Sunday, October 30, 2011

Could You Keep it Down? I'm Talking to Myself Over Here

When I was a kid I thought only weird people talked to themselves.  As I grew older, I realized everyone talks to themselves.  Weird people talk to themselves outloud, when other people are around.  That made me feel better, as I talk to myself all the time (as of course all of us do).  The great thing about talking to yourself, I've realized, is that you never lose an argument, you laugh at your own jokes, and you always realize how incredibly insightful you are.  Or at least think you are.

Sometimes I will crack myself up, and I'm sure those around me think I'm really strange, just busting out laughing at nothing, but I don't really care.  Friday on the way to work I was thinking about how it was Thursday, then said to myself, "No dude, I think it's Friday."  A quick glance at my watch confirmed that indeed it was the last work day of the week.  Then I busted out with a "Yeah!  That's what I'm talking about, it's Friday!  Woo-hoo"  Then I started laughing at my own goofiness, both for forgetting what day of the week it was, and for getting so excited when I suddenly remembered.  I don't mind being odd.  At least I'm enjoying my own company.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Basic Marksmanship

Every once in a while being in the military gives one the opportunity to have some fun that other jobs don't offer.  No, I'm not talking about shining boots or dusting wall lockers; I'm talking about real fun.  Like shooting a machine gun, doing an obstacle course, or jumping out of an airplane.  I've found that while the Air Force offers a lot less of the shining boots variety of mundaneness than the Army did, it also has less of the repelling out of a helicopter awesomeness. 

Needless to say, I was quite stoked this week when I got the opportunity to take part in a shooting competition.  While I had no delusions of scoring in the top 10% and getting a medal, it was a great opportunity to get out of work for a couple of hours to shoot an M16, and we didn't even have to clean the rifles when we were done.

After a quick safety brief we went to the range where silouettes were hanging upside down, with four targets in a quad on each silouette, and a smaller target beneath the four to be used for zeroing.  We got to shoot five rounds at the zeroing target, go downrange and inspect it, make adjustments to the sights, then repeat the process once.  Then the competition began.

First up was 60 seconds to shoot 10 rounds at the top left target on your silouette while standing.  I quickly discovered two things.  When there are 34 people shooting in tight quarters it is imperative to make sure you are shooting the target that has your lane's number below it, as there are three targets straight in front of you.  And also, it's really hard to see what you're shooting at when the smoke from 34 rifles fills the 25 meters between you and the targets.

I did slightly better standing than kneeling, which was the second position, this time with only 45 seconds to squeeze off 10 rounds.  The bullseye was worth 10 pts, with successive rings down to 6 pts.  Unfortunately, I had a round land in the 6 pt circle, and those didn't count.  I also realized I was hitting a little high, so I dropped my aim a bit for the next portion - 10 rounds from the sitting position in 45 seconds.  I have never fired a rifle sitting, but with my aim lowered a bit my shots hit closer to center - I got 93 pts compared to 82 standing and 78 kneeling.

Needless to say, I was feeling pretty good about going into the last portion, which was 60 seconds to fire 20 rounds from the prone position.  Unlike the previous three positions, the prone is a position I have actually fired the M16 from before, and it is one I am very comfortable with.  I got into position, waited for the buzzer, and started squeezing off shots, about one every two seconds, until my clip was empty.  As I was shooting I could occasionally see the holes opening up on the target through the haze and they seemed to be centered pretty nicely.

Once the second buzzer went off I put my rifle down and stood up for a better view of my target.  It was at this point that I noticed I couldn't see the holes in my target anymore.  In fact, while the top left, right, and bottom left were holey, the bottom right appeared untouched.  Then I looked over at the bottom right target on my neighbor's silouette to the right of me and noticed that his target seemed full of holes.  40 to be exact.  Yes, I had forgotten point number one above and filled my neighbor's target full of holes.  Unfortunately, although he was allowed to reshoot at a fresh target, I was done for the day.  So I guess the bad news is, if I'm ever in combat and you're next to me, I may inadvertantly shoot the bad guy that you're shooting at.  The good news is, he'll definitely be dead when we're done.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Rocky Carwash

Not long ago I got a sprinkler system installed at our new home.  I'm not looking for a golf-course fairway lawn, but I don't really want all my grass to die either.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to move my car out of the driveway when they were installing the water lines, as this required a large cutting tool to dig the trenches - think giant chainsaw - and as the soil here abounds in rocks, there was much dirt and slivers of rock cast onto my car.

I'm not fastidious about keeping my car in showroom condition, but having a coating of dirt all over the car was a bit more than I could take, so I decided it was time to wash the car.  In Colorado Springs there was a great automatic car wash down the road that was only $3, but I wasn't sure where to find a good cheap car wash here, so I figured I would be washing Christine by hand.  Then one day on the way to the library I stopped to get gas, and the pump offered me $1 off a car wash with my fill up.  A quick glance around revealed that there was indeed a car wash co-located, and it was touchless.  Knowing that touchless car washes are closer to $10, and being cheap, I decided to see if I could find a traditional car wash.

A couple of nights later, I awoke to a heavy rain.  Unable to go back to sleep, I figured what the heck, and I threw on some shorts and, having filled a bucket with soapy water, I proceeded to wash the car in the rain.  I figured the rain would give it a good rinse and save me the work.  All went well, to include the rain letting up to a drizzle until right after I finished running around the car in the dark, wiping her down as quickly as possible, before resuming it's downpour as I finished.  I looked over the clean car with satisfaction, took a shower and got on with my day.

The next day I noticed a couple of scratches on my door that hadn't been there before, and realized that some of the fine rock chips had been rubbed into the paint in the dark.  I wasn't going to lose any sleep over a couple of scratches on a car that's past it's prime.  Then I noticed more scratches.  A walk around the car revealed that in the cloak of darkness I had scratched my car all over the place, and especially right on the hood of the car.  All that frantic rubbing to get the invisible in the dark dirt off had also been grinding invisible in the dark rock into the sheet metal.  Every time I walk past the passenger side I have 20 white circles crescending down the hood to remind me I was too cheap to pay for a touchless car wash, even with an extra dollar off!   I hate irony sometimes.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kids These Days

One of the interesting things about being in the military is having total strangers approach you and thank you for your service.  I am always taken aback, and don't really know what to say when someone does this, as "you're welcome" doesn't really capture my feelings of humility in serving along people who make sacrifices far greater than I in service to our country, and appreciation for the support of our fellow citizens that makes what we do possible.  One day while out with one of my military buddies we were tendered this grattitude and my friend replied with "thank you for your support".  I told him I had not heard that reply before but I found it particularly well suited for capturing my feelings and would be plagiarizing it on future occasions.

The other day as I was going for an evening walk through our neighborhood a youngster rode by with his friend on their skateboards, and as he pulled alongside me he asked me how I was doing.  I told him "pretty good", and upon shaking his outstretched hand he asked me if I was in the military.  I told him I was, and as he peeled away he said "thank you for your service!" to which I quickly replied "thank you for your support!"  I couldn't make out what his buddy said to him as they made their way down the hill, but I did hear him reply "I've never had anyone thank me back".  I was glad I was able to remember to reflect back my sincere gratitude for his support, and am encouraged that our nation's youth aren't all as shallow and self-absorbed as some would have us believe.  Who would have thought that a kid on a skateboard would make my night.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Meeting the New Ron

My parents were married over a quarter of a century before getting divorced when I was 20.  My dad was quick to remarry, but mom has been content filling her days with friends and family but no boyfriend.  Recently she met a new Ron (that is also my dad’s name), and romance has blossomed.  I’m old enough that it’s not as disconcerting to see my parents with new significant others as it would have been as a child, although it still takes some getting used to. 
Fortunately Ron is a pretty nice, laid-back guy.  Heather and I enjoyed spending 3 days with mom and Ron exploring San Antonio, chatting about the meaning of life, and playing a lot of Wii sports.  Don’t underestimate the ability of older folks to kick butt at Wii games.  I pretty well dominated at tennis but my mom crushed us all at bowling and Ron was the undisputed champ at golf.  We never did make it to a real bowling alley, where I might have stood a better chance of success.  At least in a real bowling alley they might have fatigued first, but they could play on the Wii all night without slowing down.  I obviously need to log some more time in front of the TV if I want to be competitive next time, or get a heavier controller so my youth might offer me some advantage.

Taking a boat on the river downtown was also an interesting experience, which Ron was kind enough to pay for.  We learned about the history of the downtown area, including the fact that the gargoyles on one of the buildings were used in the film Ghostbusters.  We also learned a little about the history of Texas while at the Alamo.  We learned that if you're ever outnumbered 10 to 1 and totally surrounded and given the chance to surrender, you may want to take your opponent up on that offer and live to fight another day. But if you decide to fight it out, be sure you have chosen a location that will be memorable, preferably with a short name.  "Remember the small hill on the outskirts of Tuskaloosa!" just doesn't have the same ring. 

Finding parking downtown was easier and cheaper than I had figured upon, and lunch was quite enjoyable and affordable as well.  The day went far better than the next one, when I took everyone to a state park a few miles up the road to explore, only to find that it is closed from Tuesday through Thursday.  Who ever heard of such a thing?  Oh well, it leaves something for a future trip I suppose.

Overall it was a great visit, and I’m glad my mom has someone to share her life with again.  As a bonus I don’t have to worry about forgetting his name.  I’m so glad my mom didn’t get a boyfriend named Hubert.