Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween!

It should be a quiet night for us. Not expecting too many kids so that means I will be eating candy for the next week. We are both fed up with the politics on TV, but I have to try and predict the last minute "surprise."

Democrats:
I'm guessing the democrats (with the support of the media) will push their scare tactis with a "late breaking story" to sway voters: "blah blah blah scandal blah quagmire blah draft blah privatize social security blah." I expect it will fail and the media will get a significant backlash for biased reporting.

Terrorists:
I said after 2001 we probably wouldn't have another attack on American soil for 3 years. I chose 3 because I figured it would take that long for people to start to forget and the country to start letting down its guard. I don't think that has happened yet! But, it would be naive not to expect something on election day. The real question is whether it will be from terrorists or from a home grown radical trying to sway the election.

Foreigners:
This is something I had not thought of until recently. Many foreign countries have their own desires for the US. Maybe they will try something to sway voters. They already have.... and failed. Maybe they can come up with something that actually works...

Republicans:
The republicans could sway the vote very easily by announcing intelligence of terrorist attacks on polling places and raising the threat level. From my own experience this would mean fewer Kerry votes because they do not have the motivation to risk their lives to vote anti-bush. Bush has far more staunch voters than Kerry.

No matter what happens I hope there is a clean winner to prevent the months of recounts and lawsuits. So everyone better get out and vote.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Friday, October 29, 2004

Second Life Expansion

Earlier this year I started playing a new game Secondlife. It is one of the many Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG for you geeks). It really isn't fair to call it a game, since you can do whatever you want there. The content is created by the players and I have managed to make some money off the game since it has a real economy (about 100$ a month, not bad for a game that I paid a one-time lifetime membership fee of 9.95$). Secondlife has and will continue to push new technology and innovation in very unique ways. This game is revolutionary enough to attract some new investors even when the company wasn't looking for investments. At a town hall meeting yesterday the CEO (former CEO of realmedia) announced that a major venture capitalist company came to him and has agreed to invest 8 million dollars into Secondlife. One of the investors is the CEO of Ebay. The exponential growth has been ridiculous and now they have the money to really push things. This should be interesting. If you want to try out the game use my link. It does require a credit card, they do not allow minors. I get credit if I refer someone!

Full story here!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Water Survival

Another early day with a few classes on more of our survival equipment and a brief on what we would do in the pool. At the pool we demonstrate we can still do the 4 basic strokes: side, breast, back, and freestyle. Then we changed into the gear they provide: flightsuit, boots, gloves, helmet, survival vest and the fun begins. I jump into the front of the line and go first in the parachute drag. You start on a tower on one side of the pool and put on a parachute. They then hang you and a pulley drags you off the tower into the water and across the pool. The point is to quickly turn yourself onto your back and undo the chute harness. Last time I did this the chute stuck on my survival vest and took me almost the full length to get out. This time it went much better.

Next I had to tread water and manually inflate my survival vest. It is a pain treading water with boots on, but I managed. Even after the helpful advice of the instructor in the pool "you aren't supposed to swallow any water sir." The instructors are all over the place for safety. After that I had to do the helo hoist, with simulated prop wash so you can't see anything. All you do is hook the cable they drop you onto your vest and get pulled up to the tower platform. Then it was another parachute drop. On this one you are dropped off the tower a few feet and stopped abruptly simulating the parachute opening. Then you inspect the chute, inflate your vest, remove your gloves, raise visor, pull the 4 string release so you can steer the parachute, and finally get ready for water entry by undoing 2 of the 3 parachute harness fastenings. The worn and abused fasteners they had for training were sticky. I had to actually pull myself up by the risers to take the weight off my left leg to undo that one. Some people never got it. Then they drop you in the water and you have to roll out once again.

After that we went to the underwater maze. It is supposed to simulate how you find your way out of an aircraft by going hand over hand (always keeping one positive contact). This was easy first time. Second time was blindfolded which is a little more exciting. No problems though.

Finally we get to the helo dunker. It is just a large tube that seats 8 and is supposed to simulate a helicopter. They drop it into the water with everyone harnessed into the seats and once motion stops we have to find our way out. First time they blocked the primary exit and made us go to the secondary. Second time we did it blindfolded. 3rd time was blindfolded and they flipped it upside down (to simulate a helicopter crash, helo's are top heavy due to engine and rotor being on top so they usually flip over). I really hate this one. There is no way to prevent water going up your nose. That and the air bubble that gets trapped in your helmet tries to pull you out of the seat and chokes you. Of course the helmet I chose was a Large when I normally wear a medium, not much of a selection. At least the harness releases were worn and easy to get out of. I am also glad that this is the older and slower dunker than the one they had in Pensacola. The final dunk was a simulated ditch and the water only went up to our chests. I played the injured guy and they dragged me out of the tube. To finish we had to swim 45m and tread water for 5 minutes.

It really is a good experience, but not something I would do for fun.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Pressure Chamber take 2

My water survival training is good for only 4 years and since Hawaii does not have a training facility I had to go through it all again! Of course I have some good stories. Most of the day was spent in classes. How to use our survival gear, first aid, pressure chamber, Parachute landing fall practice and VR training. The VR (virtual reality) trainer was pretty neat. They suspend you up in the parachute harness and put some glasses on you allowing you to look in any direction. First inspect your chute to see if it opens (never does, then you have to correct the line over, do all your procedures, steer into the wind, and land. An interesting demo, but still only 90's technology. The parachute landing falls were good practice. Remember that trip/roll I did, same concept. Our chutes bring us down at about 20 fpm, which is the equivalent of jumping off a 2 story building. So more than likely you are going to hurt yourself. If you land improperly you are going to break something.

The best part of the training was the pressure chamber. Last time I did not do so well and had to go on oxygen early. The training is supposedly to simulate a high altitude and low oxygen environment and the onset of hypoxia (not enough oxygen in the blood to stay conscious). It allows people to actually experience the symptons they get when becoming hypoxic. Good training really since it can come on fast in an emergency decompression etc. and if you don't get on oxygen quick you will pass out. They even had a heart rate and oxygen saturation (amount of oxygen in blood, no idea how it reads that) finger monitor that I used. I started at 52 bpm and 98% saturation.

To start off they cover up the altitude readout and pressurize the chamber climbing up towards 20,000 feet (about 1/2 atmosphere). Navy requires us to go on oxygen above 10,000. They have us look around at color/line charts. Read the lowest line we can etc. One of the symptons is loss of color, blurry vision, or tunnel vision. I felt good, we have our oxygen masks in our lap and can put it on anytime we think we are experiencing hypoxia. The guy next to me goes on right away. They then have us work on a grade 4 MCAT test (required in 4th grade FL schools). I notice I've slowed down a bit and had to concentrate to answer basic questions. Then I started to play patty cake. They would tell us to hit thighs 3 times, clap 2, go out 1. Then change up the numbers, I started out great, but soon had to concentrate and slow down. Looking around I saw a few people getting a little blue, my fingertips were too. Checking the capillary recovery by pressing down on my fingernail tip and seeing how long it takes to go from white to red (refill with blood) I noticed it was about 2 sec vice about 1. I was still doing fine when I go across the isle passed out (oddly enough a marine corps warrant officer). They got him on oxygen and reassured everyone to continue. I still felt okay, checking my fingertip monitor I noticed my heart rate was up to 76 bpm to compensate for the lower oxygen saturation (84% I think it was). I did fine through the whole 15 minutes at 20k and they told us to put the masks on and breathe 100% oxygen. I quickly recovered with the oxygen back to 55 bpm and 99% oxygen saturation. With some controlled breathing I got it to 49 bpm and 100% saturation. Pretty interesting, those long runs have definitely gotten me back into shape.

We finish up the rest of the day with classes on survival techniques. Tomorrow we hit the pool.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

NU Alumni Flight Station

I had another tactics flight, this time with CDR Lee Boyer. Never flew with the guy before or heard of him. He was stationed with my online (instructor for the familiarization flights). It was a typical flight, out to the warning area, we got off late because of plane issues. Once up in the area flying in circles so the guys in the back could do their thing he asked where I went to college, turns out he graduated Norwich in 93. So we had plenty to talk about. He knew Mr. Tyner and the college started allowing civilians during his time. Not many NU grads in the P-3 community. He also trained Seth Liebman (00') in Kingsville for jets. Said there is one P-3 skipper and a few other NU alumni out there. He is the only in VP-30, the largest VP squadron. Was interesting to hear about NU during the civilian tradition. He was in Kilo which was just revived this last year, a command sergeant major.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Team America

I went to see this on recommendations from a few of the blogs I visit. The majority of the media and big reviewers gave it a low rating because it hit a few nerves. Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park fame) are the Eminem equivalent for the movie industry. I didn't find the movie offensive. Maybe I have been desensitized. Kill Bill was much worse. The puppets were impressive and fun to watch, I was never a thunderbirds fan (did we even get it up in VT?). It does deserve the R rating and many parts are just silly. It does have an important story and the metaphor it uses to explain the 3 types of people was very good (not something I'll be writing here). We went to the first showing at 12:10, only about a dozen people showed up, much lower turnout nation wide than expected. I think it will pick up with word of mouth advertising, I expect the media and actors it belittles are trying to squash it.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

A nice trip

Our vacation down to Orlando was a nice change. The Holiday Inn Express we stayed in only had 2 rooms left so we were stuck with a smokers room. They recently steam vac'd the place and it hadn't dried yet so it had an unpleasant smell of smoke and mildew to it. Rikki was right about those cinnamon buns, they were not THAT good. The AC in our room sounded like a small jet engine and only had one functional setting: full cold. So we would go to bed at night and wake up frozen.

Arabian Nights was not as good as Medieval Times. But, I had no idea what to expect, I am not horse savy. For $50 a person I was expecting Mr. Ed and I better not see the carrot. I have to admit it was impressive to see a standing backflip between 2 galloping horses and they were magnificent animals.

I took a break from running, 5 days. I really regret that. Getting back into it was tough. I was really lazy and a few days ago I tripped on the sidewalk. I felt really stupid. The worst part was the uneven and broken up pavement was the texture of coarse sandpaper. Luckily I turned the fall into a roll or I would have completely ripped my hands up. Instead my wrist elbow and knee got most of it. Some good chunks of skin missing. The humiliating part was the blood red and oozing gash on my wrist that I went to work with. I tried to cover it up with a band-aid unsucessfully. So my instructor notices it and asks what happened... I was tempted to make up something good involving an old lady and a 18-wheeler with no brakes. Instead, I told the truth and felt really stupid. "Yeah, I fell while running this morning." Next we go to the plane and right before I give the planeside briefing the Nav instructor notices and I get to explain again. They then jokingly decided we would fly at 500' and not 200' that day based on my dexterity.

Friday, October 15, 2004

My election predictions

Bush is going to win by at least 5%! Someone asked me a few days ago so I guessed. I hope Bush wins. If I am wrong and Kerry wins I plan on selling off what little I have invested in the stock market and expect the economy to go back into a recession (not a really bad one, the President does not control the economy. But the market hates uncertainty and that is one thing Kerry is great at). Another major drawback if Kerry wins was noted back in may by Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.com:

"I think it's fair to say that if Kerry wins, he'll win based on anti-Bush sentiment among Democrats and swing voters. But although the anybody-but-Bush vote might be good enough to get him into office, once he's elected it will evaporate: the dump-Bush voters will have gotten what they wanted, and they won't have any special reason to support any particular policy of Kerry's -- or even Kerry himself. . . .

So Kerry might find himself elected, but with support that rapidly fades away, leaving him subject to Washington crosswinds and a slave to his party's interest groups. That's pretty much what happened to President Jimmy Carter. He owed his election to backlash over Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon, and the lingering residue of Watergate. But that turned out to be an insufficient base on which to govern. Carter's own party (especially, though not only, rivals like Ted Kennedy) cut him to ribbons. We lost ground both at home and abroad as a result."

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Trip to Orlando

Thursday morning Nathan called me and told me that he was going to be able to make it to Orlando with me this evening. I was so excited! I immediately tried to call Troy and Kalah but no answer! I finished at work and rushed home so that I could change, finish packing, eat and get the dog’s stuff together; although at this point I wasn’t sure where we were going to leave her. Nathan walked in the door and got ready. I tried to call a friend that lives here the apartment and nothing. Nathan tried to call another friend that lives here in the apartment community too and nothing. I then tried 2 local kennels and was told that they were booked for the weekend. GRR!!! Nathan tried Troy’s cell and he was stuck in Washington. He gave us Kayla’s cell number and Nathan talked to her. He told her our situation so the plan was to drop Angel off in their back yard with all of her stuff. Oh My! Talk about crazy! Nathan had to jump the fence to get her in there! I felt guilty that evening. Angel had to spend 2.5 hours in her kennel in the back yard and Nathan got to say goodbye to her but I didn’t. It really wasn’t easy walking around the back of Troy and Kayla’s so Nathan walked around the back!
Thursday afternoon we drove down to Orlando. It took us only 2 hours to get to mom and dad’s hotel. We picked up a room key for my parents room in the lobby. As we got ready to take the elevator my mom surprised us by coming out of one. We both got the big choke-hold hug. I called to check in on Angel and make sure that she was doing alright. I also let Kayla know that we would be back some time on Monday. We chatted with mom for a bit and then got ready for dinner. Dinner was at 6:30pm. Mom and dad had to sit at the head table so we sat at a table in the back. Dinner was Spinach Stuffed Chicken. I didn’t eat much of it since my chicken was still pink. After dinner we went back to the room with mom and chatted some more. We took all our stuff and headed downstairs to try and find out if there were any rooms available and/or if they could direct us to where we could find a place. They made a recommendation and we made some calls. We found a hotel with 2 available rooms! So we headed out and agreed to meet mom for breakfast.
Friday morning we met mom in her room at 9am. We headed to the Mall of Millenia which is where mom wanted to go and we thought that we would eat breakfast there. There weren’t too many options so we decide to head to the plaza across the street and try to find a place to eat there. We miss the light and exit so we headed to IHOP. All three of us had a huge breakfast. We then headed to Target so that mom could do some Halloween costume shopping. Then we headed back to the Mall of Millenia and walked around there. It is absolutely beautiful in there! There was even a Swarovski store! We took a look and found that one of the designer’s was going to be at the store to do some signing. Too bad it is going to be on a Tuesday! Otherwise Nathan and I would take some of the pieces that we have by him and get them signed.
We then head to Harry P. Leu Botanical Gardens. There were a lot of paths that were closed due to trees down on the pathway because of the hurricanes. The vegetable garden was pretty much non-existent. The Rose and the Herb Garden were beautiful! I am surprised that they don’t have more problems with people taking things from the garden. It was pretty hot so we took mom back to her hotel and then we headed out to go take a nap. We planned to meet mom and dad back at the hotel for dinner.
Dad had a headache and didn’t get any sleep on Thursday night. Friday night was staff skit night. The skits were on financial contributions to Tau Beta Pi. Dinner was Steak and Baked Potato. My steak was still red so I sent it back got another. After dinner dad had more meetings so we headed up to the room with mom and we sat down and watched the debate. Dad wasn’t back yet so we planned to meet at 10am with my Uncle and his girlfriend for brunch. Mom wanted to sleep in because she and dad will need to be up with the birds on Sunday morning. Dad wasn’t back yet from any of his meetings and it was late so we just headed out.
Saturday morning Nathan and I both slept in. We got ready and headed out to pick up mom. Uncle called mom and dad to let them know that they weren’t going to be ready till 10:30am. So we just hung out with mom and relaxed for a little bit. Uncle called again and said he would be at the hotel in about 6 minutes. We headed down to the lobby. Uncle picked us up and we headed into Old Downtown Orlando. Uncle wanted to find a place where we could eat outside. So we spent some time walking around the area to find a place to eat. I got some cool pictures that I will also post. We sat down around 11am to eat. At about noon we decided to walk around the Flea Market. We then took a scenic drive around the area. Uncle invited Nathan and I to stay with them for the rest of time in Orlando but since check out is supposed to be at 11am at our hotel we thought it would be silly to not stay at the hotel for the night. We told him we would give him a call and let him know. We took mom back up to her room and told her that we would meet her for dinner. But she remembered that she and dad had to sit at the head table for the evening. So we were going to be by ourselves for the evening.
Saturday afternoon we headed back to our hotel for a nap. Got up to shower, iron and get ready. Headed to hotel and waited for mom and dad. They were already inside so we had to wait to get our tickets. Dinner was Steak and Chicken combo and lots of awards and presentations. Dinner also started earlier tonight than the other nights. It was at 5:30pm. After dinner we headed back up to mom and dad’s room to hang out for a little bit before mom and dad had to go to a final meeting. It was nice to finally sit down and really talk to my dad. At 9:30pm mom and dad headed out for the wedding and we said goodbye. It wasn’t as hard to say goodbye knowing that we would see them again in January. On our way to our hotel we stopped to get some gas, water and chocolate! The plan was to head to the hot tub. We got to the room and changed and brought our stuff down to the hot tub but it was full of kids when we went down and so was the pool. So we headed back to the room. Just hung out and watched the news and got an update on Mathew.
Sunday morning we got up, showered and headed down to the lobby for breakfast. Holiday Inn Express Cinnamon Buns are not that spectacular. I just stuck to cereal, bagels and english muffins. After breakfast we went back to the room to finish packing up and put everything in the truck. We checked out and I got some directions. Then we headed to my Uncle’s. When we arrived there, a 20 min. drive, we checked the internet and made reservations for Arabian Nights. We decided to head out and go to Downtown Disney since we knew that was free and we didn’t need to pay to go there. We walked around for 2 hours and then stopped at McDonalds for a shake and ice-cream. After that we headed to AMC Theatre for a movie. We watched The Forgotten. Very cool movie!
After the movie we headed to the dinner theater. The show started at 6:10pm and we didn’t get out until 8pm. It was a wonderful show and had a patriotic closing. There was a lighting of candles for hope for soldiers who are out protecting freedom. It was very patriotic! After the show we headed back to my Uncle’s to get the news on the game. Go Pats! After getting an update we say goodbye to Uncle and Debbie and head to bed!
Monday morning we sleep in a little and then we headed out! We stop off at Dunkin Dounuts on our trip home. We make it home a little after 11am. We stop and pick up Angel! She was very excited to see us! It was a very nice get away! Below are some pictures of our weekend.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

1/2 marathon 101

So, I got this crazy idea in my head during the olympics that I should get back into shape by running again. My initial ground school training at VP-30 limited my time but I was getting better at procrastinating so I decided to go for it. I downloaded a novice training schedule for a marathon off of the Internet and found a local marathon to prepare for. The training was for 18 weeks, whoops only 16 weeks to go and the fact that the training schedule suggested you should be running about 10 miles a week for the past year before attempting (no big deal right?).

I dive right into the training, all motivated and happy for a physical challenge. 4 weeks go by and I even manage the 10 mile long run.... barely. For the hour plus runs I use a camelbak. I was very impressed with it. Allows me to keep hydrated with 2 liters of water and to carry cellphone, ID, and mini-Ipod. My only problems is the typical sore feet (my shoes don't have enough arch support for me, nothing a few pieces of cardboard couldn't fix) and this horrific blister over blister on my left pinky toe (no blisters anywhere else, just that one toe... it has always been that way).

At this point I feel confident I can tackle a half-marathon. A quick search on the Internet finds one. The inaugural marine corps half marathon on Oct 2. Why not! 30$. With 4 weeks of running behind me what could go wrong. One last thing I should mention before covering the run. A VERY important part of any training is your diet. I did not do too well in that category. Remember that post a few days ago I mentioned Dominos gave us a free medium pizza? Well we ended up getting 2 mediums... and I had pizza the two days prior to the race. But, I was smart enough to know I should have some carbs the day before.... But we didn't have any pasta... we had macaroni and cheese though! That is pasta! So my diet the night before was pizza and mac & cheese.... that was my biggest regret.

Race Day: I only get about 5 hours sleep (Rikki ran into the room around midnight turning the light on to tell me a dead body was found in our dumpster... more on that later.) I wake up and down a slim-fast shake, I didn't want much in my stomach while running. I glance at the temperature and head out the door. 74 degrees... warmer than usual, but not bad. I should have checked the weather channel (regret #2). I show up 45 minutes early at Alltel Stadium (home of the Jaguars), pick up my race chip (transponder that records your start/stop time when you run over these nifty electronic mats) and pretend to stretch while I urinate by my truck since the line to the portapottys are several dozen people long. I was over hydrated starting the race. 10 minutes prior I head to the start line. All 700+ of us line up on the wrong side. The shift takes a while and the 7 a.m. start time comes and goes. The sky is clear and the sun is rising. I did not want to run in the sunlight. It was then that I notice the humidity is worse than normal (regret #3).

The gun fires and I start off at a decent jog, I tag along behind a father & son pair, one with blue body paint and white stars and the other red and white stripes.... how patriotic. My aspirations were never high. My plan was to finish the 13.1 miles, if things went well I wanted a 9-10 minute mile (a very slow jog). I pickup the pace with the initial race starting rush and pass a few people. Then the first surprise hits me. We are going over 2 bridges.... wait those bridges are hills! I haven't run a hill in 2 years. Not that big a deal, but I could feel the difference. The first mile went fast of course, piece o'cake. The second bridge was under construction and I was glad to see a porta-potty. I used it, way over hydrated this morning. Mile 2 and our first water station. I grab the paper cups of water they were offering. I tried to drink while jogging, maybe a 1/3 went in my mouth, the majority down my front. I didn't try that again. The heat and humidity was starting to get to me by mile 3. 4 was another water break, I slowed to a walk while I guzzled the cup of water. Miles 5, 6, and 7 became painful. I broke out my sunglasses and they immediately fogged up and started picking up sweat droplets. I took them off and looked for a dry article of clothing to wipe them off on.... I was drenched. I had never sweat that much before. The sun was up and not a cloud in the sky, the temperature was rising. Mile 8 I finally hit another water station. They were supposed to be every 2 miles. I was very thirsty. I walked again, grabbing 2 cups of water and 1 of powerade. I also grab a gel, I've never tried one before. It is just easily digested energy for runners. A must for marathons. My time was fine, maintaining at least a 9 min mile. My feet were sore and my left pinky toe was burning. Mile 9 and 10 was running back to the stadium directly into the sun. The pavement was starting to hurt more with every stride. My feet were not ready for the combined heat and pavement. My knees also weren't ready for the small hills. But that was nothing compared to how thirsty I was becoming. Mile 11 the end is in sight... I thought. At the final water station I grab 3 more waters and pick up the pace as people cheer "1 mile to go" I was excited that I must have missed the 12 mile marker. half a mile later of my faster pace I pass the 12 mile marker and would have cursed at those people if I had the energy. Everything was burning at this point, the pain in my feet over coming my dehydration and muscle fatigue. I make the 13 mile marker and pick up the pace once again for the final .1 mile. I cross the finish line to a large crowd and hobble over to pick up my medal, a free marine corps mug, a water bottle, and to drop off my chip. After 3 liters of water and a banana I stagger towards my truck, stopping at another porta-potty I realize I have never been so dehydrated in my life. I make it to the truck stretch barefoot on the grass. No obvious blisters on my feet, just intense burning. I actually felt good at this point. Another liter of water later I put a towel in my seat to soak up my sweat while I drive and head home. There were still 100's of runners coming in. That was when the stomach cramps started. They were not horrible, but they lasted for a while.... the rest of the day. After getting home I check weather.com and find out the humidity was at 90%. No wonder I struggled. I needed about 3 times as much water during that race.

I did complete it! I was number 180 out of... 500+ finishers. Alot of people fell out and 100's stopped and walked. My crawl of a pace was just above a walk. This has definitely prepared me for the next one! It can only get easier... right? Pictures are pending...

2 gallons of water and a day later I am doing okay. A little sore, my feet are fine, and no blisters. We went to the beach this morning but didn't stay long. It stunk of dead fish and seaweed. Leftovers from the hurricanes.


Oh yeah, the dead body.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Free Pizza

After Dominos refused to deliver to a cell phone I visited their website and left a complaint. Turns out they should have offered us the chance to verify our address, i.e. stop by and attach an address to the cell phone number. Since they failed to do that the manager gave me a free medium pizza and verified my number for me.