Wednesday, November 30, 2005


I won NaNoWriMo!!!!. I finished the book "Reach Out."

It really isn't finished, because I had to cut it short to make the midnight deadline tonight, but you can read it here.

Rah, Rah Go Z Go!

We had our all-employee meeting today. For a corporate rah-rah session, it wasn't too bad. Our CEO (who has the coolest Swiss accent) stood up and told us in detail what Katrina/Rita/Wilma has done to the bottom line, and then he and the other execs took Q&A.
When the first question was "our computer application support was outsourced and is now terrible, what are we going to do about it?" and the whole room bursts into applause - you knew you weren't listening to a bunch of butt kissers...
I have to give props to the Information chief - he stood up and said that it wasn't terrible, it was a "terrible and horrible" experience and that we had learned our lesson.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Eu Rota is back?!

Not being a very perceptive fellow, I had missed the fact that one of my favorite blogs EU Rota is back up and running with his usual gusto. Time to fix the blogroll...

Fixing a School

Deh Qadzi ("Place of the Judge") was a bit of a problem area for us. The HIG (Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin) had been whispering to the folks there that the Americans didn't like them because they were devout Muslims, they have never done anything for you, etc. We had been shot at from the area more than once too. One time when we asked the Parwan Provincal governor if he had a project in mind, he surprised us. The governor told us that rather than do something for him or his city of Charikar, that we should repair the school at Deh Qadzi.
The school had been built in 1994 by a wealthy donor from the United Arab Emirates. When the Taliban fought their way up the Dasht-e-Bagram, they got to the school and promptly ruined it. The villagers managed to scavenge the remains of the roof and ended up using it for firewood. All that remained were the walls - the roof, floor and furniture were all gone.

The watchman of Deh Qadzi school

I took some trusty fellows from the 3/116th INF (VA ARNG) and trudged up to the school. We met the watchman, took some photos of the foundation, walls and the like for our engineers to examine. Despite the outward bad looks, the structure was basically sound.

We found an Afghan contractor who could rebuild the roof, put in a floor, desks and the like and wrung out enough CERP (Commanders Emergency Response Program) money to make it happen. The people of Deh Qadzi were startled, and more than a little happy. The governor proved to be a clever man too. No more rockets came arcing out of Deh Qadzi.

That was a good, hard headed result to achieve. It sure was a lot nicer seeing a bunch of kids in Deh Qadzi that would actually have a roof over their heads and classrooms to use...

Monday, November 28, 2005

I have to stop reading Drudge...

Why would I stop reading the Drudge Report? This story.

Non-Gratuitous Afghan Photo of the Holiday Season I

I hadn't seen this photo for a while - it is from the village of Deh Hazara, in Parwan Province. I think that of all the places I went in that country, that village made the deepest impression upon me. I often wonder how the people there are faring. I know we helped give them a chance at a little peace and that comforts me.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Oh, Canada!

Um...Canada? I guess there is no easy way to ask this, so I'll make it simple...WTF?

[Thanks to Matt Drudge - yeah, I look in on his page once in a while...]

Credit Where Credit is Due

I have never been much of an Oprah Winfrey fan (and her melt-down in New Orleans didn't boost my opinion of her). But I am quite ready to admit she is a brilliant businessperson, TV and media operator - and she does help some worthy causes. You can imagine my utter surprise while bumping along down a road on the Parwan/Kapisa provincial border in Northeastern Afghanistan and seeing this sign on the wall near the front gate of an orphanage.

She should get credit for this - I don't know if many people know about this...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Give Thanks

I am thankful for so many things; family, my home, friends, my military buddies, my country and more. This year I am trying to think of only the good things. I have seen hope in so places where one would never expect it - war torn central Asia and storm ravaged New Orleans. I am going to take something from all that today, and I would hope all of you could do something similar with what you have seen in your lives.

An example: this is CPT Belinda Hanson - she was very good at spreading hope to people. Untiringly cheerful and helpful, she made quite an impression on the Afghans.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Who I will Remember Tomorrow

These two men worked for KBR - the main contractor providing services at Bagram Airfield.

I had spent the first half of Thanksgiving 2004 going from place to place to place. A spread of rockets fired at our base had landed in three different villages, killing one man and banging up a couple of farms. I was out talking with the people out there and telling them what we were doing.

Once I got back to the base, I saw that the KBR employees had worked especially hard to see that we had a Thanksgiving that was as close to home as possible. The mess halls were decorated and the food was the very best I had for the entire year I was there. It occurred to me later on that these other people were far from home too. I wish I would have done something to let them know what their efforts had meant to so many of us. Remember the servicemen and women that are far from home this time of year - and also spare a kind thought for those that support them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Haiku from Yavoriv, Ukraine

The Inner Prop and I were part of Peaceshield '03 at the Yavoriv Training Area, Ukraine. Yavoriv is an utter dump of an old, very large Warsaw Pact base, with the city of L'viv about 40-50 minutes away. While there, 'Prop and I made some haiku about our experiences...

Bulgarians drink
We join them for just one shot
Wake up after barf

One Hrivna she says
Let go my damned arm you!
Go to school instead

Many nations march
Is it to battle they go?
Stand in sun for speech

A Holiday Greeting From Uzbashi, Afghanistan

In the words of Beadle (in the Blackadder Christmas Carol): "Felicitous compliments of the gorging season to you, sir. Peace on Earth, and fat tums to all men."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Holidays are a Coming

The holidays are approaching - Thanksgiving has already slipped inside the perimeter and is ready to pounce. The rest are circling overhead. Thanksgiving last year was not so good for me.

I would like everyone to consider how they can make this time of year better for those serving abroad, those here at home who have troubles, and of course, those families who are visiting their recovering loved ones.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

I ain't scared o' nothing - but this frightens me

Fire and brimstone preaching usually don't get to me. I am no thief, murderer, or the like. But one thing always seems to reach up and just give the pimp hand to side of the head whenever I hear it.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick , or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethern, ye have done it unto me.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, an ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

This is so very hard. No commands to slay infidels, make sacred sacrifices, convert the world by fire and sword, or such. Instead, you have to be able to stand up and be judged by what you have done for "the least" amongst us. It is a subtle and terrible thing to have to examine oneself - have I done enough?

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Future of Blogdom

From the man that has taught us how to "Blog Good", comes the inescapble future of the Blogosphere. I wonder if he needs help polishing that yacht?

Look, Up in the Sky!

"It's a bird! It's a plane! Yup, its a plane alright.... Say, Waheed, why is it approaching so quickly? Don't they know we have the Northern Alliance on the run? Ow! Hey!! What was that?! Ahhh!"

It was the USAF. One minute the Talib are pushing up the Valley, next minute...BOOM!

Wreckage between the Panjshir and Salang Rivers, near the Parwan/Kapisa border.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Tweaking the blogroll

I am going to split a few folks into certain categories sometime tomorrow. I am also going to add another Military Spouse to the roll. We all seem to be empathetically drawn to each other's sites sooner or later...

P.S. Don't worry Simon, you'll still be a charter "Friend of the Donuts"...

The (Seafood) Wrath of God

Today, the Instapundit has reminded us all of a particular web-site. A web-site that warns of The Almighty's hatred of one particular abomination. Go, and be ye warned!

Results, Please

I am still waiting for final results from the Afghan Wolesi Jirga (lower house of the Afghan Assembly). I've got a couple of candidates I'm quite interested in finding out about...

Order in the Court!

I am not sure what to make of this story about Saddam getting a beat down from two clerks of the court. If it turns out out to be false, then I think we can point with pride to Iraqi TV and say, "look how Western they have become!"

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Does This Mean We are Rid of Ted Stevens?

Miserable excuse for a US Senator, Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) threatened to resign if the pork project of the decade, "The Bridge to Nowhere", was defunded. Well Ted, your call now, HA!

[thanks to the Instapundit for the heads up and TTLB for the logo]

This morning reminded me of something...

The clouds, the high wind, the cold, a dusting of snow. I felt like I was in the Salang Valley in winter, not suburban Chicago in November. Sheesh. At least I get to drive to work - I suppose I could have to walk across something like the sturdy looking footbridge shown here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Why the Major swears at his computer

I am taking the required course (Intermediate Level Education - Common Core. ILE-CC) to make Lieutenant Colonel. We use the "Blackboard" computer learning interface, over the Web. So far it is is just #$%&ing terrific. I see dropping some coin on a DSL connection or such, really soon.

Intellectual Proerty Violations and Punishment

The RIAA has been fighting file download services and individuals using those services for years now. While I am rather a strict believer in intellectual property rights, I have to wonder why the group would go after people downloading certain files. Seriously, if you download Milli Vanilli files, can it not be argued that you have already suffered punishment enough?

Aieee! Stop, please! I'll never do it again! Have mercy!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Trying to Help

The Army has an information and counseling central "clearinghouse" so to speak. You can also call 1-800-464-8107, 24/7/365. The old stigma about using things like this has eroded the last few years. Reality is, many of us need (or needed) something like this - so the Army has tried to be true to "we take care of our own". it over yet?

Er...are they finished rioting in France yet? OK, maybe not just yet...

UPDATE: It seems the whole situation has been set to music. Go look for yourself.


I have watched this blog's ratings in TTLB Ecosystem (as seen at the bottom of the page) decline from "Adorable Rodent" to "Flappy Bird" to "Slithering Reptile". I know that NZ Bear has tweaked the rating system over at TTLB, but what gives?
I guess I will have to go back to putting up more Afghan photos, eh?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Forgotten Comrade

I am so ashamed. I totally forgot to mention one of my comrades yesterday. You see, one of the hardest things to do in the military is to cover for someone in the short term. When I went on two weeks leave in December of 2004, I left a very tough and able officer in my stead. Here's to you pal!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veteran's Day Musings

At 18 years of age, in March of 1985, I walked into a National Guard recruiter’s office in Urbana, Illinois and told the startled NCO sitting there, “I want to sign up, what do you have?” It wasn’t an impetuous or rash decision, for I had thought for a while about doing just that thing.
My family had always answered when the nation called – my father and my maternal grandfather were both WWII Navy. My Uncle Jack was an astonishing hero. The Explorer leader that taught me to shoot was an Army Ranger that had fought through Nazi occupied Europe. Being surrounded by these men, it was never a question of serving or not, rather a question of how. To me the Guard seemed a natural fit. I could serve and finish college. So off to Fort Benning and the United States Army Infantry School it was that very June.
Oh boy. I was not a weak person, nor unworldly – but it was an education, and a hard one at that. Safe to say, it changed me forever. I simply couldn’t see things the way I had before. I was now a part of the defense of my country (remember, this was when the Soviets were making their last big efforts to keep up with us).
I decided, rather quickly, that I really wanted to get into the officer side of the house. So, two years later, I earned a commission as a Second Lieutenant. The Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Empire vanished and I began to wonder about the nature of my service. Just then,
Desert Shield/Desert Storm came along and reminded me that just maybe the world wasn’t going to mellow permanently. I still remember how eagerly all the officers in my company volunteered to go – and they didn’t take, nor need, a one of us.
I had married and started law school when the Floods of 1993 came along – so I spent July of that year leading my company up the levees (running like hell down the levees when they started to breach) and flinging sandbags. Yet another reminder to me of why the National Guard was around.
I graduated, became an Assistant State’s Attorney, and moved to the Army Reserves. I had settled in quite nicely when I got a phone call at work one day in February 1997. “Sir, do you have a fax machine at your location?” Uh-oh.

Me in Sarajevo, outside a law office.

Orders for 9 months in support of Operation Joint Guard/Joint Endeavor. I believed that it would be the adventure of my life (oh, how little I knew of what was coming). It was a very strange homecoming – my wife met me, alone, at the gate in the airport (remember, this was back when you could do that) and we drove home. 5 days later, I was back at work. A few polite questions, but not much of a fuss.
The years started to slip past again. I rejoined the Guard, we had two children, and I moved into private practice. Then one morning my wife asked me if I had seen the airplane crash on the news. September 11, 2001. I knew right then that everything would change. I remember so clearly the President’s speech in which he told all of us in the Armed Forces that his message to us was “be ready”. I was.
But the months rolled on, and still no call. No alert, no stand-by. Unit after unit was called for airport security, backfilling security at European or US bases. We overthrew the Taliban, and turned toward Iraq. Still, nothing. When the Iraq campaign started, I sat like anyone else, watching TV, searching the Internet, poring over the papers. It struck me that I was going to sit another shooting war on the sidelines. I often felt guilty – but would look down at my 2 year old daughter and 4 year old son and feel relieved. That lasted a few months. The phone rang again.
I had made Major the year before, and was let in on enough to know that something was coming. Just not what it would be. The Guard kept things very close to the vest at that time. Fall of 2003, we started to prepare – but for where we knew not. I bought Arabic language tapes and read everything I could on Iraq. Naturally, we were assigned to Afghanistan.

I started out as the Executive Officer of Task Force Dragon – the garrison of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. 5 months of sometime frustration, sometime reward, all the time learning. I had no idea how much I would miss my family – when I had blithely gone off to Europe in 1997, I was a knucklehead. Now I was not just a husband, but also the father of two young children. I tried to keep myself on track – I worked out like crazy, I e-mailed and called home when I could. And in one turn of good luck, I became the Instapundit’s Afghanistan Correspondent. Professor Reynolds let me tell my tale, and it had a therapeutic effect, I must admit.

Then our CMO (Civil-Military Operations) officer left. After strenuous lobbying – I was allowed to move into that job. I guess it didn’t hurt that we had a spare officer, one rank higher than me, to add into our staff.

I moved around our three province area, got into a bit of trouble a few times (only really scared three times) saw things breath-taking, heart-breaking and glad. Met friends and allies, and saw some of the finest people currently in an American military uniform.

I came home to a welcome I only wish our Vietnam veterans could have had.
[One of my co-workers is a Vietnam veteran, and I asked him why he wasn’t on the “time off list” for Friday. He looked a bit blankly at me and said “Friday, what’s Friday? Oh, right, Veteran’s Day.” He shrugged and told me about how when he had gotten back from Vietnam his WWII veteran father had taken him to his local VFW Post where he received a less than enthusiastic reception.]
About the time I thought I had readjusted to home, that damned phone rang again. Back to the old school – Katrina duty. I have already worried that hangnail enough.

I have had a bit of a time readjusting to home. Mostly letdown, I suppose. I led one last patrol on March 19th – and I am not ashamed to say that I sat in my corner of the wooden hut that night and let the tears roll. I was afraid that at 38 years of age, I had reached the summit of my life, as far as importance or achievement would go. I still grapple with that once in a while.

For over 20 years I have been in the Guard, Reserves or on Active Duty. I find it harder and harder to remember what it was like not being in. I have been changed, mostly for the better, I think. I take so much less for granted; I value the blessings of this nation that much more, and I value the service of those who went before me more deeply.

If I could ask just one thing of all of you – appreciate, no; rejoice in every freedom and every opportunity that my brothers-in-arms and I have tried to secure for you and yours.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Thesis Blogging?

I hit a referral link in Sitemeter and came across this site. I wonder if this is an emerging trend? To me it seems like it would be a wonderful distance-learning tool...what say you Amiga 3000?

Happy Birthday Marines

230 Years old today. The United States Marine Corps makes quite a big deal of it's Birthday. I have sometimes wondered why, but I'm Army, so I'll just wish them a Happy Birthday anyway.

Sometimes Marines can even have fun - this LCPL in Gholam-ali, Parwan Province, got hit with a snowball and seemed to take it well enough.

A new "Friend of the Donuts"

Andi's World joins the blogroll. Her husband is deploying now, and she has posted some thoughts on her blog. I wish I would have read something like them before I deployed.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Top 10 Webby's

Check these Top 10 Internet Moments. I like to think that I had already figured #4 out.

On a lighter note...

While France continues to devolve, the Running Dog and I attended the first annual BoardGameGeek.con game convention this past weekend. Very, very nicely done. If you're into strategy board games, you could do a heck of a lot worse than attending this one next year. The highlight for me was the superbly-stocked game lending library. Using your library card, you could check out just about any game of recent vintage that you could probably think of, play it, and return it. And you could set up just about any game you liked and the next couple people that happened by the table would more than likely be willing to join in, so you were never wanting for players.

I got to try a number of the very latest releases from Germany, including Caylus (undoubtedly the hit of the con), the Euphrat & Tigris card game, Techno Witches, Pompeii, H2Olland, Deflexion, and Kaivai. I didn't try a game I didn't like at least a little, even though we did misunderstand a few rules a few times. I purchases several starter sets of the new collectible tile game called Chizo Rising, as well as Hunting Party, the latest Age of Steam expansion, the Keythedral expansion, and Byzantium. I received Duel of Ages as my door prize.

I, for one, will definitely be returning next year...

Wallopers Found Wanting

Professor Bunyip has a few questions regading Australian police and recent events. Stanley is a treat to read, especially when he is upset with someone or something.

BTW - I just love Australian slang like "wallopers"

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

This is just not good

I don't like the French Government one bit. The French soldiers I have worked with have been a mixed bag - the ones in Bosnia, not so good; the ones in Afghanistan, better. BUT NOBODY in France deserves to have their home, car, school, business, church, etc., burned, looted or otherwise harmed. And nobody deserves to have their blood spilled by the French intifadians.

You will find no schadenfreude here. I have personally seen too many innocent people, in too much trouble, in too many places across this Earth to worry about politics, ideological point scoring or the like. I just damn well hope they can get this settled down.

Let us worry about analysis after people can cross the street without getting Molotov cocktails thrown at them.

[map courtesy of Tim Blair]


[thanks to the Mudville Gazette]

Changes in looking at France?

Roger L. Simon, author of The Big Fix and other novels (he is also a movie director/writer) has made a few points about how the current unrest/disorder may change the way some look at France. Frankly (pun intended) I had not considered this in the same way he has. I assumed there would be two basic views - The "F$%&'ing French. Ha ha, got what's coming to them..." or the CNN (if you saw this morning's particularly nauseating C. Amanpour preformance, you will recognize this...) "the poor, disaffected youth of France, there must be something done for them."

Beyond this post, Roger's blog is usually a very intersting read. Check him out.

Didn't You Say No More?

Yes I did say that regularly featured, gratutitous, Afghan photos were done. This was just a funny one I saw on one of my discs and just had to put up. Were I so inclined, I'd even call for caption ideas...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Flogging for a Brit

Tim Worstall has politely asked that some of us flog his upcoming book. Ok, Tim, consider it done.

Tim also points out a new wiki of blogs - Wikablog. If you are a blogger looking for readers, or a blog consumer looking for new fare, check it out.

BTW, Tim's brother is a contract employee at the best place to eat in Afghanistan - the British Forces HQ.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Puerto Rico Modifications

Tempus - as Gaming Don of this blog, have you seen this online 'mod' for Puerto Rico (game of the gods). It looks fascinating, but....


Make Room for Major Thomas

I now have a blog. I opened Major Thomas and the KBR Design Faeries today. Soon you can see "Bellwether's Asteroid" (per MAJ J's badgering) and Reach Out (my new novel) as I write it.

Be gentle with me.

Gratuitous Afghan Photos Conclude

I have decided to dial back the Gratuitous Afghan photos. I will bring some more out - but only on occassion and for specific posts. I hope the hundred or so shots I shared with all of you have provided a little glimpse into one citizen-soldier's experience in Afghanistan.

The two pictures I have decided to show last are: one of voters waiting in the October 2004 presidential vote - the first widespread, democratic vote in their history;
and the opening day for a girl's school in Aybatkhil (my favorite one of all 300+ shots I actually saved)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Gratuitous Afghan Photos Return XIX

OK, I was wrong. One more winter photo. A Marine near the Bagram District administration compound in Gholam-ali.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

How to Beat Down the Black Dog

A bottle of Chimay Gran Reserve and a glass of 10 year old Dow's Tawny Port and the Director's Cut of Lawrence of Arabia.

[Thanks to Mighty Quinn and 12 months serving in OEF...]

UPDATE: Normally a recovery such as this would involve the wife n' kids. But they are in NC at a family (her side) reunion, while I stay at home to make the nation safe from the toxic tort plaintiff's bar...and go to Guard Drill, right Inner Prop?

I'm Gunna Do It, I Swear I Will

I signed up with NaNoWriMo. The object is to write a novel only during the month of November. I started yesterday and haven't given up yet.

It's a young adult Space Opera.

Gratuitous Afghan Photos Return XVIII

As I have mentioned before, we drew a variety of reactions when we entered the villages in our AO...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Is Paris Burning?

What the heck is going on in the Paris 'burbs? Gateway Pundit has a good wrap for you. All I can say is that if this was happening in an American city, the headlines would be a blarin'...

Gratuitous Afghan Photos Return XVII

Completing the winter-is-coming theme. Have you winterized your home? These Salang Valley dwellers had...

Unable to post just yet.

Blogger is timing out on any attempt to post a photo thus far. I will attempt to do so later today.
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