The Dam Bursts

This weekend we made our yearly trip down to St. Louis to hang out with some friends. All in all, it was a good time. We ate at some good restaurants, hung out, did a little bit of shopping, and discovered the place that brewed my favorite root beer no longer brews it so they are dead to me.

On the plus side, both driving down and back, I put in a lot of work on the novel I’m currently writing, which pleases me. I’ve got a lot of ideas for it and pieces are starting to  flow together. Slowly but it’s happening.

On the down side, having finally returned home, we woke up this morning to discover a pipe had burst in the basement. It’s not flooded but we’ve had to shut off all the water.

So I’m sitting here on my couch (with a cat napping on my toes) waiting for the plumber so I can take a shower and get off to work and I figure ‘What the heck? Let’s write a blog post.’ Here you go – a post 🙂

Vacation! … Over

Vacation is over and we’re back home. I had planned on updating the blog while in Hawaii but Internet was too spotty for that. More to come in the next couple of days after we’ve sorted through our pictures, etc.

In the meantime, it’s time to do laundry, buy groceries, pacify the cats, and so forth. It’s good to be home.


Once again, I’m lax on updating the blog. Given the busy start of the school year and life outside, I haven’t had a lot of opportunity sit down and play with the blog. Nor has there been all that much excitement that I felt was spectacularly interesting. But seeing as how I’m here now, how about some stuff?

1) When leaping into the air, always make certain you land on your feet and not, say, your shoulder. Because it hurts. A lot.

You’d think one would know this but sometimes you gotta experiment. About three or so weeks ago, while playing frisbee, I dove for the disk and ended up landing very awkwardly on my right shoulder. The result was a whole lotta pain and numbness down my arm. I have long had rotator cuff problems so I figured I messed it up pretty bad. A visit to the hospital the next day confirmed that ‘Yup, you done messed that up’.

The x-ray did not give me super powers. 😦

This upset me greatly, aside from the pain. I had been just getting into weight lifting (something I *hate*) because I thought ‘If I build up the muscles, I won’t have shoulder pain and I’ll do better running!’ Hah, yeah, well about that … In any case, a cortisone shot and three weeks of physical therapy later, I was back and able to play again this past Sunday. Not 100% – it hurts more to catch the frisbee than to throw it, oddly enough, but it helps. I’m lifting again and able to run. So things are looking up.

2) I know cool people. I get to do cool things.

Since March 2013, I’ve been a member of a community known as Shack Tactical. ShackTac is best known for games though we do a lot of other stuff (these are the guys that I went to play paintball with back in July). It’s hard to describe us but basically it comes down to our motto – ‘Serious Fun’. We play hard, we play serious, but most importantly, we play for fun. I’ve had a blast in this group and I consider myself pretty lucky that my brother, Jon, is also part of it (joining in August ’13).

A Typical Session …

ShackTac is popular and to get in, you have to apply (18+ years old, mature, community minded). In 2013, there were over 2400 applicants. Of those, less than 50 got in and of those, less than 25 remain. Hard to get in, hard to stay in, worth every bit of effort. (I think our total membership is somewhere around 400).

Recently, we had a ‘spy’ in our group – a writer from Polygon magazine who did this piece on us – Why We Fight: Inside Shack Tactical, The Elite Military Simulation Group. I was interviewed for the piece (though none of my quotes made the final copy) but it was a lot of fun to see the final story. Figured I’d share that out to all of you.

(And for the genuinely interested – I do vids for ShackTac under my nick, Harrier. My view of the mission around which the article is based is in this vid – Cue Dramatic Exit(s).)

3) Hawaii. We’re going.

Yeah – it’s vacation time. In 13 days, we’ll be flying back in time (time zones that is) to visit Hawaii for a couple of weeks. Never been there but my parents and twin brother have.  Most of our trip will be on Oahu but we will also be spending some time on Molokai. Very much looking forward to some days in the sun and just general relaxation.

And yes, I’m certain there will be uber-loads of pictures when I get back.


The ‘Oops I Forgot To Update’ Update

Hi there blog.

Yes, yes, I know I haven’t updated you in a long while. I’m sorry, really, I am. What’s my excuse? Well …

Summer has been really busy around here – both in and out of work. The start of the school year is always crazy and this one was no exception. Constant broken computers, late arriving faculty and staff, folks showing up at the last second and crying that ‘X is not ready!’ despite having months they could have tested it out ahead of time. So hectic, to say the least.

Outside of work has been more fun (but no less busy). There’s the garden which hasn’t seen the best year ever. The cool, dry summer followed by heat and wet didn’t do us any favors. The pepper crop Steph has been growing took a beating from that and a recent thunderstorm that destroyed all their protection. We’ve also been making cider. Lots and lots of cider. Nearly 22 gallons yesterday alone and the trees are still loaded.

Less than a third of the apples pressed on Sunday.

And then there have been the home improvement projects. Over the course of this summer, we’ve done the following: resided the garage, replaced the garage door and opener, replaced the side/people garage door, replaced the back door to the house, put in new carpet in the bedroom and office, put in new tile in the bathroom, replaced the toilet in the bathroom (because the old one broke while during the tile project), and of course the lawn which has become nice and thick and thwarts my attempts at mowing. This means there is really only one ‘old’ thing left on the house – the chimney. And we are working on getting that replaced next spring. For now though, we bask in our lovely house and enjoy it.

Here’s to hoping that the fall and winter make for better blog updating.



Get Off My Lawn! No, Seriously …

Back when we lived in Cedar Rapids, our house was on very sandy soil which meant that if it wasn’t already growing, there wasn’t much change anything new would come up (and believe me, we tried). Moving up to Decorah meant  a new house and a new yard.

Right off the bat, things weren’t great. The previous owner hadn’t taken care of the yard at all. She stopped living in the house several months before we purchased it and refused (to the astonishment of both her and our realtor) to allow anyone to mow or tend to the yard. When we took possession, my father-in-law and I spent hours mowing the front yard. It was a disaster. Crab grass, weeds. Random flower placement. A lot of “Well, I think something green would look good over here *throws down some random seed and walks away*”.

An unfortunate yard (with sidewalk removed)
An unfortunate yard (with sidewalk removed). Dirt patch in upper left is where the old pine tree was.

That’s not to say we didn’t try to make something out of it. Steph had a great garden/herb bed. We had flowers. I planted grass seed and mowed regularly. Took out two trees that were dying and sadly looked at the 60′ pine tree that was diseased and had to go. But the task was a lot like Sisyphus in that every time we took a step forward, the lawn would rise up, laugh, and commit seppuku. (Why yes, I am mixing my cultural references. No, you shut up.) We had droughts and floods and just general bad luck.

The final straw came early last year when the electric company had to replace a power pole in the backyard. They took out the tall pine (thus saving us several hundred dollars) but had to drive very heavy equipment through the yard, resulting in deep tread marks and torn up grass. So we said ‘screw it’ and had sod laid down. At the same time, we had a new sidewalk put in (who the hell builds a curved sidewalk and then paints it yellow and purple?!).

The result … well, here you go:

Yard stripped of the old grass and leveled.
Yard stripped of the old grass and leveled.
Grass! Actual grass!
Grass! Actual grass!


We water more than a lot. Also next year, once everything is settled, we plan on adding two fruit trees to the front yard.

Wisdom Penalty: -4

Wednesday was a glorious day for a dentist and his boat payments as he yanked the Wisdom Teeth out of my head.

This was all done at 6am, before I had a chance to be fully coherent and fight back. It started off well with the dentist walking right past the room I was being prepped into, going into another, and wondering where the patient was. Yah – confidence booster there 😛

I remember nothing about the surgery as I was (thankfully) unconscious during the entire thing. For some reason, the dentist nor any of his assistants saw reason to take away my iPhone. So immediately after the surgery, I sent this message to Steph:



Yeah … I have no idea what I was saying either. I don’t remember sending this at all.

Recovery has been … okay, I suppose. The right side has no pain, very little swelling. In fact, it feels more like I had a cavity filled or something like that. The left side, on the other hand, is the demon from hell. A full twelve hours after the surgery, I was still popping pain meds enough to make me sick to my stomach. It’s still swelled up and hurts to open my jaw more than an inch or so.

I haven’t been able to eat any real solid food yet. Applesauce and jello most of Wednesday (plus some smoothies Steph bought me). Today I upgraded to Soy Ice Cream and mashed potatoes. Hopefully tomorrow I can eat some chicken or something.

In a bit of irony, Wednesday afternoon saw the deliver of my Annual Checkup reminder from the dentist. HAHAHA yeah, no.

Storming the Beaches of Normandy

This weekend I went to France.

Well, sorta. I and a group of friends gathered in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania to partake in the 2014 ION (Invasion of Normandy) Paint Ball event.

TL;DR: ION is 4500 people gathering in a paint ball scenario event based around the Invasion of Normandy and the events following thereafter. As members of the Allied force, we ‘stormed’ the beaches and then pushed inland, securing territory, accomplishing missions, and doing various other things.

It should be noted that I have never played paint ball before. Prior to arriving at ION, I never even fired a paint ball gun (aka, marker). Fortunately, my older bro loaned me his gear so I didn’t have to shell out a lot of money outside of buying paint and a few other minor things. It worked well enough.

Getting to ION was an adventure itself – a 15 hour drive that began from Iowa City at 5pm (where I met a friend) and straight through the night, arriving about 10am. Only managed an hour of sleep on the drive (nerves? uncomfortable? don’t know) so Friday was quite rough. We left Sunday for another 15 hours back home (leaving about 8am and arriving back in Iowa City about 10pm where I stayed the night at a hotel and came home Monday morning).

Why yes, I've only had one hour of sleep in the past two days. How could you tell?
Why yes, I’ve only had one hour of sleep in the past two days. How could you tell?


ION itself though … epic and amazing. The main event was Saturday, starting with the beach landings at noon and running until 9pm. The group I was with was about 30-35 people, all of us familiar with one another and working as a team (which in itself was great fun). We went out onto the field three times – beach landings, wood patrol and missions, and an evening tree line fight. All told, it was about 3-4 hours of actual fighting and the rest recovery. Very much needed recovery.

Some highlights:

  • Storming the Beach. I was in the third boat, front row which meant I had a perfect view of what was to come. Even before the ramp dropped, the shots started coming in. It sounded like hail against a metal roof – light at first and then ramping up until you couldn’t even hear yourself think. Then the ramp dropped and all you could see was chaos – smoke, paint balls in the air, people running back and forth. I darted out, cut left, and dove behind a barrier that was hit by dozens of shots a second after I arrived. It was amazing.
  • While still on the beach, I led a group of random strangers into assaulting a position that eventually led to a break through in the enemy lines. I simply grew tired of being pinned down, ordered two people to provide covering fire, grabbed two others, and pushed forward. It worked.
  • Going out on a mission with 10 of us and watching about 250 Germans charge the ‘Pentagon’, then discovering we were on their right flank which was now exposed. The ten of us wrecked havoc until we were discovered and lit up by about a hundred guns.

There was a lot more. The entire experience was fantastic and I’m glad I went. Already making plans for next year. Now, a few pictures (click on all of them to enlarge).

Minutes before the first landing.
Minutes before the first landing.
Standing about 10 meters from where the German line would be. Our boat can be seen just in front of the red container, flying a British flag (we were Sword Beach, the far left flank of the assault).
Standing about 10 meters from where the German line would be. Our boat can be seen just in front of the red container, flying a British flag (we were Sword Beach, the far left flank of the assault).


Some of the woods in which we fought. There were also streams, swamps, overgrowth, etc. It was tough ground.
Some of the woods in which we fought. There were also streams, swamps, overgrowth, etc. It was tough ground.
The Pentagon (aka, Paris) and surrounding terrain. This is near where we attacked the German flank.
The Pentagon (aka, Paris) and surrounding terrain. This is near where we attacked the German flank.
A little worse for the wear after the final excursion.
A little worse for the wear after the final excursion.
Some of the wounds I suffered.
Some of the wounds I suffered.
Post Insertion Shots 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Halfway Home on Sunday
Post Insertion Shots 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Halfway Home on Sunday


Oh Hey There June

*walks past*


*looks at screen*

Oh crap. This thing’s still here! Um … hi!

Yes, I’m still alive. Just … busy? Steph has been traveling a lot and work has been picking up (summer is the busy time of year for IT folks in education). The few times we’ve been home together, it’s mostly been relaxation or just hanging out.

The big thing in June? My 40th birthday on the 23rd. I am officially over the hill. Not quite sure how I feel about that yet. We did have a nice party with some friends and family at our place, celebrating both mine and Steph’s birthdays (I shall not reveal her age for I am wise). So June hasn’t been a bad month in that regards.

Here’s hoping I remember to visit this blog more in July. Meanwhile, here’s two cats lounging.

This is what June was like around the house.
This is what June was like around the house.


Watch This – 15 Years

It's a metaphor you see ...
It’s a metaphor you see …

Fifteen years ago on this date, Steph and I were married.

Wow. That’s a long time. I didn’t realize just how long until I sat down to write this post and realized I didn’t have anything pithy or witty to say.  

The weather that day wasn’t all that different than it is today – a little warm, some humidity, but sunny. I woke up that morning nervous as hell and didn’t calm down until the ceremony itself started. The rest has been a lot of hard work, some bad times and a lot more good times, and in general, a pretty good life.

And now for the funny and odd thing. According to a few charts out there, 15 years is Crystal and the gift idea is Watches. This information probably would have served me better if I actually thought about it in advance. But I didn’t. Which makes this next part so much the better.

As an early anniversary/birthday gift, I bought Steph a BIA Sports Watch. It’s not quite crystal but hey … funny how things work out, eh?

Spin Me Right Round, Baby
Spin Me Right Round, Baby




Weekend Out + Cats

Our friends Becky and Simon came up from St. Louis and hung out with us for the weekend. It was a pleasant time.

Biking the Trout Run Trail

Also, the cats slept a lot.

I really don’t know why Cici is covering her eyes …