Friday, January 30, 2009
I took and passed my "Airman Leadership School" correspondence course with a 90%. Then, I took the PT test and ran the mile and a 1/2 in 14 minutes in the cold with a really strong headwind, did 19 push ups and some sit ups (can't remember how many!) and got max points for my waist measurement. That all was good for a score of 85% and a "good." Now I have fulfilled my requirements to be promoted to Staff Sargent/ E-5, so my dad and everyone else on base can stop asking me, "When are you going to get promoted?" Maybe 6 years is a long time to be an E-4/ Senior Airman. It is now up to my supervisor to put in the paperwork. Then I will be official.
So the payoff was promotion (sooner rather than later, I hope) and the work was my "diet" which consists of eating a fiber bar (yum!) for lunch and my starting the Couch to 5 K program recommended by Claire. I just finished the third week, but I might stay there for another week since my PT test took a lot out of me. The C25K showed me I can mix running and walking and keep up a better pace over all. When I was running last summer before I hurt my knee (again) the fastest I ran the 1.5 mile was 16 mins. Towards the end I was going so slow I probably could have walked faster. That was after a month of preparation. After 2.5 weeks of prep this time I was able to do it in 14 mins because I walked some to keep my pace up. I walked 2.5 minutes total. I know I did my best because I threw up at the end. Or at least, I would have if I had eaten breakfast. As it was the PT monitor was treated to my dry heaves and retching sounds. Poor girl. But it was worth it because I passed and can now get promoted and don't have to take the PT test for another year. On the other hand, I almost couldn't get out of bed this morning because my muscles were so sore from the push ups and sit ups. That would have been a good excuse for calling in. Better than one of my past supervisors who called in once because "My cat slept on my head." That was all she told us. Pretty strange... Turns out the whole story is she is allergic to cats and her face swelled up so bad she could barely see. But she didn't mention that, now did she?
Last night Pie pulled it on a surface street walk for 3.5 miles loaded up with 9 pounds plus an unweighed jacket, wallet, phone, and two sets of keys. We came to grief twice on curbs and the cart was upset. Pie, however, was not upset. I will have to be careful during our draft test not to hit any bumpy area and upset the cart, or we will be disqualified!
The day before Pie pulled it for 1 mile with approx. 20 pounds of weight. Bloom! The basket is almost too small for him, so he won't go for too many rides.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I finally spotted some new shoots today!! See for yourself.
Aren't they cute?
Saturday, January 24, 2009
First I needed a cart that was light enough for her to pull. Pie's wagon weighs 50#. Fancy only weighs 30#. I got the BMX tires for Christmas and I found the milk crate online. Then some of the guys at my work put it together for me. The guy who did the most work builds and restores motorcycles and cars as a hobby and maybe professionally as well. He did a great job. The only thing that we have to figure out still is how to keep the shafts from rotating. A screw through the bracket and the shaft will do it, but I tried and it didn't come out right. Figures. I have a second set of shafts that are taller and longer so Pie can pull this cart too. The shafts easily remove by unscrewing a bolt. I didn't take any pictures with Pie because her shafts were rotating too much and giving us problems. It is odd that the tree is wider than the shafts, but even though it is unconventional, it seems to work.
Fancy did just as well as Pie did the first time. Maybe even better. I could tell she was enjoying it because she had a happy tail the entire time. If she was sad her tail would be droopy, but that never happened. Not to brag too much on my Fancy girl, but a lady came up to us while we were carting around and asked, "Is there anything Fancy can't do?" and I answered truthfully, "I haven't found anything yet." Maybe the handstand, but I think we could eventually get that.
Lots of people at the agility trial complemented Fancy on how good she looked and how cute. She gave a little Papillon a ride and someone took a picture so if I get a copy someday I'll post it. "Everyone" also agreed the cart turned out very nice.
Pie does as good job pulling Fancy, but Fancy is lucky because she will never have to pull Pie!
None of these pictures are super, but you can see the dogs had fun. Sorry, Mom. I should have taken more of Molly.
There were some leaves and lots of dead grass to be removed. The seed won't germinate (does that word make me sound like I know about planting, and more importantly, growing, grass?) unless it comes into contact with the soil. The dead grass would prevent this so it had to go. It took me some time to rake up all the dead grass and when I was done I was very tired and a lot of my day was gone. This is what it looked like after it was raked. Much more bare.
After the raking, it was time for the cultivating. I got the hoe and got to work. And work it was. The ground didn't give up easily, and neither did I and in the end, it was the hoe that threw in the towel. I was wearing gloves, but they couldn't stand up to my rigorous hoeing, (probably I shouldn't tell too many people I was engaging in rigorous hoeing) and I got blisters on both hands, and sore muscles all over. My handy instructions told me to cultivate to a depth of 4-5 inches, but I'm lucky if I got down an inch. This is what my raked and cultivated soil looked like.
Now it was starting to get dark. I was ready to spread the Magic Grass (not as exciting as some might think and/or hope) seed. I had three bags which was plenty. But I didn't really know how much was enough for one spot, so I ended up running low...
Finally I was ready for the last step- the fertilizer. I intelligently (not to brag) read the instructions on the fertilizer bag first and sadly discovered I needed a fertilizer spreader. Mr. Not So Helpful Salesguy was not only not so helpful, but also maybe somewhat incompetent. Unless you need a spreader for all fertilizer and it is me who is incompetent. I think he should have mentioned the spreader when he recommended the fertilizer to me. Since I didn't have a spreader, I was done for the day. Good thing- I'm not positive my abused body could have taken much more torture, er, yard work.
I hope to see some grass as a long term result, but as an added bonus, I got some immediate grassifaction (as Pacific Sod advertises) because I sweat so much water out and became so dehydrated I lost a few pounds in a day!
Now don't be too jealous when I tell you this, but the actual weight was 129.5! It went up when I picked up the camera.
The next day I borrowed a spreader from work (working in CE has some advantages) and used my trailer hitch cargo platform to get it home. I stoped at Home Depot (having given up on the Do It Best Center) and bought some additional grass seed for the areas where it got spread thinly and four 56 pound bags for topping soil. I had been warned I had to cover up the grass seed and since I didn't cultivate deep enough I didn't have anything to rake back over the seeds. I thought the topping soil was just the thing for the job. My tiered muscles protested lugging the 200+ pounds of soil around. Not all at once, of course, but still.
I got home and loaded up the spreader and spread the fertilizer. Then I started to spread the topping soil. You are supposed to put it on 1/4 inch thick, but I knew I didn't have enough, so I spread it just enough to mostly cover the ground. And I still ran out. This is how the yard looked with the topping soil. The little blue beads is the fertilizer.
This was a lot of work and quite a bit of $, but I really want a yard the dogs can play in and not get so dirty that people make comments about their state of cleanliness. I used to have dog envy, when I didn't have my dogs, then I had yard envy, when I didn't have a usable yard. Now I have dogs and a yard, and I have grass envy. It doesn't have to be pretty grass. Just something to cover up the dirt. Most of the grass I have now is crab grass. I purposely did not buy the crab grass preventer fertilizer because crab grass is green, and it isn't dirty, so I'll take it.
Now it looks like this. Note I even removed the strange mound of dirt. I was happy to find there wasn't anything buried under it. I did find a palm type plant in a really odd pot back there. I used my clippers to chop the plant down and put it into the yard waste barrel. As I picked it up, I discovered it was a fake plant. I felt pretty sheepish as I removed it from the yard waste can and put it into the regular trashcan.
I piled all the clippings on the concrete on the side of my house because I knew I was going to be doing the grass. It sure took up a lot of room!
I had to pay a company to take it away. The first guy quoted me at $185 (!) but the second company did it for $85, which just goes to show you should always get multiple quotes. Something I learned from working in CE.
Writing about all this yard work is making me almost as tired as actually doing it. Almost. Going back to my poor bent hoe... I looked at the Magic Grass seed bag after I was done, and I saw there was drawing of a funny looking guy cultivating the soil...with a shovel. I'm told that is the only way to do it right. The Do It Best Center salesguy didn't do it very well for me. However, he really did do me a favor, because as difficult as it was to hoe, I think trying to dig up my entire yard with a shovel probably would have been even more difficult.
I'm now watering my "lawn" twice a day and examining it for new shoots every two minutes. The dog are not allowed in the back yard and are sad. They are doing their business in the front yard. I am hoping the grass grows quickly and that it doesn't die as soon as gigantic Pie starts running around on it.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Living so far apart from someone for your entire life, it is hard to get to know them, but that doesn't mean you don't love them. Grandpap was a good grandfather. He was kind and tolerant, especially towards us kids and our lame tennis playing skills. He always remembered my birthdays and sent me a card. He contributed quite a bit over the years towards my advanced education fund.
I ate lunch with Dad on Wednesday and we talked about Grandpap. Did you know he was an avid golfer, tennis player and horseback rider? The last one surprised me too. He was drafted at 30 for WWII and his higher than average intelligence lead him to become a bomb sight and autopilot technician. I think the bomb sight was the Norden Bomb Sight, one of the great American technological secrets of WWII. Since Granpap fixed them he also had to be able to use them, which meant he was also trained as a bombardier. He met Grandma at a USO dance and after he was discharged he returned to PA and lived there the rest of his life. Obviously throwing out these few tidbits about his 97 years of life doesn't begin to do him justice, but all of this was new to me, so I thought I'd share.
As Kurt mentioned in a comment in Claire's blog, Dad had a... what should I call it...experience that I think is much more than coincidence. In brief, Dad was hiking, reflecting on his father the day that he died. He had been hiking more in valleys but was coming to an area where he could see more of the surrounding area. He stopped for some lunch and heard a low flying aircraft. Looking up, he saw it was the civilian version of the AT-11, which is what Grandpap flew in when troubleshooting the bomb sights. If I did my research correctly, this plane is called the C-45. Under different configurations, according to one website, there are only 33 of these aircraft left in the entire world, and of those 33, I have no idea how many are capable of flying and how many are static displays in museums. If dad had reminded in the valley, he wouldn't have been able to see the aircraft because it was flying low on the horizon. If the plane had come before or after he stopped he wouldn't be able to see it due to his position. You tell me- what are the odds that on the very day that his father passed away, my dad was in the exact right spot at the exact right time to see an extremely rare aircraft that is directly connected to his dad? I think the odds are so low they are non-existent. I think Grandpap was sending a message that he is watching over us from above.
Good-by Grandpap. I miss you.
One of the 33 that is clearly not the one Dad saw since it doesn't appear to be airworthy.
Monday, January 19, 2009
I bought this vacuum right before I moved out of my fully carpeted apartment and into the guest house with tile and wood floors. I was sad because I wouldn't be able to use it. I quickly discovered hard floors are no good for me and put down a mismatched assortment of area rugs. Well, not area rugs. More like cheap-o carpet pieces from Kmart.
I don't remember exactly when it started, but I noticed a decrease in the performance of my vacuum. It took several passes to suck anything up. Then, it started regurgitating everything it had sucked up when I transitioned between carpet and hard floors, and finally, it would spit everything back out when I turned it off. Well, at least it was in one place for ease of picking up by hand. Looking back, I'm embarrassed to admit, this was probably going on for close to a year.
When I was moving out, I was trying to use the hose attachments to clean and the vacuum had zero suction. It wouldn't even pick up a tiny piece of scotch tape that was folded onto itself so it had no sticky side. It finally dawned on me the vacuum was useless. I thought maybe the hose was clogged. Turns out I was right. I ended up sticking a metal CB antenna down the hose and pushing everything out. A science experiment gone wrong. It was mostly Pie undercoat (why is it my short haired dog sheds the most?) and the inside of stuffed toys. Pie broke my vacuum.
I went back to using the hose attachments, and there was an improvement, but it wasn't all I had hoped for. And the regular part of the vacuum still wasn't sucking as it should.
I spend my MLK holiday doing yard work and cleaning the house. I broke out the vacuum. My plan was to vacuum the carpets (once again I have a combo of hard floors with the same cheap-o Kmart carpet pieces, and some new ones from WalMart and Big Lots) and not fall off the edge of the carpets so the vacuum wouldn't have an excuse to spit stuff everywhere. I fired the bad boy up (after locking the dogs in my room so they didn't have heart attacks) and got to work. I didn't get any love. I ran over the same piece of Fancy hair 5 times and it didn't move. I turned off the non-sucking appliance and just to be mean, it spit out of pile of stuff that must have been left over from the last time since it sure didn't pick anything up this time. That was the final straw. It was time for surgery.
I broke out the screwdriver and took out four screws and the vacuum got even more evil revenge (revenge for what?) by dumping enough dirt and dust on my cheap-o carpet piece to fill, if not the Grand Canyon, at least my bathtub. It is probably not a shock to anyone who owns a vacuum (or "sweeper" depending on if you think an appliance that works by sucking up dirt should be named after a side to side motion or not) that the reason my vacuum stopped (or started, depending on what kind of slang you use) sucking was because it was full of dirt. I thought it was too embarrassing to take pictures. The hole between the hose that leads to the bag and the bottom of the vacuum was completely clogged, which explains the pile of stuff always left behind. The clog acted like a filter, preventing all the large particles from entering the bag, and instead depositing them back onto my floor. In my defense, in addition to the clog of gross stuff, there was also a piece of cardboard blocking the hole. Pie at work again. I sometimes give her cardboard to rip up and I pick the pieces up by hand, but occasionally a smaller piece will get vacuumed up. I used the screwdriver to pry the caked in dirt and stuff from all the crevices and put the vacuum back together. Then the moment of truth arrived. Would my vacuum start to suck, or would I be left with a pile of dirt and dust two feet deep and three feet wide in the middle of my living room? I fired the bad boy up again and made a pass over the pile. It was no more! After one pass! I made several more passes to be sure, but I can now say with confidence that my vacuum sucks. It continued to suck even after making the transition between hard floors the the cheap-o carpet pieces. It sucked on the hard floors and it sucked when I used the hose attachments in the corners and on the dog beds. It sucked so hard it tipped over and hit me on the back while I was using the hose.
I find it is very satisfying to have a vacuum that works. Maybe now that there is an actual improvement after I use it, I might use it more often.
See Mom, blogging about loading the dishwaher would have been at least as exciting about blogging about a clogged vaccuum.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Now we are going to take a break because I'm sure she's using muscles she's not used to using, so taking a break is a good idea. I did not practice any more with Fancy.
Pie is sleeping now. I'm sure our 5 mile off leash hike, our two mile on leash walk with the six pound Pie Pack (that is over 10% of her body weight she is carrying) and our handstand practice has tired her out. For now.
This macaw had issues and would have eaten my fingers as an appetizer if I let him.
My chicken never tried to eat me. And I never tried to eat her. Although Dad did eat one of her eggs. He reports it tasted funny.
The serval was nice and never bit me, although she would stalk you while you cleaned her enclosure if you turned your back to her.
The coati was very nice and didn't bite, although he would groom you by nibbling on your arm. How young was I?!
My nemesis. Besides biting when handling her, she would also chase you down while you were cleaning and you would try to fend her off with the rake but she would jump on it and start climbing up it towards you. I wonder if you can get worker's comp for being mauled by an animal with no teeth?
A nice bird but don't mess with her food. (Red Tailed hawk.)
Another bird who never bit me. The great horned owl was my favorite to handle. He was somewhat difficult to catch and put the leash and jesses on.
We didn't have tigers at the farm. This was on a "field trip." I never would have imagined a tiger's fur is as soft as it really is.
I did slip on the starch in the kitchen while ironing and my knee popped out and I shouted in pain as I fell to the floor and mom came running in and saw me laying there and said, "Oh phew. I thought you had gotten burned on the iron." I know better than to get burned on the iron while mom is around. "Be careful. The iron is on."
I also did scratch my knuckle on the shed and it did leave a scar and I was worried I would get tetanus at tech school. Now (thanks to the Air Force) I have a tetanus shot so I don't have to worry every time I scratch, cut, or otherwise abrade myself on metal.
On Friday the 13th a few years back I was riding my horse Ranger for the first time on trail. I decided to try a canter and all was going well, but I thought maybe he was going a little fast. Then I realized the trail (which was really a graded dirt road) was starting to slope down hill. I had a horrible vision of him running out of control down a hill so I wanted to stop him, but he ignored my pulling on the reigns. I decided to circle him, so I pulled hard on the left reign, which circled him into the side of the hill. Instead of completing the circle, he ran up the near vertical side of the hill. I wasn't sure if he would tip over backwards or manage to keep going until he reached the summit. The near vertical hill got even more vertical and he stopped his upward charge and came to a rest facing sideways. I wanted to disembark, but the side you usually get off on is the left side and that was the down hill side. If I got off, it would have been a huge drop to the ground and if he moved while I was doing it, he could have fallen on me. In our precarious position, I thought it wasn't a good time to try getting off on the other side.
As it was, as I was still thinking this, he decided to begin our decent. I thought, "This can't be good." He took two huge leaps down, then an even bigger leap and was back on the road. The last jump threw me up on his neck, and Ranger, always the gentleman, thought it would be nice to facilitate my getting off, since I was already mostly off. He started bucking. That was painful. I stayed on for maybe three bucks, then went flying off. As I was flying through the air, I thought, "Hold onto the reigns, hold onto the reigns..." I knew if I let go, he would take off running and the ranch owner had told me if the horse ever came back without me she would call the rescue helicopter, and that she had done it before. I wanted no part of that, so I held onto the reigns. Even the shock of hitting the ground did not cause me to let go.
He doesn't look very sinister, does he? Notice I am wearing gloves. I usually don't make the same mistake twice.
I ended up between Ranger and the way back to the ranch, on my back, but with my left hand holding the reigns. He looked at me and took off past me at a gallop. I still held the reigns. That horse hit the end of the reigns, his head whipped around back towards me and he flipped completely over. I still didn't let go, but the reigns were forcibly removed from my hand against my wishes do to the the inertia of his 1500 pound Quarter Horse body. He got up. I got up. He walked a few steps, but the fight was taken out of him and he stopped to eat a weed and I hobbled up, remounted and we continued our ride. I decided to continue the ride I had planned, but about half way through it I really wished I hadn't because my hand felt like it was on fire.
As the hand was healing, I was worried the scars might cause the fingers to be permanently bent, but obviously that didn't happen. I didn't keep Ranger very long. Boo always looked after me and Ranger was always looking to get rid of me. Plus, I had Bloom waiting for me at home, and I was taking five classes at college and working full time. Not really the time to have a horse, I suppose.
Boo was the best horse ever.
Truthfully, I thought I'd teach Fancy, and let Pie try it. I thought Fancy would get it no problem...but one again Pie has proven a dog with a working temperament is the only type of dog anyone should bother with. (But you know I still love you Fancy!) I haven't given up on Fancy, but when she thought it was too hard, instead of trying again, she would just give up and stare at me. I would go back a step, but then she was convinced it was still too hard and wouldn't even try...
Pie made astounding progress. I also took video of Fancy but haven't put it together yet. Pie's video is a bit long, the good stuff comes at the end, so you can skip to that part, and you won't hurt my feelings!
I was having trouble getting the video to load, so you can go to my YouTube site and see it there. You Tube stripped my music so now it has no music and is boring.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Isn't she cute?
Hmmm... a bit blurry.
We were just trying to get a nice posed picture, but Pie wouldn't stop barking.
Fancy, don't look so spastic. Leave that to Pie.
Pie is just learning, but Fancy has more experience.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
1) Scar on upper right arm from burning self on hot iron when I slipped on the starch I sprayed on my BDUs while ironing in kitchen.
2) Scars on middle two finders of left hand where nylons reigns were ripped out of hand after 1500 pounds of horseflesh hit the other end and flipped over.
3) Very feint scar on upper right arm where I dove in a bush while chasing a chicken.
4) Scar on base of left thumb where a raven bit me.
5) Scar near inside crook of left elbow where a turkey vulture bit me.
6) Scar on left pointer finger knuckle where I scratched myself on the metal shed handle the day before I left for tech school while retrieving a duffel bag.
The two scars on the inside of both elbows are now completely gone about 10 years after I fell off Regan's horse while test riding it to see if I should lease her. I decided no.
The rest of my scars are all from the same place and we won't talk about that.
I took most of these pictures with the camera on landscape mode.
This is the first photo I took, with the moon just peaking over the peaks.
A water tower in the shot for artistic flavor.
And finally, this was when I ventured out around 11 pm. It doesn't look very big since you don't have anything to compare it to.
Here it is zoomed in on 48X. I really needed the Image Stabilization as I was holding the camera above my head and the moon would sway in and out of the picture. I would click as I saw it go past.
I took all these pictures because I find the moon fascinating. I contemplate how for as long as man has been around he has been looking at the moon. I think about how our knowledge about it has changed so greatly. The moon seems close enough to touch some days, yet for thousands of years it was unimaginable man would ever walk on it. And then we did. The achievement of that is staggering, but for people of my generation it seems almost to be not a big deal since we grew up with "men on the moon" as a reality. For as long as man has been bipedal, he has been earthbound, but in our generation, he "slipped the surly bonds of earth." What could it possibly be like to sit on top of what is basically a giant fuse and fling yourself into the vastness of space and trust that you will land on a tiny orbiting rock? Then stand on that rock and look at your home planet from so far away on such foreign soil?