No problem. I'd been dragged to Catholic mass my whole life by my mother and was happy to be free of that as well. I had 45 minutes or so of peace and quiet in my room, which was probably the best thing for me.

That first summer was rather busy. There was early morning PT, marching, memorizing, and many other activities, but probably the hardest training event was the Assault Course. We low-crawled under barbed-wire fence, climbed over/through/around obstacles, all while being yelled at for added stress. We also learned how to fight with a bayonet on our rifle.

At the end we had pugil stick fighting. Here are the guys going at it:

We had a squadron pugil stick competition to see who would be the "Big Bad Basic". I was in "A" flight and I managed to beat the other girls in "A" and "B" flights. So for the title, I had to go up against the winner of the "C" and "D" flights, who happened to be a big, tall volleyball recruit named Andrea.***** I knew at only 5'4", 105 lbs., I was going to be pummeled. I put up a good fight, but had a hard time overcoming her tremendous "reach" advantage. I lost but enjoyed the competition anyway.

(This post has been amended to add this picture of me. I didn't know whether to look tough or smile.)

In the middle of the summer, I got word from home that my grandmother had died. She had been one of only 2 grandparents alive during my life and it was a huge loss. A lifelong smoker, she had succumbed to emphysema after a lengthy hospital stay. My parents and I decided I should stay in Colorado and continue with my training. I'm sure it helped me to be so busy during that difficult time.

When the summer ended, I was no longer a Basic Cadet, I was a Cadet Fourth Class. The school year brought still more challenges for this small town girl.

* I had not ever been in an airplane and would not have the opportunity until I was 17 years old.

** I wanted to do the skydiving. I knew it would be fun and would also freak out my mother.

*** I also had an appointment to West Point, but wanted to fly. I was the first person from my town to go to one of the Military Academies.

**** Other than my uncle Jim, nobody in my family had been in the military. My grandfather had been a translator in WWII, but as a civilian.

*****Andrea is now a Northwest Airlines pilot.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Trunk Monkeys

This is wicked funny. My friend Maureen sent me 3 versions of it. There are several, all great.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Milosevic Checks Out

Former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic was found dead Saturday in his prison cell. He was 64. Milosevic, who suffered chronic heart ailments and high blood pressure, apparently died of natural causes and was found in his bed, the U.N. tribunal said.

Wow. I've seen him on trial a couple of times. When we fly to Amsterdam, we stay in The Hague and our hotel shares a driveway circle with the world court. I've gone over to watch when Milosevic was "in". The trial takes place in a glass-walled courtroom and we sat in some chairs behind the witness stand. It's all translated into English and you can wear headphones to hear it in other languages if you want.

Apparently Milosevic was pretty wild in the early years of the trial. Another pilot told me he was watching the trial one day when things got a little out of control. The curtains were quickly closed and the spectators were ushered out. When I saw Milosevic he just looked like a retired businessman, as in the picture above.

There seems to be mixed feelings about his untimely death.

Milosevic's death will be a crushing blow to the tribunal and those looking to establish an authoritative historical record of the Balkan wars.

"Justice was late," said Hashim Thaci, the leader of ethnic Albanian insurgents against Milosevic's forces in 1998-1999 in Kosovo's capital, Pristina. "God took him."

Though the witness testimony is on public record, history will be denied the judgment of a panel of legal experts weighing the evidence of his personal guilt and the story of his regime.

"It is a pity he didn't live to the end of the trial to get the sentence he deserved," Croatian President Stipe Mesic said.

I think a nearly 5-year trial was enough. Even if it had ended in a conviction, there is no penalty severe enough for the atrocities he committed. I'm glad I got to witness this interesting bit of history.

My Frankfurt Trip

I'm back from 6 days of flying. We flew from NY to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Cincinnati, back to Frankfurt and yesterday, Frankfurt to NY. It's good to be back! We had awesome tailwinds going east so the 2 flights to Frankfurt were relatively quick.

This is what my instruments read:

The groundspeed is in the upper left corner -- 616 knots, or 709 mph. The tailwind was 179 kts (lower left corner). Excellent!

We don't stay in Frankfurt for the layover, we go to a hotel in Weisbaden. It was my first time staying at the hotel there and this is the key they gave me. This is the front:

And this is the back.... (or vice versa)

What?! No magnetic strip, words, arrows -- a blank card? (She says while scratching her head) Is this a joke?

So I got to my room and here's how the lock worked:

Pretty cool huh? The green light shows that my door is now unlocked. I felt like a secret agent.

Then, once inside the room I had to put my key in this holder to make the lights work.

Many of the hotels we stay in use these. If you take the room key out of the holder, the room will go dark in a couple of minutes. This is handy when you leave the room, because you don't need to turn of lights or the tv, and then when you return everything comes on again. The hardest thing is remembering to take the key when you leave.

Weisbaden is a nice city. I was surprised, however, to see a Walmart. I didn't go in because I refuse to shop there. I can't believe the Germans would tolerate such a thing! There are many wonderful shops in Weisbaden -- Walmart seemed out of place. What is this world coming to?

It was raining lightly when we left Frankfurt yesterday morning, but a beautiful day once we climbed up to cruise altitude. (It generally is.) To avoid the strong headwinds, we flew a northerly route which took us over the southern tip of Greenland.

I think all the ice floating in the water in the foreground is really cool. (No pun intended.)

I told myself I would not mention puke in this post, but last night Bob woke up and puked in his bed. Welcome home Mom!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Too Much Puke!

Caution: If you have a weak stomach, stop reading now.

Early Wednesday morning my 6 yr old woke up crying. I ran to his room and he said "I threw up", just as I stepped in something slimy. Yuk! I took him downstairs and gave him a puke bowl*. He puked every 15 minutes for the next 2 hrs, when the interval stretched to every 1/2 hour. At 6:30 am, he says, "I'm feeling better. Did you clean the puke in my room yet? And could you bring my clothes down for school?" (Of course I hadn't done any cleaning since he wouldn't let me leave him alone up to that point.) So I went upstairs to clean and disinfect his room. Meanwhile, he upchucks again so he's definately not going to school.

Thursday afternoon I started feeling a little funny. As I started making dinner, I had to make a dash for the bathroom. Uggh! Cranky finished cooking dinner but I didn't eat a thing. I suffered through the evening and at 10:30 I went to bed hoping I would get some sleep. Just as I put my head on the pillow, Bob, age 2, starts crying. I went to his room and as I picked him up, he hurled all over me! Gross! I didn't realize how much ziti he had eaten for dinner! I carried him to the bathroom to clean up and change clothes. I decided Bob and I would go downstairs to get through the night together.

As we got settled on the couch, I contemplated what I would do when I felt sick if Bob fell asleep. That was not an issue since Bob and I each threw up a couple of times during the next hour or so. Just before midnight, I heard someone upstairs in the bathroom. Shortly after that, my 11 yr. old daughter came downstairs saying she had gotten sick. I put her on a different couch and found her a puke bowl. (Bob and I each had one already.**) Every 15 minutes she would yell, "Puking!", which was my cue to bring her a tissue and empty her bowl. Both kids got to see Mom's puking technique (sit up and lean over the bowl) and I coached them as best I could under the circumstances.

Needless to say, it was a long night.***

Last night, Cranky woke up and was, you guessed it, puking! He's the last one in the family to get it and hopefully that's the end of it.

Have a great weekend...

*When I was a kid, we had a bowl designated the "spit-up" bowl that my mother would give us when we were sick. As far as I know, that was the only use for that bowl, because whenever anyone would see it, a funny look would come across their face and the bowl was immediately tucked away.

**Bob is not a big fan of the puke bowl. When he would start to get sick, I would grab the bowl to put under him and he would scream bloody murder! I brought him into the kitchen (linoleum floors) and had to catch the puke since he wouldn't put his head over the bowl, despite my impressive demos.

***Luckily, the little guy got over the bug the quickest, and by morning he eating again.