28 December 2009

Ah, yes...winter

The last time I was in Michigan with bad roads was...2001, for the World's Snowiest Wedding.  The ex-mister and I actually weren't entirely sure anybody would make it, but thanks to 4-wheel drive, it was a nice event.

But since then...all my visits have been on clear roads.  Until this one.  Also interesting is that I had never driven the Jeep on winter roads.  Fortunately, it handles acceptably with just a little care.  Nonetheless, I've been doing a little white-knuckle driving, particularly on the back roads.

One of us, however, is madly in love with winter and snow.

There may be time, while we're up here, to introduce him to the fact that in some of those brushpiles, there are rabbits.  And rabbits need to be chased.

25 December 2009

Too much Christmas

For Jack - he's kinda like a four-legged little kid.  He opened presents and ate and had treats...

And now he's sacked out on the couch.

Merry Christmas!

We have a standing rib roast in the oven, and are enjoying the day with family. 

Jack (and my Mom) hope all our readers are enjoying their Christmas as much as we're enjoying ours!

22 December 2009

I know he loves me

because he pees on my feet.

I dropped off a hastily-prepared draft of some training materials on a captain's desk this morning, badgered the admin guy about getting paid, then made fabulous time from Fort Bragg back to Georgia to pick up the Man In My Life. 

Kinda depressing that he's neutered and has a tail, but...hell, you can't have everything.

I'm back at Bragg, snorffling out of the government trough, in early January, but til then...we're going home for Christmas!

Since I'm in Georgia and home is in Michigan...that means more driving.  As my Dad would say, yipee shit.  Today's drive was fine, and letting the dog drive through Indiana usually helps, but I did check the weather tonight.  And saw this:

Another major winter storm will move out of the Rockies and slowly eastward over the Plains and Midwest over the next few days.
On Wednesday the storm moves out of the mountains and into the southern Plains and produces snow, freezing rain, rain, and possibly severe thunderstorms.

Snowfall will start out light across the western Plains, northern Plains, and upper Midwest early Wednesday. Later Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday night the storm will gain considerable strength and ample moisture will be pulled in from the Gulf

I'm heading straight from Michigan back to North Carolina.  So I'm taking Army stuff.  Jack will stay with Dad in January, so I'm taking the dog and all his crap.  And Christmas presents.  And decent clothes and rabbit hunting clothes.  And now, apparently, in addition to the usual road-rescue kit, medical kit and jack, I need to take the trapped-in-a-ditch-in-an-icy-snowbank kit.  Also, boots and gloves.  Fortunately, the Jeep is highly expeditionary and I already have a shovel and winch mounted.

It should be an adventure.  And, best of all, at the end, there's Christmas with the people I love.  You really can't beat a deal like that.

15 December 2009

Just for the record

It is worth noting that just because one could, say...find one's way around Fort Bragg and the surrounding areas three years ago...

That does not mean that one will be able to even so much as find a gas station, or exit point, today.

It's good to be back at Bragg - it kinda feels homey.  I forsee spending a lot of time here over the next several months.  That means, I think, that I should figure out where the damn gates are again...

14 December 2009

Not bored!

I landed a short set of orders to help fill the gap before my longer set starts.  So...I have to go meet new people tomorrow.  My Army outfit is all laid out, with the velcro attached, and my socks are even pre-positioned.

Now, I just have to make sure I'm not dragging toilet paper from my boot in the morning...

08 December 2009

Good stuff

I was sitting around this evening, petting my dog and reading.  A warm beverage, I thought, sounds fabulous.  But, alas, even I try not to drink coffee after midnight.

Fortunately, there are non-coffee hot beverages.

First we need the World's Cheapest Kettle, and then my CNN cup.  The CNN cup is awesome because it's large enough that I can use it for expeditionary bathing.  Don't believe me?  Let me tell you about the week it took my landlord to get my hot water heater working...

Righto.  We're talking about a scrumptious chocolatey beverage.  In the foreground we have some nice raspberry hot cocoa mix.  Since I'm using a cup roughly the size of Lake Erie, we are also going to be using some el-cheapo plain mix from Wally World.

So...mildly raspberried hot cocoa...that's good.  But we're talking about a better-than-good beverage. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Abby makes good hot cocoa into a super-awesome grownup drink.  As a note, I rarely drink Bailey's, but I'm pretty sure it was invented for just this purpose.  Well, that and fortifying coffee during certain ungodly Army evolutions *cough* four-hour cultural awareness brief *cough*

06 December 2009

Disparity of progress

Jack and I have been keeping up a fairly vigorous program of exercise.  Me, because I'm waiting on a set of orders and don't want to show up fat and sleepy, and him...well, because a tired dog is a good dog.

We've been running a lot, but this morning I decided we'd take a little time, go out to an old railbed (tracks long gone), and go for a good, long, brisk trudge.  I tossed a couple five-pound weights and bottles of water into a little backpack just to make it more interesting.

We took off at a brisk, clip and, with the exception of road crossings and a certain bridge, maintained it.  For 46:00 minutes.  At which point we ran out of trail.  Actually, the good people of Columbus are turning a big section of the old tracks into a "multi-use trail," and we hit the point where the trail was torn up and there were large pieces of construction equipment.  So...we turned around.

Since this evolution was not sucking quite enough yet, I decided that we could jog a little bit to break up the brisk walking.  Ah, yes...there's that sucking sound I was looking for.

Note the surface under the happy dog.  Apparently, the vast majority of the whole rail bed is covered in rocks.  I had noticed this as we trudged out, but really noticed it when we were trotting coming back in.  I'm really not the most coordinated woman in the world, so it was very slow and careful trotting.

(Because the whole concept of me going on orders in the intermediate future would be seriously impeded if I  broke an ankle jogging through rocks with my dog.  Also, I'd have to figure out my TriCare coverage)

We made great time coming back, until, maybe half a mile from the Jeep, we encountered the Bridge Of Satan.  On the way out, I'd figured we could just walk across it.  This was stupid, and scary.  Please observe said bridge:

Yeah.  Jack and I made it not even ten feet out on it before I realized that was a very bad idea.  Of course, once you're picking your way across a rotting railroad trestle with you four-legged buddy, turning around is even more of a problem.  So we crept across.  The ties, of course, were just far enough apart that my buddy could have gone between them - it was, I repeat, a very bad idea.  Also scary.  So on the return, we opted to go under and around.

This was a much better approach.  And, because it was steep, it also meant that you-know-who got to have his leash off

After a brief time-out to play in the creek, he got hooked back up and we climbed out to the road, where it was a short jog back to the Jeep (total of 94:00 on the trail, bumper and back).

Now - to explain the post title...  We've been, as I said, doing a lot of this stuff lately.  And I'm in better shape than I was a month ago.  Problem is, Jack is in waaaaay better shape than he was a month ago, and he already had me beat.  So we run, or we trudge, and he's not wearing out anymore.  More annoying, he is not creaking around the house like I am.  Asleep in his bed - yes.  Groaning and complaining - no

Sigh.  Guess that's the advantage to being the black lab.  In my favor, I can drive and order cheeseburgers.

05 December 2009

We [HEART] Football

We managed a park run, a little cleaning and I even made it to the store and back, leaving the entire afternoon/evening free for watching college football.

I'm still trying to figure out which teams I like and which I don't in the SEC.  Jack has thrown his support firmly behind Alabama today, but that may have more to do with a residual fear of alligators from our time in Florida.  I'm kind of sick of hearing the sports media gushing like 12-year-old girls over Tim Tebow, though, so I guess both the dog and I will be cheering for the Tide.

03 December 2009

Tales from the internet

We're not going to dwell on the epic Hell and Fail that is Abby Trying To Do Christmas Shopping.  I'm mildly irked that it seems to be socially unacceptable to buy all my loved ones a flashlight every year (because, really, what says I love you and care about you better than a flashlight?  It'll keep you safe, it's good for morale, and you can never have too many).

All that aside, I was browsing the Cabela's website, desperate to see if there was a single website that might, just might, offer more than one of the gifts I'm looking for (answe - no).

Did you know you can buy a caribou mount from Cabelas?  Like a dead caribou shoulder mount?  Like you might have made if you shot a caribou?  But, I guess, if you'd never shot a caribou but kinda wish you had? 

Now, I know that as the woman who bought a whimsical mounted squirrel, I may only have limited credibility on the subject, but I think there's something a little weird about buying a big-game mount.  Also, the caribou are not whimsical, and are not pieces of art, which is how I categorize my squirrel.

Also available are mule deer, and "life-sized" mountains goats and nyala (nyalas?  some deer-looking beast).  I'm not really sure if that means those animals are fabricated and not actual dead critters, or if they're just indicating those mounts are not shrunken goats or nyalas.

Sorry, loved ones - nobody's getting a caribou this year.

27 November 2009

The most tempted dog in the world...

is the one who is watching me start ribs.  I simmer them, and I'll throw them on the grill (or, if I'm lazy, under the broiler) to finish them off.  But he just had to watch the part where I cut the rack into sections and stage the meat on the counter. 

You can see the calculations going on in that wee little canine pea-brain.  I can take that meat, he thinks, but I think she might really kill me for it.

25 November 2009

Just too hard

Today was Jeep Washing Day.  Trust me - it was sorely needed.  So I took a mitful of quarters down to Ye Olde Concrete Bays and knocked off the top eight layers of road filth.  I was feeling pretty proud of myself as I parked and went inside...

Ten minutes later I needed something I'd left, so I went out to find that, having parked beneath a tree (there's really not much choice), my clean hood had already received a liberal coating of berry-filled bird crap.  Or squirrel puke.  Something vile, I didn't run tests.

The small victory came when I found I not only had some stamps to send out bills, but that the stamps I have are actually the current first-class rate. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, my dog is pinging off the walls and I think a trip to the park for a good, long run is in order.

23 November 2009


Depart Barry County, Michigan at 1320...arrive Slave Cottage, Georgia at 0358, 893 miles later.

I think a beer and a hot shower will unwind me, but my sidekick seems to have decided that 14.5 hours together in a Jeep Wrangler isn't quite enough quality time...

19 November 2009

Oh teh noes...

It appears that, barring a last-minute miracle tomorrow (as in, antlered deer attacks me enroute to my Jeep), the deer have won this year and I have lost.  This year’s lesson was actually a reinforcement of a lesson from a very very cold hunt several years ago in Minnesota…if Abby sees a small spike ten minutes into Opening Day, she should shoot it.  Failing to do so angers the deer gods and guarantees no antlers for the rest of the season.


Lack of venison aside, I’ve had a blast plotting with Dad and crashing through briar patches and swamps with Neighbor Boy.  No matter how many years you’ve either struck out or shot a deer the size of a house pet, General Firearms Deer Season is still the occasion to hope for a monster, and to have your pulse elevate with every cracking twig.


You may have foiled me this year, evil whitetails, but next year I have a date with the 30-point buck.

16 November 2009

Dooooog Braaaaaaains....

And in weird news from the deer hunting front…


Dad got a deer yesterday (Go, Dad!).  Respectable fork.  He brought it up to his barn and proceeded to take the required “this is my deer” photos.  Jack was present.  Dad found himself moving the deer’s head for pictures, and Jack started barking in terror.


Who’d’a thunk it?  Apparently, there are zombie deer, and my black lab is the only dog in the world who can sense them.   


15 November 2009


Alas, today’s score is Deer 4, Abby 0.  That is, Views Offered (of any deer, regardless of size, sex or nationality) as contrasted to Shots Taken.


Fortunately, it’s not frigid here at all, and so it was mostly just a very nice day of watching squirrels.  And listening to squirrels.  And being woken up from nice outdoor naps by squirrels…  And there were, of course, multiple episodes in which squirrels pretended to be deer just to get me excited.


Tomorrow, we try again!

13 November 2009

The most wonderful time of the year

I woke up yesterday very early and very nearly leaped out of the rack.  Tossed a duffel and a dog and some boots in the Jeep and hit the road.

We made Michigan around 2300 and crashed Mom's place.  That's 930 miles, so it was good work.

Why the sudden urgency?  Well, Sunday is the beginning of what Mom always called the "high holy days," that is, deer season.  I'll move my base camp down to Dad's this afternoon, make sure my shotgun still works (I have the confused idea that the rear sight on something - either my slug gun or my 30/30 - got dorked up, so I need to check it), then sit and dream of the 30-point buck until Sunday morning.

I'm not a real high-intensity hunter (more of a sit-under-a-tree-and-nap sort, really), but I can't not get excited about Opening Day.  It's a weekend (in Michigan, it's always Nov 15 - regardless of whether that's a Saturday or a Tuesday), the weather is not off-putting, and you can't drive down a road here without playing a white-knuckle version of deer pong, so I should see deer.  Whether or not I see anything to shoot at is a different question, but not a very important one.

11 November 2009

Veteran's Day

We could, of course, post something thoughtful and somber. But you know what, let's not. We've got plenty of other days for that.

Veteran's Day is great because it celebrates all our vets, whether you were one of the guys who served in Godawful Somalia in the early 90s or whether you served as a Navy Yeoman in the late 80s who never left shore.

Peacetime, wartime, in combat or just in the constant state of confusion and paperwork flux that defines military service, this day celebrates everybody who's ever put on a uniform and said, "do with me what you will."

If you've ever been forced to care about the length of a $3 belt in relation to your belt-loops, this is your day. If you've ever spent an hour painting the little eyelets on a cartidge belt black, if you've ever received 37 hepatitis shots in two weeks because of lost paperwork, if you've ever walked 15 or 20 miles and then found the promised trucks or helicopters weren't coming and turned around and walked back...this is your day.

If at one point or another you rode a bus to a training center in the middle of the night and, as you saw someone with abnormally good posture waiting in the darkness, thought, maybe this was a really bad idea... If you've ever folded your underwear and t-shirt into squares and watched someone take a ruler to those squares... If you've ever had to find a helmet to move a vehicle across a parking lot, learned to carry 45 bags in your left hand to retain the ability to salute, been told by angry sweating cook that "gravy" is the main course...this is your day.

If you've used your boots as a pillow while waiting on a plane that may or may not show up, if you've ever thanked the taxpayers out loud over a pitcher of beer, if you've ever dragged your buddy out of an Asian tattoo parlor to make it back to the ship on time...it's your day.

Oftentimes, veterans are modest to a fault. The vast majority of us were not among the Rangers who took the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, and realizing there are real heroes among us, tend to not want to brag on our own, minor achievements and experiences.  This is an honorable impulse, but once in a while we need to celebrate all our service, even the most pedestrian.

So corner a family member, a loved one, or a friend.  Best of all if you can corner a child or teenager.  Insist they listen to your stories, don't be afraid to embellish a little.  If you were once forced to process leave forms on a Friday afternoon, make it into a mountain of leave forms (just for storytelling purposes).  If you changed tires on five-ton trucks at Fort Polk, make it into a lot of five-ton trucks, in July, with water mocassins. Don't be afraid to start a story with There I was...in the Camp Kinser postal facility a week before ChristmasCelebrate the time nobody had told you smoke grenades get hot, or to watch your thumb with that Garand, or that chock blocks go on the downhill side of the tires.

(Suggest if you're telling stories to spouses or children, you don't tell any that start out There I was...on Pattaya Beach on liberty...)

It's Veteran's Day.  Be proud of your services, and share your experiences with those close to you. 

10 November 2009

Fort Hood Memorial Service

I watched the service today on CNN.  It was nicely done, and the TV folks even resisted the urge to chatter during the ceremony.  I saw an estimate of 15,000 attending.  I was struck, beforehand, by the some of the never-changing aspects of life in the military.  There wasn't enough seating, and so Joe - the generic and undistinguished generic American Soldier - was standing behind the chairs.  And sitting up against vehicles, and against shipping containers, and on the ground.  Sitting back-to-back with other Soldiers and standing, arms crossed, in bits of shadow. 

These ceremonies are something that, although nobody wants to attend, nobody wants to not attend, either.  It's the exact same ceremony, with some minor differences in scale, that is held periodically on FOBS and camps and COPs all around the theater of operations.  Same program of events, same music (although one usually gets Amazing Grace on tape, rather than by a talented master sergeant, in the desert), same boots-helmet-and-rifle.  The Soldiers (and Mr. Cahill, although retired, was certainly a Soldier) who were killed at Fort Hood got the same sendoff from the Army we provide to each one who falls downrange.

Maybe that's why there was such impressive attendance from the Soldiers of Fort Hood.  These ceremonies are as much for the comrades of the fallen as for anyone else.  They're important, they help us acknowledge loss, and reassure us that if we should go down, we'll be acknowledged.  You go to a memorial ceremony because you want every seat to be full, you want to be a part of a demonstration that a fallen comrade won't be forgotten, and is being honored not by a commander and a couple of others, but by the entire community of warriors.

I'm glad it was packed.  It was a fine farewell.

09 November 2009

We believe in the right to arm bears

And I think they do have black bears here in Georgia.  However, none of them seem to live with me, so I had to do the next best thing and arm a Big Black Dog.

In addition to just being generally irritated that, in a coffee-induced late-night spasm of weirdness, I decided to make him wear my holster, Jack is irritated he didn't get a 1911.  Those have a thumb safety, I explained, and well, you don't have thumbs.

06 November 2009

No good

I got the news about Fort Hood while I was driving home yesterday, and spent about 500 miles punching the "seek" button and trying to keep up with developments.

It's nothing short of horrifying to lose our people here at home.  One of the biggest sources of stress for our Warriors downrange is the utter lack of a true "safe zone" anywhere in Iraq or Afghanistan.  That just makes it worse when the possibility of sudden and random murder becomes a reality here in the United States.

The last unit I supported in Iraq is a Fort Hood battalion.  Fortunately, if things have remained on schedule, they are still in Iraq.  And that's not something you say very often.

I was surprised at my impressions when I first heard who the shooter was.  I will leave the Islam issue alone - there's nothing printable I have to say about that.  What floored me (and surprised me by doing so) was the degree to which I was stunned that it was a field-grade officer who had killed Soldiers.

I understand that crazy is crazy, and evil is evil, and that neither crazy nor evil are ruled out by class, age, education, etc.  I also understand that the Medical Corps is not the same as the rest of the Army.  But an officer, particularly a goddam major, is expected to be a mature leader, for whom the care of Soldiers is a sacred trust.

Killed by someone who you automatically, by definition, trust with your life

This shitbag had apparently decided it was just too darn hard to bear the responsibilities he accepted when he took his commission.  He should have been drummed out of the Army way back when he started saying he was having issues with our national policy (imagine having that piece of work assigned to help you work through some war-related issues).

Bah.  I'm disgusted.  And devastated for the troopers killed and wounded, and their comrades in arms.  These people have done enough, and that more strength and resilience is going to be required of them to deal with events at their home...it's heartbreaking.

I give thanks, though, for the Soldiers on the ground who shut doors and barred the shooter from getting to further concentrations of people.  I give thanks for the Soldiers brave and quick-witted enough to begin performing care under fire while utterly without the ability to return fire.  And I give thanks for the warriors who don't go downrange, like DoD Police SGT Kim Munley, who ran to the sound of the guns and dropped the shooter killing her flock.  Munley is married to the military, accepted the responsibility of protecting the military community, and deserves to be considered a hero on par with any Soldier who runs into a hail of fire to save his comrades.

03 November 2009

Setting an example

We look at the heartbreaking death of Noor Faleh Almaleki, a young woman in Arizona who, it certainly appears, was killed by her father for being "too Westernized."

It is unclear, at least upon cursory inspection, as to whether these folks were "Iraqis," or Americans who'd immigrated from Iraq.  It may not be legally different, but if Miss Almaleki was an American citizen, I'd find it a little irritating to have her referred to as an "Iraqi woman."  Because that makes it easier for us to distance ourselves from the savagery of an honor killing being committed in freakin' Arizona.

And I don't think we want to trivialize this sort of thing.  It is, after all, male relatives killing women in America.  That is, beyond just being awful, the perfect example of the sort of crap and horror that pretty much everyone ought to be able to agree needs to be left behind in the countries these folks leave behind.

Come to the US, you get economic opportunity, freedom from death squads, the ability to vote in reasonably un-rigged elections, public education for all your children.  You do have to leave some things behind, and they should include: disappearing people with whom you disagree politically; discarding refuse and excrement in the street; and, treating your female relatives like goats you're not allowed to eat.

I would assume, since we (as a country) went to the trouble of running this man down and bringing him back when he tried to flee to Great Britain, the intent exists to prosecute him.  Ms. Almaleki died last night, so I haven't seen yet the specific charge.

But I think we need to start making an example.  This sort of thing, it appears, is happening from time to time.  And, it seems, if left unchecked, this is a problem that will grow.  It has in Great Britain.

In the first half of this year alone, the government’s Forced Marriage Unit – which deals with honour violence because of its frequent links to forced marriage – had received 2,000 calls.

That's unacceptable in this country.  Sorry.  I'm a woman, and I have had no experience that leads me to believe my country will put up with that sort of savage behavior.

Now, oddly enough, it seems as if our federal government has done something recently that might give us (as a nation) a way to express our disapproval for this garbage.  Mr. Almeleki should, of course, be prosecuted by the state of Arizona as they see fit.  But then...(I love this)...has anyone looked at that new bit of federal hate crimes legislation the president just signed?
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act gives the Department of Justice (DOJ) the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence by providing the DOJ with jurisdiction over crimes of violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
The focus with this, particularly among conservatives, has been on the "sexual orientation" bit.  But...gender was also added as a criteria to screen for bias in criminal motivation.

I'm not, in the most part, a fan of the concept of hate crimes.  A crime is a crime - one murder is no worse than another.  But there have been times in our nation's history when state courts have refused to step up to the plate, and the federal government's willingness to prosecute what they could was the only honorable action taken.
The FBI arrested 18 men in October 1964, but state prosecutors refused to try the case, claiming lack of evidence. The federal government then stepped in, and the FBI arrested 18 in connection with the killings. In 1967, seven men were convicted on federal conspiracy charges and given sentences of three to ten years, but none served more than six. No one was tried on the charge or murder. The contemptible words of the presiding federal judge, William Cox, give an indication of Mississippi's version of justice at the time: "They killed one ni---r, one Jew, and a white man. I gave them all what I thought they deserved." [source same as above link]
It took 41 years to get murder convictions on the scum who killed those Freedom Riders.  I don't think we can afford to play around with the scum who come to our country and kill women.  If we need to use federal hate crimes statutes to stomp on the head of this particular rat with extreme predjudice, I'd support it.
We can use those laws that way ("would you have killed your son for wearing a Lakers t-shirt?  No?  Ok - hate crime!"), then take the newspaper clippings on those prosecutions, have them translated, and hang them in every Immigration office in the US.  I've been in some of those offices.  The lines are long, there would be plenty of time for reading.

01 November 2009

No moss on us

Jack and I are, once again, on the road.  We're headed to Virginia to do some visiting.  Tonight finds us holed up in a Days Inn (I have yet to find a Days Inn that won't accept dogs) in western South Carolina.

One of us seems to think I got him his very own king-sized bed.  I will have to break his heart soon and explain that he'll need to share it.  The bed is a step up from our arrival, when he decided that he liked the bathroom.

I finally explained that only loser-weirdo dogs lurk in bathrooms, but that dogs who come out of the bathroom get treats.  Bribery - it works!

31 October 2009

Halloween tricks

In a singularly horrifying twist of events, I will spend the afternoon at a craft show with Cousin R.  Craft shows are about as far from the Natural Habitat of Abby as it's possible to get, but...I guess it's the price I pay for jetting off to the gunshow with Cousin-In-Law last weekend.


You know it's a highly anticipated outing when I brush my hair and put on shoes and Jack shows no interest in the outing.  In fact, whereas shoes-and-hair normally sends him into fits of pleasepleasepleaseIwannago, this evolution has him hiding in the bedroom.

28 October 2009

We muddle through

I woke up this morning, staggered to the door and let Jack out.  I jabbed the ON button on the coffee maker, and opened the fridge for the morning beverage. 

Oooh, I thought.  Cold water! 

I've been sticking a pitcher of water in to cool off.  So I grabbed the pitcher, only it didn't feel quite right...

See, if you move out of your house and leave your ex most of the extra kitchenware, keeping only enough to do basic cooking, you find yourself improvising containers.  Fortunately, I noted the weight difference before I poured myself a nice, cool glass of black beans with smoked pork neck bones.

I managed to cope with unchilled tapwater (I don't like ice cubes).  After some coffee, and some CNN, and some more wrestling with this goddamsunuvabitchratbastard printer I got, one of us was going a little stir-crazy.

OK - not a little stir-crazy.  Yesterday's rain kept us from having an Activity, so by this morning we had progressed to following me into that bathroom, stalking me with a slobber-covered Cuz toy, and glancing meaningfully at the leash while whining.

The solution was obvious - incorporate the dog into my run.  He had to wear his "training collar" to help remind him not to lurch hysterically after squirrels, but that did not impact his overall joy at getting out and about.  And, after 30 minutes, victory was mine.

A tired dog is a happy dog. 

23 October 2009


As a lifelong outdoor enthusiast, I place significant value on conserving resources whenever possible.  Water, in particular, is easy to waste.  Especially when hand-washing dishes. 

Fortunately, it's also pretty easy to cut down on the amount of water required to wash dishes by using an effective and organic pre-rinse system.

There ya go, team - Auntie Abby's tip on how you can do your part to save the planet.  Be sure to tune in for next week when we address Saving on Heating Expenses By Insulating With Dog Hair.

Wild and crazy - that's us

A job has come along, but it doesn't start for me for about a month, so Jack and I are just killing time.  I'd be totally content to just nap, but my sidekick demands regular activities.

We have established a routine.  I run every other day, and on those days he gets a neighborhood walk.  When there's no running, I take him somewhere. 

Yesterday I forgot a poop bag and had to return to the house.  This earned me dirty looks.  Once we hit the park, we troop around and look for squirrels.  This town has a fabulous population of energetic little gray squirrels, and in Jack's opinion they all need to be chased.

Mostly, he has to just look.  But sometimes - once in a while - when we're in corners of the park without cars and where there are no other dogs...I take his leash off and tell him to get it.  Yesterday he put the Fear of Dog in three or four of them. 

No squirrels have been harmed...yet.  But hope springs eternal.

18 October 2009

Sunday routine

While staying with Cousin R, we got in the habit of doing a chicks-and-dog outing to Flat Rock park on Sundays.  So, this morning she came by and we loaded up Mr. Bouncy and headed out.  The park wasn't crowded and so (don't tell anyone) Jack even got turned loose to chase a couple of squirrels up trees. 

Some clever soul placed a Dunkin' Donuts on our route home, which was too much temptation to resist.

Because even Bad Dogs deserve their very own glazed crullers.

Then we carried on with recliner napping and football watching.  Not a bad way to spend a fall day.

(Blogger has decided to torture me by rotating horizontal photos to vertical when I upload them and
offering me no way to rotate the picture.)

16 October 2009

I think we're done

with that whole shockingly expensive move-in routine, that is.  The last bit of it happened today, when you-know-who got a brand new you-know-what.

Yup.  Nice new bed.  And, of course, it can't just be the practical stuff.  What fun would that be?

Yep.  That's a Booda bone, which is even, according to its tag, steak-flavored.

14 October 2009


With my dog, in my recliner, with a beer, in my own place.  For the first time in... a long time.  It's nice.  Jack suffered some serious sadness when we departed Cousin R's this evening, as he'd developed quite an infatuation with her husband.

I've got some work to do to square this place away, but I think it will work out nicely. 

12 October 2009

Things which are annoying

That first trip to Wally World when you’re moving?  You know, the one where you need salt, and mustard, and toilet paper, and coffee filters, and coffee, and oh yeah – a coffee maker.


I hate that trip.  I made it twice today. 


Tomorrow is download-the-trailer day.

08 October 2009

Batting .500

I have achieved A Place To Live.  I’m not sure if it’s a carriage house, a mother-in-law cottage or, as Cousin Ruth suggested, Slave Quarters.  Given the demographics here, I don’t think I should make a habit of referring to it that way.


I believe I shall move Monday.  And, in keeping with my goals at this point, it is Cheap As Hell.

07 October 2009

Proof of life

Wow.  Didn't mean to take a big ol' hiatus there.  After the drive to Georgia (Columbus, to be exact), I sort of fell into a blue funk of job/housing searching and...well, didn't really feel much like talking.

I've found neither a job nor a house, but I think I'm getting close on both of them.  Although Jack likes apartment living just fine, I think we'll be bailing on Cousin R and her fabulous husband pretty soon for a shack of our own here in the area.

The adventure continues, folks, but sometimes it isn't enough fun to warrant commentary.  I think the blue funk is lifting, so we'll do better. 

28 September 2009

We're alive!

I know the smart people say one should post something each day, but we're just not that high speed.

Jack and I made the trip to Georgia with little drama.  Our only issue arose when I tried to pull over in a rest stop for a cat nap.  The dog who had managed to sleep from West Michigan to Birmingham was suddenly wide awake and on guard.  That wouldn't have been bad if, as instructed, he limited his guarding to, say, a ten-foot radius around the vehicle.  But no...everybody within a hundred yards required growling.  We pushed on.

We're staying with Cousin R, who, along with her husband, resides in a nice apartment complex.  Said complex has a pond, .75-mile running trail, and, best of all...a Bark Park.  Given the number of fabulous canine distractions, my sidekick has not had a lot of trouble adjusting to being an apartment dog.

25 September 2009

While the getting's good...

I woke up this morning at Dad’s and wandered outside for a smoke.  Somewhere in this oak woods, some trees has decided it’s time. Leaves were falling.


On that note, my dog and I are headed south.  If you find yourself run off the road between Michigan and Georgia by a Jeep and a trailer being driven by a black lab…that’s us!

22 September 2009


In preparation for the next phase of movement, in which I will soon head south out of Michigan, I staged my very own tragic boating accident today.

Okay, so it really wasn't all that dramatic, but I moved all my long guns and associated crap into Dad's basement so they don't have to be sitting in a trailer while I go into the seriously transient, trailer-parked-outside phase of this whole thing.

20 September 2009

Wild weekend

Yesterday was Mom's Birthday.  Mom, of course, rocks.  So I was left trying to figure out how best to celebrate such an auspicious occasion.

Why, by jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, of course!

That would be your author, coming in for a landing that, thanks to my tandem jumping buddy, was not a crashing disaster.  Mere seconds later....

Not a bird, or a plane, but Mom.

First time for each of us to do that, and it was a hoot.  We jumped from around 10,000 feet, had just under a minute of freefall, then about 5,000 feet of pleasant drifting to the ground.  We went with the fine folks at Skydive Allegan, who have a dog on their website and so were our first choice.  They were great.

World's Coolest Grandmother was on site (although she did not jump out of an airplane) to take pictures.  And, in a fabulous stroke of good luck, one of Mom's hospital coworkers is a private pilot who flies out of the same airport.  After our jump, he packed all three of us into his plane and took us for a lovely spin around West Michigan.

That, folks, is what it looks like where I'm from.

18 September 2009

walkabout Grand Rapids

Walked around town this evening with Mom and the World's Coolest Grandmother, taking in some of the displays in a local public art contest.  Sometimes it's a little difficult to get large, public art, but it's usually interesting.  For example...

Foreground right you can see a sculpture in the Grand River that was descibed as "kinetic."  Obviously, a more traditional use of the term that the one that popped into my mind.  Apparently it was designed to spin or do some sort of weathervane type of thing.  Kinda pretty, but with no breeze, it was a little deficient in the motion department.  Then, atop the blue bridge, you can see...a giant table and chairs.  Okay.  Whimsical - I dig it.  There's also some sort of pink Gumby-like figure on the left side of the bridge.  That one I really don't fully appreciate.

We moseyed on, taking in a couple of other large, metallic objects.  And, as thing worked out, at that point we encountered some truly intriguing art that was not a part of the official city art project. 

Yeah.  See, that's a couple whitetail deer mounted on the back of a car.  Wearing hats.  According to Mom, they're often seen around downtown GR, although the hats may be a new addition.

15 September 2009

New footwear update

I wore the wacky shoes around for a little bit last night with no weird side effects, so I took them out walking and running today.  They were already easier to get my feet into, although there is still that one "special" toe.

Mom has a nice stretch of sidewalk along the river here that provides a great place to walk or run, and plenty of grass alongside to try as well.

Walking in them was comfortable, although I could definitely feel myself trying to figure out how to place my feet - I felt as though I was slapping them down at first.

I think I have pretty normal feet:

One more foot shot for reference:
 OK.  So fairly normal feet, normal arches, etc. 
The running was...fine.  I'm not the world's greatest runner, by any means (I don't lift my knees enough), but I found them comfy at both a job, a slow run and a pretty good clip.  I tried them off the sidewalk and really enjoyed that.  I'm usually a little hesitant to run on rough terrain, as neither my ankles nor my balance are very awesome, but these shoes increased my awareness of the terrain variances enough that I felt quite comfortable.
My only concern is the lack of cushioning for running frequently on pavement.  We shall see about that.  I finished up with one small hotspot (pre-blister) on a toe, but nothing bad.  My lower legs have felt a little more tired than is normal with a fairly easy run, but we'll see if there was major muscle exhaustion when I get up tomorrow.
Thus far, they're interesting.

14 September 2009

Joining the cool kids' pack

After reading LabRat's review, and finally being somewhere where I could go try some on, I picked up a pair of them thar toe-glove shoes.

I dunno yet.  I have on kinda-retarded toe that seems a little hesitant, but we shall see.

11 September 2009

Coyotes and Elks and black bears

Oh, my!  Dad and I are off to the Great Northern Forests for the long weekend.  If I’m never heard from again, it can be assumed I joined the legions of lost annually devoured by porcupines.

10 September 2009

Totally wasted day

I tried to get up in a timely manner, but found myself hemmed in on both sides by fairly large dogs who, each time I thought about getting up, muttered nah...just a little longer...

I finally dragged myself out of the rack.  I loaded Jack up (after promising Sarge some one-on-one frisbee time later) and hit the road. Off to the lake, can you beat it?
Well, yes.  If you add a Kong-on-a-rope.
That, according to Jack, is about as much fun as one can have.  Add in a little rolling in the sand, and life is super.
Maaaaaan, that's a happy dog!

07 September 2009

Ran away from home

to wild and crazy Ohio.

Ohio might not be the most entertaining state in the union, but it does have the best place out there to ride roller coasters, so Mom and I hit the road.

We shall be zooming til we puke!

(Probably not, actually, as neither of us are prone to pukiness, but we will try)

05 September 2009

Love this country

It's a beautiful day and I woke up to blue skies and sunshine.  Of course, when you've come to Michigan via Iraq and Texas, sunny beautiful days aren't to be trusted - one grows used to them being hotter than a Birmingham steel mill.  But I walked outside and...78, 80 degrees?  Fabulous.

Since I'm hanging out at Mom's place (more of a treehouse with internet connectivity and available takeout than Dad's hollow tree), we toddled off to the local farmer's market.

Mmm...blueberries.  Once, when I was a small child, I partook so enthusiastically in fresh blueberries that I ended up vomiting in the middle of the night.  According to Mom, at first blush, yakked blueberries are dark enough to cause a young mother to mistake them for blood

The farmer's market, in addition to being full of awesomely scrumptious things, is colorful.

And not just pretty food.

But, best of all about the farmer's market is hoovering up the goodies afterward.  Tomato + toast + mayo + salt = pure, unadulterated awesome.

You could ask me how many tomato sandwiches I've eaten today, but I would totally lie to you.

03 September 2009

Irrational Fears

Dad’s got hummingbirds around the house.  I like hummingbirds as much as the next person, but they worry me a little.  They way they zoom around reminds me of bumblebees, which tend to not have the best navigational skills and occasionally smack into you.  I can’t quite escape the vision of one of these tiny bird smacking into my head and embedding its beak in my skull.


As the daughter of an ER nurse, I’ve imagined several times how that visit would play out.  “Yes, I’m fairly certain my insurance will cover the removal of this bird from my left temple…”


This is really probably the nicest time of year up here.  Everything is green - it's shocking how green when you've been so long someplace that is almost entirely dirt-colored.  It's been a wet summer, and not a very hot one, either.

So the water is good in the river, and the trees are...well, somewhere between healthy and out of control.
I'm fairly certain one of these trips up here I'll find that Dad's place has been entirely overrun by giant oak trees and aggressive squirrels.  I sit out here on the back porch (where I can kinda get some internet signal, sometimes) and listen to things falling through the oak canopy.  There's never any way of knowing whether it's just a limb, or perhaps a poorly balanced possum, since it's just a sea of green.
What's funny is that in just a couple of months, the view from back here will enable one to sit and watch deer cross the field 500 yards away.  Today they could be camped 25 feet from where I'm sitting and I'd have no clue.

01 September 2009


I made it successfully to Hollow Tree, Michigan, where I received the World’s Most Enthusiastic Dog Greeting. 


That was, of course, after swinging by the hospital to see Mom (interrupting her workday, so my apologies to anyone who may have had a near-death experience in Barry County today – your care may have been quicker if I hadn’t stopped to hug my Mom, but that wasn’t going to happen). 


Jack did get to me before my Dad, but I got some good hugs from him, to (unlike the lab, Dad did not pee on my foot.  Appreciate that, Dad).

31 August 2009

Observations from the road

It doesn't matter where I am or where I'm going, I'm going to leave my cell phone charger plugged into a hotel room wall somewhere.  [sigh]  Gotta find an AT&T store tomorrow...

Iraq wins.  I'm in Springfield, Illinois tonight (the Fun Capitol Of Middle Illinois!), and it was about 68 degrees when I checked into my room.  I immediately turned the heat on.

There's always someone creepy sort lurking around the parking lot that causes me to have to sclepp a footloacker of handguns, ammo and other heavy stuff into my room rather than lock it in my (soft top) vehicle.  Thanks, tweaker chick.  That's really alright, because that's one police report I do not want to deal with...actually, officer, it wasn't a handgun that was stolen...

Those highway worker awareness signs?  "Hit a worker - $10,000 fine and 14 years in jail!"  They make me think of pulling over, striding up to some road worker and punching him in the nose.  14 years in jail?  Probably not.  Ass-whipping of a lifetime?  Much more likely.

How is it the instant I left the ExMister all my to-go sippy coffee cups, there are none to be found at any gas station I stop at?  Can you imagine how any times I sloshed scalding coffee into my crotch today?  It's a matter of public safety, folks.

Updates from the road

The Jeep is handling surprisingly well with the trailer - I'd say the greatest issue is the spastic driver, but I'm relaxing some.  This may be the only time on pavement I've ever used first gear, though.

In other news, I still can't stand Oklahoma.  I'm sure someone likes it here, and they'll have no competition for vacation rentals or retirement property from yours truly.  Hard to say if I'll make Michigan tomorrow, but I put some good miles in today.

The adventure continues.

28 August 2009


Because at this point we're co-dependent and confused with all this time on our hands, my entire team is meeting up tomorrow for a meat-and-beer festival.

And beforehand?  At least three quarters of us are going to the funshow.

Look out, North Texas - we could have flashbacks at any point and start asking about the state of your local water distribution!

26 August 2009

Winning (slowly)

I found and procured a trailer - found one used and saved a little money that way.  The masking tape is defeating me soundly, and the pile of stuff has grown to point of fitting-all-that-in-there-is-going-to-be-an-adventure.

The party never ends, folks.

25 August 2009

It can happen

You know all those people who say it's impossible to have too many guns, or too much ammo? 

Take it from someone who's building a giant pile of all her earthly possessions out in the garage - there is such a thing as "enough."  And I think I may be there.  I really don't even have that many firearms and my ammo stash is decidedly amatuer - I have no idea how the folks with big collections ever move.

Alright - I'm off to discover either another random duffle bag full of greenish crap or another random box of 7.62x39...

24 August 2009


waking up in a real bed, putting on real, normal people clothes and taking a shower without wearing shoes to do it.

It's a good feeling.

23 August 2009

Super Fabulous

In a note for my military folks, the USO at the Phildelphia airport is one of the nicest I've ever been to. It's a reasonably new facility, with bunkrooms (with sheets, blankets and pillows), a room with fabulously comfy chairs and a bigscreen TV for movies, a couple of video game stations (with the some large, gorgeous flatscreen TV), and working computers with an excellent internet connection.

If you find yourself killing six hours here (or, like a few of our guys, a night), it's just what the doctor ordered. It's in Terminal A - just follow the signs.

I've always been a fan of the USO, but this one rated a special mention. There was a very nice big German Shepherd here earlier, but he seemed to belong to an Air Force guy. A permanent USO Dog is probably about the only thing this place is lacking.

And yes - me chilling at the airport means I'm very, very close to being liberated.

21 August 2009

Things Abby actually DOES miss about Iraq

OK – there’s really only one.  FREE WATER.  There’s a lot of bottled water in Iraq.  And when I say “a lot,” I mean…well, a bunch.  And you drink it all the time.  And wherever you go, there’s a package/cooler/pallet of water and you’re allowed to take as much as you want.  If it’s in a cooler, it’s polite to replace what you take.


There are no giant piles of free bottled water around this base.  Which is kinda cruel, as the entire section of the base devoted to demobilization is populated by wilted-looking soldiers in grungy uniforms grumbling about paying $1.25 for a water from a machine.

19 August 2009

Home (not even a little) free

The only thing better than stepping off the the plane in the USA is stepping of the plane in the USA after a 14-hour flight and immediately being bussed to a briefing wherein you are told you are still not allowed to have a beer, wear civilian clothes, leave post or drive a car and will suffer great and terrible punishments if you do.

Fort Dix - the only thing that can be said for this place is it's not Iraq.

16 August 2009

I must simply state

That the most awesome plane ride in the world is the one that takes
you OUT of Iraq. We're not back on American soil yet, but I've now
checked off the second tour where I got out of that country with all
MY fingers and toes, and all my Joes are healthy and riding the plane
home with me.

Ladies and gentlemen, THAT is a win.

14 August 2009

PSA for my Iraq readers

We sent Bossman back to the States very recently to set the conditions for our return. As he was stranded at another major base on his way out, he heard that Navy Customs in Kuwait was taking all auto-opening knives, even those we'd been issued on previous tours (as opposed to any we may have purchased at AAFES locations this tour).

Rumor has it, this can be memoed away. However...none of our people know the specifics of such a memo. Company level, battalion level, brigade...it's a mystery. As we all know, standing in the Customs warehouse and being told you should have gotten a memo from the first O6 in your chain of command is not exactly useful.

Being a clever man (as well as one who'd picked up several auto-opening knives while here, at least one of which was horrifyingly expensive), the Bossman beat feet to the FedEx terminal and launched all but one of his home.

Although it was an issued knife, Navy Customs took that from him as he passed through Kuwait.

But I got an email from the Boss today - his knives made it home.

Several of us took ours over and boxed them up. Three pocket knives, Iraq to Texas...$63. Steep, but compared to the replacement cost... It's food for thought if you happen to be at (or can get to) on of the bases with FedEx services.

I apologize for the lack of complete list of such facilities here in Iraq, but the although DHL has a comprehensive list, FedEx doesn't. I think it's a pretty safe bet that where there's one, there's the other. Food for thought if you've got several folks with such knives and no time to figure out the memo mystery.

12 August 2009

Peer pressure

There are certain things that, when surrounded by a group of guys, one should never point out on Ebay.

For instance, certain pieces of whimsical interior decor.

You're single now, they said. You can hang whatever you want on your walls. And that squirrel is cool as shit.


The things I do to boost the morale of the troops. I now own that stuffed squirrel. Don't despair, though - I left some equally fabulous ones still out there.

11 August 2009

Top Ten Things That Abby Won’t Miss About Iraq

10 – Chicken. With rice.

9 – Wearing long pants, boots, a t-shirt and a jacket. In the Middle East. In the summer. If you’re going outside the wire, you can exchange the t-shirt and jacket for a long-sleeve fire-retardant shirt , body armor and gloves.

8 – Fleas.

7 – Clear eye protection. We may all be volunteers, but none of us wanted to grow up and look like seventh-grade shop students whenever the sun goes down.

6 – Endless NCO meetings devoted to deciphering the latest memo from yet another sergeant major with nothing better to do than send out strongly worded but vague policy statements on the wear of the fleece cap.

5 – The 200 yard trudge through the dark to the shower trailer. Hell, the shower trailer. I never took any pictures because they would have made you vomit. And the female shower trailer was the good one.

4 – Weird demands from company headquarters to complete online certifications on systems we couldn’t access. Increasingly hostile messages from company ignoring all appeals for some sort of guidance on access issues.

3 – Observing the effects of Army chow on everyone else’s gastrointestinal systems every time you visit the green closet.

2 – Microgrants. God, I hate microgrants. You would hate them, too, if you were familiar with them.

1 – Holidays with fake, contrived cheer. I’m a zillion miles away from home, sitting in the dirt for reasons that occasionally escape me. Rather than the chaplain’s brief and the UGR-A processed turkey dinner, how about a fifth of whiskey and some privacy?

10 August 2009

Top Ten Most Painful Parts of the Redeployment Process

10 – DD 93 – the Record of Emergency data. Updated it yesterday? We don’t care – you can’t leave unless you update it here, too.

9 – Somebody told you to ship your MOLLE gear to home station? All of it? See, that’s a problem. You can either produce the flashbang grenade pouch, or we can charge you $75 for it. One or the other, but you can’t leave until you clear RFI.

8 – Flight? What flight? Who told you your unit had a flight?

7 – We know you’re only going to be at this camp for nine hours, but you need to sign for billeting and drag all your possessions to tents spread out all across Hell’s Half Acre. No, you can’t leave all your stuff and post a guard.

6 – You’re not allowed to have a beer when the plane stops in Europe, because you’re still subject to General Order 1B and you might offend Muslims.

5 – You're not authorized to drink during stateside demobilization either, because even though you’re not subject to General Order 1B anymore and you won’t offend Muslims, First Army exists to make Reservists want to desert.

4 – Halfway around the world with the world's worst travel agency. Show up for your flight six hours early at every stage and provide your own baggage handlers. Units are strongly encouraged to maximize aircraft capacity by loading the aircraft with four soldiers for every three seats.

3 – Flights home? See, it’s a Friday afternoon and the ticketing office closes early on Fridays…

2 – You can leave theater with two duffel bags, a carryon and a laptop. You can leave demob with one duffel bag and one carryon. You’re only turning in body armor.

1 – Your NCOER is signed, you’ve received your end-of-tour award, and people keep talking to you like you’re supposed to care.

09 August 2009

Something Different

We're going to do something a little different for a bit here - I've decided to throw up some (mostly) tongue-in-cheek end-of-tour Top Ten lists. I've got a couple ready to go, and a few more in the thinking stage.

So...without further ado, I give you....

Top Ten Things Abby Will Miss About Iraq

10 – Show up to work, do nothing for a couple hours, nap and go to the gym or go drive around and get shot at. Who cares, it all pays the same!
9 – Free ammo!
8 – No need to put any thought into wardrobe planning
7 – Cool boxes of stuff from people you know (and some you don’t) show up randomly in the mail.
6 – All the free Gatorade you can drink (as long as it’s the purple kind)
5 – Covering a plastic table with foil and eating steaks off it with knives during team cookouts.
4 – Spent all day reading and smoking cigarettes? No need to feel guilty because there was nothing better you could have been doing!
3 – Finding a Rice Krispie Treat in the back of a drawer is all it takes to make a day go from sucky to super.
2 – Spending all day, every day, with three guys with whom you’ve developed enough of a comfort level that any of you will say anything. Anything.
1 – The awareness of seeing the reality on the ground, and developing an understanding beyond what’s available in soundbites.

If any of my readers might like to share their ideas about what one might miss about Iraq, please feel free to do so. We are trying to keep this light, though!

07 August 2009


Just a little random imagery from around the company compound as we wind down and kill time. There was a big, impressive moon last night.

The creepy tree is almost a member of our unit, we're so used to it. It's not until you take a picture that you realize it really is...disturbing.

Today we did some laundry and sat around.

Yeah. I can actually do the "hadji squat." It's kinda horrifying when I catch myself doing it.

Note the creative use of the red bucket once I finished washing my socks in it. Ice is plentiful here at the Big Base, so we may as well enjoy.

Speaking of enjoying, here's a picture of the World's Happiest Team Sergeant as we were preparing to pull out of FOB McLazy.

I cannot confirm, but there have been reports of an MRAP leaving FOB McLazy with eight extended middle fingers...

05 August 2009

Little Happy Things

I was standing in the shower trailer this morning. I stripped of my t-shirt and underthings and started to put them to the side like I always do. Then I paused, thought about it, counted days in my head. And I took the pile and threw it away.

03 August 2009

A good trip

We did a fast turnaround at the Big Base. And although it's nice to come back with some meat and some snack, there's one thing that's it's even nicer to bring back: replacements.

I will, however, point out that last night's convoy coming back down here was like having my eyes burned out by capuchin monkeys with smoldering sticks. The straight-line distance is 47km (29 miles), so we figure it's about 35 miles by road.

It took 3.5 hours last night.

29 July 2009

Never an awesome moment here...

It was 8 million degrees, sunny and there was a mild breeze. Incidentally, the breeze here is not a cooling factor - there's no wind chill of course, there's just wind sucking the moisture out of your body even faster.

Anyway - another godawful afternoon, but perfect for one thing: handswashing some clothes and hanging them out to dry.

So I did three sports bras, eight socks and three t-shirts and hung them out on the line on my porch. I went inside to collect up some trash, drank a bottle of water, and then opened the door to go outside...and it was rapidly turning orange.

I pulled my clothes down before they attracted more than a thin coating of dust, draped them over various and sundry objects indoors, and spent the next hour muttering obscenities about this country.

28 July 2009

Worth reading

I know that all of us troops, and all of the folks who like troops, are supposed to disapprove of John Murtha and automatically categorize anything he says about our involvement in Iraq as utter defeatist tripe.

But, as the southern people say, even a blind hog roots up an acorn from time to time. Murtha is calling for closer scrutiny of how the Commander's Emergency Response Program has been used.

"A fundamental review of CERP, its purpose, use and scope, is overdue," Murtha wrote in the July 15 letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. Murtha said he was disturbed by reports from Iraq suggesting commanders were in a "rush to spend" hundreds of millions of dollars by the end of the fiscal year.

War is not cheap. There's a reason it's known as a drain on "blood and treasure." But the CERP program is directed by a document we call "Money as a Weapons System," and flinging large piles of US taxpayers dollars at every problem, potential problem or confusing situation is every bit as silly as trying to resolve every kinetic problem with 155mm HE rounds.

In fact, it might be sillier, because I can't think of a single situation in which "success" was measured strictly in number of 155 rounds expended. And given the very real challenge of finding metrics to define success in a fluid counterinsurgency fight, the temptation to measure progress in terms of dollars spent or projects started can be mighty.
U.S. military officials say CERP has been invaluable in helping commanders get things done quickly, with little red tape. In recent years, they have used it to put insurgents on payroll, award micro-grants to business owners, compensate families of civilians killed in combat, and build schools and clinics.

Please understand that "very little red tape" is a relative statement. Our supported organization does pretty well with the CERP nomination and approval process, and it's a multi-step undertaking that even in the simplest circumstance (microgrants, if you're interested) moves in terms of weeks (and often, months), not days (qualifier: I have not handled a condolence payment on this tour, and I can't recall the timeframes when we did them last time around).

CERP has been valuable for building schools and clinics (and water treatment facilites and wells and roads and bridges and culverts and powerlines and hoophouses and corn silos). But have all of those been occupied, staffed and managed? Honestly, I don't know. I haven't been to all of them.

I do know that sometimes it's a challenge to get unit commanders to ask some of those harder questions when there's a pot of money that needs to be used by the end of the fiscal year/deployment/quarter and which battalion spends more of it is one of the few ways to measure who's done "more" during a given period of time.

If money is to be used a weapons system, it's imperative that we study its employment with the same diligence we apply to the use of armor in an urban fight, the employment of helicopter gunships in support of amphibious operations or the utility of gun trucks in base defense. It would be a valuable exercise, if for no other reason than that our experiences with money on the battlefield in Iraq may, if analyzed dispassionately and rigorously, enable us to leverage it to preserve the lives of our warriors in Afghanistan and future conflicts.

27 July 2009


One of the things we do differently under the Status of Forces Agreement, which was reaffirmed by the June 30 security "transition," is try to stay off the roads during peak times. That's a concept that primarily effects "support and sustainment" movements.

Alas, those movements (resupply convoys and the like) are one of the best ways for a small group of people in one truck to move back and forth between the Big Base and FOB McSleepy.

All of this means that going from Point A to Point B can lead to "getting home" at 0115 after a slow-motion convoy. At least, when we travel at night, there's really not much need for IV fluids.