Saturday, April 29, 2006

Dead Like Me?

Being the bad influence I am, I've got two of my coworkers addicted to the Showtime series Dead Like Me, they can't get enough of it. I have yet to tell them that it only goes for 2 seasons before being taken away by some evil reapers and sent to dead TV land. By the way, thank you hun and Lee for hooking me on the series, Sherwin and Stacey thank you too, I haven't started working on Chris yet.

Now that I'm in the middle of watching it the second time, I'm impressed with the cleaver sculpting that went into the script. Definite black comedy that has more to do with life then death that the show is about. It expresses the joys of living, the pain of loss and the path to redemption, how would you choose to live if you had a second chance?

The main character George is played by Ellen Muth, she dies when she gets hit by a toilet seat that fell from the Mir space station and is surprised to find herself looking at the crater of where her body is lying and learning that she's become one of a large contingent of grim reapers. There are reapers for everything, suicide, cancer, old age and the small group she belongs to does accidents which are caused by creepy gremlin looking things called Gravelings.

George still has ties to her living life and can't seem to stop herself from visiting it but along with becoming a reaper, her face has changed so no one recognizes her. Reapers don't get paid so they have to take side jobs (one of them is a meter maid) or steal from the people that they reap. George finds the latter distasteful so she goes back to the job she worked at for a couple hours before she died and reapplies and finds herself in working a cubical like in the comic strip Dilbert under her new name "Millie".

She fills this unlikely role of death to a tee, she's punky, stubborn, lost at times and eventually finds herself over the length of the series. Her "Whatever" attitude is refreshing and the dialog will stay with you long after the show is over.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Another day in Paradise

First month is over with and most our the bugs have been shaken out. My medical team is all set on their schedule and life doesn’t seem all that bad. I’m working a swing shift so I never get to seem my room with the lights on. My rack is a cave covered with poncho liners that lets in no light (and hopefully bugs too). It has it’s good points and bad, I’m off everyone else’s schedule so I never have to stand in the same lines and it gives me more alone time (which I fill with reading). But it also means I’m off every one else’s schedule so when ever something happens I have to wake up in the middle of my sleep cycle to be there. Most of the time though, I'm just chilling back.

I bought a be happy present for my wife, a black pearl jewelry set, ring, necklace and ear rings, after talking to her tonight, I think she likes them. I look forward to seeing her in them when I get back. Take care everyone and hope you all are doing well.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Rage against the Machine

Karma must have a strange balance, with all of the good things happening in my life there is also the bad. Since I've gotten out here, all sorts of electronic equipment found an excuse to die in my presence.

First to go was my work thumb drive which survived less then 24 hours in my office. Came in to work one morning and the computer wouldn't read it, it said 0 bites available and wouldn't even let me reformat.

Next was our brand new printer. Had a lightning storm blew out our power and noticed the next morning that the USB plug was blackened and my computer wouldn't turn on. So I opened up the side of printer where the USB plug went and there was a blackened line going across the circuit board and a nice fried electrical smell. Then I pulled out the USB 2.0 card from the side of the laptop and it made a rattling sound when I shook it. Hmm, that doesn't sound healthy. After pulling the card out, the computer started up fine. But the printer had a life span of only 5 sheets of paper and my poor USB 2.0 card, sacrificed its life to save the precious laptop. Sigh!
The next victim on the list of death was my trusty 8mm camcorder which survived two prior trips out here. I put a tape in and a snapping sound came from the inside of the machine. I took the tape out and with it a miscellaneous piece of plastic fell out. What I mean by miscellaneous is, have you ever paid attention to how many small parts are inside of an 8mm camcorder? Lots and lots, it took a mad genius to have figured out how to make it work in the first place, smoke and mirrors I say. I couldn't figure out what the thingee attached to but now the camcorder wouldn't close and every time I tried closing it, it gave an electronic wail so I pulled the battery and put it back in its bag.

This put a major bummer on my side hobby for this little trip. I was going to transfer 100 or so hours of 8mm footage to DVD's, I had brought my mother load of 8mm tapes out here with me with footage all the way back to 1992. Guess that's on the back burner till I get another camcorder.

I came out here with my external hard drive which had back ups for all of my music (21,000 songs) and pictures (25,000 or so) but neglected to bring my power supply. So I called my lovely wife and she ran it to the post office to sent it too me (along with some jasmine rice, homemade cookies, a pink flamingo, a rice maker, other rare yummy treats and odd drinks that you can only find in an Oriental food store, thank you very much hun, all the more reasons to worship you.) I got the package yesterday and could hardly wait to get everything hooked up. Turned on the power and a really large smelly cloud of black smoke came out of the hard drive. Oh brother.

The power supply was rated from 100-250 volts, ready to take anything on the planet. Even so I plugged it into 110. It's a mystery.

Anyway, this is all just a test of my emotional stability, in reality as long as my wife and family are alright, none of this material junk really matters. It's just stuff, I'm sure to pick up lots more of it before my time here is done. I have all of the good pictures of my son and wife backed up on my laptop, home external and fotopage. I've already pulled the music I listen to the most onto my laptop here and MP3 player. The 8mm tapes are still good, just need a camcorder to play them on at a later date. And finally the printer and thumb drive belonged to my Uncle Sam, which means I'll just have to turn them back in an hope for new gear, until then I'll just use the network printer and walk next door. Oh well, such is life and after all it does go on.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Lucky charms and handling the heat

Throughout the history of wars, soldiers have gone in to battle carrying something on their person to bring them luck. Everyone out here has their lucky charms, me being a reading fool, my lucky charm is this picture of my wife which I use as a book mark so I'm looking at her smiling face throughout the day.

It's starting to heat up and some of the people on their first trip out are complaining about the high temperatures. I don't think it's that hot yet but I'm using the secret technique of basking in the sun. You twist your thinking around so it doesn't seem so hot out and imagine lizard thoughts floating around your head. Yeah, I know it sounds crazy but it works. That is until something breaks my mental state and I have to rush or am surprised by something and then sweat breaks out. Then I have to rebuild those mental walls and reset my inner temperature to handle the outer.

No, I haven't lost it, after 3 time out here and you pick up habits to help you survive the local conditions. Life is good, I've been receiving care packages from Boatsie's Boxes and Josh Wright has been a great advocate for hooking me up to some great care package deals. I've received a letter almost every day from my wife and have called her nightly. I'm blessed with the support I receive.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Some have had it harder then me

My blogger buddy, American Soldier, has had it tough, out here for only weeks and gets blown up twice and sent home. I've been out here 3 times and have had it easy. He's posted about some of his adjustment troubles. Don't compare my job to what he's had to go through, if I were any more relaxed out here, I would melt into the floor. My biggest fears are for the safety of my wife and the aircrew of the birds we fly. Go ahead, go give him some love.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter in Iraq

This is my third Easter in a row in country, altogether just another work day. The only reason I noticed was because the guy on the bus said, "What in the heck are all of those people doing on the bleachers?" and I said, "Oh, it must be Easter Mass."

We're already losing track of the days. I have my outlook calendar send me reminders of when I need to send in reports and such but I'm not crossing off the days as they go. Counting down days till we get back is like watching water boil; I prefer taking the deployment one day at a time. There are good days and bad. If you take the whole deployment at once, you're guaranteed to have more bad ones.

Lately I've been working out and trying to get rid of this small child that I have growing in my midsection. Good thing about being with a Marine unit, there is never a shortage of people that are willing to help you torture your body back into top notch fighting form. So after a few days of running around and checking out the more boring aspects of the base, one step at a time, I am now sore and have been walking with a decidedly stiff manner (thanks Doc!) Give me a couple more days to recover before you start at me with the sticks again.

Maybe by the time we get home, I'll have a lean and hard physique to show off to the beautiful wife.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Rain, Dust go away come back another day

A sure way to make sure it rains on any given day is not to bring your Gortex or rain gear to work. It started raining as soon as I stepped off the bus with thunder rolling in the distance. Actually it's better out here after the rain, clears much of the dust out of the air and gives a cool welcome relief from the sun. Guess I should enjoy the rain, before I know it will be summer and there will not be a cloud in sight.

Welcome to the land of MP3 players, last time I was out here, one out of three Marines had one, this trip it's more 4 out of 5, same for laptops. MP3 players are the In Thing, half of them are Ipod's and the rest are other brands (I have a Sony one gig model, my only gripe is that its not USB 2.0, otherwise it works great, 50 plus hours of music play in a very small package that is USB charged). Music is the easiest way to bring home a bit closer when you're off in a distant land. I've noticed there are many more happy people out here then my prior trips. I wonder how much of that is because they have their own "happy mix" programmed in there?

We do have limited internet access from work and the internet café allows you to check all of your web based email accounts, Myspace and update my blog but I wish there was a place on base where you could plug personal laptops into the internet, not to download music (it's much easier to get MP3's from buddies that have tens of thousands of songs on their external hard drives) but it's nice to get updates for the computer. Plus the powers that be wouldn't have to worry about as much wear and tear on the computers in the internet cafes (which are all mostly trashed after being out here for 3 years) if people were able to use their own computers on a WiFi network. The lines would be shorter and all we need is a flat spot, a plug and a wireless router or three. I'm not sure if it's for security reasons, financial or just because they don't want to be bothered for not doing this. But from the average peon on the ground, I know there would be a large boost in moral with a very small price tag. Just my two cents on that subject.

There was a sign outside the PX, very official looking with a AFFES logo saying that there was going to be a Class 6 store with beer, wine and liquor coming fall 2006. We saw this sign a couple of days after we hit the deck and everybody went woah, hope we're here when that opens while thinking at the same time, alcohol in a war zone? Who's crazy idea is that? It finally dawned on us what day it was. April 1st.

Good one.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Moving into my new home away from home

We're moving into our permanent barracks this afternoon which happens to be the same building I lived in on my first deployment 2 years ago. Wonder how much it's changed since then? We've been living in tents, waiting for the prior unit to leave. The tents were actually nice, 3 heating/cooling units per tent, real mattresses, porcelain toilets and hot showers. The barracks we're going into has fewer showers and we have to use port-a-johns but it is more secure from things that could fall out of the sky and go boom.

There isn't much to update here, my medical team is getting in the swing of things and we're rearranging our office with our own creature comforts.

Speaking of which, for my prior two deployments, I've dreamed of having a hammock out here. While on our honeymoon in Thailand, I was able to pick up a nice tactical green silk hammock which I have strung up in our office between two 4X4's with a D ring for a quick disconnect.
The overall feeling of this trip is different; I don't feel the loneliness or worry that I felt on my prior trips. For the first time in years my emotions feel balanced and I think I can thank my wife for that. After spending years and years searching, trying to fill a gap in my psyche, I now feel like a whole person. One day I woke up and suddenly I noticed that the itch was gone. You know the one that guys have where they look at girls and wonder how it would be to hook up with her. One day it wasn't there and thinking on it, it had not been there for a while. You know what? I don't miss it either. There was a point in my life where I would have but that time is long gone.

Could be part of why I haven't been writing as much, like the kid from the movie Orange County, the angst isn't there. I'm sure it will come up with stuff over the course of the deployment and I'll have interesting things to talk about but life has been alright. Don't like having to move into the old barracks with more people then we had in it last time but it's something I'll get used to. I work with a great bunch of people that seem to be genuinely happy most of the time and our Marines like us.

I'm counting my blessings. Let's see, I have a speedy new laptop with many electronic gadgets to attach to it, a hammock, a bed with a real mattress, get 3 squares a day that are usually hot, an MP3 player filled with good tunes, friends both here and back in the states and great communication with a lovely wife who's very in love with me, not to mention people who are still interested in my blog and in supporting me. What more can you ask for from the middle of a war zone?


New A/C's installed in the barracks and a large hotwater tank, was supposed to be rooming with the guy with the Xbox 360 but there was a switch-a-roo at the last minute but my new room mates are cool they just own a 360, sigh! Other then the lack of that wishful time eating entertainment, life is still smooth sailing. Take care everyone!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

rain and thunder

There will be periods of time when I'm cut off from the outside world, they call it going to Minimize, our phone and internet is cut off. It's a way to keep the rumor mill under control when something bad has happened or we're about to do something. It sucks to be cut off from our families and friends when all you want to do is let them know you're alright but I personally know of family back home that was called about someone's death and another about a supposed death when it wasn't true.

This is a program which I actually agree with. Unless the incident is happening to our unit, all we hear about is something has happened and it trickles down to us by word of mouth. So the tale that reaches our ears has been stretched by numerous retellings until the final product has nothing to do with reality. Some of the better retellings become stories in themselves.
When there is death involved, it's best to let the professionals handle it and do their job. Yes, it is a form of censorship by not letting us contact the outside world, but believe me the alternative is worse for everyone involved. For the family, they get to hear a partial story from an unreliable source and the person telling the story will get everyone else's privileges taken away and the entire base will tell stories of that asshole who called home to so and so's wife, mother, husband and told them that they heard that this happed to your loved one before the facts had came out.

Monsoons have arrived, there have been periods of rain that were as bad as any I've seen in Florida in the middle of a hurricane (wind wasn't quite so bad but close). Two big thunder storms (of course I took pictures). There was a 5 ton that was washed away on a bridge during one of the storms and the news story can be found here. These guys weren't in my unit and they haven't released the names. I can tell of it because there the military has already made a statement. It goes to show you there are many things out here that we need to watch out for other then insurgents. If you're the praying type, please hold the families of these people in your prayers.

As far as my life goes, it's good. Don't waste too much of your worry on me. I ride a bus back and forth to work (my luck with bicycles is bad and all of the bicycle accidents I see look fairly painful and some serious) My building is concrete and I'm super careful about what I do. But then again, if you read a story about a corpsman getting stuck by lightning while taking pictures, yes that could very well be me.

Take care everyone!

PS a story about our trip out here