Tuesday, December 30, 2003


I knew we were going to have to let him go eventually...

UH OH...

Lileks. Is. GOOD. Today.

My point? Simple: we live in an era of non-contiguous information streams. I believe one thing; someone else believes another – and the bedrock assumptions are utterly contradictory. This is what drives me nuts about discussing current events with some people. It’s like discussing the Apollo program with people who think it was all faked, or discussing archeology with those who believe the world is six thousand years old. I think the Iraq Campaign was part of a broad war against Islamicist fascism and the states that enable it; others think it’s all about oil and Halliburton jerking the strings of a Jeebus puppet. No. Middle. Ground.


Joe Carter apologized for the misunderstanding:

I'm sorry you took it personally but my post doesn't -- in fact can't -- apply to you since you are already part of the "military." While some people may pay lip service to the idea that spouses are part of the "military family" I believe they are as essential as any other military personnel.

There are certainly valid reasons why people don't actively serve in the military and I can respect their decisions. My complaint was for those who are able but simply think themselves "to good" to due such demeaning work as serve their country. They put their own self-interest above doing their duty.

Honestly, I'm rather shocked that you would think I was referring to people like yourself. For one, you are in Germany! I know many active duty personnel who have not sacrificed what you have. In my estimation you have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

Please forgive me for the misunderstanding.

I wanted to believe he didn't intend to berate me, but his email was so short, basically just you-said-you-want-to-be-in-the-Army-so-you-should-read-this, so I wasn't sure how to take it. All it really did though is point out my own feelings of inadequacy and stir up the regret I feel about making certain choices in my life.

I studied French, thinking it would take me to France. Instead, it took me as far along the opposite side of the spectrum as possible. I was searching for something that made me feel like I had purpose, and I found it in the military. Unfortunately, that connection is my husband's, not mine, and if he ever decides to separate, I separate along with him. It's that association-by-default that makes me feel I haven't really made any commitment of my own. Sometimes it bothers me, especially when someone points it out to me...

Monday, December 29, 2003


I'm going to give Joe Carter the benefit of the doubt here because we've been friendly in the past and I don't think he meant any disrespect, but his recent email to me was like a slap in the face. He noticed in my 100 Things that I wish I were in the Army as a 19K, and he pointed me to this post of his, with the summarizing paragraph: "But for all the talk, most Americans value liberty only if someone else can be enticed to defend it. We are more than willing to leave our country's defense to the "military types" and lower classes who need the employment. We have advanced degrees to pursue, careers to build, money to be made. Besides, we pay our taxes. What else should we be expected to do? Yes, Americans value liberty. We just don't want to defend it ourselves."


He hit a nerve with me because this is something that I've struggled with for a while. I'm not content to let someone else doing my defending for me, and I know that I owe my country a great deal for what she's provided. I've written about this before on other occasions. I've struggled with this choice, discussed it with my husband, thought, cried, examined my values, and reluctantly come to the decision that joining the military myself is not in my future. I do have my reasons for not taking action, and, for fear of sounding like I'm making excuses, I can lay them out so no one thinks I'm all talk and no show.

For starters, I said my dream job is a 19K. That's a tanker, a combat arms MOS, and off-limits to women. Yes, I know every job in the military is equally important, and every job needs filling for the Army to function, but if I were to join, I would want one of those really flashy jobs, one with a rifle and a big bang. If I could be a 19K or an 11B, I'd consider enlisting even more seriously than I do now. But I can't be one of those.

I'm also 26 years old. That's a little late to enlist. I've thought about it, believe me. I could go to Basic training while my husband is in Iraq and then go to AIT or OCS and then try to get sent back to Germany, but by the time I got through all of my training and actually got into the military, it would be right about the time my husband and I have planned to start a family, and I just don't think the timing is right. Unfortunately I didn't take the Military Science class at my university until I was a senior, or I might have gone the ROTC route myself. I think I would have liked that, and I think that might have made sense.

In addition, my health isn't that great. I mentioned before that my mom has Lupus, and they've watched me for years to see if it develops in me. I have mild arthritis in both knees and my right shoulder and hip, so I'm not even sure I'd make the cut.

Finally, I am already working for the Army in a way. I help provide an education to our soldiers, both as a registrar and (fingers crossed) as a professor come March. I see that job as fitting my abilities better than a job in Transportation or Ordinance would. If I spoke a language that the military needed, like Arabic, I would be quite interested in joining as a 97L. But for now, I'm already working in a job where the skills that I went to six years of college to develop are benefiting our soldiers.

I'd hardly consider myself an armchair quarterback, considering that I live and breathe the Army as a wife. I may not be out in the field with my husband, but I'm providing logistical support back on post for him. I work for the FRG, I bake cookies for the soldiers on staff duty, and I do an awful lot of sewing and laundry to make sure my husband is squared away. And, most importantly, I will live without him for a whole year as my own sacrifice in the war on terror. That may not sound like much of a sacrifice to those of you who are in the military, but it's an awful big one compared to other Americans who have no involvement in the military at all.

So with all due respect, Joe Carter, back off. Not a day goes by that I don't feel the burden of my unearned freedom and liberty on my own shoulders. I don't need you to point out how unworthy I am; I struggle with it enough on my own.


David wrote this over a week ago, but it's great:

The Top Ten Reasons Why the German Media Thinks Saddam Should be Spared the Death Penalty

Sunday, December 28, 2003


OK, so I've been gone a long time and just today finally read this hilarious piece by Victor Davis Hanson. I think I've had this conversation before. My favorite part? Are Jews safer in Paris than Arabs are in Detroit?

And this great list of New Year's resolutions by Lileks. Favorite? I resolve to grasp the absurdity of appearing on national talk shows to insist that our freedom of speech has disappeared.


Patti speaks!


My parents and brother went to a wedding yesterday. My brother came home with a stomachache, and my mom came home with a good story.

She happened to join a conversation where some college-age girl was ranting about the current state of world events. How she's a Democrat, how everyone in her family is a Democrat, how the current adminstration is leading us to hell in a handbasket, and how we need a strong Democrat "like FDR" to lead us. Personally, in that situation, I more than likely would have let her get away with pontificating and then gone home to complain and blog about her, but not my fiery mama. Mom respectfully disagreed with the idea that we need a Democrat these days, saying that the only Democrat she'd support would be Lieberman and that she just can't back someone like Wesley Clark who appears to have switched sides on many issues since announcing his intention to run.

To which this girl replied, "Who's Wesley Clark?"

When I was in grad school, I had a shirt that said Don't hold strong opinions about things you don't understand. I wish I had been there at the wedding to look this girl in the eye and quote her that. Apparently she thought she could put on her big-girl cap and sit at the grown-ups table and talk politics. She was probably repeating something she heard her daddy say and thought that she'd get away with sounding smart and informed with a simile about a former president. Instead she came off looking like a moron when my mom replied, "He's a Democrat who's running for President," and she said, "Oh yeah, his name sounds kinda familiar."

I've said before that these days we all think we're experts on everything. Nevermind that we're supposed to back up our opinions with substantial evidence; why should we cloud up the issue with the facts, as my dad sarcastically says. But these are the people who will most likely be voting for Dean. I know the voting numbers of college kids are not strong, but these dimwits who don't even know the names of the candidates are the ones who will walk into the booth and vote for anyone with a D next to his name.

People drive me crazy.

Saturday, December 27, 2003


Last night at dinner I drank four Dr. Peppers. I didn't necessarily need that many, but they kept coming, and the novelty of being offered more than 2.5 dL of beverage was too exciting to pass up.

Free refills: sorely missed in Germany.


I'm concerned about the quality of our airport security.

Our port of entry when we arrived in the USA this week was Chicago, so we had to recheck our bags and go through security again there before catching our final flight home. We stood in line for about 20 minutes before we got to the x-ray machines. We handed the woman in charge of the line our boarding passes and both of our military IDs, and she looked at them and then asked us, "Are you traveling on official orders?" We answered that we were just on leave, so no orders, and she said, "Follow me." She then took us to the very last station and proceeded to work us over. Shoes off. Arms extended. Full wand search of our bodies, full shoe and feet search, full search of our two carry-ons and my purse.

I have no problem being searched, because we had nothing to hide. But I was concerned that as they were searching us, scores of other families and people were waltzing straight through the checkpoints. While in line I was listening to all the different languages of the passengers; I even was eavesdropping on a Swedish family in front of us. They breezed through the security check and we were held up for over five minutes.

Why us? We both have military IDs! If it's a random search of, say, every fifth traveller, don't you think we could cut the soldier a break? My husband, who has sworn to defend our country, is sitting there in his socks while non-Americans barely raised an eyebrow. Why is that? Our soldiers on R&R from Iraq won't be traveling on orders; imagine the gall of searching and holding up one of them! If it's a policy to make sure that all military IDs are legit, so that people aren't faking those IDs, then maybe I can understand. But is it really necessary? Shouldn't we get some sort of pat on the back and gesture through the checkpoint instead of the full inspection? I've taken three trips with my husband since we've been married, and every time he's been singled out for the third degree. He's blond haired and blue eyed, with a high and tight military haircut. Every time he's shown them his military ID. He's not the target suspect for a terrorist attack. Can anyone else explain to me why we get grilled?

We're going to conduct an experiment on the way home and show them our American driver's licenses instead. If we get pulled aside again, I'll know it's just our bad luck. But if we don't, then I have an inquiring letter to write to O'Hare Airport.


Sorry for the hiatus; the in-laws' computer has been acting screwy. But mom finally got a cable modem yesterday, so we're back in business. Much more tomorrow morning; we had a long long drive today.

We drove for eight hours and barely covered a fraction of our wonderful country.

Friday, December 19, 2003



1. I’ve never been to heaven
But I’ve been to Oklahoma
Well, they tell me I was born there
But I really don’t remember

2. Since the day I was born, I’ve had 19 addresses. And we’ve only been in the military for one year.

3. I’m 26 years old. I have a BA in French and an MA in ESL.

4. I speak French. Well, not very often anymore. But I’m saving that skill for the day when we invade. Then I’ll enlist as a translator or interrogator or something.

5. I speak Swedish. It’s a relatively useless talent, except that I can eavesdrop on people standing in the buffet line in front of me in Las Vegas. But they never say anything interesting anyway.

6. I’m learning German. I have a limited vocabulary right now, but I do in fact know the words for timing belt and pulley. Car trouble…

7. I’ve been to 16 countries.

8. I’ve never been to L.A. or to New York City, but somehow I’ve spent two weeks in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria.

9. I wish I were in the Army. My dream job is a 19K.

10. I’m a knitter. I’ve been knitting for seven years. My most recent project was a DNA scarf for a geneticist friend I like to call “science dorky”.

11. I have a cool birthmark on my face. There’s no color to it, just texture; it simply looks like I got a smallpox vaccination on my left cheek. Once a doctor told me I could probably get it smoothed over by a dermatologist, and I cringed. I’d never even thought about getting rid of it before. I love it.

12. My best feature is my feet. They’re a little big (size 9 ½), but they’re nice feet.

13. I wanted to be 5’11” when I was a kid. I drew a mark on the wall at that height and couldn’t wait to get there. I only made it to 5’6”.

14. Considering that my mom is 4’11” and my dad is 6’3”, I didn’t do too bad.

15. My first grade teacher reads my blog.

16. When I was six, a neighbor boy dared me to jump off the top of my dad’s van for a Showbiz token. I did.

17. I’ve never had a speeding ticket. My philosophy can be summed up as this: If someone offered you $200 to arrive at your destination ten minutes later than scheduled, you’d be a fool not to take it. But you’ll risk a $200 ticket to arrive ten minutes earlier.

18. I’ve been known to swear like a sailor. But not when I write.

19. I think factories and old stockyards are beautiful. They’re classic quality.

20. I can sing all the words to “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.” Useless.

21. When I went to my brother’s 8th grade graduation, some woman asked me if I was excited about graduating that day. I was in college at the time. I’m three years older than my husband, and I’m the one who always gets carded.

22. I’ve seen an intact dissected human nervous system. It was awesome.

23. My parents are Catholic. My dad’s the oldest of thirteen kids. I have 28 cousins.

24. My grandfather was in the Air Force in WWII, in the same squadron as Chuck Yeager.

25. I’ve never smoked. Anything. Alcohol, pills, I understand all that. But I will never grok why someone would intentionally suck smoke into his lungs.

26. In fact, I once turned down the opportunity to meet Snoop Dogg because I assumed he’d be smoking weed and I didn’t want to look like a dork.

27. I was the high school valedictorian.


28. I love the smell of skunk.

29. I’m allergic to water. No one believes me on this one, but whenever I shower, swim, or wash my face before bed, I sneeze uncontrollably. I’m sure it has something to do with my sinuses, but I hate water.

30. Thus I hate swimming. I haven’t been swimming in years.

31. I’m mildly claustrophobic. I’m fine in crowded rooms and stuff, but zip up the sleeping bag on me and I’ll panic.

32. I’m an obsessive hand-washer. It drives me nuts that my husband isn’t.

33. I think all medicine is a placebo. I take Ny-Quil during the day and sleeping pills at night with no effect. One time I tried to recreationally take my friend’s Vicadin. I felt nothing. Eminem is a wuss.

34. Since sleeping pills and Ny-Quil never work, I often have trouble sleeping. I have since I was a kid. I used to read whole novels at night when I was in middle school; now I just talk my husband to death.

35. I can’t sit in high-backed chairs. I must have very sensitive vestibular nuclei, because any pressure on the base of my skull makes me nauseous. I am extremely uncomfortable sitting in buses or planes or recliners, where the chair back touches the back of my head.

36. I didn’t have a security blanket or stuffed animal as a child. I slept with my books. All of them. Under my pillow. Dork.

37. I was paranoid about fire as a kid. My friend’s dad was a fireman, another friend’s house burned down, and a neighbor’s house got struck by lightning. I was convinced that every person’s house burned down at least once in their life, so I was just waiting for my family’s turn. I planned my escape routes from my house and visualized throwing my dollhouse through the window to break the glass.

38. I also collected crayon shavings when I was a kid. You know, the wax that comes off when you sharpen a crayon. I’ve gotten rid of nearly everything from my childhood except for the butter tub full of crayon shavings. For some reason, I just can’t part with that.

39. Most adult women collect china or teapots or art or Hummels or something classy. I collect buttons, bottlecaps, coasters, and matchbooks.

40. Yes, I know I’m weird.


41. My husband and I met when he took me out during an ROTC soccer match. I couldn’t walk for three days; he was somehow oblivious to the fact that the game stopped and they had to carry me off the field. Weeks later when I pointed it out to him, he had no idea what I was talking about.

42. I cut my hair really short (like two inches long) right when my husband and I started dating, and the disappointment on his face was priceless. I haven’t cut my hair since then; it’s nearly to my waist now. We started a joke that by the time Return of the King came out, I would look like an elf. We were right.

43. When I finally told my husband I liked him and asked him if he liked me, his surprised response was, “Well, of course I like you, but I’m not going to marry you or anything.”

44. I don't have any sort of engagement story. We just went and bought the ring. I wore it for a day before I demanded my husband at least ask me to marry him. He's not one for ceremony...

45. When we got engaged, I got an engagement ring and my husband got an engagement foosball table. For my husband’s Christmas present in 2001 I commissioned a cartoon based on the foosball table from Shachar Meron, creator of Blue Rice. He ran the cartoon in the newspaper and gave us the original. It's framed in our home.

46. I nearly died on June 15, 1999 when someone put something in my drink in a bar in Glasgow. Apparently when you’re unconscious on the sidewalk in Scotland and your friend calls an ambulance, they’ll come to the scene but they won’t do anything to help because “just being drunk” does not warrant medical attention. Never mind the fact that I only had two rum and cokes, and that my friend kept slapping me in the face to keep me conscious. Socialized medicine, indeed.

47. I got married three years later to the day. Death and new life, all with one date.

48. My wedding dress cost me $30.

49. And our maid of honor is marrying our groomsman next winter. They met through us.

50. We went to Washington D.C. for our honeymoon. More than anywhere in the world, that was where I wanted to go. I'd never been, and I'm so glad we went.


51. The first movie I remember seeing in the movie theater was Wrath of Khan. I was five years old, and it scared the crap out of me.

52. All of life’s lessons can be found in the quote from him in a magazine: “We got to kill that motherfucker Saddam. Slit his throat. Kill him and the guy in North Korea.”

58. No matter how many times I've watched, I still cry at the end of both It's a Wonderful Life and Raising Arizona.

59. I love rappers. As a language buff, I think rappers have the most phenomenal language skills of any English speakers. When Jay-Z can make a rhyme like this “I box leftier often / My pops left me an orphan”, you have to admit that’s a beautiful use of English.

60. I’d love to be on that MTV show Fanatic and meet Dr. Dre, just to see the look on his face when some white girl starts talking about how much she loves his alliteration.

61. I even went to see Ice T give a lecture on racism at the University of Illinois.

62. So I think I’m the only American in the world who thinks the British accent is ugly. Not sexy, not refined, not sophisticated. Grating.


63. I love chili dogs. There’s a hot dog shack in downtown Peoria that has the best chili dogs in the world. In fact, when I lived in MO, my mom once bought me one, wrapped it in foil, and brought it to me in the car. They’re that delicious.

64. Before I got to Germany, I only ate big pretzels at baseball games. Now my German co-worker brings me one every single day.

65. I make a really mean brownie and cake, but I can’t make chocolate chip cookies to save my life. They always turn out disgusting. My friend makes really good cookies, and I’ve followed her recipe to the letter, but they still suck.

66. My drink of choice is a Tom Collins.

67. I go out of my way to eat weird foods; I’ve eaten stomach, tongue, brain, testicles, ostrich, kangaroo, and reindeer, to name a few. My husband also thinks I’m a horrible person because I say that if we ever go to Korea, I’d eat dog.

68. But I can’t eat anything spicier than mild sauce. I can do weird, but not spicy.

69. Speaking of weird, I believe that applesauce is a condiment. Best eaten on top of macaroni and cheese or pizza.

70. I eat and enjoy salad, but I hate lettuce on top of other foods, like on hamburgers or tacos. I refer to the lettuce at Taco Bell as “shredded paper”.

71. I don't enjoy eating in restaurants. I'm too stingy. Usually I sit there calculating how much it would have cost to make the meal myself.

72. I hate all licorice. Red and black.

73. I can't really tell a difference between the different percentages of milk, nor do I care at all about the differences between cheeses.


74. I’ve met the President of Bulgaria. In St. Louis. In a room, surrounded by Bulgarians. And I spoke Bulgarian to him. Freaked him out.

75. I had a goldfish for three years in college that used to wake me up in the mornings by sucking the little blue rocks into his mouth and then spitting them at the glass bowl. When he got sick for weeks and slowly started to die, I knew I couldn’t save him. I cupped him in my hands and took him out of the water until he stopped breathing. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

76. I once stopped my car in the middle of the highway to rescue a turtle who was trying to cross the road.

77. I absolutely hate the expression “it’s not a fishy fish.” That doesn’t make any sense to me at all. All fish taste like fish. Please don’t write and try to explain it; my husband’s been trying for years.

78. This guy in college tried to date-rape me once, but I verbally humiliated him so badly that he left the room in shame. I rule.

79. I was in Goteborg, Sweden in the summer of 2001 during the riots. I saw President Bush papermache puppets and everything. And cops getting nailed with cobblestones.

80. I’m a fanatic about thank-you cards. They should be sent on every occasion, and a phone call or email does not substitute. My husband thinks I'm brainwashed by my southern upbringing. I think it’s just good manners.

81. I was a volunteer scorekeeper for the University of Illinois champion wheelchair basketball team in 2001.

82. I think President Bush is really handsome. With or without the flight suit.

83. I think I’m the only person on earth who feels sorry for Humbert Humbert.

84. I have a dishwasher that I’ve only used once. On Thanksgiving. I hate the dishwasher.

85. Butters is my favorite South Park character too. The husband and I have a goldfish named after him. We also have one named after J. Robert Oppenheimer.

86. My younger brother is a week older than my husband’s older brother. In other words, we have two siblings between us in age.

87. I got bit by a brown recluse two summers ago. I have a cool scar.

88. I love scars; they are great intros into stories. I always ask people about the stories behind their scars. In fact, I’m surprised people don’t ask me about the birthmark on my face (they have to notice it), but maybe they think I’m sensitive about it. I haven’t had anyone comment on it since high school.

89. I don’t tan. When your mother has Lupus and your father has skin cancer, you avoid the sun like the plague. I’m pasty white year round.

90. I taught myself to sew when I lived in Sweden. I sewed the curtains and pillows in our living room. I’ve also sewn on military insignia when the alterations shop was backed up. I think I did a better job than they do.

91. My brother is paying his way through college by playing poker. I personally hate playing cards.

92. But video poker is a whole different story. Addictive as crack. When I was in Vegas, I got four aces on one of those. Unfortunately, it was a nickel machine; I think I won four bucks.

93. I've never broken any bones in my body. But I did break someone else's finger once during flag football.

94. When I was a kid, I heard my voice on a tape recorder and vowed never to speak again. I think I went a few days without talking.

95. When I was in France, we had no TV or phone. I had to come up with many things to amuse myself. One was memorizing "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock".

96. I also took lots of photos while I was there. I even won a photography contest with one of them.

97. I used to hate waking up early, but now I really enjoy it. The earlier the better. It gets me to the blogosphere sooner.

98. I dry my hair and eat breakfast in front of the computer. No sense in wasting time.

99. I'm an obsessive list-maker.

100. Last but not least, here's a picture of me.


I was bored so I googled the word grok just to see what I would find. I found my own site, lots of references to Heinlein, and also some Norwegians. Since Norwegian is closely related to Swedish, I can read a fair amount of the site and understand the gist. They don't have any English blogs in their ring; maybe I should shoot them an email...


Sam from Hammorabi blog pointed to some news here (#4) that I tracked down in an article.
It's true: Saddam's wife is moving to France.
It just figures, doesn't it.


David has the scoop. A German actually admitted that it was Germany and France who were unilateral at the UN.

How do you say "wonders never cease" in German?


I found this via Scrappleface's parody, and I can't believe it's true.

A school principal in Philadelphia was lecturing students on why it's not OK to use hateful words to make fun of each other. Among other examples, she said, "People of African descent were enslaved, brutalized, murdered and disrespected in this country because we were considered, not human beings, but...niggers. Nigger is the most derogatory racial epithet to be used against African-Americans. It has no place in our society, and it definitely has no place in our schools."

Now the school board wants to fire her for using the n-word in front of students.

What in the hell is wrong with people?


Amritas, shhh. You're going to frighten the husband away from his Arabic studies...

He's doing really well, by the way. I'm so impressed. His auditory memory is enviable, considering mine is appallingly pathetic for a language buff (I'm a visual language learner).

My favorite phrase that he has learned so far?
"I am an American but I speak a little Arabic."


Lileks writes about the Democrats: But the Democrats want revenge. For Florida. For Bush's refusal to let France and Germany decide American foreign policy. For invading poor, helpless, never-hurt-a-fly Iraq. For making the Dixie Chicks feel uncomfortable. Not for drilling in ANWR, but for wanting to. For this and a thousand other sins, Bush must pay -- and if al-Qaida detonates a nuke in the Baltimore harbor during President Dean's term, it'll be Bush's fault for toppling the fascists of Iraq without the approval of Syria and China.

And Right Wing News also remorsefully writes about the Democrats today: Just look at any program or piece of legislation that's being seriously considered by the President and Congress and ask yourself, "Would our country's enemies support our oppose this" and then look and see where each political party comes down on it. You will find that nine times out of ten, the Democrats will be coming down on the same side as America's enemies.


From Roger L. Simon: I will share something with everyone. While I was away, I considered scaling back this blog (my paid output as a novelist and screenwriter has gone down--you only have so much time and so many ideas). But when I read the amazing comments on here, I have to admit that I am moved. One thing is clear to me: in these extraordinary times blogs are the most political form of writing we have, possibly the most significant in terms of changing people's minds. I won't pull back. I'll do my professional work, spend time with my family (most important!) and keep blogging. Who needs sleep?

Simon went to Paris and got to meet Merde in France, the Dissident Frogman, and Nelson Ascher.
I've sworn that I'll never return to France, but I would go in a heartbeat if I got to meet these three.

(Jealousy consuming me...)


You have to read Den Beste today.
When you do, you will slap your forehead and wonder why no one's said this already.
Then you'll remember that Den Beste is a genius.

At the end, he links to some WaPo writer who sanctimoniously opposes the death penalty for Saddam. The most appalling quote: "The Iraqis no doubt expect to treat Hussein as he treated them. It would be marvelous if they were disappointed." What kind of a person says something like that?


Some humor about Saddam's punishment.


The husband is on a Brigade Run right now. Aside from tanks, Brigade Run is the coolest thing about the Army.

Here's what I wrote home in August:

I awoke to the sound of a dull roar. I couldn't quite place it for a moment, this blur of voices that seemd to be approaching. And then I remembered: Brigade Run. Normally the boys get up and do PT with their Platoons, roughly 20 people. They run together or go to the gym. But sometimes they organize their PT to be bigger, where the whole Company or even Battalion will work out together. But Thursday was something to behold. Thursday was the celebration day for all soldiers who had just returned from Kosovo, and therefore they had a Brigade PT. That means that close to 3000 soldiers (every solder on our post) went on a 3-mile run together. And did cadence. What woke me up was the sound of 3000 people chanting right outside my house. I got up and watched out the window as they all ran by, in their identical PT uniforms, shouting as loud as they could. There's nothing quite like 3000 soldiers to wake you up at 6:30. And there's no way you can go back to sleep after watching that!

What's changed since then? Well, they didn't wake me up this time; I was already up and getting out of the shower. Yep, I'm a real Army wife now. And they're not celebrating a return, they're celebrating a departure, for both block leave and the Iraq deployment. I also can't see them out the window because it's too stinkin' dark outside this time of year. And this time their noise reminded me of something else: Uruk-Hai.

I've got Middle Earth on the brain!!

Thursday, December 18, 2003


OK, I came across this on accident, and it made me so mad. I found a photo from the riots in Gothenburg from June 2001 with revisionists comments that made my blood boil.

Here's the photo. Read the comments too.

Too bad none of that is true. How do I know? Because I was there.

I was living in Sweden at the time, and we happened to already have a trip to Gothenburg planned for the same day that President Bush would be showing up in Sweden. What happened was that all hell broke loose. When we arrived in Gothenburg, all of the store windows along the main street were smashed glass, chairs and port-a-potties were on fire in the streets, and masked and hooded punks were throwing rocks at mounted police. We watched and took some of our own photos for a while, amazed at how violent this demonstration had become. In fact, one of the protestors got shot while I was there because they swarmed on one police officer, knocked him to the ground, and started kicking and beating him. Classy.

OK, so my beef? The revisionist comments...

read up on this riot please, and youll find that this was anti-war protest, and a protest that george bush was coming to this country to propagate about "his" war against terrorism to our democratic chosen politicians.

Uh, not exactly. Seeing as this happened in June 2001, that would make it before September 11 and having ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH ANTI-WAR. Even the Socialist Youth Movement website says it was a protest against "third world debt, the destruction of the environment, human rights abuses and for a more democratic EU." But there's no need to cloud the issue with the facts, right?

Check out these other photos from that day and see how peaceful these people were.



I created a login and joined the art club so I could let the truth be known. I posted comments as vina04.


Via Tim, we see that some soldiers are volunteering to stay another year in Iraq.

Thompson was working for Morgan Stanley on the 61st floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. He escaped the building and tried to help firefighters get others out.

After the initial shock of the experience, the reservist tried to get back onto active military duty. But before he could get approved for active duty, he got called up as a reservist. The decision to stay an extra year is easier because he doesn't have children, Thompson said, and his wife supports the idea.

"It's where the action is, and you go where you are needed," Thompson said. "And especially since I about got blown up in New York, (my wife has) become real supportive of trying to be aggressive in solving world problems. We've got to be proactive in the Middle East, or else we will be fighting on our own shore."

All I can say is Wow.


We're leaving Germany on Saturday for two weeks (don't know what blogging capabilities will be...), and there are a few things I'm really looking forward to:

I like pork, and I've found that I generally like most German food. But if I have to eat pork again in the next two weeks, I think I'll scream. At the Czech orphanage, pork. At the Czech restaurant on the way home, pork. At the Hail and Farewell tonight, pork. Always pork. Don't these people ever eat chicken or beef?

What's with the swishing around of water that never goes down the drain? When you flush, the water simply stirs around a bit but never gets sucked down the drain. It bugs me, I tell ya.

We get a good variety of American TV here, but there's no South Park. And Porphyrogenitus rubs it in my face! Grrr.

Like Jimmy Johns, going to the Budweiser Brewery, stocking up on Thai spices, and cardinal directions on highway signs. Oh yeah, and more than one waiter in each restaurant.


I'm still keeping track of our friend from Fort Lewis...


Omar writes extensively about his feelings towards the anti-war crowd. I'll admit as an ESL teacher that it's a hard read, but it's worth it to hear his voice.

And Sam posts an interesting conspiracy theory.


Amritas points out an interesting article by Thomas Sowell about using history to invoke white American guilt. I can't even pull out one quote because the whole article is worthy, but he touches on taking land from Indians and the forefathers' role in slavery. He argues that looking at history through our modern eyes and using it to berate ourselves for our past deeds is wrong and ridiculous.

I've been gobbling up the book I'm currently reading, a 1000-page monster called Aztec by Gary Jennings. Now I know, I know, that historical fiction is indeed fiction. I know that everything in this book is not 100% true and I can't go around quoting it as if it were a history text. But in a way I think that it's more accurate than many history texts because at least it attempts to show both sides of the story. The first 800 pages are all about the Aztecs themselves, how they fought against and were prejudiced against other tribes, and recounts horrific sacrifice rituals to the gods and rape, pillage, and murder of trespassers and foreigners. In short, the main character is painted as a human, with a multitude of opinions, experiences, and biases of his own. And then the white man shows up and is humourously painted as the clumsy barbarian through the Aztec's eyes. My point? You see both sides in this novel. You see the Aztecs being taken advantage of and then bullied by the Spaniards...in the same way the Aztecs took advantage of and bullied each other before the white man showed up. We don't get that in our history texts today. We get the peaceful Indians who taught the Pilgrims to plant fish with their corn, and we conveniently leave out the fact that Native America consisted of many different tribes that fought with each other and had the same prejudices and avarices that the white man had.

But if we can't put all the blame on the white man, then where's the "lesson" to be learned?


So let me get this straight. Michael Moore introduced Madonna to Wesley Clark????
It doesn't get any creepier than that...


Riding on the heels of my reading of Crichton's article on environmentalism yesterday comes this article via Instapundit:

Criticize the hockey stick and some colleagues seem to think you have a political agenda—I’ve discovered this myself. Accept the hockey stick, and others accuse you of uncritical thought.

What's the hockey stick? Read it and find out.


Charles Johnson is ticked that Mark Steyn related Lefties with bike riders. Ha. But Mark Steyn's article does more than just tick LGF off; it offers a really interesting look at what's important to Howard Dean:

There was a revealing moment on MSNBC the other night. Chris Matthews asked Dr. Dean whether Osama bin Laden should be tried in an American court or at The Hague. "I don't think it makes a lot of difference," said the governor airily. Mr. Matthews pressed once more. "It doesn't make a lot of difference to me," he said again. Some of us think what's left of Osama is already hard enough to scrape off the cave floor and put in a matchbox, never mind fly to the Netherlands. But, just for the sake of argument, his bloodiest crime was committed on American soil; American courts, unlike the international ones, would have the option of the death penalty. But Gov. Dean couldn't have been less interested. So how about Saddam? The Hague "suits me fine," he said, the very model of ennui. Saddam? Osama? Whatever, dude.

So what does get the Dean juices going? A few days later, the governor was on CNN and Judy Woodruff asked him about his admission that he'd left the Episcopal Church and become a Congregationalist because "I had a big fight with a local Episcopal church over the bike path." I hasten to add that, in contrast to current Anglican controversies over gay marriage in British Columbia and gay bishops in New Hampshire, this does not appear to have been a gay bike path: its orientation was not an issue; it would seem to be a rare example of a non-gay controversy in the Anglican Communion. But nevertheless it provoked Howard into "a big fight." "I was fighting to have public access to the waterfront, and we were fighting very hard in the citizens group," he told Judy Woodruff. Fighting, fighting, fighting.

And that's our pugnacious little Democrat. On Osama bin Laden, he's Mister Insouciant. But he gets mad about bike paths. Destroy the World Trade Center and he's languid and laconic and blasé. Obstruct plans to convert the ravaged site into a memorial bike path and he'll hunt you down wherever you are.

Oh yeah, and while you're on LGF, read this. Sheesh.


My subtitle up there warns people to pay attention. Tim also wrote yesterday about paying attention and linked it back to me. Looks like I need to take my own advice...

I've gotten so addicted to blogging that I race through my morning routine to get to the computer. I also dry my hair sitting in front of the monitor so that I don't waste a minute of reading time. I did the same today, but once I was done, I went back to the mirror to finish getting ready, and I noticed something strange. I think I forgot to rinse the conditioner out of my hair. It's dry now, but it's as greasy as a 50's rock star and it looks absolutely horrible. And I didn't even notice as I sat there drying it because I was so wrapped up in reading blogs.

Sheesh. Pay attention, girl.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003


I'm so excited for Tim I can hardly stand it.
Imagine how he feels...


I thought that this story via LGF deserved more than just a link. Apparently Howard Dean had a fundraiser starring many anti-Bush comedians that was closed to the media. It's a damn good thing too, since most of the comedians turned out to be shockingly virulent.

I'm no prude, and I like comedians as much as the next guy. I can handle jokes about race/ethnicity/sex/etc. But it's one thing for comedians to be doing their own thing on Comedy Central, and quite another for them to be representing a political candidate with their humor. Although Dean was apparently "so livid that he almost refused to come out to talk to the crowd", he maybe should have had a talk with some of the comedians prior to the show about some of the things which might make him look bad. You know, like the n-word, or calling Cheney's daughter "a big lezzie", or making fun of Lieberman for being Jewish, or imitating Condoleeza Rice with Gone-With-the-Wind slave talk. You know, just the bad stuff. Good lord.

The reporter for the New York Post says, "If there had been TV cameras, it could have been really bad news for Dean. As it was, he got off pretty lightly. The Post reported the story and the Times ran a teensy-weensy account buried on page B-6 of the Metro section. Republicans are fuming. They say that if anything like this had happened at an event where a top Republican was present and did nothing to stop it, the media would rage about it for weeks."

She's right. I just don't understand how the political party that supposedly champions minorities seems to find it so goddam funny that the National Security Advisor is an African-American woman or that the Vice President's daughter is a lesbian. That's not funny. It's a wonderful thing that the Republican party is embracing minorities into its ranks and slowly changing old-fashioned views on some issues. Why on earth does that make Condoleeza Rice the brunt of a slave joke?

This just reinforces what I said earlier this morning, that the Republican party seems to be moving in the direction of being more tolerant and accepting than the Democrats.


Tim comments. I agree: Lieberman would be the only Democrat I would ever consider supporting in this election.


Amritas comments too. He couldn't even believe what I said was true; he had to check with the original article. That's how appalling those comedians were.


Oh gosh there's so much good stuff out there today. Please don't let the fact that I've come up with eight must-reads keep you from reading them. They're all worth it today.

Good article by Andrew Sullivan today on why we can't "internationalize" the Iraq effort. Too bad we're all preaching to the choir these days. (via Daily Dish)

Dennis Miller: "I feel more politically engaged than I've ever felt in my life because I do think we live in dangerous times, and anybody who looks at the world and says this is the time to be a wuss—I can't buy that anymore." (via Instapundit)

And as a Cardinals Fan, I love this photo. (via Parkway Rest Stop)

At first I thought this guy was serious. But now I'm cracking up. (via Amritas)

Remember the other Iraqi who hid in his basement? For 21 years? (via LGF)

Guess who won the 2003 Dishonest Reporting Award... (via LGF)

Rosie DiManno calls Canadians "morally superior harpies" per their whining about Iraq. And she's a Canadian. (via Tim)

Michael Crichton says that environmentalism is the new religion. I can't believe the Jurassic Park guy wrote something this good. Not that I'm dissing Jurassic Park, it's just...well...I didn't think he wrote other stuff too. Sheesh. Just read it. (via Porphyrogenitus)

Orson Scott Card writes humorously that the Democrat campaigns "range from Howard Dean's "Bush is the devil" to everybody else's "I'll make you rich, and Bush is quite similar to the devil." Since President Bush is quite plainly not the devil, one wonders why anyone in the Democratic Party thinks this ploy will play with the general public." and says that he is tired of the "yes-but coverage" of the war. This is a Very Good Article. (via Instapundit)


Kal makes a point today that I think I can identify heavily with: "The Democrats may have no place in their ranks for moderates, but the Republicans don't seem to have a problem having a DWS American and South Park Republican around." From my own experiences in the blogosphere, this seems to be true. The Republicans encompass everyone from the fundamental Christian to the heathen millionaire, and everyone in between. I've never noticed any right-leaning blogger have a problem with Andrew Sullivan being a British homosexual Catholic, though that's not normally what you'd expect a Republican to look like. The right boasts everyone from Atheist Soldier to the Evangelical Outpost. But I'm having a hard time finding that diversity on the left-leaning blogs. When you are told flat out on the Democratic Underground that "If you think overall that George W. Bush is doing a swell job, or if you wish to see Republicans win, or if you are generally supportive of conservative ideals, please do not register to post, as you will likely be banned", then there's a problem of accepting differing opinions under one political party. Lots of people I know are "hesitant Republicans": those who wish there were a Democrat they liked but just can't seem to find one who doesn't make them want to barf or throw the TV through the window. Many have said so on their blogs. No one is claiming they're traitors to the party or banning them from posting because they have conflicting ideas. I just don't see the shades of grey in the Democrats that I see in the Republicans.

And yet Democrats claim President Bush is the black-and-white "you're either with us or against us" one.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003


I honestly felt tears welling up when I read this from Zeyad today:

The images were shocking. I couldn't make myself believe this was the same Saddam that slaughtered hundreds of thousands and plundered my country's wealth for decades. The humiliation I experienced was not out of nationalistic pride or Islamic notions of superiority or anything like that as some readers suggested. It was out of a feeling of impotence and helplessness. This was just one old disturbed man yet the whole country couldn't dispose of him. We needed a superpower from the other side of the ocean to come here and 'get him' for us.

Poor guy.


Remember the Iraqi journalist who was weeping during the press conference on Sunday? Do you know why he was weeping?

"Iraqi journalist Fatah al-Sheikh wept when he saw U.S. video of Saddam Hussein at a news conference Sunday. 'When I saw Saddam's long beard, how he looked like a defeated man, it reminded me of the two years I spent in jail, how his agents tortured me in every way you could imagine,' he said."

May the Iraqi people finally know peace.

I'm wearing a Christmas shirt today, a red shirt that says HOPE on it. That's what I feel after the capture of Saddam. Hope. Hope that democracy is closer around the corner than we thought in Iraq. Hope that seeing Saddam cowering in a hole will take the wind out of the insurgents' sail. Hope that one day peace really will be possible in the Middle East, but not on the "peace protester" terms.

A while back a commenter here named Russell Nelson said something that has stuck with me:

"Peace in our time" aka "World Peace" is definitely a possibility. No two democracies have ever gone to war against each other. Whenever you find arguable cases, they're arguably not democracies (e.g. Civil War -- not even half the adult males could vote). Freedom is the cause of peace. Justice is not the cause of peace, in spite of the handy chant "No justice, no peace." On the other hand, it's not possible to force freedom on people. Freedom comes from trust, and trust comes from many years of peaceful interactions.

I pointed this comment out to my husband, and he looked at me like duh (that's why the husband is the smart one), but it was honestly something I hadn't thought of before. I used to say that there's no such thing as peace, only calms in history's storms. I thought Peace was like Santa Claus: a wonderful idea, but a figment of everyone's imagination. But all of a sudden, Peace seemed like a very real thing. It wasn't just something that Sheryl Crow could sequin on a shirt; it seemed possible.


Hope that one day every country in the world will be a democracy.
But I'd settle for starting with Iraq today.

(Thanks to Fayrouz for the inspiration.)


Mark Steyn has a hilarous article today.

And Scrappleface has a hilarious description of the Democrats: "We should continue our two-pronged patriotic approach of expressing support for the troops, while reminding them that they're risking their lives for a lie."

Right Wing News once and for all sums up why President Bush didn't lie.

And it seems that even the most unlikely people are backing Bush these days.


Via Instapundit we see that Something Awful is raising money to donate body armor to the 25th Infantry Division. I plan on kicking in a few bucks, and I thought some of you might want to also. I can't find a permalink, so you'll just have to scroll down a bit.


Well, Aragorn might be more idiotarian than king, but it turns out that Gimli is a mental giant.

By the way, I can't wait to go home and see the movie. It's such a bittersweet feeling though: waiting for three years for this moment and knowing that as soon as I see it, I will be sad that there's no more waiting.

Crap, it comes out tomorrow, doesn't it. NO SPOILERS, PEOPLE! Wait, what am I saying? I've read the book...

Ha, I'm reminded of the movie theater at the end of Fellowship of the Ring; you could hear the shock and awe as people realized that the movie was ending without closure. Someone gasped, "That's it?!!??" And my dad silenced the gaspers with, "Read the books!" He he.


Amritas provides some insight into Tolkien's linguistic endeavors.


Andrew Sullivan was also writing about joy yesterday: "It is a moment when some kind of cosmic justice breaks through the clouds, and all the petty wrangling and mistakes and political jockeying fall away in the face of liberation from inescapable fear and terror and brutality. It was a day of joy. Nothing remains to be said right now. Joy."

Yesterday he also gathered many Lefty quotes about Saddam's capture that stagger the mind.

Monday, December 15, 2003


Tim was jealous of my conjugal visit joke the other day.
I'm jealous that he found this gem:


"Why didn't you fight?" one Governing Council member asked Hussein as their meeting ended.
Hussein gestured toward the U.S. soldiers guarding him and asked his own question: "Would you fight them?"


The greatest story I've heard all morning comes from Citizen Smash.
I merely baked a cake; he saw his nemesis fall.

Also, more info on our friend's involvement with the Stryker can be found here and here.
He's 2LT Armeni, and we're sure proud of him.


I meant to get this posted this weekend, but there was too much excitement (Suck it, Saddam) to justify posting on driving in Germany, but here it finally is.

Found a link on One Man's Vote (excellent slogan: Don't like what I have to say? GET YOUR OWN BLOG.) on driving in Germany. Since I've been doing that for six months, I might have some humor to add. The article he references is dead-on (you should check it out); it seems to me that Germans are very skilled drivers because they have to be so alert. When a BMW can come screaming up behind you in two seconds flat, you'd better be paying attention. Driving in Germany is a white-knuckled, teeth-grinding experience, so there's no sloppy lane changing or lazy driving.

Here's an email I wrote home in July:

It was our first time to be on the Autobahn alone, and let's just say I'm glad we're still alive. The *idea* of being able to drive as fast as you want, no speed limits, seems cool, but the problem is that this system allows for vast inconsistencies in how fast people are driving. The right lane usually consists of campers and semis that are going about 65-70 MPH. The left lane consists of maniacs and suicidals who drive between 90-100 MPH. So there's no place for a little Nissan Sentra who starts to complain when you take him up around 80. It's a lot of weaving back and forth dodging slow campers and light-speed BMWs. And for two people as high-stressed as we are, it was not a picnic. Another thing about driving in Germany is that they really load their direction signs with too much information and too small of a font. One sign can point out the direction, using arrows, to up to nine different towns, and some of them also give the distance to the town, whether they have a swimming pool, and loads of other info that is way too hard to sift through at 85 MPH. Not to mention when you blow past a sign that you're pretty sure had the German word for Detour on it, but of course you can't be sure because your German isn't advanced enough for warp-speed. And the Germans don't do anything based on cardinal directions. Like in Peoria (where my parents live), you can either take 74 East towards Bloomington or 74 W towards Galesburg. In Germany, they don't provide the East and West for you. So you come up to a sign that says Munich or Passau, or even smaller towns like Amberg and Grafenwoehr, and you'd better know your local geography! We both think it's really hard to navigate here, but hopefully with time we'll adjust. We made it through yesterday unscathed, except for the rock that flew up at 80 MPH and gave us our first chip in the windshield. Ah, a souvenir of our first day on the Autobahn.

And then later in September:

The more we drive on the Autobahn, the more alarmed we become. Driving is definitely a two-man operation. It takes one to drive and the other to navigate. And navigating is a full-time job. I grip the map with white knuckles and stare either at it or at the approaching signs.
I can't really explain why it's so difficult; you just have to try it. I'll try to use the example of Kirksville, since many of you are familiar with that area. Imagine that you want to drive to Columbia (which is south of Kirksville on Hwy 63). Now imagine that in leaving Kirksville you never see a road sign labeled Hwy 63. All you come to is a sign pointing you in two directions: Millard or Sublette. Forget about heading to Columbia; you have to know the names of all the small towns on the way there. You have to know whether Millard or Sublette is located south of you, and then head towards the right one. (I had to get out the map to do this, I can't even do it and I spent 7 yrs of my life driving around Kirksville! It's Millard.) So you go to Millard, and then you come to a sign that says Novelty, S. Gifford, or Atlanta...and you have to know which one is south again. And so on and so on until you get to your destination. In the USA, you can get on Interstate 80 and go from Toledo to Sacramento without a thought. All you have to do is follow the signs marked 80. Who cares if you twist a little around the Nebraska border, just follow the signs. (OK, maybe big highways are easier. But you can get on dinky little 63 and go from West Plains, MO all the way north to Spooner, WI, crossing Iowa and Minnesota, even if you've never been anywhere in those states.) And at least you know that even numbers are E-W and odd numbers are N-S. I can't figure out any pattern here. Heck, I can't even name any highways in our vicinity! Wait, I can name 299, but I have no idea if it goes N-S or E-W. It just goes to the Taco Bell :) But I know that the Taco Bell is in Grafenwoehr, so I head that way, and I have since figured out that the road is 299. This makes it really difficult to navigate. The husband drives and I constantly watch signs and stare at the map; as soon as I see a town name on a sign, I frantically look at the map to see where it is. There are no mile markers here either, so it's really hard to tell where you are on the map as well.
I went to a wife's house for a party once, and these were the directions she gave us in the invitation:
1. Go out the front gate through Schlict and continue following directions to Amberg
2. Continue for 10-15 minutes. When you reach the 70 kph speed zone, take the right to go to Altmanshof/Speckshof
3. When you reach the first yield sign, take a left and follow the curve of the road
4. After you go under the overpass, take a left at the yield sign, and then turn right following the sign to Poppenricht
5. Follow this road until the next yield sign, and take a right and another immediate right
6. Continue until you see the Diska grocery store and take the left in front of the store
7. Take the third left onto Talstrasse
Ha ha ha. These are directions on HIGHWAYS! They sound like driving through a neighborhood! She lives 30 minutes away -- Dad, imagine giving directions from Peoria to Wyoming, IL by saying "turn right at the yield sign"! Notice she never gives the name of any highway; the only street name is her own. That's so common here. And so hard to follow. I had the directions taped to my rearview mirror so that I could easily access them while driving 65 MPH!!
You really can't understand it until you've tried it, but believe me, it's hard. And it makes us want to get divorced at times....

I even put together a little webpage for our friends and family to see just how nutty the roads are here. Props to the Germans for not dying every time they leave the house. I usually assume death is right around the corner when I have to drive anywhere off post!


Some humor to start this Monday morning. First, a look at the EU Constitution by the ever-ingenius Iowahawk, who finally got his own blog. Second, this urgent message for anyone traveling to France by the boys at Francesucks. (My favorite line is a tie between "In general, France is a safe destination, although travelers are advised that France is occasionally invaded by Germany." and "France's principal exports, in order of importance to the economy, are wine, nuclear weapons, perfume, guided missiles, champagne, high-caliber weaponry, grenade launchers, land mines, tanks, attack aircraft, miscellaneous armaments and cheese.") Check out their store too; they have anti-France Christmas ornaments!


I feel joy. For the first time in weeks.

We're leaving the country in six days, and I have a ton of stuff to do. I was freaked out yesterday morning about getting packed and everything taken care of before we go. And then a newsbreak interrupted the tv. I stared shocked for a moment before yelling my fool head off to the husband upstairs. He and I sat for two hours, getting giddy and alternating between elation and slight disappointment that 1ID didn't get to share in the capture. We baked our cake and celebrated with a friend. This morning I know that I still have a ton of things to do on my day off from work, but I can't tear myself away from the 'sphere. I want to read everyone's reaction, share everyone's joy, and laugh at all the bedraggled photos (the comparison to Marx made me giggle especially loud.) I got dragged into Democratic Underground for a moment, but I soon left. Forget the idiots today. Today is a day of happiness.

It was the icing on my cake of a weekend.

Friday night left me grumpily trying to get links to work that refused to cooperate, and with the husband on 24-hour duty, I was in a foul mood. Saturday morning changed all that when we arrived at the Battalion building to get on the bus. My husband's unit has been sponsoring an orphanage in the Czech Republic for four years now, and every Christmas they buy presents and donate food, clothing, and toys and take them over the border. I donated a few bags of clothes and stuff, but I was astounded to see the amount of stuff his Battalion had managed to collect. We took one of those 25-seater mini-buses, plus four POVs, and we were packed. The entire underside of the bus, the entire back half of the inside of the bus, and everyone's trunks and trailers. It brought tears to my eyes to see how much stuff we had. In addition, every child got a new gift; each soldier was assigned to buy a new gift for an orphan. All of those were wrapped and loaded as well. And we were off.

We were told that upon arriving we'd be served a light snack and then have a Christmas party. The "light snack" turned out to be a three-course meal, which was so glaringly generous that we all felt guilty. "Schnitzel as big as my hand," the husband recounted later. After our lunch, we gathered in the rec room for festivities. The same Czech cover band that had played at our Battalion Ball in October was there, rocking out with "Run, Run, Rudolph" and "Jingle Bell Rock", in addition to a few Czech songs. In between songs, the orphans put on skits they had written and recited Christmas poems. I have no idea what they were saying, but they were the epitome of cuteness. And they kept passing out gifts for us: candleholders they had made from shellacked cookies and cards they had made. I stared in wonder at the sight before me: Americans and Czechs, smiling, laughing, and singing together despite the enormous language barrier. My husband and a smiling young boy kept nudging and poking each other, tickling and thumping. The husband kept taking surprise digital photos of the kid and showing them to him; he was fascinated but feigned embarrassment at having his picture taken! Then one of the Captains from the unit showed up as Santa Claus and passed out gifts. The look of sheer joy as a sixteen-year-old girl opened her first Discman or a six-year-old boy played with his firetruck were enough to kindle my Christmas spirit. Until I saw something that defined the moment for me.

The cover band had agreed to come play for us that day for free. One of the trip organizers knew this and passed a hat for donations to give to them. I don't know exactly how much money was in that hat, maybe about $50 or $60, but I saw the band count and organize the money and then approach the orphanage director and hand it all to him. They wished him a Merry Christmas, packed their instruments and left. I will never forget that gesture as long as I live.

I came home grateful, refreshed, and rejuvenated. And then with the capture of Saddam, I don't see how the weekend could have gotten any better. Between happy Czechs and happy Iraqis, I'm sated this Christmas.

(Photos of the day in the Czech Republic here.)


Lileks is not archiving this December, which means his words this morning will be lost forever. Not if I have anything to say about it. I'm recopying his entire 15 Dec bleat so that it won't disappear:

They got him! Or so they suggested, back in March. No one said it explicitly, but for a day we hoped. The troops were massed and poised; intel came in, off when the rockets. I remember watching video of flames licking the sky that night - best of all possible worlds, it seemed. The war hadn’t even begun, and maybe the butcher was a pink smear on a shattered hunk of concrete. Not the case, as it turned out. Then came another decapitation attempt before the troops took Baghdad, and I thought the same thing: if only. "Coalition forces have discovered a liver on a rebar, and are making DNA tests as we speak!" But he lived. He fled. He literally went to ground. Looking at the odorous burrow where he was finally found, you realize that the last words Saddam might have heard were “fire in the hole!' - but somehow those atavistic cowboy soldiers swallowed their instincts and took him alive.


Alive is better.

Right now the TV is playing a hastily assembled documentary of Saddam’s rise to power – it’s mostly clips of the butcher in tailored suits, smiling, at ease, in power. The suits always seem to blind certain people. They see the suits, they assume the best. They want to sign treaties, make contracts, lend money. Yes, yes, he is a hard man, but it is a hard part of the world, no? One must deal with someone. Saddam was said to have studied Stalin, and in one respect he trumped his idol. Stalin’s smile never reached his eyes. He was always looking around to see who on his team was smiling more than he was, or wasn’t smiling enough. But sometimes Saddam actually had a genuine smile. And why not? He had his people under his heel, and a good portion of the West in his pocket. The American presidents, they came and went. Granted, so did their bombs. But no American president knew what it was like to grow up poor in Tikrit. No American president had ever shot a man – soft hands, they had. They had big sticks, but big sticks taxed the arms of weak men, and they always laid them down eventually.

Hence the grin; hence the big wide open toothy grin. Top of the world, ma. Top of the world.

Many have noted that the sight of Saddam looking like Nick Nolte’s mugshot will have a harsh effect on our old seething friend, the Arab Street. They will see him looking like a piss-soaked bum with matted hair and bags under his eyes that look like Kathy Bates’ bosom, and they’ll see the Proud Example brought low, the man who had stood up to America humbled and unmanned. (That always makes me wonder how many fellow Arabs a man can kill before that crime exceeds the virtue of Standing Up to America. Half a million? One? Two?) What struck me was his expression when the doctor poked around in his maw for a suicide pill – he had the standard reflex familiar to anyone who’s been in a dentist’s chair. The intimacy of the act makes you look away. You look up; you endure; you disengage until it’s over. Saddam humiliated himself. A big bald Yank stuck a stick in his mouth and he couldn’t even look him in the eye.

This was their hero? His army evaporated. His statues came down like cheap plastic bowling trophies. He ran away. He hid in a hole. There’s your man, O brave foes of American imperialism. It’s Ozymandias in reverse, really – in Shelley’s poem, the stumps of the great statue punctuate the vast and trackless desert, and when we are asked to look upon Ozymandias’ works and despair, it’s a comment on the smothering hand of time. Nothing remains. But now the entire world can look upon Saddam’s works, and despair for different reasons. We see what he did. We see everything that remains; we see what he didn’t do. It’s possible to build a reasonably prosperous society that invests in its people, doesn’t invade its neighbors, opposes Israel and stands up to America. (Just look at France.) He failed to give his people anything but the geegaws and baubles stolen from successful cultures. Streetlamps and telephones: so what? It was the sort of government that would institute rural electrification only to reward friendly tribes and power the testitcle-clamps in the torture cells.

Saddam’s failure isn’t his alone. The entire political construct he represents is a miserable man too tired to resist when it’s finally pushed against a wall. One hopes the point is made: when the US Army turns your way, your barber and your tailor are no help at all. When you’re a ragged hairy thug dragged from a bolt-hole who’s having his back teeth interrogated by a grim buff Murcan soljur who would really prefer to be home for Christmas, there’s a chance Paris and Berlin won't take your calls.

I’ve read all the nutball far-left sites worrying about the worrisome worries – does this help Dub? Was it all faked? Surely America will see that the man paraded before the cameras was a soy-based simulacrum cooked up in the Halliburton labs? It’s amusing to troll the fevered swamps, but nothing they say matters in the end. The history texts will note that Baghdad fell on this date, Saddam was captured on that date, and the events between the two events will fill up a paragraph at best. Cruel but true. This was a big event, but there are bigger events to come.

We live in an age where we’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. And drop it does. And drop again it will.

If this war has a mascot, it’s the millipede.

Sunday, December 14, 2003


The generic website is up and running for now, until I can get my own domain. But now I have the joy of transmitting photos, so for my first photo, I'd like to introduce my dessert.

When Uday and Qsay were killed, we had a little impromptu party here. I vowed to bake a cake when Saddam was captured or killed.

So here it is, as promised, the cake from our official Suck It, Saddam party tonight. The icing was a little runny, but the sentiment is as solid as can be.


It's the middle of the night back home, so maybe I'll be the first to announce that

Saddam Captured Alive, Iraq Official Says

I'm off to bake a "Suck it, Saddam" cake, as I promised in August. Photos to come...

(Crap, I think Tim beat me by a couple of minutes...)


So am I the only one who thinks that, from the look of that facial hair, they've simply caught the Unabomber again? :)

This was exactly what I needed to boost my spirits this holiday season.
Merry Christmas, people of Iraq.

How soon do you think Chirac will be allowed his conjugal visit?

Friday, December 12, 2003


Screw the news media; we have Zeyad.
Posts like this one are what keep me sane in this grok-less world.


It seems like everyone has a relative or close friend these days who's serving in Iraq. But this tops any deployment relationship six-degrees-of-separation thing I've ever heard. Daddy, Mommy, and Baby all serving in Iraq together. Wow.

And would it be worth it to have to lose a family member in this war? This vet unflinchingly says yes.


Wouldn't it be a riot if some DJ out there were playing Lileks' songs into the wee hours in the club?

Chickenheart Doom Mix is my favorite.
Yep, I've actually listened to all that nonsense...

Thursday, December 11, 2003


I wrote the other day about the awful campaign ad Kucinich is running. Apparently Blackfive was so disgusted that he wrote an email to the creator of the ad, Eric Blumrich. In response, Blumrich wrote back to say that Blackfive's anger made him laugh and then he insulted Blackfive's penis size! If that is not the most horrible thing I can think of, I don't know what is. One of Blackfive's friends died in Iraq and his name was used in this vile ad, and Blumrich just laughs and calls him "cute" and "self-righteous". I'm outraged.


Please check out johnh's excellent post in the comments section here.


Both Tim and LGF offer parables today.


You know you’re living the Army life when…

1. You help your neighbor move some stuff in your car and as you’re taking stuff out you ask, “Is this your pistol holster or ours?”

2. Your husband spends more time getting ready for a formal function than you do, and on an average day spends hours ironing, polishing shoes, and shaping his beret.

3. You're constantly readjusting pictures on the walls because Sabot rounds firing two miles away from your home make the foundation of your house shake.

4. Your Thanksgiving dinner conversation includes words like RPG, M1A1, and CMTC.

5. Someone with a machine gun asks to see your ID before you enter the grocery store.


I wrote Tuesday about the Stryker that went down and how I worried it was our friend's Stryker. It wasn't his.

It was the one in front of his in the convoy.

The shoulder collapsed as it went over a bridge, and the Stryker flipped and fell into a river of sewage. Three men inside drowned in sewage before the rest of their company could open the hatch. Our friend unsuccessfully attempted CPR on these soldiers and then ended the day alone in Iraq covered in sewage with nowhere to take a shower.

It is his third week there.

I think I do need some time to process this, to realize how close to home world events are hitting these days and to refocus. This past year has been the best of my life; all I did was live with my best friend in the world, knit, read blogs, and be unemployed. This coming year will most likely be the worst of my life, and I'm having a hard time making that adjustment. This weekend my husband and I are traveling with his unit to the Czech Republic to deliver Christmas presents to an orphanage. I'm frantically knitting an 18-yr-old Czech girl a scarf; maybe giving it to her will bring joy into my life. Maybe visiting children who are desperate for soap and school supplies for Christmas will help me refocus on what's important.

For now I'll think about the success of the Anti-Terrorism protests in Baghdad from yesterday. Zeyad has photos; compare the photo of the happy Iraqi children (holding a sign Zeyad translates as "our people are for the reconstruction") to the Palestinian children Charles Johnson displays.

The future of Iraq looks bright to me.


Lee Malvo drew numerous pictures while in jail of bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and wrote about jihad and Islam. But apparently he also drew a couple of things about the movie The Matrix, and now they're using an insanity defense that he was driven crazy thinking this world was just the matrix and not the real world.


Why can't we call a spade a spade and admit to ourselves that both John Muhammad and Lee Malvo were Islamic terrorists?

(via LGF, of course)

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


We're leaving in droves. Lileks is on a blogging sabbatical, and now it seems both du Toits are gone too. They're tired, grumpy, and fed up. And they're "voting with their feet" (as one of my profs was known to say) and walking away. Amritas may be joining them soon, choosing to blog only about linguistics and leaving the political to others to debate.

What is happening to the 'sphere?

I was a relatively happy person on Sept 10, 2001. I never thought at all about American foreign policy, never debated people or issues, never read the news, never thought about anything that wasn't directly related to my sphere of grad school. My biggest worry was living in a different state than my fiance for two years. It was a wonderful feeling.

And then some guys flew planes into those buildings.

To be fair, it took me a long while to wake up to the impact of Sept 11 on the world. Sure I flipped through my Newsweeks and listened to a heap of America-got-what-she-deserved from my ESL students, but it took me a long time to really get involved. Once I did, once I started reading blogs and checking the news every day and learning the names of foreign prime ministers and NYT reporters and cities in Iraq, I knew I was forever tied to the world. I couldn't go back to that time when all that mattered was lesson planning and papers on language attrition.

And I feel the weight of that knowledge every morning when I turn on the computer.

Like Lileks, Amritas, Kim, and the Mrs., I too have begun to feel frustrated. The more I'm confronted by idiotarians, the more dismayed I feel with the world. The more peace protests I see, debates I have with old friends, and negative spin I'm force-fed from the media, the more down-trodden and weary I become. And the more holy-crap-can-you-believe-this stuff that I post on my site, the more I fear I'm dragging my readers into this emotional quagmire with me.

But I can't shut off the computer. I can't stop facing the reality that jihad organizations are plotting in Europe today or that Adolf Hitler wine is selling like hotcakes or that people like Ted Rall are actually paid money to foam at the mouth. If I stop learning about these things, I run the risk of letting my laser beam go dim.

But I also run the risk of not seeing beauty in the world. I run the risk of never knowing that, in response to Chief Wiggles' plea for help, average Americans have pledged thousands of dollars, legal assistance, and even rooms in their home to help four Iraqis in danger. I run the risk of not knowing that as we speak there is an Anti-Terrorism Protest going on in Baghdad. I run the risk of never reading things like the amazing Hi Daddy! email a 14-yr-old girl wrote to her father who died in Iraq. And I run the risk of never seeing photos like this one.

So is it a trade off? Does the beauty eclipse the heartache? Sometimes. In the end I feel better knowing that I have seen an accurate view of the world each day, with both the best and worst in human behavior. I have read what people in Iraq, Norway, Australia, and Georgia are thinking on any given day and rounded out my sphere of personal influence. I have faced the harsh reality of terror and pain and welcomed wonderful friends into my life all in the past year.

Do I feel like tossing in the towel sometimes? Yep. Can I understand and appreciate where Lileks and the du Toits are coming from? You betcha; they've been doing this much longer than I have. But could I shut off the computer and truly enjoy the peace and quiet? Not a chance.

I'm in too deep.


My biggest fear at the beginning of this war with Iraq was not bombs or death or shock and awe. It was that the build-up to war would not have any lasting consequences. I feared that what France, Germany, and Russia were doing to undermine and thwart American military progress would be forgiven and forgotten. I feared that they would get away with simply a slap on the wrist instead of any real consequences for their actions. I knew Bush was tough, but I thought he'd get talked out of putting his foot down.

I should've had more faith.

Today we see that there are indeed real consequences for French, German, and Russian actions. It's from a NYT article, and since I equate NYT with the devil, I won't make you register for an account. I'll provide the gist:

U.S. Bars Iraq Contracts for Nations That Opposed War

Published: December 9, 2003

ASHINGTON, Dec. 9 — The Pentagon has barred French, German and Russian companies from competing for $18.6 billion in contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq, saying the step "is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States."

The directive, which was issued by the deputy defense secretary, Paul D. Wolfowitz, represents perhaps the most substantive retaliation to date by the Bush administration against American allies who opposed its decision to go to war in Iraq.

The administration had warned before the war that countries that did not join an American-led coalition would not have a voice in decisions about the rebuilding of Iraq. But the administration had not previously made clear that French, German and Russian companies would be excluded from competing for the lucrative reconstruction contracts, which include the rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructure and equipping its army.

Under the guidelines, which were issued on Friday but became public knowledge today, only companies from the United States, Iraq and 61 other countries designated as "coalition partners" will be allowed to bid on the contracts, which are financed by American taxpayers.

Among the eligible countries are Britain, the closest American ally in Iraq, as well Poland and Italy, which have contributed troops to the American-led security effort. But the list also includes other nations whose support has been less evident, including Turkey, which allowed American aircraft to fly over its territory but barred American forces at the last minute from using its soil as a staging point to invade Iraq from the north in March.

There's more, but that's the important stuff.

Consequences for their actions. How long do you think it will be before we see articles on how unfair this is?


Apparently only about 24 hours :)

And LGF offers a parable.

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