Friday, November 26, 2010

Top Ten Reasons Thanksgiving is Better than...

I like Thanksgiving, all of the benefits of a holiday, without the stuffiness of religion getting in the way.  It kind of makes up for all of those fasting holidays, or deprivation promises, or whatever that all of the world's religions make you do for the rest of the year.  I like to call Thanksgiving the "Anti-Fast."  Here are my top 10 reasons why it is better than Christmas, Birthdays, or any other holiday, for that matter.  Now, this does not apply if you happen to have a birthday that falls on Thanksgiving, or have a relative that you feel obligated to get a present for, anyway.

10.  You don't have to get anyone any presents.
 9.   You usually have to fight to cook...meaning that if you play your cards right, you can almost always get someone else to do the cooking for you.
 8.   Because of #10, you never have any disappointed kids/relatives over who got what for whom.
 7.   You get to nap in the afternoon, no one makes fun of you, and you get to eat leftovers for weeks!
 6.   Three football games...ON A THURSDAY!
 5.   Did I mention it is always on THURSDAY?  Day of thew week predictability is the key to a good holiday!
 4.   Did I mention that I had my Bar Mitzvah on Thanksgiving?  You can always hear Torah, somewhere on Thanksgiving, if you so desire.
 3.   No religious significance whatsoever!  Which means no one gets offended when your creepy cousin decides to have a Wiccan prayer circle in the backyard, nor does anyone care if you went to Mass, go to Mass, or even suggest going to the movies.
 2.   There is always a day off to shop following it...not too shabby, a day off of work, completely devoted to doing nothing productive, but to spending the fruits of the past year's labors.
 1.   It's an American Holiday, celebrated by ALL Americans that choose to do it, and no one gets mad if you don't!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

P.S.  I do not claim to have a cousin that claims to be a wiccan, nor do I know anyone that does...and no Wiccans were harmed in the publishing of this Blog...unless you consider the mental stress of possibly being related to me harm.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Army Notre Dame Top Ten

Top Ten Reasons why watching the Army Notre Dame game streaming over the Internet is better than watching it over AFN...

10. You don't have to watch all of those AFN PSA's every commercial break.
 9.  You don't miss any plays because the PSAs go longer than the actual commercial breaks.
 8.  You get to privately shed a tear for your alma mater when they flash back to days of yore.
 7.  You get to watch regular, good old commercials.
 6.  No one gets to watch your mouth water while they play commercials for food that you can't have because they took away your food court - because you are alone in your room.
 5.  You get sympathy from your Internet guy because the game isn't being broadcast live here in Iraq (so he gives you special bandwidth), so at least the commercials come in without interruption.
 4.  You get to keep re-running your streaming program to keep the video link and voice link in synch - keeping you awake at 0330.
 3.  You get to watch Army Football, LIVE!
 2.  You get to have your coffee pot within arms reach while watching the game at 0330 in the morning.
and the number 1 reason why watching the game live over the internet is...
1.  No one will see you cry when Army loses (or wins) to Notre Dame.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I love Iraq (well, their Holidays, anyway)

Less than 30 days until I start my long journey home from Iraq.  We have a slight break in the action while they celebrate the Eid (feast) that celebrates the Hajj.  The Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that is required of all Muslims once in their lifetime.  One of our High-ranking generals actually made the Hajj this year.  A lot of people in the US military call everything here that is run by the locals as "Haji."  Not sure why, since I sense their use of the word is supposed to be derogatory or pejorative.  This is actually a very respected word that has great pride in all people that have made the pilgrimage.  I think that they even add the word to their name once they make the trip.  If anyone has seen pictures of the Hajj, they will know that it is one CROWDED place.

I would like to congratulate the Huntsville "Wild Turkeys" Rugby Club for winning the first Alabama State Rugby Tournament.  And they won it quite easily, too.  I placed an Alabama "Wild Turkey" on my door in their honor.  Also, was happy to watch my Chicago Bears destroy the "Moss-less" Vikings this past weekend.  They FINALLY broadcast one of the Bears' games live on AFN.  They also broadcasted it on Fox Sports, but, of course, the great Satellite Caper of 2010 is a never-ending one - and Fox Sports was completely out on Sunday night.  I had to go to my office to watch the game.

     I am working on putting all of my pictures from this deployment to music, one song at a time.  I have a lot of pictures (over 3000).  So this is going to take some time.  I will make sure that I send a few copies to my parents for distribution.

I have to run for now...more to follow.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Pirate Looks at Forty (Four)...

Here I am, about to stare at 44 years on this great Earth, and it gives me cause to pause and think about everything going on around me; namely the Iraq War, my failing knees, the rocket attack we had last night, and more immediately, the half hour I just spent praying to the porcelain g-d...from what I have no idea.  Rarely does one get to experience a good puker like that WITHOUT consuming mass quantities of alcohol, or German Beer, at least.  Only I had been drinking Pomegranate Crystal Light, so it looked quite red.  Smelled a bit like wine, so I was having flash-backs to the last time my stomach hurt this bad....Only this time I am armed with anti-nausea medicine and Immodium.  We shall see.  But enough about my insides becoming my outsides.

I would like to make a prediction...Iraq has a government formed within a month.  Just a prediction that is not based upon anything.  It is amazing how much progress we have been able to make, locally, while Nationally they have almost regressed.  It was kind-of the opposite for so many years here.  We were making so much progress, nationally, that we did everything for them, locally, so that when we turned things over to them they just kind of stared at us and wondered when we were going to either do it for them, pay for them to watch us do it, or pay for what they were going to do, then move in and fix it by paying some more for it.

As for the Rocket attack here last was loud, it went boom, it was well outside of anything that could have done me any bodily harm, and that was about the end of it.  The interpreters that were outside playing dominoes made more noise trying to get under cover when their table came crashing to the ground as they scrambled to get out from under it than the rockets did.

I have to lay off the touch Rugby for a week or two because of the failing knees.  It seems like my left knee has gotten jealous of all the attention the right knee was getting for the surgeries, so it has decided to beg for a good scoping.  Not much they can do without an MRI, and the closest one (beside Israel) is probably in Germany.  I think that I will wait.

Less than an hour to go until I turn 44...still not sure what I want to be when I grow up.  Who says I have to grow up, anyway?  I still wear pajamas to work, albeit with a pistol and sometimes body armor, but compared to the old "starched" BDUs, the ACU is like wearing pajamas!  I may have, however, successfully hidden the fact that tomorrow is my birthday from my entire team.  Wish me luck.

I just realized that I missed a good photo op of the Ruby Red stomach contents all over the latrine...oh well, maybe next time?!?

Later Gators.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda...But Dint

     I used to look forward to reflecting on what was going on here in Iraq.  Really, I did.  Now I just count the days until I get to get on a Helicopter to start my long, shower-less journey home.  I actually have more time on my hands these days, maybe because I have everything figured out, or maybe it is just because I remain ignorantly bliss that everything is going OK.   Who knows, really?

     I am getting injured more and more, doing absolutely nothing these days.  I have a huge gash in my right index finger at the middle knuckle...from making my bed!  I have a piece of wood under the mattress, and took a chunck out of my finger trying to tuck in the blanket.  Really?  I deploy thousands of miles away, in a war zone, and my my most bloody injury is from making the bed?  Then there is my left knee.  Everyone remembers my great (or not-so-great) right knee and its multiple surgeries, but this is my left knee.  This knee does apparently does not like to walk around on all of the large gravel that we have here to keep from walking on mud when it rains.  I can barely walk at times, and then others I can run without any pain at all.  Strange.  I am sure there is another scoping in my future, anyway, sometime soon.

     Not sure if anyone has really gotten into watching Hawaii 5-0, the new version.  But I find it pretty good.  I have a guy that gets all of the new shows downloaded for me, without those agonizing commercials in there.  When you get deployed, and watch any AFN at all, you go through three stages of development.  1st Stage:  You kinda like that there are no commercials, and you find the little info breaks refreshing and new, and, amazingly enough, informative!  2nd Stage:  You actually start to grow extremely tired of the annoying breaks in the action to have some dufus tell you how you should dress when going over to a friend's house in Germany.  Third Stage:  You have watched enough TV sent to you from America, with commercials, to really start to get annoyed again...but this time because of all of the restaurant commercials that make you crave real food, especially when they have snuck your food court out in the dead of night!  That's right folks, no more Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Subway, Cinabon, Popeyes, and most of all, the Coffee shop.

     I do have a new favorite fruit drink...It's called Rani.  They have many flavors, but Orange and Strawberry Banana are my two favorites.  There is real fruit floating in there!  It is as thick as syrup, and probably has about a 2/3 sugar to 1/3 juice ratio, but it is oh so good!  They also make a drink called the Three Jewels, which is even THICKER, and tastes pretty good, too.  It is called three jewels, but apparently has Orange, Apple, Pineapple, and Banana in it.  But no real fruit.  Made by the same guys, though.

     Not sure if anyone was aware of this, but we are suffering through the great microwave popcorn famine of 2010.  Luckily, a few friends have pitched in to send me some provisions to get me through these last weeks without going crazy.  It is so good to crunch on popcorn again.  I guess it is better than crunching on candy...or chewing, or whatever you people do with your candy.  Another thing that I am missing is Gummy Bears.  I purposely did not bring any back with me from R&R because the Sather AFB PX had a whole dedicated to nothing but the Golden Bears themselves.  BUT, when I got there, they had removed them, and had nothing even gelatin-related in the whole place!  And I even turned down a few bags in Leipzig Germany.  

     I better get going, it is after 2300, and I started this thing at about 2100.  Best save some more for later.

Until next time...


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Finally Back to Posting...

As most of you noticed, I haven't been posting much lately...well, by much I mean, not at all.  There was a reason, kind of.  I headed home on the 16th of September, and didn't return until last night.  I didn't want to jinx the trip by posting about it.  Just suffice it to say that I had a great time visiting with everyone, and made it back safely.  I did have some funny experiences, but mostly just great visits with family and friends.  Even met some new ones.

Here are my top observations about life in the 1st world that I found strange upon returning to it:

1.  Driving faster than 35 mph.  That is about as fast as we are allowed to go, so driving faster than that just felt weird.  It wasn't hard to get back into the groove, but it still feels funny driving that fast, especially since I can't figure out why we are all in such a hurry to save 3-4 minutes on our commute.

2.  Riding in a car going faster than 35 mph.  This wasn't just weird, it was down-right terrifying!  They don't make Awe-Shit handles strong enough for me to have been home longer than a couple of weeks.  There is nothing like trying to crack a smile at someone else's driving while your knuckles are turning white from holding onto the awe-shit handles so tight you start to lose feeling in your arm.

3.  People are still not willing to spend money.  Its hot in the desert.  REAL HOT.  I am making decent money, and my spending power is through the roof right now over here.  So when I see a problem that I can throw 50 bucks at to make go away - I throw 75 at it to make sure it never comes back (and stimulate the local economy as well).  Not in the states.  You guys are still willing to put in man hour upon man hours of work just to save a buck or two.  I know that we are in a recession, by it seems like you have forgotten how to spend money - AT ALL.  Spending is good for the economy - JUST DO IT!

4.  Broadcast and Copyright laws.  I get a lot of Satellite channels.  Lots.  I can get just about any movie on DVD for 2 bucks, even BEFORE it comes out at theaters in the states, sometimes.  I can see just about all sporting events for free, and can get just about any software title for $5.  That could be why I have so much extra bank laying around to throw at logistical problems...I'll have to investigate that theory.  It is just funny to me to pay 15 bucks for a DVD or even more for a Blue Ray.

5.  Respect for intellectual property rights.  I missed this.  I understand, first hand, how the Iraqis lack of respect for this has both stimulated their own economy, and hurt their international trade options at the same time.

6.  No odor in the morning.  Well there was an odor when I was home, but it was of my own doing, not some local burning tires, or some oil field on fire, or just general shit burning in the atmosphere.  It was pleasant to wake up to nothing but the smell of fresh air.  It still felt kind-of weird though.

I will add to this list as I think of more things that I felt were weird about the US.  I would have approached this the other way, but that is kind-of what this Blog has been about in the first place - the weirdness that is Iraq.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Big Lazy Me...

I have been so busy getting ready to go on R&R, moving to a new office building, and trying to get internet up at that new office...that I have totally forgotten to write anything.  The soldiers of today's army have a saying "Too Easy!"  I guess it kind-of means that compared to all of the real hard stuff that we do, some things just seem so easy that it is almost without any effort.  To me, writing is one of those too easy that is why I don't do it, it is easy to overlook, almost "too easy," if you will?  Anyway, I just didn't have much to comment about.  The holiday of Eid-Al-Fitr is over today, and tomorrow is back to the normal workday.  We have been basically taking it easy for the past 4 or 5 days.

I have been taking some Ice out to the soldiers and guards out at our school.  When the officers go on vacation, they forget about the soldiers that are stuck there for guard duty.  So I try to take them some ice so that the water that they drink can be kept cold during the day.  The soldiers all laugh at me, and say that I don't know how to take a day off.  We sat today and drank Chai together after I dropped off the Ice (Thellege in Arabic).  They really appreciate the small gestures.  It is amazing how they respond to little things.  Big things, not so much - Like when we do their classes for them, or re-wire their entire simulation center.  Things are done to/for each other here on a much more personal level.  They still see the government as some mythical entity that they hold almost no allegiance to.  So, when we do something that benefits the school, even if it does make their lives a little easier, they see the benefit going to the Iraqi Army (or the Iraqi Government) and not to them individually.  But something like bringing ice, which will result in a chilled drink, benefits them directly and has NO benefit to the mythical "government."

I made a collage of all of my pictures so far into a picture of the country of Iraq.  Here it is.  It only took about 2 hours to render.  Not as bad as the movie that I made of the creation of this mosaic.  It took almost 24 hours to render, and then all it did was produce about 165 Pictures.  I had to run them through a movie maker program to put it into a least I could add music to it.  It turned out ok, but I am not sure I will waste another 24 hours of compute time to make a silly thing like that.  Who would want to see how a mosaic was built, anyway?  But, I've included it here because I like the music.  Not sure of why you would even use this feature on the mosaic making software, anyway.  I did out of curiosity.  Didn't think that it would take 24 hours to finish.
I really cannot even imagine what it will be like to go home this week.  There is no real way to describe this.  It reminds me of going home for the first time for Thanksgiving when I was a plebe at West Point.  I was gone for 5 months that time.  I think that this is the longest that I have ever been away from my home, any home.  It has been almost 9 months since I was home.  The time has flown, the sweat has been sweat-ed, the beer has not been drunk, and now it is time for some R&R.  I wish that I could say that these next few days were going to be easy, but that is just not the case.  I have several meetings, several other things that need to happen...not to go on leave, but just to make sure my guys here are set up for success.

See you all in the states in a little while...

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Mental Gymnastics of it all...

Well, R&R is getting close.  So close that I can almost taste the grease on the pizza and the hops in the beer.   I am also so close that I know that time is short until I leave.  Have you ever done the mental gymnastics of thinking about how much time you have until you have to do something, and the amount of time that it will actually take to do it, then figure out...damn, there just isn't enough time left!  Well, I just came to that realization today about my short trip to Victory for the Jewish Holidays.  Looks like I will have to give up that trip to save the one that I already spent about a thousand bucks on.  Luckily, I was able to score a Machzor so I can get somewhat involved in my salvation.

Before I leave I have to take over the training center here at Taji, in addition to my already having the Joint Training Center.  This will not involve too much, but will involve me signing and inventorying, or inventorying, then signing for all of the other guy's property...just so he can go home.  If I don't give up this trip, I may be keeping a guy from going home after his year is up.  Or, would have to give up my trip to the states.  So I gave up my short trip to VBC for the High Holidays.  I will have to make it up to myself, someday.  Its not easy being me.

My Iraqis got one of those WWII Motorcycles with a sidecar, so, of course, I had to look like a goober and take a picture while on the thing.  It doesn't run yet, so it wasn't like I could ride around on the thing.   I look totally fat in the picture.  Maybe, it is because I am, but my shirt does fit a bit loose these days, so maybe it is just an optical illusion.  But probably not.  I had to include the other pic to prove that it was, indeed, one of those ones with the sidecar.  It was absolutely filthy, so I didn't make anyone get in, although it would have made for a much more hilarious photo.    Not sure why I have this funny obsession with motorbikes with sidecars.  I just really find it funny that they still deliver mail on those things.  And, I suspect, those guys with the bugs in their teeth will be very glad when the Iraqi Army finally gets the next decade or so.  I wish them, and their teeth, well.

Ok, lets all hope that the weather is good when I get home so that I can play a lot of golf.  I didn't waste 250 bucks on a Wii and Tiger Woods 2011 to NOT play golf when I get home.  Pretty sad that I have to use a video game to get in shape for a real game.  I did go by the driving range that we have here at Taji...and yes, we do have a driving range.  But unfortunately (or fortunately, since I have a huge blister from pushing a squeegee all morning yesterday), all of the golf balls were already out on the range.  Apparently, it is a fetch your own damn balls kinda range.  LOTS of golf clubs!  And, since the driving area is on pretty hard ground, there were a lot of bent clubs...would have much preferred to be looking at bent grass, but it was good to look at real golf clubs for a change (not my Wii remote).  I did complete a 4 round 44 under European championship at St Andrews...wish I could really hit the ball 330 yards straight down the fairway, apparently that is a big plus at a place like St. Andrews (or any golf course except Putt Putt for that matter).  Maybe I need to turn up the difficulty level a little?

Well, I need to get to bed...and tomorrow IS a new day, after all.  Maybe I will actually get to the driving range again.  Oh, yeah, the squeegee incident.  We are being forced to move to new building for our offices.  The only way to mop up a year's worth of dirt here is to pour water on it and squeegee it away.  So we were all spending time behind the squeegee...maybe too much time for my hands.  Big old blister on my right thumb.  I don't think that it will hurt the swing, but don't want to make it worse right before I head home for real golf.

Night everyone!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sorry for the lack of updates...

To be honest, I have just been lazy lately.  Haven't been inspired by anything lately.  Maybe I have been here too long without a break.  I am notorious for working too much if given that opportunity...or being too lazy if given that opportunity as well.  I guess you could say that I like living in the extreme.  I thought that I would upload a bunch of pictures here so that you could see what I have been up to.
The first picture is of me giving our Training Officer, LTC Abdul-Rachman an award for his hard work putting together the BDE and BN Commander's course.  I spent a lot of money on these awards, but I think that they will pay off, as we had a lot of other officers that did not get awards ask what they needed to do to get one...more to follow on that one.

 This next one is of the mail carriers that go between Taji and Baghdad every day.  Yep, you got it, in an old world war II style motorcycle and sidecar.  These guy look hilarious, wearing goggles and stuff.  They look like they could have been delivering mail this way for 40 years...without any semblance of a phone system in the military, this is really the only way to communicate in their army.  It isn't like they can email important documents to each other...there is no Internet at the units, at least not at all of them.  Some are lucky enough to have some connectivity.  The rest rely on cell phones and mail carriers!

These two guys are our two best Iraqi NCOs.  Both of them speak very good English, and are our instructors when it comes time to run the simulation.  They are both winning the hearts and minds of the officers at the school, and will, eventually, help make their NCO corps take a more prominent  role in their Army.  I have been trying to convince our leadership that we need to send one of these two high-speed NCOs to school in the US to better learn how to set up the communications systems required in order to run the simulation.  Hopefully, someone, someday, will listen to me.
Finally, this last one is of yours truly, holding a bottle of my new best friend...squeeze horseradish!  You can put this stuff on anything!  I have been squeezing it on matzo crackers and gefilte fish like crazy.  A little bit in your chicken soup is pretty good, too.  It's good for clearing the sinuses, and makes just about any food's flavor come alive.  Except maybe dates, I don't think that it would go good with dates.  Dates are something that I have absolutely fallen in love with.  supposedly, they have like 30000 types of dates here in Iraq, or maybe 60000, either way, I don't think that I have time to try them least not without getting fat. These things are so sweet.  I have some that have been pitted and have been stuffed with nuts.  I hate Walnuts, but they even make walnuts taste good.

Well, I best be going.  I have been playing a lot of Tiger Woods 2011 golf on the Wii, trying to get into golf shape for the trip home on R&R.  Only a few weeks more until I get to head home for a few weeks.  I can't wait.

Until Next time!

Monday, August 23, 2010

I went to bed in Taji, and woke up in Kampala...

Haven't had much to write about lately, and I was quite busy with the Battalion and Brigade Commander's course that we were teaching.  So I have been quite delinquent in my writings.  I found an old picture of a street corner here at Taji taken in 2006.  I was determined to find out where it was taken.  All I could make out was the cross street, Hoosier.  Not all the street signs still exist, and they have done some major re-work (apparently) to some of the buildings, but I was able to locate and snap a photo of the street corner in 2010.  It was actually quite hard to find the right corner, since the street sign is no longer there, and where that corner is located is not a place that we would normally go anymore.  The only way I could really even tell it was the same place is from the tree way off in the distance, and then the power box and shelter.  The building is nowhere near the same as it was just 4 years ago, and they have completely removed the curbs  Just one little piece of the curb remains.

Well, we are in the middle of Ramadan.  And of course no one is eating during the day at the school.  We have to go hide in our office just to get a drink of water.  It is considered bad form to eat or drink or smoke in front of anyone who is fasting...unless, of course, you are a Muslim that isn't fasting!  Then you just blow the smoke in your compadres' faces!  The guys who aren't fasting are horrible to those that are.  Anyway, if you are in America and someone tells you Not to eat in public during the day because it is Ramadan, tell them to get stuffed...the Muslims don't care, why should we?  At least why should we in our OWN Country, anyway?

Last week I went to sleep on Monday night...not too early, not too late.  It was a good night after a long day of training.  I left my CHU to go to work on Tuesday, just like any other day.  I returned to my CHU to find that I was no longer living in Iraq.  Apparently my room did some time-warp thing and ended up in Kampala, Uganda!  All of the guards here in Iraq are from Uganda, and here at Taji, they work for a Company called SOC.  Not sure what that stands for.  Well, anyway, these guys and gals move into my Pod and every piece of outdoor furniture that I have accumulated over the past two months is now GONE!  Also, these people are absolutely fascinated with my satellite dishes.  Yep, you guessed it, they try to move them...making me completely lose the signals again.  Anyway, all is good after I put signs on them to not touch and they belong to a US LTC.  They are scared of me now...not because of my physical ability, just my ability to tell their supervisors (who will send them home).  These guys come over here for 3 years and work 12 on 12 off 7 days a week, no days off.  I guess they get paid more in those three years than they would make in a lifetime in Uganda, so it is worth it to them.  They also, apparently, so not believe in letting anyone else do their laundry.  They use anything they can find to hang up their drying live Internet wires, my air conditioner, their air conditioners, whatever.  Its actually kind of funny.  They also ALWAYS leave their flip-flops on their porches, which leads me to believe that they do understand that someone still owns something even when they leave it outside, well, maybe only if they leave it on their stuff was next to my porch.  Had I actually purchased any of it, I would be mad...but it is not worth ruining their lives (over getting sent home) just for a few pieces of outdoor crap that I accumulated through scrounging myself.

The picture to the left is of us getting ready for the end-of-course exercise for the Brigade and Battalion Commanders.  We had 34 Brigade and Battalions Commanders from around the Iraqi Army and Federal Police come to our school to learn about Counterinsurgency and then conduct an exercise.  It was pretty fun, but a lot of work.  Ramadan kind of got in the way of things, since most of the social things that we would do with them involved eating, so we didn't get to have the traditional after class meal with them.

Not much else going on, except us getting ready for a new month-long course in October.  This one will be dealing directly with simulations.  It should be interesting, since they really want my contractors to teach it, and we really want them to teach it.  It takes twice as long to get through a class when we teach it, since we have to wait for the interpreter to translate for us, which means a lot less can be taught.  Anyway, we shall see how it goes.

I must get going, have to get ready to watch the Liverpool game.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Not much going on...

When you are living in Ground Hog Day, eventually you just run out of material to talk about.  I mean, the same thing happens over and over again, so often, that it is hard to distinguish what I have told everyone and what is just the normal, mundane thing, that I see everyday, but have not told anyone about yet.  Anyway, we have a new mouser in our CHUs.  We didn't seek him out, he sought us out.  Apparently, we either have the best garbage, or the biggest mouse population.  Either way, he is keeping the critters away from us.  His name is Verne.  We are not allowed, officially, to feed him.  But I don't like canned fish (Tuna, Salmon, etc.) so if anyone sends it to me, I may just have to just toss it...I will open it, of course, just to make sure it is, indeed, fish (and not some sneaky way of getting me some alcohol) I guess maybe Verne might get some treats.

So it is really getting pretty hot here.  118 today, and it is taking longer and longer for it to cool down at night. My evening cigar has been pushed back to about 10pm, since it is just way too hot until then.  There is not much else to do, except play Tiger Woods 11 on  my Wii.  It is pretty awesome, but really hard, since the Wii controller is much thicker a Golf Club.  It is also hard to swing at something that isn't there, with a club that isn't really there as well.

We are at the beginning of Ramadan here, which is the month where all Muslims fast during the day-time hours, and then feast after dark.  Or, that is what they would have you believe.  Remember, it is not important for them to actually BE good Muslims, but as to be THOUGHT OF as good Muslims.  Just a fact of nature that is shared by many Southern Baptists, and dare I say, many of us Tribe Members, too.  So some of them will eat and drink, right in front of those trying to fast, some will go hide in a room somewhere, some will go "Wash Their Hands" an awful lot.   Whatever.  But heaven help us if one of us infidels tries any of that in front of them during Ramadan.  We don't have that kind of leeway.  They got into a big argument on Wednesday over if they should be fasting or not that day.  They still rely on someone actually SEEING the first Crescent of the moon to declare it.  It is hard to believe that we can predict the moon's location to a micron, and know EXACTLY when the start of Ramadan is, and have known for several centuries...yet they actually ARGUE over when the start of the month is.  Just one of those things, I guess, that I will never understand.  Then there are the guys that just don't fast...and don't care who they offend or disrespect while the gloriously consume mass quantities of cold water and yummy treats, just to watch their devout friends fume.  I understand them, at least, thumbing their noses at the control that their religion has imposed for centuries on their community.  Not that I would eat in front of someone that is fasting on Yom Kippur, but I do get it.  It is actually a little easier on us during Ramadan, since we do not have to worry about bringing them any ice or water, since it would be "Inappropriate" for us to do so (but not at all inappropriate for them to do so).

So now I am starting to count the days down until I get to go on R&R.  Well, not literally counting, I have no idea how many days...I just know that it is next month.  I really am looking forward to some time off.  But, knowing me, I will be worrying about my team the whole time, and won't be able to rest.  Just another one of my character flaws.  The trick will be to ensure that my Satellite Dishes don't get swiped while I am gone for three weeks.

Speaking of the Great Satellite Caper of 2010...I thought it was over.  But, I was premature in my assessment, apparently.  I came home from work a few days ago to find both dishes missing.  Hmmm!  And it was on the only day that there were actual workers in my Pod, working on the CHUs.  So, naturally, I assume it is them.  So I raised a big stink with the local workers, and then told them I was going to the Mayor's cell to report it.  Nobody knew nothing, but 30 minutes later there is a knock on my door.  The Internet guys were collecting up their old switches, and, of course, asked the wrokers (who know NOTHING about anything) if they could take the dishes, since the guys about to move in aren't allowed to have them.  Of course, now that they know they pissed of a LTC by taking them, they are all apologetic and put them back.  Of course, now I have to reposition them.

So yesterday I finally get fed up with the dishes not being repositioned correctly, and all of my local satellite pointing talent is home for the start of Ramadan.  I am on my own for this one.  Luckily, they didn't move any of the LNBs, and they removed the one I had on a pallet, and didn't take the pallet.  So when they put that one back, it was roughly in the same place it should have been, plus, those satellites are relatively easy to find.  Only trouble is that I picked 1400 to try to remedy the situation.   No one has ever accused me of being very street-smart, and certainly not of being desert street-smart, so the fact that my satellite dish pointing guys always come late at night didn't clue me in to the reason why...the freaking dishes are too HOT!  Not only are the dishes too hot, but the tools, if left outside for,oh, about 1 second, get WAY too HOT to use.  But that didn't stop me.  So there I am, with my flat panel TV, converter box, extension cord, tools, trying to get this thing pointed in the right direction.  The dish on the left in the picture, with the 3 LNBs is the one for the programming, and it was in position in about 45 seconds.  I should have cut bait at that point.  The dish on the right is for the decoder so I can watch all of the good sports channels.  That one has to be pointed at someplace in space the size of a pinhole.  And that dish was WAY hotter than the other one.  I tried, I really did.  But after about 10 minutes in the hot sun (it seemed like an hour) I gave up and decided that I needed to watch re-runs on the free channels until my satellite pointing guys get back from their weekend.  I am getting tired of watching CSI-Miami and CSI-NY re-runs, so I may try again tonight, but I may have to get some help.  We shall have to see.  But anyway, just trying to get all that stuff BACK into my room was a major challenge.  The tools were hot, almost untouchable, and the electronics were not much cooler.  I had to play hot potato with the stuff all the way back to my room (it is really only about 20 feet, but seemed like about 100yds.).

Anyway, it is time for me to start getting ready for my Friday night religious duties.

Later all!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It's Deja Vu all over again!

I am trying to get to Baghdad...and my flight is cancelled, again!  I feel like I am about to repeat the same sad story of hope and despair, of metal chairs and body odor, and worst of all...missed showers!  Anyway, will try again tomorrow.  Will have to see how the weather looks.

It looks like my roll is about to expand.  Seems as though some brilliant planners forgot to back-fill the Training Center here at Taji, and I may have to take over that job as well.  I will have to just keep telling myself that they are giving it to me because I am so awesome...not because they want to punish me for something.  I really just think it is because I have the largest team.  Anyway, have to get running, will write more when I return or don't go...

Miss you all


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A funny thing happened at Dinner tonight...

The team has been working hard, and two of my interpreters have gotten their applications approved for Visas to come to the US, so we thought that it would be time to go out for dinner together on the Iraqi side of the base.  Each of the units seem to have their own little restaurant, so we decided to go to the newest of them, the one owned and operated by the location command.  We had been there before, and new that if we got there early enough, no one would mess with us, and we could be American Idiots and not embarrass ourselves too much.  Besides, one of our interpreters has agreed (demanded, actually) to pay for the whole meal.  There were 11 of us, so even for Iraq, it couldn't have been too cheap.

So we get dinner and have a good time.  Then it comes time for the Chai.  In Iraq, rather than clean up after you, they move you to another table for the drinking of the Chai...that way they are not cleaning up on top of you.  So we sit down at the new table and I notice that there is a fly there that isn't really moving.  Then, after further review, we notice that it isn't a fly, but two flies.  And they are doing the wild thing.  Only it isn't too wild, and isn't very animated at all.  They are just kind of joined by the uglies...

Then comes the hookah...One of my contractors, who just returned from R&R, decides that he wants to have some apple flavored tobacco in his hookah.  Not sure what it is supposed to do to you, but he was definitely acting pretty goofy.   He wanted me to try it, so he tried to lift the thing (not by the base).  Yep, you guessed it, he dropped the glass part containing the bong water, and it shattered everywhere.  The Iraqis, not missing a beat, had a new bong water glass thing under there in seconds, and then had it cleaned up in minutes.  I think that they have done this before maybe?  Anyway, it tasted more like licorice to me, but whatever...It wasn't unpleasant, anyway.   That's a good thing, because I bought one to send home.  It has 4 hoses so that Susie, Rick, Jen, and I can all sit out on the porch and look like idiots together smoking sour apple tobacco or something.

Well, a good time was had by all, so it was all worth it.  We have to be up early again tomorrow.  We bought the refreshments, so we had to take Ice out to the school to cool off the Iced Tea that we bought.  We are trying to show them how if you plan even a little bit ahead, you can have cold drinks in the morning.  We also get to explain how the (U) and (K) on American cookies means "No Pork!"  I am not sure that they need the real explanation.  I mean, it's not like it ISN'T true or anything...

I must get going, have to get to bed for an early riser tomorrow.  Hopefully I haven't forgotten anything that I need to do tonight for work.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A three hour tour, a three hour tour...

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale...or so the story/song goes.  Well, last week I felt like I was living Gilligan's Island!  First of all, I had to go to Victory Base Complex (or VBC) for a 4-hour meeting on Thursday. We are getting ready for a rather important class, so I figure I can leave on Wednesday night, go to the meeting, then fly home late Thursday night.  And although I packed for about two days, I still was not prepared for what lay ahead of me.

First of all, my flight was supposed to leave Taji around 1700ish on Wed. Afternoon.  Only there was this dust storm coming in.  They actually had us kit up in our gear and walked us out to the lift pad, where we all watched in amazement as our two Chinooks circled on by.  We waited around on the 110 degree lift pad for about 15 minutes when they told us that we could go back inside.  Weather hold...another way of saying good-freaking-luck getting a flight on a helicopter!  So about 1030 they decide the flight is cancelled.  Now here is the messed-up part.  They have absolutely no mechanism to get people on flights once their original flight is cancelled.  NONE!  All they could tell us was to show up at 0630 in the morning and try and get out on the first flight to BIAP (Baghdad International Air Port).  Only they didn't tell us that the first bird going out doesn't take any space-available passengers (those of us not originally manifested on the flight - three days earlier).  So we get in there and they tell us that they are not allowed to put us on the ONLY flight that can get me into BIAP early enough to make my meeting, even though there are 7 empty seats on that flight!  So I have them connect me to their ops center where some specialist tells me what I want to hear, but the people in the terminal still don't believe me.  Well, anyway, the supervisor finally makes a call to the Ops Center and gets someone of authority and, wow, he makes it happen.  Only when they call out the 7 people's names that are getting on, MINE ISN'T ONE OF THEM!  unbelievable!   Anyway, a guy I gave a ride to the night prior when our flight was cancelled offered to give me his seat.  He ended up getting on, anyway, so we were off to VBC!

The day got worse and worse, yet they still would not cancel any flights!  Those people get us drunk on hope, and I think they like that.  So after a long day, I catch a ride to BIAP with a Master Gunnery Sergeant and all looks good.  Only the dust decides that it isn't going anywhere, so we sit, and wait...the kind of waiting they did in Casablanca...then they finally cancel the flight about 2330.  Same deal.  There is no system in place to roll people over to the next day.  They took our information down, and put us in for a flight the next day, and told me I had to be there at 0500 to check on the flight.  So I decide I am going to sleep there on the metal chairs, since it is only about 5 hours, and I would spend over an hour just trying to get somewhere to sleep.  If you have ever tried to sleep on metal chairs, with ballistic plates that stop bullets as your pillow, you will realize that I did not really sleep.  They did have free wireless internet there, so I was relatively set...until about 0900, that is.  The free stuff cuts off at about 150MB, and my little computer needed a lot of updates.  So now it is about 0900, No flights are coming in or out (helicopters, that is), and my dime is up on the free internet.  So I go up to the desk to check on my flight.  That is when they told me they put me in for a flight at 2130 that night...I was floored.  They needed me there at 0500 to check on a flight 17 hours later!  Anyway I caught a ride back to VBC with the guys that hosted the meeting.  There they had a tent (with awesome air conditioning) all for me, with a bed, linen, and a relatively clean latrine nearby.

They do have an awesome dining facility there at Victory.  The sports oasis is really nice.  Lots to choose from.  So now it is Friday and I am hanging out with the COIN SOC guys for Lunch and Dinner.  They drop me off about 1830 back at BIAP so I can finally catch a flight back to Taji.  Nothing flew, anywhere, if it was rotary wing.  Still too much dust, and a 4mph wind that was blowing it nowhere, slowly!  This time, I had it all worked out to get back to the tent...only Murphy decided to intervene.  The van that I had laid on to come get me was unreachable due to a problem with some Iraqi workers stealing some food somewhere, pulling the guys that were supposed to get me away from the phones.  So I try to call the KBR taxi service and their number is not working, UGH!!!!  Anyway, I remember that when I first arrived here there was this nice lady that worked for KBR at the Stryker Stables that can make ANYTHING happen with transportation.  So I waited about 45 minutes for a bus to see her.  She was there working, and made it happen.  After about another hour and a half (now it is 2330) I finally hit the pillow back in my private tent (that sleeps 20).  They wanted me to check on my flight at 0600, but told me I could call in this time.

Imagine everyone's surprise at COIN SOC when I was sitting in their offices at 0700 waiting to use the phone.  Now it is Saturday morning.  I went to the Sports Oasis for some breakfast (why is it that I only eat breakfast when I am traveling>) and run into a classmate from West Point.  She is a COL that works there on VBC.  At lest I got to see someone that I hadn't seen in a long time.  Anyway, they danced around if my request to get on a flight was approved for a while, but then finally we found out it was...for 2130 that night, of course.

So we are supposed to get there about 2000 for the flight and we are running late.  I rush into the terminal and the guys there (old pals by now) ask me if I want to get on one that is leaving right then.  I am not pressing my luck with the weather, so I say "ABSOLUTELY!"  They kind of take me the back way through the terminal and get me in line with a bunch of other folks.  A lot of contractors (This will come into play in a few minutes).  Anyway, these contractors have a bunch of luggage with them, so we are riding on a Chinook.  They start piling on all of the luggage, and I can already see that tensions are high amongst the flight crew (I am a leader, I am supposed to notice these things).  Then I see the Crew Chief point at his arms and then point at this female contractor.  She had short sleeves on...a Bozo No-no on helicopters!  Of course, her bag is at the BOTTOM of the Griswold pile of luggage that is on the floor of the aircraft, and she can find no long sleeve shirts.  At this point, I am panicking that Mr. Murphy is about to shit all over me once again.  Then I remember that I have an ACU top in my backpack, buried at the bottom.  So I reach into my pack and pull it out and give it to the crew chief.  The look of relief on his face was visible even behind his visor and NVGs, 1) because he wouldn't have to kick this girl off the aircraft, and 2) because we could finally stop pulling all of the luggage apart.

To make a long story short, I got home at about 2130 on Saturday night...a whole 48 hours after I should have  returned home, and much more smelly and apathetic for the experience.  The cool thing is, I get to do this all over again next week!

See everyone at the funny farm!

I think that I will go smoke a cigar now, take care everyone.

Peace, Love and Rugby!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Been watching a lot of Cricket Lately...

OK, so I have been watching a lot of this boring sport, Cricket, lately.  It has been making me wonder what it would be like if we put together a team of US players to compete on the world stage.  I am pretty sure that we could put together a team of has-been old baseball players and probably win the world cup, so I was thinking of who I would place on that team.

A little background on Cricket.  Cricket is a game played between two teams made up of eleven players each. There is also a reserve player called a "twelfth man" who is used should a player be injured during play. The twelfth man is not allowed to bowl, bat, wicket keep or captain the team. His sole duty is to act as a substiture fielder. The original player is free to return to the game as soon as they have recovered from their injury.  They are, however, allowed to have substitute if you are too injured to run after batting, someone else can be running for you, they just have to be all kitted-up like a hockey goalie, just like the batter.

In order to have a competitive side, you need about 6 bowlers, kind of like our pitchers.  When they are not bowling, they need to be able to field the ball.  A bowler can also only bowl one "Over" in a row, which is 6 balls, so you have to have a lot of them.


1.)  Greg Maddux - Without a doubt, the greatest fielding pitcher in our era, and also a great placer of the ball.  I have no doubt that we could adapt him to the one bounce throw and he would be unhittable.  He would also play a mean Gully or Silly Mid-Off.

2.)  Gaylord Perry - The guy practically bowled cricket while he was in the major leagues.  The way these guys prepare the ball to be bowled is child's play compared to the way he used to doctor up the balls.  In the field, I would put him at Square Leg or Leg Gully.

3.)  Kent Tekulve -  This brilliant submarine pitcher would make an excellent bowler...not sure that his delivery would be quite legal, but I am sure that they could come up with the "Tekulve Variant" or something like that.  Would place him at Slips or Fly Slips.

4.)  Earl Anthony - Ok, so Earl was never a baseball player.  He was, in fact, a Bowler.  A left handed bowler.  And a spin doctor of the bowling ball at that.  He would be what the Cricketers call a leg spin bowler.  Not much of a run up, but the spin he could put on the ball would fool batsmen from Sri Lanka to Australia.  In the field I would put him somewhere like Fine Leg, where his lack of fielding experience wouldn't get in the way much.

5.)  Johnny Bench - Yes, I would put up a catcher as a bowler.  Who gets to throw the ball almost as much as a pitcher?  A catcher, thats right!  Plus, all these bowlers need to be good hitters, too.  Would put him at Cover or Mid-Off when not bowling.

6.)  Carlos Zambrano - Since his MLB career is pretty much over, what would be more intimidating to a batsman as a large Venezuelan with anger management issues?  For that matter, what would be more intimidating to a bowler than having a large Venezuelan with anger management issues as a switch-hitting batsman?  NOTHING!  Thats why it doesn't matter where you put him, these other non-athletes would just be plain scared of the guy!  In the field I would put him at Silly Mid-On so he could really be in their faces!

The Batsmen:

1.)  At Wicket Keeper:  This is the equivalent to our catcher.  I would have put Roy Campanella here.  But I found out that he was cremated, which doesn't really pose much of a threat on the pitch, alive or dead.  So, I would have to put Carlton Fisk here.  A batsman and catcher of the finest order, he would make the rest of them look like little kids.  The Wicket Keeper is a guy who wears aquaman like gloves, and has to handle foul tips all day...perfect for Fisk.

2.) At Long-Off, none other than Sammy Sosa.  That is kinda like their Right Field.  Just to see him knock the ball out for his first 100 would be worth the price of admission.  He wouldn't even need any steroids to do it, either.

3.) At Long-On, none other than Barry Bonds.  Kinda like their left field, and he would be the Yin to the Sammy Sosa Yeng of steroid users gone straight (only because they don't need that abusive power to hit sixes in Cricket).

4.) At Long Stop, I would place the frozen body of Ted Williams.  Frozen, dead, or whatever, he will still be a better batsmen than 90% of the world's players.  I think that he is big enough to deflect balls back into the field of play to prevent the boundaries.  

5.) At Third Man I would put Mark Maguire.  Mainly for his Bat skills.  All we really would need are his forearms.  The rest of him could stay home.  Third Man pretty much just handles foul balls (although there are no foul balls in cricket).  I think that Mark would be up to the task.  The good thing about Cricket, is that unless a Batsmen is put out in one of several ways, he can keep going up there and hitting 4s and 6s forever.  Unless you are playing limited overs cricket, that is.  

6.) At substitute I would place myself, I could sit and drink and watch and hope that no one gets injured, but if they do, I can just go out there, field a few balls, and then resume sipping on my drink of choice.

I am sure that there would be a number of variations to this fine team to include some of our better players, and of course, I meant no disrespect our our honored dead...the disrespect was to the currently "Alive" Cricketers that are currently playing the game.

I must go to work now.  Enjoy the laughter, I hear it is real good medicine!


Monday, July 19, 2010

My very own Wal Mart Greeters!

It has been hot here lately.  So hot that I decided that tonight was a good night for a smoothie.  So I gathered up the requisite supplies (so I thought), and headed back to the CHU for some strawberry banana smoothie goodness.  I had plenty of ice, strawberries, banana milk, banana juice, blender, was all there.  So I make the PERFECT smoothie.  I mean this is the first time that I have been able to get the consistency just right. Then it it hits me as I try to take a drink from the cup...I HAVE NO STRAWS!  I mean this consistency is so perfect that I actually NEED a straw this time.  And I have none.  My Kingdom for a straw!  Luckily I am a lover of the Wendy's Frozen Shake...So I decided just to eat it with a spoon.  But, really, someone send me some straws!

I have the benefit of two of my very own personal greeters when I come into my room.  They are kind-of like the Wal-Mart greeters, but FAR less annoying, and far more reliable.  My greeters, of course, are my two Glade Sense & Sprays...every time I come home and turn on the lights, I get a nice "Hello" from my two pals, and also a nice little puff of fresh linen scent!  They are so good to me.  I have one in the bathroom, I get a little greeting when I go in there, too...but that is just kinda weird to imagine a greeter in your I just ignore that one.  You wouldn't believe what kind of little things that you find hilarious here!  I laugh every time I get back to my CHU, just thinking about these "Greeters."

Is it just me, but when did grown men start wearing capri pants?  I just walked back from the Dining Facility and I saw two Russian dudes, Army Dudes, wearing civilian Capri Pants...some of our Iraqi interpreters wear them too.  I have no idea when this fashion thing happened.  Did I miss something?  I have a hard time believing that there are a bunch of bubbas running around Alabama, wearing Capri Pants, yelling "Roll Tide!"  And I can't imagine it EVER happening.  I will try to snap a picture of this strange phenomenon the next time I come across it.

Not much else going on here, just trying to finish the first season of Stargate Universe...just one more series that is more believable than 24...



Sunday, July 18, 2010

Freezing from the Heat

The temperatures are so ridiculously high for such ridiculously long period of time here, that we just have to do some things a bit different here.  Yesterday I spoke a bit about how the Hot water heater becomes our private "cool" water tank...makes showering, well, interesting.  In order to keep our rooms at a decent temperature during the day, we have to keep them FREEZING at night and in the mornings.  Makes for a cold post-shower. And makes for a cold night, as well.  I turn the A/C down at night a bit, but I have found that if I turn it down too much, I wake up to it being too warm, and then it spends the rest of the day trying to catch up.  Sun comes up early here, earlier than I am willing to wake up, anyway.

What is with the Cubs?  I thought that they may have turned it around...but a 4 run top-of-the-ninth brought me back to reality!  The game was on AFN last night, so I was able to watch 8 happy innings, then one truly sad 9th.  What did Marmol have?  Like 35 walks in that inning?  He doesn't need a pitching coach, he needs a psychologist.  He obviously has the physical skills, but the mental capacity to actually BE a closer...not so much.  IF he ever gets right in the head he will really be dangerous, and probably can be one of the greatest closers EVER!  Somebody get that guy on a couch!

Wrist and forearm are recovering, and wife has forgiven me for the Wii buying caper.  They have tons of bootlegged games here for XBOX 360...but none for the Wii...something about a chip that can't be replicated or something like that.  Anyway, I did get a baseball game called Major League Baseball 2k10.  You can simulate this season...the cubs even do better in the computer than in real life.

I had Madden 2010, but my XO wanted to get his son a game, so I offered to give that one to him...he insisted on paying me for it, so I used the money to get the baseball game.  Madden 2010 was pretty cool, so I will probably get 2011 when it comes out.  I am not good with this extra money.  At least my wife is using the money she spends to improve our beautiful home.

That is all for now...more funny stories of the desert coming soon...

Hugs and Kisses...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Getting Thin...

Today is the last full day with my entire team.  I have already lost one of my NCOs to a transfer, and my XO and Admin NCO are leaving tomorrow for home.  So we will be down to 3 military and 6 contractors.  Not a small team, but not much firepower, either.  It is getting hot hear!

It is so hot, that our cold water is too hot to take a shower with in the afternoons.  I had to turn off our hot water heater so I could have a small "Cold" water tank to thin out the scalding water from the big cold water tank.  It is so weird to turn on the hot water to cool off the flow of water from the shower.  The water does cool off over night, so we have to turn on the hot water to get it to flow through our "hot" water tank to cool it off (the thing is insulated really well, and doesn't cool off just by shutting it down).  Here is the problem...our morning showers will be cold if we don't keep the hot water heater at least at a moderately warm temperature.  We have no control over the thing...within about an hour of turning the thing on, it goes from warm to scalding, I mean REALLY scalding hot.  Great for shaving, bad for showering, especially if your cold water is too hot to shower under.

My wife is going to hate me, and call this "one of the most frivolous purchases since my Mazda RX-7," but I bought a Wii Black edition yesterday.   I see our PX going away within two months, and a lot of boredom ahead.  I figured that I needed something to get me moving...since satellite TV does not really prove to be too interactive.  It came with Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, so now my right forearm is sore from playing ping-pong on the thing.  Now that I think about it, my shoulder is sore, too.  But it's a good pain, I guess.

Not much else going on here, just re-living groundhog day, over and over...just with noticeably less folks here every day.  Oh, and the picture is a MIG from the Ministry of Defense headquarters in Baghdad...pretty funny that a country that has almost no aircraft can spare one for a monument.

Until Next time...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sad day in Gummyland

It seems that the Gummy nation of Brach's Wild 'N Fruity Gummy Bears has experienced some genocide at the hands of my wife and I (with the Iraq heat contributing).  My wife sent me 12 pounds of the little guys...two whole nations of Gummy Bears.  Now I pretty much have two Extremely large Gummy Blobs, with a few of the lucky stragglers still remaining.  Gummy Genocide!  Two whole nations of Gummy's, wiped off the face of the will they ever survive?  Oh, yeah, Brach's will make more.
What I really need are Chip Clips...does anyone realize how hard it is to find those over here?  Not sure why, they have all kinds of useless crap in the PX, but no chip clips.  How is anyone supposed to keep their chips fresh?  I have been using plastic forks.  They work pretty good, actually, but I don't have any confidence in their longevity.   I guess I could use some tape, but the only stuff I have is the electrical kind, and that black stuff gets messy in the heat (in the unfortunate event of an air conditioning failure).

Well, I need to get to work.  Long, hot day ahead of me.  I hope all of you in the US are staying cool.  Drink lots of water.  If anyone knows where I can get one of those battery operated fans mounted on a pray bottle, please send to me or let me know where I can order it...My Brigadier wants to retire, and since they don't have any over here, he can make those for a living...or I can, or someone else can, for that matter...I JUST NEED ONE!

Later all...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What for be the Camp Taji

So what has been going on here at Camp Taji?  NOT MUCH!  Haven't really done a thing since getting back from my short trip tot he IZ.  At least nothing worth writing home about.  We had a little blow-out today in the office...I think it must have been Festivus...because today seemed to be the day for the airing of grievances!  Lots of yelling and screaming, but I guess we needed it, since it took one of my guys getting mad at me to realize that it was a communication problem.  This spilled over to our Iraqi counterparts, and they seemed to have a little airing of grievances themselves.  Maybe NOW we can get somewhere!  Hopefully, these Iraqi Officers are starting to get the message that they can't just sit around all day and let everything be done for them, without caring for their soldiers.

Watching the movie Robin Hood.  It was filmed in the movie theater, along with most of the movies that we can buy here for $2.  It has such a weird storyline...I thought it was just a remake of the movie with Kevin Costner, but I was VERY wrong.  So when I failed to pay attention the first time I tried to watch it, I was lost by 15 minutes into the movie.  Trying to re-watch it now.  Picture is not very good, but is better than watching "Channel Encrypted" on my TV.  Yes, the great satellite Caper of 2010 is a never ending story.  Hopefully new codes are the only fix, and they will be available soon.

Got a box from my lovely wife today...she sent 12 Pounds of Gummy Bears!  I am not sure that I can properly lose weight with that many Gummies on hand.  But I will try.  I also got a box with some yummy loaves of bread (Challah) from  Unfortunately, they took way too long, and one of them had gotten a little moldy.  But three of them made it!  They look awesome.  They were donated by a local Kosher bakery in upstate NY.

I better get going, may have to pause the movie soon to watch the World Cup finals.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Over the River and through the Air, to Grandmother's House We Go

I have these Iraqis figured out.  Either they get their fashion sense from the ghost of my grandmother, or they ARE my grandmother.  I have found some crazy coincidences with the stuff that my Grandmother used to have around the house, and the stuff that the Iraqis push on us.

First similarity - Sesame seed candy.  My grandma (on my mother's side - I would tell you her last name, but then you guys could get into my bank accounts) used to have these sesame candies when I was a kid that I absolutely hated.  Now that my palate is a little more sophisticated, I have grown to love them, but, of course I have not seen these things since my Grandma moved to Florida.  I just figured that she took the entire factory with her down there.  I was wrong...She must have given them to some Iraqi guy (who she undoubtedly shared here sense of flare with fashion).  They LOVE that stuff here, and call it Sim-Sim.

Second similarity - Weird candy that is fruit filled.  Ok, I loved these things when I would go to visit her.  But, like the sesame candy, when she left for Florida, I thought that she took the factory with her, because I never saw that exact brand again.  I think that she also gave all that candy to the Iraqi guy, since I saw that EXACT brand that I remember at the conference that I just attended.

Third Similarity - They both decorate with seemingly random floweriness.  This is odd, since they are ALL guys, have no female influence at the office, and don't anticipate ANY females ever seeing it.  I am not sure if she passed this on to the Iraqi guy, or maybe he gave this to her in exchange for all of the weird little goodies she bestowed upon him.  I may be making this part up, because it makes the story fit, or, maybe she DID decorate with random floweriness, who knows?

Fourth Similarity - When you arrived at my Grandma's house (both, actually), you had to spend a half hour going around and hugging and kissing everyone.  When you arrive at an Iraqi meeting...same thing!  Only these are all guys, and it is a little bit weird.  Haven't quite cracked the code on how many times you are supposed to kiss the cheek.

Fifth Similarity - When you left my Grandma's house, you had to start about an hour prior to when you really wanted to leave, just to give hugs and kisses and say your good-byes.  Same thing at an Iraqi meeting, only, once again, it is ALL GUYS!  I really can't figure out why they do this.  My only explanation is that the Ghost of my Grandmother is coaching them on visitor etiquette.

Anyway, I have concluded that a trip to go to an Iraqi conference is actually just a trip to my Grandmother's house...the only difference is that there are all guys there.  The conference consisted of less substance than you got in conversation with the relatives, and there were a lot less boobs to make hugging uncomfortable...but the fact that they were guys that you were hugging made up for that, and may have even made it MORE uncomfortable than trying to hug your big-boobed relatives.  They serve you the same candies that you have NEVER seen before at the store, and probably never will again.  And then all the hugging and kissing just to arrive and leave.

I do have some overhead shots from Baghdad to share, so I will post them here.  Hope you all enjoy.


Friday, July 2, 2010

My New Obsession....

I have no idea why, but I seem to get hooked on TV shows that I have never watched before.  I finished all of the episodes up to this point of Fringe, so I have moved on to "V".  Funny, I still find even V more believable than 24.  I still can't believe they let them use cell phones in such highly classified places...but, I digress.

The way I see our television heading is in two directions...the fascination with the Sci Fi and then fascination with vampires and immortality.  Cross either one with the hint of a love story, and people are hooked.  That, and of course "Reality TV."  Something I absolutely hate...Reality TV.  I watch TV to escape from reality, and then to be entertained.  NOT to live vicariously through someone else's reality.  And then there is Lost...I never really got into that show.  Not sure what category that show fits into.

We had some mortar rounds hit nearby this past week...I never heard them, all I could hear where those damned vuvuzelas!  I was watching a World Cup game when they cam in, and all I can say is that I only heard those stupid horns.  I mean, really?  Those stupid horns could have cost me my life...someone tell the World Cup people to outlaw those things so I can watch the games...I am blowing this WAY out of proportion, so don't anyone go and get your panties in a wad.  I was safe.  I still hate those damned horns!

We are losing one of our NCOs this weekend to a transfer to another location.  In his honor, we decided to have a steak cookout.  Last night I decided to marinate some of the steaks in Dale's Sauce.  I had a little Dale's accident, however, while I was trying to marinate them.  Some idiot (me) left the cap off the bottle and then knocked it over with his two left feet.  I like Dale's Sauce.  Some that know me, would say that I LOVE Dale's Sauce.  But, when you spill it on the floor, it really does stink up the joint.  And that awesome property of Dale's Sauce (its ability to stick to the food that we marinate with it) also makes it a bitch to clean up, especially when it splatters on to the walls, the furniture, and the door.  It was a funny site, and my mirror still needs to be cleaned.

Did anyone happen to catch me on the Arab news on Wednesday night?  I didn't either, I don't watch the Arab media, since I don't speak Arabic.  But I was interviewed for a few minutes.  I can't remember if I gave my speech before or after the media arrived.  I hope that I gave it before they came.  I would hate to have my face plastered all over the Arab media giving some corny speech that I wrote in 15 seconds...yes, that was how long they gave me notice that I was expected to speak.

Well, we are trying our best to celebrate Independence Day weekend here, but it just doesn't seem the same without beer.  And, also, hoping for NO fireworks.  Fireworks would mean BAD things here.  So we won't be hoping to see anything in the air.  But we can have burgers and dogs and chips and all that, just to make sure it feels a little bit like home.  Hope it works.

I need to get some work done...yes, on my day off.  But, oh well.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

It ain't over til it's over...and it's over!

The seemingly endless Iraqi Federal Police Counterinsurgency course is FINALLY over.  Now I know why our school doesn't teach month long courses.  Besides the fact that they really only are there from Sunday thru Thursday afternoon, and Sunday is usually a light day, it just wears you down to have to fight with these guys to keep up the intensity for 4 weeks.  Luckily, most of the school went on ejazza (leave) at least until Sunday.  No Class until Monday, which means that we can somewhat relax for the 4th of July weekend.  Too bad I have to travel over the weekend to an undisclosed location.

I really hope that the Cubs can pull them out of this funk that they are in.  The Pirates?  Really?  The Pirates have exactly 1/3 of all of their wins against the Cubs.  How does that happen?  Not even the Super Fans could pull them out their season-long slump yesterday.  I wish them well, but I am not sure that I can continue to avoid sleep to watch them screw up night after night.

I will write more later tonight before my weekly Euchre game.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Amazing Aurora Seen From Space - Yahoo! News

Amazing Aurora Seen From Space - Yahoo! News

Don't you just love when they do a story about a Photo, and then DON'T show the photo anywhere in the story? Not even a thumbnail. Sure, you can click on a link to get it, but most people just want to see the damned photo!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I can't hold my tongue on this one...

Did anyone see the Big Z's tantrum last night?  I, personally, loved the tirade!  Tonight, for an Encore, The Lou needs to get himself kicked out of the game...I predict in the 2nd or 3rd inning. Us Cubs' fans need to stop being so much of a negative energy factory, and start just being fans again...Our love should be unconditional.  Let them work it out.  Stop selling out every freaking game if you want your displeasure to be heard.   I blame the fans for us not winning in 100 years.

Over the last 100 years, players have routinely changed over, managers have come and gone, ownership has changed, GMs have changed.  There are only two constants that have been there with the lovable losers for the past 100 years...the fans and the media, most notably, the newspapers.  

Simple randomness would have given us a team that was a winner...I really do think that it is the collective negative energy generated by the never-ending cycle of criticism and second-guessing by the media and the fans.  Yet we sell out every single game!  What message does that send?  Nothing like the sound of 40,000 boos to suck the positive energy right out of a player.  It's hard enough to get a hit 30% of the time, they don't need our discouragement on top of that!  I would rather have 1000 screaming, Positive, people in the crowd than the 40,000 negative ones.  If you want to tell management that you are unhappy with the way they are playing, don't buy the damn tickets!  They'll get the message.  But stop all the freaking whining about not winning, or how terrible they are.  It has no effect except to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Instead, may I suggest, that we pump them up with positive energy, make them believe that the impossible IS, indeed, possible.  It's easy to do when they are winning, but absolutely critical when they are losing.  The answer is not to criticize the players, but to believe in them more and make them rise up above their troubles.

I am not a positive thinking nut-job, either, but a person that believes that the impossible IS possible...the only thing that is keeping it from becoming reality is belief and vision.  Second guessing the manager, the management, or the players does nothing to encourage vision  and belief in attaining what we all think is impossible at this point.  I am just getting really tired of reading all of the negative comments by so called Die Hard Cub Fans.  They are acting like very Die EASY Cub Fans...

The season ain't over til its over (or you are mathematically eliminated)!  I hope that Big Z's tirade was a spark for a bigger flame, make them do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, to get a win streak going.  It will come, I have faith.

Bleed Cubbie Blue...Bleed til they Feel it.

Go USA!  Beat Ghana!


Friday, June 25, 2010

Another Day Off...down the tubes

Well, I shouldn't say it was down the tubes, so much as it is gone now, and I can't get it back.  On this day, at Camp Taji, Iraq, absolutely NOTHING happened.  I only left the room once during the day to empty the trash.  The only work I did was with a hand vacuum and writing this Blog.  I did sleep all afternoon, then woke up in time to watch the All-Portuguese Match.

How does everyone like the new layout?  I like it better, seems the words are bigger and the pictures post properly.  Feedback?

Luckily, with a bit of foresight, I got a couple of bags of ice yesterday to keep my Diet Pepsi cold, been slamming those down today like water, mainly because I am running low on water, and getting more involves getting out there in the heat to get more.  I have this ice-box like room, and I plan to keep it that way.  Opening the door just isn't part of that plan.  I do, however, have to leave the room eventually to tend to the Jewish Flock here.  A small group reduced to myself and  guy who isn't even Jewish...but at least we have real bread now, and dividing an Airplane bottle of wine by two is far more to my liking that by 4 or 6.  Maybe we will have some more people tonight.  I am going to try and get to Baghdad for the High Holidays, I know that we will at least have 10 guys there.  And, I am not going to even try to lead a Rosh Hashanah service all by myself.  I don't even have a white robe.

Has anyone noticed how many Yellow cards have been issued this World Cup?  Has to be like thousands already or something.

I need to get going...dinner then "Drinks" await...


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wow, another week down the drain

It's official!  Weeks are now zipping by like days...however, the months are still dragging by.  It has been 6 months since I deployed.  The picture shows the typical visibility during your typical dust storm...taken yesterday.  I thought that I would recap the past 6 months for everyone.

5 Jan - Got stuff from Ft Benning
19 Jan - Got to Baghdad, future uncertain
22 Jan - Sent on a wild goose chase to Shaibah training center via Al Basrah
Superbowl Sunday - Drank two beers
Two days later - On my way to Camp Taji via Bashrah, Kuwait and BIAP
7 Feb - Arrive at Camp Taji in the middle of a huge Exercise at the COIN School
1 Apr - Go back to Baghdad for the first time to attend a silly conference
Some point in May - Travel to Camp Liberty for a very useful conference
14 June - Did NOT get my two beers for the Army's Birthday
24 June - Feeling a bit nostalgic about my first 6 months here...but not so much that I looked up dates or anything.

At least my satellite dishes are installed and I could watch that AWESOME goal last night by Donovan!  Good on him!  He deserved to get the winner.  I was very into that game for some reason...not sure why.  Didn't even go to dinner, just sat in front of the TV and watched and screamed, and wondered if there is some referee conspiracy against the US!  What is it with these guys?  They could have had a serious scandal on their hands had the US not gone on to the round of 16.  That is two good goals that have been disallowed.  I watch a lot of EPL, and these British announcers almost NEVER get it wrong, especially after watching the replay.  If they say that it is a good goal, you can take that to the bank!  And they have repeatedly said that both goals looked good to them.  I am watching the World Cup on Al Jazeera Sports Channel, and they have the best British Announcers in the Biz doing these games.  I am actually quite impressed that their World Cup Channel is actually all in English and the second audio is French.  Very impressive coverage so far.

Well, time to go to work.