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.