Iraq Timetables – what?

“Democrats have failed repeatedly this year to garner the votes to change Bush’s open-ended military commitment to the war.” There is a reason for that. We made a lot of mistakes when we first entered this war – disbanding of the Iraqi Army, not having a plan past securing Baghdad, our debathification process, etc. Members of our government have come to see the error of our ways and are now taking steps to save this before it falls into the black bit of oblivion. If we continue to attempt to set timetables and force a pull out before that countries ready, are we ready to except the fallout from that? The ensuing chaos and further inflammation of sectarian violence would be catastrophic in the region.

I take pride in humanity and I am not enough of a bastard to watch the collapse of a country due to our errors in the initial handling. Whether or not I agree with why we initially went into Iraq doesn’t matter at this point. We should remain strong, follow through, and present a unified presence to the rest of the world.

Airport Security

Basically these government officials, Government Accountability Office (GAO), did an undercover opt to get a bomb past airport security. And the results were shocking. “GAO uncovered weaknesses in TSA (Transportation Security Administration) screening procedures and other vulnerabilities.” Well, no sh*t. Yes, there are still vulnerabilities in our security measures and I imagine we’ll be looking at more lock downs because of these ‘uncovered weaknesses,’ but I’m starting to wonder at what point is it going to end. When will the heap of flight restrictions on passengers stop. At what point will we the American people say ‘no more.’ No more forcing us to purchase outrageously priced water bottles because we can’t bring our own drinks to the airplane. You reach a point where enough is enough.

Whenever I fly I’m scared to death that I might have accidentally left a tiny pocket knife attached to my key chain. For the smoker, its probably the gnawing fear of finding a lighter stuffed in the bottom of their backpack while trying to pass through security checkpoints. These items can cause series problems for an innocent traveler.

While I do think some high level of security is necessary to prevent tragedies like the world has seen in the last decade, I don’t think we need to take it to the extreme. Every system has ‘weaknesses,’ nothing is full-proof. Lets just be realistic about the level to which we are willing to go and the amount of problems we’re willing to cause the average American. We’re only willing to sacrifice so much before we say stop. Whether or not thats close, I don’t know. But I’m keeping a heads up on the potential ensuing restrictions.

Strategy Games

I love games. Board games, water games, games in general. (minus hide ‘n seek – Curtis says I’m to old for that 🙁 ) The last few years Curtis and I have enjoyed playing chess quite a bit (other then the whole year in Iraq thing). The problem with chess is I always win, as I have patience (yes, me) and he has none. So we decided to branch off into other strategic games. And the two we found are Khet and Stratego.

Khet (pic on right) is sort of like chess, but with lasers and an Egyptian theme. – I win at this as well. But Stratego is different, as in, not like chess. Stratego is a board game for two players. You are each given 40 pieces; these pieces include a marshal, some colonels, lieutenants, and a few sergeants. I of course sacrifice my lieutenants first, as all good sergeants know. And you also have bombs. The point of the game is to be the first to capture the others flag. We’re pretty evenly matched (aka, he wins alot and I just don’t want to admit it).

I love it that I can sit around for hours and play games. I suppose thats one of the perks to marrying your best friend. Of course, the bad part is that I get kind of cranky when I lose. Ok, maybe really cranky. 😳

Check the games out if you have a willing partner and, well, win one for the home team.

Wisconsin, Go Packers!

Holy Cow! How bout them packers so far this year. While I don’t follow the games as much as I should, this weekends route against the Vikings deserves mention. We stomped them. Again, holy crap! The Packers won the game something like 34-0. Taking the world by storm…..well….. maybe just the NFL anyway.

I love the regional bond that stay with people no matter how far they travel. There I was sitting in Iraq on my first day (many many miles from home), not knowing anybody when low and behold here strolls up this Navy guy named Adams from Wisconsin. We instantly become friends, and he introduces me to the other folk from WI (just one other guy – Kori!). Whether it was because we were both stuck in Iraq or had so much in common that it warranted friendship it didn’t matter, we were from the same area of the country and instantly felt the common thread. A year later he came to my sisters wedding and met the family.

The Awesome Aussie

Last night Curtis and I went to dinner with a couple of friends I was in Iraq with – Nic and Mo, and his wife Teryn. We ate at the Austin Grill in old town Alexandria and shared drinks, food, and some memories from Iraq. Nic is from Australia and has been visiting here in the states for a few months now. And now shes preparing to leave on Monday. D*mn it! I selfishly don’t want her to leave.

While I won’t go into to many details about our very first encounter in the Baghdad, Iraq, 🙂 I would like to mention the Nic I met that day. She came across as a bit shy and quiet, among other subdued personality traits. I would later discover that she was outgoing, funny, deep, and a good friend. She was one of two female Aussies I was to spend the next 6 months working on and off with. *Nic did end up staying much longer then 6 months, voluntarily!* Over the course of these many months she influenced a number of us young soldiers with her experience, dedication, and hooah attitude. She participated in our push-up competitions, she worked more hours then I thought possible, and she shared quite a bit of cultural experience with those of us who had never even considered leaving our bubble. She even kept an incriminating quote book that I hope never gets published as she got us all out of context more then a few times. 😉

One of the things I find wonderful about my good friend is the fact that she decides to come to the U.S. and in doing so sees more of this great country then most of us who live our lifes here. In the span of a few months she has seen everything but the best parts of the mid-west (Wisconsin!). Shes been to the west coast, the south, and lately the east coast. Shes even seen a space shuttle launch, WTF!

Her staying on the east coast has been my favorite as she has brought a number of us (who were in Iraq) together that probably would not have thought to do it if it had not been for her presence. And for that – among other things – I am most grateful. We will miss you, Nic. Come back to us soon.

The Big Apple

New York is Amazing, in all its big city ways. I went with my closest friend from High School (’03), Jessica. She had a job interview in the Big Apple so I went with her as shes never been to a city that size before. As it turned out we were both very much the country pumpkins. We decided to take the train to N.Y., to catch up on old times and enjoy the view.

Within an hour of arriving in the city we were already lost. I had Curtis on the phone, had stopped and asked directions and was still able to wind up dazed and confused. We finally figured out that we had walked almost 8 blocks in the wrong direction. 🙁 After asking locals how to flag down a cab, we were finally successful. (I was informed to get it just right, you need to be partially in the street and look very confident – my mindless waving was apparently not the right way to do it!).

The Cabby drove like a madman through and around Times Square to get us to our final destination. Scared, and quite shaken we arrive at the Holiday Inn. We go and drop our stuff off at the hotel to realize that my cell phone had somehow escaped me during the excitement. I call it from Jessicas phone, and then suddenly we get a call back from a lady. The lady says how she had found the phone in the cab, then called my mom to inform her how nice New Yorkers are to tourist like myself. She then say she will be leaving my phone with her doorman.

We were staying in Manhattan – Mid-Town. We go right away to get my cell phone, we arrive and I get it from the doorman. Who very prophetically and with a thick accent lets me know that ‘your cell phone is your life’. I’m thinking “WTF”. I’ve been here an hour and so far had gotten lost (almost winding up in the Hudson River), had almost been killed by our taxi driver, had lost my cell phone, and now was being informed that I had somehow cut myself off from my life due to the misplacement of a communication device. Again, wtf.

After that I decide I need a small drink. So we find a small Italian joint and share a bottle of wine. After watching the waiters failed attempts to flirt with us, we depart and spend the next hour roaming around Times Square. The city is in chaos as the New York marathon had just taken place. People with medals around their neck everywhere, and singing, and drinking. Its a Sunday night and the city it completely alive with hooah and cheer.

The next morning we wake up at 6, a bit grouchy and then we were off to ‘get er done’. I walk Jess to her meeting/interview and then roam the streets for the next 8 hrs. I hit up a Barnes and Nobles first to purchase some kind of guide to this massive metropolis. I then make my way to the St.Patrick’s Cathedral. Which is amazing. Massive and beautiful architecture – the likes of which I’ve never seen before. A very proud building that brought out the humility in me (for once 🙂 ). Then I was off to the Rockefeller. Which had good art work, snobby people, an ice skating ring, and some good natured tourists like myself. And this was the pattern of my day. I stayed in Mid-Town in case Jessica was to get done early.

The most interesting part of the city was definitely the streets of the city. They were a life unto themselves. Always in a state of perpetual motion. Standing still was not an option, as you were forced in the direction of the flow. I say force without a negative connotation, it was more like you were guided along by the flow of the traffic. As if the streets moved me themselves, instead of me moving myself. The streets know the city better then I do, so I asked myself, why not follow their subtle direction.

I felt safe at all times, well, minus one of the taxi rides. But the city was full of adventure and life and I hope to visit again, as its pretty close to D.C.