It started out with a co-worker and I deciding to go skydiving, and quickly became a company picnic with ten of us, including the president of Puget Systems, going skydiving. For each of us, it was our first time actually jumping out of an airplane. Albeit, we all jumped in tandem, with instructors strapped to our backs, it was still the most thrilling event I have ever partaken in.
July 13, 2007
Blue Sky Skydiving, Bremerton Washington
We chose Blue Sky Skydiving because of its location and reputation. Bremerton provides an excellent view of the Puget Sound at 13,500 feet. Just 911 feet short of the top of Mount Rainier, the view is breath-taking.
July 13, 2007 was a cloudy morning, which threatened our plans to skydive. You need to have a ceiling of at least 10,000 feet of clear sky to skydive. We kept watch on a radio tower on a nearby hilltop. When we could see the top of that tower clearly, we had 10,000 feet.
While we waited for the skies to clear, we all went through the tandem class, which basically was a safety lecture and video, and signing the legal release that put all responsibility of injury or death upon ourselves, a standard practice.
Twenty or so people from Puget Systems came out to the event. The ten of us that signed up to jump focused on preparing for the jump by asking questions of the experienced jumpers and instructors, and observing how the parachutes were packed and how the harnesses were rigged, the rest of us worked on preparing the picnic and enjoying the festivities.
Finally, the sky cleared, and we were given the go ahead to suit-up and get ready to jump. Daniel Brown and I were the first to go up, which was fitting since Daniel and I were the original instigators of this adventure. Our instructors strapped us securely into our tandem harnesses and explained how the process of getting into position and jumping from the airplane was going to work. The instructor’s harness has 4 or 5 heavy clasps that fasted to the back of the tandem harness, but that connection is not made until you board the plane. Let me tell you about the harness; there is no way that a human being is going to break out of that harness. You are in there very snug and it makes you walk like a Sumo wrestler.
As we got ready to board the plane, I turned to my instructor and told him that there are two things I did not want to hear him say. The first was anything that sounded like “Oh shit!”. the second was “nice ass”, I have an odd sense of humor. My instructor had a great sense of humor, and he just laughed and promised me a good ride. He came through on that promise.
We boarded the plane, a turbo propeller something-or-other, with four other experienced jumpers. We waved goodbye to our fellow employees on the ground, hoping quietly that we would be seeing them soon, and then the plane took off. At about 10,000 feet, the air started feeling a bit thin. No problem, you just breathe slow and deep. When we reached 13,500 feet, we leveled off and circled around to the drop zone. The excitement was mounting with each passing minute, until finally, the pilot declared that we were over the drop zone.
Two of the experienced skydivers jumped first. Let me tell you, it was strange and yet interesting to see people sitting outside the airplane with their clothes and hair flapping furiously in the wind, and then just suddenly disappear from sight without a sound. Daniel and I just looked at each other, gauging each other’s reaction, secretly wondering if the other was going to chicken out. I knew I was going to jump, and Daniel showed no signs of backing out either.
I was next, so shuffled my way to the open side door, with my instructor securely fastened to my harness. I hope I never forget the view and sensation of sitting with my body completely outside of the airplane as we sped along at 13,500 feet. Looking down, I had no clue where the drop zone was. It was just a tiny little dot somewhere on the ground that seemed too far away to fathom. Looking out, I could see the curvature of the earth and Mount Rainier’s majestic presence in the horizon. The Navy’s aircraft carriers and battleships in Bremerton looked smaller than the pieces of a Battleship game.
Finally, my instructor gave me the signal to tuck and get ready to roll. He tapped my shoulder three times, and we were gone, airborne, free-falling. The first thing I saw as I rolled upside down, was the airplane about twenty feet from me, leaving me quickly behind as my horizontal speed decreased and my vertical drop increased. A moment later, he had us flipped facing the earth, and that was when I knew that this was the most thrilling experience of my life.
With my arms extended, it was easy to point myself north, east, west, or south simply by using my hands like airplane rudders. The wind roared in my ears and pressed my goggles hard into my face. I could feel my cheeks rippling in the wind, and sure enough, when I opened my mouth, my cheeks filled up like an old-time horn player. It was amazing to watch the earth slowly rise up to meet me. As we got closer to the earth, I could start to make out details, and I found the drop zone.
Another tap on my shoulder told me to get ready for the chute to be deployed. This was a moment that I was not looking forward too. The harness I wore already had my legs feeling like they might never fit quite right in my pelvic sockets, I didn’t want to imaging what it was going to feel like when I suddenly stopped free-falling. I heard the rustling sounds behind me as the chute started to deploy, and a few moments later, I felt the inertia as my free fall suddenly became a resistive force against the open canopy some sixty feet above my head, and my body was suddenly pulled from a horizontal free fall to suddenly being vertical. The jolt really wasn’t that bad, it was actually kind of smooth.
Suddenly it was very quiet. The wind no longer tore through my clothes, or distorted my face, and I could clearly hear my instructor talking to me. He told me to get ready as he pulled one of the lines he had in his hands to control our decent. As he pulled the line, our parachute started doing circles, and so did we. If you have ever seen a parachutist spinning gently under his shoot, let me tell you, there is nothing gentle about it. The G-force pulled me so hard into my harness, I was sure my legs were going to pop out of their sockets. I didn’t say anything about it to my instructor though, I just hung on for the ride.
We circled around as we approached the landing zone, and as we got within a few hundred feet, I started to feel like we were approaching the ground a little too fast. But, I was wrong, we came into a slide landing as smooth as you could ever want. I was suddenly sad to see my great adventure come to an end. I knew that from that moment on, my perspective on life would never be quite the same. I had just jumped out of an airplane at 13,500 feet, and survived without injury, minus the slight soreness in my hips, which was quickly forgotten. What could possibly top that?
Ten of us signed up to jump that day, and ten of us did jump. It was the greatest company picnic I have ever experienced, and it is now a fond memory. Thank you for letting me share it with you. If you haven’t ever skydived, you should. Put your fears aside and just do it. I promise you that you will not be disappointed.
Years ago, before my Uncle Rick passed away, he gave me a picture of our family coat of arms, the original image on the left. I rebuilt the image element by element in Photoshop until I completely redesigned the crest. I think I am going to take my design and have it made in a 3 dimensional metal wall plaque.
(Click on either image for a larger view)
I created my Coat of Arms using Adobe Photoshop, with a separate layer for each element. In my design, I made the arm and sword larger, as this represents strength and a willingness to fight for justice. I changed the helmet simply because I didn’t like the original helmet. I also changed the leaves so they frame the shield. My design also displays the O’Brien family Tartan.
Download the O’Brien Family Coat of Arms files
Since I obviously do not own the copyright to the O’Brien Family coat of Arms, I am making my design available to the world. My only stipulations are:
1) My design is not to be used in any way that would defame or discredit the O’Brien name.
2) My design is not to be used in any way that would promote hate or discrimination against any person or persons based on race, political affiliation, religious affiliation, sex, or sexual orientation. Nor is my design to be used to promote or in affiliation with any activity deemed illegal in the United States of America.
3) Although not required, a link back to my website would be appreciated.
History of the O’Brien Surname
O’Brien is a surname of Irish origins meaning descendant of Brien (the Brien in this case being Brian Boru). O’Brien is in Irish Ó Briain, from the personal name Brian.
The meaning of this is problematic. It may come from bran, meaning “raven”, or, more likely, from Brion, a borrowing from the Celtic ancestor of the Welsh which contains the element bre-, meaning “hill” or “high place”. By association, the name would then mean “lofty’ or “eminent”. Whatever the initial meaning of the word, the historic origin of the surname containing it is clear. It simply denotes a descendant of Brian Boramha Boru, “Brian of the Tributes”, High King of Ireland in 1002, and victor at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.
Brian was member of the relatively obscure Ui Toirdealbhaigh, part of the Dal gCais tribal grouping based in the Clare/Limerick area. The O’Brien name will be forever linked with the town of Killaloe because it was there that Brian Boru had his palace of Kincora, “Ceann Cora’dh”. He was the grandson of Lorcan and the son of MacCinneide (Kennedy and his wife Bebinn). Their home was near the mountain called Slieve Beragh, where the guardian spirit of his tribe, the banshee Arval was said to watch over them from her lofty brooding crag.. Lough Derg was nearby as was the River Shannon. He was educated at Clonmacois. In 959, his father was crowned king on the Rock of Cashel.
The traditional inauguration site of the, O’Briens is outside the village of Quin at a place called Magh Adhair. All that remains is a large mound of earth but to the discerning eye of the historian or genealogist traces of former glory can still be seen.
Having secured control of the Dal gCais in 976, Brian defeated and killed the Eoghanacht king of Munster two years later, and proceeded to wage deadly war against the kingdoms of Connacht, Meath, Leinster and Breifne. Eventually he secured submission (and tributes) from all but the northern Ui Neill, the Leinsterman and the Vikings. His victory at Clontarf united all of Ireland, nominally at least, under a single leader, though Brian himself was slain. The first individual clearly to use O’Brien as a genuinely hereditary surname was Donogh Cairbre O’Brien, son of the king of Munster, Donal Mor. His descendants split into a number of branches, including the O’Briens of Aherlow, the O’Briens of Waterford, the O’Briens of Arra in north Tipperary, and the O’Briens of Limerick, where the surname is perpetuated in the name of the barony of Pubblebrien.
Sometime between 1206 and 1216 Donnchadha Cairbreach O’Brien established his capital in Ennis – now the principal town in Clare. In 1247 this same O’Brien gave shelter to some wandering friars and they proceeded over the years to build the magnificent Ennis Abbey (now a ruin).
The Inchiquin Tomb here houses the bodies of King Turlough O’Brien who died in 1306, Murrough who died in 1551 and the later Barons of Inchiquin. In 1460 Bishop Donnchadha O’Brien of Killaloe (now the cathedral town of Clare) was killed here by Brian O’Brien.
The O’Briens were of the clan of Dal gCais as were many other powerful Claremen. Originally to be a Dalcassian meant that you came from the area around the border of Clare and Tipperary but nowadays it is used to cover all of County Clare.
The O’Brien name is also famous for its association with Maire Rua McMahon who first married a Neylon of Dysert O’Dea and on his death married Conor O’Brien who was killed by Parliamentary forces in 1651. This Maire Rua O’Brien is the stuff of legends as she is remembered in the countryside for her outstanding courage and also for her temper. She is reputed to have hung her maidservants by the hair and her menservants by the neck from the corbels of her castle. She always rode a black stallion who objected to anyone else on his back. Legend says that Maria Rua used to get rid of unwanted suitors by letting them ride the horse at great speed to the 700 foot high Cliffs of Moher, here the horse would stop suddenly and you can guess the rest. Maria Rua’s ghost is supposed to be imprisoned in a hollow tree on the avenue of Carnelly House in Clarecastle. Visit there on a windy night if you dare!
From the “Annals of the Four Masters”
This gallery contains 2 photos.
Anytime you can get family together is a perfect opportunity for a photograph, even when it’s a company holiday party. But does the picture have to look like it was taken at a company holiday party? No!
A little Photoshop magic, and your impromptu family picture can take on a whole new look. With the picture above, I I really like the family and the tree, but I didn’t like the chair full of personal items, and I didn’t like the man walking through the door in the background. There were a few other minor issues, such as light glare off the young man’s glasses.
I the end, we end up with a picture that prints perfectly on 5 by 7 photo paper, and looks good enough for Christmas cards!
Quote of the Day
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. —