Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Young Frankenstein

Tonight is traditionally my favorite night of the year (well, at least until I was 18). It's Mischief Night, and it always falls the night before Halloween. Much trouble did I cause in my youth. We shall not revisit those demons.

Tomorrow is Halloween, and my 10 year old son has determined he's too mature to go trick-or-treating. Besides, he says, he never gets any really good candy anyway. Instead, he's going to hide behind one of our trees and scare the hell out of trick-or-treaters. Zeyda will be so proud!

I had a total Halloween moment yesterday. As I was looking for a table in the dining facility, I came face to face with a woman that honestly reviled me the moment I saw her. I had a complete visceral reaction. It was a total Frau Bl├╝cher moment (I even heard the horses whinny). Turns out most people react to her that way. She is well known in these parts and is best avoided, (or so I'm told) mostly because her attitude is so negative that it tends to bring everyone down. It reminds me of a great quote I heard – "The only tool the miserable have is recruitment." Roll that one around in your noggin.

Well, through a series of unfortunate events, I ended up sitting right next to her at dinner. She asked me how I was coping with the deployment. I hit her with both barrels of my sunshine gun. I told her this was perhaps the greatest thing I had ever done in my life. I have developed a great circle of friends and my social calendar is filled beyond capacity.

I effectively built a karma wall between us that she was unable to climb over. She quickly gave up and went on to other victims. I felt like a superhero.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Goals

I have an Excel spreadsheet that tracks several goals. I have my weight loss goal (13 pounds and counting), my deployment tracker goal (30% completed) and my two mile goal (15:30 best so far). I have short, intermediate and long term goals. My biggest goal is to get home safely.

My wife has goals, too. In fact, she has a goal she has been working towards for the entire time I've known her (that's 15+ years for those keeping score at home).

Congratulations honey - I always knew you'd make it. You have finally arrived. Forevermore, when you walk those hallowed halls, they will look at you as you have looked at the many that came before you, and they'll say…

Partner

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hidden Posts – Redux

The day after my post about posting, I come to work and find out that the Bloglines site (where I read all of my favorite posts) is now blocked.

Coincidence? I think not.

As an aside, today marks the 21st anniversary of the day I joined the Army. What a long strange trip it's been.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hidden Posts

I apologize for my poor choice of words. I re-read the last line of yesterday's post, and I can see where it sounds like I have a secret post somewhere out there on the internet. That is not the case.

What I should have said was, "It kind of make you wonder what I'm NOT writing about, doesn't it?"

To that end, let me clear up one more thing. These forums are not illegal in the military – they are just heavily regulated. Soldiers usually mean well, but they can (and have) inadvertently given away information that could help the enemy. It's one of the reasons I proofread my posts several times before sending.

Government computers are 100% monitored. It's one of the reasons you will not see me use the word b*l*o*g. It's a signal word that sends up red flags to the security guys. Like I said, I never write about anything I'm not supposed to, but why attract unnecessary attention?

All this goes back to my original point. If you are wondering whether or not things are happening around here that I can't (or won't) talk about, you can stop wondering.

Nothing like that happens around here.

A Post of Substance

I had really big intentions for this forum before I came out to Iraq. I would be your embedded reporter. I would chronicle things that real journalists could only dream about. I would make grown men weep and women swoon.

Yet, looking back on my posts, I notice a distinct lack of substance. Maybe you've noticed it, too. If you come here hoping for some real dirt and great insight, I'm afraid I've disappointed you. Sure there were some goodies, but for the most part, it's been a lot of fluff.

It kind of make you wonder if there is a hidden post somewhere, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Just a Coincidence

"Coincidence is God's way of staying anonymous." – anonymous

Some bizarre shit is happening around me. I'm not quite sure how to explain it. I believe in God, but I do not subscribe to the idea that a supreme being is sitting around figuring out ways to make me scratch my head all the time. Seriously, wouldn't He have better things to do?

So here is a chronicle of the most recent happenings:

I was telling a story about the fastest man I ever knew. When I was stationed at Ft. Benning 10 years ago, he was one of my Physician Assistants. He could run a mile in under 4 minutes. I ran the Army 10-miler with him (well, technically we ran it at the same time. I would have needed a motorcycle to keep up with him), and he finished at a 5:15 pace. Guess who shows up here in the hospital the day after I told the story. Same guy.

I had a full house beaten by an Ace to 5 straight flush (flopped) and we've seen quads flopped 3 different times in the short time I've been here. One night 4 different people had pocket Aces in the span of 45 minutes.

I'm watching Rounders (for like the 10th time) and I tell a story about how one of the characters reminds me of a very old friend. The next day, my sister gets an email from that same guy, and I'm told he'll be emailing me today. The last time I saw him or spoke to him was 23 years ago.

All I have to do is think about something, and somehow it comes right back to me.

God, if you are listening, there was this really old bottle of scotch …

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Panties for Sale!

I'm blogging my heart out over here, yet my wife puts up a post about her panties and suddenly she an internet superstar. Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Act now and I'll sell you some panties that may or may not have belonged to my wife. The first 10 requests get a bonus – a pair of Waffles' shredded drawers so you can compare and contrast. PayPal and Pokerstars transfers accepted!

Now that that's out of the way, we can get back to war correspondence. Actually, there is not much new to report. The biggest problem we face seems to be soldiers not doing the right thing. Anytime you have women and men in close proximity for an extended period of time, things are going to happen. I remember hearing a Navy Admiral talking about the introduction of women on his ship. An "insolent" reporter asked if this would lead to hanky-panky. He replied that his sailors were disciplined. They would do the right thing.

Yeah. Right.

There are multiple ways to pass the time here on Camp Cropper. I've talked about the regular poker games and the Tuesday night chess tournament (I won last night, thank you very much). Well, there are also Salsa dancing classes. It's quite the popular thing to do. Well, I guess it is – I've never been. One of the regulars at Salsa, a very attractive young woman with an exotic island accent was asking me about my trailer. When I told her that no one has yet moved into the other side, she suggested we all get together and use the empty room for Salsa practice.

That's just what I need – a rocking trailer. Honest, General Stone! We were just dancing!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Comic Books

We have converted the Psychiatry trailer into our combination Officer's Club and Poker Room, but it's still the home of the nut house (exaggerated for effect). I was a little perplexed when one of the Psych techs handed me a comic book and said, "You might like this."

It was Neil Gaiman's Sandman .

Holy crap – has anyone else heard of this?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sounds of War

High volume chatter – Hospitals are usually quiet places. Not here. The hallways are filled with soldiers talking and laughing at a higher than normal pitch. I'm sure it has something to do with stress, but there is another reason. All of the detainees must be guarded at all times, usually by two MPs. These cops are not used to the normally reserved atmosphere in a hospital.

Din – I never really appreciated this word, but it's a good description of the background noise in the dining facility. The DFAC is the size of an airplane hangar and there are literally thousands of hungry troops in there for every meal.

Cursing – There is something about being at war that makes otherwise sophisticated people curse like truck drivers (or maybe I should say poker players). I'm guilty of it, too. If you know me well, you know that's unusual for me. I'd better watch myself before I go back home.

Belching – This is the sound I was thinking about when I got the idea for this post. In this case, I'm not referring to your college roommate Wally who could burp the alphabet. I'm talking about the sound that comes from a .30 caliber Gatlin gun. This sound has been described (quite accurately) as a burp amplified 1000 times. These guns are usually attached to aircraft - I believe the A-10, but I'm not sure. It's the sound that woke me up this morning at 2am and it sounded like it was right outside my trailer.

Then came more cursing.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Proof of Insurance?



65' custom-built motor yacht complete with staterooms, a state-of-the-art galley, G.P.S. system and radar for navigation, twin supercharged diesel engines, etc.

$2.5 million


Champagne, chocolate covered strawberries with cream, and music dockside for the excited "soon to be owners" and a small group of friends.

$500.00


Two corporate representatives, crane, and rigging complete with faulty turnbuckle.


$2,500/hour

(Note the guy in the stern!)




Watching your dreamboat nose dive into the harbor, accompanied by two corporate representatives just prior to "inking" the final paperwork . . .






PRICELESS!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Meaning of Life

If you've read The Wife recently, you saw a few gems from her day. It's wonderful that she's able to experience these joys. I know with me being so far away her life is quite stressful (as if it wasn't already that way). It's encouraging to me that she is still able to appreciate these small but significant events.

Being here in Iraq and reading about back home has made me revisit some of Life's Big Questions. I figured out the Meaning of Life when I was just a teenager. In my 30's I realized something was missing, so I added it in and stood back to look at the whole. At the time, it seemed quite profound. It's only with the eyes of a 40 year old that I'm able to appreciate it's main flaw – namely that any grand philosophy able to explain the Meaning of Life has to be so basic and simplified as to be pretty much of no use to anyone.

If you care, my meaning boiled down to four (and later 5) points:

You Must Learn
You Must Teach
You Must Reproduce
You Must Experience Joy

In my 30's I added:

You Must Function as a Member of Society

I also put on the single caveat:

In order to claim you have fulfilled your function as a living person, you must have done at least 3 of these 5 things before you die.

We can all sit around and talk about this until the sun comes up, but the bottom line is that I've already realized how over simplistic it is and how unusable it is when it comes to real life. Save your venom.

The reason for all this background has to do with point number 4 – You Must Experience Joy. There have been times in my life where I thought things were too complex and stressful. I longed for a simple life of sitting around and being a vegetable. Predictability would be wonderful. No surprises.

Now that I've had a chance to experience that kind of life, I can tell you this – I'd really love some complexity right now. Give me a chance to figure out how to balance the checkbook and the kids soccer games. Let me coordinate my wife's hectic schedule with my hospital schedule. Let me try to schedule family trips and vacations while trying to please everyone. Throw some surprises at me (the non-explosive kind, thanks). Anything but same-old, same-old.

In order to experience joy, you must first be able to define it. Will you know it when you have it?

It goes back to the one phrase I coined. As far as I can tell, it's original:

"Throughout your life, may you know how good you've got it while you're getting it."

Monday, October 15, 2007

New Equipment

We were just issued some new equipment. All soldiers must keep it in their shoulder pocket at all times. God help us if we are caught without it.

It's a tourniquet.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bret Michaels Ain't So Poisonous



I meant to write about this last week. The "Bad Boy of Hollywood" (this was actually written on the posters advertising his arrival) played a concert here at Camp Stryker, Iraq last Sunday. If pressed, I would not have said I was a fan of Poison, his old group. My recollection of this 80's "hair band" was one of their album covers. I remember walking past a record store and seeing the album in the window and thinking, "Those chicks are HOT!" It was only after closer inspection that I realized all 4 people pictured were dudes in make-up with big hair. That will really fuck up the psyche of a teenager. I can only admit this now that I'm 40.

Well, for someone who wasn't a fan, I sure did know every word of every song he played. It was one helluva concert. There were about 2000 soldiers standing out there singing and just having a great, high-energy time. My hat is off to him for bringing his new band out here to entertain the troops.




Friday, October 12, 2007

You Can Find Me Here . . .

If you want to see where I work, check out this photo link from CNN.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/10/10/iraq.main/index.html#cnnSTCPhoto

I'm a little surprised by the photos, because we soliders are all under STRICT orders not to take any photos. I guess orders don't apply to CNN. These 7 pics are actually very good representations of where I am and what we do.

Read Before You Hit "Send"

For your reading enjoyment, I copied an email sent to the entire hospital here in Iraq. I have changed nothing except to delete the sender's name.

-----Original Message-----
From: xxx xxxx SSG 535 MP NCOIC
Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2007 2:46 PM
To: DL CROP ALL
Subject: Acronyms

In the future, when submitting an SOR please refrain from using acronyms. There are several service technicians with KBR that are not familiar with them. Also, be sure to put building numbers for locations. Any SOR without building numbers and using only acronyms for their location will be returned to sender.

SSG xxx xxxx
NCOIC, DPW


I hit "REPLY TO ALL" and sent the following:

From: Dr. Chako LTC 31 CSH Radiologist
Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2007 2:56 PM
To: DL CROP ALL
Subject: RE: Acronyms

What's an SOR?


I have become something of a local celebrity from this.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tagged!

My invisible internet friend Sean has tagged me with one of those, "Ten Things You Don't Know About Me" thingies. I was going to play the old "Not one of THESE things again" cards, but if you know me, you know I love talking about myself. For the more complete list, please see 101 Things About Dr. Chako.

  1. I'm egotistical. Because of this, I'm easily manipulated by people who play on my ego. Call me an asshole and I'll forget you ever existed. Call me the greatest anything (doctor, poker player, guitar player, lover, whatever), and I'll do just about anything for you.
  2. I am a morning person. If you tell me you are not, I'll totally understand but secretly think you are a weak individual.*
  3. I have lost 11 pounds since I left home for Iraq.
  4. I still need to lose 20 more.
  5. Being in Iraq has only worsened my obsession with Ferraris.
  6. Being in Iraq has worsened by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I may need to dedicate an entire post to this.
  7. I am not invincible, but I have this distinct feeling that I will not die here. I honestly believe I'm supposed to get home for something really important.
  8. If you are better than me at just about anything, I will start to idolize you. Then I will work at becoming better than you.
  9. If I was not an Army Doctor, I would want to be a singer-songwriter and play my guitar in local clubs - preferably somewhere warm. This would put a serious damper on my Ferrari dreams.
  10. I once thought I had the perfect solution to the homeless crisis in America, but everyone I told just laughed at me (including my wife and my father). There is still a tiny piece of me that thinks someone should try it.

    * This is obviously a joke. Right honey ?

I'm All Right

If you've scanned the web or listened to the news, you may have come across this story:

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/10/11/iraq.main/index.html

I just wanted to let you know that I'm just fine. So is everyone I know personally.

We're just a little busier than usual.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Poker Content!

Let me introduce you to my Wednesday and Saturday night poker game. This is a blog about poker after all.

First of all, we are all officers. There is a policy here against fraternization. It was originally crafted to prevent male and female soldiers of different ranks from sleeping together, but it morphed into something more. Now it generally means officers and enlisted should not socialize too much. Technically, it should also apply to any officers of different ranks, especially if you might gain undue influence if you, say, dump all your chips to your commander in exchange for light duty. We've decided that it doesn't apply to us, and since one of our regulars is the base commander, there is no one to tell us to stop.

Speaking of the commander:

The Commander: This is the guy I would invite to my home game if I had one. Nice guy. Good conversationalist. Great stories and a good poker player in that "I don't give a shit about money so let's see if you can outplay me," kind of way. At first I thought he didn't care and would raise or reraise with any two cards, but I've discussed a little strategy with him, and he knows his stuff. (This is not the same commander as my boss' boss – the analytical chess and ping pong player).

The Ringer: Heavy Boston accent. Probably the best player at the table (other than me, of course). A little too conservative for our format, but he knows position, which is better than just about everyone else there. About the only other person capable of making plays based on his reads as opposed to his cards.

The LT: He's one of our ER nurses. His best quote, "Has anyone seen the Veterinarian? Because these pythons are sick (as he says this, he kisses his biceps)." He's actually pretty decent at cards, and I've even seen him win one or two games.

The Psychiatrist: The only woman in what is otherwise a sausage-fest. She's clearly improving and took her first 1st place last time we played. She has the most predictable tells of anyone out there. I can't believe no one (or almost no one) picks up on them. Seriously, it's right out of Mike Caro. If she looks at the flop and looks right away at her chips, watch out. She does this every time she has a good hand.

The Cop: He's an MP and we just lost him to another game 300 miles away. He'll be missed because he was good fun and played a very calm game. Even when he flopped quad Aces. Against me, dammit.

The Doc (not me): Another good young player, come to think of it. Very conservative, often to his benefit. With 12 chips in 3rd place, he came back to win by exercising extreme patience. I saw some of what he discarded and I must say I was impressed.

Your Hero (moi): Usually I'm first place or last place. I'd like to think I always get it in with the best, and while that's usually true, I admit I've been outplayed once or twice. Well, maybe once.

That's the regulars. There are others that come and go, but this is the core. It sure helps the week go by when you know you have a poker game to look forward to twice a week. I just wish we could play for real money - even small stakes. People play differently, and it shows. Still, it's a good chance to work on my player reading ability, and it's a damn good time.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Thought for the Day

When someone says to you, "Basically, you are correct," it can mean one of only three things:

  1. Either they think you are too stupid to understand the full explanation, or
  2. They are too lazy to take the time to explain it to you, or
  3. They don't quite understand it either.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Blogs are Educational

Good morning class. Today we are going to learn two new words. Are you ready? I knew you were. Our first word of the day is:

Pneumoconiosis

Can you say, “pneumoconiosis?” Good! I bet you want to know what it means, right? Well open a dictionary and look it up you lazy piece of sh… Sorry. This is supposed to be educational, so I just tell you. Pneumoconiosis is an occupational lung disease caused by the inhalation of dust. The type of dust determines the type of disease. You may have heard of Coal Workers Lung (Black Lung), Asbestosis, or Silicosis. There is another type of pneumoconiosis and it comes from sand. That’s right, just like the kind you get in a desert. Like in Iraq. In the average year, a person in Iraq will inhale the equivalent of ½ to 1 cup of sand. Some are lucky and breathe it right back out. Others are not so lucky and have lung changes that never go away. Ever. How do we know who gets sick and who doesn’t? We don’t. Smokers have a worse time clearing their lungs (thank God I never smoked), but sometimes otherwise perfectly healthy people are forever changed by exposure to this much dust. Could you wear some sort of protective mask, you ask? I guess, but it’s hard enough to breathe in this heat, and the type of HEPA mask necessary to block out this kind of dust isn’t readily available, and probably wouldn’t be used if it was.

Our next word is:

Leishmaniasis

Can you say... aw fuck it. I tell you about this one, too. This is a particularly nasty disease that is transmitted by the bite of certain species of sand fly. In the US, we call them no-see-ums, and they are merely annoying. Here in Iraq we call them “Those damned little pieces of shit that you never see bite you but leave a mark exactly like a fire ant bite.” If you’ve never had a fire ant bite, ask a Texan or Floridian about them. That’s right - flying fire ants! Hoo-ah! When you get the disease here, it even earned its own cool nickname, “The Baghdad boil.” How cute!

In tomorrows class we’ll discuss shoving a hot poker up your ass. It’s just as fun as these diseases, but you never have to leave home!

Friday, October 05, 2007

The People in My Neighborhood


War brings together some interesting folks. I'm beginning to think M*A*S*H was a lot closer to the truth, at least when it comes to Health Care Professionals in combat. Let me introduce you to:

The Dietician – My breakfast companion. I had gotten used to her minor complaints about Life, the Universe and Everything, when she hit me with this doozy. She casually mentions that in two more years, she won't have to take a PT test. Huh? I've never heard of such a regulation. Yup, she replies. When you hit 60, the Army no longer requires a physical training evaluation. What?! That's right, folks. She's an Active Duty Lieutenant Colonel at 58 years old. Shit – she's old enough to be my mother, and she's earned the right to bitch a little.

The Internist – He's a great guy who acknowledges he's out of his element. You see, he's a Rheumatologist, but on the "Big List of Army Doctors," that's pretty much kinda like an Internist. So, guess what? Welcome to combat! Here are your really sick patients. Good luck. Still, he's turning out to be a good caring doc, and that's more than our detainee population could ask for.

The Surgeon – The guy he replaced said to him, "Look. I'll be around for a couple of days while you are getting settled. If you get a really complicated case in the OR… good luck. Don't fuckin' call me, 'cause I'm going home." It was said tongue in cheek (I think), but he's now "the man" when it comes to any General Surgery needs. I asked him if he felt prepared for the carnage he's seen over the last month, and he quickly said, "Absolutely not." Still, I've seen his work, and I'd let him do my appendectomy. I can't say that about a lot of surgeons I've met.

The Psychiatrist – She must have the toughest job in theater (aside from our young heroes who have to do all the shooting). She has to minister to the mental health needs of a detainee population that DON'T SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE. I can't imagine how difficult that must be. On top of that, the soldier suicide rate is up and her boss is a workaholic social worker who insists that she just sit around waiting long into the evening for patients that have never shown up. Not once. How she manages to maintain a smile is beyond me.

The Deputy Commander – This is my boss, and you couldn't ask for someone better. He won't read this so you don't have to worry that I'm sucking-up. He really cares about his docs and will go to bat for us in a heartbeat. I really like his honesty, too. All the doctors meet once a week so he can put out information. He admitted to us that he was a little down in the dumps. You see, I am here as a six-month rotator. He's here for the full 15 months. He was okay with it, but the 1st six-month rotators just left, and it forced him to realize that he still has 9 more months to go. During that time, he'll have to say goodbye to the NEXT group of six-month rotators (my group).

The Commander – Interesting guy. Kind of a Renaissance Man. I mentioned to you all that I took 2nd place in the Tuesday night chess tournament. He took first. Kicked my ass all over the chessboard. Turns out that at one time he was rated at 1900. That puts him right about Grand Master territory. I'm just above average and never stood a chance. Of course, right after that, he kicked my ass at ping pong, too. Well, I'm younger and better looking, dammit (well, at least I'm younger)!

We are a motley group, but a damn good one if I do say so myself. I wonder what they'd have to say about me if they were so blog-inclined.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker

Texas Holdem Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 3915663

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Convoy Training

3 OCT 07

If you’ve ever spent any time on a military installation, you’ve seen convoys. It seems like all the Army ever does is “convoy training.” Line ‘em up. Drive ‘round in circles. Come back. Do it again tomorrow.

Tonight, as I walked back from the Tuesday night chess tournament (2nd place), I had to stop for a bunch of idiots doing nighttime convoy training. Six Strikers (which, by the way, are very impressive at night) crossed right in front of me, otherwise disturbing the peaceful walk back to my hooch.

It wasn’t until they passed and I walked about 200 yards that I realized something. They weren’t convoy training, you idiot. This is war. This was for real. These young soldiers were headed out on a mission to catch bad guys.

God bless ‘em.

Now, please take a moment and head over to The Wife. What started out as yet another “here’s a cute guy that isn’t my husband” post (I thought) quickly morphed into a love so fierce I often wonder if I’m worthy.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Iraq Pic Dump

2 OCT 07

My good friend Dr. Pauly made me promise to take pictures of Iraq. It’s pretty dreary here, but these should give you some idea of my surroundings. Unfortunately, I can’t take pictures of where they keep the prisoners, but it pretty much looks exactly like where I live, just with some barbed wire and guards over the concrete barriers.

Here is the open bay I stayed in while at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. This place was purgatory. We were all begging to get into Iraq ASAP just to get out of there.

I finally moved out of the 20-man tent into my own room. The Ferrari screen saver brightens up the place a bit. So does the sweet carpet the last guy sold to me for ¼ the price.


This is the view out my door. The list on the wall was also left by the last guy, but I find it handy, so I left it.



And this is my “street.” There are literally hundreds of trailers behind these walls, each divided into 3 rooms, most of which contain at least 2 people. I’m thankful every day I don’t have to share my 12 x 12 “hooch” with another slob like me.