Monday, December 8, 2008

Sex and the single child...

Psychologists have known since the '90's that we "model" behavior that we see, and that we're more likely to model behavior that we witness from those actors whom we respect or like more. Actor, in that sense, meaning anyone who executes a given action, so it can refer to computer game characters, television show characters, or real people.

I was a pyschology student in the early 1990's, at The Citadel, and the obvious logical conclusion of the research in question (which was mentioned repeatedly in our texts) was that people behave in a manner similar to that which they witness their idols/heroes behaving.

Now, the primary objective of the research then was, I think, to convince the education establishment that corporal punishment was evil and resulted in our raising violent children who would respond with force every time they became angry. This belief is reinforced by the fact that, as I am now a teacher, fellow teachers tell me that it was the mid-'90's when corporal punishment was phased out completely. Even here in South Carolina where it is still legal by state law, school boards everywhere have banned it, and professional education organizations speak of it as if it were akin to pedophilia.

I find it amusing in a dark way that, while we have removed that tool from our toolbox as educators, children have not become any less violent, and are instead modelling behavior based now not on their teachers, but on the games they play and the television they watch. But no one in education wants to address that, because it's not our place to tell parents that their precious little snowflakes should watch less TV, play fewer violent videogames, and play outside more. It IS our place to criticize parents if they use corporal punishment or any other physical punishment (I thump my kids in the head as a "warning," for example. Have been given the evil eye by several teachers for it, too).

Finally, I'd like to point out that the abolishment of corporal punishment has fundamentally changed the nature of the relationship between teachers and students. When someone can cause you pain at will, they are not likely to be your friend. You fear them. You might respect them, especially if they are fair, but you have a big wall of separation between you. The loss of corporal punishment in the schools has led to the loss of this "wall," and that leads directly (in my opinion) to the epidemic of young teachers having sex with their students.

The confluence of the loss of corporal punishment, driven by a misunderstanding of the studies you mention in your column, and the continued and even increased sexualization of popular culture, is sowing the seed of a tremendous change in teacher-student and even adult-child relationships. The worst part is that we won't recognize the impact of these two factors until 5 or 10 years AFTER we reach a point where we say "this behavior is beyond the pale."

So, in short, our culture is unavoidably going to continue to become more septic.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stupid America

Kids in Florida were arrested for vandalism in a school bathroom today. No more of that inappropriate corporal punishment, nor any of that stupid "make them clean it up" stuff.

Nope, now they go DOWNTOWN to lockup.

Imagine what would've happened if they'd have made this on the playground:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Where I've been in the US

Found this on a Farker's bio page, thought it was neat, so I did one myself.

create your own personalized map of the USA
or check out ourCalifornia travel guide

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Moving On...

Well, here's how it is:

Sgt. Arflin has moved to a different job. He would prefer I not mention him in the weblog. He's no longer with the Fountain Inn unit.

SSG. Knight is working with a Special-Forces Liason unit, and will have to go through several years of military training. He's no longer attached to the Fountain Inn Unit (which, by the way, is now ALPHA company, 1/118th)

Anderson has married his girlfriend, and they have moved back to St. Louis, Missouri. So he's no longer attached to the Fountain Inn unit.

Horne is a construction engineer in a unit in Rock Hill, and he lives up thataway, so he's no longer with the Fountain Inn unit.

White is in the Wellford unit, so I don't ever see him, either.

Kind of a shame that I don't get to see any of the mortar guys anymore. My email has been acting up, too, plus I can't get to my email right now, so even if they tried to contact me that way it wouldn't work.

I do see several of the guys from FOB Lindsey at guard drills though. At least one platoon of Bravo company was stationed there, so I know about a third or so of the people that show up to guard drill now. Well, except for the fact that about half of the unit is made up of soldiers from the low-country who didn't deploy, so I guess really I know about 1/6th of the unit. heh.

Teaching, incidentally, is very challenging work. It's hard work trying to come up with ways to keep the students interested from day to day. I'm glad that this is a Christian environment, because that's really helpful to me personally. I don't know how teachers in secular Government schools manage to deal with it.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hurricane Duty, Sept '08

Well, Hurricane Gustav scared the tar out of people in Louisiana, and I guess Governor Mark Sanford didn't want to look like he'd been caught not doing his homework, because when Hanna looked like she might impact Florida, Georgia, and SC, they decided to activate the SCARNG.

I got the call Tuesday afternoon, and had to report on Wednesday morning. We were doing prep-work at the armory Wednesday and Thursday, and then by Thursday afternoon, things looked pretty good, so the govt. decided not to pre-deploy us to the coast, and instead sent us all home.

That was the drill floor as we were getting ready. Most of the black boxes are stuff that got shipped home from Afghanistan. We have about 50% of the unit as guys who were deployed, and about 50% who were "stay behinds" for whatever reason.

I got reassigned to SSG Anderson's squad, in SSG Simpson's platoon. This is the best place for me, honestly, because SSG Simpson was my squad leader when he first joined the unit, and SSG Anderson and I were junior enlisted soldiers together, many years ago (like 10+), so I know both of them and have a lot of respect for them.

No pictures of my gear all spread out to be packed, nor pictures of the hurricane, sadly. Maybe next time.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

First Week of School

Well, I haven't written anything in a while, because I've been getting ready for school. The first week of school has passed and it was an interesting experience.

I have learned that the 4 and 5-year olds really tire me out, even though I manage pretty well to keep them under control. The 6th, 7th, and 8th graders are usually pretty well behaved, although they do get a bit rowdy at times. I wonder if I've started off in too relaxed a manner, and things will get worse later, but there's no way to know right now.

I am mostly teaching typing to the older children, and basic computer skills to the younger children. Typing is an essential skill these days, and now that I think about it, is probably the only skill I learned in high school that I still use on a regular basis.

My wife and I have given up on EQ, and have tried trial accounts of World of Warcraft (several times, in fact) but can't afford to have WoW accounts this year. We've also looked at EVE Online, and we're watching with interest the development of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. We've both applied for the beta test, but haven't been accepted, sadly. We'll see if we can get into the open beta, and if our computers can run it with anything approaching stability.

Our children have started school, so that's fun for my wife. But other than that, not much is happening here. I hope your summer ended well (for those of you with children).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Lack of Contact

Well, we've been home now for... almost two months, I guess.

In that time, I've seen Anderson once, talked to him about four times on the phone, seen White once (at Dave Liembach's funeral), and traded MySpace messages once with SSG Knight. Other than the folks I saw at Dave's funeral, I haven't seen, or talked to, anyone else from Bravo company.

Because Captain Pinson is a member at my church, I've seen him about three times. But other than that, no contact with anyone from the unit.

I've found that if I hear one of the songs SSG Knight used to play over the radio while we were on missions, I tend to space out for a bit. But other than that, I'm not really suffering any side effects from the deployment. Well, I do tend to get a bit more uptight if somebody doesn't do their job, or if they cover for someone else who isn't doing their job. But that's basically it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Latest Creations

Well, since I've been home, I've been working my butt off. I've been getting the children to do their chores, cleaning up around the house, trying to get a bit ahead of the housecleaning, mowing the grass, keeping the yard up, etc etc.

I've also been playing computer games, looking for useful stuff online to share with the children at GCS and that sort of thing. In addition, I've been reading Terry Pratchett and various other non-fiction stuff.

The only thing I've really put any effort into has been carving. I've done several more swords. I'm working on making one for each of the children, and considering possibly carving some to auction on E-bay. I mean, what's there to lose? I enjoy doing it, and if they sell for more than the lumber I use, then it's like getting paid to do something I like.

So, here is a picture of the latest four creations, with a large carpenters hammer to show scale:

I've been experimenting with using a saw to cut out the hilts. Sometimes this works well and shortens the carving time to a bare couple of hours. Sometimes it leaves the hilt very weak, though, so I'm not sure I want to do it very much. I've worked on making smaller two-handed swords, and on making "Link" style swords on a child's scale, and on making single-edged blades, kind of vaguely like machete's.

Anyway, the kids all like their swords, although they don't seem to do much of anything organized with them, they seem to use them to run around for a few minutes and carve up the air, then they kind of give up and go do other stuff. Maybe it's because of the humidity here making things hot, or maybe they just aren't terribly physically fit. Either way, I'm having fun carving them swords, and they're all excited about having them.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I am now a teacher

I have accepted a postion with a local christian school, managing their IT infrastructure, and teaching computer classes for a year. It promises to be a challenging, and rewarding position.

I also saw that the Supreme Court yesterday somehow decided that POWs should have access to the US Federal Court System, which is only going to motivate us infantry soldiers to try harder to ensure that we don't take any prisoners. Very smart on the part of the government. Really good.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

New meaning to Memorial Day

When we left Afghanistan, two soldiers in our company had signed up to extend their tour by 12 months.

One of those soldiers died in late May in a firefight. Yesterday, we buried him at a Veteran's Cemetary in Anderson, SC. Dave Leimbach got a horse-drawn caisson, a 21-gun salute, and an Honor Guard.

Dave Leimbach was a reserved guy. He didn't stand out, he struck me as kind of quirky, but he loved being a soldier. He was also saved, so I'm glad he died doing something he enjoyed and believed in, although I'm sorry for his wife's loss.

I still don't have a job, sadly. It looks like we've just transitioned from the early-fiscal-year flush where companies do lots of hiring, to the fiscally-slow, tight-budgetted latter half of the year where I will have lots of trouble finding a job. I look forward to seeing God's Will for my future.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Now I'm home

Well, now I'm home. Have been for almost 3 weeks now. No CIB, no purple heart, no great, exciting war stories...

I have, however, undertaken several projects around the house. I've started out by whipping the children into shape with regard to chores. They come home from school, they do their homework, then they do their chores, before they can do anything on the computer, the GameCube, or anything else fun. That has worked pretty well. In fact, yesterday they did their chores without me having to watch them every minute, and the two older children fought over whose turn it was to do the vacuuming.

With my wife's help, I've assembled an 8'x 10' metal storage building, on top of a floor we hand-built out of treated lumber. Those were both accomplishments she and I are quite pleased with.

In the process of building the outbuilding, I discovered my hair has thinned out on top quite a lot over the last year, and I'm well on my way to developing a SERIOUS bald spot. This was quite a shock.

The outbuilding holds lots of junk that was lying around the yard previously, so the yard and porch look MUCH nicer now. It's really good. Plus, of course, several things that were exposed to the weather before are now safely under shelter. Hopefully this will help keep them running (the lawnmower primarily, but the ladder and a golf bag as well).

Monday, May 12, 2008

Back at home

I'm home now, after a 7-day demobilization process at Ft. Bragg. Actually, I've been home for a few days now. I'm getting paid by the National Guard through the end of the month, so I have a little time to find a good job.

Wish me luck, pray for me, whatever works for you. (Prayer works for me)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

overnight at KIA

So, finally today we were bussed out to Kabul International Airport, after a few days of waiting, and more days spent at Camp Phoenix than we really wanted.

Lets see, what all sort of interesting things have happened.

I've beaten SSG Billingsley at Cribbage repeatedly over the past few days. He hasn't won a match since before we left KAF. Several nights here I completely blanked him, sometimes even coming back from a 20 point deficit late in the game to beat him by 2 or 3 points. Cribbage really is a lot of fun once you get to know what's going on.

Anderson sang at Karaoke night at Camp Phoenix and that was moderately fun, I guess. I'm not one for public embarrassment, so I didn't. I did, however, buy a couple of really bright yellow towels that have Operation Enduring Freedom embroidered on them, as well as some small helicopters. I also bought a Green Beans coffee mug that says Afghanistan on it. Oh, and a locally made bowie-style knife at the bazaar, which was neat, because it had a lot more variety than the one in Kandahar.

Right now I'm at Kabul International Airport, because I got bumped from the flight that left earlier today. Allegedly the flight didn't have enough seats for the 20 of us who were left behind. SSG Billingsley snuck onto the flight anyway, and I contemplated doing the same, but decided to stay with Anderson, and other guys from Bravo Company.

Lunch and dinner at the Supreme chow hall on KIA was pretty good, and the accommodations here are MUCH nicer than at Camp Phoenix, so overall it's a win. Plus I'm one step closer to going home!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


So, whiling away the hours on KAF, living in a big stupid tent with 300 other guys, the first priority gets to be killing time. Yesterday I played 3 games of cribbage with SSG Billingsley (I won all 3, which is very unusual), I played 3 games of Yahtzee with Anderson last night in the Green Beans coffee room in the MWR facility (I won 1 out of 3 games), I watched the second half of The Departed, having seen the 1st half at Camp Shelby (and I think the movie was much improved because I didn't have to tolerate the whole thing in one go), and I finished Monster, by Frank Peretti.

Plus I read some news articles in a Popular Science magazine (one in particular about a Plasma Gasification waste disposal unit was really impressive), used the internet for an hour (checking news stories mostly), and spent lots of time walking back and forth on the base.

Today, however, I'm scheduled to fly to Kabul. So here's hoping my flight isn't cancelled and by this time tomorrow I'm at Camp Phoenix, turning in sensitive items and sleeping through dull out-processing briefings. UGH. But at least I'm going home!

By the way, I don't recommend either the book Monster, or the movie The Departed. And I DEFINITELY don't recommend the movie that followed The Departed, which was called Ballistic, I believe. It was singularly stupid, pointless, poorly directed and in general abysmal.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Thanks for coming to Afghanistan

I got my Thanks for Coming to Afghanistan awards the other day. Here's a photo of them:

In addition, I have been moved over to KAF to out-process from ARSIC-S, and will fly to Kabul sometime soon. At first we were told it would be the 18th, then the 20th or 21st. Now we just don't know. But, that's life in the military. You're at the mercy of a nameless faceless bureaucrat who has higher rank than you, so you might as well just wait and see what happens.

Here's a picture of the transient quarters we're staying in on KAF:

Other than that, not much news to report. I watched Aliens vs. Predator 2 (Requiem?) and was not terribly impressed with it. The directors did a good job of killing lots of people, which is essential to making a believable Aliens movie, but something about it just left me cold. I'd give it a 3 out of 10. Definitely not something I'm going to get my wife to watch.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Stuck at KAF waiting on a plane

So, we've outprocessed (which involved me getting yet a THIRD anthrax shot), and there are no flights out until the 20th and the 21st. So I'll be here for at least one more bazaar day.

And, of course, my time on the computer is just now up. hahahaha...

Perhaps I will post more later.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

My last day at UTS

Today was my last day at Universal Telecom Service (also known as Hajji-net). I have a picture of myself with Hamid and Jamal, sitting in the office.

Tonight we are having an awards ceremony where Col. McGrath will give out the End of Tour awards to each soldier. I hope I'll get my picture with him presenting my awards. I'll let you know.

In other news... nothing much has happened. I slept basically all day, and I think tomorrow we move over to KAF for outprocessing and flying out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pope says abuse crisis handled badly

Yes. The Pope says that the Church did a bad job of handling the issue of Catholic priests abusing altar boys. I would agree with that statement. He seems to have said some fairly critical things and been pretty much spot on.

Also in the news, allegedly the airline that flies us home from Kuwait has gone bankrupt as of April 3rd (due to losing a military contract (?)), and we might be "delayed in leaving theater." Which means... I might not be leaving Afghanistan for an extra week-ish. But if ATA lost a military contract (on April 3rd!), and subsequently went bankrupt why are we only now being impacted? If the military gave the contract to another airline, why isn't that airline handling our flights? Were our flights scheduled in advance and not subject to the contract with ATA?

Anyway, here's a picture of me with Captain Sevilla. She was one of the medics assigned to FOB Lindsey.

End of tour photos.

We took several end-of-tour photos today, with the full mortar section. We took one with most of us on top of the Gazebee, and another with everyone in the Soviet Graveyard in front, and on top of, a BMP-1. We also took a picture on a T-72.

Here also is a picture of my last wood-carving effort, a sort of scimitar.

That's enough for right now. There will be more photos coming later.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I'm a veteran now...

I've realized I'm now a Veteran. Qualified to join the VFW and the American Legion. How about that?

I also ran into this somewhere on Powerline Forums:
A Veteran - whether active duty, retired, national guard, or reserve is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to The “United States of America”, for an amount of “up to and including my life.”

That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.

- Author Unknown

Heh, thought that was pretty good.

According to BlackFive, at least one Aussie has good things to say about us. Read that here. I don't know if that's a valid email or just something someone created. But I've got a lot of respect for the Australian troops I've run into here. I had dinner with some high ranking enlisted at Tarin Kowt one time, and we talked about how they do things, and why they do things differently. The Aussies committed several thousand troops to Afghanistan, and I want to say the Sgt Major said their entire army was 30,000? Let me look it up on Google real quick though...

I had the same discussion with a Canadian Major one time. According to him, they only have about 60,000 (I think?) troops under arms in their entire military. So when they commit thousands of troops, and lots of equipment to Afghanistan, they are making quite a serious commitment. And when John Kerry mocks the Australians for what they've sent and suggests they send 30,000 troops... well, he's really showing his own ignorance more than their lack of seriousness.

Aha, according to what I can find on the Internet, Australian total troop strength in 2002 was just under 51,000 including all branches (Army, Navy, Air Force). Canadian troop strength levels are allegedly about 62,000 active troops, total.

So, either country sending more than 3,000 troops, is really doing quite a LOT. Kudos to our Canuck and Aussie pals for pitching in with so much of what little they have!

Monday, April 14, 2008

No more guard duty!

Well, Sunday was my last day of guard duty. Now I'm cleaning out my area, throwing stuff away, and packing things up in order to get ready for my flight to Phoenix. It's weird, but I'm even MORE bored now that I don't have to do guard duty.

I should be at my home in less than 3 weeks, God willing. We're all really happy that it's finally over. The New York national guard unit replacing us, they're only doing 9 month tours in country, so they will be leaving here right around Christmas of this year.

Webb has come back to stay with us, from his having been sent down to Spin Boldak. As usual, he has lots of interesting stories to share. White was so bored yesterday that he cleaned his M4 and his M9 really thoroughly (which is a waste because they will just get dirty again in the 2 weeks we have left in country). SSG Knight has relaxed considerably since the end of combat operations, and Anderson has been taking sleeping medication that makes him behave really oddly (in a very amusing way).

I've also watched "30 Days of Night," which was terrible. Not as bad as The Mist, but really weak, all the same. Josh Hartnett reminds me of a young Tommy Lee Jones, so I enjoy watching him in movies, but this one was just too full of logical problems to really be enjoyable. I've been in the high latitudes (once) and I know that when the sun sets for 30 days it doesn't get pitch black dark. I also know that if you have a light on in a darkened room on a dark night, and open a small crack in the window, the light is visible literally for MILES. And 2x4 planks with corrugated tin roofing material provides essentially NO insulation whatever, and you'll freeze to death if that's all that's between you and the Alaskan winter.

Finally, I've finished another book by the guys who wrote "The Relic" and have decided that The Relic was about their best book. The rest are just odd in different ways.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Stephen King's "The Mist"

I just got done watching this movie, and felt like I had to comment.

It was engaging, but not because it was well done. The insane preacher-lady wasn't even remotely convincing. The ending was hideously obvious to anyone who understands movies. What director, writer, or producer could possibly resist the opportunity to make a movie that ends that way? It's so daring, it's so bold, it's so... new and different!

Except that really, it's not. It left me completely cold. It wasn't an ending designed to create empathy or sympathy, it was an ending simply designed to manipulate your emotions. And you can tell.

Maybe it's that I'm a man of faith, and found the Mrs Carmody (or whatever her name was) to be patently ridiculous, a caricature of what folks think of when they imagine people of faith. Maybe it's because I'm a father of five kids and found myself thinking "my kids wouldn't react like that. They're tougher than that." Maybe it's because there's so many moments when you find yourself thinking "why isn't anyone doing the smart thing at this particular moment? Why are they all posing for the camera and spouting dialogue?"

Whatever the reason or reasons, it was a big letdown. For some foolish reason, I expected more. I should know better by now, with regard to Stephen Kings work.

We've got HOW MANY days left...?

Heh, the funny thing is, we don't really know.

Maybe we'll move out of our barracks and into transient quarters on KAF on the 16th. Or maybe on the 18th. And maybe we'll start flying to Kabul on the 18th. Or maybe not until the 20th. And maybe we leave Kuwait on the 27th. But maybe it's the 29th.

But one thing is FOR SURE.

We're almost done here. We've turned our vehicle over to the New York unit. We don't do missions anymore. We've only got a few more days of guard duty. Pretty soon, we'll be headed home to de-mobilize and get sent home to our families!

For some people, this is a hugely good thing. For others, it's a mixed bag. I still don't have a civilian job lined up, although I had a phone interview the other day that went fairly well. I'm also still pursuing a commission, but who knows how that will pan out. Going home will be wonderful, yes, but there's going to be a whole different kind of stress involved in being home and not having a steady paycheck coming in.

On another subject, we were talking on Monday about how dangerous it is over here. None of us has ever really felt that we were in much danger. The most tense I've ever been was when we were in downtown Kandahar and an Afghan National Police officer came running out into the road carrying an AK-47 and wearing a bandolier of magazines. At a glance, it looked like a suicide vest. While my mouth was shouting "look out!" my mind was thinking "all that vest will do is create a big bloody smear on the side of the vehicle..."

So, no war stories from me. I'm just not creative enough, or good enough at lying, to be able to tell lies about all the really dangerous stuff that happened over here. Sorry to disappoint anyone who was hoping for really exciting stories about how dangerous and deadly it is, I didn't see any of that. And not for lack of trying either!

Monday, April 7, 2008

A brilliant opportunity!

I realized today what a fantastic opportunity Afghanistan is for eco-warriors and people who hate authoritarianism!

I've talked about what Afghanistan needs before. In order to have any real options, the people of Afghanistan need reliable access to electrical power. Without that, they can't really develop any industry (whether they want to or not; meaning, without electrical power, even if they WANT industry, they can't develop it). Without industry, they cannot increase their per capita annual income, and without increased income, the country won't have an increased tax base from which to draw for public works. It all kind of grows together.

But! if you're interested, the system could be jump-started, so to speak. Granted the Coalition forces are still working hard to provide physical security, which is pretty important for developing the nation any further, but after all, the Coalition forces are still here, so there's that.

Jump start Afghanistan by spending lots of money (and here I'm speaking to eco-warriors and clean-energy advocates) putting wind-power-farms and solar power facilities into place! Ask the US to pony up the money to put the power transmission capability into place concurrently with the development of the wind & Solar facilities, and suddenly (assuming that the Taliban can be successfully dealt with, which is a reasonable assumption if we continue our current troop levels) Afghanistan could have moderately inexpensive electrical power!

All it would take (heh) is for some clean-energy company to front the equipment and installation, and the US to front the installation of power transmission infrastructure. Oh, and of course, some of the clean-energy engineers would probably need to commit to spending several years living in Afghanistan, training locals and managing the maintenance and development of this new infrastructure. But at the end of five or ten years, you could have a country with the OPTION of entering the 20th century, if they so chose.

I wonder why no clean-energy or green-friendly companies or organizations are proposing this now?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hey, did you double check that vehicle?


Our Humvee went on a mission to Panjwai district on Monday. I was driving. We went to PBW and Hazi-M'dad(sp?). At Hazi-M'dad we discovered that our vehicle had shed about 1/3rd of its "serpentine" belt. This, essentially, is a single belt that performs all the functions of multiple belts in a civilian vehicle. Drives the AC, the engine cooling fan, the compressor for the AC, the power steering, etc etc.

Well, this was not an IMMEDIATE emergency, but it did mean that the belt HAD to be replaced when we got back. Which resulted in a VERY long night for myself and Specialist White. Long, and tiresome.

Anyway, the vehicle ended up spending two days at the shop, and the belt tensioner, the fan clutch, and the AC compressor were all replaced. It was returned to us on Thursday, and Specialist Anderson and myself took it over to KAF today to go to the PX.

When we got there, I commented that it smelled like Antifreeze. Anderson replied that of course it did, the vehicle had just been reworked, and they'd probably put new antifreeze in it, so it would smell like that, wouldn't it? I figured this was probably true, since I almost invariably spill anti-freeze and oil on the engine of MY vehicle back home when I'm working on it. No reason to assume that's not also the case for the maintenance section.

Well, when we returned to Lindsey, I got out and noticed that it REALLY smelled like antifreeze. Oh, and the right front tire was wet. Which was odd. Despite it having rained the last few days, there is no standing water between here and KAF, so the tire shouldn't be wet...

We decided that we needed to look under the hood. The engine was covered in antifreeze, and we couldn't figure out why. We thought a pinhole leak at first, or a crack in the reservoir. Eventually, though, I realized that the hose that leads from the top of the radiator to the reservoir had not been reconnected. When the radiator heated up, it was venting hot antifreeze all over the engine compartment!

We fixed this in short order with our handy-dandy Government issue Gerber Multi-tools, and then we went to find the maintenance crew and rag them for missing such an obvious detail.

Lesson learned. Always double check behind the maintenance team. They forget things too. Even simple, obvious, easy things.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The long road home

Well. Today is 2 April, 2008. Probably within a week, we will be done with guard duty. Several NCO's from the New York National Guard unit that is replacing us have already arrived, and when their troops show up, they will take over guard duty from us.

We will, probably for another week or so, run missions with their troops, kind of left-seat/right-seat to give them the benefit of our experience. However, the New York guys have already spent a tour in Iraq, so it remains to be seen how adaptable they will be to learning from OUR experience.

I've carved another sword, this time a samurai sword out of a 2x4 for Sgt. Stafford. In exchange, she provided me with a woven bracelet for my wife. Heres a picture of my latest collection (two of which are missing now):

Jamal (whom I've added to my Yahoo Messenger) has me attempting to understand the ins and outs of a Cisco 2600 router. This is going swimmingly, since it's kind of cumbersome to work on, and not nearly as much fun as some of the other things I can do with my time.

I also have several resumes out there, looking for bites. I have a phone interview with one company next week, as soon as we can finalize a date. I'm also still proceeding apace on the Direct Commission process.

Finally, I've been reading the book of Romans again, and I'm starting to understand a side of Paul that I don't think anyone else talks about. It's quite fascinating to see how human he is, and to recognize why he's thinking the thoughts he is.

My wife is counting the days until my birthday, figuring I will be home by then. I think that's a safe bet. It's less than 880 hours now.

Oh, and finally, unless something happens in the next 7 days, there will probably be No CIB for me. :(

EDIT: wow, looking back over my last two posts I sound really ungrateful and snobbish about the books Aunt Diotima sent me. That's not at all the impression I was trying to convey. I guess I shouldn't blog when I'm tired.

In every (well almost every) one of the books Aunt Diotima sent me, there was some aspect of the book that I really enjoyed. And I read all of them, even the ones that annoyed me, and was grateful to have them for diversion. I tend to be very sarcastic in person, and also very picky (as my family can tell you) with regard to everything that I consume. Reading material is no different, and I complain vociferously about any aspect of what I read that I do not fully enjoy.

Anyway, I would just like to thank Aunt Diotima personally for the books she sent, and hope that she is not offended that I didn't praise them all uncritically.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

March of 2008

So, March is more than halfway over. Not much has happened. The weather is warming up. I've been watching the sun set from guard duty. I've seen the green shimmer of light as the sun sets, again. The first time I saw it was last summer.

I've read a ton of books lately. I've also worked with the guys at Hajji net. We've just about got the internet thing straight, and I've created a lot of documentation for them.

Now that the internet is working passably well, I hope I can update more later.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


So much has changed in the last month, it's hard to know where to start!

Okay, I went to Kabul for 2 weeks. That was like being in a foreign country. I didn't know anyone and had nothing to do but work, eat, sleep and play on the computer. On the one hand, it was kinda fun. On the other hand, it went on too long. On the day that I left, there was a VBIED (vehicle-borne-improvised-explosive-device) attack on the airport. Presumably after I flew out, because I don't remember hearing any explosions.

When I got back I found out that the police station in Panjwai, where we used to go with the Misfits while out at Sperwhen Gar, was hit by a VBIED also. If US troops were there, that would have caused some casualties. Also, the mortar vehicle has been the lead vehicle in a convoy since I was gone. Being lead vehicle is the only position that is any fun for a driver. Well, at least for me, anyway.

I've read easily 12 books in the last month. My Aunt sent me several, and I've read my way through most of them. All of them were slightly odd, and none were really satisfying to me personally, although I could tell the authors were trying to create real works of "literature." Mostly I could tell this because they tried hard to mix in bits of tragedy, you know, no REAL work of literature can ever be fully cheering or satisfying. If it doesn't make you cry as well as laugh, it's not REAL "literature." /sarcasm off

We're likely leaving FOB Lindsey for good late in April. They tell me that I will almost certainly be home in time for my birthday, which is nice. I had hoped sooner, of course, but that's okay. As it is, I am counting the (likely) days until we leave for Kabul to out-process. I have several boxes of books and other things to send home over the next couple of weeks, so that I don't have to pack everything in my duffel bags to get it home.

The weather has warmed up. Some days are almost hot, most days are cool, and very pleasant. I doubt this will last long. Evenings and mornings are still pretty chilly, but the days can be very, very nice. I've take to working out again, 5 days out of six this time, and taking one day off. I'm considering adding a PT Test to the schedule as the 6th day out of 7, just to see where I am in terms of score.

I continue to look for a job back home. I haven't had any luck yet, but I can really see the light at the end of the tunnel now, so I'm working feverishly at the jobhunt. I'm worried that my skills are rusty and it'll be hard to land a job. Then too, there's the fact that I have no certifications in the IT field, which is almost the kiss of death these days. I may end up needing to take the time and put in the effort to secure MCP and A+ certifications when I get home, in order to have a real shot at getting another good job in the computer field.

No more wood-carving of late. I haven't been able to find any good lumber for it, sadly. A lot of the local stuff is really really dense and hard, so it takes forever to carve. I like seeing results fairly quickly, so I don't enjoy spending weeks whittling at one piece of 2x4. Plus, I think my Gerber multi-tool is getting dull, perhaps, so it has become less easy to carve.

That's a quick update, hopefully I'll be able to come back with more later. Maybe I can talk politics at some point and tell you why I disagree so fervently with John McCain.

Monday, February 25, 2008

UTS server fixed and a trip to Phoenix

Well, after working on the linux server for a couple of days, I have finally managed to get it working (I think). At least, if it's not working, they haven't come over to complain yet. I tested it last night and was sure it was working, anyway.

Technically, I'm not learning to work with Linux, so much as with MicroTik RouterOS, which is an overlay that goes on the server over the linux OS. I think...

Anyway, unless I hear different, it's fixed, and already it's showing a marked improvement. Someone in Zone 1 is really hogging all the bandwidth. REALLY.

Also, in the next day or two, I'm heading to Camp Phoenix via airplane to help the Supply Sergeant, SSGT Bobby Hall, with data entry that has to be done in timing with the computers back in the states. I don't know how long that will take. Hopefully the UTS guys can get by without me in the meantime. Also hopefully I'll have some good pictures of Kabul when I come back.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sick for the first time in Afghanistan

After almost 10 months of being in-country, I have finally come down with a head cold. It's probably just my annual bout of sinusitis, actually. It feels about the same as usual, scratchy throat, sinus pressure in my forehead, lots of nasal drainage. It makes me feel miserable for a week or so, then it goes away for a couple of weeks, comes back for another week, and then I'm done with it.

I had been wondering, in the past year or so, if it might not just be allergies, since it happens every year in the spring. However, Afghanistan is dry, there's not much pollen (although there is dust in the air, yes), and so I think I can rule out the simple allergies explanation.

Regardless, I'm pathetically under the weather for the moment. We do have the UTS server fixed, finally. Hopefully the internet will be running at a decent speed soon for everyone, and it won't take 2 weeks to upload a picture to blogspot in the future. There also is an upcoming trip to Camp Phoenix in Kabul. I hope to take pictures up there as well, so I'll have more interesting stuff to show everyone.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Whittling away the hours

So, killing time gets to be the major goal of anything you do while on guard duty. Lord knows I stay busy enough when NOT on guard duty, between EverQuest and working on the network. As I mentioned before, I've been doing some whittling.

here's a picture of the first two swords I made, and the 2x6 that I acquired as a blank for my third attempt:

Here's another picture of the three finished articles:

There, finally I've managed to upload the picture you've been wondering about all this time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My work as a UTS network engineer

Well, finally, Chief Simonsen (of the US Navy) has had enough and arranged for me to work with him to set up UTS. UTS (Universal Telecom Service) is the actual name of what I used to call "Hajji-net."

They have a Windows 2003 server, and a MicroTik linux server (which is currently in the shop). We have knowledge and expertise and a fluke NetTool for use in diagnosing problems on the network. And believe me, there are major problems!

We have tried installing and using Bandwidth Controller, but either I configured it wrong or the software is just junk, because it blocked all the users from the internet. The Linux server allegedly has built-in bandwidth control capability, though, so we might be using that as our gateway when it returns from the shop.

Meanwhile, I've spent all day today sitting in the UTS office (which is inside a shipping container), dealing with soldiers, sailors and civilians who have network issues. Part of my day has been spent compiling a database of users, listing their IP addresses and their MAC addresses, as well as which part of the FOB they are on (what "zone" they're in). And this afternoon I've been running around playing "test the cable" with most of the whole network backbone. Yay!

All of which has left me with a really tired feeling, although I haven't done any physical labor. Thinking is tough on the body.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Jack Hinks!!

Jack Hinks is the new rallying cry for me and the younger mortars. We shout it at each other when something positive happens, when we're trying to identify each other walking around the FOB at night, or when we're trying to surprise the local nationals. They look at you really strange when you shout "JACK HINKS!!" at them.

We've also decided that we're going to start an "escort service." The mess hall now requires badges for us to get service, which is good. But that will restrict some of the more attractive females who live and work on KAF from coming over and eating in the mess hall. So the "Jack Hinks escort service" will provide these lovely enlisted ladies with an escort who can get them into the mess hall.

The purpose, of course, is to provide a morale boost for the SECFOR troops living on FOB Lindsey, and to give these lovely ladies an opportunity to partake of our wonderful KBR meals, which are indeed preferable to Supreme meals.

Also, I've come up with a nifty logo for the Jack Hinks escort service. Here it is:

In addition, I've started carving swords out of pieces of wood that I find around the area. I've carved a short, gladius-type sword, and am working on a longer, Viking-style sword, but currently I've got a blister on my right ring finger, so I'll be restricted from doing any more carving while that heals.

We went on a mission to Qalat last week. Just above Qalat, there's a mountain range that was covered with snow. It looked like a wave breaking over the city. I took several pictures.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Living in the Loft

So, now I live in my loft. It's very warm up there where I sleep, and I have lots of desk space down here where I work and play EQ. Here is a picture:

Sgt. Mitchell lives on the other side of the partition that divides this half of the B-Hut. The partition does not stretch to the ceiling, and Sgt. Mitchell snores, a lot. Loudly. And so Anderson has trouble sleeping. Not me, however. I'm long since acclimated to snoring. ;-)

I'm back on tower guard this week, and I've got my workout routine going again, which is good. I feel good about getting in shape, and have started running. I anticipate bringing up my PT test scores a few points when we take our next test for record, which would be good.

There was a pinning ceremony the other day, in which several soldiers received their CIBs. One CMB (Combat Medics Badge) was awarded as well. In addition, one of the E-5's was officially promoted to E-6.

In addition, there are still rumblings about the internet. It is not bandwidth throttled, so currently the first person to get a connection gets as much bandwidth as they can use, and then everyone else fights over what's left. Meaning that you can often have 10 or more users fighting over 64kbps of bandwidth while 2 or three users are getting 200kbps each. There's free or extremely inexpensive software that you can buy to fix this, and I've suggested that to the Navy Chief who's working with the internet guys, but they (the chief and the internet guys) haven't acted on it yet. Here's hoping they make a change before someone gets fed up and cancels their accounts.

I still haven't figured out the hit counter, by the way.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Not too much longer now!

Well, I'm not counting down the days yet, but I'm pretty sure I've got less than 12 weeks to go. I'm counting to April 19th, and February has 29 days this year. That means 79 days plus whatever's left in January. So, 12 weeks, 2 days as of right now, to April 19th.

That's pretty exciting.

I've started a new workout routine that includes an extra day. This is taking some getting used to, especially since the extra day is just jogging, which I absolutely abhor. But, since the PT test includes a 2 mile run, and the only way to work those muscles is to use them, I need to add it in. I plan to take a PT test as soon as I can after it warms up here, or after we get home. I'm not sure which. But the goal is to improve on the 211 I earned at Camp Shelby. After all the workouts I've done here, I should be able to get a better score...

My hit counter isn't working. I'm going to have to tweak it more to see if I can figure out what's wrong with it. If you have any ideas, feel free to email me.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Missed a(n EQ) raid, added a hit counter

Okay, so, off guard duty a little early, head to the CP with my laptop. I'm logged in early, all set to go! Then as the raid forms my ping climbs to about 4400, and suddenly I'm disconnected. By the time I'm able to log back in, my spot has been filled and the raid has moved on. Ah, well. The Lord moves in mysterious ways.

So, I edited my weblog and added a hit counter. I'm not sure I have figured out how to do this properly yet, so it's still a work-in-progress. Still haven't gotten PureEdge working. Also, I am still annoyed with the locals running the ISP, as they don't seem to recognize that assigning IP addresses based on MAC addresses would be a smart thing to do.

WOW, a jet just flew over so low I think I could have hit it with a golf ball! That was REALLY loud!

Anyway, I've edited my hosts file to include the websites I visit most frequently, because the local ISP has a terrible arrangement that causes websites to be unresponsive very frequently. I'm trying to guide other soldiers on how to do this so as to provide the best, fastest service possible, without actually messing with the ISP's hardware or software, since I really DON'T want to get involved.

The weather has been REALLY cold this week, but it hasn't rained again yet, thank God. There's still mud all over the place, although it is mostly clearing up.

Friday, January 18, 2008

So what else is new?

Well, truth be told, there really isn't much else going on. I'm playing EQ with my wife in my spare time, as well as posting resume's and checking job search websites. I've spent some time chatting with friends back home using yahoo messenger. Done some reading, and back in the exercise groove. I've also managed to download and install PureEdge, which should allow me to fill out my Direct Commission application forms, if I can make it work. It appears not to like Windows Vista, but where there's a will, there's a way, right?

On Sunday White and I resume tower duty, which isn't a bad thing. We haven't had very many missions this week, although it's been cold and nasty all week long, so it's a good thing we haven't done much. We went out to Panjwai district, to Patrol Base Wilson and parts west. I took some pictures of the snow that was falling while I was in the turret. Here's one:

More to come! If there's anything going on...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Movie reviews!

Okay, so for some reason, I suddenly watched a whole bunch of movies this week. Let me give brief reviews for them.

Amazing Grace - The story of the abolitionist William Wilberforce in England. Main character played by the guy who plays Mr. Fantastic in the two Fantastic Four movies. The story is uplifting (although massive liberties were taken), but the movie does not excite me. I found it dull and distant. The scenery is great and the costume work is fantastic, but I'm not one of those people who gets all excited about the frills. This was a movie that should have stirred me, but instead left me cold. A 3 out of 10. I will probably watch it again with my wife, but I'm pretty sure I'll either sleep through it, or get on my computer and start playing EverQuest after about 15 minutes.

Evan Almighty - Newly elected Congressman Evan Baxter prays for help to "change the world" and he gets it. God commands him to build an Ark. You might think the storyline is trite, but I am a "true believer." Sometimes God tells us to do things, and He doesn't care about our financial well-being, or our health, or our job, or our friendships. He cares about our spiritual well-being. Granted God doesn't ever appear to me as Morgan Freeman or dance with me under a tree in a field, but His glory is around me every single day if I open my eyes to see. I loved this movie. It was funny, it was moving, and even though I think the directors actually TRIED to make it trite and silly, they failed. Evan Almighty is a keeper. 9 out of 10. I'm going to buy it and watch it over and over again.

Shoot Em Up - A random guy gets involved in a plot to indirectly kill a Congressman. The details are too stupid and gruesome to share. The movie is bloody and stupid. It came across to me as being like "Planet Terror" with higher production qualities, only the plot was even dumber. I could go on, but why bother. 1 out of 10, never see it again, demand to see the EEG printout of anyone who says it was "great" or even "good."

3:10 to Yuma - a "modern" western, starring Russel Crowe and Christian Bale, the characters are overly nuanced and in the case of Crowe's character, unbelievable. The sets were gorgeous, the costumes were great. It has a gay train-robber in it, even (which struck me as just dumb, but whatever). Also, should be nominated for absolutely positively the WORST EDITING JOB EVER in a movie. Whoever edited it, took out a 2 minute long scene that would have left the viewer at the end thinking "ahhhh, I understand." Instead, at the end of the movie you think to yourself "hmm, I didn't quite expect THAT, but something close to it." Watch the deleted scenes and suddenly you'll think "OHHH! THAT'S what was going on." 6 out of 10. I'll probably watch it again with my wife and we'll probably talk about the hidden meanings of some of the scenes afterwards.

So, there you have it. Those are the movies I've watched recently. I'm also looking forward to seeing Cloverfield, The Mist, and a new movie with Nicole Kidman in is that is very similar to "The Forgotten."

I've also read a terrifying zombie book called "The Missing" which literally gave me nightmares for two days. I'm currently wading through a Clive Cussler book called "Golden Buddha" which is weak and tedious.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Missions cycle again!

Well, yesterday we provided security for the COMGEN of US Materials Command, who came to KAF to learn about the area. We escorted him from KAF to FOB Lindsey, to Scorpion, and back to KAF, over the course of about 4 or 5 hours.

At lunch, I was tagged by Cpt. Bullwinkle to sit with the Generals (a two-star, named Griffin, was showing the ComGen around). I got to ask some probing questions about the future of our efforts in Afghanistan, and was pleasantly surprised. We are working on helping the Afghans develop their transportation infrastructure, which we see as the first step towards making it possible to improve their industry. With improved industry, they will have a larger tax base (increased per capita income), and they will be better able to MAINTAIN the advances we've built for them.

It sounds good. I mean, I'm glad that we're thinking ahead, but I genuinely think it will take decades to build what this country needs to become self-sufficient at the 2nd world level.

Take Civilization, the computer game. Or absolutely any derivative thereof. Turn-based strategy games that involve building an empire. Late in the game, you can found a new city, and buy all the buildings that can be constructed there, giving it all the potential to be a productive and profitable city in your empire, but you have to wait for the population to catch up, and in the meanwhile you run a huge deficit, which you make up for by taxing other cities. And in turn-based strategy games, a turn usually represents a YEAR.

Now, of course, the computer game Civilization (or Master of Magic, Master of Orion, Master of Orion II, Alpha Centauri, etc) does not represent exactly what happens in the real world. However, I think it serves as an excellent example. Afghanistan is essentially going to be a client state of the USA for a couple of decades, unless Democrats decide to cut it loose, in which case we will probably see it return to what it has been for the last 30 years or more.

Anyway, either I've already talked about this, or I'll go into more detail later. In the final analysis I was able to make intelligent conversation about our long term strategy with a 2-star general, and got a coin from the COMGEN of US Materials Command. That was yesterday. Today it's cold and rainy and we're not doing anything.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Guard duty at FOB Lindsey!

Well, the last four days or so have been spent on guard duty, which, while boring and tedious and not a whole lot of fun, at least means that I can expect to STAY on FOB Lindsey. And this is great news! Because now I have access to a GOOD gym (I've already started a new, 7-day workout cycle), internet access (I've already updated my resume's on four different job search websites, if you want to see my resume' search monster or careerbuilder for hbooraem), and better food! Yay!

Tonight at 1900, I changeover from guard duty to mission cycle. This will be interesting to see how many missions we go on. Right now, my biggest concern is that Specialist Anderson actually does his job and cleans up, PMCS's, and fuels the vehicle in time for the turn-over. He hasn't been doing anything at all while I've been on guard duty (well, except for assembling my wall-locker), and I'm going to be QUITE annoyed if I end up having to do his work as well as my own guard duty and mission cycle. (A note here, I composed this earlier in the day, and Anderson has, in fact, PMCS'd the vehicle since then.)

Other than that, things are going quite well, I think. I plan on putting up a sign and posting hours at which I'll look at people's laptops. Getting asked questions when I'm running to the latrine or when I'm trying to get back to a guard tower from dinner is really kind of distracting.

Also, the new Hajji-net is going to really piss people off. It's been dropping my Yahoo messenger connection pretty regularly, which means that Skype calls will get disconnected a lot. People will be really, really annoyed about that, because the main reason we all want internet access is so that we can contact our families, be it via Skype, Yahoo, or email. Email and EverQuest are both pretty old applications, so they're quite tolerant of transient network outages, but Yahoo and Skype, not so much.

Regardless. Life on FOB Lindsey continues apace and pretty soon I'm going to start the countdown. Sgt Knight is already counting down to April 1st. I plan on counting down to April 15th at the earliest, maybe the 19th. 93 days to the 15th, 97 days to the 19th. The 19th is a Saturday, and seems like a good day to count towards.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Snow in Kandahar

Yes, it really did snow last night. Yesterday morning, I was gunning for LTC Ritz on the way out to Panjwai district, and we ran through some mixed precipitation right near Panjwai. It stung a lot, and I thought it was sand until I saw the sleet bouncing off my sleeve. Moving 55mph through a sleet storm with your face exposed is not a lot of fun, let me tell you.

Anyway, last night, around 10pm, it started to snow here. By 1am it was coming down really heavy and I have some really cool pictures of it. Today there is snow on the roofs of all the buildings, but the water on the ground is still liquid so it didn't get as cold as it was the other week. THAT could have been very, very bad.

Yesterday's trip through KC was... interesting, I guess. After LTC Ritz told SSgt Knight that everything we've been doing for the last 8 months was wrong, SSgt Knight decided to let him take the lead, so I was the lead gunner on the way back. I had to fire numerous warning shots (in the air?) and holler at a lot of people. I'm glad I didn't have to actually SHOOT anybody, but I'm not happy about firing warning shots into the air. That's messed up, in my opinion. Then I don't have any control over what happens to the round when it comes back down.

Anyway, lets see, Webb has been sent down to Spin Boldak, and there was a motorcycle VBIED there that killed 1 local and injured 5 locals yesterday. Several of the Misfits are going back home sometime this week. And Col. McGrath is on leave so things might slow down a bit for that period of time.

I'm rooming with Anderson in the B-Hut, although we are working on partitioning our room into two parts, so we don't have to deal with each other if we don't want to. We each get a wall locker (cheap wooden thing, not the classic metal military wall locker), and each get a bunk. I'm putting my bunk up in a loft over my desk, so I'll have as much room as possible.

Lets see if the pictures work...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

So much has happened!

A whole bunch has happened since I last posted, even though it's only been about 10 days.

We were out at Sperwhen Gar for about 5 days, and I learned a LOT about incidents that occurred out there before we arrived. There was some heavy fighting in the late summer this year, and it seems the very restrictive Canadian ROE prevented coalition forces from making serious headway against the Taliban in some minor clashes. However, the Canadians made up for that by going after the Taliban with heavy armor and fighting a pretty serious battle with them over three days, which mostly broke the Taliban presence in the area.

Now that it is winter, the Taliban are not so active, because they don't have barracks, and they don't have a lot of gear to issue to their fighters, so they leave them at home, where they can be warm. Foreign Taliban fighters, of course, are still active in some areas, although we haven't made any contact with them.

Our last convoy back from SG was rather tense, because the traffic in Kandahar City was much thicker than usual. I had to bump a small truck out of the way with my Humvee, but didn't have to run anyone over, which is a blessing. We also didn't hit any IED's, which is always a good thing.

I've made close friends with Mahany, who, it turns out, has my taste in fiction (sci-fi and fantasy) and likes to read military history as well. We talked a lot about WWII and Robert Jordan and other similar topics. I learned to play Cribbage with Sgt. Billingsly, although I'm still not very good at the pegging aspect of the game, so I tend to lose a lot more than I win (about 3 to 1, I think). I also had a picture taken of me playing Cribbage and suddenly discovered just how MUCH grey hair I have, which was rather a shock.

I'll post more later, but there's a lot still to talk about.