Showing posts from January, 2010

Somewhere Over The Iraqi Rainbow

Ok, so if I sit at that bus stop and tap my ruddy tan boots together 3 times, will I suddenly find myself whisked back to Texas?

If you've been following my posts at all, you've probably figured out, that it's not all that bad here where I'm at. However, I'm just about at the 2/3 point of this deployment, and as tends to happen for many people ... I'm ready to go home. Ana keeps sending videos of Jaiden, or cool stuff like 3-D ultra sound pictures of Joey (baby due in May), and I can't help thinking that these are things I should be there for.

Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely not complaining. I'm still deployed with Army guys who have to be away from their families for twice a long as I do. (puts it in perspective) But all-in-all, maybe I'm just getting too old for this stuff. With the High Year of Tenure limiting how much longer I can stay in anyway, maybe I'll just hit up the Transition Assistance Program classes when I get hom…

How To Make A Sunset Picture Interesting

This may surprise some of you, but I'm not a huge fan of sunset pictures. Don't get me wrong, sunset is a great time to take pictures ... just not always of the sky. The thing is, it's not too hard to get the feeling that when you've seen one sunset picture, you've kind of seen them all. Even when I lived in paradise, getting a unique sunset picture was not always an easy task.

Alright then, so why did I post a picture of a sunset today?

Well, for my project365, I have a couple spots/objects/locations around the base that I pretty much know I'm going to get a shot of before I leave. This big gun was on my target list. The thing is, taking a picture of it during the day would have been sort of boring. It's just a big gun. But, catching it right at dusk, with some nice pink clouds in the background makes for a nice contrast. However, please imagine that that pink sky background just by itself, with nothing in the front of it ... yawn city huh?

So I'…

I Need To Vent

Even though I've got about 2 months left, I think tonight was my last poker game at Ali AB. I just took two "bad beats" in a row to get knocked out of the championship qualifier round ... again. I actually have a decent record in the regular poker games. I've won about once a month since I've been here. But every month, they also have a "champions tournament" for everyone who's placed 5th or better in any of the regular tournaments. They have two qualifying rounds, with about 20 people playing each night, with the top 4 going on to the finals, to play for a $325 1st place prize. I haven't made it to that final table yet. Tonight was looking like my best shot ...

I was playing pretty decent, but not great. We were down to 6 people, with 4 qualifying for the next round. Due to the blind structure, almost everybody at the table was "short stacked" (had less than 10x the big blind) with the blinds at 1000/2000. My chip count put …

The Ziggurat Of Ur

Within the perimeter of our base lies the ruins of The Great Ziggurat of Ur; one of the oldest cities in the world, and one of the best preserved Ziggurats in Iraq and Iran. The chaplains here on post organize occasional tours. We got to climb up on the Ziggurat, take some pictures, and even got a professional guided tour of the ruins where it is said the biblical figure Abraham lived.

I took quite a few pictures, but the one above is my favorite.

I would write more, but to be perfectly honest, if you click on the links in the paragraph above, you can easily explore this subject much more in depth than anything I would be capable of writing.

p.s. short post ... it's been a long day. "see" you again tomorrow ;-)

Update: A few more Ziggurat pictures for Lissie ...

Military Retirement Less That Four Years Away

Today's picture is called "Hanging up my Uniform". Apparently, that's what I'll be doing in less than 4 years from now. I just went over 20 years in the Air Force at the end of last month. I'd planned to stay in pretty much as long as I can ... which until recently meant 6 more years. Then this morning I was reading an article in my feed reader from the Air Force times, which said that the AF had announced that High Year of Tenure is being rolled back to pre-2003 levels.

What that means to me, is that as a MSgt (which, in all honesty is the highest rank I'm going to make), I now have to retire when I hit 24 years ... 28 December 2013, in my case. So for the rest of the day today, the thought of hanging up my uniform has been on my mind. Once I get back from this deployment, and take some leave, I'll only have 3 1/2 years left in the military. I had already pretty much planned on the idea that Fort Hood was going to be my last assignment ... thi…

Ciano - Italian Restaurant In Iraq

That's right, we've got our own little Italian "side walk" Cafe right here on Ali AB, Iraq. There's actually two of the restaurants here on the post. One of them is in our Air Force section, and one is over near the passenger terminal. Seeing as how we get free, all you can eat, food at the dining hall, I wouldn't have thought that a commercial restaurant would do very well over here. Apparently I thought wrong.

As you can see on the sign, they have steak and chicken dishes, as well as the pizza and pasta you would expect to see. The prices are about the same as what you might find in a smaller "mom and pop" type Italian place back home ... most meals are $8-$15. I've eaten the food a couple of times on the holidays, when they served it free in our big top tent. It was good. And even on days when I don't eat there, I walked by it every afternoon on my way home from work, so I get to experience the aroma of fresh cooked bread and Ital…

Sunny Cruise Vacation for Everyone

Taking a vacation means different things to different people. Some people like to be active, see new things, and have exciting adventures. Others want to just lay about enjoying their time off away from work. Whatever your preference for a vacation is, try taking a cruise because it truly has something for everyone.

[caption id="attachment_419" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="photo by Gavdana on Flickr"][/caption]

Social aspect: If you’re a social person, there are plenty of people to meet on the cruise! There’s a social committee on board that organizes different events for the passengers. If you’re looking for a love connection, there are single evenings as well. All you have to do is check out the ship’s newsletter to know what social events are going on daily. Even if you’re on a mini cruise vacation, you’ll be sure to score some digits.

Conversely, if you like to relax on your own, you can enjoy quiet times by yourself at the spa…

Dust Storm Blowing In

Anybody who's been to Iraq is all too familiar with blowing dust. Any time the wind picks up the dust is usually not too far behind. It blows in on the breeze and then proceeds to get into Everything! Not only that, but (more directly related to my job) it's apparently not too much fun to try to fly in either.

Fortunately, in the winter time we don't have too many bad dust days. Sometimes in the summer though, the visibility will be less than 2 miles for weeks at a time. Today however, was one of the rare winter days where we did get a pretty decent dust storm. We just had a cold front go through, so by mid-morning, the winds were were blowing fairly briskly from the west. We noticed on the satellite image first that it looked like conditions were deteriorating upstream. After a few more frames, there was no doubt; the dust was coming. About an hour later, the leading edge of the dust storm was visible on the horizon. And if you look close at my picture above, yo…

Do Drink The Water

A deployment trip to the desert is one of the few tropical travel destinations where you are most definitely Encouraged to drink the water ... lots of it. And they make it real easy for us. All around the post, there are pallets full of bottled water, free for the taking. Plus, most offices, rec centers, and the gyms have coolers where you can also get a nice cold bottle.

Reminding people to drink plenty of water is actually part of our pre-deployment training ... I'm not even joking. This time of year, it's not really that big of a deal. The weather is quite pleasant actually (most afternoons the high temp is between 65 and 73). But during the summer time, when the high temperatures can sometimes top 120 F (50 C), if you're not drinking water, you can get dehydrated with a quickness.

I did get a chuckle when I first got here in October. I went into the bathroom near our office, and there on the wall, right above the urinal, is a little chart that helps you determine…

Mitsubishi L200 Pickup - I Like This Truck

For the past 3 1/2 months, I've been cruising around our base in the little Mitsubishi pickup truck that you see pictured above. It's by no means the biggest, fastest, or strongest truck around. But it is fun to drive. It's got a little diesel engine, 5 speed manual transmission, and shift on the fly 4 wheel drive. It seats 4 or 5 of us relatively comfortably, and when we need to haul something off to the dump, or to the air terminal, we just throw it in the short bed.

Whenever it rains here in Southern Iraq (which fortunately isn't often at all), the place turns into one big mud hole. On those couple of days, the 4 wheel drive comes in very handy. But even with all 4 wheels engaged, we've still had quite a few "slip and slide" adventures on the roads ...

One morning, it had rained about 1/2 an inch overnight, and we were driving to work. Due to some construction, we had to take a little detour onto a windy dirt road. Would have been no problem, exce…

Travel the World as a Travel Writer

If you travel the world as much as I do, you may have thought about how convenient and amazing it would be if you could make money while doing it. When I travel, I keep logs of everything I do and see, so it’s not that large of a step to put my logs into article form. If you are very observant, have a unique eye, and are a decent writer to boot, you should consider traveling the world as a writer.

Although it is very hard to make a full-blown career out of travel writing, it is possible to make money. It is also possible that if you get a story idea accepted by a publication, that they will send you on location to write it. There are also other perks like, when writing for a well known magazine, getting your accommodations comped by the hotel you are writing about.

Being a writer is a great way to make money while you travel. But you have to remember that it is a job, it will take time and effort during your trip. You will also need to know the right way to write. These days everybody t…

Tequila + C130 Flight = Very Bad Day

For you non-military types, this is a picture of a C-130 Hercules. It's a plane that's been flying, in one form or another, since before I was even born. And still today, it remains a workhorse ... especially for intra-theater airlift. But that's not the reason I chose it as my picture of the day.

You may have noticed the title of this blog post up above. Yes, there's a story behind it. My buddy Lou Pell just mentioned it on one of his facebook status updates about a week ago, so the memory is (re)freshed in my mind.

So it's circa 1993. We've been deployed down to Brindisi Italy for about 3 months, providing weather support to special ops/search and rescue aircraft flying into Bosnia. It wasn't a bad TDY at all. San Vito AB was still open at the time. We lived in big tents, but we still shopped in the BX and Commissary, and went to the base club almost every night. And that's where the story of the C-130 ride from hell comes in ...

It's fi…

My Socialized Health Care

I've enjoyed the benefits of "socialized medicine" for my entire life. First as a military dependent, then on active duty for the past 20 years. Once I retire from the Air Force, I'll continue to have excellent health care benefits; for myself and my family. Because of this, I'd love to be able to say that the current debate over health insurance reform doesn't really affect me. Except that it does ...

It affects us all.

I don't want to get too far off on a rant here. >>Begin Rant<< But suffice it to say, that when it comes to politics, I'm a proud member of the "mushy middle". I've got absolutely no use (or respect) for those members of congress (or the public) on the Right, or the Left who's "principals" (ie: ideology) tend to stand in the way of getting anything productive done. Why is compromise considered a 4-letter word in today's political arena?

I'm not an expert on the health care field.…

A Trip To The Out House

Being "Fobbits" who never leave the base, we really don't have it all that bad on this deployment. But we do still have guys that complain about having to get up and trudge through the cold and the mud if they have to take a pee in the middle of the night. Unless you're a Full Bird Colonel or Sergeant Major/Chief it's highly unlikely that there's a bathroom in the trailer where you sleep.

The photo above is what the "potty buildings" look like from the outside. But don't ask me why I'm even sharing this information with you.

Yesterday was cold and rainy. I had a headache and was generally grumpy and unmotivated all day. I didn't take many pictures, so when I sat down in the evening to pick one, and write a blog post to go with it, there wasn't much to choose from. Then to top it all off, my Internet service went out.

So, in hindsight, it's probably appropriate that the photo I ended up choosing is of the "crapper"…

My Ipod Makes Me Feel Old

Should the realization that probably 95% of the songs currently on my ipod were recorded before the ipod was even invented make me feel old?

Ana used to make fun of me when I was at home, because I bought an ipod, but very rarely listened to it. Well since I've been here, I'm making up for it. I listen to music every day while I'm at the gym for our daily workout. Two things recently occurred to me ...

I need more music, some of these songs are starting to repeat pretty often. Unfortunately, with my slow internet speed, it's probably not gonna happen until I get home in the spring.

Most of the songs on my ipod are from the 70s or 80s. Not really surprising, since that's when I was a teenager, and thus most interested in music.

Just to give you an idea of what I'm taking about, today while I was on the elliptical machine, the shuffle feature gave me a nice 3 song in a row stretch ...

Paradise by the Dashboard Lights - Meatloaf (recorded in 1977)
Bohemian Rhap…

Martin Luther King Wall Mural

"As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be Free"

That's the quote from Dr. King, painted on a wall mural here at Ali AB, Iraq.

I told you I was going to get more pictures of some of the really cool painting on the walls around the base. Today's, was a really perfect coincidence. We drive our truck almost ever where around here. But there is also a pretty good bus system ... which I rode on a fair bit when I first got here. Well today, I needed to come back to my room a little bit early, so I left the truck for LT, and took the bus. Of course I had my camera with me. I didn't actually have a good plan for today's picture, but knowing that it's the MLK holiday, I had hoped to capture an appropriate image ...

Well, it just so happens, that when I got off the bus and started to cross the street, the picture you see above was right in front of me. I have not been on this particular street in about 2 months. I didn't remember that this …

Sunday Morning Donut Run

Yep, that's right, it was a totally different kind of run today. But hey, sometimes it's just gotta be all about the sweet stuff. Why is that? What is it about our physiology that makes us have such a strong desire to put something into our bodies that is so obviously not good for us?

Don't get me wrong ... I love me some donuts. But dang it, I'm supposed to be trying to lose weight, and get in shape while I'm here. And having to walk right past several big bins of tasty treats every morning certainly isn't making it easy.

Oh well, if that ever turns out to be the biggest challenge I face on any given day, then I think it's safe to say that life is pretty darn good. ;-)

p.s. I picked these up primarily with the intention of taking a picture ... but eventually ended up eating that chocolate one.

A Saturday Morning Jog

There was a half-marathon at Ali AB this morning. I didn't run in it, because I had to work. Ok, actually even if I hadn't been working, as I told Lt. Puckett when he asked if I wanted to sign up ... if I'm going 13 miles, it'll probably be in a car ... or at the very least on a bicycle. That said, had I somehow mustered up the motivation to go for a nice long jog, I think the group pictured above would have been just about my speed.

Even when we're deployed, we're still expected to get our pt workout in at least 3-5 days a week. It's not really that hard, as there 3 big gyms on the base, miles and miles of roads, and special events such at this half-marathon on a fairly regular basis. In fact, they even mirror some of the bigger events back in the states. For instance, I know that we will be having our own running the Boston Marathon in April ... I'll already be gone, but I believe the LT and Kevin want to run in it, if they're still here. L…

International Living in Panama

Long gone are the days when Panama served as a overseas banking safe haven for drug dealers and other unsavory criminals.  Manuel Noriega is long gone and Operation Just Cause, which was the U.S. invasion of Panama under President George H.W. Bush is now more than 20 years past.  In those 20 years, Panama has come a long way and is now both the biggest and fastest growing economy in Central America.  It has a burgeoning international banking and business sector, is successfully overseeing a profitable transformation of the Panama Canal, and is attracting large numbers of foreign expats.

Panama is consistently named on of the best places for expatriates to retire to for the biggest bang for their buck.  On the narrow isthmus that connects North and South America, Panama has two coastlines, one facing the huge, deep waters of the Pacific, and the other facing the more placid, serene waters of the Caribbean.  This makes it easy to find an affordable beachfront condo within close distance …

Mauritius – The Most Beautiful Island In The World

If you are looking to plan an island getaway, but want to go somewhere more special than your typical island experience, plan to visit Mauritius. It is one of the best tropical islands in the world, known for its vastly beautiful landscapes and friendly and accommodating people.

When looking at information on Mauritius, most of it is geared towards the beauty of the island. Mauritius is actually made up of a group of 20 islands, but the main island is the largest and most populated. Mauritius is sheltered by barriers of coral reefs, forming natural, crystal clear lagoons.

Mauritius has miles and miles of white beaches that look over the aquamarine waters. The beaches are great for sun bathing, surfing, sailing, and windsurfing. There are also some great adventures you can take while on the island. Try mountain climbing, or hike through the forests. Visit some of the beautiful waterfalls, or take in the sites of the giant Victoria Amazonica water lilies at the SSR Botanical Gardens.

A gre…

Watching Avatar On DVD In Iraq

Actually, we'll probably watch Avatar tomorrow. This evening, we watched a movie called Zombie Land. (very quick review: A "self aware" zombie movie. We laughed our asses off ... which I think was the intention). Anyhow, we get our movies from the local bazaar (most posts have a few local merchants who are allowed to set up shop), for anywhere from $2-$4 each. I feel slightly guilty, for not waiting til I get home to pay full price for the "real thing" ... but only a little bit ... it's not like we have other options to see some of these flicks.

Now don't get me wrong, especially with something like Avatar, the experience of watching a dubbed version on a little tiny TV is almost not worth the effort. But I guess that's only fair. (hopefully it will still be in at least some of the cheapy theaters when we get home in the spring)

On that note, that's about all I've got. I apologize for the short post, but one of the after effects of po…

Poker Night At The Big Top

Like many other guys, I became addicted to Texas Hold em poker a few years back. I love to play the game. Fortunately, the rec center over here sponsors a tournament 3 nights a week. We usually get anywhere from 70 to 100 people show up. It's free to enter, but the top three finishers do get prizes ... usually gift cards. I've won my fair share already in the 3 months I've been here so far. But even on nights when I don't win, the real value for me is that it gets me up out of the room. Everywhere we go around base, I'm constantly running into people I know from the poker game. I've even made a few friends that I'll probably keep in touch with even after we get back home.

I started playing Texas hold em after watching a couple of late night re-runs on ESPN2. I played mostly online. Never for a lot of money, but always enough to make it interesting. I am fortunate I guess, that I did a bit of gambling (pool and slot machines) when I was a teenager…

Doing My Laundry In Iraq

In some ways, being deployed is almost like getting to experience childhood again. I have someone cooking all my food for me. There are plenty of "after school activities" at the Rec center. And best of all, "doing laundry" consists of putting it all into a canvas bag about once a week; dropping it off at a little building, which is conveniently right on the way to the parking lot; then picking it up, cleaned and folded, 1 or 2 days later. (all for "free" by the way)

Today's picture is of Miss Lulu, who has the contract for the laundry service here in the Bedrock (Air Force) area of Ali AB. All of the people who work there are really friendly. Dropping off and picking up laundry always seems to involve lots of smiles, and at least a little bit of friendly conversation. Unlike some of the other KBR laundry drop-offs on COB Adder (another name for this base), what's really nice about Lulu's is that they do all the washing right there in th…

Freeze Or I'll Shoot

In case you couldn't figure it out ... when I go hunting (which is pretty much every day) ... my weapon of choice is my Canon camera. Seriously though, since I started this project365 picture a day, that image above is pretty much how many people might be likely to see me ... peering out from behind the lens. I carry my camera with me everywhere I go. And I take pictures of anything that catches my interest.

For instance, this picture below is the one I really wanted to use for my 12 Jan picture of the day:

Unfortunately, I just couldn't come up with any sort of story to go with it.

And besides, I'd like to be able to look back on these pictures at some time in the future and have them invoke fond memories. lol, and if I'm having fond memories of a wall ... well, that would be sad.

As for the picture that I did choose to use for today ... not the greatest photograph in the world ... reflected off the back of the truck mirror (seems to be my favorite "prop"…

The Perhentian Islands are a Tropical Paradise

The Perhentian Islands are a small group of coral lined islands off the coast of Malaysia not far from the Thai border. These islands offer something for every kind of traveler and are amazing tropical islands that everyone should see.

The two main islands of Perhentian are known as the big and small, or Besar and Kecil. Besar is a bit more expensive as it is geared towards families or vacationers wanting a more relaxed and luxurious stay. Kecil has cheaper accommodations and is popular with backpackers. The other three smaller and uninhabited islands lie off the coast of Kecil.

You will want to visit the Perhentians between March and October, as outside of this period is monsoon season where a lot of the islands close down. There is no airport on Perhentian, so you get there by ferry. The main form of travel on the islands are either on foot, or by water taxi which will take you to other beaches or to the other islands.

The islands are pretty much untouched by any human construction, ma…

Desert Chapel Wall Mural

Pretty much all over the base here, there are these really cool murals painted on the concrete T-walls. In many cases they are representations of the units who work in the adjacent buildings ... as is the case with this picture outside of the Air Force chapel.

The chapel is about a 3 minute walk from where I live, so it was a logical choice that this would end up being the first mural picture that I included in my project 365 pictures. I've still got about 3 months left here though, so expect to see about a dozen more between now and when I leave.

Ok, tonight is going to be an early night for Todd ... I'm outta here, hope you all have a happy Monday!

Keep Your Eyes On The Road

Sometimes in life, it sure can seem like all of the really good stuff is already behind us. Especially when we find ourselves going through tough times.

But here's something to keep in mind ... while it's ok to occasionally take a quick glance in the old rear view mirror, and reminisce about all the beautiful scenes from our past; don't ever forget that the future can actually provide much more vivid imagery ... because only with our tomorrows do we truly have the power to shape reality to fit our dreams.

... and on a lighter note; if you spend too much time admiring the sunset in your mirror, you might just forget about what's ahead, and plow right into a dumpster. (I didn't do that btw ... but it certainly sounds like something that I might do) :-D