Wednesday, April 26, 2006

An ode to my iPod

I got an iPod for Xmas from my parents. I had been wanting one just for its mp3 player capacities. I had a 1Gig mp3 player that had died, and even after being repaired on warranty, it died again, so I decided I needed to follow the craze and get an iPod. I mentioned to my mother that I was thinking of getting one, but I was completely surprised when I opened my gift from my parents on Christmas morning.

Now what surprised me, was not only that they got me one, but which iPod they got me. If I were going to get an iPod for myself, I would have gotten the Nano. Because it is small. But the price tag for a Nano isn't so small. In fact, Apple products are highly overpriced. I mean, to get 4Gigs, you are going to pay around $250. And what do you get for that? Well, basically a miniture had a scroll screen, and you can upload a few pics...but basically you are left with an overpriced mp3 player.

So what completely blows my mind, is that for around $400 you can get the 60Gig video iPod. That is a huge jump in memory, and on top of it, you can play videos, and the screen is bigger. Albeit, it is a little larger.

But that is the iPod my parents got me. First, I thought it was “just” a normal iPod. But then I saw that it was a 60Gig one and started bouncing around so much that my eldest brother said we should have recorded it and sent it to Apple for them to integrate into a commercial...such pure joy about a piece of electonics.

So at first I thought my parents had spent way too much money indulging me, and basically giving me more than I needed, since I was just looking for an mp3 player. But, boy, am I glad they bought me the 60Gig one. It has been the gift that keeps on giving, as my mother calls it.

First off, I got this great little adapter thingie, that allows you to upload pictures directly from your camera onto your iPod, without the need of a computer to interface. Which meant that when we were on our 3 week trip to China, we could shoot pictures to our hearts' content, and vids, and not have to worry about the memory on my camera filling up. We would just upload the pictures onto the iPod.

And then a few days ago I discovered TV podcasts. Now, I knew they existed before, but I had never taken advantage of them before. It was on the advice of my iPod mentor that I should download some episodes. Now they seem kind of pricey at almost $2 a show, but I got the most recent episodes of Law and Order: CI, and checked out Showtime's Weeds, and enjoyed them on the trainride to my boyfriend's last week...and looking forward to watching more episodes on the way back made it almost easier to leave him again.

The screen might seem a little small for that, but I didn't feel like I was losing out. I loved the fact that I could just pull the iPod out of my purse, and bingo, I was on my way. No discs to carry, and it's so tiny. Then I charged the iPod up at my boyfriend's place, used the playlists for jogging and the integrated stopwatch to time myself, and then was ready for the train ride back on Monday.


And the fact that you can get many news shows in their podcast form. I can passively catch up on a lot of the news I usually read online, just listening while on my way to uni, or at the gym.

I swear...if anyone is seesawing about whether to buy one or not, I can only say: go for it! And don't wimp out and buy the Nano...go for the whole box of cigars, because when you compare the price you are paying for 4Gig to the price for 60Gig with video, you are getting a deal. I tease my boyfriend about his tiny Nano, and he teases me about “lugging” my iPod around, but seriously, those few extra ounces are all worth it.

Having said this, iPods are a bitch. They have “personalities.” When we were halfway through our China trip, I downloaded the second "roll" of pics from our trip, and then the iPod said the photo folder was empty. I could feel the blood run out of my face when I realized 600+ photos were gone. However, my boyfriend rebooted it, and miraculously they all appeared again. It performed that trick a couple of times during the trip, and I really developed a love/hate relationship with it. But it held out.

And almost everyone who has an iPod has an “iPod story.” Either it doesn't play songs, the battery doesn't recharge, it says files are missing, but when the memory usage suggests they are still there...they are super finicky and I hope Apple repairs that in the future, but honestly...I love it! Thanks, Mum and Pops!

The beginning of a beautiful friendship!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Getting back into the groove

Last night I was supposed to take the train back to my place. I had decided to spend weekends with my boyfriend at his place, and study during the week in Cologne at the university. But last night, when it came close to leaving for the train station, I just didn’t want to leave. It was a combination of the wonderful weekend we had together, the gorgeous weather we had taken advantage of for having breakfast on his balcony and cocktails in the evening, and just this sense of the looming vacuum that I would have in my daily life in the next few days.

So I stayed, promising myself to go the next day (today). I immediately had some remorse and sense of guilt for not going, and potentially neglecting my exam preparation. So my boyfriend ordered me to start studying while he cooked us dinner.

I think I was angry with myself for jeopardizing my exam results, in exchange for a few extra hours with my boyfriend. Sometimes I feel like the house pet, who upon return of her beloved owner wants to go everywhere with them, for fear that they might soon again disappear.

But I am not a pet, I am my own person. And it is soooo difficult to readjust after this deployment. To find my sense of self again. Also we went from one extreme to the other: spending no time together, to spending weeks on end, almost cocooning ourselves. It’s as if I have waited so long for this moment to happen, for us to be back together again, that I want to bask in it as long as possible…however life goes on.

I guess it will take a little longer to get back into the groove of things.

Friday, April 21, 2006

How do you receive Male?

A few days ago I posted an email I received from a friend serving in Iraq. He sent me another email today, which was way more lighthearted:

I met an interpreter from the Karada District yesterday to to try ask questions like: "Has Iraq gotten better since 2003?" "What's better about life?" Do most people want the US to stay longer or leave now?" I know it's completely unscientific, but I like polling Iraqis in casual conversation to see how people feel about our efforts here.
So I asked one female interpreter who works in my building where she lives in Iraq to see where she's coming from. Afluent people tend to all have the same opinions. Incidently, Karada is "upscale" Baghdad. At first she said Baghdad (no sh*t), then Karada, then I ask which muhallah (neighborhood). Karada is a big place too. But she says "no muhallah; just Karada." That was clearly untrue because every muhallah has a 3-digit postal code. So I said, "You must have a muhallah. How do you receive mail?"
In the course of this half-broken conversation. She heard "Where do you live? Where's your house? Well, then How do you receive 'male'?" Her face got all screwed up into this totally f^#g offended mask. I'm not sure if she was muslim or christian (I think christian because she shook my hand at the end, but its that much funnier if she was muslim), but what was going on in her mind was not at all the same thing that was going on in mine. Her face turned upside down at the exact second that the soldiers she worked for came down the stairs. They happened upon a CPT asking their translator for her address and how she takes it (?!)
The situation was easy enough to explain. "Um, no, m-a-i-l. Packages...letters...the other "M a e l" but it was funny as hell to me because I wondered how many other things go misinterpreted and subsequently unexplained. The NCO who'd come down took the opportunity to make fun of her for the rest of the walk out of the building. No one could begrudge him his string of plausable answers to the misundrstood question: "Um, frontally?, no, ...How about .. .. . ."

Saturday, April 15, 2006

We’re baaaaack!

So China was awesome. So many impressions, and it’s difficult to describe. First off, the scenery is amazing. Secondly, the people are really nice. We compared them to mid-Western Americans, uncomplicated, easy going, and genuine.

I really have to get cracking and put my nose to the grinding stone in preparations of my looming exams in a few weeks, so I am not sure how much I will be able to blog about the trip. But in the meantime I will post a few pics inspired by Sarah’s couples’ self-portraits post.

Germany - On the train to the airport

Beijing - In the Forbidden City

Xian – The Terracotta Warriors

Longji Valley - Rice Terraces

Hong Kong – Jordan Street, Kowloon

Hong Kong - Hong Kong Island Skyline, albeit blurry, as seen from Kowloon

It was a long trip, and we are both happy to be back in Germany…although not too happy with the crappy cold weather we were met with. We both have colds, but are taking advantage of the long Easter weekend to get back into the groove of things.

Often on the trip I was struck at how surreal it all seemed. I mean, wasn’t he just, 3 weeks before we left, sitting in Afghanistan? He hasn’t been back 2 months yet, but it seems like forever. I have almost forgotten that he was ever gone. However much he was missing from my daily life before, he is so enmeshed in my daily life now, that I can’t believe I survived that whole year he was gone.

This trip was an amazing experience for us both, and a great opportunity to spend a lot of time together outside of the pressures of and routines of daily life. I think it was a necessary cut in the whole homecoming process, because the first few weeks, I was still so fascinated that he was back, and things seemed so un-real. And now that there is a cut between, when he came home and us getting back to our daily routine, delineated nicely by the return from our vacation, it is easier to move on.

For a while he was my boyfriend “who had just returned from a year’s deployment”, and now he is slowly returning to just being my plain and simple boyfriend. After Easter I will go back home to my apartment and study study study for my exams, and my boyfriend will go back to work (after shaving his beard, which I have grown quite attached to, strangely enough). And we will finally be back to “normal,” whatever that means.

An email from Iraq

I got another email from a friend of mine serving his second tour in Iraq. His emails always provide me with an additional perspective of things on the ground there. The mainstream media, when presented with views from soldiers, often say that it is like looking at Iraq through a straw, insinuating that the soldier’s view of Iraq is so limited as to be almost negligible.

However, some else made the comment that when you put a lot of those straws together you get a bigger picture. So I wanted to share this latest “straw view of Iraq”. I don’t really want to offer any commentary, but just present it as I received it (except for removing names).

Yesterday 2 very good soldiers from the Scout platoon were blown up on the side of a road. One of the most respected and known Sergeants in our Battalion, SSG _____, and a new soldier named SGT _____ were obliterated while inspecting what they correctly thought to be a bomb.
Almost all 750 people in the Battalion knew SSG _____ and I have been very good friends with him since we deployed together last Iraq rotation. SSG _____ was the Scout platoon SGT and was renowned throughout the BDE for being a reliable and straightforward soldier. The memorial for him will be tomorrow where his name will be struck from the roster. I am personally saddened by his passing and I know our Battalion will not be as good without him.
SGT ______'s girlfriend/ fiancée had the dubious privilege of being in the patrol element that responded to help when the Scout platoon was hit. There was very little left of him as he was only 2 or 3 feet away from the device. She rode with him in a bag all the way to the hospital where his remains were delivered; she has subsequently been referred to DIV-level counseling. This is a perfect illustration of why the army goes to great lengths to discourage fraternizing and limit coed contact.

Those sad words said, there are worse things afoot for me to be mad about. Both soldiers were killed within a minute of each other and they died better deaths than most people will die. They lived by the sword, and not surprisingly, they died by it. What every good American can be pissed about is that a mosque, sitting 300m away in over watch of the ambush area began singing praises to Allah immediately after the blast occurred and casualties were evident. The interpreter recorded the song "It is a good day today; it is a day blessed by Allah --blah blah blah."
Everyone knows that the mosques are safe havens for bomb makers and gunrunners. Everyone from E-1 Privates to O-9 Generals. This fact has been proven a thousand times over in the last 4 years. For a mosque to be ready on the bullhorn at 2130 to laugh at us for getting killed is nothing less than an admission that they were waiting for the bomb to explode. Which is nothing less than an admission of involvement.
I am certain that the US will do nothing to neutralize this known-safe haven for our enemies. We've been allowing religious-fanatics to operate from known locations for years. The last time I was here I said we need to "Go Hard or Go Home." I had kind of forgotten that until now. Fiddle-fucking around in the middle is infuriating.

In this traumatic incident I find myself in the "Knew him well" category. But like I said before, "payback" never really comes. We're going to keep getting killed and we are going to keep being laughed at. Because our "kid-gloves" policy is a fucking joke to Sunni / Wahabiists who've long ago pulled out all the stops.
I hope things start looking up soon. At our present rate we'll be short 2 platoons before we get back to Germany.

I'll write again on a brighter day.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Live from Shanghai

Just wanted to write a short post explaining my lack of posting: I have been in China since the 24th of March. I will be back in Germany mid-April. I will post about my impressions of China and many pictures when I get back!