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 things...so 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 movie...at 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.
video
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 email...in 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 all...at 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!