Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Go Read BamBam and Amy

I was going to throw out another post about life in Iraq, but instead I'll just direct you over to BamBam and AimlesslyChasingAmy. Bam has got one helluva story up today, especially if you know anything about golf and Amy just blew me away with her journey back in time to Guido and the Scum Puppies. It reminds you that there is a lot more to us than just poker and writing about poker.

VNH to both of you!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dr. Chako is Going to Vegas!

That's right folks. My time in Iraq is drawing to a close. I am officially in the Home Stretch and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I will be back home in Washington at the end of March or the very latest in early April. After the big reunion, great meals, and reminiscing, I get on a plane for the land of good-n-plenty.

I know it's pretty short notice, but if anyone plans on being there, please let me know. A few of my buddies from Texas will be making the trip and it looks like 2 or 3 of the other doctors out here in Iraq will also be coming.

Here are the details:

Who: Dr. Chako (of course). The Wife will be sitting this one out.
What: Vegas, baby!
When: April 10th to 13th (Thursday to Sunday)
Where: MGM Signature (oooh – fancy-shmancy!)
Why: Do you really need to ask?

There will be stories, scotch and strippers - maybe all at the same time. Poker will be played. Real food will be consumed in mass quantities. I will probably make an ass of myself on at least one occasion. All-in-all, it should be one helluva good time.

See you there?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Big News!

I have Big News coming tomorrow or the next day. Stay tuned...


I am a musical have-not. I'm musically talented, having played guitar for over 30 years, but I pretty much stopped listening to popular music in the 90's. I'm sure there are tons of great artists out there I'm missing, but it's just never been a priority. I know this puts me in the minority in this illustrious group of pokerati, but so be it.

So, it should come as no surprise that my MP3 player, newly purchased just prior to leaving for Iraq, is filled with music from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Two songs I heard in the gym today stand out:

Helplessly Hoping, by Crosby, Stills and Nash – boy, could this be more appropriate? I sure am helplessly hoping for this deployment to end safely. Aside from the obvious poignancy of the song, it's just great music. I love good harmony and these guys were among the best.

Back in Black, by AC/DC – This song brings back tons of memories from childhood. One of my best friends, Frank Sweeney, got this album and we listened to it in his room. He had the coolest set up in his basement. His father built a whole separate room and let him keep it dark and he even had a blacklight in there. I remember Star Wars fighter jets hanging from the ceiling. Listening to AC/DC felt almost scary – like it was something our parents, certain MY parents, would disapprove of. A few years later, when I heard Frank had experimented with drugs, I just knew his turn to the dark side started with that album. It wasn't until many years later that I got over my childhood hang-up and really stared to enjoy this music. It was especially helpful today. While cranking Back in Black, I benched 200 pounds for the first time ever.

Friday, January 25, 2008


I suppose I owe you an explanation. Weightlifters out there may have already figured this out. A "Pussy Pillow" is the foam wrap you put around a barbell when you are doing squats. The "Pussy" in this case refers to the pansy-assed weightlifter (me) that isn't tough enough to handle the metal bar right on their shirt. Right now, the only thing that DOESN'T hurt is the back of my neck.

Sorry if I got you overly excited.


Today I did something requiring the use of a "Pussy Pillow."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Just When I Thought I Was Out…

They suck me back in! Sorry – I'm channeling my inner Pacino.

So, the real and true Deputy Commander comes back from vacation, only to leave the very next day for a commander's conference. He went with the hospital commander and the other deputies, leaving poor old me as not just the deputy commander, but the actual frikkin' hospital commander. This is really gonna screw with my nap time.

So, big deal, right? Wrong! It rained today. What does 8 months of dust plus 4 inches of rain equal? It equals a total generator shut down. Not just the main generator, mind you, but the back up as well. Imagine running a hospital with NO POWER. I don't have to imagine it, because I'm living it.

Obviously, since I have time to post this, the power came back up. Still, there were a few tense moments - like the patient in the OR. When I got there, the surgeons were operating with coal-miner head lamps attached to their foreheads.

Now, if you haven't already been there, go read about The Wife's infidelity. I knew I was asking for trouble by marrying a hot chick.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Well, my time as the head honcho has come to a close. The Deputy Commander has returned from his vacation in Hawaii and I get to return to the simple life of a combat radiologist. My wife will be happy because I’ll get to call home at my usual time again (as opposed to after when the kids should be in bed), and I’ll be happy because I get to go back to the schedule I had before all this nonsense.

As most of you know, this job did wonders for my overlarge ego. While I’ll miss that part of the job, I won’t miss the hours and the personnel issues. After one month of this I can honestly say:

I did my best.
I’m glad it’s done.

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I’m off to the gym to resume my normal workout schedule. Actually, I was able to work out every day as the Deputy Commander, but it came at the price of rushed meals and fewer hours of sleep at night. No More!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Quick Thoughts

Thanks to Brett Favre and the Packers for a great season. It surprised me how much I cared when I saw the Giants hit that field goal in overtime. It sucks that the last pass Favre may ever throw was an interception. I sure hope he comes back.

I played in a 3-on-3 basketball competition yesterday. We got knocked out in the 1st round by the team that went on to the finals. I’m in pretty good shape, but I never claimed to be a basketball star. It didn’t help that I was the tallest one on my team.

Right after the game I walked by the ER and saw a friend in one of the beds. Her doc was waiting on me to read her CT scan. It turns out that she had a kidney infection that went bad. The infection has spread to her liver and now we have to send her out of Baghdad to the next higher level of care. You are probably thinking she must have been really sick, right? She was laughing and joking. She told me she knew there was a problem because she had to cut her normal hour in the gym down to 30 minutes and she was feeling “a little fatigued” after 2 hours of Salsa lessons last night.

Soldiers sure are tough, eh? Well, even though that’s true, I’m forced to admit that she’s in the Air Force. Sis, you can now feel free to gloat.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


I've been known to say what's on my mind. Sometimes I do it for effect. Other times I'm just spouting off whatever is in my head. I have, in the past, said things to people that in retrospect they didn't need to hear. I think we've all done that.

Last night, one of my best friends out here told me I've got a big mouth. One of our mutual friends came to her and told her to tell me that I shouldn't discuss things that happen at poker night with the Command. Apparently, one of the Command Team came to this other friend with knowledge of something that happened at poker night (presumably something bad) and the only way they could have found out was if I had said something. She refused to tell me who it was or what it was I allegedly said.

Again, I'm capable to committing this "crime." I just hate not being able to defend myself against a specific accusation, especially to someone I consider a friend. Yet, she was willing to stand by our other friend.

As I type this it seems like petty high school stuff. I'm just annoyed. Sorry. Go away and read someone entertaining like Pauly.

PS. The answer to yesterday's Name Test was… ALL are true names I've seen this week.

Name Test

Soldiers are required to wear their nametape over their right shirtpocket when in uniform. Here is a list of last names I saw in the lastweek. Guess which one I made up:


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Diet Coke

“Hello. My name is Dr. Chako, and I’m an addict.”


One of my big fears about coming to Iraq was whether or not I was going to have access to Diet Coke. I drink between 3 and 6 cans or bottles a day back home. I rarely drink coffee, so this is my main source of caffeine. It turns out that I had no reason to fear. Our dining facility was well stocked. I just go to breakfast and load up my pockets with all the cans I can carry and head out on my merry way.

Until last month.

For some reason, the Diet Coke disappeared. All they had was Diet Pepsi. You fellow Coke drinkers out there (and perhaps even you Pepsi drinkers) know that there is a HUGE difference between the two. I’ll drink the DP in a pinch, and only with the knowledge that it’s a poor substitute at best. Habituation is a powerful thing.

This morning I came into my office to find a fridge stocked with Diet Coke. It seems my NCOIC (my office manager) went out in search of Diet Coke and brought me back a whole bunch from a dining facility an hour away.

I’m not used to being taken care of like this (no offense, honey). I’m not saying my NCOIC is going to get an award JUST for bringing me Diet Coke, but it’s this level of caring in everything she does that has me staying up late to make sure her award write-up reflects just how outstanding she really is.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Kicking My Ass

Doing two full time jobs is rewarding when they both go well, but frustrating because there just aren't enough hours in the day. Add to that my total radiology system crash (down for 5 days) and playing catch-up over the last week, plus a surprise inspection from the higher-than-higher headquarters (passed with flying colors) and you have a stressed out Dr. Chako. Even The Wife has noted that I barely have time to chat on the phone these days.

The comment was made recently that I seem to be letting the power go to my head. Well, I wasn't the idiot who gave the egomaniac real power, was I? No. I'm just the egomaniac acting according to my nature. At least I'm aware of the problem.

I got the big push from the hospital commander today to Stay Army. He is bewildered why someone with 15+ years toward retirement would even consider getting out. I told him quite honestly that I've loved my time in the Army and would do it all again. It's just that now is not the right time. I can easily see myself coming back into the Army in 5 or ten years and finishing out my career. It's just that right now it's time to follow The Wife on her quest to be the best Public Accountant she can be. While we are at it, I should be able to get a good taste of what being a real-life radiologist is all about.

2008 will be quite the turbulent year:

  • I return from Iraq a War Hero (well, how about I just get home and be a husband and Dad again, m'kay?)
  • I get out of the Army – I've known no other life for the past 21 years
  • We likely move – possibly overseas (although I hope not)
  • The kids have to say goodbye to some really good friends – when my oldest talks to me on the phone he always says, "You're the best Dad ever." I'm afraid moving may change that to, "You ruined my life."
  • The Wife (hopefully) makes Partner – I've seen some partners become total slackers. I promise you that won't be The Wife. If anything, she'll pick up the pace.
  • We will also probably have to interview for a new nanny/Au pair.

It's a good thing we have one helluva team, The Wife and I. You should see us when we are actually in the same country!

Rules For a Gunfight

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Iraqi Hammer

I have pocket 10s in late position and I raise to 3.5 times the big blind. The small blind calls because that’s what she does.

The flop is A K J rainbow. The small blind checks, because, well… that’s what she does. I’ve seen her check call the river with the mortal nuts at least twice.

I bet almost the size of the pot. She hesitates a moment and says, “All in!”

Did this weak-assed player just check raise me? Okay. Wait a minute. Have I ever seen her check raise? I do a quick mental review of all the hands we’ve played together over the last few months. I’ve never seen this. I have no idea what to do. Scary board.


She smiles at me, flips her cards and says, “You’ve been Hammered!” 7 2 off-suit. Why the hell did I introduce this concept to these poor excuses for poker players?

Did I mention that she’s our chaplain? I got hammered by the chaplain.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Surge is Working

Now that I sit in the Big Chair, I get briefed about workload throughout the hospital. Everyone saw about 10% fewer patients in the last month and a half. Many are ready to chalk this up to success with the surge and I tend to agree, as least in part. It could also be the fact that the weather is not conducive to bad guys running amok.

Get this – it’s snowing right now! Big, fat, fluffy flakes. One more surreal thing to add to this deployment. On my 1.5 mile walk to and from breakfast this morning, I looked with wonder at the flakes coming down in the moonlight. I must admit I even caught a few on my tongue until I thought better of it. Who knows what’s floating in the air here?

I promise to have a poker post up soon, including a picture of the player of the year board. I’m way ahead in points right now.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Top 5 Things I'd like an Automated Machine to Say

I only have one. It would be my answering machine here in Iraq.

"Hi. This is the Deputy Commander. I bet you think your issue is important and right now you are just counting the seconds until you can leave it on my machine. I ask that instead you use this time to consider that I really don't care about your piddly-assed complaint. In the time it takes you to tell me about it, you could have probably solved it yourself with those awesome people skills you learned in kindergarten. If you still feel you MUST tell me of your issue, leave it after the beep. Who knows, I might actually get a chuckle out of it before hitting DELETE.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

My World Map

I love Sitemeter. It's cool to find out that my readership has spiked since I've been deployed to Iraq. It's also cool to see where my readership comes from.

Big shout out to my Korean reader. Hey sis!

Who the hell reads this stuff in Austrailia? Oh wait, isn't there some kind of big tournament going on down there right about now?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Today I am Angry

I spent most of the day today chasing my tail. We have a debilitated patient who no longer requires medical care and has been approved to be released to his family. This approval came last week. When I came in this morning, I saw the patient was still here. Perhaps he is just waiting on transportation?

No. The reason he is still here is because the police unit that actually does the transfer unilaterally decided that his medical problems were such that he should be transferred to a hospital, not to his family.

Hello? I am a board certified physician. I consulted with multiple other board certified physicians in multiple other specialties prior to making this decision. Who the fuck are you to tell me where to send my patient? A cop? Are you fucking serious?

But wait. It gets better. The cops made this decision 4 days ago and DIDN'T TELL ME ABOUT IT. So this patient has been sitting in a crowded hospital, taking up bed space, because some idiot "decided" the transfer didn't make sense.

Well, after some extremely diplomatic emails (I had to delete all the curse words prior to hitting SEND), I finally convinced the cops that we actually know what we are doing over here at the hospital. They have just now agreed that we can send the patient to his family. This process consumed 8 hours of my day today.

Just another day at the office.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

How to Get Your Boss to do Whatever You Want

In today's lesson, we will learn how to get your boss to do whatever you want. The easiest way is to show some examples of how NOT to do this.

Your boss has a short attention span (I realize this is a generalization, but it's almost always true). Do NOT start your impromptu meeting with the phrase, "I just need 20 minutes."

If you REALLY need 20 minutes, schedule a meeting. Practice your discussion ahead of time so it doesn't go longer. It would be better to say you needed 30 minutes and finish ahead of time.

If after 45 minutes in your curbside meeting you still haven't made your point, you have crossed the point of diminishing returns. Your boss is now imagining shoving a dagger through your eye.

During this meeting, if your boss asks for the official policy on your issue and you hand him the policy, if would be a good idea if you told him ahead of time that:

a. This wasn't actually the official policy, even though it's on official letterhead, and

b. The reason it's not the official policy is because you JUST FUCKING MADE IT UP YOURSELF AND PASTED IT ONTO OFFICIAL LETTERHEAD.

Finally, make sure your issue is as important to your boss as it is to you. Finding a way to save $10,000 is great, but not if it costs $20,000 to do it YOU MORON.

Tomorrow we will learn how to get your way with your wife. I'll give you that lesson just as soon as my wife gives me the manual.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Finding out your nanny was in a car accident – scary.

Finding out the car was hit in the rear door, right where your kid sits – terrifying.

Being 8000 miles away in the fucking desert of Iraq when you get this information – no words can describe this feeling.

Calling home to find out that the kids were not in the car and the nanny is only bruised and scared – whew!

Channeling Spock

First off, thanks for all of your replies to my thought provoking post yesterday. We are letting him go. I say "we" because I don't make this decision in a vacuum. A general officer gets the final say after all of his advisors make our recommendations. I pray this young man dies peacefully, even if he is a bad guy. If he uses his last few days on Earth to hurt people, I'm going to feel like shit.

Now on to my next problem.

We have a dirtbag soldier. Compounding this problem is the fact that she is a senior non-commissioned officer (NCO). She is being removed from her job and I found out second hand that she is being placed in charge of my emergency room. We have an outstanding NCO already in charge there and this would be a very disruptive force. What bothers me is that I wasn't even consulted on this decision. I guess that's par for the course when you are the ACTING Deputy Commander as opposed to the full-time Deputy Commander.

Well, I managed to arrange a meeting with all of the deputies and the commander and convinced the commander not to make a final decision until each of his advisors had a chance to give him input.

During the meeting, I began to realize that this soldier was being forced on me whether I liked it or not, even before I had a chance to get a word in edgewise. Well, what's a good deputy supposed to do when faced with this situation?

I stood up and prepared to walk out of the meeting in mid-discussion. I grabbed the door handle and turned to face the crowd. In my most logical voice I calmly said, "It looks like we are trying to accommodate this soldier at the expense of an entire department. I disagree with this plan. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one."

Then I walked out.

Don't laugh too hard. I just found out she is being assigned to a completely different section out of my area.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Playing God

Happy New Year, everyone! We had an awesome bon fire, karaoke and non-alcoholic champagne to ring in the New Year. It was a helluva party until some idiots started throwing empty cans of silly string into the bon fire. Fortunately no one was injured. Still, there was a lot more duck-and-cover then I usually like in a war zone.

So, New Year's Day greets me with some interesting tasks. I'm struggling with how to tell this story because it's quite unbelievable, even to me. Rather than try to spin a good yarn, I'll just lay out the facts.

We have a young detainee (in his 20s) with one huge tumor in his chest and a bunch of smaller tumors in his lung. It turns out he had a bone cancer as a child. Sometimes these kids get either recurrent disease or a new cancer like lymphoma. We don't know exactly what it is and we really don't have the equipment needed to find out.

He's going to die unless someone figures out what this mass is made of.

In my new job as chief of staff, I can request a Compassionate Release. This is reserved for detainees (note that we don't call them prisoners) whose conditions have worsened significantly since their capture and who would probably not be able to participate in the insurgency if they are released. He seems like a good candidate, right?

So today I get a question from Legal, "Umm, do you think there is any chance of him recovering if he gets the care he needs after he's released?"

It's a good but difficult question. Based on what I know of the Iraqi healthcare system, the odds of him getting the appropriate care are pretty slim. But assuming he got to a good doctor and assuming this is something treatable like lymphoma, then yes, he could recover.

"Umm, do you think he could recover enough to participate in the insurgency?"

Think about my dilemma for a second. I am a physician sworn to care for patients and Do No Harm. If I say he CAN'T recover, he can be compassionately released (and potentially get the care he needs to recover). If I say he CAN recover, they won't let him go and he will surely die.

Before you decide what I should do, would it change your mind to know that he killed a bunch of soldiers? What if he was just an innocent bystander?

After you've got that figured out, tell me what to do with my other 20 year old with the 6 centimeter brain tumor. In this case, I KNOW he's a Bad Guy.