Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wanchai Ferry Chinese Dinners

My wife and I were in Walmart the other day doing our grocery shopping. Perusing the aisles I happened to note something new at our local store: Wanchai Ferry Chinese dinners. We've been enjoying a lot of Chinese food lately, so we thought we'd give it a try.

We just finished a lunch consisting of Wanchai Ferry's Kung Pao Chicken. I have to say, it was rather good. It was easy and quick to make - everything is supplied in the package except the chicken.

I recommend you give it a try.

Note: I was not compensated in any way for this review. I'm just a satisfied customer.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I Broke the Drill Sergeant's Nose

There I was, a young private in the Army at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, daily thinking to myself, "What did I get myself into?" It was quite a transformational experience for the long-haired, non-conformist I was prior to enlisting.

The scariest experiences of my young life happened there. One was climbing that giant ladder and sliding down the rope at the confidence course. That thing was a hundred feet tall if it was an inch. And, this was no ordinary ladder - the "rungs" were about 5 1/2 feet apart and one had to really climb to get to the top. "Confidence course" was right - I was confident I never wanted to climb anything that high like that again!

The second scary experience was when I broke the drill sergeant's nose.

My platoon was at the hand grenade range running through a scenario where we would practice running from place to place, shoot covering fire, and throwing a practice hand grenade at an enemy bunker. We walked through the task a number of times, practicing throwing the grenade into a bunker situated the end of the course. Then, in pairs, we ran down the course "for real" to be tested and evaluated by a group of drill sergeants.

There was on particular sergeant who didn't like the way I threw the grenade. Each time we walked through it, he was highly critical that I did not lock my left knee when I leaned back to throw. Try as I could, my left knee wouldn't quite straighten out all the way. Though I was able to toss the grenade with a fair amount of accuracy, he was still not satisfied with my performance.

When it was my turn to run down the course my partner and I were "moving and shooting" (which consisted of us taking turns yelling "moving" and running while the other yelled "shooting" and "bang, bang, bang" until the other person ducked behind something and yelled "shooting"). We were in lock, teamwork going between us. There was no enemy to stand against us - except the ones in the bunker at the end of the course.

I was the designated grenade thrower on our team. I got into position, pulled the pin, released the safety and counted. When my counting was complete, I yelled "GRENADE!" at the top of my lungs and let my arm fly to loose the instrument of death onto our hapless foe. But, our enemy was not vanquished - the only casualty of our mock battle was the sergeant who didn't like my left knee.

Just as I was letting loose with my throw, he ran to me, bent over to yell at me about my knee and caught my closed fist with grenade inside it right on the side of his nose.

He fell to the ground yelling and holding his face. I stood, transfixed, probably with my eyes wider than wide open and my mouth gaping. He stood with the assistance of the other drill sergeants, holding his nose while blood gushed out.

The only thought going through my head was, "Oh man, I'm going to jail." I took out the obligatory handkerchief we all carried and offered it to him stammering, "I'm sorry, I didn't know you were there." Anger showed in his eyes as he was led away to seek medical attention. His nose was broken, he had two black eyes coming and I was scared to death.

Our platoon's drill sergeant took me by the arm and led me behind a nearby shack. I don't remember the conversation too well other than I remember he told me not to worry because it wasn't my fault and to stay there and collect my thoughts for a few minutes before joining the rest of my group.

When I did emerge from behind the shack, I remember all of my fellow platoon members looking at me as I imagine one might look at a condemned man getting ready to go to the gallows. It seemed they were all afraid for me just as I was afraid for myself.

Thankfully, it really wasn't my fault. It was an accident, nothing more. Nothing more was ever said about it.

Still, it remains as one of the scariest things I ever experienced.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Crater of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas

The Crater of Diamonds State Park is a fun place to take a trip with the family. It's located just outside of Murfreesboro, AR - about 45 minutes north of Hope off I-30.

The crater is actually the site of an old commercial diamond mining operation. There aren't enough diamonds to make commercial mining profitable, but there are enough there to let tourists dig them up. According to their web site, just about a diamond a day is found there.

To search for diamonds, you can simply walk around the site. People (often children - perhaps because they're lower to the ground) find stones that way. You may also bring tools to dig with and search through the dirt and clay. The people working there are very helpful and will assist you in determining whether your find is a diamond or just a pretty rock. Their web site also has a lot of good information.
There is a restaurant, small water park and camping on site. The fee to the search area is just $7.00.

I recommend checking it out.

And just when you think the geek takes a vacation from technology:
Heading home we had some fun with Google Maps and the GPS unit on my phone. We used Google maps to plot our trip home and it found us the most direct route: down the dirt roads between the park and Hope, AR. It may not have been the most "modern" road, but it did get us where we wanted to go:
At one point we forded a low water crossing. While I could complain about the route, it was a nice, little adventure. What impressed me most was the comprehensiveness of Google Maps. I would think you'd have to purchase a pretty detailed map in order to see these roads.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Review: The Queen of Diamonds Inn, Murfreesboro, AR

I recently went to the Crater of Diamonds State Park outside of Murfreesboro, AR. On this trip, as on my trip this past January, I stayed at the Queen of Diamonds Inn in Murfreesboro.

It's not the fanciest place to stay, but it's clean, comfortable and the people who run it are very friendly.

There are nice, flat-panel TVs, microwaves, refrigerators and coffee pots in the rooms. The beds are comfortable. What more do you need?

I highly recommend this hotel if you happen to be in Murfreesboro.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way for this post. I'm just a satisfied customer.