Thursday, February 23, 2006


Too lazy to write. A picture is worth 1000 words, apparently. It takes me about 2 hours to write 1000 meaningful words. So I just saved myself (and you all) tons of time!

250,000 or so people in the stands watching the Daytona 500 Nextel Cup Race

Most of these people drove to Daytona (imagine the traffic). And plenty of those that drove, drove RVs (and then probably bitched about the cost of gas).

Blissfully oblivious of all the commotion in the area, Xander spent his Daytona 500 sleeping on the stairs.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

An Update

I had a doctor's appointment today, just a normal follow-up one. I'm extremely pleased to inform the world that the MRI of my brain turned up marvelously (yes, I do have brain!); my blood test results are excellent; my weight is at a lower range of normal (for my height, age, and the proximity of my house/work to fast food places); and my bodyfat percentage is 19%! Isn't all this simply swell?!!!

In other news, Chris is still in Savannah. And I'm still trying to get over a little cold (or maybe a flu). Jimmy Johnson won the Daytona 500. Xander's grown a bit bigger. Elenora moved out of our house and into her own little studio apartment. Tanya got a cat, Boris, at a shelter and is now busy taking care of his health problems.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Army Annual Training - Part 2

I've made it back home last Saturday. Boy, am I happy to be back! Actually, our Annual Training (AT) wasn't too bad. The first week was slow and boring since we didn't have anything to do. But that's how port operations are in general; vessels get delayed, stuff happens. But when it rains, it pours! So the second week we were extremely busy offloading three vessels in a row.
But please, don't be thinking that we were breaking our backs lifting and carrying stuff or driving vehicles off the ramps. It's all done by civilians now. What do we get to do? Not much, really. We supervise. Mostly it's just standing around watching the civilian contractors do things and writing down the number of pieces of cargo they offloaded and the amount of time it took them. That's how they get paid. Another aspect of our job is to tell these civilians where to put the offloaded cargo so it is segregated by final destination. Each piece of cargo has a shipment label on it, very much like the ones on UPS and FedEx boxes, with a unique Transportation Control Number and whole bunch of other information about the piece. Well, these have to be scanned with handheld scanners that look very much like the ones at a Wal-Mart store. Then the information is fed into a big computer system that allows us to keep track of cargo at all times (ideally, of course). It's not a strenious job, scanning things. It's pretty much a point-and-shoot operation and a slow one as well.
But I wasn't doing any of this. My job is to make sure that all the hazardous cargo, such as oxygen cylinders, fire extinguishers, and gas residue in fuel cans, is properly marked, labeled, placarded, segregated, documented, and in general made safe to transport. When a vessel is being loaded, it is a pain in the neck kind of job. But it's not so bad on the offload. It does involve a lot of leg work. Hazmat certified specialists are always in short supply. I had to be everywhere - walking the decks of the ships, the container yard, the rail yard, and all the equipment staging areas. The Army doesn't make it any easier on you either. Consider this - my computer was in one building, but a copy machine and a fax were in a totally different building, 50 yards away. 50 yards sure don't sound like much until you have to walk back and forth twenty times every day.
I was still pretty happy doing this. It's really a very interesting job, working with hazmat. Makes you feel important and valued. I spent most of my days outside and that was a welcome change after months of working from home. Plus I had to work with many different people face to face: representatives from Army units, Coast Guards, civilian contractors, vessel crew. At my normal job I get to interact mostly with my cat and my computer screen, day after day after day. In short, I had so much fun that I didn't even mind getting up at 4:30-5 in the morning or work long days if necessary or even being out in the cold most of the day.
But I'm still glad to be home! First of all, I enjoy spending time with Chris and Xander way too much. And then, as I mentioned, the food was absolutely terrible. We had to eat at Denny's on a very limited budget for two whole weeks! Try to beat that! The last couple of days we didn't even bother going because we counldn't stand the same old grease any longer.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Army Annual Training - Part 1

I am not ignoring my blog or my promises of writing more stories. But I am away on a Army-sponsored trip to Jacksonville, FL. That's where our annual training is this year. Yes, it is not as exciting as some of our past training events (i.e. Holland and Germany), but it's not without its benefits. First of all, we've "been there, done that", so the stress level is way down. And second of all, we're only a couple of hours away from Daytona Beach. So Chris will be able to come up here for a day or two.

So far we haven't been busy at all. It's mostly because there's nothing to do right now. It's always like that with port operations. A couple of ships that we were supposed to work on are running behind schedule and will not arrive for another couple of days or so. And so for now our schedule is pretty relaxed. But don't you think that we just sit around the hotel and watch the TV. No way! Instead, we do go to a port every day for short classes on things such as contract supervision, RFIDs, and various equipment and software that Army uses to track its cargo shipments.

So far the one thing that totally sucks is food. We eat breakfast and dinner at a Denny's restaurant. We are not a very big group, but it takes at least an hour for breakfast and two hours for dinner - that's how slow the service is. And the food is terrible. Denny's menu is extremely unhealthy and not very diverse to begin with. But this particular Denny's can't make even this limited selection appealing. I will try to take some pictures of the food to put here. For now let me just say that the scrambled eggs are never cooked through, the french fries are served cold, the Coke-Cola float looks like raw sewage, and the pancakes are half-raw. On top of everything we are limited in our budget. We can't get anything over $6.50 for breakfast and $8.00 for dinner. That limits our selection even further.

But that's nothing compared to box lunches. Words fail me when I try to describe them. I'm going to just put a picture here. But I pitty the fool that really has to rely on them for lunch or dinner. Anyway, we don't eat anything out of these boxes except for trail mixes and crakers. Oh, and bottled water.

There's really nothing around our hotel. There's a Wendy's in the parking lot and sometimes we go there. Other than that, there is nothing around for miles and miles. And we don't have our cars here. So we're kind of trapped. Have I mentioned that so far we've seen 3 roaches in our room? (Yes, I have a roommate, but she's cool). I will continue these notes tomorrow if I am not eaten by hungry roaches.