Monday, December 31, 2007

Good Vibrations

Our company commander is a really nice guy. Simple, but nice. He gets flustered easily, but he's good natured about it.

We have a psychiatry tech who everyone loves. She's quirky, but in a good way. In fact, she's the one who introduced me to the Sandman series that I've been reading voraciously (and intend to buy as soon as I get back).

Well, for whatever reason, she decided she had an important question for her commander. So right in front of everyone, she calls him on the phone and asks this all important question.

"Am I going to have trouble getting my vibrator through customs?"

Based on her reaction, her question must have been greeted by silence followed by some pretty uncomfortable stammering. I very much wish I could have seen his face.

Well, he must have recovered enough to ask some pertinent questions that might help him give an answer. Because no one could hear his side of the conversation, we're not entirely sure how he asked the next question, but the tech's response was, "Well, it's a Rabbit and it's really expensive, so I don't want to just leave it here!"

We each have our pressing issues, I guess.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Have No Fear - I'm in Charge!

For the next three weeks, I'm the chief of staff for the entire hospital. For the doctors I work with, this means I go from friend to boss. I've made this transition before, and I'm pretty good at it. Besides, doctors shouldn't need any real "managing," right?

Let me tell you something – doctors are the biggest crybabies, whiners and complainers you could possibly imagine. Add to the mix narcissism and a God-complex and you have the ingredients for tons of fun.

I wasn't in the job for 30 minutes when there was screaming in the OR. One of the docs got into it with one of the techs. Accusations of inappropriate cursing (as opposed to the appropriate kind), and even racism came up. It's my job to sort everything out, hand out punishment where necessary and get everyone back to a point where we can get along enough to continue our mission of patient care.

In the middle of all of this, a patient shows up with shrapnel injuries. We think he's a BAD GUY, but he didn't come with paperwork. (As an aside, I know many of my readers have jobs where they deal with paperwork. Have you ever wondered what would happen if some paperwork didn't get filed correctly? Probably nothing, right?)

In this case, with no paperwork, we have no legal right to detain him. If his injuries are not life-threatening, we are required to LET HIM GO HOME. Let me rephrase that – I (meaning ME) am required to let him go.

Well, it all ended well. In the time it took to finish with his medical needs, his paperwork finally showed up. Still, it was a tense few hours.

This was just my first day on the job. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Cheer and Guard Duty

We had our hospital Christmas party last night and it was pretty cool. It was well attended (what else do we have to do?), and there was good food (pizza), holiday movies and even a trivia contest – officers vs. enlisted. The officers pulled an early lead thanks to my guess of 1895 as the year Christmas lights were first used as decoration, but we eventually fell to the enlisted who pummeled us with their insane knowledge of the movie A Christmas Story. I wonder if the fact that three of the four officers on our side were Jewish had anything to do with it… Afterwards, I broke out the guitar and played Christmas carols and requests. Nothing says Christmas like Billy Joel and Jimmy Buffett.

This morning was Christmas morning of course. On my normal walk to the chow hall, I always have to stop and show my ID card to the gate guard. It's usually the same team every morning, but today was different. Today it was the company commander who was all smiles as he shot me a salute and greeted me with a hearty, "Merry Christmas, sir!" His Christmas present to his soldiers was to give them the day off so they could sleep in and call their families. I also found out that their Command Sergeant Major was pulling shifts in the guard tower.

I may be Jewish, but I'm pretty sure this is what Christmas is all about.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I am a Dirty Old Man

We just had Open Mike Night here in Iraq. It was in an outdoor tent at 8pm and it was 40 degrees outside. My hands are just now thawing out. Unfortunately, I didn't get to play the Steve Earle guitar because I couldn't get back to my office in time to get it, but one young soldier player Copperhead Road, so Steve was there in spirit.

Open Mike Nights are an absolute blast. I never resist a chance to get up on stage, but this one was special. There is a young enlisted soldier who plays a mean lead guitar and a young nurse who's a helluva singer and they asked me to join in. We rehearsed 5 songs and got to play them all. If you are wondering, the set list was:

Kiss Me – Jewel
Santa Baby – (which I always thought was done by Marilyn Monroe until I read the Wikipedia page) – Eartha Kitt
Original Piece (sorry can't remember the name) - SPC Barrows
Peaceful Easy Feeling – Eagles
Hold My Hand – Hootie and the Blowfish

I must say, we rocked the house. The harmonies were excellent. The sound was perfect. The crowd was raucous. That last part may have just been just to keep warm, but I'd like to think they were also having a good time.

Now comes the Dirty Old Man part. Talent comes in many forms. We had singers and poetry readings. We also had dancing. A group of young black soldiers got up to dance to some Cupid song (I realize I'm totally a nerd for not knowing the song or even the type of music, other than it was probably Hip Hop. Give me a break. I'm a 40 year old Jewish doctor. Get the hell off my lawn!)

Anyway, do you remember the scene in Dirty Dancing? The one where Jennifer Grey gets to look into some real dancing behind closed doors? It had a… feeling to it. It was like it was privileged information, and you felt like this was something you shouldn't be seeing. At the same time, you were mesmerized.

Jeez, this is going to sound so cliché, but black women can dance. I know. The sky is blue and cold beer tastes good. Give me a break already. I don't go to clubs and maybe since I've been without my wife for 3 ½ months it was more enticing than it should have been. Still, I felt privileged for getting a glimpse of something I would otherwise never have been able to see. I even suspect that if I walked into an all black night club the dancing would immediately change so I would never get a chance to see this kind of movement.

It's silly, but I half wanted to go up to these women and thank them personally for allowing me (and the other 60 soldiers in the crowd) to watch this.

But then everyone would know I'm a dirty old man.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tito Ortiz is the Man!

My son is gonna lose it when he sees this picture. Tito Ortiz from the Ultimate Fighting Championship is his ultimate hero (after me, I think). My hat is off to Tito and his training partner Justin "Nsane1" McCully for coming out here to Iraq to support the troops.

And no, Tito didn't bring his girlfriend .

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Trivia Answers and More Anti-Semitism

A quick search of Wikipedia reveals the answer to my trivia question from yesterday. To recap, the question was, who said, "The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from [the "Department of the Tennessee," an administrative district of the Union Army of occupation composed of the portions of Kentucky and Tennessee west of the Tennessee River, and Union-controlled areas of northern Mississippi] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.

Answer: Ulysses S. Grant December 17 th, 1862

For some more interesting historical anti-Semitism, I recall an ex-girlfriend when I post about this next person:

He argued that the Jews were no longer the chosen people, but were "the devil's people." They were "base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth." The synagogue was a "defiled bride, yes, an incorrigible whore and an evil slut ..." and Jews were full of the "devil's feces ... which they wallow in like swine." He advocated setting synagogues on fire, destroying Jewish prayerbooks, forbidding rabbis from preaching, seizing Jews' property and money, smashing up their homes, and ensuring that these "poisonous envenomed worms" be forced into labor or expelled "for all time." He also seemed to sanction their murder, writing, "We are at fault in not slaying them."

Who said this? Why, it was Martin Luther , the founder of Protestantism.

Editor's note: Due to complexities of posting remotely, and other unforseen internet issues, this post should have come before the previous one. It was lost in the ether somewhere and has only reappeared recently. My apologies to all, for any confusion.

But then, again, the content is free . . .

Back to Nonsense

I got a little political and religious in those last two posts. Sorry 'bout that. I'll try not to let it happen again. See what happens when you surf around Wikipedia?

Anyway, it's a short post today. After reading this Head CT on a young soldier who is seizing, I'm off to play chess. I sucked right out loud in the last two tournaments, so I'm hoping to regain the honor of a past champion.

I'd like to leave you with this great quote I just read on Google quotes:

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. - Arthur Schopenhauer

General Orders #1 and #11

For you military-minded folks, you may remember your three general orders. General Order #1, which every basic trainee has to memorize or be killed with endless push-ups is:

I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.

Well, the command has developed a new General Order #1. This order is the one that keeps us from gambling for money and having sex while deployed. Let's just say I know of a few violations of this particular order (although not by me – I told you, I'm a goody-goody).

I just found out about General Order #11. Trivia question for the day: Who wrote it?

The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from... Tennessee within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.

Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters. No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Poker Content, Iraq Style!

I haven't posted about poker in a while, so it's about time. As you may remember, we play poker here every Wednesday and Saturday night. We are not allowed to play for money, so at first glance this may not seem as interesting as a big cash game, but you'd be underestimating the competitiveness of soldiers.

I have developed the perfect table image, but I think I ruined it last night with this hand. Everyone has been commenting at how much I bluff in the beginning of games. They are mistaking bluffing for tight aggressive play, which is exactly what I want them to think. They play classic home-game poker, which means almost everyone limps in on every hand. What they don't see is that I play only one or two hands per orbit, and sometimes I've folded 10 hands or more in a row. With our blind structure you can't wait too long, but I'm way ahead on the Big Board of 1 st and 2nd place finishes, so I must be doing something right.

Anyway, much like a home game, a raise can mean anything, but a re-raise is something to pay attention to, especially when you know who is doing the re-raising. I look down at pocket Queens under the gun and raise to 3.5 times the big blind which is a huge raise in this game. I see weak player number one contemplating a call, when I say, "What are you doing? You don't want a lot of people in this hand. You should re-raise!" He stops for a second and says, "Okay. Re-raise!" He doubles my raise. Beware the min raise!

Now LAG in the next position (whose nickname is Hot Nuts) goes "All-in!" He could have any two cards at this point. He just hates when someone raises before it gets to him. I'm liking my chances at this point. But wait! The chaplain, sitting to my immediate right goes, "Okay, I'm all in, too." She such a nice girl, but so horrible at poker that you just can't believe. Her nickname is Queen High, because she won two tournaments with that same hand. She never goes all-in or re-raises without the nuts.

Well, shoot! What am I supposed to do with my Queens now, dammit? They hit the muck so fast it would make your head spin. Well, they should have hit the muck, but instead, I showed them to Ken Alphabet, which meant I had to show my laydown to everyone else, too.

Three all-ins:
Germ (the min re-raiser) – Pocket Aces
Hot Nuts – Ace 8 off-suit (?!)
Chaplain (AKA Queen High) – Pocket Kings

The Aces won the hand. My queens would have been junk. I'd like to say I went on to win it all after my great laydown, but I'd be lying. Still, it was one of the biggest preflop laydowns I've ever made. I just need to control my ego to the point where I don't need to show everyone. No need giving them additional information, right?

Of course, I'm giving it to you for free.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Flintstone Village

This has to be one of the most surreal things I've seen. I still can't get my mind around it. I've mentioned that crazy Saddam decided to build his own personal zoo. You'd think that was crazy enough, but apparently not. It turns out he was a fan of the Flintstones. Honest. Well, what's a crazy rich guy to do when it comes to giving a gift to his grandkids? Why he'll just built them an acre-sized playground of caves and tunnels so they can pretend they are in the Flintstones cartoon. This is just nuts.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thank You

I just saw the picture of the guitar with all of your signatures. Sean , you did an amazing thing here. Thanks to all the bloggers for everything – for signing the guitar, for making me feel like I'm doing important work, for making The Wife feel welcome and for giving me something to look forward to - the next WPBT gathering.

So, from this lonely soldier to all of you I say, "thank you."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Random Thoughts

First off, I'm loving the trip reports. Things here can get boring at times (although not tonight), so it great to read the stories. Keep 'em coming.

As I write this I am about 10 feet from a very dead bad guy. His limbs are most certainly pointing in the wrong direction. Just another day at the office.

Our hallways are decorated with greeting cards from literally thousands of folks back home who just wanted to send cards to deployed troops. My favorite is a bright blue card from a kid named Jimmy.

Jimmy writes, "I am very proud you are a soldier. I really like that you are keeping us safe. I hope you win so someday America can be free."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Trip Reports, Please!

Well, tales of Vegas debauchery are slowing starting to trickle in. It sounds like there was an incredible turn out and a final table of bloggerdom all-stars. Let's hear about it while it's still fresh, people!

Oh yeah, and someone had better explain what the hell the Rooster was doing kissing my wife. WTF?! Where were all her chaperones?!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Day that Will Live in Infamy

Besides being the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, it's also Hump Day for my deployment. That's right – I'm half-way done!

Good luck in Vegas, everyone. I'll be there in spirit.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Happy Chanukah!

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah and I just got off the phone with my very excited family. Before I left for Iraq, we purchased a Wii, and, rather than wait to the last night (the night we traditionally open the coolest present), my wife had them open it tonight.

While I'm talking with my wife on the phone, in the background I hear my oldest son teaching my youngest to play tennis. It must be a new kind of tennis because I can hear my 5 year old yelling, "Die, sucker. Die!"

Sad Day Today

I never claimed to be a great scribe. I'm jealous of those more eloquent than I , especially at times like these. You see, I lost my uncle today. He was a Great Man (capital letters intended). When I picture larger than life people, he's in that crowd. Everything about him was big – his waistline, his appetites, his lifestyle, his philosophies.

Here is an excerpt of what I wrote to my dad:

I can hear his laugh. He had a distinctive scraping noise he made in the back of his throat before laughing out loud. Big eyes. Big heart. Great laugh.
I will always picture him in the great recliner in his den in the house in White Plains watching the New York Giants on the big TV (before anyone else had a big TV).
I will always remember the engaging conversations about the market. He would get so excited that his words would sometimes not keep up with his thoughts. It was occasionally hard to follow him, but you could tell he was passionate and excited and since he felt it was important, you tried even harder to understand.

This is especially hard for me now. As most of you know, I am 8000 miles away in this God-forsaken desert of Iraq. If you know me well, you know how important family is to me. This is a time to be close to family, and I can't be there. It tears me up inside. I called, and that helped, but nothing beats a hug and a meal and listening to the stories that are being told in close quarters right now.

Rest in Peace, Unc. You earned it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Carlos Mencia

Well, I took a break from strumming my new guitar (quite hard to leave it, actually) to go to a USO show. Our last show was Bret Michaels from Poison fame and it was very cool. This show had twice as many soldiers in the stands. It was an absolute nut house.

I got there about 2 ½ hours early due to a miscommunication with some friends. There was already about a hundred soldiers scooping up the good seats and I got one with a nice cushion. After a few minutes, a young soldier sat down next to me and we started chatting. He's Alabama National Guard and it's his job to guard convoys along the most dangerous road in the world. He has only been here two days and he already had to fire shots. He always provides security in the rear. Since convoys are slow, Iraqi motorists can get frustrated. Apparently, a man and woman in a car sped up along the shoulder in an ill-advised attempt to pass the convoy. He showed them his weapon. They kept coming. He took aim. Still they came. Finally, he fired into their engine. Smoke came up and the car trickled to a stop. Just another day in Iraq.

The concert was fantastic. Brad Williamson was his warm up. He's the dwarf that is usually on the show (Mind of Mencia). He had some really great stuff about being a little person and he talked about stereotypes and how he is perceived by kids and adults of different ethnicities. He had us all cracking up.

Carlos was his hysterical self. He mentioned that he hadn't been here before now because the "powers that be" asked him to tone down his show. He refused, so he didn't get to come. Finally, the powers relented and he agreed to come. There was no toning down in this show, believe me. We all had a great time, including Carlos. He stayed afterwards and signed autographs and chatted with literally hundreds of soldiers.

I was a fan before. I'm a huge fan now.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Gift

Sometimes you get gifts and you think, "Great. Another tie." You give that overly pleased smile and a hearty "Thanks!" The gift is forgotten almost as soon as you move onto the next present.

Sometimes you get a gift and are profoundly moved.

Today I received a rather large guitar-shaped box. I was very excited because I ordered a guitar from Operation Happy Note about 2 months ago, and I thought this was it.

I was wrong.

I knew something was strange when I saw the really cool hard case. It's actually a nicer case then the one I keep my Martin in back home. I opened it and was speechless. Inside is a beautiful Gibson/Epiphone acoustic guitar signed by none other than Steve Earle. For those of you who have never heard of Steve, you've certainly heard his music. He's played soundtracks for just about every movie worth watching (and some that perhaps weren't). He's probably better known for his anti-war views and outspoken political commentary. He's the guy who is willing to take on a different or unpopular view in order to challenge your way of thinking - sort of a Devil's Advocate on a larger stage.

In short, my kind of guy.

I certainly don't agree with all of his views, but we share the same spirit. I just learned we even shared an address, having both lived in Schertz, TX. In case you were wondering, Mr. Earle did not send this guitar.

I'd like to tell you the guy who DID send it. He's a writer and a journalist (not the same thing at all). He's a suburban Dad. He's a half-way decent poker player.

And he's my friend.

Brad, you may never know how much this means to me, but I hope to get the chance to tell you in person some day soon. And I promise, no matter how hard it will be to leave behind, it will continue to bring pleasure to deployed troubadours until the last one comes home.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of. – Benjamin Franklin

I was reading some trivia last night and the above quote was attributed to Bruce Lee. I had just recently read it on the internet and was pretty sure it was from ol' Ben Franklin and I was right. Regardless of who said it, it's a great quote. When I started this blog I used to put a quote of the day. Quotes are fascinating to me. A good quote is usually a great idea distilled into its simplest parts. There is even a quote about that – Brevity is the soul of wit. – William Shakespeare

I'll leave you with one thought and one more quote about time that I just discovered. My thought is this – I hate being away from family, especially during the holiday season. By the end of this deployment, I will have missed almost 10% of my youngest son's life. Still, I am coming to think of the time I am spending in Iraq as important time. Anyway, here is today's final quote about time:

To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time. – Leonard Bernstein

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Secret to a Good Night's Sleep

The secret to a good night's sleep is sheer exhaustion. I had a little free time yesterday so I decided to take one of my famous 15 minute naps. Three hours later, I woke up confused and disoriented. It was already dark and I was late for dinner. I was half way to chow (it's almost one mile away) before I realized I was terribly underdressed. This is a desert and a place of extremes. When I got here, I wrote a lot about how hot it was. Well, the cold temperatures have rolled in. It's in the 40's at night and most of us have broken out our fleece jackets. I was only wearing my tee-shirt.

After chow, we got together for the movie Wild Hogs. The climactic scene in this movie is flat-out hysterical. It made me want a motorcycle again. I've had my motorcycle license since 1987, but I haven't had a bike since college. Every time I think about getting a bike, I see another accident in the ER. On the other hand, deployed military get huge discounts on Harleys, and there is a dealer right here in Iraq.

Anyway, I was worried about sleeping last night since I took such a long nap (and I've got snoring Navy dude in my trailer), so I hit the gym for the second time yesterday. 1001 calories on the elliptical trainer and another set of triceps exercises, and I slept just fine. I even think I am seeing slimmer lines in my face. A few more months of this and I may actually be in shape again!


Friday, November 23, 2007

I Never Killed Anyone…

Actually, the full quote is, "I never killed anyone that didn't need killing." It was from John Wesley Hardin, one of the deadliest gunslingers ever. He's more famous for killing a man for snoring too loud.

My roommate finally moved in yesterday. You guessed it – he snored so friggin' loud it shook the trailer. I'm dragging some serious ass this morning. I usually sleep only 5 to 6 hours a night, and it has to be quality sleep. This is unacceptable.

Stories from Iraq

First of all, thanks for all your well-wishes on Turkey Day. It's a tough time to be away from home, especially since my honey was under the weather. I can't cook, but I sure can make up some chicken soup in an emergency. Get better soon, please.

Next, I just wanted to share a quick story from the cover of the Army Times today. As you know, we are helping rebuild Iraq so they can defend themselves in the future. We pretty much destroyed their Air Force during the initial assault. Well, they are back and better then ever. In fact, the cover of the paper shows an Air Force commander observing an Iraqi pilot check his new fighter plane.

A Cessna 172.

For you non-pilots out there, here is a picture:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

List of 5s

I always am nervous about putting these lists out there for all to see. My family reads this, after all! What if I run for office some day? Oh well. Thanks to Sean for the tag. At least I have someone to blame if I get in trouble.

My 5 "Passes:"
5. Lynda Carter – What is she, like a hundred? Actually the Wiki says she's 56. I've been in love with her since I had her poster plastered on my paneled wall in my little room in New York.
4. Kandyse McClure – Absolutely beautiful.
3. Tricia Helfer – Can you tell I've been watching Battlestar Galactica?
2. Janine Lindemulder – Did I just put an adult film star on my list? Yes I did. It's my list dammit and I'll do what I want. Actually, I'm a bit weirded out by the sleeve tattoo, but I'd have no problem getting over it. Quickly.
1. Angelina Jolie – She's probably certifiably insane. I don't care. She's the most beautiful woman of our generation.

My Top 5 Favorite Movies:
5. Grease – I get all tingly when they pan up on Olivia Newton John when she's wearing the spandex.
4. Willow – Val Kilmer as Madmartigan. Billy Barty. A young Kevin Pollak. Priceless.
3. Monte Python – The Meaning of Life
2. Star Wars – The Original
1. The Princess Bride – I can still quote this movie almost verbatim

My Top 5 Favorite Albums of all time:
5. The Eagles – Greatest Hits
4. Jimmy Buffett - Margaritaville
3. Harry Belafonte – Live at Carnegie Hall (1960). As a quick aside, the Chad Mitchell Trio performed on this album. Even though he wasn't a member when the album was made, I just found out that John Denver was part of the trio!
2. Little River Band – Greatest Hits
1. James Taylor – Greatest Hits

I will not tag anyone else, 'cause that's how I roll.

The Zoo

I don't know much about this zoo. I've driven past it in the bus and it fascinates me. I'm told it was Saddam's personal zoo. He brought in all kinds of exotic animals and kept there right here. Rumor has it that after the invasion, the animals were all neglected and most of them escaped. One night while walking back from dinner, I saw some kind of animal by the Camp Cropper gate. I don't know if it was one of the exotics, but it sure scared the heck out of me.

Anyway, enjoy these pics of the zoo. I apologize for the lack of detail, but I shot them from the window of a moving bus.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy Birthday, Honey!

I had promised a post about the Zoo, but things here have been crazy, so it will have to wait until tomorrow. Instead, I get to use my little place on the internet to wish my beloved a happy birthday. I think this may be the first time we aren't together on her birthday in the 15+ years we've been together. Holidays and happy occasions are tough times to be deployed.

I wish I could have been there, honey. I'll do my very best trying to not miss another one.

I hope you enjoy your present. Let's see some pictures!

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Trip to the PX

We have a good PX on Camp Striker, but there is a bigger PX over on Camp Liberty. Unfortunately, it's an hour bus ride. I had the extra time today because I couldn't work out like I normally do. You see, there was NO WATER. Have you ever tried to run a hospital without water? I'm guessing no. Well, the water is back on now, so I'm headed to the gym to try and create some muscles to impress random Macedonian chicks.

Please enjoy these pics I took while riding on the bus.

Picture 1. Since this is a desert, these lakes aren't natural. We are pretty sure Saddam had them put in. I guess there were a few perks being supreme ruler after all. "Hey Achmed. Put a lake over there."

Picture 2. Small palaces surround the lake. They were probably for favored family and friends.

Picture 3. More of the same.

Picture 4. The big palace. One of them, at least.

Tomorrow: The Zoo.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rant Day

Rant 1: I have a mandatory 4 hour on-line training course called Ethical Medical Treatment of Detainees. These damned detainees get far better treatment then you can possibly imagine. If they receive any unethical treatment, it's probably because some soldier was pissed off at having to do a 4 hour class on how to be ethical.

Rant 2: I have a Norelco electric razor. Don't ask me which model because I've long since forgotten. A little red light has come on telling me it's time to change the blades. The problem, of course, is that I'm in Iraq. There are no replacement blades here. The bigger problem is that the stupid red light sucks out the charge from the cordless razor and I don't have enough outlets to keep it charged all the time. I contacted Norelco's online help desk and they told me to switch the blades around to see if that makes the light go off (it didn't). They also suggested letting the charge run out and trying again (the light is still on). I will never buy another Norelco product. Piece of shit. I'm back to shaving with regular blades again.

Rant 3: I go to the gym every day, 7 days a week. I've done it for the entire time I've been here. There is a young girl from Macedonia that works behind the desk. She's very friendly and flirts with most of the young soldiers in the gym. I usually just say hello before starting my workout. Well, lately she has gotten more friendly. It was to the point where I actually asked someone if she was flirting with me (you'd think I'd know if I was being flirted with, but you can ask my wife, I'm clueless). My young Macedonian friend made her position quite clear yesterday. She came up to me, smiled, and said, "You come to the gym everyday. How come you don't have any muscles?"

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day

From a veteran in Iraq, I just wanted to say thanks for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

More Pics

As a favor to a friend, I took some more pictures of my area. As I noted on my last photo dump, this place is pretty uninteresting. I found it unusual that there are these big trees in random places. I wouldn't expect that in the desert.

Picture 1: This is my new trailer on Camp Cropper. It's much closer to the hospital. I live in the door marked "B." It's nice to have a tree right outside my door.

Picture 2: The Big Tree. Every morning at 5:20 am, the birds in this tree start chirping. The sound is raucous. It truly goes from silence to deafening. They do it again around 5:30 in the evening, too.

Picture 3: This is my room in the trailer. The flag from Sean is a nice touch (but I think I have it hung backwards). The American flag he sent is just off screen.

Picture 4: This is me with my friend Jess, our Psychiatrist and my "battle buddy." The completely illegal shirts were also sent from Sean for some pimpage of his radio station, Rock 101 out of Lubbock, Texas. As you can see, we are just happy to be here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


I have been playing guitar my whole life. At home, my best audience is my oldest son. I literally play guitar for him every night at bedtime (well, I did before I left for Iraq). I really miss playing for him and I miss my guitar, a Martin D-28 (feel free to ooh and ahh). I have no guitar out here, but there are many people who do. They either brought them over, bought there here in the local shop (these guitars suck) or they got them through something called Operation Happy Note. I requested a guitar from the Happy Note folks as well. If they come through, I think I will have found a charity I can totally get behind. Free musical instruments for deployed service members? That's one helluva good idea!

While I wait, I trade some playtime for guitar lessons. I actually have 4 students right now in various stages of learning. I use the same teaching style I learned from my dad. Teach them something that sounds good and they will want to keep playing it. Don't press. Compliment liberally. It's quite effective.

Well, I was paid the highest compliment a guitar teacher can get. One of my students is from Puerto Rico, and she wanted to learn a couple songs in Spanish. Having 6 years of Spanish lessons and an ear for guitar music made this pretty easy for me. Last night, a bunch of us were sitting around after our Wednesday night poker game and she picked up the guitar to show off a bit. One of her friends, someone who has played guitar for over 8 years, was quite impressed and asked how long she had been playing. I was bursting at the seams and answered for her.

Prior to last week, she had never picked up a guitar.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Post Where He Quotes Dostoevsky

"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." Fyodor Dostoevsky

If prison conditions are the measure of a society, then we (meaning the U.S.) get high marks. I contend that no prison in the world offers as much for the interred as right here in Camp Cropper, Iraq. It's kind of funny really. Any complaint is addressed rapidly, no matter how minor. They have access to healthcare 24 hours a day. Hell, every single one of our detainees got a Flu shot. I bet you can't say that about everyone in America, prison or not.

I guess I should apologize for the obscure post from yesterday. Someday, someone is going to buy me a beer or four (actually 18 year old Macallan scotch would work much better) and I'm going to tell some stories that will either make you grab a pen or grab your ears and beg me to stop.

And with that, I will leave you with one final quote from Fyodor that best sums up the obscure post from yesterday.

"If he has a conscience he will suffer for his mistake. That will be his punishment--as well as the prison." - Fyodor Dostoevsky

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Something Happened

Jeez, sometimes I hate this forum. We are prevented from talking or writing about certain things. Make no mistake, I completely agree with the policy. Some things are better off kept quiet. That's unsatisfying to you, I'm sure. People want to know. If fact, many (especially you journalists) feel you deserve to know. Heck, you demand it!

A bunch of us are watching Battlestar Gallactica. There has been some really excellent writing, and I especially enjoy the interaction between the President of the Colonies and the military. Remember that episode where Colonel Tigh was in charge and he needed supplies? He used the military to get them and things got out of control. That must really suck.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

I.T. People are SO Helpful

Soldiers have a lot of traditions. One of the traditions is the "greeting of the day." Whenever a soldier walks past an officer, they salute and give a greeting. Usually it's a simple, "Good Afternoon, Sir." Sometimes, elite units have a slogan they'll say. Here are some examples:

First to Fight!

Mission First!

Rakkasan! (Still not sure what this means)

Well, the other day I walked past a soldier who just arrived in theater. His until is a Signal Battalion and they handle all the computers. His greeting was the best I've heard:

Permission Denied, Sir!

It is with this spirit that I am writing this post in the middle of my work day. Normally, I am working at this time, but today I cannot. You see, the folks that run my computer system decided they needed a new firewall. They spent 5 hours in the middle of what would otherwise be my most productive time installing the damn thing.

They will spend the rest of the night uninstalling it, because it made my system unusable, just like I told them it would be. I love these guys.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Post Halloween Bliss

Well, my weight creeped up a little this week - must be something about all that candy. We had a very cool Halloween bash here at the hospital. You might think that being in Iraq would isolate us from those things necessary to make a good party, but that was not the case. There was great food, a haunted house and some phenomenal costumes. I was totally unprepared, so I went as a soldier. How original.

Here are two of the better photos.

Picture 1. This is me with our Psych nurse (AKA the Wicked Witch of Puerto Rico) and our Psychiatrist.

Picture 2. Have you ever tried to milk a surgeon? I love the expression on his face.

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 Blücher 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


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…


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.


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


(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 . . .


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.

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
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

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

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

What's an SOR?

I have become something of a local celebrity from this.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


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:

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:


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:


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.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

This Message Brought to You by M*A*S*H

30 SEP 07

As many of you have guessed, my internet posting is not regular. It’s not for lack of material. Unfortunately, the “powers that be” shut down our access periodically. It’s one of the many things I can’t write about (for now).

Since I don’t know how long my connection will be up this time, I just wanted to share something quick. I used to watch the TV show M*A*S*H all the time. I always cracked up when Big Army did something really illogical. Surely that can’t happen in real life?

Every day I walk to work, I have to pass through a metal detector. No biggie, right? Except, I’m always armed with a 9mm Beretta with live ammunition.

It never fails to crack me up.

Now, if you want some poker-y goodness, head on over to The Wife. She’s blogging her ass off.

Oh yeah, I meant to add this to my post about the 10 year old Iraqi kid who wanted me dead. Here is my 10 year old son.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dr. Chako = Dr. Zhivago?

27 Sep 07

I'm running on the treadmill in the gym near the hospital, and Armed Forces Network is showing Dr. Zhivago. It's the original movie version with Omar Sharif. Too much wistful longing for my taste, but it's a decent war movie from a personal standpoint, which I think was Boris Pasternak's intention.

The scene I'm watching shows the Russians opening up the Gatlin gun on a bunch of white-clad "soldiers" running away. The weapon is quite effective and mows them down in no time. Off they go to survey the damage, only to find out it's a bunch of kids they shot up.


My oldest son is ten. He is awesome. Good looking, bright, fun, enthusiastic. He's good at sports and loves to draw. Tonight he told me about his campaign to run for school Secretary. Win or lose, he certainly has spent a lot of time preparing.


Back in the hospital now. I'm looking at an x-ray of feet. They are shot all to hell. But something is different.

It's a kid.

So, I walk down to the Emergency Room to find out what's up. Sure enough, there is a ten year old Iraqi kid looking scared to death. He's got bandages everywhere and our medics and docs are doing their usual outstanding job taking care of him. One of the docs comes over to tell me the rest of the story.

Our soldiers shot him. A lot. They caught him red-handed placing an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Night Life in Iraq

25 Sep 07

When we last left our hero, he was taking combat showers at work and stamping out disease and pestilence. Now it's time to let loose. But first, we have to get home.

1600 (or 4 pm for you non-military minded) – Grab my laundry bag and head out. Since I workout every day, I keep PT (exercise) clothes at work. The good news is that laundry is free and they do it for you. It's only about 150 yards from the hospital and it's right on my way back to tent city. Of course, I arrive at the facility drenched in sweat. Did I mention it gets hot here?

1630 I finally get back to the tent and take some time to cool off. Thanks to good Army ingenuity, there are bottles of drinking water everywhere and it's quite good. Most of the time it's refrigerated – just not in the tent. That's okay. The tents are air conditioned and even at room temperature, the water always tastes good. Now I usually read a book and, if it's working, I fire up the laptop and surf a little. I even have my MP3 player, although I don't use it often. I'm still not happy with the earpiece situation. Maybe my ear canals are built funny, but I still haven't found a good ear piece. Oh well.

1730 Off to chow. Yet another good meal. Since I began my workout routine, I have almost completely skipped deserts. I'll occasionally have a bag of chips, but no pastries or baked goods. They have a cheesecake and a chocolate layer cake that looks awesome. I've decided to diet Body-for-Life style and only eat desert only one day a week.

1830 Now comes the hard part. How do you fill large blocks of free time? If it's like last night, you go back to the hospital because some young soldier is having pelvic pain and needs an ultrasound. Usually my nights are free. Wednesday and Saturday are poker nights. The other nights are generally spent in the MWR tents (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) watching TV, movies and even playing video games. Some wonderful folks in the states donated hundreds of X-Boxes, Playstations and even a bunch of Wiis so soldiers won't get bored. There are a bunch of people playing chess and dominoes. I've even found a few guitar players! I already have a few soldiers asking me for lessons. I used to give lessons in college, so this should be a nice way to pass the time.

2200 Bed time. Tomorrow it's just wash, rinse and repeat. There are no days off in Iraq. Tuesday is just like Sunday. You mark the passage of time by events. Wednesdays and Sundays are easy because those are poker nights. Some people choose to live holiday to holiday. I've come up with a few other ways to mark the days.

13 more haircuts (I get mine cut every 2 weeks) or
26 more weapon inspections or
51 more poker games or
179 more days or
4322 more hours or
258,385 more minutes

That's about it. It's not a bad life. It would be even better if it weren't for those pesky bad guys.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Editors Note: I'm still having internet issues, so I'm emailing my posts to "The Wife," and she's putting them up. This is the second of 3 installments about my "Typical Day in Iraq." As soon as you are done, head on over to The Wife's new blog If you know anyone who's been deployed, you know it's always tougher on those left at home, but she handles it with courage and candor. If you like what I'm doing here, you'll love it over there. Just remember, if you like her blog better than mine, keep it to yourself. - DrC

Continuing on my "typical day in Iraq" theme, I am now headed to work.

0645 I leave the chow hall and start the trek to the hospital. I live and eat on one camp, but I work on a different camp. Both camps (and many others) are contained within the larger Victory Base Complex you may have heard about recently on the news. Now comes the saluting. I am a Lieutenant Colonel, and I outrank just about everyone here, so everyone I walk past has to salute me. It's pretty cool, but to be honest it can get a little old. Still, I remember saluting everyone in sight when I was a Private First Class, so this is a nice turn around.

0700 I arrive at Camp Cropper and show my special ID to the gate guard. This takes me right past the "Do Not Enter – Deadly Force Authorized" sign. I usually check twice before I leave to make sure I have the proper ID.

0710 Finally, I'm at the hospital. My sand colored boots are now covered in actual sand, as is much of my lower uniform. It won't be until later that the sand has managed to find its way into my shirt, face, hat and hair. Ah yes, air conditioning!

0720 to 0800 – Now it's boring stuff. I catch up on emails, check in with the techs and get a report of radiology studies waiting to be read. Because of the miracles of the internet, I am the sole radiologist for 5 different facilities, 3 of which have radiology capability (the rest just send their patients over to us).

0800 to ? Now I'm ready to work. I read every study until the worklists are clean. It's usually between 100 and 150 exams. By contrast, I usually read 40 to 50 studies per day at Madigan back in Washington. The work is usually not as challenging (or time consuming) as back home, but it's important. Detainee health care may not sound glamorous, but patients are patients (regardless of their personal or political beliefs), and I'm here to help.

Somewhere in there, I go to the gym, and eat a little snack. In fact, I just got back from the gym, but I'm waiting to cool off before taking another combat shower here in the hospital.

Tomorrow: NIGHT LIFE!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My Typical Day in Iraq

20 Sep 07

In response to loyal reader Sean (AKA Instant Tragedy), here is my typical day. Please excuse the military times. I can't help it.

0500 I wake up in my 20 person tent. The lights remain off until 0730, so I have to do everything in the dark. I sleep in PT clothes (Army t-shirt and shorts), and as I climb out of my sleeping bag, I slip on my shower shoes. I have a little flashlight near the bed that I use to find the towel and hygiene kit from my duffel bag and I trudge my way to the latrine.

0505 The latrine is about 150 yards away. I walk out of my tent and stumble over stones and sand. There are these huge concrete T-walls for force protection and they keep out much of the light from surrounding compounds, but the moon is often bright enough to light the way. I arrive at the portapotty and take care of business before going next door to the shower.

0510 There are 6 small shower stalls and six adjacent sinks (try saying that 5 times fast). I have my electric razor charged up, so I do a quick shave and brush my teeth before taking a "combat shower."

0520 Each soldier is allotted 15 gallons a day for personal hygiene, including flushing the toilets and taking showers. They way this works is we turn on the water and get wet. As soon as we are wet, we turn off the water and lather up. On again comes the water and we turn it off again as soon as all the soap is off.

0525 Band-Aid change. I got a smallpox vaccination before coming and it takes about 3 weeks to heal. At least the intense itching, which lasted about a week, has mostly subsided. I change the dressing and carefully discard it before washing my hands again. There is still a live virus on the band-aid and scab, so you have to be really careful.

0530 Back in my PT clothes and shower shoes and stumble back to the tent.

0545 Now I use the flashlight to change into my Army ACU's, or my desert camoflague. It's long pants, long sleeves, boots and a hat. On top of that, I strap on my 9mm Beretta pistol and I'm off to chow.

0600 The dining facility has a sign out front. I'm not allowed to take a picture for security reasons, but it reads:


I show my ID and get in for a really good meal. They serve over 27,000 meals per day in this one facility, and they do an incredible job.

0645 After a leisurely breakfast, I ready myself for the one mile walk to work. It's cool in the morning, somewhere in the middle to high 80's, so it's a nice walk. The walk home won't be nearly as much fun.

Tomorrow: WORK!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Greetings from Iraq!

17 Sep 07

I’m on the ground and running full speed. In this case, full speed is about 2 MPH. It’s hot here. Have I mentioned that? I’m reminded of a line from Biloxi Blues, “It’s Africa hot. Tarzan couldn’t take that kind of hot.” The day I arrived in Kuwait it was 120 degrees. Most days have been between 110 and 116. Night time is much better. 90 degrees feels positively balmy.

I learned something recently - jet lag sucks. The rule of thumb is it takes one day to adjust for every hour of time difference. Right now we are 11 hours ahead of the West Coast, so it’s supposed to take 11 days to adjust. I’m waking up at all hours of the night (and day). Actually, last night was my first night of good sleep. It’s probably because I kicked ass in the local poker game. We played 4 tournaments and I took one 1st place, one 2nd place and two 3rd places. My one win came in the final game where I was “heads-up” against my old boss Dr. Steve, and I busted him up real good. He was still all smiles because he knows that I won the battle, but he wins the war – he gets to go back home to the states in a few days.

For now, be well. I’ll post again soon.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What, No Lobster?

14 Sep 07

Well folks, I’m finally here in Iraq. I’ll have tons of stuff to tell you about in the coming weeks and months. Unfortunately, until I get my new laptop battery I am a bit handcuffed by time limitations.

Leaving a crying family at the airport was every bit as hard as you might imagine. The image of them huddled together for comfort stayed with me throughout the flight, and really through the two weeks I’ve been gone. It’s better today because I finally got my webcam working and I got to see smiles instead of tears. The connection is a little bit slow – it’s been likened to talking with the space shuttle. That’s appropriate because the landscape here in Baghdad is a lot like what I imagine the moon to be.

We started a list called, “You Know You Are Deployed in Iraq When…” The first entry is “when you get out of the shower and still have sand in every orifice in your body.”

I’ll have some pics in the coming days. For now, I want to explain the title of this post. He actually said, “What, no lobster? This is such bullshit!” This was a line spoken by a soldier in front of me at the dining facility. You may think he was joking, but it was spoken in all sincerity. Every Friday night is steak and lobster night here on Camp Striker. Since there was no lobster, I had to settle for King Crab legs. They were scrumptious. People give a lot of shit to Halliburton, but if I’m not mistaken, they are the parent company of KBR which handles our food. Nothing improves morale like good chow.

Finally, thanks for all your support for me and “The Wife” during these trying times. You may not think so, but your comments mean a lot. It’s like a little internet “care package.”

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Touchdown, Safe and Sound

Guest post, courtesy of The Wife:

Short one today, friends. Just a quick note to say the good Dr. called yesterday (at 2:30 a.m., his time) to say he's now in country. Wish him well.

Godspeed you home, my love.

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Close, but not quite . . .

Guest post, courtesy of The Wife:

Today, lucky readers, is a special-double-bonus day for you all. You have the extreme privilege of reading DrChako's blog with both my special insights and editorial prowess (*chuckle*), as well as having ACTUAL comments and insights from the man himself. Yes, my beloved Dr. is on the ground in Kuwait, awaiting the next transport into his final duty station in our favorite four-letter word - Iraq.

So without further delay, some of his poignant observations . . .
Well, here I am in Kuwait. This place is purgatory. I can't believe people are actually stationed here. I'm certain this place looks just like Baghdad, but it's considered non-hazardous duty. The way i figure it, if you are coming all this way, might as well go the extra 100 miles north and be able to say "I was there, dude!"

Training today was a bust. We went to the range at 4 am and fired 5 familiarization shots. What a waste. If I'm getting up that early, let me shoot a whole bunch, dammit. . . .

Yesterday the power went out in our tent. We were in total darkness and within 10 minutes the temperature equaled and then surpassed the outside temperature of 120 degrees. How do natives live in this shit?! . . .

Now I have to gear myself up for taking a dump in a portapotty. It's 120 outside right now, which means it's 140 in the potty. Wish me luck.

OK . . . the portapotty might have been a little TMI . . . but you get the picture. I guess it's standard military - hurry up and wait. Too bad our poor Dr. has to do his waiting there. Wonder why they don't stage them out of Hawaii or something like that. I bet military recruitment would get a big boost if people knew that a deployment would be bookended with a bunch of training on a balmy 90 degree beach with girls in bikinis. I know I'm only a CPA, but I'm trying to think outside the box.

So again, thanks from both of us for your kind thoughts and wishes - keep the posts coming, and in addition to keeping the home fires burning, I'll keep the blog fires burning for the man. Special thanks to Sean, for being MY most regular reader and commentor in my short time as the Dr.'s voice. And thanks, Amy C, for the vote of confidence on the blog . . . just trying to keep the Dr.'s readers informed, but might have to think about my own!

For some of our friends out there, L'shanah Tovah! If you have to ask what it means, google Judaism 101 - I'm sure its at least as educational as anything you're reading here.

Later this week, some obligatory poker content. Or maybe the video of Son #2 "Mutton-Bustin'" . . .

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife