Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mr. Charlie Daniels and me!!! He is a great American, and I love him. He gave us an amazing show here Tuesday night. More on that later...
Sawin' on a fiddle and playin' it hot.
READ SOON TO FIND OUT THE STORIES BEHIND THESE PHOTOS!!! (You'll have to wait, because I am very sleeeeeeepy.)
Only in Iraq: Brown skies and raining mud.

Dark and stormy clouds. I thought the rainy season was over, but it isn't. Still storming around here. I wish I hadn't sent my rain jacket home...

So, you're saying my clothes have been to prison...

I ordered some polo shirts from JCrew, and it was taking ages for them to arrive. I was worried something had happened to them, and then they arrived with a clue as to the problem. It seems they had been incorrectly routed to Abu Ghraib. My shirts have been to prison!


Monday, April 10, 2006

Me, on tactical day.

Rats! Rats! Big freaky rats, with "tails" THIS LONG! (a paraphrase)

I barely slept a wink last night.

Lately, I have been having a lot of trouble falling asleep in the evening, and I'm not sure why. I get sleepy during the day, and I am usually sleepy at bedtime, but when it is time to put my head down, I just can't seem to fall asleep.

One of the problems in recent nights has been the termites. In our tent, we have these enormous bugs that look like big, black, evil ants with wings. They are multiplying in number, and they are intimidating as can be. We figure they must be termites, so I guess they don't bite, but they have an abdomen and lots of creepy legs, so I am afraid of them. One was crawling on my arm last night, and another perched itself in the middle of my computer screen while I was typing, so I kept thinking I had bugs crawling all over me while I was trying to fall asleep.

A bigger problem is the extreme dryness of the air. When I'm laying there, breathing, the air coming in through my nose is so dry that it sort of squelches the back of my throat. It's not pain that I feel, but it's, like, irritating and dry. It's hard to describe, but I bet you know what I'm talking about. Well, to overcome this problem, I have to put my covers in front of my mouth so my own breathing creates a sort of humidifier effect. That works for a while, but only if I fall asleep right away. If it doesn't work immediately, I end up feeling like I can't breathe (I HATE having something in front of my face, because I don't like the warmth, and that's why it can be hard for me to sleep in a sleeping bag when it is freezing cold outside, for example). So I have to move the covers to breathe the cool air again, and my throat gets dry, and it is a never-ending and vicious circle. It's infuriating, and I end up all groggy when I wake up.

Well, last night was no exception. I tossed and turned until maybe 0100 or 0200, when the Vick's 44 finally kicked in (I have a cough/stuffy nose, which is likely brought on by allergies). Well, I was sound asleep when a blinding light jolted me out of a dream at about 0430. Since I had accidentally left my cell phone/alarm clock in the office, I was relying on a crappy clock that I pulled out of storage for the night, and it still had pre-daylight saving time on it, leading me to believe it was only 0330. What in the WORLD would somebody be doing getting up at this insane hour!? It was one of my eight young roommates, an nice Air Force staff sergeant named Nicole. She always puts the light on for a few minutes, and it always wakes me up, but then she extinguishes it and I fall asleep. Thinking this was a normal, albeit earlier, morning for her, I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. BUT THE AIR WAS SO DRY!!!

I tossed and turned, and just as I was drifting off, the lights went on again. This time, I could hear three excited voices. In my half-sleep, I thought I heard Nicole say something like, "I'm UA. I just walked out. I'm packing my stuff, and I'm going home." Ohmigosh. Crisis. I rolled over, groggy, and saw her flip off the light and walk out of the tent.

"What's wrong?" I whispered to Donna, next to me. "There's a rat in the tent. Nicole saw it dragging a Power Bar out."

Wheels turning in my brain...slowly grinding...fuzzy picture becoming clearer...

"Oh, for crying out loud," I said, rolling over and covering my head with my pillow, reinserting my foamy earplug. For the love of God, I just wanted sleeeeeep.......

0500. The light goes on again, more voices, lots of shuffling. Our youngest roommate, Katie, the cutest little 20-year-old Army sergeant you've ever seen (or you've never seen), is up now, looking around frantically with her flashlight. All three girls are up. The rat is back. I look at my clock, see that is says 0400, and decide I should defer to my wristwatch. Just as I suspected. The clock was wrong, and it was 0500, and I had three more hours to try to sleep. I took a trip to the toilets and back, and they were still hunting for rodents.

I put my head down, closed my eyes, and suddenly I heard scratching below my head. Something was under my bed!!! EEEEEK! I don't mind mice, or even small rats, but this didn't sound small, and I don't want ANYTHING crawling near my head! I shined my light around, but I couldn't see a thing. I put my head down again, and, scritch, scrinkle, claw, shuffle, shuffle, SOMETHING IS RIGHT BY MY FREAKIN' HEAD! And it's not afraid! I was bolt upright in bed, fumbling for my light and afraid to turn it on, certain that it would shine into the slobbering face of a Hollywood special effects-like R-O-U-S (rodent of unusual size). (The Princes Bride. The Fire Swamp. Am I more afraid of the rat, or the midget inside of the rat costume? Anyway, back to the story.) For the life of me, I could not find that rat, but I knew it was there, somewhere, lurking.

Several of the girls have food in the tent, which is the only reason a rat would ever dare enter, so I mentioned that everybody needs to get rid of any food they have. I knew that all I had was a bag of almonds (gotta bring that to work in the morning) and a square or two of chocolate, which was somewhere on my nightstand. I turned on my flashlight so I could put the almonds and the chocolate where I wouldn't forget them in the morning. Almonds, check. Chocolate, not so check. Where was it?! I know it was there before bed, because I remember remarking that it had melted when the A/C broke earlier in the day. But where was it now?! I searched the floor and under my bed. It was nowhere to be found. Oh. My. Gosh. The rat must have crawled onto my nightstand and made off with my chocolate bar. And if he had climbed onto the nightstand, he had probably crawled onto my bed, and possibly even ON MY HEAD! Oh, the HORROR!!!

I tried to put the rat out of my mind, as I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep. Suddenly, I felt something run down my left side, around my feet, and back up my right side. The rat was doing laps on top of me, on my quilt! Or was he? I tried to scream. I tried to launch the rat through the air. I tried to tell the girl next to me that I had found the rat. But I couldn't move, or yell, or scream, or even lift my head or a hand. I was in that magical state between dreaming and awake, and I couldn't do a thing. The part of me that was dreaming was trying desperately to get away from the giant rat, and the part of me that was awake couldn't move at all under the weight of a sleeping Nancy. I was trapped, and I didn't know what was real. This went on for the rest of the night, in between other vivid, rat-related dreams.

During one part of my dream, I caught the rat, and he was white with black spots, like cookies and cream ice cream. But he could squeeze through the tiniest of cracks, and he got away. I looked for him under my bed and found, instead, a cream-colored mouse. The girls yelled at me to hit it with my shoe, but I protested that I didn't want to squish it. They insisted, and I gave it a whack, splitting it's little mouse skull open. A blister began to form on the wound, and they screamed at me to get it out of the tent before it bled on anything. When I got outside, the tent was suddenly some sort of a rustic Chinese restaurant/cabin, and there was a Chinese fountain on the porch. I put the mouse in the fountain, and his skin and flesh melted off of his bones. Eeew. Creepy. What in the world was happening? It was a clean skeleton, and I could see red tissue through it's thin, transparent skull bones. And then--could it be? It squeaked! It started squeaking and moving slightly, and then it was fully animated. The mouse skeleton was alive, evil, and looking to kill its, um, killer. It wanted my blood. Someone, I don't know who it was, but it was a boy, grabbed the skeleton with some pinchers and carted it off, and I spent the rest of my weird night trying to escape rats and dead mice and a catatonic zombie state. It was awful.

When my alarm woke me at 0800, I was barely able to get up. When I did, though, I was ever so happy to see that the tent hadn't been turned inside out, there was no sign of blood or dead rats, and everything seemed to be back to normal.

We're required to have our kevlars and flak jackets at work today, so I had to dig mine out from between my bed and the tent, at the head of my bed. Guess what I found under my duffle bag?

My chocolate bar. With tiny little teeth marks and a hole gnawed through one corner...

The rodent of unusual size creeping through our tent.

Friday, April 07, 2006

We got a mass email today that made me chuckle. Apparently, the gym here is getting a portable "defoliator." I was shocked at first, wondering who in his right mind would want to have his dead, dry skin removed right their in the gym, in front of everybody. Then I realized that such a device would have been referred to as an "exfoliater", if that were even a word, and I was temporarily relieved. Then I was suddenly afraid that a "defoliator" must be something that rips your hair out at the follicles...ohmigosh! Finally, Babs figured out that to "defoliate" must mean to remove the foliage from, or, in other words, to deprive a plant of its leaves. Well! Fantastic! That portable defoliator is a welcome relief, for it should help with the leafy overgrowth problem from which we are all apparently suffering. I haven't noticed an abundance of leaves at the gym, but I've been doing my workouts outdoors all week. Frankly, I am afraid to go to the gym now, because I don't want the new defoliator to attack me. Even worse, I would hate to see someone have a heart attack and witness a first responder breaking out a leaf-eating bug (or maybe even a pair of hedge clippers!?) to try to resuscitate the patient! Talk about a lawsuit!
Of course, I had to reply to the guy who sent the email with a smart-aleck remark. I messed with him about the defoliator and his misspelling of "Charlie Daniels." As it turns out, I am not the only one to pick up on the defoliator thing. When the chaplain made fun of him, he sent back a reply about how he hadn't "speel checked it." I guess he's taking a lot of flak for his inadvertent substitution of defoliator for defibrillator, but I think everybody learned something today.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

My little camera did a poor job of capturing the wind and whitecaps, but here's a shot, anyway.

WOW! It is WINDY outside! It started out as a regular day, but by the time I finished my workout after lunch, the sky was dark and stormy. Sprinkles were falling as I made my way back to the palace from the tents. All the intolerable mud from last week's rain is just now drying up, so it's about par for the course that Iraq's weather gods would decide to dump on us again. I'd much rather it be sandy and dusty than muddy. This evening, though, New Girl and I went out to the balcony to check out the weather, and the skies had brightened up a bit. Oh, but how the winds had kicked up! One gust just about sent us both plummeting over the balcony's edge! The whitecaps had kicked up on the lake making the water resemble the ocean. If I had a windsurfer here, I'd be cruising!
This is a bridge to the palace that we blew up on our way into town.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Too many fish in the sea!

Recently, we began anticipating the arrival of two more team mates, and we each became anxious about the lack of space in our cramped little cubicle of an office. Desperate, we combed the palace for more available space. The building manager offered me the little enclave that serves as the entryway to an non-operational elevator, and I jumped on it. We had it measured, and two companies gave me quotes for building a fourth wall (including a door) and a couple of desks. I had the electrician and the computer bubbas ready to install power and drops. I had even discarded the ridiculous quotes and found my own desk supplier. I figured out that three people could move in to the little space for less than $2000. Excited, I took the proposal to our client. For whatever reason, and I'm sure it was a good one, he said, "No." When I approached him again to see if he'd have a problem with it if we paid for it, he still said, "No." So, you see, I'm sure he has a good reason. He must, because he also said something about how I had better not dare ask him again.

Sooo...we are now up to full capacity for the first time since the contract begain, with New Girl bringing our strength to nine members. New Guy Chris and New Girl Barbara are very welcome additions to the team, and we are all very happy with our little work family. Everybody gets along swimmingly, and we are a great team. Heck, our Old New Guy, Shane, is even getting used to answering to the name his mama gave him, and he has forgiven the new New Guy for taking his old pet name.

We have gone to two shifts to alleviate some of the space problem, and we are praying for more space in the meantime. New Guy is on night shift now, but he is eager to come back to dayshift tomorrow. New Girl is busily getting her feet wet here on day shift, and things are looking good. I still want that little elevator office space, though...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Glass Apple

Below is the funniest Ebay ad I have ever read. My friend Erin sent it to me, and I have to post it here. I am actually tempted to buy it just because it is so well written that I suspect the author is either famous or soon to be famous, and his former apple of glass could become worth its weight in gold. Anyway, check this out:

There comes a time in every man's life when his dad takes him aside and gives him a glass apple.
At least, I'm assuming there is, because that's what my father did.

When your dad gives you a glass apple, you're left with many questions. Who makes glass apples? Where did my father come to possess a glass apple? Why is he giving me a glass apple?

The answers are Tiffany's, I Don't Know and I Really Don't Know, respectively.

There may be a tendency to think that the acquisition of a glass apple is one of life's milestones - much like graduation, marriage and the birth of a child. But upon further reflection it just appears that my father had a glass apple and didn't particularly want it around the house.

So he gave it to me, his first-born son.

As I've mentioned, it's a Tiffany's glass apple, made by Germans. Is that special? I don't know.

I've read a lot of books, but I've never gleaned from any of them just who has the best glass apples. I still don't know why they exist in the first place. They're hardly practical. Useless in salads, not a cost-effective way to brown-nose a teacher, and if one struck Newton on the head we'd have been short one smart guy and his theory of gravity.

Obviously it's unused, as far as glass apples go. It looks just like it did the day it was made, for whatever reason it was made.

For measurement purposes it's about the same size as a healthy, conventional apple. It comes in the very same Tiffany & Company box my father handed to me the day I joined the ranks of the glass-appled.

I've thought long and hard about holding on to this and making it an heirloom. I've tried to picture sitting down with my son in 30 years and handing him a glass apple. Perhaps I'd create a handover ceremony of sorts, with music and incense. I'd wear a tuxedo and present the glass apple on a velvet pillow. And he'd cry and thank me and promise to uphold whatever values a glass apple might represent. Then I'd climb a mountain and will myself to death.

But I can't do it. The glass apple has to go.

It would be my pleasure to sell you the aforementioned apple. No questions. No judgments. Just two consenting adults engaging in a perfectly legal transaction centered around see-through fruit.

Please, buy this glass apple.

And the Q&A are funny, too.

Q: are you sure you really want to sell it? you may end up missing it so!! I too, am the holder of the family glass apple! It has traveled many miles to many homes of mine and lived in the closet for many many years. Now in my new home near the beach it finally has a place of honor. What changed? My Father passed away in July and I moved in July and finally am all unpacked and it took having no parents left for me to find that apple a place out in the open!!!!! I was told that this apple was given to my Mom when she was a Nurse and a patient gave it to her to thank her for her kind care!! Thought you might appreciate my glass apple story. T

A: Your glass apple has a sweet story behind it. Mine was simply clutter. Hence the difference between heirloom apple and eBay apple.

Q: I don't have any money, but I do have a really great recording of Glass Onion, from the White Album. Actually it's straight off of the White Album, on a high quality cassette tape. Would you be interested in a trade?
A: Sweet. Can you throw in a cable that can connect my Walkman to iTunes?

A: Thank you for your kind words - which carry even more weight when accompanied with overbidding via PayPal.

Q: I am fine for glass apples but I am desperate for a pair of leather pants. Can you help me?
A: Nobody can help you if you're desperate for leather pants.

Q: Does this apple relate to Eris and Discordianism?
A: You'd have to ask the apple.

Q: I have the answer to your mystery quesion of 'Why is he giving me a glass apple?' I used to ask the same question of my mother, although not specifically with regard to glass fruit. My mother continually gives me little knick-knacks that no sane person needs. She then comes to my house and criticizes me for all the clutter, 80% of which is her knick-knacks, many stacked up still in their boxes. I eventually formed the theory that it's a game that some especially twisted parents play with their adult children. I think they're trying to get back at us for some egregious past behavior - such as being born.
A: So we're basically storage units, is what you're saying.

Q: Does this apple have any lineage or connection to a 'Snow White'?
A: That's best left up to conspiracy theorists or Wikipedia.

Q: You're hysterical!! I'm not going to bid, but thank you so much for your humor... my day started with a chuckle thanks to you! Good luck~!
A: Chuckle: $5. I take PayPal.

Q: As apples come from trees and, so I've heard, money grows on trees, are real apples or glass trees an acceptable form of currency?
A: Glass trees present portability issues that can't be addressed with conventional wallets. Anywhere they accept apples as currency probably has warlords, and as such is worth avoiding.

Q: Are you Christopher Walken?
A: No. But Walken reading this listing would be an awesome podcast. If only I knew him and how to make a podcast.

Q: Wouldn't a still life painting, of glass fruit, be better refered to as a window?
A: I'd have to know where you'd hang it before I could answer clearly.

Q: Might you not regret this sale if your father ends up giving you a glass fig or banana next?
A: Only if I were painting a still life.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

YUCK! I thought the rain was finished for the season! I was so confident in my hypothesis that I even shipped my rain coat home. Foolish me. It rained today, and now we are all muddy again. Thank goodness I still have my Wellies!