Sunday, August 31, 2003

My Surreal Life

As I sit here in a collapsible metal office, on the edge of a port in the middle of Kuwait, eating green eggs and ham (Sam I am) that is served in the chow tent every morning... it occurs to me that you might find my surreal life interesting... I know I do.

Firstly, my apartment is full of surreal qualities. Nearly all the apartment buildings I've seen have businesses in the ground floors. My building has a fish store , (fish are friends, not food), a hair "saloon" for kids (yes, that's the way the spell it, and they mean salon, I assume. I suspect that a "salon" is something in Arabic they want to avoid confusing with...), and a few other unidentified stores that either haven't been open when I'm there, or I haven't gotten up the courage to explore.

Next, the elevators are alive. Seriously. They seem to experience actual human emotions: boredom, hunger, resentment... I mean of COURSE an elevator would be bored, but let me explain the other emotions. The reason I say they're hungry is because they will try to take a bite out of you if you don't get in fast enough. And these aren't wimpy Made in the USA elevators, these things close fast and hard. They do have that big strip of plastic that will prevent them from biting down hard, of course, but unlike their American brothers (and sisters?), they are a bit slower in releasing (picture smacking an animal on the nose to get it to release it's hold on something... like your leg...). When they do open, it's slow, and grudgingly... you can almost feel it's reluctance...

As for the elevators being resentful, case in point: I was leaving for work the other morning, and the damn thing tried to bite me. In typical testosterone fashion, I kicked the door (trying to teach it respect, I guess... *grunt*). When I got to the ground floor, the door only opened 6 inches... and just stuck. So I could SEE outside, just couldn't GET outside... I had to force the door open... and left it there, stuck open, glaring at me...

For the record, that's TWO dangers I hadn't considered when deploying: bad drivers and elevators.

Second in my surreal life is whoever cleans my apartment. I have a vague recollection of SOMEONE in my apartment at some point during my first day on the ground, and they were doing "housekeeping" type things, but I assumed they were just cleaning up for the previous tenant... or making sure I had everything I needed. I haven't seen her since, but then I noticed my dirty clothes were gone a couple days later. My bed is made every night when I get home, there are clean clothes (first they were on my bed, but now they're ironed and hanging in my closet ...) My dishes are washed and put away, and my furniture is sometimes re-arranged back to the way it was originally (I like to move it around to better suit me...).

This wouldn't seem so surreal if I actually had a better IDEA of the person doing it... I don't even really need a name, just a face. I was getting fairly spoiled while I was in NJ when I dropped off my laundry to have it done... but at least there I knew what the person looked like. Here I don't have a clue what the person looks like that is seeing my dirty underwear... how's THAT for surreality?

Another surreal moment was when I got home last night. I walked in the door, and caught a quick movement on the wall behind the door. Fearing some monstrous Arabian Spider or something, I stepped back and looked just in time to see a small lizard scamper up the wall. So I guess I've got a pet now. At least I know what IT looks like... I'll even give it a name... "Lizzy"

My drive from work at night has a VERY surreal quality... We're in a very industrialized area, and surrounded by refineries. If you've never seen a refinery, they're amazing. At night, it's lit up like a city, miles wide, with "smoke" stacks shooting great gouts of flame into the air, lighting up the sky.

I work in a collection of tents and POCs (Portable Operation Centers). Network cabling, telephone, and power cables run in all directions. Our meals our served "buffet style" in the chow tent, and it's surprisingly good. Especially Mexican Night. Every other night is some variation of beef and chicken, and lunches are usually MREs.

Well, this has been a lot longer than I inteneded, and I've got a bunch of things I need to get done. Still working on the 'net problem in my apartment, so I'll be able to get those pictures up pretty soon. I looked out my window into the bay, and saw some HUGE freighters and tankers (yet another surreal quality...), and took a few pictures and a video.

Love to everyone!

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Local Weather report, etc...

Local Weather

I'll place the link up by the location when I get my 'net connection working again, and am doing this on my own system, not from onsite.

Just another day here, minor goings-on, nothing exciting. Already starting to get in that groove of work, eat, sleep, etc... That's not a bad thing, makes the time pass faster, and I spend less money (ask Shelley!).

I finally got a cell phone (spent way too much, as usual), but it's got all kinds of helpful features, and it's a tri-band, so I'll be able to use it anywhere in the world I can get cell service. I'm not going to post the number here, because it's just too expensive for everyone to call! If you need to hear my voice, just ask and I'll Audblog something ... hehe :P

That's all for now. I've got a bunch more pics, and I'll be posting some as soon as I am sure it's ok. I've got some that I may have to do some editing on to make sure there's nothing revealed.

Friday, August 29, 2003


Sept. 11 call transcripts released

Check out this link, and notice the picture of the media hounds that can't even wait to get to their office to read the transcripts.

Also, note that it was the NY Times, and NOT the victim's families that actually went to court to get these transcripts released! Something about that just pisses me off...

The biggest reason I didn't post anything yesterday was that there just wasn't that much to say. We've got all kinds of technical and human drama playing out here, but nothing that anyone but those it affects would be interested in hearing about it, believe me. My 'net connection in my apartment still isn't working, and the support number we have to call has been out of service for days now. For added complication, OUR support people (the ones responsible for taking care of us over here) have been out of country for the past few days too... so...

So, that's what's happening here... I'm amassing some decent pics, but until I have time at home (and the connection) to organize it, I'm not going to upload them. I should have a decent enough collection by this weekend to justify either going to a 'net cafe or going to someone else's apartment to upload...

Also, I changed the 'blog's timestamp to reflect my local time, not yours. If I get REALLY ambitious I'll add a function that will show my time and your local time (since there are people in several different time zones reading this...). That may or may not be interesting to you...

That's all for now, take care of yourselves and each other!

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

... just killing time ...

yeah... I was a little bored.


Tuesday, August 26, 2003

... another day in Paradise?

Nothing really exciting to report, so I thought I'd try to give you a better idea about the situation here:

Right now I'm living in a great apartment about 30 minutes from where we're stationed. My teammates are living in another complex about 15-20 minutes further out, so we're trying to coordinate a 3 bedroom in my building, just for simplicity. We only have one vehicle between the three of us, so the logistics takes a bit of creativity. We're trying to procure another vehicle, but for now, we're just making due. The building they're in is a lot nicer, with amenities like a pool on the 12th floor (which never gets used), and a pool table in the lobby. My building also has a pool, on the ground floor, and the apartments are MUCH bigger... so we're going to have to make some decisions... (I know I know.. rough life, huh?) Actually, all the amenities are a somewhat moot point, since we really don't have much time to use them. Things are only slightly more hectic now than they usually would be, but time will tell.

I'm working 12 hour shifts, but that's also a bit of a moot point, since we're all on 24 hour call. Being the computer/network nerd, I'm (theoretically) more in demand than the other two, but that hasn't been the case yet. I was a bit relieved when the Exchange (mail) server went down this morning, so I could actually prove my usefulness.

For those of you that don't know about Kuwait, I'll paint you a bit of a picture (as I understand it). Apparently, just for being a natural-born Kuwaiti citizen, you are "provided" for... in other words, you don't really have to work. You are paid for being a native of Kuwait. There are, literally, twice as many non-natives here as there are natives, and their sole purpose here is for service and commerce. Stores, restaurants, hair/beauty salons, etc... ALL of these are owned and operated by non-natives. Egyptians, Filipino, Asian, etc... Most nationalities have some kind of stake in the actual businesses in Kuwait. It makes for an interesting culture.

I went to get a haircut the other day, for the bargain price of 5 KD (Kuwaiti Dinars), a little more than $15 USD. This isn't much more than what it costs in the states (at some places...), but the service is incredible. THe place we went to was owned by an Egyptian, and the haircut was the least of the process. I don't have much hair, so that was the easy part, of course. But I also was served a Turkish tea, a GREAT beard trim, lathered and straight-razor shave (yes, not even in country 72 hours and I already had a foreigner with a sharp object to my throat), neck/head "manipulated" (popped, chiro (Cairo?) style), back rubbed, some kind of pink goo smeared on my face (like a chemical face peel), and had my hair washed. Try getting all THAT for $15

Another impression of Kuwait I just HAVE to give you is the traffic. Oh... my... GOD! Remember what I said about traffic in New Jersey? Did I actually say it was the worst I had ever seen? Not even in the running anymore. The drivers in Kuwait are just ... terrible. There's no word in the English language that could possibly relate to you how incredibly bad the drivers are around here. But I'll bet there's a word or six about bad drivers in Arabic. I'm not exaggerating here, and as proof, I plan on taking pictures on the car wrecks between work and home. No less than 10 cars are smashed on the side of the road, and they sit there for weeks, apparently...

Well, that's all I've got for now, hopefully our 'net connection in the room will be up and running tonight, and I can start uploading some pictures. I bought all the power converters and transformers I need, and hooked my PC up to the TV. Everything is working great (after a 45 minute chkdsk scan on the system...).

More later!

Monday, August 25, 2003

Hello from Kuwait... emphasis on the wait...

Seems like doing everything around here requires a "wait", so this place is definitely appropriately named... I guess Kuhotterthanhell was too hard to fit on the tourism brochures...

I went to the airport last night, got bounced around from different offices, people, and finally found my footlocker. Everything seems to be working, but I haven't picked up a transformer yet so I haven't been able to power up the computer. I'll check it out tonight, and keep my fingers crossed. There wasn't any real apparent damage to the case, so I think everything should be ok... =)

I also found a lot of the soldiers here are computer gamers, and it seems they even have LAN parties when they can. Picture a bunch of guys (and girls, I guess), sitting around in a bunk or tent, with network cables running everywhere, plugged into laptops, and playing... umm.. I don't know what. One of the guys even said they played Battlefield 1942, but I just can't imagine what kind of laptop they would need to do that. I'll jump into their next one and find out...

That's all I've got for now. Our 'net was down in the apartment again last night, so I didn't get a chance to get back online. I've got to call tech support... I hate doing that. =)

Love to all!

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Still working on it!

ok... we're having 'net problems at our place, so I couldn't post last night. And I didn't get a chance to go pick up the cell phone yet. All things that are in the works!

One bit of good news is that the airline is claiming my bag will be in tonight at midnight. This falls into the "believe it when I see it" category, of course, but I'll let you know how that one turns out too!

I'll HOPEFULLY be able to post later tonight!

Saturday, August 23, 2003

... so ends another day...

Well, I'm ending another day, and still no phone. Just didn't have the time to get to set it up. There are so many things happening at once, I feel like I'm starting WAY behind the curve... but I'll catch up.

Another bit of good news was (supposedly) my missing footlocker will be here tomorrow. That's a bit of a relief, but I'm not going to believe it until I actually have it in my hands.

I've added a link underneath the "location" on the left, and it will answer your questions about "is it really 120degrees there?" ... that isn't just something they put in the tourism brochure, it really is friggin' hot here.

I'll post more tonight (hopefully) before I fall asleep.

Also, FYI, we are GMT +2 here, which is MST +9, CST +8

I haven't changed the time that the 'blog thinks I'm posting yet...

Friday, August 22, 2003

... power outage...

... and it's NOT Ohio's fault... this time. =)

I charged my laptop today, but apparently not enough, because I have less that 5% battery charge. Everyone has already left for the night, and I have no cell phone to call from right now... so... no phone calls tonight. I'm going to pick up a phone tomorrow, and I'll call then.

I've got a ton to post, but not enough juice in this thing to do it! I'll catch up tomorrow night, when I actually have POWER and PHONE to do it with!!!

Thanks for everyone's messages! I'll post my typical smart-ass responses later! LOVE TO ALL!

(PS to Shelley! I'll call you if I can, but I can't promise. If I can't call, know that I'm thinking about you! :^* 143)

ummm... it's hot here.


Got here late last night, and of course, the one thing that got lost was the most expensive thing... my computer. We're trying to track it down now...

I'll post some more later tonight, and call some people. Got a lot to do the first couple of days. Thanks for all the messages! Love to all...

PS, I'm living on a beach again... I'll send pics!

Thursday, August 21, 2003

This is better...

I just hadn't walked far enough! I found a "Network Cafe", and now I'm sitting with MY laptop, using their wireless access (had to pay for it, of course, but it beats paying .30 euros/min.. and no, I have no idea how much that is in $). I just got 20 euros from an ATM, and I'll check the statement to see the conversion later. I'm sure I could find it online, but right now, I just don't care.

Well now that I have access on my own system, I can paste what I had typed earlier and saved on here:

The flight from Newark to Amsterdam was totally uneventful. If you’ve never taken an international flight, I can tell you it’s a bit different from domestic. Our plane was a 767, and it sat 7 people wide; 2 on each side, 3 in middle. The most noticeable difference was everyone has an LCD monitor in front of them, and can cycle through different TV shows (Friends, CSI, Frasier, etc…) and a couple of recent run movies. Every seat has an attached remote control for controlling the channel, as well as the overhead light. You geek/gamers out there will be jazzed to know this remote did triple time: remote control, satellite phone, and game controller . There were 10 cheezy games available to play, and phone calls were a bargain rate of $2.99 setup and $6/minute! Since the flight left at 10pm, and I had been up since 6am, I didn’t really fiddle around with much of anything, because I was just too wiped. One of the cool things about this flight was the constant display on the main cabin monitor, which showed a graphic representation of our current position, as well as altitude, speed, and various time information (time at origin, time at destination, estimated time of arrival, etc.)

Right now, I’m sitting at the gate for my next flight, which is still only a short 4.5 hours away. I’m sure I’ll eventually get up and wander around, but right now, I’m just content to stretch out and relax. My next flight is about 7 hours, and I’ll be getting there around 11pm local time (3pm MST … I think).

we now return you to the present time ... or something like it.

I just realized something depressing. I paid for my meal with my 20 euros, and got all kinds of money back (that I don't have a clue about... I can assume the waitress knows.. or knows that __I__ don't know... hehe)

Anyway, that made me realize that I'm going to have to figure out currency conversions for my expense report. If I tell them they owe me 200euros, it will take them 6 months to figure it out (including time spent punishing me for requesting payment in foreign currency...)

ok, so that's all I've got for now. I'm going to go find a nice comfy chair to sit in, and finish downloading my email before this battery dies. I don't have an AC adapter here, so it's just going to have to wait until I get around to finding one.

BTW, for those of you I already told, the backpack is AWESOME. It's been a big help, and beats lugging around multiple carry-ons.

Talk to you soon!

Damn ... err ... Amsterdam, that is...

I'm typing this from a terminal in the Amsterdam airport, on the funkiest little keyboard... so I'm not going to say much here. Just thanks for everyone's thoughts, prayers, wishes, etc. I'll post more when I actually have REAL access...

Love to all!!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

I'm leaving ... ON a jet plane...

... but I know when I'll be back again... or thereabouts...

I'm leaving tonight at 10pm. I haven't even bothered to listen to the Audblog above, because I know it probably sounds stupid and rambling... hehe

I'm going to be online off and on all day today, I've got a few last-minute things to get done, but I should be able to get everything all set.

...more later

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Monday, August 18, 2003

Technology fails ... anybody surprised?

Actually, it wasn't the technology that was at fault, it was more user error. I left an Audblog last night when I was driving to Ft. Monmouth, but instead of pressing # to save my recording, I just hung up... so about 2.5 minutes of me babbling was lost into the void... probably just as well.

So the gist of my rambling was that I had arrived in NJ (approximately 12 hours after I had begun the journey), and was currently making my way down the Garden State Parkway (a misnomer if ever I heard one: Garden and Parkway to me suggests flowers and serenity... neither of which are accurate here...) to my quarters on base. By the time I got settled into my room, it was about 0130. Another hour or so to wind down and finally fall asleep, to get up four hours later.

... so now I'm writing this on Tuesday, because what I was writing on Monday got lost when our network crapped out while I was publishing. Unfortunately, I just don't have the time right now to re-do everything I had put here. Since this is the SECOND time I have lost the record of that event, I'll take that as a sign and just forget about it...

Today I'm going to be in NYC all day trying to get my visa for travel. I think it's going to be an adventure, which I will try to relay later tonight.

Have a great day!

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Sunday comics addition...

Here's something your Sunday paper should have included:

I sometimes do the same thing to offset a lousy day, don't you?

I'll do an audioblog when I get into NJ, give you the story of why I'm
leaving TX a day later than I thought I was, and two days later than I was supposed to...

... end of this part of my adventure ...

As you can see, it's very late (or early, depending on your perception) here, and I'm finally all done packing. My flight leaves Texas around high noon (sounds like a great title for a movie, doesn't it?) I know I said I was leaving here Saturday, but there was some confusion, and I just opted for another night here... Long story, and I just don't have the energy for it right now... maybe tomorrow... maybe even an Audblog...

Anyway, I got some great pictures, made some friends, learned some useful things, and all in all, will be glad to see TX getting smaller outside the window of the plane...

Thanks for all your comments, made me feel like someone was actually paying attention! I'll be in NJ for the next few days, then flying overseas. I'm not even going to bother saying where, because it's liable to change before I get in the air. I wouldn't even be surprised if it changed when I got there... I'll be rolling off the plane in some dusty airport.... some non-descript guy walks up and says, "Mr. Grattan? Plans have changed, we're going to be leaving for _____________ in the next hour or so... hope you don't mind..." blah blah blah

yeah, I'm tired, so... good night!

Thursday, August 14, 2003


...still no 'net access in my hotel room. I'm SOOOOOOOOOOOOO glad I moved. :P

I'm exhausted. Been a long day, and I have to be up at some uncivilized hour tomorrow, just because the legal assholes (pardon the language) couldn't be bothered to take 30 minutes out of their day to talk to us. I hope they have to get up at 4am like we do... assholes (did I already call them that?)

Ok, good night!

Where are all my comments people???

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

... one MORE thing...

I just couldn't resist:

VERY appropriate... FUNNY!

Mimail Worm

Mimail Worm

I've been meaning to post a warning about this, and when I just checked my email and found 10 of these messages in there, I figured I'd better do it now before I forget. This has been a rather nasty email worm that's been going around for a few weeks, and if I'm getting it, it probably means some of you are sending it to me (not intentionally, of course) Follow the above link for some good information on this thing.

Good rule of thumb: If you get an attachment, and you're NOT 100% sure what it is, DELETE IT. Even if you know the sender. They can always re-send it if it's a valid attachment.

Day 3: Gas Masks (and other assorted fun)

Well, not much to report here. Today was the first day that we actually did something resembling preparing for deployment! The past couple days have been more focused on positively identifying our remains, then actually teaching us stuff that will prevent them for actually HAVING to do so... (apologies for the morbidity of that statement, but it's accurate). Mostly we've been talking to doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, etc; all who have to sign-off on our "readiness" for deployment. It's a rough system, but I can see where most of it is necessary. It's not a very EFFICIENT system, but from what I'm learning of the military, "efficiency" is not their goal.

So now I know how to assemble and service a standard military issue gas mask, a skill I'm hoping I will never have to use, of course. Tomorrow we're promised "Death by PowerPoint", which is basically an endless barrage of PowerPoint slides and other various presentations. Our platoon Sgt hinted that there are various bethods for getting out of it, and I'll probably use one of those loopholes. I'll just grab the PowerPoint file, and all the handouts, and speed-read. Finish their 6 hour presentation in about 20 mins. =)

For added excitement, I got word that I'm being considered for shuffling again. Meaning, they are re-considering where to put me for maximum effect (damage). I've decided that I'm not going to tell anyone where I'm going anymore. Whenever anyone asks, I'm just going to say "over there". It's about as accurate as I can be at this point.

The only DEFINITE travel plans I have at this point are leaving for NJ on Saturday. I have a few things I need to accomplish there, but they're going to depend on where I'm going.

I switched hotels today, to one that has 'net access in the rooms. When I got settled, turns out it's not working. I'm sitting in the exec lounge right now, and I unplugged the connection to their public machine. (of course I asked first... sorta...)

Ok, that's all I've got right now. Shelley got the new bedroom set today, and she sounded very happy. It is, I believe, the first ACTUAL new furniture purchase we've made, because we've always lucked into great used furniture. That and the fact that we got a new bed too, she's very happy and comfortable, and that's MY goal, of course!

I'm going to have some time in the next couple of days to get some pictures. Ft. Bliss is HUGE (something like 1.1 million acres), and has a lot of interesting things stationed here. Not to mention the fact that White Sands is attached to it, so I hope to make the drive and get some pictures of that!

Hugs and kisses to everyone! (well, those of you that want them... some of you that visit here I have no plans or desire to ever hug and kiss you... it would just be too weird... you know who you are! :P )

Monday, August 11, 2003

Don't Mess with Texas...

Well, here I am, in Texas. Not much to report since it's been a veritable whirlwhind of activity since I've hit the ground. After landing around 4:30pm last night, I spent about 5 hours on base just doing in-processing. Then I went to the hotel, ordered pizza, and fell fast asleep. Since I had to get up at 4am, I didn't have much time for anything else! I realized yet another reason why I didn't join the military. These people want to get up and do stuff about the time I'm ready to go to bed!

Today was spent standing in a lot of lines, getting a LOT of shots (Anthrax, Smallpox, Hepatitis, Typhoid, just to mention a few...), and answering a lot of questions.

Now I'm sitting at Kinko's (paying .20/minute to type this, and check my email), going to go find something for dinner. I'll post something a little more interesting tomorrow.

Love to all!

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Shelley's Retribution...

Shelley found it necessary to make a South Park version of me... actually, I felt it necessary to EDIT the one she made of me... because mine wasn't as mean as hers was originally! (told you she's not as nice as you all think she is...)

Friday, August 08, 2003

Well, it's official...

...there's actual proof of a baby now. I guess there's no denying it. We were hoping to be able to record the heartbeat to post here, but unfortunately, we just couldn't do it... hopefully this:

will be enough to tide everyone over in the meantime...

Note the resemblance?

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Did you know ...?

... that Shelley used to go to school in South Park? Here's an old picture I found of her with her classmates:

hehe... damn that's funny!

Find the South Park Character Creator and more fun things to do HERE!

How pathetic is THIS? TENNIS - Report: Tennis parent accused of drugging foes

... reading stuff likes this kinda makes you feel a little less bad about the choices you've made in your life, doesn't it?

Well, I'm a little less than halfway thru my vacation, and about halfway thru the "honey-do" list... so I guess I'm doing fine. I can actually walk to the BACK of the garage now... can you believe that? Just in time to fill it up with MORE stuff, to make room for the tadpole... Roberta and Joe have GENEROUSLY given us their baby stuff from Sierra (I'll link a picture to his cute little girl if I can get one from Roberta (hint, hint)).

Been getting a bit of news from the work front, and have decided that I'm going to stop telling people where I'm going, until I actually GET there. The only thing for SURE at this point is that I'm going to "pre-deployment" training in Ft. Bliss (El Paso, TX) on 10 August. Beyond that, I've heard Afghanistan, Kuwait, and even my original project are all "heating up"... As I said.. I'll just let you know when I get there!

Shelley is doing good, healthy and everything. We're going to try and talk the doctor into moving up her next appt so I can be here for it, and MAYBE hear the tadpole's heartbeat. If I'm a REAL geek, I might even be able to manage to give you a recording of it... hmmm Audblog would come in VERY handy there, wouldn't it??

OK, that's all I've got for now. I've been playing Puzzle Pirates more than is healthy, but that's not unusual for me. Also, for you gamers out there, I've got a couple of REALLY good tips. First, GO CHECK OUT the videos of Half-Life 2!!! This game is going to be unbelievable!!! If you're a FilePlanet subscriber (and on broadband), get them from there. The biggest one is 600M (!), but it's SOOOOOO worth it...

Also, for you 80's children, Tron 2.0 is going to be out in September, and the new demo is out. It's MUCH better than the first one, and has a few single player levels as well. FilePlanet is a good place to get that one too.

That's all for now, hope you're all healthy and all. Drop me a line or comment, or use the tag-board, let me know you were here!

Friday, August 01, 2003

I'm home... finally!

After an adventurous day, I made it home last night about 8pm. I'll tell you the full story some other time, but suffice it to say I had to drive the last 280 miles.

I'll blog something later this weekend, just wanted to update everyone.

Talk to you soon!