Tuesday, March 30, 2010

When you gotta go...

I have found that I basically have two sets of people who read these stories. The first are my friends / family - the second are people I don't know and most likely will never meet. This affords me a certain amount of leniency with respect to writing topics. A subject can be broached with the knowledge that the first group will still love me even if they're grossed out and the second group, by definition, most likely will never meet me in person - and if you do, I'll at least know why you're smirking as I shake your hand.

At any rate.

There I was - it was late, a good book in hand, and a full bladder inside. I put off going until I was done with the chapter - the chapter that never seemed to end - I roll out of bed and realize that it's no longer a #1 - it's #2 and it should have been taken care of 30 minutes ago. That's cool - no problem - the bathroom is right down the hall. I slip on my shoes and walk down the hall - no sweat - "Hey, how's it going?" - "How are the wife and kids?" "Good, good" - round the corner and I'm there. This is my favorite bathroom (every guy has one) I have available for 3 reasons: it's close, has 6 stalls, and we clean it ourselves. Out of the six options, 3 are occupied. No problem - this is why I like this bathroom, I still have the other half at my disposal.

Option 1 - no toilet paper - whatever, that's cool
Option 2 - Ewww - what IS that still in there? Is that thing clogged?
Option 3 - Why is the seat wet???

In my moment of indecision, I do a little dance not unlike what I'm sure my 2 year old at home does to signify to everybody the necessity of the coming bodily function. Option 1 is out. Option 2 is obviously out -which leaves me with mystery fluid in option 3.I habitually wipe down the seat anyways, but with experience I know that there are usually 3 possibilities in fluid color coming off of the seat.

Clear - usually indicates there was a surge in the system with clean water in the bowl. These toilets are all tied to the same pressure line, so when one flushes, the others down the line turn into French bidets so you need to be prepared to stand up a little or take a shower after or both.

Yellowish / brownish - same scenario as clear, but there was 'something' in the bowl. I'll spare you the description with that one - you can figure it out.

Green - green is actually the best to see because that's the color of the cleaning solution we use to clean the bathroom - Simple Green -floor, ceiling, lights, toilet bowl - everything.

I wipe.It's green - awesome - looks like I chose the right one - clean and toilet paper - double score.
So I sit.
The seat's warm.
Which means somebody was just...
And the green isn't...
It's...Oh COME ON!
It's too late to change gears at this point - I'm committed.

Even though nobody flushed up the line from me, I did change my clothes and take a shower anyways - just for good measure.

When you gotta go, you gotta go.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bed Bugs! 3-17-2010

Who wants to time travel? You? You, my little friend? Well, ok, sure - let's go. We'll go backwards from the past few hours to last night and all the way to last week and this humble writer's experiences in another "exotic" liberty port - Malaysia.

Everyday the ship tests these 3 alarms to make sure they work - a general, chemical, and collision alarm. The first is a solid tone; the second is set of 3 short tones followed by a pause; the third is a single tone followed by a pause. And these babies are loud - super loud. Like you know how your alarm clock sounds pretty loud, well turn it up past the loudest setting and that's about where these suckers are. That really loud, hurts-your-ears-kind of loud. Usually it's actually not too bad because they switch from one to the other to the other just long enough to make sure they turn on. Just long enough for me to say "Oww, turn that crap off" and it's over. Well that didn't exactly happen this morning. For reasons which shall most likely always remain clouded in mystery to me, the first one turned on and didn't turn off. It just kept going and going and going. Not for 10 seconds, but for 10 minutes. This is the sound that crazy people hear in their heads that makes them crazy. And now it's in my head. For a brief moment I though I had gone nuts as well - I just tried to go back to sleep so I wouldn't hear that sound anymore - ever tried going to sleep at a rock concert? No? Didn't think so - it's just not possible. My roommate above me let me know I wasn't going crazy when he jumped out of bed and yelled "We're under attack!!! AAAAHHHHH!!!" That was his war cry - or cry of agony, I couldn't tell which - but I could tell that this sound was no longer in my head - it was in all of our heads. His war cry was followed by some pounding on the wall where he was trying to dislodge the sound from the speaker somehow - to no avail. Then there was a sharper, more direct thud of a sound which when I peered outside I surmised was my roommate taking the chair to the speaker. I guess it really did make him go crazy. Crazy or not, he managed to unplug it and the sound died enough that we could actually carry on a conversation by yelling at each other now.


Good point. The sound continued for the rest of the 10 minutes and with the speaker disabled in our room, it was now probably the quietest place on the ship and we still had to shout at each other - you see this warning is there to serve every part of the ship, so it is carried over the 1MC to every nook and cranny so that even the bed bugs (more on that later) downstairs know of the impending doom of either a collision, a chemical attack, or a general "you guys are screwed" warning. The only good thing about it going everywhere is that wherever the ship CO was, I knew he heard it too and he was probably upset by getting his morning tea interrupted by such a prolonged disturbance.

So what's going on over here? Bed bugs apparently - not where I sleep, but 3 floors down in troop berthing - apparently some of the guys down there forgot to wash their sheets for the whole deployment and a whole bunch of beds ended up infested with half inch little bugs - hence the term, "bed bugs". They had to throw at least a dozen beds overboard - pretty gross. And now these guys don't have a place to sleep, so they brought them into the ready room where I work and turned out all of the lights - so I'm working in the dark. It's kind of cool - literally, it feels cooler in here which is actually pretty nice - and also kind of cool in the respect of building your own fort in the living room with pillows to get away from chores and your big sister. I'm just glad my mom and wife taught me to change out my sheets every once in a while - thank you, ladies.

Before the alarms and the bed bugs, there was Malaysia. Overall, the trip was pretty benign - take a guy and give him a wife and a couple of kids and pair him up with another guy with a wife and a kid or two, and you're not making a recipe for an out of control, frat party weekend. But I was not on the ship and that was probably the most important part. Except for the first couple of days - on the first day everybody is in a mad rush to get off of this ship and on dry land. I've found it rather relaxing to not fight the rush and just accept staying onboard the first night - no schedules, no bags, air conditioning, I can just stay in bed and read and sleep - and I had duty the next day anyways. The city was Kuala Lampur - legend has it that the two big towers there connected by a sky bridge were featured in the movie Entrapment starring some guy and some girl, but it hasn't been proven to me yet. Since my wife would probably find it interesting, the cleanliness scale is right in the middle of that part of the world. It was a lot cleaner than Thailand - smelled better, too - but from what other people who have been there, not as clean as Singapore. Apparently the only thing as clean as Singapore is my own house back in the states. While traveling there, I decided to take some notes about the country for the benefit of those who haven't been there I can sum up the experience for you and save you the trip - go to Ireland instead.

-Our CO described this port as "foreign" and "exotic." And if by "foreign" he meant not the US, and by "exotic" he meant as hot as Texas and as humid as Arkansas or Virginia backcountry, then he was spot on. It was not the US and it was exotically hot and humid.

-I saw a lot of clothes drying on lines outside – I wonder how long it takes or how well clothes can actually dry in a place with 95% humidity where it rains every afternoon.

-This was also the first time I’ve ever seen an advertisement for a 1 ½ story building – bigger than a single, but not quite 2 stories. I’m pretty sure in America they would call it “vaulted ceilings” or just say it’s “like a 2 story.” I guess they’re more honest with the advertisements – or maybe they know that a lot of Malaysians could fit in a half of a story, so it’s actually legitimate – dunno.

-The only more fertile soil I think I’ve seen was back in Arkansas. Stuff was growing everywhere – sides of the road, on walls, entire parts of trees through fences – everywhere. I’m pretty sure if I sneezed out a sunflower seed, you’d get a field of them.

-Traffic stinks in any country, no matter what side of the road you’re on.

-And speaking of that – you can tell yourself a million times from what direction cars will hit you first, but I just could not get my subconscious wrapped around the fact they drive on the other side of the street – and fast, too. I’d have to look both ways whenever crossing a street and I’d always feel confused seeing a car coming from the ‘wrong way.’

-I did go through a mall a couple of times - a couple of differences I noticed. There were almost no benches on any of the 6 stories and the ones I did see weren't being used. But more importantly than that, you were charged to use the bathroom. It wasn't much, but quite remarkable nonetheless. I'm pretty sure riots would ensue in the US if a mall or business actually charged you to use the facilities - regardless of being a paying customer or not, you pay extra for the opportunity. A public restroom is one of those "unalienable rights" mentioned in the Declaration of Independence.

-I had to check online to see if it was "unalienable" or "inalienable" - I didn't know there was such a controversy over it:

http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/unalienable.htm I went with "unalienable" since that's what's on the version printed by Dunlap Broadside under the order of Congress for mass dissemination - in my view, a final copy vice a handwritten draft. My dad brought me up right.

-The money conversion was pretty good - one US dollar for 3 and a half Malaysian dollars. The prices in restaurants ended up being less than in the states - even the nicer ones. And by less than, I don't mean cheap like Thailand cheap (5 bucks and you're done) - I mean the prices ended up being what I thought a dinner in a nice restaurant should cost - you can get an appetizer, dinner, couple of drinks, and a dessert for under 20 bucks American. That's what I would expect to pay in a sit down restaurant in the US, but it's always more like 40 or 50 per person and I end up doing a double take at the bill and we don't eat out all that often anyways.
-We ended up spending a good deal of time in Chinatown - mainly because there were not as many tourists venturing in there and it had the best food. The sweet rolls I had will forever rank in my list of best food ever - right there with my wife's fried chicken and my mom's shepherd's pie. We ate at this café - I guess it was a café - it was an huge room packed with tables - there wasn't an entrance doorway, the walls were just open to let air circulate through - you just walk in and sit down where you can find a seat - and you're usually sharing a table with somebody else. We ate with some Korean guys, some Malaysian guys, and a little old Chinese lady who kept her head buried in her soup bowl. The food was excellent - and not just the sweet rolls, although I could have survived off of those things for the week. I also found that I still know how to use chopsticks - it's just one of those things I picked up somewhere, sometime. I think the majority of the time my friend and I were the only Americans in the place - that's usually a good way to find authentic food. The Chili's in the mall was the exact opposite. (Yes, I did go there - and yes, I did eat a burger and have a Budweiser with it - in exotic Malaysia, 7,500 miles away from the last Chili's I went to - and yes, it was awesome)

-Chinatown also has lots of stuff for sale - your normal street markets and such - and your not-so-normal street markets. We walked down a side street which was the 'fresh meat' isle. There they had fresh fish - heads were sold separately and they were not cleaned / gutted - but the heads were cut off which was nice of them. They had fresh chicken - fresh in the way that the chickens were still in cages behind the counter - you pick the one you want - and they chop off its head and give it to you - fresh. Plucking and cleaning is extra - the killing is on the house. They also had an assortment of eels and other large and small fish - as well as some animal that we figured to be a cat. I didn't get any souvenirs from that street.

-I did pick up something for my wife from somewhere - but it shall remain a secret until I get home. I will say two things: 1 - it was not from the fresh meat market and 2 - it is something most guys wouldn't pick up for their wife

That's about how far back I can remember in this time traveling experiment so I shall sign off and rest my fingers for the next update.

All that and a bucket of chicken... 3/8/2010

So somebody has counted and as of today we're at 125 straight days without being in port. The grey colors on the ship seem greyer - the dark colors darker - and the bright colors less vibrant. The breakfast is still pretty good, though. But really, I think our current predicament is a better source of amusement than anything else. I wish I could convey for you with a video what this all looks like:-People walking into corners and not being able to get out -The only bread left on the ship is a hotdog bun, well dozens of hotdogbuns but no hamburger buns, no sandwich bread, no bagels or any other such starch - hotdog buns - and seeing multiple people toasting said hotdog bun to make a peanut-butter and jelly hotdog or a tuna hotdog -Arguments being ended by my superior saying simply "You're wrong - I'm right. It's right - it isn't wrong because it's what I said - it's right because I said so" - you're as confused as I was -Being told to "shut up" from a superior 2 grades above my current position is always encouraging as well, very professional (neither of the previous two were Marines, by the way - that kind of narrows down what service they are from...Bri Bri) -And conversations that have regressed further than I thought possible being surrounded by so many well educated people:

Dude: "Man I really want some chunky peanut butter"
Me: "Dude - just get the creamy peanut butter and go get some peanuts from the salad bar and crunch them up - chunky peanut butter"
Dude: "No way - that'll never wor...wait a second - I think you're on to something there."

Me: "Hey, what are you up to?"
Dude: "I don't know, what's it look like?"
Me: "I don't know, that's why I asked."
Dude: "Yeah, I was hoping you'd know."

"I'm here for my appointment"
"We can't see you yet"
"Why not?"
"Because you're on time"
"Are you listening to yourself?"

"Hey, can we get some cereal out here?"
"Why not, are you guys out"
"Oh no, we have a lot back here but we can't put it out"
"And why, may I ask, is that?"
"Because you guys will eat it."

(10 minutes before this shop closes)
"Hey, I lost my cash card and I need to get issued another one."
"Oh, sir, we have a policy where you have to wait 72 hours to get a new card - and we're about to close for the day."
"Why's that?"
"Uhhh, Because I guess sometimes people find them after they lose them"
"Yeah, ok - that's cool - but I saw my card literally fly off the ship -there ain't no coming back from that"
"That's the policy, sir."
"Really? And who issued this policy? Capt X? Lt Y?"
"...uhh...here's a new card, sir"

A pilot during a flight brief:
"And if we find ourselves over land,don't worry - we've just entered a space-time-continuum-vortex and we've been transported to a better place - I'm sure there will be plenty of milk and honey to go around so we'll just set it down and relax." He didn't miss a beat and everybody just understood that's the way it was going to be.

So that's daily life - actually, if you were to spend a day with me,you'd probably find a lot more remarkable, funny, and/or exciting things- I have grown accustomed and just accept I guess.You'd probably ask questions like:"Hey, what's that 6 foot tall alligator mascot doing dancing up on the flight deck?""What does that whistle mean?" and 2 seconds later "So what does that one mean?" and 5 seconds later "So this whistle means the same as the other two?" "Yup" "Well then why d-" "Listen, save yourself the trouble- don't try to understand it""Why can't you use the gym right now? - it looks pretty empty to me.""That's called Navy gym hours"But as Pooh would say - "Stuff and fluff" - that's not really the important part. The important part is that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and it's not a train coming the other direction.We'll be home soon and I'll be able to see my boys (Will and Jack) and girls (Ko and Dora). There's going to be plenty of daddy time for everybody.-Ranger

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Perfect Storm

There I was - wearing only a pair of shorts and asleep on the floor of my room - comfortably, mind you at 6:30 in the evening. Little did I know when I started the day today, but a series of events would transpire over the past 48 hours that ended up with me in the state previously mentioned. In rough order of how these events came to pass -and a small window into life on the ship: The last time I slept I was actually able to clear out a pretty good chunk of time and I got some other work done early, so I was able to catch up on what I've been missing this week working both during the day and again at night. I went to bed instead of going to lunch and woke up around 6 or 7 in the evening. Needless to say, I was rested. The flight schedule came out and I saw I had a flight the following day -briefs at 10 in the morning and we were going to fly from noon to 2pm. Awesome - always a good time to feel the breeze, see the sun, and get my nose burned a little - ow. Given what time it was, I knew I wouldn't be able to get to bed early, and my schedule was pushed enough back to the right that the flight would just be at the end of my day - good deal. So I did my normal thing, had a good work out, some breakfast with a coffee, and went to the brief / flight.
While I was working in the morning before the flight, the ship went through a series of drills called "General Quarters" or "GQ" for short -and no, GQ on the ship does not offer the same refined, intriguing, and hip experience as the magazine of the same name. It's how the ship prepares for various catastrophes that might befall a ship such as this - explosions, flooding, fires, that kind of thing - and given our recent experiences, none of these are too far out of the realm of possibility. The key element that this that contributed to the 'perfect storm' is that whenever they do these drills, they shut off all of the air conditioning. So unbeknownst to me as I got the aircraft ready and did my flight, my room back at the ship was quietly baking and getting warmer with each passing minute.
Although, I will come to find that one of the room's saving graces is that (being made out of metal as I previously learned) the floor is always cool to the touch - and can be refreshing to walk on in your bare feet. More on that later.
The flight itself was really good - there are some pictures that hopefully will work and will be posted with this. I can't say exactly where it is, but for the sake of my wife and my parents - yes, honey -it's safe. Safe and crazy hot. I drank a lot of water, but with so much wind, you don't really realize how much water you lose throughout the time.
So when I got back and stowed the aircraft, I went down to my room and realized that it was actually cooler outside on deck with the breeze than down in my room now with no air circulation. Unfazed, I had about 7 hours before I needed to be up again so I took a shower, read a little, and then crashed in bed - just wearing some shorts because of the sauna that is now my room - I always sleep better when I'm exhausted regardless - like that really heavy deep sleep where you feel like there's a weight pressing down on you because you don't move a muscle. So that's exactly where I was when the phone rang. I don't think I've told you about the phone in my room - if I have, it's worth explaining again - the sound of that phone is
Imagine 1 part screeching tires, 2 parts train wreck, half a part explosion, and a touch of breaking glass, and you get something close to this abomination of a communication device. Compound that with the fact I am the only person in my room who will get up to answer the thing to make it shut up and you get the idea. To recap: I'm exhausted, dehydrated, sore, about 2 hours into my recovery in a hot, muggy room, and my muscles are beginning to atrophy from disuse while I'm passed out. And that stupid phone is ringing - the only way to make it stop is to tell the person on the other end to stop calling, so I jump out of bed - yeah - great idea, right? Except the chair isn't where it was before, my legs don't work, and I'm not even sure if I'm awake or just dreaming this horrible sound. So yeah - I trip / crash / fall / crumble to the floor and I can't control my body. I tell my legs to get up and my arms flail around. Weird, huh? At least I thought so. Again, unfazed, I end up trying to crawl to the phone. In between rings of the phone I find that I'm actually nodding off there on the floor. (Don't worry, honey - it's clean) But sure enough, **RING** - crawl -stop - doze - darkness - silence - **RING** - crawl - stop - doze - etc, etc. I go through that cycle a couple of times and the caller eventually gives up - awesome - the sound is gone. Now it's just: stop- doze - darkness - nice, cool floor - sleep.
And that's where you would have found me - around 6:30 in the evening -sleeping comfortably on my floor wearing a pair of shorts. A perfect storm.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lessons Learned

Metal is harder than wood I figured by now I would have figured this lesson out - it seems pretty simple - wood, metal, which is harder? But not Billy - nope, I needed a special instructional period with it. Contrary to ship building practices in the 1400s, ships today are built almost entirely of metal (I say almost because there's probably some rubber or something in there non-metallic). The other night I needed to get something out of my room- without windows and in the middle of the ship, there are three options for lighting schemes: white light, red light, and black-hole /anti-matter / darkest-reaches-of-space-darkness-kind-of-light. I went with the latter of the three so as not to disturb my slumbering roommates. Bad idea. Remember the whole "Ship is made of metal" thing? Well combine that with the darkest reaches of space and my general lack of spatial awareness in my own room (all I really do in there is sleep anyways) and you get a lesson. Well I get a lesson, most other people would probably just turn on the light and avoid the learning I was about to experience. It came in the form of the standard 'metal corner of a ladder to top part of my head' form. And all of the sudden the room wasn't so black anymore, I was seeing stars - "they're so beautiful" - I thought. The sheer surprise and blunt force trauma to my head almost was enough to cause a release to the muscle holding in my bodily fluids. So yeah - it was pretty awesome. I did take advantage of the lack of light and anybody seeing me by curling up in the fetal position on the ground until the blinding pain went away and I just went back to being blinded by the darkness. I checked myself out in the mirror in the bathroom and thankfully there was no bleeding, but there was a dent -yeah, a dent in my head - what is my head made of - aluminum? It went away - after a day or two. But the lesson comes in as I was checking myself out in the mirror - at home I run into stuff all of the time -doors, door jams, walls, that sort of thing. But I kept thinking to myself - man, why does this hurt so much - and then I learned my lesson- most of the stuff in my house is made of wood. Metal is harder than wood. Lesson learned

You know you've been on the boat a long time when...-Your buddy says, "Hey man, I bet you I can eat the inside of this role without touching the outside with anything except my fingers and not touching the inside with my hands at all." "How much are we betting?""Oh, nothing, I'm going to do this one for FREE!"Awe-inspiring. America's best and brightest locked in a tin can for...83 days straight now I think.

-The topic of conversation at the table has reduced down to two guys trying to figure out if they have read any of the same books. Rules start being applied - no cliffs notes allowed, must have been more recent than high school, must have finished the book, work-related books do not count. And everybody else is intently listening to their conversation, vaguely intrigued.

-You realize you haven't seen the sun for over 2 weeks - corollary to that is when people start to appear as white as I am all the time

-You try to see how fast you can read a book

-Even though you are the worst crossword puzzle person EVER, you actually make an honest attempt at the crossword puzzle book your family sent you - and realize you still aren't any good at them

-You get up, shave, put on your uniform, go to work, and then wake up in bed and realize that was the dumbest waste of a dream ever

I'll keep this collection going since there is no sign of land in the near future.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hey Howdy Hey

So Christmas and the New Year (Microsoft apparently realizes that "new year" is an official holiday, thus: 'New Year") have both come and gone.You could tell what season it was around here, though on both days I remember remarking to myself - oh yeah, today's Christmas. Scheduling kind of pushed Thanksgiving and Christmas to the right a day to the last Friday in November and the 26th - no matter, really. The ship was blessed with over 40,000 pounds of mail on Christmas day (the real one on the 25th). In that bunch of mail and for the past month or so we've been getting Christmas cards from kids around the country. Very sweet indeed - these kids brought a lot of smiles and a warm, fuzzy feeling in the hearts of the guys around here - though some of these kids have a sense of humor. I would be remiss if some of these cards weren't immortalized in my blog. My own comments will be in parentheses ( ) Any spelling errors from here on out are just a representation of the card -I'm old enough to use a spellcheck.

Happy Christmas
Hi soldiers thank you for saving our country I wish I could see you in person beca well actually I wouldn't because I need to be safe have an urgent holiday Have a rockin holiday, Anber (the word "because" was started, not finished, then crossed out)

Thank you Soldiers
Your a soldier, yes you are.
You light our country like a star.
You guard our country, yes you do.
You keep our country good as new.
Well thanks for keeping our country in shape,
Do you ever use some tape
I wonder if you like squash.
Thanks, thanks, my name is Josh
Your Friend, Josh

Happy Holidays
Roses are red violets are blue
Candy is sweet and my mom and dad will protect me
And I hope you do that for me too

Dear Marines I hope next Christmas that you can see your famalies. I'm so sorry that you can't see them this year. L Now that I have said that, I hope you have an awesome Christmas. Thank you for saveing us from people comeing here and trying to kill us. You guys are awesome.

Fight for the people
Save the people
SOLIDERS rock to the top.
Thank you from a fifth grader

Dear any soldier
Thank you for seving our country.
You'r the Best in the world J. When you'r in the hospital I will help others for you J. (And then she drew apicture of herself and two soldiers: one white and one brown - it seems being politically correct has seeped down to 5th grade)

End Cards

A lot of kids wrote "Thank you for saving our country" - I was a little worried some teachers out there were teaching an over exaggerated view of the current fight in Iraq / Afghanistan - but then I realized"Saving" and "Serving" sound a lot alike - and then everything made sense again.

Some Life Lessons:
Pencil doesn't show up well on red or blue construction paper
A Sharpie shows up well on anything
Girls really do have better handwriting than boys - even at an early age
Kids are pretty awesome in their own right.

I got a card from some kids in Florida. Their teacher provided a short message with their return address as well as a crossword puzzle - only problem is that I'm probably the worst crossword puzzle person ever. Practice in the crossword puzzle book from Em didn't help matters. So once I figure this thing out I'll send it back with a reply to Jacob and Breanna.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Howdy howdy howdy

Time: 0148

Location: Unknown

Mood: Interesting

Activity: Docile

Energy level: Blue

So you know sometimes when you're up for a while and then you think you're going to get a good rest, but your body just decides to mess with you and then you're up for a while more and then your body clock is all confused-like and you need to stay up a little later to get back on some semblance of a schedule and so your mind gets confused and jumbled like a football being dribbled down a street? Hi - that's me.

Don't really have a good sleep schedule - stayed up all night for some duty - had to roll right into work and then at the end of that day I thought - hey, I'm all caught up, how about I get to bed early...sweet. Bed by 9:30pm asleep by 9:30pm awake at...2:30 in the am??? What? No way - this can't be - I'm tired - I want to sleep - noooooo - but yes. I'm awake - I'm not sleepy - whatever gland / fuse in my body that regulates sleep / fatigue must have taken a vacation without letting me know - somebody forgot to tell him that we're on deployment here - or maybe he's actually just working double time because after 5 hours of sleep after being up for a couple of days I feel...fine - I try to go back to sleep - do whatever I can - but ever since getting married - if we're not together, I can't get to sleep unless I'm totally exhausted. If not - I usually find something else to do with my time - why waste it on sleep if she's not there? So that's how my day started - 4 meals, a bunch of vitamins, a workout, a couple hundred miles covered in the air, 2 cups of coffee during the day (thanks for the instant Starbucks, by the way - that stuff is actually pretty awesome), a bunch of work-stuff, and a much needed shower later - here I am - sometime after the flight my body threw in the towel and was telling me "Hey...HEY! it's time,buddy - time for beddy-bye" and I says to my body I says - don't think so, just a couple of things left to do at my desk. Apparently one of those things was to drool all over myself since one of the guys from my shop found me in a small pool of it. My response? : "Just recharging the 'ol batteries, mate - don't you worry in the least" - at least that's what I probably tried to say - what came out was probably a lot more garbled and incoherent - but I got some other stuff done with the fresh charge and got cleaned up to finish the day. It's amazing what a shower and change of clothes can do for one's quality of life.

I've been blessed with 5 packages in the past 3 days - totally amazing it is. I've only opened one present so far - I rationalized it because I was running out of room in my office and needed to condense some stuff down and it felt like it was a sweatshirt or something which would be nice since it's like 50 degrees around this place in the mornings. But no sweatshirt was to be found in this package - NO-NO! as Wilbur would say. Inside I found a plastic ziploc bag - inside the bag was bubblewrap - inside the bubble wrap was what I know now to be perfection in a plastic wrapper - I had heard them mentioned in passing from my brother-in-law when he was deployed - I thought to myself - what's the big deal, how on Earth could a S'more not cooked over a fire taste any good? (my wonderfully excellent wife has spoiled me on more than one occasion with her S'more skills so I have a high standard) So I see them in the bag - ok, I know these are supposed to be good - seems like there's a lot of them in there - I bet the guys in my shop would like to have one - I give away 4 to the people I work closely with - and I think...I haven't had dinner yet...I'm kind of hungry...I really should check and make sure they taste ok since I already gave a couple away. So I take one out, pierce the little wrapper - smell it - smells like...S'more...ok this is promising - peel it back and take a bite.

Hold the phone.

No way - how did they do this - this isn't possible - I can't believe how good it tastes - amazing - I gave how many away?!?!? It's probably good I did give them to my guys before I tasted it - everybody should have the opportunity of tasting this thing at least once in his or her lifetime - even if somebody doesn't like S'mores they should get one and give it to me instead.

So that was nice - kept me going until the drooling incident mentioned above.

Also in the packages:

- Probably 10 pounds worth of magazines ranging from motorcycles to technology to hunting to financial investment to foreign policy - I like to diversify my reading like Warren Buffet's stocks

- Lots of yummy-looking treats and sweets that I am going to have to share with friends out here
- I kind of feel like a kid whose parents are trying to buy him friends by sending him to school with the best lunches with lots of candy to attract other boys and girls

- Lots of healthy food / bars that are totally excellent, especially on flights

- A power bill from an electric company from one of my parents' friends(already in the mail back to them, by the way) - like I said, I like to diversify my reading

- And probably the most ingenious thing I've received yet - an empty gallon-size double zip-loc bag. Sounds crazy but goes to show how parents are to me - you see it was accompanied with a gallon-size bag of Boy Scout popcorn - and to allow me to savor it and not rush to finish it off before it goes stale, they sent me a container to put whatever I don't finish in the first sitting - they're pretty smarsome (Smart / awesome - oh yeah, I'm at the point where I can make my own words)

Raise your hand if you've claimed your territory (in the strictly animalistic lift-your-leg-and-claim-some-space sense of the phrase) on three continents in as many months (And I'm not talking about using the louve or whatever the brits call the bathroom - I'm talking about getting back to your roots and becoming one with nature)...nobody? Oh wait - I'm typing with just one hand right now because the other is proudly held high - that's right...3 continents...3 months...claimed by me - and people thought England was an imperialist country - beat that Queen Liz.

For those wondering what's the deal with the chasm between updates - we turned into a submarine and went 20,000 leagues down to look for Atlantis - the truth is actually both more complicated and more simple than that - go figure.

By the way, that's me in the picture looking dapper in the most ridiculously awesome facial hair EVER - I know my dad will be proud.
The Man Cave OUT