Make-Up Days

Filed under: — lana @ 9:33 am

Not like cosmetics, and not like missing work and having to come in extra time, make-up days in the Army appear to be days when someone loses something somewhere and decides to make things up instead of trying to find the actual data.

I am considering changing my Army slogan, previously “Everything Takes Forever… Always” to “If You Don’t Know and are Too Scared to Ask Someone Who Might, Go Ahead and Make It Up.”

Both of them seem to have more to do with the Army than Army Strong, and have a much better ring.

I submitted, about two months ago, some paperwork to the finance office. It came to my attention that coincidentally, my assignment halfway around the world from my husband’s assignment might not be in the best interest of the marriage and therefore not entirely voluntary. Therefore, I qualified for family separation pay. So I brought my orders and the requisite form to the finance office and they said they would take care of it.

By take care of it, they meant lose it, apparently.

Three weeks later I returned to the finance office to check on the status. I filled out their form, again, went back to my office, got another copy of my orders, and in the time it took me to cross the street, get a copy of my orders, and return they had lost the form and I had to fill out another one. I stapled my orders to the form and asked them, very politely, to please stop filing things in the trash can.

I thought there had been progress, as my mid-month pay was higher. Lo and behold, the end of month detailed statement revealed the sad and sorry truth. They had indeed given me family separation pay as backpayment from the date that I departed my previous station. They then stopped the family separation pay two months after that date, sometime in July.

What happened in July? Where was that date on any of the two pieces of paper that I submitted (multiple times) or on any of my or my husband’s paperwork in their little finance matrix? Where did they pull that date from, and could they please put it back where they found it and give me the rest of my backpay? What, exactly, is going on here?

I intend to get a question or two answered tomorrow, though my intentions may be for naught. I will bring with me a stack of orders and photocopy their little form in quadruplicate (whether or not that is a real word, triplicate obviously is not enough in this case), which I will then staple to the soldier who takes it from me and mail the soldier, my orders, and the form over to the main office somewhere near France. The soldier to whom the information will be stapled will also have a note, glued to his forehead, detailing what I would like to see done.

This is presuming the military police don’t get called in time, of course. Then again, if they have to go through the same finance office I strongly suspect they will just help me get the soldier lugged down to the mailroom…


Whether the Weather

Filed under: — lana @ 8:54 am

This morning I awoke to a fine, fun, fluffy blanket of snow laying upon the pre-dawn city beneath my balcony. Last night, as I drove the slippery roads home after watching 24 and counting the number of incidences that could incite protest (a fun drinking game, if you have the will and do not have to drive home on slippery roads), there was but a dusting, no more than a half an inch.

This morning, there was about six inches. And rising. Rather rapidly.

But lo and behold, the Americans still wanted to put on a good show for everyone, so they left the post open and said come on in to work. So I buttoned up my coat and got in my car and rolled out of the driveway…

And once my landlord got me unstuck from the snow covering the tiny span of snow between my garage and the road, I was on my way.

I made it approximately two blocks and realized this was the dumbest move of my life. You would have thought that getting stuck three times in that two blocks and skidding every time I touched the brakes would have clued me in sooner, but I was persistent.

I called my boss and told him to turn around (he had not made it very far either, and he lives much further away) and called my soldier, who had already gone in like a dedicated and motivated individual (who only lives a kilometer from post) and told him to fetch his wife and go home. I was turning around, and the MPs be damned with their horrid assessment of the road conditions. They finally updated said conditions and several hours later closed post, but given that I almost had to abandon my car at the bottom of a very slight hill at this time, I wasn’t having it.

I got home and I found a snow shovel and shoveled out a path to get my car back into the garage.

Then, since I was already started, I shoveled out the path to my landlord’s door, my door, and the door to the tenants in the small house behind mine. Then I went upstairs and had some soup.

Three hours later, it looked as though no shoveling had been done at all, as about another four to five inches cover the meager path my back is still complaining about my foraging.

I know that if I go back out there and do it again, it will be futile. It is supposed to snow until tomorrow morning sometime, and I have lost the cat in the snow on the balcony already. I assume she is less pleased about that predicament than I.

I liken this to the phone call I made yesterday, when I discovered that my medical board packet is still sitting on the same desk it was sitting on about two weeks ago. I am beginning to learn that no matter how much I dig for this medical board, the path to freedom is only going to be covered one signature (or desk waiting for a signature) later.

While I wait on the packet, I will sip some tea and try to guess how long the snow can pile up on the railing before it topples over into a big mess, and wonder just how long packets can pile up on this one officer’s desk before the same happens to them… and I suppose I should dig out the cat while I am at it.


At a Loss

Filed under: — lana @ 11:39 am

I am considering posting the following sign around town in the hopes that someone will be kind enough to assist:


My marbles. May be associated as part of a set, as the missing pieces appear to be disappearing at a steady rate from my brain but are probably off in a foreign, most likely tropical, country sipping Mai Tais with little paper umbrellas on a beach somewhere.

If found, please inform me so I can hasten to join them immediately.

Thank you in advance.”

I appear to be steadily losing my mind, I believe, forgetting somewhat small but nevertheless important things, such as the spelling of a name. This is important when, say, you might be looking for an Ahmed versus an Akhmed. I spend an hour or so editing a draft of something and then send the first draft up higher anyway, leaving the edited version happily on my desktop. I remember to buy cat food, but forget things like bread and milk.

I can, of course, still communicate readily with the cat. I don’t know how much that helps, however, as she spent the past ten minutes trying to walk around with the claws from one foot stuck in the bathmat and then, once freed, terrifyed herself by pulling one of her toys off a shelf and hitting herself in the head as it fell. We are getting along just fine these days.

This all comes as I get emails confirming my place in a one-month long course which I cannot attend due to my medical processing, five hours later another email confirming my withdrawal from the course after I emailed my first sergeant reminding him that in the past six months I have been on the same status and this has not changed in the past few hours or so, and three days later a phone call from higher asking me if I had attended the course and if not they would go ahead and sign me up.

I am becoming convinced, actually, that my mind is merely trying to save itself from any further Army abuse and therefore may in fact have the right idea. If anyone needs me, I will be sipping Mai Tais on a tropical beach somewhere. Just if someone could please remind me to take that umbrella out before I poke myself in the eye…


Quit Complaining and Act

Filed under: — lana @ 1:09 pm

Normally I would not use this forum to vent directly about politics, the news, whatever.

Unfortunately, I find it hard to resist when some of the Muslim population is voicing protest over the show 24.

For anyone who doesn’t watch the show, it is about a “I work alone” type of counterterrorism agent with the FBI who periodically gets involved in stopping the terrorists (various nationalities depending on season) from blowing up Los Angeles and the greater United States. He can shoot down a helicopter with a pistol. The first time I meet someone who can do that, I will hang up the anti-terrorism towel and go spend time in the garden tending tomato plants and feeding my multitude of cats for the rest of my life, but until then I will drive on as I regard 24 for what it is: Action television. Fiction. And good acting.

Make that GOOD action television, if you like occasional violence and hate terrorists. Coincidentally, that fits me.

Now this season the bad guys are Islamic extremists. Please note that they haven’t had Islamic extremists as the bad guys for three seasons now, so it isn’t like this is every time.

Well lo and behold, the Islamic community is protesting. Saying that the show is giving the Islamic religion a bad name.

Okay, maybe it’s just me, but maybe the real, live Islamic extremists are giving Islam a bad name, not some television show. You know, the ones who blew up a couple buildings with some planes, the ones who blow themselves up on buses, the ones who put bombs under the vehicles of some of my buddies.

Sure, a few members of the Islamic community have said, “Hey, they don’t represent all of Islam.” But have I heard any real protest such as them turning to their extremist counterparts and saying, “Hey! Idiots! Knock that off!” Not really. Afraid of retribution that they might be “siding with the west,” afraid of whatever, they keep their mouths shut from those in their own religion giving it a bad name and turn around and blame the rest of the world, and television, for profiling. How about stopping the real terrorists instead of complaining about the fictional ones for a change? How about making a difference where there is a real problem instead of creating a new one? No? Too scary? Poor babies. Then leave my show alone.

The show has even demonstrated certain aspects of the current situation that reflect poorly on the American side, such as showing a government official who violates privacy rights (a statement on the Patriot Act, one of the scarier pieces of legislation around), a community turning on each other and accusing innocents because of their religion, likening some of the treatment back to the WWII Japanese internment camps… if you watch the show without automatically jumping up and saying, “Hey wait the terrorists are Muslim again,” you might see a lot more.

And why are the terrorists Muslims again? Read the papers. We have whackos in every race and religion, militants in every group, and all of them need to be dealt with. But I prefer to first deal with the one killing my friends right now than the one who might kill them later.

So I say this to those that choose to complain about 24 and other profiling problems: The problem is bigger than a tv show. The fault is not only with the network. The fault, the real root of it, is that the extremists are a PROBLEM, and if you want to take action and protest something, how about you turn off the television that is making you so mad and go protest something that could save some innocent lives? Step up against those in your religion who are giving it a bad name. Take away the reason for the profiling and you take away the profiling.

It also occurs to me that maybe this is another tragic sign of the times. MacGyver, my other counterterrorism hero, was nearly every time battling the evil doings of the East Germans or the Soviets (though sometimes it was the Chinese and very very occasionally ambiguously arab types). Nearly every time it was something about those crazy commies. Did you hear the Russians saying, “Now, wait a minute. Quit showing that episode, because we aren’t all bad!” No, you didn’t, and it wasn’t just because their voices were a touch muffled behind that iron curtain they had gone ahead and hung up. They probably just said, “I can’t believe he just built a bomb with battery acid, flour, and a piece of newspaper!” and got on with their goose-stepping.

Nowadays you can’t sneeze without someone getting insulted. Problem is sometimes when some people get insulted (like when they read a political cartoon that makes them upset) they burn down embassies. To prove that they aren’t all violent. Or something.

Get over it. It’s television. Some people call it the idiot box. In this case, I can pinpoint the idiots.

As I step down from my soapbox, thouroughly worn out from my tirade, it occurs to me that I still have some ice cream left in the freezer that needs my attention. I will have to sideline saving the world and the greater sanity of the human population for now. I have cherry vanilla to eat while practicing shooting down helicopters with a pistol.



Filed under: — lana @ 1:27 pm

Last time I spoke to the doctor, before the holidays, I asked him when I should expect to come back in to sign my packet so I can really get the medical board process underway. He said given the holidays, don’t expect anything until the first or second week of January, don’t call us we’ll call you.

So at the end of last week I called anyway to make sure I would be able to find a few hours of time to get up there in the near future, as my work schedule is filling up rapidly. I was told the following:

Your packet is sitting on the desk of some officer somewhere in the hospital. It is awaiting his signature, where it has been for about the past week and a half. He should sign it today. Or next week.

Then we get it back. No, no, you don’t get to sign it then. Then we have to bring it to the desk of another officer somewhere else in the hospital where it can ferment, collect dust, and finally get buried under a huge stack of other work. When he unearths it sometime hopefully prior to the apocolypse he will sign it. Then someone has to bring it back to us again. Please remember the hospital is shutting down and therefore is short-staffed, so that may take a bit as well.

Then we will call you and you can come up here to read it and make any changes, though keep in mind any changes are going to necessitate more signatures. Then once you finally approve it and sign it we will make our way to the post office and ship it back to the States, regular mail, and hope it doesn’t get lost en route. Then it makes its way to the board, they finally get around to reviewing it, and we sit and hope that they don’t have questions because if they do it means we get to start all over again. Once they have no further questions they sign it and either you get out or you get to stay in and be miserable, unless you appeal, in which case you start all over again anyway.

Expect to be complete with the process sometime prior to your 83rd birthday.

Have a good day.

So since that obviously isn’t getting me very far, to kill time I went to Paris for the day. I haven’t been to Paris since 1994, but I found it hasn’t changed. It is still gray, still dirty, and the only way to get someone to speak to you in English is to speak to them and continue to hold your side of the conversation in French. Given that my French is so poor from disuse that I would struggle to hold my own in a conversation with a first-grader but I was the only one of any of my traveling companions who spoke any French at all, it was an interesting trip.

After walking around the city all day, my foot was the size of a small melon. One would think that might be fodder for the medical packet, but I don’t want to have to extend this process until my 97th birthday instead…


If This Doesn’t Work, What Next?

Filed under: — lana @ 1:13 pm

So I called a friend of mine at another office to enquire about a few things and discovered that he has been alone at his office, as the solitary soldier whom the unit thought to provide to support the office alongside my friend appears to have been in the hospital for the past month.

The next question, one might ask, would be why a soldier has been in and out of a German hospital for a month.

The answer, it appears, is not as simple as it looks.

He said he was having problems with diarrhea. He was also, apparently, vomiting from time to time. The Army clinic couldn’t figure out what was wrong just by poking him in the tummy and for once they figured a large quantity of Motrin might not be the ticket, so they referred him over to the Germans for some tests.

He has since been poked and prodded, cameras up and down orifices, medicated and taken off medication, and generally had a good time of it.

They couldn’t find a single thing wrong with him.

So they took out his appendix.

No indications of problems, no swelling or anything of the appendix, but out it came anyway.

Since that didn’t help, go figure, they called in a psychotherapist of some sort to determine if it isn’t something wrong with his brain. I challenge to ask who took out who’s appendix, but it falls upon deaf ears as always.

I shudder to think of what might get removed if this route doesn’t work out…


MacGyver Misinformation

Filed under: — lana @ 4:37 am

As I made my way through the first season of MacGyver on these cold winter nights, I came across an episode with so many inaccuracies it deemed commentary. Now, I am well aware that the show is not usually full of factual information, though most of his techniques are fairly accurate, but this one in particular struck a chord with me.

The episode was set in eastern Afghanistan during the Soviet era of the mid-1980’s. The problems I saw at first glance were as follows:

1) The woman only had one child, and that child was in his pre-teens. There should have been at least five other children running around.
2) The woman was not wearing sandals, nor were most of the Afghans.
3) Everyone, Soviets and Afghans, spoke fluent English (this is a common MacGyver occurrence, but more interesting since most Afghans barely knew their own language, whichever of the seven languages in the country they spoke).
4) The house was not made of mud.
5) There were items of basic technology in the house, such as a water pump inside.
6) The child was not capable of shooting a firearm.
7) Despite making a comment about a goat, the goat was not seen inside the house or even inside the “barn.”
8) They even mentioned a barn. There are no barns. They just let the animals inside or leave them outside.
9) The Soviets and other Afghans were surprised when one Afghan did not show up for military duty. It should have pointed out that anytime even remotely close to a payday about half of any militia or army personnel would disappear for at least a week if not more (and if they ever showed up again), and most days only about three quarters of the personnel would be available for duty anyway.
10) The Afghans appeared largely self-reliant and at no time asked MacGyver to dig them a well, build them a desk, or give them a pen.

There were more. Many more. I got quite a good laugh out of this episode, actually. I do wonder how he managed to get out of Pakistan in time to be in East Berlin for the following episode, but I suppose some things are best left to the imagination.


A Weekend of Learning

Filed under: — lana @ 7:57 am

I can name several things that do not, or at least should not, go together. Most of them I discovered on my recent trip to Amsterdam.

First there is the concept of taking small children on a bus trip. Now, families breed. Survival of the species and all that jazz, I have heard it all before. However, this does not necessitate bringing a year-and-a-half old toddler aboard a bus with forty other people when the child does not even speak words such as “da-da” and will instead wail every time it wants (or doesn’t want, or isn’t sure if it wants, or already has) something or someone. Particularly since Amsterdam is not exactly a brief bus ride. The thought of taking a child so young to such a city is beyond my comprehension as it is, but particularly on a bus. This was further exacerbated by my strategic seating location right next to Daddy. At least I found out that if the other religions are right and therefore I am doomed to an eternity somewhere in Hell Circle Seven, I have already chalked up some experience and should feel right at home.

Aside from children and bus rides not belonging together, another lesson learned was about drinking and fireworks. Now, in the United States there is a holiday called the Fourth of July upon which the general mantra is to get together, barbeque some type of animal flesh, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, and then depending on the state go and watch or possibly light your own fireworks. However, the United States also tends to regulate where, how many, and what kind of fireworks are sold to civilians. Amsterdam, naturally, does not have such binding rules, and a good portion of the New Year’s Eve excitement was spent dodging incoming from the half million drunk or otherwise incapacitated people who all possessed some sort of explosive material. Death By Firework to the Eye was not high on my list of ways to start out 2007, so we sought some sort of refuge by a large monument, upon which I could also rest my feet which I had grossly underestimated and had pounded around the city all day. The refuge worked well until the firework holders realized there was a small space in front of it. For those who do not know, concrete will simply bounce explosives. The explosions did provide, however, brief warm reprieves from the ice cold rain and occasional hail pelting down from above. It was an interesting evening.

As a whole, Amsterdam was a nice town. The people spoke english and were extremely friendly, the ladies in the windows only cost 50 euros and were not at all offended if you simply wanted to ask questions and not sample their wares, and it reminded me of New York City with shorter buildings and more waterways. I will take a trip back someday, to be sure, as I never did find the type of printed “menu” my husband asked that I find.

Next time, however, I will remember to pack tranquilizers for the children… and possibly for the drunks carrying fireworks.

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