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June 30, 2004

Back to Light and Furry

Nerdstar and I have had good luck and timing and have been able to IM the past three days for quite a while. Her and Zachary got to make faces at each other! Zach doesn't quite understand how a webcam works yet - he wanted to hold it and move it around and look at the video on the screen, he didn't get that the camera picked up the pictures to put on the screen. It was kinda like watching Blair Witch!

Today when Nerdstar logged on I asked how she was and she said, "Look." And without the benefit of tone of voice or anything, in the time between when I read "Look" and could actually see her on the screen, I was so afraid I'd be looking at a mangled Nerdstar. (Nope, no logic to it whatsoever, if she were truly mangled she wouldn't be online.)

What I did see when the picture came thru was her holding a tiny little orange tabby kitten. Can you say too cute for words! One of the other soldiers was trying to take care of the momma cat and she had the kittens in his trailer a couple of weeks ago. But when I asked about them the other day Nerdstar said his chain of command had made him get rid of them. Yes, that pissed her off, and no, it doesn't make any sense to me. On her way to the computer lab she heard this kitten crying very loudly from under one of the trailers, so she brought it along.

I'm not sure it's even possible to try to raise it if she can't find the momma cat. She's going to look and to try. I found her a good webpage about taking care of abandoned kittens, the problem is actually finding any of the stuff required over on her base. The other problem, if it manages to survive for the rest of her time over there, and doesn't run off, what to do with it when she leaves. I can only imagine how sad she'd be if something bad happened to it!

Anyway, it was lots of fun to see her and this tiny little kitten in a box on my computer screen!!

UPDATE: This is part of the email I got from Nerdstar this morning:

I am keeping a different cat now, still a kitten, but more grown than little man when we got him, it's a she and how I got to keep her was because one of the mail clerks rescued her from the helipad and she couldn't think of anyone else to keep her. I hope no one finds out!!!! I made a littler box of sand from the sandbags laying around the area, and we've already taken a nap together.

Today was so very hot, hotter than any other days that I've known, so I just tried to hole up in the air conditioned area (today's my day off), and just read and slept.

Posted by Beth at 11:20 PM
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Questions

Kristie comes away from Moore's film with lots of questions.

I want to know why Halliburton employees in Iraq are paid $8k a month when soldiers are making $2k. Why Bush proposed combat soldiers' pay be cut 33%. Why he wanted to cut funding to VA hospitals. Tell me about the Carlyle Group. Tell me why you lied about the WMD. Tell me about Halliburton. Tell me why you were on vacation throughout August 2001 ignoring reports about terrorists' plans. Tell me what is going on now in Afghanistan. What are the Bush family's ties to the Saudies? Why were the Bin Ladens FLOWN OUT OF THE COUNTRY ON 9/13 WITHOUT BEING QUESTIONED? Where the HELL IS BIN LADEN and why isn't HE being brought to justice? What IS our policy in the Sudan and why aren't you interested in THAT country when you were so unbelievably interested in IRAQ. Tell me why Marine recruiters are only in the poor neighborhoods. What the hell is your economic policy and why is unemployment still so high. Where are the jobs. Why are people dying. Why are you killing soldiers. Why are you killing civilians. What the hell are you doing.

why.

I'm not arguing the validity of the questions or the sentiments behind them.
I can only address one of them from firsthand knowledge, soldier's pay vs. contractor's pay. Nerdstar is only a Private First Class E4, no rank at all to speak of. Her monthly, tax free, take home pay (to me a valid measure) is close to $3K, not $2K, a significant difference. The fact that she has zero expenses over there, and nowhere to spend any significant amount of money if she wanted to, is also relevant, I'm sure that's not true of contractors, who pay taxes on that alleged $8K. So, if the $2K figure in the film is inaccurate, why would I believe the $8K figure isn't as well. Especially when one lie seems to mean that everything else a person says is also a lie. There's also the fact that almost all private sector jobs pay substantially more than their government job counterpart.

But my question is - let's say for arguments sake that every question she has could be answered fully - what would it change?? Would it change her vote from Kerry to Bush? Would it make her trust more in government? Has she looked at a map of every recruiting office in the country to see what kind of neighborhood it's in? Has she followed White House press briefings on the administration's economic policies, or the Sudan - where Powell is visiting? Unemployment rates are what they were in 1995-96, and lower than 1992-93, and have been improving every month for a year. (Found in two mintues on google.)

It still seems to me it's all about where you get your information.

(This is in no way personal! I've been reading Kristie's site for years and think she's an amazing writer and person.)

Posted by Beth at 01:28 AM
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June 29, 2004

Iraqi Response

I've been busy with a three year old - which has been very good for the state of my heart!

So, thankfully Michele did what I would have given the time, and rounded up the response to the handover on Iraqi blogs. Go. Read. Now.

Posted by Beth at 11:06 AM
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Happy

If you're not happy for the people of Iraq, and even just a little bit excited that an entire nation is truly on the road to self government, then honeslty, I don't get it.

I agree with Vodka Pundit - this is required reading. We can never forget just how bad life under Saddam was.

Let there be no mistake, those of you who don't believe in this war: the Ba'ath regime were the Nazis of the second half of the 20th century. I saw what the murderous, brutal regime of Saddam Hussein wrought on that country through his party and their Fedayeen henchmen. They raped, murdered, tortured, extorted, and terrorized those in that country for 35 years. There are mass graves throughout Iraq only now being discovered. 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, liberated a prison in Iraq populated entirely by children. The Ba'athists brutalized the weakest among them, and killed the strongest. I saw in the eyes of the people how a generation of fear reflects in the human soul.

The Ba'ath Party, like the Nazis before them, kept power by spreading out, placing their officials in every city and every village to keep the people under their boot. Everywhere we went we found rifles, ammunition, RPG rounds, mortar shells, rocket launchers, and artillery. When we took over the southern city of Ramaylah, our battalion commander tore down the Ba'ath signs and commandeered the former regime headquarters in town (which, by the way, was 20 feet from the local school). My commander himself took over the office of the local Ba'ath leader, and in opening the desk of that thug found a set of brass knuckles and a gun. These are the people who are now in prison, and that is where they deserve to be.

The analogy is simple. For years, you have watched the same large, violent man come home every night, and you have listened to his yelling and the crying and the screams of children and the noise of breaking glass, and you have always known that he was beating his wife and his children. Everyone on the block has known it. You ask, cajole, threaten, and beg him to stop, on behalf of the rest of the neighborhood. Nothing works. After listening to it for 13 years, you finally gather up the biggest, meanest guys you can find, you go over to his house, and you kick the door down. You punch him in the face and drag him away. The house is a mess, the family poor and abused? but now there is hope. You did the right thing.

Go read that whole story. Then go read Michele's post this morning - it's pretty much what's on my mind, too.

Posted by Beth at 10:56 AM
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June 28, 2004

Early

U.S. Hands Power to Iraqis Two Days Early

How cool is that?

Posted by Beth at 09:02 AM
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June 27, 2004

Outta here

I'm heading up to Dallas to spend a couple of days with my brother and nephew while my parents are out of town. I've been looking forward to seeing Zach all week. I'm sure he's grown since I was there for his birthday and I can't wait to hear what all he's added to his vocabulary. It's also going to be good to have a change of scenery for a couple of days!

Posted by Beth at 12:57 PM
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A New Beginning

By Ayad Allawi

On Wednesday the sovereignty of Iraq will be restored, and the Iraqi people will take their first major steps toward a free and prosperous future, after more than three decades of tyrannical rule, repression, wars and sanctions. This will be an important milestone for Iraq, the region and indeed the whole world, endorsed by the unanimous approval of the U.N. Security Council in Resolution 1546 earlier this month. As Iraqis, we thank the coalition for the sacrifices made by its soldiers and its people for the liberation and rebuilding of Iraq, and for the contributions by all the countries, international organizations and nongovernmental organizations that have braved the risks to help Iraq in its time of need. We hope for the continued support of the global community, as we Iraqis take the crucial steps in assuming responsibility for our own future.


That's the first paragraph, go read the whole thing.

Posted by Beth at 02:23 AM
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Diverging Points of View

Seeing Control Room made me vaguely aware of the huge divergence between the way the average American sees Americans and how the Arab world sees Americans. Or maybe it served to make it more clear and understandable to me. (Although understandable might be the wrong word.) Then, yesterday afternoon I caught the last ten minutes of a program on CNN World News (not the American version of CNN) that was a panel discussion of the Arab world's views of the handover of power in Iraq. Two statements made in the ten minutes stuck with me. Someone on the program said, in relation to an emerging free press in the Arab world that it was just an alternative to "the major media in America that we all know is controlled by Jews". Huh? No one in that room even blinked at that statement, it was just a given. Then someone else made a statement about the US occupation of Iraq being directly equal to the occupation of Palestein. Huh?

Those are not ideas that more than a handful of Americans would even believe exist, much less be true. But I'm understanding just a little that until we accept the reality of those beliefs and find a way to counter them, this war of cultures is hopeless.

So now it's almost 2 am and I can't sleep and I'm hoping to catch my Nerdstar online and I'm surfing thru Lucianne to scan headlines. I run across a story about increased anti-Islam sentiments in the US after the beheading of Paul Johnson. Oddly enough it's a link to Aljazeera's English version website. Ok, might as well see what it has to say.

And actually there are many interesting articles about reform in the Arab world.

A common theme seems to be that reform must come from within and not be imposed by outsiders. But I'm just not seeing where Saddam was in any hurry to reform his mass murdering ways.

And while the Arab world isn't too happy about the leaked Greater Middle East Initiative, I'm happy to see that this administration is at least studying the problems.

Personally, I'd love to see Arab countries reform from the inside out - as long as that process and reform didn't include calls to wipe out the American infidels. I'd love to see Arab leaders come together and help Iraq rebuild and Iran end the rule of oppressive Mullahs. I'd love to see them address the problems in Sudan. But until their unreformed selves are no longer a threat to us, I don't see any alternative to intervention.

There's also this article on how Americans continue to misunderstand Islam in spite of a rising trend in seeking out information on Islam I'd have to say that actions speak louder than words - especially when the actions are car bombs and beheadings and the words are "but we're a peaceful religion."

Posted by Beth at 01:48 AM
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June 26, 2004

Lightening Up

After finally finishing the Buffy dvds late last night, I was still more awake than not, so I decided to totally change direction and put in my Looney Tunes dvds. It's so cool that just the opening music can make you grin like the chesire cat. I watched disk 4 last night and disk 2 this morning. Duck Amuck rules! There are a lot of my favorites not in this collection, but the commentaries and documentaries are really cool.

Now it's all baseball for the rest of the day. Rangers vs Astros - GO Rangers. Then it's the start of the 2004 College World Series - GO Longhorns!!

Posted by Beth at 03:42 PM
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June 25, 2004

Jinxes and Worries

Tim writes about something I totally get. I, too, fear the jinx, fear life getting all ironic and cruel on me. Especially, again, watching season 6 of Buffy where it's just one damn tragedy after another. There are just too many instances of plots where just when everything seems to be ok again, the danger has passed, WHAM - the worst possible thing happens. But it's not just jinxing things with good thoughts, I worry about making bad things happen by just thinking about them, too.

Sarah also writes about how hard it is to be the one back home with more than one soldier to write about. I don't write about the other soldiers I worry about, but there are a couple, and I know they're in more dangerous places than my Nerdstar is.

I also want to say how much I appreciate all of you readers who have supported Nerdstar and I thru this year so far. It really does help!

Posted by Beth at 01:13 PM
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June 24, 2004

Nerdstar related news

Two topics Nerdstar and I talked about yesterday when she called were: are things going to get more violent over the next week or so, and is the Stryker Brigade now at Ft. Lewis going to replace them and when. Well, there are tons of links on the Stryker Brigade News website today about all of it.

Starting in October, more than 4,000 soldiers with the Army's second Stryker brigade will deploy to Iraq, where they will replace another unit from Fort Lewis, post officials announced Wednesday.

We were really hoping that replacement process would start a little sooner, if the replacements were starting to move over in September, there would be a better chance of Nerdstar coming home in late October. The process of moving one brigade in and the other out takes a long time. But, with luck I'll have her home by Thanksgiving, which is what I've kinda figured all along.

"I would surely hope that they get home before Christmas," Beninato said of soldiers in the 3rd Brigade. "But there's no guarantee." (added: That sentence pisses me off, if they'd get it together and start sending the replacements in say, August/September there would be a guarantee that not only would the Styrkers be home by Christmas, they might actually be home within a year of deployment. It's not like decent planning couldn't guarantee that, which has been my biggest complaint about military operations to date - poor planning and logistics.)

As for the violence going on in Iraq today, we talked about how the targets aren't primarily US soldiers and bases, it's Iraqis who are working toward establishing their own freedom. The only good thing about that for me is that at least Nerdstar is still relatively safe. She doesn't get to wander off of base too often, and probably not at all while things are "hot", and maybe if the bad guys are busy attacking other targets, they won't lob as many mortars into the base.

UPDATE: I got this short email from Nerdstar:

I am in my bosses' office because they are expecting some attacks overnight, the city has been under a curfew and some key places in the city has been attacked and they lost some Iraqis. When I walked down to this place, I saw strykers standing by, ready to be sent somewhere. I hope it'll be a quiet evening, I am so tired of these "warnings" and stuff. Just send us all home, for crying out loud. So if you didn't hear anything from me, it's because I am trapped here until further notice.

Posted by Beth at 11:57 AM
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Best

Jeff Jarvis has written the best review and analysis of Fahrenheit 9/11 you're going to read anywhere. No, I'm not going to go see it, I'm not wasting my money. I sat thru Harry Potter last night, that was boring enough. If you've seen Moore's movie and loved it/agree with it, please read Mr. Jarvis' piece and let me know what you think. I'm not looking to get into any debates, and I won't, but I'm just curious what you think of Mr. Jarvis' analysis.

UPDATE: Howdy to Jeff's readers, sorry this post is lame, but that's why I linked his.

Not so much to be fair, because fair is overrated, but because he's amusing and brilliant (if misguided) as always, go read Tony's backing of Michael Moore. That's the danger of amazingly good writers, they can convince you of almost anything.

Posted by Beth at 11:22 AM
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June 23, 2004

Another Must Read

Wow. The story of one boy's fight against the crushing of dissent in his high school. Go. Read. Now. (found over at Vodka Pundit)

Posted by Beth at 11:39 PM
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Moving Forward

I finally got a good night's sleep last night, even without tylenol pm. My appetite is back to normal. Yep, all is well again. I even learned some good stuff about myself thru it.

So, on to other things.

I'm glad to see this news: Iranian authorities are expected to release eight British sailors and Marines Thursday morning, the British Foreign Office said Wednesday.

I wasn't sure what Iran thought it would gain picking a fight, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't think there was one. As I've noted before, the bad guys don't seem very logical to me.

Posted by Beth at 05:28 PM
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June 22, 2004

Exhausted

Emotionally I feel like I've been thru a triathalon every day for the past three days. But I'm actually hopeful that light at the end of the tunnel isn't a train. I'm vaguely aware the world keeps turning. Thanks for all the well wishes.

Posted by Beth at 06:49 PM
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June 21, 2004

True

It's true, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I'm doing a lot better today. I hate being vague, because that's not the goal of this blog, but because this involves someone else, I can't really talk about it. It's been a heartbreaking and difficult 36 hours, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

Posted by Beth at 01:37 PM
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June 20, 2004

Life Imitates Art

I started watching Buffy season 6 the other day - all the despair, sadness, loss.

Late last night my life decided to follow suit. Nerdstar is safe, that's not what's wrong. I don't think I can write about any of it, and since I can't think about anything else, I might not be doing much blogging for a couple of days.

Posted by Beth at 02:44 PM
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June 19, 2004

Really Really Must Read

I'm not even going to summarize this for you, just go read it.

I have this weird brain that's always trying to solve unsolvable problems, not math and logic problems and such (I actually suck at those!), more along fixing the whole world and existential stuff lines.

As I've mentioned, I remember when I was in middle school I would lie awake half the night thinking about, or on the phone half the night talking about, mutually assured destruction, nuclear bombs going off close to home (I always assumed Dallas/Ft. Worth was a big enough target). Then, when I was in college from 1986-90, all of those fears faded for me. I'm sure a lot of my optimism had to do with my re-found religion. But I remember many conversations during those years with people who still thought the world was too fucked up a place to "bring a kid into". I couldn't imagine being that pessimistic.

And while my only goal in life is to have kids, and hopefully have them soon, I must admit that thought sometimes lingers in my mind.

I know in the months following 9/11 I was heartbroken for my nephew. It just seemed inevitable that at some point in his life another terrorist attack as bad or worse would happen.

In a lot of this down time I have this year, I spend a lot of time wondering how to eliminate the threat of terrorism, wondering if the world we live in will deteriorate into more violence, is it inevitable, or can the War on Terror actually be won, and who in the hell is figuring out how to win it. I think the Cold War has affected our collective foreign policy views at least as much as Vietnam has. The Cold War went on for decades and without any actual fighting. I'm afraid people think this War on Terror can be won the same way. I wish I knew more and could hash this out better.

So, go read the link up there and at least get a better view of who our enemy is and the problems associated with this war.

Posted by Beth at 11:01 PM
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Not so late night rambling

It's only 10:21 tonight, so I'm getting an early start. I've got Rush Exit Stage Left probably a little too loud on the stereo, but who cares. It really doesn't get any better than YYZ. Again, I'm waiting for my Nerdstar to be online so we can chat.

My day started off just right - waking up to a phone call from Nerdstar. She might have a new roommate in a few weeks - something cute and furry. One of the other soldiers was apparently adopted by a mamma cat who gave birth to kittens today, all orange tabbies, Nerdstar's favorites. She thinks I'm going to send her cat food. (Well, actually, I did that once already for some other stray cat she was trying to feed and take care of.) I'm just waiting to see how she gets a fairly young cat from Iraq to Ft. Lewis. She definitely prefers animals to humans - and really, who can blame her?

I'm start to be all optimistic about her coming home, making little plans, and it scares me to death.

Huh, not much else in my head for now. Oh well, everybody seems to take the weekends off from blogs anyway.

Posted by Beth at 10:31 PM
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Obscurity

Most days I don't mind that my little blog is relatively obscure after all this time. But I'm going to be snarky today.

Instapundit links to this review of Control Room, it's ok, but mine was much more insightful (well, at least it was longer) - yet, no link love for me from the prof (which would probably go straight to my head).

I do agree that there is never any mentioned made of people's backgrounds and connections in regards to their views. Maybe the director thought viewers would be as familiar with the backgrounds of the Al Jazera people as they are our government, and maybe that's true in other countries.

Posted by Beth at 01:55 PM
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Late Night Rambling

It's 1:23 a.m. (cool, not as cool as 12:34, but close.) I've got a few topics wandering around the old brain, at this very moment it's a mystery where this post will end up.

I've got disjointed thoughts on patience, making friends, and writing abilities ambling around.

It looks like we're going to get a webpage going for the oral history project for Austin Habitat for Humanity. Way cool. In a meeting with the woman heading the project about the first interview, I got to telling her about blogs and communication, and how I was trying to think of a good site for the project. We're working with the company who does the site for the AHFH. (If/when the project website is up and running I'll link everything.) I also realized that someone is going to have to actually write all the content for the site and wasn't sure the woman heading the project was thinking that far ahead. I sent her a nice little email stating that while I don't write from scratch very well, I would love to help edit and revise.

I got to thinking about that statement, and was talking to a friend about it today. How odd of me, as a blogger, to state to someone that I can't write from scratch. But honestly, that's how I see myself. If you gave me a topic and a deadline I'd give you back some of the worst writing you've ever read. Really. That's why I love this blog. It's not "real" writing. It's me having a one sided conversation with invisible people. (laughs) Somehow that sentence makes sense to me.

Patience. I hate that word. It has to be my least favorite word in the world. I am NOT a patient person. Nothing irritates me more or faster than waiting. Waiting in line, waiting in traffic, waiting for mail, waiting for life. I hate it all. And yet, life, God, the universe, karma, whatever, has been pounding patience into me for at least the past twenty years. But so far, it's not working. In fact, I think the more effort exerted by said universe, whatever, the less patient I get. And trust me, the amount of patience I've had to have this year has probably used up about twenty years worth, so I wish that said universe, whatever, would just give up already!

As for the making friends stuff. It ties into the whole patience thing. As in it takes a lot more patience than I generally think it should. But, my Nerdtar just IM'd me, so I'm done.

Posted by Beth at 01:33 AM
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June 18, 2004

Heartbreaking

In keeping with the sad and serious note around here, this story is more than just heartbreaking.

After a year in combat, Sgt. Arthur Mastrapa was waiting outside the post exchange Wednesday when an enemy rocket ended his life. He was supposed to fly home Thursday.

This is why the fear and worry stays so close to the surface with me, and will until Nerdstar's actually in my line of sight again. My heart goes out to St. Mastrapa's family and friends. I can only imagine the utter grief and shock they're going thru.

Posted by Beth at 09:56 PM
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Images

Apparently there's some disagreement in the blog world on whether photos/videos of Paul Johnson's murder should be linked on blogs. (I'm not sure if this carries over to the issue of the media at large carrying it.)

It just ties into what I wrote in my Control Room post (see below) - we are at war, and a huge part of war is propaganda. Is it right to use the death of an innocent man in that propaganda effort? Probably not. Is it necessary? Absolutely. And I don't believe we'll start really winning this war until we get the propaganda right, both here at home and in the world at large. Until we match Al Jazera image for image we're not really serious.

Unfortunately, we can't even get American media to tell the truth about relevant events and issues.

(I'm using propaganda in a broad sense, with no good or evil connotations implied.)

Posted by Beth at 06:07 PM
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Too much news today

It was really weird to turn on Fox News this morning because the first thing I heard was about some sort of police standoff in my home town, Grand Prairie. That Walmart is about two miles from my parents' house, the house I grew up in. The sick side of me is hoping the van is full of explosives, but it's probaby nothing so exciting.

That story was quickly, and rightly, overshadowed by the news that Paul Johnson has been beheaded. I feel so bad for his family and friends. I just don't have the energy today to be angry about it all, but Michele writes about it really well.

Posted by Beth at 02:38 PM
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June 16, 2004

Irony

Anytime I hear Iraqis or Arabs say we should not have invaded Iraq, and that in spite of SH's atrocities, we should have minded our own business and left him in power, or read the results of the latest poll of Iraqis, or when I think of all the American soldiers who have died or been injured in our efforts to bring democracy to Iraq, I'm tempted to say - absolutey. Bring home all of our soldiers and let the Iraqis deal with their own rebuilding.

The irony is, if Bin Laden and Al Qaeda had simply left America alone, they could have done pretty much whatever they wanted in the rest of the world. When Bush took office he was set on being pretty isolationist, and that was perfectly fine with the American public. Instead, they thought 9/11 was a good idea.

Posted by Beth at 07:07 PM
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Control Room

I went to see Control Room this afternoon.

The immediate subject of Noujaim's documentary "Control Room" is al-Jazeera, but its real theme is the huge gulf in understanding that exists between Americans and the Arab world and the way events, big and small, connected to the war in Iraq have taken on markedly different weight, meanings and emotional import.

It was informative and frustrating. One of the opening statements is that anyone planning a war had better have media/propaganda high on their list of priorities. I believe this administration has totally lost the propaganda war, not only here in America, but also with the world. And there's no excuse for that. I think Bush believes that the inherent rightness of this campaign is self evident. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

It's not that I believe the media should simply be a tool of the government. In fact, I'd say it's pretty clear they're not even close. But without being a tool of the government, the media still has an obligation to inform the public. And they've failed us miserably in that front.

There is a culture war going on, and it's not between red and blue states. It's between radical Islam and the free world. Where are the educational programs on the Arab world and their views?

In this hour and a half or so documentary I lost count of how many times Israel was mentioned as a relevant factor in our war with Iraq. There probably aren't even a dozen Americans who would think that was true. Yet almost the entire Arab world believes it.

I'd recommend seeing the film. I do have to admit that in light of Abu Ghraib it was hard to listen to what Bush said after the capture of PFC Lynch and the other soldiers.

Another telling quote, though, was from Samir Khader, a senior producer at al-Jazeera - he said that he'd be willing to work for Fox News in his pursuit of the American dream, and that even if he can't achieve the American dream, he's going to send his kids to America to go to college.

This was a theme I read a lot in the book about Africa, no matter what a person's views of the American government, they all wanted to live here or send their kids here.

Read the article linked, it's a good one. See the movie if you get a chance.

UPDATE:
Interestingly enough, Richard Galen has a link to his testimony before:
Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations of the Committee on Government Reform in the United States House of Representatives.

Read some exerpts from his printed testimony below - or better yet, go to his site and read the whole transcript.

Continue reading "Control Room"
Posted by Beth at 06:51 PM
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More on Nerdstar

Nerdstar called again this afternoon because she'll be out of touch for a couple of days. This is the email I got from her:

How are you doing today? It was great to hear your voice! I miss you and the kids very much, looks like I am about to fill up yet another journal again!

I am going on a convoy to another base that's only like 20 minutes away but will spend 2 nights there because they've got a fleet worth of humvees that they need AC installed on, and we've got to be there so when they are ready, we'll be able to take them back.

I don't know if there's internet readily available there, but if there are, I will e-mail you from there, if not, then I'll wait until we get back and then we'll chat!

This is the first time that I get to stay with the people that I am working with, hopefully, it'll be fun!

It doesn't feel as depressing/empty in the room the less time that I spend there, maybe in time, people will want to come in and chat. I think in general, I am glad that there are not as many people who'll have to put up with daily mortaring and this sweltering heat... I wish I was one of them though.

It's hitting 106, 108 every day over there. And it's more humid than I thought it was, so that's bad. To answer the questions in the comments from the last post - all we know about her brigade coming home is that they're the first to be rotated out in the fall. We hope that means October instead of November, but we won't have any idea of a timeline until their replacements start showing up.

On the phone today she kept trying to talk me into coming to see her over there now that she has her trailer to herself :-) I explained that even if I found her basecamp and made it there, the army guards wouldn't let me in. We joked that I'd just say I was there to see Nerdstar. It's a nice daydream. But trust me, if I thought there was any chance I could actually do it, I'd be booking the next flight to Iraq!

As for the "live porn" - she could write a year's worth of soap opera material based on her roommate's adventures in Iraq. I keep trying to get her to write about it on here, but her roommate knows this site exists, so she was waiting until she was gone. Nerdstar said it was weird not having anyone knock on the trailer door at all hours of the night last night. I'll just say there was more than one night Nerdstar had to sleep somewhere other than her trailer.

Posted by Beth at 01:16 PM
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June 15, 2004

Good Timing

My Nerdstar has had fantastic timing lately. Last week I had just gotten out of the shower when the phone rang and it was her. Today, I just logged off the computer and was about to head out to get some lunch and run some errands and the phone rang, again, it was her. It's always so good to talk to her. Especially since I was feeling really down the other night. She always makes me smile and laugh.

Her life in Iraq just got a lot more calm - her floosy of a roommate is done with her time in Iraq. Nerdstar now has her little trailer all to herself. Now that there won't be live porn in her room, maybe she can get more sleep.

It's a tricky time emotionally. We're over halfway done with this longest year, but there's no set return date yet. We're both starting to daydream about her homecoming, but really it's too far away to start anticipating.

I'll be busy for the next couple of weeks, so that will help.

Mostly I hope that I'm not just wasting this year. It's hard not to play what-if over and over.

Posted by Beth at 08:40 PM
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More on being divided

Jeff Jarvis has another great post about just how divided we are, and suggests the Jarvis Passion Scale in polls:

Imagine a 0-5 scale like this:
0 - Don't give a damn.
1 - Would defend my view in a conversation
2 - Would start a conversation on the issue to say what I think.
3 - Would write a letter to the editor (or weblog post) on the issue.
4 - Would consider the issue when voting for a candidate.
5 - Would change a vote for a candidate over the issue.

Posted by Beth at 11:33 AM
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Majority

Cyn brings up a good point in comments below, she says she doesn't think there is a majority. Let's see if I can elaborate or even just think thru better my response in the comments.

Think about the people you come into contact with every day, family, co-workers, friends. What are their main concerns? Do they differ that much really from yours? Most of us are concerened with making enough money to pay the bills and have some fun. Most of us just want to live our lives.

I think most political issues come down to two very basic questions - what do you think the role of government should be, and what is your basic view of humanity. Those two go hand in hand. If you don't trust people to do the right thing or think that, for whatever reason, they need help taking care of themselves or their family, then you're going to have a really different view of government than someone who thinks people are basically decent and should be self reliant. At that basic level, if people don't agree, then they probably won't on the broader issues. And maybe the current democratic and republican parties adress those two points of view - I'm not so sure.

Maybe this post 9/11 world makes it more complicated. A lot of us who really wish government would stay out of our lives, wallets, bedrooms and living rooms, also realize that government also has to protect us from the terrorist who would just as soon see us all dead.

I just don't understand why protecting us seems to go hand in hand with expanding every other area of government as well.

Hmm... nope, probably didn't make anything more clear.

Posted by Beth at 12:25 AM
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June 14, 2004

History

Continuing my interest in history, I'm reading Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the opening of the American West. It's interesting, but not as thrilling as I had hoped.

When pondering time travel, other than going back to see Jesus live and in person, I've always thought it would have been absolutely thrilling to have been with Lewis and Clark on their journey across the country. I've always longed to see what this country looked like before roads and concrete.

I'm always surprised at how much everything has changed in such a short amount of time really. Two hundred years isn't really that long, but to read such thorough descriptions of life in 1800 stuns me.

I was telling Nerdstar in an email last night that I think I view history like a lot of people view philosophy - if I could just wrap my brain around everything that's ever happened, it would all somehow make sense.

Posted by Beth at 08:07 PM
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Yeah

what she said. Michele has a great post on the phrase "they want us gone" in Iraq. How people fail to realize this is beyond me. Go read it.

A nation undecided, not a nation divided by Jeff Jarvis is another must read today. My question is - then when we will get presidential candidates who represent the majority of us?

Posted by Beth at 11:09 AM
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June 12, 2004

Ironic

or something like that.

Ani has a new t-shirt out. The Media is Not Fooling Me. While I couldn't agree more, I'm just not sure we're referring to the same media. Still, it's a great shirt!

Posted by Beth at 10:24 PM
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June 11, 2004

Nancy's Escort

I've had some google hits for this, and I've been curious as well, so I'm glad I ran across this article about Maj. Gen. Galen B. Jackman. Registration required, so I'll post some experts:

Jackman, 52, the erect, graying general seen escorting the former first lady in California and in the nation's capital, became commanding general of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington a year ago. The military command, based at Fort McNair in Southwest Washington, coordinates the funeral arrangements for former presidents.

"From the moment [Jackman] arrived . . . he has been working on anticipating this day," said Sharon Thomas, a public affairs officer for the military district.

Jackman entered the Army after attending the University of Nebraska through the ROTC program, according to an official biography. The command he heads is nicknamed the "Guardian of the Nation's Capital," focusing on security but also playing an important role in official ceremonies such as the presidential inauguration and events to welcome visiting heads of state.

Posted by Beth at 06:54 PM
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June 10, 2004

Still Captivated

I just can't seem to stop watching C-Span and the people walking thru the capital rotunda and paying their respect to President Reagan. I can't get over how silent it is. The expressions on the people's faces are so clear - of reflection, sadness, admiration, respect. I love watching the changing of the guard. The parents explaining it to their children. It's moving in ways and for reasons I can't understand or explain.

Too bad it's not like nascar with these little information boxes above the people's heads with where they're from and why the felt the need to be there.

Posted by Beth at 09:42 PM
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How cool

Talk Radio in Baghdad. Go read the whole thing!

From a modest family house somewhere in a western Baghdad suburb, Radio Dijla is fighting crime, saving lives, and treating the emotional traumas of lovesick teenagers.

Unthinkable during the Saddam era, this is Iraq's first talk radio station. It is only a small commercial channel that has sprung up in the maelstrom of the capital, but has already struck a chord with residents.

Up to 18,000 callers a day try to contact the station - it only answers a fraction of that number - and it has become Baghdad's favourite.

Posted by Beth at 12:08 PM
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June 09, 2004

Riveted

I have been completely riveted by the events today for President Reagan. I'm sure I will be on Friday as well. It's partly the aspect of watching history. At 36, this is my first big, all out, lying in state of an American president.

It also makes me proud of this country, not, as everyone else is talking about, solely because of being reminded of Reagan's optimism and accomplishments, but just that like in our elections, handing over of power and burying former leaders is done absolutely peacefully. I'm not sure I can explain that better.

And I am enthralled with the military man who is escorting Nancy this week. He looks like the nicest man in the world to me. I watch all the people, especially military people, at all involved in these events and wonder what they're thinking, if they're proud of their service and their country, or if it's "just another day at work". Will they tell their grandchildren about it?

Politics aside, I think it's good that our country is being reminded of these ideals at this time. How weird that a death and funeral can remind us how absolutely fantastic this country is. If you're not feeling that, you're too jaded for me.

Posted by Beth at 09:03 PM
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Interview

A friend of mine sent me a copy of Dissent magazine's spring 2004 edition. In it is a fantastic interview with Adam Michnik. He's Polish and liberal and gets why what we're doing in Iraq is necessary and the right thing to do. Amazing what personal experience with fascism can do for your view of things.

Here's an expert, please read the whole thing!

Adam Michnik: I look at the war in Iraq from three points of view. Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a totalitarian state. It was a country where people were murdered and tortured. So I'm looking at this through the eyes of the political prisoner in Baghdad, and from this point of view I'm very grateful to those who opened the gates of the prison and who stopped the killing and the torture. Second, Iraq was a country that supported terrorist attacks in the Middle East and all over the world. I consider that 9/11 was the day when war was started against my own work and against myself. Even though we are not sure of the links, Iraq was one of the countries that did not lower its flags in mourning on 9/11. There are those who think this war could have been avoided by democratic and peaceful means. But I think that no negotiations with Saddam Hussein made sense, just as I believe that negotiations with Hitler did not make sense. And there is a third reason. Poland is an ally of the United States of America. It was our duty to show that we are a reliable, loyal, and predictable ally. America needed our help, and we had to give it. This was not only my position. It was also the position of Havel, Konrad, and others.

We invited several Iraqi journalists to our newspaper, to Gazeta Wyborcza, for a roundtable. What they said about Saddam Hussein's regime, well, you can't imagine. I would advise my critical friends in the United States to talk to the Iraqi people. Let them talk to Iraqi journalists who suffered in silence for so many years.

TC: Now we have a situation in which Polish troops are involved actively in Iraq. How do you feel about the fact that there are Polish troops supporting what many see as an American imperial venture? For many years the Poles were put down by empires, by Russia, by Austria-Hungary, by Germany, and all of a sudden the Poles are the allies of the new American Empire.
AM: No, we are not in Iraq as part of the empire, we are there for freedom. If America were to occupy a foreign country only because it's not friendly toward the United States, we would be against it.

TC: This does not represent some kind of will to power on the part of Poland?
AM: Oh sure, the Polish people dream about Baghdad being our colony!

TC: But still, in all seriousness, here are the Poles, the Americans, the Australians, the British, and they're occupying this country, and so the rest of the world looks at Poland, and the perception is that it's part of the imperial project of America.
AM: Did they criticize the fact that four countries-the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union-occupied Germany after the Second World War?


Posted by Beth at 06:00 PM
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Huh

Word Quiz.

Wow, I got 154 out of 200. Considering I didn't know what at least half of the words meant, not too bad.

found over at Michele's.

Posted by Beth at 02:09 PM
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June 08, 2004

Nice

It has rained for 23 out of the last 24 hours, and isn't stopping any time soon.

Posted by Beth at 08:34 PM
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Direct Correlation

There's a very, very direct correlation to my mood and how much I've been about to communicate with Nerdstar. On those rare occasions she gets to call, those are my best days. In times where we get to IM for at least thirty minutes just about every day, I do really well. When we're down to an email every 24 hours I kinda hang in there, but get grumpy. On those other rare occasions where I don't hear from her at all for 48 hours (or even more rarely longer) I get all kinds of freaked out.

I know she and I have been extremely lucky in how much we've been able to communicate while she's been in Iraq. On the message boards on StykerNews I read that some families don't hear from their loved ones for weeks at a time. (Yes, it brings tears to my eyes when I read it.) But, when you've been spoiled it's hard to adjust to anything else.

Long summer days do nothing to make the time feel like it's going any faster. We're not close enough to winding this up to feel hopeful. This is the slogging it out part. It won't start to feel closer to over until about the end of August. I mean, how long ago does last Thanksgiving seem? And how far away does the coming Thanksgiving seem? Exactly.

And I find that the closer it gets to time for them to start coming home the more worried I get. Unfortunately, I think that's going to continue. It's the whole, it would suck so much to make it this long and have something happen to her now, thing. I'm sure most families of soldiers go thru it.

I'm sure she's feeling the same things, too.

Posted by Beth at 01:07 PM
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Bleh

It's 3:38 a.m. In about ten and a half hours I'm taking Ramen to the vet for his annual check up. I have a feeling I'll be hungry before then, too. Eight hours of sleep isn't looking likely. Oh well.

I'm becomming a hermit and it's weird. It also gives me nothing to write about. In the past six months I've tried going back to church, contacting old friends, making new friends, finding temp work, getting a job at many local restaurants. Nothing.

Last night was supposed to be women's poker night. Out of the eleven people who emailed saying they were interested just over two weeks ago, one showed up and one called saying she was on meds and couldn't make it. Not a peep from anyone else.

Sometimes it's hard not to take it all personally and feel like one huge failure.

Two things keep me this side of insane - Nerdstar and my family.

Posted by Beth at 03:48 AM
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June 06, 2004

Compare and Contrast

There are two bloggers whose writing I love, but their politics - not so much.

In their writing about the death of President Reagan, one maintains my respect, the other - not so much. Hopefully it won't be too hard to figure out which is which.

Joshua and Tony.

(No, I'm not assuming either one gives a flip what I think, that's not the point.)

Posted by Beth at 09:27 PM
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Impressed

I graduated high school in 1986, and is typical at that age, was a bit on the liberal side on those rare occasions I thought about politics. So all I ever heard was all the negatives about Reagan. But I was also terrified of "mutually assured destruction."

It was about six or seven years later I began to understand and appreciate what President Reagan had accomplished.

Ironically enough, after watching a 1994 interview with Stephen Ambrose on C-Span late the other night, I went to the library yesterday to pick up a couple of his books. The one I got halfway thru yesterday is "The Rise to Globalism" which looks at American foreign policy from 1938 on. It's amazing the things I failed to learn in history classes. I had no idea the Cold War started pretty much immediately after WWII. Which makes me even more impressed that after decades of it being "the way things are" Reagan had the vision and leadership to end it.

Posted by Beth at 10:50 AM
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June 05, 2004

RIP

President Reagan dies.

Posted by Beth at 05:47 PM
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Another Thought

About the media story below. The media is unbelievably critical of the war effort and our military and on and on. Yet, here some Iraqi's thought they could trust members of the media with whatever information they had. How wrong they were. The most dangerous, and important, thing Iraqis can do is to help our soldiers with intelligence information. In this kind of war it's the only way we can win when we're not willing to just level the whole place. It's one thing not to be able to trust the media to report what's going on accurately, it's another matter entirely if you can't trust them as fellow humans to try to prevent loss of life. Those media people are damn lucky no one - Iraqi's or US soldiers - got killed.

Posted by Beth at 12:23 PM
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June 04, 2004

WTF?

MOSUL, Iraq - Coalition soldiers questioned two news media cameramen and a reporter after a roadside bomb exploded near a Coalition convoy two kilometers north of Mosul June 3.

The media, who were at the scene prior to the attack, told soldiers at the scene they had received a tip to be at that location prior to the attack and they had witnessed the explosion.

There was minimal damage to a Coalition vehicle, a cracked windshield, and no serious injuries.

3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division soldiers requested the media accompany them to a base camp in Mosul to answer questions as witnesses to the incident. The news media representatives left the base camp in the mid afternoon.

Am I to understand that instead of informing the military what was going on, the media just showed up with cameras to film it? If they were there before the explosion it seems they could have given a heads-up to the soldiers.

I can only hope I'm reading that wrong.

Posted by Beth at 12:18 PM
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June 03, 2004

Another Must Read

Kevin Sites has an amazing post up. He talks with soldiers from the 1st Armored Division. I really can't describe it, so please, go read it.

Posted by Beth at 10:22 PM
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1000th Entry

I guess it's appropriate that this entry will be like the 999 before it and nothing special.

After all the stress and emotion of last weekend, I've been pretty chill the last couple of days. Summer set in with a vengance. I'm one of those rare people who hate hot, sunny weather. Especially when hot and sunny means it's 95 with 90% humidity and relentless sunshine. It helps tremendously to have an a/c in my car this year. It means I might venture out before 10 pm a little more often.

Nerdstar got a chance to call the other night. She said a couple of guys in her unit have taken to sleeping in their offices instead of their trailers since the attack last weekend. She also said people are being a lot more friendly. That all makes sense to me. She's doing well.

I've still been watching programs and documentaries about D-Day, thinking about how different things are now. And it's really not our military that is different. At least, not in the makeup in the character of it's soldiers. But our enemy is completely different. That's something that always pisses me off - that our enemies are total cowards. They won't put on uniforms and fight us "face to face" as an army. They hide behind children. They lob mortars into our bases and fade into the crowd.

And I think that's what contributes a lot to the major difference between this war and WWII - the attitude of the homefront. Say what you want about propaganda, but it works and it helps. We need more of it today. But it's "oppressing" to call our enemy the enemy. Fuck that.

Anyway. My mailbox brought me cool things today. I got the 3rd season of Coupling, the 6th season of Buffy, and the only season of Firefly.

Posted by Beth at 03:57 PM
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June 01, 2004

Pics

I have several pictures Nerdstar has taken while over in Iraq, and her digital camera is on it's way back to me with lots of pics. (I traded hers for mine because mine is easier to use.) I'm not sure I'd do a photo gallery even if I knew how until she's home.

So, I was happy to see these pics from Debbie who was in Mosul with the 101st. The Strykers took over operations in Mosul from the 101st. There are some really cool aerial shots of Mosul in there.

Posted by Beth at 09:48 PM
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More Progress

I haven't heard or read much about this today, that makes me even more glad to get the perspective of Iraq the Model on the new president.

Today comes another powerful strike to terrorism and the neighboring countries, when the process of forming the transitional government went very smoothly and peacefully. there was a competition between two men; Pachachi who seemed to be favored by the Americans (and by me as well) and Al-Yawer who apparently had the approval and support from most of the GC members and other political powers but Pachachi withdrew in the last moment, the move that proves my point that he was the best man for the job.

Still, Al-Yawer has many points that qualify him for the job; he’s got the support of the Shammar tribe which is one of the largest and strongest ones in Iraq that mainly reside in the west and north-west parts of Iraq which may play a major role in stabilizing that area which was always a big source of troubles. And now as one of 'their sons' is on top of the coming government they will certainly stand by his side and help in preventing the sneaking of terrorists through the western borders of Iraq.

Also the man doesn't have any significant affiliation to any religious or ethnic group which will help making him more acceptable for both, Sheiát and Sunni as well as the Kurds and other minorities.

Another point is that this man was the candidate of the Iraqis not the CPA which indicates that Iraqis had more effect in this choice than what the major media suggested.

There appears to be no rejection to the new government in the Iraqi street at all but some Iraqis expect this government to find magical solutions for all the current hardships, which is far from being a realistic expectation of course, but the good aspect is that Iraqis have shown their will to accept the change and to move forwards on the road to accomplish the mission until democracy is established.

Some might say that having a Sheikh as the new president of Iraq is a step backwards that will bring back the rule of the tribal laws but this is not accurate because the tribes do not want to rule the country; they just want to be represented in the government and have their voice heard which is a legitimate right of course, also it's a good idea because the tribes are the only power that can confront the dangerous and radical religious parties.

It's worth mentioning that Yawer, although carries the family name of a Sheikh and he's dressed like a Sheikh, is a modernized man with a high scientific degree. Also, having a cabinet that includes five female ministers should tell us that the tribes couldn't/didn't want to force their law, and at the same time carries a message to the Islamists that the interim government will provide equal opportunities to all segments of the Iraqi people.

Posted by Beth at 09:14 PM
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Nerdstar Update

I just took my pt test this morning and I passed! That's something that I'll never will have to think about again! Yay!

Yesterday, I was on a convoy all day long to get some armored door on our humvee, and it was so hot and dusty there, I felt like I was a piece of Monglian bbq!

The guy that I saw getting pulled out of his trailer has passed away last night in his sleep, one of the other guy has lost one of his eyes due to shrapnel wounds.

Today, I am just going to try to take it easy, the past few days has been quite taxing physically and mentally.

Posted by Beth at 01:38 PM
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