Friday, March 31, 2006
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Skiing in the Desert
During my last R&R I took advantage of the new indoor ski resort in Dubai. I took two other guys with me on the understanding that I would teach them IF they listened and did what I said. I have taught people before and I was ecouraging them to get lessons but they said they wanted me to teach them.
Teaching cats to jump through burning hoops is easier than teaching adults to ski but I agreed to do it. Two days after we arrived and one giant hang over later I made it there with one of my fellow travellers. One guy ducked out and fessed to be ill. I still don't believe him. BTW - Thats him in the suit standing in front of the sign. Some of you know him. I won't use his name but you know him. Bad travel companion, no more trips with him.
Anyway the guy who was up to the challenge is Dave from Dave's Not Here. He was a great student. He was open minded and listened. We had a great day out. The facility is the most organized and well run ski resort I have ever been to and I have been to a lot of them. You pay for your package up front (About $60.00 for an all day pass, ski-boot-pole rental, suit rental) and then go to the stations for gear. Boots are 4 buckle front entry Rossignol. All the equipment is Rossy. Boots, skis, bindings, poles. I found out later that they have a contract with them for the gear. You get your equipment at the boot station, ski station, suit station. I brought my own parka and gloves. I used Nomex Aviator gloves from the PX and wore my usual backwards ball cap. Dave had to purchase gloves and a flaming skull cap from the pro shop. The gloves are overkill for this place. It is just below freezing and these are heavy duty Vail style gloves they sell at the pro shop. In fact they may even come in handy some place like Kamchatka or Nome.
We geared up and went up the escalator. You go through a glass door and you are in the Disney version of skiers heaven. Dry, no wind, dusty snow, perfectly groomed, perfectly lit. Fake trees, fale rocks, fake snow. One lift that goes to the bunny slope and then shoots up to the top. It is about 600 yards of run and about a 200 foot drop. There are two runs and you can get all the way down in less than a minute unless you are doing some serious turning.
I began by teaching Dave the most important things. How to get the gear on and off, how to turn, and how to STOP! He was a quick learner and the next time we go back I have no doubt he will get better each time. We are already planning another junket soon. Skiing when it is 120 degrees outside will be a real interesting juxtaposition.
During Dave's lessons though we came upon a local who had his two little girls all geared up and trying to ski. It was obvious that they had not had lessons. The little one (4 or 5 years old) was sitting down in her skis and crying. He did not know how to get her out of the skis. I came up and asked if he needed help. He said yes. I popped the skis off with my pole and picked her up. I carried her down in one arm and made lazy S turns. By the time we got down she was giggling and smiling. I asked her if she wanted to do it again. She smiled this huge toothy smile and nodded yes. I took her back up and put her in her skis. I placed her between my skis and held my poles horizontal in front of her and let her hold on. We went down with no problems. I did this twice and then held her hand on one run more. I gave her back to her dad after that. He told me I should be a teacher. I pointed at Dave who was having some difficulty and was flopping around like a fresh caught tuna. I said that this was my student and the real indicator of my skills.
Anyway, it was fun and I look forward to doing it again. I love skiing (I met my wife in a lift line) and it is nice to know that I can get down there and blow the stress out of my system for a day. Skiing is like therapy for me. If I ever have the means I want a cabin in the mountains as a second home. My wife would rather have a beach house but she will have to buy that one herself!
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
London is one of my favorite cities. I had a period where I was worn out on it but after staying away for over 10 years I have again discovered its joys and charm. I made a layover on my last flight to the sand box and looked at several apartments for a family holiday in July. The list is narrowing down and I am anxious to explore new places and old haunts with my wife, sister, and son. I guess you can say
I took this photo from the new pedestrian bridge which crosses from South Bank to Nothumberland Street leading to Trafalgar Square. It is a short walk from there to Charing Cross Station instead of a hike South to Waterloo Station. It was getting cold and I ducked into a pub for a pint soon after this as I needed to be fortified.
While I was setting up for this slow exposure, low light shot a couple of teens were walking over the bridge and one of them was putting his hand over people's backs and over their shutters in an attempt to ruin their photos. I saw this and when they got close to me I looked at them and told them to keep moving and not bother me. Of course one of them took this as a challenge and gave me the standard, "F*ck You." My reply was short and sweet. I told them that they needed to keep moving because I would jack them both up and all the other tourists around would swear that they started it. An older couple who had been targeted by the teens walked up about then. They were American and the man pointed at my cap which said "Operation Iraqi Freedom." He told the kid that I was a obviously a veteran and no pub brawler (I am no Billy Badass but I was putting on my very best scowl). The kids muttered and skipped off. The man came up to me and asked if I was a veteran. I told him yes, that I have been there since October of '03 even though I am a contractor I am a veteran of this war. He looked at me and told me that he was a Vietnam vet and was proud of us and what we are doing. Contractor or not we are all in harm's way and are all part of the effort ( His words, not mine). It made me choke up a bit and I began to think of my family particularly my young son. I also thought about how this grand old city had been struck by home grown terrorism so recently.
My friend Fritz makes me understand sometimes why we do what we do but I know that part of it is because of the sense of gratitude to our nation and veterans. That and the fact that I want to take my son all over the world. I want to drink beer with him in London, scuba dive in Belize, go to Carnival in Rio, river raft in Siberia, ski in Austria. I can't do that with terrorism rampant and a world aflame with war and hatred. Those older people and veterans of the past trust us to do what they did. We will hold the line and push tyranny of any form back into the nether regions it comes from.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Ingrates and Idiots
The forces that conducted this mission did so under great peril and to free the misguided peaceniks who think that they can come to this most dangerous of areas and have some commo with the Islamofascists who are causing all this grief. The peaceniks all think that because no one kidnapped and killed Sean Penn it means they will be OK too. Not so. Hajji does not care what you believe in or what your motives are. You are are a straight up nitwit pawn in their game if they find you here.
I am surprised that we pulled this one off. I though for sure we would see at least 3 more beheadings from Al-Jazerra and screaming headlines from the MSM. Not so. This barely registers because the military did a great job on this one and no one was injured or killed.
The lack of public praise for our first rate shadow warriors bothers me tremedously but what bothers me even more is the complete lack of thanks shown by the three freed ingrates. Not only that but the contempt and abuse they heap upon the efforts here. The following was posted in a Toronto newspaper today.
We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.“Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families. "In the spirit of the prophetic nonviolence that motivated Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom to go to Iraq, we refuse to yield to a spirit of vengeance. “
We give thanks for the compassionate God who granted our friends courage and who sustained their spirits over the past months. "We pray for strength and courage for ourselves so that, together, we can continue the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace. “Throughout these difficult months, we have been heartened by messages of concern for our four colleagues from all over the world. We have been especially moved by the gracious outpouring of support from Muslim brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. "That support continues to come to us day after day.
“We pray that Christians throughout the world will, in the same spirit, call for justice and for respect for the human rights of the thousands of Iraqis who are being detained illegally by the U.S. and British forces occupying Iraq. “During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Why have our loved ones been taken? Where are they being held? Under what conditions? How are they? Will they be released? When?
“With Tom’s death, we felt the grief of losing a beloved friend. Today, we rejoice in the release of our friends Harmeet, Jim and Norman. We continue to pray for a swift and joyful homecoming for the many Iraqis and internationals who long to be reunited with their families.
"We renew our commitment to work for an end to the war and the occupation of Iraq as a way to continue the witness of Tom Fox. We trust in God’s compassionate love to show us the way. “Living through the many emotions of this day, we remain committed to the words of Jim Loney, who wrote: "With God’s abiding kindness, we will love even our enemies. With the love of Christ, we will resist all evil. With God’s unending faithfulness, we will work to build the beloved community."
Where is the gratitude to the brave men who risked their lives to save yours? Where is their sense of decorum, reality, and sanity. There is a reason we have all those folks locked up. They would have cut their throats and tossed the bodies in the river.
I thank God that we have men and women willing to risk their lives so that others may exercise their right to free speech but that does not mean that I have to admire, like, or agree with the rescued party. In my humble opinion they are not only ingrates, they are idiots. Put down your bible and pick up a sword or else your churches in your home towns will be future targets of these proponents of worldwide religious dominion.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Muhammed and Me - A curious blog
I stumbled on this blog yesterday. I'm just not sure what it is but it does get people fired up. I'm not sure if it is ragging on Islamofascists because of the over reaction to the Danish cartoon flap, if it is homoerotic pablum, or if it is an attempt to reach out to Muslims by showing Muslims and others doing normal things thereby suggesting that we are all more alike than different. Like I said, I'm just not sure.
I do know that the comment threads are more interesting than the cartoon work. There is some serious bickering going on in there. Whatever it is, I will go back again later to see what gives with Bobby and Muhammed. The link is:
Monday, March 20, 2006
Iraqis come in many shapes and sizes. We have the standard brown eyed, black haired sterotypical Arabs; red haired, brown eyed circassians; brown haired, blue eyed Kurds, etc. Because of this there is no ability to profile people according to look. This adds to the security issues on post.
If anyone tries to come through the gate without going through proper checks they are challenged. If they don't stop deadly force WILL be used. This was not the case the other evening. This local Iraqi came walking through the gate and did not respond to the challenges. He walked through and was loose on post until daylight when one of our country boys with special training for this type of excercise was called upon to capture him.
The intruder was captured and turned over to the Iraqi authorities. He was not mistreated nor was he tortured in any way. In fact, we went a long way to try and not make asses of ourselves or make hay of the situation. All is well.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
I see England, I see France, I see..........
As I was packing my suitcase at home for my journey to the UK and then the sand box I was approached by my little dude. With that open child's mind he asked me a simple question which had a multi part answer. He said, "Where are you going Daddy?"
I was going to London for two days and then to Dubai before continuing North to the home of all these happy people. I thought about it and said, "Well I am going to England for a couple of days. Then I go somewhere else. Do you know where I am going?" He didn't even break a smile and said, "You are going to underpants!"
After I stopped laughing I told him that,"Yes indeed, Daddy is going to Underpants!" So I was and so I am. I am in Underpants now. I will never look at another map of Iraq without thinking that it should be labeled Underpants.
I did see England and saw France when I flew over it. I can see Underpants outside my window.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Beware Great Deals!
If you go online and pay in advance by 30 days you can get this deal. The hotel was nice and clean and the breakfast (an extra 6.50) was very good but here is what the deal breaker was. It was 8 blocks to the nearest tube (subway) station and 3 blocks to the nearest bus stop. Needless to say I spent a lot on cabs.
The money I spent on cabs did not offset the savings I incurred by staying here. Next time I am back to the Cardiff Inn at Paddington Station. It is really small but it is one block from the station, has a great breakfast included and is all I need when I am alone. It is only 57 pounds and that includes breakfast. Add the fact that I can cut down my travel time to and from the airport by one hour each way.
Yep, the Cardiff Inn for me when I am alone in London. Carren does not do these type hotels. I think we will stay at Citadines South Kensington in July when we take a holiday there.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Still on R&R
Three more days of family bliss and then it is off to London to scout out some apartment locations for lease or purchase and then back to the grind. Hey! There is a war on ya know?