"So there are Oliphaunts. But no one at home will ever believe me."
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Posts from — October 2009

A horrifying neologism

I also coined the term “omnibi” as the plural of choice for omnibus, for those who enjoy inapt back formations, in the spirit of the famous octopus. Like the pun, I think it is top notch.

A Google search for the term yields as the top result an article from the New York Times published on May 31, 1853. It seems to be a diatribe against the degradation forced on the customers of public transportation, so you know the author is a right thinking gentle. The author seems to know to correctly use the “omnibuses” so I guess that “omnibi” crops up as an error with the character recognition.

The article itself is a hilarious rant and could be republished today with minor changes. Recommanded. Hopefully this or this will work as permanent links.

I didn’t find any other evidence of the use of omnibi as a plural for omnibus, whether intended ironically, sincerely, or condescendingly (or condecerely), although Google reports over 20,000 hits.

October 29, 2009   Comments Off

A Twitter pun

Another endless day at the office, and more personnel troubles. I was so beat I was just going to go to bed without updating my blog, but I hoped on twitter to see this:

Ray Levesque: US military allows Sikh man to keep beard & turban. I wonder if combat burkas are on the way…

To which I responded,

@RayLevesque Military doctrine says no beard to allow gas mask to seal. So if he is exposed to WMD, he’s going to get even Sihker.

Which I think is top notch, even if I did misspell Sikh.

October 29, 2009   Comments Off

Speaking of nightmares

Today really was one of those nightmare “Office Space” type of days. I sat at my desk and wrote emails. All. Day. Long.

Tomorrow is different. I have meetings. All. Day. Long.

Even my wife complained about me “dropping off the face of the earth,” although it had only been 24 hours since we video conferenced. Such high standards for a combat zone!

October 28, 2009   Comments Off

The howling wind

Awakened last night by driving rain and howling wind. It sounded like it was knocking things over outside and all over the roof. Well, it turns out, it was. I had nightmares about the satellite dish flying off the top of our housing unit. Well, actually, I was awake that whole period so it wasn’t technically a nightmare. I was petrified that the whole satellite dish was going to fly off like a ship under full sail and crash into the ground below.

Luckily, it didn’t. Think I will throw a few more sandbags up there, however.

The streets have turned to mud here.

The rainy season has come.

October 28, 2009   Comments Off

The Rivulet of Lethe

I can’t say why exactly, but sleep does not come easily here, and the quality of sleep I’m getting is poor. It’s not that I have a bad place to sleep. We’re in a combat zone and I have a room to myself, a mattress, sheets, and several pillows. But I try to sleep, and sleep does not come. I can’t complain that it is the most physically trying aspect of Iraq, it has been a lot worse for most, and conditions are still worse for many.

A colleague visited another FOB recently. As he was walking from his room to somewhere else at night, taking long, purposeful strides, he walked straight into a six foot deep ditch.

I told him to stay safe, since he was the only one of us here who was really in the trenches.

October 26, 2009   Comments Off

Week’s End

We are even to the point where weekends matter, a little bit. During real combat, the work stays the same every day. So everybody gets a little, or in some cases, a lot of leisure time. It’s welcome, nobody would wish it away; but it doesn’t pass in a blur like working time.

I’m working on a little software project in my spare time to keep busy. It’s to help update some personnel records by automating a good deal of the process. It’s completely outside my area of responsibility, but it keeps me busy.

October 24, 2009   Comments Off

Sound and Fury

It’s started to rain here in Iraq. We had some rain a few weeks ago, but just light showers. It’s not doing much more than drizzling right now, but there is a terrific light show going on. The lightning here seems fatter and less fleeting than elsewhere. Whole earth, even the far horizon seems to light up when a bolt lingers in the clouds. The feeling is vast and the scene is panoramic. The air is richly perfumed with petrichor. It is strange how thunderstorms in different parts of the world have a distinct feel to them. Different here than Georgia, which is different from Seattle, which is different from eastern Washington.

I finished a major project today, a system for tracking the expenditure of ammunition. The result was a series of linked spreadsheets of byzantine complexity. Bullets are not simple business, and the government’s supply system is self-evidently not designed by expert data modelers.

October 23, 2009   Comments Off

The Trouble with the Trouble with Trouble

Sometimes they get away with it.

October 22, 2009   Comments Off

The Trouble with Trouble

From my vantage as the person with regulatory supervision over the disposition of property, I see a lot of the worst aspects of self-preservation. People will get themselves into trouble with property (where both money and career are concerned), and they simply do not want to admit facts that militate against if they think there is a chance that Fate will deal them a kind hand and clear their debts to the house. If it’s lost, admit it. The cover up is worse than the crime. Everybody knows it. It’s a rare bird who will fold. Most prefer to double down on the cover up.

I guess it must work often enough to create the illusion of invincibility.

There must be some aspect to the instinct of self-preservation that turns rational faculties mute.

October 22, 2009   Comments Off


I spoke to a Special Agent today from the Criminal Investigation Division. We had a very bad work-related accident here at the beginning of last month. There were a couple of fatalities; two guys I knew and liked. We weren’t close but I can still recall their faces and the last time we joked together.

When such a thing happens, it spawns several investigations. Usually a criminal investigation—just to be sure there was no criminal negligence—a safety investigation by the higher headquarters, and an internal investigation. I was appointed as the internal investigator, but my work was stymied because many of the key witnesses were incapacitated and evacuated to the US for treatment and rehabilitation. CID has a longer reach than me and can actually coordinate with agents in the US to conduct interviews on behalf of an ongoing investigation. So I had a long chat today about what the sworn testimony will say, when I finally get it. It’s helpful because it puts many of my questions to rest.

I can’t say anything yet, but that was the dominant event for today. I actually had morning meetings and late evening meetings as bookends. My day was so chopped up I never felt like I was able to concentrate on any one project. Unfortunately, a common occurrence.

October 21, 2009   Comments Off