3.29.2003

Long day out here. Began easily enough but the folks I am working with were unsure where to put me so I spent part of the day shuttling between offices and collection sites and it was very frustrating. Plus, the fellow I came out here with was assigned to work at a different site, so we had to track down another rental car which was a freaking fiasco. Every single rental car in the area is rented. Luckily, we ran into a guy at a Budget TRUCK rental place that knew someone who knew someone at a local car dealership. They usually don't rent cars during the weekend, but they helped me out and now I am cruising around East Texas in a nice Mustang. I also had to check out of the original hotel because I was going to another site, made reservations there, was re-assigned back to the original area. Had to cancel again, the get new reservations at the original hotel. Crazy.

Ended up at one of the main debris collection sites, assisting with PDA data, GPS and digital photo downloads. I know the shuttle disaster happened a month and a half ago and we are all distracted by the war in Iraq at the moment, but you would be absolutely amazed at the stuff they are still finding. Some is as big as a bottle cap - little computer pieces and switches and glass bottles (unbelievably unbroken), gizmos and gadgets and things as big as a volkswagen - 5 foot diameter tanks and parts of cabin doors and on and on and on. They will never find all of it, people 50 years from now will still be finding things. I found mysef shaking my head in disbelief at the things I saw, right there, in my hands, in a plastic bag. These things were part of a machine made by man that flew 13,000 miles an hour, around the earth. I saw over 300 pieces of shuttle debris today and my heart broke 300 times.

This job is going to be hard. The people working there have a certain look and feel to them because some have been there since the day after the accident and have never taken a day off, some are new like me and have just arrived from Idaho or Philadelphia or St. Louis. Many of these folks volunteer their time, many are from various companies and universities. All of them take what they do with the utmost seriousness and I am impressed and humbled and I continue to be amazed by humans.

There was a bustle of activity this evening when someone mentioned that another search group had found another camera, butafter tracking down the data and photos, it turned out to be a power converter of some kind.

On the upside though, this group has a mascot, a little dog named Cosmo that they found while working. They checked with the authorities, checked at every house in the area and filed a report at the pound and no one has claimed him. Makes me miss Sage even more though. I was 'rasslin' with him on the couch in the break room area at the airport and he had a small accident - maybe that is why no one claimed him!!! Another bonus is that the place is chock full of smart, good lookin' gals with ponytails and ball caps, wearing brush-bustin' chaps and snake-proof boots. I may not move back to Washington. (Yes, of course, I would have to bring Sage down here with me!)

More tomorrow.



Made it to Texas, currently in Nacogdoches and will be heading to Lufkin tomorrow AM which is not too far away.

Flight was good and smooth and very interesting. When I get some time I will tell you the story about the 4 guys and 1 gal from Afghanistan, a US Marine, the globe-trotting oddball couple from New Orleans, the loud mouth woman in the airplane toilet with the offensive shirt and the airplane cops. Sounds like a TV pilot for the WB but I swear, it is ALL TRUE!!! Whatever you do, don't mouth off to any 4.5 foot tall airline attendants. That's all I am gonna say, I need to get to bed.

Good night, more tomorrow if I can deal with this dial-up access......grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

3.27.2003

Just about bed time, laundry is finishing up, bills are scheduled to be paid, Sage is sacked out next to me on the couch, life is good. I will be reporting from Texas starting tomorrow night. See all y'all later.
New link in the Favorites: The Bitch Girls. Saw this on their site and had to pass it along:

"I went straight and got the .357 Magnum," she said.

"I would have used a shotgun, but I had just had new countertops done and I didn't want to tear up the kitchen."


Excellent.

Almost 3 PM out here, have been running around all day getting ready to get ready. It is quite the chore to take care of a month's worth of bill-paying and dog food-buying and bithday present-buying (bro and his stepdaughter, both on the 29th) and errands and visiting all in the span of a couple of days. I think everything is just about set and I have some more packing to do, but I am pretty close.

Haven't watched any news today on the war, I need to spend a few minutes and scan some web sites, see what is going on with our efforts over there. I did hear that the US Ambassador walked out of the UN this morning during a speech by the Iraqi Ambassador. That is pretty awesome.

I like the way things are going over there. I go back and forth between "not fast enough" and "watch out for civilians" and I think our generals and leaders out in the desert are doing an amazing job in spite of all of us over here acting like we know what we are talking about. The press is totally fixated on the civilian casualties and is the topic of everything I have heard on the news since I made it back home. Yes, that is bad and it sucks seeing those photos and seeing wailing women but you have to admit that we are being careful almost to a point where it is endangering our troops. Baghdad could look like a gigantic parking lot by now if we had wanted. Ugh, I am not saying anything that a thousand other people aren't saying. Enough on that.

I am getting excited about the trip. The only thing I am bummed out about is not being able to see my pooch while I am gone. I have gone on and on about her in here before, the 100% pure love and affection bundled up in that 40 pounds of black and white fur, how she can make me smile on the worst of days, damn, I will miss her. I even inquired about driving to Texas and taking her with me, but that won't work for a number of reasons. I do have many digital photos of her and will make sure I have those loaded up on the laptop before I go. I picked up a month's worth of food and treats for her today and I also have a bunch of rawhide bones to be handed out on a scheduled basis.

Going to see an old friend of mine while I am in Texas. He lives over in Austin and we are going to get together while I am down there and he has promised to bring along some of his home brew! I am really looking forward to that!

Ok, I need to take care of some laundry and dig out my short sleeved shirts for the trip, more later.

3.26.2003

Finally.

Seems like things are turning around for me. I am heading off to the Land of Rachel on Friday and I already feel better. I was originally going out on Thursday, but luckily, the trip was postponed by one day, and I still have a lot of things to do before I go. I have gotten pretty fed up with the anti-America protestors around here and it will be good to be in East Texas and I really doubt if there will be too many protestors where I am heading. I might be performing QA/QC on data points or I might be out in the field assisting with data collection. Either way, it is a job and Lord knows I can use the work and the experience.

I am getting set up with some dial-up software for this laptop so I can update the site while I am on the road. It is going slooooooooowwwwwwwwwww. I will write some more later once I get this setup.

3.25.2003

Great link and a great idea sent to me by Mom --> Books for Soldiers. A form on the site allows soldiers to put in requests for specific books, tracking down a posting in their forum allows you to fill personal requests from the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. According to their site, they provided over 1000 books to the troops during the Gulf War. Clean out those boxes, search your bookshelves and make a soldier happy!
The National Review Online has added a cool section to their site called War Post-a-Note where you can post a message to our servicemen. Brothers, sisters, fathers, wives, moms, husbands and fraternity brothers. Link found via The Command Post Yes, I know that most folks that read this site (hi Mom) read NRO too, but there is so much out there that I want to keep track of.
This story is ABSO-FRICKING-LUTELY amazing!!! Korean war soldier writes his initials under butt-plate of rifle in '51, then 50 some years later, orders M1 from Civilian Marksmanship Program, gets the SAME RIFLE he carried in Korea. Unbelievable.
Have been offered an interesting job proposal. Would require me to go to Texas for 4 weeks - work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day and at a fairly decent hourly rate and the job involves GIS, GPS and NASA.......will just need to figure out what to do with Sage....wish I could take her with me, but might have to send her off to doggie day care for that time period....hmmmmm....more later....

3.24.2003

Chemicals may be used now once we cross the "red line".

Part of me sees all of this on TV, sees the surly looks on many of the Iraqis, hears about the possibility of chemical attacks, I read about the fake surrender tactics used by the Fedayeen and I start thinking that we should pull every one out and nuke the damn place.

I am also getting frustrated by the micro-news reporting of every single ankle-twist suffered, every boot blister, every blown tire. I realize that these things happen but it seems as if the news is really reaching sometimes to make a story. I could sit and watch something like the Umm Qasr fire-fight/mop-up or the south end of a north bound tank for hours and hours though.

I don't want to sound callous or shallow, but death is going to occur. If this was only a 300,000-strong exercise, we would still have the accidents - the helicopter crashes, the truck roll-overs, the exploding shells. It really put it in perspective for me after reading Lileks' column yesterday, that during D-Day, 10 soldiers were killed every second. All of the good things are always hard.

Also spent an hour or so reading the letters that Kim du Toit has posted on his site from Captain Steve. Most interesting and one of the things that made me realize why we are there and what differentiates us from them, is the latest letter. Here is a snippet:

Humanity is the principle that prevents us from inflicting unnecessary suffering. We rule out the use of certain weapons and techniques because we regard their purpose as inappropriate. We try to achieve our objectives while harming as few people as possible.

Chivalry requires us to honor certain signs and traditions that have long been recognized in war. The white flag as a sign of truce is not to be abused. Prisoners are to be protected against hunger, the elements, and angry civilians. The Red Cross or Red Crescent are to be recognized as signs of noncombatants.

Military Necessity demands that we attack only targets that help us achieve military objectives. Our conduct of war is restrained on all sides by these conventions to help us return home with honor, and to protect the reputation of the United States as a land guided by justice.

But do these conventions apply when we face an enemy who so openly flouts them? Last night we all wanted retribution. There was talk of leveling An Nasariyah, of making them pay. We know though, that now more than ever the principles that make our country so different from (and so feared by) this part of the world must be adhered to. We will not defile our cause with barbaric actions. We cannot forget that our purpose here is to liberate, not to massacre, though we certainly have the means at our disposal.
(emphasis is mine)

Go read all of it. Thank you Kim, for posting these.

----------------

Humorous observation: Watching war coverage on Fox News and one of the video snippets was a pan over one of the US military camps and scrawled on one of the water tankers was this: HO2 Thank god they shoot better than they spell.

Lots of chatter on the TV today regarding the war, discussion if it is proper to show the bodies, assumptions about the war in Iraq, is it going fast enough to keep the viewing public engaged, what are the Nielsen ratings for the war, etc. I am still continually checking the Command Post, Sgt. Stryker and Blogs of War sites, lots on interesting reading out there. Also found Strategic Armchair Command via link on the Command Post, and there is a ton of interesting information there. The Agonist's site, like the Command Post, is updated almost continuously.

The ability for all of us to document and comment on a real-time war like this still amazes me.

3.23.2003

Yeah, I cheated again, another fantastic Lileks.

I am working over some thoughts regarding the "embedded" reporters and the ability for all of us to sit and watch a live fricking battle on TV and the way we are all reacting to this. I sat and watched the Umm Qasr mop up the other night just like everyone else and besides getting sick from watching the camera move up and down, jerking left and right (JESUS CHRIST MIKE, HOLD THE G#DDAMNED CAMERA STILL!!!!!!) I found myself suffering from a mild anxiety attack. I realized that all of us watching were expecting some big Hollywood-type finish to that story, a gigantic rolling fireball of napalm and a MOAB to top it all off. The analysts on FOX were tweaking out, wondering where the air strike was, ex-Marine's, saying how embarassing it was to see this, to see the young Marines with their water bottles and their MRE lunches lounging around casually, but it hit me about 3/4 of the way through the episode that NONE of us watching this, even ex-Marines or seasoned retired captains or generals on TV knew exactly what was going on, what the situation was, what had happened before we were taken "live" to the scene.

Unfortunately, everyone has latched on to the Umm Qasr mop-up operation as the model for how the American's are fighting the battle over there. Here are a couple of headlines:

How a walkover turned into a three-day battle

Devastating but quite comical

And this final quote from the icWales story: "If the Americans are like this when they have one building to deal with, what are they going to be like when they get to Baghdad?" asked a British officer.

It is easy to get depressed thinking about the unfortunate losses we have taken, but I am so damned proud watching these men and women making a historic advance across the desert and I am proud to see the way they are handling themselves.



Haven't seen this mentioned from the other night, but when I was watching the Umm Qasr fighting, the Sky News reporter asked Marine Staff Sgt. Nick Lerma what he would say to critics watching the battle on TV who would say that things aren't going smooth, or something similar to that and the marine replied (and I am paraphrasing) "well, I would say that there is a recruiting offce on just about every corner, go down there, sign up and come on over." I thought that was great. I will keep trying to find the original quote and will post it if I find it.

Un-fricking-believable:

Michael Moore: "We live in fictitious times," he said when picking up the award for best documentary for his anti-gun film "Bowling for Columbine." Nice to read that he was booed and jeered after spouting off.

Funny to hear that coming from someone who won an Oscar for his ficticious documentary. Read Bowling for Columbine - Documentary or Fiction? by David T. Hardy.

He outlines 8 specific areas where Moore manipulated the truth to fit his agenda and it is just appalling that this waste of a human actually won an award for this crap which is mostly a work of fiction. A lot of people will defend Moore's film, but they might as well argue that rabbits can talk after watching a fricking Bugs Bunny cartoon. Unbelievable.
Good freaking grief, WHY can't someone on Fox News get a decent map? I am sick and tired of looking at their map which reminds me of a child's puzzle, the kind that has the countries of the world with little peg nobs in the center of the country. There are so many better alternatives out there. It would be a great way to educate the Fox viewers and lord knows everytime I swing through CNN and see the EarthViewer, I stop and watch, it is so damned cool. (just needed to say something about this)
Fox is finally breaking the news that Coalition Forces found a chemical weapons facility, reported much earlier by the Jerusalem Post. Probably needed verification.

Update: Fox keeps saying that the embedded JP reporter who broke this story is a he, they should probably actually go read the story.
Excellent entry from the Angry Clam, responding to assholes like Charles Rangel (D-NY) who think that the military preys on the poor or lower class to fill it's ranks.
New location for The Command Post...
Here is a link to a some-what detailed accounting of the Al Jazeera tape from this morning via Jesus Gil's site. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these soldiers.

Update: Little Green Footballs has a link to streaming Al Jazeera tv and some well-said commentary on this as well:

Every American should see this, and our media is full of craven cowards for not showing it. It’s time to take off the blinders.

UPDATE: Have been thinking about this more during the day and yes, I am glad that they aren't showing it all over the networks. It is out on the internet if you want to see it but I believe most people understand how terrible this is and can imagine how bad the photos are. It was meant as propoganda by the goddamned Iraqis and some respect needs to be shown to the families of these brave souls.
Good Stuff - cut on the bias
The scenes by the Tigris River are just amazing. It really gives you a good snapshot of the kind of people we are dealing with, ones that will manufacture a story like that and then, the ones that believe it. Not sure which is the sadder story. At least we will be generally increasing the planet's overall IQ by taking these yahoos out.