27. February 2009 · 6 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

I’ve been getting a number of care packages from my family and friends. Dave and the boys, my in-laws, Paul’s family and Wendy’s family have all sent goodies and they’ve all been awesome. The snacks, books, magazines and drink mixes have been greatly appreciated!

This post today is about one particular…unusual…item I received at the end of January.

A Chia Pet.

And not just any Chia Pet:

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

How cool is this? It came from Paul and his family and I was very excited to get it. Folks who work near me who saw me unwrap it agree: it’s a cool gift! Paul and his wife Louise must have been sympathetic after reading how excited I was about a pathetic little patch of foliage — the first I had seen after several days here.

I’d given Dave a Chia Homer before, 2-3 Christmases ago. I remember the issues we had keeping his head completely filled with water, the very top of the head is higher than the water outlet, so the very top of the head never gets any water and therefore doesn’t grow.

Sounds like a challenge to me!

So here we go! I started this project in Feb 1st, so you’ll see 4 weeks worth of growth! It’s like one of my traditional craft blog posts! Fun fun fun!

First things first: GO SOAK YOUR HEAD! As is always the case with terra cotta, a good soaking will help the pot retain moisture.

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

I had difficulty finding a container to use, but with some ingenuity, I come up with this:

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

See how nicely Homer fits inside?

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

Next, we start the seed mixture soaking. Chia puts the seed in some sort of stuff so that when you soak it, it becomes a gel that will adhere to the terra cotta easier.

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

…and you let that stuff soak for a “few” hours. I had instructions that said “overnight” and the seed packet said “1 hour”. So I went middle-of-the-road and let it soak for the duration of my weather shift, probably about 9 hours.

So now spread the seed gel stuff over Homer’s head:

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

And there you have it — Homer’s Gellin’ (2 Feb):

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

Now enjoy some time-lapse photos of Homer’s growth, starting with 4 Feb:

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

6 Feb:

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer
From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

8 Feb — yeah I started remembering to rotate him after seeing this directional growth:

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

9 Feb (do you sense a lack of lighting?):

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer
From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

Let me pause here and address the lighting issue. You see, Homer is a thirsty son-of-a-gun. I was giving him some 4 oz. of water per day, so I needed to keep him in plain sight so I can remember to water him. Unfortunately, I work overnight, so Homer spent time in a flourscent-lit room while I work, and I kept the room dark during the day while I sleep.

It was at about this point that I told myself “Forget that!” and moved him to the windowsill on the OTHER SIDE of my light-blocking curtain.

The point of this picture below is to show how sparse the growth is on the top of the head. As mentioned earlier, Homer is thirsty, so the seeds at the very top seldom were watered, it was very difficult to keep the water levels that high.

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

13 Feb — looking a bit like Don King:

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

After moving to the window, Homer started doing MUCH better. Unfortunately, I can’t enjoy him the same since he remains on the other side of the curtain from me.

27 Feb:

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

Showing the root growth down the back of Homer’s neck!:

From 2009 01 31 ChiaHomer

So now what? With all the growth, it’s now more difficult to keep Homer watered. He’s consuming 6+ oz. of water every 24 hours, in part from evaporation through the terra cotta, in part from what the foliage requires.

I’m probably going to scrub down Homer and start again for the month of March, this time taking better advantage of the sunlight on the other side of the curtain earlier in the process.

That should leave enough seed for Paul to generate his own oxygen source once he gets here in the next few weeks.

22. February 2009 · 8 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

I got this from Christina of Sugar Sweet Thoughts <http://christinagblogspot.blogspot.com/2009/02/100-life-experiences.html>, who got it from Must Love Tots <http://mustlovetots.blogspot.com/2009/02/lifes-experiences.html> who got this from Scientific Nature of the Whammy <http://www.snotw.com/2009/02/100-life-experiences.html> who got this from Megan <http://newlywednewlybredinne.blogspot.com/> .

It looked like fun, so here goes! Hopefully no identity theft issues with this one… Not sure what an identity thief or potential terrorist will do with the fact that I've never gone skinny dipping but have run a marathon.

RULES: There are 100 statements and you bold or distinctify the ones you have done. Grab it and play for yourself!! We have no idea what happened to #11…

(Major Mom's Note: There are 12 European vacation references in this list! There is ONE in Asia, I definitely sense a BIAS here! Despite that, it's a diverse list.)

*1. Started your own blog

*2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band

*4. Visited Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower

*6. Given more than you can afford to charity.

7. Been to Disneyland

*8. Climbed a mountain.

*9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sang a solo

12. Visited Paris

*13. Watched a lightning storm at sea

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child

*16. Had food poisoning

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

*18. Grown your own vegetables

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

*20. Slept in an overnight train

*21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitchhiked

23. Taken a sick day when you're not ill

24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping

*27. Run a marathon

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

*29. Seen a total eclipse (solar)

*30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run

*32. Been on a cruise

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors

*35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught yourself a new language

*37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

*39. Gone rock climbing

40. Seen Michelangelo's David

*41. Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant

44. Visited Africa

*45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

*46. Been transported in an ambulance

*47. Had your portrait painted

48. Gone deep sea fishing

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

*51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

*52. Kissed in the rain

*53. Played in the mud

55. Been in a movie

*56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen

*61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

62. Gone whale watching

*63. Got flowers for no reason

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

*67. Bounced a check

*68. Flown in a helicopter

*69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

*70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

*71. Eaten caviar.

*72. Pieced a quilt

*73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book

81. Visited the Vatican

*82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

*84. Had your picture in the newspaper

85. Read the entire Bible

*86. Visited the White House

*87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

*88. Had chicken pox

89. Saved someone's life

90. Sat on a jury

*91. Met someone famous

*92. Joined a book club

*93. Lost a loved one

*94. Had a baby

*95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a lawsuit

*98. Owned a cell phone

*99. Been stung by a bee

*100. Read an entire book in one day

I went out shopping at the “Villagio” mall yesterday with Rose. As expected, I wasn’t able to take that many photos, since we’re advised not to get natives into our photographs.

I did a little bit of shopping — H&M had some pretty head scarves that I could wear as non-head scarves (i.e., around my neck). But mostly it was awesome to window shop with Rose, the stores there cover the entire spectrum of shopping experiences, from Claire’s jewelry all the way to Chopard! We had a fun lunch at a Mediterreanean lounge, mezzahs and chicken sandwiches. Then we just wandered for the afternoon.

I got to pay a visit to the Carrefour store, which I had mentioned previously is a French-owned “hypermart” chain, like Walmart. No, like Super Walmart! So I browsed the grocery section and came across something I hadn’t had since I got here…

Orange juice!

For some reason, the juice selection at the dining facilities has been lacking. They have one of those from-concentrate dispenser machines that sometimes works, and the one time I successfully got juice out of it…the juice was brown. Ew?

You can buy shelf-stable juice (i.e., not in the refrigerated section) at the BX, but at Carrefour, they had full-fledged dairy, meats, produce, etc. I decided I’d pick up a carton of fresh orange juice.

That was harder than I thought. The juices were mostly blends of mango, strawberry, apple, pineapple, lemon and orange juices. They all seemed delicious, but I was on a mission.

And then I found it:

From 2009 02 17 Villagio_BilingualSigns

Oops…let me turn the carton around for you:

From 2009 02 17 Villagio_BilingualSigns

Jackpot! I was a good girl and only took one carton, though I was tempted to get about 10 of them! I love orange juice — especially the super-pulpy stuff. The rest of the family prefers the less-pulp kind (to quote Dave: “I don’t want to chew my orange juice”), so I usually enjoy super-thick juices when I’m on my own.

Then I noticed the price: 14 Qatari Riyals. That came to about $4.25 for the 1/2 gallon carton!


But I don’t care — I have my OJ and today I’ve enjoyed to nice 8 oz. glasses (okay, plastic cups) of the liquid sunshine!

One of the things I did take pictures of today were the signs for many of the western companies as translated into Arabic. In fact, visit the original photo album and you can play the “what American company is it?” game with some of the signs…

I might be tempted to sneak in one more glass — er, cup — of juice before I head to sleep this afternoon.

14. February 2009 · Comments Off on Meanwhile…Back at the Ranch… · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

The kids (and that means Dave too) were enjoying their first “workable” snow of the season.

What does “workable” mean? It means snow angels that didn’t blow away, plus snowmen and snow forts!

Enjoy the slideshow!

This is my attempt to share a video I took about 1/2 hour after the first wall of dust and wind hit us here on the 11th. Visibility was about 1/10 of a mile and the winds were from the northwest at 35-40 knots.
It takes a REALLY long time to upload a video to You Tube from here, so this is a Google Picasa attempt.

Click on it and see what happens…also feel free to view the rest of the pictures from this album here. I didn’t take many, conditions weren’t great for the camera.

The wind has died down considerably today, but the dust is still suspended in about the lowest 500 feet. Visibilities are up to about 3 miles, but dust is still getting everywhere, including my laptop as I type this. Don’t fret, Dave sent me plenty of canned air and computer cleansing wipes.

12. February 2009 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

As many of you might remember from my days in Deidre’s Bookclub, I typically don’t read fast. I was lucky if I could get around to finishing the club’s book of the month!
Not so here! I’m able to read 1-2 hours per day and I am absolutely blasting through so many books I’ve wanted to read for years and years!
Enjoy this list. I’m maintaining this list on my iPhone’s notepad function and I can email it into my blog as it grows. Today I start a new book, Predator by Patricia Cornwell.
Books Read on this Deployment
(includes date completed)
1.) The Marching Season, Daniel Silva: 16 Jan 09
2.) Angels and Demons, Dan Brown: 20 Jan 09
3.) Deception Point, Dan Brown: 25 Jan 09
4.) The Other Boleyn Girl, Phillipa Gregory: 3 Feb 09
5.) Marley & Me, John Grogan: 5 Feb 09
6.) Cruel and Unusual, Patricia Cornwell: 11 Feb 09

12. February 2009 · Comments Off on Dust Storm, Day 2: Wheres the Pledge? · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

The dust storm continues. It isn’t as windy as yesterday, only gusting up to about 25 instead of 35 knots. But the chalky goodness is still flooding down from Syria and Iraq.
I’m usually the first to admit that I haven’t truly forecast the weather in a really long time and on this trip I tend to leave the serious science to our talented and capable NCOs. I’m a communicator and manager of the weather and weather-resources here.
That being said, today I actually felt pretty strongly that the dust here was going to continue several hours longer than originally forecast and I’m very glad that those of us who felt that way were able to convince those who thought we’d be back to sunny skies by now.
We were right! We’ll experience this dustiness through sunset, most likely. There were some who thought the dust would clear up right after sunrise.
And enjoy that one-and-only time I talk about my work here.
This base has been transformed by the dust. What little color there was on the base, such as vehicles, decorative emblems, etc. are now covered in a sandy film. Every exterior surface, and even many interior surfaces, have a fine dust settled on top.
There’s no point doing anything about it right now, we have about 9 more hours of this…it’ll just get all dustied up again.
It’s a ghost town. We’re advised to remain inside, although there are some hard-core types enduring the weather to take advantage of the lightning speed WiFi access right now.
I’m typing this up on my iPhone, then will come outside just long enough to transmit it.
Back to the gross!

I sorta figured this would happen while I’m here.

“What’s that?”

A shamal.

“What the heck is a shamal?”

Well, let’s define it here. It’s a strong northerly wind that picks up dust from Syria and Jordan and carries it all the way down the Arabian peninsula.

And it’s shamal-ing right now as I type this. The winds are gusting to 40 knots from the northwest, and the dust came down all the way from Syria — we watched it on the satellite! I even saw the wall of dust towards the northwest minutes before the winds started here, but I was in a no-photography area so I wasn’t able to capture it for you.

(Side note: I have to give public kudos to the forecast team in the U.S. and here at my base for the great job they did predicting its onset here. They said it would arrive by noon, and it got here at 11:55am!)

I have a couple pictures of what shamal vs. non-shamal conditions look like here, but they didn’t turn out really well. I won’t include them here, but I wish I could have captured how it looks here better.

It looks like fog. That “you can’t see your hand in front of your face” kind of fog. If you’re standing inside looking out into this stuff out the window it looks like a brownish-yellow fog. But the wind is howling…and if you inhale too deeply, you start coughing. If you breathe the air without a cover over your mouth for too long, you feel the grit on your teeth. It smells sort of like chalkboard chalk. Do you remember clapping together blackboard erasers when you were younger? And inhaling that dust for too long? That’s the sensation.

You feel the grit on your hands, in your hair, and on the surface of your skin. I stood outside for 5 minutes waiting for a bus from my duty location back to my dorms and could feel how dirty my hair was in that short time. Again, remember how chalk dust feels on your hands after you’ve dusted off the excess. A fine grit.

If your eyes aren’t covered, the dust gets into the eyes and it’s difficult to see as your eyes get watery. I have goggles for my eyes and am carrying around a small towel to cover my mouth.

I was talking to a British fighter pilot today right when the storm started and in a typical British no-holds-barred fashion, he gave gory details about where on our person we’d be finding shamal dust remnants for days after the event ends. I can’t wait.

It becomes hazardous to do things outside in these conditions. As if the winds and reduced visibilities aren’t enough of a problem, the respiratory hazards associated with prolonged inhaling of this dust can be a problem too.

Even though I’m inside right now typing this (I am usually outside where the WiFi is stronger), there’s still a layer of dust settling on my keyboard, and the table on which my laptop is sitting.

A shamal event wreaked havoc on the coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003. For you weather weenies, here’s a paper about the meteorology of the shamal that impacted the “march to Baghdad” in late March ’03. There are arguments to this day about the amount of advantage coalition forces were able to gain from the duststorm, but I’m not going there.

So it’ll be interesting to see how I feel when this is all done, and how long before I blow all the dust out of my nose, clean it out of my ears, and wash it out of my hair.

05. February 2009 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Rose (a friend from when I was stationed in FL) and I took a trip off base for some driving training. I drove in Seoul for 2 years, it wasn’t too bad. We went to dinner at a restaurant in a posh Doha hotel: The Sharq Village and Spa. The food was incredible! It was a Mediterranean buffet and worth every penny. I’m sorry I didn’t pictures of the dessert spread: lots of pistashio and honey…yum!

I was stuffed so full of grilled jumbo shrimp, hummus, vegetables and desserts I could barely lift my rear end from the seat when all was said and done. Thanks for talking us into trying it, Rose!

03. February 2009 · 8 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

For you South Park fans out there, this image came up while I was Google Image searching something else and thought it was awesome!

“What were you searching for?”

Well, it’s funny you asked. As a stray blog topic, I was going to discuss the art/science of the military pilot call sign.

[Wagging her finger] Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. You’ve all seen Top Gun! Maverick? Goose? Here, let me refresh your memory…

I’ve met two pilots here named “Tim [something]” and apparently they’re young enough to get the call sign “Timmay!” Exclamation point and everything. In other words, an officer who came into the service after about 2000, when Timmay! was first introduced on South Park.

Between meeting a couple of “Timmay!”s and dozens of other fighter/bomber pilots with the work I’m doing here, it got me thinking about these pilots and their call signs.

Working among this is new to me. You can read a bit about the Air Force call sign tradition here. I spent most of my aviation-weather-forecasting years among Army pilots, who don’t use call signs as much. I’ve never had to do weather work for fighter pilots before. Apparently they’re the ones who go by call signs. You ask a tanker or cargo pilot his call sign and he looks all confused at you. I’m now in a unit that’s run by call-signed pilots, and that’s the jargon around here.

“Hey, Squatter wants to know whether you’re changing the number of planes Claw can use for Cheetah’s missions”.

These call-signed pilots tend to assume that everyone around them has call signs.

“So, Major Vollmer, what’s YOUR call sign?”

Ummmm…..no? At most, I was called “WEATHER!” All caps and everything, and that was usually from someone angry with a bad forecast. I know some weather officers who did get theirs by working with fighter pilots early in their careers.

How do the pilots get their call signs? Sometimes it’s obvious…a guy with a big nose will get tagged “Nose”. And it sticks for the rest of his career. Sometimes it seems random. I know so many “Fang”s, “Snake”s and “Sparky”s from throughout my career. I believe they get named at a big Officer’s Club party during pilot training. It might be formal…but to be honest, I don’t know.

We have a Marine pilot named Farquaad here, you know…from Shrek. He’s short (5′ 7″) and his face seemed to be shaped like the Shrek character, with the square protruding chin. Really. If you didn’t say anything, you wouldn’t notice, but once I heard our chief scream “FAHRQUAAD!” across the room to this guy the first time, I had to stop and laugh.

Our former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General T. Michael Moseley, went by “Buzz” his entire career. (Note: that was among his peers and other fighter pilots…*I* would never get to call him “Buzz”). Since our current CSAF has a cargo pilot background, he allegedly doesn’t have a call sign.

Last week I took pictures of some of my colleagues at our social tent last week and I wanted to e-mail copies of the pictures to the subjects themselves. So here I am at my laptop, ready to fill in the “To:” block and I realize I’m stuck.

How do I send pictures out to “Runt”, “Stork”, “Trojan”, “Snake” and “Atlas”? That’s how these fighter/bomber pilots do everything at work — I really truly did not know these guys’ first or last names for my first 3 1/2 weeks here! I had to ask this week, “What’s so-and-so’s real name so I can e-mail him this picture?”

So there you go — hopefully Farquaad doesn’t see that I was talking about him on here. At least you won’t know his real name so I’ve protected the innocent, right?

Ok, workout time!