Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Name Change

Well, StrangeLand has been going strong for just around 8 years now. We have only made on personnel change in that entire time - when Karl left the band, and Jeremy joined. Since that time, we have been writing - and getting ready to release a full length CD on the world.

As we have been contemplating what form we will take - and how we plan to get out in the world and spread the metal madness - we talked about where we want to play, the type of music (Metal, of course) and how we want to stay power metal, and maybe get into some progressive elements; Jeremy really brings that out.

So we have been bantering about some names for about 5 or 6 months. Last practice we came up with a short list of 3. We are looking into legalities, making sure we aren't using a name anyone else is, copyright stuff, etc etc. All the business end of naming a band. Fun.

Anyway - I hope to have an announcement to make within the next week or so - and Jeremy will also - in his blog (check the links out on the right).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New Amp

Kevin Schmitt just picked up a new amp. Egnater Tourmaster 4100.

Wow. Oh my.
This thing kills!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Dragonforce

This was pretty cool - we ran into Herman Li after the show and he was nice enough to oblige me with a pic. He was a very nice guy - and certainly more soft spoken than when he's on stage!

Dragonforce, Turisas & Power Glove; House of Blues, Dec 8, 2008

House of Blues is a very cool venue - this was my first time there - at least to the Chicago HOB - and it was a load of fun! The venue is what you'd refer to as 'intimate' - I think maximum capacity is around 800 or so, and there are 2 balconies, and they seem to be box seats. The decorating is. . . interesting. You have to see it.

The bands playing were diverse and interesting - as interesting as it gets for metal. The first band was:
Power Glove

They describe themselves as Video Game Metal. The song titles were taken from video games from various consoles and possibly some PC games, but I think the vast majority are from Consoles - and older ones, from the 80's & 90's - like Mario Brothers, and the like. The guys were obviously having a blast - really getting the crowd into it - constantly throwing out blow up swords, blow up bats, and Starburst candy. What a hoot. They were great musicians as well - easily pulling off the intense metal runs that were bombastic, and almost thrash fast. Oh - and no vocals - other than the bassist egging on the crowd throughout the short set - but no singing or screaming or anything. No lyrics. That's a better description.

The outfits were something else. Very video gamey. I think they have started a new genre - I also think they are the only artist in that genre! Loads of fun!

Turisas:

This band from Finland was another in an interesting night! They came out all dressed in "Battle gear" - after the lead in voice over called all of us "brothers and sisters of metal" to hear the Battle Metal of Turisas!

The photo is difficult to make out everything - sorry, the Blackberry isn't a pro camera - but the band consists of vocals, bass guitar, guitar, violin, accordian (yes, that's right - metal accordian), and drums. The music was great - very catchy, reminded me of a folk-metal kind of similar to Irish drinking songs (they did have one - One More!) - but great musicianship, very energetic, and really engaged the crowd. I did learn that Finns do not like American beer - or Dutch beer. :) Oh - and the face & body paint! All the band was painted in red with black streaks from head to toe. All exposed skin was painted. Gave a very interesting effect. They certainly looked battle ready.

The Accordian and Violin really added to the folkiness of the band. My first experience with that type of music - well, other than Elvenking that I saw at ProgPower USA this year. Overall, a great performance, a great band - and lots of fun to watch.


Dragonforce:

The headlining band did not disappoint. These guys all must be downing a 6 pack each of Red Bull before going on stage - because I have never seen any other band - ever - with as much energy, and carrying out as many antics as Dragonforce!

These guys are nuts! And what a blast to watch. They are interacting with each other and the crowd constantly - you can really tell these guys like each other, because they mock each other incessantly - and make fun of each others stage moves through the entire show. The interaction between Herman Li and Sam Totman - and Frédéric Leclercq - is absolutely hilarious. It certainly doesn't hurt that these guys are phenomenal musicians.

The shredding was constant. I think the songs are just written around the guitar solos! What a blast to watch - and aspiring guitarists will be attempting to copy this for years, I'm sure.

Overall - great show. Very fun bands - and lots of laughs - as well as some jaw-dropping shredding going on. I highly recommend checking out this show if you get the chance!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Tali-Band on myspace

Yes - that is correct! We have created a Tali-Band Myspace page!

For those of you that haven't ventured down yet (as in, down the blog - to see the older posts) - I was a member of the band, affectionately known as "The Tali-Band" while I was stationed at HQ ISAF (HeadQuarters, International Security Assistance Force) Kabul, Afghanistan. The ISAF is the name of the organization set up by NATO to assist the Afghans in gaining control of their country from Al Quaida and the taliban.

Long story short, for New Years Eve 2008, some ingenious folks - that also happened to be musicians - got together and decided to come up with some entertainment for the troops stationed at HQ ISAF. The band did so well, and the crowd reacted so positively, that the band stuck around. Even thought the membership seems to change frequently, there are enough talented folks - from all over the world (or at least from NATO countries) to keep the band going. I left HQ ISAF in late May of this year - 2008 - and the band was still going strong.

Something we decided to do while I was part of the band, was record a CD, and sell T-Shirts to benefit a local charity. We picked The Women Of Hope Project, located in Kabul. The Women of Hope operate to really make a difference in the lives of the folks they help. They do not simply provide money to the needy - instead they foster self-dependance, and a steady stream of income. For women, they teach a variety of crafts, including sewing and needlepoint - where they will make dolls, clothing, pashminas, jewelry and other goods, and sell them on military bases and at markets around the country. For men, they teach carpentry and masonry. The folks in Afghanistan are hungry for change - and the desire to help themselves. Betsy and the Women of Hope make that happen!

The Tali-Band helped by recording a double CD (live and 'studio' - which was the Milano Restaraunt on base), and getting T-Shirts printed up (in Chicago, no less - thanks Windy City Screenprinting!) - and selling them to military & civilians on base.

By the time I left the country, we had raised nearly $10,000.00 for the charity (it takes $100.00US to train one man in a skill - for the women, the time is a bit longer, but difficult to put a dollar amount on).

Please visit the website, and make a donation!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Snow shot

You know, I am really not fond of snow, ice or even cold weather, for that matter.

Its not even just driving in it - which is probably the worst - but the fact that cold and ice is the enemy of bass necks, and of shiny finishes, and can hurt my precious.

Anyway - winter is here.

Yuck.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gary Sinese at the USO Gala, Navy Pier

Yup - I'm back posting again.

Here's an interesting photo from the USO Gala held at the Navy Pier a few weeks ago. My daughter I attended, and got to see some friends, lots of military, and some of the Chicago supporters. All in all - a pretty cool event.

Also, besides Bill Murrey being the MC, we got to see a wonderful cover bans - the Lt. Dan Band - with none other than Lt. Dan himself - Gary Sinese.

Great band - and was gracious enough to pose with my daughter - I'll have to get that pic from her myspace.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Back Home

I realize I haven't been doing much in the way of updating since I've been back home. I will do my best to correct this sad state of affairs. :)

As I've been back, gotten back to my job - and been able to enjoy the company of my children and my family - life is good.

I have been on vacation - courtesy of the USO - been back to 'drill' (which is what we refer to as our National Guard weekend work, our one weekend a month) a few times now, and even been able to see my replacement come back home. Or at least to the Peoria Airport (a wonderful sight - let me tell you).

I will get around to comleting those few posts that I have on 'hold' - to talk about the boxes from my mates at State Farm - the mission we went on to the girls school that was about 1/2 hour outside of Kabul, and the journey home . . . very soon.

I have about 2000 pictures to go through from my travels, and I'd like to get them in some kind of book or something. . . so many things to do.

Thanks to everyone who has been reading this. If you wouldn't mind - leave me a comment - or send an email. It doesn't seem like there are that many of you. :)

Oh - and get out there and vote. Even if you don't agree with my choice for POTUS - make yours known. This ain't a political blog. . . so, I'll leave it at that. But use your rights! That's what we are fighting for!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Saying goodbye. . . and a surprise

On one of my last days at HQ ISAF, I was finishing up my out-processing - the process of getting signatures of the various agencies that were responsible for me in various ways, around 22 total - and I had some very interesting comments. Of course I was talking to all my Tali-Band friends, and their friends that I had come to know and appreciate, but I was also saying goodbye to the merchants that had shops on base that I had done business with.

The fine military folks were well-wishing, shaking hands and wishing me good flights and travel, but the most surprising came unexpectedly. I was at the shops on Carnaby Street - the line of shops that are behind the Milano, and talked to the jewelers - #4 - as well as Bahktar, where I had bought some very nice things for my children - The Mobin Tailor - where I had a couple suits made ($80 for a custom fit suit!) - and finally Joete - where I had purchased a carpet for myself, and for my parents.

The carpets are absolutely stunning - every one. I shopped at a couple of the other carpet shops, and the carpets were much more expensive - and not as ornate, in my opinion. For example at Sami's shop, he wanted $1800 for a small silk/wool carpet. Joete's prices were much more reasonable. I found great joy in explaining to Joete that my parents loved their carpet so much that they decided instead of putting it under the table in the dining room, that they were going to remove the carpet in the living room and put the carpet there. And - no one would be allowed to eat there - and risk spilling something on the carpet! He was very proud that my parents were so happy with the carpet. As am I with mine. :)

As I came to Joete's store - the last on the block of stores on Carnaby, Joete looked surprised when I told him I would be leaving, and he grabbed me and hugged me. After - with his hand over his heart (a very common expression of gratitude in Kabul) he wished me well, his family wished me well, he wished my family well, and then he floored me . . . . "I want to say, and my family also, thank you to you. Because you come to my country - and you help my country. For that I appreciate it - and I thank you, very much."

Wow.

Totally unexpected - and completely humbling. This changes everything. This is the kind of thing they remember. Not that we were there to defeat them - or to destroy their country - no, they understand. Joete understands.

Awesome.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Leaving. . . or not

Well, leaving certainly got interesting. While I know we're in an 'austere' environment, and I know we're in a war zone, but there are happenings that can still be surprising. Like, for example, being ready to leave and being told the airport is closed due to a rocket attack. That was a wake up call. . . we are in a war zone. This shouldn't surprise me. Goodness, we'd been through bunker calls, and many of those. . . but I guess it was just making the fact that I was trying to get out of here all the more obvious.

I was all packed - had all my gear stowed, not in as few bags as I wanted - but still less than when I came. I had lots of gifts & things, so I guess its understandable. & my bass. :) So the night prior, when I'm getting my out-processing completed, I have everything in a bag, somewhere - save what I was going to wear, and certain toiletries, so I'd be ready first thing in the am. I was to leave . . . early.

I went to bed around normal time for me - about 10:30 - after Leigh, my roommate, had returned from work. He was on the 'net - so I figured I'd catch up with email in the am. No worries. I put on the iPod, and got ready to listen quietly as I fell asleep.

I slept - well, like I usually do - dead to the world, until around 0400. Then I was wide awake. I don't know why - but the last couple of weeks, I keep waking up early - for no reason, and can't get back to sleep. Ok, so I put on some tunes, and chill. At least it wasn't 0300 like a couple days ago. I decide to check a bit of email, and catch up - and then hit the shower. I get back, it's still early, so I decide to catch Scott at the shack - I had one last coin to pass out.

Maybe I should explain about the coins. Coins are a way to show someone in the military appreciation for a job well done. I picked up 5 of the ISAF coins to pass out to the guys that worked for me as a small token of appreciation for a most excellent job. They all worked very hard - and deserved something - I thought this was nice.

So I was on my way to the shack to see if I could catch Scott and give him the coin, and I saw Ken on the way there. He told me the airport was closed. . . Ok, I thought. That's a bit odd. I went in to the shack and found out it had taken a couple rockets overnight, and was closed. Wow - that's just great. I went on to find Scot - who was on the roof going over the comm info for MSgt Davis - his replacement. When a break came - after a few minutes, since they were deeply involved in a technical discussion - I 'coined' him. He was suitably impressed, and thankful. I congratulated him on a job well done, and we left the roof.

We got back downstairs and had some decisions to make, some discussions we needed to have, and some coordinating to find out - when we were leaving!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Queen's Day




The Dutch have a Queen's day celebration, and we were all invited -and the band was asked to play - so of course, we accepted. We even learned Radar Love, as it turns out, Golden Earring is from The Hague.



The party started earlier than we were to play, so we took a bit to wander around the Distille Gardens and see what all was happening. There was traditional dutch food, which was quite tasty, even the pickled herring! Very good. There were also other treats, a rye like very heavy bread, and some desserts. They also had some traditional games - like the jeans hang, and some type of jousting that was done with pillows over a pool of water.



The folks were very friendly, and the band was rocking. Here's some photos from the event to enjoy.





Oh- as a side note, we had our CD's for sale for the first time at this event. We sold out fairly quickly as we only had 200 made (2 cd's each - a live and a no crowd live/studio). Along with donations, we made over $1500.00US for Women of Hope Project. I'd call that a success!

T-shirts are also in. We should be selling them this Thursday at the Canadians Casino Night!

Trip to KAIA

I, personally, like adventure. Not crazy stuff - but doing something different - going somewhere cool - seeing something unusual. Regular stuff. Here in Afghanistan - believe it or not - there is beauty everywhere. Every morning I'm in awe - no matter which way I walk, I'm walking towards a mountain. Beautiful - absolutely stunning.

We had a little accident about a month ago - the NCOIC - Ken - was playing on the vollyball league against the French team, I think - who had a couple professional players! - and the ball hit him just right and broke his finger in 2 places. Of course, he didn't know this at the time - just thought it was out of joint - since it was bent at a right angle away from his hand. Looked pretty nasty. Well - he had it looked at by the doc on base, but the doc sent him to KAIA (Kabul International Airport) to have the surgeons/docs/nurses there check it out - since they had an x-ray machine, and we don't have on on HQ ISAF.

We arrived, and departed from the shuttle area, knowing we needed to return in 4 hours, and started walking in the direction we thought the hospital was. As we were walking, we saw a couple soldiers and a civilian, so we asked if they could point us in the general vicinity. The civilian - Australian, offered to just take us, and he did.

The hospital reminded me of M.A.S.H. - the TV show. It was a big green tent. As we walked in through the first flap, I could see 3 openings to leave through - one was a dentist area, one was blocked off, and a third where the nurses came from. These were Croatian ladies, officers, in camouflage, with a very limited command of English. However, they were very helpful and friendly, which made everything much easier. Ken got in to see the doc immediately - obviously no silly insurance questions here, in a war zone, and I waited in the waiting. . . . area.

When he returned, he confirmed - his finger was broken, and in two places. That means a return trip. Since we had been here now a total of about 40 minutes, and he was completely done, we had some time to kill. We walked over to the coffee shop and got a drink, and Ken decided he wanted to take himself out for a massage. Great idea - and good birthday gift! He went to do that, I went to see the shops.

The shops were identical to the shops at HQ ISAF - same kinds of things, a rug shop or 4, a shop with only pashmina's, an 'antique' shop, and various others. I got a German soccer team shirt, and a Pashmina for mom (a nice one, too), and hit a couple of the BX's. We finished up with lunch at the Italian place, which I treated Ken to, since it was his birthday, and loaded up to head out.

As we were driving back, we took some video. . . very interesting city - Kabul. Probably the most interesting item, was the cloud of smoke we saw some 100 yards off as we exited the airport. I learned later that was a fatal IED. Really made me glad we didn't take that exit out of the Airport. And made me call my kids. . . tell them I love them. . . and really consider how close to "War" I really am. Sobering.

Here's some of the video we shot driving through Kabul:

video

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tali Band cd. . .

When we decided to do a CD - we had to find a charity to donate to, because being military, we can't 'make money' off of it, and we weren't interested in that anyway. We decided to donate everything made to a very worth cause - the Women of Hope Project, located right here in Kabul. Please visit the website - Women of Hope Project Website .

I will post the CD cover when done (getting close) - and maybe even a few samples! :)

It was all recorded live by Lucky (Damon) our guitar player, right here at HQ ISAF.

T-Shirts are on their way as well. . . so if anyone would like to order - email me!

Friday, April 25, 2008

BBQ at the shack!




Today - April 19, was cool. . . TSgt Lambert set up a BBQ for us at the shack!! Whoot!

We had charcoal, and a decent BBQ grill donated to us by the NSE (Nation Support Element). MSgt Bixby and MSgt Mahoy cleaned it up - and got to cooking.

Chris did a lot of back end work to get all the permits (for the 'fire') and all the sign offs by our commander. Then he had to go get the foodstuffs from the DFac, cause its not like theres a grocery store here. So we got chicken & steak, they made us up a very nice potato salad, and a nice vegetable salad - peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. It was all very nice. Lt. Limp Biscuit went and got some Cokes, which was very nice of him - and the guys really appreciated it. I covered the charcoal, and the LtCol paid me back half - the officers generally do cover some of this stuff - at least we try to.

After we had the food cooked & guys started digging in, MG Kennedy & Chief Blietz stopped over. They enjoyed the food, and we had some good discussions. I can't really emphasize enough how much of a difference it can make to work with such great folks. Both the General and Chief are great folks - friendly, talkative, and genuinely interested in talking with us. And talk about a wealth of experience - these two guys alone could fill volumes of books.

As many things in life, this was a bit bittersweet - in that it was planned only a few days before our UK team members would be leaving theater. So Borgs, Frankie & JC were on the way out, and Laura, Chris & Lee were on the way in. All being present at least, they all got to hang for a bit with us. Charlie was able to present them with a couple small token gifts to remember us & Afghanistan by. . . . he presented them with a couple temple alarm clocks. . . the sound being a Muslim "call to prayer" instead of an alarm!! The call to prayer is something that is played over loudspeakers in the city here daily, starting around 5am. I hear it many times each day, and although it's not blaringly loud - you can certainly hear it - especially in the quite times - like at night or early morning.

The best part was teaching the Brits how to throw a football in a spiral. I can claim no expertise personally - but was good fun. :)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Afghan party at the Distille Gardens

To start with, the Distille Gardens at HQ ISAF is a bit of an anomaly. It's a garden setting, behind a nice wall away from the main road, with a park like ambiance. It's very nice - and not at all something you'd expect to see on a military base! Here's some pics. . .











What an interesting experience! Today, we had an "Afghan party" thrown by all the Afghan merchants from here on base, where there was traditional Afghan food, music and even a rug making demonstration. Pretty cool.

Walking around, in the garden, was just a surreal experience. Here we are, in Afghanistan - a war torn country - experiencing the culture in a way that most folks will never see. Especially the diverse people that were walking around here that night! Brits, Kiwis, Germans, Dutch, Finns, Australians - it was simply amazing.

More pics from the evening.


Second gig with the Tali Band [March 30]




The first gig with the band was good - but the second was even better. Now, this is back from around March 30, so I apologize for the lateness. . . This was the monthly "birthday gig". Every month the Milano Restaurant has a 'party' for everyone on base that has a birthday. Free meal, some gifts (yes, they have a drawing) and live music. Pretty good food too, I'm told!

I was more comfortable with the material, felt like we were tighter with the music - and the crowd was very into it - which always makes us want to do better!



Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hail & Farwell to the Kiwi's

Went to a "Hail & Farwell" last night for the guys we affectionately call the "Kiwi's". The Kiwis are the guys from New Zealand. Mark, the previous bass player from the Tali Band is from New Zealand.

The evening started off with a small, but diverse group, gathered in the Garden. I remember Germans, Brits, Italians, Romanians, Estonians, Canadians, a couple of us US folks, Kiwis, and Austrailians. It was pretty laid back, folks just chatting, talking, sharing stories. I met Jon - the Tali Band guitar player, and G$, Joe and Sheyla all came later. The food was good - steaks, ribs & chicken all grilled out, with some salads, & ecouterments.

The Colonel - the ranking Kiwi gave a speech prior to eating, thanking everyone and inviting the guys to speak - which they politely declined. So we ate, continued to mill about and talk, and the beer started to flow. Of course, us USAF folks, few in number, all declined. Then, after most folks had finished eating, the Colonel again spoke, but this time, the guys decided to talk.

I don't recall his name, but the first Kiwi that spoke up began his talk with a Haka - which I had never seen before. A Haka is a traditional Maori war chant - the Maori being the indiginous people of New Zealand. It was very intense - the language was unfamiliar to me, but sounded pacific. There was loud chanting, rythymic, slapping of his thighs, and grunts - lots of hand gestrures and movement. It was very cool - to say the least. Very cool. When he finished - Mark spoke, thanking folks. Then Chris spoke - even gave Jon a Kiwi hat, as they had become pretty good friends (asked Jon, "Ok, where's mine?" - to much laughter and applause).

After Chris spoke, the first Kiwi did another, more animated, louder Haka. Wow. Very very cool. I was completely amazed.

I found out a bit more about it talking to Sheyla after he finished. She has been to New Zealand several times, and had seen a number of them, so she explained the signifigance, and history of the Haka a bit. I felt honored to have been witness to this.

Monday, April 14, 2008

iTunes


StrangeLand has our music up on iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon MP3 - and more.

Check out our tunecore page for more info: StrangeLand on Tunecore

Enjoy!

NATO Medal

Medals are a pretty common way to pay tribute to a soldiers commitment, will, and actions during war time. The Air Force is very good about giving out what we refer to as Awards & Decs - or Awards and Decorations.

NATO is similar. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has medals of their own - of which I am now a recipient.
Looking back at history, there have been some pretty amazing people that have received this award. And looking at who pinned my medal on, Major General Kevin Kennedy, I'm very proud to be wearing it.

A pretty cool ceremony as well. We (those of us receiving the medal) were lined up in formation. We were there just about an hour early to get ready, and there was every nation in NATO present - I was next to a USAF Lt. on one side, and a German Major on the other. In front of me was a USA sergeant - but all around were folks from the Netherlands, Romania, Italy, Great Briton, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Norway. . . just everywhere you can think of.

The whole "medal parade" was being run by the camp Sergeant Major - who is Dutch, so when the Generals arrived (6 of them) and the procession started, and we were introduced to the COMISAF - General McNeil, the Dutch national anthem played. The Generals then went down the lines and pinned the medals on us.

I enjoy the pomp and circumstance of military processions sometimes. This was one of them. A very cool experience.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Carpet in Afghanistan


Carpet is one of the oldest and most famous exports of Afghanistan. I'm finding that there are designs that are common to certain areas, and that certain colors are from certain areas. The skill seems to be passed down in families, and the skill has developed such that the carpets from Afghanistan are world renowned for their quality, beauty and long life.




I've had the opportunity to see many different carpets here, not only in the shops on base, but at the bazaar on Fridays - there are probably 4 shops here on base, but there are more like 15 at the bazaar! That's a lot of carpets!



The prices depend on a few different factors - quality, workmanship, depth of the weave, and materials. These often go hand in hand. The easiest to look at is what materials are used. From lowest (cheapest) to highest quality, you have camel wool, lambs wool, Chinese Silk, and finally Persian Silk.



I've bought carpet here, and now I picked up one for mom and dad as well. Very nice - a bit expensive, but not near as expensive as it would be if you bought it back home in the US. Of course, I'm not the guy spending $3,000.00 on some carpet either - and if you want it - that is here too. The Persian silk is very nice - and very pricey. And if you want to spend that much, brother, they will let you. No problem. You will even get "friend price" - as everyone else does.


It is nice that even though there is a war going on, and there are parts of the country that are just decimated - there is still beauty. The colors you see in this carpet - its almost outrageous how beautiful they are. They are made here. In this land.


Awesome.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Old vs. New

Well, it seems as if the new Air Force has finally caught up with us. At least via our method of dress. Yes - we have the new uniforms.

When we deployed, we were sent in what is referred to as the DCU's - or Desert Combat Uniform. Just rolling out over the past, maybe 6 months, is the new Air Force 'work' uniform - replacing the BDU - or Battle Dress Uniform - is the ABU - or Airman Basic Uniform. Yes - so many acronyms.

Here's me in the DCU:





And here I am in the new ABU:

So what are the differences? Well, to start with, the DCU is a summer weight uniform - it's lighter and less wind resistant, so it's easier to wear in the heat. That being said, the inverse is also true - it does little to keep you warm in the cold. But its not meant to. The uniform cut and fit is exactly like the BDU's - same pockets, same holes for 'stuff' - like pens, notebook, etc - so the fit is very famliar. The BDU has summer and winter weight uniform materials. The ABU on the other hand, is a winter weight uniform - so heavier and not as breathable.

The ABU also has new items - the fit is more 'civilian' - so that it should be easier to know what size you need - just like jeans & jacket sizes. Kind of - but not exactly. There are way more pockets - starting with an inside pocket (in the jacket) - both sides, a pen pocket on the sleeve by the cuff (handy!!!), and lower pockets on the legs.

Overall - not a bad uniform. But I wonder why, unlike most other countries, we can't have one uniform for all the services? Army, Air Force and Marines all have different uniforms. I think the Navy just uses our old stuff. :)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Hoo Rah!

Ok, I'm going to go against my tradition here a bit, and upload this today, while it's still fresh (and yes, probably add older stuff for a bit, til I catch up) - because this is so cool.




As a bit of background, these folks are friends of mine from State Farm - some of us work together, some of us have been there for a while now together - and Brad even went and got his TSgt USAF uniform together! Bravo!
Thanks guys - this is truly cool, and inspirational.
:)

Cheers!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

First Gig!















The date finally came, and I got ready for my first gig with the Tali-Band. I'd been practicing with them for the last few weeks - and we had a couple weeks between gigs, so I think I was ready. :) One issue arose - that being that the night of our first gig there would be no alcohol served. Now - I'm not a big drinker - and I'm not an abstainer - but I know that when we play and folks are able to relax & drink - things go well. That's just how it is, my simple observation, nothing more.

So tonight was a bit more. . . reserved. Even the Spaniards were mellow! Ok, on to some pics from the night - and I'll try to explain as we go. . .


Here's the long view. Starting on the left - you've got John Bogart, on lead guitar. If you are wondering - yes, he is related to Tim - from Vanilla Fudge. Rocking guitar player - and he likes metal. We have fun. :) Between John and the tall guy is DJ - the drummer. Man - can that guy beat the skins!!! Has to be one of the better drummers I've ever played with - yes, that good. The guy is just amazing. Tall guy is Joe Rodriguez - he's the de facto leader of the band, more or less. To Joe's right is Cynthia Moore - what a fireball she is - there's a lot of (killer) voice in that little frame! She certainly has some soul in her! Then me - on the right there. With the bass neck. . . .


Yup - there I am. :)


























Ok, here's a good front shot of the band. On the far left there you can see Sheyla Desault, trombonist par excellent, and near by behind her is "Big" Jim Hutton.

And off to the right there - is G$. That's pronounced "Gee Money". Cause he's so money. . . .


Great - and talented - group of folks.

I never would have guessed in a million years that I would meet such a talented group of folks in a war zone. And made some great friends - and memories I will treasure forever. :)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Day in the Groundhog

I wanted to go through and discuss what a ‘normal’ day is like – including the special days, like Friday – which they call “NATO” Friday – or ____ Off Friday – since Friday is the Muslim version of our Sunday – what they consider a holy day. Most folks either don’t work at all on Fridays or work only half days. Of course, the war continues – but I think that’s obvious. :) Now, we don’t get days off. We work every day – same schedule – so that’s why it becomes more like Groundhog Day for us here. Not much changes day to day.

However – there are certainly ways to gauge the day based on what is happening on base. For example… Sunday is chapel. Now, this is not your normal, run-by-a-chaplain military base chapel. Nope. There is no ‘protestant’ chaplain on HQ ISAF – to start with. I’ve heard that there is a Catholic Chaplain, but haven’t met him. No – out chapel is run by the laymen. We have Jon, a major from the UK Army, that typically leads the singing – unless of course SFC Handren is in town. WOW – that guy can sing! He has such a deep clear voice – sometimes I just like to hear how he’s singing the songs as opposed to singing with him. Then there’s the US Navy Commander that plays the songs on his computer as we sing along. Now, often Major Jon is seen as the ‘leader’ of the chapel, at least by me. And he will preach occasionally. But the special treat is when MG Kennedy preaches. His knowledge of the Bible is absolutely stunning. His depth and breadth of knowledge is indeed formidable. The man is. . .wise. I don’t know very many men I would call wise. Some wise-guys – sure, but actually wise – few and far between. MG Kennedy is wise. Another interesting tidbit would be that, were we under the auspices of the Afghan law, we would be breaking it – as preaching Christianity is illegal in Afghanistan. Or at least it used to be.

Monday through Wednesday – Groundhog Day – all the same. Thursday night – now that’s party night. Typical signs that its Friday morning on ISAF – vomit on the ground outside the Cadillacs – typically smelling very much like beer; rumors about bunker 5 and a certain nation’s men engaging in what I believe is against NATO policy (I won’t go into that – plus there’s no proof); ‘some’ shops being closed – but not consistently; folks not being at work; the post office on base only being opened from 0930 – 1100 – and only for pickup; the chow hall not opening until 7 – but staying open until 10 (for ‘brunch’); and there are others. Thursday night is the big ‘party’ – for some folks (not all) – and Friday is the NATO holiday.

Saturday and Sunday? Well, outside of having chapel on Sunday nights, the weekend is just pretty much like every other day – nothing different. Everything is open, mail is open – you know, it’s a bit odd getting mail on a Sunday, but you get used to it – all the shops are open, and nothing really stops.

Maybe that’s part of the insanity of war – no days off. That’s why after WWII (or was it I) the world went to a 5 day work week. Maybe that’s when vacations started. Maybe that’s when calling in sick started. I don’t know – but it certainly is a different reality to get used to.

Ok, back to work. . . it’s. . . .

Yup.

Groundhog day.