Friday, August 27, 2004

Sitting in Denver...

I'm in the terminal in Denver, and since I had to re-check my baggage going through customs, I snagged a pair of shorts and have managed to cover myself up. Crisis averted. I guess I should clarify that even though JJ showed nipple, at no time was I in any danger of "outshining" her... I was just showing more leg than usual... my entire inner thigh to be exact. It was very sexy. Sorry, no pictures.

My next rant is just one that cannot wait. I was standing in the line for Immigration and was talking to a guy that had just returned from Kuwait also. He's ex-military and was contracting with a security outfit. He had spent two months in and out of Kuwait and Iraq, and said he was just fed up. I get the impression that the money was good, but not good enough to warrant more time there.

But here's the kicker. After we cleared Immigration I was in the Customs area gathering my bags. I had checked one large bag and my footlocker with my computer, and had 3 carry-ons. There was a porter there who offered his services, and I said, "Sure! I've been carrying this crap for 7000 miles... you can carry it for a while!". As I was putting my bags on his luggage carrier, an elderly woman noticed one of my bags had a "Kuwait Airport Security" tag on it, printed in English and Arabic. She looked at it for several seconds, then looked at me, and then the porter. I remembered seeing her in line in Immigration listening to the conversation I was having with the security contractor. She looked back at me and said, "Aren't you ashamed of yourself for making all that money?". It got really quiet around us (about 15-20 people in a criss-crossing line... very audible). I said, "Excuse me?". She said, "Aren't you ashamed that you've made all that money while soldiers are getting killed over there?". I waited a beat to make sure EVERYONE could hear me, then I slowly and loudly said, "No, not really, but I am ashamed of you for asking such an ignorant question." She turned away and started mumbling something and I heard 2 or 3 people say "well said" and "amen". I looked around and saw many people nodding their heads and in obvious agreement with me. A couple were giving me dirty looks, but I just looked at them, hoping they would have something to add. I had just spent 11 hours on a flight with my shorts ripped open, waiting in lines, and basically miserable. That this woman had the audacity to look down at me without knowing all the facts... without knowing ANY facts was just amazing to me.

Ok... enough about that. I'll be home in about two hours, and this will all be behind me. I doubt I'll have time to post anything for the next couple of days, so don't worry that my plane crashed in the last 250 miles. If I even THINK the plane is going down I'm storming the cockpit and taking over. I'm sure all the hours I've logged in Microsoft Flight Simulator will be a big help to them.

... and yes mother, I will call you when I'm home. :P sheesh

Me and Janet Jackson...

Shortly after I posted last, as I was heading for the departure gate for Denver, I joined the elite club formed by Janet Jackson... a club where membership requires a "Wardrobe Malfunction" in public. I've checked the membership rules, and it appears that being on stage with Justin Timberlake is NOT a requirement... thankfully.

As I was making my way to the 4th Boarding Pass checkpoint (having succesfully negotiated the 3rd one, which required a guy rubbing my entire body with a plastic wand and his hands grabbing everything that made a beep and demanding that I show it to him... I won't go into much detail than that; just suffice it to say that I got the impression that he and I now share a bond that will stand the test of time... a male bonding experience that few share... ) ...

... where was I? Oh yeah... approaching the 4th checkpoint when I dropped my ticket. Not unusual, I drop stuff all the time! So I non-chalantly squat down to retrieve it, and my shorts split on the inseam from the bottom of the cuff to the crotch. Because of my unique position during this manuever, I was treated to an amazing explosion of denim... truly a sight to see. So recovering my ticket, and the remains of my dignity, I handed my ticket to the lady (of COURSE it's a woman... my luck will not allow it to be guy... unless he happened to be homosexual... oh wait, that might have been the 3rd checkpoint, what the HELL did that wand thing do to my pants???) Sorry, it's a bit difficult to stay focused...

I hand my ticket to the woman, who is managing to keep a straight face about as well as I am, and she suggests that I ask the gate counter if they could possibly bring me my luggage so I can retrieve a replacement covering. I spent 0.45 seconds considering that option, in which I pictured me standing on the tarmac with wind blowing ... well ... everywhere, while I dig out a pair of shorts, and then having to change right there... no thanks.

Fortunately (?), the split is on the inside, and is not BLATANTLY visible unless I'm sitting with my legs wide open... then it's way more of a show than I usually give on the weekdays, in a foreign country anyway. So I tell her that it's ok, I look "european" now... and at least I'm wearing underwear. We both turn a bit more redder in the face, and she says "ok then, good luck!" ...

Off I go, and have spent the last hour and a half trying to conceal my crotch as much as possible. The laptop is doing a great job right now, which was my primary motivation for typing this up now, while I still had a sense of humor about the whole thing. I have about 10 more hours to Denver, where I'm hoping I'll be able to buy a pair of shorts that aren't Blue and Orange. i'm sure my good humor will have dried up by then, and I'll be ready to smack the next person that I catch doing a double-take on my crotch.

Oh yeah... it's a good thing I'm going home. :)

... halfway home ... well, almost.

I'm in Frankfurt, and I'm not COMPLETELY screwed, just mostly. As you may (or may not) remember, I had an issue with my debit cards yesterday. Seems they both chose this as an opportune time to just pass away. Die. Kaput. Shuffle of their mortal ... err ... ok, never mind that.

So I had this laughable notion that maybe one of them will work here in Germany. I mean, the Germans are known for their precision engineering, right? Well, it seems the ATM can read both cards, but both of them are being rejected now. The funny thing is, both those accounts have signficantly more money in them than they did, say, a year ago. Hell, 3 MONTHS ago... I'm not bragging, I'm just trying to express to you my pain. I am well acquainted with rejection for inadequacy... monetarily of course. But now that I HAVE the money in the there, I'm being rejected for some other reason I can't fathom...

As a result, I'm sitting here at some over-priced bar in the middle of the airport (Goethe-Bar), with like 18KD (about $62) and $30US or so... Fortunately, despite opinions to the contrary, cash is NOT king world-wide; Mastercard and Visa are pretty much universal.

WOO HOO! I just slapped in my wireless card and found that T-Mobile is active. 18 euros later and I'm online for three hours!!! That should help pass the time a bit. I'll probably burn through at least one battery while I'm here.. but since I seem to have forgotten to pack my DVD case, it's a moot point.

Speaking of things that I'm missing... here's a partial list at this point:

The aforementioned DVD case... I think I left it on my bed...

A 512Mb Titanium memory stick (brand new)

All my bathroom items... presumably still in the bathroom (where else?)

Sidenote: why does everyone keep trying to speak German to me? I never had people assume I could speak Arabic ... think it has something to do with the fact that I look a helluva lot more German than Middle Eastern? Nah...

Well, that's all from now. I have a 3 hour layover in Denver, so I might try to get online there. No promises though!

Thursday, August 26, 2004

... and 9 hours later, 5 hours to go...

and about 2.5 hours before I leave for the airport. I've got everything but the computers packed, and those won't take long. It took me most of the day to get everything shipped and packed and stored... and it looks like I'm leaving just in time. My ATM cards have both decided to die at the same time. I'm not sure if that's an indication of the harsh environment or overuse... Could be the combination of the two factors, ya know!?

After a year and a week in Kuwait, I'm going home. I actually left CO to work in NJ way back in March of 2003, and haven't really had time at home except for the 10 days I spent before coming here, and then the month I was home when Ryan was born... so needless to say there was way too much going on to really get a chance to wind-down then (not that I minded that!).

I've mostly been useless to this project for the past couple of weeks ... I had "short-timer syndrome", and it just got steadily worse. It's really hard for people to rally around the apathetic battle cry, "I don't care" ... Thankfully I work with a great bunch of guys, and they picked up all the balls I dropped. In the past I've left for my other project in Turkey and Romania, and I distinctly remember having a feeling of dreading what would happen here... with this crew, I have every confidence.

Ok, time to shut this computer down, and pack it into it's styrofoam-lined box to travel the 7500 miles home. It's way overdue for a wipe (clean install of the operating system), as are all the computers that I own. However, I just don't see me taking the time to do anything with them in the immediate future... I've got much better plans on how to spend my time:

I just REALLY hope they don't make me wear a goofy hat before they'll let me play...

Love to all! See you SOON!

14 hours to go...

... and it's not looking good. I'm still packing! Some of you may be thinking that I put it off until the last minute... well, that's only partially correct. I've had a lot of last-minute things to do, and it's really played havoc with my plans. Of course, if I had been packing all along this wouldn't be an issue.. but ... oh well. It will all work out.

I was awake to see the sunrise this morning:

And saw a dhow on the water (Kuwaiti fishing boat)

That's all for now... I have to get back to packing!!!

Sunday, August 22, 2004

More interesting visuals...

I saw this picture at MSNBC, and two things about it interested me. First, I used to live on Captiva Island, just north of Sanibel. Second, this is a major website publication, and yet the obvious misspellings are glaringly apparent...

More later!

Saturday, August 21, 2004

... to be more precise...

... that's local time, btw. Your results may vary.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Less than a week to go...

... and time has slowed down considerably ... as predicted.

I'm spending my last few days here packing and getting cheesy gifts for people. And taking all the pictures I've been meaning to take for the past couple of months. Here's a few more that belong in the category of "Things I saw today ..."

This is the "Theatre Support Vehicle". The 1X means first experimental, and it's been docked at KNB for a long time now. You can find some really good info at this website.

There's a few more of the TSV-1X in the Latest Photos album, as well as the full-size versions of these great pictures of Kuwait during an afternoon sandstorm:

These were taken about 4pm the other day. The nice thing is that it cooled things off a bit.

And this one struck me as interesting as well:

Well, sorry for the lack of verbosity. If you're really looking for inspiration, check this out. I've just got way too many things going on right now, and all I can really focus on is getting through the day
... because then I'll be one day closer to being home to these two:

Love to all!

Friday, August 13, 2004

Guess what?

Guess who is 6 months old today?

Happy Birthday Ryan!!!

... see you in a couple weeks!

Monday, August 09, 2004

Grattan 'blog updated

Shelley posted to the family 'blog, so if you haven't been there lately, check it out. She's updating it every couple of weeks, and even I read things there that I didn't know about!

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Scotti's Guide to Surviving the HEAT ... and MORE things I saw today that you probably didn't...

As you may (or may not) know, I used to live in Florida ... and Florida gets warm. I used to think that it was hot and miserable there, but that was before I spent time in Kuwait. Now I have a completely different frame of reference...

So I thought you might enjoy some of the ways we deal with the ridiculous temperatures we experience here.

1. Keep M&M's and Kit Kats in the freezer.

2. Wear loose fitting clothing, with BIG pockets (cargo pants/shorts work GREAT)

3. Have a seperate small fridge for soda, water, and juice.
      You want to play with the settings on this, and get it set JUST cold enough so that the soda doesn't freeze. Ours was actually set perfect until someone screwed around with it ... When you opened a Sprite you could actually watch the liquid turn to slush from the top to the bottom. I haven't been able to get it back to there since then...

4. When you leave the apartment, grab a cold drink and put it in one of the big cargo pockets in your pants or shorts. Grab a Kit Kat or M&Ms bag (buy the individual bags.. trust me you don't want to eat a 1lb bag of M&M's at once) and put it in the other pocket.

5. NEVER EVER forget your sunglasses. The wind and sun are constant factors... Also, your sunglasses have the added benefit of (see 6)

6: Get the Croakies that have the wide band in the back. Soak this in cold water occasionally. You'd be amazed how great this feels on the back of your neck...

7. Gas is cheaper than water here.. by about 4:1. Gas is about $0.65/gallon. Water is worth every fil.
      (Even better if you're on a military base ... water can be found in coolers on ice most anywhere. Most places even stock Gatorade)

8. If you're fortunate to have a coffee or ice cream shop (JJ Bean, Baskin Robbins, etc) at your location, treat yourself to a large vanilla shake every once in a while. It will probably cost about $6, and is worth every penny.
      Chocolate is just not as refreshing (to me anyway) in this environment, and it usually tastes gritty. I have enough grit in my mouth from blowing sand, I don't want to taste it in my drink too.

9. NEVER EVER forget about that Kit Kat or bag of M&M's you put in your pocket. It feels nice and cool on your legs as your going outside. It will warm up quick... you will forget about it shortly after it reaches the same temperature as your body. You will remember it shortly after you feel something squishy in your pocket.

10. Buy a fan for your bedroom. I don't care if you've got an AC that can freeze raw meat, it will reach a point in the late afternoon when it just can't cool your apartment/tent, especially if you're trying to sleep during the day.
      - unless of course you actually are staying in a hotel or local house that was built with some kind of forethought. Marble works the best... the cheap cinder block buildings only retain HEAT well, they don't shed it at all. You can touch our building at 4am and you can still feel the heat from the previous day. I only wish I were kidding about this.

I think the other way I deal with the heat is by just not acknowledging it. I have to resist the urge to beat someone senseless when they constantly point out "gosh it's hot here", as if none of us were keen enough to notice.

Moving on to those things I saw today, and you (probably) didn't.

The USS Wasp is in port, and I'm supposed to be getting a chance to walk on it in the next couple of days before it ships out. This thing is amazing! You can get all the details about this ship HERE, and see all the pictures I've taken so far in the Latest Photos album.

Also, Col Hagan is leaving soon, so we went shopping downtown,
and had dinner at TGI Fridays.

... and as we were leaving... this passed us:

My mom can tell you how many Lamborghini posters I had in my bedroom when I was growing up. This is the new Lamborghini Murciélago and it was ironic to see it, considering I had just downloaded a few pictures to use as a background.

That's all I've got for now. I'll leave you with something I found the other day, and laughed out loud. Be forewarned, it's uses the "F" word... as you can tell from the title:

The Top Ten Times in History When Using the "F" Word was Appropriate

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Iraqi raid rescues four hostages

ARMED Iraqis freed four Jordanian hostages in a raid on their captors’ hideout, one of the released captives said yesterday, while a video from kidnappers said two Turkish hostages had also been released.

The news provided a moment of respite in the hostage crisis confronting Iraq’s interim government, but fighting between police and insurgents in Mosul that killed at least 20 people underscored the scale of the security challenge it faces.

One of the Jordanian hostages said he had been released with three other Jordanian lorry drivers after a group of Iraqis stormed a house in Fallujah late on Tuesday and freed them without firing a shot.

"When the brave people of Fallujah knew that we were held hostage they raided the house and rescued us last night. We are all safe," one of the hostages, Ahmad Hassan Abu Jafaar, said.

The Iraqi rescuers were sent by a council of local elders formed last month to battle crime and kidnapping in Fallujah, where the interim government of the prime minister, Iyad Allawi, in Baghdad exercises only minimal authority.

A group calling itself the Death Squad of Iraqi Resistance said last Thursday it was holding the Jordanians to put pressure on their transport company to stop co-operation with United States forces.

Mr Jafaar said the kidnappers had wanted money. A man wearing a black face mask told reporters in Fallujah that the kidnappers had decided to release the four men because they were supplying traders in Baghdad and they had no proof they were dealing with the US.

The drivers had been carrying shoes and knitting machines imported by an Iraqi firm from the United Arab Emirates.

Insurgents aiming to disrupt supplies to US forces from neighbouring countries have seized dozens of foreign drivers in the past few months, threatening to kill them unless their employers stop operating in Iraq or pay ransoms.

The Jordanians, seized nine days ago, were transferred to a hospital outside Fallujah, where they were waiting to be moved to the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, al-Jazeera television reported that a group linked to the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whom Washington accuses of being an al-Qaeda ally, had released two Turkish drivers because their firm agreed to stop working in Iraq.

"Due to the Turkish firm’s decision to stop sending supplies to US forces in Iraq, the Tawhid and Jihad Group has decided to free the two Turkish hostages," said a videotaped statement from the group, broadcast on the Arabic satellite channel.

I heard this on the news today, and it seems to me that the media is just not making as big of a deal out of this as they should be. These were CIVILIANS that took up arms and freed the hostages. The local population organized a group of CIVILIANS, and went up against armed "insurgents". Can anyone explain to me why the media would play down this action? To me it's the first REAL sign of defiance the general population has shown...

Of course, maybe a bunch of locals standing up for themselves without firing a shot isn't as "newsworthy" as 20 people being killed somewhere else...

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

... and my wife thinks I'M addicted...

Web addiction gets conscripts out of army

You've got to read this article... my favorite part is the quote: "There are no official figures for the Internet addict dropout rate".

And on a totally different topic, I officially have a reason to never listen to the radio, EVER again:

Milkshake by Kelis

My Milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
And their like "It's better than yours"
Damn right, It's better than yours,
I can teach you, but I have to charge

(repeat ad nauseum)

If you've never heard this song, consider yourself lucky.

3.24 weeks
22.67 days
544.18 hours
32,650.55 minutes
1,959,033 seconds

... and counting!

Monday, August 02, 2004

File this under SAD and PATHETIC...

... however, I DO know a few people that will be sad to hear:

Your local taco bell most likely does not carry the Chili Cheese Burrito.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled insanity ...

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Kuwait Bans Fahrenheit 9/11 News - Latest News - Kuwait Bans Fahrenheit 9/11

Of course, you can get a pirated version at any store in Kuwait. I've had it for weeks now.

In other interesting Kuwait news, supposedly we've been told "not to go downtown between August 2nd and August 10th". I haven't confirmed this yet, but it just strikes me as incredibly asinine, especially considering this was handed down to us on August 1st. Immediately a few contractors went downtown to hit the ATM, since they wouldn't be "allowed" to go for the next week or so... as if TOMORROW we'll be in MORTAL DANGER... but today's ok. (Apparently the terrorists are busy on the 1st, then have something else planned on the 11th, but this week works for them...)

Let me stress the fact that there has REALLY been nothing other than "chatter" to make anyone believe the threat has increased here, and in my estimation (which is admittedly limited in this case), the threat is no greater today than it was 6 months ago. If you read our "threat assesment briefings" we get down here, you would think we're dodging mortar rounds all the way back to our apartment. The truth is we regularly stop in this "warzone" to shop, eat, and take in the local culture. It's no more dangerous than, say, East St. Louis ... Actually, that's probably more dangerous (anyone out there remember the bachelor party?).

... here's an old joke, with updated characters:

An airplane was about to crash; there were 5 passengers on board, but only 4 parachutes.

The first passenger said, "I am Kobe Bryant, the best NBA basketball player. The Lakers need me, I can't afford
to die." So he took the first pack and left the plane.

The second passenger, Hillary Clinton said, "I am the wife of the former US President, a Senator from New York and a
potential future president And I am the smartest woman in American history, so America's people don't want
me to die." She took the second pack and jumped out of the plane.

The third passenger, John Kerry, said, "I'm a Senator, and a decorated war hero from the Army of the United States of
America". I am also going to be my party's nominee for President. So he grabbed the pack next to him and jumped.

The fourth passenger, President George W. Bush, said to the fifth passenger, a 10-year-old schoolgirl, "I have lived a
full life, and served my country well I will sacrifice my life and let you have the last parachute."

The girl said, "That's okay. There's a parachute left for you. America's smartest woman took my schoolbag."