Filed under: — lana @ 7:07 am

And in other news,

Am I the only one slightly disturbed by the fact that the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation website has a “kid’s page” to teach young children about the FBI?

This includes a game called “Help Bobby Go Undercover,” by the way.

Recruiting a little young, aren’t we? Can anyone else smell a little desperation here?


The Future is Now

Filed under: — lana @ 6:37 am

So recently I have been trying to tackle the rather daunting task of figuring out where exactly my life is heading, and if that heading happens to take me off a cliff, how to neatly backtrack without stepping in too much dog doo along the way back.

My options, as they currently exist though that changes nearly daily, are as follows:

1) Turn down the promotion I studied so hard for (I kid, I kid) and get out of the military in March. Potential upsides are freedom so close I can taste it. Potential downsides are that without a current idea of future employment I could potentially be standing behind a counter in mid-April at the Wafflehouse in Fayetteville waiting for my husband to get home from deployment while trying to clean up the mess some three year old child of an Army wife with 18 other children made with the syrup. While this is unlikely, the possibility scares me much more than that zombie movie I watched last week about infected logger and hippie zombies in an unlikely alliance chasing and eating other oddly allied loggers and hippies.

2) Accept the promotion I studied pretty hard for (okay, I am still reaching here) and get out of the military in late August, early September of next year. Aside from the potential of still falling into the sticky trap set in option 1 (the one about the Wafflehouse, not the one about the logger and hippie zombies), the Army has the potential to set a trap for me here as well such as trying to force a reenlistment for some terrible assignment because all of a sudden my “date of expected return from overseas” will be about five months earlier than my freedom date, which might set my always plotting branch manager to work tossing me somewhere in the vicinity of Korea for no real reason other than she can, which would in turn force an unwanted reenlistment for orders I didn’t want. I have seen it done to others, and it is an ugly picture. I’d much prefer the zombies to a plotting branch manager. The zombies are more rational.

3) Reenlist for two years or so in order to try and get accepted into warrant officer school and go into a special program, which would then require another six year reenlistment. Scary parts there? If I don’t get into warrant officer school, bring on the branch manager and this time she has a real purpose. Other scary part? If I do get accepted into warrant officer school and the program, thats six more years of service to the Big Green Machine. Screw the zombies coming after my brains… the Army is more after your soul…

Now the potential exists in options 1 and 2 that I could turn up a nice job somewhere that doesn’t involve mopping up syrup after bratty children. As a matter of fact, it is quite likely that I would be able to find gainful employment in a real agency or company shortly after my departure from The Service of The Man. It’s always the lingering doubts that get you, keeping you up at night to the point where you actually become a zombie the next day. I need to make these decisions soon, by the end of the next month, so my future is rapidly becoming now. The cliff is approaching, so the question is do I take the plunge or backpedal, and if I do take the plunge, are there sharp rocks at the bottom or is the ravine filled with marshmellow fluff. I usually tend towards the tastiest option, but in this case I’m having trouble seeing the fluff at the bottom of the cliff.

Ah well. It will probably result in some haphazard decision made towards the end of the month when several pieces of paper come across my desk for signature as to my future and I need to pick one right then.

I suppose it still beats getting eaten by zombie hippies.


Shovels Again

Filed under: — lana @ 11:21 am

It’s been a long time since I thought about the nice man I met in a field in Iraq one day leading a cow on a rope while carrying a shovel.

Then today I read the following excerpt from an Associated Press article:

“The U.S. colonel had a simple question.

“Where are the signs you were supposed to get?” he asked the Iraqi border guard as they stood on a remote desert road believed to be a smuggling route from Iran.

The Iraqi officer pointed his flashlight at three signs that were intended to alert motorists to checkpoints. The signs were lying on a mound of sand.

“Why haven’t you put them up?” Col. Mark Mueller asked during a late-night inspection. “All you have to do is pound the stakes into the ground.”

But, the Iraqi explained, he didn’t have a shovel. ”

End Excerpt. The rest of it goes on to talk about how there is hardly any border security at the Iraq-Iran border and a whole bunch of other stuff everyone could probably figure out without too much brain power, but I particularly enjoyed the first part of the article because it was so typical of so many of my conversations with both Iraqis and Afghans. From talk of, “Okay, we built you a school, so now you just need to build desks!” getting the response, “No, you must buy desks for us from Pakistan,” all the way to three of us trying to figure out just what an old man who said he was a farmer was doing wandering through a moderately wooded area outside his home village leading a cow on a rope and carrying a large shovel, the excerpt brought back some pretty fond memories.

Seems if the two got together, the cow guy and the border patrolman, they might be able to figure something out between them that might make everyone happy.

Not sure about the cow, though.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print.


Diet of Doom

Filed under: — lana @ 7:38 am

Apparently it is not normal to wander up to the deli counter on a payday weekend with a long line behind you and instruct the nice man behind the counter that you would like 12 and 2/3 slices of roast beef. This apparently not only earns you a strange look from the man at the counter, but upon repetition of the instruction only earns annoyed commentary from those behind you.

I did the new diet for about a week when I read the shopping list for the upcoming week. It ennumerates things such as “7 croutons” and “12 2/3 slices roast beef” and “1/4 cup sliced red onion.” Keep in mind that this is a weekly shopping list. Throughout the week, I was to allocate myself only 7 croutons. No more, no less.

Now, I am not dieting because I am overweight. I am not even really dieting, as I don’t really intend to lose weight. The plan came with my workout plan, and I like the workout plan. It also has smoothies incorporated into the plan, and I do like smoothies. But the question did come up of what to do with the other 1/3 slice of roast beef, and whether or not the nice man at the commissary would attempt to put my head on the slicer should I ask him to only cut me 2/3 of a slice. It occurred to me that the plan was at best moderate, and certainly wasteful. I am only doing it as a one month trial, so I was going to see where it led, 7 croutons or no.

But the guy at the deli counter can breathe easy. A friend of mine, upon hearing things like “7 croutons” told me that I was insane. Though I did shop healthy and got ingredients for the recipies on the diet, the overall list with its 12 2/3 roast beef slices found its way into the trash. This was mostly because she threatened to shove the 7 croutons in a very uncomfortable place, one which I assured her would not provide any nutritional value.

Luckily, the shopping list went in the trash only moments before I opened a package mailed from my parents which contained three boxes of girl scout cookies. I took it as a sign that the right decision had been made, and swapped out my 5 baby carrots allocated for my snack for thin mints. I figured I wasn’t really violating the plan, since thin mints weren’t on the list at all, so it was as though they didn’t exist.

Now if I can just figure out who will sell me 5/8 of a cup of mango…


Rats ‘n’ Double Rats

Filed under: — lana @ 2:43 pm

Nothing to do with vermin, unless you count some of the new stock managers for the Army and Air Force Post Exchanges in Germany.

After commenting about how I should do it for about a year and a half, I went and bought a bike on Sunday. It was a Diamondback Response Sport, aluminum frame, hardtail, front shock, disc brakes, for 350 bucks (while still a lower end bike, it was a good deal on a DB and with disc brakes et al, and it usually runs about 450).

All excited to have finally done something with myself, I get it home and get on it to try it out.

It’s too big. By about two to three inches. It was a 20 inch frame, I need about a 16 to 18. I’ve ridden 20 inch frame bikes, but the wheels seemed abnormally huge-mongous, which is a word I made up to describe them and other things larger than I believe they should be.

So I take it back today and they said, “We don’t have the smaller one. we will call around to see if someone does.” The very nice man who is usually sequestered to the basement room beneath our Shoppette proceeds to call just about every post exchange in Germany.

No one does, and the only similar ones are like a supergajillion dollars. Another not real word I made up for use describing things more expensive than I believe they should be.

My only hope is that the new post exchange out east opens next Wednesday. When he called over there, he got the typical lazy Army response, as demonstrated by the following synopsis of his conversation with the basement room guy at the closest exchange to the new place:

My basement guy: So do you have the bike?
The other basement guy: What bike? Huh? I don’t know.
My basement guy: Uh… do you have ANY bikes?
The other basement guy: Sure! I have five!
My basement guy: What are they?
The other basement guy: I don’t know.
My basement guy: Can you… you know… go look?
The other basement guy: Nope. They are at the other base.
My basement guy: Can we call them to see?
The other basement guy: Nah. We won’t know what kind they are until the new exchange opens up next Wednesday.
My basement guy: What? Huh? Nevermind…

He nearly beat a hole in the wall hanging up the phone. I am just going to have someone from this base call that base on Wednesday and see if they have the smaller version of the bike I like. That way no one gets exceedingly injured.

It figures that I finally get motivated to buy a bike, I have the money, they have a bike I like from a brand I trust, and my legs are too short.

Damn damn damn.


For Every Omnipresent Cloud of Doom

Filed under: — lana @ 10:38 am

Finding the silver lining to dark clouds can be challenging at times.

Luckily, this is not so much one of those times.

I decided, I think it was yesterday, to seriously this time get into some sort of decent physical condition. While this is pretty easy in the military, usually, my end goal is to find a routine which I will continue after I get out.

So I hunted around, got some magazines, purchased some DVDs, poked about on the internet, and finally found something structured enough but easy enough to plan that I might actually be able to stick with it for more than a month or two. It encompasses a diet as well as a fitness plan, complete with a weekly shopping list and online tracking of your weight lifting. Get in shape AND something to kill time at work? Oh, a godsend.

The diet is rather strictly dictated; though you can make substitutions, you need to do so prior to buying the crap at the beginning of the week. So as I prepare myself to begin the process of the reich… I mean… regimine… I find I have about two days to clean out the fridge of foods unlikely to be on my list.

Therein, my friends, lies the silver lining.

Microwave pizzas, EZ cheese, sweet, delicious ice cream… all things need a home, preferably in my belly, prior to Tuesday. The fruits, veggies, salad fixin’s, and so forth can probably stay, but down the hatch go the goldfish crackers, the chicken nuggets, and whatever that is towards the back coated in cheese. The taco shells and such I can probably donate to the cause of a friend or my poor new soldier who seems to substist on only Tostitos and salsa, but the Girl Scout cookies will have no such luck, doomed to be consumed.

I think I may have found the root cause of the world obesity problem: too many people starting new diets…


Now What?

Filed under: — lana @ 1:21 pm

My two days of studying did pay off, as I achieved a 148 out of 150 on the board, though I think that had something to do with wearing the same combat patch as our group sergeant major, who was sitting as the president of the board today. Especially since I didn’t answer two questions and made up the answers to at least two or three others…

My first sergeant, upon dropping me off back at my office, congratulated me, to which I responded that I couldn’t have done it without him. He looked at me and commented “Don’t lie. Yes you could have,” to which I pointed out no, I couldn’t have, because I wouldn’t have had a ride to and from the board. It was at that point he told me I had too much time on my hands if I am coming up with responses like that, got back in his car, and drove off.

Clearly, he is right.

Now the board is over, and even though I only studied for a few days, I can’t seem to remember how I filled my time prior and therefore sit here, bored. Too late to put in a movie, too early to go to bed, I consider opening a bottle of wine and sitting on the couch but for some reason that makes me a bit depressed.

Luckily, about two hours ago I received a phone call from my headquarters asking me to please go back in because since one person was on leave today from their office and another was doing something else, certain weekly reports didn’t get to wherever it is they go on time, so could I please go in and send the ones from my office directly to wherever that might be. With those vague directions I muttered some nasty language and went back to the office, only to find out that my boss, knowing that I wouldn’t be present today because of the promotion board, had not copied me on the email containing the reports. So I call him to get the information. He mumbles a few nasty words, to which I responded that he needed have bothered as I had already taken care of muttering the same, and then he said he didn’t know all of what needed to be in the report off the top of his head, but the commander, who also wasn’t in the office today, should have the report in his email.

Still muttering nasty words, I called my first sergeant, who had just gotten back to his office from dropping me off at mine, and explained why I needed to ask him to ask the commander to check his email. He didn’t mutter his nasty words, he just went ahead and said them. He told me to stand by and presumably went ahead and shared those nasty words with the poor Soldier who had called all of the office NCOs to come in to resend the information. I don’t know exactly what transpired from there, but he then called me back and told me to go home. Having done my job by making him cranky, I followed his orders.

So that killed about an hour of my time this evening, and now I am left with the remainder. My first sergeant again tried to sell me on a reenlistment option, pitching it on the drive back from the board, but figuring out my future right now sounds much worse than the aforementioned bottle of wine option. I think I saved a crossword puzzle from yesterday’s paper, which might provide some brief amusement, but even that would be better with the wine.

Sometimes it is hard for us to accept our destiny, I suppose. Now where did I leave the corkscrew?



Filed under: — lana @ 12:16 pm

One would think that with the promotion board tomorrow I might be studying.

It appears, however, that when i have things to learn such as “what is the muzzle velocity of the M16/A2 rifle?” and “what are the 9 mild symptoms of nerve agent poisoning?” everything else in the world becomes much more interesting.

For instance, I just learned that the brownie with chocolate chips that comes in an MRE package contains a whopping 370 calories, 150 of those from fat. I learned that the Model T Ford was actually a terrible car. I learned that if I fling a hair elastic across the room to the edge of the rug the cat will play with it for an average of 2.4 minutes prior to carrying it back to me, as opposed to her usual immediate retrieval.

These things are all important to know, to be sure, but are they more important than knowing that Minerva, goddess of righteous war, appears on the Medal of Honor?

Debatable, to say the least.

Five F’s of field sanitation?

Definitely not, though the answer is food, flies, fingers, fluids, and feces. I learned that one for the last board.

The funny thing about promotion boards is the questions asked of you. It is very seldom a real assessment of your military knowledge or leadership skill, more how well you can memorize several hundred random facts. When a Soldier asks me, “What is the Army regulation for the unit field sanitation team?” I can tell them to go on Google and look it up, and might even do it myself. Apparently, I cannot use Google or any other search engine as a response to board questions. My first sergeant was pretty adamant about that.

When I went to the Sergeant board, I studied every day for about a month, even though I was in Iraq and on missions nearly every day. I made flash cards, a friend going to the same board and I sat and quizzed each other daily, and motivation was high. Maybe it is because I know that this is the last board of my military career, even if I don’t get out in a year like I plan, that is making me procrastinate.

Or maybe it’s because I can’t focus my attention on memorizing the exact date America declared war on Spain.

Or maybe it’s because my Soldiers know enough to never bother asking me what the regulation is for a unit field sanitation team…


Dog-o Blue-o

Filed under: — lana @ 2:01 pm

This morning I once again got to enjoy partaking in the DLAB, or Defense Language Aptitude Battery.

For those who are unfamiliar with the test, it is a standardized test that the Army (and all the other services and many government jobs) has you take in order to determine your aptitude for learning a language. It consists of a listening part and a reading/picture association part, a little less than 200 questions, a little under 2 hours or so.

It is also, I point out, my eighth circle of eternal Hell.

I was taking it again because when I took it previously I scored an 88. Back then, such a score was passing, at least enough for me to learn anything they can teach a seventh grader: French, Spanish, Italian, etc. They since changed the standards to a 95, meaning that my score was now no longer adequate and in order for me to file some of the job applications I had to take this hellish beast again.

The test begins simply enough. The audio tape clicks on and tells you that it will give you four words in a gibberish language. All you have to do is determine which of the four words has a stress pattern different from the others. They give you something easy, a three syllable word that they say slowly and annunciate clearly, as your “practice” question. You confidently answer, smug in your aptitude, and the test officially begins.

The first question is four words of six syllables, mumbled together, sounding like Persian Farsi on too much opium, and my head explodes. I piece together enough of the brain matter to complete the section.

The next section begins my descent further into the firey pits of Hades as they stop their syllabic repetition and move onto linguistic rules. Now I am told that I will learn a gibberish language based on English. All nouns precede adjectives. All nouns and verbs end in the same vowel sound. Practice: Blue dog becomes dog-o blue-o. Easy enough.

Uh, Ah, and Eh start sounding very close when put at the end of persistent patience. This is then complicated by the next two sections, which tell me things like the object of a sentence will always end in ee and all verbs start with ya and subjects have an ah sound in the middle and don’t forget that possession (a condition which I am convinced the test coordinators were in when creating the test) indicated a precedence of order and vowel endings of their own. The last listening section took all the rules and combined them within sentences. It was around this point that I started finding pretty designs in the little circles on my paper and wondering just when it would be over so I could go run into traffic.

The final part, during which i could turn off the infernal tape, has four pictures, each with a simple caption in an unrelated gibberish language. Three other pictures are then presented and you must determine the appropriate caption for each picture. Given a warrior man, a warrior woman, and a small baby, I am to now determine the caption for a large tree.

Luckily, the smiley face that resulted from much of this proved to be worth it, as I succeeded in achieving a score which would allow me to take any language I choose in the Army. I now have the pleasure of hiding that score from my first sergeant, who will be more than pleased to attempt to convince me to reenlist for four years so I can learn Arabic.

Right now I am more concerned with the fact that upon greeting my cat this evening I referred to her as “Kitty Cutey” and even she gave me that blank stare that told me I need to take a nap…

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