Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More Randomness

I got a haircut the other day. Iraqi barbers are just like American ones: they yabber away among themselves the whole time they're snipping away at your hair. And they make sure that some of your curly locks land on top of your nose and tickle the hell out of it until you can sneak a hand out from under the sheet. Our barbers have two real barber's chairs and one that looks remarkably like the chairs that are in all of our offices, complete with those little wheels. Iraqi barbers have one little trick that I've never run across anywhere else: the string. Yes, it's a string. They wind it up around their fingers and use it to pluck extraneous hairs out of your eyebrows and ears and anywhere else those extraneous hairs pop up. Don't ask me how they do it. I always have my eyes scrunched shut and have never actually watched. Suffice to say, it feels weird but it's effective.

Coming back from the DFAC tonight, walking along the street, we came across a street urchin selling DVD's at two for $5. We all bought two or four each, including me. Yes, they're black market, but as a wise sage that I worked with in Sarajevo once said, "a black market is better than no market at all". And nobody is a better salesman than a cute little kid with a woebegone expression.

I've been battling bureaucratic stupidity ever since I got here. I had a security clearance when I worked at the Embassy. When I came to work in DoD, we all thought my clearance would transfer right over. We thought wrong. The State Department and DoD don't share a common security database, and evidently it is impossible for some DoD clerk to sit down and type the same information from one database into another - this despite the fact that there's a law on the books requiring them to be able to do that. So we've had to elevate this to some ridiculously high level in Washington where it has languished for three months now. My Army clerk told me that it was quicker just to do a brand-new security investigation, even though one was just completed on me in January! Not only that, the new investigation would be done by the very same people who did the first one! I ask you, does this make sense? (You: "NOOOOOOO!!") So, faced with lack of movement at some high level in DoD, I submitted the paperwork to start another security investigation. Last week I was told that they couldn't process the forms because my fingerprints were taken on an SF86 card when they should have been done on an SF87. We're beyond the realm of the ridiculous now, into the world of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone: the only difference between the two forms is a slight re-arrangement of data boxes. Your tax dollars at work.

More bureaucratic bumbling: My command is going to move in a few weeks from the International Zone to our new digs out at Victory Base (which is out at the airport). For some reason, this means that we have to have a new zip code. So even though we're only going five miles or so down the road, and all our mail comes in and out of Victory Base now, just like it will then, we have to have a new zip code. And our postal operation closed down today to start the move. When did they finally tell us what our new zip code will be? Today. Really thoughtful and considerate support for those of us who have magazine subscriptions, huh? The Navy sends ships all over the world, all the time, has for years, and doesn't need zip code changes - why does the Army need a change just to go five miles down the road? Boggles the mind.

One good-news story: our DFAC has suddenly had plenty of peanut butter Clif bars. I've been stocking up - ya never know how long the supply will last!

Some of our people put out bread crumbs and other goodies for the birds. We have tons of little brown sparrows around here, along with those dark gray rats-with-wings (we have rats-without-wings, too). Anyway, there was a mother sparrow and her little one, and the mom was teaching junior about foraging. The little one would peck on the ground a few times and then look up at mom and open its beak wide, then mom would give it a treat, and junior would wiggle all over with excitement. Cutest thing I've seen in ages.


  1. Dear Skip,

    Still enjoy checking in on your blog now and again. You have a real sense of being human in a very trying atmosphere. Be safe.


    Chris Hield

  2. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 07/16/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  3. It is called "threading". This is the first I've run across men doing it in a barbershop but women have used threads to remove ladies upper lip hair and to shape eyebrows for centuries. I think it is more common for 3rd world countries - as you only need thread - not tweezers or wax. My coworker is from India and she does a great job with shaping eyebrows. I am an RN now but was a cosmetologist in an earlier incarnation but they didn't teach us the technique. Quite effective isn't it? Take care. Lorraine