Sunday, November 13, 2011

Home Sweet Home

I’m back, actually I’ve been back for a while and just got busy and neglected writing up this post and posting these last two posts.

When I left off I was waiting for a flight out of Kuwait.  I was able to go and get rid of the majority of my gear, well atleast the heavy stuff so that was a nice unexpected bonus.  Other than that just spent a lot of time sitting around burning time.  Kuwait sucks.  I was able to get on the flight back to CRC as scheduled, just to be sure I volunteered for baggage duty so I end up having a long day of moving bags around for everyone on the flight.  First we had to load them onto trucks after we went through the pre screen customs yard they have.  That took a few hours but there wasn’t anything else to be doing so it wasn’t so bad.  Then we got to sit around for about an hour or two before we boarded busses and took the 2ish hour trip to the airport.  I think it is the main airport there but we were off in the middle of nowhere.  Just a plane parked on the ramp so we got out and had to unload the trucks/load the plane.  I didn’t go up into the plane’s belly as that was assigned to the shorter guys.  While we were doing that everyone else boarded so we were the last ones on but they saved all the mid-range seats for us, the big wigs and the guys with the dogs got first class but we had the seats with extra leg room so no real complaints there.  We first flew to Germany and watched a few bad movies on the way.  Different airport in Germany and we got there in the middle of the night, were then bussed all over the place to some really old terminal also in the middle of nowhere where we hung out for a couple of hours and got a bit to eat and drink before getting back on the plane and flying to Atlanta.  We ended up getting into Atlanta at about 4:30 in the morning again at some out of the way terminal in the middle of nowhere but atleast we didn’t have to unload all the baggage they had one of the crew’s there do it.  It’s about a two hour bus ride from Atlanta to  Ft. Benning which is pretty uneventful, thankfully on heated busses as I didn’t have any warm clothes with me.  We went back to the terminal at Ft Benning that we had left from and they had a small ceremony welcoming us back which was pretty nice of the.  Then they fed us again.  Cold Cuts.  But they had bread that wasn’t stale so they were actually rather good.  We then went in a returned the rest of our gear before heading back to CRC for the final out processing.  Then we were free to leave.  This was about noon.  So rather speedy process which was great. Of course my flights back to NJ weren’t till the next day, but that gave me time to go to the PX and get something warm to wear for the trip back.  Flying back to NJ was pretty uneventful. 

When I got back to NJ they had just gotten about a foot of snow (yes in october) a few days before and the place was a mess.  It took about a week and a half to get power back at my house so I didn’t really start living here again till the beginning of this week.  Not to mention my roommate’s girlfriend and her dog moved in while I was gone so a few changes here.  Work is different and the same, I’m looking forward to finishing up the ending paper work for this trip and getting back into the normal swing of things. 

Overall I’m very happy that I went, it was a pretty awesome adventure.  Don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to go back or not, time will tell I guess.  I suspect this will be the final entry in this blog so thanks for reading!  It sure is nice to be home.


28 Oct 2011

So I finally left C^3.  Well really I was only delayed a week, but people were starting to wonder if I actually was going home or not.  So now I’m burning about 48 hours at Ali Al Salem in Kuwait.  One of my least favorite places ever.  I imagine that Kuwait has some nice places, but this isn’t one of them. It’s hot dry and dusty, so about the same as when I came through in May, in all fairness I guess it is a little cooler now than it was then but still upper 90’s.  Anyway I’m getting ahead of myself as a lot has obviously happened since my last entry.

At the Bazaar this week I ended up picking up a few last things, I was going to buy another painting but the painting guy hasn’t been there for the last few weeks, maybe because of all the rain we had and it had been damper than normal.  I also went to the little bank that they set up where you can change money and whatnot (you can also open a savings account but I’m not really sure what anyone would, well anyone that doesn’t actually live in Kabul but not too many locals are allowed at the bazaar.)  I was able to get the missing 5’s for my monopoly sent as well as a few more singles.  40 5’s and 23 more 1’s, all for $5.  So it will be a mix of old worthless money and current, still pretty worthless money.   We also saw a CCCP stamped multitool.  In normal Soviet fashion it was pretty rough finish wise but it had a hatchet and a hammer head on it.  The hammer head was removable and there was a set of sockets for it as well.  A bargin at only 3000 Afghani, (~$60) but I bet we could have gotten it for 1000 or less if we had actually wanted to buy it.

My replacement was supposed to arrive on Saturday but due to weather or something his flight was canceled.  He wasn’t able to get out Sunday either which caused some consternation as we already had a limited timeframe for overlap.  The other contributing factor was we couldn’t figure out why it was taking so long to get him here as we had plenty of options for different ways to get here.  (Always good to have at a minimum plans A-C worked out ahead of time for travel around theater.)  He finally made it in Monday morning, so the rest of Monday and all day Tuesday were pretty busy trying to get him up to speed on the job and all the different systems and things one needs to know to be useful.  It will be interesting to see how he does when the boss gets back.  Nothing that I did is really that hard, complicated, or time consuming but it is a rather wide variety of things and just generally trying to know something about everything.  It seems like a lot more when you’re trying to teach it all to someone in a few day’s time. 

My out processing and all that went well, until we found out Tuesday afternoon that my flight out had been canceled.  Plan B didn’t look realistic either at that point.  So I that Wednesday morning I’d head over to one of the other bases in Kabul and try to get out from there since they tend to have a fair amount of helo traffic in and out on any given day.  Of course when I got there I found out that my chance of actually flying out from there was probably pretty remote, it just isn’t set up to handle cases like mine.  But I was there and pretty much willing to hop on any bird that would get me to Bagram so I could catch my Thursday flight to Kuwait.  I used the back of a notecard to write a note to show the helo crew chief since having a discussion right next to a Blackhawk doesn’t tend to work out well, go figure.  Set of birds lands that I’m 99% sure is going to Bagram, so I walked out showed my little card to the crew chief, he reads it and gives me the thumbs up. Score one for non-verbal communication.  Grab my bags and head out, to hop on the bird as instructed.  Turns out the bird I was told to get on was pretty much empty anyway so no biggie for them to randomly pick up someone with three bags.  The flight to Bagram was awesome as helo flights generally tend to be and went pretty well.  The countryside was pretty nice as the few trees that there are, are changing color.  Mostly yellows and reddish browns mixed in with a few still green with snow capped mountains rising up at the edges of the valley.  It really is a beautiful country from a few hundred feet up. 

Got to Bagram and hitched a ride to meet up with the guys.  I spent most of the day just chillin as they were somewhat busy.  They let me play with some of the new thermal gear that was coming into theater.  Ended up taking that out at night (it works well during the day but it is a lot more impressive at night).  That was awesome.  We have some really great gear, it’s gotten to the point that it’s on par with or maybe even better than what I’m used to seeing in video games.  You could see the mountains through the haze and helos/planes taking off and landing.  All sorts of stuff.  Again really cool stuff.  And it could be yours for only, well ok they probably wouldn’t let you buy it and you probably wouldn’t want to afford it if they did, cool gear isn’t cheap.  But boy is it cool. 

Called up the pax terminal to check on my flight in the evening and while it said it was for the 27th it really wasn’t till the 28th.  Apparently since it was a multi leg flight that originally started late on the 27th the whole flight is listed for the 27th instead of the parts on the 28th being listed as being on the 28th like one might expect.  The air force flight system is really goofy. But they had some early morning flights that I could try for.  While I didn’t want to get up early not trying and then having problems later and being delayed would be significantly worse.  I ended up having carry my bags to the pax terminal, the original plan was to get a ride but that didn’t work out.  It was longer than I wanted but shorter than I feared.  Slow going as I was carrying probably an extra 100+ lbs of gear.  Atleast it was cool out so I wasn’t dripping sweat when I got the terminal.  Actually I ended up being lucky, as soon as I walked in set my bags down and then went to the desk to sign up for space-a they asked if anyone was going to Ali.  Apparently while the flights I knew about had gotten delayed there was one that just showed up somewhat randomly that they could take people to Ali on.  It was a callsign I’d never heard before so I didn’t know what plane to expect.  I got signed up for that flight and went to the waiting area for an hour or two before they called to load up.  Turns out there were only 6 of us that were taking it, probably a combo of the early hour and it not being on any of the schedules.  So we head out to the ramp and board up on a C-130.  Not the most comfortable plane for long distance trips.  We get on and the plane is set up for pax transport so basically we have the whole plane for the six of us, plenty of room to stretch out and even lay down.  So of course that is huge as the C-130 is pretty slow compared to say a C-17 and the flight is going to be significantly longer than I had anticipated.  (it ended up taking about 6 hours.)  I managed to “sleep” for the first half of that using my IBA as a pillow. (Ceramic armor plates are about as soft as they sound but ehh better than concrete.  I tell you sleeping outside that gas station in England is going to be pretty hard to beat when it comes to crappy sleeping locations.  Good thing I got it out of the way early.)  Between that and carrying bags around my neck/shoulders are a little sore at the moment, but I’ll live.

I got to Kuwait about mid-day aka right after the DFAC here closed.  They have fast food here but as good as that smells it wasn’t that appealing.  Got all checked in here with my bags secured and a bed for the few nights I’ll be here.  Not a whole lot to do, especially if you’re traveling by yourself.  So I walked around some yesterday, read on my kindle, watched a few movies. (Most of which had Justin Timberlake in them, strange but whatever.   Friends With Benefits is actually pretty funny, or it was at midnight last night.  But to be truthful Mila Kunich, no idea how to spell that,  is just smokin hot.  Not really news just an observation.)  Right now they are showing Cowboys and Aliens, I’m not watching it but I probably would be if I wasn’t writing this. Also watched Bad Teacher that had ? Cameron Diaz in it (and Justin Timberlake), the first 5 min or so was pretty good, the rest of it was just so so.   Saw some other movie but it was soo awesome I have no idea what it was, ohh no it was Brooklyn’s Finest.  (without Justin Timberlake)  It wasn’t exactly what I would call good but ehh it isn’t like I have a whole lot of other things to be doing.  Also I found where I can turn in some of the gear I have before I fly back so I’ll have less to carry, but it was closed last night.  Went back today and was able to get rid of a ton of stuff so now I’m down to my assault pack and a duffle bag which is much more manageable, not to mention easier to carry.   I’ll probably actually put my assault pack into one the empty duffle I have and just travel with two duffle bags till I get back to Benning.  Looking forward to that and dumping off the rest of my gear there.  Not much else going on today, I found out some info for the boss so when he transits through he’ll be prepared and I found out info for my flight back to the states on Saturday.  Schedule looks ok, not too early but I imagine it will be a long day of sitting around not doing anything and not being able to go anywhere.  Oh well, Not much else going on.  Just plan on spending the rest of the day hanging out inside watching movies and reading, I might go hang out outside once it gets dark and cools off some. To be fair they have a pretty decent setup here just everyone is transiting through waiting to go somewhere else trying not to get stuck here for days if not weeks.  We’ll see how I do but I should have a reservation for the Saturday flight so that might help. (May not mean much but it’s better than not having it.)   Will I make it home as scheduled?  Will I have an extended unwanted stay in Kuwait or at Ft. Benning?  All these answers and more in next week’s episode! Stay tuned....

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What are you still doing here?

Wait, what? I’m still here?  Hmmm thought I was going to leave by now.  Oh well.  So I’m still living the life at C^3.  Turns out my replacement had some minor delays so I said I’d hang around a little longer till he got it sorted out and gets here, shouldn’t be too long so no big deal.  Me staying a little longer than planned is much better on the whole than not having any overlap and him having to learn everything on his own.  Once he gets here we’ll have a few days of overlap where I need to try and teach him all the ins and outs of my “normal” routine.  I put together a list of that this week, it’s pretty short.  But there is a lot of other stuff that I do “as needed” which takes up a larger chunk of my time so getting him ready for those random bits is important too.  At least for me a large part of this job is reactionary so really what I’m doing any given day/week is dependent on what is going on across the country and here at C^3.

I did get to have some fun this week.  The boss and I went over to Bagram for a day to take care of some administrative stuff.  Aside from seeing most of the guys over there we also got to see the new PIF that one of the teams is installing.  Basically when it is all delivered, setup and functional it will have the capabilities of a regular machine shop back stateside.  There are some issues with the whole concept and scheme of implementation and how you make something like that useful while still following all the army rules on R&D type activity but when they get it all sorted out it could be a really awesome capability to have.  Either way it was neat to go check it out and see all the machines and talk to some of the guys that I normally only talk to over email.

They gave me the choice of which DFAC to go to for lunch, so in my ongoing quest to eat at every DFAC at Bagram I choose to go to the BBQ Tent. (ok do you really need any other reason to go to the BBQ tent, I mean they serve actual grilled food.)  Of course it was delicious; I had ribs that I ended up turning into a sandwich.  Pretty much any meat product is better when surrounded by bread, I don’t know why it works like that all I know is that it is delicious.  Oh I had sweet tea and corn on the cob too so that brought everything together rather well.  Also that means that I’ve eaten at every DFAC that I know of at Bagram,  I imagine there are still a few on the list that I haven’t hit but I doubt there are many, especially not if we only count US DFACs. I’ve been to seven, but I don’t know the true number of how many there are.  Not bad considering I don’t live there, also I’ve been to a DFAC that one of the guys that has been at Bagram from the last year has never eaten at.

Once we got done with all the stuff we had to do in Bagram we had some time before our flight to kill so we ended up going to the Bagram PX and then the Bazaar that they had setup. (Their bazaar is more of a permanent fixture where as the one at C^3 is a once a week deal.)  I found what I was looking for at the PX so that was a worthwhile trip.  At the bazaar we ended up spending all of our time at one shop talking with one dealer.  One of the guys we were with wanted to buy an old rifle so most of the time was spent haggling over the price and quality and all sorts of things like that.  He actually go a fairly good deal all things considered.  As this was going on I was looking around, mostly just the usual collection of trinkets which are all pretty cool until you start seeing the same thing over and over at all the different shops in the different bazaars.  LOTS of stuff that isn’t nearly as old as they want it to look like it is, which is kind of a shame since a lot of it is pretty neat.  Anyway one thing this vendor did have that I had seen before but in in such quantity was old Afghan Afghani bills.  He had stacks of them.  Now of course they have been replaced by new currency and so these old ones are pretty much worthless, still I’ve always liked old money for some reason and stacks of it is even better.  But why would I ever need stacks of old cash…..Monopoly….yeah that’s right.  When I get back I’ll be able to play Monopoly with a foreign country’s currency.  Well worth the price I paid for it even considering how much I overpaid for a few stacks of worthless bills. (still I did pretty well considering his initial price,  plus did I mention playing monopoly with REAL currency from another country?  Is that wrong?)  Now they didn’t make 500 Afghani bills so I just got a bunch of extra 100’s and then a stack of 1000’s as well.  Plus since the rules of Monopoly say that there isn’t supposed to be a limit to the amount of money in the game it should workout without any problems.  Holding the stack it feels like I robbed a bank.  I don’t even play Monopoly that much, but when I do I’ll have the best set ever!

And we still got back to C^3 just in time to go to dinner.  (This was a major concern, not mine but still glad it worked it.)  Plus I got in a couple more Blackhawk rides, good times.  Helicopters are the coolest way to travel.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Another week another canceled trip.  The boss and I were supposed to go over to Bagram for some business but that got canceled at the last minute for who knows why.  Oh well.  It is kind of disappointing but not a huge deal.

I got a shot this week, we all had to get flu shots at the little clinic they have here.   I have nothing against flu shots for any reason other than I’m just against shots as a general rule.   People sticking pointy metal objects into my body just doesn’t do it for me, I like my skin puncture free.  I got a ton of shots before coming over here but for some reason this one just wants to keep feeling sore.  On the other hand I got a flu shot which I generally consider a good thing (actual shot part excluded), especially around here where we all work/live in such close quarters.  Hopefully I’ll be out of here before anything starts going around, we’ll see. 

Not a whole lot has been going on here, pretty slow really which is kind of annoying I’m getting pretty short so I won’t complain too much.   I would like to thank the Navy today.  Today was the Navy’s “birthday” and so they cooked up some steamship round for dinner, which was a welcome break.  So thanks Navy.  (For a landlocked country we have a lot of Navy people here, go figure.)

The big news this week (ok there is more than one thing but I’m only sharing this for now) is we had a “mini-bazaar” on Saturday night.  They brought in a few vendors from one of the nearby bases.  These guys had more or less the same stuff that you can get at our normal bazaar on the weekends and it was outside so the lighting was less than ideal.  Also I think the prices were a little higher than our normal bazaar.  I didn’t buy anything.  Actually I think I’m finally starting to get semi decent at negotiating prices so it’s a little more fun to shop at the bazaar.

They also had a bunch of guys cooking traditional Afghan food and serving that.  They have great food here.  Good flatbread, great lamb kabobs, then rice and chicken with spices. (Similar to a curry)  The lamb kabobs are really good wrapped up in a piece of flatbread.  So that was pretty cool, we don’t get that many opportunities to eat local food, plus while we do have a rather nice DFAC it is really nice to eat something else every now and again.

But wait, there’s more!  Live entertainment!  They had a local afghan band come in and play for a few hours.  Not only that but a lot of the locals that work here got out and danced some we got some traditional music and dancing which was pretty cool.  Of course they played some less traditional stuff too, at least it sounded different. And there were plenty of people dancing and just generally having a good time.  So I hung out there for most of the evening just enjoying the atmosphere.  Something different and there really aren’t all that many opportunities to be social outside of the office here.  I had a pretty good conversation with one of the BGs who is here which was neat, doesn’t happen everyday.

Unrelated to the “mini-bazaar” but related to live music there has actually been a pretty big concert series going on throughout Kabul over the last month or so.  Bands play at a different venue each night and they don’t tell people where it will be that night till the day of.  Obviously still somewhat underground, but still pretty cool that they are doing stuff like that.  Also saw the webpage for the Kabul Golf Club, look it up, dedication is all I can say to that one.  The MAJ I work next to showed me a daily brief which has all the normal stuff but then the last section of it is something about Afghanistan or Kabul which is really interesting.  I wish I had found out about that at the beginning of my tour here as I would know a lot more about the country and people had I been able to read that every day.  As you may expect from a city located on the old Silk Road there is a TON of history and historic buildings around here, even considering all the war this country has seen in the last 30+ years. Maybe in 30 years this will be like Vietnam and we'll be able to come back as tourists, that would be pretty cool.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Things that didn't happen

And we’re back, actually I didn’t go anywhere I’ve been here the whole time.  Another week in the books.  So this time last week I was anticipating leaving the next morning to go down to Kandahar for a few days to do some stuff down there.  Well that didn’t happen.  First my flight to Bagram, which I got up early for, got canceled for no apparent reason.  Now this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, in all reality it is pretty common for flights to get canceled even when you were approved for them and were on the schedule when you went to bed.  Just another part of traveling in theater which you get used to and just accept,  really unless you’re wearing a star (or more) on your chest there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it.  Anyway there was another flight scheduled for that afternoon which looked like it should have space so I could hop on and make it down to Bargam to meet up with the guys I was going to head down to Kandahar with so I figured I’d just hop on that one.  Cue forward 6 or 7 hours.  I’m back out waiting for the flight with some other people.  Then this GO walks up with his posse, not really that rare of an occurrence here at the C3 and they start waiting for a flight as well.  Well this GO somehow had an M4, which is somewhat weird but I guess if you’re a GO you can get whatever you want, people don’t say NO to GOs even when they should.  Anyway this guy had the WORST muzzle discipline I’ve ever seen.  Just because you have a star doesn’t mean common sense rules for handling a firearm don’t apply to you.  It almost got to the point where I was ready to go over and remind him where not to point the thing.  I guess that’s why they normally don’t let GOs have long guns…  Anywho the flights we were waiting for got canceled.  Well except for the GOs but that is a different story for a different time.  (I would have been a terrible army officer)  So no trip down to Kandahar for me, as going the next day would have made an already short trip not even worth it.

On the plus side I was able to hit up the Bazaar over the weekend which was nice as I had been wanting to pick some stuff up before I left.  I got two really nice paintings which Im pretty happy about.  Also picked up some other random stuff.  I have a few more things on the list assuming I get a few more chances which I should.  I also got the Massoud getup, and by that I mean a scarf, parkul, and blanket. (Went with a nice camel hair one)  I got a lot of comments on them as I got some of the rarer colors I think.  But they look good.  Now the MAJs and I are working on getting some pictures taken with all of us in our get ups.  Actually If I got a tan I could probably go walk the streets without to much trouble, or so I’ve been told.  I’m not going to test that one out.  Now I have a bunch of stuff to ship home too, especially with trying to get rid of as much stuff as possible so I don’t have to carry much back with me.

Speaking of redeployment.  It has been a rather exciting week on that front too.  My replacement had a medical issue pop up so for a while I was looking at extending while he got that taken care of, but it turned out to be nothing major so he is back on track to get here when scheduled.  Which of course is good both for him and me, everyone wins.  Actually I wouldn’t have minded staying a few more weeks but I have NO problems going home.  Also going home is less paperwork which is a plus. 

It’s rained here the past two days, the season really is changing.  It has even been getting pretty chilly at night when I go out after working out.  But I’ve always liked the fall so no complaints there.  Hopefully it doesn’t rain tomorrow since that would keep them from grilling steaks and the grilled steaks are much much better than the non-grilled steaks.  Actually I’m fine waiting for a day without rain for the steaks, but I don’t get to make those sorts of decisions.  Thanks the MAJ I did find out about the Mango sorbet bars they have here, they are actually rather good and close enough to fruit that I can pretend they are healthy and aren’t really a dessert. (hey they are 30% pulp, that has to count for something.)  I snack so much here, and I’ve never been a huge snacker.  Oh well I’m still at the lower end of what I feel is acceptable for my weight so I guess it hasn’t hurt to much.

Not much else to report, life goes on. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What's Up? Not much.

Hi.  I’m in a pretty good mood today, not sure why but who cares.  Actually who knows if Ill even be able to post this.  The internet is supposed to be sucky at the moment due to a cut fiber somewhere between J-bad and Tarin Kwot?sp?  We’ll see.  I recently found out that Pandora works over here which was kinda surprising, I thought there might be licenseing issues with playing it here in Afghanistan, guess not.  It isn’t the best quality and sometimes it is choppy but ehh, it seems to ok enough.  Bandwidth shouldn’t be to big a problem, people skype here, that is a lot more bandwidth.   I haven’t even though I got everything set up to do it.  I guess I probably should sometime.

This week was busyish, just seems to be a lot of little things going on at the moment. Enough to keep me busy but nothing big.  So I guess that’s ok.  I think I’m going to be pretty busy for the next few days so that should be good, help the time pass a little faster.

We’re about to get a new boss here too, by we I mean C^3 as a whole.  Trading in the old two star for a new one.  So this place has been a little crazy due to that, not that I’m really involved in that but I do imagine there will be some changes in the near future because of it. 

I guess part of the reason that things have been better recently is that I’ve finally started to feel like part of the group.  The new MAJ that I sit next to is awesome, he and I get along really well and he knows another MAJ who is also pretty cool.  Of course we’re pretty much always busting on each other but it is fun and it helps keep things interesting.  I think the COL finds it pretty funny cause whenever we are in the office busting on each other and I look over at him he has this big smile on his face but he never says anything or chimes in.  I guess we’re cheap entertainment. 

It’s fall now in case you weren’t paying attention.  I really only bring this up cause I was still kind of in the June mode and then it started getting a little chilly.  Actually the real downside is that it is getting dark way to early.  We’re going to really have to start eating earlier and earlier at dinner if we want to continue eating outside.  I didn’t think I would have to use any of the cold weather gear that they gave me when I came over here but it seems like I just might if it gets any colder.  Other than that we’ve had some amazing days out here.  The weather here is pretty nice, very similar to Los Alamos as far as I can tell.  Nothing like home has been.  I’m going to miss the endless sunny days when I go home. 

They canceled the bazaar last weekend, which stunk cause I actually was going to buy some stuff.  Maybe I’ll get a chance to this weekend, we’ll see.  I don’t have a whole ton of chances left.  

Ehh I don’t really have a whole lot to talk about tonight I guess, haven’t really done anything interesting sorry.  Maybe next week I’ll have some interesting to talk about so stay tuned!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


What? Another week?  Already? Drat, I don’t really have much to talk about, nothing nearly as interesting as the excitement from last week!

Well first off we got a new roommate so back to three in the room.  He is a pretty cool guy and we all seem to get along fairly well so no real complaints.  I’m getting used to the bottom bunk, we have it setup with a blanket over the side that opens into the room and a walll locker at the foot, the head and other side are against walls so when I close the curtain I have my own little space complete with a small light and a fan which is pretty nice.  Also it is a lot darker at night which is nice as I like it dark, however I will admit that it is much easier to get up in the morning with some light, I need to get one of those alarm clocks that slowly turns on the lights before/as you’re waking up.  Well not here and I guess I don’t really need it at home but anyway.

I found a kite this week!  That was somewhat exciting, there I was just walking along and a lonely kite was sitting on the ground.  Of course I gathered it up along with the string that was attached to it.  I have it hanging on the wall up in the office now, not sure what I want to do with it as it probably wouldn’t survive the trip home, it is just made out of tissue paper and bamboo.  The string is neat, I think it starts out as normal fishing line but then is covered with something.  Kite fighting is a popular sport around these parts and for that you cover the string with ground up glass as I understand it and I guess that is what it could be as the string really just feels like sandpaper if you run it between your fingers but honestly I was expecting a little more.  Then again I guess when it is under tension it might work pretty well?  I don’t really know the details of kite fighting.

Actually I found two kites this week, I found a second one which was larger than the first dangling off the side of one of the buildings here but decided to leave it for someone else since I couldn’t even figure out what to do with one kite.

Work has been going ok.  I haven’t been super busy.  The boss got back from a trip he was on last weekend.  While I like working for him it was kind of cool it have him out of the office if only because then I got to do more and I felt a little more important.  He also has me working on getting a review of my deployment worked up so I can update it and not have to create it all from memory once I get home.  It’s not a bad idea and I’m sort of glad he is making me do it cause I probably wouldn’t be doing it ahead of time if he wasn’t.  Of course I’ll have more to add once I’m done but I have a good chunk of it done.  He wanted to look over it the other day which was fine and then we had a conversation about it.  First off I’m a bit blunt in it and tried to write it honestly and truthfully since I think there are some things that need fixing and improvement.  I think I was pretty fair about it as I listed the good things too and how I would recommend improving the things I thought needed improvement.  Anyway he read it and I was expecting him to want to discuss some of the things I wrote and my suggestions a bit more be he seemed pretty pleased with it and while we talked about it some the conversation wasn’t about the parts I thought it would be about.  He disagreed with some of the assessments I made about the job and how I fit it, plus he seems to think I’m doing a good job at my job which was nice to hear, who doesn’t want their boss to think they do a good job.  I still feel like I could be doing a lot more.  This experience really could be a stepping stone to other things once I get back, but I’m not sure if I want it to be, at least not yet.

Ehh If nothing else I got some kick ass pictures!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I live and work in a bunker

Well there was certainly a lot of excitement this week.  For those of you who don’t read the news, you should, there was a relatively “big” Taliban attack this week.  A small group of Taliban stormed an abandoned high rise building that was only partially constructed and started shooting at the US Embassy and ISAF from the upper floors, both small arms fire and RPGs.  According to the reports I read on the web the building was about 800m away which is pretty far if you want to hit anything accurately with small arms or RPGs.  Not that they really care about hitting what they shoot at, they just want publicity.  Which they got. 

C^3 apparently took some small arms fire during this so that made it exciting here as well.  I got to watch some video feeds from the big balloon that they have here which was kind of cool, and some UAV feed so it wasn’t a total waste.  Although seeing everyone sitting at their desks working on their computers while wearing body armor and Kevlar was something you don’t see everyday.  This place actually felt like we might be in a war zone for a little bit, but it is still rather cupcakey. 

Prior to all this we had a ceremony on 11 Sept, it was pretty good, CSM Hill (the ISAF CSM) spoke.  They had a small band there, I didn’t know we had bands in theater.  That struck me as pretty odd.  So at these formations everyone is well in formation yours truly included which makes it a tad strange.  I’ve never really been taught to stand at attention or at ease properly and while it doesn’t seem to hard to fake by watching other people and using common sense im sure we civilians stick out.  Also they never told us what to do with saluting and that sort of thing.  I don’t salute which is correct for a civilian but its also odd to be one of the few not doing a traditional military salute during the national anthem.  I mean I still take off my cover and put my hand over my heart and all which as far as I can tell is the correct thing for a civilian to do.  I guess my point is with all the stupid training I had to take to come over here something on the proper civilian things to do in these sets of circumstances would be handy as there wasn’t much consensus among civilians if you looked around.

They had a new type of chicken nugget at the DFAC one day at lunch, they were awesome.  I had the best chicken salad, it was awesome.  But they haven’t made fresh bread in the mornings in at least a month, im not happy about that.

So I’ve been wanting to play a game for a while, I was finally able to talk some of the people I know here into it Sunday evening but not till later in the evening since people had other things they had to do first.  Anyway I went outside and ran into a kite string which was impossible to see in the dark and a couple other people ran into as well.  We found one end of it (no kite) which was good cause then we could get it out of the walkway.  So I decided to try and find the other end thinking that there would either be a kite on it or atleast there wouldn’t be a kite string laying around.  About 10-15 min later I had a huge bundle of kite string with two ends and no kite, drat. I stuffed it in my pocket since there wasn’t a trash can around and proceeded down to the basement to meet up with my friends to play a game.  I walked into their office and one of them was standing there with two kites they she had gotten somehow and trying to figure out how to get some kite string.  Now if you’ve ever been in a situation like this and someone randomly walks in and offers you some kite string that might seem a little strange or atleast a bad attempt at a joke.  Luck for me I had a bunch of kite string still stashed in my pocket.  And that my friends is how you become a miracle worker.  I love it when the lack of a plan comes together.

So after the kite string incident we went over to the Gym which has the library and game room attached.  They weren’t up for monopoly so we ended up with clue and sorry.  Sorry was the game of choice however it was missing a red pawn which I tried to quickly use to my advantage my shifting the board so I could be red, however it’s pretty easy to tell I was missing a pawn so I ended up using Miss Scarlet as my secret weapon (aka 4th pawn.).  I haven’t played Sorry in ages.  There is actually a surprising amount of strategy for such a simple game.  Nowhere near as much as im used to in Settlers or Puerto Rico or the like but enough to make it interesting.  I’m also happy to report that I managed to win though it was a close one at the end, well atleast between red and blue.  Someone had also sent over a bunch of cheap Hawaiian decorations, which we had found on the shelves where people put stuff they get that is for the taking.  So we were sitting around playing Sorry in the Library with Miss Scarlet wearing Leis.  It was funny.  And nice to get atleast one game in, maybe we’ll get another one in this weekend.

Also one of my roommates redeployed yesterday.  So now I have a bottom bunk and until we get another roommate a little more room.  All of which is pretty good.  I’ll have a guy above me once I get a roommate which I imagine will happen in the rather near future but we’ll see.  Still I have a bottom bunk with curtain so I can make it darker.  Actually being in the top bunk wasn’t that bad.  Hopefully we wont get another roommate for a while so I wont have much time left when we do get one but again knowing how the rooming situation is around here I kinda doubt that will happen, we’ll see.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Another week.  So I pretty much don’t remember anything really interesting that happened this week.  I figure I’ll just start typing and I’m sure I’ll end up talking about something.  Last Saturday night I got a very strong desire to play a board game.  I guess that shouldn’t be a big surprise considering how much I play games at home and how few I’ve played recently.  So I’m going to try and get a game of monopoly or possibly risk if they have it down in the mwr together.  I went looking for some people last weekend but that didn’t work out, however the MAJ I sit next to expressed some interest in a game at some point and I think we could get one or two other guys in so that might turn out rather well.  We’ll see.  I really just need a clone of myself, someone to play all the crazy games I want to play with.  Oh well, they need to come up with more games that you can play one player as well as multiplayer, and for this video games don’t count.  Yeah they are fun and all just sometimes you want to roll dice and stuff like that. 

Tonight I’m sitting out at one of the picnic tables in the courtyard which there isn’t really anything special about.  Except tonight they happen to be having a Movie night out here.  They have one of the nice projectors out of a conference room out playing some movie that just came out that I’ve never heard of and have no interest in watching.  But it is still kinda cool, they have it projecting up on one of the buildings, I’m guessing the screen size is about similar to the “screen” we had in college so rather large, but much much better quality.  They have a sound system hooked up and a lot of the picnic tables arrayed around to see well.  They even brought out the popcorn machine from the movie room and have coolers with drinks in them.  Yeah we have a popcorn machine, reminds me of Yarnell-Hoffer.  This place really is pretty swank, especially compared to some of the other bases I visited on my little jaunt around country.

Work was really hit or miss this week.  Either I was really busy or pretty slow.  I’ve got some stuff going on but I have a feeling the next week or so is going to be pretty slow, we’ll see.  Actually going on that trip and the follow-on to that has kept me pretty busy working stuff from it so that was good on all fronts.  Not that I find that outcome surprising or anything, I still wish I could do more good stuff like that.  It is both fun and useful to all involved.  Of course very little of this stuff is going to get fully resolved before I leave but I knew that coming in.  There’s a lot going on here that I’m not at all involved with but it is pretty neat to be able to be a fly on the wall for some of the things going on as this conflict continues to evolve, it really gives you a different perspective than you can get most other places.

I’m starting to get kinda short too. Which I talked about some in my last post and I’m sure I’ll talk about more and more as I get shorter and shorter.  I’m still somewhat apprehensive about that whole bit but I think I have a little bit better of a plan and I know I’ll continue to mentally revise and redo it till I get home and it all falls apart anyway so I’m not overly worried.  Biggest thing I’ve been dreading is buying some paintings at the Bazaar, Id like to because I think they are pretty neat not to mention my room/home could use some more decoration on the walls.  I dunno why I’m just not really looking forward to buying them.  Probably because I’ve figured out I don’t really like to haggle which is a must over here.  But with all the haggling that happens over here I’ve started to wonder what would happen if I tried to haggle more when I got back to the states.  I doubt it would go over well, still might have to try it a time or too at select locations.  What I should really try and get here is a Kite, they are pretty hardcore with the kites.  I mean how many other big cities to people just go outdoors or on rooftops and fly kites?  It is pretty neat to see them at dinner in the evenings.

I’m randomly reminded of the end of CarTalk, well folks you’ve wasted another perfectly good three minutes reading about my random thoughts during this crazy adventure.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Water Falling from the sky? Crazy!

I’m Back!  Ok well I’ve been back since Saturday but who is counting?  The journey back was a bit of a journey.  We were planning on leaving mid day but that flight got canceled and the next one wasn’t for about 12 hours so we spent all afternoon/evening sitting around the PAX terminal at Shank waiting for our flight.  AFN shows terrible movies, but I did finish the third book in the A Song of Fire and Ice.  We finally got to go out to the plane about 0200ish? I dunno it was late.    But instead of a bus or anything like that we rode out in the back of some big truck. I’m not exactly sure what it was, basically the military version of a big flatbed that had bench seats along the sides.  It was pretty cool, mostly because it was a really clear night and you could see all the stars and whatnot.

So after a rather short flight we were back and BAF, and by the time I found out when my flight back to C^3 the next day was I only had about 2 hours to go lay down and grab some sleep.  So I did.  Then once I got back up and humped it over to the terminal I found out I had been bumped from my flight, thanks guys.  Of course there weren’t any flights going back to C^3 later that day but I was able to get a flight to one of the other bases here in Kabul that I had been to before and I figured I’d be able to work my way back from there.  Once I got on the helicopter we actually ended up stopping for gas, which isn’t really all that exciting except it was something Id never done before, basically we had to hop out and stand off to the side while they gas the birds up.  And then we were off.  Got to Kabul and made my way out to the pickup point for the drive team.  I managed to catch a break there as they showed up after about 10 min (I had not idea what their schedule was like but figured they would come by sooner or later.) and had room for me so I was able to back it back to C^3.  Went into the off to drop gear and then went and got a nice hot shower and got some clean clothes before going back to the office.  The boss was pretty happy that I was back.  (the whole trip took a bit longer than planned, I think I was gone for ~ 17 days when I was only originally scheduled to be going 12ish.  oops)  Had some food and then went back to my room and crashed for 3-4 hours which was great.  Got to sleep in the next morning too so sleepwise I got caught back up pretty quick. I still felt subpar for a few days but that has gone away now so no complaints. 

This week has been kinda busy, I’ve mostly been working on post trip stuff.  Which is the “work” part of the fun of travel.  I’ve got some good stuff down so we’ll see where that goes.  It was nice that I was able to have internet/email access from a few places on the road so I was overloaded with that stuff when I got back. 

So it rained really heavy one day while I was out and then it rained the day after I got back but only for a little bit, today it rained ALL day, that long steady soaking rain.  Man I haven’t really seen much rain in a long time (unlike the east coast), It is pretty weird.  I actually the warm and dry a lot more!  NM really seems like a nice place to live the more I think about it.  That and It’s already September!  I have somewhere around 30% time left here at the white collar prison that is Camp CupCake.  Then I have to deal with the real world again, scary stuff.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

25 Aug 2011

Another entry from the road.  Kandahar was more or less exactly like I remembered it from my prior visit, hot, dusty, and smelly.  The building we stayed in this time was called the Tropicana (last time I was in the MGM Grand which happens to be right next door).  I didn’t have the room to myself like last time but my fellow travel companions are pretty easy to room with so no complaints.  We stayed in Kandahar for a few days attending various meeting and talking to people all over base about some of the ongoing projects that we are working.  I was able to get the short “leadership” level brief on one of the systems that they have over here which was pretty cool and very informative.  I had seen things on that system before but never nearly as detailed. 

I mentioned Kandahar’s legendary boardwalk after my last trip there but was able to experience it a bit more this time.  We ate at the big pizza place one night which was actually pretty good.  The crust was very thin “traditional” Italian style crust while the rest was normal pizza style, nothing to special.  Well aside from that it was Pizza which I haven’t really had any of for a long time so that was fun.  They also have a few ice cream stands which are pretty clutch when it is 110+ out and you’re walking around outside a lot.  We also hit up the TGI Fridays one night for a late night snack and hey why not.  Bit of a disappointment, not that I’ve ever been a huge TGI Fridays fan (cant think of the last time I went to one prior to last week).  Really it would have been awesome but they didn’t have Mozzarella sticks.  The ones in the DFACs just aren’t that great. (buffet style serving of fried cheese has some drawbacks.   No Mozzarella sticks, War truly is hell….

…till you get to the Canadian complex anyway.

Yeah gotta love those crazy Canadians, they have a Tim Horton’s.  If you don’t know Tim Horton’s is roughly the Canadian equivalent of Dunkin Donuts.  Yup fresh doughnuts, mmmm doughnuts.  They were very tasty. 

Not much else exciting happened while we were in Kandahar, spent the days talking to people and the evenings reading or watching movies over in the MWR.  Well I did get to do laundry which while not really exciting makes the last half of the trip much more pleasant.  We didn’t make it on the flight we wanted to so we had to sit around the PAX terminal all day waiting for a later flight but once we made it on the flight went smooth and we got back to Bagram at a reasonable hour.  Flying involves a lot of waiting but at the same time I’m flying through the Game of Thrones series, on the third book already.

We were in Bagram for a few days, we weren’t planning on being there very long but since the whole start of the trip got delayed everything else got delayed which means our reserved flights weren’t an option, more waiting.  The Paladin guys that I’m doing this whole trip with put me up in a pretty nice shack, small but nice.  No complaints.  Also being in Kandahar and then Bagram I was able to get to my email so I was able to help keep up with stuff going on back at C3 somewhat decently.  I think the boss is ready for me to get back, esp since this trip is taking a tad longer than planned.  Oh well

Flying down to FOB Shank the guys we were with had reserved seats on one of the little planes that flies around here and through some miracle we were able to get standby seats on it as well. (they hold less than 10 people.)  Unfortunately about an hour after we got told we were on the flight and everything they canceled the entire flight.  Oh well, more sitting around the terminal.  We did finally get on a flight so it all worked out.  They loaded the passengers first so then we taxied over to a different part of the airfield where they loaded the cargo.  Bunch of small wooden boxes, hmm wonder what that could be…  The flight itself was really short, we ended up getting here right as the sun was going down.  It was a nice clear night and you could see the stars really well which was nice, haven’t had many chances to see the stars while I’ve been over here.  Even saw the milky way. 

Our temp lodging here is pretty nice, we’re in a tent like we were at leatherneck but instead of it being open with bunk beds it has 8 small rooms sectioned off with plywood and 2x4 walls so everyone has an individual “room”.  They are still open at the top and all but it is pretty nice and the mattresses are halfway decent which is always a plus.  We’ve only been here a few days but they have been really productive.  Talked with a bunch of EOD and Engineer guys about what is going on and their equipment needs, got some familiarization with a couple of different robotic systems, got to go check out an aerostat up-close and talk to the guys that work those.  Also today it rained!  This is really the first real rain I’ve had since I got to Afghanistan.  It was drizziling when I got off my inbound flight from Kuwait and then it almost sprinkled a few times at C3, once it even looked like it had rained but I missed it.  This time there was tons of wind, rain, lighting, the works.  It really cooled everything off and the air smells a lot cleaner since there isn’t a ton of dust everywhere.

Yesterday afternoon I started feeling pretty bad, headache and stomach just didn’t feel right so I skipped dinner and just went and relaxed.  I felt a little better this morning but still pretty poor so I did a very light breakfast,  I felt pretty bad all morning and at lunch I had another light meal and they guys said I was pretty pale which Id believe since I felt pretty crappy.  We had about an hour between meetings this afternoon so I came back to the room and took a nap and after that I’ve felt a ton better, not 100% but much closer to it.  Even had a normal dinner.  I’m guessing it was a weak case of food poisoning or something like that, that stuff normally runs it’s course in ~24 hours.  So hopefully I’ll be back to normal tomorrow.  (I’m sure being on the move for the last two weeks hasn’t really be helpful in terms of being well but on the whole not really that big a deal.)

This should be my last entry from the road for a while, I’ll probably post these entries once I get back and then I’ll start back up with my “regular” updates.

19 Aug 2011

Hey hey!  Again another blog entry that wont be posted for at least another week, oh well such is the price of keeping a blog while traveling in theater.  So currently Im writing this from the Tropicana, no, not the one in Las Vegas.  The temp housing at Kandahar has casino names, last time I was here I stayed in the MGM Grand. What’s happened in the past week?  A whole lot.

We finally got out of Bagram last week on a flight late Saturday, or early Sunday, I think.  We didn’t end up flying till sometime in the wee hours of the morning, so we got to Kandahar in the middle of the night.  Luckily we got a ride from the inbound terminal to a different ramp at the airfield where we would be able to get a flight out to Camp Leatherneck.  We ended up getting to the correct location at about 0330 and there were no flights till the morning so we found a dark waiting room and all just crashed in there on the wooden benches, believe it or not I actually slept really well.  The night morning started a little earlier than I would have liked but we managed to get some chow (the eggs in Kandahar are pretty bad..) and get onto a flight later that morning.  That flight went well, a little longer than expected, guess they took a different route or something.  Oh and we had some working dogs on the flight that were actually rather well behaved.  I was surprised how well they handled the flight. 

For those of you that don’t know Leatherneck is a Marine Corp base which is somewhat ironic since it is out in the middle of nowhere in the desert, nowhere near water.  What is it like?  Hot, Dry, and Dusty.  However I was rather impressed with the base as a whole.  It was a lot closer to my imagined notion of what a base would look like, very “clean” and organized, sprawling but a much more organized sprawl than say Bagram.  We were staying at the compound of some of the guys we were visiting which was actually really nice.  We were in the transient tent which was brand new, and right next door they had their own little MWR, so we ended up watching movies at night.  8mm movies.  Apparently the Navy hasn’t moved to DVDs and is still living in 8mm land.   The guys we stayed with were really cool and we had some very good conversations with them about gear related issues and what the science and technology community can do for them.  Good Stuff, hopefully I’ll get more chances to do that sort of thing.

Lots of walking around base, got some god PT in.  Actually the thing about the 110+ heat is that yeah it is hot, but you still almost get used to it.  You sweat and you drink a lot of water and try to stay inside as much as you can.  After a few days it is less bad.  Also once the sun starts to go down is cools off fairly decently.  It was down in the low 80s one night as I was walking back from my shower before bed, almost chilly. 

Leatherneck is actually only a portion of the base, the other half is the British compound, so while our day to day activities there didn’t include the Brits we did sneak over to their DFAC one night to get some good British grub. The Marine DFACs aren’t bad, they aren’t the best I’ve been to, more middle of the pack, however the British DFAC was pretty darn good.  Maybe it was just that everything was different than anything else I’d had?  I dunno but they had a really good beef stew w biscuits and the dessert bar had a ton of different goodies on it. 

If you don’t follow the Islamic calendar we happen to be in the middle of Ramadan at the moment.  Now normally this doesn’t mean much to the non Muslims in the crowd however if you’re in a country that is predominately Muslim that changes a bit.  First off everything done by local nationals slows down to a crawl or stops completely for the month.  This happens all over and is interesting how their culture just accepts and works around the decreased productivity of a period as long as this.  Also the call to prayer is a lot more prevalent at night than it is normally.

We had a pretty good visit to Leatherneck but of course we must continue on our journey.  Next stop is back to Kandahar for a few days.  We ended up getting to the outbound terminal a few hours earlier than we needed to so we ended up sitting around for 5ish hours.  The outbound terminal is on the British side so the tv had the British Equivalent of sports center going so after watching a loop of that I mostly read on my kindle and we talked to pass the time.  We also scored some MREs to snack on, those things keep getting better and better.  The one I got had Chocolate Peanut Butter in it.  Genius Idea.  Now we just need to see that on store shelves near you.  It was the middle of the night again when we got on to the flight, however flying back to Kandahar was significantly shorter than the trip out, not sure why, I barely had time to fall asleep before I had to wake up again.  Anyway we got to Kandahar some crazy time, probably about 0330 again, got to our temp rooms here and crashed.

12 Aug 2011

I’m writing this on 12 Aug 2011, however it wont be posted for some time.  This is because yesterday I started a long awaited trip and wont be posting till I get back to C3.  Yesterday I took my favorite mode of transportation from C3 to Bagram and met up with the Paladin STAT guys here.  I’m going with them to a number of places across the country to work on helping with some new technologies being fielded in theater.  First we are going to see the USMC guys down at Camp Leatherneck, then we’ll go to Kandahar and finally on to FOB Shank for a few days.  In addition to helping out with the new stuff I’ll have a chance to talk to some soldiers and get some feedback on current gear.  More or less the sort of stuff that I came over here to do.  We’ll see how it turns out, but I think this will be a good trip so I’m pretty excited about it.  Then again we’ve already had a flight canceled so we’re still in Bagarm waiting to leave.  But ehh that’s how going places around here tends to be.  The Paladin guys have pretty much adopted me for the time being,  they are a good bunch and pretty fun to hang out with so no complaints here.  I’ve even managed to get some work done while I’ve been here which will help keep the boss happy even If I’m out of the office so that’s a plus.

Every time I’ve been to Bagram I seem to eat at atleast one DFAC that I’ve haven’t been to before.  I don’t know how many they have here but there sure are a lot, of course with the size of this place you need a lot to keep everyone fed.  I think Bagram might have a larger population than a number of places that I have lived in the states, BIG difference when you’re coming from somewhere as small as C3. 

Work this week went pretty well, I got some useful stuff done so that helps the time move and doing useful things which help out is just generally good too of course.

On a possibly more important note, Oreos, we now have a rather decent collection for the taste test.  We have regular ones (which are now much easier to get since the new PX stocks them), Double Stuff, Cool Mint, Goldies, Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Berry Blast.  Personally I’m not sure why you would think the Berry Blast would be a good idea but I guess chocolate covered strawberries are pretty good so who knows.  I even brought a small stash with me (well more like the boss forced me to take it but hey no complaints here), so I wont be going hungry.

I also finally tried something I had been thing about doing for a while now.  Playing my PSP while riding the bike down in the gym.  It is actually pretty easy to do and has a surprising side benefit of I actually workout harder since I get sucked into the game and don’t pay attention to the workout.  Put the legs on autopilot and just go.  Plus of course I get to ride the bike for 50 min AND play video games for 50 min all in less than an hour.  Pretty good deal if you ask me.

The beginning of the week I have two rather clever ideas which I’m rather happy with as well, having good ideas always makes the day better!  The first was to download a software program that lets me use the sound card in my netbook as a signal generator.  Which is useful because now I can use it replicate an R/C type servo control signal and have the Arduino I’m working with read that incoming signal and react to it.  Once I get that part sorted out I can start programming useful code for the Arduino since of course it will be going in the boat sooner or later.  The other idea I had while much cooler also happens to be something for my boat that I can’t share at the moment but it has a lot of potential to increase the performance of every ship in my fleet, well and it is just kind of cool.  Now I cant’t wait to get back home so I can start doing the research/development type work that I need to do in order to implement this idea.  Mayhaps I’ll even get my very own rule out of the deal if I manage to pull it off correctly and it works as envisioned.  Either way I’ve got lots of cool projects and ideas in store for the winter.

Back to the Arduino, the kit I got is pretty good, the “cookbook” I got for it isn’t really what I was expecting so that was a little disappointing but oh well.  The more I learn about them the happier I am, the base microcrontroller and all the different sizes/configurations which are available and able to run the Arduino bootloader.  Some of the smaller microcontrollers chips are less than $2/each (granted they have reduced memory and functionality) which means I’ll probably be using them a whole lot more than I ever had thought about using a BasicStamp.  I’m very pleased with this as you can do some pretty spiffy things with microntrollers, especially if you can get them at a reasonable cost.