Saturday, July 23, 2005

"Gone with the Schwinn..."

23 July 2005

Got up on Wednesday night and showered, shaved, dropped my backpack at work and headed to the chow hall. My heart about stopped when I saw on the big screen in the chow hall that more bombings had hit London. This time my sister and brother-in-law are there. Deb and I only last week discussed the whole thing and we both agreed that you can't cave into this and run scared. She and Mark were going to London without any reservations of the recent bombings, just as I would if I had plans to go. London is just a great place and nothing would keep me from going.

When I got into work and checked my email, Deb had just sent out an email stating that they were okay.

"Just a quick note ... there were additional bombings in London today (at Warren St I believe) & I wanted to email you that we're fine...I'll call Dee & email our friends in a few minutes but wanted you to know we're fine in the meantime.

We're off to the Wedgewood store now ... decided to sleep in today instead of Buckingham Palace (which worked well since we'd have been on the underground at the time of the bombings), but have some shopping to do now! :) "

So basically, she was saying that there were more bombings today, but I've got shopping to do! (Glad the priorities are in order.) At first I thought she might be taking it all a bit too much in stride. But thinking about it later, I think that she and the Londoner's in general have the proper attitude. Any other attitude less than casual plays right into what these extremists want.

But one does have to wonder to what extent will the world's free nations put up with the extremism? Where will the line be drawn? How many more bombs are going to be tolerated in the Tubes or on the Spanish rails? Europe has already been much more vocal in their concerns with their Muslim populations. Europe has in many cases already expressed their concerns of the lack of the local Muslim populations to integrate into European ways and life. More so than in the States, Europe has already had issues and confrontations with the influx of Muslim immigration and even with their second and third generation Muslim populations. Patience and understanding may be starting to wear thin.

Got my bike fixed today. Whoo-hoo!! Randy our "super-duper-mr.fixit, and then some" guy had a spare tube which I will gladly give him one plus one for his unselfish assistance as soon as my order arrives. He also adjusted my gears and brakes and I'm off like the wind on my Schwinn - well okay, on my Diamondback! (I just had a vision of Kermit on his Schwinn as in "gone with the Schwinn" (before they were made in China) in the Muppets Movie)

Nothin else too interesting going on. Oh, before I forget, the answers to the riddles...

A man runs into a bar and says, "Give me a glass of water." The bartender responds by reaching under the bar and pulling out a gun and points it at the man. To which the man says, "Thanks," and walks out of the bar. What the heck was that all about?
The guy running into the bar had the hiccups!

Okay, one more. A guy leaves home, makes three left turns, to return home with a guy in uniform waiting for him. What's the deal? The guy leaving home was a batter that just hit a home run. Three lefts and back to home to a guy in uniform which would be the catcher or the umpire.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Bike Woes

20 July 2005

Not too much to write about here lately. I messed up my bike this morning. I borrowed the tire pump to fill my front tire only to discover that I couldn't get the nozzle off the stem! Ended up ripping the stem right out of the tube. So now I get to grovel to Randy and see if he will fix my tire. He is kind of our local tinkerer and local bike scavanger. Seems to really enjoy keeping his hands in the grease. He picks up all the old bikes and makes new ones out of old ones. Even though I chose to buy a brand new one, I was planning on asking him to make some adjustments to my gears and maybe grease up the chain. The dust is so bad here that grease doesn't do its job very long before it's dried up and crumbling off the chain.

Hopefully, he has some spare tubes, otherwise, I'm out my wheels until my "nashbar" order comes in. I just went up on to order some spare tubes, a rear light and a tire pump. Rules are so elaborate here for riding a bike,you wouldn't believe it. Don't even think of getting on that bike without a helmet and a reflective belt and add to that a rear and front light at night. Not that I would attempt these "streets" around here at night! Some of our streets are no better than mountain trails in parts of the base. Poor Mary took a good spill the other morning last week at like 4 am on her way to the gym. She's got some real purdy purple and yellow bruises on her hands and legs that are developing very nicely with all the colors of the rainbow.

Bikes are most peoples mode of transport around here. Some of the trailer areas are so far from the work areas, bikes are the next best way to get around. Now that I'm in the "back 40" of North Dodge, I've been using my bike more to get around. I used to think that my place in Dodge South was off the beaten path till I moved here. We just about need taxi service...or gondola service once the rains start again!

Bikes are so much a part of our lives here that people have stooped to stealing seats and pedals! You wouldn't think that a pedal would be worth anything, but when you have limited spare parts floating around, anything not glued down tends to grow legs. If you've been one of those that have sprung for the cushy "gel seat" from nashbar, you'd best take that puppy off the bike and keep a sharp eye on it. Those gel seats do make for a comfortable ride.

A while back, one of the guys I work with here had a bike stolen in front of one of the buildings we work at. When he found the guy who took it riding it around the base, the weasle (in his own defense) says, "well, it was covered with dust and didn't look like it had been ridden in awhile." To which Alex responds, "Every frigging (to paraphrase his actual words) thing in this country is covered in dust! That doesn't mean it doesn't belong to someone!" You can leave something outside for only a few hours and come back to find it looking like it has been out in the desert with six months of dust/grit covering it. Why do you think the buildings are sand colored? It ain't to brighten things up some.

Another guy had his bike (unlocked) outside his trailer and came out to find an Army guy getting on his bike to take off. The Army thief then has the gall to ask, "Oh, is this yours? I thought someone just left it here!" Fortunately, the guy got a look at the nametag on the thief's shirt. But that should be a warning to anyone with a bike here; lock it up.

I've finished watching NX 3 and kind of sad from not wanting it to end yet. Think I'll watch it again. But for now, I've started on the first season of Bewitched back from 1966. I can remember watching that show growing up and always loving it. Gotta tell you, Endora is the greatest. She is so evil but so lovable! I've ordered seasons 1 & 2 of Moonlighting from Amazon. I'm finding TV shows easier than movies to watch lately. I can pop in a couple of episodes before I go to sleep and don't feel obligated to stay awake to the end like I would with a movie.

Heard a good riddle today that I'd like to pass on. I'll give ya the answer tomorrow or next posting. So here we go: A man runs into a bar and says, "Give me a glass of water." The bartender responds by reaching under the bar and pulling out a gun and points it at the man. To which the man says, "Thanks," and walks out of the bar. What the heck was that all about?

Okay, one more. A guy leaves home, makes three left turns, to return home with a guy in uniform waiting for him. What's the deal?

So have a good day and see if you can figure the riddles out. Hope it's cooler where you are.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"Landshark...ummm, Candygram!"

Don’t ask me what’s up with that big old blank header on that blog before last. I tried everything to remove it and it is still there. Go figure! Just sitting around tonight watching NX 3 (Northern Exposure, Season 3) which just arrived last week, compliments of! Man, I was always addicted to that show. Finally, I get to see them all in order. Problem is that I’ll have to wait for season 4 until probably next year. But, I did also get the first season of Bewitched too! Gotta love it…almost like Nick at Nite here in Iraq!

I was just cleaning up around the hooch here and ran across a few things to be put away in the shred file. What that means is I cut the address labels, airline stubs, old anything with my name and address on it to send back home for destruction. Back at home, you never really think about what you throw into the trash, but here it is a whole different story. From the first week you get here, you become leery about what you throw into the trash after you see all the TCN’s digging through it.

What supports the concerns even more is reading things in the NY Times (yes, I know it is a neo-liberal rag, but I find it interesting. If you want to really experience neo-liberal with a touch of socialism, read the English version of Deutsche Welle sometime!) about how some Iraqi vendor in downtown Baghdad has all his wares carefully laid out on a blanket in the souks. His wares consist of half-empty bottles of whatever products the Americans have thrown away upon their departure back to “the world.” All of these products have been fished out of the garbage by the dumpster divers! It went on to explain that during the Saddam years, outside toiletries and products became very hard to come by and very expensive. They like the quality of our products and pay hard cash for our half-used throw-aways.

So if my once-used tube of Dove hand cream (tossed because it smelled too flowery) ends up on the streets of Baghdad, what else is ending up in the hands of who-knows? I just don’t want any surprises after I have left this place. I don’t want any “land-sharks” delivering any surprises later in life. (Okay, I’ll explain. As in the land shark from the Saturday Night Live skit.) If you don’t know what I’m talking about, get the “Best of SNL” DVD.

Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but leave me in my own bliss. I’m not the only one that practices this precaution.

The weather has been pretty ungodly lately. Within the last week, we must have hit in the upper 120’s. I was sleeping this last week and the electric went off three times in the middle of the afternoon. First time it was down for about an hour. Second time maybe 45 minutes and the third time probably only 15 minutes or so. These little trailers heat up fast once there isn’t anything to keep them cool. End up feeling like a TV dinner in the metal trays. Oh man, I’m dating myself again! For all you youngins that don’t remember microwave/TV dinners before they were packed in plastic trays…everything used to be in aluminum.

But working nights does have its perks. At least the evenings cool down to the low 90’s or so.

I have been not updating my Iraq blog quite as much over the past few weeks because I’ve been feverishly working on my Antarctic web book. Its link is up on your upper left of the blog page here if you’re curious. Unfortunately, you have to click backwards and start from the bottom – up if you’re going to read it chronologically. That’s just how these blog-thingies work, don’t-cha-know. Still debating whether I want to put it between covers and add some pictures (ooo-ahhhhh). We’ll see. I think I’m going to ask Jeremy some questions about using Framemaker. That is what he used for his book. You can also reference his blog and book on his link in the upper right hand side.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Something's Festering...and it ain't that new piercing

We got a little tug-of-war currently going on between X-types here and the pierc’ed minority. Specifically, (for now) they are going after anyone with facial jewelry. But once X and X have successfully unadorned the violators under their new martial law forbidding facial jewelry and unpure thoughts, they can write up their next after-the-fact PIOP (operating procedures) and move onto their next cleansing of perceived violators and violations polluting the waters of our perfect insular Society here at Club Stepford Iraq. Apparently, X doesn’t believe that any civilian contractors in his jurisdiction should be artificially adorned with anything other than what the good Lord gave them. Next they’ll probably write up anyone who is circumcised for having altered/modified their bodies.

Nothing in the hiring process forbade facial piercings (or circumcision for that matter.) Nothing in General Order Number 1 in regard to Civilian Contractors forbade facial piercings and nothing during our interview process, hiring process or CRC process ever mentioned facial piercings (or just to be fair, circumcision.) Nothing over the last 18 months of working here in Iraq has indicated that any of their piercings or piercings of any sort were against XY policy. Nor has it seemed to impede their job performance or ability to interface with the customers. We aren’t, by the way, talking of people who are adorned with 10-20 facial piercings or a row of rooster looking spikes sticking out of their shorn head from forehead to the back of the neck!

So the problem seems to be recent and a form of the personal prejudices of a few small-minded, ate-up, ex-military, conformist, Nuevo- X -types who believe that you couldn’t NOT possibly be a head-banging, purse-snatching, glue sniffing, pus-bucket of a human being if you have any jewelry in your face, tongue, ears, nose, eyebrows…(you supply the body part of your choice here). So in their little perfect and starched white collared shirt/black tie society, it naturally follows suit that you couldn’t ever be a good worker, honest, law-abiding, God worshiping, tax paying citizen or a good American if you have any facial metal.

And what about tattoos? Are they to be the subject of our next after-the-fact PIOP? Are we now to arrange our lasar appointments in Kuwait to have our hearts with “Mom” removed off our arms because she has become offensive to ? What about that cute little lady bug on whats-her-names you-know-where…oh yeah, ankle? (what were *you* thinking, huh?)

If the Stepford Patriarch (I don’t recall any matriarchs here in-theater) wants something to be scared of, he/they need to check out! (Although I must say that if you want to research any type of piercings, bmeszine is the place to get the straight poop on whether or not you really, really want to do it and if you do do it, how to care for it. Their bulletin boards will captivate you for hours!)

But I digress: First off; we still work in a war zone. Dubya may long ago have declared the war over, but the insurgents haven’t been quite convinced of that yet. We still are receiving incoming mortars and rockets. Contrary to what Rush Limbaugh is telling you, they aren’t just hitting the soldier’s hooches and the PX here, folks! So what do these offending personal piercings have to do with how we do our jobs, how we survive incoming attacks or how we mentally survive under these conditions, how we support the Army and the mission? Second off; what ever happened to being judged on your job performance? Third off; so many of us have been here for how long doing our jobs pierced or unpierced; why were we good enough when the frequency of mortars and rockets were greater, but not good enough now? Did they initially not consider the pierced crowd but settled for second best to hit the ground running and now that working here is considered mainstream, the rules are changed?

Could XY be trying to put forward a better face, or unpierced face (no pun intended, sort of) for the Army since rebidding is coming up shortly?

Whatever the excuse, their methods, manners and the way things are now being handled make it sound too much like rules recently instituted have been based upon personal prejudices, not “official” (as in Corporate U.S. of A.) Y policy. Is Corporate back in the U.S. practicing restricted and conditional hiring practices based on whether a viable, talented and qualified candidate is pierced? If yes, is the candidate made aware of those restrictions at the interview, or are they sprung on the employee after 18 months of employment? Furthermore, if yes, what *are* the specific restrictions? Are males allowed the same number of ear piercings as women? Are men restricted from nose piercings, but women allowed nose piercings? Are there gauge restrictions on what gauge jewelry is acceptable? Is there hoop diameter restrictions? Are Corporate piercing-restrictive PIOP’s issued and enforced Stateside? Are they M/F dependent or blanket restrictions?

Let’s meet this issue face to face. (oh, the humanity; I’m killing myself here folks!) Call it like I see it. If it looks like poop, smells like poop and feels like poop, no need to taste it; it’s probably poop!

A letter from the downtrodden, indentured serfs at Club Stepford has been submitted to HR to intervene on the Stepford Inquisition. The pierc’ed minority hasn’t heard back from HR yet on this situation, but it should be interesting. Didn’t Rush (the Canadian rock group, not that Oxicoton-strung out neo-conservative, talk-radio sensitive guy (permission to rofl)) sing a song "Witchhunt" on their album Moving Pictures (1981) with the lyrics, “ignorance and prejudice and fear walk hand in hand”?

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