Sunday, November 25, 2007

War Eagle and Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, my alma mater, Auburn University, beat our arch rivals, University of Alabama for the 6th straight time. This one was at home in Auburn, and I'm sure that Toomer's Corner is draped in the white finery of victory: Toilet Paper. For those not acquainted with the tradition, following Auburn victories, the students go and "TP" Toomer's Corner, throwing thousands of rolls of paper into the branches. The stuff hangs there until the next big rain, when it drifts into the gutters or gets ground into the asphalt. All in all, mildly destructive, probably contributes to global warming, and is a grand tradition that has lasted for ages, and will for ages to come (or until Al Gore says nobody should do that anymore).

It's been a busy weekend. We had Thanksgiving dinner with our friends Ginny and David, and we just got back this afternoon from visiting Melody's cousin in Kobe. She and her husband have 16 month old twins who are just adorable, and as one can quite imagine, a handful. We took the Shinkansen the day after Thanksgiving to get there, and spent about a day and a half total with them. We really had a great time, and got to indulge in a bunch of Filipino food as well, something that's a real treat for us.

I just have to take a moment here to say how proud I am of Melody. When we first met, she took a short trip to New Orleans and brought a HUGE bag full of clothes she would wear, clothes she might wear, clothes that she knew she probably wouldn't wear, but looked cute, shoes, shoes, shoes, and more shoes, and an umbrella. Of course, I gave her a hard time about her packing for months. However, over the past 7 years, she's improved tremendously. We've done a lot of travel on holiday and work, and she's refined her skills to the point where, this time, she took one 25L backpack for three days. Half of it is still her applications and "girl" stuff, and I have no idea (nor the courage) to tackle that.

We also recently began and ended the process of buying a house. We'll be moving to Texas in the spring, and are trying to get a head start on getting a place to live. We found a great house that, as they say, looks great from afar, but was really far from great. We knew there were a few issues from the sellers documents, relating to storm damage to the roof that hadn't been repaired. What we were not encouraged to see after completion of the inspection, were the myriad other problems with the place. Foundation problems, insulation, termite damage, the aforementioned roof, leaks, electrical went on for 11 pages. After consulting with the experts (Mom and Dad), we decided not to continue the option, and backed out of it. So, the quest continues, and we're sure we'll find something eventually, and before we need to move in. It was a bit of a disappointment, though...we really did like the place. We just don't want to spend the next 3-4 years totally renovating it, as we most likely wouldn't be able to get what we put into it later on).

Anyhow, on into December we go...we have our Holiday Ball on Tuesday, a bit early due to an exercise going on, and I'll be doing some traveling up north of Tokyo for a few days. I'll be back in time for our anniversary though. At least I'd better be!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Breakin' The Law, Breakin' The Law

I like to think of myself as a fairly law abiding citizen. My last speeding ticket was when I was in college, nearly 20 years ago (and yes, I am knocking on the proverbial wood). That said, I had a brush with the law this week...

We had a group of folks over from the US this week, working with us on a future exercise we're trying to get together. While here, we went out to the depot for a visit, but before we left, I realized that I left my ID card in my computer. Rather than make us late, I decided that, since I'd done it before, I would just sign in after we got there.

We drove up to the gate and everyone showed their IDs to the security guard. I explained that I had forgotten mine, and would need to sign in, and then pulled over to the side. We waited for several minutes for the guard to come over with the clipboard. When he didn't, I craned my head out the window and looked back at them. They were standing in a gaggle, so I waved at them. They waved back at me like I could go on, so I shrugged my shoulders, and went on in.

After making a quick trip to the bathroom, we joined the rest of the group for a briefing. To save time, I parked on the grass, and we cut across to the warehouse. After our briefing, we went out to look at some static displays, and while standing there, a military policeman came up. I figured that perhaps he was looking for me since I'd parked on the grass. Sure enough, he was.

I went over and asked, "Is there a problem?"

The MP asked, "Is that your van over there?"

"Yes, it is," I replied. "Am I getting arrested?" I said that last with what I thought was a wry grin...

"It is an apprehendable offense. I've been sent to escort you off base," he replied, without a wry grin.

"You're going to arrest me for parking on the grass?"

"No," he replied, still not grinning, "You ran the gate."

Now, to me, running the gate causes visions of Al Qaeda type terrorists bashing through the entrance, and driving into the middle of the base to blow themselves up. This is not me. I work here. Hell, I live here.

"I did not run the gate. I pulled over and waited for the guards to come let me sign in. When I waved at them to get their attention, they waved as if I could go," I explained.

"I'm sorry, sir. Could you come with me to my truck?"

"Of course." I followed him, getting my wallet out as we went.

Once at his truck, we went through the information drill. Name. Rank. Social. Date of birth. Place of birth...all the while, thinking through the possible ramifications of having a criminal record. The reputation as a scofflaw...the bad boy persona, which would contrast nicely with my naturally geeky nature. If I were a Democrat, this would be a resume enhancer! Too bad I'm a right wing nut job.

After I gave him all my information, we headed back to the gate. He by this time realized that it was a miscommunication, and decided that he would not give me a leg up if I ever decided to run for Democrat office, and to let me off with a warning. I wouldn't even have to be escorted back on the base by my boss.

As we got to the gate, I turned around, parked, got out and went up to the shack so I could sign in. And proceeded to stand there. Then one of the security guards came out and went to talk to the MP. Then he came back. Then he called someone on the phone. I looked over at the MP, and realized that it was him. Then he hung up and went back to talk to the MP. I went over as well, and he just looked at me and said, "Don't worry about it."

"So I'm not going to make the blotter?" I asked.

"No. You're good."

So, I went on.

When I rejoined the group, one of the guys started singing, "Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you." The only thing I would have needed to do to make it like a "COPS" episode would have been to take off my shirt and say, "It ain't mine, man! I was just holding it for someone!!"

I have a big sign on my door, right above the doorknob, reminding me not to forget my ID card. It doesn't work very well, obviously. I can guarantee you that I didn't forget it for the rest of the week, though.

Otherwise, it was a good week. We're in the process of perhaps buying a house in San Antonio (where we're headed next), so that kept us busy as well. Gotta love the can do almost anything these days virtually.

We also spent last Saturday with our friends Ginny and David brewing beer and playing Clue. I don't know the last time that I played has to be over 25 years ago. It turns out that it was "Mr. Green in the Dining Room with the Candlestick" though. Just now, they actually have little people figurines rather than colored pegs. We had a great time, made some great beer (hopefully...we'll go back in a few weeks for the bottling, and again a few weeks later for the drinking), and then went out for Indian food afterward.

We'll be celebrating Thanksgiving with them this week. For all of you back home celebrating, have a great Turkey Day.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Map for Saturday

A few posts ago, I mentioned a film called "A Map for Saturday." We ordered it from the website, and just got finished watching it.

What a great movie. If you've never lived the backpacker life, or spent extended time on the road, this gives you some insight as to what it is like. It left us both with an appreciation for the places we've been, and a longing to get back on the road.

In a way, our experience living overseas has been a bit like an extended trip...every day, even though things have assumed a sort of routine, we are still in Japan, and adventure is always a possibility, though it usually just means we got lost. Again.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Relatives and Baby Roulette

We just wrapped up a short visit with my cousin Paul, who has been traveling Asia for the past 2 months. He spend 5 weeks in China on business, before heading to Vietnam to link up with his brother Mark, a tour organizer there. Now, on his way back to the US, he spent a couple of days in Tokyo, and we were able to link up with him last night.

We met him in north Tokyo, where we had supper (soba and beer) at a traditional Japanese izakaya restaurant. We enjoyed watching the businessmen around us drinking heavily, and gauging their drunkenness by the redness of their faces.

After a while, we headed back to Roppongi, and Hardy Barracks where we stayed the night. We ran into some friends there as well, my buddy Steve from the China trip in May. We hung out in the hall outside our rooms (ironically, right next to each other) for a while before turning in.

This morning, after checking out, we headed down the street to the New Sanno and had breakfast together. While waiting, Paul, Steve and I played "baby roulette" with Steve's daughter. There's one particular rug in the lobby that is round, and we would place bets on which direction she would go.

Here are the rules:

1. Pick an edge of the rug.
2. Place your money on your "spot." ($1 or 100 yen ante).
3. Dealer picks up the baby and spins around while one the other players close their eyes.
4. After a few seconds, the other players say "Stop."
5. Place baby in center of circle.
6. Baby crawls to the edge of the rug.
7. Whomever put their money closest to where baby exits the rug, wins the pot.

There's now about 3 dollars more in Kiely's college fund.

We're at Narita now...just left Paul at the security gate, and Melody's getting her nails done. We'll head back to Tokyo for dinner with some friends later on. It was a short, but fun visit, and we're really glad he had the chance to come by.