Archive for the 'Critique' Category

Kramer’s Law of Tech-Forum Douchebaggery

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day;
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime;
Instruct a man to type “help fish” and you pass on your mastery of life.

Bluff Creek Ranch

Bluff Creek RanchI went on another mountain biking excursion this past weekend. I originally intended to swing by Rocky Hill Ranch but could not get a hold of anyone to make reservations so I opted to visit Bluff Creek Ranch nearby. I had read on on austinbike.com and MTBR that the trails there were very quick and enjoyable. I asked my father if he would be interested in coming along so he could hike and snap some pictures.

We left San Antonio around 9AM on Saturday and arrived in Warda, around noon. I was very surprised at how laid back the place was. When we arrived there were several cars at the owners house where you register for camping/biking etc. The rates weren’t too shabby. A campsite was $10 a night and included unlimited use of the ranches 7+ miles of trails. Firewood $7 and Ice 1$ per pale. They also sell organic, homegrown, beef and steaks (which we vowed to try the next time out). The campsites at BCR were remote, private, tucked away in the pines near a small lake. The unlimited supply of firewood also made camping enjoyable. in the end, I would go back to BCR just for the camping alone.

We had been there about an hour when I decided to give the 7 mile loop a go. Navigation was fairly easy, just keep the pink markers on your left. After about 10 minutes I caught up with a group of 7 or so riders and decided to wait back for a few minutes so I would not be stuck behind them. The next portion of trail consisted of scores of bermy switchback. The sandy loam that is prevalent in the piny areas of Texas kept me honest enough as there were a few occasions where my back-end slid a bit. After another 5 minutes of riding I came across the same group of riders and decided I would attempt to overtake them. One by one they moved aside and let me by. By the time I got to the front I noticed that two of their stronger riders we giving me a chase. I went all out for about 10 minutes or so in a point of increasing our separation. In all honesty I was a little nervous of possibly gassing out midway through the ride since I did not know what to expect. Eventually I could no longer see or hear them behind me. I came up on “Gas Pass” and locked what remained of my rear brake. The back end of the trail was very fun and included quick ascents and descents. In hindsight it was significantly more demanding than I anticipated. On two occasions I came off my bike during climbs, one of which I never successfully made it up. Around 48 minutes later I arrived at our campsite thrilled but exhausted. The back end of the trail has several table top jumps but I simply did not carry enough momentum as I approached them to clear any of them. I was a bit bummed that I could not take my phone with me to capture the ride via SportyPal since it was practically dead (dad’s truck did not have a charger). I opted to take it on my final ride instead.

After resting for a while I showed my dad around the back portion of the trail. He was game for taking pictures as I attempted again and again in vain to clear the tabletops. For some reason I was feeling a bit sheepish and for the most part was not even lifting up on the bike. It was starting to get dark so we went back to the campsite and set everything up. As some point of time I spoke with the owner about the work he had done on the trails and about the level of riders that race out there. The prior week he had 539 contestants ranging form beginners to experts riding the course. I asked him about the times in order to get figure out where I would fit in. He informed me that some of the faster pros could finished the 7.5 miles in little under 30 minutes. The intermediate class usually finished in the high 30’s and low 40’s. The beginners anywhere in the 40’s or 50’s. I had pretty much peddled my ass of the first round and I am almost positive I finished around 42 minutes, putting me at the back of the intermediate pack at best. I instantly had motivation for the ride the following morning.

I had one of the best nights of sleep I have ever had camping. The temperature was nice and the sound of the wind sweeping through the pine trees put me right to sleep. When I awoke in the morning I felt refreshed and ready to go. We starting packing everything up and I used the opportunity to stretch and warm up while listening to my Ipod. I decided it was time to head out around 10AM, and for the first time ever opted to take my music with me. I was a bit more reserved toward the beginning of the trail this time around. I did not want to burn out toward the end like I did the first ride. I also opted to hike-a-bike 3 portions in an attempt to sacrifice a little time for energy down the road. Midway through the ride I came up on a legit 6-foot-horned longhorn. Thankfully I scared him as much as he scared me. As I peddled away he actually contemplated rushing or bluffing. That was an interesting situation I tell you.

I had a little bit more energy toward the end of the loop than I did the previous day. I fumbled with my riding gloves in order to turn off SportyPal (all the while losing another 30 seconds). In hind site I should have attempted to climb every ascent sans the carpeted one which I cannot honestly see making it up on my Cake. My final ride result are here. I finally found some of the limitations to my Android GPS capabilities. Since many of the switchbacks were tight and practically overlapping, the final SportyPal distance read about 6.5 miles, instead of the actual 7.5 I will take the owners word on that one 99.99% of the time. After all he lives there and built and has ridden the course for the last 20 years or so. This also lowered my average speed. I noticed I was above 10mph the majority of the ride, yet finished in the mid 8’s.

BCR has to be one of my all-time favorite rides. It doesn’t zap you so much that you swear off riding all together for weeks as is the case with Mt. Laguna and Flat Rock Ranch. I could have ridden it 3-4 times comfortably in the day I was there. The speed of the course is a welcome change from the rock garden friendly, hill country rides. I really want to ride every trail worth riding within a couple of hours of my house, but BCR is going to make that hard. I have already vowed to take Alan there the first week of April, Pickle sometime in the Spring, and Laura any time we can. In all honesty I cannot think of many things I would improve except for a couple of teeter totters in place of cattle guards. I talked my father into swinging by Rocky Hill Ranch on the way home, so I would know where it was and what it was all about. The riders there looked very competitive, and I now understand how so many people bitch about “Fat Chuck’s Demise”. The hills out there are much larger than I expected. Maybe that will be my next destination. Who knows?

Below are my GPS exports:
Bluff Creek Ranch .kmz
Bluff Creek Ranch .gpx

Check out the gallery also.

AfghaniStan Diego

Chapter4; Koyaanisqatsi ([kɔɪɑːnɪskɑːtsi]), – Crazy life, life in turmoil, life out of balance, life disintegrating, a state of life that calls for another way of living

In a matter of a few seconds, the weight that had rested on my shoulders for over a week was lifted. I was HOME. HOME was where my heart was. HOME was a place where I was in control of my levels of misery and happiness. HOME was my visual reminder of why I spent so much time away from HOME. In all of the chaos and anger, I had forgotten the three persons that suffered through every setback I suffered through as they anxiously awaited my arrival. I had lived in an earth/moon/universe revolves around me world for days. It was healthy and comforting to step back a bit, and to decentralize the universe from my existence.

Inside my HOME, I was reunited with my wife and two children. Doogel was extremely happy to see me. We had been best friends for 5 years, and our separation was tearing both of us up mentally. Chunkster was her typical reserved self, sneaking in a smile or a word or two every now and then. I spent 30 minutes reacquainting myself with my creations before unpacking and straightening up the office. My parents would be arriving in a matter of minutes and I needed to sort everything out to optimize our 5 days together.

Shortly later my mother and father were at my HOME. I was excited to have them both there and had already begun my mental planning of all the places I would take them and of everything I would show them. One thing that had grabbed my attention was the ridiculous amount of snow I saw up in the mountains as our plane approached San Diego. My dad grew up in a cold environment and might, to this day, like snow and cold weather even more than I do. I pulled him aside and told him that we were about 45 minutes away from a ton of snow, and asked if he thought my mom would want to go see some. My mother dislikes cold weather more than my father likes it. I remember inviting her to come visit us when we lived up near Chicago. It seemed that there was nothing I could say or do to persuade her to come up see us. Chicago was simply “too cold” for her. Still, I must have underestimated her love of her grandchildren as she seemed more than happy to accompany us up the mountain to celebrate our own little “southern tourist” version of the Christmas holidays. We agreed to set out early the next morning.

The trip was entertaining to say the least. First and foremost was the fact that our TOASTER-ON-WHEELS did not have enough room for four adults and two children. We discussed the alternatives and decided for whatever reason that my father (not a small man) would ride in the back of the car (where we typically throw our groceries). I suppose he didn’t care how we got there as long as he got to see snow. We stopped and picked up some fast food on our way out. Jade was extremely excited to go see the snow. I kept thinking about her reaction to “nose” in Chicago. She simply loved it. She would stay outside playing in it despite the ridiculous temperatures (-34 F windchill really???).

The trip took about an hour. As we made our way up Sunrise Highway the Junipers and other conifers began to accumulate snow. We stopped on several occasions to take pictures. At the top of Mt. Laguna, there was no less than 20 inches of snow on the ground. The locals reported totals up to 36 inches on or around the mountain. Several Parked Cars lined the roadway as their owners went sledding or skiing. We pulled over and jumped out of the car. Conditions could not have been better. The temperature had to be in the low 40’s. I grabbed Jade and began walking out toward an opening in the field. It was at that point that I realized exactly how deep the snow was. Jade’s lower half disappeared. I turned around just in time to see my mother sink down into the snow with a surprised look. Laura, Chunk, and my father followed. Chunk seemed intrigued by the snow however she was a little less than excited about it when she fell down. Her gloves kept coming off and she seemed to be very afraid of the mystical, cold sheet of white that she had never really seen before. We spent an hour or so playing and hiking around before deciding to get back in the car and drive around a bit.

We had watched several kids sledding down the slopes and I regretted that I again, forgot to buy Doogel a sled. I figured that the one-stop on top of the mountain might still have some sleds. I decided to drive around for awhile to let every one soak in the views. My dad contently looked out the back window as we drove/slid through the snow. After stopping at a couple of scenic overlooks, we made our way to the little store to purchase snacks and a sled. As luck would have it they had both. We turned the car around and headed back to the popular slope areas.

As soon as I parked Doogel jumped out of the car to go sledding. I handed the camera to my mother as I helped the pickle trek through the deep snow towards the slopes. We watched a few kids fly down before hiking up to the top of the smaller of the two hills. I sat down on the sled and instructed her to sit down on my lap with her legs extended out. After we situated ourselves I let go and off we went. Now I need to be honest about something. Though I have been around a fair share of snow, I have, for whatever reason, never gone sledding. I was half amused and half amazed as we gathered speed and barreled down the little hill. It took all I had to hold Jade in place as we spun around, and hit bumps and even left the ground on a few occasions. By the time we reached the bottom, I was lying on my back and had enough snow inside my coat to make a small snowman, and Jade was laughing so hard she was nearly in tears. My mother seemed to get a thrill out of watching and filming her little girls sledding. The more we did it the better we got. Jade even went solo on a couple of rides, her 50 lb. body flying into the air after every hitting each and every bump. Laura and I made an attempt at a new land-speed record (suggested by Mr. Griswald) but ended up wiping out entirely halfway down. I don’t exactly recall what went wrong. What I do know is that she, the sled, and I all decided to go our separate ways. Of all of us, I do not think anyone laughed as hard as the Chunkster. She laughed non-stop each and every time she bounced down the hill. I personally got a real thrill out of sledding with her.

Time flew and the next thing I knew it was time for dinner. Again we drove around for a while, and eventually made our way over to the little town of Julian. I wanted to show it to my dad since I had taken my mother out there a couple of years earlier. We strolled around, pausing to check out each store and eatery. It was getting dark and we were all very hungry. We hopped back in the car, crammed my father in the back again with the sled, and drove off to grab dinner at a little diner I used to frequent after mountain biking. It was very late when we arrived back HOME. All of us were spent, and I felt the full effect of a 12 hour jetlag.

The following days with my parents followed suit. Each day we would set out to do something, and would arrive back HOME shortly after dinner, and I would pass out prematurely due to the effects of jetlag. We shared a special Christmas together. My dad got nearly every part of San Diego my mom saw two years earlier. We shopped, ate out, and played video games together. Both of my children loved having them around. The 5 days we spent together flew by. Before I knew it I was driving them to San Diego International to board their plane.

The remainder of my vacation in the states was equally enjoyable. It was nice to have time alone with Ra, and with each of my kids. I enjoyed taking Doogel and Chunk out to the playground. I learned that Chunk was the polar opposite of her sister in that she was afraid of heights and falling. At an early age, Jade was a fearless daredevil. She would often do flips off of the couch and she would climb on anything she could and jump off. She was so reckless that I dreaded the day when I would have to rush her to the hospital. Logan on the other hand was calculating and very reserved. I observed and appreciated the difference between the two. Away it was easy to categorize Logan as a cookie-cutout, replica of Jade. In my time with them I began to learn of all the little nuances that made my Chunkster special and different. It was like having your firstborn all over again. In the days to come I would develop a special appreciation of her and a bond I thought I could only share with my BFF, Jade.

Laura and I indulged in all the fast food and beer we could get our hands on. We played guitar hero until we actually thought we could play guitar … (This happens after about 614 hours of playing). We shared our own little Christmas as we had two years earlier. Here I was, the proverbial teenager, sharing Christmas with my own wife and kids. That statement may seem scary, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t see the 16 year old in me when I look in the mirror. I imagine that will come to pass someday. I know now, that I am smarter, more driven, and certainly, more responsible, but I believe my similarities to myself back then outweigh the differences. Perhaps this is something everyone experiences.

As the time began to run out on my wonderful little 15 day vacation things started to turn for the worse. The last couple of days HOME consisted of me running through the gauntlet of things I wanted to do or accomplish before leaving. This was the first of two, very humbling lessons I would learn during my vacation. As an organized, list-making guy, I was so concerned with accomplishing everything I set out to accomplish that I didn’t enjoy or appreciate the accomplishments as they happened since I was already thinking about the logistics of completing the next “Task”. For example, I promised Jade I would build us a tent downstairs for us to play video games in for an imaginary campout. Unfortunately I procrastinated that so long due to working on other important items, that by the time I erected the tent, Jade was practically already asleep. Our whole tent excursion simply consisted of me building it, and moving her half-asleep body to her side of the tent so she could finally good to bed for good. It wasn’t exactly how I planned it. I was stressing myself out, worrying about the things I wanted to do before I left. Perhaps I had the TERMINAL to blame. I was HOME with the ones I loved, and I felt remarkably distant from the word “relaxed”. Worse still, Jade began to realize that her time with Daddy was coming to an end. She began acting up, and putting the pacifier in her mouth. I spent the better part of the last two days disciplining her and ignoring her. To this day those memories break my heart. I mean that … they break my heart. At one point of time she sat up in her room coloring. I made my way upstairs past her room to do something in the office and she looked up at me with sad eyes and handed me her artwork. It was a picture of three stick-people with sad faces. Above the stick-family were random letters. I asked Jade what it said and she looked up at me with sad eyes and said, “It says I am sorry that I am a bad girl and I do not have any good ideas”. I had a hell of a time holding back tears. I was so self-absorbed with all the little errands I had to run before leaving that I forgot the reason I was running them. I picked her up and took her into the office. I sat her down, wiped the accumulating tears from my eyes, and began talking to her about her coloring. We made an art-book for me to take back with me. Outside I was comforting her and holding her, doing everything I could to let her know how special she was to me. Inside, the anger and pure hatred toward the Navy that had invaded me during my times at the TERMINAL was overwhelming me. After all, it wasn’t my fault that my children were hurting inside.

My time at HOME had come and gone in no time at all. Perhaps the TERMINAL had something to do with it. There, time had almost come to a complete stop. I remember looking at clocks mounted on the wall and thinking that they must have been needing batteries since they did not seem to move at all. At HOME, time wouldn’t even allow me the time to appreciate it. I took solace in the fact that I would be returning HOME again in a few months. I imagined setting right all the things that went wrong during my visit HOME.

As always the flight left San Diego international at balls-early-O’-clock in the morning. No one in their right mind was awake at that time. Paris Hilton had probably retired hours earlier. It was unnatural and cruel, because it robbed me of quality “evening time” with my wife….which was when we always played scrabble. I wanted to make the time pass so I forced myself to sleep the entire way. We landed in Atlanta and were herded around like cattle again. My connecting flight did not leave for 5 hours so I walked around to search for a spot where I could sleep. The floor was littered with depressed service members lying around or surfing the internet. I could tell they were all heading back to theatre. I again ignored everyone else and slept, or sat and did my own thing.

It would be a waste of time to take you through the details of my flight back. It was exactly the same as the flight HOME sans hope and happiness. Instead I wish to discuss the entire point of my narration of the events that took place during my Christmas leave. Surely you didn’t think that I would leave you hanging with no sense of perspective, completely lost and confused, and wondering what the point of all of it was (have you seen Remains of the Day?). Yeah it was miserable. Hopefully you got that. Yes, for all of those that have asked, I really did kind of lose my mind (As I read Persig…go friggin figure). None of that motivated me really to write about it. I didn’t need sympathy and in fact kind of dreaded telling the story as it would always leave me angry and unmotivated. The point of the story was the slap in the face that awaited me in Afghanistan. It was so obvious, and yet I had overlooked it all-together. I had always prided myself on being able to see multiple perspectives and on being as empathic as anyone. Yet here I was missing the big picture. I saw a single swirly brushstroke and the entire Starry Night.

I spent another couple of sweltering nights at the R&R tent I had lived at earlier on in my journey HOME. It was cold outside, and the mountains and plains were covered in snow, yet I still found myself sweating and hating life at night. On the third day I hitched a ride with a convoy heading to my base. Bagram lies about 1000 feet lower than Kabul. The entire trip we were climbing. I sat in the back of an up-armored vehicle starring off into the distance. About 15 minutes outside of Kabul we came upon a trash bag city. I have heard of tent cities, and have witnessed some of the eccentric habits of our HOME less in San Diego, but I have never seen an entire neighborhood using nothing but discarded plastic trash bags as shelter. Snow covered the ground and I found my eyes racing all over the place, identifying freezing kids, devoid of warm clothing, huddled under a plastic bags hung in leafless trees to block whatever snow was coming down. Their very essence and identity was centered on misery I will likely never understand. There it wasn’t about finding the time to play Halo with junior; it was about junior staying alive through another harsh winter. Only two days earlier I was bitching about sweating while I slept. How many children in the group of thousands I was starring at would pass away from the sub freezing temperatures in the same time span? As we drove along I caught the eye of a young boy on the side of the road, perhaps no older than 6. He was emaciated, shivering, and had a look of desperation as we drove by. He was hoping we would throw him something….anything. His image engraved itself in my head. I could not turn away. I lost sight of him about a half mile down the road. What a giant slap in the face all of this was.

The image of the freezing children and that homeless little boy jump started a self assessment mode that was long overdue. I began thinking about all the troops who had deployed and perished. I thought about them not coming HOME to their families at all. I wondered how many of them had perished in shortly before returning HOME for the holidays. It seems that things could have been horribly worse on both sides of the tracks. To think I had it worse than the Afghans I was sent over to protect was a selfish and childish thought that I will forever be remorseful of. I was also ashamed to have temporarily forgotten the pains and suffering of the families of my fallen brethren. For the remaining few months in theatre I thought of these things every time I wanted to denounce my fate or bad-mouth my luck.

When I arrived back to base I hopped out of the vehicle and drug my 3 bags and body armor clear across base. All said and done I was lugging a total of 200 pounds with me. The weather was very cold, and my rifle banged up against my knee on several occasions. The entire trip to my hut, as I sweated and grunted, and lost my breath from the 5,800 foot altitude, I never lost sight on the way things could be. The worst thing that had happened to me the entire day was being forced to drag my own shit across base to my warm, comfortable, room, to my second HOME. When I arrived, I threw my bags down and lay down in my bed, and starred at the ceiling. I had a lot to think about. In a moments time I fell asleep listening to the hum of our heater.

Afterword

It has been 4 months since the ordeal began. Things in the Navy still irritate the hell out of me. Don’t get me wrong there. Hell, as I am writing this sentence I am waiting to receive any information regarding my travels to go play volleyball for the All-Navy Volleyball Team; information that I was supposed to have received weeks ago. Now, 10 days before camp, I don’t have a ticket, location, dates, or anything else of value. Time with my kids has been better. There always will be several aspects of fatherhood that befuddle me, but my resourcefulness and access to Google make me a formidable foe to the unknown. I am sad to report that one of the Lt’s we trained with at Ft. Riley was shot a couple of days after I arrived HOME. She was scheduled to return HOME in a couple of months. Many other American and NATO soldiers were killed during my stay in Kabul.

My Afghan friends still awake daily in a country that has an uncertain future at best. Here we worry about a recession. There they worry about rockets landing in the living rooms of their HOMEs, and starving to death. I try to do my best to remind myself and others that we have it good here. Whenever I am angered to the point of tearing up, or when I have reached the end of my short fuse, I imagine the freezing child standing on the side of the road in the plains above Bagram. Yes, I am thankful for what I have, how could I not be.

AfghaniStan Diego

Chaper 1; Misery and the Death of All Things Good

I did not have the faintest clue what the future had in store for me as I loaded my bags into the Chinook. I had heard several stories of my fellow sailors spending a total of 6 days waiting and transferring from airport to airport in route their final leave destination. The itinerary included stops at Kabul International Airport, Bagram, Kuwait, Germany, Atlanta, and San Diego. I expected to encounter hiccups; hell my experience with military matters had at least taught me that. Still, looking back I wonder what I would have done, or how things would have changed if I knew then what I know now.

The trip started out ordinarily enough. The helicopter ride was uneventful with the exception being me losing one of my 80 dollar gloves while assisting others with unloading their luggage. I was a tad bit upset about that, but quickly decided I would attempt to find a replacement when I got back in Theatre. I sat around the TERMINAL for awhile waiting for a lift to the R&R tent without knowing that I would soon spend some of the most grueling days of my life there. The person in charge of the R&R tent swung by to pick me up. Halfway across base we drove past my LNO, and our driver took the opportunity to stop in the middle of the road to speak to him about getting me the requisite briefs for the next flight out. He responded that he will get back me later that night at the tent. Little did I know that was to begin the catastrophic snowball that was my leave transit.

I looked around for him the entire night but did not find him. Though I knew where he worked, I declined to pursue the issue further as I figured he would have notified me if there was anything he could have done to expedite things. I decide to take advantage of the time and threw my 200 pounds of gear on the only remaining bunk in the tent. Again, if only I had known.

Wednesday, 10 December

I could not sleep. I tossed and turned and swapped positions, but nothing I did seemed to provide me any escape from the blow-dryer like heat that had been assaulting me since midnight. I sat up, looked around, wondered through the tent, attempted again to sleep but eventually gave up the matter all-together sometime around 4 AM. I suppose I should describe the R&R tent to give a bit of perspective on my surroundings. It is almost like a miniature circus tent, and sleeps about 100 military members. In it are a theatre and a small internet usage station. As my unbelievable luck would have it I slept directly across from the world’s most roided-out heat machine; a 30 inch diameter blow dryer chucking out an unlimited supply of hot air to counter the tents lack of insulation. I reluctantly checked my watch to get the exact temperature. That first night it hit a sweltering 91 degrees. As the sun came up one of the tent admins walked in and turned it off as it had warmed (outside of my area) quite nicely. It was only then that I was able to sleep.

I awoke at 10:00 in the morning and began to inquire about the brief that I needed to attend in order in catch the earliest flight. As it turned out it had already been held at 8:00 that morning. Of course I was not informed of any of this whatsoever. I sat around wasting time and packing to pass the remains of my day.

Thursday, 11 December

I woke up on time despite suffering through another night that would make the average Haitian run to the nearest walk-in freezer. I threw on my uniform, and sat outside waiting for a ride to the briefing location. 8:00 rolled around and I was still alone. At 8:30 the situation was the same. Who was running this show anyhow? Why is the military so horrible at disseminating important information, yet so proficient and micromanaging things? Isn’t that a bit of an anomaly? I sat outside for hour thinking about seeing Laura and the kids. I went through every foreseeable possibility as I imagined how we would spend our first day together. I had barely noticed that the sun had taken what would become a symbolic second seat to the smog and clouds that filled the valley.

I eventually found the wizard who apologized and assured me that the next day I would have a ride to the brief. Better yet, I had company in another couple of sailors who would eventually share much of the same fate I endured. I decided to pass time by reading The Kite Runner.

Friday 12, December

It is the middle of the night and again I suffered as I did the previous nights. I am Bill Murray from “Groundhog’s Day”, sans sleep. I listened to “I got you babe” playing itself in my head on repeat mode. My bed was again soaking with sweat. Still at some point of time in the middle of the morning, my body gave in and I fell asleep. My alarm awoke me at 7:30 and I quickly threw on my clothes. I ran outside just in time to jump on the bus along with me three comrades. Ten minutes later we found ourselves at the gate of hell again; the PAX TERMINAL.

We wondered throughout the TERMINAL looking for any sign of life. It was eerily quiet. Eventually we found somebody who worked there and asked them where the R&R brief was being held. “There is no R&R brief on Friday” we were told. Once again, I felt entirely alone and uniformed. The whole process from there on out would be solely in my hands. There obviously wasn’t anybody on base who knew about or assisted with the transit process. Again, I made my way back to the tent. I finished The Kite Runner. I had nothing else to do but attempt to catch some early sleep before the heat plague of biblical proportions would once again set in.

Saturday, 13 December (When I was scheduled to be home)

Again, I could not sleep. Again sweat. I found in my stupor I would mutter loudly “what the fuck”, and “are you fucking kidding me”. Needless to say I was awake when it was time to catch the bus again to get to the brief. When we arrived at the TERMINAL the entire area was jammed-packed with wannabe leave candidates. We were all eventually ushered into a holding area where we were informed that there were only 90 seats available on that day’s flight to Kuwait, and that there were 140 of us there. I began to feel uneasy. They told everyone who had leave dates beginning after the 14th of December to leave, so those that were scheduled before them would have priority. I looked around and noticed very few people left. I overheard 3 young kids next me discussing their situation. “Mine starts on the 16th, when does your start?” one douche-bag muttered. “15th” the other replied. “Fuck it, let’s stay here and see if we can get on” said the head-douche.

In case my writing has betrayed me, and I have failed to properly communicate my mood at the time, I was bordering on a good old fashion Kramer shit-fit. Still, I decided to remain calm, and have faith in the system. About 30 minutes later the people running the show returned and informed us that they would be calling out social security numbers. If your social security number was called you were instructed to bring up your leave form. I heard several people liken the situation to the lottery, Battleship, etc. I sat back and took a deep breath as she began to yell out the last four of the first SS#. Midway through my number had still not been called. My head was aching from anger. 0756…..I fucking hate this place….. 5412….I swear to God I am going to lose control and frag this entire terminal……9739……how the fuck are they doing this to me …….9127……..the douch-bag in front of me who’s leave day started on the 16th jumps up high fives his friend and runs up……5623……his friend follows suite…….I am close to erupting……and on and on. She reached the end of the list, and my social was never called. The selected few were high-fiving each other and smiling. I sat visualizing how I would end the lives of everyone in the room. The ring leader stepped up once again and announced, “If your name was called you are not flying out today, as we show that your leave dates are not what you claim them to be”. Hells yes! I was loving life, the system actually worked. I smiled as I watched head-douche and his minion attempt to re-collect their leave forms to bypass the humility of explaining why they stayed when they were told to leave earlier based on their leave dates. Looking back, I think this single solitary upper, may have saved me from going Columbine on the base during the trying times that would follow. We were told to report back later in the afternoon for our flight. At this point I would be lying if I said I recalled what time our first flight was, but I do remember our call sign for the route,” Moose 76”.

I reported back on time and sat around waiting for information, instructions, anything pertaining to our flight. Eventually somebody came out and collected our identification cards. Afterwards we waited around for another hour or so waiting for information. Eventually somebody came out and informed us that the flight to Kuwait had been canceled. Apparently there were no contingency plans, or additional flights leaving to Kuwait for the remainder of the day. We were told to report back in the morning. This would be the catalyst for yet another Groundhog’s day routine of trying to sleep, reporting, waiting around all day, and being told my flight was canceled. By that time any optimism I may have had towards the situation had long since left my mind. As I walked outside attempting to resign myself to my newest fate, I noticed that the sun was entirely hidden by gloomy, winter looking stratus clouds.

Eat Fresh?

Subway in KabulI felt adventurous a couple of days ago and decided to try Kabul’s verison of Subway. To my surprise it tasted exactly the same as any other Subway I have eaten at. Now I should first explain that my lack of interest in Kabul’s versions of American fast food is not unwarrented. The Burger Kings, Pizza Huts, and Dairy Queens here do not even remotely taste familiar to the Burger Kings, Pizza Huts, and Dairy Queens I grew up eating. So the lesson learned: Subway has franchised their product in such a fashion that even remote establishements share the same product quality as those in mainstrain urban areas.

My Thoughts and Concerns With the War, Economy, and Election

I was recently asked by a beloved Aunt what I though about the elections back home, and about the two wars we are participating in. As usual I began typing something off the top of my head with every intention of emailing her a quick, yet direct response. About halfway through I began to get frustrated and started to do a little research in an attempt to support my opinions.

The beauty and curse of political citations is that the opponents typically undermine any references denouncing their beliefs as being fabricated through the use of imagination by their polar political opposites. That is, if you start regurgitating statistics that make the War in Iraq look unfavorable, conservatives will call into question the accuracy of the numbers and will typically bring to light that the research or funding was handled by Liberals. The same holds true on the other end of the spectrum. When liberals call for Health Care or Education Reforms conservatives quickly bring to light there perceived financial or planning flaws. In turn Liberals denounce those claims as being weighed by political agendas. This is one of our quirky ways of life, and in a way identifies us as a country as much as any other single trait. It really cannot be too surprising with such a diverse melting pot of people living within the confines of our borders.

I suppose the most valuable asset I can offer is the insight gained by being in theatre. Many armchair critics are quick to make claims one way or another without ever even researching things much less visiting the area in question. I have done research. I can and will utilize statistics, analysis, and profound thinking by all walks of life. It will not matter though. Odds are you already have had your mind made up for you.

Continue reading ‘My Thoughts and Concerns With the War, Economy, and Election’

All Hail Dell Tech Support!

So I just finished chatting with a Dell Tech Support Agent. The conversation went south very quickly. The whole thing was too humorous not to post. Apparently Dell is scared shitless of messing with an system that has ever even heard of the word Linux.
Our exchange is illustrated below:
Continue reading ‘All Hail Dell Tech Support!’

A new mindest

Most of you know I am in Kansas now training for my deployment to Afghanistan. Thus far we have spent the majority of our time learning about culture and the languages used over in Afghanistan. The tactical insight demonstrated in our training changed my mind about the Army and the thought process of our military as a whole. I heard things I never thought I would hear, and though there is certainly the possibility that is is all too late, I feel confident that we at least now know how best to conduct operations over in the middle east. In a nut shell we now openly admit several things;

  1. Our tactics in both wars were horribly flawed and needed drastic revision.
  2. Though we have ousted both insurgent governments we are still technically losing the war.
  3. We presently foresee the necessity of maintaining a presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan until 2013 and likely longer.
  4. What we are doing in Afghanistan is good, that is the intentions are worth the fight. However it will take a ridiculous amount of commitment from both the Afghani citizens and ours to suffer through the long process of rebuilding a country.
  5. Bush and his military advisers as a whole are completely moronic and continue to damage the campaign to this day.
  6. General Petraeus knows his stuff.

The majority of the training hammered home the idea that our priority over in Afghanistan is not to gun down Taliban and other insurgent groups, but to build rapport with local tribes and to assist in developing the security of the country by advising the ANA and ANP. Through this, the ANA and ANP will be able to police their own countries utilizing proven tactics, and eventually we will be able to pull out of the country. Since the ANA and ANP are allies with the US and essentially UN projects it is important to put an Afghani face on and policing or security issues that take place. This helps reinforce the ideal that the Afghani’s are in fact progressing and are responsible for providing security.

This new approach completely surprised me. Gone are the days when we strap on our weapons before gathering the necessary intel and accessing our goals and methods of achieving them. I could only think if this had been done to begin with we would already be much more successful than we are presently. That being said we are making a difference. I can assure you that. Unfortunately for us (UN Troops) that means we must interact with the Afghani people consistently without weapons and armor since it is important to be seen as peace-keepers and not the aggressors we had originally been thought as. This necessary tactic puts us in more danger than we would have been in the “fire at anything that moves campaign”. That being said the danger is worth it. The Afghani people are a beautiful and cultured people with a uniqueness and history unlike any culture I have ever experienced or read about. My only goal for my augmentation is to associate a positive face with America to at least a handful of Afghani’s.

I have created a gallery for training so you guys can check out our picks located here. There are several in there of our training including our interaction with real Afghani nationals and of course our humvees. I have been laying low here, and thus far my only real job is a humvee driver. They are not as fun as one would think. They are gas guzzling pieces of shit that are responsible for about 60% of combat deaths in Afghanistan! Apparently it is much safer over there to travel by foot or even by four wheeler, than it is to utilize even an armored humvee.

The language and culture classes have been amazing. I have met many native Afghani’s including a Dari translator that looks exactly like my dad, exactly. Kind of scary actually. Check out the image here. While I am on the subject of the gallery I want to mention/explain the pictures of our chief . I decided early on in training that he looked a lot like a built Flavor Flav, so that is why that picture is in there (thanks Alan for bringing my idea to life). After that he began to give me a bunch of shit about being from Texas, so naturally we made him a cowboy and hung his invitation throughout the barracks. Typical boredom shit.

For those of you that are interested in the crazy balancing act that is the War in Afghanistan, check out my video gallery here There are many very educational and informative videos. This war has changed a great deal and I think the most upsetting thing to me and I would imagine to other troops is that it has almost been forgotten, pushed back into the shadows during the time of the great crises in Iraq.

Update: I am still trying to figure out why embedvideo is taking a dump on me thus not allowing me to post my Afghanistan videos to my site. They are however posted on Google Video and can be seen by clicking the below links:
Counter Insurgency Tactics
Taliban PR Tactics
Democracy And Elections In Afghanistan
Bin Laden Video
Taliban Dynamics
FOB Life

I will fix the problem and post more images/videos later. For those of you who are really interested, I recommend watching the movie the Kite Runner.




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