"Not the victory but the action. Not the goal but the game.
In the deed the glory."

Friday, December 29, 2006


When I first found at I was getting deployed, my only desired outcomes were not dying and coming home with the same number of parts that I left with. The early rumor is that we would be doing full spectrum ops in the middle of Baghdad, and of course I assumed that meant I would be the guy kicking down doors and shooting people in the face. Luckily (for me anyway, the trigger pullers would probably rather be kicking down doors and shooting people in the face) the rumor was widely inaccurate like most rumors in the Army. Other than dodging a few mortars here and there, things here are pretty routine and although I'm in the office around 70 hours a week, that still leaves me plenty of free time. The only problem is that other than the occasional movie and going to the gym, there isn't much to do to fill up that free time.

One thing I've been doing to eat up some of that free time is quite a bit of running. Now, I don't really enjoy the actual act of running, but I do like the feeling I get after a good run and of course it is a big weapon in my war against the damage I did to my body in college. And after college. Actually pretty much my entire life up until this year. One thing I've always talked about doing is running either a half or full marathon. I usually like the excuse of too busy/not enough time, which you can read as too lazy if you so desire. Unfortunately, that isn't really the case here, so in the absence of a good excuse not too, I am hereby announcing my intention to run the Lincoln Marathon on May 6th, 2007. Please hold your applause until the end. Thank you.

For those of you that don't know, the marathon is 26.2 miles aka a really long way. You may be asking yourself why 26.2 miles? Well, it takes back to the Greeks, or the Romans, or some other now defunct civilization, where some dude (Marthones?) ran an important message to his general/king/master and then died. Guess how far he ran? You got it! Okay, I was just going to leave this paragraph as is, but did a little bit of research and found out that most of what I just wrote is wrong. If you want to, you can check out Wikipedia for more information. Go ahead, I'll wait. Or skip it, whatever, it isn't like you paid to read this or I got paid to write it.

The only real negative is that I haven't really built as good of a base as I need, the experts (read the people on the coolrunning message board that seem pretty smart) suggest 30-40 miles per week for 6-12 months before attempting to train for a marathon. I've done between 20-25 the last 6 months or so, which isn't quite as much as I would like. I put my odds at about 50/50 to make it through the training plan without tearing my ACL, 25% to finish without considerable walking, and 10% to meet my goal time. I am shooting for sub 4 hours(9:09 miles) which is somewhat aggressive but doable. Honestly I should say I have no idea if it is reasonable as my long run is 10 miles right now and I have do that 2.5 times at once.

My plan is to do an update on here weekly, primarily to keep myself motivated over the next 18 weeks. I will be less likely to skip my run and play Madden '07 if I know that someone is checking up on me. I'll be following the Hal Higdon intermediate plan, as I thought the beginner plan looked a little too easy in the beginning. If circumstances dictate, I may drop down to the novice plan about half way through.

Those of that you live in the Omaha/Lincoln area will be expected to be present at the finish line and/or random points of my choosing on the course. In case I pass out and die or something like that. I don't want a stranger giving me CPR. Gross. If I make the effort to run for half a day the least you can do is come out and cheer me on. And would it kill you to make a sign with my name and/or a flattering picture of me on it? I didn't think so.

I've also recruited a few friends. Ol' Buddy B is considering making the trip from the Big Apple for his first marathon and JAg has committed to at least doing his 2nd half marathon and maybe his first full if he can make the time. If there are any other aspiring marathoners out there leave a comment and we'll add you to Team Sack. Well, that is all I have to say about that. Training starts Monday! Actually Tuesday because Monday is a day off but you knew what I was talking about. Check back here on Mondays for updates on my plans/goals/hopes/dreams.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Jon Kary in Iraq, Christmas Cav Links, Plan for Iraq

John Kerry made a little stop in the Middle East last week. Fortunately, he didn't make it to my neck of the woods. The word on the street is that for some reason, Mr. Heinz was not received too warmly. I wonder why. Here is a pic of him enjoying his breakfast by his lonesome.

ROFASix, a retired soldier and current blogger, has the link to the story His source, Scott Hennen of Hot Talk radio had this quote:

"This is a true story.....Check out this photo from our mess hall at the US Embassy yesterday morning. Sen. Kerry found himself all alone while he was over here. He cancelled his press conference because no one came, he worked out alone in the gym w/o any soldiers even going up to say hi or ask for an autograph (I was one of those who was in the gym at the same time), and he found himself eating breakfast with only a couple of folks who are obviously not troops. What is amazing is Bill O'Reilly came to visit with us and the troops at the CSH the same day and the line for autographs extended through the palace and people waited for two hours to shake his hand. You decide who is more respected and loved by us servicemen and women!"

Can't say that I feel sorry for him. Your actions have consequences John, and I guess you could say the joke is on you.

On a more positive note, your favorite Guard unit was featured prominently on Christmas day back at home. had a great story about the Brewer family. 3 brothers and a sister are all currently serving our Armed Forces, and at one point all 3 brothers were here in Iraq. One was part of the 172nd Stryker BDE, which you probably read about as they were extended in theater at the very last minute. He is home safely now. The other 2 brothers are in our LRS unit. The Journal Star also had a good story about another LRS soldier and his brush with fame. Check it out.

ROFASix has another great link that I would like to direct your attention to. It is the story of a Marine CPT who put together a incredibly witty PowerPoint on how to win this war against the insurgency. Sadly, CPT Patriquin died a week or so ago in an IED blast. Well worth your time.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas in Iraq

Although we aren't where we would like to be this year, the Christmas holiday provided a nice break from the mundane this weekend. Like usual, we are always looking for an excuse to get Grillzilla fired up, so we took advantage of the holiday and had a Christmas Eve cookout. We scored big time at the PX, and spent at least $15 each on a big Porterhouse. Mine was 1.5 pounds, which is right in the sweet spot for a holiday steak (see my ribeye post for a quick guide to what size steak you should use for different occasions). Hammer's topped the scale at a whopping 1.9 pounds.

SGT Beans and I in front of our Christmas tree.

Brad and I priming for the big party. I think Brad thinks he is drinking a real beer. I know I do.

SFC Grams from the S4 section (which is the other half of the ALOC along with the S1) working his magic. At one time he had burgers, chicken, pork, and our monster steaks going. Well played SFC Grams, you earned your pay this night.

Me, SGT Beans, and SFC Kerchal sporting our Stetsons. Brent's was a Christmas present from Ma Beans, who had to jump through a lot of hoops to get it ordered, wrapped, and shipped over here in time for Christmas. Check out his blog for the details. In the background is the patio where we watched the Texas game. In case you are curious SFC Whitehill is 12 years old.

No side items required. My steak was magnificent, really can't complain. My wife sent a bottle of Misty's so that goes a long way towards steak enjoyment.
While grilling and eating we had the TV set up for movie time, Christmas Vacation, followed by It's A Wonderful Life. Would you believe that this was the first time I've seen It's A Wonderful Life? Quality flick. Never seen the 10 Commandants either, I'll have to check that one out next year. So after dinner, we watched the movie, and then the Hammer and headed over to Air Force land for a Christmas Eve candlelight service. We sang some carols, heard some Scripture, and were on our way. Next stop was the JMMT for the second run of Christmas mail. Beans and Burnometer had things under control, so we headed back to the JDOC to wait for them to arrive so we could commence the sorting (the guys pick up the mail for the entire Squadron at once and then we put it into piles for the units). Since there are no street lights at Anaconda, we had to pull up a few Humvees so we had some light. We spent about an hour squaring the mail away and then were off to bed to wait up for Santa.

About 2 weeks ago I got a package from a group from Iowa called Operation Mom that had a stocking for each of the guys in our section. Rather than handing them out at the time, I tried to be a little bit sneaky and kept them in my room. I brought them back into the office after the rest of the gang had left and hung them with care. And by hung them with care I mean placed them nicely on everyone's desk. So, the S1 got to roll in Christmas morning and have a little bit of Christmas cheer. Thanks to the group at Op Mom for taking care of us. You are the best!

Beans and the Burnometer with their stockings.

Another really nice gift that we got was from the folks at Messiah Lutheran School. They hand made around 100 Christmas cards and sent them over to us. They even went to the trouble to personalize them and put our names on them. Very well done! The kids are quite creative and really put some time and effort into getting us these cards. Thanks to Mr. Weber for making it happen.

SFC Kerchal and SFC Whitehill's trailer. Photo credit is unfortunately mine, hopefully you get the picture that they put up some lights and a Christmas tree outside.

The ubiquitous PT belt, spoiler of my pictures since 2005.

Christmas day was pretty uneventful. I got to come in a little bit late which was appreciated after staying up late doing the mail and opening presents. We had a nice Christmas lunch with all of the fixings, prime rib, turkey and of course some pecan pie. We hit the gym as usual to work on the guns, as we figured that Jesus probably had some pretty nice pipes from swinging a hammer all day. After that it was phone call time to wish everyone at home a Merry Christmas, and then on to play one of my presents, Madden 2007, where the Colts have finally won a Super Bowl under my tutelage. All in all, the day was about as good as I could have hoped for considering the circumstances. I will definitely cherish next year's Christmas after spending this one on the other side of the globe.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Poem

You may have seen this already, but thought I would post it on here in case you haven't. Merry Christmas!

Different Christmas Poem

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts.
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice, I'm here every night."

"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at 'Pearl' on a day in December,
"Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram' always remembers."

"My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile."

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
"I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home".

"I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother."

"Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."
"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."

"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?"
"It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long."

"For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

He Who Controls the Mail, Controls Information Holiday Edition

I did a post back in July on the fine job done by Beans and the Burnometer on mail operations. We are always encouraged to constantly "improve our foxhole" which is an Army way of saying there is always more work to be done. In anticipation of the vast amounts of holiday mail we would be getting, the SMOOT (Squadron Mail Overseas Operation Team, an acronym I just made up) adjusted fire a little bit in order to become more efficient. Gone are the days of the whole section carrying in mail by hand. The new operation involves 2 connexes in the parking lot, a PLS (palletized loading system), a hotdog, a nut roll, and a shovel.

On the first I day hung out with the mail guys, the PLS was in getting serviced, so they used a hybrid approach with the LMTV and the forklift. Here is SPC Burnham taking the first pallet off the truck. They had to take 2 vehicles, 6 pallets in the LMTV and 2 in HQ01.

Here is HQ01, the S1s vehicle for moving around Anaconda. Those tan patches that you can see are a remnant of when Gaskins painted GO BIG RED and a Husker emblem on the armor panels. Although it was a nicely done paint job, it doesn't really meet the standard for an Army vehicle.

After we unload all of the pallets, the boxes are sorted by hand into piles for each unit in the 2 connexes. Here is connex 1, with Burnham and HHTs mail. As you can see, the pile is taller than him.

SGT Calvo and SSG Goldman from C Battery, 3-4 ADAR, 82nd Airborne. This unit mans the anti mortar guns that help keep us safe.

Day 2, the PLS is back. Burnham getting ready to roll out.
Newly promoted SGT Benes in the driver seat.

Loading the connex on the PLS. We're number 1!

SPC Burnham securing the connex to the PLS. His arms aren't quite long enough to reach the pin, so he has to climb up on the tires to do it.

The PLS with the connex loaded up. They take this down the JMMT and load the pallets directly on here. They can get 10 in one trip, so it is much more efficient than the 6 that can fit on the LMTV.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Carrie Underwood Visits Anaconda - More Pics

Okay, so I figured out why the pictures were so small. It is because I'm an idiot. I've corrected the problem, at least with the pictures, and have some more photos to share.

2 Cav soldiers with Carrie in the JDOC.

Crowd shot. If you look really close you can see Hammer's head in the middle about 4 rows back, and my forehead to the right of him. Good luck!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Carrie Underwood Visits Anaconda

The fine folks at the USO provided us with another great concert this week. Carrie Underwood, winner of American Idol and country singing sensation, made a trip to Iraq this past week. We were lucky to get her up at Anaconda on Saturday night. When the stars come over, they usually hit only a few bases due to the limited time that they have. We have had good success at Anaconda due to our size and the airfield makes it easy to fly in and out. Unfortunately, we aren't getting the WWE rasslers tour, but this was a nice substitute.

For some reason they decided to have this concert inside the beloved Sustainer theater instead of at Holt Stadium where all of our other MWR events have been at. This meant that only a select number of soldiers would be able to go, and there was a raffle for the tickets. Our unit only got 5 tickets, so our odds weren't good. Fortune smiled upon us however, and the Flecker and Beans won tickets. After much pleading, begging, and promises of future favors, they surrendered their tickets to Hammer and I (read his story here).
I've got the golden ticket!

You see, I'm not a big reality show fan, but the wife loves American Idol and watched every episode of Season 4. And of course since she was in control of the remote at the time, I was also forced into watching pretty much the whole season. Young Carrie became my favorite after doing a pretty awesome cover of "Alone" by Heart (I had to go to Wikipedia to find out what song this was, but it only took about 5 minutes to nail it down and then find the lyrics. I love the Internet).

I was pretty pumped to get the hook up and go to the concert. Earlier that day, Carrie and her entourage stopped by our building for a quick tour. She took some pictures in the Operations Center, and we thought she was going to do a meet and greet for the rest of us, but they were behind schedule, so we didn't get anything more then a passing glance in the hallway. After leaving here, she went down to visit our LRS (long range surveillance) unit, who does the QRF (Quick Reaction Force) mission. They are on call 24/7 so they don't usually get to go to the concerts. Here are some pictures of her with the LRS.

Carrie manning the .50 cal in a Humvee.

Carrie and the band.

The .50 cal makes me smile every time too.

We had to wait in line for about an hour to get in to the actual concert. I was worried we were going to kicked out of line after Hammer mouthed off to a Command Sergeant Major. In his defense, it was dark out and he didn't see his rank. We got seated up front and the concert was great. She did 7-10 songs. She did a cover of Sweet Child O' Mine by GNR that was pretty outstanding. I don't listen to much country music, but this definitely had a rock and roll feel to it. The only thing really country about it was the fiddle (if you want to play in Texas, you gotta have fiddle in the band). Other than that, the lead guitar was pretty nice, the bass player was solid, and the band sounded great. The only negative was that I was bracketed by 2 young females who kept screaming in my ear after every song. Darn kids.

Unfortunately, the lighting in the theater was not up to snuff so the pictures that Hammer took didn't turn out. They usually upload them to the intranet here, but for some reason they compressed them and this is the best I can do for a concert pic.
After the show, we filed out and were able to get a picture with Carrie. We had to get in groups of 5 and they herded us through pretty fast. The Air Force dude in this picture had a problem with him camera, so he joined our group, effectively forcing me into the back row. I look like a random dude that was walking by and stuck my head in the picture. After they snapped the pics, they booted you out so there was no time for any small talk about Josh Brown. Good times were had by all.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Your 2006 National Champions

Congrats to the Husker Volleyball team, who completed a 33-1 season last night with a victory over Stanford to claim their 3rd National Championship. The crowd was the largest ever to watch a college volleyball game. You can read about it here, here, and here. The Huskers only graduate 2 seniors this year so will be loaded next year. Way to go Huskers!

The captains with the trophy.

Match point!

Packed house at the Qwest. I think we'll have a pretty good shot at getting another one of these.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Interview with Jim from Thinking Right, Misc Stuff

I did an email interview this week with a gentleman named Jim for his blog Thinking Right. You can find it here. Thanks to SPC Erickson from Centcom public affairs for setting it up.

Also, the '95 Huskers were voted College Football's greatest team of all time. Herbstreit I guess accused the homer Nebraska fans of stuffing the ballot box, threw a hissy fit, and stomped off the stage at the show they had to announce the winners. Then they debated whether this years OSU team would compete with the '95 Huskers. No way. OSU is the best team this year, but greatest of all time? I think that is a stretch. This kind of reminds me of last year when everyone said last years '05 Trojans were the greatest team ever, right up unit the time they got beat by Texas.

Here are a few articles from around the web about our unit. SFC Lassek is one of our battle NCOs and runs a shift in the JDOC. This story from is about how his family is coping back home and a Sesame Street video that the military puts out. Benjamin gives the video 2 thumbs up. LTC Apprich, the Squadron Commander, did 2 interviews with while he was home. You can find them here and here. One interesting thing about being in a combat zone is there are lots of opportunities to do cool things. This story is about some of our guys that are part of an airborne command post, keeping the lines of communication open. SFC Brehm is one of our soldiers that went from being a medic to crew member.

Everyone's favorite soldier, SPC Beans, is going to be featured this week on KOLN 10/11. You can tune in Sunday night at 10:00pm. They profile a different soldier every week. After the story airs, it is posted on their website along with a short story.

Finally, I had to laugh when I read this article on My brother is good buddies with the Jarvis brothers. My dad prayed for me when I left, their dad is giving them tips on how to be a better killer. Good stuff.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Happy Holidays

UPDATE: I thought I would clarify that I didn't write this, I got it forwarded to me in the ol' email. Although I appreciate if you thought I was this clever.

For My Democrat Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting these greetings, you are accepting the aforementioned terms as stated. This greeting is not subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself/himself/others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wish

For My Republican Friends:
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Electricity is a Crutch

The weather here in Iraq has been phenomenal of late. Back home I'm sure you are familiar with the term Top 10 day. I would say that we have had roughly 40 Nebraska Top 10 days in a row here at lovely LSA Anaconda. The high has been around 65 or 70, very little breeze, and sunny every day. It really doesn't get much better in my book. The low has been between 35 and 40, but the nice thing is that is usually overnight and by the time it cools off I'm tucked away in my cozy twin bed in my 10x12 slice of heaven, with the heater set on 70 degrees, dreaming sweet dreams of ribeyes, blue n' chromes, and my wife and son.

That is until Saturday. For some unknown reason, we lost power to the whole base sometime in the afternoon. This has happened before, and usually it is back on within a few hours. The office has its own generator, so work of course didn't stop, but our hootches were out of power and therefore without heat and lights. By 10 o'clock we were a little worried as it had been about 5 hours and still no power. The blanket that I use is really thin (to minimize packing space) so I was seriously doubting its ability to keep me warm. I actually dug out my Army issued sleeping bag which I turned out to be a smart move that some of my lazier co-workers regretted not making. I fully anticipated that in the middle of the night the power would kick back on and all would be well. I drifted off to sleep without my usual tv shows to keep me company, cursing the horror of it all. Don't let anyone tell you different, life in this man's Army isn't always easy.

The worst part was waking up in the morning. I was actually pretty warm snuggled up in my cold weather sleeping bag, but at 0600 the temp in my trailer was about 40 degrees. I think I could even see my breath. Getting dressed was painful, as my clothes were also about 40 degrees. I hightailed it to the office so I could bring my core temp back to 98.6. I even broke out the black fleece coat, which is affectionately referred to as the bear suit. Of course my buddies all made fun of me for wearing a coat because it wasn't that cold, but that was to be expected and I would have done the same thing had the Hammer showed up dressed like I was.

I headed down to church at 0845 and was glad they I had my coat on, as I will still traumatized by the night spent in the meat locker. While SSG Johnson was on leave we had to rearrange our schedule to cover the office so I hadn't been to Sunday service in around a month, so it was good to get back. When I got to the chapel, of course there was no power there either, which means no lights and no heat.

I should back up a minute and describe the chapel. Many of the buildings that we are "borrowing" from the Iraqis here on Anaconda are hardstand buildings that were already here. The original design usually has 3 wings, with an outdoor atrium in between each wing. Imagine a capital E on its side. We are always short on space, so many of the buildings have had the atriums converted into rooms to allow for more offices. If there is one word you could use to describe soldiers in Iraq, it would be industrious. A tic tac, a toothbrush, and some bailing wire and you have yourself an office. Or a bomb, depending on the joe that is in charge.

Our Squadron chapel is in one of these converted atriums, so it is essentially a plywood room. There are other chapels on the base that are actual buildings, but we inherited this one, and we are the Cav, so we don't like to have nice things anyway. The accommodations could best be described as Spartan, really just a few chairs and a pulpit. Normally the lyrics to the worship are shown on a laptop as the projector that we have is famous for shutting down in the middle of a song and then taking 10 minutes to warm back up.

We normally keep it pretty basic, but add in the lack of heat, lights, and words, this past Sunday was especially bare bones. The door was left propped upon, so in addition to no heat we had a nice breeze as well. At this point I was glad that I had endured the wrath of the mighty S1 and put on my fleece, as I would have been freezing without it.

The message for the day was from Haggai. From chapter 1:

Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?"
5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it."

The Chaplain discussed how the temple had been destroyed, and rather than rebuilding it, the people had instead worried about rebuilding their homes first. Wrong answer, said God through Haggai. The people were so busy about taking care of themselves, they had neglected the one who could provide for all their needs. I know this has been true in my life multiple times. Once I graduate from college, then I'll be happy. Or buy a new car or house. Or get married. Or have a kid. Or insert whatever here. But those things come and go, and guess what? The car gets a dent and looses that new car smell. The house isn't quite big enough for your family. Marriage and parenthood are rewarding but an awful lot of work. Same with the new job and the new salary.

Apart from God, these things are for the most part meaningless. In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with having a nice home or a good career, in fact we are told to work hard and be good at what we do. But sitting in Iraq in a plywood chapel with a handful of soldiers, a guitar, a bible, and no heat or light, I was struck by how fulfilled and how happy I am with my life. I miss my family so much that I can't stand it some days, but my wife and I have the strength of the Lord to get us through it. I know that God has a plan for my life and for a reason that only He knows it currently involves me being half a world away. And that is okay with me. Romans 8:28 says: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Think about that. Are you working on rebuilding your house while God's house is still broken?

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. After 4 days of no power, they've got everything fixed and we once again have lights, heat, cable, and PS2. And I got a great reminder on God's love for us, and his faithfulness to see us through any situation.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Movie Review: Some Good Ones and One of the Worst Movies, Ever

As mentioned earlier, the Iraqi Bazaar here at Anaconda sells movies while they are still in the theater. I gave up on buying them a while back, as the quality is usually poor and ruins the experience for me. However, some that are not as cheap me are willing to roll the dice, and occasionally get a pretty solid copy. One such movie is Casino Royale. I grew up with Roger Moore as Bond, with my favorite Bond being For Your Eyes Only. Pierce Brosnan has put in some solid performances the last few years and is a close second for me, I at times have even had a non-gay crush on him (but only as Bond). I know that Sean Connery is widely regarded as the Best Bond ever, but I am a little too young to have seen much of his body of work. I will admit I was skeptical about Daniel Craig as the new Bond at first. Bond is supposed to have dark hair and not dirty blond. Other than that I haven't really seen any of his stuff so didn't have much to go on, other than his washboard abs and perfectly defined chest that I saw on the commercial.

So, I was excited to check out the newest flick and see what the new guy could do. And I wasn't disappointed. Without giving up too many details, the movies goes back in time ala Batman Begins and tells the story of Bond getting his 007 status and going on his first mission. The first hour was incredible, the movies gets off to a fast paced start and just keeps rolling. I have to admit the second hour lost me a little bit. The pivotal scene involves not a car chase or gun battle, but a card game. Really? That is the best we can do here? I know that this is based on a Fleming book like the rest, but Bond facing down the villian with pocket Aces just isn't the same for me. The ending drags a little bit as well, but all in all it is a classic bond with a little bit darker twist. Definitely a much see if you are a Bond fan, if not you may not enjoy it. The reviews on Rotten Tomatoes were unbelievable, a stunning 94%, right up there with The Departed. I think they are a little high, this is a solid effort but not the best Bond movie ever as some are claiming.


Another movie that I watched via bootleg copy is The War Tapes. Wow. This movie is what I think you would call a documentary. The producer gave video cameras to Nat'l Guard soldiers from New Hampshire that were a part of OIF II. They filmed virtually their entire deployment from the train up to the homecoming and the aftermath and impact of the war. They served primarily as a Convoy Escort Team and they were stationed at Anaconda for a portion of the tour, so they showed footage from this base back in late 2004. It has changed quite a bit, but there were some similar sights to what we see here everyday. The footage focuses primarily on 3 soldiers that were out on the roads everyday.

If you are looking for a movie on what this war is like, this is it. It was moving, compelling, frightening, and inspiring all at the same time. The soldiers they picked are a cross section of the military, each with a unique view on the war and their experience. Since it is soldiers filming soldiers, you get direct access into what they are thinking and feeling. Really good stuff. My favorite part was when they showed their homecoming ceremony back in the states. We are getting within sniffing distance of getting out of here, and watching them be welcomed home by a gymnasium packed full of their family and friends, flags and homemade signs everywhere you look, and soldiers hugging their wives and kids was fantastic. I've made a few comments in the past about I don't really care about what our ceremony is like, as I just want to get home, but now that I've seen some footage I think it will be pretty awesome.

The other part that was really moving was seeing the soldiers adjusting back to being civilians. I have never been more thankful that I am Fobbit/REMF, as I'll come home essentially the same person, except for of course being in superior physical condition due to the countless hours I've spent getting huge in the Sprung Gym. These guys were (probably still are) struggling to get past the things they saw and did. Their wives, kids, and girlfriends, all noticed the difference. It is part of the untold cost of this or any war, that even past the dead and wounded, there are emotional wounds for so many that may never heal.


Movie #3 I checked out at the theater here just a few nights ago. We hadn't gone out for some time so we went to a movie called Touristas. Horrible, horrible movie. It is a horror movie about American tourists in Brazil and some bad things that happen to them. The dude from the TV show Las Vegas is the star, and then some other people you don't know. I've never seen Hostel but my movie going buddies said it was like that, except much worse. It is hard to describe how bad it is. Poor acting, dumb plot, unscary villain, really not much to get excited about. The only redeeming qualities are a cool scene where they swim to some underwater caves, but they ruin it later by overdoing it. I was walking out trying to mentally decide not whether it would make my bottom 10, but where I would put it. I haven't put much thought into this, but here is my first shot:

10. Oscar (1991). Basically 109 minutes of Stallone and his criminal buddies confusing a bag of money with a bag of dirty laundry. I saw this at Q9 back in high school with some of my buddies, and even though at the time I considered Naked Gun to be high cinema, I knew this was terrible. It is hard to believe that you can make an entire movie out of one joke. This movie is so bad that I haven't seen it since it came out and still remember this train wreck.

9. Dude, Where's My Car? (2000). Not good. And I wasn't expecting much. I thought that it would be some light hearted stoner fun ala Cheech and Chong or Half Baked, but no such luck. I don't walk out of or turn off a lot of movies, and this was one of them. It really doesn't take a lot to do a good movie about smoking pot. Funny characters doing dumb stuff, making their own bongs, and generally having a good time. This movie has none of this. I would rather dig my eyeballs out with a spoon then watch this piece of crap again.

8. Analyze That (2002). I want to stay away from the sequels because they are just too easy. But some are so bad that it would be a crime not to mention them. My better half informs me that we walked out of this movie at the theaters. The only thing worse than that is that I don't remember walking out of it. Dumb dumb dumb. Why must we subjected to these sequels? And why do I keep going back? Why does Deniro agree to these movies? And why am I asking all of these questions?

7. The Whole 10 Yards (2004). The first one is a classic, fun story, lots of stars, and French jokes. The second one is a classic let's mail in a sequel and laugh all the way to the bank. Nothing original, nothing funny, just the same stupid actors playing the same stupid roles and making stupid jokes. This movie is terrible. Perhaps I hate this movie so much because I enjoyed the first one. Bruce Willis should be ashamed of himself for participating in this. If I ever see him and Matthew Perry out shopping at Village Pointe I'm going to punch him in the face. Matthew Perry that is, John McLane would probably kick my butt.

6. Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001). Boring! I really hate this movie. How can Steven Spielberg put together such a worthless piece of trash? I went into the movie thinking it was the life story of Allen Iverson but was sorely disappointed. Nobody loves you kid. You are a stupid robot. Get over it. And the ending, you have to be kidding me. This thing drags on longer than Christmas Eve for a 10 year old. I found myself hoping that I was in the movie, was cryogenically frozen somehow, and then brought back to life after 2000 years so I could smash his robot face in and the movie would end. Ugh.

5. The Fan (1996). Deniro, Snipes, Tony Scott as director, can't miss, right? Wrong. Just writing about it makes me want to go play in traffic. Another sucky Deniro movie (can't believe there are 2 on here) where he is an obsessed fan stalking Barry Bonds. Or something, who really cares. This is one of those movies where it is so uncomfortable the whole time that you wish you were anywhere but watching it. PMITA prison? I'll take it. Drowning in ice cold water? No problem. Saddam's torture palaces? Sign me up! He kidnaps his son, throw a few knives at him I think, even wears his jersey or some crap. I think maybe he gets shot in the end but I don't really remember, as my brain had shut down to protect itself from injury, like those new IBM laptops for klutzy people that sense a fall and go into self preservation mode. You should do the same. Not a fan of this one. Not a fan at all.

4. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999). We wait 15 years for another Star Wars and this is the best you can do George? Jerks. Seriously, who in their right mind watched the draft versions and said to themselves, yeah, that Jar Jar Binks is alll righttt (imagine Kramer saying that and it is a lot funnier). And people will be interested in a snotty little slave kid flying around his junked out pod racer. Bill Simmons posted a while back that sports teams should have a VP of Common Sense that can review major decisions and say yea or nay. Movies studios need the same thing. No person in their right mind would think this was a good idea. This movie gets worse every time I watch it. Lucas should give back what ever money he made on this to every one that had to sit through it. I'll take mine in cash, thank you very much.

3. The Benchwarmers (2006). Saw this here at Anaconda. They don't make words to describe how utterly awful this movie is. I believe this was actually banned under the Geneva convention as it is cruel and unusual punishment. I would stay in Iraq another year before I would watch this again. This movie falls apart in the first 30 seconds. First of all, Rob Scheider is the lead actor and is playing a jock. Really. I'm not making this up. Second, his wife is Molly Sims (also on Las Vegas), and she wants to make a baby, but he wants to play baseball with David Spade, Napoleon Dynamite, and some sixth graders. Third, Rob Schneider is the lead actor and David Spade is in the movie. Fourth, grown men are playing grade schoolers in baseball. For real. And nobody notices that they are in their 30s. Fifth, there are only 3 players on one team, 2 of them suck, one is good, and they never walk the good player. Sixth, Rob Scheider and David Spade are your stars. Playing baseball. Against little boys. For real. Seventh, oh nevermind, just kill me now. Maybe little kids like this, I don't know, but it is stupid nonetheless.

2. The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996). I don't know if I walked out on this one but I should have. Let me sum this one up for you, Brando's character from Apocalypse Now is on an island with Val Kilmer and some messed up animals. That is all. Sound dumb? It is. I am running out of adjectives here for how bad this movie sucked. Perhaps a few quotes from the movie? I have seen the devil in my microscope, and I have chained him. Yup, that is what we are dealing with here. Another you say? I have almost achieved perfection you see, of a divine creature that is pure, harmonious, absolutely incapable of any malice. And if in my tinkering I have fallen short of the human form by the snout, claw or hoof, it really is of no great importance. I am closer that you could possibly imagine sir. Oh, I'm sorry, I thought a crazy person was talking there. Oh, you are crazy? I guess the mutated animals should have clued me in. Well, good day!

And... without further ado, my pick for the worst movie, ever.

1. The Prince of Tides (1991). I went to this one on accident. I think we got confused on the title and thought it was something else. This happened to me one other time, I went with my Grandma to the Flamingo Kid and thought I was going to see Karate Kid. That was what you call a disappointment. I cried the whole way home. That may actually explain why I am who I am today. But, I digress. Perhaps the fact that I was 15 or 16 and this movie is about everybody's favorite crazy person in real life, Nick Nolte, his suicidal sister, and his psychologist Babs hashing through their families neurosis has something to do with my dislike for this movie. I think if I was to watch this today, it would cause me physical pain. Disgustingly bad movie. I am going to stop writing about it now before I do something I regret in the morning, like smash my head into my laptop 100 times.

So, there you have it. This isn't technically my worst movies of all time list, it is the first 10 movies I could think of that I really didn't like, so I know that I missed some. Oh, and I forgot about Turistas. Umm, lets plug that one in at number 6. Oscar gets a reprieve, for now.

How about you? What movie(s) really grinds your gears? Leave a comment with your picks.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Husker Volleyball - Final Four

Well, the Husker Volleyball team is making its 13th straight appearance in the round of 16. That is pretty amazing, not many programs in any sport can claim such a record. They also have the second best all time win percentage in history at .750 in post season play. Wow. Of course they will be dominating and heading back to the QWest center for the Final Four.

Of course the Final Four has been sold out for some time. They released some tickets today, but we were unsuccessful in getting through the Ticketmaster lottery and getting any. So, if any of my 4 readers have any connections or know of anybody that has any extra tickets, my wife would love to go. Leave a comment or shoot me an email at if you have any ideas or leads.

And, a big Happy Birthday to Brandee, one of my faithful readers, biggest supporters, and all around good person. Hope you have a great day!

Been pretty busy over here, another big legal case going on in addition to the normal daily business. It makes the days fly by but doesn't leave me a lot of "Sack time." I have a few posts I'm working on (movies and marathons) that I'll hopefully get posted this weekend. And my normal monthly email for December I have on the list and will get to as soon as I have a chance. Take care.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Internet Fun - 4

Stuff from around the Web for your viewing pleasure:

I did a post awhile back about Rock, Paper, Scissors and how an Omaha guy won the nat'l tournament. It turns out there is a World Championship as well. However the to prize is only 8 grand, so this once again shows that the USA is still superior.

You have all surely seen or heard of the racist rant that Kramer went on recently. It was of course completely uncalled for and way out of line. The funny thing was that he said afterwards that he's not a racist. I think he would have been better off just saying he was drunk or on drugs, that would have been more believable. Of course, the people that he offended know exactly what will make them feel better. Some cash please! That always makes me feel better when I've been insulted. The 4 people that he directed his remarks at have a lawyer and are setting up a meeting. Gotta love America.

Here is an update on the story I talked about Friday with the AP and their use of unverified sources. In the same article you can find this quote from a soldier here on Balad about our living conditions.

Living accommodations are nice, but then the Army has this magical ability to lower expectations. They let you sleep on the forest floor and then they give you a bedroll and you think you have it made. Then at some point you graduate to tents without floors and you think to yourself, "Why do I need to buy a house--this is great." Then they give you a cot to sleep on and maybe a plywood floor. Your feet never get dirty and you swear to yourself that you'll do this for 20 years because they treat you first class. In Kuwait they gave us an air-conditioned tent which made it like sleeping at the Ritz. The smell of suntan lotion and sand made it feel like Miami without the water and palm trees. Finally here in Balad we get small trailer rooms with floors, air conditioning and heating. They even have TV hookup and power. I only think to myself "I get paid to do this--sweet!" This is like a five-star resort. It's the biggest secret in the world. I better not tell anyone or else everyone will want to come to Iraq. Pretty funny stuff.

This was on the front page of the LJS, Nebraska Guard soldiers watching the Big Red at Anaconda. Unfortunately, it is not about our unit, which we are a little bent about because they just got here, and we have been suffering for the entire season. They also got a live feed for the game last week. And it looks like their chain of command lets them wear there Husker gear. No love for the Cav.

Finally, I've been meaning to touch on the Muslims that were removed from the US Airways flight last week. But, I read this piece and don't feel I need to say anymore. I think we've taken being tolerant a little too far, when 6 Muslims that are acting in bizarre ways are surprised when they are pulled from a plane. You can find a copy of the police report here, along with an eyewitness account of the incident that shows there was way more involved than just Muslim's saying their prayers.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sorry, Politics and no Pictures

Lots of talk this week about the strategy for dealing with Iraq. The Iraq Focus Group has supposedly concluded their meetings and is ready to present some recommendations to the President. This is, as you might imagine, a topic that is of great interest to those of us over here. First, there is always a chance that our tour could be extended. Even writing that is causing me pain. I would put the odds at not likely for our Brigade. We are Nat'l Guard and the majority of the Brigade will end up doing over 18 months of active duty, so I would think that we would be about last on the list. But it could happen as the easiest way to bring up troop levels is to extend troops that are already in theater as we are already here, trained, and experienced. We are soldiers, so if given the orders, we'll follow them, but I one for am hoping and praying that we come home when scheduled.

I have a little tool on this blog that lets me see who is visiting, and where they come from. The nice thing is that it shows where others have linked to my blog, which is always interesting. I got a hit around Thanksgiving from a message forum where the war was being debated. The poster, a gentleman named Sang, used a quote from my Thanksgiving post to bolster his argument that the troops over here see the war a little different than those of you back at home, and that morale is generally pretty good. The response was that I didn't know what I was talking about, and was just saying that to justify being here. Whatever. You know, if you want to protest the war go ahead, you have that right, and I will protect that right no matter how much I may disagree with you. But don't tell me what I think, or how you know more about what is going on here then I do because you watch the news. I don't think so. The media does on thing well reporting the war, and that is telling you how many people died yesterday. Everything else is hit or miss. Michelle Malkin has a great post up about the AP using unvalidated sources to spread enemy propaganda. They even use sources that they have been warned are not credible. Whatever they need to get their headline. Where am I going with this? I guess the point, if I have one, is that yes, we do want, even need, the war to mean something. But that doesn't mean that we are grasping at false news or making up stories. We'll let the AP handle that. Generally, I think most see that this effort is worth it, and the consequences of not succeeding are real and painful.

Now, with that being said, I personally have been struggling with how we will know that we have succeeded over here. Or to put it another way at what point can we come home and feel good about it? There are a lot of people smarter than I writing a lot on the topic. It seems to me that there are 2 camps on each side of the debate. On the pro-war camp, there are the folks that feel that the War On Terror is necessary is to prevent the spread of Islamofascism, and that military action is necessary to show our enemies that we mean business. This is the preemptive strike doctrine.

The second group on the pro-war side believes that leaving Iraq before it is stable will cause a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions. You can read an example of this at the Rolling Stone of all places (credit to the Hammer for finding this gem). I'm haven't yet seen a counter argument to this yet, although I'm sure it is out there.

On the flip side, there are those that are against the war because of faulty pre war intelligence and they don't like the President. Basically there weren't any WMDs so we shouldn't be here, bring the troops home, etc, etc. What bothers me is about this line of thinking is that in order to think this way, you have to be convinced that the President is dishonest, immoral, and manipulative. I believe this be false. If anything, the President has not wavered from his belief that this war is the right thing to do, even in the face of continued, fierce opposition. If he was simply in it for personal gain/politics, wouldn't he have changed his tactics 2 years ago and left Iraq to defend itself? And, the same people that decry the President as an idiot, a moron, and too stupid to know how to do his job want you to believe that he is also a mastermind of manipulation. I don't think you can have it both ways.

Finally, there is a group that believes that fighting the War on Terror with a conventional army is a non starter, and that you can't treat terrorists like nation-states and fight them force on force. If you are against the war this seems to me to be an intelligent reason why, as you can definitely argue that we don't know how our actions here are impacting the people who would do us harm. An excellent synopsis can be found at Intel Dump (third/last story down), a blog that I've recently added to my weekly reading list. Good coverage on both sides of the issues. They have a few different writers, but the head guy is an Army Officer who spent some time over here so that usually lends to increased credibility in my book.

What do I think? First of all, part of the problem is that most of the information on this topic is opinion. There are very little facts that are offer any support, which makes it difficult to make a good decision. The key question for me is whether or not we are making America safer by "staying the course." Are we tying up Bin Laden and his cronies from making plans to attack America or are we creating more terrorists? Does our willingness to commit our troops show our enemies that attacking us is futile, and make them think twice about their next attack? Well, I think that the answer is yes, we are safer at home by fighting over here. But I sure wish I had more information to go on. I do think we need to adjust fire a little bit and mix things up some. More focus on training Iraqis and less on Americans doing the fighting. More money to rebuild infrastructure, add jobs, and increase the standard of living. More pressure on Syria and Iran to keep their terrorists at home and not over here. More int'l support which is of course a tough one due to the way this went down. I think avoiding mass genocide in and of itself is reason enough to be here. Hopefully, we are also spreadking democracy and deterring terrorism at the same time.