Friday, June 29, 2012

Mandatory Fun - (Germany) Day 186

This is the Heidelberg brothel. I pass by this place every time  I head to the PX.
It seems a little strange, but prostitution is legal in Germany.

This morning I did the spin class. There were only about 4 of us doing PT, so we were just told to meet at the spin class. It was a pretty good workout, but my knee was a bit sore. I've had me knee hurt off and on, but it seems lately that it is in constant pain. I'm freakin' falling apart! I'm going to have to get that looked at now.

Everyone else was forced to go to a mandatory fun day (company organizational day). The only reason I got out of it was because I had a physical therapy appointment already scheduled. I headed straight to my appointment instead of work and did my physical therapy. I really look forward to the IFC (shock treatment) and the massage and manipulation that is done to my back. The manipulation is basically what a chiropractor does, but someone usually gives me a short neck massage as well to help loosen those muscles. After the IFC and the heat on my neck and back this is a great way to end the session. I always feel pretty good leaving there.

The day at work was a little strange. On my side of the office, I was the only one there. We had an NCO in the vault and there were a couple of people on the other side of the office (the maintenance side). It was really quite, I could hear the NCO on the other side of the office watching cock fights. He is Filipino and actually does this when he's back home. He watches these on YouTube just like other people watch an MMA match or any other sport. I surfed around on the internet pretty much the entire day.

I met up with my wife at Taco Bell and I tried the Doritos taco which finally just arrived here. I've heard about it from my friends back in the states, but it took a while to arrive over here. I have to say that it tasted awesome…just like a big Doritos chip as the shell with all the taco goodness inside. The only thing that would make this better would be to add the "lava sauce" they used to have in the volcano tacos to this…that would be heaven!

The rest of work was mostly just surfing the internet. I did have to open a safe and take two items out of inventory to send off. This meant that me and the NCO had to inventory the entire safe before closing it. Our NCO closed the office at a little after 1500 since there was nothing to do and nobody there. I cleaned up and headed out. I like having our old NCOIC gone, she would have made everyone stay until 1700 or later...just because.

The night consisted of having my boss and his family over for dinner. My wife made an awesome meal and we enjoyed their company. This will be our last weekend before we're invaded by my kids :)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Field Training - (Germany) Day 185

Looking down my rifle as we're about to make an assault

This morning we did not have PT because of our wonderful Thursday Sergeant's Time Training. We formed up at 0630, then drew our weapons from the armory. After that we loaded into TMPs and headed off to Mannheim, where we met up with the rest of our company for training. Before training though we all headed into the DFAC for breakfast.

The training was a little more active than the last time we headed up there. We were broken up into two groups and had one class learning how to perform 360 degree security while the other group worked with various formations to move a squad or platoon. At the end of each training the squad performing the security would get "attacked" by the other squad. It was kind of pointless because all we could do was say "bang bang" as we were shooting each other. At one point I decided to turn into a terminator and just stood up and walked straight at the group letting their "bullets" bounce off me as I just continued a terminator style walk right at them. I gotta do something to entertain myself. As I've complained before, this training has no use for me. Nothing I will ever use…and if there is a point at which I get sent down range and end up on a raid with an infantry group, I know I'll get plenty of training with them before hand. That is one thing that is said over and over again. "Each unit does things differently and you'll get training on your unit's procedures when you're in it, if you get deployed". Then tell me why are we wasting time and money on this training, when we could be learning more about the job we're actually doing, or at least the MOS we should be doing?

After the training we headed back to the DFAC where folks could eat lunch if they wanted. I didn't because I ate a huge breakfast. I'm never sure how the food situation is gong to work on these training days, so I pack snacks and try to prepare as much as possible. There were about 4 people that were taken aside by the commander and the first sergeant once we got back. They were all given negative counseling statements for being overweight. I know at least two of them were NCOs, which is not a good thing!

Once back in the office I checked my email and did a little surfing on the internet. We then had to make sure our weekend checklist was done. We received our end of the month counseling and then cleaned up the office and headed home at about 1600. I'm hoping this will continue to be the norm…leaving early when we don't have anything to do.

Once home I hung out with my wife. We cleaned up a bit, ate dinner and watched some shows.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Profile PT Test Day - (Germany) Day 184

Our NCOIC standing on the left checking out her gift the office gave her

This morning's PT we finally had our PT test. For me it was the first time doing a PT test with a profile, which was a little interesting. My profile states that I can do push-ups, but no sit-ups and instead of the 2-mile run I have to do the 2.5 mile walk. I had nothing to prove and I guess because I just haven't been feeling very motivated lately. I also do not plan on moving up and becoming an NCO…so I didn't really care what I scored on the test, I just wanted to pass. So with this attitude, I started the test. First event the push-up. For my age all that is needed is 34 push-ups in 2 minutes, no problem. When it was my turn I started and did 39 in about 30 seconds or so, then just got up and walked off. I then sat out for the sit-up event. When it came to the walking event everyone lined up together (walkers and runners). Then we took off…there were 4 walkers total and I came in third. The walk has to be done at a decent pace, but it's pretty hard to fail unless you're walking at a stroll. If you keep up a decent pace the entire time there is no problem. I had to complete mine in 36 minutes…I did it in 31:53. PT test is done and passed.

I then headed home to get ready for the day and after dropping my wife off at work, I headed straight to physical therapy for a session. Unfortunately the doc wasn't there for my chiropractic manipulation, but I did get the IFC "shock therapy" and felt pretty good after doing all the exercises and taking off.

I went to work and changed into my uniform from the civilian PT clothes I was wearing for physical therapy. We didn't stay there long, after about 15 minutes we all left for a farewell lunch thrown at a Chinese restaurant for our NCOIC that is now leaving us. The commander and the first sergeant joined us as well. Our NCOIC was given the gifts that our office all chipped in for and the commander gave her an ARCOM (Army Commendation Medal) for her PCS award. A few speeches and a lot of Chinese food later we all took off.

Back at the office I surfed the internet for a while. I think one of the reasons I really don't like my job here is that I always feel like we get nothing accomplished. The last jobs that I worked at had a help desk system where every issue that came up had a ticket created for it. At one job I was the I.T. manager and another I was the system administrator. At the end of the day at either of these jobs, I could look at the reports and see exactly how much we accomplished each day. I always felt like we did a lot, but here I don't feel that. I just feel that the entire job is just dealing with some sort of BS here or there and just waiting for the weekend. I really can't imagine another two and a half years of this. Heidelberg is supposed to close in the near future, so that may shake things up a bit. I guess we'll see what comes of that.

After doing the safe inventory, we cleaned up and headed home. We received the 2nd season of Dexter via Netflix today and started watching that. We're a bit behind, but I love watching TV series on Netflix because you get to watch a bunch of episodes all at once…without any commercials!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Don't Laugh…Even a Little - (Germany) Day 183

This morning's PT was pretty much nothing…once again. Our PT test was moved to tomorrow, so everyone that is doing the test tomorrow formed up and just did some stretching. The new platoon sergeant came to our formation and was telling everyone the times for tomorrow's formation. He then said to make sure if we are on profile, to bring our profile. He stated that technically that shouldn't be a problem because we should have it on us at all times. This made me laugh and I then looked at my summer PTs wondering where I was supposed to hang on to a profile. That was the wrong thing to do. The platoon sergeant (who everyone already calls Drill Sergeant B) got pissed off and asked me if I thought that was funny. Then he had me get out of formation and see him in the back. He gave me a stern talkin' to for a bit about respect and such. I told him I'm sorry and I didn't realize our shorts had a little teeny tiny pocket that we can put small items in. He's just one of those guys that acts like a drill sergeant all the time and always seems pissed off.

We all headed home after stretching which was nice. I was able to spend a much slower paced morning drinking coffee and getting ready. I was even able to watch the news for a bit before we headed out!

The morning was one of the usual ones where I sit in a chair and look at the wall because there were no computers available. I did this for about a half hour until it was time for a required meeting for all E-4s and below with our new platoon sergeant. He went over his expectations and everything for the platoon. He assured everyone that he "hated everyone equally" and would not play favorites. He's going to be a swell guy to work for.

By the time the meeting was over it was almost lunch time, so a few minutes back in the office and it was time to head out to my car to listen to some music, read my book, and eat my lunch. After lunch I was able to jump on a computer for a bit to check my email and such. I am the sponsor of a new soldier coming later on this year. He had sent me some questions about the place and the unit. I tried to fill him in as best as I could. The problem is that with the base closing, there is going to be a lot of personnel shifting around. Nobody's even sure if new people will be coming here or heading straight to Wiesbaden. There is talk of even having people bussed to work back and forth to Wiesbaden…now that would be a little crazy.

I had to add a new item to one of our safes, which meant that I had to open the blasted thing. Once a safe is opened, we have to do a full inventory before closing it again. This takes about a half hour or so. I then had a bit of time to surf the internet and pass the time until we were released a little after 1600.

I picked up my wife and we headed home. We ate dinner and called the kiddos to say hi. We then watched a movie called "This Means War". A chick flick that came via Netflix about two CIA agents that are both after the same girl. It had some funny parts and was a decent movie…for a chick flick.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Just A Little Trash - (Germany) Day 182

This morning's PT was pretty much nothing. Since I have been selected to do a PT test tomorrow, I was told to take it extremely light in the gym today. So I headed over and rode a stationary bike at a slow pace for a half hour watching the sports center highlights on TV.

I had my last Monday of AIC detail..a.k.a. Post Cleanup…a.k.a. Garbage Man. I reported at 0900 and the old guy in charge took quite a while before turning us loose. Today we actually had three soldiers show up for the detail. Usually it's two unlike last week where it was just one…me. We also had a high school girl with us who was doing some community service work. By the time the old guy in charge briefed everyone, it was 0920 and I actually had to leave for an appointment at 0930. It's not like I was trying to get out of this detail, I had the appointment scheduled a long time ago. I also decided to start looking out for myself in regards to appointments and such. I was just dealing with the pain and pushing through in the past. I'm not going to do that crap anymore. Anyways…I helped pick up trash in the main park where we started and we finished in 10 minutes. I then took off for my appointment.

I went home and changed into some comfortable gym shorts and a t-shirt, then headed to my physical therapy appointment. I went through my checklist of various core, back, and neck strengthening exercises. I then had had heat on my back and neck while using the IFC for my "shock therapy". After that the doc came and did my spinal manipulation. He then had another guy work on my neck. This staff sergeant has had some massage training and I have to say it felt awesome! I left the place in no pain and feeling nice and relaxed.

By the time I got back to PHV it was a little past time for my lunch break. I ate lunch in my house and decided to watch a movie since nothing was on the AFN channels. It seems nothing is ever on the AFN channels. I watched Napoleon Dynamite…of course I've seen it before, but I just wanted to watch a silly movie and veg out for a bit.

When I have done AIC detail in the past, I'm usually done by lunch time…even when I'm by myself, but I had to go out and make a drive around PHV to make sure they were still not working. I did so and saw no sign of anyone still working the AIC detail…so I headed back home and hung out for a while. I added some more of the posts I had converted over from WordPress.

I read a little and then headed off to the clothing store. I had to purchase some of the specialist rank for my Class A shirt. I heard we may be having a class a inspection coming up. I then picked up my wife and we headed to a store on the economy. This particular store has a parking garage and like every German parking garage, all the stalls are tiny. It's a good thing we drive a small car, the normal American SUVs and such would have a tough time finding a spot.

At home we hung out, ate dinner and watched some TV shows. We watched a new show on HBO called "The Newsroom" which has some potential. Now that all the normal season shows have ended we are looking for alternative shows to watch.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 180 & 181

Lunch on Saturday...Chicken Lollipops...LOL

Saturday: Love the weekend…sleeping in and hanging out with my wife. Today we ended up running some errands. There was a farewell BBQ for our sergeant major today, and it was strongly suggested that everyone attend. They even said that anyone who attends will get a day off of work. Let me say that if they want maximum participation they should have it during work hours. As far as the day off goes…I've learned to not have much faith in army promises. So we decided to skip the BBQ and pick up some needed items from Ikea and another store called Poco. We have limited time before my kids come for the summer, so we need to take advantage of any time we do have off. First things first though…we headed to downtown Heidelberg and bought some coffee and some pastries for breakfast. We sat outside and just people watched for a while before starting the day. This is one of the things I really love about Europe. There are so many restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating, it's always nice to just relax and people watch while enjoying a drink or a meal.

Once back from running our errands I worked on a co-worker's laptop. He needed the hard drive replaced and the RAM upgraded. It's pretty sad that this, and upgrading my own system is the only computer work I've done since coming to Germany (besides the couple weeks at the FTX).

We then watched a movie we got from Netflix called "Chronicle". I remember putting it in our queue after seeing the preview because it's based in the pacific northwest (where I'm from) and is about some boys who get some supernatural powers after stumbling on some strange substance. It goes through the progression of them being amazed, to having fun and playing jokes, to having the power corrupt them absolutely. The problem with the movie is that it is made to seem like it's all from one of the guy's camcorder which can get a little annoying at times.

Sunday: Slept in once again…yay. We didn't do much today. I had to finish up with my co-worker's laptop. We also cleaned up the house and moved a bunch of crap to our storage area upstairs. Each of these units that we live in have an attic upstairs and another storage place in the basement. We have most of our stuff in the attic since we are on the 3rd floor. We did bring up the air conditioning unit that we purchased earlier on in the year from the basement. Now we're pretty much ready for the kiddos to come and stay with us for the summer.

I spent some time migrating the posts from my WordPress site to this Blogger site. I found a nifty website that basically does most of the work for you. I was able to export my WordPress journal entries and then have the website convert it for me to import into Blogger. I've been touching up each entry before publishing it, but when I'm done I'll have all my Germany and Korea journals in one place...and everything will be a little easier to manage. I don't have anything negative to say about using WordPress. It's free and easy to use, but so is Blogger. Blogger is very convenient if you use Picasa for photo albums and I am also using Google Sites for my main website. We'll see how it all works out.

We watched some of "The Walking Dead" series. It is pretty good, at first my wife didn't want to watch a series about zombies…but after seeing a few episodes I think it has peaked her interest.

Not a whole lot going on today…back to the grind tomorrow.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dragon Warriors & The Drawbacks of Being Tall - (Germany) Day 179

A view of the units in the staging area about 15 minutes
before forming up to march on the field.

This morning we did not have PT once again, instead we had a mandatory 100% weigh in for the company. We had to form up at 0600 in our summer PTs, then wait in line to get on the scale. They base the standards on how tall you are, how old you are and how heavy you are. I came in at 203…my max is 205. For those that didn't make it, they had to get measured by tape to calculate their body fat. If they end up being overweight, then they go on the special population program (also known as the "fat boy" program). People on this get weighed more often and have to attend an extra PT session after work. Usually we're given a bit more time to prepare and I don't eat ice cream for a while when I know we have one coming up!

After, we all stayed around the office. I changed into my ACUs and picked up some breakfast at the bakery in the food court. We actually had a couple hours before we had to go to the armory to pick up our rifles for the ceremony, so I just surfed the internet. It turned out good though, because I found out our platoon sergeant is on leave. I had to resend all the command sponsorship paperwork to our NCOIC.

We picked up our rifles and then waited some more for the bus to come and pick us up for the hour and a half ride to Wiesbaden. I was a little better prepared this time, I brought my headphones and was able to listen to music on the trip. Once we arrived we were released for lunch.

We finally formed up at a little after 1300. Being one of the taller guys I have to be in the front of the formation. This is not a good thing because everyone's eyes are on you, so you have to do everything perfect. The change of command ceremony took place for our brigade commander. The ceremony was uneventful…lots of standing around with a sparse crowd of family members and friends in attendance. Lots of speeches that were a bit too long, then it finally ended.

It wasn't exactly over for us though, we had to board the bus and head over to a gymnasium. Forgetting how tall I am, or how short the ceiling was in the bus…I slammed my head into it. It was hard enough to start bleeding…luckily I had a paper towel that I just held on my head for a while. I hate it when that happens! Once in the gym we waited for a while, then the new brigade commander came in and we had a town hall session. He had a bit of a speech, then asked if anyone in the crowd had any questions for him…..crickets…..of course late on a Friday nobody is going to have any questions, everyone just wants to leave and go home to start their weekend. He then went on and closed out on his speech.

We then boarded the bus and headed back home. Once we arrived at about 1800, we had to head to the armory to unload all the rifles. We were then finally released for the weekend. After a long week I'm really looking forward to a bit of relaxing. My boss gave me a ride home and I hung out with my wife for dinner and a movie in our living room.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Day of Practice - (Germany) Day 178

A view from where I was sitting before we started forming up.
You can see the uniform we had to wear for the ceremony complete with beret and rifle.

This morning we did not have PT, but we did have to get up very early as I mentioned yesterday. I was picked up at 0420 by my boss and we headed into work to be in the 0445 formation, but since it's the army we had to be there 10 minutes early of course. We then drew our rifles from the armory. We then had about a 10 minute window where I was able to go in the office and send off my first round of paperwork for my daughter's command sponsorship. I know there will probably be many more rounds, but I'm glad to get it actually started.

We formed up again about 0545 and waited for the bus to pick us up. We headed to Wiesbaden where the ceremony is going to take place. I'm not sure how long the ride was (about an hour or so I think), but I fell asleep pretty quick and woke up right as we were about to enter the base. Once in, we were released for breakfast in the DFAC. Their DFAC was OK, and we had plenty of time to eat (a little over an hour) so there was no rush.

Once finished we boarded the bus again and were taken to the field where the ceremony is going to take place. At that point we did nothing for a while except stand, sit, or smoke. Well I didn't smoke, but I did take a nice seat on the ground and waited. We formed up and waited some more, until finally we marched over to the field.

Once in the field we stood around in our formations for a while before finally getting started with the rehearsal. I was surprised that in addition to our battalion, there were companies and battalions from Stuttgart, Wiesbaden, Belgium, and even Italy. I'm not sure who picked the uniform for the ceremony, but they should be knocked upside the head. We wore ACUs with a rifle, beret, and our flack vest with canteen. It made me remember why I hate the beret so much. Standing around all day in the heat with a wool hat on your head just sucks. To me having the rifle doesn't make much sense either…all we did was sling it over our shoulder for the entire ceremony.

The practice consisted of mostly standing in formation. We would watch some signal flags get waved around at certain points which told us when to be at attention, parade rest or present arms (salute). We also marched around the field a couple times. We did all this over and over and over again. The soldiers had everything down pretty quick, it's the officers that kept messing up and thus making everyone do the ceremony over again.

I have to say the day pretty much sucked. Standing at either attention or parade rest is not much fun when you have to do it for long periods of time. When at these positions the only thing you're allowed to move is your eyes. It got hot and I think a lot of people got sunburned. In fact the first sergeant told one guy he looked like a "cherry popsicle". We did get a break for lunch, but then had to come back and do it again and again…over and over until we were finally released at about 1700. We weren't done yet though…a long bus ride back, a visit to the armory to turn in our weapons, then a ride back home from my boss. All so we can do it again tomorrow. I guess I should be thankful that we only have a 0600 formation tomorrow morning.

As for the night…when I got home, I showered and then just plopped on the couch and relaxed…trying to mentally prepare for tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More Therapy - (Germany) Day 177

This morning's PT was a little interesting. There were only about four of us in the PT uniform ready for PT, the rest of the folks were in ACUs. There is a change of ceremony going on this Friday and there is practice for it today and tomorrow. It was put out that max participation was expected, so almost everyone is going. I had a physical therapy appointment already scheduled, so they said I could go to it and head to the practice starting tomorrow.

PT…for the four of us left, was spin class. I actually got a great workout. The instructor was blasting a lot of 80's rock and by the time we were finished I had sweat dripping everywhere. I wish I could do this kind of stuff more often since I've been on profile. I can actually get a good workout without ending up in a lot of pain later.

My physical therapy was at 0930, so I didn't even head to work and just went straight to the therapy office. It gave me a little time to nap before heading in. I did the same exercises as before, but instead of having the therapist with me the entire time, I just checked my sheet and proceeded to do each exercise…marking it off as I finished. These exercises are to strengthen my back and neck areas. I then went on to the good part of the physical therapy…laying down on some hot pads around my neck and upper back. I also had the IFC (Interferential Current...or what I like to call...shock therapy) machine hooked up to me again. This is the machine that sends electrical current through my back and makes my muscles jump around. It does a good job of relieving any pain and in combination with the hot pads, I felt great afterwards. The doctor then came and did his chiropractic manipulation of my spine.

Before I left I had him adjust my profile so I would not have to wear a helmet. Last Thursday I had to wear one and I'm not sure if it was because I already hurt my back, or because of the extra weight on my head…but I was pretty sore for the rest of the night.

I headed to work after my session and it was about 1100…almost time for lunch! The office only had a few people in it, so no issues finding a computer. I started the process of trying to get all the paperwork together for my daughter's command sponsorship. I should be able to submit the first round of paperwork tomorrow…if I get a chance to access a computer. I'm not sure how long the process is going to be.

Lunch was in my car where I listened to music and read my book. I'm on the second book in the "Game of Thrones" series. It's been a pretty good read so far. Back in the office I actually did a little ComSec work. One of my customers came in and needed a new encryption key. I don't actually do anything but the paperwork, so when the key was issued my actual job is to make sure he signed and dated in the correct place.

I surfed the web and read the news for a while before having to inventory the safe. We then cleaned up, locked up, and went home. I made plans for SPC Whirlwind to give me a ride into work. With the change of command practice going on, we would not be returning and my wife would need the car. The night was pretty routine until I got a call from SPC Whirlwind saying we had to go in earlier than expected because we were having a weigh-in…new time to be ready 0520. I then got a call from my boss saying things have changed…he is now picking me up, no weigh-in, just straight to the arms room to pick up our weapons for the ceremony practice…new time to be ready…0420. This just keeps getting better.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cleaning Up After Pigs - (Germany) Day 176

Saw this guy on his 4-wheeler out driving in Heidelberg 
the other day....something you just don't see in the states.

This morning's PT was a mock PT test. Since I am on profile I just stood there and watched everyone until it was time to run…but for me and the other folks on profile, we walked. A walker must walk 2.5 miles instead of the 2 mile run. You don't score points for the walk, instead it is a "go" or a "no go" depending on your time. I was told we had 35 minutes or so to finish and I ended up coming in before then…so no worries. The only issue was that because of some poor planning and deciding to do a mock PT test at the normal PT time, everyone left at around 0800 which is about a half hour later than normal. We were told we could come in at 1000 instead of 0900. My problem when crap like this happens is that we only have one car and my wife needs to get to work. I quickly drove home and let my wife take off for work after making sure I could ride into work with SPC Whirlwind.

Thanks to the delayed work time, I had plenty of time to get ready…luckily I didn't waste it. I got a call shortly after showering and eating stating that I had AIC detail again. This is where I go around and be the garbage man (excuse me...sanitation engineer) on PHV. The nice thing is that I don't need a car, but the bad thing is that I had some paperwork I wanted to get done in the office today. I just found out for sure that my daughter will be coming to live with me for the next year. While I'm extremely happy, I know there will be many hassles with all the command sponsorship paperwork and I wanted to get that started right away. "Command Sponsorship" is needed for any family member to get all the benefits and be able to stay here for longer than 90 days. We'll see how all that goes…I know we'll be pushing it trying to get everything done in time before school starts.

I headed over to the AIC office and found out that I'm the only one that showed up for this detail…meaning that I get to clean the entire post by myself. Yay me! I started by walking around with one of those "long pinchers on a stick" and a trash bag looking for trash on the ground. I only had to hit the BBQ areas, the movie theatre and the playground areas. I also had to drive the TMP around looking for any trash cans that were full. I couldn't believe how much people just litter and don't give a crap. I can't imagine these people's yards and houses if they didn't live on post and have forced labor cleaning up after them. They are all freakin' pigs! I worked my butt off picking up trash all over post. I felt like I was in a chain gang out on road patrol picking up trash…only by myself. I know people think I probably got into some sort of trouble because I'm doing a crappy job, but no…this is just a normal day in the army. The good thing about this detail is that I finished by noon. I was soaked with sweat and had a fierce headache, but I was done. I headed home and showered…again, then took some "Goody's" to try and relieve the pain. It seems I'm always in pain…it sucks! I think the physical therapy might have done a little more than planned yesterday.

At home relaxing…I watched "Pearl Jam: Twenty" a rockumentary about the last 20 years of Pearl Jam. I grew up only a ferry ride away from Seattle. Even though I didn't play any instruments, music was my life growing up…and I guess you could say it still is a big part of my life (my iTunes has over 25,000 songs in it). The Seattle music scene was blowing up while I was in high school and for a while after. I loved all the grunge rock and the bands that were coming out of Seattle. I never got the chance to see Nirvana, but I have been able to see Alice 'n Chains, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam in concert. The show brought back a lot of memories from those days with a number of scenes from Seattle and talk about the beginnings of Pearl Jam which started off as Mother Love Bone…a band that was destined to be great if the lead singer Andy Wood wouldn't have died. The show also covered "Temple of the Dog". This was a little of Soundgarden with Pearl Jam that created a great tribute CD to their late friend Andy. All in all the show was pretty cool showing the history of the band until now. How they hit super stardom and then went on somewhat of an independent road of their own. For any fan, this is a great show…and for any Seattle music fan in general, this is a must see.

While at home relaxing I also decided to change where I post my blogs. I changed to using Google's Picasa web albums. I also use Google to host my original website, so after checking out their blog platform I decided to give it a try so everything will be with one provider. I'm going to leave everything else where it is for now.

Anyway..the rest of the day was uneventful, I watched some TV shows with my wife and then spoke to my daughter on the phone for a bit…all in all a pretty relaxing day.

side note: Now that flickr has increased their storage, I've moved all photos there. While Picasa works nicely with Blogger, I found flickr to be an easy fit with a ton of storage. You can check out my flickr page here and see all the photos and albums in their entirety.

side note II: Now that flickr has imposed limits on the number of photos allowed, I am moving most of the photos to Google Photos. So you may not see much when clicking on the my flickr page link above.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (4-Day) - (Germany) Day 172 - 175

A photo we snapped in Rothenburg ob der Tauber,
which I read that is one of the most popular photo shots taken there.

Friday: This weekend was the army's birthday, so we get a four day weekend out of the deal. I can't complain about that. Unfortunately it was only the army that got a four day weekend, my wife still had to work. I was also recovering from staff duty. I got off at 0830 and had my wife take a break from work to bring me the car so I could take her back, drop her off…then head home. At first I didn't think I was too tired, but as soon as I laid down I was out until 1400…and even then I had to drag myself out of bed. I knew I couldn't sleep much more without affecting my sleep schedule for the rest of the weekend.

I did some laundry and passed the time until I left to pick up my wife. Just as we were deciding what to do for the night, SPC Whirlwind called and invited us over for dinner. We brought over some chicken to BBQ and enjoyed a nice evening with his family.

Saturday: We didn't have any major plans for the four day, but I knew that I wanted us to get out and do something. I have been searching around for day trips to go on when we have time…like today. We chose to head out to a town called "Rothenburg ob der Tauber". This little town is known for being a well preserved medieval old town. The old town has a wall surrounding it, which you can walk around as they did back in the day to guard the city. There are also many towers, old buildings, cobblestone streets, and a lot of shops to check out. We checked out the Criminal Museum (Kriminalmuseum) which was full of all sorts of medieval torture instruments and explanations in both German and English. All in all it was a pretty cool trip.

Sunday: It was a pretty laid back day…not a whole lot to say. Sometimes it's nice not to do much of anything. We cleaned up, did laundry and watched TV shows.

Monday: Unfortunately my wife had to work, so I took her into work and then went to a physical therapy appointment of mine shortly after. This was my first session and I wasn't sure what to expect. The first thing they did was lay me down with some heat on my upper back and around my neck. It felt great! They also hooked up some electrodes of some sort and told me I was going to get IFC "Inferential Current Therapy). My first thought was "shock therapy", but this was much different. There were four patches placed on my back with some wires connected to a machine. As the current went on and off, it caused my muscles to contract and relax. It was a very strange sensation because it made my shoulders move up and down (kind of like I was shrugging) all on their own. They would move together and then alternate. Here I was laying down not doing anything, and my shoulders seemed possessed, moving all around on their own. Again…I just have to say it was a little strange.

The rest of the session involved the doctor adjusting my back like a chiropractor, then doing a number of exercises targeting my upper back and neck. They were designed to strengthen these muscles. The entire session lasted a little over an hour.

I headed home and played around on the internet for a while before watching the movie "Hostage" with Bruce Willis. It was a pretty decent movie, with some good action.

After picking up my wife we ordered some tickets for one of our big trips we have planned for the family when the kids come, then spent the rest of the night just relaxing.

A few snapshots of Rothenburg:

Created with flickr slideshow.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Training Day - (Germany) Day 171

A view across the training area in Mannheim looking at half of our group taking a class...a.k.a. standing around in full battle rattle looking at printed out PowerPoint slides

This morning we did not have PT. Instead we formed up early at 0715 in full battle rattle for sergeant's time training. Our training was to take place in the Mannheim training area. After accountability, we loaded into 4 vans and made the half hour drive to the training area. We ate breakfast at the Mannheim DFAC. We then headed off to our training area…Mannheim has a number of training areas to use for different scenarios. We used one that was basically an open field surrounded by a wood line. I wore my helmet, but not my body armor because of my profile. Everyone else was in full battle rattle for this training…which had to be one of the more stupid ideas we've done so far. Instead of sitting in a room on post and viewing PowerPoint slides, we drove over a half hour to stand around in a semi-circle and view printed copies of PowerPoint slides. No joke! I was speechless. I couldn't believe how retarded this situation was. We went through four classes of this and then headed back to our post…Campbell Barracks. What was the purpose of wearing the body armor? What was the purpose of driving all the way out to a training area to look at printed out PowerPoint slides? Pure stupidity!

Once back I headed home to change into a new uniform and boots…and eat lunch. Walking around from class to class got my boots and socks wet. I also wore my "field uniform", which is an older uniform that I use anytime I know we're going to the field. This way I don't ruin any of my newer uniforms. My back and head were killing me…I did too much during PT yesterday…and perhaps wearing the helmet made it worse. I may have to modify my profile. I hate feeling like crap all day long. I took my paid medication, but it doesn't seem to do a thing. I ended up taking some over the counter pain meds as well, and continued to take more throughout the day to try and counter the pain.

Back at work while I sat at a desk one of the sergeant's came around checking drawers. I guess while I was gone everyone was supposed to clean out the drawers in the desks. Nobody cleaned out the one I was sitting at and she told me to do so…shred it. So I just took everything out except for office supplies and shredded it all. I didn't give a crap.

We had to form up with the rest of 43rd Signal at 1530. A few people got battalion coins for being exceptional and the major got an award for putting together the signal ball. The outgoing commander then gave a little speech, basically saying good job and good bye. We will be having a change of command ceremony next week for him.

After the formation we were released for the 4 day weekend. It figures on the day I have staff duty, they would release everyone early. I had to head over to staff duty, and started my shift at 1600. There was a guy who had extra duty, so he was here helping out with the maid and janitorial service that staff duty usually gets stuck with. So I read my book a bit and surfed the web before being released for dinner at 1800. I was told to come back by 2100 which was a nice little break. My wife picked me up and we had dinner and spent some time together.

Back at staff duty I then watched the keynote from Apple's WWDC event. It's always fun to see what new stuff is coming out. I now want a new MacBook Pro and a new iPhone with iOS 6…those will have to wait for now.

I was able to take the occasional nap throughout the night, but trying to sleep in an uncomfortable desk chair is a little hard. At about 0715 I had to take out our trash, then vacuum the office. At 0800 I left to PHV to pick up an SFC that called and wanted a ride. At staff duty our main job is to sign people in and out of leave and also give soldiers rides if they need it using the TMP. I headed off and picked up the guy who actually turned out to be a pretty nice dude. I took him to the shopping center and we talked about being stationed in Korea. He just arrived and is going through in-processing…a lot of which is done in the shopping center area. He offered to buy me some coffee, but I told him I plan on going to sleep after this! After dropping him off I headed back to the staff duty desk where it was about time to leave. I was let go right after getting back. My wife picked me up and I headed home to nap.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Another Day Same O'l BS - (Germany) Day 170

An odd sign I saw while driving in Heidelberg. Not sure what
it's promoting other than a standing 69???

This morning's PT was muscle failure. We went to the gym because there was a light rain coming down. The guy leading PT had everyone doing all kinds of crazy things like crab walks, bear walks, fireman carry...etc. The problem was that those of us on profile couldn't just go do our own PT such as riding a bicycle and getting a real workout. Instead we did whatever exercises we could. It turned out we did a lot of walking back and forth across the gym…pretty lame. I did try a few things and ended up tweaking my back…I'll be paying for that the rest of the day.

Work started at 0900 as usual and there were not enough open computers, so I ended up sitting in a chair staring at the wall drinking my coffee. At least when I'm at a computer I can read the news or do something to pass the time. Drinking coffee and looking at a wall just plain sucks…well I guess it could be worse, I could be staring at a wall without drinking coffee.

I finally jumped on a computer when SPC JayZ went out for a smoke break. That helped pass the time until I was called back into the vault to help check a spreadsheet. I had to verify all the information was the same on the computer as on the print out. By the time I was finished…it was lunch time. Time to get out of the office, eat in my car, listen to music, read my book, then take a nap. My new highlight of every day at the office.

After lunch we had new folders to move all our customer's paperwork to. Each of our customers has a folder and each folder has several tabs with various information all kept in a certain order. We had to transfer all the paper to new folders with new cover sheets. This is my job…my job as a 25B Information Technology Specialist. I don't even need a computer to work in this office.

I had to submit more paperwork for my pass request. I had to submit a copy of my current MedPros status. This shows a red or green light for all your medical conditions. I also had to submit my weekend checklist for this weekend. Some more paperwork that makes us feel like we're getting babysat. I have been using a generic phrase in the past just stating that I'll be spending time with my lovely wife in the greater Heidelberg area. Now I changed it to an even more generic statement saying I'll be spending time with my lovely wife within a 150 mile radius. You see, we have to stay within a 150 mile radius, or else we have to put in a pass. I have no idea yet what we'll be doing, so I figure this will cover it. I think I'll keep that as my statement from now on. We also had to have one of the NCOs come out and do an inspection of our cars because it's a 4 day weekend. They go down a checklist making sure your lights work, your flashers, and various other items. I'm 38 years old. I can handle checking my own car and if I end up having something wrong…it's on me. I can take responsibility for it. Instead we get treated like kids…and I just have to play the game and go along with it.

We left for the day after cleaning up. I picked up my wife and headed home for some quality time with my honey girl.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Day of Frustration - (Germany) Day 169

This morning's PT was muscle failure in the gym. Those of us on profile did whatever exercises we could, and I can say that I was able to get a decent workout. Lots of squats and lunges, I'm sure my legs will be sore tomorrow!

This morning I didn't head to work, instead I headed to my basic motorcycle riding course. This course is required before I can get my motorcycle license here in Germany. I found where the class was located easy enough at the army airfield, and started talking to the contractor that runs the class. After a bit of conversation I found out that I could not take the class because I do not have a temporary motorcycle license yet. I was so pissed off I couldn't even see straight. I have been trying to schedule this class which is offered once a month for a few months now, but there is always something going on at work to make it so I can't go. This was the month..finally. I was told that I needed to attend this class and then take the completion certificate to the licensing office on post to get my motorcycle endorsement. We went in the office and made a call to the licensing office and they backed up the contractor and said I have to get the temporary license first. Now realize that I would have been driving their motorcycle on a closed course (the airfield) without going on any roads. Why do I need any license at all? The civilian working in the office agreed with me and said he's going to work to change that, but it doesn't do me any good at the moment. The contractor said he thinks the army doesn't like motorcycle riders and they try to put up as many road blocks as possible.

I headed to the licensing office and found out that I have to take one of their motorcycle safety courses and pass a written test before I can get my temporary license…and the kicker…they only offer the course once a month. It turns out that I can't attend this month's course on the 21st because of a work conflict (of course). So I was told to call in July to see when they are going to have that class. I was steaming mad at this point…I headed back home and changed into my uniform, then headed to work.

Once at work I submitted all the paperwork that is needed to go on pass. I've mentioned this earlier, just a bunch of red tape to get through in order to go on pass. I then took my lunch in my car…listened to some music, read my book and took a nap. Once back at work (and still in a bad mood), I found out that since on one of my passes I plan to drive, that I have to submit a trip plan. WTF? I'm not a 16 year old who has no clue how to drive around. It just seems that the army wants to play big brother a bit too much. Why do they need to know all this information? I'm a grown ass man and can take care of myself. If I want to go somewhere just let me tell you where I'm going and know that I'll have my cell phone on me. None of this extra paperwork solves any real issues.

So I have to go online to fill out this trip evaluation form and I'm getting more pissed off at each question that is asked. What time are you leaving? What kind of vehicle are you driving? A car…how many doors does it have? 4. What size of four door car is it that you drive? WTF? At this point I just want to punch the computer. How old are you? What sex are you? Shouldn't all this information be in your giant database? Shouldn't this all be on file when I log in? Will you be wearing a seatbelt? How long do you plan to sleep before your trip? Will you be drinking alcohol before your trip? I am going to go postal and just start destroying everything! I hate all the babysitting that is done in the army. Oh yes…later on this week we'll have to have our cars inspected by an NCO because I guess they can't trust us to check our own cars. Today it just all came to a head and I let it get to me. I used to think that when I get out of the army that I would want to work at a government job, but now I'm thinking I want to get as far away from this stupidity as possible.

As far as work goes, we received a box full of ComSec crap. Old paper based material that we will never give to anyone and it will sit in our safe until it's expiration date comes up, then we will destroy it. Since we had to put it in the safe, we had to take a full inventory of the safe because it was opened. Wouldn't you know that on the very first item I put a check mark on the wrong date…so after inventory was complete I had to type up a memorandum for record stating that this particular box was an accident. Paperwork is very important for ComSec and everything has to be perfect. It just wasn't my day.

I headed home and was going to relax, but I had to get together a vest, canteen, canteen cover and my beret to bring in tomorrow. Unfortunately I could not find my beret. Just the perfect end to a crappy day.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sanitation Engineer - (Germany) Day 168

This morning's PT was a run for everyone and a long walk for us on profile. After PT I was told I have AIC detail. The nice thing is that it's located on PHV, so it's not too far from my house. I reported there at 0900 and started my day doing the AIC detail. This detail is basically being the garbage man for the PHV post. There were two of us, me and a guy from medical that were given the detail today. We walked around the area picking up garbage that we saw laying around. We also emptied out all the post garbage cans and replaced the bags. Once we collected all the garbage, we took it to a big dumpster and dropped it off.

So this is what your taxpayer money is doing for you. They have used it to train me in computers…Information Technology…so I can walk around and pick up garbage. One of the many useful things I can add to my experience in the military. Garbage Man (or sanitation engineer) can go along with landscaper, janitor, maid, waiter, and let's not forget…slide flipper. So much useful experience.

Luckily it didn't take too long to finish the entire post, we finished at almost noon. The guy I was working with said we were done, so I headed home and stayed there the rest of the day since my place of duty was this AIC detail today. That is the only benefit of getting this detail…you usually don't have to work a full day. In fact it wasn't a bad detail…it kept me busy and I wasn't in the office. How bad is it when I would rather be a garbage man than a ComSec clerk? Neither of which is what I joined the army for, or what they spent so much money training me to do. What a freakin' joke!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Days 166 & 167

Me hanging out in the Heidelberg Student Jail

Saturday: Not a whole lot went on today...sleeping in of course and just hanging out. My wife was not feeling too well, so we basically just stayed in and watched TV. One of the more interesting stories I read was the fact that military suicides are outpacing combat deaths in Afghanistan. This is truly unfortunate and should be eye opening for our leaders. There is something definitely wrong going on…and forcing us to sit through more suicide prevention classes is not going to help. The article doesn't give a reason for all the suicides (154 suicides in the first 155 days of the year), but does mention combat exposure, post-traumatic stress, misuse of prescription meds. I'm sure there will be more news to come on this subject.

Sunday: Today was a bit more active we slept in (of course) and then hung out for a bit before deciding to get out and do something. We headed downtown and decided to check out the Heidelberg Student Jail (Studentenkarzer). This place was in use between 1778 and 1914. Heidelberg University managed the jail and used to put it's unruly students in this jail for minor offenses such as excessive drinking, insulting officials and disturbing the peace. They were forced to stay in this jail, but were allowed to attend classes in the day. What is interesting about the jail is all the graffiti that was left and preserved for all this time. It was pretty interesting to check out. We then went downtown to "people watch", have lunch, and purchase some gifts for my daughter's upcoming birthday. Downtown Heidelberg is always entertaining and a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. There are many choices to eat and on a sunny day there are a number of places to enjoy your meal outside at a table…so you can enjoy the view, the air, and of course "people watch".

We spent the evening cleaning up the house a bit, and watching TV shows. Not too exciting, but we were able to get out a little. Next weekend is a four day and we'll be doing a little more hopefully.

A look inside one of the rooms in the student Jail with all the graffiti art

A street performer we saw while walking in downtown Heidelberg

We Passed! - (Germany) - Day 165

SPC Whirlwind...time finally caught up to him and he couldn't keep his eyes open

This morning for PT everyone did a pretty long run off post, those of us on profile did a decent walk. We walked up and then back down the switchbacks which ended up being a pretty good workout.

Work was the same ol' same ol'. For a big portion of the morning there wasn't an available computer to use, so I just sat in a chair and did nothing except casual conversation with others. I was able to get on one of the computers long enough to print out my weekend checklist as well as a signed copy of our clothing record that needed to be turned in. I can't tell you why this is done, I've had to do it a few times before as well…I guess we're supposed to look at everything and verify that we have everything it says we have. The problem is that we have to turn it in today and have no time to take it home to check all the gear from the list. I couldn't tell you by looking at it if I do or do not have all that is listed on there. So in reality it doesn't do anyone any good.

Lunch time was of course in my car listening to music and taking a nap. Back at work I was finally able to get on a computer for a little while. Besides checking my email, I started the process of putting in passes for July. My kids are coming and anytime we travel more than 150 miles, I have to put in a mileage pass. So I have to put in a bunch of paperwork for two of our weekends that we have planned. Each pass requires a number of different forms including the leave form (even though I will not actually be taking leave), an LES (leave and earnings statement), my ERB (enlisted records brief), an Anti-Terrorism worksheet (if leaving the country), and another sheet that explains what and where we are going. It's all a big pain in the ass, but has to be done if we want to be on pass. When one is on pass, leave is not charged and if there are any recall formations or anything I will not have to come back. I will also not be able to be given staff duty on those dates.

The auditors and our NCOIC went to brief the colonel. We found out that we did pass the audit, which is good news and a big weight lifted off everyone's shoulders. We had everything cleaned up and ready to go at 1500 as we were told, but we ended up not being able to leave until 1630. Still a half hour early, but an hour and a half of mostly sitting around just looking at each other.

We headed home and had invited SPC Whirlwind and his family over for dinner. We had a nice dinner, nice conversation, and some good times hanging out with our friends.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bombs! - (Germany) Day 164

McLovin during our training. He is in the process of searching one of our sergeants.

This morning's PT was muscle failure for everyone, but I headed to the gym to ride the stationary bicycle. My back is still sore, but is improving daily. I've been doing some stretching and other minor exercises given to me by the physical therapist. I think I may improve, but I can't see myself ever being able to wear the body armor, ruck sack, or do runs & sit-ups without being in a lot of pain afterward. I guess we'll see how it goes.

The work day started with sergeant's time training since it is Thursday. I never really have any desire to attend most of these training days and today was no exception. We went through the process of escalation of force, basically what to do if you are standing guard and someone is approaching and is threatening. We then went through how to search them after taking them down. We went through the lessons and then did a few scenarios with everyone going through the process.

We then went through how to search a car and the different things to look for. After that we ran though a bunch of scenarios using each of us to practice. We do have to pull guard duty as part of a rotational basis, but we don't actually do anything. The contracted gate guards still do all the work and the people on guard duty just stand there all day.

We then broke for lunch and I headed to my car as usual. After lunch I headed into the office and did the normal routine of basic office work…checking email, answering phones and any other odd jobs that come up…and of course surfing the web to pass the time.

We couldn't check the safe until the auditors were finished. We finally ended up getting out of work about 1815. I headed to get my wife and then headed home. Once on our road we saw an MP blocking the way. He asked us which building we lived in and after we told him, he said we could park on the main road and walk to our building. It turns out that EOD (the army bomb squad) was "clearing some WWII era Unexploded Ordinances collected by a soldier and stored in his quarters on PHV". Are you kidding me? There were some comments after this message was put out that some soldier was running around with a metal detector and finding WWII era bombs and crap. The people in the actual building he lived in actually couldn't go in their building at all. Luckily the local restaurant offered to serve them free food and the bowling alley offered some free bowling and free pizza to those who couldn't go home. I wonder what kind of trouble this soldier is going to be in?

We then started to watch a movie only to have our power go out after getting about 20 minutes into it! (We found out later the power outage was due to the weather and not because of the unexploded ordinances found earlier as some had wondered) Grrrr….so we ended up watching a movie on our laptop…the power finally came back on shortly before we decided to turn in for the night. (The reason I'm a little late getting this post up)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

We Gotta Pee - (Germany) Day 163

A quick (and blurry) shot I took during our pee test. You can see 
one of the soldiers that just came in with his pee...holding it high.

This morning's PT was a run to the stairs, up the stairs and down the switchbacks…for me though it was a walk, which I'm glad. My back is still sore and tender. I can't imagine trying to run right now.

Work started normal enough, I checked my email and surfed the net a bit…then let our new guy on the computer to do the same. I hung out a while on the maintenance side of the office talking to them. I didn't really want the auditors coming out and asking me any questions. I then got trained with the new guy how to prepare a box for shipping ComSec material. There are a number of rules, special tamper proof tape that is used…etc. At lunch time I ate in my car and took a nap.

Back in the office I surfed the web a bit, until our NCOIC asked for two people that weren't doing anything. Since I really can't say that surfing the web was of any importance I got up along with the new guy. We had to clear a few shelves of boxes, break them down and take them to the recycling dumpster. I didn't really mind because it had me doing something. I did take my time though, only because I hate doing nothing in the office. I took my time carrying the large bag full of boxes to the dumpster. I then took my time strolling back to the office. On my way back my boss was outside smoking, so I stopped and talked with him a while. I then headed over to the post office to get my mail. When I headed out everyone was outside telling me to hurry up…we gotta go pee.

It turns out that from a "random" selection, almost our entire office was selected to take the test. I didn't mind, in fact I welcomed the chance to stay out of the office for a while. As we waited in the waiting room to go pee, I sat on the floor and played some "Plants Vs Zombies" on my iPhone. When almost everyone was done, I got up and took my turn to go pee. The process is the same every time. I check to make sure my social security number is correct and my name is correct on the label. I then initial the label. I check to make sure my bottle is empty and then get escorted into the bathroom. I fill up the cup under the watchful eye of an NCO, then return with the cup in one hand making sure to hold it high. I guess this lets everyone see it and so you can't make a switch or something. Once back you watch the administrator put the label on your bottle and you sign a piece of paper. All done…all the samples then go off to get tested to make sure we are not doing any illegal drugs.

I took my time walking back to the office, cleaned up and then inventoried a safe. We then were released about 1730. I guess that's not too bad for a week that we are getting audited. I picked up my wife and we headed home for a night of the usual rest and a few TV shows. Hoping my back keeps getting better.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Physical Therapy - (Germany) Day 162

This morning's PT was muscle failure in the abdominal area…well for most folks. As for me, my back was still pretty stiff and I did some overhead arm claps for a bit and then left to the gym to ride the stationary bike for the rest of PT. The uniform was our summer PTs with the jacket, but one yahoo forgot to bring his jacket, so we all had to take ours off and let me tell you…it's still pretty chilly in the early morning! I could barely manage to do the stretches for warm up and was just taking it extremely easy. I didn't sleep well at all last night because of my back and was looking forward to physical therapy later on today.

I headed to work and did the usual, check my email and do anything else that I'm told. This week I'm just trying to stay out of all the NCOs way during the audit. Lunch time came quick enough and I ate in my car. I then had a physical therapy appointment for my previous neck and upper back issues. It turned out to be a pretty good session. It was only the evaluation session, but the doctor (a young captain) was more like an army chiropractor and did a number of adjustments on my back, which instantly helped with the stiffness and the pain. I'm not going to say all my pain went away, but it sure knocked it down a few. He asked a number of questions and had me try a number of different positions with my head. We then went through a number of exercises I can do on my own to help loosen up the muscles in my back. It seems that they are all extremely tight and are contributing to my headaches.

He had me schedule 6 sessions with the therapist and then we'll have a follow-up appointment. I actually have a little hope now. Sometimes I start thinking it's the end of the world and I'm falling apart. It sure felt like it yesterday, but I'm hoping that these exercises and the therapy sessions will help bring me back to normal again. During this time I'll still be on my profile, so I shouldn't injure myself any more than I already am.

I waited for about a half hour and then had an appointment with my doctor. I made the appointment first thing this morning because of the extreme pain I was in yesterday and because I wanted something a little stronger as far as pain medication goes. The stuff they have given me does absolutely nothing and I end up just going back to taking a number of Excedrin to get rid of my headaches. The appointment was quick, and the doctor basically said they don't prescribe anything stronger. She gave me some muscle relaxers to take at night and then basically pawned me off to the physical therapist telling me to have him take care of any issues that come up now. I guess I'll live with the pain until we can let the therapy work it's magic.

I headed back to work unfortunately. It was almost 1600 and I couldn't take off the rest of the day. We ended up doing pretty much the normal routine. Checking email and taking a few calls. The auditors actually came out and asked us a few questions. They didn't get to me, but said they would be asking a lot more tomorrow. The auditors have also been going to our customers to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to as well. They left at 1700, so we didn't get a chance to inventory and close the safes until well after that. We didn't leave the office until 1810, which meant my wife just waited for me after work until then. The unfortunate results of having only one vehicle here. That should change soon because I'll be taking the motorcycle safety course next week, then I'll be able to start riding my bike.

The night consisted of taking it easy, using the heating pad on my back…and watching TV shows. Hoping I sleep well tonight and that I feel even better tomorrow!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Adventures with the UMT - (Germany) Day 161

A look at the train coming down the hill. This special train gives passengers 
a ride to the top of the hill...almost straight to the castle. 
5 Euro for a round trip ticket and entrance to the castle...not too bad.

This morning's PT was the ol' run a half mile lap, then do 25 push-ups and 25 sit-ups. Our NCOIC told the instructor to make sure everyone did 6 laps, then proceeded to leave. We did our stretching and warm-ups which included jumping jacks..nothing major…or so I thought. I then walked my laps around, but did the push-ups each time. I did not want to hurt my back with the run or the sit-ups.

After PT was over, I headed home and got ready as usual. This morning however, I changed into civilian clothes. Today is "Adventures with the UMT". It used to be called "Duty Day with God", but I guess they had to be more PC…or perhaps make the atheists feel more welcome. UMT is "Unit Ministry Team" and for those who signed up, the adventure was a trip to the Heidelberg Castle. I decided to sign up, not only because I get to wear civilian clothes, but also because I don't have to go into the office!

We met up at 0900 and headed off post to catch a street car that took us downtown. From there we headed to the castle taking a train that climbs up the mountain from downtown. I've been to the castle before, but I was under the impression we would be having a guided tour. The guided tour actually lets you see a lot more of the castle and you get a lot more history of the castle as well. Unfortunately due to budget cuts, there was no guided tour. We paid for the normal admission and checked out the castle. It is always fun to see, and also offers a great view of the city below. I spent some time taking a break and having a coffee in the little cafe located inside the castle.

We then gathered up after an hour of free time at the castle and headed down. We ate at an outside cafe and then stopped at an ice cream shop on the way back. It was a good trip and a nice day to spend away from the office. There were 17 of us total including a few spouses and even a couple kids.

We were released at 1430 and while most people headed home to enjoy the rest of the day off, I had to run some errands. My ex-wife just realized my kids passports had expired. So now it has become an emergency on my part because of her lack of planning. I had to get some paperwork signed and notarized at our JAG office so my kids can get their passports. But just faxing or emailing a copy is not good enough for the passports, I have to mail them. So I went to the FedEx office and paid about $75 to have them express shipped to my ex-wife. Good Grief! Talk about stress. Now she has to get their passports renewed and pay the express delivery fee in order to get them back in time to make the trip over here. I've already purchased the tickets and would be extremely pissed if they do not make it over for the summer. It will be a life changing experience for them staying and seeing another country.

I then headed to our education office to get things squared away with school once again. I need to get back on track to getting my bachelors degree! What I haven't mentioned yet is all throughout the day my back was getting pretty sore. What started in the middle of my back extended through to the top of my neck and in my head. Before I knew it I couldn't even turn my back or neck without extreme pain. My head was pounding and I could barely walk. I thought back to when I first started to feel it and it was shortly after PT. It seems something as little as jumping jacks has totally screwed me up. I feel like my body is falling apart! Right now I feel like a freakin' old man who can barely move. I tried to rest when I got home and I'm hoping a night's sleep will help. I'll be trying to make an appointment tomorrow to see if there is something wrong with more of my back now. Ugggghhh!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 159 & 160

Schlossbeleuchtung...the lighting of the Heidelberg Castle
Saturday: It's always nice to sleep in! We took it easy in the morning as usual on a normal weekend. Being able to enjoy the little things like eating breakfast and enjoying some coffee with my wife is priceless. We cleaned up a little around the house and then ended up heading out to the PX to pick up a couple things. I ended up checking out the power zone (the electronics store on post) while the Bose road show was going on. My wife and I ended up getting a new surround sound system for our living room. We called it an anniversary present to ourselves because we didn't want to pass up the $400 savings they were offering today. I then spent the rest of the afternoon taking out the old system and installing the new system. Everything sounds great and has been acoustically adjusted for our living room. We watch a lot of movies and TV shows, so I'm going to say it's a good investment. :)

In the evening we headed out with SPC Whirlwind and his wife along with my sponsor and his fiancé. We headed out to a small restaurant in Heidelberg for a drink and dinner, then headed to the "Schlossbeleuchtung" This is where the Heidelberg castle lighting happens. They make the castle look like it's on fire, which is done in memory of the three times when the castle went up in flames (1689, 1693, & 1764). The first two times were due to wars with the French, and the last time by lightning.

We found a spot across the river and waited until it got dark. The place was full of people waiting to see the event. There were also tour boats on the river loaded with people to watch. Finally the castle lit up in red flickering lights. There were some fireworks that went off at the castle and it stayed on "fire" for a while. The smoke from the fireworks added to the effect, which was pretty cool. Then a bunch of fireworks were set off from the old bridge and that was that…the event was over.

We headed back to our place and turned in for the night.

Sunday: Slept in again and then ended up doing a lot more cleaning around the house. Spring cleaning if you will. I also put together a dresser we bought earlier at Ikea. Once we were finished up, we relaxed, watched a TV show, then headed off to pick up SPC Whirlwind and his wife.

We headed off to a restaurant we've heard quite a bit about. The place is called "Die Kartoffel" (The Potato) and is in a little town called Ladenburg about 20 minutes away. The restaurant was a small little place and what was unique about it was the way they served the steak. It came out on a hot stone and you basically cooked it yourself. The food was awesome as was the experience. We took a walk around the village afterwards to look around because it was all very "old town" German style. Cobblestone streets, small roads, and Bavarian style houses and shops all around…and of course a large church dominating the skyline.

My steak and baked potato at the table....mmmmmm

The church in downtown Ladenburg

Downtown Ladenburg