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Air Canada again

November 21st, 2012 Comments off

This time it went much more smoothly. That is if you don’t count the chaos at check in. For some reason the system would not let me check in on line. So there I was, insanely early at SFO for the sole purpose of printing off boarding passes. The flight to Toronto was fine and the lovely gate agent found me a bulkhead seat so that my sore knee would not feel worse at the end than the start.

Next stop – Heathrow.

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized Tags:

US reader? Go vote tomorrow

November 5th, 2012 1 comment
The trouble with believing in democracy is that you have to accept that other people have as much right to their opinions as you do. That means that I need to remind the slightly more than half of you who are US citizens/passport holders to go out and vote tomorrow. Even if I don’t agree with how you are going to vote (which also means that you are not likely going to agree with me …….)
But voting is important. Especially if you live on the US West Coast, it is important. Yes, the presidential race might be a foregone conclusion by the time you are off work and can head to the polls. So what! Even more critical for your daily life are those state, regional and local elections which just also happen to be on the ballot the same day. Get prepared – read any amendments ahead of time. I guarantee the wording which will confront you in the polling both only makes sense to the idiot [lawyers] who wrote it.
Military? Vote locally or in your home state, I don’t care. But vote even if it takes bit more effort.
Me? I firmly believe that failure to vote removes your right to complain. Absentee ballots for all household expats went in by mail last month. That gives me griping rights till the next election…..
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baaaaaaccccckkkkkkk

October 16th, 2012 Comments off

in Mexico – Porto Vallerto as a matter of fact.

The Internet on the ship has been down since before Guatemala – apparently the contract service is notoriously bad in this part of the world. The fact that RCI is changing carriers as of 2 Nov doesn’t really help me at all.

Rather than do a tour today I decided just to relax, do email and other wise hang out.

There are two ships in harbor – ours and one of HALs (and probably worth noting that the HAL ship has not had an email problem).

The past two sea days have been lovely: I knit, talked to people, hit the gym and was invited to dinner at the Captain’s Table. Go figure.

Tonight being an “even day” I will be back in the buffet for sushi rather than head to dress up and mini-lobsters. I might just go take a picture of the group, but that would be something completely else.

So – yes, I am alive, not taking much for pictures today and busy downloading files from Audible.

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Vision of the Seas

September 21st, 2012 Comments off

ITINERARY

DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Fri Sep 21 London (Southampton), England 5:30pm
Sat Sep 22 At Sea
Sun Sep 23 Gijon, Spain 7:00am 4:00pm
Mon Sep 24 Vigo, Spain 10:00am 6:00pm
Tue Sep 25 Lisbon, Portugal 9:00am 7:00pm
Wed Sep 26 At Sea
Thu Sep 27 Ponta Delgada, Portugal 10:00am 6:00pm
Fri Sep 28 At Sea
Sat Sep 29 At Sea
Sun Sep 30 At Sea
Mon Oct 1 At Sea
Tue Oct 2 At Sea
Wed Oct 3 At Sea
Thu Oct 4 At Sea
Fri Oct 5 Fort Lauderdale, FL 7:00am
Categories: Travel, Uncategorized Tags:

kid an hour

August 26th, 2012 2 comments

(or two as the case maybe).

As we were sitting there relaxing, looking at computers and other nonsense – George mentioned we should call kids in the states. As it is 1600 here, that might/might not be a good idea.

-6 hrs to Maus

-7 hrs to Soprano

-9 hrs to CollegeGuy

after all, it is the weekend. Not everyone rolls out of bed at the crack of dawn or, let us say, 0800 on a Sunday morning. But I can pick up the phone every hour and talk to a different kid – not so bad in either the short or long term. Of course, after tomorrow I will be in the states and the time zones will be less.

Which reminds me, I am feeling calm and organized for my trip tomorrow, I was packed completely (except for winding some yarn) by 1500. This left plenty of time this afternoon to back up computers, print out the occasional thing, spin a bit and otherwise clean up.

Would have helped if I had remembered my boarding pass before 2100, but that is another story.

Back to a kid an hour. After playing with WhatsApp to txt with all three girls while at dinner, we started calling when we got home. First Maus, since she is on Eastern Time. Next up would be Nina, except she was at the train station meeting a friend. Then comes Noah. Which means, of course that we reached Noah first who is recovering from pneumonia, then the Maus and it looks like I will finally be able to reach Nina.

Now to print a boarding pass and crash. What a concept – bed before midnight!

 

Categories: family, Uncategorized Tags:

Critter

July 7th, 2012 6 comments

Skip the picture if you have a delicate stomach.

Late evening I saw a blur out of the corner of my eye.

Rats, I thought, the flipping Siebenschaelfer have managed to get out of the walls (ceiling, cupboard, whatever) and are now loose in the house. Since we no longer have a dog, we were spared running and chasing accompanied by loud barking.

Notified the animal control officer. Humm, he thought it might be a mouse and went off to find traps. Coming back with two, he set them up near the closet.

Peanutbutter?

No, we are out.

Cheese?

Don’t ask.

Ok.

All is quiet. Suddenly I hear a crash and a scrabble. Getting up I go look but don’t see anything. Might be because it is the middle of the night and I have no clue as to where I left my glasses this time.

The other half of the team says – see the tail? Leave it and I will take care of it in the morning.

Ok, I can get on board with this suggestion.

(note, next morning Ms Maus mentions having seen one of the four footed kind downstairs in the last week. Oh thrill. I hope we are done.

humane refers to people, not mice

Categories: home, Uncategorized Tags:

but warmer in Phoenix

June 3rd, 2012 7 comments

For those of you who think in Fahrenheit, it was in the low 50s in both Idaho and Montana. When my sister mentioned that it had reached 112 in Phoenix my mind started flashbacks to Kuwait. Heavy duty sunshine, warmth and dryness.

Well guess what? It was only in double digits when we landed. Of course, that did not eliminated the discussion about 39 degrees vs 100 degrees. Since my young man has never lived anywhere with that kind of temperatures it is going to be interesting. I don’t think he quite gets the idea about mad dogs and English men out under the noon day sun. He is going to have to get in the habit of walking early in the morning or in the evening. Middle of the day is not a good idea, at least not till he gets used to it. Evening walks with the dog make a whole lot more sense. (Dog you ask? My sister has a black lab with boundless energy and a great sense of humor).

Nice mother that I am, he has the evening off before starting on the job hunt!

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If I could buy at ticket

June 1st, 2012 4 comments

The following was much more amusing after the fact than during:

Amtrak would not let me buy tickets on line because it was too short a notice from purchase to delivery. I was referred to their 800 number.

Answering the phone at the 800 number is their automatic programmed named “Julie.” Don’t know about you, but I absolutely detest the automated conversation on-line systems. I will press numbers or talk to a human but not the program. I feel like an idiot already, why make it worse?

So anyway – Julie wants me talk, spell things and otherwise walk me through the system. Then we hit a snag – she tells me about picking up tickets. Now, if I am getting on in Sandpoint Idaho, there is no place to pick up tickets. If there was, I would buy them at the station. Since there is no station, I am attempting to do this on-line. I get a reservation number, but can’t get a response to tickets- this is not a human….

Frustrated, I hang up and wait about 15 minutes. I call back. Between hitting 0 and saying help I finally get transferred to a human. She informs me that I need a boarding code and will have to pay for the ticket on the train. Ok – I can do that as an alternative to picking up tickets.

Will the train stop?

What do you mean, will the train stop?

Does the train stop if no one is getting off? Do the conductors know that someone wants to board.

She tells me that the train always stops.

Ok, I will have to trust this and we will find out at 2349 tonight.

Meanwhile, if Caltrain, all the airlines and the buses can sell you tickets over the web, email you the receipt and deal with you on site – Amtrak can’t do this because?

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized Tags:

Riding Amtrak

May 23rd, 2012 4 comments

Admittedly, the Amtrak along the Sacramento to San Jose corridor is no where near as smooth a ride as in Europe but definitely a cut above the UK train system. The step up into the train would be more of an issue if there were not clearly available accessible entrance locations.

Did I mention that there are actually bicycle cars included on the trains? Not the S-Bahn version of flip up seats where you can also potentially stuff a few bikes if the traffic is light, but enough space to line up and lock dozens of bikes. Since the cars are effectively double deckers, the upper narrow corridor of single seats on each side are filled with riders, helmets, backpacks and spandex.

The other cars have wide corridors and comfortable seats. Not Southwest Trains or East Anglia where I have to turn sideways in order to get down the isles but wide enough for a wheel chair, a walker, a normally sized human or someone with a bit more mass.

Then there are the frequent placement of outlets. My computer is charging while I am writing this. And, if you hadn’t guessed by now, there is WiFi. It is not charged, it is not exactly high bandwidth but who cares? I don’t need to Skype – I just can crank though my email.

Berkeley to Davis yesterday, return today. Moving right along, this particular route is faster on the train than it would be in an automobile. Besides, I haven’t figured out yet how to safely knit and drive…..

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Blogversary #5

March 11th, 2012 4 comments

Thanks to modern technology and the programing of WordPress – this post is pre-loaded since I am underway and not spending the money on logging in today.

Five years ago I switched from static webpage and mailing list to this blog. The static webpage went up in 2006. The mailing list started in 1998 with my deployment to the Balkans and has continued in one form or the other to the present day.

The idea was to have a better and more organized way of recording knitting and spinning projects as well as the occasional soapbox platform on issues that were important to me. Nothing is constant – what has evolved over the years is more of a travelog and a documentation of various deployments and military experiences. Those that are mostly interested in the latter two have a tendency to hit the web version only if they really want to look at larger photos. What I realized a while back is that I am writing for me; documenting and sharing are part of the concept, but not the whole reason.

For those of you (and any friends that you want to round up) who visit and comment here – I will happily send you Germany sock yarn or other fiber goodness as a thank-you. After all, you are taking the time to read this (which I am cruising, knitting and enjoying the sunshine – grin).

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Thought it was Friday

January 26th, 2012 Comments off

I returned back to Germany *last* week and should be completely over my confusion but it seems that it is not so. Yesterday I never was sure what day it was (my partners here at the house managed to point me in the right direction at the right time) and I spent time knitting.

Today, I kept thinking it was Friday especially after I woke to an email from George saying he was on a plane. For whatever reason, I was sure that it was Friday he was to return home. Since he would be home this morning that meant it obviously must mean it was Friday.

This is in the face of my Thursday morning knitting group, The Mole having a doctors appointment and The Eldest a dental appointment. All of which were clearly marked on calenders as occurring on Thurs.

Go figure.

Meanwhile – I have made significant progress on both knitting and reading. Promise photos for tomorrow….

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Don’t want no picture

January 2nd, 2012 6 comments

I made the mistake of announcing to offspring that I would like an updated picture of the four of them. Should it matter that it would make me happy and that the most current photo probably dates from around 2007? Like from before the UK assignment!

Anyway – today was the last possible day since I am on a plan tomorrow and Ms Soprano on one (with dog) the day after. As the sun is headed down the overcast sky they congregate on the terrace.

I took a dozen shots. I don’t have one that has everyone with their eyes open, much less smiling. Maus always looks good in photos. The Mole was willing to leave off the hat. I think the Eldest likes the back of her head showing more than the front. Ms S just claims that she is not photogenic and should be excused.

So, that is why you are seeing this note, but no photo….. it is going to take photo-shopping several to come up with a composite unless they do one for me.

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Poor Baby

October 21st, 2011 Comments off

My poor husband is all worried about me. For some strange reason he thinks that I am suffering since I retired.

Me? Suffering? Plane flights, cruise ships, visiting friends, test knitting patterns, cleaning up the house.

Exactly where do you think boredom fits in?

I haven’t seen any boredom. In fact, I have been busy enough that I have not even been bothering HMEDDAC about their alleged job. Being on someone else’s payroll (rather than my retirement salary or in addition to) means that someone/thing other than my family and my preferences might have claim on my time.

That I would find boring.

Meanwhile – I have several things completed, two in progress that I can’t post till the patterns are released – here is YAN (Yet another Nessie).

Nessie all coiled

Nessie all curled up

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Sloe Gin

October 5th, 2011 Comments off

When Mary asked me if I wanted to go with her to make sloe gin I didn’t have a clue what was involved or exactly how far *up the hill* really was. For that matter – I had heard of sloe gin once or twice before – and thought it was spelled “slow” which might give you an indication of exactly how clueless I am. I had no idea that blackthorn berries were the source.

This is leaving aside the whole issue of gin. I can’t begin to understand why anyone would ever have thought about fermenting juniper berries, much less drinking the resultant mess. What is even scarier is that the ratio of drinkers seems to be heavily weighted to the female gender.

Back to the sloe. Mary’s friend Caroline went sloe picking. Apparently these berries turn ripe late in the fall and have to be promptly harvested in order to beat out both the birds and neighbors who would equally have designs on the harvest.

Looking at them – they strongly resemble blue berries. If they are eatable in this raw state I haven’t a clue. Washed,

bowl of Blackthorne berries

weighed

and ready to go – the alchemy starts.

First you pick them with pins.

to let out the juice

Then toss them into a sterilised bottle.

into the bottle

Next comes the proper amount of sugar

followed by filling the bottle with gin.

If you want sloe brandy – substitute brandy for gin.

cork the bottles, put on a home generated fancy label and you are ready to tuck them away till finished.

I obviously left long before the gin was ready to drink.

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized Tags:

Ferry Out

October 4th, 2011 Comments off

aka – what is it about pillows anyway?

(I will just skip the leisurely drive to the ferry, and the wait for the ferry)

a well decorated bed

plump and inviting

To me, pillows are something upon which you either lay your head to sleep or prop behind your back so that you can sit more comfortably in the evening when reading in bed.

To the rest of the world, apparently pillows are a statement of decorative skill. A mark of a decorated home, rather than one that just sort of grew like Topsy over the years. Since my experience is limited, I never quite know what to do with them.

Now, that I think back on it having spent more than one night in other people’s houses in the last six months – Beth had extra decorative pillows on the twin beds in her guess room. Carmen has them on her couch. Mary has them on the extra bed. Chere, on the other hand, has what used to be know as a Hollywood bed (it folds up into the wall). Not possible to decorate with pillows. In all pillow positive cases, the beds looked lovely. Having said that – I obviously was not blessed with the fancy pillow gene. In fact, if the decorative pillow gene is related to the “able to apply make-up, wear clothes so that you appear impeccably turned out and appear to enjoy one’s self at cocktail parties” , well that whole combination missed me completely.

Come to think of it – we have perhaps two such pillows in the living room. One features a Schnauzer and was made by George’s mom. The other was a gift to me from various family members and features a hedgehog.

Now if we were talking afghans – I am the queen of handwoven afghans.

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized Tags:

posting early

May 1st, 2011 14 comments

It is not all that early in the morning -not for someone who got the wakies at 0030 and finally caved at the magic 0200 in the morning. The good and the bad is that there is almost no one on the Internet at that time of the morning. There is decaf and there are some totally insane televisions shows watched by the front desk clerk about contests where individuals and teams humilate themselves and perform various disgusting tasks in order to win money.

I am very grateful that I don’t get US TV, this is pretty pathetic.

any way, just in case I can’t get back on the computer later today (and probably not tomorrow at all – I thought I would provide you with a list of this week’s entertainment.

May 1 New Orleans, LA
Mon May 2 At Sea
Tue May 3 Costa Maya, Mexico
Wed May 4 Roatan, Honduras
Thu May 5 Belize City, Belize
Fri May 6 Cozumel, Mexico
Sat May 7 At Sea
Sun May 8 New Orleans, LA
-Holly
(later today of Cabin 5610 on the Norwegian Spirit)

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Punch List

April 25th, 2011 4 comments

like for construction (destruction?) or perhaps a scavenger hunt?

Anyway – managed a couple more items on my list today. Most things are in this perpetual state of “almost completed” where every time I think I have it figured out, something else pops up.

Example – moving my credentials from Lakenheath to Landstuhl. Filled out yet another form today, got a friend (thanks Denise) to scan it and emailed it off it off to Lakenheath. But they want orders as well, and I don’t have orders.

Paperwork – HMEDDAC will sign off a couple of things if I need. But they don’t do hard copy – and I am not on their system so digitally signing anything is not going to happen….

TA-50 Turn-in. 0800-0830 Walk in on Mon, Tues, Thurs. Except that today was Ostermontag and the place was closed. Probably ok since I have still to locate a bolt cutter since there is this combination lock that I haven’t been able to get off my last duffel bag since I lost a small notebook in Kandahar last Nov (combination in the notebook). Otherwise, I have everything else but for the mittens with liners which disappeared under the piles of stuff in the storage room (or longer ago than that since they might date from Ft Drum).

Just a bit everyday. I will be off the payroll at midnight on Saturday. The question is whether or not I will have orders (and so a new ID card……

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Really, really noisy

April 20th, 2011 7 comments

Not the car ride to LRMC – that went well with listening to an audio book (I am just past the Boston Tea Party in US history) and not the various people with whom I talked to today.

MRIs are really, really noisy.

When I had my audio gram done back in Jan my hearing was quite a bit worse in one ear compared to the other. Still that way when I had it rechecked for the VA so it was off to the MRI scanner per the audiologist.

The scanner runs from 0700-2300. MRIs – since they take anywhere from 30-60+ minutes are not emergency procedures, but there is a lot of demand. Getting an evening appointment is a lot easier actually than getting one during the day. That meant when I called yesterday afternoon, they offered me this evening at 2000.

Hey, I can do that! Run my errands – deal with credentials and other fun challenges and have plenty of time to knit. The weather was lovely today. I mention that because I should not have been surprised when I just stopped by early to check and and the woman behind the desk handed me a clip board and said they could take me now unless I really wanted to wait another four hours?

Do I look stupid?

Not more than five minutes later I am trying to take a nap complete with ear plugs while trying to ignore banging, thumping, crashing followed by hoots and moans at various frequencies. Accompanied by tingling skin and the occasional creepy feeling I decided that I could easily imagine the “cuts” as the machine magnets did their thing.

The tech was pleased – everything was clear – no repeats needed since I didn’t move. I was pleased since I got on the road hours before I had planned. The only down side was that I didn’t get in my three planned hours of hanging out at the USO and knitting. There are worse things.

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More papers

April 5th, 2011 1 comment

With any luck, good fortune and a bit of a sideways slip I might be most of the way handing in everything needed for a European out.

It is not just the form that needs to be filled out: endorsed by a certain level of command. There was a letter to the official German authorities (downtown Heidelberg, not the local office in Rohrbach) which had to be stamped off. Copies of family passports, an ORB, all sorts of orders, a police check. Then there is the need for my passport (right, forgot that the first time). A rental agreement – don’t have one of those since we don’t rent. Proof that I have some kind of income (indigent are not welcome here).

(note – trips to Rohrbach, Heidelberg, PHV, the shopping Center and Nachrichten Kaserne in order to scavenger the signatures).

And what else? Sure as I hit the road on my way to making copies of copies so that I maintain some idea of what is in my medical records) there will be another requirement.

Oh, well – none of this is as exciting as hitting George’s hot button hard enough that he took the time to write me an essay on the German power grid. Still leaves me with two thoughts –
1) it still takes almost 110 minutes to travel the 110 Km between Heidelberg and Landstuhl and
2) Germans are still in love with their cars and the ability to go fast on the autobahn…..

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Train, cars

April 4th, 2011 9 comments

Landstuhl is not exactly a major stop on the Bundesbahn network. The local trains stop on the milk from from Kaiserslautern to Homburg. The S-Bahns seem to mostly stop. There are regular Regional trains traveling between Kaiserslautern and Saarbrueken which stop – usually. The ICEs and ECs, well this is not a major town and they just travel on by.

Freight trains blast through. Normally composed of engines and up to 20 cars, you will see both mixed trains and the occasional “pure” train moving past at high speed. The loudspeaker on the platform normally gives you a couple of minutes warning about “through trains.”

Today, right before 1500 and just after I had gone out to Platform 2/3 in an effort to find a working ticket machine, the overhead crackled to life with the warning that there was a train coming past Platform 1. Moving at a good clip, the engine was pulling 20 automotive transport wagons. All double deckers, each car had 10-12 total expensive cars all shiny with new paint and chrome. Pristine appearing, those high end vehicles were headed into Germany.

Several minutes later another announcement, only this time about a train headed in the other direction. The 18 cars following the engine were travelling toward Saarbrueken and France. Loaded with new Smarts, Kas and Fiats, the cars were bumper to bumper, maximising the number crammed onto the transport wagons.

I wonder what this says about the two countries relative economies?

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Found a job

March 28th, 2011 1 comment

The end result of my ruminations how to keep myself busy for some of these next five weeks till I am officially retired is that I have volunteered to work for 30th MEDBDE for the next couple of weeks. There isn’t a problem with me heading out for appointments when I have them. Just imagine – me in ClinOps on an exercise at Thompkins Barracks. It makes me feel like nothing has changed in the world of exercise plans in 14 years.

This is going to be so much fun! (No, not running things; I will play senior statesperson – guide, mentor and maybe even knit. After all, I have less than 40 days remaining in uniform. I should worry about what other’s think?)

Of course, I was all cheerful when I went out the door this morning. “the road construction is all finished” I was told. Don’t have to drive through the back neighborhoods of Schwetzigen to get there. In a hurry on Friday – I hadn’t paid attention.

This was not a little road construction – this was a complete rebuild of B535. The corner where I expected to turn was gone. All I could see was this endless stretch of road in front of me. GPS doesn’t help – the fun people have taken the military Kasernes off the map. So, if you know where they are you can identify them by the blank spots. If you have grid coordinates – you can also do fine. Failing that – a Street address would work, but who every pays attention to the streets along the way (rather than the destination.

First it is 0800, then 0830 and I am still driving around lost. Finally giving up, I head back to the house just about screaming. Of course, there is no map book in the car…. Google fails me. Yahoo fails me. Finally, on one of the Stadtplan sites I find both the new road system and a note for the Kaserne. Heading back out the door, I managed to get there and have a productive morning and afternoon.

Doing Constraints, Assumptions, and other portions of the MDMP (Military Decision Making Process) are fun, especially since I am playing because I want to, rather than must.

Now I just have to track down manning/capability of a UK Field Hospital.

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Windows

March 26th, 2011 6 comments

After six months of sleeping inside a dark wooden coffin, the sunlight through the window early in the morning is a welcome relief. No longer a mole stumbling around blind in the dark at any hour of the day or night till I can find either the on switch of a lamp or the touch pad of the computer, I can tell at a glance whether it is day or night.

In a BHut – occasionally there was a tiny slit of bright light at the top of the door (over the dividers) which was visible standing on a chair from inside my room that reminded me it was day. Otherwise a couple of 40W bulbs literally “made it (and my) day.”

Here in Heidelberg, I have sunshine starting fairly early in the morning (or at least through this morning since tomorrow we too, go to daylight savings time). Being just past the Spring Equinox, the days are definitely longer.

What triggered chain of thought actually happened yesterday. Stopping to talk to a couple of people at 30th MEDBDE, I wound up back in the G-3 cage. It light. As in real sunlight coming in through the barred door on the hall. As in air actually circulating….. So this morning and afternoon as I worked on the computer, organising files, doing backups, and trying to bring order to long standing chaos I just enjoyed looking at the dining room door – which is mostly glass. Standing next to a large picture window. Which in turn is next to the two huge windows in the living room.

I like daylight, which may explain both why I am up early and why I never, ever roll the roladens (German window coverings) down in spite of the fact that we now have a beastly building on the other side of what used to be a line of bushes and fence along the property line. After six months – I am entitled to have my windows open to the sun and air.

Didn’t mention that right up front did I? If you don’t have windows, you can’t open them. Which means no fresh air along with no light. Home is so much better. Even leaving aside being able to walk around without either a weapon or a flash light!

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Reach 547

March 18th, 2011 24 comments

the call sign for the C-17 Stratevac fight today from Bagram to Ramstein. Stopping at the terminal this morning to on Space-A flights to Germany, I was expecitng to be told to come back at 0200 or so tomorrow morning. Most of the fights out leave early in the morning which puts them in to LRMC just after 0900.

About once a week (Thurs night or friday morning) there is a C-17 lift. The rest of the time it is KC-135s. The C-17 can haul a lot of patients, the fuelers no where near as many. Most of the time Thursday becomes when they schedule the ambulatory patients.

The AE flights can also take the occasional Space-A passenger. Not regulary scheduled or movement of units, ammo or equipment that might jepordize their status, but certainly those on Emergency leave or people looking to hitch-hike a ride home.

There were a good dozen names on the standby list this morning. The nice TSgt at the counter told me to come back about “three thirty.”
In the morning?
No, this afternoon. The flight just landed and they are reconfiguring – it will go back out later this afternoon.

I am standing there almost frozen. He just told me this is the C-17, it is the most likely flight to take excess people. For whatever reason, the schedule was changed. This flight is 1030 in the morning. I have 13 certificates to produce. Files to burn from the computer. A duffel back to pack and a room to clean.

Oh yes, and lunch might be nice.

In the next couple of hours I manage to get everything done at the office by noon – all the files from the computer, email accounts closed down, certificates sent and find two office mates to help me at 1400.

Between 1200 and 1400 I operate somewhere between whirling dervise and speed demon with the brain totally on auto-pilot, managing to cram an incredible amount of stuff in my remaining duffle bag, pack all the rest in my rucksack, log about 15 books through Bookcrossing and straighten the room.

My timing was terrific – I had just remembered to pick up my last load of laundry (which meant restuffing the duffel) when my buddies showed up. Turns out my caution was a good thing – show time was 1445, not 1530. That extra time gave us a chance to stop at housing and sign my room over to one of the incoming personnel.

Six of us made the hitchhiker list, throwing our gear into the back of a pickup truck before getting a ride out to the C-17. Loading us first, we were barely settled before the first evac bus shows up with all the ambulatory patients and the first three litter patients. Second bus following rather closely behind, as soon as the last patient was loaded it seemed like we were taxing out.

With the time zone changes it is hard for me to get a good grasp on the length of the flight. Taking off after 1700, finally getting our gear at 2230 (Terminal closes at 2300) plus the 3 1/2 hour time zone change – all I can tell you is that I am a bit tired.

Of course, since flights are so chancy, I exercised my usual option which is call for a ride after arriving in country. You know you are loved when, on a dark, cold, rainy night without prior notice your husband is willing to get in a car and drive over an hour each way just to pick you up.

-Holly
Heidelberg, Germany

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Neon Frito Bandito

March 12th, 2011 2 comments

Some of us plod away at keyboards, others go to the MWR movie night, and of course, there is cleaning, organizing, OERs and laundry also for evening entertainment.

Unless you are a vet and dance in the room singing about being a Neon, Frito bandito, along with AYE, yi ya yi’s and crossed safety reflective belts on your chest.

Sitting here completely stunned – I am treated to a repeat performance. You have to understand – this guy just got here in January and it didn’t take us long to infect him with complete insanity. I am honestly awed at his abiity to maintain in the face of the complete stress, strum and drang of the office as we head into this next week’s turn over activities.

I think it is time I head back to the room with my three cans of Shock Triple Latte without which I probably won’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.

Aye chi wah wah!

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Impacts

March 5th, 2011 8 comments

I was going to write you a long and detailed discussion about PDHA (post deployment health assesments). Why we are doing the process and how complicated/non complicated it is.

But then the sirens are going off and we have no power. So am not sure how much longer the battery is going to last.

It is the usual, IDF impact (and I am sheltering at the office).

Such fun – not.

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Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2011 6 comments

The topic is pretty obvious, isn’t it? One of those mandatory holidays that Hallmark (for entirely business sensible reasons) has spread around the world. When you stop and think about it, many national holidays are about religion, death, war and remembrance.  This one no longer really relates to any of the above.

Wikipedia, of course, has a detailed article on the history, development and current customs of the holiday around the world. Most of the European traditions are covered here – a combination of holidays related to local saints and imported from the US customs.  Although with its origins in Christian Religious Tradition – except for a few locations, all of that has been overcome by commercialism.

What should not be surprising is that 85% of cards are purchased by women, or that men often grab candy and flowers on the particular day. In Germany – you can always by large Lebkuchen Hearts decorated with icing.

Ok – all of that speaks to your location (and can serve as a reminder if you have not yet figured out what to do for your love/partner/spouse). I think most of us are beyond the “commercial box of Valentine’s Cards” for everyone in the classroom of elementary school.

My location?  What about here? There was supposed to be a Valentine’s Day 5 K yesterday morning which was cancelled because of slush on the road (even the fanatics agreed that it was not safe to be running in ice water at 0530 in the morning. I should have gotten up, just to get the t-shirt, never mind that my feet would have been soaked just getting out to the main road).

There was nothing marking anything at the DFAC this morning, but a couple of people dropping off kids style cards on everyone’s desk. Another celebration option enjoyed by many is wading through 32 pages of Valentine’s greetings and personal messages in the Stars and Stripes (Feb 13 Mid East Edition) looking for people you know or hopefully at least entertaining ads.

Otherwise it is a Monday – with paperwork, deadlines and more of the same that has been happening for the last five months…  and a batch of us headed to the UAE DFAC this evening for Mideastern food. A husband on a plane to the US West Coast, three kids in school and one on the job fills out  Isn’t normalcy grand?

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Snow on the Mountains

February 8th, 2011 3 comments

reflects the sunlight so brightly this morning that automatic settings on my camera can’t take a picture with depth. The snow amounts are still less than 50% of what should be expected at this time of year. But the towering peaks are gleaming white and majestic all around us; the highest peaks disappearing into the clouds.

There is ice covering the larger puddles like broken panes of window glass, sharp edges looking for unwary fingers to slice. Mud crunches underfoot while the splash hazard from passing vehicles has been greatly reduced this morning.

The air is sharp and clear, free from burning odors, motor exhausts or the smell of jet fuel. It is winter, at least for today while I have reports, paperwork, sorting, cleaning and shredding to do with less than any enthusiasm at all….

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SuperBowl Monday

February 7th, 2011 11 comments

Yes, the title is deliberate. In Europe, which obviously extends to here in Afghanistan, the Superbowl (Professional American Football Championship Game) happens on Monday. Time Zones, my friends, time zones.

The European based military tradition is that Monday morning till noon is time off so that people can recover from being up most of the night watching the game.

In Afghanistan, the game doesn’t even come on till 0300 in the morning and you have to belive that there are a minimal number of screens devoted to ongoing operations and a maximum number devoted to watching the game.

The feed here comes from Armed Forces TV Network, Europe complete with infomercials replacing all those fun, high priced TV commercials that that cost millions; are made just for this particular occasion.

A long time ago, when George and I lived in St Paul and the Eldest was just a baby, we would host a Superbowl Party. The game was secondary to getting together with friends, eating spaghetti with garlic bread and salad, drinking a few beers and generally kicking back. Still – a good time was had by all. Moving to Europe in 1981 sort of put the kibosh on hosting a party, since middle of the night is not really my thing.

Now, wandering in early on Monday means that I can drink my morning coffee while concluding that there is nothing wrong with the Upper Midwest. If I can’t cheer for the Vikings – might as well enjoy the Packers.

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Barriers

February 4th, 2011 3 comments

When I see the word barriers – it can mean many things from obstacles in the way of accomplishing tasks to laws preventing equitable access to just plain large and heavy physical objects blocking ones path.

What I noticed today when walking toward work is that expansion of the airfield is putting up more barriers. Literally, there are Alaska Barriers going up along several of the back paths which I walk. In terms of protecting the BHuts, it makes sense to have protection between the flight line and extremely flammable living space. There are sandbags being placed in other areas which don’t affect line of sight or increase ugliness quite as much.

The end result is that my hiking paths are disrupted. Some of the other barriers – time, people and places I have decided to view as challenges. That way, I am free to figure out a way around and not be stopped by a few things that both on the surface and underneath are obviously totally and completely stupid.

As several people reminded me yesterday, I am expecting a lot when I demand logic and sense out of the military. It is not set up for my convenience but rather to manage the most with a consistent set of rules and regulations. And yes, I can turn in gear in Kuwait; the question is whether I can get permission to save the government money by not making the trip to the states and back. For that, I need my retirement orders. 85 days and counting. It would be really nice…..

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Counting Down

February 3rd, 2011 12 comments

In the middle of the night I had what just might have been a brilliant thought. Why do I need to back to Ft Benning on my way to Europe? We have others who are skipping that small detour.

I asked this morning. Guess what? It is all dependant on whether or not I can get a CIF in Germany to accept all my deployment gear. It actually decreases the cost to the army (mil flight to Germany vs mil flight to the US followed by commercial flight back). It would make me happy. It would cut down my return time.

So, right now I will just think about counting down my remaining time with the worst case numbers (here to Kuwait to Ft Benning to UK to home) which means 56 days at the outside. Let us call it 60 for round numbers.

In 60 days, I could be sitting in my living room with my feet up, sipping a nice cup of tea and contemplating the rest of my life since we all know that there is life after retirement.

OTOH – we all know the Army is going to make my return as difficult as possible. Stay tuned for updates!

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MEDEVAC

January 19th, 2011 5 comments

MEDEVAC= medical evacuation.

The US has three systems in theater, sometimes more depending on how you count.

Most of the time, if you are Army, MEDEVAC means helicopter = Dust-off. The Huey of Viet Nam fame has given way to the Blackhawk UH-60. Two pilots in the front, crew chief and a flight medic in the back. Rapid transport from point of injury (POI) to the next echelon of care or between echelons of care.  Because the altitude, the carousels are removed (saves weight) and litters are on the floor. The idea is to get the wounded to a surgeon as rapidly as possible.

If you are a Marine – you call PEDRO (which has been known to use opportunity aircraft but otherwise mostly operates on rotary wing).

If you are Air Force – well, you usually live on a larger  base (fixed wing aircraft need some kind of runway) and your mind turns to air movement within the theater – usually from Role 2 to Role 3 by C-130 (on board is either an Air Evac Team or a CCAT Team – Critical Care Air Transport Team).

If you are British – there is the MERT (transports on a Chinook) which brings critical care to point of injury, then back to the Role 3.  If you are German, a similar system exists.

And, if you are Special Forces, you are special – Fever is the name of the game.

What is common to all of these systems is the use of air frames. Which air frame varies by area, country and distance to be traveled.

What is not common is the level of provider on that air craft. Gone (about time in my opinion) is the system of depending on a junior medic to do “scoop and run.” Except, of course the US Army which is persisting in outmoded doctrine. Our Allies are all putting highly qualified emergency personnel on the aircraft so that a lot of resuscitation can be accomplished during the flight.

We are getting there – SF has paramedics. Army has started using en route critical care nurses for helicopter transports between “fixed” facilities – especially where the distance facility does not have a runway capable of handling a C-130. By doing so, we are starting to bring the standard of care up to level across the theater.  Especially when you consider that the patient getting moved might just be 22 and just parted with both of his legs, part of his arm and now has both IVs and Blood running and is unconscious on a respirator for stabilization and pain control during the flight.

Me? If I am going to be injured – this is the one spot in the world where I don’t worry about whether or not someone is going to get me out of there, back to the best trauma surgeons that exist and move by the most expeditious method possible.

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