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.


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


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


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!