30 June 2007

Ode to the Sucker Truck

So, every Friday morning, the only morning our section gets off, I get a visit by the septic truck. It's a love/hate relationship with this vehicle, which is why I've written a poem about it.

Ode to the Sucker Truck

You smell
Like hell
Like a dump
When you pump
The septic tank
In the ground
And I hear that awful sound
Of flubble and bubble
(The remnants of bowel trouble )
Early in the morn
The object of my scorn
On my one half day
I can sleep the AM away
I’m awaken from my sleep
By your backup alarm beep
Beep! Beep! Beep!

Why must you create
That annoying sound
Of poo leaving the ground
Where it collects in the heat
This gathering of excrete
Not a pleasant treat
To start a hard day on my feet
With the smell of tank or truck
Filled with a compilation of muck
Wafting towards my door
Where I can’t stand it any more.

Yet I am happy, of course
That you take away the source
Of the stench and the reek
From the tank under the dirt street
That houses all our waste
In your tank where encased
Is the dirt from the showers
And the product of long hours
On the toilet where you’ll
Be dropping the kids off at the pool
Making grimaces or frowns
While taking the Browns
To the Super Bowl
Or a stroll
To the portalet
(remember hover, do not sit)
You take it all away
The source of my dismay
The stuff that leaves my body
And fills the porta-pottie
And the flies that hang around
Follow you out of town
To the dump
Or wherever, I don’t care
As long as it’s not here
Near my home, my trailer
And away from all my neighbors.

Therefore I’ll sacrifice some Z’s
So my nose can be free
Of smelly gray water waste
Or deposits made in haste
From insides filled with beans
Or Thursday mess hall cuisine.
Dispose of this, without delay
So I may return to dreaming of the day
When I can flush my waste away
While perched on porcelain thrones of white
And sewer systems out of site
In the good ol’ U.S. of A!
Ten more months to go
I pray.

These are pics outside of my trailer of my Friday Friend

This is the sucker truck in Kuwait

By the way, still no computer, but as you can see I've managed to make my broken laptop work (no help to the tech support lady).

28 June 2007

Shower Curtain and Cats

A shower curtain. That was what I got in the mail yesterday. It came in a box with some other necessities sent with love from my parents, but the shower curtain was by far the biggest morale booster. It took me by surprised how excited I was about a piece of plastic, especially when I don't even shower much in my own trailer. I usually end up showering at the base gym because it's more convenient, but now I think I will use my little bathroom for more than my early morning bathroom runs.

I got two surprises as I was typing this; a box from Dell that contained the repair disks for my laptop (still no computer) and access to my blog. Must have been the recent power outage that pulled the firewall down. Regardless, I’m happy to be able to reply to some of the comments people have written in the past few days. The system is slow so I couldn’t go back too far without clogging things up on my end.

While the system is up, I figured I’d post a picture or two. But that’s when I remembered that I can’t because the only way for me to access the memory card on my camera is through the card reader built into my laptop. Doh! So, instead I’ll give you a picture of my little friend P-Cat that I happened to save on my thumb drive prior to frying my laptop.

Now, we have a lot of stray animals in the area and for the most part, you are supposed to leave these animals alone. Ailments like rabies and diseased ticks are not good reasons for you to go home from a military deployment, so it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie (this includes cats, lizards, spiders, scorpions, snakes, mice and rabid camels). Westerners are drawn to pets for some strange reason. Ask any combat unit that touted a puppy, cat, or other scaley squad mascot in a group photo why they were breaking the rules to feed and care for a mangy animal and they probably couldn’t give you a good answer. I don’t know the psychology of it all, but I do know that we view animals a lot different than the Iraqis. Iraqis dislike dogs. I’ve heard lots of reason why from different Iraqis, but for the most part, it is not in their culture to keep dogs as pets. Therefore, we have a lot of strays that roam the streets between the bases and even one dog that strolls through the base without much hassle (affectionately named “Blanca” by the Peruvian guards at the front gate who semi adopted her). Someone has even given her both a regular and a flea collar to as a form of identification to denote that she’s “one of us”. She’ll stop and let you pet her now and then, but she usually moves with a purpose among us, heading to where she knows the food is or to some cool sleeping spot when the sun gets high. She is one of only two animals I see every day on the base near my trailer, the other being P-Cat. Now, I first saw P-Cat sleeping near one of the high ranking officer trailers near the palace. Some Colonel from the previous rotation use to feed him daily and when he wasn’t sticking his head in a bowl of mess hall leftovers, I would see him lounging on the mesh chairs on the trailer porch, being your typical lazy outdoor cat. Well, the old regime moved out and the new group of soldiers moved in, unbeknownst to P-Cat. He still waited anxiously for his next meal by a trailer and was very friendly to the passing soldiers in an attempt to convince them that they needed to pick up where the Colonel had left off. Now, I’m normally more of a dog person myself. In fact, I’m allergic to cats and dogs (more of the former), although I’ve had both growing up. I currently don’t own any pets either, so why I got attached to this cat is beyond me. Because of my crazy schedule, I don’t get to see him at the same time every day, although I do try to pass by his haunts as I make my way to and from the bases. He’ll tiredly yawn at me from his second story perch telling me he’s too tired to bother getting up to greet me and at night on my way back to my trailer he’ll run out and run between my legs looking for a scratch behind the ears. Now this doesn't mean I intend to get off the plane next April and procure me a kitten, but it gives me something near term to look forward to instead that distant redeployment date.

I need to see if the magic disks will make my sick computer all better. Wish me luck.

25 June 2007

Day two

Day two

Things have been quiet here the last couple of days.  Almost too quiet.  Two days without indirect fire starts to make you wonder what the bad guys are up to.  If I was in a line unit I’d be getting suspicious that the bad guys were up to no good, but seriously, are bad guys ever up to any good?  The calm could be due to distractions that have diverted their attention to do something other than lob bombs into the IZ.  First, there is a major military offensive going on the Baghdad area.  When you have a dozen Strikers rolling down the street to deliver your eviction notice, you might not have the proper amount of time to sight in that rocket.  I could elaborate on the details, but your best bet is to watch a few minutes of the evening news to get a synopsis.  Then there is the victory of the Iraqi soccer team over Syria on Saturday that probably kept most folks glued to a radio or TV instead of setting up mortars.  We did get some sporadic “celebratory fire” over that one, but nothing that went “boom”.  Lastly, they announced the conviction of Chemical Ali yesterday which will result in him playing the lead role in “Dope on a Rope” some time in the next 30 days.  All of these things have somehow contributed to the relative quietness and lack of sprints to the duck and cover bunkers and frankly, it’s kind of nice.  Not nice enough to let your guard down or start taking unnecessary risks any time soon, but enough to make you breathe a little easier (and reduce the pucker factor slightly) when you move from one hardened building to the next.  


I have complete confidence that the mail system will be delivering my stuff today.  Of course this is the sort blind faith that will set me up for yet another crushing let down, but I’m still going to hold out that today will be the day.  

24 June 2007

The Army Hates Chocolate

The Army Hates Chocolate



I want to believe that the Army does things for the better good.  Sure, they don’t always use the typical common sense approach and the bureaucracy is tough to negotiate, but it has been my experience that the Army is basically a good organization without any other objective than to win the nation’s wars.  I am here today because I truly believe this, which is why it is so hard for me to believe that the Army, a collection of some pretty smart officers and soldiers, would despise chocolate so much.  How else would you explain the reasoning behind the placement of the mail shack, basically a shed where we distribute parcels from, in the direct line of the base generator exhaust outlet?  Daytime temps that top out in the 110s or 120s are jacked up another 15 to 20 degrees due to the blast of heated carbon monoxide blowing on the shed which makes it darn near impossible for anything made of chocolate to keep it’s original shape.  Hershey Kisses?  Maybe they should be called Hershey Smooshes.  Could you go for a Reeces?  The slurry inside that orange wrapper is only edible with a spoon.   How about a Snickers?  Well, let me tell you that there is nothing more “satisfying” than opening a box with what appears to be the diaper contents resulting from accidentally feeding a 2 year old White Castles and peanuts.  


I received a toasty box today from relatives in Washington State.  Props out to the postal folks for getting it to me because even though the entire address on it was wrong (even my name was spelled with two ‘N’s), the package was forwarded to my location.  How does that postal saying go?  “Neither snow, nor sleet, nor rain, nor hail of mortar fire...”


I opened the box full of goodies: some pistachios (my favorite), beef jerky, jelly beans and nuts.  There were, however some heat casualties: a plastic bag with what once appeared to be a trail mix of nuts and chocolate was transformed into a tube of clumpy goo.  Put it in the fridge and I might have the makings of a new kind of nutty candy bar.  


My mail also included a card from my good friends in Bahh-Stun, Massachusetts (more specifically, Salem) but there was no mail from my friend Michael Dell and his band of merry computer elves who are suppose to send me the disks to magically fix my broken laptop.  Also absent from the mail shed was my new back up laptop.  I think this is the Army’s way of making sure I don’t enjoy the little time off so that I will work longer hours.  It’s a conspiracy I tell ya.  A conspiracy! 




Our job here is about to get turned upside down in terms of staffing.  Due to the fact we use military personnel to do most of this transition training, we all serve 1 year rotations before we are replaced, usually by another person in uniform.  Needs of the different branches will either extend individuals or by some miracle, shorten their tours (hmmm... which one am I hoping for?) but for the most part everyone knows how long their tour is going to be before they show up.  The human resource gurus do their best to stagger things so that we don’t replace everyone at once.  Due to the high turnover, the next group really needs the continuity in order to succeed.  HR, however is run by humans, and humans make mistakes.  There are personnel in key positions that would normally have a replacement in country to train for a week or two to do the “mind-meld” before they go their separate ways.  Unfortunately, this isn’t going to happen for a few of the leaders in our team, which means that the rest of the section gets to pull double duty by keeping an eye on their own lane of responsibilities and covering down on the missing individual’s job.  Depending on the reliability of the air transportation (come on Air Force... let’s make this happen!) we’ll end up doing this for about 3 to 4 weeks until we get to dump the information, now second hand, onto the replacement.  The stand-ins, eager to lighten their own work loads, don’t do the best job of conducting a proper hand off, and the unfortunate replacement is hit from all sides with jobs that were mostly neglected for the last month.  It’s not a great system and we all know it, which is why it is commonly referred to as “drinking from the fire hose”.  Extra points to those of you who know the movie reference and the character who said this.  


I’m giddy with anticipation of my computer and/or disks to fix my busted laptop.  Mail from the states takes roughly 7 to 10 days to get here, and today will be day 8.  The absence of a mail truck yesterday meant that no mail was delivered to the base.  We usually get twice the amount of packages after a day with no mail which increases my chances to be laden down with boxes for the ride home tonight.  We have an informal contest between the folks in the section, which has turned into a semi-formal popularity contest.  The daily “Big Mail Winner” is the individual who gets the most long distant parcels, however points are subtracted if packages are a result of you buying stuff online and getting it shipped to you here.  We call that “Amazon Love” since you can get just about anything through the Amazon.com site (it also helps that the military internet doesn’t block it).  I haven’t had the time to do much online shopping, but I’m fortunate enough to have been the “BMW” a few times during my tenure thanks to my family and friends, although I do have a few “solo” wins since I was the only person in the section to get a letter from the states.  Hey, I’ll take my victories where I can get them.  

20 June 2007


I try not to write much about the indirect fire (IDF) we get here.  I think I’ve said that before, but after a few hits these past few days, I had the intention of sitting down and outlining the details of them (some humorous, some scary).  After much deliberation, I’ve decided not to.  The main reason is that it just worries my folks (and freaking your parents out is a guaranteed way for the local congressperson to get some hate mail).  The other reason is that it happens pretty regularly with no real consequences to the folks in the IZ... well, mostly, and the experience of late has produced no injuries.  It is dangerous, so please don’t take my casualness about it and think I fail to heed the warnings of the alarms.  We have had some folks hurt by IDF because the rockets and mortars are designed to hurt you in a bad way.  More times than not, it just puts holes in buildings and streets and makes movement around the area a pain, and in the past 7 weeks, most of us have developed an acceptance of this risk.  That’s a little dangerous because it teeters on the edge of complacency, and complacency is not a good thing in a war zone. 
For the most part, we have succumbed to the fact that if it’s your time, it’s your time, and no matter how much you protect yourself, it won’t help due to the complete randomness of the attacks.  This is a strange way to look at getting maimed, or worse, but it is almost a necessity to deal with the day to day explosions.  Now, this is no reason to go running around outside the FOB in t-shirts and flip flops, but it also means that wearing your armor 24/7 in the Iraqi heat is completely ludicrous.  Whenever we can, we address our concerns by resorting to the black humor that is pretty common amongst individuals who are stuck in a hard or dangerous environment.  To the unknown observer, it would appear to be a wee bit twisted or morbid, but most of us here would call it a coping mechanism.  A majority of the chuckles stem from discussions of inopportune places to be when the rocket with your name comes tumbling in.  Places like the Pizza Inn or Burger King trailers are on that list (I got a purple heart because I wanted a Whopper), so is the swimming pool (I didn’t know that the Marines issued flowered Bermuda shorts?), and anything that has to do with the bathroom or shower trailer trumps all others.  I guess you could just say that the blast blew your pants off if you happened to be found that way.  I guess the semi naked mortar victim is much like the good officer in that neither wants to take a trip to the CSH (combat support hospital) to see their privates full of shrapnel.  Ouch!
Once I get my computer up and running, I'll see if I can’t post some pictures of the creative ways the locals and the contractors use to cover up mortar damage.  Let's just say words don't do them justice.

17 June 2007

Father's Day

Father's Day
People make a big deal about Mother's Day, and rightfully so.  Of the two consenting individuals who conceived you, the female part of your creation was the one who gestated you for 9 months and actually had to go through the physical pains of giving birth to you (it's thoughts like this that make me celebrate my manhood).  Mom's are often the ones who are home to raise you too, although that role is being skewed more and more in these modern times of working women and duel breadwinners.  In any case, mom's deserve a lot of props and they are showered with things like flowers and such on their special day in May.  But what about the fathers out there?  Well, we give them their day too (today in case you forgot, bonehead!) but it's not as hyped as Mother's Day.  Flower shops don't see a major increase flower sales for this Dad-Day, and the retail stores lumps Pops in with the "Dads and Grads" sales.  "Here's 10% off so you can buy that new lawn mower you wanted!"  Not a glorious way to honor the man who helped to bring you into this world and suffered through your first driving lessons. 
Dad's need to be honored, although not being a dad myself, I'm not sure what the proper way to do that.  Some might just want a day away from the screaming critters that call him "Dad", which is sort of ironic.  I think if I was home, I'd take my dad out for a good meal, but that doesn't seem to do his role in raising me any real justice.  It's always hard to get him something that truly shows how much I appreciate him.  He is the reason I'm here today.  Okay, that might seem like reason to scorn him as the thermometer reads 113 F and the indirect fire alarms ring across the IZ somewhere, but it was his example of selflessness that led me to serve my country and become a soldier, which might be the one thing that I am proud of.  Now, let's get something clear, my dad never pressured me to join the Army.  In fact, the day I enlisted, I rushed home to tell him what I had done and didn't get the warm approval that I thought I would get from a man who spent the better part of his 20's wearing fatigues.  Things worked out and I ended up going to school and becoming an officer, and I think he was proud of the fact that I did it that way instead of his way.  Now I'm sure that he and my mother would want me to be any where else in the world but here (I hear Afghanistan is pleasant this time of year) but I owe a lot of the credit of the officer I am today and the person I've become to my father.  Not being a man of many words, most of the lessons were by silent example, which is why he still keeps my saber on his wall that is engraved with thanks for teaching me all the lessons that no institution could ever teach me. 
Dad, and parents in general, want better for their kids than they had for themselves.  Working two jobs to make ends meet so that you and your brother could have good school clothes and not live in the projects are things you don't notice when you're young and focused on more important things, like chrome pegs for your sweet BMX bike or acne medicine.  When you get older, and arguably wiser, you look back and see that dad did a lot for you.  He might not have always been there to cheer you on during the track meets or take you outside to play catch with you, but that's because he was working the 2nd or 3rd job to keep food on the table and a roof over your head.  He was there to take you fishing (some of my fondest memories as a kid were in a brown aluminum boat catching perch with my dad and my brother), to drive the ridiculously long trips to distant relatives for vacations (unable to afford plane flights for a family of 4, he'd pack the Chevette and drive for days, non stop, to an aunt or uncle's house on the other end of the world), and show you that you don't have to have a lot of money in the bank to be happy (if it wasn't for a Sears credit card, my brother and I might have gone to school naked). 
I have some good friends of mine that are celebrating their first Father's Day, and even more who are celebrating their 5th or 8th.  It's hard to envision all of us as high schoolers, playing paintball and chasing girls now laden with the duty of raising the next generation of nurses, computer sales tycoons, ministers, firemen, project managers, hydrology engineers, environmental engineers, physical therapists and yes, even tomorrow's soldiers.  Its a mantle of responsibility that is far greater than any education they ever struggled through, any race they've ever won, and any job they've ever held.  For that, I take my hat off to them and the rest of the Dad's in this world.
So, like you did a month ago with mom, pick up the phone and give dear ol' dad a call today and thank him for putting up with you (I hope I can get a good phone connection today to do just that for my dad).  You didn't turn out too bad, and for that he does deserve some portion of the credit, doesn't he?
Interesting Fact of the Day:  Father's Day was actually born from Mother's Day, or more specifically, from a Mother's Day sermon.  A woman by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, who was raised by her father, got the idea after listening to a Mother's Day sermon at church and wanted a way to show how much she appreciated the sacrifices her father made.  Through her efforts, the first official Father's Day celebration was held in Spokane on 19 June 1910.  In 1926, the National Father's Day Committee was formed and was recognized in Congress in 1956.  In 1972, President Nixon himself established a permanent national observance of Father's Day to be held on every third Sunday of June.  And here I thought it was just another "Hallmark Holiday" for all these years!

14 June 2007

A third of the way - 6/14/07

A third of the way – 6/14/07


Today is the 6 month mark of my reactivation into the US Army.  Wow.  A whopping 151 days have past since I showed up at Benning to begin my re-initiation into the big green machine.  This also marks the one third mark of my total activation time.  Well, technically I have 545 total days to serve and only 365 total days to spend in Iraq, but it’s not like I’m counting or anything (my spreadsheet donut takes care of that).  


I miss having my laptop.  I’ve been unable to write about the exciting days I’ve had.  Okay, maybe I’m being a little presumptuous that they will be exciting to the masses, but any change in the routine is worth writing about.  Just to bring everyone up to speed, here is a brief description of the things I’ve experienced these last few days sans laptop (in bullet format):


1.  How it feels to be a Captain in the US Army given the responsibility of guarding a row of helmets during a change of command ceremony (in fact, there were two captains on this detail, which got chuckles from just about everyone, especially the enlisted folks).

2.  Was almost crushed trying to move a wall locker by myself in my room (Super huge! Not me, the wall locker).

3.  Unloaded and loaded 72 magazines of rifle ammunition to relieve tension in the springs (that’s almost 2200 rounds).

4.  Just missed witnessing the accidental shooting of a LTC by a LTC (he shot himself in the leg with his pistol when he tried to clear his weapon at the chow hall).

5.  Helped in-process my new boss (jury is still out how he’s going to work out).

6.  With the blowing up of a mosque in the north (go watch the news), the 1 day tally of mortar attacks in the IZ has reached a record number.  


Talk about excitement! 


Thursdays are normally a “morale night” with my team.  It’s pizza night at the PX and Pizza Inn makes a mighty pie.  One downfall of writing comments on blogs is that it’s hard to portray the sarcasm.  Pizza Inn might make a good pizza back in the states (I don’t know because I’ve never strayed too far from the “Papa”), but here in Iraq, when you are craving a good slice of pepperoni and sausage pizza, the “Inn” is “Out”.  It’s quite possibly the worst pizza I’ve ever eaten.  I can’t even begin to detail the downfalls of their pies.  For something that is supposed to be a morale builder, it actually steals what little morale I have.  Although I complain about it, it’s just one more thing that I’ve tried to learn to accept about the IZ.  Sure, there are comforts here, but they are just enough to tease you into thinking that things aren’t so bad.  Go grab a Coke from the cooler at the mess hall?  It’s Coke canned in Kuwait which tastes weird.  How about some milk for your Raisin Bran cereal in the morning?  Sure, but you only have two varieties to choose from: goat or shelf stable.  How about a nice shower to wash away the dust of the sand storm?  Only if you want to smell like sulfur for the rest of the day.  How about a nice poop on a flushing toilet?  Yeah!  Oh wait, if there is no water, then your mess just stays in there, for days sometimes, which makes your hooch-mate really angry.  Overall, things really aren’t that bad here, but things are also not so good.  As someone pointed out to me, maybe it’s all just a way of making me appreciate the things I take for granted every day back home.  


Due lots of work, we’re forgoing the anti-morale pizza night.  I’m not sure if this makes me happy or sad.  


For the record, I will never take a reliable toilet for granted... as long as I shall live.  



Interesting fact of the day:  Today is Flag Day and also the Army’s birthday.  So, first go dust off your stars and stripes run her up the pole, and then go eat some cake.  It’s the American thing to do. 

09 June 2007


Out of order
Broken down
Non functional
Not working
These are words that describe
my laptop.  I went home last night to listen to some music, maybe type a few letters on the trusty laptop and I got the blue screen of death.  I spent some of my hard earned phone card minutes with Dell this morning and a friendly chap named Jordan said that he is going to send me some disks to see if I can make it work, but that's going to be a few weeks.  Drats!  So, I might be spending more time here at work if I need to use a computer.  Not that it's a bad thing, but I would much rather be lounging in my room than sitting at the cramped desk at work.

08 June 2007

101? 6-8-07

101?  6-8-07



     Apparently my last post was something of a milestone.  It was my 100th post!  Okay, that probably didn't warrant an exclamation point, but it is a milestone nonetheless.  Even though I lack the ability to see my blog from my current workstation, I do occasional get a glimpse of a pictureless KrazyKorean blog when the "watchdogs" let their guard down.  It was during one of these brief openings that I noticed I was at 100.  That's a lot of posts.  I started this blog at the beginning of the year to help my poor parents (who would otherwise be bombarded with questions about how I'm doing) to disseminate information to the masses who wanted to keep track of me.  I know a significant chunk of my entries were just pics with caption and others were just silly ramblings of my hate for snow and stupid people, but I hope I've done a halfway decent job of revealing what and how I’m doing, or at least the best I can with the censor restrictions that I must abide by.  


     At times I tend to rely a little too heavily on the blog.  There are letters and emails that I have neglected to write people, especially after I just get done writing a lengthy dissertation of my day in a blog.  I will try and work on that. 


     Also, as service announcement, for those of you who are anxiously waiting Brendan’s weekend Top 10 for Friday, you might have to wait a few days because “big brother” has also blocked his access to his blogs.  Until he figures out the backdoor to post via email, he might be down for a while until we get internet access in the rooms.  The outlook on that event is pretty good as they are now promising that we'll get wired into the web sometime before we re-deploy. 



Interesting fact of the day:  100 is an interesting number.  Not only is it the sum of the first nine prime numbers, the sum of two prime numbers (47+53) and the sum of the cubes of the first four integers (100 = 1^3 + 2^3 +3^3 + 4^3), but it is also the atomic number of fermium, a synthetic element discovered after the first hydrogen bomb explosion.  (This is more of an attempt to make Brian's brain hurt instead of showing off my Google-fu since he is in the midst of taking math for the first time in over a decade)

07 June 2007

PB 6-7-07

PB  6-7-07
Peanut butter will be my downfall.  I think I made this outrageous claim about Baskin Robins before, but I’ve given up ice cream for the time being.  For now, the enemy is peanut butter!  That’s right.  I will survive the myriad of mortar attacks and abundance of roadside bombs during my tour here, but as soon as I hit US soil a little less than a year from now, I will fall over from an over weight induced heart attack brought on by the build up of fat globules pushing against my arteries.  I am aware of the research and studies that state peanut butter is actually good for the heart and all, but the fact that I’m eating what must be equivalent to a small bucket a day can’t be healthy.  My new found addiction started off simply, as I’m sure all good intended addictions start.  It was a peanut butter flavored granola bar sent to me in a care package.  Then came the PB&J I made myself for lunch the other day.  “Hey!  Let’s top some waffles with peanut butter and honey!”  The product that pushed me over the edge was the case of Tagalongs that suddenly appeared in the building.  At 75 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat per cookie, these chocolate covered lard rations have unleashed a peanut butter craving from within that I can’t seem to quench.  I have a strange speculation that the Girl Scouts are indeed working for the insurgency.  It’s so bad that I almost accosted at a jar of JIF with a spoon the other day, only refraining because the owner of said jar was still in sight.  The jar has since been moved from it’s perch on the filing cabinet, but if I run into Mr. 32 oz of Roasted Peanutty Goodness in a dark alley somewhere, I don’t think the outcome will be pretty.  Seriously though, I don’t need any peanut butter.  I have no where to store it and it would the demise of my workout plan.  As it is, I have to buy me a house to come home to, and I sure don’t want to pay the extra for a double-wide if you catch my drift.



Interesting fact of the day:  Over 80% of the fat in peanut butter is unsaturated.  Great information, however if you eat 5 times the recommended daily allowance of the stuff, that 20% of saturated fat creeps up to 100% real quick.  I think I'll run twice today to help get rid of the tray of Tagalongs I just engulfed.


06 June 2007

Sweeper 6-5-07

Sweeper 6-5-07
I trudged to work this morning after an evening of minimal sleep and
greeted the sweeper outside my building. A common sight here in the
land of sun and fun is the lonely street sweeper. You will usually find
this individual of foreign origin pushing his broom at an unhurried
pace, ridding his small section of the world of dust and debris. I am
continually amazed at the perseverance of the sweeper. Despite the
purposeful strokes and careful grooming of the concrete before him, the
dust cloud he creates from his efforts only settles on the area he just
brushed clean. And if the cloud doesn't cover the street, then the wind
will blow in sand from other places to litter the ground. Why does he
do this? Is it because he doesn't have another job to do? Does he know
that it doesn't do much good? Does he know how silly he looks in his
blue/purple jump suit? It is truly an exercise in futility, yet he does
this every day as if he has no other purpose than to move the sand and
dirt from place to place. I say hi to him when I can because he is,
after all, a fellow human being, trying to get through the day. I
remind myself that the job does not make the person. He's not trying to
win a war or battle off the bad guys, but he's doing his job and for
that I applaud him. I often struggle with what language I should say
"hello" to him in as I'm not sure which of the many nationalities we
have working around here (Fijian, Indian, Bangladeshi, or Pilipino), but
he seems happy with my "good morning" to which he replies "gud moan'n".
I hopped on the bus and began another rotation of the earth. I haven't
written much lately because I've spent the last 4 days working on a
briefing for a colossal "summit" at our location, which is another
reason I didn't get to bed last night until after midnight. We, as
advisors, brought in some high ranking Iraqi officials to go over some
key issues that needed addressing. Without getting into the minute
details of it all, it was a valuable conference and it required a lot of
work to assemble the right individuals to create a productive dialogue.
Now, nothing in Iraq is easy. Heck, a helmet, weapon, body armor, eye
protection and gas mask are requirement to cross the street. The
simplest of tasks are complicated by the fact that we are miles from any
sort of basic support for professional type presentations, plus the fact
that supplies are limited due to convoys unable to bring rudimentary
items to the base. Did I mention that we are in a war zone? Yeah, that
can make things a little difficult too. So, with the absence of Kinkos
to print out our slide packets, or an airport shuttle to get key players
from the plane to the conference room, or Jason's Deli to catering our
mid afternoon snack, we did the best we could with what we had. Did I
also mention that we are critically short of paper? How are we supposed
to run a war with no paper? Of the resources we did have at our
disposal was one of Saddam's conference centers. For those of you who
didn't know, Saddam liked to build stuff. It didn't matter if it was
useful or not, he just built it. There are over 20 palaces in this area
that were built for sons, cousins, aunts and best friend's dogs. And
the man like how he looked too. How else can you explain the 20 foot
bronze Saddam heads on the walls of a palace across the IZ, or the 18
full figure statues of the man that lined the top of the palace
currently used as the temporary US Embassy? Because there was an
abundance of these nice buildings, we held our conference in the
personal courtyard of one of Saddam's main palaces near the water
(interesting fact, he use to have his family reunions and get togethers
here). It's not a grand structure, but it contains a courtyard filled
with rose bushes and flowering trees that starkly contrasts the pitted
T-walls and mortar craters that dot the base that it is surrounded by.
The adjoining building to the courtyard was not noteworthy by any means,
but it was plenty big enough for our small get together of important
folks to hash out problems and bring issues to light. And it had A/C.
Apparently, Iraqi officials like A/C. Wow! So do I!
My mission was to get there early and help set up the technical stuff of
this crucial three part briefing. Why does the Asian get stuck with the
job of being the Audio/Visual geek? Very stereotypical, but I didn't
mind. I helped set up 2 projectors and 4 computers (two laptops and two
SECRET laptops) for our dual presentation in both Iraqi and English. I
carefully loaded the first secret squirrel brief on the machines (it was
being briefed first) and then the fruit of my four days of labor onto
the array of laptops. The Iraqis would be providing the third part of
the brief and I trusted that they would take care of that mission.
Normally I would have commanded the projectors for the brief (another
task normally given to the A/V geek), but the folks of higher rank than
I assigned me the mission of scribe, which is a fancy name for note
taker. I assumed this job for the mere fact that I could type without
looking at my fingers, a skill that you suddenly lose once you pin on
Major in the Army which is why most field grade officers are hunt and
peckers. So there I was, sucking in the words and comments of the first
secret brief and spewing them out on the computer. My hands were like
little yellow humming birds scurrying over my laptop to document every
word. It was important. How did I know it was important? I knew this
because important people were saying important things. They had
important looks of concern on their important faces and they nodded
their heads in deliberate motions to stress how important the
information was. The brief was going well, but it was taking a long
time to complete due to the pauses by the linguists as they played
verbal tennis, translating from one language to the other. We arrived
at our second break and were almost an hour over schedule. That's when
the ranking person in the room, a general of many stars, made the call
to skip the second brief and go right to the Iraqi briefing. What?
What is this you say, Mr. "I have a constellation on my uniform"? I
couldn't believe my ears! I had worked for four days on this brief, and
stayed up until midnight the night prior to make sure that it was
proofread a bazillion times, printed, collated, stapled and put in fancy
folders and you say you want to skip the brief? It bothered me, and my
hands were not as shifty for the remaining of the brief.
The rest of the summit went well and while I'm not sure if anything was
really accomplished, I'd like to think that some progress was made for
all of our efforts. It's always hard to tell with Iraqis because they
like to pontificate and talk a big game, but often their actions don't
always match. I make this generalization, of course, based on my
dealings with the few I have dealt with and I know that it's not right
to categorize the entire nation as lazy. Only time will tell if we made
any progress. The end of the conference did not mean the end of our day
as there were notes to compile, tasks list to update and after action
reviews (AARs) to conduct. The Army still likes its paperwork and there
is a small drove of trees out there that fell victim to this singular
event. It made for another long day and I was glad to catch the 8
o'clock bus back to my hooch while there was still some light out. As I
trudged passed the guards at the gate and made my way to my room, I
passed the same blue/violet jumpsuit clad man, pushing his broom across
a section of sidewalk that no one rarely walks on. It was the same
futile act that he was performing this morning. After my briefing
debacle this morning where I worked hard on something that was thrown
away in the blink of a general's eye, I could relate more to the sweeper
than I could to the fellow officers in my section who presented their
info. Maybe, in the big scheme of things over here, we're all just
sweepers, but in camouflage.
Interesting quote of the day: "Some days you are the dog, some days you
are the hydrant."

03 June 2007


I am now a bona fide member of the 10% club. According to the "donut",
I have completed one tenth of my tour. Yippy skippy!

01 June 2007


Anniversary 6-1-07

Anniversary 6-1-07
It's hard not to get obsessed with time here. People are always keeping
track of things like the days they've been here, how much time until
their next break, what time the chow hall closes, and how many months
until they rotate back to the land of the big PX. If you are smart, you
try to ignore these things and just stay busy so that clock will move
forward without giving you any notice. If you're not smart, then you
have a stupid donut spreadsheet on your computer that pops up each day
to remind you that you have over 7,500 hours until you go home. I am
not smart!
In any case, I got up this morning and saw that the date on my watch had
changed to 6-1-07. Now, this date doesn't really mean much to my
deployment here. I already had my 1 month anniversary in country and
according to my "donut" countdown, I'm only 9% through my deployment.
What makes this day significant is that 11 years ago today I donned a
uniform and swore an oath to join the ranks of the US Army as a young
strapping second lieutenant in the US Army Corps of Engineers (well, at
least my mom thought I was strapping). Also, six years ago on this day,
I hung up my rifle, hardhat, castles and my BDU uniform and opted to get
out of the active duty Army to put my regular life in order as a
civilian. One could argue if I ever really did get things together in
those 6 years (some would argue that I made them worse), but regardless
here I am, wearing a uniform again. The uniform is not the same but the
requirements of the job haven't changed much. The peacetime Army I left
is doing a much tougher job now. It can be a dangerous and thankless
job at times, but I still believe in what the military stands for, and
so do most around me, regardless of their political views. I'm still a
little bitter when I have to salute my oak leaf clad classmates, but I
give them props for sticking with the job when so many of us were
jumping ship for the civilian sector.
Did you know that the appropriate gift for one's eleventh anniversary is
steel? Looks like Uncle Sam had this in mind when he gave me 210 rounds
of 5.56mm ammunition with, ironically enough, steel tipped penetrators.
Oh that crazy Uncle of mine! He's so thoughtful!
Interesting fact of the day: Even though English is my second language,
I don't speak like Brendan portrays my voice in his blogs. He is my
round-eyed brother in arms and he's pretty funny at times, so we'll hold
off on the flying round kicks to the head...for now.

Deee-lux apartment in the sky eye eye! 5/13/07

Deluxe apartment in the sky! 5/31/07
I have a permanent room now. I no longer have to be jealous of all the individuals who have a place that they can call their own, with their very own sink, toilet and shower, for I too am a member of the "wet" trailer club. To sweeten the deal, they gave me a second floor room which sounds more glamorous than it really is. It's basically a trailer stacked on top of another trailer with a shaky porch system that I don't trust to hold much more than a person or two. The view is different, but the two major downfalls kind of take away from the "penthouse" façade. First off, we are closer to the sun. It might not seem like much, but when you are the room on top, the sun beats on the roof of your hooch which makes it nice and toasty, despite the A/C turned up full blast. On top of the fact that there is no shade up here, you also suck up the heat rising from the trailers below. Speaking of sucking up things, that brings me to the second disadvantage of residing on the second story. Mortars. Yep, we are on top, which means if the rocket men across the river get lucky, my downstairs neighbors have a lot of overhead cover. I can live with that though. It's no worse than my old hooch plus I don't have to trek across the base camp to find a bathroom at night. It's also much bigger than my old room and ten times more spacious than some of the other folks who were packed into a 8 x 10 closet with another person. I did lose Tom as my room mate despite my many appeals to the mayor of the base camp to move him in with me, but I did gain Ryan as a roomie. For those who don't remember Ryan, you will have to go back a few blogs and read the story of "Ryan of the 9 and a half fingers and the CIF door of doom". He works pretty late hours so I don't think I'll be seeing him much during the day. I'm lucky because at least I got stuck with someone I know instead of a complete stranger.
June is one day away and it feels good to leave May in the past. The more months I can get behind me means that I have fewer months in front of me.
Interesting fact of the day: There is no standard for stairs in Iraq. Normally there is an equal rise and run for every stair in the US, but here in bizzaro land, the stairs are of unequal length and height which makes the multiple trips of carrying bags from your old room to your new room a veritable obstacle course.