Sunday, November 28, 2010

Marking Time

I had refractive surgery about a week and a half ago, and so far are pleased with the results. Every day my vision gets a little bit better. Partially, that is why I haven't written in such a long time. Well, that and nothing really interesting happening in my life. That's not quite true. One big change has happened recently, but the story is not quite ready to commit to the internets yet. Anyway, got a bit of healing to do yet before I really write about my vision correction experiment. Stay tuned for more details. Or something.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Family That Creates Together...

Stays Together.

Now it's time for arts and crafts. Arts and crafts, sounds a little mundane doesn't it? I know when I hear that I don't think, "Wow, this is going to be cool!" And that's because it usually ain't (yes I know ain't isn't a word, but it fits the tone of the opening, so deal with it). When I think of arts and crafts I think doilies, quilts, bird houses and colored paper. Fortunately, you won't find much of that around this house.

A couple of nights ago the wife and kid took out the clay and paints. In normal hands you might get a cute animal, a colorful flower or even a decorative rock. But not this family. Here's what they came up with:

This cute little feller is a road-kill possum. How do you know that it's road-kill? First, the x's for
eyes are a dead giveaway (that was horrible and I'm sorry, I'm horrified I wrote that myself). Second, the tire tracks on his midsection is another subtle clue.

Look. You can even see his heart.

Now these certainly look edible don't they? Wait a sec...Are those...? Brains! Who would do such a dastardly thing? I'm sorry, but I am contractually obligated to protect the identity of the person that committed this offense due to the fact that they are a member of this household. And the fact that if I gave them up, the next brains you may
be seeing could be mine.

We've all hear the saying, "I hate your guts." Many of us have even used it at one point or another. Here's another take on it. How about a pair of guts that love each other. See, there's a heart. Heart = Love, right? These guts are practically inseparable. Really, there's a screw holding them together just below the heart.

And the prize winner for completely random? I present:

A disembodied tentacle.

My family, indeed the people that I live with and have to see every day, scare me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Accidental Upside-Down Cake

My daughter's 15th birthday was a couple of days ago, and it was pretty fun. We didn't do a whole lot, mostly stayed home and let her open presents. I also picked up a Yufka Vegitarisch from the local Döner place. Döners are awesome. A Yufka Vegitarisch is essentially vegetables in a wrap with white and red sauces. Very good stuff. Anyway, back to the point. We also had cake.
This is the cake. Pretty isn't it? Not really, I know. I chose a pretty obnoxious cake for an
obnoxious girl. The candles in the upper right are arranged in the shape of a 1 and a 5. Together that's 15. Creative right? I thought so too.

Another, more creative shot. Nice, huh?

All was going well, until it came time to light the candles. What I didn't realize at the time was that the candles arranged as the 1 would create a giant wall of flame when lit. OK, so it wasn't giant, but it ended up fairly substantial. I lit the candles in the kitchen and had to carry the cake to the living room. For some reason I slipped, and the cake took a header.
See, here's the cake. I don't know how the cake slid off, I suspect suicide. I mean look at that ugly thing. The colors alone would cause me to have low self-esteem.

I think it's kinda strange that the frosting just fell off of the cake. I mean really, what was that stuff made out of anyway?

And here's cake number two. I don't know what that yellow thing is supposed to be, but this is much more obnoxious than the first cake and that makes it awesome.

Look at the frosting on this cake. It had to be at least half an inch thick in places. Tasted pretty good though.

Over all I think things went well. The presents were great, the food was tasty and much humor was in the air over the manically depressed baked goods. And the kid had a good time, and that was the point of the party.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Outdoor Adventures

Last Friday a few members of my team and I took a break from work and had our own little adventure outdoors. Of course, being a soldier, I usually get plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature. We have physical training every day, field exercises, rifle range training and ruck marches- all activities that we do outside. All those are well and good, but we wanted to do something a little different.

What we did was try a little bit of canyoneering, which is also known as a high ropes course. It is actually exactly what it sounds like- ropes high above the ground, up to 40-45 feet high. I'll be honest right now- heights (more specifically, the thought of falling) scare the hell out of me. Thankfully, we had some very good equipment, which kept me from falling- twice, and prevented me from becoming a greasy spot on the rocks. The course is laid out simply. There is a cable strung between anchor points on a rock wall. There may or may not be footholds in the wall, so there were several places with small pieces of rebar imbedded into it. Even without the artificial footholds this course was a challenge. To further illustrate: pictures.

The course was located near the beautiful countryside near Hirschbach, Germany. In this shot the rocks can be seen near t
he center at the top of the trees. From this point it was a short walk to the beginning of the course. But, before we began was the prerequisite safety brief. We also learned how to put o
n, adjust and use the equipment. We had harnesses, two safety lines that attached to the harness and a climbing helmet. We also had to wear gloves, which were available if we forgot to bring our own. One item that a couple of our guys mentioned that may be good for the next go through would be knee pads. One of the team banged his knee pretty hard on the wall. Thankfully, he didn't get hurt too bad and was able to continue after resting up for a couple of minutes.

Here are a couple of guys at the beginning of the course. You can see the equipment and the wall in this shot. This section was pretty easy with plenty of footing. It was also near the ground so the height in this section was not a factor. He
re you can make out the cable and how it is attached to the wall. every few feet (or as short as a foot) was a cable anchor point. Part of the safety equipment included two safety lines, and the anchors are the reason they are necessary. Navigating an anchor point is easy, just detach one safety line and reconnect it on the other side of the
anchor. One thing to remember is this: Only take off one line at a time. If you detach both, you could fall. The first challenge of this course is the first corner. It can be intimidating, especially since the height of the cable is much higher. But...

This is the reward for taking that step.

This is one of my favorite shots of the day. This picture is a bit deceptive though. In it, it looks like Garcia is on a substantial ledge. That is inaccurate. The ledge in the foreground is much closer to where
I am then to where Garcia was. The cable actually went below this ledge and back up again on the other side. There was plenty of footing in this section, but it was never that substantial.

Here you can see SGT Cuevas waiting for Gilson to clear another corner. The top of this section was where Garcia was in the previous shot. As you can see, the cable rises sharply and requires a bit of climbing to reach.

This is the second leg of the first section, and without a doubt, the hardest. It is short, only about 100 feet from beginning to end, but was a very challenging climb. See SGT Kroamer's right foot? That's the last decent foothold on the wall. Let me put it this way: Three of us tried it, two of us made it, one of us had to be helped off the wall. I won't tell you wh
at happened to whom, but I will tell you I needed a bit of help on this one myself. I also smashed my fingers a bit here, nothing serious of course.

My second favorite picture of the day. This is the last leg of the first section

And this is the end of the course for us. Not the course itself, there was one more section. But this second section was more than enough for us. Only three attempted it, and that was because it was a bit easier than the others, just really high up. I
did try this one, but I got a good shot out of it. See that tiny blue spot near the trees on the left side of the rocks? That's SGT Kroamer. Yes, it was that high.

One aspect that I really like about Germany is the ability to try things that I would never be able to otherwise. We all had a great time doing this, even the ones with a fear of heights. Plans are already being made to come back and do it again, maybe in January.

More pics on Flickr.