Tuesday, October 19, 2010

LegoLand is Awesome

Over the Columbus Day 3-day weekend David and I decided to go to LegoLand.  It's about a 3 hour drive from our house, mostly on the Autobahn so it's not too bad.  It would definitely be better to go and stay the night rather than trying to do it all in one day.  We wanted to stay in the LegoLand Hotel at the park but they were booked so we ended up staying at a hotel that was about 2 miles away.  Not as exciting but it was close and fairly cheap so we went with it :)
I didn't get any pictures of the parking lot but I should have for one reason: They have it down to a science! I've have never seen a more organized amusement park parking lot in my life.  I don't know about everyone else but I dread parking at big events because it's dog-eat-dog when it comes to finding a spot and then leaving the event.  Here they had people directing traffic, all the lanes are one way and there's only one way to the exit and it's one way as well.  Our first day at the park we left around closing and we were still out of the parking lot in 15 minutes.  I was amazed.  Anyway, I know my telling you about it doesn't do it justice, you may have to have been there, but I'm telling you it was pretty amazing.

Now on to the inside of the park!

When you first walk in there is MiniLand.  It's a series of small set ups built entirely out of Legos modeled after real European cities.  Below is Mini Amsterdam.  It was just amazing! They had Berlin, Frankfurt, Venice, Lucernce and Neuschwanstein Castle. I admit, that when we first decided to go to LegoLand I was a bit wary.  It seemed mostly for kids and that there wouldn't be a lot to entertain childless adults.  I was wrong.  Looking at all these models of cities built entirely out of Lego was amazing!  And the detail they put into these things was just amazing.  The bus down in the bottom corner by the windmill actually moved, they had working lights and other moving parts, it was just mind-blowing.

MiniLand Amsterdam

In the big soccer stadium they even had little nekkid Lego dudes in the shower.  How cute is that??

Dave and the Frankfurt Lego skyline
To kind of give you some idea of scale, this is David in front of the Frankfurt skyline.  Of course the skyscrapers are probably about as tall as me so I could walk through the display feeling like Godzilla! Mwah ah ah . . . . oh well.

These were the signs for the bathrooms which I thought were just too cute.  The distressed looks on their faces and the "Pee Pee Dance" poses just made me smile.

Germans are very environmentally aware.  Recycling is required by law throughout the entire country and there are signs everywhere on base reminding us to shut off all the lights when we leave the house.  The hotel we stayed at took it a little farther.  In order to turn the lights on in our room we had to put this card into this card reader.  It completed the electric circuit for the room allowing us to turn the lights on when we were inside.  Since you have to take your key with you when you leave, you have to take it out of the card reader, thus breaking the circuit and preventing you from leaving any lights on when you leave.  I think it's rather ingenious and that more hotels should get into doing something like this.  Plus, like my friend Janessa pointed out, I know my Dad would have loved something like this when we were home. 

Too bad they don't sell something like this for Father's Day . . . they would be the most popular present EVER!

Anyway, so that was the basics of our trip to LegoLand.  David now wants to hit up the ones in Denmark and the UK before we leave and he's got plans to make a week out of Comic-Con and LegoLand California one year.  That outghta be an interesting trip :)

Highlights from Paris - Day 1

A few months ago I spent two days in Paris with my husband and my parents and I had a wonderful time. For about a week before we got there I kept singing to myself, "I'm going to Paris, I'm going to Paris" like some huge weirdo. I was insanely giddy about this prospect up until we actually got off the train in Paris. It was almost like a dream - I couldn't believe that a small town country bumpkin like me could ever get to say I went to Paris. But there we were.

Our first stop was the Notre Dame cathedral. Being that I'm a huge Disney freak I wanted to run into the church yelling, "Santuary!! Sanctuary!!". Thankfully I have more tact and decorum than that and I decided it would be best leaving that stunt alone. We wandered around the inside and I marveled at all the statues, tombs and other monuments they had in the church. As beautiful as this church is, I must say the Cathedral at Cologne has it beat in the amount of awe it inspires. The Cologne Cathedral is just enormous and imposing while Notre Dame, not being tiny cathedral by any means, seemed to give off more of a serene feeling with it's architecture.

There was a beautiful park on the side of the cathedral that borders the Seine River. People were sitting on the benches and enjoying the warm weather. It was an absolutely gorgeous day in Paris. We left Germany in the rain and came to warm and sunshine - ahhhhh. We at lunch across the river from Notre Dame at this cozy little restaurant with outdoor dining. Turns out most every cafe, patiserrie and restaurant offer sidewalk seating in Paris. It was great.

Our next stop was the Eiffel Tower. Not to sound ignorant or anything but that thing is huuuuuuuuuuuge! Pictures NEVER do architecture justice in my opinion so it was just kind of crazy to be standing underneath the Eiffel Tower and looking all the way up. The area underneath the tower is enormous. It seemed like you could almost fit 2 football fields underneath it and still have plenty of room. But I'm horrible at my spatial relations sometimes so I could be way off about that, but the point is there is alot of room there. We all got tickets to the very top of the tower and started heading up. They take you in an elevator up to the 2nd floor (if you're feeling frisky you can climb the stairs) and then you have to transfer to second elevator to get to the top. I made it to the top but as soon as I got up there I went right back down . . . I couldn't handle it. The older I get the more afraid of heights I am and I swore I could feel the top of the tower moving. If you've ever been in the Space Needle you know the feeling. But now I can say that I've been to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Woohoo!

We utilized city transportation to get around everywhere which was nice because we were right next to a subway station. I am an overplanner when it comes to stuff like this - I hate not knowing how to get somewhere so when I planned the trip I made sure our hotel was down the street from the train station where we came in which also had metro lines. The Paris transit coordinators had a website that you can plug in where you are leaving from and where you are going to and it will direct you to the nearest station, tell you which train you need to be on and which direction it's going (they only post the end destination on the train reader boards) and any connections you need to mak. It was great. I also downloaded the same app for my iPhone in case we deviated off schedule or course. Yeah, I'm prepared like that.

Anyway, we caught a metro train during rush hour and after that my Mom had said she'd had enough fun. It was crowded and hot and her claustrophobia was getting the better of her. So we got off the train and walked to a restaurant that was just outside our hotel. We sat there and had drinks and people watched before we decided to go ahead and have dinner there. It was a cozy little restaurant with Gnome Decor all over the place. I loved it. Poor Dave kept trying to get a Chocolate Mojito and never did get one, the waiter never quite understood what he wanted. 

After we all retired to our rooms for a bit because it had been a long day. We'd been up at 5 to catch our train and had been wandering the streets of Paris since we'd arrived. There was talk of going back to see the Eiffel Tower at night but none of us really wanted to put the effort into going back. After an hour or so David and I went and got Dad and we took a walk around the block to get some fresh air. Dad was really interested in doing an open air bus tour he'd seen all around the city and we found they had a stop close to our hotel so we decided that was our plan of action for the next day. With the game plan set it was off to bed!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Just So We're Clear . . .

A Milano is not a cookie . . . it is a divinity unto itself.  Its name shall not be sullied with that of the plebeian pecan sandie or the bourgeois biscuit.  No, my dear fellow, a Milano is so much more than a mere cookie I daren't even speak the words "Chocolate Chip" in its presence.  The pale comparison that a regular cookie provides only enhances the Milano's status of  keep-your-hands-off-my-cookie-or-I'll-stab-you.

That is all.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Am Pretty Damn Lucky

We have a long weekend coming up next month thanks to Columbus Day and David and I are trying to decide where we want to go.  Now that I'm working we have to kind of work in our trips when we can because I am not as readily availabe as I once was.  That is the only downside to work.  We want to go to all these places and we have to work it around my stupid schedule and the amount of leave I can take.

Me on the 2nd level of the Eiffel Tour

In going over my options, though, I have come to realize that I am one lucky girl.  I can say that I've been to Paris, that I've been to where they make the world's best champagne and that I have been in a village that's made me feel like I was 500 years in the past.  Our options for the long weekend are numerous and plentiful.  It's just a matter of figuring out how long we either want to drive or ride the train.  With trains we can go farther faster, which means we can leave the country.  (We don't have our International Drivers Lincens so we can only drive in Germany.  I've heard horror stories about driving outside of here, especially in France.) 

Quaint little house in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

I've been grousing a little because I want to go to London, Dublin, Ireland, Denmark, Spain and on and on and on.  David insists that we are going to Rome at some point before we leave because he wants to show me around.  There are a bazillion places I want to go but I'll never have the chance while I'm over here.  There isn't enough time and I didn't think I would be this sad about it.  And it's silly, really, considering we still have two years left here but I want to come back saying, "Yes. I did all those things and I've seen all those places."  I don't want to regret not seeing the Colloseum or Piccadilly Circus but if I don't make it there this go around, I am still young, David retires early and we can spend our time travelling. 

Don't you just expect the pictures to move like the do in Harry Potter? :-)

We won't travel through time, we'll just spend our later years traversing the globe. (Ugh) It's sad how much being married to David has made my mind drift off into nerdish areas where previously it wouldn't have gone.  Oh well.  One more reason to make him spend his retirment check on hauling my ass around Europe again.  I like it!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Are We Spoiled?

Late last week I experienced something I don't want to ever experience again . . . 4 days without any hot water. The heat in our home isn't run off electricity.  Like many homes in Europe ours is still heated by oil.  Stinky, expensive home heating oil.  This oil also runs the water heater.  Wednesday of last week David comes up to me and says, "I think something is wrong with the temperature control in my shower.  I couldn't really get any hot water, it was only warm-ish." I was a bit concerned but not really because we have 2 showers and if need be he could use mine until we figured out what was going on with his.  Then I go to take my shower and I can only get slightly warm-ish water. 


So we check all the other faucets and no hot water out of any of them. 


We couldn't do anything about it right then because we both had to get ready for work and leave the house so we decided to call for oil on Thursday morning.  So I got up the next morning and immediately called Franz, our local heating oil guy.  He said he couldn't come out until MONDAY.  Not acceptable.  I asked him if he could come out any sooner.  He asked, "Are you out?" What I should have said was, "Yes we are.  Is there anyway you could come out this afternoon?" Instead, I didn't want to appear to be a stupid American who isn't used to buying heating oil so I said, "No, but almost." He graciously agreed to come out on Saturday morning. Franz probably saw that we were out when he got here anyway because he went and checked the level on the tank and noticed that we had shut off the heating unit so the pump wouldn't burn out.  Oh well, at least he didn't say anything about the oil level or the pump being switched off.  The ironic thing is that I was going to call him that week for oil anyway so that we'd have enough for the winter.  We were kind of putting it off because it's very expensive and we wanted to wait until I started getting my paychecks so we could afford the oil.  I guess we just didn't call soon enough.

Even though Franz came out early Saturday morning I didn't get my hot shower until the next day. I had to wait 2 hours after he left before I could even turn the pump on again and then let it run a good hour and half before the motor would kick on and start heating things up.  I had to go to the annual PMEL pig roast that afternoon so I didn't have time to stay and wait for hot water.  So I took another quickie, yet invigorating, cold shower and left to go up to the campsite.  First thing I did when I got home, though, was test all the faucets and get excited that we had hot water again.  I had thought about taking a shower that night just so I could have one with hot water but I decided not to be wasteful because I really didn't need it, I wasn't smelly or feeling scuzzy.

So in answer to my initial question, yes I do think we're spoiled.  We come to rely on all of these modern conveniences for the running of our daily lives and if something as simple as hot water isn't working, we flip out.  Because goodness knows you can't do laundry, wash dishes or clean your house without hot water.  And the sad part is I would have been (somewhat and begrudgingly) willing to put a huge pot of water over a fire to boil. But the problem is that since we have all these modern machines and other conveniences there's no place to build a fire to do such a thing.  I'm sure my neighbors would have objected profusely if I had started a fire in the backyard.   I guess it just makes me grateful that I'm living in a time of modern technology where I can have hot water in an instant instead of waiting 4 hours or more for it to get warm so I can do all my chores for the day.  I sincerely respect the people who, up until the last 100 years or so, had to deal with that kind of work every day.  I am also so very glad I am not one of them. :)

I love hot showers.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My Pretty Wife

This is my oh so pretty wife.  I miss her so. 

My classy bestest good friend.
I've been listening to Anne of Green Gables on audio book and there was a note passed to Anne in school that made me think of her so I've been spouting it off all over the place.
When twilight drops her curtain down
and pins it with a star,
Remember that you have a friend
though she may wander far.
Made me think about how she'll be on the other side of the world from me but how we'll always be friends.  I won't let her get away, Ha ha. 

I have lots of good memories with her.  We spent lots of time just hanging out, mostly at her house, and watched Good Eats and Paula Deen.  Anything on Food Network really, that's our channel. I don't think I could watch anything on it without thinking of her.  Also our little rendezvous in the park at lunch.  We'd try to coordinate our lunch times and spend lunch together talking and enjoying the summer sunshine in the park.  Well, she'd enjoy the sun.  I'd have to sit in the shade because I'm flammable.

I am nervous and excited for her to be moving to Japan.  I'm so happy she gets to have a wonderful funzy experience but I also know how nerve wracking it is moving to a new country ("Have you no compassion for my nerves? he he). 

Anyway, this is dedicated to her and our special friendship.  I love you devotedly my bosom friend!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Consider This . . .

I don't know why, but recently I've become more interested in writing again.  Well, I don't know if "again" is accurate since I've never really written anything other than school assignments, but I guess it's kind of always been in the back of my mind.  I've had discussions with friends on what I could write about, but I guess I've always felt that I would have nothing new to add to what's already been published.  This has deterred me from creating a manuscript to submit for publication.  I'm definitely not a JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer where break out authors are concerned.  However, I've been looking into self-publication lately and it's started me thinking that I might could just do this thing.  Amazon has their own publishing program in place that allows authors to upload their text and be sold directly through the Kindle store.  Websites like Lulu.com offer multiple publication packages and project consultation for your book.  In that instance YOU are the publisher and retain all creative rights and make all final decisions.  You can order as many or as few books as you need in any binding you want - and they'll even help out with editing, for a fee of course. They also help with marketing, obtaining an ISBN and even hook you up with retailers.  It's an amazing new world that has opened up to me and makes it seem not so far fetched that one day my mother will be holding a book that I wrote.  I have no delusions of grandeur in this scenario.  I don't expect to have sales explode or make enough to quit my day job but it would be nice to know that I contributed something and it's out there and tangible.  Just food for thought at 1:30 in the morning . . .

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review of "The Heretic's Daughter" by Kathleen Kent

Sometimes I'm a real woos when it comes to reading subject matter that makes me angry, upset or uncomfortable.  I'm not as bad as Joey on Friends since I don't have to put the book in the freezer but I do have to put it down and walk away.  This book made me angry at people and their willingness to believe anything to get the answer they want.  It was set before and during the Salem Witch Trials and is told from the point of view of Sarah, daughter to Martha who is on trial for witchcraft.  You get to see the family about a year before the trials start and get glimpses as to why the mother is hauled in on suspicion of being a witch.  And here's a shocker: Martha was a strong woman.  She wouldn't let men bully her and she didn't kowtow to others standards of behavior.

Several times I had to put this book down and walk away because the rampant stupidity exhibited by this culture and it's fear based ruling system made me angry.  When studying colonial literature in college I remember reading Cotton Mathers and thinking that his teachings were nothing but a way to control the people in his church.  He used their fear of hell and damnation as an effective means to passively coerce them into acting how he wanted them to act.  He's mentioned several times in the book where the church leadership looks to him for guidance.  The book is based on facts surrounding the life of the author's ancestor so it's not hard to believe that Mathers wouldn't be involved.  We know he was - dirty bastard. Sorry, I digress. 

Many elements of this story made me angry, not just Mathers' inclusion.  Number one on my list is the fact that a bunch of grown men were duped by a group of ignorant teenage girls.  They also understood the power of using other people's fears to their advantage and used it to accuse anybody they had a grudge against of witchcraft.  Kent describes a scene in the courtroom when Martha is before the judges and the accusers were screaming because she was sending her spirit out of her body to torment them at that very moment.  Looking back 400 years with the perspective we have now it's hard to believe an entire community would put stock into what a small group of teenage girls said when it was sending their loved ones to jail and the gallows.

Second is the treatment of children.  As heartbreaking as it is to hear about these atrocities being carried out against adults it was even more gut wrenching to think that people had no qualms about imprisoning small children.  I realize that children these days are more revered by far than their counter parts so many centuries ago but it's still hard to imagine that people had such little compassion that there wasn't any hesitation to throw them in a filthy jail in hopes of getting a confession against their parents. 

For all the scenarios that made me angry, however, it really was a great read.  Any book that incites such a strong emotional reaction usually gets my thumbs up; the writer was able to effectively used their language to get me where they wanted.  It's ironic, however, that the same methods were used by the Puritans in their pulpits to start the witch trials in the first place.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Thoughts On Failed Nap Attempt and Itchy Hands

Today, after giving my kitchen a thorough cleaning, I decided that I deserved a nap.  I was a little tired and felt that a good siesta on my nice comfy couch would do me some good.  So I popped in a CSI dvd for some white noise, grabbed a pillow and my blanket and curled up on the couch.  A little while later my little girl kitty decides to come cuddle with me. 

Excellent, I thought.  I always take a good nap while she's curled up with me.

Boy was I wrong.  I couldn't sleep!  I tried so hard and I even got really comfortable but I just couldn't fall asleep.  Maybe it was the fact I put in a CSI dvd instead of a Disney dvd.  I've seen every CSI episode just like I've seen all my Disney movies at least 5 times so they're usually good for me to have on in the background for naps.  Maybe it was because I was wearing socks.  Who knows.  Now I just feel gyped and I don't like it.

On top of that I've had this itch in between my fingers for almost two weeks now that I can't get rid of and it's driving me nuts! It's in between all of them, on both hands.  There's no rash, no bug bites, I haven't taken any medication that would cause a reaction so I don't know what the hell my problem is.  It's under my skin and I just want to rip into my fingers and end it.  Grr...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reading and Reminiscing

I recently finished reading the true love saga of The Pioneer Woman and her husband Marlboro Man.  She did a series of blog posts (titled Black Heels to Tractor Wheels) recounting how she met her husband and the decisions she had to face in order to maintain a relationship with him.  She is an excellent writer and has a way of capturing the essence and emotion of the moment that sometimes had me panting and wanting to run off to Oklahoma to find me a cowboy of my very own  . . . but I digress.  The point of this is that it got me thinking of my relationship with David and if I would have done anything different.  But before I begin I have to stipulate that I can't really compare my life to hers for several reasons.
  1. David and I are from similar enough backgrounds that going from my life to his wasn't that big of a stretch.  I wasn't forced to give up bookstores (hallelujah), easy access to coffee shops or a good place to get my nails done. 
  2. I never had the urge to move as far away from home as she did. While I like to fantasize that I could have made a go of it in Boston, Seattle or New York I just never had the gumption to make it reality.  Two hours away was plenty enough for me.  Close enough that I could go home on the weekends and far enough away that I didn't have parents breathing down my neck and watching my every move.
  3. And this one is the biggie - from what I've experienced in my own life, her husband is truly a diamond in the rough.  While I love my husband and wouldn't trade him for anything, Marlboro Man seems to be the living epitome of a cowboy gentleman.  I'm sure, just like every man, he has his flaws and should by no means be idolized but it's comforting to know that men like him actually do exist outside of the publishing world.
Now the whole point of this little spiel is to reminisce on my feelings and thoughts, not just moon over her good fortune and wish it were mine. 

She made a comment in one of the chapters (I'm sorry I can't remember where exactly) about how she thought that a couple should be able to feel like they were the only ones in a crowded room.  I remember feeling like that with David.  We were at a coffee shop in downtown Boise, The Flying M, and they have these spectacular couches to sit on.  It was towards the end of our date and we had gone to have coffee and just relax and be together.  At some point the place was empty enough that I had room on the couch to lay my head down in his lap and close my eyes for a minute.  I was still in school at the time and it had been a long week.  I wasn't ready to fall asleep but I just wanted to chill for a bit.  We sat like that for quite a while.  I don't remember talking, just him running his fingers through my hair and sipping his Earl Grey tea.  (Even though I hate tea I will forever associate the smell of Earl Grey tea with David.)  I don't know how long we sat there but as soon as I sat up so we could leave it was like someone had turned the volume back on.  I didn't realize it at the time but it was as if someone put the whole restaurant on mute and all I could focus on was me and David.  I don't know if he felt this way but to me it was kind of surreal.  I'd been encased in my own little world with him and hadn't even realized what was happening.

This particular memory has always stuck with me.  It reminds me of the beginning of a relationship when everything is new and exciting and you just get lost.  I never got hiney tingles or gave up my plans for David but that doesn't mean I love him any less.  He sees me for me, tells me he likes to kiss me and says I'm cute when I'm pouting.  There's even some weird geek math equation to prove his love (he says) that involves cake and TV but it's too complicated for me to explain. 

So, in order to give my unemployed mind some food for thought, I'm going to try and regularly post good memories of my husband, friends and family.  It will give me something good to think about and help me remember the reasons they are in my life. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Awesome Song

I heard this song at the end of an episode of Castle and I absolutely loved it.  It's kind of sad but he's got a great voice.  I'm irritated with the Zune store because they do not have it, iTunes does but they don't have an On-The-Go plan so I'd have to buy the album :-( I'll content myself with this for now.  Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Our trip to a medieval city.

Remember back in January when I made a post about having to cancel a trip we had planned because of the weather and issues with David's work? Well we finally got to reschedule that trip last weekend.  Since it was through the USO they gave us credit towards another trip within 6 months.  Last weekend we could have gone on the trip we had initially scheduled  or . . . .

 . . . gone here.   I think we made the right choice :-)

It's a little town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  It literally translates into Red Castle over the Tauber river. The red castle that is its namesake, unfortunately, is no longer standing due to a large earthquake sometime in the 13th century. 

This small little town has endured so much hardship over the last thousand years and yet it's still standing. It's been devastated by earthquake, the Black Plague, the 30 Years War, the Peasant Revolution and the daily life of the 15th century.

It was so fun to walk around a city that had such a long and rich history.  Unfortunately the batteries in my camera petered out on me so I didn't get to take a whole lot of pictures but there was some amazing stuff there.  There was a beautiful house that has been owned by the same family since the middle of the 16th century.  The house of a former mayor from the 15th century is still in the middle of town.  The Medieval Crime Museum is in old building behind an older church.  One of the main churches in town has a Holy Relic of a vial supposedly containing 3 drops of Christ's blood.

I could go on and on about this town.  I could picture myself living in a set of rooms above a shop yelling at my children to go fetch me some water from the town well.  I'd make a good house Frau . . . someday.

And as you can see below the Bavarian countryside was so gorgeous.  Green and lush with little tiny houses tucked away.

I doubt the city walls looked quite as nice then as they do now.  They may have, who knows?   

I just feel lucky to be able to live in a place where there is such and old and rich history for me to explore.  America certainly has a wonderful history, but there's nothing like seeing buildings that have been around for almost a thousand years. 

So now I've seen Cologne, Paris, Reims, Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Speyer.  Next up London!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Flying Home

I get to fly home in a couple of days and I can't wait!  I'm not looking forward to the flying part (16+ hours of flying and 19+ hours of travelling total) but it will totally be well worth it in the end.  I was going to fly Space A (military flights, kind of like stand by and it's either free or dirt cheap) but I kind of screwed the pooch on that idea.  I got my name on the list to fly out of Ramstein, but failed to put my name on lists for any bases coming home.  Not so good.  This time of year the kiddos are out of school and parents are taking advantage of Space A to fly back to the states or take the family on a cool vacation to Italy, England or the Acores. Flying by myself without David was going to be hard. It would put me at the bottom of the list to get on a flight.  Last week we said screw it and bought a commercial ticket for me to fly home.  It was cheaper than I thought it was going to be this close to when I wanted to fly out so we snatched it up.

Now that I have my ticket secured I'm faced with the task of making myself and the house ready for my departure.  I want to have as much of the house cleaned and free of clutter before I leave because I have this sneaky suspicion that cleaning won't be done by Dave while I'm gone.  Although he said he was going to at least do dishes and laundry which is fine by me.  As long as I don't come home to empty Coke cans and dirty dishes lying on every available surface I'll be happy. The other thing I'm worried he won't do is clean the litterbox . . . he HATES cleaning the litterbox.  I'll just have to gently remind him every other day when we talk on Skype :) Other than that I've made my list for what needs to be packed and I just need to get going on it. 

I am so thrilled I get to come home and spend time with my wives and my family!!  Only two more sleeps and then I'm home :-) My family is doing a big party thing in combination of my homecoming and my Granda's birthday this Sunday and I'm so excited to see everyone.  I've missed having fun friends and family to hang out with over here so it will be a definite relief to be home and around people I know and love.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Leo Tolstoy and Isaac Asimov: Unlikely Literary Bedfellows

When one thinks of the sprawling background established by Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina a connection to Isaac Asimov isn't usually found. Asimov's groundbreaking work in science fiction are not what a reader would take into consideration with their reading of the novel under normal circumstances.  However, Android Karenina, Quirk Classics new mash-up novel by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters, is far from normal circumstances.  It combines Tolstoy's view on realism and Asimov's view on robotics to create a fascinating new world with multiple classes of robots and the normal interactions between humans.  I confess that if it weren't for my husband I never would have realized Asimov had such an important part in this book. While discussing certain parts of the book with him I was explaining about the Iron Laws established for the robots (1. Cannot hurt a human, 2. Must obey humans, 3. Cannot intentionally harm themselves) and he became very excited.  I'm not much of a sci-fi reader myself but my husband is and was fascinated at how Asimov's ideas were integrated with the story.  Now that I've read up on Asimov and his writings it makes perfect sense for Mr. Winters to use him as a base model for a robot-dependant society.

Creating that society for 19th century Russia based on "miracle metal" groznium could not have been easy for Winters.  Establishing a hierarchy of robots from a lowly Class I mouse bot to a Class III Companion, which has highly developed interaction programs, helped eased readers into the idea. Groznium is entire backbone of the new civilization and is what has allowed them to build a society with functional robots. As such, the characters keep referring back to a time without it as if they couldn't understand how people survived without this amazing discovery.  Kitty, for instance, mentions she has to "remember like a child" before she gets her Class III Robot Titania to do it for her.  Levin has similar thoughts while he's working in his groznium mine with the robots and can't imagine how farmers ever worked without them. 

As is inevitable no matter when the technology is introduced, as soon as it is someone wants to begin improving upon the original.  The UnConScyia (Union of Concerned Scientists) are plaguing the government and their hold over the robotic developments because they don't feel they aren't progressing far enough or fast enough.  They terrorize citizens by using emotion bombs and creating accidents on magnetized skating rinks.  We see plainly enough, though, that the government has its own idea of progress and people like Alexei Karenin are working to make their plans reality.  Karenin's own Class III companion robot is experimental and is not widely known to the public and he continues to work on an "upgrade" program to existing Class III's.

The robotic element of the story seemed at times to detract from the human element, at least for me.  Anna's distress over her unhappy marriage to Karenin and her overpowering love for Vronsky seem to get minimized by the technology surrounding it.  Winters creates an effective tool in having the robots go into Surcease mode (shut themselves down for their owners privacy) during particularly difficult scenes but that doesn't eliminate from their overpowering presence.  Granted, when writing a novel that includes such advanced robots as these it is hard to downplay their role.

As a whole Android Karenina is a more lighthearted take on Tolstoy's original book.  The addition of space travel, air borne balls and robotic body armour serves as a great backdrop to explore a different setting but the same themes of love, devotion and unhappiness that are so prevalent in Anna Karenina.  I know I really enjoyed the read and look forward to more mash-up novels coming our way soon!

As a special bonus for the release of Android Karenina you can visit this website for your chance to win an awesome prize pack worth almost $100.  Tell them you read it here and you'll be entered to one of the 25 prize packs they're giving away.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Things I want to do when I go home in June.

I am planning a trip home for a few weeks towards the end of June.  My bestest good friend Beth and her husband are moving to Japan in August and I decided to fly back to Idaho to see them before they leave considering it will be much harder to see them when they are on the other side of the world.  Not impossible, but just alot of damn travel.  At any rate, I am very excited to go home to see family as well and there are a few things I would like to do when I'm home.

  • Go to Papa Kelsey's at least twice to enjoy a ham and cheese sandwhich and a lime rickey.
  • Spend as much time with my nephew as humanly possible without having my sister alert the authorities of a kidnapping. :)
  • Have a huge family party at my Granny's so I can see everyone.
  • Get some alone time to talk to Granny and Grandad without everyone around.
  • Getting kidnapped by my wives so we can spend hours/days just laughing until we hurt and spew liquid out our noses.
  • Spend at least one Saturday night annoying my father by watching the British comedies on PBS with my mom and talking with an English accent all night.
  • Sit outside BSing with my family drinking margaritas.
  • Have a bonfire (Daddy?? Please?)

That's about all I can think of at the moment.  I'm sure in the two months I have until I leave I will come up with many more ideas about who I want to see and what I want to do while I'm home.  I know that unfortunately there won't be nearly enough time to see everyone and do everything I want but hopefully I will get as much done as I can.  And what I don't do this time I'll just have to save until my next trip home.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Libraries are my thing. . .

I'm really weird. But then again, if you've met me you know that already. But the reason I'm talking about is that I love the smell of old books. When I go into a library or an older bookstore I usually just stand and breathe it all in for a second, then I move on. I know, it's crazy but it speaks to lit geek in me. So here's a little post about libraries and my love of books.

One of these days I want to have a library like this. Although, I would have to leave out the big long table and uncomfortable chairs. I'd replace them with big oversized leather couches and chairs and lots of big soft pillows and blankets. You see, it's always been my dream to have my own huge library where I could go to get away. This would be my woman cave. I would have all the unlimited mochas I want to drink and I could sit and read for hours. Especially on cold rainy days.

Anyway, these are pictures of a virgin library in a castle that we visited here in Germany. Virgin means that none of the books have ever been read and I think that's amazing (for any of you wondering, they know none of the books have been read because they are uncut. Before modern day printing of books was used they would print the pages on lager sheets, fold them in quarters, and then bind them in the cover, no cutting was done. It was up to the purchaser to cut the pages to be able to read the book.). To be a collector of all these books but never read one is kind of sad to me but at the same time it's a great thing to preserve. Hopefully this guy had his own stash of books somewhere that he actually wanted to read and not just show off.

I wonder what book leads to the secret hallway? Hmmmmm.
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Chocolate Museum

So this is the second part of our trip to Cologne - The Lindt Chocolate Museum. It's a nice walk along the river from the cathedral and it was fun just to take in the sights of a different city. The part we were in  actually reminded me a little bit of New York City. I'm so excited to be going back to get more delicious chocolates from the store and to take my parents there. They can go walk around the museum while I sit and drink hot cocoa and eat yummy desserts. We didn't get any of said yummy desserts while we were there because we were going to dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe afterwards, but I don't plan on forgoing that pleasure this time. They had some amazing looking stuff that I want to try.

These are molds of the little chocolates they hand out to you when you buy your ticket. They have a production room in the museum that you can watch them being made.

David and I had a discussion on what this thing used to pick up the chocolates to put them on the belt to be wrapped.  We wondered because the logo was on top and it would have to be something that wouldn't screw it up.  I guessed suction and I turned out to be right.  If a chocolate gets left behind it gets dumped into a bin and when there are enough they are recycled through to be remelted and remolded.

This was the chocolate fountain.  The workers dipped wafers into the warm chocolate and handed them out to the visitors.  It was amazing.

How cute is this?  A hot chocolate service set from somewhere in Europe, I forget where.  But I remember reading that because the cups people had for tea didn't have handles they had to put them on the cups used for hot chocolate because it got hotter than the tea, thus the modern day mug was born.  Yet another reason why hot chocolate is better than tea :)

I want that pitcher full of hot cocoa  . . . mmmmmmmmmmm.

I can't remember what origin this is but I know it was in the section geared toward the Incans and Mayans and their contribution to chocolate - mostly growing the cocoa beans and trading them with the Spanish.

One of many old vending machines they had on display.  Could you imagine putting in a coin and getting a piece of chocolate out of this thing?

And the culmination of this trip, the hot chocolate.  I have never tasted anything so decadent and yummy in a glass before.  And it's fresh whipped cream on top, not marshmallows or Cool Whip (although they certainly have their place, don't get me wrong).

So that's a breif rundown of our trip to the chocolate museum.  Like I said earlier, I am so stoked to bring my mom and dad here. Anyone that visits this area I think should go to Cologne.  Not just the cathedral and the museum but walk around and take it all in.  From the small part we were in I knew it was my kind of city.  It just had the feel to that I knew I would absolutely love living there if I ever got a chance.  I hope to find a city like that back home wherever we land.  And I KNOW that it won't be Utah :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Cologne Cathedral

Since David had a 3 day weekend over my birthday we decided to go on a road trip.  The weather is finally clearing up somewhat and we were both kind of going a little bit stir crazy just going back and forth between home and the base essentially. So we decided to go to a town called Cologne. The reason we picked that town? It has a Hard Rock Cafe! I know, lame.  But David has this thing where anytime we're near a Hard Rock we have to go.  I had no objections so we went.  Before we left we did some looking on what else we could do in Cologne other than drive 2 1/2 hours four lunch.  They have this amazing cathedral that is right next to the Rhine so we decided to check it out.  Plus it was only about 4 blocks away from the restaurant so it tied in nicely. :)

My camera really kind of sucks so you can't really see the scale of this thing but it was immense.  I was sitting on the ground taking this picture of David.

We parked at an underground facility right next to the cathedral and when we walked up from down below  this is what we saw.  And this is the side of the cathedral, not the front part which is the tallest.

This picture kind of gives you a better idea of the enormity of this place.  Those people walking by don't even come up halfway to any of the arched doorways or entrances.  Apparently after it was finished in 1880 this cathedral was the tallest building in the world. 

This is the front entrance and a look up.  I was bent over backwards to get this shot.  I might as well have just laid down on the sidewalk and done it that way instead.

I just liked the way this hotel looked.  It was right next to the cathedral and is right above the underground parking.  Around the corner they have a few high end shops that I didn't even dare go in.  It's just so odd to think of a Louis Vuitton right next to a huge Catholic cathedral.

I tried to take some inside pictures but my camera is horrible.  It was bright enough to see inside the cathedral but it wasn't enough light for my piddly little thing of a camera.  None of the pictures I took of any of the statues or pipe organs turned out well because of the lack of light.  I did use my video camera, though, and that worked better on the inside. As soon as I can find the cable to do it I'm going to try and download them and post them here. 

We walked around here for a few hours and then we went to the chocolate museum. Thanks to the Travel Channel website it gave us something else to do and it was only a quick walk down the river from the cathedral.  Both of these places were so great I decided to give them each their own special blog. So stay tuned for that one, I'll probably have it up later today.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

One Of The Things I'll Miss This Summer

Yep, you read that right :) The PMEL profession is, in general, inhabited by a bunch of nerds. Closet or out in the open they exist quited prodigiously. At any rate, one of the things I'll miss this summer is the annual Mtn. Home PMEL Camp Out, usually very non-nerd-like by nature but somehow we manage to usually make it into a big geek fest. We go to a free camp ground about an hour and half away from base that's right next to the river. We tend to get a spot that's got a bank right down to the edge of the water for the purpose of trying to push people in to the cold water. The camping trip is usually in June before the burn bans go into affect but the water is still damn cold . 

This is Dave getting mauled by his closest friends.  :) They were making fun of him for some reason and decided it was time for a group hug.  They were sweet enough to hold it long enough for me to get a picture.  As you can see, Dave was not that pleased.  Mwah ah ah.

Hutch and Trindle.  Poor Trindle was drunk most of the weekend, but he's also a robot and was training for the AF marathon so he got his ass up and ran every day we were camping . . . and then came back and drank us under the table.  He is epic.
This was Matt on the Walrus that someone brought for fun.  I never rode on it, but apparently it was meant for more of a relaxed pool-type setting rather than a rocky, unstable Idaho river.  Go Figure.  But it got mad props from the fisherman watching them put in to begin floating the river.  They all started cheering and laughing when it went by.  Then one of the stupid airmen, while drunk tried to put it on the fire.  Dave had to play babysitter and lock the damn walrus in our car until the next day.  But don't worry, nothing happened to the walrus - just the guy who tried to put him on the fire.

Trindle doing what he does best at the campouts.  Other than putting the rest of us to shame with his robot/Chuck Norris abilities. 
This picture is taken from our campsite to one of the hills on the opposite side of the river. A bunch of guys decided to go hike up that hill one morning and we kept trying to see if we could spot them. I didn't have any binoculars so I couldn't see them but a couple of the guys did.
This last year was the first time any of us had really gone floating down the river. It was still numbingly cold, but of course once you got in and stayed in you couldn't feel it anymore. Like Megan. She floated the river about 4 or 5 times. The ride wasn't very long, maybe about a mile or so but it had some pretty bumpy spots.

This particular picture of Dave was after he hit bottom - literally - on a fairly large rock. He kept complaining all night that his butt hurt and all the guys made fun of him for having been raped by a rock. He kept drinking and the pain eventually went away. :)

So these are some of the fun memories I have from my experience at the lab campouts.  Other memories I have are ankles for the first time, Pete's shorty shorts (I'll never get that image out of my head) and the mass amounts of booze.  It shall all be missed. I was told the PMEL over here in Germany does a big pig roast every summer so that could be fun too.  I'll keep you posted and let you know how it compares.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I'm done with snow.

By now I was hoping to have a post up about our wonderful trip to the Mosel area of Germany where we were to have had a wine tasting tour and traditional German meal. No such luck. You see, the Air Force and the weather both conspired against us. First, there was an exercise from Jan 25 thru Feb 2. Our trip was planned for Jan 30. Normally no big deal except that they made David work the weekend. So since our trip was scheduled to begin at 8 am and he got off work at 6 am we had to cancel. Completely bummed me out. I've been kind of housebound lately because we only have one car so I was really looking forward to getting out of the house. As it was, we got hit with a huge storm that week too so we might not have been able to go anyway. We booked the tour through the USO and we got credit to use the amount we paid for the tour towards another tour within 6 months. The good news is they do that particular tour about once a month so we still have an opportunity to go in the next few months.
See?? This is where we were supposed to have gone. Although it wouldn't have looked like this being in the middle of winter and all, you get the idea. Anyway, this weekend we're going on a Rhine River cruise for Valentine's Day. We get to go on a tour of a castle, a short cruise down the Rhine and then have a romantic 3 course dinner. I'm very much looking forward to it. David is too; he says he's got cabin fever but hopefully he got rid of that when he went snowboarding last weekend. :)

Pictures to come next week of our Valentine's Day fun!