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


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

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


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.


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.