29 March 2007 Waiting in vain

29 March 2007, Thursday
Nachrichten Caserne

Four feet dancing with excitement, Elena welcomed me home at the end of today. Anxious from spending time alone, she followed me around the house for the next couple of hours. But after eating and going outside, it seems that I am forgotten. Put aside in favor of more important people.

But no matter how much time she spends sitting at the gate waiting for George, tonight she will be disappointed. He left for Switzerland this morning and will not come home before tomorrow.

What will be excellent for her is that he will bring 2-3 of the teens with him. The plan is for him to stop in Stuttgart on the way home and rescue them from school. This starts the two week of vacation and they just might have more than the usual amount of stuff to drag home. A ride makes it easier than schlepping everything on the train; or at least for Noah with suitcase, backpack, E-guitar and amp.

I spent the evening desperately trying to find my external Lacie hard drive. A journalist had asked me for pictures from downrange to complete a story she is writing. Since I am a laptop or two past the one I took to Kuwait in 2003, the digit pix had to be on CDs (somewhere) or on the festplatte. But it was not in my studio, our bedroom, or in the dinigroom where I had last seen it.

I discovered it downstairs, on the floor in my son’s room, under a pile of things. He had borrowed it to move files from one computer to another. Apparently returning it just fell off his list.

After a significant amount of time rooting around, I located a couple of pictures of me in uniform. I don’t have many of me; I am the one with the camera. After doing some cropping, I emailed them off. I would be interested in reading the article when it comes out, but I don’t read Russian.


28 March 2007 Ostrich Time
Wednesday, Landstuhl and Heidelberg

After a productive TriService meeting this morning, I made the necessary of turning on my computer and opening up my email. There on the top in nasty red was a warning notice about the amount of mail in my box.

Now, I keep this puppy under control and there should be no way I was anywhere near the limit. What I can not control is the size of attachments that are pitched my way. For some reason, one of the docs sent me a .tif file. It was huge, 11 MEG as a matter of fact. Opening it, I could not understand what made it so special that it needed to be that large. So I saved it as a .jpg. Then it was 32k. Go figure, but a much better size for forwarding.

But then I started to think about main frame computers. Then starting in the wild world of electronic communication with email in 1986 (yes, almost 21 years ago) with basic ASCII in Arpanet.

From there it was not much of a stretch to Echo Mail. One of the first organized systems to create and run a backbone, there was Fidonet . I ran a BBS using Maximus on my OS/2 Warp system starting in 1991. The Three Mausketeers(1:109/172), came down in 1993 when we moved back to Germany. Phone costs were so prohibitive that I could not afford to go back on line in Zone 2.

With the graphics interfaces and the expansion of the World Wide Web, which is now really world wide, the old Fidonet has almost gone out of existence from over 30,000 BBS in the early 90s. Now, with millions of people having blogs today that might not seem much, but it used to require actual technical expertise.

Using Listserv software was actually easier, provided you could find someone to host the list. Two lists that I helped start in the mid-nineties, [weaving] and [sockknitters] are still in existence. But being the listmom ate out a lot of time. It was easier doing a direct list (like this one which has its origins in the one from when I deployed to Bosnia in 1998)) which can be converted easily to one hosted by such as Yahoo.

Now we have webpages which are usually built and are static; and blogs which are not. But I am not really sure that there is always a lot of quality out there. And the software takes time to learn in order to do a decent job.

But there is an amazing demand, and the first thing anyone thinks of anymore is looking on the web, or putting up information on the web.

As we were finishing up with our Pandemic Influenza Planning today, the discussion was centering around having a “DOD PI Dashboard.” It was interesting to hear all the points of view on content. The obvious idea is of a one-stop-shop for use now for plans and seasonal influenza as well as for communications in case of a pandemic.

Why am I saying all this? There are a lot of model builders out there. Worst case is that we are going to lose electricity and the internet by five days into a world wide pandemic.

How are we going to function? No answer and no one wants to answer. No one wants to think about “on-line” not existing. Ignoring the problem is not going to provide answers.


24 März 2007 Push the button, I need to find a phone

24 March 2007, Suaturday

A long time ago, and in several countries, not all of which are now far away, telephones were simple objects.

You got your phone service from a national phone company that controlled, organized and regulated everything. It could take weeks to get a phone in your house. Your choices of phone was relatively simple – with or without a unit meter. The billing system itself was extremely complicated: it was all about units. But how many units you were charged depended on the time of day and where you called. Even local calls had a charge.

You know, I can live with the idea that no one else in the family can change a roll of toilet paper. It is an extremely difficult and dangerous job requiring coordination and manual dexterity beyond what your average golden retriever can accomplish.

We adapted.

In 1984 when I PCSd to the Washington DC area, I was appalled to find the phone system had been privatized. It was extremely complicated. Not only did I have to figure out a carrier, but I had to go find my own phone. There was a blinding selection of shapes and colors, none of which made any sense to me. The quality of service had seemed to decrease, the long distance carriers offered deals so complicated that graduate degrees in reading fine print were essential. And, dialing was out and pushing buttons was in.

I was relieved to escape this madhouse, but found that Telekom seemed to be on the same track. I had to procure now my own phone. Since none of these models featured meters, getting the results of the phone bill every month was a surprise. Additionally, since nothing was itemized, it was a real challenge to break the code on getting a real bill so that you could tell if those were really your calls. The attitude on Telekom’s side? We billed you, so those must be your calls

Then the wall came down. Suddenly there were people all over who came from places where the only phone in town had been at the local Inn. Where the infrastructure was not going to support extra phones and the waiting list for a personal phone was rumored to be 5-6 years.

It was right about then that hand held phones, independent of a physical location first came on the market. These Handis were neither attractive nor light, but had the advantage that you did not have to wait years, nor be tied to a particular location. And the trend started spreading.

By 1995, even the military was starting to buy these cellular telephones. The miracle of modern technology meant that you could find someone anytime, anywhere. More reliable usually than the old brick radios, I sent mine along routinely on the long distance ambulance runs.

They got smaller, fancier over the subsequent years. Home phones did not become a thing of the past, but the other technology lead to changes here as well. Not just satisfied with the old fixed phone system that allowed only one phone in the house on the circuit to be active at a time, combinations were now available with base stations and phones that were portable.

This leads me to the problem which has persisted through to the present. This lovely, programmable handset charges when sitting in a base station or charger. It uses electricity steadily from the battery when not docked. The more it is used for calls, the faster the phone goes to empty. When it is uncharged, it is silent.

Living in a house with a number of others, three of which are teenagers, it is not uncommon for someone to go off with a phone. Or, when the call happens to be for a downstairs inhabitant, the nice ringing phone is handed down to the requested recipient of the call.

When the call is completed, in principle the phone should be returned to a base station or the original location so as to make it easier for others to use; or to answer, when the next call comes in.

Now, I don’t particularly get many phone calls. Those from work who want me routinely call on my cell. The teens get a fair number of calls. George gets calls.

They all use the phone, then leave it lying where ever they were. Discarded as unimportant, locating a phone only becomes an issue when there is an important phone call to make. But these two phones always seem to have migrated somewhere.

Pushing the button on the side of the main base station is supposed to make the phones ring. When they ring, I can find them. Provided, of course that they are not out of charge.


18 März 2007 Changing things, and Ringing Changes

18 March 2007, Sunday

You know, I can live with the idea that no one else in the family can change a roll of toilet paper. It is an extremely difficult and dangerous job requiring coordination and manual dexterity beyond what your average golden retriever can accomplish.

So that it is completely understandable that, in the three bathrooms in our house, the floor, window sill or dispenser top is adorned with an open roll. Easy to access for anyone in a hurry, I guess is the theory.

Each one of the bathrooms also has some container or other for trash, either on the floor or hanging from a door knob.

So please, someone, anyone, explain to me why out of five people who live in this place, I am the only one who seems to be able to deposit an empty roll in the trash?

So it was with less than sterling sense of humor that I tackled sewing in the zipper on the second baby sweater. At least I had it down better this time, finishing up in plenty of time to wrap the two sweaters prior to us going to deliver them this afternoon.

(I am leaving out the wrapping paper run which brought us back home a few minutes after Noah’s tutoring session was to have begun).

We got to meet the twins who, at just short of two months old have hit gestational age. They are also now well over 3kg each, making them about the size of the average newborn. It actually is not that much of an effort to bring back to mind my own being that tiny. It did seem like such a long time ago as I watched the youngest three interact with such small infants.

It was only about an hour after getting home that it was time to drop them off for the train to school.

So my evening has been quite, finishing up Hangman’s Holiday by Dorothy Sayers as I knit on the second of the Inside-Out socks and deleted a lot of old files off my computer. I then started The Nine Tailors, also by Sayers. The book’s title, as well as a significant part of the headings and actions, originates in the language of bell ringing. Although not required, knowledge of the “sport” would be a real advantage. I find myself looking up several terms and methodologies for ringing church bells, something that normally would hold no interest for me.

I am off tomorrow still and George looks to be in town at least part of the week. So I will not have as many days alone. Even more importantly, the dog will not have only me to depend on.


12 März 2007 Too Quiet

12 March 2007, Monday
USACHPPMEUR & Heidelberg

After dropping George off at the Bahnhof this morning, the dog and I headed to work. On his way to Pfaffikön, he will be back sometime on Thursday after a detour through London.

Today’s staff meeting was cancelled in favor of Wednesday. It was quiet, almost too quiet. I was able to get rid of a number of administrative items I had been avoiding. The new OER system is driving us nuts, but why should I be surprised at hitches when you consider the number of people who are trying to access AKO forms on-line world wide.

Then there is the small matter of credentials. This is now an every other year flail for me. My files at both Heidelberg and Landstuhl are historically complete and accurate. Never the less, I get asked to fill out the same forms over again. Like something has changed? Get real, I am in the military—you folks are going to know if I have done something stupid, since it is your facilities. And then there are the privilege forms, which I have been instructed that I can’t fix up with Xerox and white-out. Argggh!

By the time I was wending down A6 and through the construction area on A656, it was too late for the mailroom. I am in Heidelberg tomorrow, so hopefully I can get in then.

The house is absolutely silent. The dog sits next to me, looking for a handout. I realized that I have become used to having company in the evenings. George, sitting across from me in the living room at his computer, is still “at work” till late because of the need to cover time zones from Israel to California. I am occupied with work, personal computing, or knitting. The companionship is comforting.

We have known each other for 29 years, married for 28. It is not like either of us is incapable of functioning on our own. We both travel for work, and have for years. I have done two deployments and that long unaccompanied tour in Kuwait. We were 28 & 30 when we married. Yes, I can manage perfectly fine on my own. But I do not do it out of choice anymore.

Rather than feeling lonely, at this point I am looking at the evenings of quiet as the opportunity to turn up my books on CDs or tapes. To knit and spin with abandon; perhaps even to do laundry and shopping during the week, there is no lack of adventures to fill my time. I certainly do not think that a second husband is the solution - but I will be fascinated to see how it plays out.

Looking down at the dog, she does not leave my side for the entire evening. It is only people who make things right in her world.


5 March 2007 Don’t pile things up!

5 March 2007, Monday
Heidelberg, Germany

It is with some number between 1 and 6 with whom I share the house. Depending on the day of the week and whether or not you count the dog as a person..

Certainly Elena lays claim to human aspirations, but I am not quite as sure. What I do know is that she is the only one completely absolved of any guilt at all in the laundry room issue. Since she doesn’t have the hands to unload the dryer and festoon both the top of the dryer and utility sink counter with those maybe dry items pulled out from their tumbling, I will taker off the blame line.

And even though she stops by and occasionally uses the machines, I don’t see Shana as routinely dumping other people’s clothing out with a blatant disregard for dryness or wrinkles. This leaves me with the other four intermittent occupants of my abode.

The problem seems to be the worst on Monday, after a weekend flurry of younger off-spring doing a hurried job in an effort to fill their suitcases with clean items for the coming week at school. Obviously the school items are not in question as they have traveled safely by train to Stuttgart.

It is the other bits of clothing that concern me. The things that were tumbling in the dryer when they arrived which are so carelessly dropped hither and thither in the laundry room with no regard to neatness, folding or permanent pressing of the item into a ball.

Now, when the item in question was their father’s shirt, this leads to a most unsightly appearance. I am no more thrilled when it is items of mine unheedingly thrust out into coolness, wadded up and disposed of ignominiously on the counter whether they topple into the sink.

There also seems to be a complete lack of folding and taking to the room those items which are not perceived to be of immediate use.

Over the course of a couple of weeks, there has built up such an excess that the tops of the utilities are no longer visible.

The man of the house is not completely blameless as he has been known to, with all good intentions, start a load and forget about it. As you all know, forgetting about a load of wash is not a really grand idea. If left for too long a time period, the odor requires a re-cleansing prior to acquainting the items with the principles of dryness.

This past weekend, with due respect to my teenagers, I refrained from doing my own laundry feeling that I would have time after they left for the Internat.

This evening, upon my arrival and after getting the lonely dog somewhat calmed down, I grasped the overfull laundry basket which seemed to contain a number of items that did not rightfully belong there. After duly sorting out such things as slippers, belts and two clean t-shirts, I carried the load down to the lower level. The light was still shining in the room, casting clearly on a scene of complete untidiness.

There was a basket of items which seemed to be holdovers for such objects as really had no home in any linen closet or drawer. There were towels, bedding and clothing heaped to the point of peril on all flat surfaces, while the doors of both washer and dryer hung forlornly open. Additionally, the downstairs laundry bin was residing in the cramped space, blocking my entrance.

one view of the infamous laundry room

Noting askance that there were numerous towels mixed into the snarls of clean wash, I remembered at least one child coming upstairs and raiding my linen closet for towels since they were completely lacking in such.

Being an abstemious woman, I only screamed slightly before sorting out my first load. Included in this load were several long sleeved shirts of blue or white that appeared to have been used for night shirts from the state of the permanent creases festooning the arms and body.

Unable to bury my fury in spirits, I had to satisfy myself in composing this missive. Woe be unto any member of the household who does not at first opportunity forthwith remove all of their personal possession from the laundry room.

There is no fury like a mother who has her work doubled by inconsiderate and churlish relations.


And yes, I have been listening to entirely too much British Mystery fiction from the first half of the last century.

18 March 2007 Babies & adults
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