24 June 2010

Toner and the Commo Guarantee

The crappiest part of this whole experience has been living with the idea, that I will have to let the next months of my family's life slip by through conversations that sound much like how you would describe your child growing up to someone who is blind.  Actually they don't even sound like... more like conversations that are e-mailed and IMed like.  It's not that I mean to be particularly depressing, it's just a part of this whole thing I am not happy about living with.  It's a harsh mindgame to wonder what your missing at home and if you'll be able to squeeze back in the middle of a dynamic that has had to go on without you.  It's weird to think about coming back as a sort of third wheel and interupting a process that has by necessity ventured on without your intervention.

Anywho...  For everyone who's read the RollingStone article about General McChrystal, I am wondering what's going on here/there (for those who haven't you should - It's an interesting look into the military and the nature of our current conflicts in the easy to love RollingStone style).  We haven't been able to get many details due to internet outages and what not, but basically from what I understand, President Obama was displeased about the contents of the article and General McChrystal is no more.  Personnally, I didn't see anything particularly tragic about the piece, but the military and I have drastically opposing viewpoints on freespeech rights with respect to soldiers.  I thought General McChrystals candor was refreshing and the level of insight that was provided into the cogs of the war machine was something that we should all be exposed to (at least in the sense of having it explained in a manner that makes sense).  That being said, I still think he should have left the Burger King in Bagram open.

In terms of life here in "the suck" (seriously I go home everynight drenched in the rankness of White-Out and air conditioning *Credit to the Maintenance Team for the dig*) things are hectic as usual.  The theme of the week has been internet outages and the perpetual lack of computer equipment (if anyone wants to open up a store here that specializes in the sale of HP Toner cartridges, you can make bank).  We've introduced "the Commo Guarantee", a process in which our Communications Team will promise that a problem will be fixed in the next 24 hours only to repeat the same promise again once the 24 hours runs out.  While this might sound annoying, it's actually nice to have a time to look forward to even if it does turn out to be a total untruth (no hard feelings for the Commo people, they do a great job).

We broke our civilian trucks (we use them to get mail and parts and it's a necessary issue of contention within the TOC) and we're waiting on parts.  Fortunately, we were told since the trucks were completely inoperable we were the top priority tier.  Top priority tier puts our estimated turn-around time at somewhere around September (not kidding).  If anyone has a radiator and a thermostat housing for a Ford Explorer just sitting around, I know a quick way to make a bunch of soldier friends.

Special K's comic strip featured in an earlier blog post has seen particular success and we are all awaiting further editions.  I intend to post more in the future, but unfortunately the humor is a bit esoteric.  We all think it's hilarious though.  I'd explain it, but you have to live it.

We are losing some of our fellow soldiers to a far away land known as the United States as the military continues to scale back operations here in Iraq.  It's not fun watching some of the soldiers that we have come this far in the process with being sent back home (not to mention it's hard not to be a lot bit jealous).  As the unit slims down, it becomes more and more obvious how far we've come in just a short number of months.  At times this surreal existance seems like reality and an end doesn't appear to be a natural part of it.  As we watch our friends mentally prepare to head back into the real world, the rest of us try to prepare for this whole adventure lurching forward and beginning again in a new way.

17 June 2010

Comics a la Special K

Up and coming artist Special K has blessed the unit with his graphic commentary which I feel obligated to share with the rest of the world.

14 June 2010

Fires, books, and beer

Props to SpongeBob for snagging this picture of me coming out of the office.

I suppose I lost track of time again so it's been a while since I posted last.  I have been putting a lot of energy into tweaking my Amazon.com profile hoping that I can get my reviewer score high enough to get in the Amazon Vine program (apparently it's a program where you can get free stuff sent to you if you just review it).  It sounds exciting enough, so I've been spending what little free time I have between work and studying trying to post reviews of books and other things (you can check it out http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/AUCOL2XUE1IX7?ie=UTF8&ref_=ya_T16_56).  If you feel like it, like or dislike my reviews so I can move up in ranking.

Other than that, it's been interesting lately.  We are currently going through a transition, a downsizing if you will.  More on that later though.  I've been keeping busy fighting various fires... literally.  In the past week we've had two dumpster fires and a connex fire.  None of our stuff got hurt thankfully, but I did get to use the fire extinguisher on the dumpsters (honestly how many times do you actually get to use a fire extinguisher).  In an unrelated fire incident I managed to set my hand on fire.  It's okay, but it looks like I was bitten by a zombie (perhaps I'll post pictures of that later).  Below is a picture that LT III Don (aka FrieDaddy) took of me.  I am not sure what's going on in this picture, but I believe I am still reeling from the dumpster fire.

It's been pretty hot here lately (I'm beginning to see a theme), and I have mad respect for the guys that do the real engineer work while I sit in the office all day.  Today was the Army's Birthday and to celebrate, they gave out a limited number of beers with dinner.  The rules for getting the beer were needlessly complex, but I guess it makes the Army feel like it gave us something.  Beer here is a big deal since it's expressly prohibited by General Order 1A (aka the Fun Prohibition Rule).  I didn't partake largely because having to ride a bus a half an hour for two beers really isn't my idea of a good time.

I've been paying particularly close attention to the special economic system we have going here, which seems to revolve around hard to come by items such as printer cartridges and Kuwaiti water (it comes in little bottles that don't get hot before you finish it).  Other items can be traded for engineering work or any number of food items.  My item of the week to obtain is fire extinguishers (to replace the used ones from the dumpster fires).  I have an acquisition team looking for those along with spray paint... another commodity here.

Until later...

05 June 2010

How Starbucks Saved My Life

Book Review
Starbucks tends to get a bad rap when it comes to its effect on our communities and our social lives often viewed as a corporate Satan hell bent on destroying our way of life.  Michael Gates Gill has another point of view.  After being forced out of a career working as a ranking member within the corporate hierarchy, Gill finds himself out of luck and running low on business prospects.  He ends up in a Starbucks and waywardly steps into a position as a 64 year old barista.

Gill’s story follows his own path learning the treacherous ropes of the coffee trade and reflects on his transformation from cruel corporate lackey to an enlightened employee who throws himself into a job he never would have wished on himself before.  While at times How Starbucks Saved My Life comes off as Starbucks propaganda, Gill’s transformation is very genuine.  Starbucks places him into the harsh world that he has somehow avoided during his rather privileged life.

How Starbucks Saved My Life holds nothing back.  Gill readily confesses the mistakes he has made throughout his life and looks for a way to pay his penance.  His interaction with customers and his fellow employees shows how fulfilling life can be when we are not caught up in the pursuit of a career or a better life.  Gill’s account is sometimes painful as he reveals his past sins and the tragedy of the sacrifices he chose during his former life.  How Starbucks Saved My Life provides an unparalleled perspective into the things that are truly important in life and reminds the reader what they might be missing or could miss if they don’t place their focus in the right place.

04 June 2010

Laundry Day

I am beginning to like laundry day more and more, mostly because I come down from the TOC early and actually get to spend some time in my CHU.  I am not particularly good at laundry and the Army complicates it by putting 57 pockets that you have to check on your uniform prior to throwing it in the washer.  It always seems to take longer than it should, but that's probably a function of my impatience toward the task.

Above you can see my poster that I use to remind people that I don't care where the company vehicles are.  I proposed the pony as the company logo (we're called the Stallions), but the idea did not catch on as well as I had hoped.  People said that it was offensive, but it looked super masculine to me (I am contemplating changing the rainbow to camouflage to see if the idea can gain traction).  The SeaPony has to do with the fact that we are attached to a unit that has a Seahorse in its patch. I originally proposed that we use the SeaPony as the company logo, but people didn't catch the logic that seahorses are also very masculine because the males get pregnant (I mean you have to imagine how secure the seahorses must have to be with their manhood to even go there).  We still haven't adopted a logo yet, but I'll get one of my ideas across eventually.

Other than that, life goes on.  I keep meaning to take pictures, but it's always dark by the time I get back down to the living area.  My running shoes came.  So far they've gotten mixed reviews.  I'll post some action shots and let the people in the states judge my fashion sense according to current fashion standards (Iraq tends to lag in that regard).  Right now I am waiting to start online classes.  I am pretty excited about that as it gives me something to focus on.  I am taking Human Sexuality and Small Group Communication.  While they seem random, I am finishing an Associates in Communication with one class and starting a Bachelors in Sociology with the other class.  Like I said it gives me something to do during my free time that doesn't involve hemorrhaging money to military sponsored retail outlets (there is a Pizza Hut, a Taco Bell, a Burger King, and an Italian restaurant here... truly war at its finest).

That's all for now...  I am off to rotate the laundry.