Saturday, December 31, 2005

Good Ridance, 2005

For a variety of reasons, some of which I will not go into, 2005 was, in the modern parlance, Worst. Year. Evah.

However, it wasn't completely without some very interesting moments, and some good things happening. As far as this blog is concerned, all you are going to get is half a year o' highlights, since I didn't start blogging until May. Until April, I was the Instapundit's Afghanistan Correspondent.

Despite some issues I have sought help with (definite clinical depression, possible mild PTSD) I have not found myself angry very often this last year. When I was, I posted about it;

This time and this time I think are good examples.

I managed to stutter out a few deep thoughts, when provoked by others.

I wasn't always without humor either. Sometimes I could get almost poetic. Or just goofy.

I have done my best to give the reader a little insight into what happened/is happening in Afghanistan, the Army as a whole, and specific events like Katrina Relief. The Inner Prop has weathered these same events, and has added his thoughts too. If you want a better peek at what the 'Prop does, go look here.

If I have a New Year's blog-wish, it would be that all of you will hear more from Tempus42, Running Dog, Mighty Quinn and Amiga 3000. I forgive them for the light posting, in most cases - some of them have plenty of reason to call 2005 a worse year than I do. I just hope they can post more, because they are very interesting, intelligent people. So there.

I am grateful that I was able to come home to my family this year. I am also humbled that I was given an honor that I am not sure I deserved, but did share with one who did.

Friday, December 30, 2005


When the Signaleer starts giving out Afghan recipes, you should be reading them.

When it is Dreary Out, Look for the Best of It

Thursday was a fairly dreary day. I went to Starved Rock State Park to see the sights. While overcast and cold, I still found beauty there.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

An Old Promise Kept

Two and a half years ago I had told my son that I would take him to see the fishies when it was wintertime. The John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago was the place to go. I was alerted that Fall - and we didn't make it there. The next winter I was in Afghanistan So this year I took a little time to make sure it happened. Also, his sister could go along now, since two years ago she was only 2 years old.
The kids loved it. Their favorite part? The Penguins and the Stingrays.

I have many things that I missed while deployed - today I made up on one of them.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Donuts, assemble!

The Miserable Donuts crew is a slightly scattered bunch - geographically, darn it, stop snickering back there. However, due to deep and mystic forces, the alignment of the planets, and the availability of fine German food - I, Tempus42, The Running Dog, and the Mighty Quinn will be in one place at the same time. Last odds on riot police being deployed tonight were 2:1. Watch your local news, just to be sure.

UPDATE: A .45 was fired 50 times. Port and beer disappeared at an alarming pace. No sausage survived the gasthaus onslaught. Deep thoughts were thunk.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Enough Excuses, Goldstein!

One of the Friday features at Protein Wisdom is the dancing armadillo. Bit of a stuff up, with the feature tho'. The armadillo has never yet actually been seen performing on that site. If Mr. Jeff Goldstein, proprietor of said site, would just cut the baloney - the 'dillo is hiding under my parents coffee table, as seen below...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve &$%#@

Lets see...supposed to leave for my parents in a few hours:

Furnace fails two days after warranty expires - $199 for emergency repairman just to show up at the door, much less what the repair will cost. Check;

Sister and kids supposed to meet us at parents. Her son is projectile vomiting. Check.

Merry #%$* Christmas.

But seriously, it could be worse, it has been worse. So peace and joy to all of our good readers, and the rest o' you Donuts too.

UPDATE:$254 to have the heat work again. Bah.

Friday, December 23, 2005

New Civilization

Back in July we had a discussion about the development of civilizations.

Last night I saw a National Geographic Channel show about the oldest Peruvian city Caral.

This city developed with no signs of military defenses and no grain production in the surrounding valley. Both of these ingredients were thought to be required for the development of civilization. It was based on surplus of dry fish (possibly) and an extensive trade network.

Although the site in general was known even to modern scientists as early as 1905, no one actually knew it was city until 1994. That's right, in 1994 a lost city was found! The last decade of the 20th century and we are still finding lost civilizations! Wow!

It also has one of the largest pyramids in the world and looks a whole lot like Afghanistan.

The other interesting thing about this is the scientists involved were from the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima, University of Northern Illinois and the Field Museum of Chicago.

Church and State, Two Great Tastes that Taste Great Together

What do you guys think about THIS? Federal Judge Suhrheinrich (pictured here) ruled yesterday that there is no separation between church and state in the US Constitution and therefore the copy of the Ten Commandments should remain posted in a Kentucky courthouse.

Is there a wall between church and state? Should there be?

Is it in the US Constitution? Should it be?

I think a lot of problems would be solved if it weren't (ie prayer in school etc.).

What problems would start if it weren't?

Santa, by that Ridge! Get 'em!

He's over by that Christmas Tree! Grease 'em you Jolly Old Elf! BLAM, BLAM, BLAM!

Nice shot, Saint Nick! Score one for the good guys...and one naughty one down.

[thanks to CSM Bones - where does he get these things?]

Thursday, December 22, 2005

God Bless Us

Girls in Logmani village, Parwan province, Afghanistan

Santa, at Bagram AF, Afghanistan

Blogging will be light, understandibly so one would hope, over the next few days. So please have a terrific Christmas and remember to keep those far from home in your thoughts and prayers.

After Christmas, I will probably do a bit of a year in review wrap-up. It has been an...interesting 12 months.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Medical Equipment from Home

Here I am with the Deputy Health Minister of Parwan Province. I filled the box in front of me, on the table, with medical instruments and supplies from home. My father, a retired physician, had asked how he could help the people of the area where I was stationed. I asked Dr. Qasim, the Provincial Health Minister, "what are you short of?" I will never forget his answer. He looked me in the eye and said only one word - "everything". I asked him what smaller, critical items did he want first and he told me they needed otoscopes, blood pressure meters and stethescopes.
I wrote my Dad and told him all about the situation, and how terrible it was that their few, and very busy healthcare providers lacked access to very basic supplies. Dad asked me, what kind of things would they want - I just told him, whatever you would have had in your black bag, back in the day (he actually thought that to be a quite useful descriptor - and that made me absurdly pleased with myslef for thinking of it, heh heh).
Not being one to sit idly by, Dad started sending me otoscopes, stethescopes, blood pressure meters, latex free gloves, batteries, etc., every month. He also hit up other docs in my hometown, and they kicked in some as well. Whenever we would meet with the local Afghan officials, I would box everything up and give it to the Minister or his Deputy. Also, knowing a little about modern medicine, I also loaded them up with pads, pens and other simple office supplies. They were so grateful, it was downright humbling.

Dr. Qasim (pictured below) had been one of the few physicians to stay in the area during the horrible times of the post-Soviet civil war and the Taliban invasion. All our expat interpreters admired him very much. They used to tell me that he could have gone to Pakistan, or Europe and become wealthy and been safe, instead he stayed in Parwan, in Afghanistan and helped.

How could you not want to help someone like that?

The first set of otoscopes, stethescopes and blood pressure meters - two of everything, plus gloves, batteries and spare parts.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"How To Be Creative" from

On the verge of turning 40, a series of blog postings I discovered on "" this week proved very helpful. While it did not answer these questions/concerns/worries outright, it certainly did provide a framework for self-evaluation, goal setting, and "keeping-it-in-perspective" strategies.

Lots of excellent material and commentary throughout this blog ranging from corporate/organization business models, impact of blogs, the notion of organizational/personal/financial success, and the process of creation. The philosophies, while they may be geared toward specific areas (business/advertizing), still apply freely to other areas.

One of my favorite quotes from the site in "#5. You are responsible for your own experience" reads:

"Nobody can tell you if what you're doing is good, meaningful or worthwhile. The more compelling the path, the more lonely it is."

Hey, Look What I Found!

CSM Mark Bowman on a ridge of the Zin Ghar. That is an Afghan Militia soldier standing with him. Somehow, the skeptical CSM was not persuaded that the militia was maintaining a permanent presence in that area. I dunno, that machine gun emplacement looked reeeaaaal permanent to me. Ha!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Cold Weather Operations - Jingle Tuck Style

A Jingle Truck driver outside of Bagram demonstrates how to warm up your truck engine, before starting. And people used to wonder why I walked around with my jaw hanging down so much...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

All You Ever Needed To Know About the Taliban

In one easy read - all you will ever need to know about what the Taliban is and what they stand for. Just Read This.

[Thanks to CSM Bones]

Friday, December 16, 2005

Please Show Proper ID

When entering Bagram, AF, one must show proper ID. What you see here is an example of good humor where you would not think to find it, and a game of one-upmanship that went to conclusion. A Kuchi nomad was allowed to bring his camel on to part of the base. I cannot remember who started joking about the camel needing ID, but it quickly escalated to bringing in a digital photo to the contractors who made the badges. They were not about to stop the process, so they made the badge. The officer in charge of the section came over, didn't say a word. She just signed the authorization, took the badge and punched a small hole in the top of it, running a 2 meter long cord through it. She turned, handed the badge back to me and went back to work. Our bluff being called, we had no choice but to go and put the badge on the camel. Every time I saw that animal, until the day I left Bagram, it had that badge on. Heck, if nothing else, it amused the guards at the front gate...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

All I can say is "Wow"...

A 31 year old reporter for the Wall Street Journal makes a small career change. I am glad we still see things like this happening.

"When I was done, the officer told me to wipe the foam off my mouth, but I did him one better and puked all over the tarmac. He liked that a lot. That's when we both knew I was going for it." Go read the rest.

Iraq Election Update

Iowahawk continues his special coverage of the Iraqi elections.
Um, be warned, if you clink on the last link he provides in the 9:53 CST update, it probably shouldn't be while at work. Or around nuns.

The Strangest Building in Afghanistan

This is the Paktika Blanket Factory. Actually, I think it is their...uh, corporate offices. Sited on the northern edge of Kabul, it presented the strangest sight around. Before seeing this building, I hadn't known there was a "Cthulhu School" of architecture.


Legos has seen...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Children in Naibkhel

Some kids in Naibkhel. This was one of the last villages our unit visited before redeploying home. Little buggers swiped two cameras from a truck...took an hour to find them and get them back. Fortunately, they were the exception, and not the rule.

UPDATE: I hope nobody thinks all the kids there were scoundrels. Not so.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hiding my tears at the office

I made a big mistake at lunchtime today. I looked at Michael Yon's site and saw this photo. Now I am trying to hold back the tears as I hunch in my cubicle...

UPDATE: The original story.

Note: the soldier is of the 25th Infantry Division - that's the patch I wear on my right shoulder. That didn't help me keep my composure any.

ADDITIONAL UPDATE: Something more hopeful. [thanks to Carin commenting at Scribal Terror]

I don't expect this to be shouted aloud by many

I shan't hold my breath waiting for Keith Olbermann, Brian Williams or NPR to trumpet this only works in one direction.

The Gateway Pundit Year in Photos

The Gateway Pundit is a consistently good blog for seeing world events. His selections of images of the year 2005 are up. Go see them.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Combining Charity and Voluntary Exile

Please consider helping in a Christmas Charity and Sortapundit-Exile-to-Mongolia effort over at Tim Worstall's site. Sorry, you'll just have to follow the link to see what I mean. Heh heh, Merry Christmas

Stinging Dissent

Former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Heiple was a brusque, arrogant and abusive human being. However, I have to give him his props on this part of a short, but blazing dissent in American States Insurance Co., v. Harry Koloms, et al. 177 Ill. 2d 473 (1997).

"Choosing to override the clear language of the insurance contract, however, the majority purports to divine the unstated intent of the parties. With this analysis, coverage is found to be provided. What we have here is not a case of contract construction. It is rather a case of contract reconstruction. As such, it is thimblerigging pure and simple. It also indicates the depths to which a court will go to achieve a desired result. If any principle can be derived from this ruling, it is that words have no meaning.

Accordingly, I respectfully dissent."


Protest at funeral

More hometown news from Rockford, IL. This one touches some unique demographics - American casualties in Iraq, veterans, mourning, fundamentalism, anti-homosexuality protests, the police and, of course, the media. Lot's of exciting material here: FUNERAL PROTESTORS

Who says nothing interesting every happens in the Midwest?

ADMINISTRATORS UPDATE: Contrast. Thanks for indulging me, Mighty Q.

What will $800 get you these days?

35 meter deep well and a hand pump. In Parwan Province Afghanistan, that is...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Aussie Beach Insanity

I am at a loss to explain this - go let Tim Blair sort it our for ya.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Where's Your Global Warming Now?

So far here in the Chicago area we've had one of the coldest and snowiest Decembers on record. I don't think I had shoveled since before we left for Afghanistan. I never much like shoveling snow, but it was sure nice to be out there with Mrs. Prop. It was nice that she helped, nice to be home and nice that we could be together.

A little help shoveling the snow

Snow shovel "art" in the Georgia O'Keefe Museum

Shoveling snow can be a mundane task. Last night I had some help from the neighbors. Oh, not the human ones.

We have a group of coyotes that visits a nearby grove of trees. Whilst passing through, they decided to give me a little musical support. Flinging shovelsful of snow off the driveway is a lot more interesting when accompanied by coyote howls. Thanks critters!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

My Malaysian is a bit rusty, but the photos are nice...

Check this blog for some good Afghan photos. Er, it helps if you know Malay as well.

Now THIS makes me Happy!

I read this (thanks to the ever observant Barcepundit, Franco Aleman) and I couldn't help but cheer up. I would like to think that (at least in Parwan, Kapisa and Kabul) my unit's efforts had a little bit to do with this. But in the end, all I care about is that the people in Afghanistan are moving forward.

Girls to a speech at the opening of their new school in Aybat Khil

Ready to Fire - but the target went down

I had previously worked myself up into quite a bit of anger about Rep. Murtha's... er... stance. Well, Sen. John Kerry

and DNC Chair Howard Dean

raced in to join the rhetorical dung-flinging. I am sorry, but I cannot work up any anger toward these two. They are what they are. The only thing I feel is a sense of disappointment that nobody ever seems to ask the simple follow-up questions you are allegedly taught in J-school. No reporter ever asks for evidence, examples, citations, proof. They just turn and print/show video of assertions and leave it at that.
If somebody in the Administration belched at lunch, we would get long hand-wringing editorials from the NYT and LA Times about the coming collapse of civilization. [and if you think this is mere assertion - I have two letters for you WP] But a serving US Senator (and the last opposition party candidate for President) accuses US forces of all sorts of strange and bad behavior - and nobody asks him - when, where, who was involved, how do you know this?

As for Dean - that is a problem for the Democratic Party - he isn't an elected official. All you need to know about the people he is happy to stand with is this. UPDATE: or here.

BTW - you want angry reaction to Kerry or Dean - try here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

How to get to 50,000

The Donut is closing in on 50,000 visits. When I looked at how this has managed to happen, two stories jumped out at me;
One about a roach, and one of anger.

This can only show you that there is no sure way to get a large number of visits (besides "Instalanches" and this sage advice).

Please read Miserable Donuts...if for no other reason than a cute little kid is asking.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I Hate The Laundry Service!

This guy is trying to make Slobodan Milosevic look composed...

[thanks to Drudge - I know, I said I wouldn't look there anymore...somebody help me...]

New Threads

So, what do you think of the new ACUs? I will have to say that they are comfortable, and seem fairly functional so far...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas!

I was so glad, last year, to be able to show my children that Santa can go anywhere. My 3 year old daughter was worried that he wouldn't be able to find me so far away...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Chaotic Evil Squirrels!

Why is it always up to me to follow up one of Major John's stunning insightful and inspiring essays with my idiotic claptrap? We all have our crosses to bear...

This may be humorous only to the other Donuts, and perhaps not even then, but...

Friday, December 02, 2005

An Army Broken?

With all the eagerness of a dog returning to something it has vomited up, the conventional media has latched onto Rep. Murtha's rambling discourse about the Army being "broken" and "has done all they can."

Unmitigated crap. And I don't say this out of defensiveness or service pride - I'll tell you about how far we have had to come in a bit. First, though, a little material for you to mull over.

The US Army is quite open about how it works, what it sees for its future, what it has been told to do in the future by the civilian authorities we serve. You can see its budget, strength, recruiting, retention, doctrine and philosophy. And not just official sources. US Army Soldiers tell the world about things that go right and wrong. Also, what we do on our own. We are our own strongest critics and staunchest defenders.

What really infuriates me is that someone like Rep. Murtha knows better. Ask any veteran who served between 1975-1982/3 what the Army (or the rest of the Armed Forces for that matter) were like. Drugs everywhere, low pay, morale was non-existent, equipment was falling behind or scarce, there was no great sense of mission or purpose. Only the heroic measures of a few dedicated officers and NCOs saved us from absolutely bottoming out. We needed the Reagan Era build up (hell, even Jimmy Carter, not the brightest or strongest to even stumble across the White House threshold, realized things had gone down too far, too fast, by the last two years of his miserable term in office) but almost as important, we got our elan back - we were told we mattered, we were the shield of liberty against Soviet totalitarianism. I felt that deeply, and in March of 1985 I walked straight into a recruiter's office and signed up.

Oh my Lord - I had joined an Army National Guard that was about to get dragged into readiness, professionalism and competence, whether it willed or no. The first field exercise I went to featured Miller High Life to wash down the first generation MREs. By 1988, things were WAY different. I remember taking a 14 hour convoy from central Illinois up to Ft. McCoy, WI. We went straight to the field site, tactically, and didn't come out for 12 days. When we did come out, it was just in time to take a strictly graded Physical Fitness Test, clean up, pack and convoy home the next morning. The look on some of the old-timer's faces was something I will NEVER forget.

But the Gulf War (I) showed that we still had a ways to go. The National Guard Brigade called up to go fight in Desert Shield/Desert Storm never made it. We still had work to do. Bosnia, 1996-onward showed that we were awfully close. I was part of the Army Reserve serving in Operation Joint Guard/Joint Endeavor (my time was FEB 1997-NOV 1997). We didn't do too badly - even the Regular Army folks said as much. But we weren't finished yet.

The Guard and Reserve had been getting shoved through two of the worst places God made (to steal a line from Lawrence of Arabia) JRTC and NTC. I thank the Almighty I only had to go through JRTC, and not both. The same beat-you-to-your-knees-training that the Regulars had to do. It helped. You never get so good an insight into your strengths and weaknesses as when you have been worn down to exhaustion, attacked constantly and been living in a frickin' bayou the whole July.

As anyone who has read this blog knows, The Inner Prop and I served in Operation Enduring Freedom V (Afghanistan, March 2004-March 2005). We stood at the end of the longest sustained supply line in the history of human conflict. We were in war-torn Central Asia. Af-frickin'-ghanistan. We had decent food, e-mail, phone (OK, sometimes they weren't always working, but almost all the time) excellent medical support, good pay, regular (if slow) mail. We had a PXs at most of the larger bases, and coffee places sprang up too. We had so damned much ammunition that we needed to build a bigger ammunition supply point at Bagram, AF. We had so many vehicles that we were constantly squabbling over where to put them all - and we had enough up-armored ones too. Our supply warehouses were stuffed with clothing, boots, body armor and the like. "Living hand to mouth" is the worst lie of the bunch.

The constant stream of re-enlistments was a revelation to me. When I was the Executive Officer of the garrison at Bagram Airfield (a job I gladly traded away after 5 months) I had to find room to more than double the size of the Retention Office. I personally administered the oath of re-enlistment to an E-5 and an E-7. The E-5 was a mother of two young children and the E-7 was eligible to retire when we got home!

Broken? Hardly. Is it difficult work? Yes.

Do not mistake hard work for foundering. Respectfully, Rep. Murtha - you are wrong. Dead wrong.

A Screed in the Near Future

I make sure I read Jeff's site several times a day. This post really got me boiling. I will have something extended regarding this topic sometime tonight. Busy day at work otherwise, and Guard drill this weekend to boot.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Tempus, darnit, You are supposed to be the Gaming Guy...

I guess I'll just go ahead and put up the link to the latest Carnival of, Gamer Positions Open?

Digging a Well

The Summer of 2004 was a dry one in Afghanistan - little did we know or even hope that the drought would be broken that winter. Drought hurt everyone in the area I was stationed, and also ewncouraged people to plant poppy, since that plant did well in a dry season, and the farmers had to do something to sustain their familes.
What we did is a story that has been told before, but I wanted to tell it again, and add a few more pictures.
We has used some of our CERP money to dig a deep irrigation well at the busy provincial border town of Qara Bagh (between Kabul and Parwan provinces).

The well at start-up

We also paid for a pump - and this led to the first of many smiles. You see, I asked if they had anyone who could make sure it was maintained, and could fix any problems. A whole series of smiles and "yes" answers informed me that I had missed something. I was still fairly new to the country, and had not learned that the Afghans are some of God's very own shade tree mechanics. If it is a small engine, they'll keep it running somehow.

The pump

The dedication was the first time I had been present at an Afghan public prayer/benediction.
The mullah was a tough, older, respected fellow who had lost an eye fighting against the Soviets. I am told he was fairly moving in his short message and prayer before the pump was turned on and the water began to flow. I can see why - so much destruction and pain he had lived through, and here was something positive and good for his people.

The mullah is the fellow to the left.

The Afghans were happy about being able to irrigate their fields, and I was pretty happy about it too.

  • Wikablog - The Weblog Directory

  • My blog is worth $60,970.32.
    How much is your blog worth?