How the Wall Street Journal Helped Me Get By in Afghanistan

When I was doing my first tour of Afghanistan I often found myself having plenty of time on my hands. Whilst many of my colleagues entertained themselves with computer games (think Xbox and Playstation) I decided that I was going to try and learn how to work the stock market.  Having always had an interest in numbers and logistics it seemed like a natural use of my time – and if I could make some money with it then even better.

Thankfully the unit was shipped out copies of the Wall Street Journal – whilst the copies were usually a bit out of date, there was enough information in there for me to get started.  The paper has lots of guest columns from guys who are a lot better at doing this than me, but I started to pick up hints and tips – for example which trades I should be going for etc.

Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal – Just what I need on tour

To be honest, there was a lot of shit going down during my first tour, and I found that reading the WSJ was almost a release from the day to day crap we had to deal with.  That’s why I still subscribe to the Wall Street Journal to this day – its one connection with being able to calm myself that I can make most days if needed.  A lot of my guys, apart from the computer games, didn’t have too many past-times like me so I count myself fortunate to have found this little piece of home thinking whilst all the madness was going on around me.

Now I am back in the States I’ve started to get more involved with trading. It’s a good past-time and helps me to get through the door – and (perhaps more importantly depending on your standpoint) I get to make a little bit of spare money here and there – ALWAYS GOOD!

Related Links

If any of the subjects in this latest blog post relate to an experience that you might have had whilst serving then here are a few selected links I like which you can have a look through.

No Wall Street Journal Subscription Discount for Veterans?

Of course, it would be good if they offered some kind of Wall Street Journal subscription discount for veterans – I don’t believe they do at the moment though so if any Dow Jones big-wigs are reading this you know what to do.

The Veteran’s site I link to there is very good – offers some exceptional support and some of my old team have had some great help from them so please make sure that you take the time to have a look – or even offer a donation or two.

Tales from the Bar Stools #4 – The Best Bars I’ve Been In

It’s been quite a while since I updated the blog – the last post I did was my dating stories from up on the bar stools update (which you can read on that link).  I did enjoy putting that post together, so much so in fact that it got me thinking that most of my time spent on bar stools hasn’t been dating related – most of the time it’s just been about having good fun with some friends, good talk, good stories, and general good times.  So, what I’ve decided to do here is list out my top 5 bars where I’ve had the most fun on bar stools for various reasons.

Bar Stools Recommendation 1 – The Lone Wolf (Chicago)

Whilst not the most traditional of bars, when it comes to Chicago drinking establishments this one has a great layout, great service, plus enough room in the booths for you to take a more private discussion if you don’t wish to sit at a bar stool all evening.  Just make sure you get there early as the bar stools tend to get taken very very quickly all days in the week.

lonewodl

Bar Stools Recommendation 2 – The Houston Hall (New York)

This is a great place to meet other single people, and I’ve had a few encounters whilst propping the bar up in this place.  It’s a huge beer hall located in the Greenwich Village and has a real down and dirty vibe – at least it has when I was there.  Love the place. View on Trip Advisor.

houstonhall

Bar Stools Recommendation 3 – Gotham City Lounge (New York)

A more welcoming place you could not wish to enter.  It’s easy to spot too as there is a massive Batman sign outside. Don’t be fooled by the comic book appearance though as this place has a large selection of drinks for the most serious of palettes.  The serve an awesome choice of whiskeys too.  After a couple of hours it’s fair to say your bar stool might be wobbling just a little.  View on Trip Advisor.

gotham

Bar Stools Recommendation 4 – The Pine Box (Seattle)

I tend to get to Seattle a couple of times a year and always try to make sure I get in at least one visit to The Pine Box every time.  Believe it or not it used to be a funeral home, but the clientele are a lively bunch and if you can find a free bar stool on any given evening you will have a fantastic time.

pine

Bar Stools Recommendation 5 – The Marquee Lounge (Kansas City)

With relatives in Kansas, I love checking out the bars in the city – the locals are amongst the friendliest in the whole of the USA and this bar is no exception.  Great music on offer including blues and jazz.  Make sure you check them out if you are ever in Kansas.

kansas

PS: If you enjoyed this article and would like to replicate a bar scene in your own home then please visit the website of my friend who sells cheap UK bar stools.  She runs an import business which is very successful in getting the latest designs into the UK and then re-selling them back to the UK public looking to improve the appearance of their home.  Worth a browse if you a UK visitor to my website.

Dating Stories from Way Up on the Bar Stools

It’s been a while since I last updated my blog, primarily because I’ve actually been in a solid relationship for the past few months – yep, that’s right, one of my crazy dates actually resulted in me forming the first proper relationship since my marriage failed.  It’s now come to its natural end so I’m going to be updating the blog a bit more, and I thought that I would start up a new blog series in which I like to call “dating stories from way up on the bar stools”.  Interested to know why I’ve called it that, and what bar stools have to do with anything?  Well, even if you’re not, let me tell you.

Most of my dates have happened whilst in a bar, and a lot of the time I’ve had some great dates whilst sat on bar stools at my favourite bars.  The stories that you hear, and the people that you can meet whilst sat on bar stools can be some of the most interesting and varied tales you can ever wish for.  Let me give you a couple of examples:

Tales from the Bar Stools #1

I met a young lady from Wisconsin one evening in downtown Dallas.  I was sat on my favourite bar stool in a jazz bar when she sidled up onto the next stool without me even noticing.  Once we had caught each other’s attention the story soon got around to my time in the military.  It turned out that she had a bit of thing for men in uniform, but also had a certain preference for the time of uniforms.  Needless to say my marine outfit was dusted off, and we had a great weekend together.  It just goes to show how you can be sat down and not know who’s going to turn up and what might happen.

bar stool stories

The Balcony Club in Dallas

Tales from the Bar Stools #2

My second story revolves around an incident in Florida whilst working on a nearby base.  My colleagues and I ended up in a Latin bar and as per usual I was the bar fly, sat on my favorite stool whilst the rest of the guys played pool and danced.  I met a girl called Candice who was from LA.  She was probably the most interesting person that I have ever met whilst sat on a bar stool – she grew up in a hippy commune and her parents were really heavily involved in the music and film scene in the 1960s and 1970s – apparently growing up she met people such as Christopher Walken, Barbara Streisand, and was in fact looked after on a few occasions as a kid by Richard Pryor – not sure if that’s a good thing or not – but she had some amazing bar stools stories to tell me during the evening!

another bar stool story

The Latin Bar in Florida – Paladar

Tales from the Bar Stools #3

This one isn’t really dating related, but involves a celebrity.  Whilst drinking in Fort Lauderdale one night I was lucky enough to share the bar space with the comedian Bill Hicks (RIP).  Now this guy loved to have a drink.  He was just beginning to get famous when I met him and had the whole bar in rapture – he was holding court for everyone and was the most hilarious person that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting – he was taken from us far too soon.

Rest in Peace Bill Hicks.  Hope you found some comfortable bar stools up there in heaven.  Although you are probably in Hell ;-)

Two Common SEO Mistakes to Avoid for Dating Websites

SEO, or search engine optimization, is essential if you want your dating website to succeed. A website’s success can be categorized in two broad terms: how the website is viewed by actual users, and whether or not your website recognized in the higher levels of search engine rankings. The websites which are ranked the highest on search engines – such as the most popular search engine, Google – are those which Google’s search engine algorithms deem to be both the most relevant and highest quality. There are many ways that you can help your website be judged more favorably by a search engine – SEO, which encompasses a wide range of techniques, is the most commonly used.

Although SEO is common and popular, particularly in the highly competitive dating niches, there are still many common mistakes people routinely make with SEO that can actually be detrimental to the website’s popularity.

Let’s take a look at two of the most common SEO mistakes—and how to avoid them (and this is stuff I’ve picked up since I started building websites in my spare time by reading search engine optimisation websites.

Forgetting About Quality

Before quantity, before networking, before backlinking, before keyword density – comes quality. Quality is absolutely essential for your website to succeed in the long term. Now, you might actually be able to get your website near the top of Google’s search engine results without focusing too much on quality with your site. But think about it this way: if your website does not provide quality material, are any of the people who click on your website once going to return? Or share the website on social media? Or recommend it to friends?

Quality is vital if you want people to return to your website and share it around the internet, which is the best way to organically market your website and increase real traffic. You can increase your site’s quality by providing fresh, relevant information; only using organically written articles (not articles which have been spun from other sites) and ensuring that you are actually providing the people who visit your website with a motivation to return, share, and enjoy your website’s content.

Trying to Trick Search Engines

There’s no use downplaying this: it can be very tempting for people to try to “trick” search engines into ranking their website higher through a variety of “black hat” techniques, which are essentially designed to take trick a search engine’s algorithm.

The most common “trick” people use is called keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing, as the name suggests, involves over-using a keyword in website content to the point where it is “stuffed.” But contrary to popular belief, keyword stuffing does not really work. When you use a certain keyword or phrase over and over again, a search engine will pick up on this ‘trick’ and bypass your website when searching for sites related to that keyword or key phrase.

Most SEO experts will suggest a keyword density for a particular targeted phrase to stay in the 1 to 3 percent range. This allows for content that sounds natural and organic while still targeting certain phrases or words.

How Divorce Affects Children in the Military

In previous blog posts I’ve referred to how my marriage broke down due mainly to the stresses of military life. What I’ve not blogged about though is how the divorce impacted my kids. It goes without saying that I love and adore my children, and never want to see them get hurt. However, it’s always inevitable that will happen when two parents have to split up.  As it stands I have access to the children most weekends and try to take them out or have a special occasion lined-up. Does it make up for me not being there every day? Of course not.

I have a huge amount of guilt about how the divorce from my wife has affected them.  In the month’s following the split, school grades suffered and their behaviour changed for the worse.  That’s understandable. But it doesn’t help how bad I feel about the situation.

At the time of the split I looked at various different places as to where I could get support and advice on how to lessen the impact on the children. It’s not that easy to find advice like this and it took me a while to manage to speak to anyone about it.

I honestly thought I had all of the answers, but needed to man up to the fact that I didn’t.  One of the guys in my unit put me onto a very good support network – you can find out more about that support by visiting Legion.org’s family support section.

The American Legion Website

I found a great support network of people via the American Legion

Now it’s taken a couple of years, but it’s only now that my kid’s are adjusting to the divorce. People say that kids can adjust to anything – but in my experience that’s not true.  My advice to any man in the military going through this right now is:

  1. Keep dialogue with the kids so they know what’s going on with mum and dad.
  2. Don’t try to over-compensate financially when seeing them if you have restricted access.
  3. Always keep a respectful conversation with their mother when the kids are around.

If you are going through a similar situation at the moment then you might find this web page useful which I found on the Military.com website – it has some brief advice from a lawyer on how divorce in the military affects both your kids and your pension.  Have a look on this link here: www.military.com/spouse/relationships/military-divorce/military-divorce-affects-children-pay-and-pension.html

Dating in a Foreign Country

Whilst in the marines I often had opportunities to date foreign women whilst out on service.  If you ever get the chance to do this yourself then it’s something I highly recommend!  Dating a foreign woman in a strange country is a fantastic cultural experience.  Needless to say, if you’ve been conditioned to the American woman’s way of thinking and behaving then you are going to have your eyes opened!  My favorite dates whilst abroad are listed below by nationality, and yes, this is in order of preference and I will tell you more soon enough.

  1. Thailand
  2. Ireland
  3. England
  4. Australian
  5. Vietnamese

I’ll start with the Thai ladies first.  They are petite by nature and very jovial women…or at least the ones I dated where.  They cannot do enough for you, especially American men – and those in uniform. Coupled with the sights and sounds of Thailand, including the smells and the food, the dates were always something to remember.

Dating Around the World.

Dating Around the World.

The Irish women, well they are just a barrel of fun.  They tended to like a drink, had potty mouths, and loved the “craic”.  You will always go home happy having had a good night out – although might have  a fuzzy head in the morning!

The English.  Well, what can I say apart from they were always a fantasy of mine and never disappointed.  The English Rose certainly lives up to her name.  Demure, yet head strong – that’s my experience.  Had some fantastic dates out in London with English ladies, although they don’t take BS too well so be restrained!

Aussies are actually very much like the Irish ladies.  Fun to be around, like a beer or too, and show you a good night out.  Most of my Australian dates ended up with us being in nightclub (or two!).  Take some Alka Seltzer along with you if you are going on a date with an Australian woman!

And finally, the Vietnamese.  Contrary to popular opinion I always found them to be very happy and always up for a date with a marine guy.  Evidently there is some history there, and the topic of conversation might sometimes come around to that, so I always tried to steer the talk on to something a bit more fitting of a date.

So that’s my top 5 favorite foreign dates – what are yours?

Seven Good Reasons Why You Should Date a Military Man

Hey guys, I saw this funny article recently on another website which resonated a lot with me, and I hope it will do with you.  It’s from a woman’s interest website and was called “7 Reasons to Date a Military Man” – you can see it below in the screenshot.  Do I agree with it all? Well, there’s certainly some elements of truth – in particular the parts about conviction.  The rest of it is a bit “schmaltzy” though.

How much of this rings true with you?

How much of this rings true with you?

My Crazy Date with Woman X Who Hated Everything

Of all my dating nights since divorcing my wife, there’s one that stands out as being particular disastrous.  I met a woman on Match.com, and for purposes of letting her keep her dignity I am going to call her “Woman X”.  We agreed to meet in a down-town bar, her idea not mine.  I spruced myself up and made an effort to be at least 20 minutes early, because I never want the lady to arrive first… always has to be me first. Anyway, we had arranged to meet at 1900 so I got to the bar at 1840 and found a quiet corner table which I thought would be intimate enough for us to get to know each other.

1930 arrived and she was still not there, so I was by this time onto my second beer.  Finally she gets to the bar at around 1945 and promptly came over to the seat.  She was already half-gone (perhaps it was nerves) but it was clear she had been drinking A LOT.  I can’t stand drunk women, it’s just something that has never sat well with me but I thought let’s give it a shot anyway – although a shot was probably the last thing she needed!

It really was a dating disaster

It really was a dating disaster

Anyhows, talk soon switched to my time in the military, her idea not mine, so I forced into a situation about having to tell her about my active service in Iraq.  No problem there, but it soon became apparent that she was very ant-war, anti-military, anti-Bush, anti-Obama… in fact just about ANTI-ANYTHING!  Now I don’t mind a bit of debate, but having a drunk woman in your face telling you that everything you have lived and worked for is wrong, and the colleagues you lost in active service “DESERVED WHAT THEY GOT” was just a stretch too far.

I hate to admit it, but I did not hold my tongue and went back at her full barrells.  Needless to say the date lasted about as long as ten minutes and I was out of there as soon as I had given her a piece of my mind.

Dating Disaster Rating: 2/10 – and I give her 2 points for dressing nice.

Keep coming back to the blog as I share more of my dating stories… next week I want to tell you about the girl I met who’s dog managed to get in the way of our good time!

Getting Back into the Dating Game

The Military can do funny things to a man’s relationship.  I first new my marriage was in trouble when I got back from a tour of Iraq in 2005.  My wife didn’t seem to be the same, although in truth I think the main changes were down to me.  War can affect a man like no other thing on Earth.  As previously explained on this blog, my wife and I never managed to overcome the challenges of our fading relationship and by 2007 I was divorced and ready to date again – which was going to be no easy feat given that I’d been out of the dating game for nearly two decades.

The Dating Game - not quite how it happened for me!

The Dating Game – not quite how it happened for me!

My first port of call was to join a few online dating programs, like Match.com.  To be honest, I had a few dates, but nobody ever really caught my fancy. My nerves were shot to pieces and I think that showed when I went out on dates.  I also still had the emotional scars from war which had manifested themselves in an inability to perform sexually… because of this I was finding it hard to go to the next level with any ladies that I met and actually stopped me from taking dating further because I didn’t want to embarrass myself again.

However, I was determined that I wasn’t gonna let my personal history derail my chances of having a happy life.  I started to see a therapist shortly afters – come back to my blog soon and I will tell you how that went.  Needless to say it was yet another chapter in the military dating game that had some funny twists and turns so tune in for the next installment to find out how it went!