Monday, August 13, 2012

Some Assembly Required

That could be the tag line for much of this R&R at home.  A variety of small-bore projects that always seemed to require a bit more work than they initially appeared.  There was some catch-up paperwork that took a week to get done.  The bank of juniper plants behind the house had about a gazillion weeds in it, most of which didn't show up until I was face-down in the bank.  Mowing the lawn led to pulling more weeds and trimming some trees.

Here's an example.  Before I came home, I ordered a new stereo unit for the truck that added the capability to play my iPod, as well as bluetooth for a hands-free capability with the phone.  Putting the new unit in wasn't actually that hard - it took me about twice as long as the directions estimated just because I double-checked everything, but it went right in.  Cool.  But then I realized that my speakers had all the frequency response of a mailbox.  Another order to Crutchfield and a few days later a new set of speakers showed up.  It had two to replace the ones in the front doors and two to replace the ones in the dash.  Should be an easy plug-in, right?  No.  The door speakers weren't a straight replacement.  The wires had one color-code coming off the stereo unit and a completely different one at the speakers. There were two additional pieces of electronics that needed locations where they were accessible for adjustments but wouldn't get kicked or mashed or whatever.  When I went to drill the holes for the screws, the battery for the drill was dead.  When I recharged the battery, I found out it was really dead. The wires included to hook up the door speakers were about 12" too short, requiring a trip to Radio Shack for a new roll.  When I got home, I found I'd bought a size way too small, so it was back to Radio Shack again.  The new speakers for the dash were completely different from the existing ones, so I had to figure out a way to install them without doing permanent damage to the truck.  But eventually, after many hours of work and cussing, it all came together.  The new speakers sound great, the new unit will play my iPod, and the bluetooth works well.

Not everything about this trip was work.  We went to an Asheville Tourists minor-league baseball game with our neighbors, then out to dinner at a great Mexican restaurant.  Friday night, we went downtown to check out a new restaurant and ran into some friends of ours who were also going to the restaurant.  That's one of the things I love about a small city like Asheville: you tend to run into friends everywhere you go.  We watched a lot of the Olympics, which was cool, especially since I hadn't been able to watch any TV for the past three months in Maiwand.  One thing I did not miss: political ads.  I kept the remote handy and immediately changed channels every time a political ad came on.

I also started talking with people about employment and related opportunities after Afghanistan.  There are a few interesting possibilities out there that would make use of my background and skills.  In a perfect world, I'd be able to use those skills while working (or at least being based) here at home, where I could set up an art studio again and resume making artworks that mean something to me.  I'm available after early October - anybody got any ideas?

But vacation is now over.  I'm sitting in the Asheville airport, waiting on the flight to take me to Atlanta and then to Dubai.  This will be my final stint in Afghanistan.  I'll get back to Maiwand, see what's happened while I was home drinking beer, pick up where I left off on my projects, and very soon start wrapping them up.  I'll out-process from the State Department and come home in early October.  No more deployments for this boy.  Trips, yes; deployments, no.  Time for me to spend time with my wife, my dogs, and my friends.

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