You Know You’re Working at a Military Command When . . .

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I received the following item from my friend Larry Walker, a Foreign Service Officer currently serving as a foreign affairs advisor for a military command in Germany.  This is truly funny, because it is so true – as anyone who has ever been in the military can attest.  I have edited the contact information at the bottom of Larry’s article for security reasons, but the rest is just as he wrote it:


You know you’re working at a military command when…

–you call everybody in your office by their first name except your boss, whom you call “sir” or “ma’am.”

–you work with colleagues who go by nicknames like Paunch, Misfit, Biggie, Lapdog and Boom-Boom.

–all the folks you work with go to the office in camouflage fatigues, and every meeting looks like a chameleons’ convention.

–you can tell Air Force camouflage from Army camouflage at a distance of 50 feet.

–you can spot a colonel, even out of uniform, at 100 ft.

–you can name ten different types of Navy uniforms.

–you know a Navy captain is equivalent to an Army colonel, and a Navy lieutenant is equivalent to an Army captain.

–portions at restaurants on base are twice the size of the civilian world and mostly consist of meat.

–you can’t explain what you do for a living without resorting to incomprehensible acronyms and PowerPoint slides.

–when you’ve had a busy day and need some exercise, you tell your wife you had accelerated battle rhythm today and need to get in some PT (physical training).

–you pay little attention to officers below the level of Major or Lieutenant Commander but worship all enlisted service members above the level of Master Sergeant or Senior Chief Petty Officer.

–you refer to a self-service cafeteria as a “mess hall.”

–you stay home sick and email your boss that you are “keeping quarters.”

–you are ordered to attend a “theater briefing,” and you think it’s a hilarious coincidence when you find out that it is actually being held in the base’s theater.

–instead of cussing, you start using the relevant NATO code abbreviations for the first letter of each word (e.g., instead of “What the f—?” you exclaim “Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot!”

–For really bad expressions, you run letters together to form whole words (e.g., FIGMO – f— it, got my orders, and BOHICA – bend over, here it comes again).

–your wallet contains a CAT card, a badge for classified areas, a ration card, a SOFA driver’s license, dollars, local currency, and  an ATM card for the Service Credit Union, while your jacket pocket contains an official passport with a SOFA stamp.

–you refer to your job as “my billet” and to decisions reserved to your supervisors as being “above my pay grade.”

–when you plan a business trip, you say you are “going downrange.”

–you when you talk about getting something through the clearance process in order to send it to the Commander’s Office, you say you’ve got to run it through the “chop chain” to get it to the “head shed.”

–you start shining your shoes once a week rather than twice a year.

–you hear a rapper rap the word “ho,” and you briefly wonder why he is singing about the Horn of Africa (HOA).

–you have an email signature block that looks something like this:

Very respectfully,


Mr. Lawrence A. (Larry) Walker

Foreign Affairs Advisor

(Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius)

Southern Region Engagement

U.S. Africa Command/J531

Bulding (Of course), Room (Somewhere above the basement)

Kelley Kaserne, Unit (A whole bunch of numbers)

Plieninger Straße some more numbers

70567 Stuttgart-Möhringen, Germany


Four phone numbers and

Four email addresses (which means remembering four separate passwords, yuck!)

                         Africa Command protects and defends the national security interests of the United States by strengthening the defense capabilities of African states and regional organizations and, when directed, conducts military operations, in order to deter and defeat transnational threats and to provide a security environment conducive to good governance and development.

The Writer’s Ten Commandments

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Writer's Ten Commandments


  1.  Don’t ever let anyone convince you that you’re not a writer.  This is the most important thing to keep in mind, because, along the way there will be many who will try to divert you from your goals, from family to the educational system.
  2. Never forget that you write to be read.  Unless you’re one of those artsy writers who write only for your own pleasure, remember that your reader is your customer.
  3. Begin at the beginning.  Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, start in the appropriate place.
  4. Don’t use ten words when one will do.  Now, writers are supposed to use words, and the more the better, right?  Wrong.  If a word doesn’t contribute to the understanding or forward movement of your story, cut it.
  5. Get your reader’s attention with the first sentence.  When someone picks up something you’ve written, make sure the first sentence grabs them by the nose, eyes, heart, ears, and taste buds and makes it impossible for them not to turn the page to see ‘what happens next.’
  6. Once the hook is in, keep pulling.  If you’ve hooked a reader with your opening, you owe that reader a great ride.  Put your reader on a roller coaster that they’ll never forget.
  7. Don’t censor yourself.  When you’re writing, especially first drafts; don’t let that internal censor or critic hold you back.  Let it flow out, warts and all; you can always apply a little blemish remover during rewrite.
  8. Remember the basic story structure:  Take a character that readers can identify with or sympathize with; put him up a tree and remove the ladder; throw rocks at him for a while; and then let him climb triumphantly down from that tree.
  9. There’s actually only one plot or theme for every story:  Someone came to town; things changed.
  10. Write every day – something, anything, just write.

Photo Challenge: Thursday’s Windows – Week 13

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Windows in a building in Copenhagen in winter.
Windows in a building in Copenhagen in winter.

Tracking Africa’s Big Five

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Another guest blog at Bucket List Publications.  Read hereBucket List Publications


"Hippo in the Water"
Not one of the Big Five, but still impressive.


Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Lines

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And, of course, I have to take a crack at Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Lines.  You should give it a try, as well.

A landmark on the National Mall, this tribute to our first president can be seen from miles away.
A landmark on the National Mall, this tribute to our first president can be seen from miles away.


A Line of Trees


Roof Line

A Word A Week Photographic Challenge: Blue

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The Word a Week Photographic Challenge:  Blue is here.  Blue can mean many things; sad, peaceful, loyal, or even racy, as in blue movies, or ‘cursing up a blue streak.’  Here are my photographic interpretations of blue for you to enjoy:

"The Atlantic Ocean from Tenerife"
A view of the Atlantic Ocean from the window of my hotel room in Tenerife.
"The ocean blue"
The soothing blue of the Atlantic Ocean off Tenerife.
A clear blue sky framed by autumn trees.
A clear blue sky framed by autumn trees.
A goose swimming in blue water.
A goose swimming in blue water.





I Might Be Retired, But, I Haven’t Quit Yet

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My take on the transition from being a fulltime government employee and retiring to the life of a fulltime freelance writer.  Read here.

Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge: Photograph Something New.

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I’m always fascinated by Cee’s Fun Photo Challenges, and this one from November just made me think, so I decided to give it another go.  Here are the photos I took this week when I visited the Buffalo Soldier Monument at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.


Backlit photo of the Buffalo Soldier statue.
Backlit photo of the Buffalo Soldier statue.
The entrance to Ft. Leavenworth's Buffalo Soldier Monument.
The entrance to Ft. Leavenworth’s Buffalo Soldier Monument.
Another view of the statue.
Another view of the statue.




Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

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This week’s photo challenge is Changing Seasons; and, I’ve found no place more convenient for watching the season’s change than my own backyard.  My house looks out over a forested park and I can watch the seasons change from day to day, from the change in the colors of the foliage, to the presence or absence of animals that inhabit the large forest that serves as my backyard.

The leaves have almost all fallen, creating a carpet of golden grown in which the naked trees stand like lonely sentinels.
The leaves have almost all fallen, creating a carpet of golden grown in which the naked trees stand like lonely sentinels.
As winter approaches, the deer come out of the deep forest looking for food.
As winter approaches, the deer come out of the deep forest looking for food.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflection

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Check out the Weekly Photo Challenge at  Here’s my interpretation of this challenge.


Bird in the Water

"Lunar landscape"
The silver of the moon against a stygian sky; what more needs to be said?
In Naples for a conference, I took an early morning walk and caught this image of a boatsman out fishing.
In Naples for a conference, I took an early morning walk and caught this image of a boatsman out fishing.

What th’ @@##$%$#@#?!!

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Today is Friday and I’m doing this blog from a library computer. Why, you might ask, am I doing that? Well, having just completed the NaNoWriMo challenge of doing 50,000 words in 30 days (Actually did 55,000-plus in about 23 days), I’ve been busy going back over it and trying to turn it into an actual novel.


Problem was, I neglected to save each chapter as I polished it – Only had the first 4 or 5 chapters saved off my laptop – and just as I realized this wasn’t a good thing and started dumping 57,000-plus words of what I thought was pretty good stuff onto a zip drive, my laptop died.  I don’t mean slowed down, or started having fits; I mean died as in it just sits there, screen blank, staring back at me.  Fortunately, all my photos and other graphics had already been saved, along with other important documents – but, not THE MOST IMPORTANT document, the updated version of Dead Men Don’t Answer.


I’m just about over the shock, and looking at new computer options.  In the meantime, I’m using my wife’s laptop when she’s not looking, or heading out to the library where people stare at me strangely as I sit muttering at the screen.  I still have all my notes, character profiles, and timelines, and with the chapters I saved, I’ll get it back – and, maybe it’ll be even better, because I’m now writing from a mood of total angst.


I learned a good lesson, too. ALWAYS back up your work! Do it every day, even if you’re working with a brand spanking new computer.  You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll regret it if you don’t.  That’s my writing advice for this Friday.  To my favorite blogger, Becca, who does a great and funny WTF Friday blog posting, sorry for being such a downer this week, but I had to share this.

Walking With Lions – You’re Kidding, Right?

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An article I did recently for Tour and Travel News.  Read here.


White tail deer

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White tail deer by CharlesRay2010
White tail deer, a photo by CharlesRay2010 on Flickr.

Travel Theme: Liquid

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"Victoria Falls"Our earth is made up mostly of water – there’s liquid all around us.  Over at Where’s My Backpack they’ve set a challenge to show liquid with your photos.  With water all around us, that shouldn’t be difficult.

"The Atlantic Ocean from Tenerife"
A view of the Atlantic Ocean from the window of my hotel room in Tenerife.
"Stone and Water"
Patterns in the surf

"Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe"

Sometimes that liquid element contains danger.
"Hippo in the Water"
Sometimes it holds mysteries.

"Reflections of Giraffes in the Water"

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Engage Boys – Empower Girls

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I Survived Black Friday – Now, I Have to Make it Through Gray Saturday

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Friday (Rebecca Black song)
Friday (Rebecca Black song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have to start this post by making it abundantly clear – I HATE SHOPPING!  And, by that, I don’t mean just Black Friday, although it has a special place on my list of things I detest, but shopping any time.  When I need to buy something, if I can’t find it on the Internet, I make a list, research the stores that have what I need at the price I’m willing to pay, go to the store, enter, buy, and get the hell out as fast as I can.

Having said that, this year, my wife finally discovered Black Friday, and wanted to know what all the hype was about.  All day on Thanksgiving, she threatened to wake me up at oh-dark-thirty Friday and drag me to the nearest shopping mall to join the mob.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well Thursday night, and the lobster, turkey, and all the other goodies I wolfed down had nothing to do with it.

I got up yesterday at my usual time, 6:30, and made my breakfast.  As usual, I tippy-toed around the house, hoping I wouldn’t wake my better half up; she likes to sleep in and hates eating breakfast except on weekends.  At 10:30, her usual wake-up time, I breathed a sigh of relief when she got up, did her shower and makeup, and plunked herself down in front of the TV with a cup of coffee to catch her favorite Korean soap opera.  At noon, she pried herself away long enough to make two bowls of noodles for our lunch, and went back to the afternoon news shows.  Never a word about Black Friday shopping; could I be that lucky, I wondered.

I didn’t really relax until six in the evening. All day, she’d not said a word about going shopping, and it was now time for her favorite evening shows to start.  No way she misses them unless the house is on fire, and even then I wonder.

But, we went to bed last night, and not once did she say anything about shopping.  So, I was able to get a bit of writing done – starting the editing phase of my NaNoWriMo entry, which is a lot of work and requires the ability to focus.  Of course, now I have to worry about whether or not she’ll decide to see what’s left on the shelves the day after Black Friday – a day I’ve taken to calling Gray Saturday for the somber mood of everyone who went through the torture yesterday, and the appearance of the stores with shelves nearly bare from the scourge of locust-like shoppers yesterday.

I’m a bit happier, though, after looking at the sky.  It’s a grey day here in suburban Montgomery County, Maryland.  The wind blew hard last night, dumping tons of leaves on our recently raked lawn, so instead of shopping, I’ll get my afternoon exercise moving leaves from the grass to the tree line behind our house.  That I don’t mind; it’s a good way to stretch the muscles after sitting here at the computer for several hours, and it’ll set me up for a late night writing session.  I might start my new Chronicle of Pip of Pandara book tonight.  Or, maybe I’ll do some more sketches for planned projects.  What I won’t be doing, folks, is shopping.

"Becca Forgot to Be Funny"

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

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Having an owner – and, one often wonders in the dog-human relationship just who the ‘owner is – is definitely something to be thankful for.


"Waiting for my human"

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Colorful Monotone

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Whether it’s natural or man-made, a monochromatic scene can be restful and dramatic at the same time.  Here are some of my one-color dominant photos to illustrate.

"The ocean blue"
The soothing blue of the Atlantic Ocean off Tenerife.


"The beach at evening"
As the sun sets on the beach at Tenerife, everything takes on different shades of blue, fading into purple.


"Flamenco Dancer"
The golden dress of this Flamenco dancer dominates the scene.
"Guinea fowl"
The regal green of this guinea fowl against the peaceful green of the grass.


"Lunar landscape"
The silver of the moon against a Stygian sky; what more needs to be said?
"The Kalahari Desert"
Brown grass in the Kalahari Desert, South Africa.