Saturday, December 17, 2005

It's snowing and I'm feeling restless....

...about trying to find a new gig that'll pay better and not make me feel that I'm just writing papers and not much else, not being in uniform all the time, being stuck in that mentality, and to see what's around the corner for next year.

I'm going back to see the folks in a few days, and I hope that it'll be a good trip. I've not seen my grandparents since Sept. I also haven't been calling them as much as I should, I think I felt a kind of burned out with all the nervous tension associated to my grandpa's illness and when the hurricane hit and they didn't get to evacuate. (But thank God, the hurricane barely even touched their area in Houston.)

Had a dream about my mother and her boyfriend last night. In my dream, they lived in this really small place and they weren't doing so well. For those of you who don't know, my mom and my dad split when I was 7 years old, and she (mom) re-appeared 2x in my life, once when I was in high school, and now by sporadic telphone calls, mostly from her to me and my sister.

I tend to keep or maintain a distance between me and her, not just the physical distance, but mental as well. I'm not mad at her for her not being there for most of my child and adulthood, but it has been hard for me to warm up to her also. Maybe in the back of my mind, I'd remember that she just about always left after a while, so why bother, right?

Yet something in me tells me that I should try to somehow take care of her as she is getting older. You know how you know there are things undone or someone might re-appear in your life if you start to have even semi-re-occuring dreams? I think dreaming about my mom is kind of like that.

Now onto something slightly different. There is this gal at work who's a few years older and has been a kind of social director at sort. A nice gal, don't get me wrong, but sometimes, I'd get tired from being around her. She is very controlling of herself and sometimes, that eminates onto others. The GF is facinated with her because she said that watching that gal is like watching a train wreck. What do I know, we all get on with our lives with the ways that we know best, even if others don't see it that way. I don't know how many people have taken a look at me and said to themselves that I should be more this or that.

I am borrowing a yello 02' GMC Sierra for two days, seeing whether or not it's a worthwhile purchase/trade it. I'm a big fan of trucks, it satisfied that slightly butch side of me. However, it's snowing tonight so we've decided to stay put and just enjoy the drifting snow, otherwise, we'd have taken to truck to get some dinners and snow boots (finding out that it's one of these essential items for winter life in the Midwest.)

I will write more as events unfolds. If I don't write again until after X'mas, I'd like to wish y'all a merry one and a great new year!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Kitty found a home!

Things sometimes have this amazing way of working itself out. In the case of the stray kitty that I found, it now finally has gotten a good home! For a while, I thought that I might have to "force it" onto my folks in Houston.

I had put up posters for the kitty, but no call called. In the meanwhile, the kitty has gotten more used to the apt., the other cats, and Ramen (who was behaving better but still kind of a dickhead.). The kitty's cold was also slowly getting better,the rest and the food that she had gotten certainly didn't hurt either.

There is a woman from our IT dept. who approached me about one of her friends wanting a kitten for her sons to have. She gave me her phone number and we arranged a meeting at my apt. today. I couldn't be there to meet her because we had a strange work schedule, so the GF met and talked to her and her kids. It seems like the kitty will be going to a good home. That lady even offered to pay me for the kitten, although tempting, it just wouldn't be right, you know?

So by the time I go home, the kitty would not be there anymore, and I'll be sad. At least she has found herself a good home.

I wished that all things worked out like that, at the right time, place and with the right people.

Now if me and the GF would have a bit of kitty luck, we'd be on our way!!!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Kitty update

Got the newfound kitten scanned for microchip, and just as I expected, there were no microchips in her, id'ing her to a owner.

As for her cold, the post vet wouldn't treat her because she's a stray. However, the vet told me that, most often, if the kitten is still eating and drinking normally, then one should let the cold run its course....kinda of like human colds.

It's getting colder and colder, a sure sign that winter is here.

The dog is still going nuts about the kitten, whenever she's out running around, he'd make a point to chase her and I guess that's his way of playing with her. She's a sharp little thing (I've already gotten about 5 visible scratches on my hands)but I don't think she has clawed Ramen just yet.

The latest: My dog was caught trying to hump the kitten!!??!!??!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


This is the kitten that I found hiding under my car this morning, she's about 6 months old, not afraid of dog(s), has a bit of a cold and is looking for her human! I'm going to see if she's tagged tomorrow, but if not, and if anyone's interested, please send me an e-mail and I can see about linking you two up!

Monday, November 28, 2005

On the last day/night of thanksgiving break

The GF and I were talking about $ the other morning and it seems like we'll be pretty low until we both get paid again. Thank God that we are not "broke" yet, we still have our savings and worse comes to worst, I can always sign my happy ass for another 6 years of active duty service, to which I've heard that the sign-up bonus is something like 15 G's.

Most of the time, I just wish that neither of us will have to worry about $ matters. Not to worry about bills, you know. I know that's the dream of a lot of people. At least we are alive and healthy,plus our immediate families are all around and well. The in-law's and nephew were here with us for two days, and I'll have some photos up later, there are nothing like a cute 4 year old boy snuggling up to you and telling you that you're his best bud!

The dog could have looked a bit more excited with the nephew being there, but maybe he's getting a hint of the winter blues.

Thanksgiving at my friends' house was great! We were there from 4 in the afternoon to two the next morning! Chowing and chatting about everything under the sun. I really enjoyed that sort of social interaction, and maybe one day we'll get lucky and have more people to enjoy that kind of social interaction with. No heavy drinking, good foods, and exchange of conversations.

I am excited for the GF as she gets ready to take her phlebotomy classes and see if she likes this new endeavour. I hope she'll like it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Later this afternoon, a whole bunch of us who are in uniform and working for this particular place will be summoned to this sort of "come to Jesus" meeting, where they folks in charge of this place will tell us whether or not they've got enough $ to keep us working.

Just from the hush-hush statements made by some of the folks here, the vibe that I'm getting is that it may be a hard road ahead for those of us who have gotten comfortable working here, and we may either have to tighten our belts a bit to make ends meet or to look for new gigs altogher.

A bit unsettling but if any of the above happens, I've got to say that I've had a good run and I've been more than lucky to have worked this gig.

Today the in-laws are coming, along with the cute nephew, and we are going to attempt to cook the holiday bird, so wish us luck!

Happy thanksgiving to all!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Thursday night

The GF is mad at me tonight and she's not talking to me, for plenty of good reasons, reasonable reasons. I went indoor biking after work, since it's pretty much the only thing that I can do as far as exercise is concerned. I got back late, not talking about midnight late, but about maybe one hour than I should have been home. She' usually home around close to 4, since she shows up for work around 6:30 AM. She'd like for me to goto work one hour early and get off one hour early, and so far, it has been really hard to do, I'd either get off of work later, or I'd get caught up with this indoor cycling thing. I'm not good at this sport, don't get me wrong, you should see how much more I suck at team sports! It's a meditative sort of thing, I don't know if I'm explaining it correctly.
I think the GF is getting the message that I don't really care much about time with her, and that's not true. What sucks even more is that I'm not having such a easy time showing her that it's not the case. Over dinner last night, she said that my experience in Iraq hasn't made me a more appreciative person, you know, kind of like more emotional, with more passion, and just basically living as if everyday is like my last day on earth. I told her that the "Thank God I'm alive" feeling comes and goes. Or just maybe I need to be in a more of a world of hurt to more fully appreciate life and all that's in it. I don't really know.
Whatever that has been slowing me down, making me dull, or not a better person, I'm "pedaling" it away somehow. (Starting by having a better control of my body and its movement.) It's probably not the best way to go, but for right now, it's a start.
I'm trying to talk more with the GF, and so far, I don't think she has been too happy with the results. I guess she thinks that I've got a lot to hide from her, I don't, but it does take effort to tell her some things sometimes without her getting irritated or vehemently disagreeing. There are a lot of things that make me feel the same way too, I guess I'm just not very good at explaining myself.
It must be hard for her, I know that it's hard for anyone who's all about communications to live with someone who's not doing so well at it...for 6 years and counting!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

It has been getting colder and colder in the last few days, bottoming out at mid-20's farenehit. I like the cold, don't get me wrong, but I like it even better when I'm prepared for it. Last night, I went out to walk the dog and even though I was bundled up, my fingers were still freezing in my gloves. Gloves are always hard to get right, you could have these thermonuclear devices in them and your fingers would still feel that drafty coldness!

The dog, on the other hand, loves it! He's built for winter conditions, lots of fur, and just the right amount of fat to protect himself.

The GF is in her last week of temp work, and is looking forward to taking off some time to enjoy the holidays and visits with the nephew. The nephew and the in-laws are coming up to see us next week and we'll have a mini-thanksgiving before we have a bigger one with some friends. I've never spent thanksgiving with friends before so I'm looking forward to that!

I just completed some required tests for this job that I'm trying to apply for in the Northeast and I've no idea how it's going to turn out...I hope it'll turn out well, there are a lot of toys and life neccessities that I can get if this propective job could work out.

We'll see though, you know the song lyric " can't always get what you want..."? I think it's to make people more grounded.

Friday, November 11, 2005

What is a vet?

What Is A Vet?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times over in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She -or he- is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another, or didn't come back AT ALL.

He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat, but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.

He is the parade-riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose Presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now and aggravatingly slow- who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say Thank You. That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded. Two little words that mean a lot, THANK YOU. Remember November 11th is Veterans Day!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I got to see my ovaries today!

I had left work early to see a "reproductive specialist" at KU Med. Center. We are hoping to spawn sometimes in the future, so one of the first steps to getting this done is to see the doctor who will facilitate the procedure that'll make me "with child".

The doctor was this chubby lady in her 50's, blond and kind of bubbly. She explained how the procedures are done, how many tries it can take for a person to get preggars, and the last thing to do was to look my reproductive system on a ultrasound, to make sure that everything is there.

The doctor had a rod-like instrument, to which she lubricated the tip with some ky jelly, and proceeded to insert about an inch into my private. Not trained to view the insides of the body with ultrasound, I thought my uterus looked like a rocky cavern (kind of helped that everything is in black and white), the doctor rotated the rod and searched for images of my ovaries, and they both looked robust and full of eggs...guess that means that I'm ripe for reproduction!

I've got to pick sperms, that's a dilemma in itself.

Make sure that we can bring the kid(s) safely into this world.

Be patient, resourceful, and try to be ready to protect the kid from the stigma of having two mommies.

Love the kid(s) and pray to God that he/she won't shoot you because you gave him/her a curfew.

The GF got into the phlebotemy program that she wanted to get into, and I'm really happy for her! I just hope that she won't use me too much to practice her newfound skills!

You know you've been in Iraq for too long when....

This was from Sgt. Lizzie's latest entry, and I must agree....

You Know you have been in Iraq too Long "When "

When mortars land near your compound and you roll over in bed and think "still way off, I got another 5 minutes"

* When you start humming with the Arabic song playing on the radio on the shuttle bus

* Every woman that reports to your unit starts looking attractive

* Every guy that reports to your unit starts looking attractive

* You walk an extra 6 blocks to eat at the KBR (contractor run) dining facility to have the exact same food they are serving in your dining facility because you think it tastes better

* You actually volunteer for convoy security duty because you still haven't seen the country yet

* You start picturing your wife in traditional Arab dress

* The contractors have more fire power than the military combat units. (This is true)

* You take the time to add your lines to this list

* You've spent $200 dollars at Haji mart on DVDs buying Basic Instinct, 9 and ½ weeks, and Body of Evidence just for the sex scenes

* You drink the water from the tap because you want to drop 20 pounds in two weeks

* Driving around in SUVs with weapons pointed out the windows and forcing cars off the road seems very normal to you

* You can put your body armor and helmet on in the dark in under 5 seconds

* When the organization you work for has changed its name more than 3 times

* When you can actually talk to people in the United States on a cell phone, yet you can't get people on their cell phone a block away

* When you actually spend more time writing e-mail about the dog in the compound versus how to conduct the fight in Najaf

* Your idea of a fun Thursday night is to go to the Palace pool to watch the State Department folks get drunk, naked and try to pick each other up

* When you actually get excited to get a package that contains 3 pair of socks, 12 bars of soap and a Victoria Secret Catalog

* When you start to enjoy the rocking of the trailer every time the MEDEVAC choppers fly over

* You memorized every episode from the 4th Season of Sex in the City

* You enjoy the audience commentary while watching a movie bought at Haji mart

* You see celebratory fire going over the compound at night and think, "wow the colors are so pretty" and want to fire back

* Your thinking of buying real estate in the green zone

* Your idea of sex is 20 minutes of Instant Messaging with your wife on the computer, OK, 10 minutes, who are you kidding?

* You wake up and think Baghdad, I am still in friggin Baghdad

* You make the new guy show you his count down timer just to make you feel better about your time you have left in country

* You're in the Army and you start saying Ooorah

* You're in the Marines and you start saying Hooah

* You're in the Navy and you realize you are in the middle of the desert, the exact opposite of being in the middle of the ocean, where one might normally find the Navy.

* You're in the Air Force, and you're on the plane home because an Air Force tour is too short to have been a long Iraq tour. Ignore this list, zoomie, you won't get it.

* You only notice the stench of Haji funk when its not there

* You plan on removing all trees and grass in your yard when you get home so it will look more natural

* You forget there are other colors than brown that can be found in places other than power point slides

* The temp drops down to 102 degrees and you shiver while reaching for your Gortex jacket

* You have noticed a change of season, from long, hot and dry to short, cold and wet.

* When you call home and your kids ask "Who is this?"

* You call home and your wife says hello Bill (your name is Sam)

* When you go on R&R, you duct tape your child to the roof of your car, hand him a pellet rifle, and assign him a sector of fire for the ride to "The Olive Garden."

* When you can comfortably shave and brush your teeth using bottled water, but don't mind showering in the "non-potable" local water.

* While on R&R, you look out the window and find Nature, which leads you to wonder who stole your sandbags.

* When some of the contractors wear their DCUs (Desert pattern camouflage uniform) more properly than some of your soldiers.

* When 12 hours is a short work day

* When, During the BUA, "DIV asked MNSTC-I for the FRAGO that MNC-I was supposed to publish, but couldn't because MNF-I hadn't weighed in, since they were too inundated with MOD and MOI war-gaming the JCCs
within the ISF to square us away!" is a valid comment and generates no questions.

* When you start using words like G'day mate, Cheers, and Bloody hell as part of your normal vocabulary

* When you have your opinions printed in the STARS and STRIPES more than 3 times

* When the palace catches fire and instead of helping to put it out you grab a bag of marshmallows and start roasting

* When you step into any office and there are 6 colonels, 12 lieutenant colonels, 15 majors, and 8 captains supervising the work of 1 sergeant

* When you end every phone conversation with "Out"

* When you're ordered to get an air mission together on short notice because it's a "Hot priority" only to have the Major call back once he is in the air to ask "Does anyone know where I am going?"

* When the weapon buyback program has become so successful that you have issued the same AK-47 to the Iraqi army 3 times

* When you can actually tell the difference between the sound of an exploding car and an exploding mortar

* When on R & R you tell your wife that your weapon status is Red and your looking for the clearing barrel

* When on R&R you go to Church and wonder why no one is wearing body armor or carrying an automatic weapon to the service

* You see an indirect fire attack take out a generator and get angry at the enemy for not hitting the one that powers your computer

* You see an indirect fire attack take out an air conditioner and your vigor to fight is renewed

* You yell at the FNG for shouting incoming when the rounds don't impact close enough to hit your tent with dirt

* You know that you need to run inside immediately after any win of an Iraqi sports team to keep from being hit by celebratory fire

* You decide for that for poops and grins - lets take a run around Lost Lake at Camp Victory to see if we can get shot at by the sniper

* You never worry about oversleeping because if the morning call to prayers doesn't wake you, the daily 0430 mortar attack will (most mornings)

* The highlight of your shopping experience at the PX is to see that they got in a new shipment of Schick Tracer razor blades

* When you send out your laundry and your whites become grayer, your blacks become grayer and your DCU's become grayer - makes it easier to sort loads...

* You get offended by people wearing clean, pressed DCU's

* You decide that it is a better course of action to pull your blankets over your head than put on your body armor during a mortar attack - the woobee will save you and at least you are comfortable

* You make a contest out of seeing who can wear their uniform for more days before becoming entirely disgusted with themselves

* You wonder if the fish served at dinner really was carp caught out of the Tigris or Camp Victory's lake

* You find it completely acceptable to pick your nose while talking to a complete stranger or member of the opposite sex

* A rocket or a mortar really isn't a big deal until the crater it leaves is big enough to trip over in the dark on the way to the latrine

* You go to a social gathering and intermittent gun fire or explosions don't even cause a pause in the conversation

Monday, November 07, 2005

For Hakim

إلى الحكيم :

أكتب فقط لإخبارك عن كمّ أخطأتك . هو كان بعض الشّيء أكثر من سنة واحدة منذ آخر مرّة قد قلنا إلى اللّقاء . لم أعتقد أبدًا أننيّ لن أرى أبدًا أو أسمع منك ثانية بعد أن عدت من الموصل

آمل أنّك الآن في الجنّة, حيث يسعى كلّ الرّجال الجيّدون بعد أن قد أبلغوا, مهمًّا كان مأساويّ و عنيف السيركومستا آمل أنّك الآن في الجنّة, حيث يسعى كلّ الرّجال الجيّدون بعد أن قد أبلغوا, مهمًّا كان مأساويّ و عنيف السيركومستا

آمل أنّك الآن في الجنّة, حيث يسعى كلّ الرّجال الجيّدون بعد أن قد أبلغوا, مهمًّا كان مأساويّ و عنيف السيركومستا

آمل أنّك الآن في الجنّة, حيث يسعى كلّ الرّجال الجيّدون بعد أن قد أبلغوا, مهمًّا كان مأساويّ و عنيف السيركومستا

آمل أنّك الآن في الجنّة, حيث يسعى كلّ الرّجال الجيّدون بعد أن قد أبلغوا, مهمًّا كان مأساويّ و عنيف السيركومستا


Saturday, November 05, 2005

My first bike race

For thoese of you who might not know, I like to ride my bicycles from time to time. I've got a purple road bike, and I've also got a hybrid, purchased for me by my GF, back a few years ago. I'd take the purple bike out on road rides, and I always ride with some people so that I wouldn't get lost.

There's a bike shop in downtown Leavenworth and the owners of the shop have been very nice to me, and they are true lovers of the sport of cycling. Many of his customers are the grad. students at the officer grad. school on post. These officers and very competitive and going on rides with them would always end with me finishing last. Not being competitive in nature, I didn't mind it, what I did mind was that most of the riders were sort of stand-offish, if you said hi to them, no gurantee that they'll even pay attention to you. So I stopped riding with them for a while.

Shift forward a few months, another class of army grad. students have started class, and the weather is also getting colder as fall approaches. I went back to the bike shop to say hello and get my bike tuned. (I've been riding around the military post from time to time, by myself, it's lonly, but I don't really have to deal with egos.)
The owner of the shop then planted the seed in my head that I should try to at first, ride 25 miles with another group of people (You could read about that in the previous entries), and then enter myself in a cyclecross race, since it'll be "fun" and "easy".

I dragged my GF and the dog after breakfast this morning, and we headed to the local high school. We got there and saw so many racers, all well equipped with their thousand dollars bikes and cycling attires. I've got my cut-off bdu shorts, long sleeve shirt and helmet. I hastly got registered, paid a small fee (the cycling federation has to find a way to make some $), and ran to get my bike to the starting line.

There were only two people in my catagory, the beginners, while the rest are experienced racers, and from what I've heard, they came from just about everywhere, not just Kansas and Missouri.

What did I do on the first downhill? I flipped over my handlebar and hit my head, knee, thigh, and ab on the grassy ground. The GF saw everything and wondered why didn't I just quit, I thought that might be too melodramatic, so I opted to stay in and finish the race, even though my bike was wrecked and I had to carry my bike or walk most of the course, taking the bike downhills and riding the flat part.

I thought that I was bledding from my head, since blood and sweat sort of tasted the same, of course, I didn't have time to care, there were a lot of panting and re-tasting of breakfast to do, aside from trying to finish the race.

I was done after 2 laps around the course, and at 23 minutes, there were pretty much no more time for me to do another lap (are you kidding?) I grabbed the free water and gatorade from the sponsor's cooler.

I did get a medal, not because I was fast, not because I had the most spectacular fall (there wasn't a catagory like that), but for the very fact that there were only two people in my catagory.

Still I was proud of my battle wounds, and gaining the knowledge of what a cyclocross race was like. (Like a cross-country bike race) Would I do it again? Maybe, eventually, and this time with my bike better tuned.


This is my lovely forehead.


My knee.


This is on my thigh.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

In the midst of preparing for the holidays, please don't forget those who are still out there....

Luck runs out in 'Triangle of Death'
Unit commanders shared great responsibility, greater worries
By Cal Perry

Monday, October 31, 2005; Posted: 10:03 p.m. EST (03:03 GMT)

Editor's note: CNN producer Cal Perry is embedded with the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, Forward Operating Base Falcon.

NORTHERN BABIL PROVINCE, Iraq (CNN) -- The two men were good friends at Forward Operating Base Falcon in Babil province, each commanding units at the base in what's called Iraq's "Triangle of Death."

Col. William Wood and Lt. Col. Ross Brown exchanged gifts recently, said Sgt. Kim Bradshaw.

He couldn't say what the gifts were, just the kind of things soldiers with great responsibility and even greater worries share on a battlefield.

That's why the events of October 27 hit so hard.

Northern Babil province is vast farmland divided by a series of canals with narrow roads running alongside.

The members of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment patrol in Bradley fighting vehicles and Humvees, wary of the roadside bombs that have taken so many lives in Iraq, including those of four members of the 3rd ACR who died when an explosion knocked a Bradley into a canal.

Those were just four of the 14 deaths suffered by the 3rd ACR in 45 days during the summer.

On October 27, Brown led a patrol of two Bradleys and one Humvee along Route "Tampa," a highway in the sense that it is wider than the paths that pose the biggest danger for roadside bombs. "Tampa" links Babil province to Baghdad.

As he prepared the patrol that day, Brown asked his soldiers what they carry out with them for protection -- not meaning the usual flack jackets, Kevlar helmets, M-16s and grenades -- but pieces of so-called "luck" from home.

Among the pieces brought out -- a Bible, a folded prayer, pictures of loved ones, the patron saint of soldiers and the ever-present "charm" candy found in MREs (meals ready to eat).

Three bombs had exploded along the route the day before.

Shops line only one side of the road. They are tiny and poor -- hastily made of splintered plywood and nails, the better ones with an overhang for shade, all with little or no business to speak of. The business plan seems to be the hope that traffic will back up so much that frustrated motorists will stop by for a drink or a snack.

The makeshift shops had closed before the previous day's explosions, an obvious sign to Brown that the shopkeepers knew the attacks were planned.

As he talked to each shopkeeper -- making his way methodically down the road -- it became obvious that he was not going to get any answers to help protect his soldiers from further violence. Each shopkeeper told Brown they weren't present the day of the explosions.

Brown knew better. Bradshaw was among the responders a day earlier, and he had seen the shops were closed.

Brown walked back and forth with the owners, threatening to shut down the shops, all the while continuing to catch the shopkeepers in similar and equally questionable statements. Finally, he walked away from the shops and spoke to Bradshaw.

"How can I make them fear me more than the insurgency?" the commander asked.

This question is at the center of the problems faced by the U.S. military every day across Iraq.

Bradshaw responded, "They're all lying -- and they're scared to death."

"Of course," Brown said. "And they know that -- unlike the insurgency -- we're not going to take them out into the street and shoot them. They know we're here temporarily, and they have to live with these people forever."

Getting back in the Bradleys to move out of the area, Brown said he didn't know if he was going to shut down the shops.

"I need to think about it some more," he said, shaking his head in near disgust as he climbed back into his Bradley.

Brown is a firm believer that his men are making a difference in Iraq, that they are true heroes. But he's not without his superstitions.

Later that day, after much prodding, he begrudgingly brought out his personal pieces of "luck" that protect him on missions -- two personal notes from his son and daughter. In a small plastic bag, the note from his daughter reads, "come home ASAP."

Moments after Brown shared these personal items, the bad news came across the radios.

Wood had been killed about a kilometer south of Brown's position. Wood -- a regular Army officer assigned to command the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment, a National Guard outfit from California -- was directing his men on a road that had been a bombing site moments earlier.

He was giving orders when his luck ran out. A secondary explosion killed him, blowing him backward into one of the canals.

At the time of his death, he did not know that he was about to be promoted -- from lieutenant colonel to colonel.

Wood was the highest-ranking U.S. officer to die in combat in Iraq

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The weekend

The first thing that I did on Sat. morning was to go on a 25 mile bike ride with the group of people that I used to go biking with. I dropped out of that group several months ago because I just wasn't enjoying the fact that many of them were amateur cyclists/triathletes who were riding as if they were mad at the world. I'd ended up getting dropped on rides, but the worst thing was that there were very few people who were friendly enough to even say hello back to you.

But I thought that I'd give it a try again to see if things were better, because with the change of class at the military grad. school (on the post where I work at), you've got a different set of people. As expected, I was way the heck in the back of the back, but there was this lady who was nice enough to make sure that I didn't just fall into the oblivion. When we can, we chatted about our backgrounds (she was a fmr. air force officer who married another office, got out of the military, and is now doing the housewife/mother/triathlete thing.) That made the ride a lot more bearable, with a few people dropping out of the ride early, I didn't feel like a loser at all.

I don't think everyone rides their bikes because they wanted to be the next Lance Armstrong, I just wanted to have a less painful way of exercise and to enjoy the scenery.

Later in the afternoon, the GF and I went to the rodeo/Terri Clark concert. I'm a fan of the rodeo, even oftentimes, I'm the only Asian there. This time though, the performances were dulled by the annoying voices of the announcers, or maybe I'm just getting old. The volume of the speakers were just a tad bit too loud. The highlight of the whole thing were probably the rodeo clown performance, and the little sheep riding kids, they were adorable!

Terri Clark went through her songs like that of a medly, and I felt like that she really had somewhere else better to be (the arena wasn't packed, some people left before the concernt even started.), and the GF and I got really tired so we left midway of the concert. (at the rate that she was going through the songs, the concert was probably near its end anyways.)

Now it's Sunday morning, and a lot colder today than it was yesterday, time to stay in the house and bundle up! I think we should buy a whole bunch of candies, even if there aren't going to be kids trick o' treating around here, and just eat them until we go into diabetic shock!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Went to dinner at one of the local chain restaurants with two friends from work. The two friends brought two guys from this conference that our workplace has been hosting. One of the guys is a physical therapist who is in a national guard unit in Arizona, doing intel. work, and another guy is a army intel. guy, living and working in San Antonio. The PT guy looked like a taller, thinner and older version of Chris Klein, and the other guy is a slightly chubby white guy who's just kinda pasty looking.

Not really having been in the conference, I had no clues about what went on, and sensing that was what they were talking about, the GF and I just sat and ate our food. I INHALED my food, maybe it was because the weather, I have been feeling hungry all the time and nothing could fill my stomach up.

My friends were just chatting along and laughing at these jokes that I didn't quite get, yet the topics never stayed away from military related matters. It goes with the territory, since most of the people at the table are military or have been. (Even the GF spent a few minutes herself in the naval reserves.)

It also could be from the fact that I didn't know much about the two guests from the conference, but all of a sudden I thought to myself, how boring, will all my friends from now on be from the military? I've been able to make friends at just about everywhere that I've been to, whether or not I was a private or a call center slave, but overall, my track record for making friends has been better in the military. I'm not talking about lifelong friends, that's a whole other blog altogether!

Maybe I'm being picky about people and I will suffer the consequences for it. I guess I miss having friends who are multi-dimensional and not talk about everything in military acronyms. By gosh, I can't even let them know that my GF is more than just a roommate!

I'm kind of worried too that the GF will say something to those military people that'll make them wonder just a little bit more about me than I'd like. I can't not include her in this part of my social life, but it must not feel too good for her either.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Middle by Jimmy Eat World

Sometimes, it sort of all comes down to this...

Hey, don't write yourself off yet
It's only in your head you feel left out or
looked down on.
Just try your best, try everything you can.
And don't you worry what they tell themselves when you're away.
It just takes some time, little girl you're in the middle of the
Everything (everything) will be just fine, everything
(everything) will be alright (alright).
Hey, you know they're all the same.
You know you're doing better on your own, so don't buy in.
Live right now.
Yeah, just be yourself.
It doesn't matter if it's good enough for someone else.
It just takes some time, little girl you're in the middle of the
Everything (everything) will be just fine, everything
(everything) will be alright (alright).
It just takes some time, little girl you're in the middle of the
Everything (everything) will be just fine, everything
(everything) will be alright (alright).
Hey, don't write yourself off yet.
It's only in your head you feel left out or
looked down on.
Just do your best, do everything you can.
And don't you worry what the bitter hearts are gonna say.
It just takes some time, little girl you're in the middle of the
Everything (everything) will be just fine, everything
(everything) will be alright (alright).
It just takes some time, little girl you're in the middle of the
Everything (everything) will be just fine, everything
(everything) will be alright (alright).

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The latest

We finally had to put socks on the rear paws of the dog, he has been suffering this bout of allergy/obsessive-conpulsive paw licking syndrome. I think he'd be better off with the right medication, but we live in a small town where vets are not on call all the time, I mean, we are talking about vets who take two days off a week and take long lunch breaks, and that's both on the military and civilian sides.

I've been talking with some of the local reserve units, one was in psychological operations and another was in civil affairs. I almost immediately got put off by the higher than thou attitude displayed by those in charge of the psyop. company. C'mon, I've been in for almost a decade, that whole gung-ho and we're better than everyone else attitude is getting really, really old.

I got a better impression from the civil affairs company, those in charge seem to have a sense of humor, and seem to be able to get their jobs done but not take themselves too seriously in the same light. One of the guys from where I work is from that unit, and he's a extraordinary guy. He was a former marine who juggled work and school, got his master's degree, and while on deployment in Iraq, got his right arm blown off from an IED. He learned to do everything with his left arm (he was a rightie), fought to stay in the service, and now he's an officer. I think that if you are strong enough and open-minded enough, you can actually become a better person through horrible experiences. (Or find out, in the same light, that you are a pretty strong person already.) I don't know if we have that quality in all of us, but he sure did.

If I stay in the service, I'll be sure to get deployed at least once or twice more, whether or not it's Iraq or Afghnistan, and the GF will NOT be happy with that.

I don't really have to stay in the reserves if I don't want to do it anymore, my contract with them will be up officially in March.

Yet there are some things that you just cannot do otherwise in this ordinary life that you could do in a uniform.

We'll see, I don't have to decide right away on this.

The GF is not having any fun at work, there seem to be much confusion and some levels of incompetence. She had to get up around 5-ish in the morning, get out before 6, and not coming back home until at least 6 in the evening. She has been tired and craving sleep. (I remember feeling like that when I first got into Iraq, you're on duty all the time and wasn't a big fan of sleeping on cots.) I hope it'll get better for her soon, like I've said before, we can't both be pooped out and tired at the same time!

A friend from work is due to leave her job at the end of next week, she had gotten a job offer from a very prestigious federal agency and I'm really happy for her, because that was what she wanted. I congratulated her and wished that I can make my break soon too someday soon.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Lazy, hazy weekend.

Weekends are great times to catch up on sleep, when you are not feeling quite like that you haven't slept enough during the week. To tell you the truth, I'm probably just really lazy and don't time-manage well. I could have worked out, showered, changed, worked, ate, probably gotten a second work out, and have gotten home before the day is over, and I probably could also have done my work at work at 2x the amount in 1/2 of the time, but let's get real here!

The GF is not used to the early hours of her current job, and is actually feeling physical pain of the toll of the early mornings. I'd feel that way from time to time. There are a lot of people at my workplace, sensing my lack of educational background, are urging me to go back to school. I'm sure that there are ways to achieve that endeavor, but if I'm already feeling as pooped as I do now, over the mid to low physical and mental output, I sure as heck can't imagine getting my ass back to school and trying not to flunk out of it!

We, counting the pets, are just trying our best to live our lives here in the great void called the American Mid-West, and hoping for some kind of betterness or excitement in the future....

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

From Colby Buzzell

I purchased "My War, Killing Time in Iraq" and read it in a few days. I then e-mailed the book's author about how I appreciated his recollection and storytelling. Here are the excerpts:

Hey CB!
Just finished reading your book, and you've just about put me right back there! Keep up the good work! I remembered how cold it was when we were at Pacesetter, I think I was with 1 2/3 infantry, A. Co. (I was supposed to be searching females and make sure that they were not armed) when Saddam was caught.
Your honesty about the whole experience is hard to find, any words on a book tour yet?
Are you also back with the Mrs.? (that was something that I didn't know at all, that you were betrothed!)
I've told the folks that I'm working with to go out and get your book (some of the are Iraqi war vets), hope all is well with you, thanks and take care!

His reply:

you rule bro, i hope the book does us justice man, I tried. Yea,
Pacesetter fucking sucked man, no word on a book tour, i told them I
didnt want to do one, guys are still over there and I'd feel fuct
signing and shit while the war still went on. i just wanted to tell
our story, thats it, you know? I hope I accompished that. Yea, me and
da wife are happily married and I'm looking forward to spending the
rest of my life with her. things are cool. Thank again man for
spreading the word about the book, I tried to tell our story, fuck it,
if the media wont, i might as well and try, you know. I hope you enjoy
the rest of the book, and thank you for the support and kind words of
thank you

I think Colby thinks that I'm a dude, and in this case, it's totally alright!

I can totally understand where he's coming from as far as his refusal to do the book tour is concerned, however, I don't think that he'll be doing anyone any disservice by doing a book tour, instead, it'll only highten other peoples' senses about what really went on over there, and I think anyone who's over there right now would have liked that. He has done his time there and played his part, so there should be no guilt about any of it, you know?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Iraq war blogs

I am listening to a NPR audio segment about blogs and book deals which results from OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom). I was really glad to hear Colby Buzzell's voice! His book "My War, Killing Time in Iraq" has just been published and for those of you who are interested in the personal experiences of US soldiers in Iraq, please go and pick youself up a copy! A lot of places that he had been to were also the places that I've been to myself.

Granted that opinions of bloggers can be somewhat biased, depends on who you're reading, but that's the beauty of war accounts, individual experiences were never meant to be agreed upon by all anyways.

Of some of the folks who have been deployed with me or with other groups, they chose not to read any of the blogs or watch any films about the war experience, I think it's their way of moving on. I've been lucky so far that none of the accounts of war has bothered me because it touched a sore spot. I think it's a great way of comparing and contrasting experiences and perspectives, and by keeping records of these experiences, you also give your kids or their kids stories to keep.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The GF had written a post about how she felt guilty for not carrying her weight financially for the last two years.

I have to admit that even though it felt diffcult at times, not have both incomes to keep up financially afloat, it was never my intention to make her feel guilty. I know that the job market is a murky place nowadays, I'm pretty lucky to be working at this point in time.

I just hated seeing her so bored and depressed sometimes because there's not much to do during the day.

If had earned enough $ to live on, save, get a house, have kids, then I don't think we'd even be talking about any of this, you know? I'm not at that point yet in my earning.

I'll have more later on this, got to get to the monthly meeting at work!

*By the way, D.K., you've got a very interesting way of expressing your friendship to me and GF, you could still have been across the pond and we'd never knew that you've left! (That's just my view, the GF is much more understanding than myself, I just don't think that life's long enough to try to befriend someone who doesn't even want to talk to you.)

Friday, September 23, 2005

I am just not seeing the connection.....

Bush: Iraq withdrawal would equal defeat
President defends war in Iraq as a terror deterrent while anti-war protesters gather for weekend rally
By Ken Herman


Friday, September 23, 2005

WASHINGTON -- President Bush said Thursday that withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, a course to be urged by tens of thousands of anti-war protesters gathering in Washington for a Saturday rally, would amount to a victory for terrorists.

"Withdrawing our troops would make the world more dangerous and make America less safe," Bush said after a briefing at the Pentagon. "To leave Iraq now would be to repeat the costly mistakes of the past that led to the attacks of September the 11th, 2001.

"Our withdrawal from Iraq would allow the terrorists to claim a historic victory over the United States," he said, adding that it would embolden terrorists and allow them to "dominate the Middle East and launch more attacks on America and other free nations."

Bush's comments came as anti-war protesters prepared for a weekend rally. On Wednesday, Cindy Sheehan, who became a focal point of the effort when she spent the summer near Bush's Crawford ranch, delivered an anti-war message at the White House gate.

On Thursday, an anti-war group used a two-page Washington Post ad to bring attention to its message. One of the pages, titled "They lied," included war-related quotes from Bush and other administration officials that proved wrong. The second page, titled "They died," included the names of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq.

Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the senior Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, questioned Bush's upbeat assessment of efforts to fight terrorism.

"Seeing is believing, and the evidence strongly suggests that terrorists continue to perpetrate devastating attacks against our troops and civilians around the world," Markey said.

Bush acknowledged the national divide over the war.

"There are differences of opinion about the way forward. I understand that. Some Americans want us to withdraw our troops so that we can escape the violence. I recognize their good intentions, but their position is wrong," he said.

Bush, reeling off a history of terrorist attacks, said that those Americans calling for withdrawing troops are inviting more such attacks.

"The terrorists saw our response to the hostage crisis in Iran, the bombings of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the first World Trade Center attack, the killing of American soldiers in Somalia, the destruction of two U.S. embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole. The terrorists concluded that we lacked the courage and character to defend ourselves, and so they attacked us," he said.

Terrorists, Bush said, can win only "if we lose our nerve and abandon the mission."

"That's not going to happen on my watch," he said.

Bush didn't mention any events during the first President Bush's administration, such as his father's decision to end the 1991 Persian Gulf War without toppling Saddam Hussein.

In a fundamental split with anti-war protesters who see no reason to lose more American lives in Iraq, Bush said the war must continue in the name of those already killed: "We'll honor their sacrifice by completing their mission and winning the war on terror."

Bush offered an upbeat assessment, combined with the usual caution about violence to come. In Afghanistan, he cited last Sunday's legislative elections as the most recent progress toward democracy. But he warned: "There are still terrorists who seek to overthrow the young government."

Bush offered a similar assessment for Iraq, where he said Iraqi troops are "increasingly taking the lead in joint operations."

"By leaving Iraqi units in the cities we've cleaned out, we can keep the cities safe while we move on to hunt down the terrorists in other parts of the country," he said.

But Bush also said the United States has temporarily increased its troop levels in Iraq for upcoming Iraqi elections, which he predicted will spark more insurgent activity.

"We must be prepared for more violence," he said, reiterating that it will be a long-term effort. "It's going to take time, just like it took time to defeat other struggles we had . . . like communism."

I think president Bush's claim of the connection between Iraq and 9/11 was never clearly defined in the first place. (I'm not even going to go into the whole WMD fiasco) Yes, I do believe that we should send the terrorists a message that we won't be defeated, but do it covertly, and not the war "made for cable news" that we've been seeing so far.

Houston awaits the incoming of Hurricane Rita, and I really hope that lives would be spared. I'm keeping a neurotic watch over live streaming tv on the net, and just hoping.

How are we, as a nation, going to pay for everything? The war, the disaster relief,etc.?

What's goin on lately

My job is kind of hanging in the balance, but it's probably not as bad as first perceived.

My folks are still stuck in Houston, I'm really worried for them. I've got this really useless aunt who either could not or did not want to evacuate the whole family (she's the only person in the household, as of today, who could drive.) My sister thinks that I'm worrying too much, and I can't believe that she has been so non-chalant about everything. I almost lost both of the folks over the past two to three years ago, I'd be damned to have them hurt or God forbid, lose them in natural disaster.

I don't think my sister is very good at comforting people, and I'm not very good at telling others how I feel.

So I'm going to try to calm down, drink some tea, hope/pray for the best.

Thank God for the pets, petting them helps me forget people troubles.

Most of all, thank God for the GF, who tries to comfort me!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

One year anniversary

I've been back from Iraq now for a year, and to tell you the truth, I haven't really thought about it too much lately. Occasionally, I'd skim through articles about what's happening in Iraq, mostly, I'd surf the blogs of Iraqi vets or those who are still there.

I can't really say that I'm at that point yet where I feel glad that we've helped the Iraqis to liberate themselves. There are still lots of problems with border issues, the insurgency, and all the growing pains of democratization of a nation. To me, it seems like that the current administration, while it might have meant well, did not bother to make a plan B.

I'm still in touch with some of the folks who were there in Iraq with me, and the common theme is that we are all trying our best to keep on keeping on, with Iraq in our backpockets.

I'm not sure that if the brigade that I was deployed with would have these reunions in the future, it'd be nice, but it doesn't really matter if it doesn't happen. What mattered to me was that having gone to Iraq was like the chance of a lifetime, the most exotic and dangerous trip that I've ever taken. All the blunders which happened back there because of personalities were embarassing but they were like those "one to grow on" experiences.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

What's my age again?

You Are 19 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I am not the only cowboy

And it starts like this
We crave to be kissed by a moment complete in its happiness
Far away from the things that we wish to escape
That lead us to think that we are not awake
We are ourselves despite ourselves
This place gets smaller as the universe swells
We come to terms eventually, eventually, eventually

I am not the only cowboy in this one horse metaphor
And I am not the only lifeguard who's washed up on the shore
Wake me up, take me out
Call me down when I'm in doubt
And I'm in doubt every day

Words are like weight with density and shape, modifying forms they evaporate
You can choose the truth, you can listen to light
You can lead the charge and still lose the fight
Far be it from me to claim anything
For I am just one in a state of being
I come to terms eventually, eventually, eventually

I am not the only proverb that never really fits
And I am not the only Caulfield who's catching more than kids
Wake me up, take me out
Call me down when I'm in doubt
And I'm in doubt

And so it ends as it begins as everything that is infinite ascends
Into its time all things pass
All things fade, all things last
You are yourself despite yourself
This world grows smaller as the universe swells
We come to terms eventually, eventually, eventually

And I am not the only boxer that hasn't words to write
And I am not the only poet who's much too scared to fight
Wake me up, take me out
Call me down when I'm in doubt
And I'm in doubt every day

na na-na na-na
na na-na na-na
na na-na na-na
na na-na na-na

And it starts like this
We crave to be kissed by a moment complete in its happiness
We are ourselves

*By Josh Joplin

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The One and Only

I am the one and only,
Oh yeah!
Call me, call me by my name or call me by my number,
You put me through it,
I'll still be doing it the way I do it,
And yet, you try to make me forget,
Who I really am, don't tell me, I know best,
I'm not the same as all the rest,


I am the one and only,
Nobody I'd rather be,
I am the one and only,
You can't take that away from me

I've been a player in the crowd scene,
A flicker on the big screen,
My soul embraces, one more in a million faces,
High hopes and aspirations, ideas above my station
maybe but all this time I've tried to walk with dignity and pride


I can't wear this uniform without some compromises,
Because you'll find out that we come,
In different shapes and sizes,
No one can be myself like I can,
For this job I'm the best man,
And while this may be true, you are the one and only you!

Chorus - repeat to fade out

By Chesney Hawkes, from the soundtrak to the movie "Doc Hollywood".

Monday, September 12, 2005

This Weekend....

..I flew down to Dallas to hang out with the GF, her family, and the adorable nephew. He's four years old now and all boy, and always glad to see me and the GF, I felt very redeemed! It's unfortunate that his mom and dad are not the most practical people, and I only hope that one day both of them will have their heads screwed back on correctly. (Custody issue, et., trust me, you don't want to know.)

It was warm in Texas but not too bad, the weather has cooled down quite a bit. The GF and I took the nephew out ot eat, and play at the elementary school playground that the GF also used to play at, it was so neat watching his little body swing back and forth on the swing! He's always quick with a kiss and a hug, I hope our kid will at least be half as cute and well-behaved as him!

I could have gone with the GF to see the shelter that she was volunteered at, but opted not to since I was still under the weather (sinus infection),and my brain's so saturated with hurricane Katrina news that I was ready to not hear about it for a while.

The GF asked me about what I felt on 9/11, I told her that I felt angry and that it was the event that changed just about everything as we know it.(Even if I didn't show it in a dramatic way.) Yours truly got sent to Iraq ( aside from believing that the Iraqis should be free...I don't really subscribe to the WMD and the "Axis of Evil" bullshit.), and we as a nation are more neurotic than ever, about everything. She told me that she's still not over 9/11, but what can we really do to honor the dead? Since nothing that anyone can do can bring them back, including nuking Iraq, Central Asia, and North Korea.

I don't propose to speak for the dead, but I think they'd probably prefer for those of us who are still alive to get out of our perspective funk and go on living. Do maybe something constructive with our lives and try not to worry about what we can't control, I guess that's the purpose.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The pets really miss the GF

The GF is still doing good things in Dallas, and so far, she has been seeing a lot problems with the incompetence of the Red Cross and most of all, FEMA, which doesn't even have a fully functional workstation set up yet in Dallas. I always knew that I didn't want to donate $ to these agencies, I mean, they never really inspired much confidence from me, even with the cheesy ads.

The pets, on the other hand, have taken to just being by themselves, and sort of avoiding contact with me, except during feeding time. I think they miss her a lot, and just consider me as not even a cheap substitute for their other mother. Maybe one day, my real kids will do the same to me, only listening to the GF and not me. When your pets don't really listen to you, life can be kind of depressing. People can be tricky too sometimes.

It's weird living alone in this two bedroom apt., but I know that the GF is doing good things so the weirdness is okay, for now.

But anytime that she feels ready, we are ready for her to run the house again!

Monday, September 05, 2005

A very sobering fact.

The U.S. Treasury is paying out more each month to sustain the war in Iraq than it did during the Vietnam War, according to a new report that calls the ongoing conflict "the most expensive military effort in the last 60 years."

The 84-page report, "The Iraq Quagmire: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War and the Case for Bringing the Troops Home," says that the total bill for the war in Iraq has come to some $204 billion, or an average of $727 per U.S. citizen, not counting an additional $45 billion which is currently pending before Congress.

The report, which comes as Congress braces itself for the multi-billion costs of cleaning up after the unprecedented devastation inflicted this week on New Orleans and the broader Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina, also does not include at least another $25 billion request that the Pentagon is believed to be preparing to sustain operations in Iraq and Afghanistan into next year.

Released by two think tanks, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and the International Relations Center, that have strongly opposed the Iraq war, the new study is their third since mid-2004 to attempt a comprehensive accounting of the human, social, and international ? as well as financial ? costs of the war on the U.S. and Iraq.

The new report also includes a plan by IPS Fellow Phyllis Bennis for an "immediate and complete withdrawal of troops, military contractors and U.S. corporations backing the U.S. occupation."

The plan calls for U.S. troops to cease all offensive actions, withdraw from population centers, and redeploy to Iraq's borders to help Iraqi forces secure them, and for Washington to reduce the size of its embassy in Baghdad, and announce that it has no intention of maintaining either permanent bases in Iraq or control of its oil.

Similar steps have recently also been advocated by conservative critics of the war, such as the former director of the National Security Agency, ret. Gen. William Odom.

Bennis also called for Washington to negotiate with Iraqi insurgents over the mechanisms of withdrawal and endorse talks between them and U.S.-backed Iraqi leaders.

The Pentagon, according to the report, is currently spending $5.6 billion per month on operations in Iraq, an amount that exceeds the average cost of $5.1 billion per month (in real 2004 dollars) for U.S. operations in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972.

"While fewer troops are in Iraq, the weapons they use are more expensive and they are paid more than their counterparts who served in Vietnam," according to the report, which noted that at current rates, Washington could spend more than $700 billion over 10 years ? $100 billion more than the total cost of the Vietnam War.

If the $204 billion appropriated for the war so far had been used instead for social programs, according to the report, it could have paid for the health care of the more than 46 million citizens without medical insurance, the hiring of 3.5 million elementary school teachers, or the construction of affordable housing units for nearly two million people.

The same amount of money would also be enough to effectively cut world hunger in half and still cover the costs of life-preserving anti-AIDS medication, childhood immunization, and the clean-water and sanitation needs of the world's developing nations for almost three years.

Those costs do not include long-term costs on the U.S. economy, including interest payments on that portion of the record federal budget deficit that is related to the war or the economic impacts on the families and small businesses of thousands of reservists and National Guard who have been called up to serve in Iraq.

Nor do they include the health-care and other benefits and disability payments to Iraq war veterans, which, according to a recent estimate published in the New York Times by Linda Bilmes, a public-finance expert at Harvard University, will likely cost $315 billion over 45 years.

Bilmes also estimated the potential impact of the war on the price of oil at five dollars a barrel, which, if sustained until 2010, will cost the U.S. economy some $119 billion.

But the economic costs to the U.S. are not the only measure of the war's costs.

Nearly 1,900 U.S. military personnel have been killed in Iraq since the March 19, 2003, invasion and more than 14,000 have been wounded.

Iraqis have borne a much higher toll, however. The new study quotes records of the number of Iraqi civilians killed as a direct result of the war and ensuing occupation at between 23,489 and 26,706, and the number of wounded at between 100,000 and 120,000.

Those figures do not take into account the death toll arising from indirect causes of the war and occupation, such as crime and infrastructure breakdowns. According to one study published last October by the British medical journal The Lancet, Iraq had suffered nearly 100,000 "excess deaths" between March 2003 and September 2004.

A joint Iraqi-UN report released last May found that 223,000 Iraqis are suffering from a chronic health problem directly caused by the war.

In addition, the new study cites reports that up to 6,000 Iraqi military and police units have been killed since the war started, with the vast majority of those casualties incurred over the past year.

Despite these tolls, as well the reported killings or arrests of 40,000 to 50,000 alleged insurgents, the number of resistant fighters in Iraq, according to the Pentagon's own estimates, has risen from 5,000 to 20,000 over a two-year period.

Meanwhile, electricity generation in Iraq, which finally surpassed prewar levels in July 2004, has not increased, while unemployment is estimated at between 20 to 60 percent, according to the report.

U.S. national security has also been degraded, according to the report, which cited recent State Department figures indicating that the number of "significant" international terrorist attacks has more than doubled since 2003, while terrorist attacks in Iraq has increased nine-fold.

Army recruitment this month remained at 11 percent behind its annual targets, while the Reserve and Army National Guard shortfalls are running twice as high. In addition, roughly 48,000 members of the National Guard and Reserve, a disproportionate number of whom are police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel in their home communities, are currently serving in Iraq.

The absence of these "first responders" back home has become a major preoccupation for local and state governments, including those in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama hardest hit by Katrina.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


With the ongoing war on terror, result yet to be seen, the tragedy of hurricane Katrina, political extremist using these scenarios to incite friction, people who cared enough to volunteer, donate, then people who are too stuck in their own merry lives to care about any of these, the biasedness of the media, our daily lives, frustrations, and love and confusion about a God that has so far allowed all this to happen, is it any wonder that it's all very distant and almost numbing?

Nobody could have said this better.

September 4, 2005
Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?

La Jolla, Calif.

WHAT do people really know about New Orleans?

Do they take away with them an awareness that it has always been not only a great white metropolis but also a great black city, a city where African-Americans have come together again and again to form the strongest African-American culture in the land?

The first literary magazine ever published in Louisiana was the work of black men, French-speaking poets and writers who brought together their work in three issues of a little book called L'Album Littéraire. That was in the 1840's, and by that time the city had a prosperous class of free black artisans, sculptors, businessmen, property owners, skilled laborers in all fields. Thousands of slaves lived on their own in the city, too, making a living at various jobs, and sending home a few dollars to their owners in the country at the end of the month.

This is not to diminish the horror of the slave market in the middle of the famous St. Louis Hotel, or the injustice of the slave labor on plantations from one end of the state to the other. It is merely to say that it was never all "have or have not" in this strange and beautiful city.

Later in the 19th century, as the Irish immigrants poured in by the thousands, filling the holds of ships that had emptied their cargoes of cotton in Liverpool, and as the German and Italian immigrants soon followed, a vital and complex culture emerged. Huge churches went up to serve the great faith of the city's European-born Catholics; convents and schools and orphanages were built for the newly arrived and the struggling; the city expanded in all directions with new neighborhoods of large, graceful houses, or areas of more humble cottages, even the smallest of which, with their floor-length shutters and deep-pitched roofs, possessed an undeniable Caribbean charm.

Through this all, black culture never declined in Louisiana. In fact, New Orleans became home to blacks in a way, perhaps, that few other American cities have ever been. Dillard University and Xavier University became two of the most outstanding black colleges in America; and once the battles of desegregation had been won, black New Orleanians entered all levels of life, building a visible middle class that is absent in far too many Western and Northern American cities to this day.

The influence of blacks on the music of the city and the nation is too immense and too well known to be described. It was black musicians coming down to New Orleans for work who nicknamed the city "the Big Easy" because it was a place where they could always find a job. But it's not fair to the nature of New Orleans to think of jazz and the blues as the poor man's music, or the music of the oppressed.

Something else was going on in New Orleans. The living was good there. The clock ticked more slowly; people laughed more easily; people kissed; people loved; there was joy.

Which is why so many New Orleanians, black and white, never went north. They didn't want to leave a place where they felt at home in neighborhoods that dated back centuries; they didn't want to leave families whose rounds of weddings, births and funerals had become the fabric of their lives. They didn't want to leave a city where tolerance had always been able to outweigh prejudice, where patience had always been able to outweigh rage. They didn't want to leave a place that was theirs.

And so New Orleans prospered, slowly, unevenly, but surely - home to Protestants and Catholics, including the Irish parading through the old neighborhood on St. Patrick's Day as they hand out cabbages and potatoes and onions to the eager crowds; including the Italians, with their lavish St. Joseph's altars spread out with cakes and cookies in homes and restaurants and churches every March; including the uptown traditionalists who seek to preserve the peace and beauty of the Garden District; including the Germans with their clubs and traditions; including the black population playing an ever increasing role in the city's civic affairs.

Now nature has done what the Civil War couldn't do. Nature has done what the labor riots of the 1920's couldn't do. Nature had done what "modern life" with its relentless pursuit of efficiency couldn't do. It has done what racism couldn't do, and what segregation couldn't do either. Nature has laid the city waste - with a scope that brings to mind the end of Pompeii.

I share this history for a reason - and to answer questions that have arisen these last few days. Almost as soon as the cameras began panning over the rooftops, and the helicopters began chopping free those trapped in their attics, a chorus of voices rose. "Why didn't they leave?" people asked both on and off camera. "Why did they stay there when they knew a storm was coming?" One reporter even asked me, "Why do people live in such a place?"

Then as conditions became unbearable, the looters took to the streets. Windows were smashed, jewelry snatched, stores broken open, water and food and televisions carried out by fierce and uninhibited crowds.

Now the voices grew even louder. How could these thieves loot and pillage in a time of such crisis? How could people shoot one another? Because the faces of those drowning and the faces of those looting were largely black faces, race came into the picture. What kind of people are these, the people of New Orleans, who stay in a city about to be flooded, and then turn on one another?

Well, here's an answer. Thousands didn't leave New Orleans because they couldn't leave. They didn't have the money. They didn't have the vehicles. They didn't have any place to go. They are the poor, black and white, who dwell in any city in great numbers; and they did what they felt they could do - they huddled together in the strongest houses they could find. There was no way to up and leave and check into the nearest Ramada Inn.

What's more, thousands more who could have left stayed behind to help others. They went out in the helicopters and pulled the survivors off rooftops; they went through the flooded streets in their boats trying to gather those they could find. Meanwhile, city officials tried desperately to alleviate the worsening conditions in the Superdome, while makeshift shelters and hotels and hospitals struggled.

And where was everyone else during all this? Oh, help is coming, New Orleans was told. We are a rich country. Congress is acting. Someone will come to stop the looting and care for the refugees.

And it's true: eventually, help did come. But how many times did Gov. Kathleen Blanco have to say that the situation was desperate? How many times did Mayor Ray Nagin have to call for aid? Why did America ask a city cherished by millions and excoriated by some, but ignored by no one, to fight for its own life for so long? That's my question.

I know that New Orleans will win its fight in the end. I was born in the city and lived there for many years. It shaped who and what I am. Never have I experienced a place where people knew more about love, about family, about loyalty and about getting along than the people of New Orleans. It is perhaps their very gentleness that gives them their endurance.

They will rebuild as they have after storms of the past; and they will stay in New Orleans because it is where they have always lived, where their mothers and their fathers lived, where their churches were built by their ancestors, where their family graves carry names that go back 200 years. They will stay in New Orleans where they can enjoy a sweetness of family life that other communities lost long ago.

But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us "Sin City," and turned your backs.

Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.

True that.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

My GF is the sh*t!

My GF and I originally had plans to spend the long weekend chilling, maybe going to see a movie and going to the Julie Roberts concert. However, in light of the recent huricane and the mess that it had left behind, she has decided to drive down to D-Town (Dallas) and volunteer at Reunion Arena, one of the designated shelters for the flood victims.

I cannot go with her right now, there are a lot of things to do at work and otherwise, and it'd be costly to put up my dog at the kennel. I will join her later on, depending on the situation. She has been quite affected by watching people suffer and feels strongly about contributing what she can, I don't know how many people knows this, but she's one of the most compassionate people that I've ever met.

I will hold down the fort while she's gone, I don't know how I'll handle all three kids (mind you, they are pets), but I will try my best and even do laundry!

I will update to you on how she's doing, she's set to depart tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

E-mail from a fellow (but cooler blogger)

To those of you who might not know Colby Buzzell, he was an infantryman who had served in Mosul, Iraq around the same timeframe as yours truly. He started a blog called "My War" and it had some of the most honest and vivid description of a GI's life in Mosul, as well as some of the most honest accounts of some attacks/ambushes which happened to his combat group.

He had gotten into trouble with his chain of command for allegedly violating OPSEC (operational security)and so he stopped updating his blog for a while. In the meantime, either by word of mouth or other forms of referrels, Colby's blog got the attention of some publishers and plans were made for him to publish "My War, killng time in Iraq", and I think it should be out by the first of October.

After reading him for the good part of my deployment to Iraq and afterwards, I decided to send him a e-mail, and it went something like this....

Hey CB:
You don't know me, but I was attached to your old brigade while in Mosul, you were posted at FOB Marez while I was posted at FOB Freedom, I did unit supply and you were infantry. Just wanted you to know that your blog's really awesome and I read it every chance that I'd get. Looking forward to your book release (I've preordered mine already) and I'm just just glad that both of us made it back from hell on earth.
Take care!

I thought that Colby probably would set my e-mail aside or delete it since I'm not much of anyone important. Then, after a day, I got a reply from him! (excerpt below)

Hey man,
hows it going, thats cool that you were attatched to my old brigade
back in mosul, Who knows, we probably walked right past each other
while I was over at Freedom the several times that i was there. Thanks
for your kind words on the blog, I really appreciate that, especially
from a brothe rin arms who served in the same AO as I. I really means
alot, and thanks for pre ordering the book, FOB Freedom is mentioned
several times in the book, and hopefully you'll like it. Not alot of
people know about mosul, and I'm hoping that this book shows people
what we went thru and experienced up there. All you ever hear about is
like, Marines, and Falluja, and Baghdad, you hardly ever herd from
mosul when we were there. Anyways, thanks again for emailing me and
ordering the book, I hope you like it, and feel free to send me an
email when you get it and let me know what you think.
thanx again

Now, wasn't that just the shit? That he referred to me as a "brother in arms"?

Go and check out his blog if you hadn't done so already....

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Monday, August 29, 2005

The weekend and then some...

I got to spend a good weekend with my folks and my sister, whom, to my suprise, did not actually talk my ear off! My grandfather is doing much better, thanks to those who were concerned, and my grandma is battling her old-age related hearing problems and some patterns of obsessive-compulsiveness.

We spent the weekend going out to eat, watching Chinese t.v. on the satellite dish, and grocery shopping. Hung out with the cousins, ages 11 to 16 and enjoyed a few bouts of thunderstorms in Houston, which had sort of a mild summer compared to two summers ago.

Flew back home on a small commuter jet that was delayed in picking up passengers. While we were preparing to land, I can see storm clouds nearby, as well as the setting sun. It was kind of scary and neat, the cloud made the sun have the misty appearance to it. Maybe the pilot was inexperienced or the conditions for landing were not good, but I swear that we could have almost landed 2x, but each time the plane would pick up and ascend again, attempting another approach. Of course, some on the plane were getting a bit nervous, and yours truly had to pee, really badly! This bald headed tough looking guy sat next to me and started commenting about how unusual it was for a plane to make multiple approaches to the runway, and I just couldn't help it so I told him about this one time that a friend of mine's C-130 engine having been hit by a mortar on its way up (they all survived and made it to Kuwait, by the way). I know, probably not the most calming thing to say to someone who might be feeling a bit nervous (to say the least), but at least I thought that I'd cheer him up with the conclusion of the story.

We then finally landed after about half an hour of circling around in the sky, and while the plane's taxing, a lot of people on board took out their cellphones and said to their friends/relatives/mistresses/lawyers/pimps/johns that they've survived the flight!

The GF picked me up from the airport, then we ate at Chili's (I still dont' know why they salt their food so much!), and went back home to watch the hurricane coverage ( it has been said that New Orleans as we know it could be gone.) until it was time for bed. I slept good and sound, lucky to not have been a news item on the evening news.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


End of summer snack relief, brought back from Houston.

Friday, August 26, 2005

My porn star name

Your Porn Star Name is: Albino Kitty

The "come to Jesus" meeting

There was a meeting held by one of the directors of the place that I'm currently working at noon today, with myself and a bunch of other reservists. The meeting was about what is going to happen to our employment after the end of the fiscal year, which will be on the last day of September.

Basically, our director told us that they really liked the work that we are doing for them, but since they don't know if funding will keep on flowing, they are going to extend us for 90 days and try to look for funding in the meanwhile so they can keep us working into next year. Nothing is really a gurantee though, maybe for the directors of that place, but not for us reservists.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not bitter, and I've always known that nothing lasts forever. I told one of the other reservists there that I feel like that we're a bunch of temps wearing uniforms. If they don't get enough funding for next year, I won't shed a tear because it was a good run for a job and it probably will be time to leave KC anyways.

One of the reservists is getting ready to go to Iraq/Afghanistan/GITMO (he doesn't know yet where he'll be deployed to), and I hope that he'll be safe and come back intact and relatively healthy. They've already got two other people deployed, one to Iraq and another to Afghanistan.

If you have not done so yet, please go and read Michael Yon's blog, it has been so far the best combat reporting ever done from Iraq. I wish that Mr. Yon was there when I was deployed, he's a great writer. There was one reporter from the Tacoma, Wa. area who shall remain nameless, who was the the imbedded reporter to the brigade that I was assigned to. He (the reporter) was not a guy who was curious about anything at all and didn't show much of any interest in what's going on around him... too sad.

Going to visit the folks this weekend, so I will wirte more when I get back, in the meanwhile, please take good care!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Marketing myself so I can maybe retire one day

I've mentioned before that I am so far liking this job that I've got right now. As far as job security is concerned, if all things work out right between the reserve unit (the unit that has me on their roster) and the powers that'd be here, I'll be okay for at least another year, I think.

I've been toying around with the idea of possibly becoming an reserve officer, for job security (whatever that means) and for another thing, it might possibly be mutually beneficial for both the military and myself. (The extra language skills) I contacted the air force, who are probably doing so well in recruiting that they can afford not to call or e-mail people back, I talked to someone at the navy and found out that if I cross over, then I'll lose whatever clearance level that I have and will have to start all over again, and since I did not come from a navy environment, my chances of becoming commissioned in the navy was like less than 20%. I've since detected a certain pattern with officer recruitors, that is they'll always tell you to go enlisted first and then apply for a commission, or in the case of air force, they just won't call you back at all. Now I've spent almost a decade being enlisted and not nearly as naive as I used to be, so no thanks to the navy.

I remember when I was a bit younger, I used to think that I'd pick up something really useful in the military, college, life, etc. and make it really marketable to others so I'll never have to wear uniform again or try so hard to maintain (in this case, to improve) my physical fitness level. I don't mind staying in the military, but I also don't mind putting that part of life behind me. I don't think you need to display your patriotism by being in the military, and that's just how I see it.

I'm open to just about whatever, but as long as they don't come at a cost of the GF and the kids, you know?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Life in the Midwest

My sister and I call each other just about everyday, and also e-mail each other at various times during the day. She is calling me more lately ever since her divorce earlier this year and we'd just chit chat about what has been going on during the day, plus some family stuff. Lately, I just don't have that much to say to her about what has been going on during the day. Sensing that, she'd try to fill up the silence with whatever that she tell me about what has been going on with some other people at her work.
I like my current job and I think that the people at work are some of the nicest group of people that I've ever worked for. It's true that I'm not a huge fan of military setting, but the above characteristics sort of compensate for all of the above, and not to mention that I got to goto Japan and Monterey,Ca.!
Yet for rest of the time I'm kind of feeling desperate, feeling trapped in this open space, really wide space full of corn and hay. At least I'm a little bit older, imagine some kid, 18 or 19 years old and have to be stationed here for the army or for school, what would they have to do? I'm not sure living here is making me like other people more. The GF said that I'm not as nice lately to others, not that I'm out there doing stuff that would piss people off, but I'm a lot more nonchalant about them than I used to be. Things are just so blah here, plain, gray, and unexciting. I am sure that the Midwest is a great place to raise kids, I think that depends on what kind of kids you've got.
We'll see, maybe some big revelations would come and we'll grow to love and even miss this place when we are away. We still don't really have friends except some token ones from the cyberspace. The GF is more worried about it than I am, because I'm used to it. Sometimes, popularity breeds contempt.
Okay, I'm blabbing here, but you get the point.

P.S. Just finished watching the final episode of "Six Feet Under" and I think it almost couldn't have ended it a nicer way. Rarely had I seen a show that is centered on the themes of loss and yet it's also about life and hope. Kudos to Mr. Alan Ball! The GF already knows this, that I also think that Peter Krause is hot!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Back from Monterey

Got back from lovely Monterey this past Friday afternoon, and I flew back from San Jose with some of my supervisors, who are some of the smartest and nicest people that I've gotten to know, so the trip back was good.

I had first been to Monterey pre 9-11, for a language competition for the armed forces. They've since cancelled the event due to the fact that all the Arabic linguists in the services are now serving in the theaters of war. Monterey is a picture of this ideal place to live, it's not prone to extreme weather changes, and even though it can be a bit chilly there, it'll never snow due to its unique geography. I think if I live there now, that would spell the end of my so called working career as I know, I mean, who would want to work when you live so close to the beach?

The GF joined me out there, and I think she enjoyed the town also. When I am attending the conference that I've been sent to attend, she'd drive around town in the rental car. We had lots of good foods, lots of seafoods and some ethnic foods, that's a definite plus, when the places which you travel to have great foods!

Now we are back in the Midwest, it seems almost depressing. I know that life in Midwest will not be forever, and if were not for the trips that we've taken, either together or alone, I'd probably go insane. I know that you guys and gals have heard me complain about that before, but I just cannot help it that the combination of unstimulating places and people simply make a bad combination. It has been hard for the GF to find a job also, and I know that it is not because she's underqualified.

I took a look at strykernews while typing this entry out, and I cannot say that I know of anyone in the new stryker brigade, heck, I hardly know the people that I was over there with anymore. It's easy to began to feel complacent, I mean, it'll almost be a year since I had gotten back from Iraq. It's so easy to dwell on how boring life is in the Midwest, and that some aspects of my personal relationships are not perfect. I think sometimes I just need to snap out of it and remember that I got out of that place with my life and the whole experience was not that bad. I'm not getting nostalgic, I would not want to re-live that time all over again. I'd hate to leave the GF, the families, and my dog and cats all over again. My dog and I got gray together while I was over there! (He's not even 6 years old yet!)

I think I felt especially appreciative of that fact when I walked on the beaches of Monterey with my barefeet!


Monterey waves

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Off to Monterey!

The GF and I will be off to Monterey, Ca., for about a week. I will be attending a conference for work, and she will be checking out the local beaches and sceneries. The weather over there is expected to be near perfect and I hope that I'll have some chances to stroll the town somewhat.

Will take some photos and post them when I'm back.

You folks take good care!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Some clarifications

The GF called my attention to the blog "Trying to Grok", it's a blog written by a young military wife currently stationed in Germany. She started her blog to support her husband while he was deployed in Iraq, and since her husband returned from his deployment, her blog has transformed into a kind of right-leaning opinion blog.

Mrs.Grok's last few entries have been about females in the military, not whether or not they should serve or even take on combat roles, but about how slutty we can all be. The impression that I've got is that we are all people who uses sex as weapons against men to get them to do what we wanted them to do.

Mrs.Grok's got a point, there are a lot of females in the military like that, but there are also a lot more of them in the civilian world, we just don't hear as much about them. When I was out there, I've seen both types of women, those who just cannot keep their legs shut, and also those who just wanted to work their shift, and not get involved with anything of that sort. I wasn't an angel out there, but I for one did not use that to my advantage. Now I hope that Mr. Grok did not himself step across that line while he was out there, but even if he did, we'll never know. Men are really great at having sex just for the sake of having sex and nothing more, not to say that there are not women like that, I just don't think that there are as many.

I'm just saying that everyone makes mistakes, and unless you've been there, you'll think for a minute before rendering a decision or verdict. For that reason, I don't think that I'll be reading a lot of Grok from day to day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I'm an emo rocker....

You Are an Emo Rocker!

Expressive and deep, lyrics are really your thing.
That doesn't mean you don't rock out...
You just rock out with meaning.
For you, rock is more about connecting than grandstanding.