Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Situation in Review

Let's review the current situation:

- Oil and Gas prices are dropping rapidly

- The surge in Iraq worked.

- Home foreclosures have leveled off or are dropping slightly

- Google is doing evil (dropping page ratings for bloggers whos links don't play by Google's rules)

- Apple is forcing their software onto Windows machines (first Safari and now MobileMe)

- Microsoft is showing signs of embracing Open Source

- The economy grew in the second quarter so there will be no recession during the current Bush administration.

Whatever will people bitch about now?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Final Words

"Tell the governor he just lost my vote."

- Christopher Scott Emmett just before he was executed by the state of Virginia (7/24/08).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Oki-Vegas Report

My trip out to OKC was over 10 days ago and I took no notes, so this trip report will be the memories that stick with me rather than the immediate report that jogs my memory when I look back.  Memory joggers are good, but the memories that I will carry forward from this trip are good as well.

There were no pictures taken on this trip.  That is very out of character for me, but I wanted this to be a minimalist trip.  No camera.  No computer.  Just relaxation.  Keep an eye on if you want pictures.

The flight out started with an early 4 am wake up, shower and drive to the airport.  My flight on Continental connected in Houston without incident.  I got to OKC a little early and Maudie was by in short order to pick me up for the drive to the lake.  It took us less than 20 minutes to get lunch at Arby's and to miss our turn.  We didn't realize our mistake (the turn, not Arby's) until we were about 20 miles off course.  A quick stop for beer and directions got us back on track.

We arrived at the lake with beer and ready to rock.  We were warmly greeted by OOSSUUU, Tragedy, Buddy Dank, Skidoo, Kat, Mr. and Mrs. Surflexus, Joannada, and our wonderful host GCox and his assistant "Triple B" (Bill the Beer Bitch).  I drank a couple of beers during the introductions and we headed for the lake.  Great fun was had riding the waves of beautiful lake Oki-Vegas (of was it Fort Cobb Lake).  Videos of this and many other events of the weekend can be viewed at the websites of Tragedy and Kat above.  Go see.  Skidoo managed to flip on his run which sank both the boat and his knee.

I probably drank four more beer just chatting and watching the goings-on.  I guess I was still decompressing from Iraq just a bit.  We headed back to the lake place shortly thereafter.  I had a few more beers there before I realized that I was not even buzzed.  It turns out that been in OK is the 3.2% variety.  What a waist of time.  That was not the point of the trip.  The point of this part of the trip was to enjoy a meat-fest of venison burgers and polish sausages followed by a hold'em cash game.  The cash game put one of the most evil beats on me when my AK flopped a broadway straight.  I got all my money in against Skidoo's pocket 7s (that is a 96% chance to win).  The next two cards are Q and then 7 to give Skidoo a boat.  That was the end of my poker for the night.  I was down $90 and dead tired.

We headed into OKC to following morning.  After more conversation, some guitar hero, more great food and some great karaoke entertainment, we sat down to the big tourney.  To this point, I've never even come close to cashing in a blogger event.  I have a good-to-great record in charlotte area tourneys, but I'm a big O-fer with the bloggers.  Well this day I busted out to take a 3rd place and cashed for a $74 profit.  I added a few more dollars to get my Oki-Vegas balance to a -$9.

Sunday was travel day for most of the rest of the group.  I bid them farewell and headed for the Riverwind Casino down near Norman, OK.  This was a wild session that saw by early flopped set of 9s get crushed by a flopped set of Qs (felt).  After a rebuy my set of Js got out drawn by a rivered flush.  I made some good hands and actually got up by $100 before the long slow slide took my stack down to $32.  I got my first AA of the trip to hold up in a 3-way pot to get close to $100.  Shortly thereafter I raked another big pot on a set of Qs.  I finished the session up $18.  That also gave me a big $9 profit for the weekend.

Some of the mental pictures that I'll carry with me from the weekend:

Kat's very swollen ankle

Mrs. GCox and BuddyD doing karaoke (they were good)

Saving the jet ski from major repairs (I just watched)

Just hangn' on the porch at the lake

Listening to Tragedy talk to his kids (it was both happy and sad but so real)

Finally making the money at a blogger event

Toasts to Iggy as he made his run at the WSOP



So let me tally up the weekend:

Poker - Profit

Friends Made - Profit

Good times had - Profit

Get the Iraqi sand out of my system - Profit

That is one profitable weekend.  Thanks once more to Mr and Mrs GCox and the rest of the crew.  I'm already signed up for next year.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Iraq Wrap-up

I finished up my time in Baghdad way back on the 4th of July.  There is not a more fitting place to celebrate the birth of our nation that to be where another free nation is being born.  How well the current situation works out for the Iraqis is still very much up in the air, from my knowledge of history, the future of the US didn't look any better in 1776, or 1812, or 1865. Like the war or hate the war, I would hope we all wish the best for the people or Iraq.

One of my colleagues in Iraq took the time to show me around the Al Faw Palace which was used by Saddam as a resort for his loyal party members.  The palace look more ornate than any of the other palaces that I visited, though I have read that the gold isn't and the walls are paper thin and this huge chandelier is part plastic.  Still, you can't scoff too much as a half-million square feet of floor space.


To give a little perspective to how big this chandelier is, here is another view from above.  The chandelier is as big as the octagon on the floor below it (compare it to the people below).


Some of my best writing on this trip was about the "facilities."  Here is a picture of some of the facilities in the palace (holy crap!).


Here is a photo that gives a little idea about how much fun it can be to drive around in Iraq.  We were still on the base, but it still really sucked. (There is a truck directly ahead of us)


Here are a couple of left-over Iraqi tanks.  Looks like the army left them there as trophies.



Overall, I'm glad I went. Iraq is a hot, dusty, and generally uncomfortable place.  I never got used to eating meals in the chow halls and using community facilities for bathing and other personal matters.  I sure did enjoy that first long shower at home.

On the otherhand, I didn't go there for a vacation.  I went there to work and to test myself a little bit.  While I was there I did good work, I kept my patience, and I rolled with the punches (like doing without my luggage for the first 3 days).  I missed home, but never felt homesick.  I left feeling like both the military and contractors liked having me there.  There is no doubt that they treated me well.

Will I go back? I doubt it.  Three weeks is a long time to be gone and it put a lot on Dr. K's shoulders.  I like my home too much to be away for so long.  But, in case the situation arises where I'm the guy that they have to have, I'll reserve the right to reevaluate.

It's good to be back.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


After blogging for so many days in a row, my posts suddenly came to a stop once I arrived home from Iraq. I still owe this blog a wrap up of that trip.

Additionally, I attended fabulous Oki-Vegas. My everlasting appreciation to GCox and MrsGCox25 for hosting our bunch of fairly well behaved degenerates. That gathering of friends did some serious good for my tattered soul. I played the crucial role of Geek for North Carolina standing in (but no substitute) for TripJax who could not make it this year. We missed ya. It was great to see/meet/get to know better the whole crew - Maudie, Katitude, Joanada, 23Skidoo, Sirflexus, Peaches (MrsFlexus), Oossuu, BuddyDank, and Tragedy. I'm already signed up for next year and I can't wait.

I'll start catching up on the blog writing tomorrow.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Back in the USA

Feel that humidity.  I love it.

I'm now sitting in the terminal at Dullas Int'l Airport having cleared customs and just waiting for the last leg of this journey to start.  The story of my escape from Baghdad and the scramble through the airport in Kuwait will have to wait for now.

I am so relieved to be on my way home.  I really hope I don't cry too much when I see Dr. K again.  It has been an incredible journey, but I'll be glad to get back to the wife and the life that is mine.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Iraq - Day 18

I'm just going to put up a short post today.  It is going to get super busy as the ball of life picks up speed as it rolls toward my departure tomorrow night.  I have to fix the rest of the DB corruption, run a three hour class on SQL Server (maybe I can give it again at Oki-Vegas :) ).  Then I have to pack, sleep, work and then leave.  Tomorrow afternoon will, no doubt, drag out longer than a Yanni concert.

I'll be home Saturday morning.  I'll probably have some closing thoughts then.  I'll be back in the states soon.  Thank goodness.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Yea, Who is April?

Tony Plutonium have never agreed on much, but I have to agree here.  Check out this You Tube clip.  It is the funniest thing I have seen in a long time.  Thanks for sharing, Tony.

Iraq - Day 17

I really enjoyed myself today.  I had a job to do and it took most of the day.  I think I made so good breakthroughs for the customer.  It is good to know that I can still get my hands dirty (in a geeky sort of way) and get work done that helps others out.  I'll be tackling the last trouble spot tomorrow.

More folks are leaving the office.  Today, one left for some vacation and another left for good.  The guy who left was just absolutely beside himself with excitement.  It was his own personal Christmas morning.  I expect that I will be seeing one of them again and I'll probably be talking to the other on additional support issues.  They were both good guys and I appreciate them adding their own flavor to my adventure.

100_0276 In honor of the departing team member, we had a good-ole American Barbecue.  The smell just floored me.  Chicken and burgers and kabobs on the grill is one of those smells that I'll always enjoy.  Of course, we lacked any beer to go with the other traditional fare, but I've grown used to that.

Now it is my turn to start getting excited.  I'm currently fighting the urge to start putting my stuff in bags.  I'm going to wait until tomorrow after work to start that.  I think I'll get too excited if I start now.  I've still got a good bit of work on my plate to complete, so I don't need the distraction.  Actually, work will be the distraction that helps to get Friday at 1800 here all the more quickly.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Iraq - Day 16

Today is a slow day. 

The dust outside is just as bad or worse today (see picture below).  For those who have not been in a dust storm, it's not like I would have expected.  I thought the wind would be howling and it would be tough to breath.  It's not, at least not now.  You don't even notice that you are breathing in dust.  You can taste it a little, but not much.  Its just like fog except that it is warm to hot instead of cool.  The folks who have to work outside wear something over their mouth and nose.  I'll bet they still get some interesting stuff when they blow their nose.  I do, and I work inside.

100_0274Several of the guys here have a drink called Wild Tiger.  This stuff tastes to me like Red Bull, but with a lot bigger kick.  It comes in 250ml cans and is made in Jordan.  It is not available in the states (yet).  They buy it by the case when they can get it.  The stores run by the locals sell out pretty quickly.  Just one more thing that you won't see stateside.

Today's plan was to start a closer look at the server that I saved yesterday, but plans change.  Around here, they change quickly.  We ended up building some Full Text Indexes on a huge database.  We started populating the indexes right before lunch.  It wouldn't surprise me if it ran all night.  It was something that I've not done much before.  We had to write one query that stretched my TSQL abilities, but we got that to work.  I wouldn't want to write complex SQL code every day, but it sure is fun once in a while.

Going-home-itis is really starting to creep into my mind.  I'm starting to make plans for when I get home.  Thinking about seeing the wife and the dogs.  About taking a long private shower.  Of course, thinking those thoughts just makes it harder to wait. A couple guys I work with are leaving tomorrow and that doesn't help either.

I don't think I've said anything about the showers.  Like the toilets, the showers are a short walk from the hooch.  On one side of the door there are about 12 small stalls facing each other in a row. On the other side are the mirrors and sinks.  There are shower curtains of a sort.  They cover just over 62.4% of the opening.  I've been instructed not to let me feet touch the floor of anything in that trailer, so I shower with flip-flops on.  Finally, this being the desert, we are short on water so they want us to take showers only running the water when needed.  So a desert shower is turn the water on, wet hair, turn water off. Lather.  Turn water on and rinse.  Wet body and wash cloth and turn water off.  Soap up.  Turn water on and rinse.  Turn water off.  I guess I won't bitch about water restrictions at home (yea, right).

Finally, congrats to Al Can't Hang for his new gig and new life.  Life is too short to hate spending 40 hours a week at work.  Feed your passion.