Thursday, April 26, 2012

Next Stop: Adventure

About three years ago, my former Chief told me a few things about his experience in Afghanistan. He prepared for a rigorous trip packed w/ warfare and terror. What he hadn't counted on was a life-changing experience. He just hitched rides w/ various units, traveling across the land with his camera and documenting the beginning of the war in Afghanistan v2.0. The experience opened his eyes and mind. Says it changed the course of his life.

So he told me not to expect anything before I left for Cuba last year. I went high and right. I suffered for it too. Now I'm getting ready to head back out to my favorite places again, with some of my favorite people. But things have surely changed.

Some of these books are beat up because they got some heavy use on my previous trips to the region over the past three years. They opened up the fun and fascinating tips to get more out of the places the Navy takes me.

I found a custom sandal maker in Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat while visiting Cambodia.  I found the best trinket shops, massages, incense, temples and night life Thailand had to offer. I explored the intimate tie between the Philippines and US - and the stark contrast of life since the American departure there.

Now I have new adventures in new places. Hawaii. Okinawa. Vietnam. Indonesia. Malaysia. I've never been to these places. So I'm reading up.
Book after book and country after country, I'm finding the same story.

"despite many efforts to promote (insert SE Asian country) as a tourist destination in its own right - has little to offer apart from souvenir shops selling shells and some reasonable beaches outside town. It's a fast developing area, and the port has been upgraded to service the nearby industrial states." 

I'm jaded. It continues.

"The XXXX Navy has its principle base just outside town, and some 25,000 sailors make up the overwhelming majority for the town's inhabitants."

My previous trips to the region afforded me tons of freedom and latitude. It's incredibly difficult not to build expectations about what will and will not happen on my trip. Whether it's more of being in the back woods of a developing third-world country or Singaporean highrise condos - it will be an adventure. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Ensign and the Holiday Ensign

Yesterday was my first Sunday morning here on Oahu. I'll never forget it. The skies were a little cloudy w/ the occasional rain shower (which I'm quickly learning makes rainbows all over the place). But, as I crossed the bridge to Ford Island around 7:30, the sun lit up both the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Missouri. As awe inspiring as they are, they churn the pit of your stomach.

This photo shows USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) sailing past the  USS Arizona Memorial  and USS Missouri moored behind it. Part of Arizona's forward turret is still above water and the flag flies from a remnant of the ships mast. 
Only one of these two ships was here on Sunday, December 7, 1941. And it never moved again. Arizona was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The ship is exactly where it was then and 1,102 of its 1,177 Sailors are entombed in it. Around the time of this photo, 0745, on that terrible Sunday, some men were sleeping off the previous night. Others had the dreaded weekend duty blues - and at least three of those guys were mustering for morning colors. It would be the last for USS Arizona.

My intention was simply to observe (salute the flag as it's raised for the day, every day at 0800) at either the Arizona or Missouri. Being that both ships are decommissioned, it was likely colors wouldn't be officially observed - but it was worth a shot and something I've wanted to do since sailing through the harbor in 1999, manning the rails of my first ship as a seaman recruit.

Seeing both these Navy ships from the deck of a Navy ship is THE most incredible way to visit Pearl Harbor. Driving a car up to the memorial and just isn't quite the same.

Stepping out, I expected silence in the somber mood. Even though I was hundreds of yards away, I could her her hum just like any Navy ship I've been on. The Mighty Mo' still sounds like it could get underway today. It was incredible to hear life coming from the ship - amidst the juxtaposition the sunk Arizona right in front of her.

The United States' role in WWII began on board USS Arizona with Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and ended with the Japan's surrender in Tokyo Bay on board USS Missouri just under five years later. More than 1 million American service members were either killed or wounded from beginning to end. There is just no way to understand what that truly means unless you were part of it. I felt observing colors here was my way of respecting those who came before me wearing the same uniform I do.

Well come to find out, neither ship does colors. The Arizona memorial (above) always flies the ensign. A flagpole is affixed to part of Arizona's mangled mast. The Missouri staff (now US National Park Service), however, still hauls up and lowers the flag every day in unison w/ the active ships across the water in Pearl Harbor. So I went to go watch it.

You should have seen the looks I got walking up to the ship in my summer whites - the only person there at 7:50 a.m. Can you believe no one goes to see this happen?

The Missouri doesn't open for tours till 8 a.m., which would have been after colors. I explained my purpose to the pier guard, who radioed the topside guide and asked what they could do. The guide walked me to the fantail where his colleague handed me the flag and told me to raise it - something that hasn't happened on board by a military member in uniform in who knows how long...

I got so wrapped up in the moment of preparing, raising the flag and tying it off and rendering the sharpest of salutes, that I lost track of time. As the prep horns blew for first call to colors at 0755, Arizona would already have been hit. At 0800 the the national anthem begins. Everyone within earshot instinctively faces the flag, salutes if covered (wearing a military uniform w/ hat) and stands at attention until the end of the song. Three whistles will blow. By then an armor-piercing bomb would be headed toward Arizona. At 0810 the bomb would set off Arizona's forward battery, ripping the ship apart. At 8:05 a.m. I dropped my salute and the guide took a couple more photos of me standing by the flag - honored at what I was doing. 

In the time it took to do a military-wide morning routine, an entire fleet was bombed and more than a thousand men would die. There is no more humbling feeling or honor. I'd hoped to do colors at least one more time as it's generally done by junior enlisted folks. What an incredible experience.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Vapors

At some point, probably in a daydream, I thought about a morning like this.

Started off with a short call home, followed by a workout, two-mile run and breakfast. Not just any breakfast, but one I cooked right here in my suite - egg sandwich w/ pepper jack cheese, avocado and pico de gallo. Then I topped it off w/ local Kona coffee and a dab of Vermont maple syrup, fresh local fruit and cottage cheese. Got a call from my grandmother and chatted about life for an hour on my balcony.

During my run, I heard a Biz Markie classic and can't help but think - are you catching the vapors?

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Welcome Change

All things considered, and over the past insane year right through this past weekend and finally today - sans the Fat Burger of course...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

You Can't Always Get What You Want...

And you know the rest of the chorus to the song.

This is hardly the first time I've referenced these guys and possibly not the first time I've referenced this song. I guess the point is - I get it. I know what Jagger was thinking about when he wrote this little piece of genius. That's how life goes. We know what we want and we're heading toward it - that is until we realize we aren't getting it and end up getting what we need instead - usually unbeknown to ourselves.

And once again I'm reminded about the value of getting what you need and less what you thought you wanted. It's a good thing life has its way of making this happen for us. Otherwise, we might just be moving too fast in one direction to take in the things we truly need. Somewhere inside what is a disappointment or a shortcoming, there is truly an unforeseen value. I get it and I'm very thankful for that.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Racin' Jason: Life at Terminal Velocity

I got that name as a kid. Racin' Jason my uncles and aunts would call me. And if you know anything about me, you know I still uphold that title. While it used to cripple me as a kid, I've learned to harness it as an adult and focus most of it toward my goals.

My boss told me a few months ago he needed me moving at 90 mph and I was only doing 65. Imagine that - Jason Tross not going fast enough. I'm sure you're thinking what I was thinking then.

Well he'd be proud to know I far exceeded his (and my own) expectation by reaching terminal velocity through December and screaming into January and my time here and knocking out the toughest obstacles in groups of fives. But just as I figured, I'd have a hard stop at the wall when things simplified - and they're about to.

Being here and moving at this speed is putting forces on me I never anticipated, nor have I previously experienced in anything I've done. I'm reaching goals at record speeds and seeing instantaneous results. But then come the risks of being at terminal velocity - it's terminal right?

Imagine what a bug feels like at this speed. Then imagine how hitting anything feels. It's enough to kill you - let alone the ground that's screaming toward your face. It's now time to pull the chute and take in the ride. This won't be my last jump. I'm sure of that. If nothing else, I can feel confident that I can operate at this speed again later (which I'll likely have to) and I'll also be able to pull the chute in a moment's notice.

Lastly, it's the risk of the dives that keep people like me doing work like this. It's what I've wanted for so long. Now I'm finally here. Almost every year for the past five years, I've been at the Snowsports Industry of America (SIA) tradeshow hustling as fast as I could to make my mark on the ski and snowboard industry. These past two weeks while nearly everyone I know was doing the big show there and in Aspen at the ESPN Winter X-Games, I wasn't. And just as I presumed - I wouldn't rather be anywhere but here doing what I'm doing.

It's been one hell of a dive.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Motivating Motivational Statement

I was cruising around the interwebs looking for examples of successful motivational statements. Here's the best one I've found yet!

"I'm willing to play hurt and I like to blow things up. I like faster horses, older whiskey and younger women. I have a clean record when it comes to driving high performance cars in crappy conditions with little sleep. I know how to stick to my story when I screw the pooch. I don't screw over my buddy and will diligently resist screwing my buddy's wife. I think Ronald Reagan rocked and I can watch Animal House and Caddyshack repeatedly without getting bored. This is why I want to be a U.S. Naval Officer."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 - The Summary

Twenty-ten goes down as the best year of my life so far, slightly ahead of 2009 - which was the best year of my life exactly 365 days ago.

Of course that's really good news until you start thinking about the future. Scratch that. It gets a little scary when I think of today as the start of 2011. How am I going to make 2011 better than 2010?

It's not going to be easy - not that making 2010 a flabbergastingly surprising success was all that easy either. Taking a quick stroll through my blog entries over the past year, I'm still taken back considering I overcame what I did - especially in the fourth quarter.

I sat around today and watched/read interwebs stuff about great athletes and other very accomplished individuals. It only reinforced what I already know about achieving anything. It's not only "not easy," but it's absofuckinglutley grueling in most cases. The process of doing what it takes to make things successful is so much grimier and makes you so much more weary, exhausted and confused than I ever imagined.

That's what makes wins taste so sweet - I guess. Success always felt good, but in order to get really big successes you need to pour endless resources and failures into a bowl with glamorous and enviable ingredients in very careful portions to get it right. And that's before we put it in the oven. Lots of the success has to do w/ luck and trial and error. It also helps when you have good people help guide you. That's what I got in 2010. I had enough remaining talent and the best coaches in the world to help bring me to the majors. That's the biggest accomplishment of 2010. I'm finally eligible to play in the big leagues. Doesn't sound like such a big deal now does it?

Any of the great athletes and people I read about today always did one thing. They had killer numbers at the end of the year. More importantly, they had outstanding numbers when it mattered the most. I did that for the first time this year. I've always worked hard and done my job, but broadening my scope to see the entire field, division and league while learning how to interpret the intertwined web of action and reaction made the difference.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pretty Much Sums Up My Ski Season

As you know by now (or should know), I'm deploying to Cuba in about two weeks - therefore effectively forfeiting my ski season as it begins. I'll probably get in a total of ten days for the 2010-11 season.

That being said, I couldn't have asked for better conditions than what I got during my five-day trip last week with Lance Rottger, Eric Yates, Rory Clements and Blake Henderson. There are a lot of people I wish I'd seen or seen more of, but I'm in no position to complain.

For the last four seasons, Lance and I have traveled to Lake Tahoe together and never struck less than five feet of fresh snow during our time in there. Last week was no different as we scored about 10 feet of wet, then dry, then rain and finally that perfect snow I've come to love in California. It was so good I bought an extra day in town and got this footage on my new GoPro camera. What an awesome Christmas gift.

One Day in a Five-Day Season from jason tross on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Seven Weeks and Counting

If you hadn't already heard or guessed, Lindsay is pregnant. Seven weeks to be exact and this is what our little "bean" looks like - a mix between an alien and a tadpole but much cuter in that fetal sort of way.

Much like our first time at this, I'll be away for the better portion of Lindsay's pregnancy. Luckily we've both experienced some form of this process while being apart. It's terrifyingly exciting - just as the last few years leading up to this have been. This may be our third trip along this highway, but things are very different. This time they're different in a very good way.

The baby is due what appears to be a couple weeks before I get home from deployment in Cuba.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

T-Minus 20 Days Till Deployment

If you don't know already, I'm preparing for a six-month deployment to Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I report for duty January 15, 2011.

I've known about this for about six months now and have been making preparations accordingly. There are a lot of reasons to volunteer for this particular deployment and I could cover them for hours. If you really wanna know why I'm doing it - just give me a ring in the next two weeks. Better yet, hit me up while I'm down there. I'll be restricted to the base the entire time doing public affairs work so I oughtta have some time to write an email or two.

Despite being away from my family for six months (which sucks more than you know), I'm excited to do my job again. I'm a college graduate w/ plenty of experience doing more traditional public relations and public affairs. I think GITMO (as we call it) brings a lot of opportunity to both try something new and reintegrate into the Navy - which has been my plan for nearly a year now.

So let's meet up in the next two weeks if you live west of the Washington Cascades - preferably in the mountains.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Series Sweep

I forgot to follow up about what happened after I blew the first game of what was my first round of playoffs.

I decided to practice - twice as hard.

 The end result was a complete series sweep, having batted a thousand and put up numbers that far exceeded the requirements to win. I essentially did two entire semesters worth of college credit in a week. That's why you couldn't reach me.

And you probably won't be able to reach me any time soon either. This most recent playoff series was just the first. Now it's on to the quarter finals. With each series I complete, I have to up the ante and work that much harder to win. I'm not only out to win this, I'm out to destroy this!

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Talkin' Bout' Practice"

"Not the game..."

I guess that works for Allen Iverson. I wonder if he ditched practice time to catch up w/ friends and family. Probably not. He prolly just didn't feel like going.

"Hey Iverson, you've got one of the best jobs in the world and make an ass-ton of money. The least you can do is make practice dumb ass. Tell your mom you can't talk - and that goes for everyone else too. You have a job to do."

On that note, I skipped practice and blew the game today. Luckily this was the first game of the series. People don't know this, but they could be yelling the my Iverson rant right back at me. Actually they probably should but they likely won't have the chance. That's because I'll be at practice and games for the next two weeks.

So don't feel bad if I don't answer your call, email, voicemail, snailmail or the front door. Adios Facebook. I don't even have time to tell everyone not to take it personal. Just know that it's not.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Had No Idea

About two weeks into my most recent trip to Asia, flakes started flying around ski areas across the Northern Hemisphere. I, however, was too engulfed in shooting photos and doing Navy public affairs in Southeast Asia to notice.

I caught the occasional Facebook or Twitter update, but it never hit me really - until now.

Now that I'm home there's nothing here that even signifies the start of a ski season the way it has for me over the past seven or eight years. No company or person has sent me anything. There's no waiting for my skis to get here or haggling for my assignments for the year from a magazine.

No "free" skis. No "free" magazines, movies, outerwear, goggles, helmet, under layer, tuning, bindings, mountings, ski passes - no nothing. Matter of fact I'm still hassling to get paid for a story I did last January. Now what?

Conversely, I've checked the weather once so far and only at Government Camp on Mt. Hood, Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier and Steven's Pass. I know it's snowing in the mountains right now but I'm not remotely interested in risking my ankle, nor am I packing up my family and broken car to head for the snow. Hell, I don't even have a pair of fitting ski boots. What happened?

Monday, November 1, 2010


No matter how much I love about Cambodia, most Cambodian people people will never feel the same about me or the majority of people from my culture. We are human and do very human things. The local Khmers here in Phnom Penh and the foreigner visitors who frequent this place are not exempt. Their (including me now) relationship of tourist vs. local is really just a Khmer and Western version of any resort town across the globe.

My wallet is the only welcome guest here. My skin color makes me an outcast, thanks to the millions of people who've come here and exchanged money w/ the locals - who have in turn come to expect the equivalent of $100/day from any person who appears to be a foreigner. We're all dressed like Sana Claus to them and have simply come to expect we have a sack filled w/ those $100 bills.

This is a stereotype from both myself and the local merchants here in Phnom Penh. Crude and disrespectful Westerners are only matched in numbers by another set of Westerners who stubbornly insist they're "helping" when in fact they haven't the slightest understanding of what their actions will cause. Hence the anti-Western mentality here.

The vast majority of Khmer people here stubbornly insist I am both rich and obligated to pay more than double what they do for just about anything in this city. Part of me takes sympathy on their lifestyle and I want to donate money to help make their lives different. That's not what happens though. Once you donate, you are expected to give - it becomes your obligation.

I often relate to their situation having lived in a resort town as well. The people who visit and feel they bring something to your hometown are the same people who bring their indifference and attitudes and self-inflated views. The only difference is that we lived there by choice and our choice was so we could participate in recreation. Basically - we were voluntarily poor and living in substandard accommodations for the mountains. Yes. That's a very idealistic lifestyle.

Here the people can work their asses off and make the average wage for their area, kind of like me or Lindsay. We certainly don't make what most of our equally educated/experienced peers makes. We don't have the car or house we really want. All I have to do is press rewind and I'm living in a small apartment w/ no kitchen - just a room w/ a bedroom for my family and I w/ cars we cannot afford to keep running to the jobs we can hardly afford to keep and school we can only dream of attending. At that point I definitely looked at people who had good jobs and suitable living conditions and their shitty attitudes w/ resentment toward their sense of entitlement. I never lost that resentment and hope I never do. No one is promised anything - even Americans. I see those same people here at the Raffles. They are disgustingly content w/ what they consider to be suitable accommodations. In fact, this is the best hotel in Cambodia and essentially the Ritz-Carlton in NYC. No one I know will ever afford to stay there. And I have almost nothing in common w/ people who would stay there or here. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the U.S. Government.

The minimum wage here doesn't buy what it buys in our country. Even though I feel the ratios between living costs and income are very similar, the acceptable standard quality of life here is just far below our own. This is because of a vast social difference between our society and theirs. Smelling sewage here is acceptable. Living multiple people to a room is acceptable here. Riding two adults and two infants on a scooter bike (by the thousands) is acceptable. Pissing in the road is widely accepted. Corruption and bribery are accepted here. Hundreds dying on the roads everyday because traffic rules are both few and not enforced is accepted. As Americans and Westerners, we have a very difficult time accepting these and many other common norms here. Then we also accept being overpaid for our substandard work, being mass consumers, feeling entitled to healthcare, comforts and our ridiculous "hobbies" that cost enough to educate two generations of one Khmer family. Talk about inequality.

This is where my urge to give money to level the playing field comes back in. It doesn't level the playing field. It breeds more entitlement by people either begging or price gouging. This is the micro example and the U.S. is a perfect macro example.

I feel I understand a lot about the dynamic between locals and visitors here and am very empathetic to the Khmers. However, no matter how empathetic I am, I will never truly understand their perspective and they will never understand mine. That's because we're all human. All the things that make us great are what make us terrible and vice versa. It all depends where you're standing.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hillary and I

We're sharing a hotel and foreign country today. Pleasant surprise.

I'm very interested to learn about her experience at Angkor Wat yesterday vs. my visit last week. What did she think and what kind of affect has Cambodia truly had on her? How much does she know, or actually care, about Cambodia's history and culture. I'm definitely not making assumptions in any direction, but I'm just very curious what her thoughts and feelings are.

What a trip - I have breakfast w/ my boss and discuss a few intellectual topics, politics and my Naval career while the Secretary of State's staff and security detail choke down their breakfast for the next stop on Mrs. Clinton's schedule. This has been a very interesting morning at the Raffles in Phnom Penh.

One thing I can't seem to shake from my mind is wondering what both my (official) and Mrs. Clinton's true roles and affects are here? Why did our mutual boss send us to Cambodia?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Last Night

This is my last night in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. It's also likely my last assignment with the most incredible group of people I've ever worked with - in or out of the Navy. This is the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) group assigned to Commander Logistics Group Western Pacific in Singapore.

My first trip with this group was in Pattaya, Thailand last July. That essentially served as my reintegration to the Navy after both a disappointing departure from active duty and subsequent four-year hiatus. I resumed my Navy career simply to bring some much-needed stability and security to myself and my family. Being paid to travel around the world on someone else's dollar and shoot photos of people and culture was just the once-in-a-lifetime bonus. By the end of my first assignment with these folks (two-weeks in Pattaya) I'd done the most exciting and rewarding public affairs work I've ever done in my life and forged some of what would become my most cherished personal and professional relationships. I'd also come to the realization that the Navy and I were even. Then they sent me again this past June - this time to where I am now in Cambodia and then on to Singapore. The changes I've made as a result of my experiences, both personal and professional, have changed my life forever. That's no exaggeration. I fell in love with Southeast Asia (specifically Thailand and now Cambodia).

This most recent trip brought me back to the CARAT group again - this time in the Philippines. I'd never been there and experiencing both the work, the Navy and America's long and fascinating relationship w/ the people there and "living the life" just put things over the top. Then there's this trip.

Things have finally come full circle. When my boss here urged me to consider applying for a direct commission to public affairs officer last year I balked and thought he wasn't serious. Tonight we just finished a very good interview that will serve as the anchor of my application package. Wow. I never saw this coming in 1,000 years, but I'm so glad it happened.

This last night in Sihanoukville will end with a beer and a massage - the same way all of this unbelievably good change began 18 months ago in nearby Thailand.

 Of all the photos I took on all the trips out here with these folks, I never stopped to take a group photo. So far, that's my only regret.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Got Navy Photo of the Day!

Today was off to a borderline catastrophic start. Then I got photo of the day on

I've had this happen a few times - both photo of the day and having a shitty day. Until now, however, I never realized that as of right now and for the next 24 hours, my photo IS what's happening in the Navy right NOW. Everyone who hits that site (which is millions) are seeing my work.

Lastly, I almost didn't get that shot. The Cambodian officers were all attending opening ceremonies on USS Crommelin's flight deck. W/out any warning, they all bolted for the quarterdeck. I had to push like a running back through them to get ahead and across the brow where I didn't even stop to salute or ask for permission to go ashore. I think the officer of the deck was kind of unhappy about that. Needless to say, I got my shot and now my boss is happy - which means I'm happy.

I Got Navy Photo of the Day!

Today was off to a borderline catastrophic start. Then I got photo of the day on

I've had this happen a few times - both photo of the day and having a shitty day. Until now, however, I never realized that as of right now and for the next 24 hours, my photo IS what's happening in the Navy right NOW. Everyone who hits that site (which is millions) are seeing my work.

Lastly, I almost didn't get that shot. The Cambodian officers were all attending opening ceremonies on USS Crommelin's flight deck. W/out any warning, they all bolted for the quarterdeck. I had to push like a running back through them to get ahead and across the brow where I didn't even stop to salute or ask for permission to go ashore. I think the officer of the deck was kind of unhappy about that. Needless to say, I got my shot and now my boss is happy - which means I'm happy.

Shoot Me Down

Stop right now!

Stop and think about how fortunate you are and how good your life is and all the things you're working toward. Then think about how fast all of it can and will change. You and I both are more than well-equipped to fuck all of it up. As a matter of fact, we are all but exclusively responsible for all the "getting screwed" that happens to us. I'll admit it.

All the analogies to great athletes and overachievers won't work for this entry. That's because I can't think of a case where the Champ deliberately either hurt himself or risked a match by willingly giving up control of the match or forfeiting strategy and pragmatism. Did Jeter ever deliberately swing strikes on the first two pitches just to make the World Series that much more exciting? Did Jordan ever just hand the ball over to the other team - or better yet score a basket for them?

I did.

The video below is the only one I could find of a fantastic Lil' Wayne song about exactly what I'm thinking about right now. It's not much of a hip hop song so don't be scared by the artist. In fact, I think you'll probably hear what he's saying and relate yourself.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In the Raw: Angkor Wat Photos

These photos are as about as raw as they can be. I just didn't have time to edit - just wanted to get them out ASAP. The temple is currently undergoing a massive restoration after a couple Chinese and Korean companies attempted to restore it w/ sub-par materials. The result was almost immediate destruction as their cement alternatives turned acidic when it saw its first rain and there after. It's both a frustrating and disgusting situation. Luckily, there are some groups currently restoring what they can. Their work is going to be a very long and arduous process, but this marvel deserves nothing less.

I'll try to take some time over the next couple weeks to rework these into what they can be. In the meantime, enjoy them on my gallery site. Facebook just took too long.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Angkor Wat

I'm going through the 350 photos I shot in about four hours at the fabled Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia yesterday. The whole experience was intense - the travel was nearly as intense as the temple itself. Despite a healthy lack of sleep, a five-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, short-fused recall and an all-night ride back - I did the entire trip on just over one day.

As I'm editing the photos, this one stands out to me. Check out the dragon flies, they're everywhere. I'm actually surprised they came out on the photo. Anyhow - no more teasing. I'll keep plugging away and hope to have these up before we leave for Sihanoukville.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Good Company

I spent last evening drinking it blue - even though I knew it was only gonna get worse by the morning. That didn't lessen my motivation. By the time I turned in last night (around 1 a.m.) the storm was barely breaking ashore. We also expected it to keep moving at about 15 kmh.

Apparently our gender-neutral storm likes it here and has come to all but a complete hault while having tracked about 50 kilometers south of where we thought - putting Manila right under the eye and us catching some pretty serious wind/rain bands. The winds are still very strong. The gusts hitting right now as I type this are at least 50 mph if not more.

At this point we can pretty much count on having the storm around for another 8 hours or so. Until then, the Navy CARAT team is hunkering down (aka chillin' at the hotel beach bar).

Sunday, October 17, 2010


My boss while I'm out here on any of these trips, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mike Morley, is incredibly fit. He's far beyond the average 40-something, military member and/or exercise fanatic. He's a distance runner and overall fitness machine.

I'm definitely not - even though I not only want to be, but should be. I always think of how much better I felt when I was skiing 80+ days every year and hiking my ass off around the Sierras. I took my first step toward being there again this morning when the boss brought me out for my first CrossFit exercise.

Three quarters through it I was hanging over the side of the track we used - puking my brains out. Good times!! Let's see what happens tomorrow.

Transexual Storm

Here she comes! Typhoon Megi, as she is to the rest of the world, is Typhoon Juan here in the Philippines. According to the international weather stations, the Philippine weather services rename every storm that comes into their Area of Responsibility (AOR). After two weeks here, I'm not surprised at all.

Have no fear here in Olongapo. Even though this beach resort is literally on the water, we're not really expecting much as it's hitting about 150 miles north of us. Just based on my experience here so far of really shotty internet when it's at its best and a power grid based off designs more than a century old. I wish I had a photo to insert here. Even though this resort will weather the storm just fine, I'm still planning on losing power and my precious interweb. Boo hoo right? I could live on the north end of this island, most likely in poverty with an agricultural job (which most likely won't exist tomorrow) and a bamboo hut of a house that probably won't be there tomorrow either. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The War Photographer

To be completely honest, sometimes my job just doesn't seem as important as the other people I'm taking photos of or writing about.

 Here are these people (like Cmdr. Smith above) who are changing the lives of others. I'm here just taking photos of what it is they do. Imagine being the in the heat of battle w/out a weapon, but with a camera around your neck. It's not a pretty sight. The ones working and doing the fighting don't quite look at you the same - neither do most people for that matter.

All awkwardness aside, I went w/ some of the people I met here to the Bataan war memorial. If you aren't up on history, basically one of the biggest battles in the Pacific happened here - three times within about a three-year span! Many thousands of both Filipino and American Soldiers, Sailors and Marines died fighting here. The Japanese unsuccessfully invaded the first time, but shortly returned to finish the job - resulting in thousands of American and Filipino troops being tortured as POWs by the Japanese. The POWs were marched and tortured/murdered as they marched nearly 30 miles in six days w/ no food and water. They weren't even allowed to stop and relieve themselves - the literally had to piss and shit as they walked. Like I said - it was torture.

The US Navy w/ Admiral Nimitz and Army General McArthur led a MASSIVE attack some years later and took the country back at the Gulf of Leyette. How do we know? Here's how.

The combat photographers of WWII and every battle since made history their legacy. There's a museum inside this memorial - essentially downstairs. I wasn't allowed to take photos - ironically there were almost nothing but photos all around. At that point I realized if you took the military photographer and public affairs professional out of the room (i.e. remove all the photos and writing) you would have a bunch of old guns and uniforms w/ no information.

History is the legacy of the military photographer. Next time you see one - let them know you appreciate their work. As military members we do a lot of really good (and even bad) things for the world. Photography undeniably and exponentially amplifies the effect of our service members' work.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Need One of These

Seriously - this is how you get your free beer inside the Delta SkyLounge at the Tokyo Airport. Trip officially off to a fantastic start.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"The Saga of Our Lifetime"

I truly hope I get to see the Araneta Coliseum some time next week. Of the many things to take place there over the past 40-or-so years, it's the greatest fight of the 20th century that draws me in - enough to wanna stand right where it happened.

Fascinating isn't it - how we take something so ugly, violent and brutal and romanticize it till it becomes something of beauty? That's because on some level we can relate. None of us will ever be what either of the two men in this movie were and that's what makes it so romantic. If neither one of these guys spent years training far beyond what any of us is willing to do, there would have been a one-round knockout in Manila, not a Thrilla. Hell, maybe neither would have shown up. Not to mention, any one of us could have fought instead.

Think about how dramatic of a show it would have been had Ali or Frazier walked out and knocked out or even worse, killed, the other one in just a few rounds. It would be even more romantic. This one was ugly and Ali had to do whatever it took to win. In this case it was to lean on the ropes and score points while holding on to go nearly the distance. I hardly think Ali intended for this fight to end the way it did when he was training. He took what he got and he was damn happy w/ what he got.

You can prepare all you want for the fight you're expecting to have, and in some cases your opponent isn't much of a challenge and the surprises are at a minimum - if any at all. You can call the round or point to the outfield. Then there's the Fraziers of the world and even though they lose, they don't lose enough to be predictable. It's the Fraziers that make you happy you win - no matter if it was how you wanted it. It's the winner who did whatever it took and did it better.

There is no Frazier and no Ali in our day-to-day lives. There is no glorious match where one is victorious forever. It's a series of incredible matches and you won't be around for the winning announcement. There is a life-long battle between you and your greatest opponent - yourself. The fight isn't pretty and it's hardly entertaining enough watch, but it's brutal all the same. Not just wanting to, but actually getting in the ring and fighting w/ everything is the process of success. If you aren't willing to get pounded on, don't get in the ring.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wetting the Tongue

My classes are registered and I am now officially beginning the ending of my undergraduate degree. I can't help but begin to reflect on my experience. Simply put, I didn't get what I wanted out of it. A lot of that is because I didn't have what I wanted to give. That's an old formula. However, I didn't expect to get what I did.

I had an interesting thought about and idea I came up w/ a few months ago.

As you probably know - I had the incredible experience of actively visiting Cambodia this summer. My primary job was to shoot photos at various assignments, many of which were at orphanages.

One of two women who ran one of these particular orphanage explained her frustration at how they put all this effort and energy into each one of these kids, only to have their parents come back and bring them to the horrible conditions they came from just a few months before.

I told her what she'd done wasn't in vain. Simply introducing the kids to a better life and allowing them to experience it could be just enough to give them the idea of wanting to achieve more. The same could be said for my education.

I will be thirsty for knowledge the rest of my life, thanks to the quality of what little I got. It was actually a ton now that I look back - using that education of course. My college experience was not what I expected, but couldn't have been more useful for the rest of my life.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hello S95

Yeah - so I got one.

It was time to move on from my beloved G10 for a myriad of reasons. The biggest was being able to fit this camera into my pocket. It also retains all the manual functions of the G10 and an SLR. Needless to say I'm a happy camper - but I said it anyway.

This recent upgrade definitely marks the re-invigoration of my interest/passion in photography. Thanks in no small part to Bill Stevenson. I can't even begin to describe how fortunate I feel to be studying under his guidance for this last semester of my undergraduate degree.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Another Promise

I should have stuck this landing and there's one simple reason I didn't. I'm not strong enough. And that doesn't necessarily mean muscle strength, although that is a major part of the equation.

"The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights." - Muhammad Ali

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mike and Bill

Today was was exceptionally interesting on many fronts. First was being able to time a day w/ Lance, who I don't get to see much when the snow isn't flying. He recently completed rehab after surgery on his torn left rotator cuff in time to have his right rotator cuff operated on Tuesday. These surgeries are about four or five years in the making. It's about time. No less, it was great to sit around and geek out on camera stuff all day w/ a good buddy and someone at the same relative skill level as me.

Aside from spending time w/ a good friend, it was the people I met today and their stories that astounded me.

Waiting in line for the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston, I was hoping to use my 90-minute wait time to screw around w/ time lapses on the G10 - which I finally got back from Canon and fully refurbished. Instead, a man wearing a "US Navy Retired" hat stepped out of the van parked in line ahead of me and walked toward me - clearly looking at the base stickers on my windshield. I unintentionally made eye contact w/ him and he came over to talk. First thing I noticed, aside from his hat, was the revolver on his hip.

My first thought was a question about why he felt he wanted it to be so obviously visible. Afterall, he was clearly on some kind of vacation camping trip. I was thrown for a loop by his British Columbia license plates - even more so after he boldly identified himself as a good "Rush-loving" conservative. Why the gun in the holster? Why be so outward w/ constant references to Ronald Reagan and wear your active duty US Navy rank (lieutenant commander gold leaf) on your hat if you're not even living in the US anymore?

It got only more odd as I conversed.

"I've got my 16-year-old daughter with me and we're on a camping trip to Port Angeles," he casually said - although it was clear that was just a segway to something else. I figured he just wanted to talk about his kids and that's just what he did.

"It's been a hell of a week. My 14-year-old-son just took his own life last week," he said.

Imagine sitting in your hippied-out 1980 VW Westfalia van, hoping it won't catch on fire in the hot weather and completely consumed w/ something so benign as making time lapses and then you have this guy standing at your window. As different as we were, we had that one thing in common. His hat said it all.

He went on to tell me how he adopted his son from Russia. The boy was a multiple amputee who seemed to have trouble fitting in. Internet bullying came into play and from what Mike says, it came from the girls his age. Yep, it was via Facebook.

He never mentioned the kid's name, but talked about how the kids who may have harassed his son rallied around him after death - to the tune of more than 400. It was really something to see how social media contributed to this kid's death and than helped make his death easier to deal w/ for his friends and family.

The kid had a recent surgery and was prescribed Oxycodone (Oxycotton) during the recovery. He says the boy stashed the pills and didn't take them as prescribed, but took many of them at the same time, causing an overdose. He also shot himself.

Mike bought him a 22-caliber gun and took him to the range some weeks before the suicide. He talked about how he tried to count the brass (shells) on the range, but never found them all. It's tough to account for them all as they're bouncing all over the place. But according to Mike, his son stashed one round for his new gun they used at the range that day. It was the same bullet he used to take his own life later.

Mike wanted to talk about two things today - being a conservative and his son's death. I don't know why he wanted to talk to me about either of them. In both cases, and any other instance, sometimes people just want to talk to someone. And those base stickers on my van told Mike I was someone who could listen and help him out.

I don't know what to think of it really. It's just something to think about I guess. The military really is a fraternity. For the better or worse, it will always be there for us.

The next person I met was Bill. I was setting up my time lapse off the fantail of the ferry when he became obviously curious what I was doing w/ a laptop and a small camera on a tripod. We started chatting.

He too was on his way to Port Angeles. He and his wife recently moved there from Key West after selling his fly fishing guide service. I don't know why, but he wanted to talk to me. He wanted me to listen. He told me about life in Key West using a fly rod for game fish. It was remarkable. As we talked he told me he too used to work in the ski industry - as the head of marketing for the Aspen Ski Company. What a small world.

Bill was very pleased w/ his professional accomplishments. In addition to his accomplishments in the ski world, he owned a fly fishing shop near Aspen that seemingly did well. He sold his company to Aspen for a lot of money and used that to pursue his dream in Key West. After he and his wife got sick of it there, they found their way to Port Angeles - from a direction sign in Key West no less.

Just as they settled into life in Port Angeles over this past year things got complicated. Bill and his wife were returning from a trip this week to Harborview. She's got cancer. I don't know why but Bill wanted to tell me about it. All I wanted to do was shoot time lapses. We just had something in common - skiing and fly fishing. Maybe it was being men. I don't know.

Bill and Mike are two VERY different people. They likely wouldn't get along. I can't even pin down why except they are much too different. They saw some kind of commonality in me. Why?

I'm in the gray of a very black-and-white world. I don't identify with any group. The people who know me in the action sports world think I'm great at being in the military and the military folks think I'm Mr. Action Sports. Truth is that I'm neither. Let's not forget about the people who don't know anything about either of those two very endemic worlds - they seem to think I'm the best at both or more. For as painful as that really is for me it's a good place to be.

I don't suppose there's any great point to get out of a day like today. Today was just another day and Bill and Mike are just everyday people - and so are all of you.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Ten Crack Commandments

 Aaaah yes - thanks again Biggie Smalls. You gave us the Ten Crack Commandments. If you're not a hip-hop fan or just too damn young to know about it, this song is how the late Notorious BIG explained how to be a master at crack sales - right here in our own white suburban neighborhoods. Oh wait, he was talking about the ghetto. I digress.

 Well I took a class by Darby Cavin at Grays Harbor Community College a few summers ago. In it, he laid out at least ten (if not more) fallacies. These are the rules to make you a master at seeing truth and presenting sound information. And in the tradition of Biggies Smalls and his Ten Crack Commandments, I give you the fallacies. You can click on each of them and be redirected to a site that goes into great detail.

"Master these and you'll have mad bread to break," is what Biggie says. But I say you'll see through a lot of the bullshit that's being fed to you on a daily basis. Your vote and your dollar are wanted by someone who is most likely using these fallacies to get them. Sadly it works and we give up so easily.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Today's 21-Gun Salute

It was for Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Jarod Newlove.

I'm not gonna go into too much detail, but suffice to say today is by and large the most intense event I've covered to date.

This person was killed in Afghanistan while serving in Afghanistan - he was a member of my unit in Everett. This is the closest the death of war has ever come to me. I hope it never happens again.

I took a lot more photos, but I'm sharing them w/ the unit and family first.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Navy Photographer

The military photographer is so underrated and really only gets due credit from within our community.

My good friend Chris Mobley is easily the most talented Navy photographer I know. And on the eve of yet another photo shoot for me, I aspire to shoot more like him and some of the other incredible photographers I have the honor of working with.

Here are some of my favorite photos ever!

Chris is currently deployed to Afghanistan and had the opportunity to shoot a group of young Afghan women being trained as police officers. I could go on about the story and its relevance, but you can read all about it by clicking here in one of the rare instances our photos gets its due usage.

No, the military photographer is not an infantryman or fighter pilot. Their job is to shoot guns in combat while the photographer is armed with a camera. Telling the story of war, and telling it well, is so much important than it seems. Without these stories - no history can be told. Next time you come across one of these incredibly talented artists, thank them for bringing their talent and service to the country.

Please pass these on Facebook by checking out the photos (and photographer) here.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Grass is Greener

There's a reason they call them "Greeners."

Where did you go to college? I'm approaching the end of my undergraduate education at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

No traditional grading policy, no traditional classes, no traditional foods, few traditional social practices (aside from attending a college), no football team, a geoduck for a mascot, lots of people in bare feet, so many people eating vegetarian garlic-heavy foods the school implemented a no-odor policy, independent learning contracts (where we study what we want), few class prerequisites and even fewer right-wing conservatives - Evergreen is packed w/ the unique for lack of a better term. Instead - these people are called Greeners.

I wanna find out exactly what that means - although I have a few pretty good ideas on what it is.  I guess being a Greener is what you are while you're in the process of learning at The Evergreen State College and/or how you think afterward. I often feel it just means wanting to be different and that you either attend, attended or are perceived that you would fit in here. Rather than discuss the effects of Buddhism on Western psychological therapy and its common practices (which is the subject of this class) we got sidetracked. There's a lot to analyze and discuss about the effects of Buddhist belief and its practice relative to Western psychology.

But somehow we're talking about being a Greener and doing all things greener - protesting, questioning social norms, being what they call liberal or progressive and of course fighting for peace. It's been a great opportunity for me to challenge a large group of Greeners on why they do what it is they do when so much of it, especially diffusing their energy, drives me freakin' nuts. We also ended up discussing ways to make a difference in what we believe in.

That seemed to be the concurrent theme - change. I think for some reason most people here either want to change themselves or the world around them. Well there - I may have just driven the first stake through all Greeners - including me.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rekindle: Beating Reader's Block

We've all heard, and likely experienced, writer's block - but what about when you just can't stand to read? The flame went about 25 years ago for me and books.

 I used to love reading at least large portions of novels and various non-fiction books if  I didn't read the whole thing. However, by the time I reached high school, I just didn't have the attention span or interest in sitting down to read. I could spend four hours writing, but not four minutes reading anything beyond periodicals and prescribed readings I couldn't skim my way through.

That finally changed when I finished Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins today. My boss recommended it just before I left for Cambodia last month. That should tell you how long I've been reading it. Despite the amount of editing I've done over the past ten years, I'm still not a very fast reader. It's the writing that seems to come fast.

 This really is a big deal for me. Unlike the last book I finished nearly two years ago, I'm ready to hit another one. I might even start tonight. For anyone who knows me, that's indeed a pretty big deal.

Yes. Completing this book is a direct result of having the e-reader app on my iPhone and computer. I've had that (e)book everywhere I go and I can pull it out of my pocket w/out having to carry around a paperback. Now, I'll concede there's something very nice about reading things in print (mostly being able to tell how far along I am), but the convenience factor w/ my phone and computer was key.

Thanks Kindle and Amazon. Now I need start e-checking out books from the new Timberland Library. I wonder what Confessions of an Economic Hit Man author John Perkins would think about what Amazon and Apple, two massive international corporations, have done for me?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

35/133 and Why

It's about time I take the whiteness test. The list keeps growing and further identifying a lot of the population most people I know would love to avoid - even though we apparently share a lot of similarities. So here's the list as it stands and my determination of just how white I truly am.

Why wouldn't you wanna go camping?
Let's be honest kids. Ed Hardy is about as ridiculous as it gets. The art is isn't cool and neither is paying hundreds for any shirt. Dumb, dumb, dumb... Oh yeah, I've only met one person wearing Ed Hardy who wasn't a douche - and that's because he didn't know what Ed Hardy was. Lucky son of a bitch.

This falls under themed parties as being cooler than sitting around and getting wasted while doing nothing. I am indeed a fan.
I think this one ought to be taken off the list - it's soo Election 2008. Honestly, yuppie white people actually don't like America. That's why they threaten to move to Canadia. I, on the otherhand, do have a profound appreciation for America.
Yes I do - and in massive quantities. It's like ranch dip that tastes better and doesn't make you quite as fat. Oh yeah, did you know it has GARLIC? Eat enough of the stuff w/out deodorant and you'll smell like one of the kids at Evergreen. Hell yeah!
The Onion is the closest thing to the now web-based only Weekly World News Magazine. I don't think it's even the real staff running the website. But I loved those magazines!! Funniest shit you could read. I even used some of it as dummy text and headline examples in my military editors course a few years ago. I think all the would-be Weekly World News contributors are now working for the Onion - which is now about as good as it gets.
Capt. Obvious says I like FB. And while we're on the subject, I DON'T WANNA PLAY YOUR STUPID GAMES!!
Apparently I am infatuated with these things. I've literally done 1.5 total years of PAID internship - that is of course ME paying to work. It's a great deal because in most cases it's really just a resume bullet so a magazine can get free talent while I pay about $2500/semester to work for them. I actually loathe unpaid internships, but they're a must if you ever want a real job.
Don't fuck w/ me about my sweaters. But if you do you definitely won't be the first.

Busted. I'm that guy who is riding your ass to read your bumper stickers. I like reading them. I saw one on a Ford Explorer the other day that read, "Thank God Ford doesn't make airplanes." See, you like bumper stickers too.
I loathe poor grammar. I even celebrated National Grammar Day this year. It's also helpful for keeping me out of trouble at work.
We is po. Nuff said.
This is actually my favorite West Coast City. It's a real city with a real identity. I just can't take their sports teams very seriously - there or Oakland. How can they have such a high concentration of sports teams w/ no legit fans? This makes no sense to me.
This is endemic to white people? I thought the cotton t-shirt was pretty common across the board. Nonetheless, I love t-shirts.
Killer MC doing his own thing. Not a lot of that in hip hop or really any other music genre for that matter.
Even if they're gonna put your recyclables in the dump, it's not really that big of a deal to separate your trash is it? I mean - just in case that whole trashing the earth is a legitimate theory.
I use it if it works. That makes sense.
I wholeheartedly agree. That body of water must be either the ocean or some inlet from a major body of water from an ocean - preferably not the Gulf of Mexico.
Do you mean like making a list of 133 things the majority of people in America like? Yeah, I do like it.
These are are also pretty good ideas. I'm not the biggest fan of co-ops being you have to pay into them and you don't really get things that much cheaper. Whole foods is freakin' awesome, but way overpriced. Why didn't they add Trader Joe's to this list? I'd be a liker of that too.
I come and go on this one. It's still really subjective and mostly comes in waves of really damn good or terrible in an effort to not sound like anything else, including anything good.
Don't have this battle w/ me. You can bring up the iPhone 4, but I don't own one and I'd be sure to have one of the functioning ones if I did. Every time I open up my MacBook Pro, it works. I don't get spyware or adware. I don't get viruses. Did I mention all my Apple products work?
Even Lindsay's iBook G3 circa 2001 is still plugging away for one of our good friends. Macs are essentially the Hondas of computers. And just like Honda, they look cool now too. And just like Honda, they had a couple shitty models. But I wouldn't expect Apple to leave things that way for long. They like their profits too much.
Always better than cable - no advertisements. I love the idea of people paying for cable to watch advertisements, bad shows and movies you could have Netflixed w/out having it hacked and sanitized to fit between a two-hour commercial slot. Not to mention, how else would Hannah know to make her daddy act as The French Chef Julia Child if her parents hadn't had Netflix and ordered every single episode of the show?
I love sarcasm. Therefore I love both these shows. It could be that whole irony thing too.
"HAY! What if the moon were made of barbecue spare ribs, would you eat it then?"

Anytime anyone mentions Wrigley Field I think about WGN-9, Harry Caray and the Cubs. I don't actually remember routing for either the Cubs or the Braves, but teams were always on. And all that ivy on the outfield wall - who doesn't like that? Yankee Stadium is gone, Fenway's on the chopping block and then it's Wrigley. Wrigley is a huge part of baseball w/ a tremendous amount of history.
Sans Brooklyn. I don't wanna live in Brooklyn. Why would you wanna live there? Manhattan has always been cool - only now it's just that much whiter. All of NYC was less white in the 80s. I can seriously remember my mom not letting us sit down on the subways because of the wet spray paint. Don't get me wrong, I loved it then too. Isn't it better now that a lot of white people like it though? Thanks Rudy, Hannah got to ride all the way to the Bronx at 9 p.m. this past February on the nice subways. And get this - our family was the only white people on that nice subway. The Bronx are next on this list and we'll be able to claim FIRST!
Yep. The beer in Asia just didn't cut it. It's like all the domestics in this country. It tastes the same - bad. Although, Angkor Brewery in Cambodia has a killer Stout. Does that count as a microbrewery?
The only reason us white folks like to travel so much is because we're rich and full of opportunity. Plus, there's nothing like experiencing the ineptitude of other lesser people.
I try.
It really is a good idea. I'm still wondering if it's worth the price and how "organic" it really is.
Not to be confused w/ flea markets - which are still kinda cool in their own right. I like farmer's markets that have shit I want, not soap that doesn't work, candles I can make at home or beef jerkey that tastes just like beef jerkey and homemade salsa that tastes just like salsa only cost more.
Live and die by this.