Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cities I've been to map

These are just MJ's cities. Obviously GM's map would be more impressive. I thought it was fun.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Christmas in Kabul

Sorry I missed last Sunday's post - but it has been a busy time.......

Christmas in Kabul. Yes, even in a nation that is 99.99% Muslim you can have Christmas.

The war goes on and the insurgents don't celebrate Christmas, but in our way we had a good Christmas inside the wire. There were official events like the Christmas service you have on the right - but the best part was what we did ourselves in out little ad hoc group centered around the "FOB Naples Cigar Club." (NB: FOB=Forward Operating Base - as Staff Weenies, ours isn't a FOB, but we call it one anyway - tongue firmly placed in cheek. Naples is the name of our batch of trailers stacked together into some kind of FEMA'esque apartment complex we call our home. Cigar Club as in that at 2030, out little international gaggle gets together over cigars, pipes, cigarettes or whatever secondhand others are putting out and gossip like a bunch of old woman while trying to stay warm next to the HESCO barriers - more pictures below.)

The day before Christmas was a half-day (0745-1500, 7+hrs - that's a half-day here), but being that we are stuck in our 300x500 meter HQ compound, we escaped to the best escape - the garden in front of the "Yellow Building" for cigars, pipes and sunshine waiting for the main show ... Christmas Dinner! Working bottom left clockwise, we have the RAF Regiment Wg Cdr "Bish," me with the pet caterpillar, the Kiwi LTC, the US Army Maj. grandfather, Diane's USMC Col boyfriend, the British Army LTC Anachronism, and the Buffalo(e).

The good folks from Supreme did a fine job with Christmas Dinner - a very fine job. Name whatever German, North American, or British Christmas food and they had it, well presented and in quantity. More of the gaggle - the new ones include our Finn that can't seem to winterize, British Army's best Clue Questioner with the musical tastes of a person two decades younger (and friend) Trebs the Aussie LTC, and the breath of fresh air Royal Navy JAG, who always dresses up for the holidays.

In the CJ5 conference room we set up our Christmas party with a combination of pilfered decorations and consolidated goodie bag goodies.

Movies were the classic A Christmas Carol. Appropriate - but being that I was designated "make it work" guy - I was able to set the background while we socialized - "Beauty and the Beast" thanks to SJH and the good folks from 40 Commando, Royal Marines.

I actually have a picture of most of the "FOB Naples Cigar Club." Those seen above plus our Turkish Army MP Chief, plus Australian Navy, US Air Force, and Canadian Army. Guess which one is the Canadian?

A funny side-note - one of our Royal Navy Commander JAGs usually dresses like the rest of us - but as I mentioned earlier, she likes to dress correctly. Sailors are Sailors - but sometimes during the holidays - a woman wants to be a woman.

See you next Sunday!


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Kabul on the other side of the wire

Back in NOV, I had a chance again to head outside the wire, to see a little sliver of what we are all here for - the people of Afghanistan.

This time we went to one of the many epicenters of the challenge where you can find the most needy in the most needy part of Central Asia - in this case the Indira Gandhi Children's Hospital burn clinic.

As you can gather by the fuzzy image of the cheesy 'stash'd old guy in the background - visit wasn't about us - the focus was on the children there. I wasn't there by myself either, there were a good dozen plus there - I was just a worker bee.

To get the full background of our trip, you should read the full article here, (it was our second trip, the write up of my first trip is here) but this is the core,
Children in the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health’s burn ward undergo a huge amount of suffering. In a place where their recovery includes flies swarming around open flesh and bandages often being reused, service members from International Security Assistance Force Headquarters regularly bring hope and smiles to the children’s faces through their gifts of medical supplies, crayons, stuffed animals – and themselves.

Many of the donated items come from the United States, while service members come from Great Britain, Germany, Turkey, Canada and others. The language is universal – love – and it’s spoken through the gift of a beanie baby or a game of Pictionary.
The hospital is the only pediatric hospital in all of Afghanistan. Its operating budget provided by the Afghan government is $400 a month. The 15 boxes of medical supplies brought by ISAF service members on Nov. 20 will help to bridge the gap between life and death.
Yep, $400 a month. The one thing that keeps going through my mind are all the pediatric hospitals throughout the West - and as I walked through this hospital I thought that no one would leave their pet there - but this is all the Afghans have. For the price of a round-trip to one of those anti-war marches we have seen over the last few years - you could sure buy a lot of medical supplies. For the price of one week's lawn service at your standard US hospital, you could create so much good will here, and truly help the needy. For the cost of a board meeting ...

There were even a few videos posted up about the event, a short one and a long one.

Now that I have broken open Limburgerandcrackers, I think I will post a few other slices of life in Kabul over the next month or so.

For those interested (that is you Mom), the high resolution pic of the above right is here and even better here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

What happened?

Well, as the family knows, we have converted most of our communications over to our Shutterfly books and email. For now, we will just put L&C in hibernation.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A day with Vincent

So, you find yourself with a couple of discount train tickets that are about to expire. There is a new exhibit at the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Hmmmmm. You suddenly realize, "Hey, I can make a day-trip to Amsterdam!"

And so we did. It is only a ~2.5/3 hr train ride into the heart of Amsterdam from Limburg, and we already know Amsterdam fairly well. We have talked about the concept of being able to do this, and it worked. A great Fall day to do it.

A co-worker asked how they could replicate such an efficient trip....well in case you only have a day to hit Amsterdam. Here you go:

Recommended Day-trip to Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum and Nemo; with dinner.

Preliminary work:
Buy the yearly “Discount Pass” for the train. It will pay for itself, mostly, for this trip if you have two adults.

Go online to the Van Gogh museum site and buy your tickets ahead of time and print them out to take with you. It will save you a lot of time – perhaps over an hour – because you won’t have to wait in line with the huddled masses. You have your own line right to the front (on the right as you head up the stairs).

The kids “rail-runner” pass for 2 Euros is good for the whole day, as are your tickets as long as you have round trips.

The trip:
Schedule: There are approximate times from Landgraaf, so your times should be less. The touch-screen ticket kiosks have an English option on the button left-hand corner. Remember your discount.

Depart ~08:50, one change at Sittard, and arrive ~11:30 at Amsterdam Central.
At Amsterdam Central guy “Strips” for the trolley if you do not have them already. Adult Blue, Child Red (discounted).

Take #2 or #5 trolley to “Museum Plein” on “Paulus Pollerstraat.” The Van Gogh museum is on the Southern side of the street.

After the Van Gogh museum experience, head NE towards Rijksmuseum. Go counter-clockwise around the museum and cross the bridge across the canal that is on the direct NE centreline on the other side of the building. It is the bridge where the Museum Boat starts.

Cross the bridge and on the right, wait for the #6,7, or 10 trolley (on Weteringschans) to take on a short SE ride to “Wetering Circuit.” Get off there and walk a few dozen meters to the trolley stop on Vijzelstraat. Take the #16, 24, or 25 trolley to Munt Plein. Munt Pleil is a madhouse, but look for the #9 or 14 trolley heading E/SE to “Mr. Visser Plein.” Get off there and walk NE up “Valkenburgestraat.” Where it “T-bones” at “Prins Hendrikkade,” across the street you will see “Nemo.” Your time is your own, but we closed it down at 1700. Just watch the “Teen” section at the very top floor. It is Rated “R” to “NC-17” in an American sense. The rest of the museum is standard issue kid friendly interactive science museum. The kids loved it.

Dinner: Time for a nice walk. When you leave Nemo, wald NW on “Prins Hendrikkade,” crossing to the south side of the street when you get a chance. Walk over the bridge over the ‘Oude Schans” canal and walk down the road on its NW bank until you get to the intersection of “Keizersstraat.” Take a right, heading NW until you get to “Nieuw Markt” square. You can walk around with a variety of options, but the Thai restaurant on the NW corner near was outstanding.

Back to the train: We left the restaurant ~1820 and walked up “Zeeduk” which dumps you off right across from Central Station; clear as day when you leave the street. We caught the 1858 train and made it back to Landgraaf ~2130 with only two train changes at Sittard and Heerlen.

One note on Amsterdam and the kiddies: Amsterdam has a reputation that is well deserved, but don’t let that make you think it isn’t a place that is kid friendly. It is very kid friendly, and the places you want to avoid so you don’t have to answer non-age-appropriate questions are easy to avoid, as they are more or less located together. This daytrip is totally safe from that perspective. Just when you are walking down “Zeeduk,” don’t head West.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Winter crop is in

Without much of a backyard, yet a need to garden - you do with what you have.

Surrounded by farms, the house just looks naked without a few rows. The front row has the Collard Greens and the rest lettuce. The Collards are doing better.

If nothing else, they look better than weeds! (The small bush surrounded by rocks is my Gooseberry Bush).

Monday, October 16, 2006

Name that nut!

No, this isn't about the kids.

Until an unwanted blight from Asia came to the US, it's tree was one of the most common trees in the Eastern forests. Now, only a very few survive and some people are trying to save it like you would the Panda.

Well, the European version is alive, well, and all over the place. Yes, it is Chestnut season! They grow, well, like trees all over the place. Not unlike Live Oaks back home. Unlike the acorns from oaks though, these nuts you have to wait for. Their pod is a bit of a challenge.

When they are ripe, they pop out and are ready for the picking. Last weekend after a Friday night windstorm, we took off to the NATO base over the German border where there are groves of Chestnuts trees around the buildings and hangars. There are literally, tons of nuts for the taking.

Being that it was a bright, sunny day with a high in the low 60's we made a family outing of it. We kind of over did it though. We picked up about 60 pounds worth. Some were quite big, though most of those came from a tree near the bus stop.

They are about ready, and we are still trying to figure out quite how to cook them. If it doesn't quite work out no problem, we have a neighbor with a half dozen deer in her side yard who seem to like them quite well.

And yes, it is hard to get "That Song" out of my head.
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