Monday, March 29, 2010

Long Day...

Long Day today. I had to do my OER Support form, so I got up at 0300 to take a shower and write the thing. Of course, at 0330 it is rather easy to knock out something like that so I was done by about 0400. Watched TV, cleaned up some mud...and found myself with a gaping hole in my early morning...I just had to break down and go to breakfast. This is only like the third time I have eaten Breakfast since arriving at Taji, and my first time on the US side. The place is empty which leads me to believe that I am not the only one who thinks that getting up early is just not worth it. Who knew?

I got to accompany my Brigadier as we made the rounds about Taji. First we had a Basic Training graduation. I should have some video up here soon that shows them marching around. Interesting. See those hands swing...at least they don't goose step around. Next we had two Major Generals come visit our school. Nothing like an impromptu visit by a couple of MGs to get a battle simulation up and running. We gave them the Full Monty and showed a battle in Baghdad on the simulation. Next we went to the Training Center commanders office (a full Colonel) for some Chai, then to their dining facility where we all ate around a big table. After that we went and visited one of his Habibis (friends) that commands one of the Brigades here on Taji. We had more Chai, and then some more Chai. Needless to say I was ready to burst, so by the time I got back to our school, I barely made it to the latrine.

I then spent the rest of the day trying to explain in my situation report what happened while we doing all of that stuff, and then try to figure out what its significance was. Not an easy task some times, but today was a good day, so it was easy.

Attended the first Passover Seder here on Taji. It was, well, interesting. Lots of wine, though! We had some COSTCO Sized cans of Matzah Ball Soups sent to us, and several huge cans of other traditional fish stuffs that I dare not spell. Lots of Matzah and plenty of macaroons and candy. Did I mention the wine?

Anyway, I need to get to bed, I am getting use to getting up at 0300 to shower and get ready for the day.

Later all, and Happy Passover and Easter video

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Not sure what this movie is...

video

I am not sure what this movie is, but wanted to try and figure out how to post a movie to my Blog. Let me know how it looks.

Later...

Welcome to the Real World, Iraq...

Well, today was, indeed, a busy day.  Got a lot of questions answered, meetings taken care of, and then more meetings taken care of.  The mud is kind of drying up, but it is sticky mud, kinda like cement without any structure...but in some cases, there at one time, gravel was placed on the road.  That gives it structure, and it hardens quickly like quick drying concrete.  The stuff sticks to you, too.  Really sticks to you, like you have to wash it off by layer, sticky!

Tonight was supposed to be Rugby night, so I really wasn't paying attention to what we were going to be having at the DFAC (I mean Mess Hall - For you Mark) for dinner.  On Sundays we usually play touch rugby until about 2000 and then not even go to dinner.  Remember the sticky mud?  The normal field we play on was reduced to a mud producing shoe size increasing machine.  It would seem that theis mud can take many properties.  When you try and stop on it, slicker than snot on a doorknob...but then when you try and get it off of your shoes, stickier than crazy glue with an epoxy-like property.  You try and take it off your shoes with your hand, it sticks to your hand.  You try and remove it from your hand with the other hand and it is now stuck to both...I think that the mud actually reproduces and replicates.  But where was I?  Oh yes, the DFAC!  So I went to dinner tonight and it is Soul Food night.  Not sure whose soul, but it was chock full of fried catfish, BBQ Chicken, BBQ Turkey Wings, and BBQ Ribs.  They had collard greens, potatoes and corn.  So I got some ribs and corn and Mac and Cheese and head over to what has become one of my favorite stations, the vegetable bar.  There it was, an unlimited supply of asparagus.  Yummy!  So I get to eating all this yummy goodness and I pry the top of my Diet Pepsi.  I finish up and grab a couple more Diet Pepsi's and head for the door to throw away my plate and stuff.  I hadn't completely finished my first Diet Pepsi yet, so I was busy doing that as I left...you aren't allowed to carry out 3 drinks.  So I didn't notice this significant advancement in Iraqi technology.  Maybe you noticed it in the picture.  Yes, they now have pop-tops on the cans.  This is definitely a major leap forward into the 20th Century for them.  When did we get these in the States?  Like 1977 or something?  Anyway, welcome to the Real World, Iraq!

The Great Satellite Caper of 2010 is still not complete, but it seems like I can watch all of the scrambled channels...for about anywhere from 3-15 minutes at a time.  Then I have to turn off my box and turn it back on again.  Luckily there is only a 2-3 second turn-around.  It is something that I had to get used...still getting used to it.  But I was able to watch Liverpool beat Sunderland without much grief.  Excellent win for the Reds!

I must get going, have to get some work done.  Have a great Sunday everyone.

Later

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Return of the Mud People...

I am not sure that I adequately described my new living conditions before.  There is a lot of dirt everywhere.  So when it rains, it gets muddy.  And the mud seems to have a migratory pattern all its own, that literally leads to everyones door.  The picture to the left is the mud that I have to cross to get to the latrine.  It is not kind to shoes, boots, flip flops, or, in my case, Crocs.  I am not sure what it is, but muddy streets kind-of make me not want to walk to the dining facility.  I will post some other fine pictures of the fine mud that we have here.  The Crocs are muddy from AFTER my shower last night, and they are AFTER I cleaned the mud off of the top of them...I got mud in between my toes and up to my ankles!

I had a rather good day today, not much happened.  We got our storage room cleaned out, I found some Business Card stock (so I can print some business cards), and the great Satellite Caper of 2010 took a major turn for the better.  Seem like I get all of the channels now, they just go in and out because we don't have a very good base for the Dish to sit on.  It seems like the digital signal that "Authorizes" the scrambled channels needs to be damn close to perfect or it loses the ability to unscramble -- that, or they constantly send out a signal to screw with me so I have to turn my box off and back on.  Probably the latter.

Not sure yet what I am going to do tomorrow, just know that I have to fill out my OER Support form.  For those of you that don't know what that is, the OER is the Officer Evaluation Report.  The support form is the thing that you counsel the officer(s) that you rate.  The officer is responsible for filling out his own form.  It is one of those pain-in-the-ass things that you just gotta do.  So I have to knock that out tomorrow.  It also helps those that you rate write their own when they have your's...I just received my boss' support form, so I can finally do mine.  Then I can give mine to my XO so he can do his...he is a pretty squared away guy, so I am sure that he already has his done.  I am such a procrastinator.

Anyway, happy Saturday night to everyone, and I hope that it is a good one.  Please drink a beer for me...if all of my followers (14) have one for me, I will be pretty vicariously drunk!

Later all!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The wine tastes better when you have a good day!

The Huntsville Rugby Club's Founder and first coach used to say, "The Beer Tastes Better When you Win!"  I had to adapt that to hear, mainly because I am not playing in any game that I can win, and, because the only thing I can get my hands on was the Friday night religious wine...But it tasted good!  Mainly because I had a good day.  I had most of the day off, so that may have had something to do with it.  I woke up at 5 am, completely rested.  So I watched some television and got ready to meet one of my wife's friends, who is in town here at Taji for a few days, for coffee.  Turns out she is here helping a guy from my old unit, so I was able to see someone else that I knew.

It almost didn't matter that my thingy so I get free channels still isn't working right.  It does get the fashion Channel...so I get to watch hot models walk down the runway all day long...which is nice!

Had seafood for dinner, lots of deep-fried shrimp and scallops, and lobster-butts, too!  Felt kind of weird going from eating Lobster Butts to Friday night services, but its Iraq...I almost forgot it was Friday...it just felt like Ground Hog Day again to me.   Yogi Berra would love this place...Its deja vu all over again, every day!

Plus, I topped the evening off with a Strawberry Banana Smoothie...Went in for a Triple White Chocolate Mocha, but since it was a little hot, I went for the smoothie.  Good call, it cooled me right off.  Now I sit here--typing to no one in particular, yet updating everyone.  I hope I have some readers.

I can't wait for the baseball season to get here.  I am running checks on MLB.TV to make sure it will work...haven't got it to run yet, but hopeful.  I must watch my CUBS!  The Lou will make this The Year!

I must get some needed TV time!

Later all...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More of the Same

Not much happened today, except internet woes and communication breakdowns.  But that is getting to be normal around here.  The next thing to go is probably our one day a week that we are off.

Update on the great Satellite caper of 2010...we have it hooked up, but for some reason my thing won't work the other thing that gets me the unscrambled channels.  I traded my thing that wouldn't work with my XO, and it worked in his thing...and his that was working with his thing doesn't work with my thing...more to follow.  It worked for about a minute, so I know my thing works, maybe the connection is bad on the roof?  Who knows?

It is almost 11pm, and I still have my uniform on.  I guess I need to get out of this thing, but I just got done sending in some information on some visitors we had.

Better get to sleep now, I have to get up early on my day off tomorrow.

Later

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

But I have to write something...

Tonight was more frustration than anything else.  Apparently last night there was a communications problem with email.  Nothing was going in or out of one system, and I was sending my update on another one...needless to say, the signals got crossed, and instructions got all fowled up...so we never made it to the Bingo Parlor.  And now people are pissed, but they don't even know why.  And all because the people in the big city have no earthly idea of what goes on in the world.

Anyway, The great Satellite Caper from last night is still not complete, but at least I have the free channels!  I can watch Fox Series with Arabic sub-titles and Fashion TV Arabia as much as I want!  And all kinds of Soccer.  Sometimes, I can watch it with 4 different sets of announcers doing the same game...all in Arabic, of course!

Bottle of Balli Cerez is about 3/4 done...I had to pick through and throw out the Walnuts...they are disgusting, even if they are covered in honey!

The only real problem I see with this TV stuff is commercials for food...I am now pretty hungry because of the darned ice cream commercials.

Time to go to bed.  I'm pissed at my HQ in Baghdad.

G'day all.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Great Satellite Caper of 2010

I finally received my Satellite equipment today from my good Muqqadam at the school.  Two satellite dishes, 3 LNBs and 2 receivers...I have no idea what all the stuff is for, so my interpreters are doing all the work.  A happy Muqqadam means happy interpreters to them, I guess.  The thing is, it is dark and they are still on the roof working.  They got a little TV up there, a long extension cord, all of the boxes...great if I want to watch on my roof, but we still haven't even run the lines into the rooms yet!  My XO and I each purchased the same two receivers, and will share the 2 Dishes and 3 LNBs...that is when we can figure out what the 3rd LNB is for.  May have to talk to the guy at the school, but this time with my interpreters there.

Anyway, today we had some rather senior ranking Iraqi Army and Police officials come to visit us.  When I get some pictures, I will post them.  I wasn't even taking any today, so I will rely on my guys that were snapping the photos to send to me.  I think that our little school is finally making a name for itself, since this is the second set of generals to visit in about a week.  We have the only battle simulation capability in Iraq, and I think that they are starting to see how valuable that training is.

I need to get back outside and "Supervise" the activities.  It really is kinda funny.  Don't want to miss anything hilarious or something like that.

Later... video

Monday, March 22, 2010

Another Manic Monday...

Got to see the 1st Iraqi Chemical Company (of the new Iraqi Army) graduate from their training today.  They had a full band that played.  I am used to having these trumpeters at the gates of the individual Iraqi camps when an important Officer visits, but those guys are pretty much just handed a trumpet and told to blow...these guys could play.  And, since this was a company of soldiers that all know each other, the graduation got rather spirited with chanting and dancing and all kinds of stuff.  They are some awards handing out, gift-giving folks.  And to them, the left hand is a dirty thing...so they try to never touch anything that they give to others with their left hand.  So to watch the Salute, shake hand, certificate pass all occur with the right hand is certainly a site to see.  At times, the band was playing, the announcer was calling up graduates, the soldiers were dancing and clapping...it was a regular three-ringed circus!  They even had a short break for Pepsi and cake for us senior-ranking people.

More on the left hand thing...Apparently, they do something while they squat over the porcelain--lets call it a hole in the ground--with that left hand that makes it "unclean."  I am not really sure what they do in there, or even HOW they do it.  There is no toilet paper, just a porcelain hole in the ground, a spigot, a pitcher, and a thing that flushes.  To me it seems like the "Three Sea Shells" in that Sylvester Stallone movie...I once asked one of the guys what I was supposed to do, since there was no toilet paper and he responded that was what the water was for...I held it.  I am still, to this day, confused on how these guys take a dump.  I guess it is what you grow up with.  I know that if we installed toilets in all of the stalls, they wouldn't use them.  They would do the old female hover thing and end up making things more dirty than with just that porcelain hole.  To them, it is far more disgusting to sit on a seat that someone else sat on, than to get poop on their left hand. They do wash up afterwards, so not sure why they still find the left hand disgusting...I find the whole thing disgusting, and I am personally thankful for proper toilets.

Cubs Trivia Question:  Who was the last Cubs player to hit 15 or more Triples in a single season?  Answer tomorrow.

Random Movie Quote:  A way out west there was a fella,
             fella I want to tell you about, fella 
                         by the name of Jeff Lebowski.  At 
                         least, that was the handle his lovin' 
                         parents gave him, but he never had 
                         much use for it himself.  This 
                         Lebowski, he called himself the Dude.  
                         Now, Dude, that's a name no one would 
                         self-apply where I come from.  But 
                         then, there was a lot about the Dude 
                         that didn't make a whole lot of sense 
                         to me.  And a lot about where he 
                         lived, like- wise.  But then again, 
                         maybe that's why I found the place 
                         s'durned innarestin'."

Glad you stopped by tonight...

Later

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Bees Knees...

Rugby is the Bee's Knees.  Well, it does something to my knees.  Hard surface, no cartilage in the knees makes for a pink beacon of light coming from my knees.  The lights didn't come on until a few minutes after dark, but I am serious, we didn't need them.  The pink light was enough.  I am starting to really look forward to our Sunday afternoon touch rugby sessions.  We go from about 1730 until about 1930, which is a pretty long time to be out there running and playing, essentially, 7s.  Even when I was fit and had good knees I would only practice 7s about an hour and a half...So there is at least one night a week that I can feel like an athlete again.

I actually found that rubbing my knees with cold Diet Pepsi cans is kinda like an ice massage, so I have been doing that when I get home from Rugby.  It is kind of a silly site to see; luckily no one can see me.  But I guess you guys have that mental picture now, so my secret is out.

In the wacky world of Army stuff...this just in:  Those vehicles that we told you you can transfer over to another group that has already gone through...yeah, reverse that action!  Unbelievable.  Not sure what happened there, and if I wouldn't have asked a silly question to a benign email, we would have transfered the vehicles already and not even had them...not that we need them, or have EVER even moved them.  What a waist.  Anyway, don't go screaming to your congressmen, they have enough problems trying to spend our hard earned money on health care reform that will completely ruin our health care system.

Random Dave Barry Quote of the Day:  "But the point is that the male is trying.  He believes that having sex is the central biological reason for his existence.  All guys do.  We guys get accused of just wanting to have sex a lot, but the truth is that we have been entrusted with an extremely important responsibility--the very survival of the species--and by gosh we're going to try to carry out this responsibility, even if it means we have to try to have a lot of sex.  Don't thank us; we're just doing our job."

Good night all, and have a happy tomorrow!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Anniversary Dad

Today is the Anniversary of my Father's 25th Birthday...which one is a secret.  So Happy anniversary Dad!  Anyway, wanted to dedicate this post to some memories I have of one of the best friends and fathers anyone could ever have...even if he spends his days putting his fingers in people's mouths.

First Memory of my father:  Everyone has pictures in their heads of when they were growing up, but there is always one that stands out as the earliest one that lasts longer than about a few seconds...We were in Miami Beach, I was about 2 1/2 years old.  I remember wearing this awesome hat, kinda like the one that Gilligan wore in Gilligan's Island.  I was pretty scared of the Ocean, but if I threw my hat in, my dad would run into the water and get it...so I through it in there about a thousand times...he always was there to get it for me.

Most Memorable Memory together with my father:  None other than Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Walter Payton, 275 yds, and possibly one of the greatest performances, in any sport, I have ever been in attendance for.  We actually have a lot of memories together at Bears' games.  He did take me down to meet the Honey Bears after one game (Cheerleaders, when they had them)...I took two friends with me...I was a hero, at least he made me feel like one.

Other great memories:  The time I won state in Freestyle Wrestling my junior year in high school.  My dad was there the whole time, cheering me on.  It was quite possibly the hottest days in Northern Illinois University history.  I wasn't supposed to do so well, either.  I remember doing some weird move in my final match and seeing my dad there watching, and somehow I knew that I was going to win the thing.  I was exhausted and probably would not have tried so hard had he not been there.  He made me feel like a champion.

Most of the other memories are too recent and too vivid to single out, but suffice it to say that I would definitely not be the man I am today without his constant support and advice.  And my love of Golf...I owe it all to him!

Thanks Dad, I love you.

Jeff

Friday, March 19, 2010

Waiter, more wine!

Tonight's post was somehow deleted due to operator (read: My) error.  Suffice it to say that I had a glass of sacrificial wine, I am going to be the senior MOT here in about a month, my Balli Cerez is about 1/3 done, and I had something funny to say about all of it...But I am too tired to re-type it.  Crap!  Anyway, miss you all.


After While Crocodiles...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Eureka!

At last, I have found the fountain of youth and vitality.  Who would have thought that it was lying in wait for me in some obscure Iraqi store buried on Taji somewhere?  It is none other than "Balli Cerez."  And that is Cerez with a funny looking squiggle on the bottom of the C...  Right there on the label it reads, "For every one who wants to be young with a strong mind and nerves for every old man who dreams to have his youth back."  And then there is this picture of some bodybuilder on it.  What this stuff is made of is pure honey and a bunch of chopped nuts...all kinds of nuts.  What it tastes like is honey, mixed nuts, and a hint of pencil shavings.  Not that I know what pencil shavings taste like, but there is this aroma coming from it while you eat it that reminds me of how pencil shavings smell.  It is actually quite good.   I can't decide if the muscle dude posed with a jar of the stuff on his head, or it was super-imposed...Maybe I should ask the talking goat?  It is actually produced in Turkey, and, apparently has a two year shelf life.  But honey is good like that.

Dust storms tonight, so I can almost taste the dust coming into my CHU.  The stuff blows so hard that any crack to the outside is very evident.  I am not doing too bad.  But it is a cold night...which I don't mind too much.  I will love to have something this cold in about a month, I am sure.  I am trying to type this post without looking at the keys...practicing my typing skills!  But I seem to only be really good at the back space key right now.  Ok, typing experiment over.  I stink at it.

I am off tomorrow, but I am not sure, yet, what I am going to do.  Possibly, finally, get to the gym?  Maybe?  Who knows.  Maybe I will just sleep in and then get up and do my taxes.  I really have a lot of energy right now...wish that I had something to do or someplace to go, actually.  Might have had something to do with the two Blue Monsters I have had tonight?  Who knows.

I began my investigation into the moth balls, or lack thereof, here at Taji.  Since most people that are here did not go anywhere else in theater, they all give me blank stares when I ask about them.  It could also be because I have yet to see a urinal here at Taji...only stalls.  Hmmm, that is something else that needs some investigating.  Already off on a tangent investigation.  For some reason, the Iraqis have a holiday on Sunday, so no real work for us until Monday.  We will work half-days on Saturday and Sunday to ensure we stay on our "A" game (RIGHT!).  We will work, but only enough to make sure we don't have to work very hard on Monday.

Must go in search of something to do...

Later all!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

ooh, ooh that smell...

As my family can attest to, I do like the occasional bag of microwave popcorn.  Ok, it is more than occasional, it is pretty much nightly.  I have been without the stuff for quite a while.  So last week, when I finally got a microwave oven I bought some popcorn to make.  Well, that was the day that the power was out, so I didn't get to try any for a day or so.  What did I do the first day?  Burned it, of course.  Burning microwave popcorn is a kind-of rite-of-passage for any microwave oven/operator...but the smell is pretty terrible (even though I do like the taste, sometimes).  Now imagine burning microwave popcorn in your small bathroom at home, not having an exhaust fan, and having to sleep in there, too.  So I ate that bag on the front porch with the door and window open to get rid of the smell.  Those first three bags that I bought were the "light" butter variety, and didn't have much odor when popped (correctly).  Well, I am on my second batch of popcorn, this time I went for the butter lovers.  I didn't bother to open the window (just the door) while i ate a perfectly popped bag of the Butter lovers.  I am not sure that I will ever be able to eat this stuff again.  The stench is overwhelming...more so than the burnt popcorn.  Kind-of a mix between buttery goodness and milk puke.  Not appetizing at all.  I am going to stick to the light butter from now on.  Lesson learned.

Today was a good day at work.  We got a lot accomplished and had a great sit down with my IA counterpart, the Brigadier.  I am going to let him remain anonymous.  He was giving us all kind of Iraqi cultural stories from his childhood and some of life's lessons that he has learned.  Funny thing...they are the same life's lessons and stories that ALL of us have, especially the ones from a large extended family.  He has the same trouble with his kids that we have with our's, he has the same spousal troubles that we have with our's...the list goes on.  They do, however, have the gift of gab...how you say something is almost as important as what you say.  But always, no matter how uncomfortable the topic might be, we leave laughing and happy.  Our Brigadier has great timing for laying down a zinger and then leaving...us laughing our arses off.  Anyway, good, happy day all around.

Cubs Trivia Question of the Day:  Who was the only Cubs Player to lead the National League in home runs in the 1970's?  Answer tomorrow in the comments.

Random Movie Quote of the Day:  "You know dude, I, myself, dabbled in pacifism at one point...not in Nam, of course."

Hmm, just realized that there aren't any moth balls here...I must investigate this strange phenomenon!  More to follow.

Out Here...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gummi Bear Rationing

It has been over two weeks since receiving the 5 pound bag of Gummi Bears.  I still have over 2.5 lbs of it left.  I am not sure that anyone can grasp the amount of self-control that I have had to exhibit to maintain a strict Gummi Bear rationing schedule.  I am very grateful that my father, a dentist, bit his lip and sent it to me, against his better judgement as a dentist (who has personally placed most of the dental work into my mouth in the first place), and as a father acting as a gummi bear-aholic co-dependent.  I am, as I may have already mentioned in so many (or not so many) words is that I am a Gummi Bear Snob.  I can only eat the Haribo Golden Bears with any satisfaction.  I can (and have) eat the other kinds, but I get no satisfaction or pleasure relief from them whatsoever.  That's not true, I do get some pleasure, but it does not relieve me of my craving for the good stuff.

It is kind of funny, though, that the Iraqis really don't care for them...I have offered them up, and a few of them have even tried them.  But they usually just try them to be nice.  Not sure if it is the sweet-tartness, the chewy consistency, the thought of eating a bear of any kind, or just that they think that my fingers poisoned them or something.  They do, however, find much amusement in my addiction to them (as do I, or couldn't you tell?).

I laid some coin down on a new satellite TV system today.  Supposedly there is the Muqadam (LTC like me) at our school who knows a guy who knows a guy that can hook me up with about 4,000,000 channels for the low, low price of 187,400 Iraqi Dinar, or about $150...I figure that I am going to need it once the world cup starts up...small investment for free TV.  At least there is no monthly fee.  I am already paying $60 a month for Internet that is slower than dial-up on a good night.  But...it does bring me to you, at Ft Livingroom, America...Love you all, mean it!

Random Movie Quote:  "There's nothing wrong with a little feast on OUR Time?"  Don't know why I am stuck on Fast Times...


Later all!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sometimes, there is no right answer...

I have been dealing with a (lack of) communications issue with Baghdad since I got here.  They can't get a hold of me, or anyone on my team during the day.  I have given them plenty of phone numbers to try, plenty of email addresses to try...but they still don't get it, when we are actually doing our jobs (that would be spending time actually advising our Iraqi Counterparts) no amount of phones or emails are going to be able to get a hold of us.  I don't care how many times we explain the situation to them, either.  Even if I was to post someone on a phone 24 hours a day, they still would not have any communication with the rest of us.  Enough about that.

If anyone has any old Christmas lights that they want to get rid of, please send them my way...we are trying to set up a little "Margaritaville" on my back porch, and want to light up the place.  DON'T, I repeat, DON'T anyone go buy any and send them to me...only send old sets that you don't want.  If you need my address and want to send anything, please leave your email address and I will send you my mailing address.

Random Dave Barry Quote of the Day:  "Contrary to what women believe, it's fairly easy to develop a long-term, stable, intimate, and mutually fulfilling relationship with a guy.  Of course this guy has to be a Labrador retriever.  With human guys, it's extremely difficult.  This is because guys don't really grasp what women mean by the term relationship."


Cubs Trivia Question of the Day:  Which future Hall of Famer was manager of the Cubs from 1966 to 1972?
Answer tomorrow.

Later on, dudes and dudettes

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Strong Men Also Cry...

I guess that I created a stir today when I posted that title on Facebook.  No, I am not depressed, hell, I haven't even cried in about a week.  I was watching one of my personal favorites, "The Big Lebowski," and that was the last line that I heard before I had to shut down and go to Rugby Practice.  I come back, and BAM...everyone thinks I am suicidal at the worst, and depressed at best...Rest assured everyone, the only time I have even come close to crying was when they told me I had to give up my bathroom...and that was just for about a day or so.

So why am I such a Big Lebowski fan?  I have no idea.  The movie kind of grows on you.  The first time I saw it I thought that I must have seen the wrong version or something, because I thought it sucked.  Then I forced myself to watch it about 4 or 5 (hundred now) times until I "Got it."  The Dude abides...simple, yet elegant.  I guess we all kind of wish that we could be known as "The Dude" from time to time, but were either too timid to "Self Apply" it, or there was no one around bold enough to give it to us.  I did go steal a rug from a guy in a wheelchair (actually I bought it because I couldn't find a guy IN a wheelchair)...but it DOES tie my room together.  It is tan so it can hide the dust well, and goes with the whole desert motif.

I would, on a side note, like to thank all of my well-wishers who were concerned with my mental state earlier today.  It is very warm and comforting to know that while I was out laughing it up, playing touch rugby, all of my friends were worried sick about my mental stability...except for my neighbor, Rick...he knew better.  I almost shed a tear for the Blackhawks tonight...two freaking nights in a row!  C'mon fellas!

I must retire for the evening.

Later all...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I just realized...I have a lot of time on my hands!

As I sat down to start copying some disks that we need for work (let's call them Back-up copies, so I don't get into any trouble) I realized that it will take approximately 15 hours to completely transfer all of the data to my computer.  Then I have to transfer that data to a portable hard drive.  That is a lot of time.  Then I started to put that into the perspective of how long I will be gone...and it seems so small.  Which lead me to thinking about a theory I have had off and on for several years about the perspective of time.  This is some major theoretical shit...of which, I am probably totally full of, but I shall dispense this theory here, to you, my 1 or two loyal readers (judging by the comments...no, really, feel free to comment and interact, otherwise I will continue to feel the loneliness of command all by myself).

Did anyone ever wonder why time seemed to drag on and on while we were sitting in school, waiting for that afternoon bell to ring?  Why when our parents used to go out and leave us with a baby sitter we didn't particularly care for, it seemed like days, rather than hours for them to return?  Aside from the undeniable truth that time flies when you are having fun (so we can discount anytime that time flies by as happening under that given truth), time drags at an ever changing pace, depending upon the perspective of the observer.  Remember, this is only my theory.  But when you are 1 day old, let's say, a day is equal to your ENTIRE lifetime, so that day, for you, has the perspective of a lifetime in length.  And a year to a 60 year old man will have the same perspective as a week to a 60 Week old baby (if that baby could actually think about such deep ca ca as this).  Do you start to see where I am going with this?  This is why our children can only sit still for 30 minutes at a time, or less even.  To them, that 30 minutes has the same perspective as several hours to an adult.  I don't think that children have such short attention spans as everyone else thinks, when you put it into perspective with their total time on this earth.  We tend to judge things with our own set of values and beliefs and experiences -- what could be more individually unique than our own perspective of how long we have been alive?   There are roughly 86400 seconds in every day.  When a new baby is born, each second has the same perspective to him (or her for gosh sake) that a minute does when he (or she, yes, thank you) is 60 days old and that an Hour does by the time he (or SHE) is almost 10 years old.  These are extreme examples, but easy to see how the perspective of time passing is all in the mind of the beholder based upon his (or her, I get it already...) total time breathing.  This is only a theory, I could be wrong, but at least I wasted some time.  My deployment will now be a few minutes shorter.

(No 'TIME' was injured, tortured or mutilated during the publishing of this post...it was, however, KILLED!)

Later...

Friday, March 12, 2010

First Black Out...

Wouldn't you know it...the day after I buy a fridge and microwave oven, the power goes out.  Not just the normal kind of power outage that lasts a few minutes.  This was one that lasted all freaking day!  No water to shower with, shave with, no air conditioning, no internet...no NOTHING!  It finally came back on after a long and hot day.  We were over on the Iraq side of the base and they had power.  I mean, come on...those guys never have power.  Their commander's actually turn off the power to save diesel by not running the generators.  Every dollar they don't spend on Diesel, goes into someone's pocket...

So today was basically spent shooting the breeze with my guys, smoking cigars, drinking not-so-cold Diet Coke, and just generally not having fun on our day off.  I think that I will give everyone another day off this week, but will have to stagger it, since we have a class coming up.

I finally put up this full-length mirror that I found behind one of my wall lockers.  I call it the "Inspiration."  It is a little warped from being behind a wall locker against the wall for who-knows how long.  It bows a bit in the middle.  It makes you look fat around the mid-section.  Not as bad as a circus mirror, but just enough to say, "HEY!  I can't be THAT Fat!"  Pushing it towards the wall a little reveals a better picture, but I will stay with the inspirational look for motivation.  I need to rid myself of my "spare tire."

I did have a good breeze going through my room today, only draw-back is I now have a flying insect problem.  I need to get a good bug zapper, purely for entertainment value.  Anyway, glad the first power outage is behind me.

I am going to sign off now and have some microwave popcorn...what else would I have gotten a microwave for?

Later Gators...  

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Happy Birthday Susie!

     I would like to dedicate this post to my favorite person in the whole word...my wife.  She is my hero.  Mother, Wife, Citizen, and Soldier...Survivor!  It is her birthday today!  Happy birthday, honey!  She is the reason I wake up, and the reason I sleep well at night.  It isn't until we are separated, on purpose or by accident, that we truly see the strength or failure of a relationship.  We have been separated our share (and dare I say more than our share?) of years because of the military.  We have been through the worst of times and the best of times.  But always, still, was our love for each other.   With every growing year I grow fonder and fonder of her.  She is the reason I am happy.  9 years ago, to the day, our lives changed...for the worse, and the better.  There was this lump... the rest is, as we like to say, history.  It was her beauty and happiness that originally attracted me, but her courage and will to live, through the cancer, that kept me in awe all these years!  I can honestly say that I am married to my best friend, and can't wait to spend the rest of my life with her.  And, I am not afraid to say it, either.

     So this is like her 25th birthday...again, and I am stuck her in Iraq.  With only pictures and phone calls...but it is enough to keep me going until I can get home and hold her again.

I love you, Susie.  You are my love, my life, my all.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Oh the Irony of it All!

Well, I made my move over to the coalition side.  Downside:  No TV, yet; No Fridge, yet, No Latrine in my room, ever; if it rains, mud between my room and the 62 steps to the latrine.  Upside:  Internet almost as good as I had it over on the Iraqi side (but I have to pay $60 per month, so it is also a negative); I will eventually have TV; I will eventually have a fridge; I have more room and more storage space; I can walk to the 24-hour coffee shop whenever I want.  I can walk to the Big DFAC, and I can walk to the PX late as well (they have Taco Bell and Burger King and Subway).  The place kind of stinks, but nothing that a few air fresheners can't handle...only problem, the PX is out of ALL air fresheners!  And sheets, and pillows...you name it, they don't have it.  But they have tons of food and drinks that I can't store because I don't have a fridge yet.  I am sure that by the time I get a fridge, all food and drinks will be gone.

Tonight was my first night on the US side...and where did I eat dinner?  Back on the Iraqi side, of course.  This is one of those ironic days.  I pretty much have eaten almost every meal so far over here on the US Side since I have been here...but of course tonight...NO.  I had a web conference that I had to attend over at my office, which, of course, is on the Iraqi side.  Not that it is dangerous, it is just over on the side where the Iraqi Army lives and has their schools.  We are, for the most part, allowed over there, and they, for the most part, aren't allowed over here, without escort, anyway.

At least now I have some room to do Pushups and situps...not that I WILL do any, but the thought that I can is comforting.  I will have to come up with a viable shower schedule now to ensure I have hot water, no crowds, and takes the least amount of time...I think that I am going to have to go back to nighttime showers before I go to bed.  My Air conditioner is working like a champ, even though it is small and looks a lot like a mini-me of the old window air conditioners our parents used to have in the 1970's.

Anyway, I am off to bed.  Want to wish my lovely wife a happy birthday!  Her Birthday is on the 11th, but I wanted to say it now.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HONEY!

Later...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Last Post, maybe?

This may be my last post for a while...at least my last from my own room.  Have to move out of the palace tomorrow and into the dungeon.  On the bright side, I will have enough room that if I buy a Wii I can actually play it.  I suppose that it won't be so bad, I will closer to the good DFAC, the PX, the Coffee Shop, and the Rugby fields.  But, I will be further from the job, which is not so good.  I can't believe that they are actually going to make our jobs harder...ON PURPOSE.  What are they thinking?

Anyway, today was a good day.  We found power adapters for all of our IP Phones, we found a brand new Rack-mounted UPS, tons of office supplies and a bunch of cleaning supplies.  Not bad for an hour at the junk (I mean re-utilization) yard.

I just hope that my CHU doesn't get mad at me for leaving it tomorrow and electrocute me while I am showering for the last time...

I will write more when I can...

Until I write again...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Its Alive!

My CHU senses that something is wrong.  This morning my water wouldn't work right...so I couldn't shower.  It must have sensed that I will be moving out of it soon.  After it went out of its way, and all, to welcome me with a massive flood to the bathroom with comfortably warm water...I hope that I will at least be able to escape without some kind of electrical incident.  That would be bad.

Still waiting to hear the results of the elections, but they went very smoothly for where we are.

Not much happened today...Did go to my first military version of a garage sale, though.  A unit out of Ohio is getting ready to leave in the next week, and they are trying to sell all of the electronics and appliances that they bought while they were here.  Very good deals, plus they were giving away three big freezers.  I think that we took one of them.  Not sure where we will put it, but it will hold a lot of steaks!  They do sell steaks in the PX.  Now that I have Dale's sauce, I can see us grilling steaks more often.

Later all...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rugby Night...

Got my first rugby run in tonight.  My knees are sore, my thighs are sore, did I mention my knees?  There were a  bunch of Brits and South Africans there, so the rugby was actually at a pretty good level.  It was just touch, thank heavens!  Imagine playing rugby on a clay tennis court.  That is what it felt like.  And, from what I understand, this is a major improvement from last year.  I haven't really played rugby since October.  I am happy to say that the moves are still there...the wind isn't.  I could barely breathe.  I used cold diet pepsi cans to ice my knees tonight.  I can't wait until next Sunday!

I am so glad I gave my team the day off tomorrow.  Get to sleep in tomorrow for the first time in a few weeks.  Still have work to do, especially with the move over to the other side of the base, but at least I can wake up late.

Not sure if anyone there is paying attention to the elections here or not, but the Iraqi people turned out to vote!  There was actually more bad stuff happening than when they had their last elections, too.  Just not as dangerous.  Sat around with some of our interpreters today and talked about the importance of these elections versus the ones they had in 2005.  BIG difference to them.  This is the first elections that, in their opinions, has all of the major groups represented...not only that, but their Army and Police are primarily responsible for the security of the elections.  There were a lot of attacks today, but most were designed to dissuade people from voting, not to actually injure or kill anyone.  I wish that we could have made it through the day with no casualties, but the numbers were far lower than expected.  And the voter turn-out was higher than expected.  A couple of weeks ago we had a great deal of senior officers here running a battle simulation to practice the election day scenario in Baghdad.  There were over 18 news agencies there for the press conference and it was big news for the Iraqi people.  I can't help but think that it had a very positive affect on the voter turn-out.

There is really a good mood here amongst the Iraqis.  They were proud to show us their purple fingers today.  They wear it with pride.  Much more pride than most Americans take in participating in our electoral processes...Let's hope that all turns out for the best.  We have much to learn from each other's cultures, that is for sure.

3 more days in my hotel-like CHU and then I move into the stone-aged ones.  Thanks again Big Army.

Miss you all...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Oh how wise the army beast...

It is done.  In an instant our whole outlook on the next 10 months has gone sour.  We are officially moving over to the US side of our base.  Only now we lose our internet connections, our refrigerators, our televisions, and the worst part, our latrines.  The real funny thing is that we can't figure out why.  WHY?  All I can think of is that guy  in the jeep in the MASH movie, "G-d damned Army!"  At least, maybe, with a stroke of luck, I will get to play Rugby tomorrow.  And, at least I will still have my Itislanua (that gets NO reception over on that side).  I am not sure what they were thinking, since they will basically lose communications with us when we are in our rooms now.  Oh well.

Speaking of cell phone service.  It is horrible here.  We can never connect and never get through.  Sometimes it may take 5 or 6 tries to get through, and then you have the same problem on the other end (it has to connect to the phone on the far end)...unless you are an Iraqi, that is.  Don't know what it is, since they have the same service that we do.  They are getting phone calls and messages all day long, and their calls go through on the first try, every time.  What the??

Todays Cubs Trivia:  Which Chicago Cub was the last to not have a latrine in his hotel room on the road?  Just Kidding.  What was longtime Cubs infielder Woody English's given first name?

I need to start packing, but I am too much of a procrastinator to do it now.  The information is too new and still a bit surreal that we have to move.  At least I won't bang my thigh on my desk every time I go to the latrine...mainly because I won't have a latrine, but the thigh bruise will finally go away.  I'll miss that bruise!

More to follow on the woe is me pity party...

Hugs and Kisses to all!

Until tomorrow...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Return of the Pull-Off Tabs

Does anyone remember these cans?  I thought that the world left these things behind in like the 1970's or something.  I think that what we have here is that in the 1970s we gave the third world the machines we used back then to make soda cans, and then moved on.  So while the rest of the world went to the pop-top cans, they still have the pull-offs here.  Oddly enough, in America we take the stuff that doesn't pull off, pull it off, then send it to our schools where they do who-knows-what with, but somehow turn it into money... Just get a bit nostalgic every time I see one of these pull-top cans.

Its looking more and more like we are going to have to move over to the US side...which means no internet access, no TV, no showers, no bathrooms (in our rooms).  I can't wait.  Nothing like taking people who are miserable and making them more miserable, I always say.  I can't really go into it, but it won't make us any safer, either.

Notice the phone in the picture...it is a cell phone!  Seems they still have the big cell phones here, kinda like the old bag phones, only a little bit more powerful and modern.  They are made by Itisaluna, and they are basically large pre-paid cell phones.  Get good reception, too.  That is all for now.

Go Blackhawks!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's Raining Again...

Well, I awoke today to the sound of heavy rain.  All I could think of was, "Oh no, not again!"  The mud around here was just starting to dry up.  Then it hit me...I have yet to hear ANY rain from my CHU.  Remember, this is about 5am, so I am not up to my genius level of thinking yet.  Now I start to think, "Is someone using the shower next door?"  And it sounded louder than that.  Is my toilet running? ...it is relatively silent, so it couldn't be that.  Then I thought, "Is someone using MY Shower?"  My door was still locked, so probably not.  So now I get up and investigate.  I have to show you some pictures so you can see what I am talking about.  I have a water heater in my CHU.  It hangs from the ceiling.  It has hoses, the kind that you would connect from your washing machine to the faucets...they are located at the bottom of the water heater.  The hose coming from the (extremely) hot water out part decided that it no longer wanted to participate in the relationship any longer.  By the time I was awakened, it had completely separated from the water heater.  My bathroom was about an inch deep in surprisingly comfortable water.  When I tried to put the hose back I discovered that in order for it to be comfortable after being on the floor, it had to be almost scalding coming from the heater!  I got it back on there after getting it all over the place and it stayed rather dry (so I could clean up) for about 10 minutes...then I got to witness the whole process all over again.  Luckily, I was able to get my XO over to help get the furniture out of there, and he was able to turn the cold water off to the CHU so the tank would stop filling up (and could eventually drain).  There is no shut-off valve on the thing, so the only thing you can do is let it drain or cap it off.  I was fresh out of caps at 0500 in the morning.  There is also no obvious way to turn the thing off, and the cap at the bottom with the wires sticking out was wet...so I was going nowhere near that.  Even with all of the hot water turned on, it still would not stay on very good, so I had to go the bucket route.  And the heating element kept heating until about 1000 when the guy came to fix it.  When the guy came with new hoses, he replaced the one that was bad, but not the other...hmm.  Didn't have any plumbers tape, either, so of course, it is slightly still leaking (about a drop every minute or so).  But I was able to shower, which is the key thing.  I suspect I will see that guy again...

From what I understand, this happens quite often, and only to the best of us...so apparently, my CHU has accepted me as being worthy of my occupancy, and I can now go on with my life with the assurance of...well, nothing.  But it was a fun morning.  The food smelled good when I dropped off my laundry this afternoon, so I think that I may stay here for dinner.  Don't eat too many meals at our base, because it is basically local food, but occasionally they cook up some great food.  They have made some BBQ Ribs that would put Dreamland to shame...and I just don't throw compliments like that around, especially about ribs.  Anyway, speaking of dinner...I am off to see the wizard!

Later Taters...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

And then, depression set in...

When I say depression, I don't mean the real kind, so don't worry.  I am talking about a more frustrating kind of depression.  One that is horribly more cruel and taunting.  This, quite possibly, is as bad as having to wait for another Star Wars film to come out.  As most of you know, I have been dutifully enjoying my first taste of the series 24.  Season 1.  I made it through 23 hours, 48 minutes...then BAM!  Error, cannot read the DVD.  So I tried another program...BAM!  Another program, BAM!  I even installed VLC media player (and that thing can read ANYTHING) BAM BAM BAM!  So here I am, about 6 minutes short of know what freaking happened at the end!  I can't watch Hulu here.  Anyone have any suggestions?  I have the season 2-7 disks, does anyone know if they re-cap season one at the beginning of season 2?  I don't have enough bandwidth to stream it, either.  This stinks!  I won't watch another season until I finish this first one, either!  De-press-shone (as Cajun man would say)!

Todays Cubs Trivia question:  Who holds the Cubs record for most games pitched in a single season by a left-hander?

Well, today was a rather expensive day.  I bought pre-paid phones for my team with minutes and sim cards...actually, I already had the phones, just had to get the cards and minutes.  It is worth it to be able to get a hold of them during the day.

Elections are coming soon, so I am anxiously awaiting whatever might happen.  Nobody wants to commit to anything on the Iraqi side.  They are just waiting to see what happens.  So that is kind of what us advisors have to do.  Luckily for us, sitting around and basically doing nothing comes rather easy...

I need to get going...watching my son play soccer on DVD!

Later all.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Christmas...again!

Today actually felt more like Hannukah than Christmas...8 BOXES came for me.  I had to open them outside there was so much goodness!  I am typing on my separate keyboard, using my cool new mouse, watching 24 on my flat panel while I type, eating a wonderful "Cookie Brownie" from my awesome cousin, sipping on a Blue Monster (they finally got stuff today in the PX) and now I might have to move all of this stuff to a new CHU in a few weeks.  They want us to go from having plumbing and small CHUs to the 1800's style with no plumbing (but they are bigger).  There is also about 4 inches of mud to walk through every time you go in or out of them.  I plan on keeping my people where they are for a while (or as long as I can hold out).

Didn't get much accomplished today, except maybe that I can now have an admin account on my computers here.  Yeah!  No more having to have some other guy load my software and reset my teams passwords.

I did, however, learn a few things today.  Can't think of any of them though...

Got to run.

Later

Monday, March 1, 2010

Christmas Comes Early...

Well, today we had a good day of garbage picking.  It could have been a little better (like some 1SG wouldn't have stolen the High-powered Server that we had put aside), but we were able to get about 4 switches that are powered.  That means that they will run our phones without having to have power supplies for them...that is good news to garbage pickers!  You see, the electronic stuff is kept dry, segregated, accessible...while the power supplies for those electronics - Not so much!  So far we have found about 15 phones...and have three power supplies.  We were about to panic until we happened across those powered switches.

Cubs trivia of the Day:   Who was the last Cubs player to collect 6 hits in one game?
(My parents sent a Chicago Cubs 2010 team Calendar, with 365 days of fun facts and trivia!)

This better be the year, damn it!  I figure that I have been watching the Cubs religiously since about 1968 or 1969...and the closest they have come to the world series was the year that I couldn't have watched it, 1984. I was a plebe at West Point that year, and I was stuck getting updates from a guy in my company that was a year ahead of me and from Schaumburg.  The next closest was probably 1969, and my parents would have made me go to sleep before watching the World Series, since I was only about 3.  The third closest was the year of Bartman...and I really don't think that they deserved to be 5 outs away from the World series that year, anyway.  They deserved it more the first two years of The Lou.  I wasn't originally sold on The Lou, I preferred Girardi...but I think that things worked out best for both of them.  I think that The Lou has one more World Series in him...I sacrifice my ability to be there for the good of the team!  Go Cubs, forever.

On a side note, why do I call Lou Pinella "The Lou?"  Easy...there have been a lot of guys name Lou that have played the game before, heck there have even been a lot of guys name "A-Lou" that have played the game...but to me, Lou Pinella is "THE Lou!"  He just oozes confidence, how else could he get away with wearing that uniform?  Nobody can say that he looks "Good" in it...  But I love The Lou.  This is the year, I can feel it.  And if it's not the year?  There is always next year!

Its been raining here for four straight days.  Four days!  They haven't seen this kind of rain since Abraham's days...Mud everywhere!  I will take some pictures tomorrow.  Not flooding, just mudding.  It is weird.  Anyway, I must get back to 24...only 4 episodes left in season 1.  All coming to a head now.  Only complaint so far is Amnesia...really?  Amnesia?  WTF?  Amnesia?  Really?  All I could think of when that happened was,  "Is this Days of our Lives or something?"  Amnesia?  You have got to be kidding me.  If they pull that crap in season two, I might have to put 24 in the penalty box for a while and go watch Sons of Anarchy or something like that.  Amnesia...

Later all!