An Exercise in Poor Judgment and Miscommunication

On Monday of this week, the Army had a training exercise in the city of Houston. They used an occupied, urban area, in the middle of the day. This was a full scale, military exercise, complete with helicopters, troops, and gunfire.

Civilians in the area were not given advance notice of this exercise.

As stated in the link below, it appeared there was “a massive SWAT scene happening.” Neighbors contacted family members to warn them not to come home because, “it sounds like we’re in a war zone. Guns, shooting, helicopters flying around the house…”

Army drill scares residents on Houston’s south side

Neighborhood schools were unaware of the exercise and were placed under lockdown.

God forbid, what if someone had a CHL in that situation? Or even if they didn’t? You’re allowed to defend your home in this country. What if some nutjob conspiracy theorist really thought our own troops are finally being deployed on American soil? I don’t have to tell you what would have happened. We all know that picture – the person would get one shot off, unnecessarily wound or kill a soldier, and the troops would open fire. Civilians would see what happened and freak out. Conspiracy theorists would think the worst.

All because this whole thing wasn’t communicated. We’re damn lucky something like that didn’t happen. It’s bad enough we had a neighborhood of traumatized civilians who didn’t know this was just a training exercise. They had to endure the sounds of wargames going on all around their homes while they hid in their closets and their bathtubs wondering what was going on. Was someone being hunted? Was a terrorist on the loose in the neighborhood? Could someone come bursting through their door at any moment? Were they safe?

I write about this today because I saw another article this morning:

Army to use old jail in Galveston for Training Exercises Today

The Army is going to do another training exercise in Galveston tonight. At least, this time, they’re giving some advance notice. I hope people in Galveston catch this news announcement.

You know, I understand the military’s need to do these urban warfare exercises. You can’t truly simulate a live urban environment on base if you don’t have civilians involved. However, I still think they could do these exercises on base and involve non-military individuals to play a part. I know, I have no military experience and I’m sure I’m missing the aspect of the whole “wargame” experience. But Monday’s situation was uncalled for. An apology just doesn’t undo the trauma these people experienced. The men and women enlisted are trained to handle these types of situations. Your average civilian isn’t prepared to handle warfare on the streets, nor does he or she  ever expect to be exposed to something of that nature.

“Urban warfare?” Ok, I need to hear from some of you out there who have a military background or know someone who does. What kind of training is that and why would the military need to do these training exercises in our neighborhoods?

A Geeky, Gaming Weekend

The Teenboy’s birthday was last Tuesday. We told him he could have a gaming weekend with the guys this weekend. You know – invite them over on Friday night, game all weekend, and everyone goes home on Sunday.

Everything got started around 8-ish. We ordered pizza and enough soda for everyone. Not just any pizza, mind you. We have a local pizza place that makes the cheap, greasy, thin-crust-loaded-with-meat-and-cheese pizza, just like you remember from your college days. I fondly refer to their double-pepperoni as the “artery-clogging special”.

As parents, we did what any parents would do in this given situation: we retreated to the back of the house, leaving the teens in the front room to game all night. And up all night they were… When I awoke the next morning, half of them were still awake and going (mine being one of them). The others had crashed on the sofa.

Remember when you could stay up all night and not feel the effects the next day? Yeah… me too…

I went out to get kolaches for breakfast. Came back with the best kolaches you’ll find in our area. Three Brothers Bakery makes their kolaches with challah and they are sooooo good! Those who were asleep woke from the dead just to eat something, then they all got back to gaming for a bit. Around noon, those who hadn’t slept yet crashed out and the others continued. It was like they were sleeping in shifts.

By this time I’d started on the spaghetti sauce for dinner. It has to cook all day to taste just right, you know… Then there was the cake.

Best. Cake. Ever.
Best. Cake. Ever.

Chocolate cake and candied bacon cake? Oh, they threw themselves on that grenade.

Gaming continued through the night last night, but they didn’t pull another all-nighter. Perhaps it was all the carbs and sugar that got to them. I woke this morning to find a house full of unconscious teenboys. I made coffee, proceeded to make breakfast for myself, and fed the dogs. None of these are the most quiet of tasks, because of the acoustics of the house. They’re still asleep.

Crashed Out on the Sofa
Crashed Out on the Sofa

This weekend has brought back so many gaming memories for me. Yeah, I was a gaming nerd, too. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, you know. Before my teenboy was a gleam in my eye, I used to game every weekend. We’d start on Friday night, pull those all-nighters, game through until Sunday. I hosted the thing at my place. I fed everyone (it was a huge group, now that I look back on things). We’d usually do a spaghetti dinner or something along those lines. We rarely used miniatures in our gaming, but when we fought monsters, we did lay things out with M&Ms. The DM was always good about giving a visual representation of the battle. And, of course, when you killed the monster, you got to eat it. To this day, I still refer to M&M’s as “monsters”. 🙂

Alas, today my monster is a graphic design assignment. For the time being, my house is quiet. Time for me to switch gears and do battle with my homework. Good day, everyone!

 

A Mother’s Birthday Wishes

Fifteen years ago today I was in the labor room preparing for a long day. I had complications with my pregnancy and we had to induce. On the upside, we knew our son’s birthday well in advance. The downside? There is no labor worse than Pitocin induced labor. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

That aside, fourteen hours later I had a little bundle in my arms.

Ok, this picture was taken the next day, but you get the idea.

Duch and Baby, resting after a tough workout.
Duch and Baby, resting after a tough workout.

 

Today, my little bundle is fifteen. He surpassed my height last year. That doesn’t bother me anymore; in fact, it comes in quite handy. I couldn’t tell you when his voice finished changing – it was such a gradual process we only caught the occasional voice crack. But now he has a deeper voice, and he can hit those deeper, “manly” notes in conversation. Yes, I noticed his voice drops about half-an-octave when he talks to his girlfriend.

The next big milestone is driving. He’s so excited. A part of me is just as excited, but another part of me wants to wrap him up in that bundle and protect him, just as I did when I brought him home fifteen years ago. Alas, he’s grown too big for the baby blanket I still have in the memory box…

Happy Birthday, my teen-boy. I love you with all my heart.

His Dice Bag and his GF by his side.
His Dice Bag and his GF by his side.

Most Amusing Voice-To-Text Translation Yet

Or maybe I’m just silly today because I’m running in sleep deprivation mode. Insomnia will do that to your sense of humor. 😉

For those who do not use Google Voice, when you receive a voice mail you get a text translation in your inbox along with the recorded message. This is helpful when you are in a location where you only have email access and cannot readily listen to the message; however, the voice-to-text translation is not always accurate. Sometimes it is quite amusing. Today was one of those days.

We are well aware the flu season is a tough one this year; the bug has proven to be resistant to the flu shot everyone took earlier and as a result we have many people too sick to work. School bus drivers are not immune to the flu.

I received a voice mail from the school district notifying all parents of a school bus driver shortage, resulting from so many drivers being sick at this time. Temporarily, some drivers are covering multiple routes, and this may cause delays in picking up some of the kids. The recording is quite clear. The translation, on the other hand…

Google Voice Screenshot
Google Voice Screenshot

That screenshot probably doesn’t display well unless you actually click on the image, so let me give you the exact text:

“Good Morning. This is a message for FBI you can’t. He student a bus drivers. This is a current bus driver shortage, resulting from please you tell us I just got some drivers. The, and open bus driver vacant these for other about the FBI speed train, petition Department of have to double up some of our to contact the I. C. School. When around of double parent should know that your child schedule bus will arrive to pick up a drop off, but it may be delayed in Reno, Nevada. The school or in the neighborhood bus stop at a trailer time. In order to cover all the trial in the best in the expeditious manner possible somewhere else close to a particular cancer. Maybe double dot the section I can to keep the ways. I’ll talk to you and then i’m i’m. If your child’s best of tonight and still have questions about it some other time. Please call FBI Steve dispatch at (phone number withheld). We appreciate your help in this situation. Again, we regret the inconvenience and we ask for your patience and we work through the unplanned situation in the days I had. Thank you so much.”

FBI speed train? The bus may be delayed in Reno, Nevada? HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Where is Duch?

Spring Semester 2013 has started up with a bang and I’m loving every busy minute of my full load! Alas, I also have the home life, personal projects, and a house that is quickly showing just how busy I’ve been (housework? WHAT housework???).

Not Enough Time in a Day
Not Enough Time in a Day

 

Give me a bit to settle into the semester, everyone. I’ll be back soon. 🙂

Candied Bacon

I made candied bacon on New Year’s Eve and many people asked me for the recipe. It’s a variation on the Alton Brown recipe. Here it is, for anyone who wants to give it a go:

Ingredients

  • 1 pound bacon (you can use the thick sliced but you’ll get a better result with center cut or regular cut)
  • Brown Sugar
  • Cayenne Pepper

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Line a cookie sheet with foil
  • Cover cookie sheet with a layer of brown sugar
  • Add about 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper to the sugar, mix well
  • Spread the sugar/pepper mix out again on the cookie sheet
  • Lay your slices of bacon on top of the sugar
  • Add a thin coat of brown sugar on top of the bacon.
  • Bake at 375 for 10 minutes

After 10 minutes, remove cookie sheet from the oven. Use tongs to “flip” bacon. Continue baking another 10 minutes. Now take the cookie sheet out and baste the sugary syrup over the strips of bacon. Return to oven another 10 minutes and check.

For a crispy result, flip it again after this last check and let it bake yet another 10 minutes. For a gummy-bacon result, remove from oven at this time.

After removing from oven

Place strips of bacon on parchment paper or wax paper. If desired, cut into bite size pieces.

Candied Bacon
Candied Bacon

 

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

The tragedy in Connecticut was devastating, and my heart goes out to those families. That being said, I’ve thought long and hard about what I wanted to say regarding the topic of gun control. This is a sensitive issue right now, and a very important one.

Throughout the history of mankind, we’ve found a way to hunt, to harm, to wage war. Cane slew Abel because, in his eyes, his brother was “favored” (no motive is ever really given, it’s always assumed the motive was jealousy). But Cane did not have a firearm when he committed this act.

We are in the midst of another debate of gun control because of a terrible event that occurred – something that should never have happened. We cannot ever replace those lives. However, we cannot change the fact that the perpetrator would have found a method to harm these people if he did not have access to guns.

My friend, Stephen Pope, has a far more eloquent post on this topic. After reading it I got his permission to incorporate it into my own post over here:

http://stephenbpope.blogspot.com/2012/12/reacting-and-preventing.html

Whenever we encounter a tragedy, it’s human nature to have that “knee jerk reaction” and want to go to the opposite end of the spectrum, whatever the issue may be. But knee jerk reactions are never long-term solutions. If someone had listened to Cane, or maybe stopped and asked him how he was doing, maybe he would have had a chance to vent about his asshole brother Abel and that whole story would have had a different ending.

Why I am grateful this morning

This morning I am grateful for the strength given to me to face the storm of emotion, so I could help someone near and dear to me in a time of need.

This morning I am grateful for being in the right place at the right time.

This morning I am grateful for miracles.

This morning I am grateful for the safety of my family. As I hug my teenboy, I worry he’ll be driving soon and I know there are lunatics out there on the road.

Please, just take a moment from your day and let your family know you love them.

Traditions and the New Year

Wow, 2013! A new day, a new year!

Last night was spent with great friends, and much fun was had. We had a good celebration, and at midnight we threw 2012 out the door. Oh, let me explain this tradition.

Each year a friend of mine makes an effigy of the year that’s going out. I honestly can’t remember when we started this tradition, but I think we’ve been doing it for about 5 years now. For example, When we rang in 2008, we threw an effigy of 2007 out the front door. If the year was particularly bad for some people, they took great joy in running outside and stomping the effigy into tiny bits. Regardless, it’s the symbolism of leaving things behind that I enjoy and going on with “the new”.

This year, M did an amazing job with the effigy. He wanted to keep it. He said, “Rather than throw it out the door, why don’t we just place it by the door so everyone can look at it?”

Our Effigy of 2012
Our Effigy of 2012

Being the creative type, I can understand why he wanted to keep this beautiful work of art. However, we have meaning and symbolism behind this tradition. Throwing the effigy out the door is so much more than just a physical action.

I told him if he wanted to keep it he’d have to go outside and catch it. 😉

Midnight struck. We all had a toast of champagne. People kissed their sweethearts. Then the moment occurred. We all gathered ’round to see 2012 tossed out the door. No one really cared to stomp up and down on this one. Really, I don’t think 2012 was a particularly bad year for this crowd. Or, perhaps bringing a little beauty brightened their spirits if it had been a bad year. M dashed outside in the rain and caught the effigy as it was tossed (and I can’t throw for schluken after I’ve been drinking, so that was amazing!). He placed it safely on the porch, looking lonely and forlorn in the window:

Don't let the door hit ya' on the way out!
Don’t let the door hit ya’ on the way out!

And now, as I post, the smell of black eyed peas wafts from my kitchen. I need to start on the cornbread soon. My, how I love traditions. Happy New Year, everyone!