Monday, October 30, 2006

All the news that's not fit to print

Some of the talk behind the scenes in military blogger circles is the "crack down" by the powers-that-be on military blogging in general. While we've all known for a while that some people were watching us, this article tells us who.

We all want to do the right thing and not publish information that will help the enemy, so it's hard to resent such scrutiny, but at the same time, some of the threats for misdeeds (of which I'm guilty of a few necessary after-the-fact deletions) are pretty severe, so we really have to watch ourselves.

Ironically, the Navy submarine force has been nicknamed the "silent service" because we were so tight-lipped about what we did on our missions. I find some of the Army restrictions even more "silent". But necessarily, my comments are tending toward the more mundane aspects of life here. War stories of the more interesting aspects of life here will have to wait until I come home.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


The guys around the office are going all out on the halloween decorations. Our Tactical Operations Center (TOC) is decked out in spider webs, bats, and a few other decorations including Chucky, star of some horror movies that I have never seen and never plan to see.

More importantly for most of us, a different Charles is here for Halloween. Chuck Norris (a local cult icon) is around! Nobody's really sure just where Chuck is at the moment, but he is scheduled to make an appearance at the MWR sometime that we'll need to investigate. One of the officers on our staff teaches a martial arts class and is trying to get him to stop by.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Snowball Express

In about two weeks, I'll be having a wonderful time with my family at Disneyland. Many families of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, will not have the luxury of a time with their loved ones this year... or ever again, but an organization called Snowball Express is trying for the next best thing.

These wonderful folks are planning a party and an all expenses paid trip together to Disneyland for families of servicemen and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The trip is just before Christmas this year.

Most of us over here will readily admit that the real heroes are not those of us doing our jobs, but our families back home, carrying on in our absence, and sometimes having to carry on without us permanently. I encourage you to visit the Snowball Express website and help out the families of our fallen warriors by giving them a wonderful holiday experience together with other families like them.


One interesting coincidence that happened on my trip down to TQ was that I bumped into someone I recognized in the passenger terminal.  It turned out we both went through the training process together at Fort Jackson, and he was just finishing his Individual Augmentee tour.  It really brought home to me the fact that if I had been on the “usual” six month Navy orders, I’d have been headed home as well.  So it was briefly demotivating.


But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I’m content with the current schedule I have.  Not that I wouldn’t love to go home right now, but there are some projects I plan to finish and I just wouldn’t feel right leaving them undone.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I’m comfortable walking there at a reasonable pace so that I can do things right.


I mentioned yesterday that the sand was a different consistency there, and in fact the entire surroundings seemed different, even just moving from one part of the base to another..  In one direction was a large lake and a “beach”.  In another, across a river, lush green surrounding a city could be seen against the backdrop of hills.  In yet another direction, miles of dirt.  It’s quite different than here at Al Asad where the common joke is that we’re in a “moon crater” and things look pretty much the same no matter where you are.


It all goes to show that there are a multitude of different experiences in Iraq.  It’s been interesting observing some of them.  But I can’t wait to experience that wonderful “going home” feeling…


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Lakeside Vacation

I returned sometime shortly after sunrise from what was supposed to be a 24-hour trip to another base, and turned into a 48-hour trip once all the various flight delays got factored in. Ugh. If a commercial airline treated me this way, I'd sue for my money back.

If you've spent any considerable time looking at a map of Iraq, you'll have seen three large inland lakes. The middle one of these three is Lake Habbaniyah, and nestled up against that lake is the base of Al Taqqadum. I'd say it was one of the smaller bases, and if you consider that population-wise, it's probably true. But the fact is, most base dimensions are determined by the length of a runway, and TQ (the local abbreviation for the base) is no different. It's just a lot more sparse in between little pockets of population, like the housing area dubbed "Hotel California."

Appropriate for a lakeside base, the sand was a different consistency than the "moon dust" talcum powder consistency here at Al Asad. It seemed much more like beach sand... actually absorbed the water when it rained.

I actually did fly "first class" on the trip down there. I was booked on a C-130, and they asked for volunteers to sit up front in the cockpit. Nobody else raised their hand so I jumped at the opportunity. It was nice to sit facing forward and actually see things, as well as listen in to the air crew banter on the intercom. A very professional operation. The only downside to the trip down there was that initially my flight was scheduled early enough in the morning that they wanted me at the passenger terminal at 5am... and I found this out at 10pm the previous night! Yikes! Turns out the flight ended up delayed/postponed and I didn't fly out until about noon... could have slept in!

The flight problems going down were nowhere near those coming back. I was pleased to find a nice evening 9pm helicopter flight back. Shortly after checking in I was told I was bumped to a later flight... and shortly after that an earlier flight opened up for "Space available" seats. Because of the (in my opinion silly) way they track passengers, since I was a scheduled passenger they would NOT let me fly space A on the earlier flight, which left with empty seats. And by the time my newly scheduled flight was supposed to go, a storm blew through, and it didn't actually fly until sometime in the middle of the night! I didn't get back to my room to sleep until about 9am. I'm off to bed now to try to catch up on the very limited amount of sleep I got in a morning nap (slept through lunch, too).

Monday, October 23, 2006

Grand Tour

One of the differences between military air and civilian flights is the schedules.  Sometimes you don’t know until a few hours before a flight that you actually are booked on a flight.  Such is the case for my last minute notice that I’m flying a lot earlier than I had planned tomorrow.


I’ll be bouncing around the country for the next few days, no doubt flying first class.  Stories of my adventures on my return!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Happiness Factor > 1.0

Another week has elapsed and I have very little of interest to report, other than my chronic calendar watching.

I have now been “In Theater” more than 180 days. Many of the Individual Augmentee tours are only 180 days (after stateside training) and if I had volunteered for one of those I might be on my way home now. Lucky me! Actually, I probably will be lucky and spend something significantly less than the 365 planned. I’m holding off on updating my counter until things are a bit more certain, though.

I also have less time between now and my R&R leave than I will spend on R&R leave. That’s a ratio that we called the “Happiness Factor” at the Naval Academy, and it’s now greater than 1.0, always a good thing. Part of me wants time to fly by so I can start R&R but the other part of me wants this amount of time to actually be “long” since it’s what I’ll get to enjoy back home.

I’m chatting online regularly with my wife, making plans for R&R and even for my eventual return. It’s nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Still a ways to go, though, and lots of work between here and there.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Old Ironsides

On October 21, 1797, the USS Constitution was launched in Boston, Massachusetts. It is arguably one of the most famous ships in the Navy, if not the most famous. It is the oldest U.S. Navy ship in commission, and since the only older commissioned ship in the world, HMS Victory, is drydocked, it is the oldest commissioned ship afloat.

Built with planks up to seven inches thick, Constitution was able to withstand many of the heavy British broadsides during the War of 1812, and earned the nickname "Old Ironsides."

The U.S. Army First Armored Division, currently deployed to Iraq, was formed in 1940. When searching for a nickname for the division in 1941, the commander was inspired by a painting of Constitution and the "Old Ironsides" nickname, along with an illustrious and famous fighting history.

Old Ironsides' launching is not the only significant event on this day. Eight years later, on October 21, 1805, the British fleet under Lord Nelson, annihilated the Franco-Spanish fleet in the Battle of Trafalgar without losing a single ship, arguably the most famous battle in Naval history. Happy Trafalgar Day!

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Last Action Hero

"Chuck Norris counted to infinity - twice."

"Chuck Norris knows the last digit of pi."

"There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live."

When I first started hearing the guys in the office trading "Chuck Norris Facts" I thought it was just a humorous thing between the guys in my office. But I've since found out that it's a rather widespread phenomenon across Iraq. The generals in my chain of command are on the mailing list for the "Chuck Fact of the Day," the facts make regular appearances on our daily briefings, and you can reliably find a Chuck Fact grafittied inside most latrines. An officer quoted in this article equates Chuck to World War II's "Kilroy was here."

"When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down."

"There is no such thing as global warming. Chuck Norris was cold, so he turned the sun up."

Want more? You can find them at

Thursday, October 19, 2006


I read Dilbert every day, and since I mentioned how Dilbert-ish things can get around here, I found the last two days of strips rather amusing. It is true that the day to day routine, including endless meetings, tends to wear one down. But the lovely smell of fresh coffee brings a bright, cheery smile to everyone's face!

One of the items I inherited in my new office is a coffee maker, and the guys have a large bag of gourmet Starbucks coffee (they come from Ft. Lewis, in Washington state) so I am enjoying lots of the stuff and it's really helping out my productivity. Unfortunately, I'm the only one in the office who drinks coffee, which leaves me to finish off most of the pot. I really do need to cut back.

Meetings, meetings, meetings

Today was one of those not-rare-enough moments where I ended up being late for a meeting because I was stuck in another meeting that ran late. As a matter of fact, the day was pretty much a solid block of meetings from morning to evening. Some of the meetings were to plan other meetings, ironically enough. It seemed very Dilbert-ish.

I'm enjoying my new computer, and I think I've finally finished the nearly endless series of updates and patches and multiple reboots, so things should run a bit more smoothly from here on out. I'm working on trying to recover data from the old machine... not that I need anything, but more as just a challenge to see if I can...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The definition of imminent

About two months ago, my laptop started giving me a warning that hard drive failure was imminent, and that I should back up my data immediately. It was nice to get the warning, but admittedly after using the machine without major problems for a few months, I had started to ignore them.

So it came as quite a surprise last night when my hard drive failed. Blue is a lovely color unless it's the famous "blue screen of death." Ah, well, can't say I wasn't warned. And I even know that the "next time" I should have about two months to back up my data. (This is the same sort of experimenting I do with the gas tank warning light, much to the frustration of my wife.)

Fortunately for me, the PX has a really nice system at a really low price. With no tax, even. Guess I need to put that tax free salary toward something...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Manic Monday

Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday.  I was busy simultaneously mourning the demise of Navy’s offense and cheering on the awesome defense of the Denver Broncos.  As satisfying as watching the Raiders lose was, it certainly would have been nice to have been more of a blowout.  Oh, well.  There’s always the next time.


This looks to be a busy week for me, and the next few weeks even busier.  Lots of work, coupled with impending deadlines, are both certain means of making time go faster, which is always a good thing.


A quick public service announcement to some of the commenters who have asked for my address… when you submit your comment anonymously, I don’t have your email address to reply, and even if I’ve written you previously to my September change of base, I probably lost your address.  So please drop me a line by email if you have it, or include your own email in your comment!  Thanks!


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Real Life Hero

I’m frequently the recipient of those “feel good” stories that get passed around the internet, and only a few times a year do I find some compelling enough to pass on. This is one of them. (I’ve received it twice already, and I apologize to those of you who have seen it, but it bears repeating!) Frequently people tell me and other members of the military that we’re heroes for what we do. But we are nothing compared to this man.

[From Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly]

I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots. But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck. Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars -- all in the same day (doing the Ironman Triathlon). Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S.on a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

And what has Rick done for his father? Not much -- except save his life.

This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs. "He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life," Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old, "Put him in an institution." But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. "No way," Dick says he was told. "there's nothing going on in his brain." "Tell him a joke," Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain. They rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor. By touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? "Go Bruins!"

And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and The school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, "Dad, I want to do that." Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described "porker" who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. "then it was me who was handicapped," Dick says. "I was sore for two weeks." That day changed Rick's life. "Dad," he typed, "when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!" And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.

"No way," Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't quite a single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year. Then somebody said, "Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?" How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried. Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii. It must be a buzz kill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't you think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own? "No way," he says. Dick does it purely for "the awesome feeling" he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together. This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992 -- only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

"No question about it," Rick types. "My dad is the Father of the Century." And Dick got something else out of all this too . Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. "If you hadn't been in such great shape," one doctor told him, "you probably would've died 15 years ago." So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's lives.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day. That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy. "The thing I'd most like," Rick types, "is that just once my dad sit in the chair and I push him."

Here's the video:

A fine Navy day

For most people, the significance of today is simply that it’s Friday the 13th, and all the associated triskadecaphobic hubbub surrounding that.  (AFN even aired the original Friday the 13th movie this evening.)  But for sailors, the day had a little bit more significance.


Friday, October 13, 1775 was the day that the Continental Congress resolved to construct two warships, and is recognized as the “birthday” of the U.S. Navy, making us 231 years old, a mere 4 months younger than the Army, which had been established June 14 of that same year.  My running joke today (not very well received) was that it took the Army 4 months to realize they needed a lot of help. 


Other than that, not much else to report.  The usual end-of-week crunch, another brief rainstorm (a bit longer at about 15 minutes, and big heavy drops) that actually left some puddles.  The rain passed but the thunderstorms continued nearby.  It was kind of freakish (speaking of Friday the 13th?) to see all the lightning going on near the horizon.  I stayed away from tall metal objects.  I heard a rumor that there was a tornado warning, but don’t know if it was something official or some guys joking around.  I guess it probably should have been a concern, since I live in essentially a giant trailer park.  Odd that my biggest concerns today weren’t being in a combat zone, but the weather.  Go figure.


Happy Navy Birthday!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Halfway home!

If you’ve been watching the counters at the top of this blog, you’ll have noticed the “time deployed” number getting a lot closer to the “time remaining” number, which is marching steadily downward.  Today the numbers will cross, and I’ll officially be on the downhill side of the deployment.


That, of course, is also the “worst case” estimate.  As always seems to happen on deployments, there are consistenly rumors about early returns, but as is always the guidance, you never believe them until they’ve happened.  So things might be a lot better than half.  But no matter what, I have less time remaining on this deployment than the time I’ve been gone and that’s a nice landmark to celebrate.


Speaking of landmarks, it rained today, the first time I’ve seen precipitation since my first week in Baghdad back in May.  Sure, it only lasted about 5 minutes, but it’s a clear sign that summer is over and cooler days are ahead.


I’m actually not looking toward the end date of the deployment just yet.  It’s still a long way off.  Better to focus on is the fact that I’m about a month away from my planned R&R leave, and that is exciting enough for a short term goal.  And by the time I’ve gone and returned from that, I’ll be looking at an even shorter calendar ahead of me.  All this is a Good Thing™. 


Election Season

I’m sure everyone back home has tired of political commercials by now.  That’s one benefit of being deployed, not having to watch them, except when they are nasty enough to get extra publicity on the news broadcasts.


AFN does show their fair share of fake political ads, though, to help keep us in the campaign mood and remind us to vote.  There’s an ad for a bag of leaves, and a relish packet, and a few other well-done commercials.  Sometimes I wonder if a bag of leaves might do better in congress than some of the current representatives.  But I digress.


I still haven’t received my absentee ballot, but hopefully it will arrive soon.  Just in case, I printed out one of the “Federal Write In” ballots.  Last time I used one of those, my real ballot came in the next day, so I think I’ll try to be a bit more patient this time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Driving me batty

I mentioned a few days ago about the rearrangement of furniture in the office.  One unfortunate side effect of that was the shortening of our “putting green”.  Fortunately, my office-mate spent a short time today sawing a new hole in the floor and plugging up the old one, so we were able to relocate the green and regain the full length of the putt.


Not only that, but recently our staff finished a driving range just outside the office!  Okay, not a range, really… just a small square of artificial turf, a tee, and a large net to catch the drives.  Still, if putting isn’t enough to relieve stress, you can always grab a driver and go out and hit a bucket of balls.


Taxpayers will be glad to hear that these distractions really aren’t used that often; at least as rarely as the ever-present smoke breaks.


The other interesting thing around the office is the fact that it’s October, and people are in a Halloween mood.  Someone has a rubber bat that hangs (upside down) from the ceiling.  It has been moving around from room to room each day, finding a new home.  I would say it was the highlight of each day figuring out where the bat moved to, but I don’t think I can lie that well.


Tuesday night here, I got to watch “Monday Night Football.”  Even knowing the outcome (yay!) it was still an exciting game to watch.  Go Broncos!  I’m really looking forward to next week’s annihilation of the Raiders…

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Monday Night Football

Not much to say today.  It was Monday.  That pretty much sums it up.


On the bright side, the Broncos play tonight!  GO BRONCOS!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Biting Truth

Ironic that the day after I mention a lack of problems with bugs, I end up getting several little bugbites. Little, but itchy and annoying. Looks like time to start using more of my bug spray.

We were also issued some chemical treatment for our uniforms that I hadn't used yet, because I hadn't felt the need. I've gone ahead and used it on a pair of uniforms to see if it does any good. Most of the people here I've mentioned it to haven't had very high hopes for it.

I was unsuccessful in my bid to avoid learning the result of the Navy vs. Air Force game. One of the West Point grads who I work with also attends church with me and spilled the beans without hesitation on our handshake of greeting. I'm sure his motivation was just to brag about how handily Army beat VMI. Regardless, the game was still enjoyable to watch, although the announcers consistently implied that the winner would win the Commander-in-Chief's trophy, completely dismissing Army's chances. I think that was probably a bit over the top. What was not over the top was the picture of the trophy that I inserted into my weekly brief to the commander, adding the verbal comment, "In case you don't recognize it because it's been so long since Army has had it, this is the Commander in Chief's trophy."

It's going to get ugly as The Game approaches...

Sheep and Goats

I had an oddly surreal moment today walking back to work from lunch (Cajun week continued with jambalaya!) as I passed a sheep tied to a post near one of the stores where local nationals have set up shop.  How or why a sheep was on base I don’t know and don’t think I want to know.  A few people made a comment that it looked not unlike the Navy mascot, Bill the Goat (complete with curling horns) and perhaps this was an early Army-Navy prank to steal Bill and ship him to Iraq.  Not likely.


Speaking of Navy Football, today was their annual game against Air Force, and although the game is no doubt over by now, it won’t be televised here until tomorrow afternoon, so I’m trying to avoid finding out the result.  So no blog comments about it for a day, please!  I did try to get some of my Army colleagues cheering against Air Force, but didn’t have much success, even when I promised to root for them against VMI today.  So much for the joint rivalry against the Zoomies.


The weather is really starting to cool off, especially at night.  Of course, with the more livable weather, bugs that had decided to hide for the hot summer have made their reappearance.  But garlic tablets (and lots of garlic in my stir fry) seems to be doing the trick of keeping me mostly bite free.  I hope it keeps up.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A taste of home

I remarked on my first few days here how much I liked the dining facility.  It’s rather large, and has many options available every day.  There’s the main course, the grill line (burgers, dogs, etc.), stir fry, taco bar, pasta bar, salad bar, and then a line called “Romeo’s CafĂ©” which has a hodgepodge of things.  Usually it’s leftovers from the previous meal if they didn’t get rid of them all, but occasionally there are gems.  I like Cajun food, especially when my wife cooks it, and today I enjoyed shrimp gumbo… both at lunch and dinner!  Good stuff.  There was some shrimp etouffee a few days ago which was also pretty good.


The end-of-week crunch is hitting again, but it’s a good thing.  Another week is down.  Work is good.  Boredom is bad.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Rearranging the furniture

Not much to report on today, other than a major rearrangement of the office.  My little corner remains the same, but there’s a new soldier coming in and I helped the guys I work with move desks and tables and computers around to make a bit more efficient use of space.    It looks pretty good now, and we had the opportunity to do some deep cleaning around all the desks as we moved things.  All except my desk, of course, which didn’t move, and suffered the added dust of everything else being disturbed.


I’m looking forward to the weekend from a sporting perspective.  Lots of baseball playoff games to have on in the background while working, the Broncos will have a nice challenging game (although I’ll have to be up very early in the morning to watch it!) and Navy will play Air Force (that one’s a nice afternoon broadcast!)


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ya can't dance

Those of you who mostly stick to email (Hi mom!) might not have had a chance to see the latest craze sweeping the net. It's called YouTube. Pretty much anyone can upload their own video to the Net. I guess it's kind of like video blogging... and in fact some people use it like that.

Here's a video grabbed from YouTube that was filmed here in Iraq. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Fall back

It’s been a few days since I posted, mainly because the internet was down for a while.  As great as the convenience of internet in my room is, it’s not quite up to the same reliability standards as my home ISP.  Still, it’s well worth it for the 95% of the time that it is up.


As I mentioned Saturday, we did roll our clocks back an hour on Sunday, giving me an extra hour of sleep.  That wasn’t enough for me (actually, I stayed up late chatting with my wife!) so I took the advantage of the slow work-day on Sunday to take an afternoon nap, as well.  That rest did me good, and I’m finally back feeling great after my latest bout of whatever bug was going around.


The switch off of Daylight Saving Time is very noticeable, as the sun is setting around 6pm now, instead of 7pm.  It’s been quite different walking to and from dinner in darkness today.  And when I say darkness, I really mean dark.  While there is light around some of the buildings, a lot of the pathways are not lit at all.  I need to replace the battery in my flashlight and remember to start carrying it around with me.  Despite my care, I’ve still almost tripped over a curb and a few other objects.  At least the moon’s getting brighter this time of month.


I had the pleasure of watching Navy have one of their best games ever against Connecticut on Saturday.  Based on Army’s rather dismal performance against Rice, I get to turn the gloating tables around this week with my deputy commander.


And, as a final note, the weather is definitely cooling off.  Highs are only making it up to the 90’s now, instead of the constant 100-plus temperatures I’ve dealt with for the last four months.  I guess I’m entering one of the more comfortable times of the year.  People are warning of chilly days to come in the winter.