Saturday, May 31, 2008

The New Sheriff in Town

Duke just hired away Notre Dame's Athletic Director. Which sounds good, right? I don't know anything about the guy, but ND runs a big time athletics program, and (despite recent struggles) they run a big time football program under similar restrictions to those in place at Duke.

Of course, just because he HAS run a big football program doesn't mean he's run it well--this is the response I got from a ND friend when I sent him the news about Duke's hire:

"Haha THANK GOD!!!!!!!!!!!! ND will be back!!

Duke basketball better wave good bye!!"

Ah well...nice thing about Duke--we have low expectations for success in football, and bball takes care of itself, so I think Mr. White will do fine.

Only beef with the guy--his picture looks like the yearbook photo of a high school principle from 1978. Weird.

Puppies Behind Bars hit the big time!

If this doesn't absolutely melt your heart I don't know what to tell you.

Puppies Behind Bars is a charity my wife and I give to. The idea is they place lab and golden retriever puppies in prison where the charity trains the inmates to train the pups to be helper puppies to folks with disabilities. The linked slide show is probably the cutest (non-Bailey) thing I've seen in my entire life.

Here is my wife's post on the same article.

Really folks, it doesn't get any better than this.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Happy Weekend, everyone

Yet another article, this one from the Durham HS and linked to at ArmyTimes, confirms that the IRR recall is still very much in effect. When will it all end? Time will tell...

Of note, Chris (from the linked article) was called back on 400 day orders. My call-up (and that of my peers) was for 545 days, or 18 months. The difference is probably that this guy will do the same job he did the first time around, whereas all of my IRR classmates and I were summoned to re-class to Civil Affairs.

I tell you what, though...even with the re-class to CA, if the Army was more efficient about the whole process--9 weeks of CA training, 2 weeks of pre-deployment stuff, ship you off to Iraq--you could get CA guys through in 400 days and change. But just ain't gonna happen.

Have a great, IRR free weekend everybody. And Chris, if you happen by this post--hang in there, buddy. The whole process goes by faster than you think. Good luck and God speed.

N-B-A-spiracy: Lakers advance to NBA Finals

There wasn't really a conspiracy, of course, but you'd be lying if you said that Lakers didn't take a lot of help from the ref's to get to the finals this season.

Game 1) Near the end of a close game, the ball goes off of Duncan and out of bounds. Duncan appears to be fouled. No call is made. At the end of the game, score tied and the Lakers with the ball, Kobe blatantly shoulders a Spur out of his way, elevates, hits the go ahead jumper. No foul is called. The Lakers win.

Game 4) Spurs down 2 with 3 seconds to play. Derek Fisher mugs the Spurs Brent Barry. No foul is called. Barry loses the ball, and the game ends. The NBA admits the next day that a 2 shot foul should have been called. Barry is an 85% free throw shooter. But alas. Lakers win. Barry says of the NBA's apology:

"That's awesome. Because Doc Brown is waiting for me outside, and we're going to get in the DeLorean and fire up the flux capacitor and we're going to go back and shoot a couple of free throws."

And that pretty much wrapped up the series. At the same time...I'm happy that LA won, as to me they're a more fun team to watch than the Spurs. And there's no denying that Kobe is the single best end-0f-game player the NBA has had in the last 10 years. Even on those Shaq/Kobe teams, it wasn't like the Lakers would give it to the big guy down the stretch. They'd give it to Kobe.

So dubious refereeing aside, well done Lakers. Next up: the Celtics or the Pistons. How very 1988...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Other Side of the Coin

Tonight I wrote an email to a military wife who reached out to me through the blog, worried about her husband who might soon deploy and not really sure who might understand what she was going through.

And tonight, my wife linked to an absolutely devastating story of the ordinary, unexceptional misery felt by thousands of military families every day.

Link directly to the story here.

It's not said often enough--the deployed have it easy compared to those left behind to worry after our safety and well being. I'll never know how hard this deployment has been for my family.

Rachel Ray, terror supporter and jihado-apologist!?!

Say it isn't so, Rachel!

It would appear that some folks back in the states are taking to task everyone's favorite throaty voiced, indie music loving, cheap meal buying Dunkin Donut spokesperson.

For what, you ask? For wearing a scarf in a commercial. Which makes us lose the war on exactly?

Wow. Just wow.

Note: The attached picture is of Rachel at SXSW, no doubt spewing her vile, anti-American hate for all the lefty music fans there to watch Vampire Weekend and discuss why they think that Freedom, contrary to popular opinion, is indeed Free.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

He Stared Lovingly Into Her Eyes and Said "Neigh"

Big Brown gallops nine furlongs in preparation for the Belmont this weekend.

I also hear he weighed in at a healthy 250 stone and stands at an impressive 15 hands.

Seriously, who uses units like that? If the Horse crowd can find a way to work in leagues, fortnights and/or fathoms they'll be just about ready to write a fantasy novel.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reggie & Obama, making it happen

Great article from the front page of the Times about all around good guy Reggie Love. The Duke alum is Obama's body man--basically Charlie to Obama's Josiah Bartlet. Money quote:

"Mr. Obama said he regarded "my guy, Reggie," as the kid brother he never had. "But maybe I'm saying that just because he technically could be my son," the Illinois senator said. "I don't want to admit my age."

I never had a kid brother either, but it's nice to know that I get an awesome ex-Duke basketball player to fill that role for me if and when I mount my run for the White House.

Incidentally, this is the first article I've read about Reggie that's alluded to his--ahem--unfortunate beverage related photography accident in Chapel Hell some years back.

Thanks to my father in law and Rhonda for sending out this link.

Peter King Redux

A few months back I posted this pic of me and Peter King discussing the finer points of Hall of Famer Art Monk's receiving statistics relative to the era in which he played (a topic that Peter King found as boring as you guys probably do).

A friend of mine from college just forwarded me this (somewhat raunchy) link, where a football blog has totally doctored my picture to meet their own nefarious purposes--scroll down a bit and you'll see it.

And in fact, if you google "Peter King" and look for images, my Peter King picture shows up on the second page of results. Pretty good stuff. It's nice to know that anyone hoping to doctor a photo so it looks like Peter King is holding a sign that says something or other will likely turn to my picture first.

Monday, May 26, 2008

New Islands: Arm's Way

Decidedly mixed reviews so far for the new Islands album.

Which is disappointing, as I've got really high hopes for this one. You see, the one and only time I saw Islands live was in San Francisco with my friend Anna. Islands played most of the tracks off of what would eventually become Arm's Way, and I loved every minute of it...but that might just have been the beer talking. Here's hoping my impression then was right and that the critics now are wrong.

Anyone out there given it a listen yet?

28 May Edit: I take your resounding silence as a no :)

Only in Afghanistan...

One of the side effects of working too hard is a weakened immune system. I've been fighting off a variety of ailments for the last few weeks, and today the doctor prescribed me--I kid you not--Magic Mouthwash.

That's not just a euphemism actually says "Magic Mouthwash" on the bottle. The interweb tells me that MM is a concoction of medicines that will help my throat get better, and I really hope that's the case. But I'm pretty sure MM is something that doctors give to make you feel ridiculous to the point that you will yourself to stop being sick. And hey, I'll take that too.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day

"He was born in February 1901, seven months before President William McKinley was assassinated. If Buckles had been born 14 months earlier, he would have lived in three centuries. He has lived through 46 percent of the nation's life, a percentage that rises each morning when he does."

Amazing stuff. One of my maternal great grandfathers was a WWI vet, as I imagine many of our great grandfathers were. It's hard to believe that some folks from their generation are still out there making it happen.

Happy Memorial Day, everybody. I hope that life slows down enough so that each of us has time today to reflect on the sacrifices (final or otherwise) made by those that have gone before us.

Reading is Fundamental

I stumbled upon this list in a NY Times article. It references a British book that sports a 1001 book list "handpicked by a team of international critics and literary luminaries."

The Times writer had read 300+ of the 1001 books. Well hello Mr. Fancy Pants. I did a rough pass at the list and came up with 59. Which means that while I might be a book snob, I'm not a very well read one.

Looking at the first 10 on the list (which is in reverse chronological order) we have:
  1. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
  2. Saturday – Ian McEwan
  3. On Beauty – Zadie Smith
  4. Slow Man – J.M. Coetzee
  5. Adjunct: An Undigest – Peter Manson
  6. The Sea – John Banville
  7. The Red Queen – Margaret Drabble
  8. The Plot Against America – Philip Roth
  9. The Master – Colm Tóibín
  10. Vanishing Point – David Markson
I've read Never Let Me Go and The Plot Against America, and I've read a book by McEwan (the same one everyone else has read) but I haven't read Saturday. And I've never actually heard of Banville, Drabble, Tóibín or Markson. Ah well. Maybe I'll get around to one or two of the 1001 during my last several months in Afghanistan.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Indian Soaps Banned in Afghanistan

I've got to say, I think I agree with the Mullahs on this one. I'm not a big soap opera fan either.

"Alim Jamali, 27, a psychology student, said the Indian serials are "just like opium -- they make everyone addicted and distract them from the work of rebuilding our country." All Afghans want education and rights, he added, "but they must be within the frame of Islam."

I don't know, though, that's a pretty bold statement. How about--"Soap operas are just like huffing glue", or "Soap operas are almost as addictive as a delicious McGriddles sandwich at McDonalds." To me that sounds a lot more reasonable.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Musings on the GI Bill

27 May Edit: Here are a few more links to flesh out the story, particularly with respect to the CBO study that McCain cites:

Link 1: NYT editorial
Link 2: Army Times article
Link 3: Think Progress blog

This article gives a fairly decent run down on the recent kerfuffle regarding the new GI Bill. To summarize:

McCain et al: The new bill will hurt retention and drive Sergeants out of the service after one tour. Make it a sliding scale that rewards multiple tours (Which is an argument worth considering, in my opinion)

Webb et al: One tour (3 years minimum) kinda sucks to begin with, and they're leaving anyways--we owe 'em this money. The current GI Bill never adjusted for inflation, so it doesn't pay nearly enough. (Which is also a compelling argument, even if it leaves out retention...)

Obama: I don't get how this McCain character could vote against vets going to college. (Which is just political sloganeering, something McCain is engaging in as well--"Obama hasn't served so he can't talk!")

And that's about as deeply as the issue is being discussed (from what I've seen, at least).

The Pentagon is having a hard time wrapping their brain around this one. Every bonus/benefit currently on the books, with the exception of the badly outdated GI bill, rewards extended service. Commit to an extra X years and receive Y dollars. Let the Army pay for your grad school and give them back 3 days for every day you spent on campus.

The GI Bill rewards you for simply signing up and serving honorably. So basically, what you're left with is this:

There WILL be a hit on retention with a beefed up GI Bill. It's intellectually lazy to ignore this effect outright. But it's also intellectually lazy to ignore the fact that there WILL be a boost in recruitment and there WILL be an incremental boost to the quality of the individuals recruited.

Neither side of the debate has, to my satisfaction, presented their model to support whatever impact (or lack thereof) the two bills will have on retention***. McCain is hinting at a model (he cites a 16% hit on retention) but I want to see the analysis to back that up. Obama makes a blanket statement that retention won't be harmed. Really?

All things being equal, I tend to lean towards McCain's proposal--improve the base line benefits, sure, and then tack on additional benefits for additional time served. Max it out at 6 or 8 years, maybe accelerate the rate you accrue the benefits based on the number of combat tours and/or stop-losses you serve through.

Or something like that.

***If anyone has seen analysis that supports either argument, please shoot it my way.

Ripped from the comments

"I hate Duke. I always have but you have nice blog!"

Thank you, sir, I think my blog is nice too--especially for a hate inspiring Duke guy like me.

For the record, I hate paper cuts, trying to put socks on while my feet are still damp from the shower, and the estate tax.

Ode to a Friday morning lost...

I have gotten to the point in the deployment where I attempt to slide silly words into briefings I give to important people. Today I told a general about the shenanigans that go on in my area of operations. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Friday is the day that I sleep in--theoretically, at least. It didn't happen today as there seemed to be two different things conspiring against me.

Thing the First: There are some visitors in my B-Hut (the plywood structure that houses me and 15 of my closest friends). These visitors are in transit, so they were just hanging around at 8 AM, a time that I have blocked off on the my calendar for unconsciousness. The visitors, though, didn't think that turning lights on and off, slamming doors and having conversations using their outdoor voices was incompatible with my happy-action-sleep time. And unfortunately for all of us, they thought wrong.

Thing the Second: At about 930 when the visitors finally took off, someone started banging on my door. I ignored it at first, but they were persistent. I groggily shouted something or other and the knocker answered back--it was a friend/co-worker letting me know that I was being summoned to attend a conference to present a 15 minute update on my Task Force.

Now, I knew about the conference (responsible fellow that I am) and I had spent 30 minutes the previous night composing remarks for one of my colleagues to present on my behalf. Conferences are cool and all, but I'd been at work past 1AM Thursday night (and Wed night, and on several other recent occasions) and I thought a little extra sleep was something I deserved.

As it turned out the guy I emailed the remarks to didn't check his email before going to the conference that morning. Suck.

There was nothing much else I could do at that point--I got up, got dressed and headed to the conference. I gave my spiel to a room full of people who out ranked me by no small margin, enlightened them on assorted matters, and I left. The use of the word "shenanignas" got about 25% strange looks, 25% stifled laughs and 50% indifference. I had the pre-lunch time slot, so I think a certain level of boredom was inevitable, regardless of my content or delivery.

By the end of the presentation it was about the time I usually go to work on Fridays anyways, so I just went back to the office. I worked until about 1AM and then I headed home to pen this ode to Friday mornings lost.'s nights like this when I really miss my wife, cat, family and friends.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Army 2.0 Web Album

I've been meaning to post this link for a while.

Basically, the nice people at Blogger aggregate all the pictures I've ever uploaded to the blog into a single convenient Picasa album (thanks, nice people at Blogger!)

So never again will you have to spend hours digging through the archives to find that shot of Frownie from back in July that you liked so much.

And in case some of our new visitors stumble upon any pictures of guys who look like me, just with really awesome hair--it's true, I celebrated my recall to the Army by attempting to recreate the George Harrison circa 1969 look as accurately as I possibly could (something I failed at rather spectacularly, or so the wife would have you believe).

Another interesting read on Dawkins to Stanford

Reading this article just slams home how painful it is that such a great guy had to go to Stanford, my graduate school's arch rival and nemesis (and no small rival to my undergrad to boot).

For me, this situation is like Mussina (himself a Stanford grad now that I think about it) going to the Yankees a few years back. As someone who grew up with the Orioles, it took me years to get to the point where I could root for Moose again (don't tell my in-laws) but eventually I got there.
With Stanford, I have much more of a reason to remain vigilant...but we're talking about Johnny Dawkins! How can I not root for the guy???

Schindler or Tom or Kyle--help me out here. What's a boy supposed to do?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reconstruction and Development in Afghanistan: Part 3

Today is the last day of NPR's three part series on R&D in Afghanistan. Which is a little sad, I have to say...I've enjoyed having articles to comment on that hit right to the core of my job in Afghanistan. Thanks to NPR for the series, and my wife for pointing it out to me.

As with the first two pieces, NPR hit on some key points in today's edition. To summarize a handful:

1) Afghans must take the lead on R&D in Afghanistan. To do that, they need to continue to become better at governing. Through participating and/or directing this R&D process, I think they have the perfect vehicle to do so.

2) Transparency (i.e. voice and accountability) and control of corruption are among the keys to long term success in Afghanistan.

3) "Patience is wearing thin within the donor community"--I don't know if this is the case or not, but I've read research that suggests that in post-conflict situations, donors begin to become disillusioned (or simply bored) after 8-12 years. The coalition been in Afghanistan going on 7 years, but we have to remember that Afghanistan is a new paradigm for post-conflict R&D (because it's part of the US's self declared global war on terror). And you can make the argument that, with conflict still existing in some parts of the country (though not all) that we really aren't post conflict anyways. But all the same, this is something for us to keep our eye on.

Again, it's a little sad to say goodbye to this series, but I hope everyone has enjoyed the ride (as I have). Have a good night, and I'll see you tomorrow.

Cross-cultural Collaboration and Military Spouses

Last week over at Really Nothing Special, Lauren mentioned Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Lest any of you think that I neglected Lauren on that day of days, here is the card that the Afghan National Police and I whipped up for the occasion. And no, I didn't get to play with their AK's...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

An Explanation of Sorts

Here at Army 2.0 we’ve had some new visitors of late, so I thought I might take a moment to summarize the basic premise of the blog.

Without further ado, I present to you the following tale of sadness and woe, hope and redemption, absurdity and plagiarized Stephen Baldwin anecdotes:

Boy goes to college, joins Army, meets girl, leaves Army, and goes to business school. Boy meets IRR. IRR falls in love with boy. Boy gets dragged kicking and screaming away from boy's girl off to the IRR's secret lair of sado-masochistic love and waffle fries...and in the process, boy meets other boys who were similarly ensnared. Boy all of a sudden doesn't feel quite as bad about everything, eventually gets back together with girl, and all of the various boys and girls go on to fame and fortune as Investment Banking Internet Consultant millionaires.

That last part hasn’t actually happened yet (if you want to be all technical about it). And each of the aforementioned boys is currently continents away from their respective girls (which sucks pretty hard). But still…I think you guys get the idea.

Off the top of my head, here are a few other questions you might be asking yourself about my current situation:

Q1) Why did you go back into the Army after you finished your MBA?

A1) I was involuntarily mobilized from the IRR to return to active duty. I was originally ordered to report in October 2006, but the Army granted me a delayed report date so that I could finish school (and get married, as it turns out).

Q2) What is this IRR you keep talking about? Is that like what happened to Ryan Phillipe in that one movie?

A2) Check here for my most detailed explanation of the IRR (and here for a recent update). The IRR is different from being “stop-lossed”, which is what happened to Ryan Phillipe in the creatively named movie “Stop Loss”. Whereas a stop-lossed soldier is retained on active duty beyond their active duty commitment, an involuntarily mobilized IRR soldier is one who came off of active duty and was drafted back into service.

Q3) Where’s all the juicy stuff—details about what you do, opinions on various Afghanistan related subjects, etc?

A3) Isn’t learning about Duke basketball recruits and times I was awarded giant novelty checks just as interesting? And aren’t first person narratives written by my cat more interesting still??? Beyond that I don’t know what to tell you…literally. I’ve disclaimed any and all opinions in the blog’s header, but I’m not sure where the line is in terms of sharing, and I’m not interested in testing that out. I do my best to capture the experience of a life spent building the infrastructure of Afghanistan without listing any details or passing judgment on how well or poorly we’re doing it. I offered up possible explanations for my reticence two posts back.

Q4) Who would win in a fight—Oski, or the Blue Devil?

A4) While I will always root for a Duke team ahead of a Cal one (even in football, if it ever came to that) I think that Oski could take the BD in a fight. Oski is pear shaped (low center of gravity) and I’m pretty sure his cardigan has magical powers. That’s a tough combination to beat, and I don't think the Blue Devil has it in him.

I think that’s it from here—thanks for stopping by, everyone. I hope you enjoy your stay. Please feel free to email me or write comments with any other questions that you have.

Because I've been long winded lately...

My favorite animal related Onion piece of the last few years.

And my second favorite

Bailey, incidentally, thinks that the war on string is very much alive and well...

Reconstruction and Development in Afghanistan: Part 2

The nice people at NPR have posted the second part of their three part series.

Thanks nice people at NPR.

Today's story isn't quite as illuminating as yesterday's, but it does hit on one of the key questions when it comes to who should hold the purse strings for Recn&Dev--what it the capacity within the Afghan government to strategically plan and allocate resources?

As you might imagine, I'm going to leave that question maddeningly unanswered. Which has to leave you this Exnicios character:

1) A 10th degree rainbow belt in OPSEC?

2) Saving the juicy bits for his (as of yet unsold) post-IRR manuscript--I Gambled and Lost: The Andrew Exnicios Story?

3) Too intellectually lazy (and/or focussed on the NBA playoffs) to have "opionions" about important "issues"?

Unfortunately for everyone out there, that's a question that I'll leave just as unanswered as the first one...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Reconstruction and Development in Afghanistan: Part 1

Everyone should check out this article on NPR, the first of a three part series on the perceived "slow pace of development" in Afghanistan.

One of the provinces discussed at length is Bamyan, which you'll recall is one of the provinces where I work. Among other duties, I basically write the budget for the US military's development spending in Bamyan (and a few other places) which, I have to say, is something I'm pretty darn proud to be able to do on a day to day basis.

In fact, if you ranked all of the things that I spend time on in a given week, the road network in Bamyan (one of the key subjects mentioned in the article) is literally be 1st or 2nd on that list. Hang in there, Sayed Muzafar--we're working on it!

My commander (COL Ives) is ultimately responsible for the US's governance and development efforts in our area, just as a CEO is responsible for everything that happens in his company. If he's the CEO then you could call me COL Ives' Chief Development Officer. For those of you who have been wondering--that's it, that's pretty much what my job is.

There is so much I could write about this article (building infrastructure and the capacity to govern in Afghanistan is what keeps me up to all hours) but I'm not really sure where to draw the line in terms of how much I can say and/or comment on. I might (gulp) write something up and send it to me friendly neighborhood public affairs officer.

No matter the case, check back for parts 2 and 3 of the story in the coming days.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A rare IRR mention in the media...

I forgot to pass along this link the other day. It would seem that the media took a pause from its incessant Stop-loss bashing to briefly mention the crazy IRR fad that none of the kids are talking about.

The WaPo military blog expands on the story of this San Francisco vet that just got his IRR letter in the mail--so much for the rumors floating around that there weren't going to be anymore IRR call ups. The comments on the WaPo blog aren't as interesting as the last two WaPo blogs I linked to, but they're interesting all the same.

Notice that, as always, the focus with IRR stuff tends to be people giving advice on how to sham out of the call up. The whole thing seems harmless on the surface, but what does this ultimately do? It increases the number of people that the Army has to call to fill a given slot. With every new call up, the dodgers have a greater chance of getting over, and eventually enough responsible types have been recalled that the Army can meet its quota.

The process ends up disproportionately punishing those soldiers with a more pronounced sense of duty (and/or pronounced Catholic guilt), and I for one don't think that's very fair.

It's that whole Three Buckets thing again...and I think my attitude has slightly changed since I wrote the Three Buckets post. I used to have respect for those who decided to blatantly ignore the summons, if that's what their conscience told them to do. More than 600 days since I got my letter in the mail and my life was completely knocked on its side, I don't have much sympathy for the folks who ignored the recall. Why? Because in so doing it foisted the problem into someone else's lap, and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't think that was a little messed up.

Ah well...what're you gonna do?

p.s. For those of you who are interested, here is another IRR link, this one about a dude who reported and was medically released. Buried in the post you'll find a link to my Three Buckets post (which is how I found this other blog to begin with). If nothing else, this is more evidence that the recall continues, under the radar as always...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Andrew's Day Off: 2 Weeks Later

Remember when my Day Off made me realize that I needed to pace myself, to take more personal time between the various missions my team and I are tasked with?

It's 0111 in the morning right now. I just got back to my hooch, and I'm going to sleep for 5.5 hours, in my clothes, and then wake up to shave and get cleaned up in time for my 0730 meeting. Tonight is not atypical. **

I've pulled one all nighter in the past two weeks, and one almost all nighter--abed by 0345, arisen by 0545. I'm regularly (i.e. most nights) in the office after midnight. Granted, I'm not getting up at hours you'd typically expect for the Army--I can swing 8 AM wake ups a few times a week--but I'm still working far more hours than is healthy, and as you know this is a 7 day a week gig.'s really not that I want to be doing this, it's just that I've been pretty well trapped into this lifestyle. I have to sustain it, sustain something at least, for about 2 more months. After that I think things will slow down.

But we've all heard me say that before.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Secretary Gates at VMI

The SecDef gave the commencement address to the VMI class of 2008 the other day, and for some reason the event was carried on TV out here. We were excited to watch because Secretary Gates made specific mention of COL Ives, my boss here in Afghanistan with Task Force Cincinnatus. COL Ives is a graduate from the VMI class of 1980, and Gates talked about Ives for a few paragraphs in the address. Money quote:

"Afghanistan is a desperately poor place. Part of a NATO commander’s job is assisting the birth of a new generation of Afghan leadership – one that will withstand the urge to abuse power or put a hand in the till. Governors of the northeastern provinces sit down with Colonel Ives, and there, again, he often brings forth Cincinnatus, the Roman consul who, over two thousand years before George Washington, voluntarily left a high position rather than milk it for all it was worth."

As my Duke and Cal posts would suggest, I didn't go to VMI, but it's a school that's fairly well interwoven into the fabric of my mom's side of the family (i.e. the Smiths). My grandfather and uncle/godfather are grads, and my mom's whole family lived on campus while my grandfather was commandant of cadets at VMI in the early 60's.

So, all told, pretty cool stuff.

Rain down on Radiohead

It turns out that the Radiohead show in VA the other day was so bad its made national news (at least in the music-snob circles).

The show itself was great (everyone seems to agree) but the logistics of the event were such that lots of folks missed the show entirely. Not cool, Nisaan Pavilion, not cool.

There is a WaPo article linked in the pitchfork piece, and it makes reference to Radiohead's bad DC luck through the years. I was actually at RFK back in 1998 when Radiohead was supposed to play at the Tibetan Freedom Concert...but apparently Tibetan Freedom was less important to some people than safety, because a measly 2 people in the stadium got struck by lightning and they called the whole thing off. Radiohead played a make up gig on day 2 of the festival, but I only had tickets to day 1.

Of course I did catch Radiohead in Berkeley in 2006, and that was an experience I'll never forget. Nothing quite like seeing your favorite band perform in the the same on-campus stone amphitheater you graduated in, a mere 5 minute walk from your apartment and a 2 minute walk from your business school.

Adam--did you (successfully or not) attempt a trip out to the Pavilion to see Radiohead this go-round?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Diary of a Cobra Recruit

My favorite ever McSweeney's piece...posted for your enjoyment, as I have nothing else I feel like posting tonight. 90% of you have probably had this foisted upon you by me at some previous point in our respective relationships, but I think it's an important piece that's worth revisiting every several months. And with the GI Joe movie coming up, and with me busy spending all my time fighting non-fictional terrorists organizations, forget about it...can you say topical?

That's what I thought. can thank me later.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Friends and Spouses: A beer blogging obsession?

Both my wife Lauren, and one of my best friends Mike, have recently expounded on their love of the sudsy stuff on their respective blogs.

Being in a beer free state for hundreds and hundreds of days now (or 135 days, depending on whether I'm allowed to hyperbolize or not) I felt compelled to comment on both posts. And while my tastes are a little different than Mike's and Lauren's, I appreciate their efforts to keep my beer dreams alive as I languish here at the (beer-free) edge of the world.

To close, I'd like to crib from the comment I left on Lauren's blog:

"The last beers I've had (not including a couple of N/A beers I've sucked down at the dining hall out of curiosity) were in the Shannon, Ireland airport. So what was that--the wee hours of the morning on December 23? I think so. I put down, rather quickly I might add, 2 pints served by a Polish bartender. All the bartenders were Poles, and I remember thinking that odd, being in Ireland and all. And then I got here to BAF, and there is a distinct international flair here among the contractors, to include many Eastern Europeans. If, when I get home, there aren't large numbers of Czechs and Croats taking care of my logistical needs I think it might throw me off for a few weeks."

Oh, and happy Cinco de Mayo everyone...just another reason why this is an appropriate post today.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Notes From the Homefront, Lauren #4: Do Kitties Dream of Electric Sheep?

I do not dream that my husband is home. I am well aware, even in my sleep, that my husband is far, far away and has been for quite a while. The unfortunate part is that in my sleep, I seem to think that my husband is on his way home.

I am constantly having dreams that he'll be home tomorrow, or in a day or two. There is always a ten to fifteen second beat when I wake up after these dreams when I lay there and think wow, Andrew will be home today/tomorrow/this weekend. Then my mind catches up and I'm reminded that he isn't on his way home, but that we're not even halfway through this deployment.

Sometimes even in my dreams my subconscious seems to know what's going on and that Andrew is still far away for a long time and it tries to tell my dream-conscious what's going on, but the dream-conscious seldom seems to listen. Its hard to wake up three or four times a week and relive the same feelings I had at gate B6 at BWI on Dec 18 when I had to put Andrew on an airplane without knowing when I would see him again.

Despite these repeated sad wake ups of mine, I am happy to report that the cat remains undeterred in reaching her sleep goals.

BTTT: Pics of me in out and about

This picture shows me in Panjshir, an even more peaceful province than Bamyan (and home of Afghan folk-hero/mujahadeen commander/martyr Ahmad Shah Massoud).

If memory serves, I was out with some engineers to inspect a hydropower facility we're funding (that's the channel/intake at the bottom of the picture) and a group of locals congregated around us and let us know what they thought about the contractor we have working the job.

Note that, yet again, I'm sans body armor. This is not the norm in the Global War on Terror. I truly am a lucky sunuvabitch to be able to engage in no-kidding reconstruction and development. It's not a bad gig at all.

Also, in my efforts to document every glorious moment of my day off, this picture of me on top of a mountain in Bamyan got pushed off the main page.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Andrew's Day Off: 1117PM

At long last--after 11 short hours if you want to be all technical about it--my day off has come to an end.

I've committed 2,160 words to blog today (including this post) an Army 2.0 record for a single day. I'm writing this final message as I wrap up my chat with Lauren, and as I reflect back on what I've learned over these last 11+ hours.

First and foremost, I need to take time off each day, or every few days at the least. At the gym today I ran into one person that works in my shop, and three officers who work for one of the subordinate units that reports to my shop. If they can take time off, I either need to give them some of my work to do, or go out and take some time off of my own.

And the thing is, I do most of my best work around the office in the evenings. Taking a couple of hours to go to the gym during the day 2 or 3 times a week isn't going to help the terrorists win, you know?

My other key lesson is this--avoid people as much as possible on your days off. Inevitably work stuff comes up, and discussing the finer points of civil military operations, while interesting in relative terms, kinda defeats the purpose of having a day off from worrying about work.

Other key lessons from today that I considered and discarded for various reasons:

1) Be excellent to each other

2) Teach [the children] well and let them lead the way

3) If it bleeds we can kill it

4) You tried your best and failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.

I think that's it, folks. It's been great sharing today with you. Love to all, and I'll see you tomorrow with your regularly schedule every-few-days content.

Andrew's Day Off: 1000PM

Well, I've made it back from church and post-church dinner, and sadly, my day has almost come to an end. Church was nice, and I'm now chatting with my wife on gtalk while I write this post and contemplate sleep.

Usually at this time I'm on the phone talking with Lauren, but I also usually call from the office. I think that if I went to the office tonight, even if I resisted the temptation to check my email, I'd at the very least be tempted to check my email--and that's added stress. So, here I sit, in my hooch, enjoying the last remnants of my day off.

I'll hop back online for one last post before the night is through to lay some final day-off musings on everyone.

Andrew's Day Off: 624PM

Well, it's time to head to the chapel for rehearsal and then mass. I haven't written much here at the 2.0 about my choir-ly duties, but I should say that I end up spending a lot of time in the chapel singing about God these days.

Because of work I miss some rehearsals and some masses, but if I attend every event in a given week we're talking 2 rehearsals and 2 masses at 1.5-2.5 hours a clip. When you are in a situation that offers as little free time as mine does, 6-10 hours a week is a lifetime (and quite the time suck when you look at my infrequent work outs).

Still, I do it because I really enjoy it. I've always loved singing Catholic music--it's a very particular style, nothing really like what most of you probably think of as church or gospel music--and it's fun to be in a choir for the first time in my life. I've started to sing tenor of late (who knew I had it in me?) and I'm generally speaking not a bad singer. Again, who knew?

I've gotta run, but I'll be back at least once or twice more before the day is done. Until then, I remain as always, Andrew.

Andrew's Day Off: 532PM

I'm back from the gym, a little sweatier for the wear, but refreshed after a nice work out.

A couple of months back (it's fun to be able to say that) I lamented that illness and overwork were keeping me from living as healthy a lifestyle as I'd hoped to live here at the Forward Edge.

Some few weeks ago I began a concerted effort to correct the habits I'd fallen into. I began to get back to regular work outs, and to date I've had decent (but not great) results. For example, I mentioned my mediocre APFT performance earlier in the week--which I don't see as entirely representative as I was purposefully holding back (suck it, Army!)--but I'm still not in as good of shape as I was in mid to late January after 30 workouts in 30 days.

For the last several weeks I've been good about working out at least twice each week. I know that doesn't sound like much, especially when there is a free, well stocked gym that is literally on the way from my hooch to my office (which is only a 4 minute walk to begin with). So really, there is no excuse to miss work outs...but some how or other I let life get the best of me, and running twice a week is understandable, at least, if not excusable.

Still, I got my workout in today, and it felt pretty good. If I can boost my workouts from 2-3 times a week to 3-4 times a week I think that I'll be in pretty decent shape--literally and figuratively.

That's it for now--I'll probably see you one more time before I head to church in an hour or so.

Andrew's Day Off: 407PM

Oh, how the time flies.

It seems like only 5 minutes ago that I rolled out of bed and into my day off, and it's now after 4PM and I'm staring at less than 3 hours before I have to be at church for Saturday evening pre-mass choir practice. It's not that I dislike going to church or singing in the choir (I happen to enjoy both immensely) it's just that on a day like today, any sort of deadline or commitment of time adds stress to a day that is supposed to be stressless.

After all, I'm not getting another day like this, not (in all likelihood) for another 75-90 days. Just typing that sentence makes me cringe a little. But the point is, I'm supposed to be as stress free as possible today, so I'm refreshed and ready to get back to the grind tomorrow. We'll see how all that works out.

Light reading has been fun. I've dozed a bit and read through the first hundred or so pages of "The Blind Side". Just before writing this post I cheated a bit, and looked up the main character online...I'm really enjoying the story, and I wanted to make sure that the young man about whom the book is written doesn't end up in some sort of Smash Williams/Jason Street style faux-Shakespearean tragedy--I don't think that my psyche could handle that, not on a day like today.

The internets seem to be telling me that I have nothing to worry about, so I'm going to dive back in. I also might head over to the gym for a light workout (I'm all about doing things light today) after which it will nearly be dinner time.

See everyone in a bit.

Andrew's Day Off: 209PM

Food was good, and I'm back in my hooch to do some sitting and perhaps a little light reading. I just got a package in the mail from my parents, so I am now the proud owner of two (count 'em, two!) toiletries kits. For the past 2+ months (since the morning where I left my old kit in the shower trailer) I've been getting by with large ziploc bags. And don't get me wrong, those bags worked really well. TK's tend to get gross with repeated use, but when one of the ziplocs got a bit too scuzzy I could just replace it with another one. All the same, though, it's nice to have real, actual kits.

My mom also sent me a copy of Gilead, which I look forward to reading. It's relatively short and ever-so-slightly snobby (it's another recent Pulitzer winner) which is exactly what I go for in books while I'm out here. I've been chugging through Gravity's Rainbow lately (a book that's neither short nor "slightly" snobby--it's a full on, 800 page effort of will) so it's nice to have something that will be a bit more easily consumable.

At lunch just now, not wanting to try to concentrate on the talking dogs and oversized slug monsters found in Gravity's Rainbow while eating my chicken nuggets, I read the first 40 pages of "The Blind Side" by Michael Lewis. It's really quite good so far (thanks Utgoffs/Spicer!)

The book starts off with a 30+ page retelling of Joe Theisman's famous injury, and while that's a moment I don't really want to relive too often, that's a pretty impressive way to start off a book in my opinion...

OK, on to my light reading--I'll see everyone in a bit.

Andrew's Day Off: 109PM

I know, I really need to go eat...

But check out this blog post at WaPo about West Point allowing its football players to immediately pursue an NFL career, rather than doing the regular do for a newly commissioned 2LT in the Army. I'm sure this is a story most of you have heard mention of, and it's one that has particular interest to me as an IRR guy, plucked from regular life (albeit to a great, important job) after serving 4 years on active duty.

I'll refrain from sharing my opinion on the West Point matter, but as with the last WaPo blog I linked to, make sure to read through the comments...among the various posters I think most sides of the argument are pretty well represented.

Fascinating stuff. Any of the West Point readership have something to chime in on this one? Sultan, you out there??

Andrew's Day Off: 1255PM

Before heading to eat, I read Lauren's recap of this week's reality TV. It was entirely enjoyable--it's always fun to be reminded of what a good, funny writer my wife is (two qualities that matter a lot to me).

It's also sweet of Lauren to be so spoiler focussed as to mostly blog on shows that I don't really watch, rather than the shows that we watch and love together (Lost, 30 Rock, etc.). Lauren downloads those shows and sends them to me to watch out here on thumb drives. It's pretty awesome.

Andrew's Day Off: 1242PM


Today I have the day off. I didn't approve this with any of my bosses or anything, I just conspired with my people to cover for me and let me not come in to work. The bosses will probably figure it out, but I really don't think they'll mind (or else I wouldn't have done this).

Saturday is basically the only day during a week where I can legitimately pull that off, and as folks in my shop start going on leave in a few days, it was now or never--take today off, or wait until my no-kidding leave in July/August time frame.

This is the first day off I've had since December 17th, 2007. That was the last full day I spent at home in Virginia with my wife Lauren. For those of you wondering, I worked for 137 consecutive days before today. That feels like a lot to me, but I don't have much basis for comparison. It's certainly unprecedented in my life, but I'm sure a lot of you have gone through similar stretches.
I guess you can say that today hasn't technically been a "day off"--I stayed at the office until about 1:30 in the morning getting everything taken care of so I could play hookie today--but it's as close as I'm going to get.

I celebrated the day off by sleeping in until about 1215PM. As many of you know, I can be quite the sleeper when I set my mind to it, and with a bed time of ~2AM it was pretty well inevitable that I would sleep into the afternoon. I feel a little lazy for doing so, like I'm not going to be able to make the most of my day off now that I slept through half of it, but what're you gonna do?

Either way, I'll be checking in here throughout the day to let you know how things are progressing. It's lunch time now, and after food I think I might read a bit.

See everyone in a bit!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Plumlee Picks Duke

For those of you who haven't been following the Plumlee saga...Miles asked out of Stanford (where Dawkins just took over) and signed with Duke (where Mason Plumlee, Miles's younger brother, signed a couple months back) within a matter of days. Craziness.

I have to say, while the cynic in me has little doubt that this late signing will have little to no impact on Duke next year, it's still kind of fun to have a good news men's basketball story to fixate on for a week or two during the off season.

It's also fun (for any number of reasons) to stick it to Stanford.

Welcome to the team, Miles.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Parts of Afghanistan Are Quite Peaceful...

I am standing on top of a what the Kiwis call "PT Hill" can see the city down below in the valley if you look really closely. You can also see the Buddhas that the Taliban famously destroyed if you at the background slightly up and to the right of my head.

I am lucky and blessed to work in a part of Afghanistan that is, for the most part, free of the violence that exists in so much of the country. The fact that I can hike around any part of Afghanistan without armor or a heavily armed patrol is, to me at least, a shining example of the potential that exists throughout the rest of the country.