Thursday, August 31, 2006


Today was a very melancholy day for me, as I said a series of goodbyes to the people I've been working with for the past four months. It's been a very tight-knit staff, and I will certainly miss many of them. I've had an unusual career, with many surprise assignments, many of which I leave saying "this has been the best tour of my career." I can honestly say that about the time I've spent here. It is the highlight of my career so far. Tomorrow will mark a new job at a new base, and the opportunity to make a difference somewhere else. While I'm looking forward to the new job (it's essentially a "promotion" in level in the organization, although won't affect rank or pay) at the same time I'm disappointed. One of the best parts of the job at the battalion level, where I've been, is the opportunity to work directly with the soldiers doing the job out there on the roads. I didn't realize until I turned over the job of helping these folks just how much that meant to me. My new job will be a bit more management, a bit more powerpoint, and a bit less direct involvement in tactics and equipping battlefield leaders to make the right decisions. Perhaps it will be as fulfilling as these past few months have been. But I can't help thinking that nothing will match up to the first part of my tour out here. Perhaps that's why I'm feeling melancholy... I feel like I'm at the end of the best 4 months of my 20-year career. On the bright side for blog readers, I'm sure I'll have a lot of new and interesting observations about the new base tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I've turned over most of my duties here, holding on to a few of them simply because if I didn't have anything to do I'd go crazy. But I've also already been in touch via email with the people at my new location and am already getting work done there, even without moving. I tried to float the idea of continuing working from afar, but that didn't fly very far. Then again, I wasn't totally serious. I've already floated the idea of going home and working from there, and that one got shot down pretty quickly as well. Such a shame that they don't want to try innovative working arrangements! I've already dispatched a box of my stuff to my new base through the postal service, and will probably do a lot more tomorrow. Fortunately for me, the military mail service is free sending things from an APO box to another APO box. I'm trying to reduce my "carry on" baggage for the flight to the absolute minimum. One worry that just cropped up.. the laundry I put in Monday that was supposed to be back today wasn't! I sure hope it arrives tomorrow...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

One man's trash is another man's treasure

I've commented in previous posts about the guys in the motor pool who have been working on building a "stretch humvee" in their spare time. Normal humvees seat four: this one seats six, and will be a gift to the commanding general. Yesterday they completed the project, save a canvas roof which they're working on with some donated material. It runs smoothly and quietly. It has a nice big turning radius, too! Here's a picture of their creation (yeah, that's me in the driver's seat). I'm glad I got to see the project get finished before heading off. Lest you think this was a waste of your tax dollars, the vehicle was constructed in spare time entirely with materials from the DRMO (Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office) -- essentially our local junkyard. They pieced together the parts from at least two discarded humvees. Not too shabby!

Monday, August 28, 2006


Back in my submarine days, the junior officers on my ship would occasionally close the wardroom doors, and complain back and forth to each other about various things, usually involving senior members of the chain of command. It was a necessary release of frustration, and ironically served its purpose well, as after venting, we usually went back to work with a bit more enthusiasm. The joking name for these conversations was a "J. O. Retention Team Meeting." Today was one of those days where I really needed one of those meetings, but alas, nobody was around to complain to. Still, there are a few frustrating things about my job ... a few small things among many other more fulfilling parts, and occasionally those of us in the lower ranks of the military find ourselves feeling like pawns in the big chess game of life. That's actually not a bad analogy. Chess originated as a war game, and certainly the smaller pieces get moved around as necessary to protect, and sacrifice for, the more powerful pieces. It just would be nice to be, say, a bishop or knight instead of a pawn. Pawns can turn out pretty powerful, too, if they manage to survive all the way to the other end of the chessboard. Let me check that counter again...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Google Vote

My main accomplishment today was doing my civic duty and completing my absentee ballot for the Florida primary election in 9 days. Given a 7 day mailing timeframe, I probably am pushing it too close, but I had no idea who most of the candidates were and had been putting off doing the research. Thanks to the internet, though, getting that information is easy these days. I was able to google most candidates' names and find their campaign websites, getting enough information to actually make an informed choice. I was amused at some of the things candidates posted, such as the breed of their pet dog. The signs went up yesterday to sell my TV, DVD player, and bike. The TV and DVD went quickly... perhaps I priced them too low? But really, I only asked what I paid for them so I can't complain. So now it's just the bike... which I'd give away if someone bought the helmet and lock! But I've been informed the bike might be useful at my next base, so now I'm pondering if there's a way of shipping it there. Tomorrow, I guess I'll make a field trip to the post office and inquire.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


You absolutely have to read this post over at Dried Squid.

Blogger Search Engine

I had the pleasure today of meeting up with Mike, who blogs at The Chronicles of Narmya. He had some other business to do on this base so I made sure he stopped by before I move elsewhere. We didn't have that much time to chat, since I had a training meeting to attend (Mike sat through it as well) but we did exchange a few pleasantries afterward and decided to take a picture together, which he's posted on his blog. One of my former hobbies (and future when my son is old enough to play along) is Geocaching. It's billed as "the sport where you are the search engine." Essentially, people hide goodies somewhere in the world in a "cache" and then post the Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates (latitude and longitude) on the internet and invite others to find the treasure. The standard rule is "take something, leave something". Shortly after arriving here, I did a search for local caches and found out there was one in the old Russian T72 tank parked near the building where I work (for a short while longer, at least), appropriately named "Old War Horse." As Mike and I posed to document his visit, I mentioned the cache and was pleasantly surprised to find out he has done some geocaching as well. I gave him a few hints and he located the stash.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Jumping Beans

Early last month (has it been that long?) I posted a note about how I'd spent a lot of time "counting beans". At some point about a month ago, I was very certain that I knew exactly how many beans were in everyone's little sack, according to various computerized databases. Well, someone pointed out to me earlier this week that the numbers were off. So one of today's projects was digging into the details, down to serial numbers (which I mentioned were sometimes mind-numbingly close to each other) of these beans. Sure enough, one person was short one bean and another person had an extra bean. And, amazingly enough, it was the same serial numbered bean. I'm positive it was in the proper "sack" last month. Who knows how it moved. I suppose that's just one of life's little mysteries. And now I have a project for tomorrow. Getting the bean moved back to the right person's sack. Oh, the joy and excitement.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The only thing constant is change

I think the moral of the story is "be careful what you ask for." I've spent the day figuring out how to handle some interesting news that came my way this morning... soon I'll be moving to another base. More details in time as things play out, but the bottom line is that I'm needed elsewhere, and it actually answers some of the "complaints" I've been making earlier. Serves me right, I guess. It's nice to feel needed, but it's frustrating at some level... just when I finally had got things settled and comfortable in my current "home". The first thing I thought of when I got the news was that I wouldn't be able to take over the music team at church like I'd been setting up to do. Fortunately, they found out just today that the incoming chaplain for one of the units just arriving is also a guitarist, so perhaps the day is saved. Now they just need to find another keyboard player. So anyway, although this coming week was supposed to be a breather before things got busy again, I'll now be busy simultaneously getting things set up for my own move, as well as making sure things are going to run smoothly for the guy stepping into my shoes.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Not much to comment on today, as it was much the same as the previous 120 days I've spent in Iraq. But who's counting. I did learn a new bit of Army terminology today, amusingly on my way to lunch (where we had no paper for a second consecutive day!) I posted last month about Class IV barrier material, showing pictures of the new, taller barriers around my housing area, and most recently the DFAC. They are, apparently, called T-walls. Presumably because they are an upside-down T. The shorter version that I used to have are, oddly enough, called "Texas Barriers." I asked how they got that name and immediately one of the shorter, wider barriers was pointed out to me. "What's that?" I was asked... the answer, "A jersey barrier." And thus I had my answer. Texas barriers are like Jersey barriers, only bigger. Now you know.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

No news is no news

If you're not yet bored by my daily update on whether or not we got the Stars and Stripes, and how many of them we got, then today's post will probably push you over that brink of boredom. But hey, now you know how I feel when the most interesting thing I can talk about in my daily update was the fact that there was no newspaper available at lunch today. No doubt there will be two tomorrow! But lack of a print paper certainly doesn't stop me from reading. Today's "Good News from Iraq" story is that come September 3, the 8th Iraqi Army Division will be operating independently of U.S. advisors. Even though you've read about Iraqi forces taking the lead in many of the operations here, they have still done so under the mentorship of U. S. leaders. This milestone is a key step forward in their capabilities, and they way they are perceived by the Iraqi people. There is progress here. Slow, but sure progress.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Dust in the wind - again!

Yesterday's subject line was a bit prophetic. Late this afternoon, we got a big dust storm. Someone saw it coming and alerted everyone, and we were able to stand outside just before it arrived. It was pretty incredible looking one way and seeing a hazy blue sky, and the other seeing a wall of brown that quickly overtook us. Despite waiting about an hour after that to try to make my way (upwind) to dinner, there was still a rather nasty breeze and lots of grit in the eyes. Should have worn my goggles! Newspaper delivery resumed it's usually 3-day delayed delivery with Friday's Stars and Stripes. However, one of the most interesting stories I read was in today's online version of Stars and Stripes. The headline reads: Insurgent "housewarming" for U.S. troops gets pretty hot and the story details a group of engineers taking over a house and creating a patrol base in Ramadi. The operation name recognizes the contribution of Navy SEALs. Selected excertps from the story are below... but you should read the whole thing:

RAMADI, Iraq — It had all the makings of a reality TV blockbuster — drama, violence and do-it-yourself home improvements.

Like some combat version of "This Old House" or "Trading Spaces Iraq," U.S. soldiers, Marines and Navy SEALS seized two houses in Ramadi's deadliest neighborhood Tuesday and converted them into a fortified patrol base.


As Apache helicopters circled the dusty, bullet-pocked neighborhood and sniper teams dropped insurgent attackers with blasts from their .50-caliber rifles, the banging of hammers and the whine of electric saws echoed throughout the seized houses.


Insurgents began lashing out at sunup, presumably once they realized U.S. troops were building an outpost in the middle of their turf.


In recognition of the SEALs' role in helping to tame Ramadi, commanders dubbed Tuesday's action "Operation Vicksburg." MacFarland said that the famous Civil War battle of the same name was a shining example of cooperation between the U.S. Army and the Navy.

"Vicksburg also cut the Confederacy in half," MacFarland said. "And what we're doing right now is cutting the enemy's safe haven in half."


Throughout the mayhem, the engineers kept working, cigarettes permanently attached to the lips of some of them.

"This is routine for us," said First Sgt. Jerry Bailey, 42, of Athens, Ga. "We'll take a break if we get attacked and then go back to work. We don't stop till we're through."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Dust in the wind

My still-sore shins and knees weren't the only thing still remaining from Friday night's relay. This morning at church, I found out that the keyboard I was supposed to use was the same one that had been used for the band's performance all night during the event. It was coated in dust. If you've ever tried to play a piano covered in dust, you'll realize how my fingers felt this morning. I really could have used a can of compressed air. My prediction of the absence of a new newspaper today was accurate, and I had a celebratory bowl of Baskin Robbins rainbow sherbet after dinner tonight. Since I saved the Thursday paper just for this event, I did have something to read, in particular the fact that astronomers are redefining what they call a planet, and our solar system may soon consist of up to 53 planets. So much for my very enthusiastic mother just serving us nine pizzas. I also continued browsing news about the war here. I remember the big discussion on network news back on June 8, when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, was killed in an airstrike. Many of the talking heads were saying how one person isn't an entire organization. But if you followed the news in the days after, you saw numerous raids conducted off intelligence found from Zarqawi's safe house, and a ripple effect as many more terrorists were apprehended or eliminated. The same thing continues in many different ways, with terrorist captures leading to huge cache sites and cache sites leading to shwacking terrorists trying to emplant an IED. There are many of these small victories going on every day. One of this week's big successes was the completion of the Baghdad Fire Department, including esablishment of a 911-like system. The Iraqi Civil Defense organization is gaining the trust and confidence of the citizens, just one more small step in establishing a respected and capable government.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Double Dose of News

My legs are still sore from 20 laps around the track (5 miles) in support of the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life last night. I actually did run (jog) half of those laps, although not consecutively. It was a good event, well attended, and everyone was in a great mood. And I got a cool T-shirt (although technically I can't wear it until I come home). Thanks to those readers who contributed. Our battalion had 44 team members and raised over $2000. Base-wide, I think the figure is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Stars and Stripes deliveryman must have caught up on his backlog, since we got both Wednesday' s and Thursday's papers today and are only two days behind. I'd bet a scoop of Baskin Robbins that there will be no paper tomorrow, though. I saved one of today's to read just in case. Speaking of news, if you're only getting your coverage of the war from the big networks or syndicated articles in the paper, you're probably missing a lot of what's going on over here. No doubt you heard about some troops being extended and sent to Baghdad. But you probably haven't been reading that the mission they're supporting, Operation Together Forward, which began July 9, is bringing positive results. So far Iraqi and Coalition forces have killed 97 and detained 501 terrorists associated with death squads and seized more than 59 weapons and munitions caches in the process. Phase II of the operation, conducting clearing operations in Baghdad, started August 8 and has resulted in several successes. Just in the last week, Iraqi forces have captured terrorists, death squad leaders, and a terrorist facilitator who helps finance operations and IED attacks. Especially good news for all of us involved in the Counter-IED fight, it was heartening to read that Iraqi forces captured an IED Cell leader. If you noticed a common thread in all these stories, it's the fact that it's the Iraqi Security Forces taking the lead in many of these, carrying out most operational missions, while Coalition forces provide security cordons and quick-reaction forces. The war is far from over, but their forces are growing and police force recruitment has had one of its most successful drives. There are plenty of success stories for U.S. forces as well. Our morale is very high... we can see our success over here much more clearly than you're getting back home through the media's filter of sensationalism.

Friday, August 18, 2006

It's a Small World after all

One of the highlights of each day is just following lunch, when I pick up the latest issue of the Stars and Stripes newspaper. Note that I said "latest" rather than "current" because the news is usually a few days old. Today, for example, we got Tuesday's news, a mere 3 days behind schedule. It's a case of deja vu reading the headlines that I saw online a few days ago. Since the paper isn't that useful for keeping up with current events, it does provide some entertainment in the form of comics, especially the Sunday comic insert (which we usually get on Wednesday). The horoscopes are amusing to read, since they were allegedly true three days ago, but apply just as well today, or any day, and for any person, for that matter. Actually, my favorite part is the letters to the editor, where I enjoy the occasional interchanges between people over various subjects of interest to the troops. Much more current, but only coming out on a weekly basis, is The Anaconda Times, put out by the public affairs office on base. I was pleasantly surprised to pick up this week's issue today, open the flap, and read a news story about our unit! Although the online archive linked above is about a month behind, I've linked to an online version of that same story: Navy takes aim at IEDs. The two-page article in the middle of the paper was also of interest. It highlights the opthamology department at the base hospital here, including a brief interview with Lt.Col Nelson, the chief of opthamology. The interesting thing about him is that his mother and my mother were best friends in high school. I remember some childhood visits to his grandparents' house. His mother had recently gotten in touch with my mom and both were surprised to find out their sons were not only in Iraq at the same time, but at the same base. It's a small world. I still need to look him up and see if I can share a meal with him sometime.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

On sale -- 100% off!

Some of the folks on base are headed home soon. Their departure represents a great opportunity for bargain hunters. I just picked up a refrigerator very inexpensively today. And in some housing units, people are just putting things outside free for the taking... I could have picked up an iron and ironing board if I had wanted it. Numerous desks are available -- I picked up a nice bookshelf. Seems that the rules at the "self help" place where you can make your own furniture is that you can't sell it, since it's make with government-purchased property. And some people have made some nice desks! I guess my procrastinating actually going over to self-help to make my own desk paid off. Good things come to those who wait.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Spinning Wheels

Today was one of those days in which I was busy nonstop from morning to evening, but didn't actually get very much accomplished. Ah, well... there's always tomorrow (and the next few hundred days) to do that. Thanks to those of you who have suggested squadron names so far! I'm compiling your suggestions for the list!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Squadron Name

I got an email today from our headquarters in Baghdad soliciting input for a squadron name. Not the formal name (Joint CREW Composite Squadron One) of course, that's fixed. But rather, the nickname. Like the "scorpions" or "dogs of war" or something fun like that. I've been poring over some ideas, wondering if I'm limited by the fact that there is already a large black crow holding a lightning bolt on our logo. "Zapping Crows?" "Black Lightning?" "Shadow Shield?" I don't know. Perhaps readers can make suggestions in the comments. The command website should give you an idea of our mission if you need inspiration.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Right Here, Right Now

The week got off to a good start with its usual run of semi-long meetings, but at least everyone is in a reasonably good mood. I wanted to do some shopping today so I rode the bus around to one of the bigger DFACs and then the Post Exchange. In my wanderings, I encountered a lot of the Air Force people on base. Most of them work at the theater hospital here on the base. I think it's called the CASH... kind of like MASH but not mobile. I read an article about them today... and of course have to really respect them and the job they do. Frequently, in the interservice rivalry, the Army, Marine Corps, and Navy (in that order) like to tease the Air Force guys about how comparatively "young" their service is, and talk about all the old traditions in our other branches, going back centuries. But the Air Force is currently represented by the 332nd Expeditionary Air Wing, which traces its roots to the Tuskegee Airmen in WW-II. I have to concede, they have one of the best traditions of any unit out here. And their motto is quite appropriate, too, for their mission... "Right Here, Right Now."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sundays just got harder

Another Sunday come and gone, marking yet another week. It does seem that the weeks tick by with some regularity. Far better to mark those off the calendar than days, which drag on, or months, which are a bit too long to keep track of. Maybe there's something to that "7 items in your short term memory". At least a payday is coming up. Not that payday has much meaning here. I don't really need much money to get by. Food and lodging is paid for. Even gas is free, although I don't have a vehicle to fill up. I mostly keep track of it as a day not to go to the finance office, since it's crowded. Although the last time I went on a non-busy day it seemed to take forever. Perhaps I'm doing it wrong and I should go on payday when there are more people helping out and things move more efficiently. Speaking of busy days, Sundays are about to become more hectic for me. You may recall that shortly after I arrived here, there was a need for a keyboard player on the praise & worship team at church. I volunteered. I've been playing every Sunday. Well, it turns out that just about everybody else on the team.... well, scratch that. Everybody else on the team is leaving within the next two to six weeks. I'm the only continuity. So today I met with the current leader to discuss "turnover". I'm hoping it's a temporary thing, and as the new people come in to replace all the people departing, that there will be some volunteers for the team (since I can play, but certainly can't sing!) and that some will be senior enough to take over leadership. I guess the good news is that 90% of the congregation is leaving, too, so at least if I'm by myself there won't be that many more people to perform for! Anyway, it will be interesting to see how the next few weeks play out. Yes, there was a pun intended there.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Weekend warrior

Ah, the weekend is finally here. Time is zipping by. Today was a lot better than yesterday. I arrived early, had my coffee cup ready, and even got a doughnut which was part of a birthday cake someone made for an officer on our staff. I had a productive afternoon, felt like I did some useful work but didn't have so much to do that I couldn't relax. And I'll be able to enjoy much of a day off tomorrow... and still do a little bit of work. There never really is a weekend here. But the good thing about being in a combat zone is that nobody expects a weekend, and you feel successful taking a half day off. Ah, such is the good life. The one bad thing for the day is that the air conditioner in my office is acting up, dripping water inside the room! We've wedged a brush underneath it to tilt it and hopefully drain that water outside, so hopefully that fixes the problem. I don't think I could handle a day without air conditioning!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Just another manic Friday

There are some days that you wish you could just go back to bed. Today has been shaping up to be one of those. For starters, I overslept, so I had to rush in my preparation. I did arrive at my office just in time to grab my coffee cup, fill it up, and head to the long run of Friday meetings. Except that my coffee cup was nowhere to be found. And I didn't have enough time to search for it. I attempted to make do with a can of coke, but the caffeine content isn't even close. So during a break in the meetings, I searched around, and managed to locate my coffee cup. And then walked to the room where I usually fill it up, but it was empty. So I went to another backup place. But I was so tired and sleepy and non-caffeinated that I ended up walking past it and stopping a few doors later wondering why I was walking that way. I turned around to head back, and for some odd reason, walked back into the conference room for the meeting, completely forgetting to fill my coffee! I really must have a short attention span. Meetings were successful, including my presentation to the Commanding General, although there was a lot of waiting and sitting around to get things done. And just as I was settling down thinking I had had a successful day, I picked up my glasses and realized I had broken one of the hinges. Yeah, I knew this nice, fragile rimless set wasn't going to make a year in a war zone, but the actual moment of discovering brokenness (and having to switch to my army-issued backup pair) is depressing. Blah! (On the bright side, I think it might be fixable with super glue.) At least another week is over, and the deployment counter says I'm more than a third of my way through this thing! And, I get to have a "real" car for the weekend, since enough of the people who get to have the cars are traveling that it falls into my hands for a few days! I just better make sure I get my coffee before trying to drive anywhere.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Finding and losing my identity

Well, the two previous posts about comments shouldn't count as today's daily post. So there's a bit more to talk about. Firstly, thanks to one of my readers for emailing me an article noting that the government is going to pay for credit monitoring services for all the people affected by the VA data theft. That's nice to see... and given how much our personal data is bandied about in the course of normal military life (I swear, my social security number is in a thousand different databases) it just makes sense. The article goes on to note that in Florida (where I'm a resident), "the Transportation Department inspector general's office said that one of its laptop computers containing names, birth dates and Social Security numbers for 80,670 Florida residents was stolen July 27 from a government vehicle in Miami." Your government, here to help you! As for the job, not much is going on. I'm preparing for tomorrow's brief to the general, counting the days (I just passed the 1/3 mark!) and generally trying to maintain a good attitude despite several reasons not to. It works most of the time!

Another Comment on Comments

You learn something new every day. While promptly approving a comment today, I figured out how to delete old comments! And the comment spammer visits rarely enough that I figure I can just kill his comments when they appear rather than making everyone else wait to post. So I turned comment moderation back off. But I did turn on "word verification" which means you'll have to look at a display and then type in what it says, when you make your comment. This should stop automated software from making those spammy comments. And speaking of comments, I could use more of them. Stats say between 40 and 50 people read this blog every day, and only one or two of them ever says anything. Ask questions! Make comments! Let me know what interests you and I might pontificate about it.

No Comment

Whoops. So I've been getting a lot of "spam" comments lately. You know, the kind that say "here are some links" and you click on the link and it's... nothing you want to see. I tried earlier to turn on comment moderation, but messed up something, and 24 of your lovely comments all sat somewhere on my site waiting for me to approve them. But I didn't know where that was. I found it today! So all the old comments from May and June are posted... and I've turned back on comment moderation, with an email notification to me when you leave a comment so I don't let them languish for months. Sorry. :) In any case, if you're not a blogger member, your comments may take a while to post, but I'll try to get to them promptly this time.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Time flies when you're watching polls

The lunch table talk today was yesterday's primary election in Connecticut, which most of you have no doubt been following as well. Senator Lieberman is actually pretty popular among most of the guys I've talked to, which have included both Republicans and Democrats. I think the majority of us agreed that a (pipe dream) McCain-Lieberman ticket would be a great presidential run. But I digress. I mentioned a few days ago that I was glad football season was starting, since it's a countable number of weeks until I see my family again. This is also the third deployment I've been on since I got married, where I was able to follow the political news running up to an election, and enjoy reading polls and trying to make my own predictions. The previous ones were 2000 and 2004, presidential election years. This year will probably be very interesting, with talk of the balance of power shifting in congress. The Lieberman campaign will be interesting as well. Speaking of elections, I got my ballot for the upcoming Florida state primary election in September! (Yes, I'm officially a Florida resident. Coincidentally, they don't charge state income tax.) Unfortunately, I'm supposed to choose among a bunch of judges that I know nothing about. I guess I'll have to spend a little time doing some research on them. At least a few of them were nice enough to send me their campaign literature in the mail as well.

Busy as a bee

It's already well past midnight and I just finished putting the finishing touches on a brief for the Corps Support Command (COSCOM) commanding general, who has heard through the grapevine about an analysis program I wrote (and told you about) a few months ago. So, of course, I've spent a lot of free time in the last week polishing up my kludgy tool to make it look prettier for higher-ups to look at. What's that they say about making work for yourself? At least it gives me something to do. And, more important, it's actually useful. Anyway, it's late, so that's the news for today. More news tomorrow... or if it's like the Stars and Stripes at the current delivery rate, you'll hear about today's news in 3 days.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Recounting the beans

Today was uneventful. It's been a month since the really accurate count of the various types of beans was submitted to the master bean counters, so today I spent much of my time making sure all the beans that were supposed to still be there were still there. Fun stuff. Really. Yawn. Since the day was filled with such exciting number crunching, I decided to take up a fellow Navy officer's offer to drive over to the other side of the base and eat at the other DFAC there. It was the same food (not even as good, actually!) but it was nice just having a change of scenery. It was interesting looking around at all the people and thinking that they might spend a whole year on the same base as the people I work with, and never meet any of them. There really are two main halves of the base, and lots of people stick to one side or the other. I did note with a smile that football was on the TV during dinner... the Hall of Fame Game. Yay! Football season! I know I'll be seeing my family again sometime during the season, and I can count the weeks. (It was very unfortunate that one of the teams playing was the Raiders, and even more unfortunate that they won the game. Grr.)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Rearranging the furniture

As always happens, if you run out of things to do, someone will make them up for you. I returned to my room after lunch today, intending on taking a nice nap. Alas, I had a nastygram from the housing office complaining that my TV was blocking the circuit breaker panel in my room (I have the breakers for all 3 units in the CHU.) Apparently that was in the small print of the rules that I signed. Anyway, I decided to move the TV (and stand) to another corner of the room, which was easy enough, until I realized the cable TV cord was coming up on the wrong side of the floor. I could probably have easily solved the problem with duct tape, but given a lot of time and little motivation to buy duct tape, I used my trusty leatherman to drill a hole in the right location. Then I had to feed the cord out of the old hole, fish it to the other side behind the front steps with a mop, and push it up through the new hole. Somewhere in this process I realized that it was carrying some sort of live current with the TV signal, as I kept zapping myself! Finally, I got my setup just the way I want it on the other side of the room. With the side benefit that it won't be as noisy for my neighbor. And when my neighbor trips the circuit breaker again, it's now easily accessible.

Everybody's working for the weekend

It's the end of the week already. It snuck up on me this time... as I've actually found stuff to do to keep me busy for the past few days. But again, I'm looking ahead at a very short to-do list. We'll see if I can mange to create work for myself again next week. Not much happened today, at least that I can talk about here. The guys working on the stretch humvee are really coming along on the project. The staff is still talking about heading home even though they're not that short... the running joke around here is "the first eleven months are the hardest." They're still in the middle of their eleventh month. I'll try to think up something more interesting to post tomorrow!

Friday, August 04, 2006

If Marines are Leathernecks...

One of our Friday meetings is the "Command and Staff" where the Battalion Commander meets with all his subordinate commanders, and staff, and we review a lot of administrative notes. One of the issues discussed today was from the supply officer, who happily reported that the powers that be had approved government purchase of gel seat cushions for our gun truck crews, who spend up to 12 hours per day on not-so-comfortable humvee seats. There was a bit of laughter when people tried to 'crack' a joke about such a thing. The Battalion Commander, of course, lowered the levity when he tried to remind us that our crews are getting leather-butts from all that sitting. I guess that's the transportation battalion's equivalent to the marine nickname.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Preparing for Deployment

Prompted by Mike at The Chronicles of Narmya, who has been offering much helpful advice on clothing and gear for future Navy deployers here, I've decided to post a chunk of predeployment advice I recently received by email. A hat tip to the author, who remains unknown to me. I admit my life isn't quite as bad as some of these imply. I've italicized the ones that actually ring true to me!
1. Sleep on a cot in the garage.
2. Replace the garage door with a curtain.
3. Six hours after you go to sleep, have your wife or girlfriend whip open the curtain, shine a flashlight in your eyes and mumble, "Sorry, wrong cot."
4. Renovate your bathroom. Hang a green plastic sheet down from the middle of your bathtub and move the showerhead down to chest level. Keep four inches of soapy cold water on the floor. Stop cleaning the toilet and pee everywhere but in the toilet itself. Leave two to three sheets of toilet paper. Or for best effect, remove it altogether. For a more realistic deployed bathroom experience, stop using your bathroom and use a neighbor's. Choose a neighbor who lives at least a quarter mile away.
5. When you take showers, wear flip-flops and keep the lights off.
6. Every time there is a thunderstorm, go sit in a wobbly rocking chair and dump dirt on your head.
7. Put lube oil in your humidifier instead of water and set it on "HIGH"for that tactical generator smell.
8. Don't watch TV except for movies in the middle of the night. Have your family vote on which movie to watch and then show a different one.
9. Leave a lawnmower running in your living room 24 hours a day for proper noise level.
10. Have the paperboy give you a haircut.
11. Once a week, blow compressed air up through your chimney making sure the wind carries the soot across and on to your neighbor's house. Laugh at him when he curses you.
12. Buy a trash compactor and only use it once a week. Store up garbage in the other side of your bathtub.
13. Wake up every night at midnight and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a saltine cracker.
14. Make up your family menu a week ahead of time without looking in your food cabinets or refrigerator. Then serve some kind of meat in an unidentifiable sauce poured over noodles. Do this for every meal.
15. Set your alarm clock to go off at random times during the night.Whenit goes off, jump out of bed and get to the shower as fast as you can.Simulate there is no hot water by running out into your yard and breaking out the garden hose.
16. Once a month, take every major appliance completely apart and put it back together again.
17. Use 18 scoops of coffee per pot and allow it to sit for five or six hours before drinking.
18. Invite at least 185 people you don't really like because of their strange hygiene habits to come and visit for a couple of months.Exchangeclothes with them.
19. Have a fluorescent lamp installed on the bottom of your coffee table and lie under it to read books.
20. Raise the thresholds and lower the top sills of your front and back doors so that you either trip over the threshold or hit your head on the sill every time you pass through one of them.
21. Keep a roll of toilet paper on your night stand and bring it to the bathroom with you. And bring your gun and a flashlight.
22. Go to the bathroom when you just have to pass gas, "just in case."Every time.
23. Announce to your family that they have mail, have them report to you as you stand outside your open garage door after supper and then say, "Sorry, it's for the other Smith."
24. Wash only 15 items of laundry per week. Roll up the semi-wet clean clothes in a ball. Place them in a cloth sack in the corner of the garage where the cat pees. After a week, unroll them and without ironing or removing the mildew, proudly wear them to professional meetings and family gatherings. Pretend you don't know what you look or smell like.Enthusiastically repeat the process for another week.
25. Go to the worst crime-infested place you can find, go heavily armed, wearing a flak jacket and a Kevlar helmet. Set up shop in a tent in a vacant lot. Announce to the residents that you are there to help them.
26. Eat a single M&M every Sunday and convince yourself it's for Malaria.
27. Demand each family member be limited to 10 minutes per week for a morale phone call. Enforce this with your teenage daughter.
28. Shoot a few bullet holes in the walls of your home for proper ambiance.
29. Sandbag the floor of your car to protect from mine blasts and fragmentation.
30. While traveling down roads in your car, stop at each overpass and culvert and inspect them for remotely detonated explosives before proceeding.
31. Fire off 50 cherry bombs simultaneously in your driveway at 3:00 a.m.When startled neighbors appear, tell them all is well, you are just registering mortars. Tell them plastic will make an acceptable substitute for their shattered windows.
32. Drink your milk and sodas warm.
33. Spread gravel throughout your house and yard.
34. Make your children clear their Super Soakers in a clearing barrel you placed outside the front door before they come in.
35. Make your family dig a survivability position with overhead cover in the backyard. Complain that the 4x4s are not 8 inches on center and make them rebuild it.
36. Continuously ask your spouse to allow you to go buy an M-Gator.
37. When your 5-year-old asks for a stick of gum, have him find the exact stick and flavor he wants on the Internet and print out the web page.Typeup a Form 9 and staple the web page to the back. Submit the paperwork to your spouse for processing. After two weeks, give your son the gum.
38. Announce to your family that the dog is a vector for disease and shoot it. Throw the dog in a burn pit you dug in your neighbor's back yard.
39. Wait for the coldest/ hottest day of the year and announce to your family that there will be no heat/air conditioning that day so you can perform much needed maintenance on the heater/ air conditioner. Tell them you are doing this so they won't get cold/ hot.
40. Just when you think you're ready to resume a normal life, order yourself to repeat this process for another six months to simulate the next deployment you've been ordered to support.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Relay for Life

We interrupt this regularly scheduled daily blog entry to note that on the evening of Friday, August 18th I'll be participating in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life event, along with a team from the 181st Transportation Battalion. Quoting from the ACS website, "Relay For Life is a fun-filled overnight event designed to celebrate survivorship and raise money for research and programs of your American Cancer Society. During the event, teams of people gather at schools, fairgrounds, or parks and take turns walking or running laps. Each team tries to keep at least one team member on the track at all times." We're going to have people walking or running all night long (I think I'll be in the walking category!) here. Our Battalion is doing this in support of one of the soldiers from our attached field artillery units, Specialist Brown. He was diagnosed with cancer about a month ago. If you want to donate to the ACS directly, feel free to do so. If you want to join your donation with our battalion's, email me privately and we'll make arrangements. Or, you can try to locate a Relay for Life in your own area!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Cleanliness is next to... water

OK. I really don't have much interesting to talk about today, other than the fact that I got to briefly play with a pressure washer today. So much more efficient at removing dust than air, or brooms, or anything else. And it's fun. I think I'm going to try to convince my wife to let me buy a pressure washer when I get home. I think they sell them at Home Depot. I don't know what I'll wash yet. But whatever it is, it'll be fun.