Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Corner - Finished Reading

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
242 pages
Personal narrative

To some people this book and movie is very familiar. I had never seen the movie but have heard many stories about the book and author and always had it on my reading list. Fortunately i just happened to have found a copy lying around so I had my chance.

If you haven't guessed the story is about a family that had hidden Jewish families is a secret room in their home during WWII. Yes, there are sad events, but many unexpected happy events.

It does have "religious" overtones, but it's not the basis of the book.

I'd say it's a good read.

As I'm a horrible book reviewer I am including a link to the review of the book

Sunday, June 26, 2011

One Month In Country

Has it been a month already? It sure went by fast. I'll have to say that the long days here really make the days go by quickly. The fact that everyday seems like "Ground Hog Day" also seems to help.

I think it only takes a week here to make you a seasoned veteran. One good early morning "Duck and Cover" alert and you've earned your stripes!

Speaking of "Duck and Cover" I was awakened last night by a 'rack shaker', as in a rocket shook my rack, which woke me up. As is the norm around here, it doesn't matter if it's one rocket or ten, when they blow up early in the morning you can forget trying to go back to sleep. Although I was able to go back to sleep, after about an hour, I woke up feeling like a Mack Truck hit me.

My colleagues were a bit excited as they heard the rocket whiz over their rooms, which first woke them up. There is a certain added stress level to hearing the rocket whiz over you and blow up versus it just blowing up. As one of them said to me this morning "That #^%$ rocket, WOOSH, right over my #$%^ hooch and BAM!!! it shook my $%^& rack, WOOSH! I heard that $%^& thing! "

(I just edited the above paragraphs, think this might be the last of my rocket stories)

I am going to take my first rest break much sooner than I thought, and glad to do it! So come July I'll head back to Sri Lanka to see my beloved.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Day In The Life

My Doc Reports from Iraq have been a bit slow. Partly because I'm too tired when I get back to my CHU (containerized housing unit), partly because I have to mentally edit over and over what I want to write.

CHU. When I was here in 05' we called the hooches. You lived in a hooch. Well there was mumbling and grumbling about 'hooch' not being politically correct, so now we call them CHU's.
It's funny as the WiFi network is still known as "hooch-net".

A Day In The Life:

My supervisor went on vacation a scant six days after I arrived and two of those days I spent in Baghdad so basically I got four days to learn from him how everything worked. Along with that we have a big project that a team from Baghdad came down to do.

I wake up at 0700, although the little chirping birds tend to wake me up much earlier and sometimes something else wakes me up much earlier. More on this.

By 0730-0740 I'm cleaned up and dressed and drag myself to the DFAC (dining facility) which is not very far away. I get three boiled eggs, two pieces of pineapple, a big coffee and some low fat milk. Scarf down breakfast and head to my office.

0755 or so, unlock the office, login to my computer and start going through emails.

Run around and put out fires, attend meetings, work on projects, do operational stuff, attend more meetings.

Go to lunch.

Run around and put out fires, attend meetings, work on projects, do operational stuff and attend more meetings.

1800 Go to dinner.

Go back to the office and put out one more fire.

I am back at my CHU usually around 1900 or so.

If I don't feel totally like collapsing in my bed I'll go to the gym, again just around the corner.

I'll do some reading, maybe watch some television (Armed Forces Network + some Arabic channels with programming in English).

2200 or so hit the sack.

Now the fun part. We have loudspeakers throughout the compound in case of emergencies. I can rarely if ever make out what they are saying except when the incoming alarm goes off. The bad guys don't like to bother us during the day, they prefer the night and early morning. So when I'm sound asleep, HONK HONK HONK HONK INCOMING INCOMING INCOMING HONK HONK HONK HONK. This WILL wake you up. And then you wait. BOOM! Wait a few seconds, maybe a few minutes and repeat once, twice, maybe ten times. The good thing is we have a ring of Phalanx guns (200mm 1500 rounds per minute gatling gun) to shoot down the mortars or rockets. If you don't hear the guns it means the rockets are not in range. This still doesn't mean that it won't make you nervous. I'd say given between an unsettling feeling and totally terrified when you are waiting for the explosions I'd say it's that going to the top of the rollercoaster feeling, but not the being at the top looking down feeling.

Then I try to go back to sleep.

Fortunately this isn't a nightly occurrence. As funny as this may sound the fact that bad guys are not bothering us during the day and everyday is proof that we are making a difference. Baghdad 2005, fuggedaboutit. Rockets day and night.

I work six days a week, Saturday being my "day off". Ha ha. Today is Saturday, I have already put out one fire, responded to about ten emails and already have two more things to do after lunch that require my attention.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Corner - Finished Reading

Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II by Belton Cooper
384 pages
Military history

I have always been a military history buff and enjoy first person narratives. I found this book barely staying together but still managed to read it in about four days.

If you are familiar with the tank war of WWII you know the U.S. Army won the battle against German armor because of sheer numbers. The German tanks picked off our tanks like a turkey shoot in most cases.

The author was with a maintenance unit that had to take the battle damaged tanks, repair them (if possible) and send them back into battle. His insight is very interesting.

I'd say this was a good read.

Book Corner - Finished Reading

The Pearl of Kuwait: A Novel of the Gulf War by Tom Paine
310 pages
Military fiction/drama/humor

My thoughtful wife bought this book for me to have something to read on my way to Iraq. It's about Marines and Kuwait (close to Basrah!), should be a perfect for me.

I enjoyed reading the first couple of chapters but then it suffered from the final chapter drag on. I have to say that it started getting very difficult to finish reading the book, but I soldiered on and did.

Judging by the Amazon reviews everyone else seemed to enjoy it. My take, not a good read.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Never Easy

When it comes to information technology work, it seems that it's never easy. The smallest thing can become a nightmare. Now add being in Basrah, Iraq to the mix and you have oodles of fun!

Just recently there was some equipment that needed a software upgrade that I had done before, shouldn't be a problem. In fact things started off easy enough. Now my easy enough software upgrade has turned into a priority flight to Baghdad and even a helicopter to pick me up at the airport (with another helo escort) to bring me to the embassy. Honestly hate to think how much this little adventure is going to cost, but back to the subject.

I've been working very long hours, but I never seem to catch up. It's always one step forward and three steps back.

Along with the all of the other mayhem I have to scrounge for just about everything, be it office supplies or cleaning supplies. I visited the cleaning supplies container, boxes of toilet paper and Windex, that's it. My boss has purchased many things around the office out of his own wallet.

One day at a time I guess.