Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nights to Swings

29 October 2008

Hard to believe that October is almost over. I just switched over to swing shift this last week and am still trying to adjust. Since I got back from Kuwait, we've been on six ten hour shifts. Kinda nice actually. A bit more time to relax between the shifts. But the transfer over to shifts has been hell. How do you change your body clock from working mids to swings in 26 hours? You don't...without a somewhat exhausting transition. But I'm there now.

My last mid, I hardly slept. Got woken up by a group of 10 KBR knuckleheads carrying on loudly outside my door about 2pm (that'd be 2am your time). Thirty minutes later, the Big Voice went off warning of incoming, so I found myself on the floor of my trailer for about five minutes until the all clear was given. First mortar in quite some time too. I guess it hit over at Slayer. Finally when I thought I was going to go back to sleep until 5pm, there is a knock on the door for "accountability". I pretty much gave up the idea of sleep at that point.

Been having quite a bit of rain here all this week. Rainy season has started and along with that, all the mud. Still, I've been able to run between the cloudbursts. It has been great to get out and run again. I've been putting in 4 milers about 5 times a week. Maybe I'll finally take off the rest of that weight I put on in Kuwait! With the temps in the 70's and sometimes low 80's, it's been great weather to be out in. The only gripe might be the 90% humidity, but that we can deal with.

Now that I'm working a somewhat normal schedule, it has been unusual dealing with life among the living. Everything is so crowded during the day. Can't go anywhere without lines, people and traffic. Now I know what I haven't been missing. Being around in daylight has also exposed to me all the changes around the base. This place is growing and changing again. Actual electric poles and new lines being strung all over the place. All we need now is a few more sidewalks. Boy, if this is all I got to write about, my life is seriously boring! Good thing vacation is around the corner in a month.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

30 And Counting

22 October 2008

I've been back from Kuwait for two weeks now and hardly know where the time has gone to. Well, maybe I do. Been adjusting back to a midnights schedule. Now that I'm back on my night sched, I'm getting switched to a swing shift starting Sunday. Just goes to show ya, "if it's not one thing, it's another!"

Missed my 30th High School Reunion. I was actually a bit indifferent about going to it until the last month before. One of our classmates set up a server interconnecting all of our emails. So a message sent up to the server was copied to all the classmates who had their email addresses on the list. What started out as a few people chatting via email ended up a flurry of about 2000 messages over a three week period. It was kind of wild to see all the different memories flying across the email and the responses to said email. It probably is one of the primary reasons that this reunion ended up such a success too.

It gave people a chance to start thinking about things and change their mind about going. For some, a chance to relive the past, for many others to rekindle or start new friendships. Some may not have had much in common in high school at times, but after 30 years, we still share some of the same values, memories, ideas or are willing to accept the different ideas and views of our former classmates.

The 10th, I had no interest in going to at all. I had a good excuse not to attend too...I was enroute to Palmer Station, Anarctica. The 15th, I was still a bit stand-offish about attending and ended up having to work a night shift downtown at the Federal Reserve for the telecom company I worked for. But the 20th, I would say that by the 20th, people's attitudes have changed. A few might still have a chip on their shoulder, but for the most part, people have matured enough to look at one another from the inside instead of from the outside. Same with the 25th.

And now by the 30th, it is just great to get together with people who you have more in common with than you ever thought you could have...and all gathered in one place! Wooo-hoo! People who actually understand you, unlike your new trophy wife. I mean, who at work could ever possibly understand the story of your tearing up one day on your afternoon commute home in the car on the expressway when you hear that "oldie" by Alice Cooper, "Dream On"???? And no...it wasn't from bong smoke getting in my eyes either! Dream On! I'm sounding a little like That 70's Show, aren't I???

Anyway, wish I would have been there for this reunion. But, I did get to reconnect with a number of people via email and facebook. Hoping to see a few of them too for drinks/lunch/dinner when I go home for Christmas this year.

Was on my way to get coffee last night when I hear a huge ka-boom. Sounded like an incoming mortar, but I didn't hear any swooosh sound and the Big Voice didn't go off. Thought nothing of it and then two minutes later, another. EOD (ordinance disposal team) doesn't really make announcements anymore when they're going to blow stuff up, so I guess if we hear anything going "BOOM" in the night, the Big Voice will tell us when to worry and take cover.

We've also had rain this week. I guess one downpour on Sunday which I slept through at 2pm and then it spit a little out last night around midnight. I am sure hoping that we aren't going to get payback for the lack of rain last year. That would suck. They put down all this stone all over last year and into the spring, but the vehicle traffic in the living areas has kind of moved the stone around, so we could end up, up to our behinds in mud this year. Gotta love it.

Love Iraq or leave it...I'm guessing that is what the Iraqi's are saying right now too. The new SoFA (Status of Forces Agreement) agreement is causing quite a stir now. The Iraqi's are in nearly unanimous agreement that they want the US troops out ASAP. Not too surprising. The people here are feeling safer again and things have changed significantly in the last five years.

So I guess we will wait till the new year and see what comes of that. I wouldn't be surprised to see a gradual drawdown throughout next year and 2010. But whoever comes out of here will probably be restaffed in Afghanistan where a new "surge" really does need to take place. With UN welching on their deal to send more troops, something has to be done. Wouldn't be too hard for us to relocate troops and resources from this front to Afghanistan. I know what you're thinking..."What budget crisis???"

Ahh well, it is 0830am, my eyes are tired and about time for bed. Pleasant dreams.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Top Ten Reasons I Need To Go Back To Baghdad

06 October 2008

Been here at Camp Arifjan for two weeks now and starting into the third and last week of training. Believe it or not, I’m about ready to go back “home” to Camp Victory already. Not that I’m living in luxury or out of my suitcase or anything, just ready to get back into my routine again.

So here are my top 10 reasons for needing to go back to Baghdad….

Number 10:
The bathroom trailers at Camp Victory are heaven compared with Arifjan’s solar-powered wet “hot boxes” with no A/C.

Number 9:
Because I’ve become a complete “vidiot” and watched more video’s these last two weeks than in the last year at Camp Victory.

Number 8:
I’m getting sentimental about living in a tent again here on Arifjan.

Number 7:
The PX here has just about everything you could ever want.

Number 6:
My bank account is screaming Uncle about now! (see Number 7)

Number 5:
Way too many fast food offerings here.

Number 4:
About 8 lbs since I’ve not been running! (see number 5)

Number 3:
My constant state of over-caffeination due to the Starbuck’s here on base.

Number 2:
The food at Arifjan is missing curry…even the ice cream. How wrong is that?

And the Number 1 reason I need to go back to Baghdad:
My most frequent pleasure as of late has been to go to the Big PX and purchase things I don’t need just to see the 65 year old Indian cashier with the really bad and really tall Elvis look-alike toupee…and challenge myself to keep composed and NOT roflmao! (I am probably going to hell for saying that, aren't I?)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Wall Street's Not Dead Yet....(give it time)

01 October 2008

Wamu...well do we need to say anything more of that beached whale. Wachovia...how many more vultures need circle to declare it carrion? Not even dead yet and the preditors are calling dibs on the good parts. Okay, who's next up on the dinner plate for the market to chew up and spit out?

That Congress denied the Bailout shouldn't be too surprising. What is surprising to me is all the Repubs against it. 2/3rds of the party voted against it. Poor Mr. Bush (you remember him, don't you? Seems that the Repub party turned him loose already and conceded his lame duck status) is getting NO love from his counterparts in Congress or anywhere. He is a leper looking for a place to hang till his end. Molokai may be appropriate. Plus the weather is nice in Hawaii this time of year.

I think I've passed the final stage of grieving here and am ready to accept that the Bailout is a necessary thing. I just don't know how much pork needs to be added to this thing to accomplish what it needs to accomplish. I do agree with the Repubs on that. (stop smirking, I told you I've always been an issues-guy/fence sitter) And to some extent, I think we have to let some of this run its' course. The strong and carefully planned companies will rise above this mess they've created. The weaker will go down. Just wondering if after it all shakes out whether the consumer will be better treated or continue to be fleeced with charges.

I'm not as connected to the news as usual as I've been in Kuwait the past couple weeks. Classes are going well, but I definitely see the difference here over being north in Iraq. As I've emailed a couple of friends back home, I'm not used to all the non-activity here in Kuwait. At Victory, every day you have vehicles and soldiers on the road out to run missions, firefights and gunshot in the background and the constant sound of helo's overhead.

I've gotten so that when I'm home (in the States) it is hard to sleep without the sound of helo's nearly strafing their landing gear over the tops of the trailers, they fly so low! You learn to sleep through it. Kuwait is a whole different environment. No sense of urgency or mission like up north. Maybe that's my new problem...must have become an adrenalin junky since I've been here.

With the Eid al-Fitr celebration started and Ramadan over, I wonder for how long the quiet will last. Guess time will tell.

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