Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"my body says 'you can't do this boy' but my pride says 'oh yes you can'".

not that i'm too lazy to write posts or come up with something original, i'm just catching up on some music that i've missed over the last couple of years and videos and what not. i'm on a toby keith kick tonight, i hadn't seen alot of these videos before and they're pretty funny and they're cracking me up.

i'm identifying with this song alot right now. i know the people who read this who are older than me are gonna roll their eyes and chuckle when i say i'm feeling old, but as i've quoted/paraphrased before, it's not the years, it's the miles. trying to keep up with kids 15 years younger is wearing me out. i've got 2 kids who can run 2 miles in under 11 minutes @ sea level. i haven't been that fast in a decade.

fortunately i've got 15 years of dirty tricks and experience on them. helps to maintain my credibility.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

shipping stuff to troops

this is a post i've been meaning to write for awhile, and everytime i check my sitemeter i'm reminded of it. one of the searches people do that finds me is about things to send to soldiers in iraq.

when i got into afghanistan there was pretty much nothing. you had to stand in line for hours to get into the px and by the time you got in you were lucky if they had anything left on the shelves you wanted to buy. so we definately lived off of care packages. and what sucked was mail was taking 4-6 weeks at that time to get to you, so if you had a craving today, and sent an email home, by the time it got to you, you'd open the box and have a hard time figuring out why people sent you what they sent you.

in iraq things were significantly better. it was three and four years into the war, supply channels were well established, we were on bigger bases and so much of what showed up in care packages ended up not being used. we'd get huge boxes from the red cross and from different volunteer organizations filled with soap and toothpaste and gatorade powder and whatever else and it'd just sit there, or we'd hand it out to the locals. the px's were bigger and more established on alot of the bases, and if you were on a smaller base, you could usually get someone to pick something up for you when they went to a bigger base for business. and mail was much quicker. 2-3 weeks instead of over a month. so it was a shame to see so much of what was being sent over not being used and collecting dust because alot of money and energy went into sending things that weren't really used.

so there's alot of lists out there, about sending foot powder, batteries, beef jerky, etc to the troops. i'd just like to augment those.

first, if you're sending to someone specific you need to try to get a feel for their job and their location. they might try to sugar coat things though, so that you won't worry. you've got to go with your gut on that. if they're on a tiny little base in the middle of nowhere, they've probably got a dinky little px and would appreciate alot of the staples. (baby wipes, shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, foot powder, batteries, insoles, etc...) otherwise?....

the soaps/shampoo/snacks/powders? not needed as much, unless there is a particular craving or product that's not the norm. we had some guys who would be considered "metrosexuals" and liked face masks and high-dollar hair care products that they couldn't get over there. same with some of the feminine hygiene products. they are there, but there isn't always as big a selection and sometimes it's generic stuff.

books and magazines are good if you know there is a favorite author or mag, but to be honest kids aren't reading alot today. and they get those over there. the soft "skin" magazines are always appreciated (maxim, stuff, etc). but there's electricity over there and it seems everyone has a laptop and alot of people plunk money down on tv's and dvd players. and those get handed off to the new guy when the old guy flies home. so "classic" dvd's are always good. the stuff on the $9.99 and less racks at wal-mart. old buddy cop flicks, action movies, comedies. cd's are good as well. if you're buying for someone in particular and know their music tastes, great. if not, grab a selection of the classic rock, rap, country stuff and send it over. it'll find it's way into the right hands. however, don't think that because we're a captive audience we want to listen to cd's of "up and coming" bands. we've had alot of those samplers sent over and they were junked pretty quickly. video games are good, there's alot of psp's, playstations and xboxes in country now or pc games work as well.

gift cards are excellent. they don't have to be for much. a $5 dollar gift card is great. places like wal-mart, target, amazon are good. you can also get them from the tactical places like brigade quartermasters, blackhawk and even some of the outdoor sporting goods places have things that guys can use over there. if the soldier has a good internet connection you can even think of an itunes or similar gift card. altrec is also a good site as well as rei. i have a personal fondness for giftcards at any time, but they really, really make sense for folks who are deployed. if you know the person you're getting one for, you don't even have to waste the time of mailing them the card. just email them the website and the number and let them get what they need. but they're smaller, cost alot less to ship (and frequently letters will arrive quicker than big boxes) and you know then that the soldier can get what the specifically want or need. one store that really needs to be pushed into offering giftcards is let's start a phone campaign to convince them of the goodness of that.

if your guys are infantry or going out and doing stuff, they might appreciate otis weapons cleaning kits, premium gun cleaning solvents and lubrication (militech springs to mind), bore-snakes are wonderful devices and so are good-old-fashioned shaving brushes. if you know someone who works for a dentist's office and can get you old sets of dental probes and picks those are invaluable for cleaning weapons. mechanix style gloves are great, just make sure they're all black or desert/coyote tan. none of the crazy colors. there are cooling vests if your guys are complaining about how hot it is over there. these come in several types, the cheapest being inserts that you soak or fill with water and freeze, and then wear under your shirt and body armor. knives are a personal preference item, and chances are your soldier already has their favorite and uses it regularly, but if you're looking for a more expensive Christmas present you can't ever go too wrong with a folding knife by benchmade or spyderco. leathermans are always nice and appreciated as well.

female soldiers can use all of the stuff males can use, but having said that sometimes it's nice for them to get little things that help them indulge a little. a couple friends of mine got those gift baskets that included all sorts of fancier shampoos, candles, scents, lotions, etc... and really got a kick out of letting their hair down and pampering themselves. and it was kinda a present to the guys as well, because after 6 months of blandness all of a sudden this great smelling girl walked buy and just kinda reminded you of things...

memory cards for cameras are always good. we had guys complaining about how long it was taking to email stuff and how when they tried to burn discs the cd's would get cracked on the way home. i suggested just buying a 2nd or third memory card, filling it and mailing it home. then the loved ones at home could suck the photos off, add ones from home and send it back. the exchange worked fairly well for most of them.

baked goods. cookies in a vaccuum sealed bag are wonderful.

i'm sure there's more and as i think of things i'll add them, but i really wanted to get this posted with the holidays approaching. things probably need to be on their way before thanksgiving to make it there in time for christmas.

additions i forgot on the first post:
-cr123a batteries. troopies SHOULD be able to get these over there, but many don't realize that or their chain sucks. and they're amazingly expensive over there vs. what you can get them for in the states from some generic place like batteries plus

-metal bodied l.e.d. flashlights and headlamps. i love the tactikka plus because it's got white lights, a red lense and uses fairly standard batteries. a friend just got the E+lite and is pretty happy with it, but batteries go faster and are expensive. both are made by petzl. gerber makes some great little l.e.d. lights. try to stay with ones that can be powered by AA batteries vs. the lithium cr123a. (see above). that lithium battery is a great battery, generally provides longer run-time and can power brighter lights but it's expensive and can be hard to find. another good brand is innova.

-bedsheets and pillowcases. as we all know men are pigs. so many of the young guys i've been over there with will spend the entire year sleeping in the same sleeping bag without really airing it out or washing it. it's not pretty. they kinda need to be reminded to put clean sheets on, clean pillow cases on, and wash stuff from time to time. moms, be honest, you know whether or not your son falls into this category. if he's really bad, you might need to send a blanket too.

-if your soldier is on one of the middle of nowhere bases tobacco products are always good, whether he smokes/dips or not. and you really need to put judgement aside on this one. if you know your soldier smokes or dips and don't approve, now isn't the time to try and change it. if that calms and steadies his nerves then it keeps him alert and alive. do the preaching after they get home. but there's nothing worse than being in the middle of nowhere, far the hell away from home in a dangerous situation and to be nic-fitting. send them a carton of smokes or a log of dip. if you know they're out there in the middle of nowhere and they're complaining about how hard it is to get stuff and they don't smoke consider sending a carton of malboro lights or reds and/or a log of skoal or cope dip. i didn't smoke or dip, but i always had packs of smokes or a tin with me. when someone i worked with closely really needed them, it definately made life easier than to deal with a smoker who hadn't had a cigarette in three days.

-soft sided coolers with the mylar lining. the ones that have a shiny silver inside when you open them are awesome.

-(i'm not sure how legal this is, i'm not saying to ship anything bad) but alot of times you can buy the boxes of individually wrapped over the counter drugs at places. advil, tylenol, pepto bismal, benedryl... all of that little stuff comes in handy. not to be crude, but anti-diahhrea, upset stomach remedies, etc are definately good. the other thing that can be hard to find over there is the travel sized dramamine, and since alot of guys have to travel via helicopter...

-christmas tree lights and decorations at the holidays

Monday, October 29, 2007

Congratulations Boston!

I'm not a big fan of pro-sports, but it would've been nice to see the Rockies win. Having said that, didn't see any championship worthy play out of them in the last series. So congratulations to the Red Sox! And if you need to read more or hear "Tessie" let me point you to JL4's website or Courtney's.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

another video...

another blast from the past...

i've always loved this song. when i first heard it i was fairly young and it was one of the ones i used to like blasting like crazy, just to drown thoughts out in my head. i was probably in the barracks on active duty then, listening on crappy earphones, unhappy because i hadn't figured the "game" of the army out yet, or i was heart-broken or mooning over some girl (boo girls!).

i've probably been listening to the song for ten or twelve years and my appreciation for it has deepened and changed. i live in a nice place with a decent stereo and GREAT speakers. i love to pull the speakers away from the wall, point them inward to a spot in the center of the floor and lay on my back on that spot and crank it. the song's got a heavy bass line that washes over me and rumbles through my body. on a good studio recording version the girls harmonize wonderfully. and whoever produced the song did a great job with stereo seperation. i pick up so many little details i never heard years before, listening on tinny earphones or blasting on a car stereo while road-tripping. one voice will hit from one side, another will join and fill out the music from the other side.

probably not the best song ever, but it makes me happy...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

so you know how...

when it gets to be this time of year, all of a sudden it catches you by surprise? "oh my, where'd the year go?" "how'd it get to be thanksgiving already?" "ack, christmas is right around the corner, what am i gonna buy?" and then january rolls around and it shocks you to see the new year for a couple days?

yeah. i'm going to be gone for all of 2008. i mean, time's still going to be going on, i'm still going to be writing the date on paperwork wherever i'm at, but it kinda makes it more... real somehow. the first time i deployed it was a short trip and i was there and back in the same calendar year. the second time it spanned two years, but i was home for the beginning of one year and for the end of the other. this time in alot of ways 2008 is just going to disappear, the whole year, gone... i'll walk out of work one day and then it'll be '09 before i walk back in.

anyways. just me being weird.

Monday, October 22, 2007

LT. Michael Murphy

Megan had a post today and one of the things she mentioned was LT. Michael Murphy. She also mentioned being worried about me, but that's just silly. I'm a robot. Nothing to worry about there. But what struck me about the article was the quote from Murphy's father. His father said that Murphy was "honest, kind, caring -- probably the antithesis of what you would call a warrior."

We've been active/knowing participants in this war for the last 6 years (and targets in it for the last 30 or so...) and people sure like to speak on behalf of the soldiers/sailors/marines and airmen fighting the war, suggesting that we pull out without asking what we think, but so few have actually taken the time to go out and meet the soldiers (I'm leaving the rest out, but they're implied. I'm just too lazy to type it all.) and find out who we are as people. Not the group "soldiers" but the individuals.

We've definately got our problems. "Honest" is kind of relative. Alot of joes might have problems with romantic relationships, but the good ones are some of the most honest guys I've ever met. Some of the kindest (although sometimes you have to dig through some gruff exteriors) and some of the most caring. Don't believe me? Watch a senior, salty First Sergeant with his baby girl sometime. Or spend some time in Iraq or Afghanistan with us and watch the way we treat one another when the bad news comes.

Maybe I'm just a little sensitive to stereotypes since the week from hell last week...

I don't mean to take anything away from the pain that Murphy's family is feeling, or minimize their sacrifice. Don't take this as an attack on the father. Just a general commentary using that quote as an example. I definately salute Murphy and hurt for his family.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

so someone...

who shall remain nameless (but if i WERE to name them, it'd rhyme with "pain in the ass" (okay, maybe not, but...)) suggested that i should buy a new watch instead of doing the j-b weld thingie, and i think the old one overheard. and now it's not working as smoothly as it once was. all of a sudden it's gaining about a minute a day. which really isn't the most convenient thing in the world. so i'll send it back to the swatchco's repair center for a cleaning and tuning. however the last time i sent a watch in it wasn't a timely repair process. so i need something new to take with me on my upcoming xtended vacation from the hell that i call my civilian job.

so. another one of the same faithful (but emotionally sensitive) watch?

or a spiffy new model?
this is actually what i'd love to have but it's a little too expensive when i know i'm going to beat it up so badly:

so which do you like best?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

it's three in the morning...

and damnit, i'm going to bed soon. but it's one of the few chances i've had to really be on the computer all week so i just wanted to do some quick randoms. today was a long day. yesterday was special kinda hell. but it finished halfway cool and my super-cool friend in philly came and picked me and eight of my not-closest friends from class up and did an awesome job of getting us all to downtown philly and coordinating our night without losing anyone. she did much better than the average military joe would've and the movement and coordination of troops is normally one of their specialties. she got most of us to a cool restaurant where we proceeded to drink wayyyy to much and eat a little. and come home way past our bedtimes. so today started way too early. like after less than 4 hours of sleep. we had to take ou final exam for the week, then have a stupid graduation ceremony, then listen to people be/say stupid things. then we shot out of there (we being me and another guy from colorado) baltimore, as fast we could. met up with a friend here, then my sister, then drove part way back to philly for tomorrow's flight. ugh. so i'm off to bed now i think.

class is over, we both passed. we spend some time with some amazingly cool people. and some amazingly less-than-cool ones. had some great burgers, pizzas, beer and tasty cakes. wasn't thrilled with the cheesesteak i've had out here.

night all.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

so much for a great week...

i thought it was going to be a kinda easy, catch up on rest week. this class has seriously sucked. on her training schedule she's got class starting at 8:00am and ending at 5:00pm everyday. we've been starting at 7:30am and getting out at 7:00pm. i got lucky and got out a little early last night, and fortunately met up with a friend here in philly who was absolutely awesome and took me and my battle-buddy out and showed us the town. so far that's been the highlight of the trip.

it's one a.m. and everyone just left my hotel room, we were in here working on our presentations for class tomorrow. fortunately we learned our lesson and had beer this time. made things go a little easier at least. 11 hours is way too much time to listen to people cry.

anyways, the class is over in two days. i can hold my breath for two days if i have to. and SOME of the classmates are cool and fun to hang out with. and i had an awesome burger with blue cheese last night. and tasty kakes. gotta stock up on those before i go home.

hope everyone's having a great week!

Monday, October 15, 2007

special kinda hell...

so. i'm at class to prepare me to be the equal opportunity representative for our unit. i'm torn on the position. i see the need for it sometimes and am glad to do it, but at the same time it bothers me on some level that as an army at war that we're forced to take so much time out of training for things like this. i don't understand why it's so hard for people to treat one another fairly and with respect.

if you remember this post you'll know why this class is so miserable for me. it's not because of the extra responsibilities i'm training for. it's because of the class itself. when we came out here we were hoping it was going to be death-by-powerpoint. but it's not. okay. maybe it'll just be alot of open forum discussions? nope. no such luck. my homework assignment for tonight? draw a picture that symbolizes me. then write five words on the picture that also describe me. then draw four pictures of my highest values. THEN tomorrow we'll discuss them in small groups and we'll ask ask each other questions to better understand why they picked the images and words that they chose.

oh lordy. i've spent two hours working on this stupid assignment and i'm dreading having to discuss any of this tomorrow. of course, i didn't drink. that might've made things much easier. definate "whoops" and "lesson learned" on my part.

still eating tasty kakes though. so it's not a total loss.

for those of you who asked here they are.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

i forgot!

it's definately gonna be a good week. wanna know how i know? it's because the convenience store next door has tastykakes!


i've been pretty busy lately. an army class in denver on thursday and friday (so i was working late tues and weds at the civilian job, trying to get things scared away), other army stuff on saturday. a leg of the denver marathon this morning and then i flew to philly tonight. although i'm out of town, i think i'll catch up on some rest and sleep this week. i think this week will just be normal 8 hr workdays, which i need.

yesteday was fun. as i've said before there's a couple of these kids who are going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into adulthood. they're interesting leadership challenges. it's amazing how many of them refuse to take personal responsibility for things. they're excellent excuse makers. i frequently wonder if their parents are actually aware of how spoiled and unprepared for adulthood some of these kids are.

hope everyone had a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

the dangers of overanalyzing things...

so i was hanging out with some friends the other night when they got into a heated discussion. now i'm not going to say it was a stupid argument or that it was one person's fault more than the others but...

last week a buddy (d) went to the e.r. with some headache pains. i went and picked him up, this other guy that i was with stopped in a couple times to make sure everything was okay. last weekend they went shooting together and they've hung out a couple times since the e.r. trip. this couple is an older couple, and has been together forever, so by this stage of the game she should really have a better idea of how he works. anyways, we were hanging out and she asks us how d's doing. "fine, he looks good". "well, what was wrong with him?" "he had a bad headache". "no, i know that why he went to the hospital, what what caused the headaches?" "dunno" <-me "didn't ask" <- her husband. that started her off on why didn't we ask.

i started to withdraw from the conversation at this point and was looking for a position in the room that would provide me with both cover and concealment. she directed her energies towards her husband and things went downhill from there. apparently there are (in her mind) serious communications issues in their relationship. she wants him to dig deeper and talk about his feelings more with her. he's closed off, emotionally unavailable to her. he does a good job listening to her when she talks and discusses her feelings with her, but why can't he let her be there for him the same way?

the conversation dragged on and on, and got nowhere fast. she's dated him forever. she's been married to him forever. he talks to her, he's just not wired the same way she is. he doesn't dig too deeply into his own feelings and isn't going to start. he knows what he knows about himself and feels no need to ask why does he know what he knows. he'll say "ow" (or more likely "son-of-a-bitch!") if he hits his thumb with a hammer when he's driving a nail into a 2"x4". he's more than happy to tell you if you've pissed him off. and i've seen him be sweet and tender with his wife and daughters. she's going through some soul searching right now because she's hitting middle age and is unhappy with her life and wants to drag him along for the ride. he's been this way for decades, why try to bully him into changing?

i fight the urge to overanalyze stuff everyday. i can't turn my brain off at night and i can spend the night tossing and turning and rehashing events if i let myself. take something simple like shooting. why have i been so much lately? i'm not a gun freak, why shoot so much? i'm not really shooting that well right now, relatively speaking. is it just that i enjoy shooting, and it's as simple as that? have i been enjoying the company? or is their something deeper? honing skills? concern that this trip's gonna be more dangerous than the last? lack of faith in the training we've been getting as a whole? doubt in my own personal skill? the fact that i'm not shooting as hot really worrying me? wanting to be better than all of my guys in as many different skills as possible, so that i'm leading by example? i could go on for hours obsessing over my motivations.

and that's just shooting. lordy if i obsessed like that over inter-personal relationships, i'd drive myself nuts. not that i don't spend some time. i've definately confessed to being a championship level "what if?" player. but as i've grown up here over the last couple of years i've gotten alot better and shutting it off before it gets TOO wildly out of control. i don't do it with everything though, thank God. the fact that he doesn't seem to spend tons of time overanalyzing things is something i'm jealous of, and the fact that she wants him to change that...

where am i going with this? i have no idea. but there's alotta stuff tumbling through my head these days and i'm sure you guys are gonna be forced to read all of it. consider yourselves warned.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

My older sister's friends started this organization to help my sister when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After she went into remission, she kept the events going to raise money to help other breast cancer patients. Unfortunately the cancer returned, and we lost Suzy, but the organization, and her spirit remain. The money raised through these events isn't sent to big companies or organizations or research groups that are trying to fight breast cancer, it goes to help the actual patients in the South Carolina region. It helps provide transportation, wigs for chemo patients, assistance with pharmacy and hospital bills, etc.. The group tries to help each patient maintain as much of their dignity as possible.

If you're in the Columbia or Charleston area, please consider attending one of their fundraising events, or volunteering your time to help with event set up and management. If you're not in the area but know someone who is, please send the link along or consider donating yourself. If you can't donate, but have time to go volunteer locally, please do so. Every little bit helps. Money isn't the only way to help. The hospital volunteers who assisted us with literature, a shoulder to cry on, personal stories of triumph over the disease... they all helped so much.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007


sorry, i didn't realize i was leaving a cliffhanger there. i went to the girl i'd gone to before. i was talking to someone about it, they said "hey, you know, you don't look as goofy as your normally do with that buzz cut." and that was enough to say that while she might be weird, she at least cuts hair well. she was a little more subdued this time.

i'd like to link to the original video but the embed link is turned off. (sonybmg posted it and i guess they don't want guys like me spreading the love. silly them. one of you might've rushed out and bought the cd after hearing it here.)

when i went to afghanistan i had no idea what to expect. i didn't realize we'd be without power in our living quarters for almost our entire trip. we were told to pack light so i didn't take a cd player because i figured if i wanted to i could plug my laptop in and play music on that. i did have a pocketpc/pda with a memory card in it that i used as an mp3 player with me and that had probably 100 songs on it. the px over there was brand new and flights weren't coming often and it was only being stocked with stuff that wouldn't sell anyplace else. and guys were so bored over there that they were buying the silliest things. so new music wasn't rushing in. and the internet was virtually non-existant, you definately weren't downloading music from itunes or peer-to-peer programs.

about the third week into the tour i keep hearing the guitars from "plowed". and couldn't get them out of my head. by the end of the trip i was desperate to hear the whole song. i could only remember a handful of lyrics and they were driving me crazy. i needed to hear the whole song, loud, in it's entirety. i didn't love the song before, i didn't hate it then. it was always just there, when it came on the radio i listened, when it wasn't playing i didn't miss it. but after that tour i HAD to hear it. it was a ghost that needed to be exorcised.

for the trip to iraq i made sure i had an ipod with me. loaded with songs. and sponge was definately one of them. so of course was that the song that haunted me? oh no. i couldn't be so lucky. the 2nd trip it was:

yes. i'm a goon. i ended up buying season one of charles in charge. i'm probably one of only ten people in the u.s. who paid hard earned cash for that.

guesses on what it's gonna be this time around?