23 March 2009

9,000 standardized tests worth of pencils

Roughly two weeks ago, the Bossman put together a little "request for
support" to Higher.

"Could we get," he asked, "some CR123A batteries, some writable CDs,
and perhaps some school supply type of stuff for the kiddies?"

Higher sat quietly, mulling the issue over. Many requests are, of
course, best handled by simply ignoring them. Some requests should be
directly disputed in regards to their scope or format, then
subsequently rejected. But this request...ahh...this request offered
opportunities to Get Rid Of Stuff.

I received an email - "Stand by to received Stuff. Coming on convoy
soon. In box. Marked for you."

The time came for delivery. Said box was coming on a convoy that was
due in, of course, at 0130. Because this is the Army, it was also
raining. SGT B and I stood outside in the mud, arms crossed, scowls
in place, striking the traditional pose of the Cranky NCO.

The convoy rolled in. We spied a white box of the type desscribed.
Most of these boxes are labeled with sheets of paper inside document
protectors, printed with a unit designation in a large font. This
one...well, it had MY last name spraypainted on the back side, over
the course of two lines, and with the skill one would normally expect
to see if the painting had been done by a retarded howler monkey. In


We claimed our box, and a very nice private forklifted it over to our
little quadcon, where, since it was at that point 0230 and still
raining, we simply locked it in and left.

Today we sent out our Borrowed Specialist. "Please go look in that
box and try to get an idea of how much of what we got," I instructed.
"I do not want you counting individual crayons - just ballpark it."

The specialist returned.

"So," I enquired, "what do we have? I assume no batteries, CDs, or
anything for us, right?"

"Right, sergeant," he answered. "But we have twelve boxes of coloring
books, 20 books per box."

"That's 240 coloring books," I volunteered, earning me an
I-did-graduate-high-school look from the specialist. "Sorry.
Anything else?"

"Oh yeah. We got six boxes of pencils."

"How many per box?"

"Umm...3,000 pencils per box, sergeant."

I blinked. Did the math. Did it again to make sure I hadn't
misplaced any decimal places. Looked at SGT B and the specialist.

"18,000 pencils?"

"That's a lotta pencils," SGT B pointed out.

"They're sharpened already. But they don't have erasers." The
specialist grinned. "Most are green, but there are some red ones.
Not that the lead is red, but the pencil itself, that's red."

So. The coloring books are not very challenging - I have some crayons
and colored pencils around here somewhere, and such things have a way
of trickling in from various well-meaning groups out there.

But 18,000 pencils? Perhaps I need to put some thought into some sort
of junior engineering program, wherein local children construct
bridges, buildings and water treatment facilities (on a small scale,
of course) out of pencils. I do believe I have a few bottles of
Elmer's Glue...