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 :)

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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.

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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.


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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.



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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.

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