Sunday, March 29, 2009

San Diego Trip, first stop: USS Midway museum.

WARNING: the following is the account of an extreme military history geek visiting a FREAKIN AIRCRAFT CARRIER! Yup some serious geeking out is going to happen during this post.

So the first stop of our trip was the USS Midway museum. Turns out the Midway is docked less than a mile away from where we picked up our rental car. The only downside was the timing: our flight landed at 2:37, we picked up our rental car at 3:30 and the USS Midway museum closes at 5pm. So by the time we got to the Midway we had just over an hour to tour and as you can imagine there is ALOT to see on/in an aircraft carrier.

Of course the first thing that hits you when you see a carrier is the size. I know the dimensions of the Midway as well as any of the tour guides: 972ft long 75,000 tons, yet the first sight of the old girl still awed me.

The first stop on your tour of the Midway is the hanger, welcome to the first of many reminders of just how big an aircraft carrier is. You enter the hanger at the forward end and from that point you cannot see the other end of the hanger. First time I've ever been in a room that I could not see the other end of.

In the flight hanger are a few aircraft displays. For me the highlight was getting to see a WWII Dauntless divebomber. America won the war against Japan at the Battle of Midway and the Dauntless is the weapon that won the battle. Pilots flying the Dauntless sank 3 Japanese aircraft carriers in 5 minutes. In 5 minutes America went from losing the war to winning it.

After we mopped up the drool puddle I left in front of the Dauntless we made our way topside to the flight deck. Time for another reminder of how big a carrier is. I have to admit the thought kept going through my head: "This things weighs 75,000 tons and can float and I can't" sad. I tried to take a picture that conveys just how big the flight deck is, can't be done. This is the best I could do.

On the flight deck they have several aircraft on display, here's one anyone who's seen 80s movies should recognize.

Another cool sight from the flightdeck was across the harbor. USS Nimitz was in dock the day we toured Midway. 92,000 tons of nuclear powered awesomeness.

At this point, we only had 30 minutes left before the museum closed, we needed to pick our last stop wisely. We decided to take a tour of the bridge and the other stations in the superstructure. Wise choice. Couple of pics of note:

Yup, dream of 8 year old Steve fulfilled. Now how do I get this thing within bombing range of Beijing?
This wonderful piece of 80's technology is one of the first GPS machines the Navy bought. Navy installed this on the Midway in 1983. Seeing this brought back memories of my parents Apple IIe. GPS in 1983? Any guesses what the Navy paid for THAT?

After we toured the bridge our time was basically up. I wanted to see one of the steam turbines that drive Midway. After a quick dash below decks we saw one of the steam turbines that powers the Midway and we left with about 30 seconds to spare.

We took alot more pictures than whats uploaded to this blog. If you want to see all our pictures you can view them at this site: USS Midway Pics

We took over 1600 pictures on our trip, we'll post a few to our blog and then have a link to my Skydrive where you will be able to see the rest.

This picture is an appropriate way to close: first off its a cool statue that leaves a little lump in your throat, second off its a pretty good representation of how Nicolle and I were the whole trip. Glad I have a wife who puts up with her dork husband on trips like this.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chief Justice Roberts visits the U of I.

A little late on this, but last week was kind of busy for us (more on that later). This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the school of law at the University of Idaho. To commemorate the event Chief Justice Roberts was invited to give a speech as part of the Bellwood lecture series. Justice Roberts generally gives only one such lecture a year, quite the honor for the U of I. Personally I think Justice Roberts thought Moscow would be a place he could lecture without being harassed by too many protesters.

The event was a great reminder of why there are so many lawyer jokes out there. It took a full THIRTY minutes for all the self-important people to introduce Justice Roberts. The head of the law school spoke, then the Chief Justice of the Idaho State Supreme court, then the head of the Idaho Bar association, and finally a close personal friend of Justice Roberts introduced him. I'm just glad the event wasn't held in the Kibbie dome; the extra space in the Kibbie dome would have allowed enough extra ego for the introduction to go on for at least another hour. Take home message? Keep making those anatomically-based insults to lawyers, with the egregious self back patting we witnessed lawyers obviously have the flexibility to fulfill the insults you throw at them.

Finally the local big wig wannabes allowed Justice Roberts to speak, considerate of them since we were obviously all there to hear THEM speak. Justice Roberts got up and spoke for approximately 25 minutes, for those of you playing at home it took longer for the local big wig wannabes to introduce Justice Roberts than he actually spoke for.

Justice Roberts centered his talk on Abraham Lincoln, specifically, his character traits that made him such a superb attorney. It was interesting and well crafted but not quite what we were expecting. Turns out, Justice Roberts avoids speaking publicly on current court issues so no one can use those speeches to force him to recuse himself from a case.

After Justice Roberts concluded, the floor was opened for questions from the audience and the event got REALLY interesting. Send in the crazies!

Behold the face of insanity. Apparently this woman is from Arizona, on the day of the speech she woke up at 3am and drove 3hrs to San Diego. She then flew from San Diego to Tacoma Washington and then drove 300 miles from Tacoma to Moscow. Why? Because she had PROOF that Barack Obama is NOT a US citizen and she had proof that a massive conspiracy allowed Obama to become President.

Now everyone reading this knows me, I am no fan of Obama. I think Obama is overrated and has done nothing to deserve the hype he gets. Having said that, I was one of the crowd that let out a loud groan when this lady started to speak. Us Idahoans have a hard enough time convincing everyone we are not completely crazy and then this woman shows up.

Well they let the crazy woman rant for a moment before Justice Roberts finally interuppted her, told her he'd read her documents and suggested she leave them with security. Welcome to a fedral watch list lady!

All in all we were both very impressed with Justice Roberts. He is obviously very intelligent, even if you disagree with him you cannot doubt that he has well thought out reasons for his positions.

After the lecture Nicolle and I discussed how much we will miss the opportunities of Moscow. In the 2 years we have been together we have seen the following speak in person: Jane Goodall, Martin Luther King III, F.W De Klerk, and now the Chief Justice of United States Supereme Court. Opportunities we are grateful for.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Our kids speak their first words!

Or at least the first words that we are aware of. That's the fun of nocturnal pets. For all we know the Chinchillas and Sugar Gliders could be singing lyrics from the next U2 album late at night.

Friday night we were up WAY too late and were surprised at just how vocal our gliders can be. Keena was just sitting in the cage barking up a storm. We have no idea why she was so talkative. The sound the gliders make is pretty similar to a sound the chinchillas make. Yup, we have 4 living, breathing, squeak toys in our apartment.

These videos are not of the greatest quality. That's the other fun of nocturnal pets, the sugar gliders and our camera have completely different definitions of what is adequate light. The original video was so dark it might as well just have been an audio file. I ran the video through Windows Movie Maker (yes I'm 29 and I'm a PC!) and made it so if you use your imagination you can see a sugar glider head.

The range of sounds sugar gliders can make really is interesting. When gliders are happy they make a soft purring sound just like a cat, therefore the gliders are the closet thing we will ever have to an indoor cat. Probably the most interesting sound they make is when they get upset, the sound is called crabbing and it is more like something you'd expect to hear from an insect than a mammal. This is not one of our gliders, just a clip I found on YouTube.

Oh the fun times in our apartment. At least with these kids I don't have to worry about them picking up any of my bad linguistic habits. Then again the sounds I make when I wake up in the morning aren't that far from crabbing......

The central conflict of our marriage....REVEALED!

That's right, football. However I count myself lucky, our marital conflict over football is atypical. In most marriages the conflict is about the husband watching too much football, in our marriage it is all about what teams we cheer for. Nicolle cheers for the Colts, and I am such a Broncomaniac that I refer to John Elway as the "Great Prophet."

So why the conflict? For those of unfamiliar with the NFL its really quite simple. When the Broncos and the Colts play its about as much of a contest as a war between Germany and France, as much of a contest as between a bug and the sole of your shoe, or about as fair as how the mainstream media portrays the Republican party (yes, this is Steve writing this blog entry).

About every other year, the Broncos and the Colts play. I go into the game excited thinking that maybe that one player the Broncos picked up in the offseason will be enough. However, gameday always plays out the same way. The Broncos show some hope, and then the Colts slaughter them. Nicolle and I usually watch the game in silence. Nicolle's being a good wife trying to contain her glee at her team strolls to yet another victory. I sit in silence trying to be a little less telestial and contain some of the multiple profanities streaming through my head. Our relationship has weathered two of these events thus far.

However, after the game we are able to remember that we still love each other and I'm a lucky guy to have a wife who loves steak AND football and will even play some Xbox with me.

Turning the drama down about 50 notches. These are some pics of our new NFL gear. New jackets and hats for both of us!