13 January 2007

More fun than...

having my spleen ripped out by weasels. But just barely. As I'm sure you can tell from the body language in this picture, I was just thrilled to put on a stupid motorcycle outfit and go along with Mr. Abby on a motorcycle outing today.

I hate the motorcycle. I hate ALL the motorcycles. Oh, the things I do so my husband will shut up and stop asking me, "when are you going to go riding with me?"

12 January 2007

Calling all my winos...

Via Old War Dogs, we learn of a new red wine, the purchase of which benefits the children of our fallen Marines.

Follow the link and you'll even find a review. Me - I don't care what it tastes like - it's a Marine Corps wine! You'll drink it and you'll like it!

Direct link here.

Casey update

Well, we're still at war with the hotspot. She managed, after about 20 hours, to figure out a way to lick around the flower pot. So we were forced to extend it. She looks very stupid now.

Here you can see her trying to escape the camera. Poor girl.

It's looking better, but if I don't see some serious improvement over the weekend, we're going to have to go to the V-E-T.

Sparky is not being helful, and runs around, giggling and insisting that Casey's got "The Mange."

Mauser - it's trippy cool!

You may remember me threatening the liver of my darling husband a few posts back. Please rest assured he's FINE - I have not yet skewered him.


This here is what we call a Mauser. There are a LOT of "Mausers" out there, since most countries made them in the first part of the 20th century. This one happens to be from Brazil. It's a 30.06. I'm sure I absolutely decimated the collector value by re-bluing and polishing the wood, but it pleases me.

Note that, with bayonet attached, that's a BIG rifle. The tip of the bayonet, with the rifle resting at "order arms," extends slightly past my shoulder.

I pick this one up, and it's SOLID. Hell, it's HEAVY. I imagine carrying one of these every day. Not just carrying one every day the way you do in recruit training, or even today's war, but the way they used to. Every damn day in the mud and cold of European winters. In trenches and on mountainsides and in blowing snow. Or up and down the Andes in some South American banana war. Wiping the sweat out of your eyes with one hand while trying to keep this big damn rifle from tangling in every vine and tree.

But the sights are adjustable waaay out past 800 yards.

Damn. Different weapon for different wars.

That's the fun of old military weapons. Where have they been? The couple of Russian rifles we've got? Stalingrad, maybe? My old Argentine .45? Did the officer who wore it know about the old Nazi resettlement program? Did he drop a dime to the Mossad?

Random gun stuff

I am a devotee of the 1911 style pistol. I have three. I hate double-action pistols, and although three of mine can be fired that way, the only I ever DO fire DA is the snubnose .38.

So I do not love the Glock. I do not HATE the Glock, I just don't own one and I don't shoot them.

And I'm not really into "torture tests" for handguns.

But this - this rocks.

I don't know if I could do this to any of my personally-owned weapons. The rust makes me cringe. But this dude dropped his gat from an airplane, yo. So it's worth a read.


Just got an email from an Army buddy. I don't think she'll mind if I quote it in its entirety.

they just lifted the red line dude, we're fair game now. fuuuuccc***

"Red line" is a term that doubtless has some very specific meaning, but is one that is generally used by Reservists in reference to the "rules" of our mobilization/deployments.

The rules, as they stood, included, but were not limited to, the following.
1 - Thou shalt not be mobilized on actual "go to war" orders for more than 24 months.
2 - Thou shalt not be boots-on-ground in the AOR for more than 365 days (during any ONE mobilization).
3 - Thou shalt not be touched for mobilization for 365 days after getting DE-mobilized.
4 - Thou shalt not have to do more than two mobilizations, or, more than 24 months of active duty time. (This was nice because the Army always screwed around so much that many mobilizations actually lasted like 14 months, and we all knew they couldn't get their crap together enough to pull off a 10 month mob'.)

Of course, it's the military, and there are lots of caveats. And for those who enjoyed such things, waivers were available. And yes, some people do enjoy this stuff - one of the young guys I went to Iraq with had recently completed a tour in Afghanistan. He's either back in Afghanistan already or mobilizing to go again. He likes it. The money's good. And he has certain deep, psychological issues.

Anyway, the Pentagon finally decided that since the last round of Bush-related elections is over, it was time to go ahead and do this.

Until now, the Pentagon's policy on the Guard or Reserve was that members' cumulative time on active duty for the Iraq or Afghan wars could not exceed 24 months. That cumulative limit is now lifted; the remaining limit is on the length of any single mobilization, which may not exceed 24 consecutive months, Pace said.

What we're saying here is that they're rescinding Rule 4. Which sucks, I guess, but a lot of Reservists and Guardsmen have been able to see this one coming. My favorite bit of the article is this.

The fact that some with previous Iraq experience will end up spending more than 24 months on active duty is "no big deal," Chu said, because it has been "implicitly understood" by most that they eventually would go beyond 24 months.

Well, that's true. Military people are not, contrary to the way the media likes to present it, retarded. If there's writing on the wall, we can read it. Sometimes, way before our civilian friends can. And, young guys aside, we tend to be a pessimistic bunch.

In fact, speaking of writing on the wall, let me share with you my absolute favorite photo from Iraq. It speaks TRUTH.

One of the new MND-B commands that came and and took over while we were there decided all this graffiti on the barriers at BIAP was A Bad Thing, and had all the barriers painted. It was a sad surprise one day when we rolled in up there. However, there was new barrier graffiti in short order. Note to general officers - the American Soldier is a grumbly, sarcastic bastard. Attempts to erase evidence of that are doomed to failure.

Oh yeah - the post title - if you don't get it, well...Bend Over, Here It Comes Again.

11 January 2007

More on readjusting - (warning - poop-oriented)

So, you say, beyond an understandable aversion to explosions, what else has Abby noticed about readjusting to the Real World?

(or perhaps you don't care, which is cool, but since you're hanging out on my blog for some reason I'm going to tell you anyway)

Toilet paper. Sweet, lovely, American toilet paper.

From early June until mid-January, I lived in the land of the porta-shitter. No flush toilets. All the porta-shitters were blue, and were reasonably well maintained by a small army of Sri Lankans who seemed to be in Iraq for no other reason. But Sri Lankans are an entry of their own, and that's not what I'm writing now.

The porta-shitters were the hottest places on earth during the days. Imagine you've been on a mission all day and somehow were well-hydrated enough that you're still sweat-soaked. You're also wearing all your armor, your helmet and a drop-down holster on your thigh. Your mission is over, and since you made the mistake of eating at the World's Least Sanitary Chowhall, there is an impending Gastric Event.

After your truck is locked down, you scurry to your tent. You drop off your machine gun and M4 and lurch to the line of porta-shitters by the tent. Some good soul with a Sharpie marker had designated one "female only." And it's EMPTY. You tear off your helmet and drop it right outside, then bang inside.

Of course, it's damn near 120 OUTSIDE. How hot do you think it is INSIDE? You realize, as your intestines are tying themselves in knots, that you still have your DAPS (your upper arm armor) on, and there's no way you're getting out of it in this tiny space. So you lurch BACK outside, peel off your armor and drop it on top of your helmet. Then BACK into the porta-shitter.

You are SOL if the shitter takes a mortar round, but Hadji is a terrible shot, and if he managed to pull that one off, well, you reason, everybody's gotta go sometime and at least it would make a funny story for your buddies.

Now you shimmy your trousers down (challenging - remember, they're sweaty and stuck to you, your hands are sweaty, there's a thigh holster in your way and every time you look down to try to figure out what's up with your belt, MORE sweat falls from your forehead onto your fingers).

Ahhhh...sweet relief.

You glance up in horror to located the TP. There's always some in here, but the Sri Lankans clean the things with a pressure washer and occasionally reduce it to a pile of whiteish pulp.

Fortunately, this is not the case today. They cleaned a few hours ago, in the morning cool, and so although the porta-shitter is steamy, the TP is at least dry enough to use.

Of course, it's lowest-bidder USGI TP, and so it's like scratchy tissue paper. No - actually, it's thinner than that. You use HANDFULS of the stuff. The sweat on your hands takes it halfway to "pulp" status the instant you touch it. It's okay, though, you just grab more.

Gasping for air in the steamy lockbox, you struggle your trousers back UP over your sweaty thighs, hitching your holster into place. It's at least 750,000 degrees farenheit in here, and your vision is blurring. You button your pants and lurch OUT, the desert afternoon feeling, for a second, deliciously cool.

You buckle your belt outside, among all the similar closets occupied by your male comrades and the less-speedy (or less-desperate) females. You shrug back into your armor and set your helmet on your head, and wander back to your tent.

Later, after ingesting something local and foul, you will have a night that lasts 300 years and will re-name the porta-shitter the "Blue Closet of Sadness."

And that, my friends, is why TP is a difficult thing to get back on board with. Great handfuls of Charmin are excessive and can, in fact, cause issues with real toilets. Also useful to remember when rejoining humanity - it is necessary to FLUSH a toilet.

10 January 2007

Speaking of whipping wildly around...

I don't talk much about the creepy parts of being back from a long year in Iraq. For the most part, it isn't bad. I'm MILES closer to normal than I was when I initially got back. I credit part of that to our unit having moved to a place I call "Camp Happy" a couple months before we left Iraq. Coming straight from our first location to the US wouldn't have been healthy.

But for the most part, I don't do a lot of jumping. I know a car backfiring is just that. Once in a while a speeding vehicle in the corner of my eye will put my heart in my throat, and there was that weird incident with the chair in the road...

For the most part, though, I'm fine.

Today I was stretched out on the couch around 1500, thinking about taking a nap.


I rolled halfway off the couch and froze - what the fuck?

It was DEFINITELY an explosion, and it was reasonably close. (In my limited experience, explosions that are close enough to worry about have a flat sound. The big hollow booms imply the distance for an echo. Your mileage may vary.)

I jumped up (ducking, I noted), and stood a moment. Then I called Mr. Abby.

"You okay?" I asked. He does work at a big fat target.

"Yeah, I'm on my way home. Why?"

"Something just blew up. Close to here. Huh. Well, see you in a few."

There were no sirens. There was no shooting. I stood in the back yard, smoking and wondering if I was totally going crazy. It had been such a familiar Iraq sound. Coulda sworn it sounded like a mortar impacting.

A neighbor a few houses away walked outside and looked at me.

"Hey," he called. "You have power?"

"Yeah - why?"

"Well, this whole side of the road just lost it."

Ahhh...transformer. A transformer blew up. Iraqi transformers blew often (a spectacle, at night).

I exhaled. I am officially Not Totally Insane.

"Nope!" I called cheerfully. "Hope it's back soon for ya!"

Evil supermarket...

...thy name is "Sweetbay."

Once in a while, I require a grocery-type item after 10p.m. OK - quite often, since I'm damn near nocturnal. Tonight I wanted crackers and apples and root beer.

My local Publix closes at 10, and it was 10:15. So off I went to "Sweetbay," a happy grocery store that took over a less-successul Publix and seems to be angling for a slightly snooty demographic. Whatever - you're open late, I'm there.

But Sweetbay drives me INSANE. I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around their aisle arrangement. I went there one night to buy Grape Nuts - you know, that cereal that's like eating gravel? I like it. Anyway, I wandered until I found the cereal aisle. But there were no Grape Nuts. In fact, I noticed as I trooped the cereal line, there was precious little that didn't have loops, marshmallows or free toys inside.

I was befuddled in the truest sense of the word, and was about to give up. In fact, I started wandering away. Then I saw the other side of the aisle. It even had a sign. "Adult cereal." WHAT THE HELL IS "Adult Cereal???" Bran flakes shaped like hookers? With penis-shaped marshmallows?

No - apparently "adult cereal" is gritty stuff that resembles gravel. I found my Grape Nuts.

So tonight I was looking for root beer. I found the soda aisle. And there was Barq's, and there was Mug. No A&W??? How can a damn grocery store not have A&W??? I walked back and forth, building a steady seething rage. Decided to give the Mug a shot, so I grabbed a 12-pack and turned to go...

Yep. You guess it. A&W, other side of the aisle.

You do not even want to hear about trying to figure out which "hispanic" section the tortillas are hidden in. I give up. The worst part of it is, Sweetbay is filling me with self doubt. I stand in the aisles, then whip rapidly around to ensure the item I'm after isn't lurking behind me, dagger in hand. Making me crazy...

Swear to God...

If Mr. Abby makes one more SLLLUUUUURP while drinking coffee or eating cereal on the other end of the couch tonight, I'm going to mount the bayonet on my Mauser and get all World War I on his ass.

Note to any male readers: If you're happily shoveling chow into your mouth and you glance at your wife, and happen to catch her looking at you with a slight detachment and the faintest hint of distaste, and if you ask her, "what?" and she pauses before saying, "oh - nothing,"...if that exact thing happens, she's thinking about running a bayonet through your liver.

Work in Progress

We're trying our hand at HTML editing, as you can see by the first pathetic attempt at a collection of links down below the Archives.

Yes, apparently everyone in the world can build websites from scratch using HTML (whatever the Hell that even is), but please cut me a little slack. I haven't tried to communicate with these here "computers" in their own language since...1993? It was BASIC.

Again, your tolerance is begged. We're learning here.

09 January 2007

Maybe I'm just bitter

So I took Mr. Abby for a car ride tonight, to return some movies. I explained my ongoing music issue to him, then proclaimed that he was getting a ride with the "Happy Oldies" CD.

I skipped around from "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay," to which I'd been listening obsessively earlier. I found one that was happy - "Leader of the Pack." And I figured he'd enjoy that because it has motorcycle sounds, and he's kinda like a slow five-year-old about engine noises (aren't most men?).

Anyway, I assume you're familiar with "Leader of the Pack." Happy music - vroom! vroom! - then her father disapproves of him, and orders them to split up, and, in his grief, he crashes his motorcycle (complete with sound effects) and dies.

Mr. Abby looked at me. "That's happy?"


Maybe I just need to buy another Merle Haggard boxed set and a crate of booze and stop trying to be cheery. I don't think it's me.


Casey's hotspot is drying out. She looks phenomenally stupid in her licky colllar, and she knows it. It took her all day to muster the self esteem to go out in the yard. But it's a beautiful day here and so I just spent 15 minutes sitting in the sunshine petting her and telling her she's wonderful.

However, dogs are shallow beasts, and I think she'd really feel better if I made Sparky wear a licky collar, too.

Grasping at straws of sanity

Sometimes things get a little out of control.

1 - a job. I've applied for a great one and I think I've got a chance at it. But it's a government job and the process takes forever. Don't want to commit to anything else big until I know about this one.

1b - a job. Gotta do something. Dog toys don't grow on trees, yo. Mama needs some new toys of her own.

1c - a job. The Forest Service is hiring for some weird writer position on a small island in Alaska. And I've always wanted to go to Alaska. And I'm having this early midlife crisis...

2 - the Marine Corps. They're gonna send us somewhere. Fairly soon. Sounds like it's gonna be somewhere sucky. Don't know for sure until they send orders. Don't know when they'll do that.

3 - the Army. They finally think they might really be done with me. That's great - right? RIIIIGHT? True, I define myself more that way than any other and last time I got out I hated myself every day for it, but everyone who loves me thinks it's GREAT. So it is. RIIIIGHT?

4 - the house. In Minnesota. That we still own. The renter wants to buy it, which is great. But how do we get from the rent-to-own contract to the part where we have money and aren't making mortgage payments? Better figure THAT out... And when is that gonna happen? Because that might be...kinda important.

5 - my dog. She's itchy and her hair keeps falling out. If it weren't for my dog, I'd have changed my name and fled to the islands months ago. DAMN IT - heal thyself, canid!

6 - assorted personal shit I don't feel like detailing here but that gnaws at my brain.

So I found myself driving around today, gritting my teeth again (I swear I have no idea how I have any teeth left) and chainsmoking and taking deep deep breaths to keep from screaming. The radio was NOT helping. Neither was my current favorite driving CD.

(never listen to a custom driving CD when you feel like fleeing your life - unless you really really want to end up in Fort Smith working at a diner under an assumed name)

BUT! But - in one little apparent moment of good judgement back when I made my driving CD, I put a Beach Boys tune (Wouldn't It Be Nice) on it.

So I played it. Then played it again. Then went into PetSmart. Then played it again. Then went into Publix. Then played it again. Then I went home instead of just driving north and shedding my entire existence like a rat snake that's tired of its old skin.

So, since life in general doesn't look like it's going to sort itself out neatly anytime in the near future, I downloaded a bunch of HAPPY oldies tonight. More Beach Boys. The Supremes (the upbeat shit). The Crystals. The Chiffons. All that stuff.

And tomorrow I shall take out the music that makes me want to make excessively rash decisions, and I shall put in the Happy Oldies, and it shall remain in my CD player until I'm not mere fractions of an inch from going totally batshit.

08 January 2007

Product Endorsement!

OK - this is a weird one, and it doesn't involve any dog pictures, so you may want to skip it. Unless you're into the internet and live in the middle of nowhere.

There was a post over Christmas about a new type of connectivity up at Bad Dogs (North).

Abby's Mom and Dad live in the boondocks. Now, I don't mean the total, like charter-a-seaplane-to-get-in boondocks, but from the internet connection options, you'd almost think so.

Mom's been using dial-up (Dad does not use the internet) for years now. And, as most of you know, dial-up had just sucked in comparison to the other options out there for quite some time.

And Abby's Mom wanted Real Internet. She wanted to be able to view photos larger than 50k without a ten-minute wait. She'd heard something about these "internet videos" and thought they might be interesting. Mostly, being Abby's Mom, she wanted to be able to rapidly switch between travel sites to find the best deal on plane tickets OUT of the boondocks.

But she was thwarted at every turn. DSL from the phone company? "We're sorry, ma'am, but that's just not available in your area, and won't be anytime soon." Cable internet? Ha! Like there are cables out there?

How about the satellite TV provider? Umm..sorry, not in that location. She thought she had a good lead on a different satellite access system, but alas, the boondocks have oak trees, and they are such healthy oak trees that apparently they block out the line of sight to outer space. Or some such idiocy. It wouldn't work, the technician gently explained, before he drove away.

Abby's Mom was pissed. Highly. By the time Mr. Abby and I made it there for Christmas, she was eyeing Dad's chainsaws and thinking of solving oak tree problem. Dad was quietly pulling me aside and asking if there was anything that could be done "to get that damn internet or whatever in here," since he was starting to get vibes that she might burn the house down and insist on moving somewhere with FIOS.

So we scratched our heads. Then saw it on TV. Sprint/Nextel offered some sort of magic "card" that, when attached to a "computer" would enable the user to get to "the internet" through the magic of something related to cell phones.

So we called them. Well, they had card and some internets, but...(come on, say it with me)...it wouldn't work in the boondocks.

However...Mom has an Alltel phone...so we called Alltel...and then Mom and I went to the Alltel store...

And a week later, after Mr. Abby upgraded her RAM, installed Windows XP instead of Windows Boondocks and added a new graphics card...and after we found a magic adapter so you could plug a PCMCIA broadband card into a desktop expansion slot...we had VICTORY!!!

It's not quite FIOS fast, but it IS a huge step up from dial-up. And it's really not too expensive, when you compare it to a second, dedicated phone line and dial-up subscription. It's a WAY better deal than the satellite providers.

Props to Alltel. If YOU live in the boondocks and want to escape dial-up, it's worth a shot.

Why yes...

that IS a flower pot on my dog's head.

WHAAAT???? We're poor, yo.

And I'm a tree hugger. So we saved money AND recycled.

Some day I'll tell you how, using only duct tape and 550 cord, you can turn old uniform Tshirts into new underpants for the man in your life.

Woe is Dog...Dog is Woe...

Well, here's one I haven't had to do before. Casey developed a "hot spot" on her tail while we were at Bad Dogs (North). This was treated successfully w/ Benadryl and cornstarch. However, when we got back, she began working one up on the left side of her back.

It's been getting worse, and today it finally showed itself - a large patch of raw, hot, apparently itchy as HELL skin. And of course, being a Bad Dog, she was licking it wildly, in the futile Dog Hope that licking would fix the problem.

I brushed the hell out of her. Then, when Mr. Abby got home, we bathed her with special anti-itch/anti-skin bacteria shampoo. Then we cornstarched the spot. And she immediately licked it off. That was okay, since I'd forgotten the peroxide. So I rewashed the affected area, then peroxided it.

Meanwhile, Mr. Abby was at work on the licky-collar. Which she's wearing now, along with a healthy dose of foot powder on the area. We shall see...

She doesn't appear to be able to lick it. She does, however, apppear highly pissed at us.

07 January 2007

Ah, shit...

Bad news from Baghdad.

We know the surviving Airman. His wife (also an Air Force NCO) worked with Mr. Abby here in Tampa. I met her husband a couple of times when he came down to visit. He's a very good guy - an EOD tech with a ton of experience. A true, dedicated professional. When I met him, he was working in a R&D type capacity here in the States. Even before he returned to actual EOD field work, he's probably done as much as anyone to keep our folks in the Sandbox alive, by learning how to better handle and mitigate the goddam bombs.

Anyway, he's headed to Germany and, depending on how long he's going to stay there, his wife may or may not join him. They currently live in the DC area and if he heads to Walter Reed, she'll be there. I'll refrain from over-sharing someone else's personal business, but it does look as though he will recover.

I didn't know any of Bill's teammates, but our condolences go out to their families and friends.

If you feel the need, Soldiers' Angels is a fabulous organization that cares for our wounded from the moment they hit the ground in Germany until they're discharged from stateside hospitals. I invite you to give till it hurts - our men and women certainly have.

Since you asked...

Yes, Sparky DID receive a haircut after we returned to the Humid Bog that is FLORIDA.

Fortunately, hair grows BACK. I have GOT to get a job...

Open letter to my MOM

Dear Mom,

Thank you very much for hosting the entire Pack for a fabulous Christmas. Thank you especially for all the thoughtful gifts. About one of those gifts, though... I deeply appreciate that you thought of Sparky and his passion for squeaky toys. I also appreciate that you took the time and expended the effort to find the Orange Dude.
Sparky ALSO enjoys the Orange Dude. In fact, he enjoys it for several hours a day. Normally in the evening when we're both home and trying to watch the news, but often later in the evening when we're trying to eat dinner and chat.

His enjoyment of the Orange Dude is, in fact, so extreme that when we try to TEMPORARILY take it away from him, he yaps and paws at us hysterically. Sometimes he brings Orange Dude to bed, which can be...well, either awkward or amusing, depending on the specific evening.

Did you know that Orange Dude is totally indestructible? No matter how vigorously it's chewed, even if it's passed off to CASEY for some chewing, it JUST KEEPS SQUEAKING.

So, in short, Mom - thank you for the Orange Dude. In response to your thoughtful selection of this toy, I'm already shopping for some Squeaky Slippers that you can wear around the house to amuse Sarge.

Your loving daughter,


Ahhh...self esteem boost

You know what makes me feel good about myself? Going to the laundromat. For those of you who are still unaware, the Crackhouse does NOT feature laundry facilities. Or even the possibility of such facilities.

So every ten days or so, it's off to the laundromat I go. It's normally an annoying and expensive experience, but it DOES make me glad to be me. For instance:

A - the laundromat makes me feel THIN. Ever observe the normal patrons of your local laundromat?

B - the laundromat makes me feel as though I've made GOOD LIFE CHOICES. That is, I'm not surrounded by squalling brats clutching fast food packages. Further, I'm not surrounded by a pack of squalling brats, EACH OF WHOM LOOKS JUST DIFFERENT ENOUGH that you know that if they all belong to the same woman, they also all belong to different men.

C - the laundromat makes me feel FINANCIALLY SUCCESSFUL. Yeah - I know, it's a stretch but observe:
1. I have actual laundry bags. True, they're Army issue, but at least I'm not toting our dirty clothes in plastic Publix bags.
2. I drive to the laundromat. Nothing more depressing than someone who rides up on a bicycle with the plastic bags on the handlebars.

So, although normally I'm not into inflating MY self-image at the expense of others, the laundromat reminds me that even though I feel that this stage of my life is the "impoverished, white-trash, living under a freeway overpass" stage, it COULD be worse.