Saturday, May 16, 2009


You can love or hate President Obama, but you can't deny that the man is very good at this political thing.
Click Here!

One of the Republican parties only real contenders for the 2012 election, and he taps him to be a part of the current administration. Meaning when 2012 comes around he will have worked for the administration for 4 years, and all of his political 'street cred' will be 4 years expired. Very smart, he's slowly assimilating all of his political enemies into the administration. Now if only we could do something about that Limbaugh guy...

Another interesting news story:

Click Here!

While most of the 'evidence' is anecdotal, it raises some interesting potential problems that most people would never think about. Maybe this needs more attention from the public?

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Today we had a formation. Well, not us exactly, but the military had a formation. They've been here for about a year, and it's a tradition to hold a formation/awards ceremony where they hand out all the medals and commendations that have been earned over the course of a year. Usually everyone gets recognized with medals, or at the very least a letter of appreciation or a battalion coin.

The company that I work for provides the life support for pretty much all the bases in Afghanistan. Specifically my group of 5 provides all the power, water, electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, and heating/air conditioning for this base. Some days it's easy, many days it's not. Since we are pretty much in the middle of nowhere we have to be very good at our jobs, and we've done a lot of things that we aren't exactly supposed to do in order to keep things running out here. We can't exactly run out to the nearest store if we need parts or other equipment. We've spent quite a few late nights fixing broken power and water lines(usually ones that the military has broken), and even doing things that are beyond our scope of work just to keep the soldiers happy and make their jobs easier.

So it was a bit irritating today to watch everyone else on the FOB(Forward Operating Base) get recognized except for us. There are two other contractors on base, one providing security, and one doing TS (Top Secret) things. They were all given unit coins and we were ignored. Ouch.

I honestly don't care about coins or awards. I have a box full of coins, letters of appreciation, and medals from my time in the Marines, and each one of those was earned through lots of blood and sweat and pain(no tears!) I'll probably never look at them again. Although my job is arguably the most important it doesn't take much so I don't work that hard. But for the other Americans and two Indians that I work with it was a slap in the face. They've worked very hard to keep these guys happy and to have a years worth of work completely ignored is almost unforgivable. They were pretty unhappy today, and it happens that all of us are leaving to go on R&R in the next 20 days, so they've all decided that they are going to do as little as possible until they leave. There was a lot more swearing involved when they said it though.

But we're professionals, and we'll continue to do our jobs. It's just nice to spend a day complaining and pretending to not care.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Opium Joe

Days like yesterday I hate being a civilian. One of our local workers was out assisting in the recovery of a military vehicle when he was hit by a roadside bomb, and almost killed. He was contracted to operate a crane on base, but he was always willing to go and do anything that was asked of him.

Now I'm not big on bashing the US Army. At least not in public. Here in Afghanistan there are a lot of rules and it's tough to operate. CNN is always watching and ready to report even the slightest incident in a manner that brings them the most ratings. Truth has taken a backseat to the dollar, but that's another issue. So I understand the pressures they're operating under, and I understand some of the questionable decisions that are made here. But this was a different story.

Let me give you a brief background on the situation here. With IED's (roadside bombs) it's been a constant game of adaptation. The enemy creates a bomb, we create better armor. When the IED's started to become more prevalent, they were using detonation systems where the truck would have to drive over a set of contacts that would set off the bomb. After a while the US military figured out what to look for and how to avoid it. So the enemy adapted, and started using IED's detonated by electronic commands. Someone would hide nearby and press the button at the right time. It allowed for higher casualties due to the ability to target soft targets and civilian vehicles. So the military developed jamming systems which would block the electronic signals from reaching the detonator. So the enemy went back to primarily using the contact detonators. The military response was to build stronger trucks, and that's where we're at now. The unit I am with now has been hit multiple times with little to no injuries due to the new trucks.

Now here's where the incompetence comes in. They let the crane, the unarmored, civilian vehicle lead the convoy. If an assault had come from the front, how would the convoy protected itself, since they had placed a civilian between them and the enemy? The insurgents here have no problem killing civilians, so why did they put him there? He was putting his life on the line to help them and they didn't even try to protect him.

The worst part is that there is there is nothing I can do about it. When I was active I could have asked questions, forced people to answer them, and gotten things changed. But that's not my job now. So I just sit here and hope that in the next two months their incompetence doesn't get anyone killed.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Real Picture!

DSC_0845, originally uploaded by sjtaylor2016.

Look, I posted a real picture! This little monkey was our pet for a while. The Marines on base bought her and took care of her for a while, then they went home. So we took over her care for a while, until some soldiers decided they wanted to get a pet as well, so the Army made us get rid of her. She was maybe 6 inches high while sitting, and weighed about 2 pounds.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Orange juice: pulp, or no pulp

People are surprisingly passionate on this issue. Back when I was a church goin' man, I was part of the official 'friend shipping committee.' Kind of funny since I'm basically an asshole, but maybe I was nice back then. It was in my pre-Marine days. I don't remember. Our ward was dedicated to young single people, and we had a high rate of turnover throughout the area, since there was a lot of apartments. People moved in and out all the time, and we were responsible for teaching new members first classes and making them feel welcome. Of course at the beginning of class we had everyone introduce themselves and asked them random questions. My question was always, "Orange juice, pulp or no pulp?" I've noticed that guys tend to prefer pulp, and women no pulp. But there was some heated discussions on the issue, sometimes they would last most of the class. Weird that people would care about it that much. I personally prefer the no pulp version personally. And you?

Friday, April 10, 2009

I'm not a morning person

I don't like mornings. From years of being in, and working with, the military I'm used to getting up early. I'm adept at waking up and being on the move quickly, and I kind of like it that way. But I'm not a morning person. And I don't really like being talked to in the morning. Not for at least the first four hours. All of my past roommates(boo roommates!) have been the same way, so at the most we would grunt at each other in the morning. It was a perfect arrangement. But these roommates...I want to kill them. Don't get me wrong, in the middle of the day they are great guys. We're even planning to take a vacation together when we get done here. But in the morning...From the second they wake up in the morning it's just a constant stream of inane chatter. I don't think their eyes are even open, and a flood of words start issuing forth from their mouths, and I can think of nothing other then ways to shut them up. I could handle, "morning, sleep well?" or, "wow, I just had the craziest dream." But no, it's things like, "HEY, BASE1, COME SIT ON MY DICK!" "HEY, CARPENTER1, YOU CRAZY COCKSUCKER, SHUT THE @#$#@ UP!" And the witty banter just gets wittier from there. So am I wrong to want to kill them?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Someday I'll figure out how to post real pictures in this thing!

Afghanistan may be a horrible place, but it's got some great scenery.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The fascination with boys never ends...

So a little while back the Afghans threw a big party for everyone here. It was a pretty big event and they brought local clothes for soldiers to wear, they even got dresses for the female soldiers. It was a big event, and everyone had fun, although a little later on when the locals started getting drunk(which is illegal, more on that another time) they got up and started dancing with each other. All the guys started dancing with each other. Ewwwww...

Then one of the male soldiers started dancing with them! hahaha, the First Sergeant wasn't too happy about that, he said something about him having a little sugar in his tank.

That wasn't the point of the story though, so here we are, a few months later talking to the local contractor boss. We'll call him 'Rocky.' And Rocky was watching the female medic we have here, saying that he thought she was cute. She has short hair, and is sort of small all around. We asked why he liked her and he said it was because she looked like a small boy, and that for the next party he was going to get her a boys outfit to wear so all the guys would like her.

Disgusted yet?

The last ANA (Afghan National Army) unit that we had here seemed to be filled with a lot of very young men. Now that's not terribly unusual, since most of these people don't know how old they are, and they just sort of pick numbers and birthdays. Plus with a new unit it's not unusual to have young soldiers since the Army is so newly formed. We don't really work with the soldiers too much, mostly we deal with the command element. One day we went to their part of the base to do some things and we couldn't find their commander. We talked to the US Soldiers who advise them and they said, "oh yeah, he was raping his soldiers so they got rid of him." Apparently it's a common occurrence here. double ewwwwww....

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Living Flame

Living Flame

My entry for the photo contest over at A Cowboys Wife

I've always loved taking pictures, and sometimes people even get to see them! The theme for the contest is colors, and being in a desert where everything is brown kind of limited my options.
Good luck to everyone who entered!
P.S. It didn't show up very well in the blog, but it looks way better if you shift click it!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

For the Fallen

I've attended far too many memorial ceremonies since I joined then Marines. When I got out, I thought I would never have to go to one again. About a month and a half after I got here, I attended my first one as a civilian. And I attended another one today.

When a Marine or Soldier dies in combat, it's sad. But it's accepted. Or I should say, it's acceptable. When we sign take the oath, for whatever reason we are doing it, we understand that the cost of those words may be our life. None of us want to pay that price, but we are all willing. So when you're in the war zone, and someone dies, it's sort of expected. Maybe not that person at that time, but the entire time you are here there just a quiet knowledge that it's going to happen to someone. And so when they pull you into that quiet little room, and they tell you that we have just lost one of our own, the thought isn't, "Oh no!" It's, "I hope it's not someone I knew well."

And this wasn't someone I knew well. In a base of around 100 soldiers it's hard to get to know everyone. But he was one that everyone knew. One of the soldiers at his memorial described him as the glue that held his unit together. He was always walking around, laughing, joking with people, mocking and ridiculing people (a favorite pastime amongst the military.) When I heard he had been killed, I was confused, because his job didn't really take him outside of the base that often. Here's the real kick in the nuts, he was home on leave. He wasn't killed by a roadside bomb, or by jumping on a hand grenade to save his fellow soldiers. He didn't die in a firefight defending a country that couldn't care less for the blood that is shed for them. He was killed at home, by some piece of shit kid that doesn't deserve the air he breathes.

The worst part of the ceremony for me has always been the final roll call. The ceremony starts out with an invocation from the chaplain, then various soldiers speak. When all that is done, there is the final roll call. Everyone stands, and the First Sergeant calls out some names of soldiers, who all answer, "here First Sergeant!" The last name that is called is the name of the fallen soldier. The name echoes through the ranks, and silence answers back. They call the name three times, and the First Sergeant reports the loss of a soldier to the Commander. They fire the 21 gun salute, and Taps is played. That song still gives me chills when I hear it.

Then everyone, in pairs and threesomes, walks up to the display. It has a picture of the fallen, boots, a rifle, helmet, and dog tags. They kneel, then stand and salute, then walk away. I never know what to say to people who are in mourning, and in this case, as in all military funerals, no words are needed. No words will comfort, and no words will replace the loss of a friend, a brother. I shake their hand, give them a hug and a nod, and they understand. We've all shared the same pain. No words will suffice.

Then we carry on with the day. Because the mission comes first.

Rest in peace brother.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Well Done Google!

I have to say, when I first logged into my gmail account and saw this, I was like,"whoah, I'll never have to write another email again! Then I started reading it to my roommate. As I was reading it I realized what the date was. D'oh! April Fools Day! I've got to admit I am impressed with the work that Google put into their april fools joke, it doesn't stop there, check this out. And this She even has her own Youtube channel!

The lads over at Google put a lot of time and effort into their prank, so I say well done Google, well done!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Learn to aim!

Seriously, it's not that difficult. I'm a guy, I pee standing up, and I have about a 99.99% success rate of not peeing on the seat. It's really not that hard. Point and shoot. The .o1 percent is there because even the best of us drift off and start thinking of other things, it happens.

But seriously, every time I walk into the bathroom here someone has peed on the seat. I guess that's what you get when you live with 100 soldiers, but still ewwww. Clean up after yourself, am I right?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why I run

I used to be a runner. I looked forward to my long runs on the weekend, and they could last several hours. I loved it. But the reason that I started was to get away from my roommates. I had a roommate that I absolutely couldn't stand, we were just fundamentally different. So I took up running after we would come back from our daily routine. At first that's all it was, time away from everyone else. When you work and live and spend your entire day with the same people it's nice to have some time to get away. So I ran. And eventually my short runs turned into longer ones, and the short ones got easier.

Then we finished our school and got assigned to different units. I moved in with roommates that I actually liked, and for a short time I stopped running. After a couple of weeks I realized that something was missing, so I started running again. It became a type of meditation for me. Throughout the whole day my mind is constantly running and analyzing things, and running is the 30 minutes to 2 hours a day that I could stop thinking. Or at least think minimally. Breathing? check. Legs moving? check. Heart beating? check. Uh-oh, here comes a hill. Still breathing? check. Legs still moving? check. Heart still beating? check. Repeat until finished.

Then I became known as a runner. It was part of my identity. People would ask me for advice on how to get better or faster and I would help them. It was a part of me. Then along came the hernia, and my hatred of doctors. Combine the two and I kept running through the pain until it got to where I couldn't run anymore. I kept losing fitness until I finally got to the point where I had to go to the doctor, and they recommended surgery. So I got it fixed, but it was another month until I could run again. And about that time I went and spent six weeks or so out in the field doing training for a deployment, and didn't have time to run. My fitness continued to decline. Then came the deployment, and saying that it was a high operational tempo deployment wouldn't do it justice, we barely got time to sleep, let alone spend time running.

Then I got out of the Marine Corps, and I was exhausted. Physically, mentally, the four and a half years really took it's toll on me. And I didn't run for almost a year. Finally a few months ago I started again. It's almost depressing to go from being able to run for hours to only being able to run for a half hour or so.

So now I'm running, again I started to get away from roommates and coworkers, but this time I have a problem. They run with me. It's the first time that I've ever had running partners, and it's weird. They're competitive and loud and it's so much the opposite of the peace and quiet that I'm seeking I don't know how to handle it. So now I'm starting to run farther, or slower, just so I can get time alone. It's still entertaining, but in a different way. I'm expecting them to not stay running with me for too long though. I give it a week or two and they'll stop running with me. If they don't then I don't know what I will do.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Smokers make me giggle

Ok, so maybe that sounds a little gay. Whatever

But they do! My roommate was trying to quit smoking a while back. He told me, "oh it's easy, it's all a mindset thing." With cigarette in hand he said, "I quit a few years ago and it was simple, I didn't have any cravings." Puff, Puff.

Two days later he was smoking again. When I asked him about the mindset thing he said, "yeah, well, uh." And walked away.

What's the magic phrase that every smoker utters, "I'm not addicted, I can quit any time I want."

Well Einstein, that's the whole point of addiction, you don't want to quit. You introduce foreign chemicals into your body that literally change the way your brain works, and it becomes dependant on those chemicals. It makes you think that you want to keep doing it, no matter how destructive it is to your body.

There are smokers who realize it though, and genuinely don't care. I have some respect for them, because they understand they are addicted.

But self denial amuses me, just like, "I'm not fat, I'm big boned..."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Girl

This story I didn't actually experience firsthand. But it's from a very trusted source. It comes directly from an aid/relief worker. I'm not sure when it occurred, but it really helps give you an idea of the mindset of these guys.

A woman came into the aid clinic for help, she had been very badly beaten by her husband. They brought an interpreter over and started talking to her, apparently he was beating her because she couldn't get pregnant. She wanted the doctors to find out what was wrong with her. Because of course it has to be her fault right? They decided to do a little investigating, and they brought the husband in. They questioned him about it, and he explained that yes, he was beating her because she couldn't get pregnant. That's just par for the course around here. So they dug a little deeper, and found out that basically, he was doing it wrong. You see, the only kind of sex ed this guy had received was from what his father did to him. So he thought that was how you had sex. Which of course explains the lack of pregnancy. They explained to him the proper way to do it, and they all lived happily ever after...right?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Terp

Well, it's been a while. See the problem is that I get so caught up in the day to day routine out here that I forget to post. oops. All kinds of interesting things happen out here, well, interesting, stupid, scary sometimes. I just forget to write them down. So here's today's story, actually it's not from today, it was a while ago, shhh...

Across the alley from my room is the interpreters room(shortened to terp by the Army, since obviously interpreter is way to long of a word.) We interact occasionally, and since most of them speak a little English they lose a lot of the monkey like qualities that most of the locals possess. Actually typically the terps are more educated and intelligent, and process things a little more quickly then your average Afghan. They actually almost seem human.

At any rate there is this terp, we will call him 'J.' He's been trying to get a visa to go to the US for a while now. We started talking to him about it, and why he wanted to go, what he was going to do, etc. He gave all the typical responses of wanting to see what it was like, and that he enjoyed the culture and everything, but there was one disturbing portion of the conversation:

US: So, are you going to take your wife with you to the States?

J: No

US: Why not?

J: Because American women have a lot of freedom, I don't want my wife to see that. If she see it, she will want the same thing. It's easier to keep her under control this way.

I think the worst part about it was the fact that he delivered it in such a matter-of-fact way. It didn't even phase him that he was purposely controlling another human being. It didn't even phase him. But, then again, it's part of their culture. Disgusted yet? Stay tuned, you will be...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Obaguration


Why does no one get it?

And why hasn't it caught on?

Well it's over. The Obaguration, that is. President Obama is now officially in office. I watched the event from Khogyani Afghanistan, I'd like to say surrounded by soldiers, but there were surprisingly few present. I was a little disappointed actually. If you love him or hate him, he is their new Commander in Chief, and I know that when I was a Marine, I sure would have wanted to know what his plans were. Of course, I've been mostly disappointed by the US army as a whole, but that's a story for another time...

I'm a little irritated by the people who are already bashing this Obama guy. You haven't even seen him in action yet, how are you bashing him?

Anyone who thinks the President is anything other then a faceman for the government needs to go back and read the Constitution. In reality the bulk of the power is where it should be, in the hands of Congress. The President's job is to rally the people, interface with other Presidents and world leaders, and to be held accountable to the people for the shortcomings or successes of the government as a whole.

It's a thankless job. People kick you when you're down, and try to tear you down when you are up. They look for every little flaw, and poke at it until it either goes away or grows into something bigger. Sure, they get compensated, $400,000. a year. Sounds like a lot of money to the average American, but compared to the salaries that they could be earning at a major corporation, it's nothing.

So why do people run for the presidency? Some like the power, some like the presitge, some actually want to accomplish something for the good of the American people. I think President Obama falls into that category.

He's a great faceman. He's attractive, he's got an attractive wife, two adorable daughters. He's calm, collected, and always well spoken. But he's got that one quality that most other politicians lack. And he's got it in spades. He's got integrity. It just bleeds out of him and everyone around him sees it. They revel in it and are energized by it. It's how he got millions of people who have never shown an interest in politics to go out and vote. It's how he got two million people to leave their nice warm homes to stand out in the freezing cold DC air and watch him get sworn in. It's how he's energized the entire world to believe in him and the change that he represents.

And it's also poised to be his downfall. In his speech, he told us that the next few years will be hard work. Revitalizing this country will take time and effort and sacrifice. And people cheered, but they didn't truly hear him. Because when it comes down to it, we all want the easy fix, and we were hoping he would give it to us. He'll fix it, I'm confident in that, but not at the speed our microwaving, fast food eating selves want it to happen. And I think in a few months, when people start looking around, and nothing has changed, they'll start asking questions. And getting angry. They'll start suffering from a bad case of buyers remorse.

I hope I'm wrong, and I hope to be the voice of reason during this time. We're facing difficult times, and it's going to take time to fix it. All I ask is that we follow the person that we elected to get us out of this mess. Not blindly of course, but don't oppose him because things aren't happening fast enough. Do your part to help this change happen, whatever it may be. Cut your hours so you neighbor doesn't lose his job, nurture your children. Invent some new energy creating device that runs off of hopes and dreams. Do whatever you are capable of. Help this nation become great again. Become the change that President Obama has promised us will come, and watch some truly great things happen.