Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Slide Away

Sunday, I went downtown again, this time with Paco, Steve, Berg, and Steven. Trips downtown are always fun, and this was no different. We made our usual first stop at the mall for lunch and random shopping. Again, we decided to go ice skating, some of which I captured on my brand new Kodak Zi8, which is highly recommended. Berg hadn't been skating since he was 6, and throughout our session, we had a half-assed game of tag going on. Sorry for the shaky cinematography, but it's kinda hard to hold the camera steady on skates.

After the mall, we headed to the souqs for the kind of shopping where one can haggle. We also got adventurous and tried a random restaurant that left our bellies full and our mouths on fire.
Before heading back to base, we stopped at the bay to check out the beautiful nighttime skyline and listen to the waves roll in. The best thing about going downtown is forgetting all about work and getting away from all the chaos, even for just a bit. And this trip was no different.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shut In

I've sat through way too many meetings this week, two of which were identical to each other, even including the same people. It's one of the worst parts about being in a management position. The funny thing is how our upper management will contradict itself from one meeting to the next. Case in point: "I'm not a micro-manager," followed the next day by instructions to turn in daily forms of exactly where and on which project each person is working. Ridiculous.
Plus, I'd much rather be on the job site helping out instead of stuck in a conference room. The day goes by a lot quicker when I'm productive and not staring at the ceiling while the boss drones on about vehicle safety.
Despite all that, things are going surprisingly well. A lot of guys have hit a mid-tour run of apathy, but I'm somehow focused and trying to keep everyone's spirits up. The guys on my team are getting along well, and the project is coming along nicely.
Also (and I'm probably going to jinx it here), I still don't have a roommate yet. Every day I get home from work hoping not to see someone's stuff stacked on the vacant bed, and so far, I've been lucky. Perhaps they forgot about me? If this keeps up for another three months, I'd be very happy, indeed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Broken Hearts, Broken Bones

The talk all week has been about health care. The bill that passed and was signed into law yesterday has been polarising, to say the least. I've done research on what's in the bill, but it's still hard to know what exactly it will entail. Plus, I think a lot of people are only listening to representatives from their respective political parties, and not getting the full story.
Like most things, there are good and bad points. I'm glad insurers can't discriminate or deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. And giving tax credits to small businesses in order to provide health care to its employees is definitely a plus. But some things just seem random, like the thing about tanning salons.
Personally, I think health care is something basic the government should provide for its people; however, penalising people for not getting insurance seems absurd. As a member of the military, I enjoy socialised health care already, and this whole thing has little impact on me, directly. My biggest hope is that it will, as promised, decrease the national deficit.
There have been tons of protests, some becoming violent, over the whole ordeal. And I didn't even know it was possible for a state to sue the federal government. It's going to be interesting to see how all this plays out over the next few months and years.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Application Mutilation

I've been downloading apps like a mother. The App Store is one of the best things about the iPod Touch/iPhone, and I'm totally taking advantage of it. When I first bought it, I didn't think I'd spend much time there, but now I have pages and pages of apps. At first, I just grabbed a few free games and reference aids. But then I started finding other things that interested me. I have news updates. I have snow reports. I have converters and dictionaries. I have no fewer than five apps about Italy and the Italian language. I have travel aids. I have Facebook and chat applications. I have a calorie counter that has helped me lose eight pounds in the past seven weeks. I have an app that keeps me informed of all the votes cast by my congressmen. And, oh, the games. The best ones are so simple, yet so addicting.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beware The Ides of March (Or Don't)

Today is the 15th, half-way through March. For many people, it's also referred to as Moustache March, and I somehow got sucked into participating. So I currently have two weeks of growth on my upper lip. No, I'm not posting pictures, but if you're really curious (and possibly a masochist), you can see the pic from last time. But don't say I didn't warn you.
This week also marks the half-way point of our deployment. I wanna say it's going by pretty quick, but that's not entirely accurate. I know I still have a long way to go. I find myself constantly thinking of Italy, and I can't wait to get back there. I need to try and focus on my job here, because the more I think about home, the further away it seems.
For now, I'll just focus on April 1st, so I can shave this ridiculous thing off my face.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bonus Round

I found out today my extension in Italy was approved, which makes me a very happy boy. I wanted to stay another three years, but even after begging and pleading, I was only approved for one year, despite following all the rules. I ran into another guy from my squadron today who was also going through the same ordeal I was with his extension; however, he ignored all the rules, and was given a three year extension. Kinda makes me wish I would've been a little more devious. Regardless, I'm there until February of 2012. I still might get the opportunity to extend again, but that's a battle I'll have to fight next year.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Huddling Up

There will be some big changes going on in the this week. Well, only two changes, I guess, but both are major changes. The first is that some contractors are taking over our compound. We have to give up our meeting area/break room, and I'll no longer have my own office. (Single tear down my cheek.) I moved my stuff out of my office yesterday and into a giant office I'll share with the bosses and the other team leads. Our shop, along with the other three shops, will be relocated to a couple trailers on the back side of the compound. And all the tools and materials we use will be stored on the other side of the base in a shelter to which only we have access. It's gonna be interesting, having to give up all our space and work even closer with each other, but I'm sure we'll make it work somehow.
The second change affects me even more drastically. It seems the powers that be have decided to give certain people in my area of the base a roommate, and I'm one of them. I'm obviously not thrilled at the idea of losing half my space, but I really shouldn't complain. The guys on the other half of the base all share rooms smaller and less nice than mine. Plus, I only have about three months left here. I'm not sure who he is or when he'll be moving in, but I'm going to make the best of it. Who knows? Maybe I'll have a new lifelong friend by the time I leave.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Dry Heaving

There was a major water line break Saturday afternoon, so my dorm and this whole area of the base have been without water. I was off yesterday, so it wasn't too bad. I washed my hands with bottled water and walked to the gym to use the bathroom. I skipped my shower until this morning, where I went to the shop.
I just got back to my room from work, and thankfully, the water is flowing once again. It was only 48 hours without running water, but it made me realise how important it is and how fortunately I am to live in a country where I take something like that for granted.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Looking For A Signal

We've already started working on our next two buildings. While the first two we finished were completely bare when we started, the two we're working on now are in various stages of completion. This is both good and bad, as even though there's less actual work for us to finish, the stuff that has been done already will require some extra finagling to meet our standards.
But the real challenge lies in a more technological realm. Out of eleven guys on our crew, six of us came here with iPhones or iPod Touches. Three others have bought them in the past two weeks. These wonderful devices have wi-fi capability, and each building we're constructing lies right in the middle of an internet hot spot.
So I'm just waiting for the day to come when pipes are bursting and the building is flooding, but none of us care to notice because we're all too busy checking e-mail and downloading apps.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Cut Off

Something horrible happened this week. I'm suddenly unable to access videos on Hulu.com, apparently because I'm not in the continental United States, even though the fine print states overseas military bases are included in their broadcast availability. I'm now two episodes behind on Parks & Recreation, and I think I just might go insane. I tried watching it on NBC.com, but that didn't work, either. Somebody, Help!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Into A Beautiful Swan

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We had the official ribbon cutting on our first two buildings today. It was a bunch of ridiculous pomp and circumstance that none of us really wanted to endure. Regardless, we're glad to have gotten this far, and everyone seems ready to get moving on the next two.
But first, I wanted to show a few before and after pictures. Here's the exterior.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The buildings were started by contractors who ran out of money and faulted on the contract. They sat unfinished for a year before we started on them.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Our biggest hurdle was scrounging for parts, and there was a lot of pressure on us. I seriously don't know how we made it happen, but eventually things came together.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I took these pictures today. It's weird to think the finished product ever looked like it did before.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
With the materials we were given and the amount of time we had, I'd say we did a pretty good job. And I think the next two will turn out even better.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Special thanks to my crew: Rick, Ryan, Paco, Diaz, G, Steve, Joel, Aaron, Pretzel, and Steven. It's a pleasure working with you guys.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Local Flavour

Rick & Paco
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Our trip downtown yesterday was the perfect mix of fun and relaxation. We began the day with lunch at the Villagio Mall, followed by some light shopping, and then a screening of Avatar in the 3-D IMAX theatre.
Then, for dinner, we headed to the souqs. We found a great restaurant where we got to sit outside. Before we ate, we got a hooka, which, after much convincing, Rick agreed to try.

Aaron Eating Camel
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
For dinner, I had lentil soup with couscous. The other guys felt adventurous, and all ordered camel in different forms. Aaron's basically looked like sausage links, but he said it was good. I took his word for it.

Rick, Paco, & Aaron
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After dinner, we walked around the souqs for a bit, then decided to head home. On our way there, we stopped to take a brief stroll along the bay. The weather was perfect and there was a great view of the city across the bay. Doha really isn't a bad place at all.