Monday, June 25, 2012

Today was our last band practice before my first gig. They’ve played together for quite a while but its been a race against time to get me up to speed. We could use another couple weeks of practice but I think we’ve got it close enough for people to have fun tomorrow night. We shall see….

I turned in my bidlist today. 30 positions involving a combination of jobs I really want and places the girls really want to go to. I will be happy with anything on the list but there’s definitely a few that I’d much rather have. Just need to temper expectations for a while. I hope I get a response sooner than later…..

I may have ruined my last batch of beer. I’m starting with too much water and last time, the fermenter was too full, leading to a slight explosion when the built up CO2 escaped. In the process of cleaning it up, I exposed it to the air and even lost a small rubber gasket into the wort. I also don’t know the effect of dumping out part of it. If airlock activity is anything to go by, fermentation significantly dropped off. Then again, it usually only vigorously active for a couple days anyway. I’m hoping it turns out okay but I can’t be surprised if not.

Friday night brew

It’s been a busy week. My boss is out on vacation so I’ve got extra duty covering as section chief. It’s busy but quite enjoyable. My bid list is due on Monday, so a lot of attention has been paid to that, as well as coordinating with my assignment officer and the family. It’s shaping up to be a phenomenal list and we’ll be happy with anything we get out of it. I’m into my last week with the Eminent Shepherd and to top things off, the band I’ve been playing with has a gig on Tuesday. We’ve had some good practices and are making good progress with the music; I think it will be a fun night.

Last weekend was too busy to get any beer made but I’m starting to run out of time. If I don’t get it made now, it won’t have time to ferment before I leave. I should be able to get whatever I make this weekend bottled before I go though. I’ll be using my serial chiller system for the first time tonight, very interested to see how it works out. I’ve got a smaller copper chiller in an ice bath feeding into the actual chiller and can hopefully avoid having to lift the whole pot into a bath to get the last few degrees down.

So now I’m drinking some homemade brew, brewing kind of late, watching the Eurocup. I was initially dismayed to find that I didn’t have access to the first channel I found showing the game but I found a different one. Germany just scored over Greece, so I hope the Greeks can equalize and make it an exciting game. I think I’m rooting for the Germans though.

 

 

Tuesday, 19 June

I can’t believe that its been a week since my last post. Time really flies by. Here’s some random notes on the last week:

I’ve working on my bidlist for the next tour, very exciting. I hope to be able to announce where I’m going next before I leave for my summer R&R and training in a few weeks. Even though I wasn’t able to bid on Japan, I’ve still got some incredible choices.

I’ve been watching the Euro 2012 soccer tourney lately and enjoying it quite a bit. International matches on this level tend to be better with respect to the despicable practice of flailing and flopping all over that turns me off the sport. It’s especially fun in an international community like we have here.

That being said, the pizza we had during the Germany-Denmark game was TERRIBLE. The menu said it was “pepperoni” but it turned out to be “pepe”. Nigerian food isn’t really all that interesting and they use a lot of extreme spices to spice it up. It reminds me of European history when the spice trade was such a big deal. Seeing a cuisinary culture that is unsanitary and rudimentary really shows one why a spice trade impacted world history. So these pizzas were essentially just crust, peppers, and cheese. I like spicy food and I like pepe but this was inedible. My lips literally went into convulsions and quivered for 15 minutes after eating just 2 slices of a 9″ pizza. I paid for it the next morning too, but I got off easier than my buddy who finished his pizza. I’m surprised he made it to work the next day, seriously.

I’m in an expat band and we’ve got a show next Tuesday. There’s a lot for me to learn and if I had another month of bi-weekly practices, I’d be really comfortable. As it stands, we’ve got 3 practices left. I think it will be okay and thankfully the community here is pretty friendly and not likely to be too critical.

I’m winding up the last week of the Eminent German Shepherd guest. He and the Eminent Feline didn’t bond as much as the Feline guest of last month did, but the EF has learned to tolerate him. He’s an incredible animal and I’ve really enjoyed having him.

Lastly, and perhaps most inanely, I bought some new flight shafts for my darts and they’ve changed my life. The shafts on the darts I bought were just molded feces that didn’t work. These new shafts, which cost about the price of a good pint of beer, are solid, hold the flights, and make it fun to toss darts. I was listening to Meat Loaf tonight and playing darts against myself just because it was such a pleasure to throw these after a year of playing with turds that fell apart in the air. These new shafts are so good, I robin hooded one of my darts tonight (testament to the throwing quality) and was able to bite the end back down and keep playing (testament to the build quality). Craftsmanship!!

And sub-lastly, I received shipment of a couple of European-style board games that I’m excited to play and just hope I can find people who are both friendly, competitive, and geeky enough to endure the learning curve for what I know are really fun games.

Skin blistering flies

After the workout yesterday, the top of my foot was pretty itchy. I knew I’d gotten bitten by something but didn’t think too much of it until I took my sock off today.

 

I’m pretty sure it was one of the skin-blistering flies that we hear about. I had a weird rash on the inside of my arm last February that looked like shingles at first, but then it blistered up and peeled away. I was traveling at the time so by the time I had the med unit look at it, it had started to heal up. The consensus was that I’d gotten squirted by one of the flies that release a blister agent when agitated. It looked a lot like this only just in a straight line. Because I was scratching and rubbing my foot, I smeared it all over the top. I think it will reduce the overall effect though. Hopefully.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

I’m surprised that time has slipped by so fast since my last post. Last week was a good one. We’ve got some TDY (temporary duty) officers joining us to help with some staffing shortages which has made a huge difference (in a way) with my workload. I still have 10 gallons of shit for a 5 gallon bucket every day and could probably work 12 hour days for a couple weeks to get caught up on everything, but having the extra help has let me unload a few responsibilities and just simplified the demands on my time.

I was able to get my travel arrangements for the summer mostly taken care of. I still need to book my hotel in DC and I’d like to change one leg of my trip back to Japan, but I will be able to head to Idaho and see family and friends for about 10 days, then to DC for training for a few weeks (including a side trip to Minneapolis for my 20th reunion, actually am really looking forward to it and hope that a lot of people show up), and then to Japan for a couple weeks. Obviously I’m excited about getting back to Japan, especially so this time because I will get to see both piano and ballet recitals.

Still assembling the bid list. Have pared it down to the posts we’re most interested in. Tomorrow I’ll do some last minute checking on pet policies and write up my short statements for each post and submit the draft bid list

Getting into shape is really hard when you’re as out of shape as I am. I’ve been doing modified crossfit workouts that are quite enjoyable but I’m so soft, there’s only so much I can do and it takes a toll. I go easy but there’s still (good) soreness for a couple days. The key is to not hurt too much or strain anything that then gets in the way of the daily workouts at home on the rowing machine.

Yesterday we had a full morning of interviews as overtime, then I did the workout, then went on the Hash, then dinner around the pool and on to a fellow diplomat’s party. We got the party late after everyone had moved on to the clubs so we followed along. I don’t particularly enjoy the club scene here but it was something different.

Of course, getting into the club is always a hassle. I didn’t realize we’d be going there and had on shorts and sandals and got hassled at the entrance. A friend of ours was there (she’s known to be connected politically and is a regular at the club) and we made inside into the back “VIP” section. All was well until I stepped out to go the bathroom and the bouncer wouldn’t let me back in. He let me out of the section 90 seconds before and I know he recognized me, but he hassled me. It’s SO loud in there conversation is completely impossible for me (I’ll store some earplugs in my truck for next time) but I went over to the other entrance and got in easy there.

Coming out, the guys who wouldn’t let us all wanted money for letting us in and then there were 6 or 8 guys wanting dashes for keeping my truck safe. Sometimes I’ll dash them something but I didn’t have any small bills. The bouncers who hassled us of course got nothing. My ears were ringing loudly from the music but I felt good. Got to talk to the Eminent Child and Wife when I got home for a bit before I started to drift off.

I was supposed to meet the bandmates for practice today and then was planning to make beer and have a couple friends over for pizza. But when I work up, my shoulder felt like someone had stabbed a knitting needle down my arm. Not a good way to start participation in a band, but I had to cancel that and ended up just lying in bed massaging my shoulders until late in the afternoon. After the soft tissue started to loosen up, I was able to get up and eat. I watched a couple episodes of Survivor and now I’m back in bed. Somehow its 10:30 already and I was ready for bed at 9:00

Tuesday, 06 June 2012

As it turns out, the US mission did lose employees in the crash. One of them worked for us directly and a couple others were close collaborators. My most sincere condolences go out to all the bereaved associated with this tragedy.

Reflecting on the scale of that loss, it feels petty to talk about how I lost focus while cooking today and cut up a bunch of veggies on my beloved silicon pastry mat, shredding it in the process. Even more serious problems like the stomach ailment that kept me from work yesterday pales with the magnitude of others’ loss. I suspect that the glass of water at the bedside might be the culprit and I’m switching exclusively to bottled water at night.

Not much else to report.

Dana air crash

It was a relatively uneventful weekend until the crash today. As best as I know, no one affiliated with the embassy community was involved. Makes one wary when traveling though, of course

It feels kind of disrespectful to talk about the standard mundane crap in my life following an event where 150+ lost their lives. I was feeling a bit under the weather today and didn’t make beer as planned. Yesterday was mostly good. I worked in the morning (we’re doing overtime on Saturdays to help alleviate the problems associated with our understaffing and the immense wait times for appointments) and went for a workout afterwards. The brother of a friend from orientation is doing some volunteer work in Nigeria and he joined us for the workout and BBQ afterwards.

The American Pale Ale I made first tastes ok but not great to me. The English Brown has a bit of a sour impression that settles down and is quite drinkable. I brought a Party Pig of it over to the BBQ and it seemed to be genuinely liked by people. I tweaked muscles in my back last weekend when I slipped while attempting a flip into the pool; I pulled an abdominal yesterday while doing a backflip. That’s part of the reason why I didn’t want to make beer today, even though I’m itching to try the new cooling system.

 

The Eminent Canine guest is doing well even though the Eminent Feline is still pretty antagonistic towards him. He is getting some good time out with a neighbor canine and he seems to have settled into the new environment quite well.