Thursday, January 26, 2012

Little Notes...

A few months ago, on a whim, I sent five or ten random notes to friends on Facebook. A person I hadn't seen in forever, some family I love dearly, and a couple of people I barely know but who have impressed me with the way they represent themselves on Facebook.

The response was wonderful without exception. Everyone seemed to love their note and all of them thanked me for it. It was a very bright spot in my year and I hope it at least made their days a little better. It put me in a good mood for several days and it took me all of 10 minutes to do.

That lesson stuck with me. I've been doing it every so often since, not just with Facebook but via email and phone at work and just randomly around the house. Little notes of encouragement, "you're awesome" messages, "atta boy" texts, surprise "I love you" notes (where appropriate), and of course the occasional "hang in there" for those facing challenges.

The power of this simple thing is incredible. I wouldn't have believed it, and you may not either, but try it and see for yourself. You'll be amazed at how touched people are - and while life is not all about touching people (that's what the judge said), a touch here and there goes a LONG way toward building stronger relationships.

It's ironic and sad that as we get more and more connected, we are all somehow less connected. This is a way to reconnect.

Pass it on.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On the road. Again.

Heading to a coworker's territory to assist with a faculty demo today. A full day, 8 hours of which will be spent on the road. This happens a lot lately. If it wasn't for audiobooks, I'd be lost. I'm so tired lately, that I don't have anything left when I get home.

My wife is blossoming into her pregnancy like the beautiful tulip she is. Heartier than you'd expect and beautiful, but also delicate. All I can do is watch through exhausted eyes. My kids are such bright little stars, but far from gazing in wonder, I barely have it in me to lift my head and notice.

It's not fair. To any of us. Something has to give.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Garden Planning

I spent the morning getting myself organized for the Spring garden by gathering all of the data I could find about frost, moon phases, and best planting times for various vegetables and put them into a Google calendar.

There are definitely things I want to do differently this year - most notably, I want to grow three sisters gardens with the kids' help.  They're a great illustration of mutually beneficial plantings and illustrate so many concepts of permaculture and gardening - it's a shame to not let them in on it.  Plus since you're dealing with corn, beans, and squashes - the seeds are huge and easy to plant for little fingers.

If you're unfamiliar - the concept is simple - the garden is circular and usually about 8 feet in diameter.  I'm looking at doing at least two of them.  You prepare the soil in the early spring - manure and compost are the usual suspects.  Then in late spring, you plant early corn in the center of the circle, wait until it's almost a foot tall and then plant some late pole beans that will climb up the corn.  Then about a week after the beans start to sprout, you plant the rest of the circle with a winter squash planting of some sort - whatever you choose. 
  • The squash crowds out weeds and helps the soil retain water, and since both beans and corn are very thirsty - that's important.
  • The beans are nitrogen fixers and corn is a VERY nitrogen hungry plant.
  • The corn provides a trellis for the beans without shading them out.
  • All three plants put all sorts of nutrients back into the soil.

Here's a great informative article about the process.

And another.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


A quick video of what I used to do in the Army ... or at least the fun part of it.  To put things in perspective -

  • On a typical jump, the altitude of the aircraft when we exited was between 800 - 1200 feet.  It took less than 2 minutes to reach the ground.
  • Most of us we wearing between 50 and 150 lbs of stuff (including parachute, harness, reserve chute, weapon, gear, food and water).
  • As the company RTO, I carried an 18 lb radio and two 6 lb spare batteries as well as my other gear, so my load was usually close to 150 lbs.  I only weighed about 140 lbs at the time.
  • Preparations for an airborne operation typically begin 12-18 hours prior to jump time, and you're in the harness with your gear strapped on for at least the last 4-6 hours of that.
  • The aircraft we jumped from most often were C-130s and C-141s.  These are not comfortable aircraft (see the pic below - the jumpmasters had to walk on our legs and gear to get from one end of the plane to the other).  The C-141 in particular had to slow down to almost stall speed in order for us to be able to exit safely.
  • There were routinely 5-10 aircraft flying in a line during these jumps, all putting paratroopers into the air simultaneously.  It often got pretty crowded in the sky and you had to watch out for other paratroopers.
  • If you watch carefully, you'll see several of these paratroopers do a complete flip after exiting the aircraft.  This is a combination of bad body position on their part and being caught in the exhaust of the jet engine from the aircraft.  Little guys like me tended to get flipped around quite a bit.
  • We almost never did these jumps during the day time.  In my three years as a paratrooper with, only 5 of my jumps were day jumps and 3 of those were during Airborne school.  Most of our jumps happened between 1 and 4 am.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Getting Started

This will be my fourth attempt at a blog ... will I write it this time? Who knows.  Hopefully, I will.  I'm happier when I write.

My first blog attempt was a windows spaces thing.  I did that for a month or two and lost interest.  Then I tried something through MobileMe, and had fun but our trial subscription ran out and I didn't have enough fun to renew it for $100/year.  Then finally,  I've had two WordPress blogs.  One of those actually had a lot of readers for awhile, anywhere from 800 - 4,000 a day.  I got some sponsors and made enough money to pay for my own domain and a professional template.  My mistake was getting sponsors.  The second someone was paying me to write the content, I started thinking of it as a second job and then it wasn't fun anymore.  I quit doing it the second my sponsors' purchased time was up.

I just want to write and those who know me know that I always have something to say, so blogging seems to be a good fit.

In the next year, I hope to write my first novel.  This blog will, in part, chronicle that adventure.  My wife and I are also about to have our FIFTH child, so that's bloggable too.  I'm about to embark on an adventure with P90X2 and that will be a task that I'll touch upon from time to time.  There's an ongoing Presidential election, and I may hit on that a bit.

At any rate, we'll see what comes of it.  Wish me luck!