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November 24, 2004
Cold Dust SeasonBy Greyhawk
Has it been a year already since 'Dub flew over here with that plastic turkey? Man, time flies whether you're having fun or not, so why not have fun?
Here's a thought for the day: if you're at work, on a computer, chances are its called a "workstation". why not call them funstations? It's not that hard a thing to do, and it would change the way people feel about their jobs completely. In fact, why call it work at all? Just call it fun. Perception is everything, after all, and if you insist on calling it fun it will actually be fun in time. It's true, I know from experience. Do you use worksheets of some sort at your office? Call them funsheets. I'll bet you can think up lots of other such examples.
Know why we don't think that way? Because our parents made the same mistakes we did in raising children. We end their "fun" days too early, bring them to the grown up table too soon. Proof: there are no playgrounds in middle schools in America. This is a huge mistake. Turn 12-14 year olds loose in a playground and they'll have a great time - I've seen this happen. We should let them stay at the kids table longer, but no - we turn the fun dial down to about "2" as soon as our kids turn 10. The real world is a harsh place, you know, and it's going to grind you up and wear you down, and that certainly isn't fun. Suck it up. Get used to it. Thus we become workaholics, each and every one of us.
But how rude of me - here you've stopped by, likely taking a break from whatever your job is, and I'm wasting your time with this drivel. That's not why you came here, is it? Throws you off a little. "Hey, I clicked in here to see how goes it in Iraq and you're telling me to have fun! Outrageous!" Sorry, I'll try to fulfill your expectations now, return to what you're used to.
After all, we mere humans are creatures of habit. Nowhere is this more apparent then in a confined environment like that experienced here in camp life in Iraq. We wake at proscribed times, we eat at proscribed times; we conduct our duties on a rigid schedule and return to bed within a few moments of the exact same time every day. If we're not careful we become obsessive about this routine, then little things like mortar attacks really throw us off and we blow them all out of proportion. Damn - that was not on the agenda...
I'm going to avoid that obsession, intentionally bust out of that routine, do something exciting and different. Get ready - here it comes. If you've visited here a few times you've seen plenty of pictures of the moon, but yesterday I pointed my camera at a different target to provide you with this
The sun, in all it's glory.
Of course it's behind an enormous curtain of dust and sand. A storm front made it's way across Iraq earlier this week, and high speed cold air whipped in behind it, lifted the sand and soil, cut visibility down to a very few hundred yards, and turned the sun into something like the pathetic "energy saver" light bulb that even now is "illuminating" an area extending several inches from it's glass shell suspended above my head as I type...
And something somewhere whistled in that wicked breeze. A quiet howl that persisted through the day, a chilling sound to go with the chilling air. Chilling? In the desert? Yes - and given that it's windy and the air is full of solid particles for our breathing pleasure it seems hardly fair (and strangely unreal) that it should be cold too, but it is indeed, though admittedly the sort of cold that causes shivers rather than frostbite.
The sort of cold that reminds hunters that the time has come...
The sort of November cold I associate with Thanksgiving at home, arriving right on time, even in Iraq. Right on time to remind us one and all that time flies whether you're having fun or not, that soon it will be Christmas, and a more intense cold will be upon us. The sort of cold that brings both numbness and pain to the fingertips, and for those far from home and family a different numbness and pain to the soul.
Speaking of fun Christian holidays, lets repel any lost or lingering lefties with a passage from the Bible. Today we read from Genesis, chapter 12:
1 Now (1) the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you; 2 And (2) I will make you a great nation, And (3) I will bless you, And make your name great; And so (4) you shall be a blessing;
"We're going to do great things, Abram, you and me, we're going to really get things started. But first you must get out of this corner of the earth. Put it in your rearview and don't look back." Americans can relate to that - we as a nation came from elsewhere, left home for a promised land. We got there and met other travelers, and sat down with them for the first thanksgiving. Odd that I'm an American writing this from the very same land that is the answer to the question "What did God tell Abram to put in his rearview?"
There are good reasons for leaving this land. One is certainly the flies. Not the time flies, the real flies. The cold weather brings them in to the tents, like a Biblical plague. They're persistent creatures - small, quick, annoying. Not annoying enough to drive you away by themselves, of course, but enough to make the ultimate good bye to this place a bit less sorrowful than it otherwise might be. Hard to tell whether they're brave or foolish, these little pests, they land upon you while you try to eat - or while you're doing anything, for that matter. This just makes us more determined to swat them, of course, to keep them from taking some of the fun out of Thanksgiving.
And though in the end the flies won't drive us away we know that when we do leave they will remain.
And though it's still a bit too early to talk of leaving that time will be upon us all too soon. The elections here in Iraq will mark a significant waypoint on that road home, one of many, after which things will be different. How so? What then? That's conversation for the grown up table this Thanksgiving season. And how amazing it will be, to be here for that talk, and those elections, and for the American elections that came before, when those seats at the grown up table were divvied out. We'll see soon enough if the right people got them.
Time flies... kids grow up too fast...
Are holidays away from family too great a price to pay to be here in this historic time? Great things have great price, of course. So it goes. And the Mrs. set a fine Thanksgiving feast for us before I left, and I anticipate another on return.
And I realize that wherever I am I've much to be thankful for.
I pondered linking something, someone else's efforts that support my own claims, the fundamental heart of blogging, of course. I realized I have something different for you this time, and it's from a source I?ve already quoted from. On arrival here I opened a Bible to a random passage, read it.
This is what I found:
Fear not, O Jacob My servant,' declares the LORD, 'And do not be dismayed, O Israel; For behold, I will save you (17) from afar And your offspring from the land of their captivity. And Jacob will return and will be (18) quiet and at ease, And (19) no one will make him afraid.
So I've got that going for me - which is nice.
It's Jeremiah, chapter 30, and if you prefer to think I, a guy in Iraq whose family is in Germany, read the whole book just to find that quote rather than discovering it via supernatural guidance then I'm certain there's nothing I can say to make you change your mind.
After all , this is just a blog.
I close with my sincerest wishes that your Thanksgiving is a fun one, free of flies or other foul things that plague us on the edge.
For our time together has certainly flown by, and I'm afraid I must go now - I've got to get back to work.
Posted by Greyhawk / November 24, 2004 7:23 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com