Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Short Film from Afghanistan

My nephew Jason came to visit us in Atlanta this week while on a 30-day leave following his 7-month tour in Afghanistan. He took some excellent photos over there, and shot some video that I've watched several times. It gives me chills every time I see it.

In the shots where you see three machine gunners returning fire, Jason is the Marine in the middle of the three. You can identify him by the white rectangular object strapped to the left side of his helmet. (Jason, that had better be a bar of soap and not a pack of cigarettes!)

Click here to watch the video posted on YouTube.

Also, you can vote on a small subset of Jason's photos that were entered into an international photography competition at this link. Just click on the stars in the upper-right hand corner of the page to cast your vote.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Drive Down Memory Lane

I took a road trip to Charlotte this weekend to see Chris, one of my two oldest friends. Here we are yesterday:

And here we are 30 years ago:

It is pretty hard to believe that it's been over three decades since the two of us, along with our friend Missy, were a trio of inseparable high school girls.

What is even harder to believe is that Chris's eldest son is 24, and she and her husband are celebrating twenty five years of marriage this year. Of all the couples I know, Chris and John are one of the happiest. You should see them together—they are best friends. They laugh a lot, which I think is the glue that holds a marriage together.

I fell in love with their cocker spaniel, Molly. This was my first time meeting her. She served as the welcoming committee. She was so excited to meet me that her little squiggly butt nearly peed on me. She's little Miss Social, kind of like my Baby.

It's funny, John thought that since I'm a "cat person," I wouldn't care too much for a dog. Are you kidding me?! I love puppy dogs. I'm just too busy moving to actually have one. Cats are much easier to keep at home when you live in an apartment, and I'm not too thrilled about the thought of walking a dog (rain or shine) every morning at oh-dark-thirty no matter what kind of mood I'm in. Besides, a dog needs a yard. High-rise apartment buildings just don't seem suitable for puppy dogs.

Anyway, I had a great time with Chris and her family. The drive was only four hours. It was 90 degrees and cloudless today, so I had the top down for the entire trip home (with literally four layers of sun screen on my face - SPF 15, 70, 25, and 30). I was slathering the 45 on my arms on the interstate.

It was weird driving down Independence Boulevard in Charlotte on my way to Chris's house. I lived in that city for nearly 10 years, back in the 80's. First I passed the old Charlotte Coliseum, now called "Bojangles Coliseum," which sounds so cheesy. I was delivering a pizza nearby there in 1985 or 86 when I was robbed.

Then I passed Briarcreek Road, where I had an apartment when Hurricane Hugo hit us (200 miles inland) on September 22, 1989, making most streets impassable and knocking out my power for five days. I'd been out drinking with friends the night before; I came home, put in my ear plugs, and slept through the massive Category 3 storm.

Then I passed the infamous Sharon Amity Road, where I was hit by a truck in my VW Rabbit while delivering a pizza late at night. That was September 22, 1985. I don't recall that event or most of the decade surrounding it.

I drove by a car dealership where I'd purchased one of the 17 different cars I've owned in my life (most of those in Charlotte).

I also passed by the newer office complex where Microsoft Product Support Services is now located, not far from the old location on Tyvola Road where I serendipitously started my computer career in 1991.

It was surreal to be back in Charlotte all these years later. And then to hear the stories from Chris about those days—because she remembers stuff that I'll never be able to recall—like my hiring her husband to be a driver at a Picaso's Pizza store I ran back in the day.... And all the other great stories about how she met John while she was still in college and engaged to another guy. Apparently I played a role in the plot to tell her parents of her dilemma at the time. I honestly don't recall any of that because it all happened in the month of my accident.

We laughed so much this weekend that my stomach hurt. I love Chris. There is just nothing in this world like an old, best friend. And even though we've seen each other only every few years since the old days, every time we get together it is as though no time has passed at all.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Happy Times in my New City

Moving to Atlanta has turned out to be a really good thing for me. After nearly five decades of living, I've finally found out what makes it all worthwhile. Yes, the secret to happiness is this: owning a convertible. Not just a convertible, but a convertible in a nice, sunny warm climate.

For years I've hated driving a car. That's because most cities I've lived in suffersfrom relentless gridlock, especially Seattle, NY and D.C. In fact, I dreaded moving out of NYC to a place where I had to own a car. I just didn't want to deal with it.

Of course, it would have been prudent of me to buy another hybrid—a nice, eco-friendly, squarish vehicle that makes 40 miles to the gallon and comfortably seats four people.

Blech. I'm so glad I didn't go that route. I love my convertible. Now I know what BMW marketers mean by the "ultimate driving experience." I actually look forward to getting in my car. Plus, it's really hard to get pissed off at idiot drivers when you're sitting back in the fresh air, the wind whipping your hair about your face, and the sun warming your skin.

The really funny thing is that, for the first time in years, truck drivers toot their horns at me. I can't help but have fun with that. (I'm competing with my 83-year-old Aunt Geraldine for the most toots in one road trip and, so far, we're still tied at three.)

Besides having so much fun driving, it's been great being close to family. My social life has improved by about a thousand percent. A week ago, my neighbor Lisa and I discovered a wonderful female pop rock singer who ranks right up there with Norah Jones (if you ask me). Samantha Murphy opened for the Chapin Sisters at the Red Light Cafe in the Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta. We enjoyed music so much that Lisa & I each bought Samantha's CD, Somewhere Between Starving and Stardom, and I haven't been able to stop playing it my car ever since.

The next day, I met up with my family at the Art in the Park Festival in Marietta. We really enjoyed the show, and everyone was in a good mood there because of the gorgeous weather. It was a cloudless, low-humidity, breezy, perfect day. My nieces got their faces painted while the rest of us perused the artists' booths. After that we had another fabulous home-cooked meal at my mom's.

Then today I attended the big annual Yellow Daisy Festival at Stone Mountain—a world-class art show featuring over 300 artisans, a live band (the Gwen Hughes group was pretty good!), plenty of sunshine and food.

Tomorrow a friend of mine from Tails High (a cat rescue group in Alexandria, VA) will be in town, and I've got dinner plans with her. That's another plus about Atlanta - it's a major travel hub, so you can get to just about anywhere in the world from here.

Next week I've got an ISSA conference, and the week after that is the international HTCIA conference. I am so lucky that all the good conferences are in Atlanta this year.

Busy, busy, busy! I am really having a good time and meeting lots of neat people here.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Real-life Video of Life at Camp Bastion

My sister-in-law Jacqui, the Navy doctor, forwarded an email to us this week that was passed around to folks who gave their time to help injured soldiers (and locals) at Camp Bastion hospital in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The email contained a link to a recruiting video made in April 2010 for the British Army Medical Services in an effort to recruit non-military medical professionals to do a six-week stint at Bastion.

Jacqui, a radiologist, is featured early in the 14-minute clip, working in an operating room where a young soldier is being treated for a gaping wound in his lower back and shrapnel embedded in his buttocks. She is also shown at the end of the video examining the CT scans of a patient who miraculously survived a bullet to the brain.

Director and cameraman David Varley had this to say about his film:
I filmed some traumatic situations, leg amputations, brain operations, IED (improvised explosive device) victims, both soldiers and civilians, I managed to film the medics through their eyes rather than focusing on the patients. I think what interested me the most was how they coped with the environment, what got them through?, the answer, team work, friendship, camaraderie and a serious dose of black humour, never directed at patients of course, but generally at each other.
We managed to capture the medics at work, rest and play giving a memorable recruitment film that directly targeted NHS professionals.
- from

The short video might move you to tears, as it is exemplifies how ordinary people brought together under the extreme circumstances of real war can do amazing things that save lives.

Stills included here are credited to David Varley, Managing Director, ONFilm Group and ( and 1st4film.