Friday, August 31, 2018

Has it really been 5 years?

I just happened across my timeline today, and I realized that it's been over 5 years since my last post. I guess life happened, and I just kept pushing it back. It's odd how that happens. So, here's where we are today...

In my last post, I was heading home from Afghanistan to work for NetGain Technologies. That was a great gig, but lasted only 18 months before I was laid off. So what was my solution? Contracting seems easy enough, right? So I went back. I spent 6 months working in the Southwest Asia Cyber Center (SWACC) as a Systems Administrator before discovering that it was a dead-end place with leadership that was complacent to just let things to 'status quo'. That didn't work for me. So I took yet another contract with TCS to work in Kuwait at a little ol' base called Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base. It's an odd place--only 1/4 mile square, surrounded by the Kuwaiti air base. It's a combined Air Force/Marines base with very little to offer. But it was where I was.

Fast forward a year to my departure from 'The Jab' to come home to work for what I thought would be a decent job. Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong. I was hired as a Systems Administrator (surprise) for a company called Central Research. Wow...what a zero gig that was. After just a few weeks, I was once again sent on my way because they "decided to go another direction". Whatever. The job was garbage, anyway. So here we go again!

Next up, I decided I didn't want to go back into contracting overseas, so I started taking local contracts. Joplin, Dallas, Little Rock...there were several short-term gigs. I even worked for Facebook for a few weeks bringing a new datacenter online. That wasn't exciting, but it was quite profitable. But even that began to dry up. The writing was on the wall once again. Coincidentally, I received a call out of the blue from the project manager for Kuwait--he was wondering if I would be interested in coming back to Al Jaber as a Systems Admin again. As luck would have it, I was at a point where I figured "what the hell", and I set out on my way.

Here we are, back to present day, and my year at The Jab is nearly done. I have begun the job search back home once again, as I am tired of the long, hot days in Kuwait, and the 7-day-a-week schedule. I'm ready to go home and be normal again, with normal problems like flat tires and family gatherings. Life doesn't stand still while I'm gone, but it seems like it from my point of view. Nothing here changes--it's the same thing, day in and day out. But hopefully, things will change for the better.

New house in Eureka Springs
A lot has changed since I last posted. We moved from the house in Little Rock to a gorgeous home just outside of Eureka Springs, with a view that is unrivaled and no neighbors! It's been 2 years now, and I have yet to feel a single regret about moving. The neighborhood we left in Little Rock is no longer the quaint, safe place it was; it's now riddled with crime, and it's just going to get worse. I hate that the house we worked on for so many years and put so much blood, sweat, and tears into is now owned by someone else...but the decision had to be made.

The 'new and improved' Challenger at WAM3 'Friday Night Lights'
I have also made some changes to the Challenger. It's been in the family now for nearly 8 years, and it was time for some changes! So, after months of work in a half-dozen different shops, I came up with the 'piece de resistance'! The car was transformed from the bright, shiny orange to a matte finish Alice Cooper-themed wrap, complete with all sorts of lighting mods--color flow underbody and interior, color flow underhood and trunk, color flow halos for the headlights and fog lights, and even lighted badges for the grille. I also replaced the stock chrome wheels with Demon replicas, installed Eibach lowering springs, and treated the calipers and rotors to a full upgrade with paint and slotted/drilled rotors. Lastly, all of the light bulbs were replaced with LEDs, giving the sequential tail lights a whole different look. If it weren't for the patience and hard work of my under-appreciated, overworked wife, none of it would have been possible. She ran the car back and forth, made all of the appointments, and even fretted and fumed when something didn't go as planned. But it worked out in the end! The car made its debut in the 'We Are Mopar 3' show in Dallas this summer, and although it didn't place in the top 100 (out of 2000 cars), I know we made an impression. I look forward to more shows and more road trips once I'm home, and the car is geared for it.

In the end, the last 5 years have been very busy, but very fulfilling. We've endured moving to a new town, new jobs, a tornado, marriages and divorces within the family, and the death of Leslie's dad. One of the lowest times in our relationship came on that day. There will never be a complete recovery; we just continue on. The world stops for nobody, and that includes us. Tommy was a great person and a kind soul. I hope he meets up with John and they can laugh and joke about the stupid things the kids did. Two great men, gone far too soon.

I'll wrap up for today. Perhaps it won't be 5 years until my next post. I'm too old at this point to wait that long, and I don't even know that anyone reads this anymore. I just hope to put a little of my mundane life out there in hopes that you'll find your life isn't so mundane, after all. Until next time...

Monday, May 20, 2013

It's time to come home

Well, after spending the last 15 months abroad in places like Kuwait and Afghanistan, my time here has come to a close. I have six days left in Afghanistan before flying to Kuwait for a few days, then home. It's been a long, trying, HOT time, but I have made a lot of money, gained a lot of good experience, and seen a lot of things--some of which I hope to never see again. One of those things happened just a couple weeks ago--a 747 cargo plane crashed just a short distance from our living quarters. The video of the crash is here. I was awake, and heard the distinct "THUMP" when the plane hit the ground, and I was able to get out to see the huge plume of black smoke from the initial impact. What a horrific sight it was to behold. The "official" cause was never broadcast, but according to British intelligence, it appears as though the cargo shifted as the plane was taking off, causing a chain reaction that ultimately put all the weight in the back of the plane--unrecoverable, even in the best case scenario. The base was on lockdown for several days, and communications were also cut off until next of kin notifications could be made. Just another reason why I can't wait to get the hell out of here.

On a good note, I have accepted a job working in Little Rock for NetGain Technologies as a Senior Systems Engineer--basically what I've been doing for the past 15+ years, but with some new things added in. New certifications will be required, as will a button-up shirt and dress pants. Ugh. But, I guess if they're going to pay me the gross amount that they're paying, I will wear their little outfit! I am looking forward to the new challenges and the change of scenery, as sand and rocks have really become quite maddening! I'm ready for trees, grass and real paved streets! Oh...and a speed limit that's more than 25kph (12.5mph).

I have my first car show the weekend of June 8-11, and that's going to be a lot of fun! The show is in Gatlinburg, TN (outlined in previous post), and it's just for Mopar! The Challenger has been sitting, waiting patiently in his garage until I return. I have a LOT of mods to bolt on when I get home, so the first week is going to be busy!

Other than that, not much else is going on. As I've said before, this place is like Groundhog Day every day--nothing ever changes. Eat, sleep, shit, shower...lather, rinse repeat. It's the same thing day in, day out. You can't go anywhere, you can't do anything. So you just exist in a vacuum until your time is up. And my time is up! So...I will close out for now. Perhaps I'll update when I'm en route to the US with pictures and whatnot. Maybe not. Not much to see here.

Until next time...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My time in hell is almost done!

So, the time has almost come--my days overseas now are few. It has been the longest year plus I think I've ever endured. I have accomplished most of the tasks that I set out to accomplish, but DAMN...I don't ever want to do that shit again!

My anticipated "return to reality" date is June 2 or 3, depending on when my flights land and how quickly I can get out of Indiana. Camp Atterbury isn't the kind of place that you want to stay in--it's a dumpy Army base with nothing much to do but eat at Subway or have a beer and a steak at the All Ranks Club. Either way, it's American food served in America. That is something that I haven't had in quite a few months!

I hope that I am able to retain a solid position working in Little Rock so my demobilization date sticks, but in the event that I'm not able to find work, I do have a backup plan--that I hope I don't have to use. I have already signed an extension for another 90 days, which will allow me to continue making the hideous amount of money that I'm currently making, whilst I continue to aggressively pursue a permanent position. It's unfortunate that the employment market is as dismal as it is, but I hope to convince someone that I am as awesome as I am!

The first weekend after my anticipated return home is already booked solid--I'm headed to Gatty 6.0 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It's my first official car show as a participant, but I don't plan to win anything. My car has been sitting under a cover inside a garage for the past 14 months. It's clean, detailed, and is carrying a full tank of premium fuel and a fresh oil change. I do have an assload of "stuff" that I've obtained over the past year to bolt on--simple stuff, you know! A new OEM navigation head unit, LockPick v5, a rear-view camera, a complete set of custom badges, and a bunch of other little things. It's not much, but I don't want to change the look of the car too much. After all, it was Alice Cooper's car!

The guitar, signed by all four
band members, including
some lyrics from "School's
I was recently able to procure an autographed guitar that was originally part of the sale of the car. Apparently, the broker who wrote up the sale decided he was going to keep the guitar, and he ended up selling it on Ebay. Through numerous emails and a couple of very long distance phone calls, I was able to track down the guitar, and it will now accompany me on road trips to car shows. I mean, it IS part of "the car" when you talk about the Alice Cooper Challenger, right? I just look forward to hanging out at the show and meeting all of the people that I've been corresponding with on the ChallengerForumz that I've been frequenting since I purchased my Challenger in January, 2012.

The Tisas 1911 .45
Other than that, I have also been building my arsenal of weaponry at home. Given the state of society these days and the uncertainty of the Obama administration, I believe it's imperative that we be well-armed and ready for anything. Leslie has gone through the Carry Concealed Weapon classes, and I will be going through them just as soon as I can get enrolled. I did manage to get my hands on a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol, as well as a Tisas 1911 .45 semi-automatic pistol. These, along with a half-dozen boxes of hollow point ammo, and I should be good to go. The S&W pistol is the concealed carry weapon, while the Tisas is the home defense weapon. They compliment Leslie's .380 semi-automatic pistol that she carries. Believe me when I tell you--we're armed and ready!
The Smith & Wesson .40

I guess I'll close for now. Hopefully, the next time I post, I'll be home, and no longer in this God-forsaken hell hole. If I have to eat one more grilled cheese sandwich or one more ice-cream scoop of mashed potatoes, I'm going to scream. Combine that with the weekly "INCOMING INCOMING INCOMING" alerts, and you've got yourself a true hell. I have 39 days left at Bagram as of today--and assuming I have a job to go home to. Wish me luck!

Until next time....

Monday, February 25, 2013

I say 'good bye' to my best friend

Lacee's last day, doing what she did best.
This is the post that I wish I would never have to type out. Our dog, Lacee, had lost the fight against old age. She was my best friend, my relentless companion, my walking partner, and my 'rug'. She could sleep through a hurricane, but at the first hint of food being put in her bowl, it was like she had bionic hearing. Her crunchies and green beans were her favorite--but, then again, what wasn't?

She was well-traveled, having made numerous trips to visit family in Missouri, as well as a long-distance road trip to Indiana last year. She rode like a champ, spending most of the time laying on her favorite pillow, looking around like Queen Astor. She was the best companion for traveling...or for anything.

Her condition started out as just a slight limp, but within a few days, she had become almost immobile. As with many big dog breeds, her back had issues, and there was nerve impingement and some pretty severe pain. It was inoperable because of her age, and simply because there wasn't much that could be done. Surgery would be extremely expensive, and the results were unpredictable, at best. So, after spending more than a week with several veterinarians, trying different therapies, drugs and shots, we had to make the decision that nobody wants to make.

Lacee's final moments in the vet's office. The towel was
used to help carry her back end, which no longer could
support her.

We took her to see Dr. Andrea Razer, whose tableside manner and gentle kindness had always been welcome, especially in a time like this. She offered her condolences, and her soft-spoken professionalism as she administered the final dose. Taarna (Madison) was there to assist, but in her true style, she bawled and squalled like a baby.

It was a very difficult time, and being 8,000 miles away made it extremely difficult for me. She was my closest friend, and to not be there for her or with her in her final moments is a regret that I won't soon live down. I am just glad that she was surrounded by those who loved her and whom she trusted.

It's never easy to lose your best friend, but if there was ever a poster pet for rescuing, Lacee would be it. The perfect dog with the perfect attitude. Never barked, never bit, and only wanted a scratch. I will miss you, Lacee...and you will never be forgotten.

Friday, February 08, 2013

"Welcome" to Afghanistan?

So, after 11 months in the land of expansive sand and sun, I made the choice to move on to Afghanistan. This option afforded two things--a change of scenery, as well as an increase in pay. The change in scenery isn't much--mountains instead of sand dunes, and grass and trees instead of sand and rock. As for the pay increase...well, that one needs no explanation. I'm here to make the money, and the uplift is significant. My time is limited, however; I will be homeward bound on June 1, unless something drastic happens, or I can't find gainful employment in the meantime. Time will tell there.

Because life here is much like Groundhog Day, there isn't really much to report on. I did make a trip home in November of last year, and had a grand time. I reacquainted with family, hung out with my dog, and drove my oh-so-awesome car. But, like all good things, the trip ended too soon. I was back in the land of sand and rock mere days later...awaiting my final return home.

As for the kids, the boy has finally entered college after being out of high school for a mere 5 years. I hold my breath for the time being, as history hasn't really worked in his favor too much. He did manage to pick up a vehicle that is 100% his, and not something that some apathetic bag of protoplasm had bought for him to let him use and abuse at will. We shall see how it goes, but each day that passes simply adds to the hope. The girl...has a much different story. She has bounced around from house to house, living nowhere for more than a couple of weeks, using her friends up like old toilet paper, destroying friendships over made-up drama, and lying like there's no tomorrow. My hope for her is that she'll eventually tire of the lifestyle of a gypsy, but at this point, I don't know. I did provide he with financing for a car, which went south almost immediately. The car was repossessed and repurchased, all within just a few short weeks. As I said...hope isn't very high right now, but we must soldier on.

I wish I could say there's more to report, but other than the minor day-to-day bullshit, it's just eat, work, sleep. Once I'm closer to being gone, I'll exert more effort. Want to see pictures? They're either in my Picasa album or on my Facebook/Google+ page. That's all I have for now. Until next time....