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.