Saturday, October 09, 2010

Oirase Gorge and Lake Towada Cycling Tour

My friend Merrill and I have been wanting to bike around Lake Towada all summer and finally did yesterday.

Our ride was about 34.4 miles. 3 miles of the Gorge and then the rest around the lake. Around the lake started out with 6 miles of accent of a never ending hill. It kept teasing us with brief down slopes followed by endless switch backs. That was even fun. After the 2 hours of accent we descended in about 20 minutes! That was really fun. There was only on turn I almost didn't make. The views were amazing, the air clean and crisp on a perfect autumn morning. After the quick 8 miles descent the rest was ups and downs around the shoreline.

This little stretch was one of the nicest: a long straight decent with a slight breeze causing a few leaves to fall as we road through this beautiful forest. 
This is one of the most beautiful peaceful places on earth. The lake itself is serene and perfect, but combined with the gorgeous gorge with it many stunning waterfalls...the combination is heavenly!

Lake Towada (十和田湖 Towada-ko?) is the largest crater lake in Honshū island, Japan. Located on the border between Aomori and Akita prefectures, it lies 400 meters (1,800 ft) above sea level and is 327.0m (1,073 ft) depth, and is drained by the Oirase river. With a surface area of 61.1 km², Towada is Japan's 12th largest lake, its bright blue color is due to its great depth. The lake is roughly circular, with two peninsulas extending from its southern shore approximately one-third into the center of the lake.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fit to Fight...almost...well now I am

 Em has been asking me to do a blog about how the Air Force PT (physical training) test is done. (Some of my Army friends would laugh and ask if the AF really has a PT test...but they wouldn't really be funny.) So, we have to test two times a year unless we pass with a 90% or higher. They have recently changed the rules of engagement (ROEs) making the test harder. There have subsequently been a lot of people getting kicked out of the AF.

The PT test is composed of measuring height, weight and waist. Only your body's waist measurement (20 pts) factors into the score.
Next comes push-ups (10 pts) and sit-ups (10 pts). As many as possible in 1 minute.
Then, the final and biggest part of test is the 1.5 mile run (60 pts). There are also, new July 1, minimums for each category as well as a max for the points:
Run: 14:00 minutes (9:34 max)
Waist: 39.0 inches (32.5 max)
Push-ups: 27 (57 max)
Sit-ups: 39 (54 max)

There you have it in a nut shell, the AF PT test. The testing has become much more strict over the past two years. The testers are notorious for not counting your push ups unless your arms are precisely 90 degrees and your body straight. Some people do tons of push ups but have 20 or so not count.

Flash back to 1 July: I take my annual PT test. I max out the run (9:28), the sit ups (60), the waist (31 inches), and then ... I get 25 push-ups with 3 not counted. I got stuck on the way up on 26 and then collapsed. Now if you add these up I get an amazing 94.5%!!!!!!! Well it would be awesome until you realize that 25 push ups doesn't meet the minimum and then I become the AF's first person to fail the new PT test standards (remember 1 July is when they started the minimum.)

So I had to go to the "Be Fit" class to learn about eating healthy and how to run faster. Hmmm not really the problem. Even the Group Commander (very important person, head of all the hospital people) took a personal interest since I am such an odd ball failing with a 94.5%. Em said "I have failed a lot of tests in my life, but never with a 94%!" I have also become the butt of A LOT of jokes. I.E. After winning the Australia Trip Sgt Laffitte (the most constant of those making fun of me) said, "I guess push ups wasn't one of the events!" No, it wasn't!!!!

So I started working harder on my push-ups. Started doing bench presses and triceps dips and butterflies but really for a month never felt any difference and felt even weaker on my push-ups. My friend Merrill and I started doing the 100 Push Up program. Still after weeks of doing this I didn't feel much improvement. Then after about 7 weeks, repeating weeks 4 and 5 of the program twice, I thought I could do over 30.

Fast forward to today.
I tested again: run-9:33,
and wait for it...
42 push-ups!!!!!

98.6%!!! and I passed. I feel a huge burden lifted. I guess working out does actually work!

These shorts are hot! not! (that "not" is in honor of Shawn Spencer's efforts on Psych to revive the term "not." said the Liar.)

I'd like to thank all those who helped make this possible:

Emily-for believing in me
Col T-for for making me not want to let him down
Ryan-my OB and work out partner for 2 weeks
Merrill-my push up partner
Janeen-my personal trainer and healthy eating coach and Duathlon nemesis
Wes-my pilot
Nice PT Testing lady-who counted all of my push-ups

No Thanks to:

TSgt Laffitte
and all the other people who think they are funny and kinda were!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Tribe Has Spoken!

So get this...yesterday I saw an email advertising an event at The Club (each base has an enlisted and an officer's club, or a combined "collocated" club). It was a meet and great with some of the Survivor All-Stars!

Em and I are moderate to big Survivor fans; in fact I had just been looking into the application process to get on the show but gave up.  The event was for tonight from 5-7 and they were going to choose random people to compete in a "Survivor Challenge".  I wanted to attend and told Em to get a babysitter.

Then at lunch Em ran into some of the "Stars" signing autographs at the BX (Base Exchange or the equivilant of Mervyns meets Walmart) and called me very excited saying she put her arm around James and got to chat with Russell and  Sandra.  (Winner of last season.)

But then she couldn't find a babysitter. That combined with me being very tired, (all four boys woke up and came into our room at various times last night) led me to not feel up to going by myself (no kids allowed at event). BUT, my fabulous and selfless wife encouraged me to go without her saying it was a "once in a lifetime experience."  This is true.  Thank you, Hon!

So I popped over to have some light hors d'oeuvres hoping to meet some of them.  I did just that and got to talk to Ami Cusack ( Survivor: Vanuatu and Survivor: Micronesia).      
She was quite nice, personable, fun to talk with, pretty and I got to get some behind the scenes questions about Survivor answered.

As I ate my snacks, they did the drawing for the competition and I got chosen.

This is how it worked:  They picked two teams: an enlisted team and an officer team. Each team competed in a challenge with the last person to finish being eliminated and not moving on to the next round until one person from each team is left to compete in the final challenge.

First Challenge: Drinking giant pixie sticks the fastest.

Second: Using the pixie stick as a straw to pick up ping pong balls and carry them across the ballroom floor and drop them into a bag.  Repeat.

Next challenge: Race around a bunch of tires with some weird plastic cups under your feet with strings connected that you hold to help move your feet.

Next: While paired up with a Survivor All-Star race around the same tires while stepping into them with your foot at the same time as your partner.  My partner was Russell Swan (a very nice guy, Em says!) (Survivor: Samoa)

Next: A nasty one!!! A couple of scoops of squid guts had to be eaten. (My strategy quickly changed from trying to eat it all at once, (cue immediate gag reflex) to eating smaller bites on the count of three, (this worked once) to holding it in my mouth until the other guy gave up and threw up: making me one of two finalists!!! (I can still taste it and smell it.)

For the final challenge I had to peddle a large tricycle with Ami on the back. I was blind-folded and Ami was my guide. She led me around the tires where our handle bars got bent-losing precious time- but we corrected them and sped on.

Ami then directed me through a maze where I kept going left and then left until I spilled out of the maze passing the other guy.

Back onto the trike, Ami expertly led me around the ballroom to the final obstacles. I tore through the combat crawl sustaining multiple rug burns and losing my flip flops but ultimately emerged the winner!!!

And guess what?

 I am going (with Em) to 

And to think that I almost laid down at home and went to sleep.  Em had no idea that any of this was happening and when I walked in with giant check/coupon for the trip she was completely dumb founded and still doesn't believe I really did win.

What an awesome night!


And most of all...

Monday, August 23, 2010


Last year we went to the Nebuta parade, in Aomori City, during the day. This year we wanted to see how amazing they would look in the dark, lit up. They were amazing. The people are so energetic and happy. Despite it being so crowded everyone seems to enjoy it. The boys were all dressed in their festival Jimbae.

Em took a little girl for her mom since she was struggling to see over us and 3 other rows. We were with the Balls at a street corner. At each corner they stop the floats and then quickly spin them around.
 Nebuta is our favorite festival! (Too bad it was blisteringly hot.)

There are many theories about the origin of the Nebuta Festival. One is that it originated with the subjugation of rebels in the Aomori district by "General TAMURAMARO" in the early 800's. He had his army create large creatures, called "Nebuta", to frighten the enemy. Another theory is that the Nebuta Festival was a development of the "TANABATA" festival in China. One of the customs during this festival was "TORO" floating. A "TORO" is a wooden frame box wrapped with Japanese paper. The Japanese light a candle inside the "TORO" and put it out to float on the river or the sea. The purpose for doing this is to purify themselves and send the evil spirits out to sea. "TORO" floating is still one of the most impressive and beautiful sights during the summer nights of the Japanese festivals. On the final night, "TORO" floating is accompanied by a large display of colorful fireworks. This is said to be the origin of the Nebuta Festival. Gradually these floats grew in size, as did the festivities, until they are the large size they are now. Today the Nebuta floats are made of a wood base, carefully covered with this same Japanese paper, beautifully colored, and lighted from the inside with hundreds of light bulbs. In early August the colorful floats are pulled through the streets accompanied by people dancing in native Nebuta costumes, playing tunes on flutes and drums. Many Aomori citizens are involved in the building of these beautiful floats. The Nebuta designers create their designs patterned after historical people or themes. They begin developing themes immediately after the previous year's festivities come to a close. Consequently, it takes the entire year, first in the development, then in the construction of the Nebuta float.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Conquering Mt Fuji

Yesterday I climbed mount Fuji with Merrill and Janeen, Ryan B, and Robert W. It was great. We kept a steady pace, all staying together and all got the branding stamps on our walking sticks at most of the huts. The ascent was very challenging.  There were some rugged up-hill parts, a bunch of switch backs, and some stairs. I think the variety on the ascent was good. The last 200 or so meters were very exhausting. Standing still I was fine but almost immediately after starting up again I became out of breath and a little wobbly at times from the combination of being tired with less oxygen in the atmosphere. We ended up at the top a little after noon, 5 hrs and 15 minutes. It was a great feeling to have made it to the top. I continued and hiked around the crater, which offered some cool views of the crater and got me to the actual highest point. So it was mostly worth it to hike an extra 45 minutes. The weather on the way up was nice. Foggy, humid a bit of sunshine, a slight drizzle towards the summit and then a lot more sunshine at the top. Eating ramen at the top was yummy and just cool! 

After my crater trek, I got back to the rest of the group just as the rain began and it continued the whole way down.  We were pretty soggy and wet all the way but it wasn't too bad since it didn't get too cold or windy.

Coming down was probably just about as hard as going up and my knee started hurting. It didn't hurt if I went backwards so I went down a lot of it backwards. The descent takes you down a different route with a bunch of switch backs and a lot of loose volcanic gravel/shale.  It was pretty exhausting but it was a great hike and well worth the trip. It was an awesome group to go with.

This morning we, in insanity, woke up and caught a taxi to the fish market at 4 am. Why you might ask? Because we wanted to witness the Tsukiji Fish Market Auction. We got there just in time to get tickets.  These days they only let 70 people into the each of the 2 auctions since tourists got it closed down to visitors a while back.
We made it into the second auction. It was insane. Tons (literally) of tuna lined up in a large warehouse, with lots of people inspecting the quality with touch, taste, visual and even using flash lights to get a better sense for the true color of the meat.
Then the auction starts with the different auctioneers ringing their bell and then they sell each fish one at a time. It goes really fast and each person moves about 100 fish in 10 minutes and there are probably 10 auctioneers going at the same time. The guys are really animated and excited and they seem to be having a great time.
It was a really fascinating thing to watch. Once we got shuffled back out, we walked around the busiest, largest, coolest and most dangerous (due to the small trucks speeding around without any consideration for the American tourists!) fish market ever.

Then we headed back to the New Sanno hotel and had a fabulous buffet breakfast, (Maxwell worthy) had naps, then headed out for lunch and a temple session. It was neat going to the Temple of the Lord after having summited a physical temple the previous day.
After the Temple we headed back to the hotel, swam and then went to Outback Steakhouse for dinner. It was nice to be able to have American food again. You just need to have it once in a while. I even had a hamburger in front of Janeen (our healthy eating friend) who ordered two half salads. I thought that was funny but definitely not unusual for her.

It has been a great trip and I am ready to go to bed and go home tomorrow. Thank you Emily for being a lone woman in Misawa with the boys while I did this. (Though it sounds like you have been partying with your girl friends a lot!) See you soon!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gray's Birth

Here's a slideshow of his first couple days.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Two Favorites and Service- A New Family Tradition

One of the nights, when Emily was still in the hospital, I joined our great friends the Pats for dinner since they were the ones caring for the boys during the first two days of Gray's life. At the completion of dinner everyone stayed at the table and then they went around and each told of their two favorite things and one act of service they did or had done to them. (Kinda like President Monson mentioned in conference last year.) So last Sunday I started the same routine in our family.

Here is one round from me for these past two weeks:
Two favorite things:

1. Falling asleep on the recliner in the middle of the day with Gray bundled in my arms and then waking up and having Gabe cuddle with us for 20 more minutes!
2. Trying to eat Grayson's little soft cuddly fuzzy face. I love his head with its smooth skin and soft hair.

Service (we have been focusing on service we provide, but I will make an exception in order to praise my wife):

-Em has been serving me by sleeping downstairs so Grayson wont wake me up as much. (The idea is this will allow me to have more energy to handle the other boys, which has had some success if not as much as she would like.)

(They also read the Book of Mormon while a the dinner table and we are adopting that technique as well.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Baby Hog!

Em has confined herself to her room today. She sits in her bed as upon a throne, issuing demands for breakfast and lunch. She will only allow me access to Grayson in order to change his diaper and clothes. Give me my baby!!!!!
Maybe I'll eat the last of the yummy cookies our awesome friends, the Kennelly's brought last night. That will show her!!!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Visiting Hours

The thought of bringing 3 wild boys to Labor and Delivery and controlling them in Em's room around a new born wasn't too appealing, so with the assistance of our neighbor Roxy I took each of them to see their mom and baby by themselves. They were all very calm and cute and loving with him. What great boys ALL 4 of them!

Sam doesn't seem to like the name Grayson, (Its OK Sam, I'm sure uncle Dave has made fun of it already!), but accepted it and reported back to his friend that his name is Grayson because he looks gray. I guess I'm to blame because I said "He looks like a Grayson doesn't he?" "Yeah, I guess so." He was probably thinking, "He looks more like a Purpleson to me."

Thank you to all of the friends who are/have and are offering help. It has made is so much easier since we are so far from family. You all rock!!!!!

Thank you for all the prayers. Thank you Ryan for the blessing. His lungs are now clear and his breathing is great! The doctor is very surprised since the chest X-ray showed some aspirated meconium. We are happy his is healthy and doing great.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

What's wrong with this photo?

I've been going through my Thailand photos trying to make a photo book on Blurb and started noticing little oddities about this photo. I shot it from the hip and never noticed all that was going on. What can you find?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Today's Engrish

This is a sign on the top of a self serve rice cooker at a Raman shop I went to yesterday. In other words, Obama or Americans eat too much rice!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Some Cool Links

Click for high resolution image
Click HERE to see a video report of the Cobra Gold MEDCAP in Thailand. I even get a speaking part. No HERE! (And if you haven't visited for a while, look at the rest of my Thailand Posts).

Here is an excerpt from the Army Website:
Click for high resolution image
KANCHANABURI PROVINCE, Thailand (Feb. 1, 2010) – U.S. Air Force dentist, Capt. Douglas W, a pediatric dentist assigned to the 35th Dental Squadron, Misawa, Japan, pulls the tooth of a child at the first Medical Civic Assistance Program site at the Baan Kroeng Kra Reaon School, in the Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand, in support of Exercise Cobra Gold 2010, Feb. 1. This was the first of seven MEDCAP sites scheduled throughout the course of the exercise. The MEDCAP sites will bring together doctors, dentists and veterinarians from the armed forces of Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and the United States. Cobra Gold is a regularly scheduled joint and coalition multinational exercise hosted annually by the Kingdom of Thailand. This year marks the 29th anniversary for the exercise, which consists of a Global Peacekeeping Operations Initiative Exercise, Command Post Exercise, H/CA projects and field training exercises. (Photo by U.S. Army Master Sgt. Christina Bhatti-Madden)

Also, Go here to vote for St Joseph Hospital to win a grant from Tom's of Maine for the pediatric dental clinic! That's where I was training to be the Pediatric Dentist Extraordinaire that I am today! (You can vote once a day if you'd like)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Funny Sign

This was a sign at the Priew Waterfall we went to in Chantaburi.
Any ideas what this medicine is used for? We are still laughing about this!

P.S. Stay tuned I have a few more Thailandish posts coming. Thanks for sharing the trip with me!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thailand Last Day

We had a late check-out time for Anantara (which is Sanskrit for "without end") so Emily slept in while I went out to do some flower photography and scope out the breakfast choices.

The breakfast here was the best yet: awesome omelet station, Belgian Waffles, fresh fruit, fried egg station, fresh fruit, fruit smoothies (banana vanilla was the best), fresh pineapple and mango, bacon, breads and cheeses.
I ate A LOT! It was fabulous. Then we headed down to the beach and and relaxed in the sun for an hour and played in the ocean for a long time.
We headed to the pool for some more sun and refreshing swimming.
We then retired to the luxurious bath tub with the provided bath salts--which left a wonderful fragrance in our room.
Alas, we had to pack up and check out and then went to enjoy one last poolside meal, and one last chocolate and banana and whipped cream smoothie by the pool for Em.

We loved Anantara! And luckily we were charged in Bot so we have no idea how much it was!!! (I wish.) Our driver came and took us back to Bangkok were I stayed the night while Em took the red eye back to Tokyo, stopping for the a temple visit and then on to Misawa. Before she left we went across the street to the massage parlor. Em was in heaven and I had a Thai lady walking on my back! Which is actually heaven for me too!

The next morning I uneventfully flew back to Tokyo, I about cried when our plan was landing from happiness to be home! (Weird since it was Japan soil and not US, but I happen to live in Japan.) I stopped by the JAL counter in hopes of running into Em checking into her flight, but was too late. So I headed out to the Temple and and successfully navigated to the correct subway station. As I got off I saw a white man in a suit who looked like he had to be heading toward the temple. So I followed him and realized I had gone the complete wrong direction as he stopped at the New Sanno (military) hotel nearby. Oh well, I went in and got directions to the Temple from the hotel. Shortly I arrived at the temple, which was a block away from my original subway station.

As the Angel Moroni atop the temple came into view I was overwhelmed with joy. I stepped into the temple and my mind was filled with peace and I felt full of light. I had been to many different Thai temple (Wats) and shrines and even felt some holiness at some of them, but nothing compares to the presence of the Holy Ghost I felt as I entered just the lobby of the Tokyo Temple not to mention the rest of the Temple rooms.
I stopped for Raman and then came back to the hotel and now am awaiting my flight the next morning. Can't wait to be home again!!!! I miss my boys!!!

I'm off to check into my flight now!