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Archive for July, 2008

Jul 31 2008

Mosul Courthouse

Posted by Dale @ 6:14 pm in Deployment,Outside the Wire

This past Monday morning, Mike F and I visited the Mosul courthouse. Mike is managing a project at the courthouse to provide some improvements to the physical security. In addition to providing blast walls along the street, the project includes a new screening building, floodlights, and a security system. We’ve driven by the front of the courthouse several times in the past week on our way to other sites.

Mosul Courthouse

Mosul Courthouse

Each time, I’ve noticed that construction on the new security building has not progressed, so I wasn’t expecting to see much else happening during this visit.

Screening Building

However, when we walked through the courthouse to the back side, I was pleasantly surprised. The contractor has installed the two new trailers for the security personnel, 38 out of 40 new floodlights, and placed the concrete pad for the new generator. The contractor’s on site supervisor, wearing the red keffiyeh on his head, was eager to talk to us about the project. His English was pretty good, and he was definitely proud of his work.

Contractor's Supervisor

Contractor's Supervisor

Mike seems to be able to resolve any issues that come up for this project relatively quickly. I think he must threaten them with his hook, but I can’t prove it!

Jul 31 2008

Bowling

Posted by Mugs @ 2:57 am in Family

Bowling has become Zeke’s game of choice.  He is so good at Wii bowling that he beats his siblings.  When he had resorted to standing crayons on end for pins, I decided to buy him a children’s bowling set for his birthday.  He sets it up on the floor or on the bench and practices quite often.  Periodically, all other occupants of the house are forced into games of bowling.  When bowling, he puts his game face on.  He is already attempting to work on his hook as he releases the ball with his knuckles on top.  I see shades of Dale’s Daddy when he throws.  At Chuck E. Cheese this week, he spent most of his coins at skee ball.  Skee balls are a bit heavy, so I could see that his arm was tiring and I tried to encourage him to move to another game.  But he refused to stop.  When I wasn’t looking, he’d slip another coin in the slot and throw some more skee balls.  Dale may have hope yet to play in a league with his family.  Lucky for him, he has enough children that he won’t be handicapped by his wife.  Zeke has learned what Dale knows quite well:  I am a terrible bowler.  When Zeke tired on skee ball, I decided to try to help him out, and he realized quite quickly that maybe I wasn’t much help at all.

Jul 29 2008

Site Visits in Kurdistan

Posted by Dale @ 9:13 pm in Deployment,Outside the Wire

Last week, I spent a day visiting projects in Dahuk followed by a day of visits in Erbil. I saw lots of great projects. With construction projects, the most memorable things are the things that aren’t perfect. You’ve probably heard the phrase “good enough for government work”. When I was in Korea, we often joked that it was the land of the “not quite right”. Sometimes when I visit projects here, I think of “Iraqi good enough”.

At one school we visited in Dahuk, the contractor had recently completed a basketball court. Unfortunately, he installed the goal so that the backboard was almost even with the half circle below the free throw line. In the photo, Masuood, the Deputy in the Dahuk Office, is shooting from the line.

Masuood Shoots a Freethrow

Masuood Shoots a Freethrow

Also at this school, the contractor installed a very popular fire extinguishing system I’ve seen at several other school projects.

Fire Buckets

Fire Buckets

How do you fix issues such as these? Easy, you put the USACE castle on the front, and that’s makes everything perfect!

Veen School in Dahuk

Veen School in Dahuk

Jul 28 2008

VBS

Posted by Mugs @ 7:00 am in Family

Last week, the kids attended our church’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) and had a great time. My VBS experiences go way back to summers in Northern Minnesota. I attended the VBS at my church growing up. Then, when I was a teenager, a motley crew of us (Sherri being one) would travel around Northern Minnesota to all the small churches in the boondocks and run VBS. Sometimes two teenagers, sometimes three, depending on the number of children attending would run an all day VBS for a week. We were provided with curriculum and crafts, songs that were on signboards and the ever exciting Sunday School Charlie felt board stories to close out the day. Once Dale and I met, I moved from VBS to Kid’s Crusades and witnessed the tremendous gifting of Dale’s Mama and Plain Old Judy. In all those experiences a few people did a whole lot. Last week, a whole lot of people did a few things each. The result was fantastic. Abby was a helper in the Nursery all week and has sore arms to prove it. We have some heavy babies in the church. My only task was to walk 14 four and five year olds from station to station. I had two teen helpers for this task, one of which was Josiah who was glad when the week ended. I counted the kids constantly for fear I’d lose one. By the end of the week, some of them took to counting as well to help me out. As soon as I thought I had it all under control, one would get loose. As Dennis told me, it looked like I was herding cats. The VBS had great crafts and activities, good storytellers, interesting snacks, plenty of action songs, games that got you wet, and the Rupert traveling theater troop. My favorite part of the skits was when a friend of Abby’s would walk by holding a duck or a sheep and make the animal sound that went with it. She did it so straight faced, it was a hoot. I found the activities especially captivating. The kids made ice cream using a sandwich ziplock of ice cream ingredients inside a gallon ziplock filled with ice and salt. They dyed felt in carrots, beets, and cabbage. They made a plastic cup version of a chia pet person. Every day I was excited to get to the activities room to see what they had thought of next. The craft people were not outdone, however as the kids made stamped bandannas, cow bells, and sheep. I am always amazed at clever craft people as I am utterly lacking in the craftiness that is beneficial to others. The snack woman was also gifted in her task and created all kinds of fun shapes and combinations of foods. It encourages me in this world of technology, that felt board story telling still exists and children still find it fascinating. Each child was given a CD containing the songs about the Fruit of the Spirit. Zeke, of course, loves to sing them all complete with actions. The children donated their allowance (pocket money) for Spanish language Bibles that will be sent to our missionary in Cofridia, Mexico. Barry, who was running the show, had hoped to send 5 -10 Bibles. The children gave so generously and the bookstore owner was so gracious that close to 100 Bibles will be mailed off next week. Barry said he felt as if he had experienced a fish and loaves moment. The end of the week culminated with a County Fair party complete with a Blue Grass Band, cotton candy (fairy floss) and a pie judging contest. My Mom will be surprised to know that I actually entered a pie as my pie making ability is a bit lacking. I am much better at cakes and cookies. I found out that night that there is a master pie maker in our church. She won a hat trick of blue ribbons. It was a great week. I wish I could tell Dale’s Mama and Plain Old Judy about it. I know it would make them smile.

Manrys at VBS

Manrys at VBS

Jul 27 2008

The Barking Dog

Posted by Mugs @ 7:20 am in Pets

Blaze is a very quiet dog. When left to himself he rarely makes a noise. He will whine at me when he needs to go outside or when he is trying to convince me that he should eat earlier. He has yet to learn, as the other family members know so well, that I’ll get around to making dinner eventually, but don’t expect it to be soon. When I visited the breeder, I was amazed at how quiet her dogs were. A kennel of quiet dogs is a bit odd. I was thrilled that Blaze carried on the genetics. However, we have discovered throughout the last month that there is one individual who greatly enjoys pestering him into barking. When Blaze can’t be watched, he is in his crate, to prevent sock swallowing. Patches has the run of the house and she makes him aware of it every day. Sometimes she’ll sit right next to his crate and look at him, sometimes she’ll turn her back as if he doesn’t exist, but what she loves most is to partially hide inside or under something as if she is stalking him. It drives him nuts and I will hear him make a high pitched whiny bark. I am often sending the kids to catch and relocate her, but she always comes back to play her favorite game. When I take him outside into the back yard to play fetch, she waits patiently at the sliding glass door. I often go in and leave him outside a little longer, but he doesn’t like to be alone so he will soon be on the top step looking in the door. Patches loves this moment and will touch her paw to the glass. Blaze, who moments prior had been patiently waiting, then goes nuts jumping on the door. She’s a piece of work.

Josiah is watching the neighbor’s dog this week, so we attempted to go together on a walk. Blaze was so nuts trying to get the other dog to play, that I thought it would be best to have them run around the backyard a bit. Josiah forgot to shut the back gate, so they decided to run around the neighborhood instead. Thankfully, no cars were driving by, Josiah was able to catch Blaze, and the neighbor dog just ran home. As I ran out after the dogs, a feeling of familiarity overtook me. The feeling of familiarity ended as soon as we caught the dogs, however, for Czar and Sasha would have been long gone and I would have gotten in the car to continue the pursuit. We tried to get the dogs playing in the back yard again, gate closed this time when suddenly we heard this terrified yelp. Blaze came dashing for us with his tail between his legs. The neighbor’s dog did not want to play. So, Blaze is far down the pack order. Well behind the cat and the neighbor dog.