Friday, December 28, 2007

Contractor “Unappreciation” Night

28 December 2007

At 1640 yesterday night, I made the mistake of telling SSgt Tami that I really was very disinterested in going to this “Contractor Appreciation Ceremony” slash cookout slash awards presentation. Her response was that it was a good thing I reminded her because it was told to them early in the week that attendance was mandatory. The only way I could have possibly gotten out of going with her was if my hair had been cut so short she couldn’t have pulled me out of the building by it! Let the records reflect that said contractor, from here on to be known as “Dave,” did not want to attend this poor excuse for a gathering.

Okay, let me go back to when I first got into the office on the morning of the 27th. I’m reading through my email messages and came across an invite to a “Contractor Appreciation Ceremony” for *today* December 27th that was just sent out this morning! One might infer this to mean that the XXth may have had no actual intention of honoring us or our efforts with them over the past 15 months. We were only an after-thought. Could it be that they couldn’t come up with any other better reason to throw a getting-the-frick-out-of-Iraq party and decided that if they threw it under the guise of some appreciation statement, they could at least smile nicely and it may not even kill them to feign sincerity!

So it should be no wonder that by the time SSgt Tami and I arrive on the scene that the Colonel is calling out names to be recognized and Stewart is standing there as they stack the frames with the faux certificates in his arms because not one of us is there to accept it in person! Well, DUH!!!! If you wait till 9am to send out the message, how do you expect your honorees to attend at 1630 if they are off that day let alone get news out to the night shifters?! Another kick in the pants was that all the pop (soda, cokes, whatever they heck you want to call it, Sid!) and food were gone by 1650! And this was a unit function. Very sad and disappointing, indeed!

I have to say that even SSgt Carnely’s impromtu BBQ’s on the weekends got better press than this! He always went out of his way to make sure there was plenty of food and spread the word sometimes not till that day that he was going to be grilling, if anyone (civilian or military) wanted to join in. There is the difference right there! SINCERITY. Carnely has it, our management and the XXth management wouldn’t know what sincerity was if it came up and bit ‘em on the ass, now would they?

We stepped up just as my name happened to be called. I graciously accepted my color certificate of faux recognition in a frame, shook the Colonel’s hand and walked back by some people I knew. Then proceeded to take my certificate (they did spell my name correctly) out of the frame. On the way back to Bldg XX, I tossed the frame in the garbage and then ran the certificate through the shredder since I don’t leave anything with my name in the garbage. I have enough meaningless crap without collecting something that wasn’t even printed or given in earnest (although I am earnestly a pack rat!)

Apparently, the XXth is sure that they can do it without civilians and had few qualms treating us that way. Someone needs to send a clue up ladder to the powers in charge in Kuwait and wake them up that we’re not needed. It appears that we’ve become just placeholders for use-it-or-lose-it money being poured into Iraq and into ITT coffers compliments of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney.

I always said I would stay as long as I felt our presence was making a difference…maybe now is the time when we’re not making a difference. I’m smelling the cheese folks and I think it’s smelling old! (Reference "Who Moved My Cheese," Spencer and Johnson)

Joyeux Noel, Froehe Weihnachten, Merry Christmas

25 December 2007

Greetings came in this year from all over the world. I heard from two of the three AFS kids I liaised from Italy and France, friends in Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, not to forget all my family and friends back home scattered to the winds in Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Maryland. Even my doggie Cayenne wrote me a card this year! What a sweet old Girl! Thank you again to all those at Salem Lutheran Church in Peoria, my congregation away from home. I am certainly blessed to have so many people keeping me in their prayers and thinking of me over here over the holidays.

Yet another Christmas in Iraq. This makes number 4. I called my old friend Eve and we did lunch together at the Sports Oasis Chow Hall for the big day. We ended up running into Jocelyn there too, so that made three of us old “NOSCer’s” having Christmas lunch together. Eve started in Oct of ’03, Joc in Kuwait in Oct of ’03 then over to Victory in March of ‘04 and me in Feb of ’04. There are still a few of us old farts running around here who remember what it was like in the old days at Victory with the old trailer chow hall, no sidewalks, no Hesco barriers or concrete T-walls, no ID checks to get into the PX or the chow halls. Days of shortages of everything at one point or another. If you see it in the PX, better hoard it…you never know when of if you’ll ever see it again! Boy how the years pass so quickly.

Typical Christmas feast…shrimp and sauce in the center table surrounded by carved melons and veggies, turkey, stuffing, yams, corn, carrots, the works! Table cloths and fine paper napkins with Christmassy paper place mats and paper holiday trees on the tables. I bit kitchy, but the mood was there.

My afternoon off (my normal day off, not for the holiday per se) I decided to watch a movie my sister sent me…Santa Claus 3. I had just watched SC2 the day before, so that worked out well. I have been watching the classics over the past couple of weeks. You know, two different versions of Scrooge, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, Call Me Claus (Whoopie Goldberg is a Scrooge-like QVC exec who hates Christmas and becomes Claus), Drummer Boy and of course, Elf!

I had almost dropped off for a nap late in the afternoon, but woke up to the Big Voice screaming, “Incoming, Incoming, Incoming!” “Incoming, Incoming, Incoming!” Which is my cue to get on the floor. With no protective barriers at the one corner of my trailer, it would really spoil my week if I got hit by shrapnel coming through that unprotected corner. Better to be safe than sorry. Do the 60 count laying on the floor and usually the Big Voice comes back saying, “All Clear, All Clear, All Clear. This is the Command Post, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Basically, an “As you were; go about your normal mundane existence here.”

I think that something landed somewhere cuz I saw a plume of smoke off north of here. Of course that might be the burn pile over on Liberty on fire again, but who knows. The compressor for my A/C slash heater clunks on and off so loudly that you never know if something landed, if someone knocked on the door or if incoming just impacted!

I scored pretty big this year on the Christmas scene. Both my sisters, my Gram and my Aunt and Uncle sent stuff this year. Not to mention that Phil’s Mom and her evil-wonderful six tins of homemade Christmas cookies helped me pack on about six pounds! I did manage to share a bunch of what was sent…once or should I say if, I got it out the door! I shared stuff with my coworkers, but also with the Indian and Nepalese coffee guys at the Green Bean and with the Filipino laundry people too. AFFES and KBR don’t pay them squat and they really appreciate when you share with them. They have to work 7 day weeks too, they aren’t on our five day schedule. AAFES and KBR can be real stingy when it comes to unskilled workers and pay.

Well, time for bed. Christmas is almost over and I’m about ready for bed. No nightmares of sugar plums, please! I don’t want to choke on my vomit in my sleep! A Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Wicked!

21 December 2007

I got switched from midnights to days last week. It is almost as bad as jetlag when all you get is 18 hours to change your body chemistry from being a night worker to being a day worker. So far in my short stint back on days, I’m inclined to declare that daylight is highly overrated. I’m ready anytime they want me to go back and pull the old fangs and cape out of retirement and go back to mids. There are just too many self-important boobs running around during the day with “their hair on fire and asses a catchin!” Besides, trying to find a seat in the DFac (chow hall, dining facility, etc) is nearly impossible. Although I have found that days are your best chance at getting a piece of that carrot cake that I love.

The other night, I was walking out of building 9 and Lance looks at me and mentions that it looks like rain. To me, even though it was dark out, it looked more like dust. Sure enough, I’d only gotten about a block up the road and the wind started whipping up and blowing dirt all over the place. Visibility was probably about 300 feet and the winds were blowing dirt and crap all over the place. I got back to my trailer and had to clean out my ears.

I’ve never hoarded as much dirt in my ear canals in my life as I have here in Iraq! How the heck are you supposed to clean the dirt out of your ears if your Mom always told you not to put anything bigger than your elbow in your ears?! Should I just ignore it and walk around with crap in my ears? Although I can remember when I was growing up, my parents would ask me specifically if I had crap in my ears. I guess now I’d be able to answer honestly and say, “Well, yes. As a matter of fact I DO have crap in my ears!”

Robin Williams was supposed to appear on stage at Camp Slayer across the highway from us that night too. But the windstorm kind of delayed that show. I haven’t heard whether or when it is rescheduled for. I generally don’t pay much attention to the shows although we really do get quite an assortment of singers, cheerleaders and notable people entertaining here. Working mids, your sched doesn’t usually align with the performance times.

My AZ sister and I purchased tickets to Wicked for my niece to go and see when she got back to Chicago this week. She decided to take her Mom (our other sister) and two of her friends. They all had a great time at the matinee on Wednesday. As expected, they loved it. I told them that after I saw Wicked in London, I was sure that they would enjoy it. For both my sister and niece, it was their first Broadway musical. Probably one of the guaranteed hits for anyone to attend with its mass appeal. Not to mention that it is written to fit together with the story from the Wizard of Oz. Hating anything attached to Wizard of Oz would be pretty much Un-American.

The one comment my sister made that cracked me up (because I thought the same thing) was that she was sure that Glinda must have gone to high school at Hinsdale Central! I’m pretty sure she lived in Oak Brook…probably in Ginger Creek. She is like so many of the “rah-rah’s” we knew…you know, the world revolved around them. Okay, so I’m generalizing a bit…but not too much if you went to Old HTH in the 1970’s (and ‘80’s according to my other sister who graduated in ‘88.) Anyway, Glinda truly steals parts of the show.

Then they followed-up the show with a walk to see the Christmas decorations in the windows on State Street. Then off to Harry Carey’s for dinner. I have to say that I’m so envious. I have always loved being in downtown Chicago anytime of the year. It’s not New York or LA or San Fran or Phoenix. Chicago is big enough to hold its own but it skips the attitude of NY or LA. Guess I’m biased being a fourth generation local Chicago-born son. I’ll always be a Chicagoan no matter where I live. I’ve been told that my Midwestern dialect gives me away every time. Guess all I can say to that is, “Da Bears!”

Friday, December 14, 2007

What Would Chuck Norris Do?

14 December 2007

The days just keep plodding along here. Caught my yearly Christmas cold complete with blowing green stuff out of my nose! (Sorry for the graphic description) Like everything else around here...it will pass. Some group from the States had sent small one foot tall Christmas trees to the units here and the Chaplain was passing them off to anyone willing to adopt one. So I am now the proud owner of a live, one-foot Christmas tree complete with battery powered lights. I think I'll call it Fred. Has a ring to it, Fred the Christmas Tree. Ain't much, but it's the most Christmas cheer I've managed to muster to date. Okay, so I have watched Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolf and Scrooge already.

It's getting more and more difficult to post onto my blog anymore. With our very limited and ever-increasingly restricted monitored and "blue coated" internet access, soon the only thing we will be able to bring up on the web will be the Communist News Network (CNN) and web searches that will be restricted exclusively to Extremist Evangelical Christian services. Even a military awards site is blocked! Google will probably be banned as a subversive liberal right-wing site allowing access to information too subversive which is set to poison minds too. I believe that we are fast approaching "1984" or "Fahrenheit 451" aren't we?

Although, I must admit that I'm quite enjoying the slow and brutal implosion of the Republican's latest miscreant...er, darling for President (at least in Iowa and NH.) I'm normally not vehemenly against someone running on either side, but in this case he is so far over the edge, I'm stunned. I'm sure that if Huckabee were to have his way, the United States would soon to be renamed the United Evangelical Socialist States and Controlled Territories of America!

I think he may have put the last of the nails in the coffin though with his latest..."Huckabee Agrees That Wives Should 'Submit Graciously' to Their Husbands." This was published today in Newsweek on msnbc.com's site by author Andrew Romano. The comments someone left at the bottom are equally tickling..."Huckabee makes Bush appear sane."

I don't care if he *was* interviewed recently sitting next to Chuck Norris on O'Reily's show, it is hard to sell that kind of propaganda to an educated audience. But, I'm pretty sure the entertainment value of this one is good for another week or two. Maybe it was only a cardboard cutout of Chuck. Hmmmm...What *would* Chuck Norris do?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

“Are You Not Aware…

05 December 2007

...That I Get Farty And Bloated With A Foamy Latte?” Not really, but these random subject lines that you can pull up on yahoo! for your messages are a real hoot. My niece told me about them and I had never known that. Just click on the yahoo subject box and it will fill in a cutsey non-sensical phrase. Yes, very desperate for entertainment.

Although the Redskins Cheerleaders were here last week for a show, we thought the dancing and kicking were part of their act on stage…but it was just the bullets skipping across the stage that night of the gunfight last week! Okay, so I embellish a bit. The firefight was before the show, but they really did get a good scare from the shells skipping across the parking lot in front of their tent before the show.

And guess who else is here? Yep, Jeraldo!!! He must of heard there was a gunfight in town and secrets to be blown on TV...I don't think Saddam left any other treasure in any locked safes here. Actually, saw him on TV interviewing General Petreaus. Gen P, I might add, was pictured this last month in Maxim. A rising star and a really interesting guy. One of the Navy LT’s I work with is telling us to mark his word that THIS guy is someone to watch in the future. I tend to agree. We’ll see him on the Joint Chiefs of Staff sometime in the future if we’re lucky. Very smart guy. Might I even suggest looking him up at http://usacac.army.mil/CAC/commander.asp

This week we had rain for the first time since...hmmmm I don't actually remember the last time we had rain! Lots of lightening and thunder and a few downpours with small hail. I was looking for Moses out there and fire to start coming from the hail!

But I have to say that I'm not as "verklempt" as I was the last couple of years. KBR in all their wonderment decided to put down some rock trails in our trailer area. Woooo-hooo! So now the mud is pretty much down to a minimum as long as I stay on the rock trail and not go wandering off into the mud. Must be a base for the Yellow Brick Road they'll put in next year.

Meanwhile, back in the rock quarry, I was finally feeling like I was settling back into work and the job after my vacation when I got pulled for another job. I'm still doing my same job, but with a few twists added. (No, I’m not a bartender now.) Just trying to remember..."change is good". Although it is hard to forget that office politics are inevitable!

Did you ever read, "Who Moved My Cheese"? You really should. It is an interesting management book It was first recommended to me when I was at Lucent and then again in my MBA class. Very interesting reading/concepts and will only take about an hour to read. Know when your cheese is getting stale, people!

Speaking of stale…I went to use the bathroom today and some unfortunate soul apparently had an ass explosion. For some reason, he left his boxers in the stall. To say the least I didn’t use that one! It’s a good thing that KBR is now using potable water in the bathrooms and showers starting this week. Imagine the gastro-intestinal issues we might suffer from using the non-potable water we’ve been brushing our teeth, washing our faces and showering with for the past three years! I think his system just hasn’t adjusted to the potable water yet, or maybe *he* had that foamy latte from the Green Bean Coffee Shop.

Over the Wall?

28 November 2007

Still working midnights, it didn’t help any that my start time was slipping up earlier from 2100 up to 1900. Then I didn’t get into bed until noon and had trouble falling asleep. When the alarm went off at 1700, allowing me my normal routine of shower, coffee and walking to work, it took everything within me not to roll over and fall back to sleep.

Rolled out of bed, made the bed, laid out clothes and off to the showers which is probably a 150 yards away, which by the way feels like miles when you really have to hit the head in a hurry! Just as I was walking out the door is really when I noticed the shooting. It was still light, so who knows? Maybe it was just late range shooting for all I know. Slayer has a range, but that is on the northwest side not the northeast where all the noise was coming from. Oh well, anything is possible? Normally, I’m still fast asleep at this hour.

But you know what? These shots are sounding awfully close…like maybe another firefight at the highway. Considering we are only about 1/3 of a mile from the highway (separated by a wall of course) it wouldn’t be the first time we have heard gunfire from the highway. It wasn’t all that long ago last year that the trailer walls were breathing from the impact of a couple of car/truck bombs.

As I was walking to the shower, the gunfire was becoming increasingly heavier. In twenty minutes after the shower, on the walk back, the gunfire was without doubt a full-fledged gunfight. A couple of times, the loudness of the shots I was hearing made me wonder if more than a couple of the shots weren’t originating on this side of the wall. I ducked into my trailer and figured if it was *that* bad, we’d see and hear more support from our side come to their assistance. Plus, my trailer has 12 foot T-walls on the south side which is the highway side so with any luck, I’d not have anything come through the trailer on the east or south side.

I dressed and gathered my book and backpack to get over to the coffee shop. My 20 minutes or so at the coffee shop is my chance to read and get caffeinated up before facing people and work. I was staying on schedule so far and without a second thought, bolted out the door over to get my coffee fix. The need for caffeine must dull any common sense brain cells! By this time, constant volleys of gunfire were ringing off in the direction of the highway. What I didn’t know was that while I was in my caffeine-deprived stupor, people over by the Palace were running for cover from rounds skipping off the lake toward the Palace.

A couple of the guys over there had to hit the deck in the Palace parking lot behind the cover of parked vehicles because the air was fairly populated with flying metal coming in from the highway firefight. People crossing the bridge to and from the Palace were making a mad dash across hoping not to get hit by all the flying metal. At one point, the giant 20 foot tall doors to the Palace were shut and locked in case of attack. Hard to believe the rounds would travel that far, but take my word for it, they do! What goes up must come down.

To my relief, me and my coffee-deprived brain made it to the coffee shop still rather oblivious of the seriousness of the goings-on over at the highway and the Palace. Sitting outside at the coffee shop area there were others there having coffee and others eating their food from Subway and Pizza Hut, so I really didn’t feel like I was in danger. Although maybe “the blonde” in me might have gotten a clue when I started hearing repeated rounds of automatic gunfire. “Helloooo…McFly!” Certainly not anything like hearing a few shots in the distance during dear hunting season.

I looked up from the pages of my book as an ambulance went past. I followed the screaming green vehicle with my eyes figuring that it would turn right out to the south entrance to the gunfight, but it went straight ahead to the medical clinic up the road. That could only mean that someone had been hit on the base by something from all this stuff going on.

It wasn’t until I was at work that I’d found out that someone had been hit from the stray rounds. Rest of paragraph omitted for the time being…

By the time I finished my coffee, things quieted down some on the southern front. Ended as quickly as it started. The last time I can remember an assault on the south side with this much gunfire inside the camp was back three years ago when we’d heard that five or six slipped over the wall and were gunned down before they hit the ground. Sounds like this was a pretty organized attack but details are still sketchy at best...and will remain so unless we can get Jeraldo to blurt them out on TV!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?