Monday, October 31, 2005

Online Interview

Last week David from National Summary emailed me a questionnaire to be a part of his post of interviews of female bloggers, and I finally got cracking on it this weekend and returned it to him.

While I was answering the questions I realized how much I have stepped back from politics in America. I mean, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are only one part of the government's "projects." It is essentially a foreign affairs issue, that has taken precedence in my mind over everything else that is happening in the country.

The last thing that piqued my interest was the Miers nomination. I mean, I feel so clueless about anything that is going on, or any decisions being made by the government in the near future other than the SCOTUS nominations.

I have no idea about a lot of things, and I am feeling a little stupid. I don't know if it's because I am living in Germany, and just not affected daily by much of the government's doings...or if I have momentarily lost interest. I think it's the latter...and I certainly hope it's just a phase.

Friday, October 28, 2005

It's all relative...

I didn't know my family was special, until I was a little older.

I thought all the things my parents did were pretty normal.

Airforcewife wrote about her father's old Kaypro computer, and that prompted me to remember our family's first computer.

My father got us an Apple back in the day...back in the day when they cost about $7000, which was more than you paid for some new cars. This was around 1983. Mind you, we didn't have a TV, because burglars had made off with our two, along with a microwave, and my parents decided it was better to raise kids without TV after that...

I don't have much memory of this computer, other than a green screen and floppy disks. But my brothers played on it a lot. I can remember all three of them congregating in front of the fridge and strategizing about games. I can't remember what games, but I do remember they had a joystick. So it wasn't that bad.

And I can remember that to keep the computer safe (so that it wouldn't befall the same fate at the TVs) my father got an old non-working fridge...and built a kind of computer desk inside of it. And when not in use the computer was padlocked inside that thing. So when we wanted to use it, we had to get the padlock key, or maybe it was a combination lock, then open the fridge door and sit in front of buy a 7K computer, and lock it in a discarded picture that in your livingroom: a fridge shoved up against the wall, being used a computer cupboard.

And if you think that is a bizarre story, I have many more where that came from.

Update: I just got this email from my father:

I read your blog about the computer in the fridge. Funny but inaccurate. The Apple 2 was bought in 1977 and the serial number was I believe 1076 (under 1100 for sure). Price $7500.

Need I add more?

Weird weather

My biggest complaint about Germany is the weather. Otherwise I think the country is perfectly nice, and really enjoy living here. It's just the 9 months of winter that get on my nerves. However sometimes the weather is just exceptional. Sometimes there are breezey warm summer days (inevitably followed by a 65 degree day, mid-July....just nuts).

You just don't expect them at the end of October.

Today it's going to be almost 70 degrees. This is just crazy...I mean last week I was wearing gloves and a scarf during the day.

Finally we are getting our summer here in Germany!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I've been tagged....yay!

I saw this tag at WaltonCad and was feeling all dejected, because no one had tagged me. And then I went to AlliCadem's and, happy happy joy joy, she had tagged me. So exciting!

Seven Things I Want To Do Before I Die:
1. Open a bakery
2. Cycle across America...but slowly, taking in all the sights
3. Have babies...lots... (painlessly, please...a girl can dream, come on)
4. See them all grow up and lead fulfilling lives
5. Go backpacking again when I am retired...I always thought it would be cool to go backpacking, but have loads of money. I mean, you could get the single room in a hostel, and you could dine at good restaurants, but you would still have the freedom of jumping from place to place at your whim.
6. Go to the Kentucky Derby with my mom and drink mint juleps and pretend it's Ascot and wear big hats
7. Fly on a Chinook, dammit...

Seven Things I Can Do:
1. Cycle for hours on stretch, uphill, downhill, with luggage, without luggage...I don't care.
2. bake chocolate chip cookies that are so good, you'd think there was crack in them
3. shrink clothes (it has its benefits: my bf is not so willing to let me do his laundry, and when I do, I get these great shrunken wool socks that are perfect for CaliValleyGirl's feet )
4. Talk...yeah, I can run my trap for hours
5. Organize other people to help me in difficult tasks...tee hee.
6. Spend hours chatting online with my boyfriend while he is deployed...versus when he is here, constantly forcing him to "go do something" and not just loll around. (I think the deployment has taught me appreciation for lolling with my bf.)
7. Change a tire on a car (Remind me to keep the spare pumped up though.)

Seven Things That I Cannot Do:
1. More than one push up...okay, I can do a push-down
2. Dance...I would just love to be able to dance like Shakira, dammit! Or that cadet. (I swear, that clip will NEVER get old for me.)
3. Watch just ONE episode of CSI on DVD. and call it a's got to be all 4 in a row.
4. Snow Ski really well...slalom. My version of slaloming is snow-plowing really fast.
5. Surf
6. Kill spiders...except on rare occasions, if I feel threatened...but otherwise they are practially pets now.
7. Repair the cold water tap in my kitchen...I only have hot water in the kitchen...for the last 2 years.

Seven Things That I Say A Lot:
1. Dude!
2. Okay...
3. Anyways...
4. Whatever (followed by Dude, on occasion)
5. You're sh*tting me!
6. Ooooh, that just burns my toast. (I am trying to get that into my vocabulary, because my bf says it to express extreme aggravation about something...and I just find it so endearing.)
7. WTF?

Seven Things I Find Attractive In A Male: (I am obviously describing my boyfriend here)
1. Sense of humor
2. Putting up with me (that's pretty high on the list)
3. Modesty/Understatement (I don't have it, so I find it attractive)
4. A sense of pride and accomplishment in everything he does
5. Good relationships with his family and friends
6. A smile that lights up his whole face
7. And a real nice butt (lol...flat counts as nice...)

Seven Celebrity Crushes:
1. Nick Stokes and Grissom (okay, they are just characters from CSI)
2. Paul Walker (go see the skin flick "Into the Blue" stars Paul Walker's body, alongside Jessica Alba's)
3. Tom Hanks
4. Reese Witherspoon...ever since Legally Blonde...*sigh*
5. Vincent D'Onofrio...see, I love his character on Law and Order: Criminal Intent so much, that it transfers over into reality
6. Nathaniel Fick...okay he isn't a celebrity yet, but I am so loving One Bullet Away
7. Sgt. Rudy Reyes, also not yet a celebrity, but give him time...he featured prominently in Generation Kill and is also mentioned in One Bullet Away...hawtie...

I don't want to burden seven people with this tag, because last time I did, I felt so if you want to, please by all means, feel tagged, and please tell me so I can check it out.

Packratting Pays

Last night I was surfing the internet and was just about to post a comment at this hysterical post about swearing kiddies, or what airforcewife calls my "son's Tourette's episode" - when my keyboard just up and died on me...which wouldn't be such a big problem, were it not for the fact that I own a laptop. A few weeks ago, I was cleaning out my apartment...well, more appropriate would be the German word "ausmisten," which means "mucking out," the term used when a farmer cleans out the manure from his barn.

I was throwing out junk that dated back from my first classes at the university here. Things I wouldn't need any longer, or were in such disorder that if I ever needed that information again, it would be easier to go find it at the library again, than sort thru my notes.

I also threw away random things, that I just wasn't using and never an old keyboard I had. I was thinking...I will never need this keyboard again, I have a latop. Why am I letting it collect dust and take up space on my desk here? Plus, after watching a British cleaning show, about a man who was such a packrat, they had to have a psychologist help him with his separation anxiety from his belongings, I decided...I had to do something before someone set a shrink on me. I was strong. I threw away post cards and birthday cards, notes, occasionally pictures I had in double, old computer disks, binders I didn't need anymore. I kept on thinking I could find everything a new home, but realized it was mostly junk, that had to be disposed of. And that keyboad hurt. I kept on thinking, maybe someone needs this...but finding someone who needed a keyboard, and didn't have one yet...well, that would be a long I threw it onto the garbage pile at the dump.

And last night I was thinking: packratting tendencies have been vindicated! I was right to keep that keyboard on my desk for 5 years without using it...two weeks later I need it.

However, the solution to my problem was a lot easier than that: I have had a new laptop since June, the old one crashing a lot, and having random weird problems (the keyboard just up and dying being an example). I bought it before writing my thesis, because I didn't trust the old one, in case it would crash mid-thesis. It's a way better laptop, faster, more memory, just waaaaay better than my old Dell. However, since the old one didn't completely up and die, I wasn't ready to start using the new one other than for the thesis...

So, when the keyboard on my old laptop died, the solution was easy. Retire the old laptop and finally hook up the new one to the 'net. Yes...the logic of a packrat: let a perfectly good, new laptop age and not use it, until the old one is really utterly that time, if you are lucky the new laptop won't be completely outdated.

I think I might not be so far from a shrink's visit.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The War after the War

A while back I watched an online slide show about the recovery of a National Guardsman who had lost both legs in an IED attack. I was so impressed by his wife, who was 21 or 22 at the time of his injury, and mother of 2 young girls, and was taking care of her husband. One picture is just burnt into my memory, and that was of her carrying him into the this girl was tiny, I mean, she probably weighed 100 pounds soaking wet. It was a real impressive and depressing sight to see. However, their attitudes were just amazing.

And now MSNBC has a follow up slide show. (There is a link to the first story there too.) They are still just as impressive a couple.

I can't help thinking, wow...she is onlz 23? She is so mature. And quick. When commenting on how her husband used to be an early bird, and now it takes him 15 minutes to get his prosthetic legs on, she says..."well, my grandfather always used to say the early bird gets the worm...but I would answer back...yeah, but the second mouse gets the cheese."

And she was only 21 when all that responsibility was thrust upon her. Amazing.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Firepower Forward live from Pakistan

Firepower Forward's latest post is a chronical of his trip to Pakistan and his first few days there, including accompanying a Task Force Griffen Chinook for a relief and evacuation flight. As usual it's a great read, and leaves you with nothing but respect and pride for our soldiers.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

8 months down! 4 more to go...

Eight months ago I was boo-hooing the departure of my boyfriend to Afghanistan. And in about 4 months I will be yoo-hooing his return!


Another Case of Media Inaccuracy

In an article titled “Will Aid Effort After Asia Quake Help U.S. Image?” ABC News discusses the US’ involvement in relief efforts in Pakistan. The article starts off with:

With thousands of survivors of the Asia earthquake still in desperate need, the United States is keenly aware there is an opportunity not only to save lives, but also to refashion an image very much in need of repair.

A few paragraphs later comes this:

An ABC News team traveled on a Chinook helicopter with American soldiers diverted from the war in Afghanistan, as they delivered tents and blankets to people trapped in the Himalayan Mountains.

"It's been great," said C.W.O. Scott Dillion. "I have actually shaken hands with more people in the last three days than I have in the last three years."

"The Chinook helicopters are usually used to bomb al Qaeda but now they are being used to save people's lives, so they have become birds of peace, and that is marvelous," said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a political commentator and professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. "It so changes the view of America in Pakistan."

Okay, for the uninitiated, a Chinook is a transport helicopter, not an attack helicopter. For Chinooks to be bombing things, the crew chief or flight engineer would have to be lobbing bombs off the back ramp or out the side amusing image, for sure. I mean, they definitely throw humanitarian aid out the back occasionally, but not anymore. [There was an attack model back in the Vietnam-era:

The ACH-47A Chinook Guns-A-Go-Go, with a crew of eight, was armed with up to five M2 .50 Cal. or M60D 7.62mm machine guns and two fixed-mounted XM34 M24A1 20mm cannon and two M18/M18A1 pod-mounted 7.62mm miniguns, or two XM159B/XM159C 19-tube 2.75 inch rocket launchers, and a chin-mounted 40mm automatic grenade launcher on the M5 armament subsystem.They also featured added armor protection for the crew and some critical components. They proved to be effective in the combat assault role, but were involved in several accidents and were difficult to maintain.]

I don’t know which is worse, that ABC’s chosen “expert” commentator, Mr. Hoodbhoy doesn’t know that Chinooks are transporters, or that ABC didn’t bother to correct that quote later.

Also…what’s so bad about bombing al Qaeda? I mean, bombing al Qaeda is giving us a bad image in Pakistan? What is that saying? Is this a part of the aforementioned "image very much in need of repair"?

Some might think this is a small issue, but it isn’t. This is just an inaccuracy that I can catch with my limited military knowledge (oh, boy, my boyfriend will be grinning with pride right now). However, what about the inaccuracies that fly under the radar of most of us?

It reminds me of something a friend of mine wrote while serving in Iraq, about the problems inaccuracy in the media causes for reporters’ relations with the soldiers they are reporting on:

In post-war Iraq, reporters show very little interest in getting a story right to a T. "Close enough" reporting is the norm. After all, does the American public really care if CNN calls a Bradley Fighting Vehicle an M1? Or if there were 13 detainees taken instead of 10? The American public probably doesn't care and the story is close enough to not be called a lie. These minor deficiencies in the facts are important however because they show a lack of scholarship on the reporters' behalf.

Soldiers like to see themselves on TV but they also like to see things broadcast correctly. When things are incorrect, it feeds their belief that the reporters are reporting only what they want to report. This lessens soldiers' overall hospitality towards the media and -- given enough time -- causes them to leave camera crews standing in the motorpool.

Nota Bene: I am also not sure about the quoted soldier's rank: C.W.O. This is obviously an abbreviation of Chief Warrant Officer, however I don't believe the military writes the rank like that. The correct form would be CW2, CW3, CW4 etc, depending on his rank or just plain writing Chief Warrant Officer if you weren't sure of the rank. But the reporter just making up their own abbreviation is another example of an ignorance of all things military.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Gay Marine's diary

Okay, so I am really immature. I mean, I can get the giggles about anything...especially a cheesey romance story between an gay American Marine and Iraqi he is checking out while patroling:

I follow him with my eyes. So I'm watching my Iraqi soccer player walk down the street and he looks back--in that way. There's no way we can do anything, but I'm desperate for a verbal acknowledgment of what we both know. He figures out how.

"You have wife?" he asks.

"No, no wife," I say. "You?"

"No wife," he answers.

Then those beautiful brown eyes lit up. I just smile. We're making out big-time with our words.

"You're beautiful," he says quietly.

We stand there, enjoying the torture of our situation. "You have ...?" And he pantomimes the action for lip balm. I dig in my pocket and produce my dirty, half-used tube. I've got to tell you, I don't think anyone's ever put on lip balm in a sexier way. "What you call ...? And he kisses the air, making a kissing noise. "Yes, kiss. We call it kiss," I reply. "Kiss," he repeats and hands back the ChapStick. "No, you keep it," I say, putting my hand up to refuse it. "Kiss," he repeats and pushes it into my palm.

Okay... but pleeeeease...this is soooo cheesey and funny. I mean, you know that the straight male soldiers are probably flirting a lot with Iraqi females, so it's not a surprise that a gay soldier would be flirting with a gay Iraqi guy...but, I am finding his diary...well, sooo dramatic. I mean, it reminds me of Beverly Hills 90210 and Brenda and Dylan flirting with each other, in a way I found so convincing when I was 14, but now just makes me gag with laughter.

Please, can someone else tell me that this is funny, too? Will it help if I say that the play he wrote and performed in on the basis of his experiences in Iraq obviously wasn't that successful, and now he is playing the trumpet for Cindy Sheehan?

Okay...I am probably going to hell now. But at least I can count on the company of my friends.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I can relate...

when AlliCadem so eloquently disses Oprah:

DUDE. I used to love Oprah when she was fat and insecure. She seemed so real. Now? Whatever.


She's been rich and powerful waaay longer than she was poor and abused. I hate it when she tries to talk like she can relate. I know that Oprah has done marvelous things for people. I know that she is a real role model for women and especially women of color, but shutthef*ckup already! I remember when she had Chris Rock on. Oh, it's been years ago, I guess, but she goes, "Isn't it great to be rich? What was the first thing you did once you got money? OH ME TOO! I fixed my teeth! Whooo hoo!" Kiss my ass Oprah.

Having said that...I am a whore for the Oprah Show, I will totally drop everything to watch it, given the chance.

Are you kidding me?

Barcepundit (via Mudville) writes:

THE SPANISH JUDGE who is leading the judicial investigation of the death of Jose Couso, the Spanish TV cameraman killed in the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, has finally issued an international arrest warrant against the 3 US tank crewmembers who were in the tank that allegedly shot the shell.

I can remember Anne Garrels writing about Couso's death in Naked in Baghdad, which by the way is an awesome book. And that women is awesome. No mumblings about her being an NPR reporter and thus terribly biased. She is an old-school reporter, very knowledgeable, and tries to present things as objectively as possible.

I digress, basically anyone in their right mind knows that soldiers don't just shoot people for giggles. There was reasoning behind it: firstly, it was known that some Baathist's were hanging around the hotel. Garrels' book attests to that...that is why she was always reporting naked, so that should anyone knock on her hotel door while she is broadcasting with her illegal satellite phone, she could open the door semi-dressed or whatever, and the Ministry of Information guys wouldn't think she had just filed a report. (I think that was the logic...I need to re-read that book). So if you are a soldier, passing by a building where you know Baathists are hanging out, when you see the flash of light reflecting off what you think is a sniper's scope on a balcony, you might not consider that there might also be cameramen filming the whole war from the balcony too, and that your sniper's scope is actually a cameraman's lens.


Update: I just found this interview with Garrels, where she doesn't seem entirely convinced about the Palestine being a genuine target:

ANNE GARRELS: In Baghdad. And we were not hit by bombs. We were hit by a tank shell.
The Pentagon has said that it was justified in hitting the hotel, because there were apparently ... they said it was ... they suspected there were spotters there. They don't make it at all clear that everybody knew that's where reporters were, and there were reporters on the balcony, on every balcony, including me, of that hotel, watching the firefight in the distance.
They have not released the entire report. They say it's classified. You know, so far I personally am not satisfied with the answers, and I know the Committee to Protect Journalists also has some issues.

Here's the part about her broadcasting naked:

TERENCE SMITH: Naked in Baghdad: Let's start with the title. What's that about?
ANNE GARRELS: Well, it's a double meaning in a way. On the one hand, you know, I had no protection.
And the other meaning is that in a desperate attempt to hide my satellite phone from Iraqi security agents who were prowling the halls of the Palestine Hotel, I decided I should broadcast in the dark so they wouldn't see the phone, or that I was awake. And if they hit ... knocked on the door and I was naked, I would have a chance to say, "could you give me a minute just to get some clothes on," and maybe, just maybe hide the phone. I mean, I admit this was desperate, but ...


Barcepundit writes further:

So saying that the hotel was not a legitimate military target because it was full of civilians -journalists- is not saying the whole picture: someone more expert than me in war legislation may confirm whether it stopped being a protected building from the moment when the baathists found safe haven there and the civilians refused to leave it. I believe the Geneva convention IV doesn't protect civilians from third countries who choose to stay in a war theater (it would be a different thing when they cannot leave, just as it happened for example in Bosnia, where civilian foreigners and blue helmets where tied up to bridges in Mostar and other buildings).One could even argue that, by acting as de facto human shields, the journalists were more than mere witnesses and involuntary victims: they may well have been committing a war crime under the Geneva conventions. The GC punishes civilians from third countries who choose to stay in a war theater if they are able to leave if they wish; this is because they force only one of the parties in combat (coalition troops) to refrain its firepower when going against legitimate targets (baathist officials, in this case).

The idea that these three soldiers purposely shot at a reporter is about as far-fetched as Giuliana Sgrena claiming that American soldiers who shot at her car after she was released from her kidnappers, were targeting her and not just in an attempt to stop her car after her driver ignored or didn't hear warning shots and was speeding thru a check-point.

So, let me get this straight: you suffer a major terrorist attack in your country, and your response is to pull the troops out of Iraq, and then serve a warrant for the arrest of American soldiers? I don't get it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Libertarian's Delight

Redleg has a great list of Libertarian quotes on government. My favorites:

Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it; If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
Ronald Reagan (1986)

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.
Winston Churchill

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.
Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Firepower Forward says it best

Okay...I think I might have a little crush on bdelapla from Firepower Forward. I mean, I read the following, and just want to hug the guy:

Now it's been 9 days since the earthquake struck, and most of you have already seen U.S. helicopters providing humanitarian relief there. These are all helicopters that were already in Afghanistan and are now stretching their legs a bit. They are people that you may have read about here before, Task Force Griffin, Sabre, and of course the ever present Big Windy. I can't tell you what kind of mindset it takes to put the war on hold, fly to another country over hostile terrain, and begin working relief efforts with nothing to look forward to but returning to the war.


He also talks about the helicopter crews who have just arrived, and will be relieving the units currently providing relief in Pakistan:

The most remarkable thing about these people is not that the left their families and homes in Texas with less than 3 days notice, but that they did it for the 3rd time in 4 months. These people are all fresh off the relief efforts of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Now they get the added joy of flying through a combat zone to get to their next humanitarian effort. I never though that I would get the better deal by going to war. At least I know when I'm going home.

It's so easy to be proud of our soldiers.

Oh, this is very interesting...

This is news to me:

Iran has asked the court trying Saddam Hussein for war crimes to charge the former Iraqi dictator with crimes from the 1980-88 Iran- Iraq war, including the alleged use of chemical weapons, an Iranian judiciary spokesman said Tuesday.

This is definitely going to be an interesting trial.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Judgment Error

I find this really unfair:

Brother Kenneth M. Hoagland had heard all the stories about prom-night debauchery at his Long Island high school:

Students putting down $10,000 to rent a party house in the Hamptons.

Pre-prom cocktail parties followed by a trip to the dance in a liquor-loaded limo.

Fathers chartering a boat for their children's late-night "booze cruise."

Enough was enough, Hoagland said. So the principal of Kellenberg Memorial High School canceled the spring prom in a 2,000-word letter to parents this fall.

My school was really small, a graduating class of eight. Thus, I never had a prom. I think that is why I was pretty excited about going to my boyfriend’s military ball this last February.

I do think that some of the extremes people go to for prom are over-the-top. But it’s a free country. And if people want to spend those outrageous amounts of money, I think that is their prerogative. However, I don’t think that it’s the principal’s prerogative, just because he finds it distasteful to just stop the party. He won’t be changing anyone’s behavior, just making the children and parents more determined. A private school can decide what to allow and not, but I think they are making a huge error here.

Prom and graduation are a rite of passage. To just cancel prom is unbelievable. Perhaps it is just a scare tactic, but I think it will backfire. I think what will happen is that an alternative prom will happen. And the principal and school will lose all jurisdiction over it.

And I bet the theme won’t be “Under the Sea” or anything innocent like that…

It’s cases like this that really enforce my Libertarian beliefs.


I had looked so forward to those two weeks of R&R with my boyfriend. I had essentially waited 28 weeks for those blissful 15 days. I had read other people’s accounts of R&R, both from the soldier’s side and from the family’s side. Every time a soldier from our unit would come home for R&R I always wanted to hear details…the anticipation, the reunion, the two weeks, and as little as possible about the inevitable separation at the end. I thought I might glean some insight on how my R&R was going to be. In some ways my experience mirrored theirs, and in others it was completely different.

After 5 days of traveling, and a few nights spent in Ireland, my soldier arrived at Los Angeles International Airport. I got a call from him at around 4:30 AM telling me his flight number from Dallas to LAX…although the flight wasn’t going to arrive until about 10 AM, and I could reasonably sleep another three hours or so, sleep was out of the question. I was just too excited. In just a few hours, he was going to be there. So, I showered and primped, settled on an outfit I thought worthy of his first sight of me after months’ of separation (although my father claims that a paper sack would have probably sufficed, and I would tend to agree). I brought a magazine and tried to look as casual as possible…leaning just so on a pillar, or sitting nonchalantly flipping the pages of my magazine…trying to not get too excited. And then people started coming into the baggage claim. I jumped up looking thru the human stream trying to see him…and then he walked thru the revolving doors.

He says he didn’t see me until a Tazmanian-like animal attacked him. He was in his BDUs, so I could proudly gloat for all to see, that I was picking up a soldier returning from “over there”. But I was really too excited to even care about that anymore. I was just hugging and kissing him. I think he was perhaps a little overwhelmed with all the attention after months of such dearth. We waited for his bag to arrive, and then went to the car. As we were walking, I teased: “you’re shy.” He replied: “I AM shy.” We laughed, and the ice had been broken. We were back to our routine.

The next two weeks were spent between Los Angeles, Las Vegas and visiting his family in Kentucky. It was my first time to the “mid-east” and I was completely enamored. Finally I was seeing my boyfriend in his “natural habitat,” so to speak. His family and his friends, people who loved him as much as I did, and brought a whole new context to the person he was.

It was a whirlwind of 2 weeks, and once again saying goodbye. Once again, I was the first to leave. He dropped me off at the airport and we said our goodbyes. Once again I had to fight off the cold realization that this was perhaps the last time I would see and hold him.

I would say that this goodbye was easier than the first goodbye of this deployment, because we are on the other side of the hump now. Past the halfway point.

Although the separation itself was easy – no dramatic hugs or tearful goodbyes – it proved harder on my subconscious. Unlike the months of mental preparation before the deployment, before R&R there are months of anticipation of his return. I hadn’t really prepared myself for him leaving again. So while I was very easily able to slide right back into “life together” during R&R, the separation after R&R was harder. I would wake up and think about things I wanted to do that day with my boyfriend, or something I wanted to tell him, and then realize he was gone. It only lasted a few days, but there would be moments when I would be in a store or somewhere, and want to turn around to tell my boyfriend something, before I realized we were thousands of miles apart again.

The two weeks were blissful. Such a gift. The first day was filled with exclamations “Oh my God, you’re here!” (mine) and tired, contented smiles (his). There was also a certain element of readjustment. We were both a few months and separate experiences older, and we needed to recalibrate our relationship.

I always think I love my boyfriend so much, and it’s not possible to love him anymore, but then suddenly I do. There is another level of “boyfriend adoration”.

Before he came home I felt that even if he didn’t come for R&R, it wouldn’t be a problem. We had survived over 6 months, and the rest of the time was just zipping by. But in retrospect I realize that we grew a lot closer in those two weeks. It was a reacquaintance of sorts. It refreshed all my feelings for him, made them brighter although they hadn’t really gotten duller.

Right now I feel like I have just fallen in love. Like those first few weeks of a relationship where everything is new and full of promise and unknown possibilities. Where every answered question helps to paint the tableau of who your partner is even further.

I told my mother that I can’t wait until he comes back. And she laughed and said: “but you’ve only just seen him.” And I said: “yes, but that was a vacation…it wasn’t real life. It was this wonderful gift, but I look forward to getting back into a routine with him.” To going on bike rides with him. To annoying him by playing human shadow. To preparing grilled veggies and steaks together. Basically to the tango of everyday relationship bliss.

I can’t really remember any one day or one moment of the two weeks that stood out especially. It was just a very nice time. And at the end of it, I didn’t feel cheated. Of course I wished that he could stay longer, but I also just wanted the rest of the year to hurry up so he can come back “for good”.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Bonuses for teachers based on students' test results

Teaching is an admirable job, but really in America, often quite underpaid. But considering the results many schools have, you are getting what you pay for. So the idea of giving teachers bonuses according to their students' testing results seems like a great idea. I wonder what arguments are going to be raised against this successful incentive program eventually?

Big Windy in Pakistan

Sieg just posted some pics from Big Windy in Pakistan.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A measure of success

As a few of you may know, my boyfriend and I have slightly differing political views. In fact, when we were first dating, I used to call myself the 'pinko commie,' because in comparison to him, that is how I felt. Now I am less insecure about it, and embrace this constant conflict. When I was watching a really crappy movie the other night, and this little gem of a quote came up, I felt like the movie was speaking to me:

I'd rather fight with you than make love with anyone else.

So tonight, when he sent me yet another link from the National Review Online, I obediently clicked and read. Actually I exaggerate, most of the stuff at NRO is pretty good...However, this article was so good, I feel obliged to link it:

Finally, we need to be systematic in our appraisal of the course of this war, asking not just whether the United States is more popular and better liked, but rather whether Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Egypt are moving in the right or wrong direction. Is Europe more or less attuned to the dangers of radical Islam, and more or less likely to work with the United States? Is the Israeli-Palestinian dispute getting worse or stabilizing? Is our security at home getting better, and do we understand radical Islam more or less perfectly? Are Middle East neutrals like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan more or less helpful in the war against the terrorists? Are global powers like India and Japan more or less inclined to America? And are clear-cut enemies such as Iran and Syria becoming more or less emboldened or facing ostracism?

If we look at all these questions dispassionately, and tune out the angry rhetoric on the extreme Left and Right, then we can see things are becoming better rather than worse — even as the media and now the public itself believes that a successful strategy is failing.

I agree.

Fantastic Photos from German Magazine about US helicopters in Pakistan

A friend just sent me this link. [Thank you so much!]

The reporter was able to fly with some Big Windy chinooks and took some amazing pics. [click on 'weiter and zuruck' to go forward and backward in the photo selection]. [For some reason, when you click on that link, my blog page turns into the Spiegel magazine homepage and another window pops up with the pictures.]

And this is seriously the best article I have read about the Chinooks in Pakistan yet. Too bad it's only in German for the moment. A pilot from Big Windy is extensively quoted.

I'm so proud of those guys. *Sigh*

Update: The article is now on the English Spiegel site.

Too little, too late?

Okay...this annoyed me.

What of the relief effort? The government is doing its best, but it is not enough. The absence of a proper infrastructure, a dearth of reserve funds to deal with unexpected tragedies, and a total lack of preparedness despite annual disasters on a lesser scale, have cost innumerable lives. To watch General Pervez Musharraf on television bemoaning the shortage of helicopters was instructive. A few miles to the north of the disaster zone is a large fleet of helicopters belonging to the Western armies occupying parts of Afghanistan. Why could the United States, German and British commanders not dispatch these to save lives? Is the war so fierce that they are needed every day? Three days after the earthquake, the US released eight helicopters from “war duty’’ to help transport food and water to isolated villages. Too little, too late. (bold my emphasis)

Okay, let me get this straight: Earthquake happens Saturday, helicopters are there Monday...too slow? [And they were there Monday, not Tuesday: 2 days after the earthquake, not three....reporter has his facts wrong].

Planning and coordinating such a mission isn't something like sending firetrucks off to a fire. It's not just, ooops there was an earthquake, send us some helicopters. Supplies had to be collected and packed. Routes had to be planned. Weather conditions and fuel consumption had to be considered. And crews had to be put together.

Too little, too late? Another case of an arrogant reporter opining on something he has no idea about. Although this reporter still seemed to find a way to turn this incredible humanitarian effort into a way to paint America and Co. in a bad light, most articles have nothing but praise for international aid efforts.

Another "And your point is?" article

I am confused. Under the headline "Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged," Associated Press ran the following story:

It was billed as a conversation with U.S. troops, but the questions President Bush asked on a teleconference call Thursday were choreographed to match his goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution. "This is an important time," Allison Barber, deputy assistant defense secretary, said, coaching the soldiers before Bush arrived. "The president is looking forward to having just a conversation with you." (bold my emphasis)

That's it.

Oh, shame on the Pres. He went to this meeting with questions already in mind. Now reading the transcript, well...I kind of liked the conversation. It didn't come off as too "choreographed".

THE PRESIDENT: [...] Let me ask you some questions, Captain, if you don't mind. One of the, you know, questions I have is about the pre-election operations, about what you've been doing, and what are the -- what's your strategy, and how do you think it's going for -- to make sure the people have a chance to vote.

Sounds to me like both parties understood that the conversation was going to be about the upcoming elections.

And this exchange was amusing too:

SERGEANT LOMBARDO: Good morning, Mr. President. I'm Master Sergeant Corine Lombardo, with the Headquarters 42nd Infantry Division and Task Force Liberty, from Scotia, New York. First, I'd like to say that this is a pleasure to speak with you again. We had the honor of your visit in New York City on November 11th, in 2001, when you recognized our Rainbow Soldiers for their recovery and rescue efforts at Ground Zero.
THE PRESIDENT: Were you there?

SERGEANT LOMBARDO: We began our fight against terrorism in the wake of 9/11, and we're proud to continue it here in North-Central New York -- North-Central Iraq.

THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you something. Were you there when I came to New York?

SERGEANT LOMBARDO: Yes, I was, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: I thought you looked familiar.

SERGEANT LOMBARDO: Well, thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: I probably look familiar to you, too.

Okay, to me, this all came off as a hokey, shooting-the-sh*t press event. But staged? What makes it's staged? I think it was keeping it pretty real. It just comes off as another attempt to paint Bush in as dishonest a light as possible. Please, a little substance to your criticisms next time. Like, perhaps ridiculing the irony of Bush asking the Captain "what's your strategy?", when the general concensus seems to be that Bush doesn't have one. Or I don't know...anything. But saying this was staged, just begs the question of how it should have been were it not to be staged.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Round up of news coverage of US helicopter aid to Pakistan

From the Seattle Times:

In the light of early morning, the crew of Miss Behavin', a Chinook from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, left behind their hide-and-seek fight with the Taliban to lend a hand in Pakistan, where their new foes — injury and deprivation — were overwhelmingly visible.


"With two Chinooks we brought back 60 people, just a drop in the bucket of what's really out there," says Chief Warrant Officer Mark Jones, a pilot from Seattle.

From Voice of America:

We are landing deep in the Himalayas here on board a US army Chinook helicopter. This remote area of Kashmir in Pakistan was hard hit by the earthquake and people here are completely cut off.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Sergeant Albert's Chinook helicopter, nicknamed "Hell Raiser" for its exploits on wartime missions, brought back 22 injured from Muzaffarabad, a 35-minute flight away from the capital, Islamabad. It took an hour to offload injured, refuel, and then load sacks of flour and tents.. It was accompanied by a Blackhawk, called "Evil Monkey," which was loaded with rice. Both helicopters were assigned Pakistani Army officers to navigate the mountains leading to Pakistan Kashmir's capital, Muzaffarabad.

And this interesting nugget found in the New York Times:

Among the American Chinooks and Black Hawks and Pakistani helicopters ferrying food and water and tents in and wounded people out of this stricken town, one of the worst hit in the earthquake zone, are four helicopters bearing the Afghan flag.

The Russian-built MI-17 helicopters - almost the entire operational Afghan air force - have been sent to help quake victims in Pakistan.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Chinooks in Pakistan

From the Stars and Stripes:

Eight Army helicopter crews deployed from Germany and at least two Air Force C-17 transport planes have been ferrying food, water, medicine and blankets from Bagram Air Base to a Pakistani military airfield since Monday.

Five CH-47 Chinooks from the Giebelstadt-based 3rd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment and three UH-60 Black Hawks from Illesheim’s 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment are flying the missions, officials have said.

And there are pictures too!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

US helicopters sent to Pakistan

Blackfive has a link to video coverage of the US helicopters sent from Afghanistan to help out in rescue and relief efforts in Pakistan.

Monday, October 10, 2005

New Book about the Wives of Deployed Soldiers

Bookstore shelves are filling with personal accounts of the Iraq and Afghanistan deployments from the soldiers' perspective, and now a book is coming out about deployments from the perspective of the those left behind.

When her husband is at war, a soldier’s wife lives every day with the possibility that strangers will arrive at her door with the news that he’s dead — their children are orphans, and life, as she knows it, is over.

So when Army wife Jessica Redmond set out to chronicle the lives of six Baumholder-based women waiting for their husbands to return from Iraq, she said she was “conscious of not making tabloids out of these women’s lives.”

“I didn’t want to sensationalize it,” Redmond said. “It was sensational enough.”

Amen, to that.

And that’s what “A Year of Absence” is about — the revelations of both unexpected strength and unexpected vulnerabilities, Redmond said: “The emotions are so universal, if you’re human and you’ve got a heart, you know how they felt and care about them.”


When Redmond came to her with the idea of writing the book, Williams helped put word out through the FRGs seeking interviews. Redmond got more than 50 responses in 48 hours, anxious to tell their stories.

“And they all said the same thing — no one had ever been interested before,” Redmond said.

With the soldiers getting so much "page time," I am glad that someone has put the spouses at home in the spotlight. They are fighting a battle, too.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Aw, jeez...

I just read this quote and it made me cringe:

"Suicide bombings in and Iraq' are perhaps understandable because there is an 'opponent' there," Yusuf Kalla said after prayers in the capital Jakarta on the Muslim holy day. "But here in Indonesia, it makes no sense. Why do they kill their own people, who have done nothing wrong?" he asked, calling on Islamic leaders to condemn the practice as being "not in line with the religion we hold." (bold emphasis mine)

It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt, huh? From his persepective in the South China Sea, it seemed that most who died in the suicide bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan were "opponents". But not so...exploding in the middle of a market place, or next to a group of children isn't targeting "opponents". It is targeting innocents. Just like exploding inside of a cafe.

But then when it happens in his country, he cries 'time out" and "unfair." Yeah, buddy...I don't get it either. If you try to justify suicide bombers in some way, then you can't be surprised if it turns up in your own backyard.


I just ordered One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick. Evan Wright often mentioned Fick in Generation Kill, and not being able to get enough of the Devil Dogs and their role at the "tip of the spear" in the invasion of Iraq I scrambled to get a copy of this.

Also, can't wait for Blackfive's Milblogger book to come out.

And also eagerly awaiting for Sminky's book. Any chance a faithful reader can get an advance copy?

Ignorance is Bliss?

Here is a list of the 10 foiled terror plots, that Bush mentioned in his speech:

The West Coast Airliner Plot: In mid-2002 the US disrupted a plot to attack targets on the US West Coast using hijacked airplanes. The plotters included at least one major operational planner involved in planning September 11.

The East Coast Airliner Plot: In mid-2003 the US and an unnamed "partner" disrupted a plot to attack targets on the US East Coast using hijacked commercial airplanes.

The Jose Padilla Plot: In May 2002 the US foiled a plot that involved blowing up apartment buildings in the US. One of the plotters, US citizen Jose Padilla, also discussed the possibility of using a "dirty bomb" in the US.

The 2004 UK Urban Targets Plot: In mid-2004 the US and "partners" disrupted a plot that involved urban targets in Britain. These plots involved using explosives against a variety of sites.

The 2003 Karachi Plot: In the spring 2003 the US and "a partner" disrupted a plot to attack Westerners at several targets in Karachi, Pakistan.

The Heathrow Airport Plot: In 2003 the US and "several partners" disrupted a plot to attack Heathrow Airport using hijacked commercial airliners. The planning for this attack was undertaken by a "major" September 11 operational figure.

The 2004 UK Plot: In the Spring of 2004 the US and "partners", using a combination of law enforcement and intelligence resources, disrupted a plot to conduct large-scale bombings in Britain.

The 2002 Arabian Gulf Shipping Plot: In late 2002 and 2003 the US and "a partner nation" disrupted a plot by al-Qaeda operatives to attack ships in the Arabian Gulf.

The 2002 Straits of Hormuz Plot: In 2002 the US and "partners" disrupted a plot to attack ships transiting the Straits of Hormuz.

The 2003 Tourist Site Plot: In 2003 the US and "a partner nation" disrupted a plot to attack a tourist site outside the US.

Food for thought.

Ramp Ceremony for fallen Chinook Crew

Greg at All Along the Watchtower writes about the ramp ceremony for the fallen crew of the Chinook which crashed on September 25th. (via Erika).

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A broken promise

Today I broke a promise I made to my boyfriend. I got a haircut. I promised him before he left that I wouldn't cut my hair the whole time he was gone. He didn't really care. I just felt I should be sacrificing something too...and I guess split ends was my sacrifice to the war on terror. What else could one expect from a valley girl?

When I sat down the hairdressing chair, my stylist just said: "I wondered what had happened to you. Where were you? The last time you were here you were in a hurry to meet your boyfriend at the train station."

And I just kind of shrugged to the stylist. But that brought back memories. It was my boyfriend's last weekend visiting me. It was the last time I picked him up at the train station before he deployed. Sometimes I feel like time has flown by, and sometimes I think that it goes by at a snail's pace. Moments like that just reinforce how long he has been gone.

German unit praises Big Windy Crew

In Afghanistan, there are two groups of foreign troops. On the one hand there is the US-led coalition which is on the offensive against Taliban fighters and other militants. And on the other there is the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is on a peace keeping mission. Although there is an attempt to unify the two under a central command in the future, the two currently operate separately.

However, occasionally there are joint efforts of sorts. Recently Big Windy, a US Chinook unit, came to the aid of some German troops. A few weeks later, the German unit sent a letter of appreciation. I wanted to share this letter, because it is so amusing. Except for deleting names, I left it as is (mistakes and all). Someone really had fun writing it, and you can tell they were genuinely thankful for the help.

On August 12th HumInt Sources forwarded intelligence to the German Battle Group operating out of Camp (name deleted) concerning considerable amounts of 107 mm Type 63 missiles and anti-tank TC-6es being located in the village of (name deleted) within the reach of US Task Force Phoenix and Camp (name deleted). DEU BG was ordered by ISAF KMNB to launch Operation (name deleted) aiming at the demolition of the evil. (Village name deleted) is not accessible by any land-vehicle, DEU BG leased donkeys to haul charges, blood-plasma and water into the mountains. The donkeys proofed to be good off-roaders but their duration in those altitudes is very limited. By Saturday August 13th DEU BG’s 45 soldiers faced significant water and MRE shortages. KMNB’s own air assets were kept from supporting due to technical constraints.

Major (name deleted), a civil affairs officer at Bagram took notice of this unfortunate circumstance and dedicated enormous efforts to helping those infantrymen working at 7.000 feet. Major (name deleted) went the extra mile and contacted her aviation partners at Bagram and convinced them of checking into the matter.

Saturday night at about 2200 hrs Major (name deleted) had the best present we could imagine: a class 1 air-lift from Kabul into the mountains. Sunday night fabulous pilots floated into (name of camp deleted) and loaded the thirsty infantrymen’s liquid relief into their air-vehicle. 20 minutes later they approached the most difficult terrain for air-ops: possible insurgents, narrow valleys, steepest cliffs and a pitch-dark night had to be encountered. Link up via VHF did not work, the Germans were frustrated. As the US Heli was flying larger circles around the grid, one German fired a signal round which the tail gunner spotted. As the Chinook touched down in (village name deleted) joyous infantry faces were sandblasted. It was an awesome and incredible moment.
Our boys did not expect the pilot to safely be able to ground this giant of the skies on this harsh spot of Afghanistan at night.

Major (name deleted) and the American Army’s Air Corp Airmen are real friends, without these true heroes we could not have blown up all the missiles, mines and RPG’s. This was an outstanding effort of a few outstanding individuals. May we kindly ask the Airmen to either contact Major (name deleted), US Civil Affairs or the German Battle Group at (phone number deleted), we would like to thank you personally.

I really smiled at the "liquid relief" and other flowery rhetoric. And my boyfriend was one of the "fabulous pilots."