Thursday, September 30, 2010

Good Morning Baghdad... and goodbye. (travel plans)

My chu is looking pretty bare, everything has been shipped home, or sold, my one bag is packed (a little more full than I had planned), and I'll be on the way to Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) in a couple of hours. 

As I mentioned in my last post, I don't have a direct trip home, but at least I'm on the way!  I should have some time to post more pics over the next few days.
Oh, and I'll probably be able to have a beer in a couple of days.  I see the potential for my waistline to take a hit in the next couple of months... access to beer again, and not able to exercise because of a hernia.  Oh well, I'll just have to work a little harder once I'm all healed.

Drop me an email, text, call if you know of something I/we should do these places/dates:
- Vic and I will be in DC, Columbus Day weekend
- I'll be in China Lake for the next week
- Vic and I will be in San Diego, about Oct 15th - 20th
- I'll stay in San Diego for another week or more (probably have hernia surgery there)
- A quick stop in Norfolk
- Then back home to Allentown!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What day is it today??

It's the day before GOING HOME DAY!  I'm just about to get to bed for my last night in Baghdad (as long as everything follows the plan - and no, I would never bet on that, but everything looks good).  

I need to get to sleep, so this is gonna be really short, but I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone, at all my stops along the way, and getting home to my wonderful bride! 

I should be in DC for the Columbus Day weekend, then I'll be in San Diego for a week or two from Oct 15th, then home to Allentown late Oct or early Nov.  (I'm not sure of the schedule because I have to have surgery somewhere in there, probably San Diego, which may add a little time to that stop.  I guess I was trying too hard to get in shape for my homecoming and gave myself a hernia, but it should be an easy fix and I'll be in good shape again soon.) 

I've been taking lots of pics, now I just need to get them posted to my Picasa site, keep checking there for updates:

Goodnight from Baghdad - for the last time!  

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's still hot as hell, but there's snow on the mountains!

I thought about "improving" my home away from home a long time ago... one idea was to grow some grass in front of my CHU (by the way, I've been calling my "home" here a "Compartmentalized Housing Unit", but Pat tells me that it actually stands for "Containerized Housing Unit" - I stand corrected. 
Anyway, "home improvements"...  I never did get any grass growing.  I looked at ordering some grass seed, and dirt, online - but you can't get that kind of thing shipped out here.  It's against postal regulations, or international trade rules, or something.  There are places with grass growing here on base (grass kinda like weeds), so I thought I could dig up some and make it grow here.  But that never happened. 
I also thought about painting a nice tropical landscape scene on the big T-Wall right outside the door on my CHU - that would be a much nicer view that of the plain old giant concrete wall...  But that kind of went the way of the grass lawn idea... never got to it.  (And that would take a lot of paint - blue, green, brown, white, some mixes, etc.)  I did do some things to fix up my CHU - plenty of carpets on the floor (helps with the heat too, a layer of insulation), fridge, microwave, TV, DVD player, sound insulation pads on the wall, curtains over the ugly window, nice chair that probably came from one of Sadam's palaces, etc. 
I have a nice table with storage shelves in my room, that someone made out of plywood years ago, and early on I thought I would paint the bare wood base to make it look nicer.  So I bought a gallon of white paint at the True Value.  Yes, there is a True Value hardware store here!  It's not quite what you are used to at home, but it does have a lot of stuff.  There are all kinds of stores around here, and you can get just about anything you want (that isn't illegal here). 
So, I've had this gallon of (expensive) paint sitting here in my room for many months, I never got around to emptying the shelves of the table, cleaning all the junk off the top of it, so I could take it outside to paint... 

Then a couple of months ago - in the heat of the summer, when it gets to almost 150 degrees in the sun, my mind wandered back to the home improvement ideas, and I decided to use that gallon of white paint... I looked at the big concrete wall (where I had pictured the tropical scene), and thought I could use the white paint to turn the wall into snow-covered mountains.  Brilliant!  
So I searched the web for a good shot of mountains covered with snow (I only had one color of paint, white, so I needed a simple design).  It didn't take long to zero in on the Coors logo mountains (after some detours looking at a few Coors Light painted ladies).  A little photoshopping to give me a one-color design, and I was set. 
Last night I finally opened the can of paint.  The wall is 12 feet or more high, and I don't have a ladder handy here, so I used an old mop handle from the trash, duct-taped a brush to the mob head, and went to work!  It took less than a couple of hours, and I love it!  I really should have done that a long time ago.  

And I have a lot of white paint left... what else can I do...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

a MacGyver moment...

I bought these nice comfy boots before I came out here (the issue boots felt like crap), but the other day one of the metal vent things broke off one boot, it's like a rivet with a quarter-inch size hole through it and a fine wire screen on the outside to ventilate the boot...
When it broke off (I think I snagged the outside part of the vent with part of my pistol belt), the inside part basically looked like a flat brass washer, and the outside part looked like it could be "snapped" back through the "washer" part...
(see the pics)
 The vent part would sort of snap into the hole in the boot, and it stayed, but it wasn't really secure, and fell out the next day.
So yesterday, I had a great MacGyver (or MacGruber) moment, it went something like this (and yes, I was talking to myself)...
Hand me that angled mounting bracket I found in a drawer,
and that scotch tape - so I can tape the "washer" piece of the rivet over the hole in the bracket that's just bigger than the hole in the washer...
Now hand me that blue Sharpie, so I can mark the center of the hole on the tape to be able to see it through the hole in the boot,
Hand me that 12" crescent wrench, and the tape again, so I can tape the mounting bracket to the head of the wrench which is just big enough to fit inside the boot and span the distance across the inside of the boot...
Now, with the washer, on the bracket, on the wrench, inside the boot, positioned so I can see the blue dot through the hole in the boot, and so that the wrench goes across the width of the boot laying on it's side, on the desk...  hand me the outside part of the rivet vent so I can push it through the hole in the boot, lined up right over the hole in the washer piece of the rivet...
And hand me that 10 pound sledge hammer (our emergency destruction tool in case I have to smash up classified equipment) so I can smack the rivet and force it to snap through the washer...
Three good whacks and it's in!
Hand me that phillips head screwdriver - that's just a little bigger than the hole through the rivet - so I can put it inside the boot, into the hole through the rivet, and smack it with the sledge hammer to bend the metal of the outside part over the washer part on the inside to lock it in place.
Done!  Better than new!
(see pic)

Now if I can just figure out out how to get some cool water in the bathrooms...
Before I left on R&R last month (when the highs were around 100), we had hot and cool running water, seemed pretty normal.  
Now (with the highs in the 130's) we have scalding hot, and just hot running water.
The fresh water is stored in big plastic tanks that sit outside next to the bathrooms and showers, and they have normal water heaters inside those buildings - but obviously no water "chillers"...  

Monday, July 5, 2010

now you can call me from any phone!

let's see if this works...
click this, enter your phone number, and Google will call you and connect to me!

Happy Independence Day to everyone!

My 4th of July celebration out here consisted of a normal workday, with the added security and nonsense that goes along with a visit from VP Biden.  USF-I held a naturalization ceremony to give US citizenship to 156 soldiers from almost 60 different countries.  If you didn't already know, you don't have to be a US citizen to serve in the military, and this crowd raised their hands, recited the oath, and became citizens in a nice ceremony with the VP as guest speaker. 
I 'almost' got to meet the VP at lunch after the ceremony.  He was working his way through the DFAC (dining facility), was almost in front of me, then his folks had him take a different route.  I gave up on that and went back to work.
It generally sucks being out here away from home, but I can tell you that it definitely stinks to be away from my wife, and home, and friends, on days like this.  I hope everyone back home (and I'm thinking of Allentown and San Diego) had a great weekend enjoying family and friends - and I can't wait to get back to spend times like this with all of you!
I'll keep taking some pics, and posting some here:
Work is kind of slow frankly, as I continue to try to find new things I can do and new missions for my Det - to keep us busy now, and maybe provide meaningful support/service down the road. 
If you use Skype, look for me online and give me a call sometime!  "Bultar2020" 
Take care!  B

Monday, June 21, 2010

I'm still here!

I know it's been a LONG time since I posted anything here... sorry!  What can I say, I've been pretty busy, I've been just keeping up with folks on Facebook, and there was a period there when I was kinda in a rut. 
I did just post some new pics to my Picasa site (, and I'll just have to get better about updating this. 

The big news is that I just got back from a couple of weeks or R&R!  I got to go home for 15 days of leave - that was a fantastic break!  Hopefully that is about the halfway point in my tour.  When I returned to the base a couple of days ago, it was about 15 degrees hotter, and the water level in the lake around the palace was about a foot lower.  And it's just going to get hotter in the next couple of months.  If I can make it through these next two months, I'll be home free! 
It's really too hot to run during the day now (about 115, and going up to mid 120's probably), so I'm going to have to run right at dawn when it's coolest.  Of course I use that term loosely - "coolest" means about 90.  But I ran around sunrise this morning and it was really pretty comfortable. 

I will probably be traveling around the theater quite a bit more during the rest of my time out here, checking up on my guys I have working at different sites.  So that should help the time go by quicker too. 

I'd better get in to work, but I'll write more soon! 
Skype me sometime if you can!