It’s about scale

June 26, 2011

Let’s see.  Some things that I have learned this week.

1.  Treadle sewing machines are in need.  I think that, to a “T”, all of the teams in AF see the need for them.  They are a game changer.

2.  They would need to be sustainable.  I don’t know about you. but I look forward to a time when there are fewer or little or no US Forces in Afghanistan.  So, local parts, local repairs, local services for the machines will be important over the longer term

3.  There are a bunch of others working on putting more sewing and fiber-related goods into Afghanistan, in support of the CSTs and FETs.  Check here to see. They have a whole other scale of effort underway.

4.  And yes, there are folks looking at the economic aspects of it, too.  Like Thunderbird.  Really — that Thunderbird.

5.  it’s way to hot here.  I went for a run last night, leaving around 8pm, and it was still 107 degrees.  10 miles and some time later, after I’d cleaning up, it was still 97 degrees.

So, that’s what’s weighing on my mind these days.  Bundles, super secret projects (#6 should kick off in about a week), and sewing machines.  Oh, and that work these — there are still some angry / pissed off / violent people here in Baghdad, and we’re doing our best to help our battle buddies in the Iraqi Security Forces as they work to advance the security both of the city and the region.  Never a dull day, never a dull day….


Just don’t call me Captain Ahab

June 24, 2011

I love being involved in IBOL.  I really do.

Yesterday morning, in the skies over Afghanistan, someone pushed a rig out of a perfectly good airplane, and used an airborne delivery to put some IBOL / ABOL bundles on the ground in a remote part of Afghanistan.

Just think about that one for a second.  A guy in Baghdad, on a website in America, working with volunteers from all over the place (and not just in America), sending sewing, knitting and quilting supplies to an air base in Afghanistan, to be loaded onto and dropped out of an airplane.

Pretty darn-tootin’ cool, if you ask me.  It’d be better only if they let me jump in, too.

And if yesterday wasn’t awesome enough, I closed out my day with almost an hour on the phone with Jan, one half (the better half?) behind the Lamia Afghan Foundation.  What in the world would we have to talk about?  Wow, what didn’t we talk about — logistics, contracts, tax status, vendors, 4×4 trucks, etc.  But at the root of it all?  My quest for sewing machines.

See, I’m stuck on a problem.  The CST and the FET’s are a great match for IBOL/ABOL, as I see it.  But sewing machines are always an issue — cost, availability, and (yes!) electricity.  I can’t do money, I can’t make electricity, but maybe I can work availability.

So, we’re talking.  I am interested in a solution more than I am in it being my solution.  I am worried about finding a way to get it done, than I am about who does it.  I know we can figure something out — it just takes some more head scratching, maybe some emails, maybe a phone call or two — and, I’m sure, some napkins on which to doodle and sketch.

So, yeah — sewing machines.  Manual, nonelectric sewing machines, like the Janone 712T or something.  Something local in Afghanistan is best — with service and parts and all that being right there, local.

More to follow.  Email me if you have ideas — I’m open to everything.  I’m stalking this like it’s a white whale and whale hunting wasn’t seen as a bad thing like i actually is.  Wow — I just realized that Moby Dick is entirely wrong, in our society today.  Bummer.

You can’t rain on my parade

June 23, 2011

I am going to be unstoppable today.

1.  I got up a weeeee bit early today and went for a run.  I’d intended to run last night, but it was still cook-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot at 2100 / 9pm, and that wasn’t going to work (as compared to 0400 / 4am today, when it was in the high eighties Fahrenheit / around 30 degrees Celsius).  A quick six mile run through the quiet of pre-sunrise, and I had restored my balance in life.

2.  There’s an airborne operation that’s suppose to kick off today.  Our good friends in Afghanistan — are you ready for this? — are planning to drop a bundle of bundles out of a perfectly good airplane sometime today.  The world has come full circle — my dad use to say that he lived vicariously through me, and now I’m living vicariously through bundles of fabric.  Who knew.

3.  July is almost here.  Keep putting those bundles in the mail — we’re looking to surge sewing, knitting, and quilting goodies to Afghanistan through July, so there’s still plenty of time.  (Leave a comment below if you need the address).

4.  With July, I promise, will come the start of the next Super Secret Project.

5.  I’ve had a special request for a specific little bit of help, from one specific team out in one specific far corner of Afghanistan.  Is that specific enough for you?  I’m looking for just a couple of people — maybe 5 at most — willing to put together some super heavy bundles.  There are a few kids in Afghanistan, apparently, who like to draw and color and doodle.  Let me know if you’re in — there’s a special address and everything.  Operation Noodle Doodle, I think it should be called.

So, go have a good day.  Go be unstoppable (just don’t get all riled up and invade another country or something).

Say hello to Lita

June 19, 2011

You’re going to want to swing by here and take a read of what Lita said in an awesome comment.

I also received a few SSP5 Operation BBD packages. These donations will be sent to a refugee camp in Kunar Province. The refugee camp has been there for many years and the hundreds of refugee children adore receiving the small tokens of friendship.

Thank you, Lita — so very nice to hear from you, and thank you for such nice words.

Sunday morning update

June 19, 2011

So, it’s been a busy week.

Bundles are arriving in Afghanistan, and the crew there is building the first shipments for onward movement.  And the more Super Secret Bundles have arrived, too.  It’s been a busy, busy week.

Buuuut, I got some photos in the mail.  And some awesome, awesome notes of encouragement.

So, back to a quiet Fathers Day. I’m watching a horrible movie, and doing some research on manual / hand-crank sewing machines.  Really — that’s how I spent Sunday mornings in Iraq.  And yes, my own dad would agree with both my choice of actions and even my movie selection.

Some photos

June 15, 2011

If you’re looking for the address for IBOL / ABOL, just leave a comment anywhere here on the blog, and I’ll email you.

I’d telly u that I’ll email you in the next 60 seconds, but actually, sometimes it takes a day or two (sorry — sad, but it’s true).

And now, the important stuff.  After a long day at the office (15 hours), little beats turning on the email and finding stuff like this.

The owl, by the way, is the COOLEST of them all.

Two new ideas

June 12, 2011

OK, maybe not new.

I ran across these two articles (here, here).  I figured I’d ask — what are your thoughts on this>

School supplies would easy.  But support to Afghan women who make jewelry?

And yes, I actually had a query from Afghanistan about supplies for the Kuchi women who make this style of jewelry.

More on FET

June 11, 2011

Well, well, well.  Here’s a short article worth the read.  Looks like the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team is fielding FET’s to Afghanistan.  Hot diggity.
I heard from the ABOL team in Afghanistan this week — 18 had arrived at of their Friday night.  18 regular bundles, no SSP bundles. The good thing about places like Iraq and Afghanistan is that mail arrives every day, weather and transportation and other things permitting.

More in the morning.

Sorry about that

June 8, 2011

Sorry about that.  I sort of dropped off the net there for a little bit.  I’m back.

As some of you have heard, yes, there was an attack here in Baghdad the other day.  There are actually attacks in Baghdad most every day, but this one in particular caught the attention of the news.  It was horrible, tragic, and it involved the loss of life.

We each respond in our own ways at these times.  I’ve seen battle hardened Soldiers with ice in their veins, who may only flinch before getting back to the business at hand.  Others stop and reflect, and others fight their emotions as they face the losses.  It’s different for different folks, and it can be different each time, based on the conditions.  But it always sucks — that’s pretty universal, I think.

Why?  We fight our hardest not for king or country, but for the man or woman standing beside us during these times when we are called to arms. It is an integral part of our profession of arms, dating back for as long as we have had one.  We are here in service to the Republic, but we live and breath and will fight and bleed if we have to, all the more so for those with whom we stand — American or Iraqi.

For me this week, I buckled down and worked.  I do that sometimes.  My long days became even longer.  I skipped things like meals and time on Skype with my family, working more and harder and focused on a particular part of the problem set, trying to fix what I knew I could not undo but could only perhaps rectify.

My hard work won’t bring back a life taken.  But at times it feels like it is all that I can do.

So, sorry about dropping off the net.  Tomorrow, I will try to check in with Afghanistan and see how they are doing.  I should hope that they would be swimming in bundles by now.  And swimming in boxes from the Super Secret Project, too.

As we say, more to follow.  I needed to check back in, say hello, let you know that I am fine but saddened.  It happens, I just don’t have to like it.

And that’s me, last Saturday before the attack.  One of my buddies was cramping towards the end of the 18km run, so I went back out to find him and to run the rest of the way in with him.  We do some stupid things sometimes, like running an 18km race and then running some more, just to help a fellow Soldier see the mission through.

Sewing patterns

June 5, 2011

One of the things that’s different with ABOL is that yes, people are sending sewing patterns.  But what kind?  What works, what’s best?

Well, take a look at this photo, and I’ll see if I can explain.

1.  If you want to include a sewing pattern, like this photo, it does’t have to be the prettiest thing ever.

2.  And like this photo, it can be a guy thing.  It’s universal – people sew and make clothes for a bunch of reasons, utility still being on that list.

3.  See any bi-focals on that guy?  At his age, he’s obviously not ready to read anything.  Assume the same with patterns.  Good pictures will go a long way, and simple patterns not reliant on reading are idea.  Literacy is out of the norm.

4. Look at that sleeve.  Two ball points, and a Sharpie.  Egads, that’s a horrible set of tools.  What can one make with that?  Well, the answer is, not much.  But for most of the folks on the other end, it’s going to be simple sewing with simple tools.

5.  See the photo bomber?  Well, the CST has been running sewing classes when they can, and they’re interested in doing more.  So, if all goes well, there will be someone looking over their shoulder.  Just hopefully not in a creepy manner, like the ad on the wall here.

6.  That’s a pretty universal outfit in the photo.  Young and old, men and women in the US Army wear that garb.  Most folks still tend to wear the salwar kameez, which has pants like pajamas and a basic tunic-style top, and is worm by men and women.  The colors and fabric selection probably make the difference there.

7.  Think rugged.

8.  Think about patterns that support both light and heavier fabrics.

9. And thankfully, it’s not revealing.