Sunday, January 25, 2004

Routines, Rituals, and Adjustments

It was a bone-chilling morning, down into the teens. Temperature inside my hooch: 42ºF. I have learned, therefore, to make some adjustments:

1) I go to bed at around 1500Z, or about 7:30pm. That's when the temp dips below 60º inside and my hands start to go numb. Initially, I'll wrap up in the sleeping bag and read by flashlight for a bit. Then it just gets too uncomfortable for my hands, and I'll snuggle down into the bag, pull on my gloves and fleece sleeping cap, and daydream about home until I fall asleep. And I sleep like a baby in that cold.

2) Since I go to bed earlier than most small children, I get up at midnight zulu time, which is 4:30am local. I spend at least an hour hurting myself in the gym in order to atone for my wickedness during the Christmas season, and run back to the hooch, where I'll be able to see my breath for several more hours.

3) Changing clothes and getting out of the warm bag are the two times the cold becomes an issue. Changing clothes becomes bearable with the help of my super-high-powered hair dryer. I warm up the clothes, jump into them, then stick the hair dryer down my shirt until I'm toasty. Then the fleece gloves get fluffed up with hot air, and I'm good to go. I'm sure if there was a hidden camera in the tent, this would all be very amusing to a (warm) outside observer. Bite me.

As for the trouble of getting out of the warm bag, I haven't quite figured that one out yet. I just jump into my warm jacket and sprint out the door to the toasty bathroom, then run to the gym. If anyone has any suggestions as to how to make it more pleasant going from warm snuggly sleeping bag into 40º tent, please notify me. "Just don't get up" isn't an option.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

How to Be a Good Friend to the Mefloquine-Popping Masses, with Sidebars

Mefloquine. It's the anti-malarial medication we're forced to take here. Only I didn't take it initially, because I remember well how I reacted to that crap the last time. If you read the patient insert, it even states that no one's really sure WHAT it does to folks, psychologically.

It was down in South America, in a dangerous, high-stress area, and our mission was aerial reconnaissance. WE weren't in danger, theoretically, because we were on a heavily-guarded airbase belonging to the host nation. I, however, was under virtually no stress--my job was maintaining our secure satellite system, and as long as it worked, I had very little to do besides read the wonderful and fat Faulkner short story collection I'd brought, and play with the weird, sand-colored rabbit that liked to hang out with us. It belonged to the Colombian General's daughter and would sit on your lap, docile as a kitten, until such time as it would, for no evident reason, decide to bite a chunk from your thigh.

A sidebar about the rabbit: we also adopted an adorable little Sharpei puppy called Bubba. My favorite place to be was in the lovely little lounge area, on the pretty little tropical-looking couch, with the bunny on one side and Bubba on the other, book in hand. Bubba, Still a Dog despite his youth and diminutive size, never took his eyes off that plump, physically imposing rabbit. Tell me he wasn't thinking, "Just you wait until I'm bigger, you fat morsel, you hogger of lapspace, you Whore of Babylon."

Another sidebar regarding the animal population in this land: the iguanas. Forget what you know about them, forget that you've seen them fat and somnolent on the back of your college buddy's couch. In the wild, they are as big as your full leg, not counting the tail, and will Directly Kick Your Ass if provoked.

Each day we went to the local guy we called affectionately, "Pan Man." Pan being Spanish for "bread," of course. Usually, a small crowd of us, mostly the pilots not out on mission, would pile into the minivan and strike out for Pan Man. He had lovely, fresh cheese-filled bread, little filled rolls made with the meat of the small coconuts growing right outside his back door. I gained 8 pounds down there.

One day, we piled in and headed for Pan Man. It was a perfectly sunny, hot morning. One pilot was one of these Rambo-type older men, who's done and seen it all and whose stories I love to hear. Plus, he was identifiably Southern, which further endeared him to me. He was mid-story, full-tilt, when he suddenly interrupted himself to exclaim, "Holy SHIT! Look at that iguana! Stop the car, I need a picture!"

So we dismounted. The iguana was indeed a poster-child for Bad Ass Reptile. He/she looked damn near prehistoric, and seemed utterly unintimidated as we crept up for pictures. Just then, a couple of young, Colombian soldiers laid down their bikes and walked up, speaking rapid-fire Spanish and staring at me. I was in uniform, and they NEVER see women in uniform. Everywhere I went with the red hair and the uniform, it attracted a great deal of attention. Formations of marching troops would stumble on each other, drivers turn their heads all the way back, narrowly missing trees, ditches, and people. And I did NOT relinquish a runway-modeling career to join the Army.

These boys, they were in full-machismo mode, ready to show off their comfort level with the native wildlife. One broke a stick off the tree this majestic iguana lounged under. It didn't move, but followed all the motion with its strange, bi-directional Iguana Eyes. The young soldier, smiling at me, prodded the iguana. It hissed. We began to comment, "Look at this crazy sumbitch, he's fixin to get tangled up...ok, just keep on, big guy. That lizard will straight hook you up."

He prodded it again. It hissed louder, and turned toward the stick. The other soldier danced around it like a soccer player, laughing and cutting his eyes at me.

He prodded it a third time. It didn't move for a few seconds. Then it suddenly exploded. It leapt right up on the dancing soldier, directly commenced to Kicking His Ass. It looked and sounded like a leopard fight. The other madly pulled at it, trying to get it off his buddy. So it turned on him instead, just POUNCED on him, hissing madly and ripping with those big teeth and claws. It decided it had proved its point, and ran off toward the jungle at a high rate of speed, on its hind legs, which went elliptical with speed.

The whole scene looked like something out of a cartoon, or maybe When Animals Attack. The Mefloquine helped here, I feel sure.

We were in tears, on the ground with laughing. The pilots mostly speak Spanish, and managed to half-crawl out to the poor boys, still weak with laughing. They looked like hell--clothes torn, cut up. But okay, if a little sheepish.

So it should have been a lengthy vacation. It was beautiful down there, monsoon season--lush and green, mangoes falling from the trees (or being cut down by muscular, brown-skinned men who hadn't seen many redheads in their time), the coffee and food were cheap and delicious, we lived in air-conditioned trailers with TV/VCR's, refrigerators, etc.

In the meantime, I buzzed around trying to hide my rising panic. I had horrendous, Technicolor, virtual reality dreams that kept me up all night, terrified. I just knew that all my counterparts hated me and wished me dead. Convinced I'd been ostracized and banished from the other Sergeants, including my roommate Jen (who, as it turned out, truly was stabbing me in the back and earned herself a permanent seat on my I Wouldn't Let You Lick the Sweat from My Armpits If You Were Dying of Thirst list), and my only ally down there was First Sergeant B, who has since become a very good friend. Following one incident in which I'd had to forcibly restrain myself from a verbal and possibly physical assault on another Sergeant (a guy I still think is a total bitch), I went to the Chaplain.

I explained to this good man that I was losing my mind and should either go home or find some kind of medication to temper my loss of sanity before I really screwed up. His first question, "Are you taking Mefloquine?"

Me: "Yes, sir."

Chaplain: "You know, it has psychological side effects in some people, especially women." No, I didn't know. A flash of lightning. A thunderbolt.

Why don't they TELL you this shit, so you can calm yourself down?? I was immensely relieved. I wasn't losing my already loose grip on reality. From then on, I could laugh about it, recognize that onslaught of barely-controlled panic, hold my tongue and count to ten: "One-Mefloquine, Two-Mefloquine..."

So now I'm forced to take this crap again. That could explain the cookie-scandal. I'd forgotten how crazy this shit makes me: manic-depressive, defensive, paranoid, generally disagreeable.

I've worked at becoming a supportive friend, especially to other females, and the way I accomplished this was to gauge how I felt after venting to someone--was I angrier? Feel silly? Or was it a satisfying interaction, after which I was already starting to laugh about it? So now when someone vents to me, I know what they want: for you to act indignant, to get riled up with her/him, that's all anyone needs to do.

And I can be REALLY good at it! When Major K, my female former tent-mate, vented to me about her crusty old boss who seems to stalk her, is evidently obsessed, I responded, indignantly, "How the hell does he think he's even in your LEAGUE? Has he seen a mirror since he's been here? I mean, PUH-LEEEZE!!" Her face immediately softened. It was exactly what she needed to hear, and I knew it.

My friend Luci just got blown off by her spoiled brat of a niece, whom Luci has more or less put through college and whom she'd asked to clean her rental property in New Orleans, a tiny act in the face of the thousands of dollars Luci's given this little girl. My response, "Jesus Christ, has the world gone INSANE? If she's living in your rental, I'd call the cops and have her put out on her ASS! I wish someone would've given ME a college education in exchange for cleaning a house!" Again, exactly what she needed to hear.

SGT B, however, the woman I live with, has clearly not had many female friends. If I came home riled up at having seen someone stomp a kitten to death, her response would sound like, "Well, you know, everyone's under stress and a long way from home, and you know National Guard, they don't roll like us...blah blah blah." She'll take the other person's side against you, after which you'll find yourself pissed at HER in addition to the original transgression that pissed you off in the first place.

So now I just go to Major K. She has learned the same lessons I have. When I was raging pissed about the cookies, she raged right along with me, spoke of the Rules of Etiquette and Basic Decency that had been violated, and we analyzed the many faults of The Butthole.

So, at the end of this novella-length post, comes the moral of the story: Just Be On Your Friend's Side, Always. Even if she's completely irrational and half-crazed from Mefloquine. She'll eventually laugh about it and get over it on her own, but when she's riled up, just get riled up with her.

It's so simple. How come so few people GET it??

Monday, January 19, 2004

Esther the Whore of Babylon

Last night, snuggled down deep into the many layers of techical gear I now require to stay warm through the night, I dreamed I went home for mid-tour leave. Only it wasn't my home now, it was my former home in New Orleans...only much better. Many palatial rooms, tall ceilings, wood floors, but the furniture was the lovely collection I have now rather than the ugly-covered-with-pretty-cloth cheap shit I had then.

It was raining, all the more like New Orleans. I looked out the window to see a crew of Gina Bobrowski sculptures, discarded in the gloom. I plotted a midnight foray out there to steal them. The cats didn't know me at all, seemed very annoyed when I tried to pick up first Esther, then Oscar, the whores. Rachel was there, planning a building-wide party for all the occupants: myself, her, Major C the Aussie, and some other Australian that Maj C disliked so strongly, he got pissed off at the very mention of the guy's name. And Rachel, she had turned the fridge on, then left it open. Food rotted openly and I noted that every single appliance in the kitchen hummed right along...thus, the $300 electric bill mystery solved. The house was a wreck, and I lounged on my plush, pillowtop bed thinking I had two weeks to clean it up, then I had to come back to Afghanistan. But for that moment, it was quiet, it was raining, I was in my own bed, and it was directly time for a nap.

I dreamed of napping. How does that work? Do you fall deeper into sleep when your dream self drifts off?

Very Superstitious

Here are some prevailing Afghan superstitions and I swear I'm not making these up:

o Cover your bald head or else it may start raining.
o Don't click the scissors, it will bring about a fight.
o Don't look at the new moon in the face of a child, he will fall down.
o I bit my tongue, someone must be backbiting me.
o If water from a bowl spills out with a sound, a guest will come.
o If you arrive somewhere at a time when others are just starting their meals, it means that your mother-in-law likes you very much.
o If you shake a bunch of keys, it may bring about a fight.
o If you sit in the doorway, your father will be in debt.

I suppose that sharp sounds (scissors, keys) enrage some Afghan men to the point of physical violence. I also suppose it's no mystery why the Soviets were able to scare the shit out of them with red lights--they thought that if they hit them, they'd immediately vaporize to a pile of ashes, like in a Bugs Bunny cartoon when someone gets hit by lightning. Given it hardly ever rains, I'm thinking most Afghan men sport a full head of hair under those Mullah caps.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Cold NIGHT in Hell

Dick Cheney's Brown and Root, in their infinite wisdom and unflagging dedication to making life a little easier on soldiers, unplugged half the power to our tent heating system. It was 41F in there all night long, and it only went down to 30. In the next few days, it's supposed to get back down into the mid-teens.

Here's what I wore to bed: fleece hat, gloves, two layers of polypro (the Army's layering system, like a fleece 1/2 zip sweat top) top and bottom, two pairs of socks, in a double-layer sleeping bag. I called today because I thought it had to be broken, because I wouldn't make my cats sleep in 41 degrees. And they have fur. Nope, it was intentional, they refuse to give us the power back, and now we're stuck sleeping like Sta-Puffed Marshmallow ladies. It makes it intensely difficult to get out of the bed at 4:30 am for physical training, especially since no one is looking, no one would know if I just rolled back over and snuggled down a bit deeper into the layers of sleeping bag.

The part of this that makes it outrageous is that our National Guard counterparts who just got here had little buildings, called B-Huts, built--nice solid walls, a real roof, and TWO heat units in each. They only have to run them part time, and their abodes stay solidly in the 70's through the night. They tuck in to bed wearing shorts and bare feet, and arise refreshed and warmed in the morning. We live right next door, in el barrio, with ice on the water bottles inside the tent.

Do you see why a career move might be in order as soon as I'm eligible? Try getting up in the night, bladder bursting, only to put on more layers and run about 500 yards to the stinky latrine, often in the rain or snow, run back to the frigid tent, and spend the next ten minutes rewarming your bed. I'm solidly tired of the reindeer games. I'm all for serving my country, and I know that a combat zone has inherent discomforts, but when you CAN make things better but choose NOT to, that's when I have a problem with it. The Army is all about making things harder than they have to be.

Thanks, Dick Cheney. I bet the Brown and Root guys sleep nice and cozy in their little buildings. No uninsulated, draft-plagued, unheated tents for them!

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Cold Day in Hell

And it is. One Cold Day in Hell.

Cold because it's, well, cold.

Hell because one of our mineclearing Sappers stepped on a landmine. We haven't heard about his condition--they wear extensive body armor, but nothing can protect legs from a direct mine strike. That soldier is probably alive, but from the waist down, in serious trouble.

What a world for the Colonel to come back to later tonight..."Hey, sir, welcome back, a soldier stepped on a mine." What an even worse world for his family back in New York.

And we have all been around each other too damn much. Everyone's snapping at each other, we grate each others' nerves, just pure annoyance. SGT B just came in here--and granted, things are a little tense, a little hectic following the minestrike--and got all excited at ME about some reporting procedure mixup that is NOWHERE near my lane, I wouldn't know a thing about it. So I told her to back off, stop wasting her time over here in front of my desk hollering, get out there and fucking fix it yourself. My tolerance for disrespect is right at about zero, and she walks that line on a daily basis. Love her to death, most of the time, but when she raises her voice, I'm done listening and will likely raise my own in response.

More drama: Captain D visited my office earlier--we both work on force protection issues, so end up communicating quite a bit. He kept "Kim this," and "Kim that." I didn't ask. He offered. "That's my wife, by the way." ??

I'm guessing word must've reached him that I had a naughty dream in which he figured prominently. I've dreamed naughty about Santa Claus, buddy, it means nothing...tell your wife--Kim, that is--that she has nothing to worry about from the weird redheaded Intel lady.

I just heard that the soldier will lose most of one leg. It could easily have been much worse.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Hooked Up, or Why It Pays to Network.

A quick epistelary, with names changed to protect the guilty:

-----Original Message-----
From: B****, Kristen LT [mailto:B****]
Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2004 8:04 AM
To: G*****, J*** MAJ 2nd BDE
Subject: New Request


I had a conversation with CSM H*** today that made me change my mind
about what platoon I'd prefer. He told me about UAV, and I WANT IT. Given
that it's a new platoon, I think my leadership and technical experience
could be big assets. What do you think? If there's anything I can do to press my case, please let me know.

We're just suffering over here with sunny, 60 degree days. I went to Qatar
and suffered likewise there through the arduous, 80 degree long-weekend I
spent there. We met up with a retired CSM who lives in Doha and has
established relationships with all kinds of merchants there...pearls,
perfume oils, etc. I bought a gorgeous rug from Turkmenistan. I just have to
figure out how to keep the kitties from using it as a lovely, horizontal
scratching post.

Take care and stay warm...V/R--

Lt B***

-----Original Message-----
From: G***, J**** MAJ G2 [mailto:J**.G***]
Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2004 5:40 PM
To: 'B***, Kristen LT'
Subject: RE: New Request

I am not sure of the commander's/CSM's perspective,
the division fields its frist platoon in March of 05.

However, they received a UAV W.O. the other day,
and the plan for a building on the airfield is

I will send a note to MAJ W***.

The real way to get a job is for LTC W*** to mention to LTC B**,
or less visibility have MAJ P** or MAJ M**** mention it to MAJ W**
that you are doing a great job and would be the greatest UAV platoon leader
in the Army.


-----Original Message-----
From: B*****, Kristen LT
Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2004 9:53 PM
To: G*****, J MAJ 2nd BDE
Subject: RE: New Request

Maybe CSM H*** got his dates a little mixed up. He was also pushing GSR, which I didn't know females could even lead. I'm not sure I'd love spending my life in the field, but if that's what they give me, I'll tout the virtues of portolets and subzero temps all day long. I'll see what I can find out regarding UAV from this end, and maybe hit up MAJ Price and/or MAJ Milhorn to put in a word just in case.

Thank you for the guidance--

LT Boyden

-----Original Message-----
From: B***, Kristen LT
Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2004 10:14 PM
To: P***, M** J MAJ G3; M***, J* L 41st ENG
Subject: FW: New Request


This is the email trail between MAJ G*** at G2 and myself--bottom line is, I hear they're standing up an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle platoon, date unclear, and I would love to be its first Platoon Leader. Regardless, I'll be with the 41st until late spring/early summer, so please don't think I'm trying to bail! I just figure now is the time to lobby for the platoon I'd most like to lead when the time comes.

I know MAJ G*** from out in Sackets Harbor, if it sounds a little familiar. His initial recommendation was that I take Collection and Jamming, given that I used to repair those systems as a 33W and know them like the back of my hand. I'm a little conflicted on that idea. While I know that kind of familiarity would make me an effective PL, on the other hand it seems doing something I have no experience with at all might hand me a steeper learning curve.

I'll take whatever they give me and run like a scalded dog with it, regardless.

If either of you has contact with MAJ W***, I would really appreciate it if you'd put in a word for me. Please let me know if you have any guidance from your end.


LT B***

How many degrees of separation? It's a Kevin Bacon gig.

This is how things get done in the Army. You see a position you want, you lobby for it. I have a feeling the UAV is too far down the road for me to get ahold of, but it certainly doesn't hurt to express an interest. I'd like to know what I'll be doing in four months, in any case.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Must. Stop. Now.

Someone sent me a package of New York sharp cheddar cheese. I thought it a bit odd at the time, a pack of regular cheese in with all the baked goods and snackies. I contemplated the average temperature of the inside of a canvas mailbag, and couldn't help but wonder: Could a quarter-pound of New York cheese make it all the way to Afghanistan without becoming an e. coli culture?

My refrigerator is my windowsill. I keep bottles of water and a bottle of salsa out there, and the wooden window closes tight over it. It's even screened on the outside, so no one can steal my loot. Just now, I took out the cheese, absently thinking I'd risk it and have a nibble.

It's been so long since we've seen real cheese around here, I'd forgotten how amazing it tastes. The chow hall's version of cheese, as with all else, is some super-preservative-laden, tasteless "processed cheese food," I'm sure the actual lable would read. And right now I have a piece of the real deal in my mouth. I just ate almost the whole package. Each bite I slice off with my Gerber knife, my brain cries out, "Stop! You can't eat the whole block! You're going to be HUGE when you get home!"

But I can't help it. I can't stop.

Must go to the gym. NOW.

Lapses into food coma.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Let's Get It On?

Yep, I'm listening to some quality Marvin Gaye and browsing the sites of other Ladies Who Blog. Private G is on Extra Duty (a form of punitive pergatory) for sleeping on guard duty, and is (astonishingly) singing along with Let's Get It On as he sweeps out the office. He knows the words and everything, and he cannot be older than twenty. I'm watching this young soldier out of the corner of my eye--he's very courteous and respectful, very good-looking...of course, WAY too young for me, this is a strictly anthropological study. But I bet he knocks those little ladies down, good-looking, good-natured young man who can sing Marvin Gaye.

The other Private on Punishment Sweepout Detail is Private GS, a painfully acne-scarred but highly intelligent kid, one you just know they picked on cruelly throughout schooling. I don't know what it is about me that makes complete strangers tell me their deepest, darkest secrets and solicit advice.

Private GS just found it suitable to disclose that he has miserable, cystic acne on his back. In these situations, I have become adept at NOT appearing appalled or revolted. I dispensed the sage advice that he ask a doctor about Accutane, which I took at great personal expense when I was about 22. He won't go to the doctor for it, because the Sapper dynamic is that you "suck it up," never see a doctor unless you're on your deathbed. I imagine it would be an uncomforable conversation with the hardassed Platoon Sergeant, that you're going to the doc for zits. Poor kid. I told him to hell with what these jive turkies think, take care of it.

Private G, for whom life has been a Sunday cakewalk with the ladies fawning at his feet, glances sideways at him every so often. Doesn't seem to sneer at him in doing so, maybe he's just wondering what life must be like for the Not So Beautiful People.

My favorite blogs so far (I'm very picky):

For some reason, I cannot get the hyperlink feature to work. You'll have to copy/paste, I'm afraid.

The first one, the best I can tell, is a young Australian living in Scotland, great storytelling style. Belle, on the other hand is a high-end London callgirl, and a talented writer. Yep, it gets a bit, um, unsavory, but she's funny as hell and it's a glimpse into a life that is about as far from my own as you can get on the Planet Earth. I read it every day.

The Ladies seem to rule the Blog. Perhaps it's because we often begin keeping journals (please, if you want to live to see the light of another morning, don't call it a "diary" unless you're referencing something from Charles Bukowski) as preteens.

"Journalling." The matrons of Weight Watchers tout it at every meeting. I read article after article about keeping a "food journal," how it's the key to weight loss because you think about all the crap you gulp down the gullet. They may be onto something.

I'll concoct an entry on my forays into the world of Weight Watchers some other time. It's a great program, it works, but I'm just a human like everyone else and I Love to Eat.

Judging by other folks' blogs, I am very low-tech indeed. They put fancy photos and fonts and cool headings, etc. I'm rather Mary Jane by contrast. But then, I don't really have the time to teach myself HTML. Belle's site is a bit better-looking--and better-written--than mine, but Shauny's looks fabulous. I would like that feature where people can leave comments. It's probably something you have to pay for, and I've already invested so much time in this here blog, I don't care to switch 'em out.

I listened to a commentary by Andre Codrescu on NPR yesterday about blogs--he opined in his inimitable Hungarian, drama-laced deadpan that they are the final frontier for the egomaniac. He could be right. Personally, I don't care if Not One Soul reads this thing. I plan to print it out when I get home and have it as my travel log.

Despite my little fits of anger mismanagement and daily annoyances, I'm fortunate to have a life interesting enough to write about. Things could be worse. I could, for instance, be bored. And boring to boot.

Suddenly, The Butthole and all of Afghanistan don't look so bad.

Friday, January 09, 2004

I went back and deleted yesterday's post--not out of fear of retribution or discovery, but because it just wasn't very interesting. I vented mightily for several days in a row. Here's the condensed version.

What it more or less boils down to, is that some folks just didn't get hometrained as children and subsequently have poor manners. Case in point: a certain officer I don't like anyway raided my package of lovely homebaked treats (baked and sent to me by a sweet old lady back home), ate several vacuum-packed pouches of said Scooby-snacks, didn't leave me a single piece to at least sample, then threw the trash all over my desk.

If you don't get it, I can't explain it to you.

There's no accounting for such bad behavior. And that's just one such incident in a long line of tiny dismissals and little spoons full of poop. This is the same guy who sees no problem with buddyfucking anyone to his left, right, or south, because, "That's the principle of selfless service, you have to put up with bullshit." Bitch, please. He would gladly and without shame or hesitation kick you to the curb and step on your broken, bloody back if it would earn him one coolpoint with anyone in the rank of Major or above. Makes my stomach turn.

Listening to this drivel for ten hours a day has completely sapped my motivation and solidified my determination to get the hell out of this testosterone-soaked bullshit. FBI, here I come. Sure, more testosterone, but it's the Infantry mentality in the Army I can't abide. There are no positions in the FBI that are denied to women, so it's bound to be less of a boys' club.

On the brighter side, Qatar was lovely. I spent more money than was wise or reasonable, but when will I ever have that opportunity again? I bought a perfectly gorgeous rug, made in Terkmenistan. Just incidentally, the oldest rug remnant in known existance is from Terkmenistan...I can cook up a great story about how my rug is from the same tribe, no, the same family as that original remnant. In fact, (insert Terkmenistanish-sounding name here) is a direct descendant of the inventor of woven rugs. The technique has been passed down through each generation for these thousand years.

This discussion sparked a pointless debate in my office. S asked the question, "Was the first rug invented or discovered?" In my mind, the clear answer is "invented," as "discovered" implies the thing existed in that same state and was stumbled upon by a human. "Invented" requires action/intervention, and an idea to spawn the thing. Think about it: the wheel--invented. Tools--invented. The planet Mars: discovered, no one built it. The duckbilled platypus--discovered, although bears a close resemblance to what your mother said would happen if you bought separates instead of complete outfits.

S argued for "discovered," because he said the first rug would've been a skin someone threw on the floor. Well, it's still invented, because someone had to skin the unfortunate animal and then think about the fact that the skin might feel mighty nice on bare feet.

We have entirely too much time on our hands.

The Butthole, he is heretofore dubbed, is leaving for several days on a mission he thinks is super-squirrel, but I know is what's called a "boondoggle," meaning pointless. Lucky for me, though, the LT who will assume his responsibilities while he is gone is one of my favorite people here. Not in a Love Sammich way, in a Completely Guileless, Funny, Fun to Hang Around Like a Really Cool Little Brother way. The difference in the office environment is like prison vs. birthday party with cake and ice cream. HE never would've eaten all my food without asking.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

"You have very strong body, ma'am."

This from the Filipina message lady, as she pounded me into submission. It's true, I have a very strong, muscular body, moderately padded with a little layer of fluff. But she was fluffier, so I didn't mind being bared like that.

What I've noticed about the super-cheap messages you get in non-Western countries: they tend to be canned, production-line affairs, you need not be shy whatever your body type because they've seen it all, and they pound the crap out of you like a butcher tenderizing meat. Still felt great. So did the manicure, pedicure, and facial I got along with it, for a whopping forty-eight bucks. It would be twice that AT LEAST in the States...but then again, you'd get very tailored, personal service from someone who has trained extensively on the musculoskeletal system and won't climb up on the table and dig an elbow into your spine until you want to scream.

The facial, I think I'll skip next skin is so sensitive, the whirring scrub machine has me all swollen and red now. And the nice lady rubbed every product straight into my clean hair. For those of you who don't know me, I have baby-fine, stick-straight hair, very long and very sensitive to products, like my skin. Anything rubbed into it post-shower gives me the mid-90's grunge look--in other words, I look oily and unshowered. And now off we go to Chili's for lunch. But in all honesty, I feel so relaxed, so much more like myself in civilian clothes and 85-degree temperatures, I don't really care that my face looks like a strawberry Moonpie and my hair looks like I don't care to wash it. So there.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Only three sentences could ruin my mood right now:

Right now: "Your flight's been cancelled."

In Qatar: "We ran out of space, here's your shelter half and a blankie, ma'am."

On returning: "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but your two kitties were buried by the snowplow in Sackets Harbor this morning."

Barring those three nightmare scenarios, nothing can take the smile off my face. This morning, I came in to discover that once again, the Captain who works next to me crashed my SIPR computer, thereby shitcanning the Officer Evaluation Report Support Form I'd slaved over all day yesterday, because he's too lazy to walk four extra steps to the SIPR computer on the other desk. Which, by the way, we put there for People Other Than the Intelligence Officer to use. Translation: No one's really supposed to fuck around on my computer for exactly this reason.

BUT, I didn't even get mad. I asked him if the other computer was broken and left it at that. At least I printed the damn OER Support Form before he trashed it. And I type fairly quickly, so it's not the end of the world. Terribly inconsiderate and disrespectful on his part, as is often the case with this guy, but it is not personal or intentional and I know that. He's a man, they often don't mean anything by it.

New Year's Resolution #2, just behind I Resolve to Be Nicer to Weak Pansies and Lazy Ne'er-do-well's, is Don't Get Worked Up Over Dumb Shit. This one takes a conscious effort on my part. I don't think there is much in this world that is trivial, and I'll need to start making that distinction as a habit.

The gym this morning...I went at about 3 am, so it was blessedly empty. Nearly. A handful of Infantry types lifted weights, which provides those of us on the treadmills some much-appreciated eye candy. One in particular today had me cranking up the speed--bald and bulgy, looked to be about my age, one of those rare men who looks unbelievably sexy with the head shaved. He knew it, though, evidenced by slightly raised eyebrows, that little muscle-man strut with the arms carried out to the sides slightly more than is natural. Hence, Not My Type, not by a long shot. I overheard one of these overly confident bulgers make the comment during Officer Candidate School that he could have any woman he wanted. I laughed out loud.

I love watching the Alpha Male dynamic from my little perch on the treadmill, right next to the wall with all the posted admonishing signs: Fitness is the Essence of Survival. Get tough or die. Pain is weakness leaving the body. I guess we're supposed to look up mid-workout, feel chastised by the signs, and up the intensity.

I'm off to be a girl for four days. The plane leaves in exactly 3.5 hours. I likely won't post until next Wednesday, when I'm sure I'll be full of stories of big fish (caught and eaten), manicured hands and feet, and far too much rich food. That's why they call it R&R, jack.
Busy day. I bought a cheapie digital camera to take to way I'm going deep-sea fishing without a camera. Felt guilty for buying it for about 2.5 minutes--I already have one at home, much higher quality, but I didn't bring it because I'd need my computer to bring with it, and both things were too expensive. I figured I shouldn't bring anything here I could stand to lose or have filled with sand and dirt. I think it was a wise call. This one will serve my purposes here just fine.

America's Team lost Trivia Night! We relenquished our heavyweight title!! Major C had some wild questions, I don't know where he gets this stuff...but we had to contend one of the music snippet answers. He credited "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" to the Steve Miller Band...uh, that was Charlie Daniels, don't argue with a Southern lady about country music!

Truth be told, I don't know jimmywop about country music, but I know that song because when it came out in the fifth grade, we all rocked hard to it. If it ain't Patsy Cline or Johnny Cash, though, I probably don't know it. Wait, are Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams considered country?

And today Major C is sick, bedridden even. Sick men make me want to take care of them...maybe the redheaded Intel lady should bring the poor boy some chicken soup. But I don't have any chicken soup...wonder if chocolate has the same effect?

I did get confirmation today that I'm headed home in early February. My big concern now, is that I'm dreadfully out of shape...I train, but not to the level I do at home. Just not as motivated here. I'm not too concerned, though, I'll get it back in short order at home. I don't think I'm so bad off I'll fall out of the battalion's 9-minute-mile runs, but it will NOT be comfortable. I've got my work cut out for me, and a little time to get a head start on it here.

BUT NOT UNTIL NEXT WEDNESDAY! Qatar tomorrow! When I get back, I'll only have about three weeks left until I'm back in the Land of the Living.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

What the hell is this? This site keeps posting everything I write twice, even after I go back and delete one of the copies. Many apologies, know that I am aware of the issue but unable to adjust fire.

I just had an intense craving to wear my own goddamn clothes for awhile...oh, wait, I get to go to Qatar in two days. And shopping is part of the deal. I get to be a girl for four whole days. I think I'm growing tired of the Army life, finally. I still spend perhaps too much of my time on the job perusing the FBI's Special Agent Processing handbook. I have visions of myself as Agent Scully, only a bit more of a kick-the-door-in-and-throw-your-ass-to-the-floor gal rather than a chasing-aliens gal. Could be great therapy.