Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve--2009 by the Numbers

What an odd year for a 56-year-old guy who works at a museum. This year I have lived in two US states and two middle eastern countries--Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Iraq and Kuwait. Lance Armstrong wrote a book titled "It's Not About the Bike." If I wrote that I would be lying. so the first numbers are about the bike.
Miles: 7100 total
PA--500
OK--1300
Kuwait--100
Iraq--5200
I competed in four races. Three in PA while I was on leave, one in Iraq.
I rode four bikes outside PA. Two I bought for the trip and broke them both. The single speed 29er and track bike are in Conex containers on the way to America. The post chaplain at Fort Sill OK loaned me his bike while I was there (May the Lord bless him!) I bought a $100 bike for the two weeks I was in Kuwait in the spring, broke it and traded it for a latte at Starbucks. I bought a bike for $250 in Iraq in December after I broke the 29er. I sold it the day before I left for $250 and threw in a pump.

I read only 15 books this year--lowest total since I started keeping track. And almost all of them were re-reads: six by CS Lewis, Inferno & Purgatorio, Aeneid, and The Three Musketeers (an old edited French version). New to my reading list were George Orwell's Essays, another of John Polkinghorne's books on theology and physics, and The Audacity of Hope by President Obama.

The unabridged Democracy in America is my first book for 2009. I am halfway through The Oak and the Calf by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and a second (very different) abridged French version of the Three Musketeers and should finish them during the long hours in Kuwait.

By a rough calculation I have written more than 75,000 words on my blog and am just short of 50,000 visitors too my blog since I started keeping track in June of 2008.

Since August I have written more articles than I ever have in my life. The 16th weekly issue of the newsletter goes out Monday. I also wrote four newsletters for Echo Company and had stories picked up by many Web sites and newspapers--none cooler, of course, then the New York Times "At War" blog on Thanksgiving!

Although many are different angles of the same shot, I have taken more than 5000 pictures. It will be very strange to have no camera when I leave active duty.

Counting each take off and landing as a flight, I have been on two dozen helicopter rides, mostly on Blackhawks, but also on the big Chinooks. It was the Chinooks that turned out to be the best single photo subject. It was wonderful watching them hover, six feet above a container with a flight engineer on top of it who hooked the 5,000-pound load, jumped to the ground and ran through the hurricane-force winds as the big helicopter flew away with 2.5 tons dangling 20 feet underneath.

I bought just two meals the whole time I was in Iraq--pizzas at Ciano's. But I bought a few hundred lattes at Green Bean's. The last one was free. I am sitting in Green Bean's in Kuwait writing this post.

I fired a lot fewer rounds this year than I did as a Cold War tank commander in the 1970s. But then we were training for a real war that seemed immanent. Now we are in a real war that is ending.

Oh right. And I made 387 blog posts in 2009. I will continue posting every day until we are released from active duty. Then I am going to take a break during the 17 days I am still on terminal leave. And when I am finally and officially a civilian again, I might write about some of the stuff I can't write now.

Happy New Year.

Family Black Sheep Flies a MEDEVAC Blackhawk

Brooklyn-born Amira Talifi, (not her real name) is a helicopter pilot I served with in the Army National Guard. She is one of seven ch...