Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The PT Reflective Belt

refective pt belt

Ask anybody in the military, especially those who are deployed, what they think about the reflective pt belt, and you will more likely than not be greeted by rolled eyes at best; or quite possibly a full fledged rant.

Here's the rule ...

Anytime it's dark, and/or low visibility, you MUST wear your reflective belt at all times.

I'm all about safety, and being a good SNCO, I'm not going to publicly mock leadership decisions.

For people who are running and walking on the roads at night, that reflective belt could very well end up being a life saver ... the important (you're not dead) type ... not the candy.

I think what inspires the mocking though, is the way that the rules are sometimes enforced.

For instance ...

The Army guys may very well be denied entry to the DFAC (dining facility for you non-military types), if they show up without their PT Belt.

Guess what happens?

They're sent back, into the dark, to go get their belt ????

The Air Force isn't much better ...

Lately they've been doing ID and PT Belt checks as we enter the Bedrock living area. Again, I'm not mocking the rules, but I do always get a chuckle when I think about the fact that I have to have my reflective belt on in the CHU area (where there are no cars) ... I guess they're worried that somebody walking too fast might run into me?

I could go on ...

But if you want more examples, there are actually entire facebook pages devoted just to the subject of the reflective PT belt:



Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Joining The Air Force Was A Good Decision

air force logo

I've been in the Air Force for 20 years, 3 months, and a couple of days. Before that, my dad was in the Air Force for 24 years. I've had (and will continue to have) a military ID card my entire life.

Given this history, I suppose it probably wasn't too much of a long shot that I ended up joining the military ... although if you had asked me when I was 18 or 19 years old, had long hair, and was working as a bartender at the RAF Mildenhall Galaxy Club, I would have told you something along the lines of "no frickin way will I EVER join the military!"

Needless to say, I did end up joining just a few years later.

Looking back, all things considered, I think it was actually quite a wise decision ... even though, at the time, it was something of an impulsive action.

Here's the story of how I joined the Air Force ...

My dad retired from the Air Force in 1989 when his tour at RAF Mildenhall England came to an end. We packed up all of our stuff, and moved to Florida. We lived with our Uncle for a couple of weeks, until mom and dad found a house about 40 miles north of St. Pete, in New Port Richie. My "room" was the garage (my choice).

My first job in Florida, was working at a telemarketing place, trying to talk people into accepting "free" vacations, that would also include the "bonus" of high pressure time-share sales seminars. I wasn't very good at it, and as a result, the pay ended up being pretty bad too ... which was doubly tough, as I was used to having literally hundreds of dollars in my pocket at any time, when I was bartending in England.

I think I lasted 3 or 4 weeks at that job.

Then I got what sounded like it was going to be my "dream job" ...

I was hired as grounds keeper at the Innisbrook golf resort. One of the benefits of the job, was that I could play Free golf at a course that hosts professional events ... heaven!

Not so fast ...

The job started at like 5am ... and I'm NOT a morning person. It also turned out to be much harder (in some ways), and more boring (in other ways) than I had expected. For instance, a typical day for me, as a new guy, might involve being given a fork, assigned a green, and instructed to remove all the of the crab grass shoots ... roots and all.

Oh yea, did I mention that we had to wear a "uniform"? It was a white button up shirt, with the Innisbrook logo, and a construction site type hard hat (to protect against errant golf balls). It was hot after the sun came up, and the hard hat and extra shirt just contributed to it.

After I'd worked there for a couple of months (and I think had only played free golf once), it wasn't so bad, but I was having a hard time imagining myself working there for the rest of my life. Then one day, things kind of accidentally came into focus ...

The head grounds keeper usually drove around in a golf cart. This particular morning, he drove up to where I was standing, and told me he needed me to spray herbicide along the edged of the 13th and 14th fairways. There was about a 50 lb canister of herbicide, with a spray nozzle on the end, sitting in the back of the golf cart. I thought to myself "sweet, I'll be riding the golf cart today"

Again, not so fast ...

He said he needed the golf cart, simply off loaded the heavy canister and drove away. To my credit, I did make it a couple hundred yards down that fairway, spray weeds the entire way. But I finally just stopped, looked around, and said "what the heck am I doing here?"

Right there and then, I took off my hard hat and shirt, folded it neatly, and placed it on top of the herbicide canister.

I then walked the short distance to U.S highway 19, stuck out my thumb, and hitchhiked .... Straight to the recruiters office!

I took the ASVAB test a couple of days later (scored 99% AFQT btw), and was eventually given a basic training date of 28 December 1989.

As some point during this process, I went down to the St. Petersburg MEPS office to choose my job.

I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do (side note: I'm now 41 years old, and still don't know what I want to be when I "grow up")

... but, I did know enough about the Air Force to realize there were some fields I definitely didn't want to go into. I needed to make sure I got a guaranteed job.

Fortunately, with my high ASVAB score, it wasn't too hard of a "demand" to get met. Here's how the process worked ...

They actually gave me a list of all the available career fields for the time frame that I would be graduating from basic training, and ready for Tech School. They told me to look through the list, and choose 5 jobs.

I honestly don't even remember what the other 4 choices were ... I just know that about 2 hours later, they came back and told me that I was going to be a Weather Man.

The intervening 20 years, seems to have flown by.

But I have a ton of good memories and experiences from my time in the Air Force. And really, considering I'm here primarily because of a very rash, spur of the moment decision, I can't complain at all about the way things have turned out.

And you know what's really funny?

My 17 year old son, when asked if he might go in the Air Force someday, quickly responds ...

"no frickin way will I EVER join the military!"

Hey Justin ... (just in case) ;-)


Monday, March 29, 2010

Blowing Cold Air


Ever since the weather started getting warmer over here, I have had a love/hate relationship with my window air conditioning unit.

On the one hand, I do absolutely love the fact that I have a room (not a tent) with some form of climate control.

On the other hand, I'm am so frustrated by the fact that it appears to be virtually impossible to set this thing to anything close to a comfortable temperature level.

If I leave the dial a bit too much towards the warm, or on one of the lower fan levels, the room gets too hot, and I end up sweating as I sit here in my leather desk chair.

But if I turn the fan up one level, or move the thermostat towards the "cooler" end of the dial, the room gets extremely cold, pretty quickly.

It's ridiculous to the point that one day about 2 weeks ago, when it was well over 100 degrees outside, Brian knocked on my door after lunch to give me the truck key, I answered the door wearing my fleece jacket. No explanation was needed; he's got the same type of air conditioner in his room.

Okay ... that's the end of this minor rant

... man, rereading this I sure do sound like a spoiled little whiny Airman from time to time.

I sure hope that nobody who's currently trudging through the mud in Afghanistan ever reads this blog. Those guys are America's real military hero's ... and any "complaints" I might have are so minor in comparison to what some of my fellow comrades in arms are currently experiencing that they're literally inconsequential.

Actually, now that I think about it, lets just ignore the first 185 words or so of this post.

Today I'm thankful for my air conditioner.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Is There Really A Man In The Moon?


I remember one time when we were driving from my parents house near Tampa, back up to Tyndall AFB, FL, where I was stationed. Justin was about 5 or 6 years old, and Haley was still a toddler. Their mom, and baby Jordan were sleeping, as it was already dark. As I'm driving along, and I hear a question from behind me:

"Dad, is there really a Man in the Moon?"

Now, I could have given my young, impressionable son the "real" answer ...

But you have to understand something about me, back when I was 19 years old, my favorite comic in the world was Calvin and Hobbes, and I made up my mind right there and then that if I ever had kids (little did I know), my "role model" as a father would definitely be Calvin's dad. :-)

So, here's what transpired over the next 5 minutes or so ...

Justin: Dad, is there really a man in the moon?

Me: Sure there is, can't you see him? (as I point out the window at the full moon)

Justin: Why does he look so sad?

Me: (without missing a beat) Because his wife left him

Justin: Why did she leave?

Me: He made her mad.

Justin: Where did she go?

Me: To the other side of the moon.

Justin: Is she coming back?

Me: I don't know. Tell you what, let's start looking at the moon every time it's out ... if the man in the moon looks happy again, it means his wife came back.

Justin: Okay

Haley: (who has been quiet the entire time) Dad, what if the man in the moon comes down and tries to get me?

Me: It's okay hunny, he can't leave the moon.

This answer seemed to satisfy her.

... unfortunately, for the rest of the drive, every time Haley would start to go to sleep, Justin would lean over and whisper "The Man in the Moon is coming to get you"

Much crying ensued.

Even at 5 or 6 years old, big brothers are just "the best", aren't they? ;-)


p.s. for the next couple of years, almost every time we were driving anywhere at night, the kids would check the man in moon to see if he looked happy again ... apparently, his wife never came back. ... or, for those who are slightly more cynical, maybe he's still so sad because she DID come back 8-)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Iraq Election Results Were Released Today


This was my second time here in Iraq ... and very likely my last. A couple of weeks ago, I was working pretty hard doing 12 hour shifts. The Iraqis were having an election, and since the American military is still here, we were providing support. Especially compared to the last election they had, a few years back, March 7th was relatively successful and smooth.

Today, the finally released the results ...

And, it looks like it's just about a tie; with the former Prime Minister Allawi's faction ending up with 2 more seat's than current Prime Minister Maliki, with Al-Sadr's party not too far behind. This being a parliamentary system, they will now have to find a way to build big enough coalitions to be able to form a government ... which may not be easy. It could be an interesting couple of months this spring.

Either way, I don't think that any of the parties will be very interested in having American troops stay past the 2012 date in the SOFA. (purely my opinion, I have no particular insight and/or expertise in this area, so take it with a grain of salt)

I am a little bit insulated from what's actually going on here in Iraq, since I don't go off the FOB. So really, I get most of my information from the news, just like I would back in the States. If you're wanting to know what some of the real Iraqi people think, I did find this article from the NYT:

Anyhow, this announcement seemed like a good excuse to take another flag picture (above) for my project365 ... I got both the Iraq flag, and Old Glory in this one.

And on that note, I'm off to bed ... hope you're having a great start to the weekend!


Friday, March 26, 2010

My Cool Sunglasses


Okay, so they might not be $150 Oakleys or anything (actually I would never buy $150 sunglasses, I'd break or lose them within a week, guaranteed) ... but these suckers are probably among the most important pieces of "equipment" that I brought with me on this deployment.

The sun is almost always shining, and quite often, the wind is blowing; which means that dust and sand are flying all around. A good pair of sunglasses are essential.

This particular pair was actually issued to me as part of my Battlefield Airman's gear ... which includes all kinds of cool stuff like sleeping bags, gortex jackets, extra boots, and even knives (although I smartly leave the switch blade one in it's little pouch ... me in close proximity to that sort of knife for any extended length of time could definitely result in a trip to the hospital). And of course, google and sunglasses.

I have one pair of goggles that almost look like something you'd wear on a ski slope. I don't wear those much, but if I'm ever on a UH-60 helicopter again, I'll definitely have them with me. The sunglasses pictured above, actually have 3 sets of lenses ... the dark ones, for day time ... a clear lens for wearing them at night, and one of those yellow lenses, which I assume are for shooting.

Anyhow, that's about all I have to say ... today was more of a picture day, than a writing day ... so, I hope you like the picture ;-)


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dilbert Blog A New Favorite In My Google Reader


One thing we don't really have a lack of over here is reading material. We can go to the library, the rec center, or we even have a couple of shelves full of books at work. People send over boxes of books. I've read a whole bunch since I've been here (choosing not to have a tv in my room contributed).

Anyhow, about 4 or 5 days ago, I picked up the book pictured above. It's by a guy named Scott Adams, who draws the Dilbert comic strip. Obviously I've seen (and laughed at) some Dilbert cartoons over the years, but I've probably never been someone who could be classified as a "raving fan". After getting about halfway through this book, that might just change ...

This isn't a book of comic strips. It's actually a collections of mostly blog posts from a couple of years ago. The thing is, reading through the stories, it's quickly obvious that this guy is truly twisted (in a great way) ... I'm loving it.

And even better, there's still a blog, and it's pretty active, with new posts at least every couple of days:

This recent post actually almost sounds about like he's talking about me: Man Points

Of course I added the feed to my Google Reader, and have been catching the new posts as they come in. I also plan to start reading the comic itself as often as I can ... it's in the Stars & Stripes paper.

Oh hey, quick note about Google Reader ...

If you are on a computer (such as, at work) where websites are regularly blocked (the site was not accessible), an easy work around, is to just add the feed to your Google Reader (which often isn't blocked). You can't see pictures and things like that, but it's better than not being able to read it at all.

Alright then ... I'm gonna go call my mom (it's her Birthday) ... and then read a couple more stories in Scott Adam's book before it's off to sleepy land.

Catch up with you again tomorrow.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Todd Gets An Army Commendation Medal


When we get our medals presented to us, that's a good thing; it means it's almost time to go home. :-)

If you've been following along with my blog for any length of time, I know it probably appears that my life over here mainly consists of surfing the Internet, playing cards, eating, and occasionally going to the gym (lol, I can't deny it too strenuously because Lt P. might pop on here and call me out) ... but, believe it or not, apparently I do actually do a bit of work as well. Although, truth be told, I just lucked out, and deployed with a great group of guys. It's amazingly easy to be in charge of guys who don't really need to be "supervised". But on the flip side, at least I'm the kind of supervisor who doesn't screw that dynamic up ... as long as everything is getting done right, I don't sweat the detail too much.

Anyway, back to the medal. I had to go over to the Combat Aviation Brigade conference room for a little ceremony ... where they feel obliged to say nice things about me; I say how much I enjoyed working with them; everybody claps; then we all go back to work.

Brian got to have a little bit of fun with my camera. He took the picture above. In addition, he also some pictures of the crazy knot holes in the plywood walls that the building is made of. Unfortunately, I can't really share those here on a family blog ... it's only pictures of a wood wall ... but let's just say that Brian used his imagination rather vividly when choosing exactly which shapes to photograph.

It's all good fun though.

Yesterday, I accidentally left my camera at work when I came home for the night. I didn't discover it until the truck was already gone. So, I had to wait until today to put yesterday's project365 picture on flickr. It's nothing special, just another one of me pretending to be a photographer ...


Well, that's about what I've got ... I hope you all are having a good week.


Monday, March 22, 2010

The Whole World In My Hand


So I found this little beach ball globe in our back room when we were cleaning it out yesterday, and got the idea that it might make for a pretty cool picture. I may actually do something like this again in the future, when I have bit more time to set things up ... but for now, I think it came out about like I'd expected.

And as a "bonus", now I have that song I remember from when I was a kid stuck in my head:

He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

He's got the itty bitty baby in His hands
He's got the itty bitty baby in His hands
He's got the itty bitty baby in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

He's got a-you and me brother in His hands
He's got a-you and me brother in His hands
He's got a-you and me brother in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

He's got a-you and me sister in His hands
He's got a-you and me sister in His hands
He's got a-you and me sister in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

... probably be singing that one to myself for days.

I'm not sure exactly what the meaning behind the song is. But it kind of makes me smile, so I suppose there's worse things that could get stuck in my head :-)


Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Alamo - COB Adder Legal Office


I had to make a quick trip to the Legal Office the other day. Here on COB Adder it is called the "The Alamo". This is another one of those places that was on my "I gotta get a picture before I leave" list. Since I was over that way again this morning, and had my camera in the truck, I couldn't resist the opportunity to snap a few pictures of the arch, and wall mural.

The reason that I had to go to the legal office was to get another power of attorney to send to my wife back home. I had actually already gotten a multi-purpose special power of attorney from the Fort Hood legal office back when I was going my pre-deployment preparation. However, as sometimes happens, an subject that I didn't plan for (and therefore wasn't covered by the existing document) happened to pop up. Fortunately, I was able to get a walk-in appointment right here on post, scanned the new power of attorney, and emailed it to my wife.

Most larger bases over here in Iraq (and Afghanistan) have legal offices right on post. They can handle things like updating wills, new power of attorney, notary, and even talking to a lawyer. I'm not sure how busy they normally are, so I wouldn't actually come over here planning to use their services (much better to get everything taken care of back home). But, if something does come up, at least you know they're here.

Even on the smaller FOBs, most of the units usually have somebody (usually in the S1) who is qualified to do simple things like notary, and possibly even power of attorney. I know that last time I was here in 2007, I had to get a document notarized before I sent it home, and I just went to a Sgt I knew, and he took care of it that day.

Not the most exciting story in the world, but I hope it's helpful.

Now, when I get back home, I might just have to plan a trip this summer to see (and take pictures of) the "real" Alamo.


Midnight Volleyball In Iraq


Apparently there was a volleyball tournament tonight at the Bedrock area of COB Adder. Of course I didn't notice it until pretty late ... after I got knocked out of the poker game (again). Fortunately, I did have enough time to run back to the room, grab my camera, and get a few shots before it was over. Next time I'll have to plan it a little better.

I don't want anybody to get the impression that the military members assigned here don't work hard (most do). But, if you're a family member back home, you really don't have to worry too much that they won't be able to find something fun to do in their off time. With the weather starting to get warmer again, I would image that things like basketball and volleyball are going to get much more popular here in the next few weeks.

I like getting in on a fun game of volleyball myself. But I don't think I'm good enough to play with these guys. This was a 3-on-3 tournament, which means these guys had to be good at controlling the ball. In the 10 minutes or so that I was there, I witnessed a couple of nice rallies, and a few good hard spikes to end them. Like I said, it might be fun to get permission to sit up under the umpire's chair with a wide angle lens and just take pictures of the net confrontations. Hopefully I'll get the chance.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Run Over By A ...


I was going to say bulldozer, but I don't think that's actually a bulldozer, so for the sake of this post, let's just call it a road flattener thingamy bobber.

Okay, so these road flatteners (and bulldozers too) are pretty much all over this post. There is a ton of construction going on. In a way, it's nice to see that they're fixing the roads. For the past 5 months, let's just say that it's a good thing our truck has 4-wheel drive. In the mean time though, the detour is even more bumpy than the old road. One of my guys was actually going a little too fast the other day, and actually caught some air due to one rather large bump.

I wanted to include at least one picture of the construction in my project365 ... this one is as good as any ... and I made it kind of cool and "cartoony" to boot ... so it's not just a picture of some construction dudes and their equipment.

So, back to this blog post's title. I'm done writing, it's gonna have to be a short article today. I've been a little under the weather for the past 24 hours now. Actually, that might be understating it a bit. Walking home from dinner tonight, I kind of felt as though I'd been run over by one of those road flattener thingamy bobbers up there.

So, I'm off to bed.

Happy Friday to you.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why Are Some Bugs Better Than Other Bugs?

lady bug

Every notice how pretty much everybody loves Lady Bugs? We pick them up, we let them crawl all over us, we take pictures of them ... Heck, we even make jewelry designed in their image. But man, let some people spot a cockroach, or even one of those rhino beetles; you know the ones with the big horns; and they about have a heart attack. What makes Lady Bugs so much better?

Even with little kids, there are certain bugs that just universally "good". I know kids that are correctly scared of spiders, bees, and yes even the dreaded cockroach. But, introduce those same kids to a "rolly polly" and they'll sit and play with the thing for an hour.

Even when I was here last time, we all briefed in advance about the dreaded "camel spider"; which, upon closer examination wasn't really all that scary. It kind of reminded me of a beetle, with 4 pretty sharp pinchers on it's front jaws. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't go around trying to pick one up and play with it ... but at the same time, I never quite understood why people get so freaked out either.

Last, but not least, my favorite example of how we treat specific types of bugs in different ways ...

Everybody Hates flies. They're dirty, noisy, and just plain annoying (side note: the flies over here in Iraq are just down right "rude". They don't just buzz around your head, they think nothing of landing right on your nose, eyes or even mouth). Okay, back to the story.

But, make them a little bit colorful, extend the tail, make the wings bigger, and suddenly you have a "Dragon" Fly ... which just like the lady bug, almost everybody seems to love.

dragon fly

Happy Thursday!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

They Really Are Magically Delicious


Well for obvious reasons, I can't really take pictures of Green Beer, or fun St. Patrick's day parties this year. But at breakfast this morning, I did come upon some obvious inspiration for a good March 17th picture of the day ... one of my favorite cereals.

... plus, to top it off, after doing duty as my "model", this little single serving bowl will also double nicely as a potential snack when I get hungry later. ;-)

I've been eating lucky charms for years now ... ever since I was a kid. I remember one of my brothers wasn't quite such a fan though. He used to refer to them as "yucky charms". Funny, I've never found them yucky at all. I do recall though, that this was a cereal that required a plan for eating it properly. You gotta make sure to conserve your marsh mellows. There's nothing worse than having two or three spoon fulls of the actual cereal left, but no marsh mellows.

Now-a-days, with 6 (soon to be 7) kids, the leprechaun is not a regular visitor to our house ... even though we still get the cereal on almost every trip to the grocery store. You see, I'm a "mean dad". Instead of buying Magically Delicious Lucky Charms, I usually head straight for those big old bags of generic "Marsh Mellow Treasures" or "Magic Stars" ... you know, the ones that cost 1/3 as much as the name brand, but contain twice as much cereal.

... lol, ok that's a rant for another time.

I hope you all have a FuN St. Paddy's day ... and if you have the opportunity to drink, be safe and give someone your car keys first.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Another Cool Wall Mural


I really need to get a few more pictures of these wall murals before I leave. They are all over the post. Pretty much every unit gets out the paint and makes a mural on a couple of the t-walls near where they work. Some of the art is really impressive. This particular mural is right here on the Air Force Bedrock compound. I've walked past it a few times, and always meant to take a picture, but the setting was never quite right.

I like the way this picture that I took tonight turned out. All the contrasty colors just add to the mural design. I think when all is said and done, these type of shots are some of the ones I'm going to enjoy most from this deployment.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Bad Self Portrait


Today was a "bad picture" day to begin with. It's 2am and I just got home from work a little while ago. I was sleep most of the morning/early afternoon today, so I didn't really get out much with my camera. I did however experiment a little with some "selfies" ...

Pretty much hated them all.

The one posted above is the picture that I hated the least ... and only after some pretty extensive fun with photoshop.

Ugh, this is why I like to just stay behind the camera :-)


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Global Warming?


Okay, I don't know about "global" warming, but it's definitely hotter than it's supposed to be here in southern Iraq right now. I realize this is sort of a recurring theme. I know, it's kind of like, "why is it hot?" ... and Sam Kinison screams back at me "Because you're in the F%&*@# desert !!!"

But seriously, according our (admittedly limited) climatology, the previous Record High for this month was only 99 degrees Fahrenheit. The official high temperature we recorded today was 104 ... but our little hand held, sitting in the sun for about 10 minutes right outside our office showed a much more impressive (for purposes of my picture anyway) 110.8 degrees.

Either way, it's just not normally supposed to be this hot, this soon!

Just to clarify though, lest someone accuse me of being a "global warming alarmist" ... I am NOT at all trying to imply that just because it's hotter than normal in one place, it somehow indicates that climate is also changing on a global scale. There are actually some indications that may be the case.

But for the purposes of this post, I just wanted to take picture of the Kestral 4000 indicating triple digit temps, and talk a little about the weather :-D


Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Expect To Lose Half My Twitter Followers


I haven't participated very much on Twitter over the past 6 months or so; since I've been gone. I have it set up through Feedburner where my posts are automatically sent out via twitter as well. Other than that, I get on it a couple of times a month, at most. To be honest, I'm almost shocked that Anybody is still following me.

I do plan to get re-engaged with Twitter after I get home next month, and have a faster Internet connection, and my cell phone. However, in preparation for my future increased use of the service, I'm going to be going through the list of people I currently follow, and unfollowing a great majority ...

Since right now, I still follow quite a few "marketer" and "gurus", I fully expect that as soon as whatever automated program they use shows that I quit following them, I will be unfollowed shortly myself ... which is fine by me ... as if those people actually read MY stuff anyway.

I plan to pare my list down to, primarily people that I know, + people who I find particularly interesting for one reason or another. Ultimately, I'd like to get my count down to following between 100 and 200 people before I start engaging more, and looking for new people to follow.

The one category that I plan to cut back the most on, is anybody who's profile says that they are a marketing and/or social networking "expert". I have one or two actual friends who fit into this category; obviously I'll keep following them. But for the most part, I've come to the conclusion that I honestly couldn't care less about what most of the "gurus" have to say ... or more likely, what they're trying to sell me.

The type of people that I DO plan to start seeking out and following more, are those who share my interests ... photographers, fellow weather "geeks", moms and dads and grandparents, writers of blogs that I actually read, etc. In short, "real" people.

Anyhow, that's my plan. If by some chance we're friends, and I accidentally unfollow you ... feel free to shoot me a note apprising me of my mistake ... I do make them from time to time ;-)

Til later,

p.s. another reason I wrote this post today, is I wanted an excuse to share the bird picture that I took yesterday, then spent about 45 minutes playing around with in photoshop when I couldn't sleep last night.

Build Your Own Deck In Iraq


I swear, give the deployed Army guys some lumber, tools and a bit of time, and they will build themselves some pretty cool toys. At just about every deployed location, soldiers start out with basic tents, trailer and buildings. But eventually, little additions like this nice covered wooden deck add a nice touch of home to the mix.

The little flags and Christmas lights still up 2 1/2 months later just add to the effect.

It's a nice little place to kick back and relax.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Coffee Cigarettes And The Weather Forecaster


In a way, Dave is a throwback to the old school weather forecasters; the kind that were common when I came in the Air Force 20 years ago. He smokes like a chimney, drinks a couple of pot of coffee a night, and gets way too stressed out about his job. If I was to teach him how to play pinochle, I could probably pop him in a time machine, set the dial for about 1977, and Dave would fit right in.

This is my mid-shift forecaster. He's another guy who I'm also stationed with back at Fort Hood, so we'll continue to work together for the next 2-3 years, at least. During our time here, besides me, Dave was the most experienced when it comes to Iraq weather; due to the fact that he spent several years to the Shaw AFB weather HUB, forecasting for this region; before PCSing over to Fort Hood at about the same time I did, last year.

I've been real lucky on this deployment to work with such a great of guys, who I could always rely on to do their jobs, and do them well ... definitely makes it much easier to be the NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge ... for you non-military types).

Ok, well two down, and two to go. Look for pictures and mini-profiles of Brian and Kevin sometime in the next couple weeks (depending on how soon I can sneek up them for a good shot).

Hope everyone has a FuN day ... TGIF!


Ouch My Ankle Hurts Again


I've had ankle problems for a while now, and today my right ankle is swollen, and I'm limping around again. I don't know exactly what I did to it this time. But, since I needed to take a picture anyway, I'm going to go out on a limb, and blame the rocks!

We have rock paths everywhere. I think they do this at every military base here in Iraq, because we had the same river rock paths when I was up north in 2007. In a way, these little paths are nice. When it rains here, everything turns to mud. If it wasn't for the rocks, we be mucking right through that muddy mess. But, unfortunately, I guess paths require BIG rocks to work properly. And I'll tell you what, it is so, so, easy to be walking along all fat, dumb and happy one minute, then be rolling on the ground in pain the next because you stepped off the side of one of the silly stones in not quite the right way.

I'm not the only one with an ankle injury. Kevin, my swing shift forecaster is an avid runner (seriously like 9-12 miles every night); but he's been having to take it easy now for a little over a month. One day he was walking to the truck, caught the edge of a rock, felt a little twinge in his knee, but thought nothing of it and kept going. Ever since then though, he's been in pretty much constant pain. The docs are calling it a "high ankle sprain" ... which apparently isn't terribly easy to treat. He seems to be doing a little better here recently, but it sucks that he can't run as much as he wants to.

As for me, I think I'll just hold off on the doc visit until I get home next month. Until then, I guess I'll just walk carefully, and look forward smooth sidewalks and soft grass in the near future. ;-)


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Aloha Team Is Coming To The Todd Morris Blog

P1000921.jpg Back in 2008, when I still lived in Hawaii, I had a blog called Aloha Team that was pretty much about my time there in the Islands. I did a lot things pretty similar to what I'm now doing here lately with the pictures and articles. I posted quite a few "Hawaii Pictures of the Day", along with articles about people, places and events.

I haven't really done much with that site since I left Hawaii. I toyed with the idea of turning it into more of a generic travel blog ... I even accepted about a dozen guest posts about various destinations. But after thinking about it, I honestly just don't have time to run that site the way I'd like to.

But, there is an awful lot of good content over there ... quite a bit of it, personal stuff ... that would probably actually fit in pretty well on this blog. So, what I'm going to do is slowly move those posts over here to I'm going to start with the oldest posts, and as I move it over, I can also do some re-writing if needed. Initially I'll just 301 redirect the individual posts once they're live here. But eventually, when I get everything done, I'll redirect the entire site.

Why I am I telling you this?

Well, most readers may not even notice the additional content. I'm going to keep the original dates with the posts, so they won't be coming to the front page or anything. You may however, notice them in the "random", "popular", or "similar" lists over in the sidebar. Also, for those who are subscribed to the feed via email or rss, I'm not sure whether these posts will show up or not ... wanted to warn you just in case though.

Anyhow, this project should take a couple of weeks. Once those posts are over here, should you happen to stumble across any of them, I hope that reading about Hawaii adds positively to your experience here at the Todd Morris blog. :-)


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

C-17 GlobeMaster Taking Off Into The Rising Sun

C17 Globemaster sunrise

I like airplane pictures, and I like sun rises. Every once in a while I'm in the right place, at the right time, with the right lens on my camera .. as I was this morning when this C-17 was taking off into a nice orange early morning sky.

When I first started project365, I wasn't really planning to take many pictures of the aircraft around the base. However, over the past 2 1/2 months, two of the most popular shots (here on the blog, and flickr) were of a C-130 airplane and UH-60 helicopter. Of course, I did have a cool story to go with each of those posts ...

I've flown on C-17s a couple of times over the years. I remember on the flight into Iraq in 2007, the last time I deployed here, we were really happy to be on a C-17 instead of a C-130 ... I wasn't quite so lucky this time. I was also on a C-17 flying Space-A from Hawaii to Travis AFB to go meet up with my son Justin a couple of summers ago. The coolest thing about flying Space-A on a C-17 is that if you bring a sleeping bag, once its up at cruising altitude, most of the time the crew will let you stretch out right there on the floor of the aircraft. In some ways, it's almost better than flying commercial. The other thing is, these planes are new enough that they're fairly reliable ... unlike my trips on C-5s ... if you get a seat on one of those, don't get too excited until you're at least half way to your destination. (so that when some sort of warning light inevitably comes on, it's easier to keep going, than to turn back) :-)

Hopefully I'll be on one of these bad boys again in just a couple of weeks ... on my way home!

Til tomorrow ...


Mr Too Cool For School

As my time on this deployment starts to wind down, I wanted to use a couple of my project365 days as an excuse to get some picture of the guys I work with. In this first installment, I give you our fearless leader ...


I work in the same office with the LT back home, but he's one of those people who doesn't exactly "pose" for pictures. So, since I was able to "ambush" him on the way to work this morning, now is as good a time to start this series as any.

I work with 3 other guys over here, they've been "supporting actors" in a few of my 365 pictures, but never the "headline star" yet. I've a got a couple more weeks left to get some good in action shots. In some ways, I wish I had brought my "paparazzi lens" (Sigma 50-500mm) with me, but that sucker weighs like 3.5lbs; so I'll just have to make due with the 70-200F4L. Heck, at some point I may even have to let someone take a shot or two of me for the picture of the day ... lol, probably not though ;-)

One thing I like to do with "people picture"; especially military ones; is use a "colored pencil" layer in photoshop, and blend it so that it comes out with a sort of "cartoon" effect. This is what they looks like:

Til next time ...


Monday, March 8, 2010

Does 41 Birthdays Make Me Old?


I was born on March 8th 1969. I've always thought that anyone who was born after men walked on the moon is still pretty young, so I guess I do just barely qualify as "old" ... lol, especially if you were to ask my teenage kids. ;-)

Forty-one is actually a pretty interesting age ...

The great majority of the time, my mind still thinks I'm 22 or 23.

But then ...

My body (usually the knees or back) jumps up and smacks me in the head, with the all too painful reminder that I'm way closer to 50!

In just a couple of months, I'm going to be a dad again ... for the 7th time if you count my step-kids Johnathan and Jasmine (which I do). I suppose it should probably freak me out or something ... but it doesn't.

I do feel kind of sorry for my two youngest daughters in one way though. I can almost hear their future junior high school friends now ...

"Oh, that's so sweet that your grandpa picks you up from school"

It's all good though. Maybe by then I will have figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

Seriously, I joined the Air Force when I was 20, and they gave me a choice of jobs, but I didn't really know I wanted to be a weather forecaster. Now I'm going to retire from the military in a couple of years, and I really do have to decide what I'm going to do. In a way that's more scary than having another baby.

Maybe I'll just decide I don't wanna grow up.

... I did marry someone who is fascinated with Tinkerbell.

That must be some sort of a clue.

I'm sure I'll have it bit more figured out by this time next year. :-)


p.s. the picture has nothing to do with this post, but I like taking shots of birds, and this was my picture of the day for project365.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It Is Hot In the Desert

... and in other news, the sky is still blue.


I know this is the desert and everything, but I had kind of hoped to avoid feeling too much of the heat before I go home next month. Unfortunately, no such luck. The temperature is going to climb up into the mid 90s today, and will most likely pop 100 a couple of times later this week. I guess I shouldn't complain, it only rained 6 or 7 times during the entire 5 months I've been here so far ... and this was the "wet" season! ... so, I didn't have to deal too much with the muddy mess that a desert turns into when it rains.

But still ... I'm going to get plenty of this 100 degree heat this summer in Texas.

Anyhow, for those of you who think that the snow storms back in the States this winter somehow indicate that global warming isn't happening ... I just thought I'd let you know that it's definitely hotter than normal in other parts of the world. (although truth be told, neither is a terribly good indicator of what the global climate is really doing).