Wednesday, December 31, 2008

That didn't take long

Dave has arrived! And with him a new window shattering, two wheeled monster. Dave got here Tuesday night and this showed up Friday.
Due to an odd array of events we took this beast to church Sunday. It was our only option aside from staying home. One vehicle had an ignition issue which has since been resolved and the other vehicle was parked on a soggy lawn where we both attempted to push it out in our church shoes. Dave's attempts must have been much more enthusiastic than my own judging by the amount of mud on his shoes as opposed to my cute heels. In spite of his brawn the soggy lawn only digressed into a muddy mass and didn't not give up the car. So we did what all Alaskans would do on a frosty morning. Took the motorcycle.

It's impressive how the loudness factor increases exponentially while in a church parking lot as a couple services are in sessions within the building. Now we've taken our previous motorcycle to church on a number of occasions. The circumstances were a little different however. Such as; the fact that we were not only on time but early, another ward was not already in their meetings and that bike was a little quieter. Not that any motorcycle could really be nominated as the quite child by the librarian. It was a cold morning as well. So I will tell the ward members that sound carries better in cold temperatures and that is why your slumbering new born was awakened in a fright and not consolable through the rest of the day.

It worked!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Trash-Stash.

I hit the teens today! 19 days to go and I'm so ready for it.

I cut my hair. It's short and respectable again, very dissapointing. People wept when I showed up shorn. But to compensate I have started growing a mustache. Think: sexual predator. I'll send some pictures before I shave it. I'm only doing it because it's ugly and I'm bored and resentful, and it will be gone before I get home.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Medevac Stories.

So apparently it's not against the law to murder your children in this country. We picked up a ten-year-old girl with 2nd and 3rd degree burns covering about 90 percent of the body, including her face and mouth. It looked like a huge pot of boiling water was poured over her head. I guess that out in the sticks it's a popular form of punishment- pushing your kid in a fire or throwing hot liquid on them. The call came this morning, and it took the civilian hospital in Kabul about 4 hours to decide wether to admit the patient. We think they were just stalling, banking on her dying if they waiting long enough. And- by the way- she will die. Soon.

The Jalalabad crew picked her up from the base closest to her town, and we took her from J-bad to the hospital in Kabul. When I went to the J-bad aircraft to transfer the patient, mom and dad were sitting in the back seat looking as cute and concerned as could be. For a second I thought about not killing them both. I sure as heck didn't let them on my bird, though. They flew in our escort bird. It's such a crime that parents here can do that to children and not face some kind of legal consequences or something.

The little girl was stable throughout the flight. She was a mess though, sedated and intubated of course, and drugged out. I won't go into detail, but I doubt she will ever wake up. I'm really glad she at least made it to the hospital. I don't know how I would have handled that.

Anyhow- now for a more positive story.
The last 'exciting' mission I got was for two local guys way down south near Salerno. They got caught in a crossfire between some good guys and bad guys and got shot up. They laid in a ditch bleeding all night and all the next morning. I think it was like- about 12 or 13 hours before they were found and brought to a base for treatment. One guy was shot up on his arms and legs and gut, the other was shot in the neck and had a severed carotid artery. And yet they both lived and looked like they would have a full recovery. What the doctor thinks happened was that they got hypothermia from laying outside in a cold ditch. That made their blood pressure drop and their hearts and brains shut down, and also caused them to bloat up- which in turn constricted their injuries and helped stop their bleeding. Amazing, isn't it? Talk about miraculous. Not many people who have those kinds of wounds do so well, if they even survive. That's not even considering laying out with no treatment all night long. That neck shot guy was lucky to live ten minutes.

The things you see happen out here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Fro, Yo.

When I was on leave this summer I let my hair grow out a bit. I liked it and my wife really liked it. She had never seen me with hair that long before. No one has in about four years. So I decided to keep it going when I got back to Afghanistan. I get it cut on the sides as per Army regs and let it get longer and longer on the top top. First I brushed it forward, then it got too long for that so I parted it on the saide. Now it's too long for that so I comb it backwards. I get some odd looks from people around here because of it. Most guys keep it somewhere between bald and about a half inch. I've also got some nicknames from it- Swoopy, Fonzy, Hippie, Shaggy, Zuko and Travolta.

The other day a co-worker told me I was breaking the "hair rules" of the US Army. We looked them up in Army Regulation 670-1. Interestingly, it says that the way leadership is to judge different hair styles is whether it interferes with the wearing of helmets, hats, and gas-masks. Weird. Also we found out that "all hair styled must conform to the shape of the head." So everyone with a flat-top in the Army is actually wrong. Weird. And Stupid. Who cares anyway?

So should I put my hair up....

....Or down?
Neat and tidy. Very Armyish right?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Marked for Death

Isn't he cute? Sadly he is also condemned. Valli and I bought half of this pretty Angus steer (that's what we were told, anyway) for the freezer. I shall call him Buttercup. And when it's my turn to cook I will say: Honey, would you like, chicken, rabbit-food, or a juicy hunk of Buttercup? Or something.

Buttercup is currently enjoying the last few days of his short but happy life. He has been raised on a rotating pasture of all natural grasses and legumes with a few of his pals. They all wake up early and frolic and play until dark. He grew up on a little farm a few miles from Clarksville with dogs and miniature dairy goats. Buttercup has had a great life. And in about two weeks that life will be over. He will be divided into about 150 all-natural, growth-hormone, antibiotic-free pieces and stacked neatly in our freezer. I'm so excited! We are supporting our local little-guy economy, getting six to eight months of cheap, ultra-healthy, all natural, lean, tender beef. And let us not forget- sticking it to the polluting, greedy, degenerate gorcery superpowers!
Oh Buttercup, I could just eat you up!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Always go to the bathroom when you have a chance." King George V

Here is the much requested unveiling of the new Harrell Bathroom:
This may not appear as much of anything to those that have not been in our home as of yet. But when compared to the baby diaper yellow abomination that was our previous shower of despair;
it is the transformation a butterfly envies.
Now there are few ends yet to tie. Such as towel hangers, toilet paper holder, light above the sink, etc. There's just so many options, what's a girl to do? Soon I shall settle on one and we will stamp it complete. As much as I love the newish bathtub I think my favorite feature is the window and the natural light it brings in.
With the added floor space we gobbled up from one of the bedroom closets there is now direct access into the master bedroom.
I accepted an offer from our ward missionaries to lend a hand for their service project this week and they were so helpful! It was amazing the work we got done. I have door handles in the bathroom! Locks are great! And there was some ceiling scraping going on. See all that dust! I was able to scrape off the rest of the popcorn torture/texture this evening. That's one more room down four more to go. Ceilings that is.
The elders hacked a path through the back jungles of our property as well. See how out of control this Tennessee landscaping is? Any suggestions on how to keep it at bay. Besides not running away to Alaska (which reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon) for five months in the middle of summer. I already thought of that one thank you very much. The elders are behind that growth somewhere with a weedwacker.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

We Are Adopting!

Before Valli and I got married we talked about dogs. We both like dogs. We talked briefly about having a dog of our own someday. It went something like this, I think.

Hey Valli, one day I’d like a dog. Like a German Shepherd. That would be awesome, right?

Ok Honey.
Maybe a year later we got married and I decided to bring it up again. That conversation went a lot differently than I had planned. Turns out Valli and I were polar opposites on nearly every aspect on dog ownership. I said when I get back from Afghanistan, she was thinking more like three or five years down the road. I was thinking keep the dog inside, she wants it outside. She wanted fixed, I wanted all natural. I wanted a purebred pup, she wanted an inexpensive or free/rescued full-grown dog that was already trained. I was thinking companion and family member, she was thinking security system. We were as far from the same page as we could imagine. We have never disagreed on anything as much as we have over the hypothetical dog.

But after discussing the subject again and again, after reading all the books, after digging up every concern, after lots of compromises (mostly on the part of my saintly wife of whom I am completely undeserving) and a firm understanding that I owe her big time! -we have reached a consensus.

And here it is.




This little guy, or one of his brothers, will be coming home with us in January. He's a German Shepherd. Mom and Dad are both 85 pound working dogs. The plan also entails that I will ensure he is trained to be prefectly behaved on his own and around children by the time I leave for the next (and last) deployment in about 2 years. Bonus points if he will "maul-slash-scare-the-urine-out-of" people when Valli decides they are threatening, bothersome, or especially annoying. He will be a full-time outside dog except for very special occasions. I will handle all fencing (before the wee one gets here), housing, and waste disposal issues. A Valli has been doing great at finding deals on the internet for pet crates, buried fences, and other neat dog items. There are still other details to iron out but on the whole we have reached a settlement. We are both looking forward to bringing him home.

Valli's thought's: "Looking forward to bringing Dave home soon."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

There have been lots of goings on at the Harrell home. In the last 24 hours we have taken that incredible List and all the goals and plans we constructed over a year- and figuratively burned them to the ground and danced in the ashes. This is a good thing.

Valli got back from her 6 month stay in Alaska and immediately went to work cleaning, repairing and improving our home. We wanted to sell it around the new year and get into a larger better home with a big yard and room to do all the great stuff we’ve been dreaming of since we got married. We had injected a lot of stress into her life with so many things going on at once. I’ve been doing what I can to help; calling our bank and getting pre-approved for a loan, searching for real estate online, but Valli was doing almost all the work. And with things moving forward so quickly, I really got caught up in buying a new home. We even narrowed down our choices to one place that we both really liked.

Then we got to the task of figuring out how to pay for it all. Valli has retired from the engineering realm for a while. We haven’t finished remodeling our current house yet. We might not be able to even sell our place once it once it’s ready. The home we were thinking of buying will be wonderful (and finished) and huge, but will not leave much room in our budget for unexpected surprises. And as luck would have it- we received an unexpected surprise three days ago.

The transmission on our 1982 Benz 300D tanked. No one in 100 miles wants to touch it, so we will have to buy a new (read= rebuilt. Like we could really find a new one) tranny. Luckily a guy in town bought one a while ago from a company in Arizona. So we won’t have to find one ourselves. We are prepared to deal with things like this. But once we jump into a new house we won’t be. That experience really made me think about some things that Valli has been trying to tell for the last week. Mainly- are we sure we are doing the right thing? Once I really thought about it, the answer was a clear and resounding “NO!”

Enter the paradigm shift. We are still going to get the goals we want. But we decided that the plans we had made was the wrong way for us to get there. So, instead of buying a house with a big yard, we are keeping our house and just buying a yard. You read right. Once the house is finished we are going to start looking at land for sale. No one wants to develop now with the current state of things so it’s just sitting there, depreciating. That will be our big yard for keeping bees, raising pigs, planting a big garden, making bonfires, playing paintball, shooting things, whatever.

Instead of paying of the last of our debt with the money we’d make from selling our home, we are using the down-payment we’ve saved for to do that. Instead of buying a house with a big basement and storage space, we are going to excavate under our own house. Eventually.

And instead of buying a motorcycle we are buying a transmission. It was my idea. Valli wouldn’t ever ask me to give up a motorcycle after all the pathetic behavior and drooling and waiting. But it’s for the best. Since we are not moving 20 miles further from the post, we can easily afford me driving my big awesome truck to and from work until I figure that bike situation. Since we won’t be stretched to the breaking point, we will have plenty of dough at the end of the month for savings, dating, heaven willing my motorcycle fund, and anything else that breaks on the old car.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hey Four-Eyes!

Do I look smarter?


I went through a physical exam last week. In the past I have always got flying colors in every event. I am a perfect example in every aspect of human health and fitness. But this time when I got to the eye exam and the doc asked me to read line nine it went something like this-

Me: Um... right. There is no line nine.

Doc: Try line eight.

Me: Oh wait! I see it now. O, um ...I, um...another O,

Doc: Try line eight.

Me: Fine. Line eight says... um... ummm.

Doc: Try line seven.

Line seven! That's the best I could do. My near vision is still 20/20 but my farvision in my right eye has deteriorated significantly over the last year. Weird. Maybe that time in the 7th grade when I shined a laser directly into my eye from an inch a way to see what it looked like has finally caught up to me. The right one has always been a little off since then. Go figure. So now I have these glasses. They are hard to get used to but when I wear them stuff really pops out at me now, like numbers and letters and stuff. I don't think I will wear them very often, just when driving or shooting. Anyway- new toys are tons of fun, and yay for getting old.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ichabod Crane never had it so good

It's that pumpkin carving time of year again. Woo Hoo!

This uber beautiful pumpkin is brought to you all the way from Afghanistan by the talented Dave. I can't believe he got so much detail on such a small area. Carving genius I tell you. It is lacking flames. Did I say lacking? I meant improved upon with no flames.

Mine on the other hand, hee he, while lacking in detail makes up for it in uniqueness. Ok, so maybe it doesn't actually make up for it. But it is unique. No one else I know of used my hand for their inspiration.

The rest are brought to you by a few of the Hatley siblings who participated in our Family Home Evening.

Laci's cute creation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Spencer with Hogsqueal.

I think the top would do well for a tail.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Mark's impersonation of his pumpkin.                                                                                                                       

                             Lanisha and the Joker.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Why I Can't Get Promoted

Some of you who have experience with the military might wonder: Why hasn't Dave been promoted in nearly three years? I myself wonder that all the time. In this post I am going to try and answer that question.

To get promoted in the Army you need four things: time in grade, points, a peer recommendation and a visit to the promotion board.

Way back in the day- when I got back from Iraq- I was too lazy to do anything about it. I didn't have the time in grade, and I didn't feel like gaining points through gay Army correspondence courses when I had a new wife, new house and various other distractions.

A year down the road- Now I have the time in grade, and I've stocked up a bit on points by now. Now I have no time. My boss (the one who is supposed to recommend me) is gone for months doing some kind of Army training and I am left in charge to keep the Aid Station functioning and get us all packed up and ready to go to Afghanistan. We worked long days and weekend during this time. I sure as heck wasn't studying for any boards, and I can't recommend myself. So- no dice there.

Then we get to Afghanistan and I move to the Medevac. Now I have lots of time to study and scrape up the few remaining points I need to make that cutoff. So I told my new boss I was ready to go to the promotion board. I had all my points, awards, comendations, letters from previous supervisors- everything all ready to go. And he said he won't send me to a board until I have finished my progression as a flight medic. And that is understandable. He wants to know that I can do the job I have now, not the one I was doing for the last three years. Fine. Another month or two won't hurt.

After seven months of delays, broken aircraft, trainers going on leave and getting send to other bases, crappy weather, and an overwhelming number of medevac missions I was finally progressed and signed off as a flight ready crew member. I went to my boss again to send me to the promotion board. He said not yet. I needed some more experience flying missions and getting familiar with working with a crew, managing mass casualty scenes, and working on the patients. Okay- whatever. He wants me to have more mission experience. Cool.

Two months later: I don't know anyone who has been the rank of Specialist as long as I have unless they have been busted or can't pass a physical fitness test. People who have been in the Army less then two years now outrank me. It's getting a little insane. Every week I hounded my boss asking him to either recommend me for a board, or give me a written counseling statement explaining why he wouldn't, and what I still needed to do or be before he would. Finally he did. He said he would send me to the board. I would go in November and I have tons of time to prepare.

Two weeks later, or about a two weeks ago: I pissed off my platoon leader. I bit the hand that feeds. I had just finished a really crappy mission where lots of things went wrong. My platoon leader was chastising me for something that I had no control over while I was trying to restock my aircraft in the dark for the next mission. And instead of saying- Yes Sir, it's my fault. Everything is my fault and you are right. I said something like- I'm doing the best I can and you don't know what you're talking about.

A couple days later my boss told me I wouldn't be going to the board. The PL had shot down his recommendation because I have zero military bearing and respect for my leadership. Which isn't completly true. I have a little military bearing, and no respect for hypersensitive crybaby officers or condescending pigheaded jerks. It's been my biggest problem since joining the Army. And that incident confirmed it. So being hardworking, dependable, highly skilled and knowlegable, experienced and exibiting many other leadership qualities is not enough to get promoted. Not in this platoon anyway. It's so frustrating to watch my peers fly through the ranks. Friends with easy jobs and supervisors who don't care. Peers who are overweight or undertrained- but get sent up the ladder because they have a buddy somewhere. It's discouraging. But at least now I know what I need to work on. All the hard work in the world doesn't get me what I want until I learn how to bend over.

Hopefully I will be sent up in the first few months back in Fort Campbell. A lot of the leadership is moving to other places or getting out of the Army, and I will be one of the most experienced medics left. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And did you guys all see the size of that truck Valli bought? Its as big as our house! My wife is the awesomest.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Trying to keep my title so I'm open to suggestions

A few of our avid readers may recall when I took Grand Prize this Spring in the Worst Wife contest. Thank you to all who voted for me. Now my dear supporters, I fear that my actions yesterday may have put that title in jeopardy. Which is such a shame since I have so enjoyed admiring my trophy on it's mental mantle. 

Due to Dave's current redeployment ambitions the need for a good work truck has arisen. These plans and schemes involve raising honey bees, chickens, goats, butherching hogs and anything involving self-sufficiency. We might just throw in some lambs for Spitfire when she visit's. So yesterday I purchased a work truck. 

Now since you are seeing this for the first time Dave I must apologize for a few things. This truck is lacking a few aspects found in the Ford Ranger I/we sold. For instance things the Ranger had that the Chevy does not; limited seating, tiny cargo area and broken armrest. And then there's a few things this truck has that the last one wasn't hampered with. Such as a pesky tool box that will probably reduce the need to untangle the cargo net. Yes, that cargo net you like so much and repeatedly liken to Christmas lights in muttering tones. Another addition when compared to the Ford is the Heavy Duty towing package which will inevitably lead to hauling more things and helping people move. I realize the trade off is quite unequal. But I am trying to keep that trophy after all.

Monday, October 13, 2008

This one time in Afghanistan...

It's been a while since I had any cool war stories to share. I had a trying mission the other day that I'll relate, and give my readers some insight into the exicting side of my deployment. These exciting moments don't come along everyday. Or even once a week. And sometimes in a month. But I did have a really cool one come along a few days ago.

I was on the second-up crew and through a series of unexpected events we had to take a mission for three urgent patients without the assistance of a flight doc. It's standard practice to bring one with us in case the patient needs care that exceeds the medics ability, training or if there is just too many things going on at once. We don't always bring one if the patients have some really lame ailment. But this wasn't one of those times. The only info we had was that all three patients required immediate surgery, and they were all already on ventilators. No info about specific injuries, treatment they have already received or anything.

While I was loading up the aircraft with all the extra monitors and breathing machines I thought I might need, someone else was trying to get a doc to us. In the end we decided to go without. I was a little nervous on the way down. When we got to Jalalabad and I saw my patients I was able to relax a bit. They were in a truck that was hit by a bomb, caught fire and crashed. Two were US soldiers and one was a local interpreter. They all had burns to their upper bodies and airways, and some broken bones, but they were all stable and drugged out. Our people in flight operations had called the Jbad aid station while we were in flight and told them we were without a flight doc, and they had a surgeon there for us. He didn't have any medevac experience but it was better than nothing so I brought him along. None of the patients looked like they would be any trouble and I didn't think I would need him anyway.

Normally if we only have one patient the doc doesn't have to do anything. If the patient is really messed up the doc and I will split up the work- ei one of us works on the airway and the other hooks up monitors and get the fluids and drugs pumping. And if we have multiple patients I'll work on the one worst guy and the doc will keep an eye on the less severe ones, and be a ready resource if I run into anything I haven't seen before.

On this flight the doc had no way of knowing what he should be doing, and wasn't up on our internal communication system. So to get his help with anything I used the highly inefficient point and scream method. Like so.

Me: (points to doc and screams) "YOU", (points to my eyes, then points to patient closest to doc and screams) "HIM".
Doc: (blank stare)
Me: (same thing but louder)
Doc: (nods, but doesn't do anything)

I wasn't his fault though. We normally train our docs on what we expect them to do. And doc aren't used to working in an environment that they didn't personally set up.
It all worked out in the end. It was extremely crowded and cramped in the back of our bird but eventually I got everyones O2 adjusted, IV bags hung and flushed, monitors monitoring and wounds looked at. Once that is done the rest of the flight usually goes real smooth but with these three there was always one or two things that needed to be done. A piece of equipment would fault and need to be troubleshot and fixed, a different patient would need suction, the middle guy needs more oxygen. And since the doc didnt know where anything was, I spent the ride crawling over the litters from one patient to the next constantly trying to fix something. The worst was in the last 5 mintutes of the flight.

I was doing something with dude-in-the-middle when I faintly heard the doc screaming something at me and pointing to the monitor on dude-on-the-left. His oxygen saturation display is showing a rapid drop. After checking the equipment to make sure the sensor is working right, I disconnected the ventilator and hooked the O2 to a bag and started breathing for him manually, and asked the pilots to please fly faster because all of the oxygen tanks are about to run out. I happily those O2 sat numbers climbing back into the pink. That's when I looked at dude-on-the-right and saw his pulse had doubled and his hands where clenched and shaking. Apparently while I wasn't watching his drugs were wearing off and he had noticed a big fat tube was shoved down his throat. So the doc took over bagging and I crawled/swung over the patients so I could get to my drug bag and send dude-on-the-right back to lala-land. Once that was done I looked to see how the doc was doing, and it lookded like his guy was tanking again. Thankfully we landed right then. Whatever was wrong with the patient at that very moment could wait the 60 seconds it takes to get to the emergency room.

We got everyone off nicely and wheeled into the ER, I gave my report to the doc there, thanked the guy that flew in the back with me, and went back to my bird. The cargo area looked like a bomb had gone off. Wires and tubes strewn everwhere, wrappers and syringes and trash getting blown around, a couple little puddles of bodily fluids, the hiss of leaking oxygen canisters, and alarms beeping angrily from two or three various machines. Accompanied my all this was a deep feeling of peace and accomplishment. I managed all three patients without panicing or forgetting everthing I ever learned about medicine, and everyone got to the hospital safely. After 9 months in this country I felt like I had been thrown into the fire and finally come back out unsinged. It was a great feeling, and since that mission I haven't had the usual pre-mission butterflies and doubts. I have arrived!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Church News

Good news for the church from Afghanistan. Last Sunday the fourth branch in the country was organized. Following is a statement written by the district president, Gene Wikle. Cool eh?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On Sunday, September 28th the fourth military branch in Afghanistan was organized. The Salerno Military Branch was created at Forward Operating Base Salerno. The Salerno Branch has 31 members. The new branch presidency is comprised of President Steve Haga, Christopher Witte, First Counselor, Tim Wilson, Second Counselor and Joel Ellington, Elders Quorum President. LDS Chaplain James Montoya officiated on behalf of the District Presidency. I am grateful to these brethren for accepting the call to serve. I know that they will bless the lives of the members serving at FOB Salerno.

As of October 1st the Kabul Afghanistan Military District is comprised of 442 members serving in four military branches, 18 service member groups and at 17 remote locations. We have been blessed to have members serving from many countries to include the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, South Africa, Australia, Philippines, Canada, and the United States. This is truly an international effort of service by saints from the four corners of the world united to help the good people of Afghanistan in defense of freedom.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Balance

As this deployement continues to stretch out I've had to fight the temptation to use this blog as a venting session. Almost like therapy. I titled my blog 'A Work in Progress' because the purpose of it was to show how my life was evolving and moving forward. Like the renovation of our first home, the growth of our family, the accomplishment of goals, and the expansion of friendships. The recent postings have been a reflection of my life at the moment. Which is- not much going on right now.

That's not entirely true. There are always lots of things going on here. I have been able to see and do many unique and interesting things while I have been here- but I don't talk about them because I don't think they are suitable for a blog. There are many daily dramas and challenges, victories and defeats.

Some days I think I am losing faith in humanity. Observing the way people live and act here, and watching the news from home. Witnessing people leave behind traditional values to embrace the new american dream of 'something for nothing' and freedom from accountability. And then there's us here in Afghanistan. We are in month 9 now. Resentment and desperation are spreading through the ranks. More and more often I have the feeling that I want to choke someone. More often I sleep in, take naps and avoiding being around other people. Work and progress are steadily being nudged aside by laziness, stagnation, and indifference.
How do I stop the spread? How do I keep balance?

Well, regurgitating all my repressed negative feelings into my blog and spinning it out into the abyss of space is one way. Another is counting my blessing and looking for the little miracles happening around me, and recognising them as such- victories of the human spirit, wonders of nature, changes of heart, divine intervention, and the administration of justice.

For example-
We recently picked up a local guy that was blown up/shot up a bit. In the hospital his fingerprints were matched to a couple of roadside bomb incidents. So he got his, and now he's in jail. Hopefully until he dies. Justice.

Since I started teaching for the branch addiction recovery program I have had the opportunity to witness the atonement and the miracle of forgiveness unfold in the lives of people who have desperately needed it. Changes of heart.

The colder the weather gets here the more insurgents start walking back home into Pakistan, the less violence in Afghanistan, and the lower used motorcycle prices drop. Wonders of nature (sortof).

Me and all my good friends that I came here with are still alive, and I haven't accidentaly killed anyone with well meaning but inappropriate medical care. Divine intervention.

This morning one of my enemies became one of my friends. Victory of the human spirit.
So there are all kinds of things to be happy about.

I think that will keep me from losing my mind for a few more weeks.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Stink-eye

This morning we gave a lift to local guy. He kept giving me the stink eye during the whole flight. I thought it was a little rich. We patched him up and gave him a ten thousand dollar ride, but he glared suspiciously at me the whole flight. And in return he made the whole aircraft stick like crap. I even gave him morphine. I didnt have to. I could have just let him suck it up. He wasn't stink-eyeing anyone else in the bird, just me. The flight doc had a thought about why that might be. I have a red cross patch on my helmet. Apparently that means I am an evil christian crusader, and want to take over the muslims. So there you go.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Waiting

With less than four months to go (fingers crossed everyone), the major theme now is waiting. For the last eight months Valli and I have been working for our futures. We have been working and saving all year in preparation for all the cool stuff we want to do when this deployment is finally over. We are so close to both meeting our financial goals, and more importantly- getting back home so we can put them into practice.

I left for Afghanistan in January. At that time it was all about getting out of debt. You might remember the motorcycle conversation. sniff. Then around April we made The List. We listed everything we could think of that we wanted or needed. Then we organized them by priority. Any time either of us gets money it goes towards the list. Funds get set aside for the highest priority items first. First was remaining debt. We were able to knock that out a few months ago. Next came "needs", like money to finish remodeling our crappy house so we can sell it when I get home. We just got that part taken care of about a week ago. And thanks to the state of Alaska for the awesome dividend this year we have a good portion of the fourth catagory filled: The downpayment on our next house.

Every day we are inching our way closer to the last catagory. All the work and all the waiting- every day a few dollars closer. This is my favorite catagory. Wants. Our wants list has sensible things on it. Things like home furnishings, a modest vacation, food storage, etc.

But there is this one thing. At the bottom of the wants list is something superfluous, immodest, insensible and expensive. Most of my free time is dedicated to thinking about, or corresponding with, my wife. Honey- I hope you know that you are always number one. What I think about most after her is the next motorcycle. Especially on warm sunny days. There are about 300 warm sunny days a year here. Everytime I go up in the air and see the long dusty roads stretching past the horizon, or the twisties carving over mountain passes and descending into deserted canyons, I see myself back home on my bike. And not just any bike either- a Hayabusa. The bike.

But there is still more waiting and saving. About three and a half months worth of waiting. Waiting until I can go home and be with my wife. Until I can sleep in my own house. Until I can eat good food and ride my bike. And do all those other things on the long, long list we've made. But first- more waiting.

(Sigh) Waiting.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Summer Reading Program

A list of the books I have read this summer in no particular order.

The Kite Runner
A Thousand Splendid Suns
The Pillars of the Earth
Every Living Thing
The Lord God Made Them All
Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep
Storey's Guide to Raising Beef Cattle
Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens
The Host
The Thief Lord
Keeping Bee's
Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game
The Aurther Spiderwick Chronicles

Books to read by October-

Inkspell
The Good Earth
Storey's Guide to Raising Pigs

And the one I am working on now has a story associated with it. Or rather, the continuation of a story.
I just finished my awesome massage at the barbers and went by the little AAFES store next door. I needed some pretzels or something. The lines there can get really backed up with the Afghani dudes working the credit card machines and American money. I often grab a periodical to pass the time in line. The suprisingly large magazine rack is dominated by publications devoted to only a few topics. They are: guns, video games, fitness, the vehicle genre (bikes, planes, trucks and cars), and boobs. There is also a slim section of paperbacks containing the usual bestsellers, militaria, and sleazy black romance novels (read: chick porn). Wedged between the erotica and the guns was something I never would have expected to find- Stephanie Meyer's newest and worst-reviewed novel. Breaking Dawn. I had to do a double-take. It was the only hardback book on the wall, and that big white queen stood out like a beacon.
"Holy crow! What are you doing here?" thought I.
There was only one mildly abused copy. I bought it.
I have been reading a few chapters a day with Valli via phone. It's hard on the phone cards but it's been really fun. We both love the book so far, and agree that it's pretty rediculous. We have to stop frequently and ask ourselves why we are still reading when it waxes especially stupid. We skip around when Meyers goes off on things like "loving Edward more than anyone in the world has ever loved anyone on the world" and "burning pain" for seven straight pages. And we just call the mutant "R" because reading the name outloud makes me cringe. Even so, we still lose hours and hours of sleep and plan our whole day around reading about Bella and the gangs (hopefully) last adventure. We are slightly more than halfway through.

As for the livestock stuff- it's pleasent research. The book I most enjoyed reading this summer was the one on cows. I highly recommend it. Cows rock.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

How Spend 20 Bucks

Give it to the Kyrgystanis.
The other day I went to the barber on the north end of Bagram. It's operated by 6 or 7 girls and one dude from Kyrgystan. One (much needed) half-hour back and neck massage put me out only 10 bucks. The girl working me over knew very little english but did a great job. And we didn't feel obligated to keep up a conversation the whole time since we hardly understood each other anyway. After my massage I got my hair cut, not shaved or buzzed, but actually cut, styled and shampooed by another friendly person there. Seven bucks. Plus 15% gratiuty put me right at 20. More evidence supporting that things are looking up in Afghanistan. With all the soldiers spending money and the multitude of cheap services available I frequently wonder what some people are so pissed off about.

America Needs This

I spent a few hours in Jalalabad this morning and went buy the hadji-shop for a snack. I didn't find any snacks, but they had an amazing collection of DVDs for sale. The DVDs are produced by a company called World Movie BBK. I bought three for a dollar apeice. They each come in their own brightly coloered, glossy cardboard jacket which is covered in little thumbnail pictures representing their contents. Each disc holds about 30 hours of program. I got one featuring the Discovery Channel series called Wild World, A Disney disk that has a dozen or so full-length aminated classics and every Pooh movie ever, and a Kung-fu disk full of Bruce Lee, Let Li, and Jackie Chan. There were maybe 40 different disks on sale.

What is wrong with you America? I never thought I would say this, but Afghanistan has you spanked. At least in the cheap movie department. About 50 movies for 3 dollars, and I didn't even haggle with the guy.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Perspective

Sometimes I think that I should focus more on positive things. Peoples accomplishments rather than their failures or pain. Someone reading my blog might get the idea that I am a negative person who delights in embelishing on the suffering of others. I want to say that this is not true. I am a very positive person. I am an optimist. And I do not enjoy watching people suffer. Perspective is what is needed here.

As a flight medic in Afghanistan, I see people at their lowest. The service we provide brings me close to suffering, injured, sometimes dying people on a daily basis. These people are innocent victims of cruelty, or brave volunteers who accepted the mortal risks of being a warfighter. Only a small percentage of our clients deserve to be in their situation. Being a medic can be really difficult sometimes. Pain is never funny.

Or is it?
Being able to compartmentalize makes things easier. I take one part of a situation and put it in the serious drawer, and another part of the same situation goes into the hilariously ironic drawer. Today for instance:

This afternoon my crew got a call to fly to Jalalabad and pick up a young woman with burns to her face, right arm and hand. On the way there, we were guessing how she got burned. We were pretty sure it didn't have to do with fighting because of the place and manner in which we were picking her up. Was it from a hot coffee spill, an accident in the shower, did her clothes catch on fire somehow? I found out when I arrived. Apparently she was trying to burn some pieces of wood, and they weren't burning as fast as she wanted. So she decided to dump gasoline on them and light it with her cigarette lighter. Um... duh. Back to that perspective thing. On the one hand- oh, sad. On the other- Friggen awesome with a side of serves you right. Taking into account that she's fine- no permanent damage, and she gets a free trip the Germany for recuperate for a few weeks. Like free leave! So yeah I think it's funny, and I'm sorry you were hurt because you did something super-retarded.

The story gets better/worse.

While the doc and I were getting her all ready to go, we got another call. There was a second helicopter on it's way to Jbad with a middle aged local guy for us to take to Bagram, with gasoline girl. He had some bad eye and face trauma and a big laceration on one of his arms. So I'm thinking- was in an I.E.D., a mine, some kind of industrial accident, or was he kidnapped and tortured by the taliban? Nope. And I kid you not... Mauled by a bear. I didn't find much funny about this one. But it brought a bunch of questions. We have bears here? How did he manage to find one? How do you get it to attack you!? Flying around the mountains out here I've never seen or heard of anything accept goats and camels. And the biggest question of all- How did I wind up with these two bizzare cases on the same day, even on the same flight?

I have no doubt that this is the weirdest job I will ever ever have. Good thing I'm so positive.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I Will Never Learn

I got a call on my radio today to get ready for an urgent mission. When I ran up to my room to grab my jacket, gun and drug bag, I discovered that I had locked myself out.
My door is a flimsy sheet of half-inch plywood hung on two hinges. It is secured on the outside by a hasp and a little masterlock. I checked my pant pockets again to be sure. Then I kicked in the door, grabbed my stuff, and went out to the aircraft. The mission was cancelled before it started on account of bad weather. I went back upstairs to fix my door. I wasn't at all perturbed because this is the fourth time I have had to kick my door down. After the last time I started keeping a hammer and nails in my room just for this purpose. It only takes a minute to bend the latch and hinges straight and nail them back on the door frame. My key was on my desk, right where I always leave it.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

What just happened?

A couple months ago in a weekly servicemens group meeting we discussed the possibility of initiating an addiction recovery program. The group leader got in contact with some people at LDS family services to get some more info. About the time I got back into country he asked if I would spearhead the program and think about holding meetings during the week on days I wasn't flying.

The next day: somehow we were mentioned in the Church News.

Crazy crazy.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Sharp Increase in Sphincter Tone.

I hit another benchmark today. Today I had my first cardiac emergency patient!

We got the call to pick up a guy at a little outpost over an hour away. The only information we got was that it was a US Army male and "unconscious and clenched jaws". That was all. Thanks a pantload people. About five minutes out from the pickup we were radioed that the guy wasn't breathing anymore and they were going to do an emergency cricothyrotomy. That means cut a hole into the trachea through his neck and push a tube down into his chest. We were still getting ready for that when we landed. So we loaded him up and took off while we hooked him up to a ventilator (that only worked for 10 seconds- we did it manualy after that) and a cardiac monitor that told us his heart wasn't beating. Instead of coming back to Bagram we flew really really fast to a closer base. After 5 or 6 minutes of CPR, two shots of adrenaline, some atropine and 200 joules his heart started beating on its own again. After the first few minutes I didn't think he was going to make it. I thought he had a head injury because he had some bruising and blood was coming out of his mouth and nose- but that blood was actually from the hole he had cut in his neck being pushed up to his mouth because of the CPR. Cardiac arrest cause by head trauma is a really bad injury. The base we went to was only about 15 minutes from the place we picked him up. I kept bagging him until we got into the hospital and then someone else took over. I also learned there that his condition was caused by a drug overdose of sleep aid and other unknown drugs, not head trauma. He looked like he was doing pretty under the other doctors care by the time we left the clinic.

It was a good thing I was flying with a more experienced flight medic and a very experienced trauma doctor. That dude was a handfull. He would have been screwed if it was just me and the crew chief. I learned a lot from that one patient about cardiac care. And about messing with sleep aids. It's too bad because I know that is a problem that a lot of soldiers struggle with here. That guy was just trying to get to sleep and nearly went to sleep forever. Plus having to wake up with a hole through his neck, subcutaneous emphesema, multiple broken ribs and an assortment of other aches and pains to be sure. Maybe he will get legal action against him by the Army as well; for drug abuse and destruction of government property. I'm glad that I'm not that guy.

So to sum it up. Yay for me for getting to learn some cool stuff about patient care and gain some awesome hands-on medical experience. Yay for the other medic and doc for saving the guy and teaching me to do awesome life-saving stuff. And yay for the patient for only being dead for a few minutes.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bilbo Finds a Bomb.

A couple months ago we brought a patient to the hospital. He was a US Army guy that got a little banged up. The emergency room is always loosely organized chaos to begin with. There are a million hospital workers that pour into the tiny room whenever we send them a patient. Half the people that go into the room aren't even doing anything, they just want to watch the show. On the peticular day I'm thinking of: one especially excitable little guy makes an interesting discoverey. This doctor - who I will call Bilbo because he kindof looks like a hobbit- is going through the unconscious patients gear (presumably because he has nothing improtant to do) and finds a grenade inside a grenade pouch on the said patients vest.

I want to pause the story for a sec. Here is what I would have done: Nothing. Most people would have thought- cool, a grenade- and went on doing whatever it is they are paid to do. Our patients carry all kinds of neat toys on them and the protocol doesn't change for any of them. The clinic staff makes a big pile of all the patients stuff and leaves it in a corner until the patients unit comes and picks it up.

What this guy did was different. He pulls it out of its perfectly safe pouch, grasps it tightly in both hands, holds it alofts and fairly screams "GRENADE!" over the mass of bustling doctors, nurses, techs and patients. Everything stops. All eyes go to little Doc Bilbo. For about two seconds nobody moves. That's how long it takes the room to see that the pin is in, spoon is secured with 4 or 5 wraps of electrical tape, and there isn't anything to worry about. After that, everyone goes back to doing what they were doing- except for Dr. Bilbo and me. I think he expected his coworkers to swarm the exits at his pronouncement because he kept looking around the room and calling out "Grenade! I have a grenade in my hand! Look out everyone! Grenade!" evey few seconds. He was in arms reach of me this whole time and I thought about taking it from him at this point. I almost did but I had this nagging thought that if I did, he might misunderstand my actions and shoot me. He was pretty wound up. So I just watched, open mouthed, as he slowly walked to the door. You couldn't even really call it a walk. Each step looked like it was an enormous effort. His arms were holding the little ball out as far from his body as possible. His bulging eyes were fixed unblinking at the object in his hands. From the look of him, you would think he was holding on to his own beating heart. And still shouting out "Grenade! Move aside for the grenade! I have a grenade here, in my hand!" as he slowly made his way to the exit. I saw him about 10 minutes later outside the hospital. He was still holding the 'thing' out at arms reach. (I can hardly bring my self to say it anymore- it's so retarded) He was telling everyone who walked in, out, or by- "Please, be careful everyone. I have a grenade. Just go on about your way. I have a grenade."

I'm sure that he called his wife and told her how he saved the entire hospital from an abrupt and firey death. It was nothing though, just doing his duty to humanity, just doing his job. Just a grenade. I and my fellows at the hanger went around the rest of the day holding up ordinary objects and yelling in terror- "Oh my gosh! I have a muffin! A muffin in my hands everyone! Look out for my muffin!" And wetting ourselves.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

R and R

I'm back!

My vacation was awesome. I can hardly describe how great it was to be back in Alaska for the last 20 days. I didnt get to do all the things I wanted, and I didnt get to see half the people I wanted, but still had such a wonderful time.

Before I left Bagram, and again in Kuwait, we were repeatedly warned that things will have changed while we've been gone. Expect things to be awkward for the first few days. These little pep talks were always at least an hour long and included a detailed list of activities that were prohibited. Ironicly, I always had the impression that they expected us to go out and do them all anyway. Such as- drinking and driving, going to jail, doing drugs, spousal abuse, murder, tackling and detaining american citizens of middle eastern ancestry. Personally I never had a desired to do any of these things. In fact, once I landed in Anchorage I didn't feel any akwardness at all. It was great.

I had such a good time. I could go on and on about all the fun stuff I got to do- but I won't. I will say that I got to eat great pizza and other wonderful foods, I went kayaking in Seward, 4-bying in Palmer, rafting in Denali, rollerbladed through the solar system, and hung out with some of the best people you would ever want to meet.

I'm not happy to be back in Afghanistan. But it's not so bad.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Letters Home

There is an organization within the Army called the Family Readiness Group. Everyone calls it the F.R.G. because in the Army, everything must have an acronym. Must.

Anyway, its purpose is to provide support for and information to the families of service-members. Our company creates a newsletter once every month or two with pictures, stories, etc. and posts it on a F.R.G. website. One of the features of this newsletter is a section called- Letters Home. Someone here writes a letter to their spouse/family and it printed for everyone to read and go- awww. I think it's gay and hoped I would never have to do it. But.

I got asked it write one up last week and have it done by the end of the day. After politely declining the opportunity, I was ordered to write one. The next day I was even sternly reminded to write one. This is the problem I have with it. I dont care about the F.R.G. organization. I never read the newsletter and neither does my wife. I don't even know where to find it. So the whole thing is a sham. I dont know any of the people who are actually going to read it and I didn't feel like I had anything to say to them. My company had cancelled every flight I have had scheduled for the last 36 days. I only need one before I can start pulling flight duty. I have been stagnant for months, and it's been pissing me off. On top of not flying or working, I can't start college classes or get promoted until I am signed off.

After contemplating my situation for a few hours, I tried one last time to get out of the assignment. I tried to justify myself sighting some of the reasons listed above, but it was pointless. I was still stuck with it, and I only had a couple hours left to finish it.

So my initial letter was something like rant that became a very sarcastic verbal assault on the Army, Afghanistan, deployment, my flight company, and several individuals therin- followed by a slew of language that was quite beneath me. I felt much better afterwards and managed to barf up a decent letter after deleting attempt number one. Once I got that frustration out it was actually pretty easy. It is at least half bullcrap but it was positive and supportive and hopefully one of the poor pining saps who reads it will get some warm fuzzies, put down the twinkies, leave the sofa, and go to something productive.

And to anyone who thinks I'm appraoching this from a very shallow and uncaring direction- you're absolutely right. I never felt qualified to do it to begin with, remember?

And then.
Something really good happened the next day- my commander and my flight instructor got together and had a talk. After deciding it was totally pointless to try to get a training flight approved- ever, ever, ever- they fudged the paperwork and gave me the thumbs up to start pulling missions. After languishing here for a full 6 months, and 4 days before leaving the country for another month, I finally flew my first mission! And then another, and another, and another, and another. It's been so nice to actually be working and doing what I came here to do. It's been almost a year since I reenlisted to come to a medivac unit- and finally I am doing it!

I'll talk more about that stuff later. Today is my last day flying missions, tomorrow I am packing, and sunday I am leaving!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Fathers Day Special

Happy Fathers Day!

Fathers are so important. So influencial. So essential.
Mine is great. The best I could ever ask for. I've been thinking about some of the moments from my life that my dad has really come through for me, or taught me a valuable lesson, that I am really thankful for.

Like the time when I was 8 and he picked me up from the police station after I ran away in the middle of the night and started a fire in the woods while he and my mom were on a date. We had a good talk about choices and responsibility. The thing that stuck with me the most from that talk was that he didn't kill me- as I felt I deserved- And I knew that he really loved me.

When I was 11 he helped me get a paper route for the Daily Republic to teach me the value of work, self-reliance, and the feeling of accomplishment from recieving my very own paycheck. I was a terrible paperboy and he frequently had to help me do the route, or go over it to fix my mistakes. Putting the papers on the porch was just too boring after a while.

He was always involved in the Boy Scout program when I was, and taught me how to do manly things like camp, fish, make fires (big mistake), fix flat tires, first aid, how to build and fix stuff, and he set an example of service and preparedness and all those other scouty qualities.

He went with me my first time in court. I swore that I didn't know anything about that forest fire I started. I had to do it with my hand on the Holy Bible in front of a judge. I was only 10 and I knew if I told the truth that me and my whole family would go to jail. So I lied, the fire started itself. And prayed that God wouldnt just smite me straight to hell, and promised Him I'd never do it again. It was the most scared I have ever been, and Dad was there to support me.

My Dad carried me to emergency room when I tripped on some stairs and busted a hole through my lip. And again when I busted my head open on the elementry school rope that we weren't ever supposed to swing on. And patched me up over and over when I would come home mangled because I did something stupid.

My dad was the tallest, smartest, toughest, funniest, coolest person alive. He was Indiana Jones. He was He-man. He was a force for good.

He consoled me after I lost my first school fight.

He helped me do all my science projects and taught me how to do impossible things, like add fractions and spin a quarter with one hand.

He was my first home teaching companion and taught me the meaning of duty and magnifying your calling.

He taught me how to deal with dissappointment, how to stick things out, and how to keep my sense of humor. He taught me respect for women. He introduced me to spicy food, rock and roll, grilling, and martial arts movies- some of the greatest pleasures in life.

And that's not the half of it. The list goes on and on and on.

So thanks Dad, and thanks to all good dads and father figures everywhere. I love you. I appreciate you. I want to be like you. Happy Fathers Day!

And now, a quick vid for all you patient and supportive dads out there.


Friday, June 13, 2008

the Army Giveth, and the Army Taketh Away

I spent the last two days moving all my crap up and down stairs and from one end of the hanger to the other. Two days ago our company found out that 30 people from another unit were going to move in with us for the rest of the deployment, and we had two days to make room for them. This hanger had about 60 rooms made of hastily contructed plywood dividers when we got here. Since there were only 30 of us, most of us recently knocked down walls to expand our dwellings. We had it really good for about a month. Now the honeymoon is over. We have to relocate and downsize. All the crap I have accumulated over the last 6 months had to be drug off somewhere else. I still have it really good by most standards. But definatley not as good. I still have all my posh stuff like a little fridge and lots of decent furniture. I got a window now, too! And if I stand in the middle of my room, I can literally touch every single possession without having to move my feet. I'll never lose anything again! It's all crammed into a closet-sized box and the walls are so thin I can actually hear my neighbors breathing. No lie. Oh well. It's a deployment.

Just look at the difference.

Before, but with most everything moved out already.
ECHO!.....echo........echo.........




After. Cozy.
That's my bookshelf and trash can in the window sill. I had to get creative with the limited space.


So I decided to make a list of a few of the really nice things the Army has given me this deployment, and a few of the crappiest things. I'll try for ten of each.


Really nice things. In no peticular order.


1. New Free Aid Bag ($400 retail, rediculous!)
2. One year Tax Free Income plus extra pay for family sepertion, hazerdous duty pay, flight pay, and combat zone pay. woohoo!
3. A super cool free switchblade
4. A laptop to use while I'm here
5. On site gym equipment
6. A crapload of free caribeeners
7. My own room- Thank you Uncle Sam, Thank you!
8. $100 in green socks
9. An 18 day paid vacation to Alaska- in 14 days!
10. All the free food I can eat.


That's a whole lot of great stuff. And its not even all of it! I didn't even put the bi-monthly barbeques or the hot showers. But let us move on.


Some crappy things the Army did.


1. Kicked me out of the Taj Maharrell
2. Is actually charging me leave days for my R and R. Stupid commies!
3. Zero weekends, holidays, half-days, breaks, birthdays, aniversaries off. It's all day everyday baby
4. Stupid 12-hour gym-towel detail every Saturday for 3 months. Thank heaven those days are over
5. Made me buy my own drug and airway bags ($ alot)
6. Pay me less than half what they pay civilian contractees for the same job- except they work less, do less, sleep more, drive air conditioned king cab F-350's, don't get shot at, and have twice the vacation time. You two-faced cheating harlot.
7. Gave me two random urine drug tests within the last 5 days
8. Cancelled every effective training flight I had scheduled for the last 22 days. (about 15 flights) So I am still in progression
9. Revoked the right of free speech, and a few others, but I'm not allowed to talk about them.
10. The food generally sucks.


The nice things generally make up for the lame things. It depends in the day. Another perspective could be- the crappy things make the nice things seem like weak attempts at trying to buy our loyalty so the man can distract us while they're injecting AIDS into our chicken nuggets. Even so, we have had it far better than any previous generation ever did. And I appreciate those men and womens sacrifices.


Wow. I got a little worked up by that. Anyway- Any other opinions? What do my readers (both of them) like/dislike about work? Does anyone who reads my rants have any deployment pearls to add? Go ahead, talk amongst yourselves.


p.s. spellcheck isnt working today.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

This is how crazy starts.

I've been trying to go to sleep for the past two hours and it just isn't working. It's because I took a nap at 6 in the evening because I was dead tired and felt sick to my stomach. Crap.

Anyway, I've been tossing and turning for hours and I keep thinking about pizza. I was watching a show with some friends this afternoon, and one of the characters was eating pizza. Before we were laughing and joking but when the pizza appeared- silence. And sadness mixed with lust. Is there a word for that? So I decided I would have pizza for dinner. On the line at the chow hall there are always these little 4 inch mini pizza things. I got one and ate one bite. Then I just looked at it for a few minutes and thought about how I am coming home in 17 days and will eat pizza every single day. Then I took a second bite from the opposite side. I guess I was hoping that side would actually taste like something close to pizza instead of cardboard. But it didn't.

There is actually a pizza-hut here thats operated by AAFES. It's better than the crap in the chow hall but it's way overpriced, it's half the size of the american kind, and the cheese has this weird fish taste/smell that lingers in your mouth for several house afterwards. I can eat 3 small slices if I'm hungry, but I feel sick after that.

So, this is where I'm at. Here is a list of things I would literally do for a real pizza right now.

1. Run 50 miles.

2. Drink urine.

3. Pay up to 100 dollars.

4. Rip out a fingernail -they grow back.

5. Stab a small defenseless furry animal to death- excluding puppies.

6. Watch Stepmom. Twice!

7. Let the other medics practice using the defibrillator on me. Once.

8. Give up showers for a month.

9. Stomp on a nail barefoot

10. Vote for Hillary. If it got me a pizza- I'd do it. Sorry, Earth.




sigh. Back to work on that sleep thing.

By the way. Somebodys start leaving comments!

pretty please.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Wants to be a Daddy

Watching things like this make me want to have kids so badly! I am missing out on so many wonderful and tender experiences. I have heard many women blame those kinds of feelings on their ovaries. I don't have ovaries. And mentioning testicles in a blog in offensive, so I'm not going to mention them. Them meaning testicles.

If you already have all the kids you want, maybe you shouldn't watch. Precious moments like this remind me of the gaping hole in my life that can only be filled with a bunch of little Dave-Valli replicas.


If I dont get kids soon I'll have to steal me some.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Deep Thoughts


I saw this on one of our mechanics toolbox and had to take a picture of it. I don't think I have ever read anything like it before, and I don't really know what to make of it. But I thought it was an interesting statement and decided to share it.


I think it might be about tolerance. Maybe it's someones way of holding a mirror up to society and saying, Look at you- you're stupid! Or maybe it's a statement about the GOP. I can detect some irony in those words- but I could be imagining it. Or maybe Justin really hates gay communist baby seals.


Who knows.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Fun with Free-Time

It's ironic that I never watch television at home, but find so much time for it here- where I dont have a tv either. This week I watched an entire season of 30 Rock. We have a shared server with lots of tv shows saved on to to watch at our leisure. The first episode is my favorite- specifically when Liz and Tracy are talking about White Dudes.

Tracy- Affirmative action was designed to keep us minorities and women in competition while White Dudes come in from behind and inject AIDS in our chicken nuggets. Its a metaphor!

Also, did you know that when your Blogger Dashboard is accessed from another country, like Afghanistan, everything is written in Italian? Its way cool. Especially when you try to do a spell-check and it lights up every single word. Except for the the Italian word, of course. Like- a. I'm pretty sure that leisure and specifically are spelled wrong. They usually are. Oh well.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Reptile Room

70 lbs. of Burmese Python wrapping it's self around your neck are great distractions from horse inflicted injuries. The flicking tongue at the face may well have been distraction from bladder control as well had I not been fighting to stay upright with all that weight. Stoically my bladder withstood the stresses and the scaly creature was returned to it's owners while I returned my horse trampled leg to it's bag of frozen broccoli.



(No Pythons or broccoli were harmed in the making of this blog.)

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Tense Moment

A conversation I had recently with my wife:

Valli: I sold your motorcycle.


Me: That's great, sweetheart.


Valli: And your truck is gone, too.


Me: Wonderful. (pause) You're not going anywhere, are
you?


Valli: (laughs) No, honey.


Me: Oh. That's good.


Yes, the bike is gone, and the truck is gone. Valli sold them both within a few hours of posting them on craigslist. I am really going to miss my bike. I loved riding that thing. But it all for the greater good. And by that I mean getting out of debt as fast as possible. Financial freedom has been the theme of the deployment. That said- I'm hoping to get another ride when I get home.


AND....


Speaking of automobiles- We are proud owners of a new (to us) Mercedez-Benz 300 turbo diesel! Oh yeah! Our pimp ride is the envy of everyone who died before 1982.





My wife is awesome.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wild life.

Unique experience this morning. The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes this morning was movement. On the wall, about 2 feet above my toes, was a largish fluttering thing. My first thought was- "That looks like a huge spider about to land on my foot." And by huge I mean, the size of my entire hand. After blinking a couple times and letting my eyes come into focus, I found that it was that, indeed. The largest camel spider I have ever seen was dangling from my internet cable, right over the foot of my bed. I thought about turning on the light, but they hate light, and I was afraid of where it might decide to run. My next thought was to find a gun, but the thing closest to hand was bottled water. I chucked this at the wall and leapt from my bed (5 feet from the floor) without looking at the outcome, because even half asleep i could remember that these things run faster than I do. I'm assuming I missed it because I was never able to find the body. There was a gap in the plywood walls very close to where it was hanging. Presumaby it escaped through that. The rest of the morning I dreamed of killing a steady stream of nasty spiders that dropped one after another through the ceiling.



The image below is a picture of the standard Iraqi solpugid, or camel-spider. They have 10 legs and huge crushing jaws, known to eat lizards and rats, and probably infants. Mine was dark brown are fury, like a tarantula from hell- but bigger and faster. Pretty frikkin sweet, eh?




Thursday, February 28, 2008

The ride over.

I made this short clip just before takeoff in Kyrjzkistan (or Uzbekistan or wherever-stan) back in January. On my left is Major B the flight surgeon, my old pal and boss. On the right is Crenshaw- the guy I've been filling in for in Flight Ops. We're on a C-17, it's 20 below outside, and we've been up for over 30 hours. If at any point my eyes cross- thats why.

I wasn't going to blog this one because I didn't think it turned out that good. But I loaded it yesterday by accident and before I deleted it, my sister already saw it. She said she liked it so- here you go.

Come in! And know me better man!

I've been asked several times to put up some picture of my living area. I tried taking pictures, but the walls are so close together that the pics don't show much. Hence the video. I made it while I was waiting for sleep to come. That's why I sound that way. Don't mistake it for gloom. Because it isn't gloom. It's just sleepiness. Enjoy the tour.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Flight Operations

It's a long one.



For the last 3 weeks I have been working in Flight Operations. It all started while I was on the way to the dumpster and I passed my First Sergeant, who said-

"Hey Harrell, you’re going to start working in flight ops tomorrow. I know you don’t know anything about it, but we’re short a man and you don’t have anything better to do. So get some sleep because we need you on the night shift. Do you have any Ambien left?"

I replied in the affirmative and he assured me that it wouldn’t be long before I was flying. I just got used to the 11 hour time difference and now I was pulling another 180.

Oh well. That’s the Army for you.

Now let me tell you about my date with Ambien.

I tried to sleep through the day without chemical help, but around 2pm I broke down and popped 10mg of good ole zolpedim tartrate. But it didn’t help. Not a bit. So two hours later- desperate now- I swallowed another. It was about that time that the rest of the inhabitants of my hall decided to begin some kind of construction project involving what sounded like 6 hammers, a drill, and a rocked powered bulldozer. No rest for the wicked.

So I got up, showered, ate, and listened to the drug-induced voices in my head. By 7pm I was no longer stoned and couldn’t remember how I hadn’t fallen down a staircase or collapsed in the shower. But I still remember the conversation that the brightly colored, floating balls of fuzzy electricity had as they zipped around my ankles in the shower where I tried not to fall, but was perpetually ricocheting off the walls as I staggered this way and that. I’m being serious.

That night I got introduced to my co-worker Chanique. I got a crash course in radio etiquette and some standard operating procedures. Other than some janitorial work, I didn’t do much. Not job-related anyway. I did find the time to read Brave New World from cover to cover, and draw a pretty picture for my wife for Valentine’s Day- something I don't do very often.


The next night I learned a few more things- I can’t remember specifically what- about flight operations. It was probably something like- what paperwork get prepared for this and that thing, what data gets entered into this and that spreadsheet, or one of a hundred other tedious, repetitive chores. But mostly I swept, dusted, mopped, tidied, and read. Both Chanique and I were really hoping this arrangement would only last a week.




This is what flight ops looks like. It’s a three-sided plywood cave, an incorrigible dust-magnet, limbo. Among other things, there are a half-dozen radio systems, four computer and seven monitors.

Now that nearly 3 weeks have gone by, I feel like I understand everything pretty well, and have become friends with my co-worker. I still pass time reading, watching movies, practicing guitar, talking about religion, and now- even going to the gym. And every once in a while- we will actually get a call for a medevac. During this time, I’ve been introduced to my feminine African-American side. I’ve watched several of my partners Madea movies and listened to her Mary J Blige and Alicia Keys. And I’ve read some good books. Brave New World was great. So was Catch-22 and Shutzhund (protection dog) Theory and Training Techniques, and yesterday I finished Middlesex.

So. That’s work- for the moment. Any day now I’ll be fired and I will get to return to medic-world. I hope it is sooner than later. I miss my real job, and I can’t take much more Madea.

I need to repent

The hymns are like scripture put to music, right? So we should love all the hymns in the hymn book because they invite the spirit and teach gospel principles. Right? Well, there are a few that I just don’t like, and a couple that I can’t stand. Instinctively I know that I am wrong, and I need to repent. However, I really want to rip Scatter Sunshine right out of the book.

Last Sunday was my first experience with conducting music for sacrament meeting. Like most things, it’s harder that it looks. Things get interesting because our accompaniment is a prerecorded track. The songs switch tempo and sometimes wait a really long time to begin succeeding verses. Picture everyone holding their breath, mouths open, staring sidelong at the CD player. A few people, including me, start the first word and just draw it out until the music catches up.

Like this-

Thhhhhhheeeeeeeeee (one hand holding the hymn book, and the other handing descending very slowly, vertically, through the air) eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee (quick breath!) eeeeeeeeeeee Spir-it of God, like a fie-ur, is bu-urn-ing…

And to top it all off, we have songs in 6/8 time -nobody told me about 6/8 time- like Scatter Sunshine. A song that I have never heard sung well.

Ever.

It’s a song about being positive and setting a shiny example for the gloomy and depressed. The melody is impossibly high and low at the same time, and it has different little ‘parts’ for the men and women. It always ends in an ugly disaster. It is a disadvantaged song.

So there I am, trying to sing this so-sweet-my-teeth-are-rotting song to strange music, in a strange beat, to unsynchronized music. It’s emotionally hard for me to be so bad at something! I really sucked at leading this song. On the other hand, the congregation wasn’t looking at me anyway- they were all squinting down at the page- as is it was written in Greek. By the second verse, I had put my hand in my pocket except for the first and last few beats. It couldn’t have looked as bad as what I was doing with it before. But I don’t think anyone noticed anyway.
I disliked that song before, now I really, really, really dislike it.

If you read this, maybe you could leave a comment with some kind of positive support for that song. If I could convince myself that it has some redeeming quality, my repentance process might be quicker.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Bestest Sister in the World

Last week I vowed not to submit any more posts to our blog. We all see how long that lasted. As determined as I was to stick to my guns on this I’m throwing in the towel. I even went so far as to write up something and email it to a few people. Then today I got the greatest package and totally have to show it off.


And here I thought I was all on the ball and everything when I filled out two lousy valentines and stuck them in the mail for her and her hubby today. I am now the proud owner and wearer of a fabulous pair of Valentines socks and I have Pansy seeds I am so excited to watch grow into delightful colorful faces that I can say good morning to. Family is the Bestest!

Now I am so going to decorate and enjoy this coming day of Love. Thank you everyone for being so great and supportive while Dave is deployed.

Happy Valentines Day!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Picnic

arnToday while hiding from tedius crap-work I decided to break in my newly inheirited blender. I've been preparing for ths moment by taking pocketfulls of ingredients from the dining facility (hereafter known as the 'defac'). A burning wire smell filled the room but- thats what fans are for. They turned out really good and I shared with my friends. One brought out some homemade cookies, Jack Johnson and a string of pineapple and palm-tree shaped christmas lights. We had a regular little picnic up in the hanger. The smoohties were tart but good.

Here's the recipie- if anyone wants to know.
  • 3 single-serving sized cups of yogurt, 2 peach and 1 mixed berry- mostly frozen
  • 2 apple juice boxes
  • 1 styrofoam take-home box of ripe/nearly ripe peaches and apricots

Cut fruit into one-inch cubes with leatherman or similar multi-tool, put back in box and freeze. Throw everything into the blender and whip for 1 minute. Open window and turn on fan. Keep fire extinguisher close by- just in case. Makes 5 servings

Monday, February 4, 2008

Scrounge

Scrounging is a big part of deployed life. Especially the first month. Thankfully, there are stores here where I could buy the things I want to make life more comfortable. But- lots of people have already bought all those things, and now they are leaving. So, this is where the scrounging come is. Another term we like to use is- tactical aquisition. If you want to be successful at this there are some things you got to do. Most important is just be alert. Keep track of how is leaving and when, then once they go- be first and be fast. Everyone plays, everyone wins. This is a list of some of the things I have snatched up since getting here.


  • lava lamp

  • blender

  • 2 years worth of truck and fitness magazines

  • a dozen or so very good novels

  • small refrigerator

  • dresser

  • shelves

  • desk lamp

  • 21 inch color tv

  • 2 boxes of handi-snaks

  • about ten bucks in change and pogs

  • textbooks on criminal justice (which is my current major)

  • coathangers

  • air freshener

  • a couple hundred square feet to build a rock gym with- more on that later

and other junk i can't remember.


I figure it works out to about a thousand bucks of home furnishing, food, and entertainment. Every day I find some other little abandoned treasure to add to the pile of stuff. And it's something to do.

That's the real quest here at the moment- finding something to do. Because I wasn't able to switch companies untill I actually got here, I am not qualified to actually do my job. There are 5 of us fligth medics all the the same situation. And since I am one of the lowest ranking and least experience of the red-headed stepchildren- I have to wait my turn. That makes me the guy who gets all the crappy details and odd jobs until my time comes. Tedius junk like sitting at the gym sign-in desk for a twelve hour stretch to make sure that the water cooler is stacked and that people aren't coming in without towels. I think that gig will be a weekly thing. Punishment for procrastinating getting promoted before the deployment arrived. That's the worst example- but there will be more. I'll be in this holding pattern for a few more weeks at least.

Before I signed off I wanted to bring up one more thing. I realize that I keep changing the subject and that I should make all these seperate posts, but I don't get to the computer too often. But this is really cool...

I got a calling!! Yup. Brother Dave- I got one that I always never wanted and was sure I would NEVER get. Does everybody out there like apples? How do ya like THESE apples? I'm the ward choruster!! HA! I get to gear up the cd player and swat the flies. I am also the substitute second block instructor. We alternate between the Book of Mormon lesson and the Teachings of the Prophet manual. There is no third hour. It couldn't have come at a better time either, because the other teacher has left for the month.

I can handle that stuff. So, like- yay for me!


Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Gas Lantern

Sadly our favorite Restaurant has closed. The Gas Lantern was a great find in Downtown Clarksville. It was kind of a fluke that we discovered it since it didn’t advertise very well. This contributed in large amounts to its closing I suspect. We didn’t have any solid plans to celebrate New Years Eve so when we discovered it was their last day in operation we hurriedly called to make reservations. Luckily they had one spot for two left that night.

The food was so good. So good to rival even Dave’s shrimp and stuffed mushrooms. Which is a feat of grand proportions. People rave about, will travel a goodly distance and constantly inquire about when it will be made next.

Just as with Dave’s shrimp every bite of dessert is a piece of the celestial kingdom. With the limited holiday menu we ended up ordering close to everything on it.



A few good things that will come about by The Gas Lantern closing:
We will cease to spend funds there.
It will not add to our waist lines.
The rich (yummy) food will not shorten our life span.

The building was built by a local oil tycoon early last century. It was used as nurses’ quarters when a hospital was in operation next to it. The hospital is now a bank. The home had some more neat history but the web site is now down and I can’t remember it. It is still a beautiful building.
Now that we are one month into 2008, farewell to 2007 and The Gas Lantern. You were both great!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Reading Rainbow

http://www.youtube.com/v/c6j8EiWIVZ&rel=1">

Reading to each another is a favorite pass time of ours. Combined with the fact that we don’t have TV and went on a fair number of road trips this year we got a respectable number of books read. Caution: Dave was laughing so hard he couldn’t see while we were reading Cheaper by the Dozen. He was driving at the time. This required us to put the story down temporarily to keep us from flattening some poor lady crossing the street with a stroller or other like vulnerable pedestrians, duck crossings, city lawn maintenance men and such.


Lemony Snicket 4-13 (Read the first 3 during Christmas last year. We were captivated.)
Sea Wolf
New Moon
Twilight
Eclipse
Cheaper by the Dozen (Highly recommended. And where we got the inspiration for root beer)
Belles on their toes
Harry Potter 7
Wicked
A Walk in the woods
The life and times of the Thunderbolt kid - (Dave shared most of it with me through bursts of laughter)
Swiss Family Robinson (Not really what we were expecting.)
The Lonely Moose (Thank you Stephanie)
Panda Cake (From Dave’s childhood. He just had to find it.)
The Once and Future King
Kite Runner (started)
The Golden Compass
The Subtle Knife
The Amber Spyglass
The Prince and the Pauper


These are in no particular order and do not include the books we read on our own. Most of these were fun to share together. And if I forgot any hopefully Dave will add to it.