Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More Whales!

We finally get to do our first shore excursion today, which also happens to be our wedding anniversary (yay! 8 years!). Today at 2, we will dock in Juneau, Alaska, and we will head out on the Mendenhall Glacier and Wildlife tour.

Of course, we have already seen a good bit of wildlife today. We went to one of the restaurants for breakfast and got a seat at the window at the very back of the boat. And before long, we were watching whales.

I am pretty sure these were humpbacks, and we got to see their magnificent tales as the crested the water. It was pretty cool. And as I look out of our stateroom door, I see another one.

We are passing through the Frederick Sound now, with Admiralty Island to our left and I think mainland Alaska on our right, and the mountains are spectacular. We saw a pair of mountains side by side that came down to the water’s edge and it almost looked like one was the shadow of the other.

I can’t wait to get ashore and see the sights. Not a bad way to celebrate eight wonderful years.

Monday, August 30, 2010


I saw my first whale this morning, less than 24 hours after getting on this cruise.

We are on a Norwegian Cruise Lines cruise to Alaska. I have been looking forward to it for a while.

I didn’t think we’d ever actually go on a cruise, since my wife is concerned about the reports of norovirus on so many cruises (I think the cruise staff is as well, since they have women at the entrance of every restaurant with spray bottles of hand sanitizer that they insist you use before entering, all the while saying, “Washy washy, smiley smiley, happy happy.” Yes, I may have to kill them). But my cousin told my wife about how much fun she had on her Alaskan cruise, so she decided we could give it a try.

So far, the ship is nice, though we did have to tell them twice that we wanted the two beds made into one bed (really, one bed? One bed? Are you sure?). And I am not overly impressed with the “all inclusive” nature of the cruise. Basically, the all inclusive is not so very inclusive. We knew it wouldn’t include alcohol or the shore excursions. But it also doesn’t include using the internet or the spa or drinking any soft drinks (luckily, I was able to sneak nearly three cases of Diet Mountain Dew on board…they didn’t say I couldn’t and my wife put it in her carry-on. The ex-ray guy actually called his friend over to look at it and laugh). The $12 a day gratuity you pay isn’t all inclusive either…you also pay an “autogratuity” on every purchase. And if you want to eat at any of the restaurants other than the buffets, you pay for that too.

The boat supposedly has stabilizers to keep you from feeling a lot of the movement, but one of them is apparently stuck. It actually woke my wife up last night (not me…she is the one who woke me up) and today the boat is much more rocky than it was yesterday in similar seas. One of the seminars actually got called because the host got seasick. So, I hope they get that fixed soon.

But in spite of all that, so far, I’m having a great time. We have a balcony off of our room, so we can sit and enjoy the view without having to do so with 2,000 of our not so close friends. And it was from there that we saw a whale this morning. I think it was a humpback, or at least it looked like the humpbacks I have seen on tv. Watching it blow water out of its blowhole was pretty cool too. Of course, my attempt at catching it on video was an utter failure, so you will just have to take my word for it. Ditto for the pod of dolphins and the bird that looked suspiciously like a penguin (are they this far south? Or are we now that far north? I have no clue.)

Tomorrow we hit Juneau I think, where we will do a Mendenhall Glacier tour. Maybe I will get some pictures of wildlife to share with you at that point. You probably shouldn’t hold your breath though.

Leaving Seattle

Our State Room

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Now I Get It

I have a lot of friends from Seattle. One of my very best friends and her wife live here. A friend from college. Several Foreign Service friends. They all LOVE Seattle.

I never understood what the big deal was about, but then again, I had never been here.

Okay, so now I LOVE it here! In just three days here, I have decided this needs to be added to the list of potential retirement locations.

We came in Thursday to spend a few days here before getting on our cruise to Alaska (yay! vacation!). In that time, I have done a good bit of walking around the city, and found a nice place to run along Alaskan Way on the waterfront.

And oh that run! We left the hotel around 7:30 or 8 in the morning. The temperature, for this Southern girl, was, uh, brisk. We walked down to the waterfront (man, this place has hills!) and started running. I had actually gone a little distance before I realized I had not taken out my ipod. I ALWAYS run with my ipod (down low, so I can hear people and cars around me). But this time, I just left it in my pocket. The clouds were clearing over the snow capped mountains in the distance and the sun was shining right on them. It was amazing.

I ran further than I have ever run. And when I was done, I ran up some of those hills. It was awesome.

We've also done some touristy stuff, like going to Pike Market and watching them throw the fish. And taking a "Duck Tour" with "Captain Beau Dayshush." He was hysterical.

But what strikes me most is how nice the people are. Everyone is so laid back...I had forgotten how aggressive people can be in DC. I returned to DC from Jerusalem, which made DC seem downright polite! But Captain Beau Dayshush assured us that we would be waved at, and that people in Seattle wave with all five fingers.

And he was right!

Yeah, now I get it. I could get used to this.

Seattle From the Duck

Saturday, August 28, 2010

U.S. diplomats told to send their children out of Monterrey

U.S. diplomats told to send their children out of Monterrey

(CNN) -- The State Department told U.S. government employees in Monterrey, Mexico, on Friday to send their children elsewhere because of heightened security risks related to drug violence.

The order is the first of its kind in any Mexican city, said Brian Quigley, a spokesman for the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey, adding it reflects an increasingly violent and insecure reality. Monterrey is located in northern Mexico.

The travel warning was issued after an August 20 shooting in front of the American Foundation School in Monterrey, said the State Department. The high incidence of area kidnappings was also cited as a motive behind the move.

"U.S. government personnel from the Consulate General in Monterrey have been advised that the immediate, practical and reliable way to reduce the security risks for children of U.S. government personnel is to remove them from the city," the State Department said in a statement.

The new rule will take effect on September 10 and affect roughly 25 families, Quigley said.

In a separate message, also issued on Friday, the U.S. consulate in Monterrey said adequate safeguards simply do not exist to protect the children of U.S. employees.

"Local police and private patrols do not have the capacity to deter criminal elements from areas around the schools attended by the children of U.S. personnel assigned to the consulate," read the statement from Monterrey.

The authorized departure of family members of U.S. government personnel from consulates in the Mexican cities of Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros remains in place, the State Department said.

The United States has a travel warning issued for Mexico because of drug-related violence, particularly in the northern border areas.

Gunfire exchanged near U.S. Consulate in Pakistan

When I heard about this, I was with non-FS friends. They commented, yeah, that is a dangerous place. I said, "you don't understand. We have FRIENDS there!"

The Foreign Service makes the world VERY SMALL.

Gunfire exchanged near U.S. Consulate in Pakistan

(CNN) A confrontation between gunmen and security forces near the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, ended Saturday after the militants surrendered, a Pakistan military spokesman said.

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said the militants were taken into custody and two Pakistani security guards who were taken hostage have been freed. There were no casualties in the incident.

The gunfire started sometime between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. (8 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET Friday) about 100 meters from the U.S. consulate, near military barracks and several other military and intelligence buildings.

All consulate employees are fine and the consulate did not appear to be the target of the attack, said Rick Snelsire, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dear Abby

Two Crabs found this piece in today's Dear Abby:

DEAR ABBY: Last year I decided to pursue a career as a foreign diplomat. My wife and I weighed the pros and cons and concluded that the opportunity was worth the separation from family and friends. I'm proud that I'll be able to provide the kind of life for my family that we have always wanted, and I'm set to begin training soon.

We have begun spreading the news, and most of our relatives and friends share our excitement. My wife's sister, "Lucinda," however, is furious. Her objections started with snide little "jabs" but have grown into a full-blown assault. She is accusing me of ruining her life and threatening to cut off all contact unless we reconsider. My wife is distraught from the badgering and I'm afraid their relationship is on the verge of collapse.

Should I bow to Lucinda's threats or follow our dream and risk being disowned by a member of the family? I'm afraid I have inadvertently ruined my wife's relationship with her sister. -- SECOND THOUGHTS IN MINNESOTA

DEAR SECOND THOUGHTS: Unless you want the remainder of your marriage and your career to be dictated by your wife's sister, do not back down. Lucinda appears to be an insecure, and possibly troubled, woman who is trying to control you and your wife through emotional blackmail. You have a bright -- not to mention fascinating -- future ahead of you. So follow your chosen path and do not allow your sister-in-law to continue to interfere. To fold now would only be the beginning of your problems.

You should head over to Two Crabs to read their response. I agree with his assessment that you should talk to your family early and often if you are considering joining the Foreign Service, because your career affects every family member you are close to, if in no other way than through your absense from important family events. I do agree with "Abby" that you can't let extended family dictate your life, especially when you have such an incredibly opportunity presented to you, but certainly your spouse needs to have as much say in the decision as you do. Because ultimately, it is the family that serves, not just the employee.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Military Bands vs. FSOs

If you are in or have been interested in the Foreign Service for any length of time, you have no doubt heard how there are more people in military bands than in the Foreign Service.

The Washington Post has a fun, and very explicit, break down of that today.

Vast number of military bands may not be music to Gates's ears

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates frequently makes the point that Congress funds Defense Department personnel far more easily than it does State Department employees.

"There are about 6,000 FSOs," or Foreign Service officers, he told an audience in San Francisco this month. He drew laughter when he added that former secretary of state "Condi Rice used to say, 'We have more people in military bands than they have in the Foreign Service.' She was not far wrong."

Well, maybe Gates should take a closer look at those military bands during his campaign to trim defense spending. My interest was triggered by a new field manual for Army bands, released last month, that Steven Aftergood first noted on his Secrecy News Web site.

You may be aware of the Army Band, known as "Pershing's Own" -- based in the Washington area -- which, according to the manual, is authorized to have 250 officers and enlisted men. Then there is the Army's Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, West Point's Military Academy Band, and the Army Field Band, located at nearby Fort Meade, Md. These are known as the Army's "special bands."

But there are also three large Army bands: the Army Training and Doctrine Command Band, at Fort Monroe, Va.; the Army Ground Forces Band, at Fort McPherson, Ga.; and the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus, stationed at Heidelberg, Germany.

In addition, there are 28 other regular Army bands in this country and abroad, 18 Army Reserve bands and 53 Army National Guard bands. Beyond that, almost every regular Army band has "music performance teams" (or MPTs) that can be "employed separately from the band headquarters in support of specific musical missions," according to the manual. The Army Band, for example, has a ceremonial trumpet group, the Herald Trumpets; the Army Chorus; the Army Blues, a large, popular music group; a smaller pop group, Downrange; and a string element, the Army Strings.

Other bands also have smaller groups.

The purpose of Army bands, and others run by all the military services, as described in the field manual, is to "provide music throughout the entire spectrum of operations to instill in our forces the will to fight and win, foster the support of our citizens, and promote America's interests at home and abroad."

Solid and reasonable aims, but how many do we need to accomplish those missions, because, of course, the Navy, Marines and Air Force cannot be outdone by the Army?

The Washington-based Navy Band, with 105 members and a 24-person support staff, has eight chamber music ensembles, plus the Commodores, a 19-person jazz ensemble; the Sea Chanters, a chorus of 23; the seven-person country bluegrass group Country Current; and a pop entertainment ensemble, the Cruisers, with two vocalists and six instrumentalists.

In addition, there are two Navy bands in Japan and Italy, one in Hawaii and eight across the U.S. mainland. For example, there is the Navy Band New Orleans, which has not only a ceremonial/marching unit but also the Express (top 40/variety); Navy Showband South (show/dance); and the Crescent City Brass Quintet Brass Band (traditional New Orleans), according to its Web site.

Located in Washington, the Air Force Band has 180 musicians along with it own "staff of music arrangers, composers and copyists who create many of the works performed by the band," according to its Web site. It, too, has a number of ensembles, including the Singing Sergeants and its newest group, Max Impact, "four of the Air Force's most dynamic vocalists and supported by a hard-hitting five-piece rhythm section," its Web site says.

The Air Force Academy Band has a marching band of 60; a concert band of 45; the Falconairs, an 18-member jazz ensemble; the eight-member Blue Steel pop/rock/country group; the five-man Wild Blue Country group; and five other subgroups.

In addition, there are 11 other active-duty Air Force bands, plus 11 Air National Guard bands. Nine active-duty Air Force bands tour in their own geographic areas in the continental United States while one is in Europe and another -- the USAF Band of the Pacific -- is stationed in Alaska, with elements in Japan and Hawaii.

The Marine Corps Band has about 160 members. Its ensembles include a Marine Chamber Orchestra, the Marine Jazz Orchestra and its country music group, Free Country.

Pay and benefits are worth noting, particularly in comparison with the Foreign Service. A beginning Foreign Service officer can expect pay in the $45,000-to- $50,000 range. Becoming a member of the military's "special bands" -- which beyond the four Army bands include the Navy Band, the Naval Academy Band, the Air Force Band, its Academy Band and the Marine Band ("The President's Own") -- gets you a ranking of staff sergeant or the equivalent and an annual salary of $51,000 for single people and $58,000 for married ones. The Coast Guard Band provides a ranking but slightly lower pay.

Then there is the assignment. Take the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, for example. All members over their four-year enlistment period have "a stabilized assignment at Fort Myer, and enjoy full military benefits including medical and dental care, group life insurance coverage, 30 days of annual paid vacation, Post Exchange and Commissary benefits, and educational benefits," according to its Web site.

In the Navy bands, as their Web site notes, "Your full time job will be to play your instrument, but as you advance in rank you may be assigned with a collateral duty to help manage daily operations of the band."

The opposition Gates has received for his budget plans so far probably would intensify were he to go after military bands.

For example, a question was posed on the Naval Institute Web site: "With a budget squeeze looming . . . is it time to shrink the Navy Chaplain Corps?"

One answer: "Had you been in the Navy you'd know that the personnel program of choice, when one is tilting windmills, is the Navy Band . . . not the Chaplain Corps."

Monday, August 23, 2010


So for the past week, I was back in South Carolina. And when I am there, I stay at the house I grew up in, a 100-year old mill house which of course has no internet. I suppose I could have it installed there, but since I am only there once every six months or so, why?

So you didn't hear from me because there was only dialup available. Maybe I will get a Droid so next time I can have my own mobile hot spot.

Anyway, it was a good trip...I got to see family and friends (though not as many of them as I would have liked) and I got some work done on my dissertation (which was, after all, the main point of the trip). Now I just need to write and edit some more. Fingers crossed for me, okay?

I did manage to get a nasty wasp sting while I was there. I usually just get bit by fire ants when I am home, like the need to prove to me that they know who I am and just because I have moved away doesn't mean they won't get me at every opportunity. Evil little creatures.

But wasps usually just do fly-bys without inflicting damage. Who knew when I was cutting down some shrub overgrowth in my yard that I would disturb their nest? I am lucky they only got me in the arm, because they swarmed my head.

And now I have a nasty "non-reaction" on my arm that is about 3 inches wide and itchy.

So that is a long way of explaining why I didn't write this past week...I will likely be largely absent next week as well, since I am finally getting a real vacation.

You may get some pictures of whales.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Insurance for Partners

I know several folks are interested in this, so I thought I would provide the info from the American Foreign Service Protective Association:

The Protective Association offers two worldwide medical insurance plans for Members of Household, including domestic partners, parents and dependent children over age 22 who do not qualify for coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Both policies offer a choice of deductibles and coverage for Preventive Care, Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D), Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains. Separate coverage applies for treatment received inside the U.S. and Canada.

Reside offers comprehensive coverage at an affordable premium. Benefits are paid up to the amounts listed in a fee schedule for each service.

Reside Prime offers more extensive coverage. Most benefits are paid for eligible expenses based on Usual, Reasonable, and Customary (URC) charges up to a policy maximum. Also, you may choose to add separate riders for Dental, Sports, additional AD&D and Hospital Daily Indemnity coverage.

These plans are individually underwritten. You will be subject to medical underwriting and pre-existing conditions are taken into consideration when you apply for coverage.

NOTE: The applicant must be outside of the U.S. at the time of application or must depart the U.S. within 30 days of the Certificate’s Effective Date.

Click here to review the Department Notice on Benefits for Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Foreign Service Employees Serving Abroad.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Back in the Land of Interwebs

Hope you have had a good week...I have been in the land of dial up. I'll try to catch up some tomorrow.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

If You Are Around FSI Monday....

GLIFAA has (or at least tries to have) an informal brown bag lunch for each new A-100 (the last one got all screwed up, turned into a coffee and the one person who was interested and I managed to miss each other). We will be having a brown bag on Monday in the FSI cafeteria from 11:55 to 12:45. We usually grab a table at the entrance closest to the visitor center. We will have a little sign there.

I want to stress that allies are VERY welcome. We usually have several GLIFAA members there, and we are all willing to talk not just about same-sex partner issues but Foreign Service issues in general. So I welcome you to join us.

Friday, August 13, 2010


I learned today that one of my new friends lost one of her old ones just as she arrived at her first post.

Sadie, who is new to the Foreign Service and who I was in training with for a month at FSI, wrote in her blog today that her beloved companion Hattie, a shitzhu mix turned mixed breed-guard dog, had died before she was released from Customs at post.

I don't know the circumstances. I just know that Sadie adored her impossibly cute little fur daughter and I am very sad for her today. I know how much pets mean and how much a part of the family they are. And for those of us like me and Sadie, who don't have human offspring, they are very much like our children.

I hope you will keep Sadie and Hattie in your thoughts. This is an awful way to begin a first tour.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


This article in today's Washington Post really annoyed me.

It is about how the Department's costs are skyrocketing now that it is being asked to take over much of the military's role in Iraq as the military withdraws. and how Congress is annoyed about it and is slashing our budget.

Really? It is okay for DOD to spend a bazillion dollars on security in Iraq but not for the State Department to need an additional $400 million because costs have gone up (and maybe they have gone up because the situation there has changed?)?

What really griped me was this quote: "'They need a dose of fiscal reality,' a senior Senate aide said, speaking on the condition of anonymity amid ongoing negotiations over the State Department funding."

So brave that he would say that without giving his name. And such a crock that he would say we need to learn fiscal responsibility, unlike say, Congress? Or even DOD, which is really trying to move away from single bidder contracts that result in $4000 toilet seats and hammers?

We have a job to do in Iraq. We want to do it. But doing it costs money.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Not Exactly the Moment I Was Waiting For

Okay, so this is off topic. But it is on a regular off-topic topic of mine, and besides, I am on my disser-cation, so it is hard to be ON topic. How was training today? I wouldn't know. I'm on disser-cation.

So anyway, the moment I have been waiting for has arrived. I missed the National Equality March back in October because I had made a trip back to SC to see my grandmother. Luckily, my wife did us proud there.

So I knew, when the National Organization for Marriage announced their "One Man, One Woman Summer of Marriage Tour" that they HAD to come to DC. And I would get my chance to show them that they are on the losing side of history. That they are on the side of bigotry and hatred, while we are on the side of love and fairness.

And then Judge Vaugn Walker ruled that Prop 8 in California banning gay marriage was unconstitutional, and I thought this would be some protest indeed.

So now they are coming. They will be here on Sunday at 2pm.

And the local LGBT organizations, under the umbrella of The Big Commit have decided, since the NOM demonstration will be on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building, that the counter-demonstration will be at Freedom Plaza.

Freedom Plaza, in case you didn't know, is not within sight of the West Lawn. Not within site of the Capitol Building at all.

They think the venue isn't important.

I think they are wrong.

I think that our numbers need to be seen next to their numbers. I think THEY need to be seen by US.

This venue will give the impression that we didn't care. That for their big finale, we wen't somewhere else.

So I am disappointed. This is not exactly the moment I was waiting for.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Goose Crossing

Being a staffer is a fast-paced job. Coming back to FSI meant shifting into a lower gear. Sometimes that takes some getting used to...I confess that for me, it took maybe a day

I am so geared down that I even take time, even when I am late (because those who know me know that as a half-German, half Indian, I either have to be 15 minutes early or it is a good day to fish), to stop and smell the roses

Or let the geese cross, as the case may be.

If you have spent any time at FSI, you have seen geese. Canadian geese. There used to be tons of them, but there aren't as many now as there were the last time I was here...it seems the cardboard cut-outs of coyotes (which I admit I laughed at) have worked to a point. But some have figured it out and the geese (and goose poop) have returned. I guess we just built a smarter goose...more proof Darwin was right.

I have concerns about these geese though. I mean, they are Canadians. So I am not sure whether they are legal permanent residents, here on a visa, or here illegally. I do suppose though that the chicks they gave birth to at FSI are U.S. citizens since they were born here (at least until some birthright movement folks try to get their way and remove that protection from the Constitution).

Yes, FSOs are geeks...you knew that already.

Last Day

Today is my last day of training before I begin my disser-cation (kind of like a stay-cation, but where you work on your dissertation).

I've been in grants training this week, which hasn't been a thrill a minute, but thanks to two particularly funny instructors, also hasn't been as dreadful as I had feared. I mean, there is only so much you can do with the material, but they are doing the best they can.

We did spend way too long on an exercise yesterday and so now we are behind. I imagine we will have to move at lightning speed to get through all of the material today. But regardless, after today, I am done for a month.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Well Said

It is infuriating to see this surface again. Many thanks to AFSA President Susan Johnson for setting the record straight.

A letter writer's slur on Foreign Service employees

In the midst of his critique of The Post's excellent report on "Top-Secret America," [letters, July 23], William Lucyshyn posed the following question: "Remember State Department employees refusing to 'volunteer' to be assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Iraq?"

No one "remembers" that because it never happened. To the contrary: No matter how dangerous and difficult the job, Foreign Service members and other State Department employees continue to step up to fill every position for which they have been needed in Iraq, Afghanistan and countless other war-torn countries -- just as they have done throughout our history. Not a single Foreign Service employee has had to be identified for "directed" assignment to any of those jobs.

To use Mr. Lucyshyn's words, such attacks on the professionalism and dedication of Foreign Service employees are "misleading and sensational."

Susan R. Johnson, Washington
The writer is president of the American Foreign Service Association.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Equality Wins!

Because equal means equal, not just for those you like.

From the Washington Post:

Prop 8 overturned - Judge overturns Calif. gay marriage ban

A federal judge in California ruled Wednesday that the state's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage violates the constitutional right to equal protection, the first step in a legal struggle that most expect will end at the Supreme Court.

"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license," wrote Judge Vaughn R. Walker, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco. "Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples."

And one more thing...

I ran into a friend of mine yesterday, who told me the latest specialist class had started this week too!

So a big welcome to the 115th Specialist class!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Welcome to the 155th

The 155th A-100 started yesterday and will descend on FSI for the first time today. I always like seeing all the new, excited (terrified?) faces, and I will have a front row seat, or at least a nearby seat, today since the course I am taking meets right around the corner from the A-100 classroom.

I'll be the one in blue jeans!

Anyway, as promised, and in honor of the new class, the following blogs have been moved from the future Foreign Service blogroll to the Foreign Service blogroll:

Destination: Diplomacy

Diplomatic Mom

The McGee Family

The World That We Live In


V is for Vonhinken

Congrats to all! And if you have any concerns about blogging, especially after your DS briefing, shoot me a line!

Monday, August 02, 2010


I just wanted to congratulate all the folks who started A-100 today. I will try to move your blogs to the FS blogroll tomorrow...I am nursing sushi coma tonight and so work on the blog is just not happening.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

One more week until my disser-cation.

Tomorrow, I begin my last week of training at FSI before I begin language training in September.

I have dubbed the break in between, which will be most of the month of August, as my disser-cation. Kind of like a staycation except I will be using the time off to work on my dissertation. This will include lots of time applying butt to chair and writing, as well as a bit of time doing some additional analysis. I am pretty excited about it.

And of course, at the end of August, a real vacation, when my wife and I take an Alaskan cruise.

I will of course post pictures because I am cruel that way.

What stands in the way of me and that disser-cation is a week of grants training.

I am not looking forward to it.

It is one of those things that I know is important. I know I need to do it. Kind of like getting vaccinations. You have to, but no one really wants to. I could have taken it online, but that would have meant burning another week of leave. And really, I would rather save that for time spent on real vacations, or at least disser-cations.

So here is to getting through the next week watching paint dry with my brain reasonably intact so I can disser-cate. Because I'd rather do almost anything other than die ABD.