Thursday, December 30, 2004

Post Christmas Wrap Up

It was a good christmas at the Thorpe family household. I got some nice gifts from my family and some really cool ones from my girlfriend Emily. We even had some snow left on the ground from the few inches we got that week before. Whats this, a somewhat white Christmas in Texas??

It was nice having a few days off from work. And as a bonus, when i came back to work this past Tuesday, I realized I only have a short 3 day work week this week because we're off Friday for New Years Eve. How cool.

It hasn't been a too eventful week, but I figured I had to post something about the holidays.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Toto, We're Not in Texas Anymore!

It seems to happen at least once a year here, and yesterday it did. I woke up to a snow covered landscape! It was great, giant flakes were falling and gave us about 4 inches of snow cover by the time it was done! Around 3pm the snow died down, but I could tell the temps were falling. About an hour later, more snow began to fall! Moving around during the day made me feel like I was back in Chicago. I had my heavy coat and gloves on, scraping off my windshield and having to drive slow over the side roads. It was awesome! haha By the time I left my buddy Doug's place at night, temps were definatly in the 20's and things were really freezing solid. This must have been the cause for all the wrecks I passed as I drove home. You see, most Texans dont have a clue how to drive when snow and ice hits the ground. It seems like their theory is, "If I drive really really fast, I'll just glide over the snow". Yeah... you will, and into anyone stopped infront of you!!
Anyhow, I took a picture with my camera phone from my back porch. You can see the size of the large flakes as they started to fall yesterday morning. And as a bonus, its still below freezing out today so the snow isnt melting away! Woo Whoooo!!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Roger Wilco!

Yesterday was paintball Sunday and time to finally test out our new Foxfire Paintball Tactical Throat Mic's. These nifty little devices fit like collar around your neck, with a sensor like pad resting on the side of the adams apple on the throat. This pad picks up vibrations from the throat to transmit, without picking up any background noise. You also can talk very quietly and still be heard by the other person you're talking to.

On this day, Ken and I were the only ones to have them with us. So we figured we'd give it a test by playing me and him against the other two guys playing that day. To say the least, it was a slaughter! haha Being able to communicate with your team from anywhere on the field was a HUGE advantage over the other team without comm's. Ken and I were able to quickly out flank and ambush the the team with ease. While he laid down in some heavy brush near a creek and watched the other team patrolling for us, he would radio to me their exact position and direction of travel. I was able to work my way behind them and set up our ambush. On a verbal que, Ken and I opened fire on them. Confusion and panic took over. Mark, not knowing where all the fire was coming from, ran into a position between Ken and myself to take "cover". He was quickly hit and eliminated. His teamate, Courts, also paniced. He fired a few shots at me and took off running the other direction for cover. He dove inbetween an old matress that had been propped up for cover and a large tree. I quickly radioed Ken his position and we re-positioned ourselves to advance from both sides of him. This is where it became rather comical. Now keep in mind, Ken and I have paintball guns that fire almost fully automatic. Courts' on the other hand is a semi-auto gun and sometimes malfunctions when he tries to fire too fast. So he is sticking his gun around the corner of the tree and over the matress, firing blind shots in our general direction. All Ken and I see is an arm reaching around a tree with a gun firing up into the trees and into the ground. We are firing paintballs at him in a steady stream. If he was to even peak around the tree, he'd be hit. Suddenly, I hear his gun jam and he starts fidling with the bolt trying to get it to fire again. I quickly step wide around the tree and fire off a fast 6 shots at him. They almost all hit him, starting at his leg and running up his body to his shoulders. Instead of yelling hit, Courts just slumps against the tree and slides down it to the ground. I assume he was hit.

It was a fun day of paintball despite only being the 4 of us. The throat mics worked great and I cant wait to use them on a full field of players.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Gear Talk

I almost forgot to discuss the hiking gear I was testing out on this last camping trip. As I gather up the gear needed for use on the Appalachian Trail, I'm trying to get it all tested first before I get out there and things fail.

First item on the list was the Coleman Sleeping bag Compression bag. The idea behind this item is to take that large, warm sleeping back and compress it down to a managable size for carrying on a backpack. So, I roll up my sleeping bag and begin to cram it into what seems like a nylon bag that is a bit too small. After a few minutes of stuffing, I fit it in! Now all I had to do was wrap the 3 nylon straps around it to finalize the compression. This is where this product turns to crap. As I lace each strap thru its buckle and pull, I hear a snapping sound and a small piece of plastic goes flying into the air. The PLASTIC buckle isnt nearly strong enough to withstand the force of the straps once tightened. So I ended up using an old fashion half knot to keep things snug. It worked, but not like advertised. I give this item a 5/10. I expected better quality from Coleman camping gear.

Second item were these little white cubes that are advertised to either power heat to a one burner stove, or to help start camp fires. They are about $5 for 12 per box. They claim the cubes will burn at 1400 Degrees F. for 15 minutes. I didnt have the one burner stove so I just wanted to use them to help start our fires. When we had our firewood gathered and stacked correctly in the Tee Pee style, I inserted the small white cube into the base of our wood and lit it. Not only did it burn easily, but it quickly lit our campfire! It was just about the easiest campfire ive delt with in a while. Product rating, 10/10! I'll be carrying these on many future campouts.

Both products tested on this trip were useful. But only one really excelled. Try them out yourself when camping. The compression bag was helpful and keeping a large sleeping bag managable. But the plastic buckles were a disapointment. The fire cubes were great though!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A No Show

I say a "no show" as was my Tuesday night Division A soccer team last
night. Physically we were there. But we played like we mentally
weren't. Poor passing, lack of hustle and overall sloppyness cost us
the game 4-2. Hopefully we can rebound next week and get back on
track. This wasn't the way I wanted to start defending our league
title from last season.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Here is a picture of the restaraunt Meers, taken with my phone camera (mentioned in the post below). I highly recommend it if you are ever up in the Wichita Mountains!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Hide the Food and Zip Up the Door!

Saturday morning was the big day. For a month Craig and I had been planning a campout in the Wichita Mountains. We would be staying in a campground called Camp Doris, which sits low in a valley between two mountains, near a small lake. I spent three days planning and packing to make sure I had everything I needed. We had a group of four going... myself, Craig, his girlfriend Becci and Brotha James. We would be making the three hour drive North to South Central Oklahoma for this short adventure.

Although we were supposed to meet up at 9am sharp, Craig and Becci were almost an hour late getting to the meeting point. I knew this would make things tight since it gets dark so early and we had so much to do still. But once they got there, we were on our way. Two hours later, we were in Wichita Falls Texas to pick up Brotha James. He rode in my car and we communicated with walkie-talkies between cars.

We arrived in the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge around 1:30pm. We stopped at Mt. Scott for a quick tour and some photo Op's, then it was off to Camp Doris to claim a camping spot. Four miles down the road we rolled into the front gate and found a camp site towards the back of the campgrounds near a small lake. It was perfect; no one around us, a lake infront of our tents and clear skies overhead. We quickly had our tents set up and began collecting firewood for our firepit. This was our first obstacle. The campground had almost been picked clean of anything worth burning. So Craig and I jumped into his Jeep and took a drive around to see what we could find. We quickly hit the gold mine! We came across an empty campsite where someone had left a pile of neatly stacked and cute logs. Large ones too! We loaded up all we could in his Jeep and headed back. Around 5:30pm we started the fire and began cooking our food. Diner was rather simple, we cooked hotdogs and had chips and juice on the side. Becci brought pears and they were juicy and delicious! After dinner, Brotha James broke out graham crackers, marshmellows and chocolate bars to make Smores with. That was a great dessert!

The rest of the night we spent gathering some more firewood and hanging out at the fire telling stories and talking. Occationally we would hear people yelling and talking. This was coming from another campsite about 200 yards from ours. A group of boyscouts had set camp and were getting rowdy as it got dark. A bit later we start to hear loud "ku-plunks" out in the water. We figure its the kids throwing large, bowling ball sized rocks into the lake. So we thought.

Around 10pm the fire was dying down and we all decided to call it a night and head to our tents. This is where the night began to get interesting. First off, on a funny note, I had seen the forecasts and seen that the temperature was going to drop into the upper 30's later that night. I came prepaired with warm clothes, thick sleeping bag and an extra blanket. My tent mate, Brotha James, did not. James being a person who stands 6'5", brought a sleeping bag made for a child. Once in it, it barely came up past his shoulders! HAHA! He also forgot to bring his pillow and didn't bring any other warm clothes. I instructed him on how to make a pillow by stuffing a shirt with extra clothes and tieing it off at both ends. This seemed to be working for him as he began to dose off. I sat up with the lantern on, reading a magazine until I got sleepy. About 20 minutes later I turned off the light and layed my head down to drift off. I could feel the cold air moving in off the lake and the temps begining to drop. I got in my sleeping bag and pulled the blanket over the top of it to help insulate me. I turned off the light and lay quietly listening to the wind in the trees. Thats when I hears a high pitched chattering noise. I quickly recognized this as the sound racoons make when talking to eachother. But its not a loud sound, which means they are close to our camp site! I wasnt worried because we had made a special effort to hide all trash and food from dinner. The chattering noise stops and I began to hear leaves crunching, clearly something walking thru them from the left of our campsite. So I knew the racoons were getting braver now that the fire was gone and we were out of site. Suddenly I hear those loud "ka-plunks" again in the lake. But this time its over at the shore where our camp borders! I knew this wasnt kids playing this time. And it wasnt a fish jumping, this was something heavy hitting the water hard. A few minutes later, our group is awoken by a large pack of yelping coyotes chasing something just across the lake cove we are at. It was loud and clear and they were close! I really liked that because it was exciting to hear them do their nightly routines with us out there. These noises continues all night. I woke up a couple times to the sound of brush crunching and limbs snapping just outside our tent. But surprisingly, I wasnt a bit worried. Its just the little night animals doing their thing. My only concern was a larger animal like a deer or buffalo getting spooked and accidentally running into our tents. But odds are thin that would actually happen.

By midnight it was really feeling cold. I was so glad I had brought the clothes I did. I was now sunk down into my sleeping bag, with the blanket pulled up over my head and tucked into my pillow on top. I had created a warm cocoon. Brotha James on the other hand wasnt fairing so well. I kept hearing him say things like, "I cant feel my toes!", or "Im so cold, my nose is frozen!" I would just respond with, "Man, Im sweating over here." LOL He wasnt amused. As morning came, Craig and Becci had an intersting event happen. They are just laying there when they hear a rather larger animal sniffing around the edge of their tent. Becci was a little un-nerved, but stayed cool. Most likely it was a couple curious coyotes.

Everyone got up and we had a light breakfast, then packed up the camp. After all our stuff was up, we went for a hike climbing a nearby mountain. There was no actual trail up the mountain, so we just made our own. The mountain was mostly granite rock also. The only problem was the wind was blowing at gusts of 40mph! This was the strongest wind id ever been in up there. As we got higher on the mountain, the wind became so strong merely standing up straight was almost impossible. When we got to the last ledge before the top of the mountain, the wind was so strong that Becci and James decided to find a crevase to take shelter in while Craig and I climbed the last leg to the summit. I stepped up on to the highest rock and was almost blown off my feet. I wish I knew the exact speed of the wind because Id guess it was close to 60mph.

After the hike, we came back, got cleaned up and went to the famous Meers restaraunt for burgars and onion rings. Meers has been open since 1901 and is built into the side of a hill. It defines "rustic". After lunch we headed back down to Wichita Falls to drop off James and make our way back home. Three hours later I was back home and getting cleaned up. It was an exciting, fun and exhausting trip. I cant wait till the next one! I took lots of pictures and hope to have them up on soon! Hopefully next time Emily can go. She had to work that day which kept her from going. :( So now that gives me a reason to plan another trip. hehe

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Worth Mentioning

A few weeks back I posted news concerning my buddy Roger and the new job he took in Kabul Afganistan. Well he's been posting to his blog and his stuff is fairly interesting. Have a look at it. Its some interesting reading!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

"It Could Very Well Save Their Lives From Negative Orgone!!"

Remember how the famous boxing promoter Don King used to get up on the podium and be know for putting his filthy rich hands up in the air and yelling, "Only in America!"? Well now I am convinced to how right he was. Take for example, my good buddy Rodney. Rodney is an interesting fellow, to say the least. He's one of my work buddies and biggest conspiracy theorist I know. But thats a different story.

Rodney recently started up his own side business called "Spiritual Stew" and after extensive research into what lengths some people will go to buy good health and happiness, has come up with a product to deliver such wishes. I present to you the "Orgone Vril Radionics Prana Pyramid Generator + FreeCD". I have provided a link to his auction at the bottom of this blog post. You have to finish reading first, to truly appreciate and beleive the scope of this endeavor.

Now, Rodney himself is a bit of a spiritualist in his own off beat ways. But don't kid yourself, he in no way believes in the healing, faith-providing powers these pyramids are known to provide. He simply keeps building them at home and selling them on Ebay with a smile. And thats the kicker... they are ACTUALLY selling!! One for as high as $75. While other websites rip people off with pyramids priced as high as $125, Rodney offers believers value and quality. Yes, im also shaking my head at the people buying these.... home decorations. When asked what word he would use to describe his customer base, he quickly replied... "dumbasses". Yet the funniest of all things is his auctions don't lie about what it is. He clearly posts, "DISCLAIMER: All radionics instruments are to be used for experimental purposes only; no claims are made. It is not intended to replace a doctor's care in any way shape or form". But they are still selling! This thing is nothing more than a plastic 3 inch high pyramid, filled with steel BB's on a bed of crushed rock! Some would call Rodney a scammer. But its hard to call someone a scammer when they tell you up front what your buying. Only in America Rodney, only in America...


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Wearing the Crown

What has been denied to my Tuesday night soccer team, was achieved last night. We won the "A" Division championship game against our tough opponents, the dreaded 5 time champion, IMEG. It was the toughest game played all season for our team but we fought back from being down 3-2 with only 3 minutes left in the game. Now, read on for the play by play.

The game started out with IMEG scoring first and early. My first thought was, "oh no, here we go". Luckily our team woke up after that and we began to defend our net better. We also began to put together somewhat of an attack. About midway thru the first half, I made a run down the sideline for a thru-ball. Their keeper was quick to come off his line to collect the ball. I started to turn and head back downfield to defend, but suddenly he rolls the ball out to his defender just 5 feet from me! I quickly charged at the defender as they recieved the pass. A well timed tackle and I had stolen the ball! The keeper was still off his line so I hit a quick shot hoping to score. The ball was just wide and bounced off the wall. Lucky for me, the rebound came back out at center goal and had bounced around the scrambling keeper. I met the ball in stride and carefully shot it into the net with the outside of my right foot. Goal!! Tie game, 1-1.

A few minutes later, IMEG struck again. A defensive miscue left one of their forwards open. He met a perfectly placed pass on the back side of our net and despite several of my teams defenders collapsing in on him to stop the shot, he scores, making it 2-1. He pulled himself out of the pile of people on the ground and jogged back high-fiving his teammates. Time was running out in the first half, but we figured only being down by a goal to them at half time was great. Suddenly our goalie steve, who had just made a nice save, throws a long ball down the field to an on running Tyler. The ball took a high bounce and the IMEG keeper charges out of his goal to make the save. Tyler leaps up and flicks a header right past the on-rushing goal tender. Goal!! The buzzer sounds and its 2-2 at the half. This was great!

The second half starts and both teams come out playing fast and aggressive. I could tell IMEG really wanted to step up the pressure on us, hoping to open the flood gates with a few quick goals. But we held strong, stopping shot after shot. Our passing wasnt as pretty as theirs, yet we seemed to get the ball down to their end and get our share of chances. There had been a number of hard fouls already, everyone was tackling the ball and the other players hard. Then again, a series of quick passes and finding a defensive mismatch and IMEG had scored again. It was now 3-2, with time running out.

Now the clock seemed to be counting down faster than ever. We were down by a goal and they were begining to kill time off the clock. Finally we began to really press our attack. Partially because the dropped back into a defensive shell. Suddenly out of nowhere, one of our defenders (I cant remember his name at this moment) steals the ball about 15 yards from their goal. He quickly spins around a fires a low hard shot that beats their keeper in the low right side of the net. The score is tied 3-3!! Just 1 minutes left on the clock.

Quickly, IMEG came out of their defensive shell and went on the attack. We dropped everyone back to defend and blocked a series of shot as they went desperatly for the win. I was coving the right side of the field when their midfielder crossed the ball over to the forward on that side of the field. I ran at the striker to cover him but right as i get there, he hits a one time shot at our goal. My outstretched right foot catches part of the ball and redirects is straight up into the air. I shield off the forward then spin around a volley the falling ball out of the air and down the field, safely from our net. With seconds left, they quickly bring the ball back down the field for one last attack. Again they couldnt get thru to our goal and the final buzzer sounded, ending the game in a tie. This means it was on to a penalty shootout!

IMEG's 1st shot: Steve stops the shot!
U Wish 1st shot: I fake a hard shot, freezing the keeper then put an accurate shot to the far post for our first goal! 1-0.
IMEG's 2nd shot: Steve stops the shot!
U Wish 2nd shot: Rocky tries to put the ball thru the keepers legs, but he saves it.
IMEG's 3rd shot: Steve stops the shot easily!
U Wish 3 shot: Cody tries to go wide and then flick it over the keeper head. He easily stops it.
IMEG's 4th shot: Their top player quickly touches the ball to his left and blasts it into the net. 1-1, tie game.
U Wish 4th shot: Tyler does almost the exact same thing. Pushes the ball left and uses his natural left foot shot to power one home. 2-1! IMEG must score on their last shot or its over.
IMEG's 5 shot: Their player pushes the ball wide right and blasts a shot. Not a problem for Steve, he easily blocks it away.

ITS OVER, WE WIN!!! Champions!!