Monday, June 30, 2008

A day in the city

Today we went to San Francisco to visit a few relatives. The weather was nice and, thanks to a certain GPS FM receiver, traffic wasn't bad. Always good to visit family and eat well. Pictured on the right is a woman with a fur coat riding a moped, complete with shopping bag dangling off the handlebars. A front picture would have done it justice.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ducati Woes...

Even though my bro's been firing it up occasionally, my Ducati battery died in storage. So I won't get a chance to ride my baby this week :-(. Actually, that makes two dead motorcycles since I did the same thing with my BMW in Seoul. Oh well - maybe next time.

It's nice to drive my Honda Accord again. My mom's been taking good care of it.

Wakeboarding in Sacramento

Kept up the old tradition of going wakeboarding with Glenn. Always begins at about 11:00 on a Sunday morning - the routine has been the same as long as I can remember, even though I only make it once a year these days. We waterski and wakeboard down river to the Freeport Inn for an outstanding brunch then fill ourselves with a huge plate of fries and their famous "Mile High Mud Pie" - today they were out so we settled for the "Banana something or another".

It was good to get on the river again with the family. I felt pretty good on the wakeboard, getting some decent air. Missed out on the waterskii pictures though.

That's me on the left (jumping left) and my Goofy little Bro' jumping right.

Done at last with Airborne School

Airborne school has got to be the longest short school I've ever been to. With more time I would have blogged about the experience as I went through it. Descriptions and attitude would have been very different from day to day.

That said, I safely completed my first five jumps to earn my basic parachutist wings. I'm now a Five Jump Chump, looking forward to knocking a few more out at my unit. C-130 and C-17 jumps provide totally different experiences. The older prop driven 130s are crammed inside and require a short exit jump. Its prop blast, or jetstream is noticeably hot and doesn't throw you too bad. The C-17 may not look like much, but that beast has power. Guess I didn't really believe the C-17 pilot that I used to do Mui Thai with in Charleston. Those guys would hold the brakes and rev the 4 jet engines. Takeoff felt like a quarter mile launch followed by a hard bank followed by a leveling off maneuver that felt like a roller coaster. That ended up being more thrilling than the jump. A few of the girls in my "stick" (jump group of 30) made hillarious faces and complained about how horrible the 17 was - I loved it.

The jumps were relatively uneventful, as they should be. The night jump in combat gear was particularly fun.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hot 'lanta

Fort Benning is in Columbus. This is a picture from the part of town I'm staying. The good news is that my friend Chuck flew in to Atlanta to come visit me for the weekend - what a good guy! Neither of us had been around the city much.

The Olympic Park area was very nice. I had no idea that there were so many attractions in such a small area. It was pretty much a zoo of people.

We went to the aquarium first, only to find that our tickets were could only be purchased several hours out. No worries, there was a lot to see in the adjacent park and CNN building. The aquarium was interesting, but hardly the "best in the world". They did a nice job with 5 major themed areas and the props that surrounded the tanks.

Next we walked next door to the "World of Coca Cola". They didn't advertise it, but military got free admittance - sweet! I enjoyed all the old authentic Coke advertising that they had on display. The bulk of the exhibit was informative, but pretty dry.

Their grand finale was lots of fun, albeit sickening. They gave you a plastic cup and had 64 different taps of drinks from around the world. Surprisingly, most of the Asian ones weren't that bad - I'd had several already. There were a few served in Europe and South America that were disgusting! One in particular from Italy - the name escapes me - was atrocious. It was like a foul soda version of grapefruit juice that burned your throat with a disgusting aftertaste. Ughh! I really liked some of the exotic fruit Fantas.

A little more wandering around the Olympic Park area, then on to a Braves game. There were other things to do, but we'd pretty much filled our Saturday.

That night we went to a Braves Games. Chuck really wanted to go to a baseball game in Asia. We couldn't find one in Korea and missed our chance in Tokyo - our stop at the Kirin Beer factory tour on the way back from Yokohama put us back too late.

The game was pretty eventful. The middle was pretty slow, but the Braves made an exciting comeback against the Mariners in the 9th.

Chuck's one of those guys who can find a historic site, monument, or landmark anywhere. I had never heard of Stone Mountain Park, but he insisted on going before making it back to the airport. I was a little nervous because I had to be back for "manifest" or supposedly I wouldn't be able to jump and graduate.

Take a pool of magma, wait a couple hundred million years, then a few more for erosion and you get Stone Mountain. Eventually some dude chisels Southern Civil War generals in the side and there you go.

We took the gondola up to the top to enjoy an Italian Ice and a (foggy) view of Atlanta. Chuck and I have had a "Tower" theme to our travels so this was a reasonable substitute. He's afraid of heights, but that didn't stop us from Skydiving in Vegas last August.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Just finished my first week at beautiful Fort Benning. Airborne school isn't easy, but it isn't hard either. For me the toughest part is being up at 3:45 and standing around all day in the heat. Falling in the gravel pit and the other trainers are nothing but fun. PT is challenging, but doable - we get a little break because they can't run us more than 4 miles during the summer months. The only thing that sucks are the fire ants in the grass - the "black hats" don't do it on purpose, but there's only so many places you can have a few hundred guys do pushups at a time. Speaking of the "black hats", our instructors, they aren't bad at all - much more lenient than I expected. Every time I hear the recent Army boot camp grads and cadets (college students) complain about them I can shake my head - they should try Marine gunny drill instructors. There's no comparison. I get the feeling the Marine I march behind would prefer that madness. The 6'4" recon officer is built like Robo-cop and all Hoo-Rah. He seems to think this is an easy joke of a course - just a prereq for HALO and HAHO. It's pretty funny to see the kids talk about him - they're scared of the guy. He's a scary dude.

So what do we do? Run a lot. Wait. Receive instruction. Wait. Practice drills. Wait. March a lot. Wait. PT. Wait. Yell "Airborne" a lot. Wait. "Standing by to stand by". I'd say we get a good 3-4 hours of instruction/training during our 13 hour days. I'm having a good time, though.

The actual training is great. PLF - parachute landing fall, how we're going to hit the ground. How you put on your equipment, mass exits from a high speed aircraft, body positioning, what you check for, what to do when you land - it's all good stuff. On the left is a 34' tower trainer to practice exit techniques. Good fun, I tell you! On the right is a 250' tower that I hope to get to try.

I can't fault the instruction - our trainers are great. It's just that getting 500 people ready takes time. I guess I shouldn't be amazed that most of the same small group of guys who had to be pushed out of the tower or couldn't hold a body position were the same ones that couldn't do PLFs to save their lives. We get good instruction and repetition. It really only takes a little bit of coordination and athleticism. Surprisingly, by the end of the day Friday even the gimpies had figured it out - right on schedule. I guess the instructors will morph these guys into airborne jumpers. Two weeks to go. I can't wait!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My first soccer game

My first professional soccer game and it's in Korea. It was a blast! The locals really get into the action. Pictures to follow...

Mad Cow Craze

All those other protests I witnessed were nothing compared to the recent ones. Forty thousand Koreans took to the streets of Seoul in protest of US beef imports. They're not violent compared to an event of similar magnitude in the States, but heck, still pretty wild.

They're worried about mad cow disease, which can be caused by old cows that eat "recycled" feed. So the import agreement was no bones, and after a few incidents of them finding single bone fragments in shipments of hundreds of tons, they want to boycott US beef. I guess they don't mind paying an average of $50/kg of beef - it's not like they have any, well many, cows in Korea. Big enough issue to plummet the approval rating of the new president to below 30% - the same president that won the elections by an unprecedented landslide only last year. Crazy times!