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Category Archives: Family Stuff

2012-04(Apr)Hanami
Quadcopter BeerLift
2012 Takao Fire Festival
2012 Skiiing in Shiga-Kogen with my Mom

It was a nice day in the Kamakura area.  We went to see the Great Buddha of Kamakura (Daibutsu in Japanese) is a monumental outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha in the city of Kamakura, Japan.  But forget all that, check out the surf!  These are pics from Sep 25 (Kamakura), and Sep 26, 2010 Chigasaki (Tsujido beach).  Waves were pretty good as a result of a Typhoon off the coast. 

From 2010 September Surf

Seated serenely in the grounds of Kotokuin, a Buddhist temple of the Pure Land sect, the Great Buddha is one of the icons of Japan.   At 13.35 meters high and weighing 93 tons, the Daibutsu is the second largest monumental Buddha in Japan (after the one at Todaiji in Nara) and to many, the most impressive.

The Diabutsu was cast in 1252 in the Kamakura period and was originally housed inside a temple, as in Nara. But a huge tsunami washed away the wooden structure sometime in the late 15th century, and the statue has sat out in nature ever since.

The Great Buddha is seated in the lotus position with his hands forming the Dhyani Mudra, the gesture of meditation. With a serene expression and a beautiful backdrop of wooded hills, the Daibutsu is a truly spectacular sight.

The Daibutsu is Amida Buddha, who is the focus of Pure Land Buddhism. Originating in China, this sect gained prominence in Japan in the 12th century and remains very popular today. The central teaching is that through devotion to Amida Buddha, expressed through mantras and sincerity of heart, one will go to the Pure Land or “Western Paradise” after death – a pleasant realm from which it is easy to attain nirvana.

(All this Great info from Sacred Destinations)

Really nice hiking area in the Chubu Sangaku National Park.  Nagano prefecture!

JAPANThat’s right, I applied for a job in Japan, and to Melissa’s and my own shock, I was faced with the decision to accept the job offer.  The initial assignments for 3 years, with the option to extend it for another 2 years.  After that I think you have to come back to the states, at least for a little while.

When I got the job offer on a Friday I was a little in shock.  I remember going.. how can they offer me a job, I haven’t even had an interview.  I don’t know what I’m signing up for; they don’t know what THEY are signing up for.   Despite having spent some time on my resume to tailor it to the Japanese job, I was surprised that I had no interview.  I had spoken (email) to some of the engineers that I would work with and got their impressions of the job and the living.  Also I had spoken to friends that had lived and worked there in the past.  My brother and sister in law lived in Okinawa and thoroughly enjoyed.

After submitting forms to the HRO in Japan, and working with numerous offices here to ensure I have the forms filled out correctly, I have received my “travel orders”. These travel orders say when, and where, and how, we are going to make our move.

The reality of leaving for Japan is beginning to sink in, as I have just finished planning for the movers to pick up the 3 different shipments that will take care of all of our earthly belongings.

PCS shipments are as follows:

  1. HHG (House-Hold Goods) – All the stuff that you plan to move to the destination. This shipment usually travels by boat so it takes a while to get there.
  2. NTS (Non-Temporary Storage) – All the stuff that will not fit in the small Japanese houses that I will leave behind in the states.  These items will be stored in a controlled environment (not necessarily air conditioned) and per my sponsor and others, they will be pretty safe.
  3. UB (Unaccompanied Baggage) – Stuff I/we will need soon after traveling. These items will be shipped by air, and can be delivered within a 2-6 weeks after I arrive.

Each of these shipments will most likely be picked up by different moving contractors (transportation specialists) so they have to be scheduled on different days.   Shortly after the movers come and go, I will be flying over to Japan, and Melis and the kids will go over to stay at my parents.  It is so great and we are blessed to have my parents here in Jax.   We’ve had so much fun together and we look forward to many more good times.  I can’t thank them enough for being there, and for not hesitating one bit to let, Melissa and the children stay there.  I can not think of a better transition than for them to stay there, while I try to get things settled in Japan for their arrival.

Yes it was time to clock out of work, and primp and prep for a night out on the town(s). For Melissa’s birthday we wanted to celebrate with some of her closest friends. Even Melissa S. made the commitment to leave her baby under the care of a baby sitter for the first time.
Click here for pictures After much deliberating the planning committee agreed on Creekside for a venue for dinner and drinks. One reason for the selection is that they have live music and they take reservations. I enjoy Creekside every time I go and this was no exception.

After a nice dinner, the DD’s were ready key in hand to take us to Shannon’s (thank you Jennifer, Chrissy and Melissa S.) Shannons was nice and another band was playing here, they were quite good actually. Especially the Beasty Boys song, they sounded like the real thing. If anyone remembers the name of the bands let me know and I will fill them in. We also met old-guy-“Don” who always seems to be celebrating his birthday at Shannon’s the same night. Perplexing…

We hope you had a Happy Birthday Melissa!

The Ballantyne, Gostage and Sapp families just returned from another great vacation in the Florida Keys.

The weather turned out to be hot and sunny in the Keys this year and there was one rain in the middle of the week. The lobsters were scarce in the Gulf of Mexico possibly due to the large and protected Goliath Grouper that were spotted in many of the lobster holes that we came across. Click here for picturesClick here for more photos

We had some new lobster wranglers with us this year with Jennifer bringing her boyfriend Drew, and Chad bringing Brittany. Lindy and Evan were just giggling to have Martin back this year. Art and Katy were gracious again to let us stay at their beautiful house in Pompano on the way down. Mark Debbie and Taylor came prepared this year for lobsters and fishing. Chrissy busy with her new business, Tropical Brace and Limb made it in after her conference. She also brought her boat which is a great addition to the fun.

Drew brought his guitar, and we managed to play a bit. He showed me some songs that he’d written. I’d never seriously thought about it but I should try to write a song sometime. Sue and John came and we all had a great stay together. We really enjoyed being there and hope everyone is looking forward to the next vacation together.

Click here for pictures Lobsters were good this year and we did as well as we did last year, which is a blessing, and keeps us coming back for mini-season (the last Wednesday-Thursday of July). We all managed to make it our to Sombrero Reef for a brief snorkel. It was one of the rougher days so we did not stay our there as long as usual. Lobster wrangling got off to a slow start, but we ended up getting a good first day with the hard work of our lobster team especially Katy, Art, Mark, Debbie, Chad, Chrissy, Martin, Drew and myself. Taylor and Lindy also were close and could help spot the lobsters. Brittany and Jen helped out in the water, and helped do secondary size checks for the lobsters.

Fishing was great fun as usual with Art’s awesome 36 ft Sea Vee, twin 300 Mercury Verado’s and his keen eye and intuition for finding fish.

Drew caught the first keeper a 30+ lb Kingfish which was much bigger than the ones I’ve seen before. Martin wiffed an unkown fish. Next Drew catches a Sailfish and manages to pose for a picture or two before a successful release. Not to be outdone Mark caught a Sailfish with the same vigor. Martin wiffed an unkown fish. Chad get’s one on and pulls in the biggest Dolphin (Mahi) of the trip. On another run Mark and Chad both snag some nice Mangrove snapper and we rejoiced knowing we going to have some lucious fish for dinner. Click here for pictures Martin wiffed an unkown fish. Art, with his ability to read the water like Neo can read the Matrix, spots a school of dolphin (Mahi) swimming past the boat. All I remember, there is a blur of casting, yelling, resetting hooks, cheering and measuring fish for an unkown amount of time that leaves us with 7 more Dolphin and a bit of cleaning up to do. I’m sure Martin got at least one of the dolphin, so no-tears. The last day of fishing was hotter than two rats in wool sock and we were just trying to stay cool. I think the fish new this and were hanging deep, with the numerous sharks that were taking our bait. This still did not stop us from jumping in to cool off once in a while.

Yes this years St Patrick’s Day Fell on a Monday, but that did not stop Saturday and Sunday shenanigans…. (no not that type Chandra). The Flaherty’s and Claytons planned to get together on Sunday and we knew it would be great fun.
Green BeerClick Photo for more photos

The green beer pictured is not bad.. because it is Stella Artois w/ dye… which sports the better taste and the festive hue when compared to other typical green beer variants. Of course there’s always Guinness.

Tim also invited Dana, and Chris who have become part of the annual meet. My friends Garrett, Nicole and her friend Robin also came out to celebrate with us.
It was a beautiful day, so sitting out on the outside veranda was perfect with live riffs from Dave Massey, on Acoustic guitar.
Shannon’s was so popular on Saturday that they were asked by the Gate management to take down some of the planned fenced areas. This was a shame for the many partiers that would-have-been there Sunday, but good for us who have children making the atmosphere much more suited for family.

We had a great trip to Tahoe. Skiing in Northstar, Diamond Peak and Soda Springs. We stayed in a big house with the family in Kings Beach.

Here are a few of our favorites from the 407 photos that we took!! Skiing!
Our stay was for the week of Christmas so the kids all had a white Christmas. Also we have a few videos that are worth watching.
Pop payed for the house so the rest of us just had to pay for travel, food, beer, and lift tickets.
It was a good get together and we were able to spend some quality time together. Memorable movies for the trip were High School Musical, Superbad, and the obligatory Euro Trip.
Dave entertained with his uncanny Kapla kreations and schmoooove guitar. The hot tub was small but cozy.. and I think we are in the running for the most humans in that particular (Cal Spa) hot tub at at any given time. I still love the fact that Sierra Nevada beer was cheaper than the domestics in the grocery store.

Awards are as follows:

Best Wipeout: Art
Most Gruesome Injury: Chrissy
Biggest Icicle: Gavyn
Longest Sled Ride: Evan
Best Sled Wipeout: Evan
Most Snow in the face: Evan
Best Equipment Breakage (sled): Chrissy
Best Cabin-Fever Flare-up: Sue and Katy
Most Time on the Mountain: Katy
Most accumulated ski-school training: Sue
Best Pool Player: Will
Best Rummy Player: Art
Best Omlet: Dave
Most time spent in the lodge: John
Youngest Skiier: Ava Sophia
Fastest Snow-Tuber: Lindy
Longest Time Sleeping-In: Heather
Best Snow Angel: Melissa
Coolest Ski Hat: Evan
Peppermint Schnapps Award: James
Best Ski Glove Dropper (from the lift x 2): Melissa
Most photos taken: Katy, James (Tie)

What a great trip I hope everybody had as much fun as I did. Video 1, Video 2, Video 3.

We had a great time this year on Marathon Key. Lobsters and fish were aplenty thanks to Art and Chrissy bringing their boats and experience. Art was there with his new beautiful Sea Vee with ad 2 new 4-stroke motors. The boat was decked out with so many great and convenient touches that everyone enjoyed every minute out in the open water. Unfortunately Mark was busy with work this year and was not able to make it to the House. Mark, we missed you and look forward to having you there next year.
Some of the photos are posted here.
As I always say we are very lucky to be a part of such a great vacation/experience and look forward to it every year.