Corporate Big Brother

Hey, what’s going on here is way above my pay grade (retired fogy, third class) and, unfortunately, a tad above my ability to grasp.  But, I know it is happening.  There are corporations out there that want ALL of your business and they are competing for it.  I’m talking about Amazon and Verizon and Apple and Walmart.  Amazon will soon be working on something they will call “Amazon Super Duper Prime.”  It’s when you give them all your money and then when you need something, they send it to you with free two-day shipping.  I can’t imagine how Walmart will respond.

It’s this technology thing.  I think they are all planning on being able to adjust the temperature in my house, set my alarm and turn my lights off.  It’s just who can get  there first.  I’m betting on Apple.  Anybody who can sell watches that are so tiny you can’t read what they say is a skilled sales company.  They will probably make a fortune selling Apple magnifying glasses.

The company that scares me is Amazon.  I like Amazon, but I think they are like Big Brother watching over me.  My daughter, Missy, gave me a Kindle and I learned how to purchase books on line.  It really worked well because the Kindle was registered to my grandson, Tyler.  So whenever I ordered anything, he got the bill!  If  I ordered a Western novel, then Amazon would inundate me with emails hyping Western books I might want to buy.  How about a saddle and some chaps?

If you buy hard bound books from Amazon, you can buy new or used books.  I thought that was interesting.  They say the used books are in excellent condition.  I haven’t tried it.  Later, I had to buy some risers to sit our TV’s on and, again, we were inundated with emails offering me all kinds of TV gadgets.  Then I needed some doggy waste bags.  Until  we moved, we always had plastic newspaper bags, but after moving, no bags.  I went on line, not to buy, but to see what Amazon had.  They had lots of doggy waste bags.  Different sizes, different colors.  They even had eco friendly poopy bags.  But here is where it gets weird.  Like with the books, they had new and used bags for sale.  I decided to stop right there.

Now I didn’t buy anything.  I just looked.  But Big Brother Amazon had figured out I had a dog.  Here comes the emails.  Did I need a doggy crate?  How about a doggy door or a doggy door bell?  The doggy rings the door bell to let you know she wants to go out.  If your dog is old, we have a safety ramp for you.

Did you know you could get a dog identification tag in the shape of a bone that lets everyone know you are a Green Bay Packer fan?  Or, any other fan.  If you were a Chicago Blackhawk or Washington Redskin fan, your doggy’s ID will have the face of an indian on it.  That’s a heavy load for a little doggy to be wearing around her neck.  She probably doesn’t know she is being racially insensitive.  Or, is she just a fan?

Getting back to the real issue of global control of our money, I’m afraid the die is cast.  I think each of these mega corporations will have their own colored tee shirts which will clearly identify us as an Amazonian or Applebyte.  We will probably have to wear a medallion around our neck.  I’m going to go with the company that lets me keep my lights on longest.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2015

They Bill, I Pay – Verizon

Life is good.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to obtain services from mega-big corporations.  And that can lead to struggles.  Verizon is an example of one of those mega-big corporations.  I like Verizon, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t carried on pitched battles with their billing department.

You know you are dealing with a mega-big when they have you punch a number on the phone to get to Billing and Payments.  Most of the problems occur when you change your plan.  I walked into a Verizon store to ask questions about my IPhone.  While I was waiting, another Verizon representative came over and asked for my phone number (at that time, we had TV, internet, and our phones with Verizon).  He then came back with an offer that would give me more and better service for less dinero!  It had something to do with being a loyal customer.  I took the deal and three days later, my HBO was cut off!

I had this guys first name but it seems that Verizon has more than one employee named John.  No one knew my John, but when I wrote my signature on his screen with my finger, it turned out I was agreeing to buy HBO separately.  After a few hours of fitful discussion, I was given HBO at a much reduced price (for one year).

Nowhere in the FIOS advertisements do they explain they are going to dig up your front yard.  You are a signed, sealed and delivered FIOS customer before the back hoe shows up.

So I have been reasonably pleased with Verizon and FIOS.  Sometimes a router goes kaput or a cable box won’t do what a cable box is supposed to do.  But in those cases, in two or three days a replacement item shows up on an UPS truck.  The instructions for hooking up the item are detailed and Verizon provides a box and label to return the broken item.  There is also a warning that if you don’t return the broken item, they are going to charge you big time.  The first time I returned one, the UPS agent admonished me to hang on to the receipt, just in case.

Well, as I mentioned to you earlier, we sold our home and moved to The Fairfax, a gated military retirement community.  What I didn’t mention was that The Fairfax only has one cable provider and it ain’t Verizon.  We are now part of the Cox family (The jury is still out).  We were able to keep our Verizon internet and phones, but that was it.  When I notified Verizon, they sent me boxes so that I could return one router, one DVR and three cable boxes.  I packed everything and took the boxes to UPS on the packing day of the move.  I got a receipt, but wasn’t real sure where I put it.

Two weeks after our move, we flew to Colorado Springs for our annual reunion with the Retired Army Judge Advocates (RAJA) Association.  It was an opportunity to see old friends, like Del and Jane O’Roark and forget about all the boxes waiting for us to empty.  While reviewing my email, I received a notice from Verizon telling me they had not yet received the stuff I returned and if I didn’t ship it back within 30 days, they would charge me $240 for each item.  I knew I had the receipt, but sinceI was in Colorado Springs, I couldn’t even look for it.  So much for a relaxing trip.

When I got home I found the receipt.  It was smaller than I remembered and I had put it in a small black notebook (which I had with me on the trip)!  I called Verizon and talked to Cindy who advised me that they had received everything that I had shipped.  In fact, that had received everything before they sent me the email.  Left hand, right hand, blah, blah, blah.  She was very sorry.  Then Cindy noticed Verizon had charged me $100 for a bundle early termination fee and $25 for an activation fee.  She took those items off of my bill and thanked me for being a loyal Verizon customer.  So much for June’s bill.  I wish the story ended there.

I have now received July’s bill and Verizon has charged me $720 extra for not returning three items (they didn’t tell me which three).  I was bemused, but annoyed.  I know I won’t have to pay the $720, but it’s the aggravation.  Plus, this months taxes and a number of other items are based upon a percentage of the total bill.  I talked to Valerie and she apologized.  Left hand, right hand again.  As we were speaking, she advised me that the $720 had been removed from the bill.  I then tried to explain the taxes, etc.  It was a lost cause.  She told me to pay the bill less the $720 and that Billing would sort it all out.  You bet.

I can’t wait to see my next bill.  I suspect they will charge me interest for not paying the $720.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2015

A Little of This and A Little of That

You know the blogs I have written are divided into categories.  I have “My Military Daze,”  “Poems,”  “Political Thoughts,” and “Golf Daze” and lots of other categories.   But it shouldn’t surprise you that the largest category is “Random Thoughts.”  I spend a lot of time each day on random thoughts.  The problem is remembering them.

A lot of my random thoughts deal with our new apartment.  We now have it in fairly decent shape.  But I am still walking into things.  My arms (and legs) have blue marks documenting each time I hit something.  Just when I think I am getting better – wham!

On the way to the Community Center there is a puzzle table.  If I have time, I stop and put in a few pieces.  One lady who was  working on the puzzle asked me if I had gone over to the assisted living wing.  It appears that they have a puzzle going over there also.  I told her that I hadn’t and asked if she had.  She said that she had, but she spent most of her time there removing pieces that had been misplaced.

Facebook.  Oh yes, I’m on Facebook.  I joined it years back so that I could keep up with my grandchildren.  And I enjoy seeing photos of them.  And now, we have a great grandchild.  Between FaceTime and Facebook we are able to watch her grow.  Her parents are a few thousand miles away so it’s a big deal!   But if you are going to be a Facebook member, don’t upset them.  When we moved, I didn’t get on Facebook for a couple of months.  I kept getting Facebook emails trying to find out why I was not participating.  They said there were people out there poking me.  What did I do?

Then there are the people out there who update their status three times a day.  What is that all about?  It makes status quo look pretty good.  So this is the “social media.”  It doesn’t seem so social if people keep poking each other.

I ended up buying a new Lexus SUV right before we moved.  I was never going to own an SUV, but since they came out with the crossovers and put them on a passenger car chassis, I changed my mind.  If my SUV is not a crossover, please don’t tell me.  Anyway, the poor car is like a bastard child.  I have no time for it.  I just drive it.  I owned it for two months before I found out it had a rear windshield wiper.  When I open my door (or any door), no light comes on.  I am sure that can be fixed by pushing the right buttons.  But that would require me to read the manual.

I was pushing buttons the other day trying to put an address in the navigation system.  I had watched the salesman do it.  Finally I got a voice, but it was a real person.  I told her I was trying to reach the mechanical lady so I could put an address in.  She told me she would act like a recording if I wanted her to.  I thought that was sweet, but not necessary.  I gave her the address and she cranked it into the system for me.

Oh yes, I lifted the automatic tailgate while the car was in the garage.  It didn’t clear the automatic door thing-a-ma-jig.  Now, everyone is asking me who keyed my car.  What a mess.  I’ve been telling myself for four months what I am going to get done when things calm down.

I think I’ll go work on the puzzle.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2015

A New Beginning at The Fairfax

I know, I know, I’ve been delinquent in writing.  And you thought something horrible had happened to me.  Well, it has been an ordeal, but not horrible.   Miserable, yes.  Horrible, no.

For the last four months, we have been preparing to move and then moved.  We had been in the same house for 25 years and without any motive or design, we had filled every nook and cranny of that baby.  When we were in the Army and moved every three or so years, we kept track of what we had.  If we bought a new couch, we got rid of the old one.  In this last 25 year episode, if we bought a new couch, we moved the old one downstairs, next to the couch that was replaced 10 years earlier.

Some years back, we decided that we would eventually move to The Fairfax, a very nice military retirement community near Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  Well, with Carole’s health problems and so many steps in our house (you had to go downstairs to visit all our old couches), we decided this would be the year we would move.

So right after Christmas, Carole went through all of her Christmas decorations.  The problem was that an awful lot of them were magnificent.  How do you get rid of beautiful things?  That would be a good topic for Dr. Phil.  Carole reduced the number of her Christmas wreathes from 11 to nine!  We ended up renting a self-storage area to hold our Christmas decorations.

My daughter-in-law, Sandy, showed me how to use Craig’s List.  That went well.  Everybody warned me about the crazy people on Craig’s List that will come into you house and cut you into little pieces.  Well, they must have been busy cutting up other people, because I didn’t have a problem.

I had one rule for Craig’s List that seemed to work well.  I never gave my address out on line.  I insisted the interested person call me.  I had one woman (who knows if he or she was a woman) email me six times asking for information about the item and requesting my address.  Each time I would give her general information on my location and ask her to call me.  She never did.  In her last correspondence she advised me that since I couldn’t give her an address, I must live too far away.  I decided to leave that logic right where it landed.

Then there was a nice Indian couple who showed up to purchase two benches that converted into a picnic table.  Before they left, they had also bought a kitchen table and chairs (downstairs with the couches), a universal weight machine and two porcelain elephants I brought back from Vietnam (BUFEs).  They also bought a lot of little items we had been assembling for a garage sale.  They came back two-days later to disassemble the weight machine (They brought no tools).   I suspect it weighed 800 pounds and after borrowing my tools, they took it out piece by piece.  I have no idea whether they ever put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Pricing is always a problem.  I didn’t know anything about what to ask.  I know what we paid for something 10 or 20 years ago, but that isn’t much help.  Sometimes I asked too much, sometimes too little.  You can remedy the problem when you asked too much, but when you ask too little, you are screwed.  I had two great big JBL speakers.  I thought big was out and these babies were at least 35 years old.  I just wanted to get rid of them.  I offered both of them for $25.  Big mistake.  The phone started ringing off the hook.  An early caller insisted on giving me $50.  I guess he felt sorry for me.

We had two Lexington end tables that cost us about $500, each.  I offered them for $150, each saying we were moving and they had to go.  I received an email from a woman that told me she would pay $30 for both if I needed to get rid of them.  I wrote her back and told her that before I would sell them to her I would use them for kindling.

So now we have moved and The Fairfax is proving to be everything we had hoped for.  But we are still stepping over things.  I have determined that we have approximately 30 hanging items (pictures, plaques, etc.) for each room.  I’m afraid that the vast majority of them are going back into a box.  The problem is we have  to go through all of them to see which ones will make the cut.  “Sorry big guy, but it is back in the box for you.”

We have a few more critical decisions to make.  Like when we put things back in the boxes to store them, where do we store them?  Anybody got an old garage they’re not using?

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2015

Send in the Clowns

Sometime, we don’t know when, but sometime, we are going to move.  So there is a need to downsize.  When I walk into a room, I immediately start looking for things that need to disappear.  The whole process stinks.  What I have noticed is that  when I look around, I see clowns.  Pictures of clowns, ceramic clowns, porcelain clowns, toy clowns and clown clowns.

You know the little old lady who likes cats?  So every time she gets a greeting card or a present there’s a kitty somewhere.  Well, I guess I have always been a clown.  I constantly needed attention and clowning around got me what I needed.  I seriously considered whether I could survive in the Army with my “irreverent” attitude.  For years, I had an unrepressed desire to say or do anything that would get me a laugh.  And, fortunately or unfortunately, I am constantly thinking of funny stuff.

The worst thing people can do when I start entertaining is laugh.  That’s the fuel that makes things get more outrageous.  At dinner parties when I was cranking up, my wife, Carole, would reach under the table and squeeze my thigh.  That was my signal that I was getting out of control and needed to shut it down.  At a large gathering in Frankfurt, Germany, Carole was sitting on the other side of the table and some distance away from me.  I got a boisterous laugh out of the crowd and was on my way.  Then suddenly, Barb, the lady sitting next to me, squeezed my thigh.  I looked over and Carole was smiling at me.  Then there’s “Carrie, the Weird.”  She would encourage me until one of us came down with a migraine.  I always secretly hoped it would be her.

Somehow, I survived the Army without being reprimanded for inappropriate behavior.  I had to apologize a few times, but I was usually getting off easy.  While I was the Staff Judge Advocate at Fort Riley, Kansas, in the early 80’s, the post sponsored and hosted a Special Olympics.  Special Services put out an announcement that they would hold classes for those people who wanted to volunteer to be clowns at the Special Olympics.

The G1’s wife, Meg Ionedias, suggested that we sign up for the classes.  We did and it turned out to be four hours every Saturday for six weeks.  I had no idea that clowning took that much preparation.  Anyway, I graduated as a full face Bozo clown.  My instructor said I was a natural.  She said she had met a lot of Bozos, but I was the biggest Bozo she had ever met.

The day of the Special Olympics arrived.  The post had an athletic field with a runner’s track around the outside.  I  had no responsibility except to go around and act silly.  The opening event was a grand march around the track.  Then the “competition” would begin.  It was frenetic getting everyone lined up for the march.  I noticed one young lad in a wheelchair.  He had almost no control of his body and had to be strapped into the wheelchair.  He had to have support to keep his head mobilized.  And with all that was going on, he looked frightened.  My initial thought was that it was a shame that he had been brought out to an event he could not understand.  No one knew what I was thinking because I had a big smile painted on my face.  Then the parade started and I devoted the rest of the morning and some of the afternoon to being a silly, entertaining Bozo clown.


The event was a big success.  I played my small part.  It was fun.  Where else can a senior Army colonel run around flapping his arms and jump in the air while being goosed by another clown?  What made the event special was that late in the day, I again saw the boy strapped in the wheelchair and he was happy and laughing and having a wonderful time.  That sold me on the Special Olympics.

Children love clowns and that made my spirits fly.  But under a certain age, maybe two, maybe one and a half, clowns look strange and scare the hell out of them.  I learned that the hard way.  I never determined the exact age, but when I got around the little ones, I was very tentative until I saw how they reacted.  When they screamed, I’m  not sure who was scared the most.  But the painted smile protected me.

The Fort Riley Officers’ Wives Club was having a bake sale outside the Post Exchange and the asked me to show up as Zippy (every clown should have a name) and entertain.  After about 30 minutes, the PX manager came over and told me that she would like to hire me for certain occasions at $12 an hour.  I told her it took me two hours to change into Zippy.  She told me she would pay me for that time.  Finally I had to tell her that I was the clown who gave her legal advice.  We had a good laugh.

So like the lady who loved cats, I started accumulating clowns.  I even have a cloth one with a large “Z” on the hat for Zippy.  You can imagine how upset I was when a comic strip “Zippy the Clown” showed up.   And he was anything but a happy clown.  I think he is gone now.  Yippee!

I’m no longer in great shape, but I’m a heck of a lot better off than my clown outfit.  The elastic around the neck, sleeves and feet is kaput and the skull cap has rotted away.  I bought a curly red wig, but I’m no longer willing to spend the time painting my face.  That disqualifies me from being a Raider fan.

So most of my clown memorabilia will disappear.  But I will hang on to the suit, wig and the paint.  Who knows, I may be the life of the party at the old folks home.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2015

New Year’s Revolutions

No, I didn’t mean resolutions, I meant revolutions. Because they come around every year and they look very similar to the previous year and the year before. They revolve from year to year.

I decided to try some new ones this year. One of the rules is it can’t have been a resolution from a previous year. My plan started out well but then fizzled. My first for 2015 was not to go into the shower with my glasses on. It’s no big deal when it happens, but it is sort of a helpless feeling. You’re wet, glasses are fogged, there is no place to put them and opening the shower door just creates more problems.

Next, I have decided to learn a new word everyday. No, I have never made this resolution before. But with all the new words entering the English language, like LOL, BFF, and OMG, I thought it would be a good choice. Maybe I will learn how to pronounce them. You know, BFF doesn’t have a vowel. That makes it tricky.

I’m a late comer to the Big Bang Theory. I started watching just a few months back. Of course it is easy to catch up because their reruns are on about 12 different channels and I have now upgraded my Verizon FIOS so that I can record lots and lots of meaningless shows all at the same time. Anyway, I have resolved to watch at least three shows a week. This is to remind me that brilliant people have problems too. People who are brilliant and have no common sense are not uncommon. They are all around us AND easy to spot.

I’ve never had a resolution on dieting. First, I like food too much and weight has not been a problem. I don’t want to sound flippant, but all I have to do to lose weight is not put all those goodies in my mouth. Our house at Christmas time is like a culinary minefield. But it’s Christmas. Come January, things should return to normal.

Well, now I’m breaking my first New Year’s resolution (to not repeat any from previous years). Every year I resolve to exercise more and with a better routine. I generally prepare a chart. The chart very seldom makes it into February. I do keep exercising through out the year, I just don’t keep track of my times. Carole gets on her recumbent bike every day and checks it off on her calendar. Don’t you hate people like that?

I didn’t mention in this year’s Christmas poem that I went back to Leadbetter’s Golf Academy on our December trip to Florida. Bob Lohr, my golf instructor, knows what I need to do to get to the “next level” (that would be holding the wrist angle to the last second like Sergio). I listened to him carefully and I also think I know what I need to do. It’s just that I’m not sure I can get my body to do it. That’s a hell of a note. The answer is flexibility exercises. After Bob was through with me, he turned me over to a physical therapist specialist, Mike Lane. I still remember Mike saying, “You are going to feel great when we are done.” Then he twisted me into positions that a 12-year-old female gymnast would have had no problems with. I did. After we were done, I had to get assistance to get out of my golf shoes! But he did email me a list of flexibility exercises that should get me to the “next level.” I’m hoping it’s not a pine box.

So for my next and last New Year’s Resolution, I have again made an elaborate chart of these “next level” exercises. If I can do them till Spring, I going to treat it as a completed year! Hey, it’s my list and my rules.


Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2014

A Merry Merry Christmas 2014

I know, I know, I know I’m late,
But sometimes I’m carrying a lot of freight.
When we retired life was supposed to be simple,
But it turns out you still get warts and a pimple.
So it’s the week before Christmas, I’m off of my keister,
If I don’t hurry up, you’ll get this for Easter.

It wasn’t a great year, but it wasn’t bad,
We had happy moments and moments so sad.
Fifty-five years of marriage, not all bliss and spice,
But devoted to each other, not related to Ray Rice.
We celebrated the entire year, fifty-five for goodness sake,
No one seemed to complain and we ate a lot of cake.

We traveled to the Smokies, we saw all that we could,
But we couldn’t find Dolly in Dollywood.
We trekked the Boardwalk in Ocean City,
Did Rehobeth shopping, and ate till we were giddy.
Becky and Missy flew in in June,
They kept their bags packed as we departed soon.
Pennsylvania was our destination,
The Carlisle Kitchen Shoppe without hesitation.
Then on to Hershey and a Lancaster call,
Then dash away, dash away, dash away all.

We made it to RAJA, it really was a treat,
Illness cancelled our last two years, this year it was sweet.
The Inner Harbor Baltimore, with old friends galore,
Next year Colorado Springs, we’re ready for some more.

All of our lives we’ve accumulated things,
Big things like couches, little things like rings.
As our houses got bigger, we filled them to the top,
Then comes the day when it all has to stop.
This year we are downsizing, it’s really a twist,
Yard sales and thrift shops and even Craig’s list.
It’s a maddening experience, brings you to your knees,
Does anyone out there want 1990 TVs?

Jack lost his brother Bill, his friend evermore,
We traveled down to see him two months before.
The memories of him surely brings the tears,
But before they even dry, a great granddaughter appears.
Lydia’s a precious bundle, but she’s too far away,
Thank goodness for FaceTime, it really saves the day.

We finished the year strong, that’s why the poem is late,
Thanksgiving at Paul and Sandy’s, then we left the state.
The first half of the month in Florida, Jack took his sticks,
Why go South in December without a golfing fix?
Carole rented a scooter and we scooted around the park,
Epcot Center, Magic Kingdom, we scooted until it was dark.

Now it’s time to reflect on the year, to think about what’s key,
Our wonderful friends, loving family & a nation that is free.
We wish we had a wand, to bring all our friends together,
To push away the aches and pains & bring us all fair weather.
But know that we are wishing you health, wealth and cheer,
And a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Jack and Carole

written by PJ Rice at
Copyright 2014

Some Assignment Rules in the Army

“The needs of the service.” What that means is that you would like to be assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington, but you are needed at Fort Hood, Texas. So that is where you will end up. Of course, some other lucky guy got assigned to Fort Lewis. I guess he was needed there more.

I never worked in the JAG career management office. If I had, I might have made it to Fort Lewis. But I did become familiar with a few of their fundamental rules. Like Rule One: “Everybody has to be assigned somewhere.” And, believe me, some people are hard to assign. The Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAGC) had and has a large number of outstanding lawyers. But, there are always those on the far end of the bell curve. Another career management office rule is that if you are running a large office, you are going to get your fair share of the problem children.

I had been in charge of a number of large offices, so I had had my share of marginal officers. But if you have 15 to 20 officers and the vast majority are truly good, you can work around one or two problem children. Most officer assignments are routine. It’s when you get a call from the Pentagon notifying you that you are getting a particular officer that your antenna goes up. When I was the Staff Judge Advocate at Fort Riley, Kansas, I received one of those calls. The officer being assigned was transferring into the JAG Corps from the Military Intelligence Corps. I said that was fine and please send me his file. The assignment officer said, “Well, that’s just it, Jack, we can’t get his file because it is sealed. But we have been assured that there is nothing in his file that would preclude him from performing his duties.”

This is when, even though you know you are being hornswoggled, you smile and say, “Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.” Remember Rule One: “Everybody has to be assigned somewhere.” Well this officer, who I will call Ted, was already at Fort Riley serving as an MI officer. In fact, his wife, who was a captain in the Transportation Corps was also at Fort Riley. The Army tries to keep married military couples together, except “for the needs of the service.” Well Ted worked for someone who worked for someone who worked for me. So I didn’t have a lot of contact with Ted. When I would inquire, I would get a report that he was doing “OK.” Then I would be advised that he was a little bit strange and secretive. Surprise! But I could live with OK.

I remember one time Ted was scheduled to teach a one-hour class on legal assistance issues to Army Community Service volunteers. I bumped into him in the hallway and asked if he was ready. He told me he had put together 400 slides and felt very comfortable. I should have told him that if he was going to show 400 slides, he should have a medic present.

One of the neat things about the Army is the social aspect. Commands will have formal dining ins and usually on New Years Day, senior commanders will have a reception at their home. Everyone dresses up in their dress blue uniform and wishes each other a Happy New Year. Even though I was technically not a commander, we always had our officers over to the house to start the New Year with a drink and some snacks. The Commanding General usually had his reception late in the day so the major commanders under him had theirs earlier. We usually had ours from 12 to 2 PM so we could attend some of the other receptions.

Ted came in towards the end of the year and told me he would not be able to attend our reception because he and his wife would be in Kansas City over the holiday. Even though Ted couldn’t make it, everyone else seemed to have a good time. Then Carole and I slipped over to the Wheelers for their reception (now don’t get ahead of me). Al Wheeler was the Division Support Commander. As we stepped into the receiving line guess who was right in front of us? There stood Ted and his wife in their dress blue uniforms. His wife was part of the Support Command so she was attending her bosses’ reception. Had someone mentioned that Ted was secretive? How about sneaky? We acknowledged each other, but that was about it.

A few months later, Ted came into my office and told me that he had decided that the JAG Corps was not for him and he had made arrangements to return to Military Intelligence. I wished him well. We had survived Ted.

A few years later, I was the Staff Judge Advocate for V Corps in Frankfurt, Germany. Much bigger office, so there was a need to support a few problem children. “Everybody has to be assigned somewhere.” A young captain, who will be called Bruce, was assigned to the Trial Defense side of the operation. He didn’t work for me, but was due to be assigned to my office in a couple of months. He was a nice looking, well spoken officer. He approached me and said that he needed to use the phone and my deputy was not in that day and would it be alright if he used the deputy’s desk. I said “Sure.” Fifteen minutes later, I walked by the deputy’s office and Bruce was on the phone, but he was leaning back and his boots were on the desk. I gestured to him to get his boots off of the desk.

My Chief of International Law was being reassigned and Bruce let it be known that he wanted the job. I discussed it with my deputy, Bob Kirby, and we decided that a female captain working in Criminal Law would be better for the position. After the announcement was made, Bruce came in to see me. It was 5:30 PM and I was wrapping up the day. Bruce told me that he thought he was better qualified and I hadn’t given him a chance. I told him that he might be right and if it turned out to be the case, I would try to make it up to him. I had been there a short time and had to make a decision. I did the best I could under the circumstances. He kept saying I hadn’t given him one good reason why he wasn’t selected. I told him I agreed, but that I selected the other captain because I had had more of a chance to observe her performance.

Bruce said it wasn’t his fault that he hadn’t worked for me. I told him that he was correct. It was now 5:50 PM and I told Bruce I had to finish up some work and I needed him to leave. I asked him to leave. He started in again that I hadn’t given him “one good reason” why he wasn’t selected. I asked him again to leave, but he wasn’t going to leave until he was satisfied. Then I said, “OK Bruce, I now have a good reason why not to select you. I’ve asked you to leave four times and you are still here. Please leave.” He started to get out of the chair, but he couldn’t make it. He had to go for one more round. By then, I knew we had made the right decision.

When Bruce arrived, we assigned him as a legal assistance officer. It was the first time I ever received written complaints on the conduct of a legal assistance officer. One time he showed up a half hour late for an appointment, dressed in a sweat suit. Then, as the lady was explaining her problem, he pulled out his lunch bag and started eating. On another occasion, he was using a sample will that, as an template,
had a trust provision in it. Not understanding that it was only an example, Bruce put the trust provision in a number of wills. When the client would asked why he would be leaving his residual to the Judge Advocate General’s School, Bruce would explain that it was just boilerplate language.

Bruce was finishing up his four year obligation and wanted an extension. I told him it was a bad idea. I then called Heidelburg (higher headquarters) to let them know that he should not be extended. Bruce outsmarted me and called back to the Pentagon and got his extension teaching logistics somewhere in Virginia.

After leaving the Army, Bruce had criminal difficulty and ended up in a Virginia State prison. He escaped once, but they caught him and brought him back. That was years ago and I hope Bruce has returned to society. All I know is if every large office has to have its share of problem children, I should have gotten double credit for Bruce!

written by PJ Rice at
Copyright 2014

Is National Security Politically Incorrect?

I read on the front page of Sunday’s Washington Post that the “Pentagon’s plan for overseas spy service curtailed amid concerns.” The article says we are only going to train and deploy half the number of spies we had originally planned (500 rather than 1,000). The question I have is what kind of undercover organization gives out this type of information?

There was a time when this type of information would never see the light of day. If a reporter knew about it, it still would not be printed. But now, you have the intelligence community and the Department of Defense commenting on the cut back. I’m wondering if the CIA has a Facebook and Twitter account?

These new spies will become part of the Defense Clandestine Service. My question is what kind of a clandestine operation calls itself the Defense Clandestine Service? “Hi, I’m Joe Swartz. I’m with the Defense Clandestine Service.” “What do you do Joe?” “Oh, I’m assigned overseas where I do clandestine things.” I’m sure “”Wild Bill” Donavan, who was responsible for forming and running OSS is probably rolling over in his grave.

This reminds me of the spy story that came out of the cold war. Our agent was given elaborate instructions on how to meet a deeply covered reliable informant behind Soviet lines. When he found the informant he was to say the code words “The tulips in Holland are beautiful.” It took him two weeks to find the address of his contact named Bruno. He knocked on the door and a man opened it. Our agent said, “Bruno?” The man said “Yes.” Our agent said, “The tulips in Holland are beautiful.” The man said, “Oh, you want Bruno the spy, he’s on the third floor.”

I don’t know why I am surprised that we are telling our enemies how many agents we have in the Defense Clandestine Service. After all, this Administration has told our enemies in Afghanistan when we are pulling our troops out. Maybe they will throw us a party.

Written by PJ Rice @
Copyright 2014

Buy Low, Sell High!

I wish I understood the Stock Market better. But I do have some observations that I will pass on for free. No strings attached. Periodically I get something in the mail or on the phone where some financial advisor wanted to send me something for “free.” I only made that mistake once. The advisor would subsequently call me on the phone. We were through with the free stuff. First, it was the friendly sales pitch. When that didn’t work, it was the aggressive “You would be a fool not to buy.” When that didn’t work there was the indignant “It’s your loss Buster.” So my first bit of sage advice is don’t accept “free stuff” from a cold call financial advisor. It won’t make you richer or poorer, but life will be much more pleasant.

People get excited about the Stock Market when it’s really high. It is OK to get excited. I get excited when we are having something special for dinner. But that doesn’t cost me anything. Buying stock when the market is really high will probably cost you. My learned opinion is that the market will go up and it will go down and stocks, to a great extent, will follow the market. So don’t buy when everything is coming up roses. Buy quality stocks when the market is in the crapper. It sounds easy. But it is really hard to pull the trigger when everything looks bleak.

One of the delightful things about the Stock Market is that the day of enormous broker fees is gone. The on-line competition has solved that headache. It used to cost an arm when you purchased stock and a leg when you sold it. That is where the expression “it will cost you an arm and a leg” came from. Today, it’s just a few bucks and the price is the same whether you buy 10 shares or 1,000.

I had a broker at Merrill Lynch back in the late 80s who I liked very much. He would spend time explaining things to me. But I am convinced that his boss or his bosses’ boss had certain quotas that had to be met. Periodically, I would get a call from Mike advising me that they had just been briefed on a sure thing and he wanted me to get in on it. Later, I realized that the sure thing he was talking about was the broker fee!

One of the sure things I purchased was stock in Quaker Oats. The company had been waiting for my meager purchase to start its slide. I never broke even on that one. Mike finally got tired of calling me. So when the next great thing came along, he would have his assistant call me. The assistant would tell me that Mike was busy, but he wanted me to know about this latest hot shot, can’t lose stock ASAP. I told the assistant to tell Mike that I was still having trouble swallowing my Quaker Oats.

I have a good friend who writes a blog on financial matters. It’s entitled “” Check it out. I’m always impressed. Some of what is written here is probably stolen from Tom’s articles. Sue me. I wonder if any of his clients know that his nickname in college was “Nutty Tom?” It would all come out in the trial.

Hey, I’m getting serious now. Look for stocks that pay dividends AND have been doing so for a long period of time. If the dividends are too high (too good to be true), the company may not have enough capital left to grow the company. You need to look at something called “pay out ratio.” I have a general idea what it means, but I don’t think I can explain it. You’ll have to check with Nutty Tom.

Written by PJ Rice at
Copyright 2014

BOO! I saw you smile!