Posts Tagged ‘YARBOLs’

Sometimes, it’s more than awesome

June 28, 2011

You know, it’s not all horrible over here.

I spent Monday on the road, heading out to go see another unit.  It just so happens that we went by air, and that I got the best seat in the house, and that our path took us over the marshes.  Dumb luck on my part, but it made for a pretty awesome day.

No, that’s not a road but a waterway.

See?  Boats, not terrorists.  Not even speeding boats, just boats.

Want to know the best thing about today?

Ann and Diana (Diana and Ann?) and their nine boxes / 45 lbs of love.  It made my day.

Fallujah and Bin Laden — things I never thought I’d say together

May 2, 2011

Just a couple things – it’s late, I’m tired, and all that good stuff.

1.  thank to all of you for the nice notes and emails today, regarding the recent military operations in the Afghanistan / Pakistan areas, in order to capture / kill Usama bin Laden.  I do appreciate your kind words and well wishes.  The jokes of the day was, of course, “Thanks, but you do realize I am in Baghdad, and that’s nowhere near Pakistan, right?”  All jokes aside, it’s good to see operations go smoothly, it’s good to see our Joe’s make it in and out OK, and it’s good to see that they hit the objective and the target was there.  Intelligence drives operations, or so they say.

2.  Fallujah.  Wow.  thank you, all of you, for all that you have done to help with Fallujah.  With it being rather remote, bundles will surely take some time to make their way to Fallujah.  But that’s OK.  You all are awesome for helping.

3.  I’m gonna take a short pause.  I’m going to have to let my foot off of the gas for IBOL for this month, and work on, well, work.  No, it’s no bin Laden’s fault; my battle buddy is on R&R, and I’m swamped.  Asking people to put bundles into the mail by the end of April was no accident; I saw this train wreck coming even back then.  So, bear with me while I bear down and try — try! — to do the work of two.  This should be interesting — the wailing and gnashing of teeth you hear is likely me.

4.  OMG, OMG, OMG.  June will being the next round of IBOL.  The big push, pre-Ramadan (which kicks off around 01 August, depending on the moon — really).  Why is it OMB?  I won’t be IBOL.  Yep — sealed the deal.  We’re pushing stuff to Afghanistan.  Maybe a little bit more to Iraq, we’ll see, but we have AWESOME plans for Afghanistan.  Get ready to get giddy, it’s gonna be a ball.  If you’ve enjoyed the secret projects, or enjoyed helping Iraq, or found solace or goodness or reward in helping with IBOL, I suspect you’ll find the same or more when you hear how this is going to play out.

But first, some sleep, some work, a little bit of food, and even some running.  Yes, besides all this, I am back out there running, and making noise about making a run at the Kauai marathon in the fall.  I’m too busy these days to run a fever, yet somehow I got it in my head to train for some longer running.  Egads.

But sleep.  That’s next.

And thanks.  Thank you all for tagging along on this mighty adventure.  Thank you for helping out in ways I never dreamed possible.

Let’s review the bidding: IB♥L3D

February 10, 2011

I’m seeing some people wander in to the site these days — some of you are blogging about IB♥L3D, and some of you are mentioning it on forums and other hidden places.

Thank you.  Thank you for spreading the world.  IB♥L has and always will be a grass roots effort.  Word of mouth, and personal testimony, are what has made it the success it is.

So, for all of you who just wandered in here, hello.  I’m IBOL Guy, and I’ll be your cruise director.

IBOL started in 2009, on my last little adventure here in Iraq.  It was timed to coincide with Ramadan, and was intended to facilitate linking security forces to people — Iraqi security forces, that is, with Iraqi people.  Great folks form around the world made and sent bundles to me at my home-away-from-home in Northern Iraq, and I assembled and moved them about so that they could be distributed across the region.

It was kinda successful — 3445 bundles, totally about 30,000 lbs of sewing, quilting and knitting stuff.

And, it was totally unsanctioned by the military.  With the help of volunteers, in Iraq and here and there, the whole thing was done without being a burden on the units, and without involving money (free website, free this, free that).

It seemed like a good idea, so much so that in 2010, the Provincial Reconstruction Team for the Salah ad Din Province (where I had been) asked to do a smaller version — IBOL II.  That was about 900 bundles.

I am in Iraqi again, for my 4th tour (do I get a prize?), and we’ve started IB♥L3D a little early.  A unit here has asked for a surge of 500 bundles, for a special project, so that’s underway right now.  We’re leaning forward for Ramadan again this year (around August), and plan to do a bigger push then.

Have I caught your interest?  Leave a comment and I will send you all kinds of details.

Eating an elephant

September 19, 2009

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

You all have been asking about distribution. And I have not been going into a lot of detail.

When this was small, it was going to be easy, and it was easy. Fifty here, fifty there — stuff that fits in a pick up. With not too much trouble, I was able to push probably 200 out into the local area with a couple of the units from the base at which I am assigned.

But as that was happening, we here at IBOL World HQ were dealing the flood. My eyes were either rolling back in my head, or they were popping out of their sockets. One moment I’m in awe at the sheer numbers, and the next I’m listening to the clicking and clacking of the gears turning inside my head.

Now, I’ve joked about all of this being done without the approval of anyone. I’ve joked, but it’s totally true. Almost every aspect of this IBOL thing has been done on a very personal basis — reaching out to individuals, telling them about IBOL, ad bringing them on to the team, so to speak. About a week ago, the guy who runs the warehouse told me that he had approached one of the big units on our base, and that they had agreed to distribute it all — lock, stock, and barrel. Suddenly, everything I had in the works for distribution was put on pause — we had a solution.

Well, that didn’t last long.

So, I reached back out, to counterparts (in rank) with three of the other big subordinate units — located across northern Iraq. I wrote up a short note, explaining what it was all about, and suggested they contact me if this sounds like something they’d be interested in supporting.

Two replied, in about 3 seconds flat.

The plan? Make some of these:


These 463l pallets, or just plain pallets as we call them, can be loaded into helicopters or onto trucks, and moved to our subordinate units elsewhere in northern Iraq. From there, these pallets can be broken down into smaller and smaller clusters, and finally delivered. I’ve got a bunch more “coordinating” to do, and a ton of paperwork.

This won’t be complete this week. It’s going to spill over past Ramadan. IBOL — it’s just that big. When you order a burger, and you get an elephant in a bun, just expect that it’ll take a little bit longer to eat. But eat it just the same — one bite at a time.

The Warehouse

September 16, 2009

They got more bundles in last night. The timing was perfect — 4 made it past the mail folks and were in my office, and they spent the day as the footrest for my incredibly swollen sprained ankle. So, for the four who sent these exact ones (and they were good study, heavy ones, too) – thank you, on a very personal level.

I owe you all some photos from the warehouse. I think most of you saw the video from yesterday. I apologize – I got photos of 4 of the 5 clusters of boxes. Cluster #4, for which there is no photo, is also the ones with the cutest IBOL box ever, which, it turns out, was made by the daughter of an old friend (that’s on Facebook, BTW).

Cluster 1

Cluster 2

Cluster 3

Cluster 5

Well, that was a bad idea

September 15, 2009

I went to the warehouse today. Folks, we need to talk.

1. Right now, you do not want to play me at Tetris. I will win. I have packed bajillions of IBOL boxes into and out of the truck in recent weeks. I have it down to a science.

2. Let me see a show of hands — how many of you wrote a warm, heartfelt note to me and stuck it in with you bundle, before closing it up and mailing it? One, two, three, four — that’s what I thought. Apparently, nearly all of you did. It’s enough that you’re helping with this project — you didn’t need to go and get all flowery and mushy and thanky on me. I’m a hardened killer — I’m not suppose to be getting all choked up and stuff.

3. I did make it to the warehouse today. I said some very bad words when I walked into the warehouse. Some very bad words. For the first time in a long time, I was damn near speechless. Here’s a little of what I saw.

4. Here’s the view of my drive to the warehouse. You might look at this and think, “ugh!” I look at it and ask, “When can I go running again?” I run along this road, in the dead of night, a few times a week, and it’s an awesome little stretch of road.

Oh, and I totally almost forgot. You’re going to want to see this.

It’s time we had a little talk

September 11, 2009

When I started the project, I didn’t know how big it would get.

Or how it would spread across the web. Or the world.

Or how many people would take an interest, and volunteer to participate.

Or how many people would actually send a box.

Or how many boxes an individual would send.

Or the total amount of boxes, or their volume, or their weight.

Or when they’d arrive.

Or how I’d actually distribute them.

I also did not have permission from anyone to do this.

All I knew was that I had an idea, that it seemed like a good idea, and that I probably needed to act on it.

And so I did.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I spent time with my mail folks and the warehouse folks. I worked it out with my mail folks that any boxes coming to me would be delivered to the warehouse — if lots of bundles started to arrive (for some crazy reason), it just made sense to be ready and to have the IBOL’s go right to the warehouse. The warehouse folks had received the first few boxes mailed directly to them by then — maybe 80. I had received the other 414 or so total at that point, had given some out to a couple of local units, moved others to the warehouse, but still had about 80 in my own room.

On Monday, I moved some of mine to the warehouse, and posted photos here.

Tuesday, I got one in the mail; the warehouse got none.

Wednesday, I got one. The warehouse got 357 more in the mail.

Thursday, I got none. They got 365 more in the mail.

Today, I got my Sports Illustrated, but not my Hot Rod. I was kind of bummed. I was really hoping the new Hot Rod would arrive. I mean, after all, the new Sports Illustrated had arrived — shouldn’t Hot Rod arrive, too? Oh, and the warehouse, they got 697 bundles in the mail.

The urban legend is that 11 pallets of mail were flown in yesterday, six of which were for IBOL. I had two soldiers separately tell me that one.

I have not been to the warehouse since Monday, but I am told that there are a few over there now . Received to date? 1921, between what’s come to me and what’s gone right to the warehouse. So, there’s probably 1600 bundles at the warehouse right now.

And I thought 50 boxes was going to be a pretty good indicator of success.

Honest to goodness, between all of the passing of information in emails and in guilds and that crazy email from the Houston folks and the Sew Mama Sew stuff, I have no idea how many people have mailed boxes, much less how to estimate that.

I have no idea how many actual boxes are en route, or how to even begin to take a guess at that. Honest to goodness, I had a wonder lady explain to me in an email today that she put 19 bundles in the mail. Nineteen! And if you think that’s unique, I could probably rattle of the names of a half or full dozen more people who have mailed over 10. This is some crazy scary math, even trying to extrapolate this stuff out (~2600 comments, maybe minus 100 for non-requests of the address; 150+ from Sew Mama Sew; the Houston email went to maybe 50,000+ people; there are probably 36 to 60 guilds or groups that shared the address…)

Does your brain hurt now, too? Yeah, this is what I am dealing with — in and around my day job. Which also makes my brain hurt.

I have two good-sized units that are lining up trucks and pick up dates, and seem to think they’ll be in a position to deliver tons of IBOLS — which, if the boxes really do average out to 7 or 8 lbs per box, and there really do turn out to be 3000 to 5000 IBOLs, there really are going to be tons of IBOLs to deliver.

How does one distribute something like three to five thousand bundles? Very carefully, I suppose. It’s a bit like eating an elephant — figure out what size bites you can take, and keep eating. I’ve got plan A, and a plan B. I’ll spare you the details, but will try to get and share some photos. Not sure when I can get to the warehouse, either — I’ll see what I can do about tomorrow.

More later — I need to go sleep. Apparently, it’s Patriot Day (not to confuse anyone) — where did August go? Seriously, I need to work less and sleep more.

I’ve said thank you about a half a billion times, right? Make it half a billion and one — thank you.

Who else needs to know

September 1, 2009

So, here we are – a week out from the mailing deadline.

Who else needs to know?

Whom haven’t you contacted about IBOL? To whom have you not sent the link? Who, in 10 days, would be upset to learn about IBOL and that they’d missed their chance to participate?

We’re at that point where we need to be thinking about these types of things. If so-and-so were to find out right now, would they participate and would they have enough time to participate?

And remember — there’s that newer mailing address. It does not have my name in it. If you’re still using a mailing address with my name in it, well, email me and ask for the newer one that goes right to the warehouse. The new one makes reference to IBOL – Population Donation.


August 20, 2009

So, 26 bundles have arrived. Today brought the first YARBOL — yarn bundle of love.

And I have to ask — how does my stash compare to yours? I think this stash is AWESOME.

And I need to show you one more bundle. It’s the anti-bundle. It arrived….. naked.

Can you see those? The fabric is truly spectacular. Opening the box, my first thought was, Someone could part with this? I’ll grad something and bundle it up in the next couple of days – probably after I get to stare at it some more.

Oh, and before I forget — my room has that wonderful smell of fabric. Which is much nicer than its normal smell of running shoes. All I need now is a cat to sleep amongst the bundles, and all would be right in the world.

And relax — there’s plenty of time still. The mailing deadline isn’t until 07 September — weeks away! Go play in your stash, rummage around and bit.

The week in review

August 16, 2009
IBOL Kitteh say, Meh.

IBOL Kitteh say, "Meh."

On this quiet Sunday morning, I thought I’d try and wrap up a few loose ideas and other things.

1. Thanks. Holy smokes, THANKS. I really thought that success for this project was going to be measures in tens, not hundreds. My units is trying to figure out where to put all these bundles until we start making deliveries — and yes, this is a marvelous problem to have!

2. Yes, by all means — I am totally OK with you giving the mail address to people. I ask a couple of things — a) I am trying to keep the actual address off of the web, since this thing only runs for so long (and since I leave not long after it ends), and 2) you pass along that stuff should be post-marked by 7 Sept. I think that probably applies for international mail, too. If you’re on Palau, well, I’d send stuff sooner rather than later.

3. Has anyone convinced their local fabric / yard place to support this by selling stuff at cost (or darn tootin’ cheap)? Please let me know. I would love, love, love to find a fabric / yard place doing this. It’s gotta be possible, right?

4. What if that store had local volunteers who built actual bundles? And took Visa? Suddenly, the non-quilting / knitting people of the world — stop laughing! They really do exist! — would have an easy way to pile on board, too. I could soooo sell that idea to nerds. And to people to go to sock week dressed as Darth Vader. And rock stars. The rest of the world.

5. Jacquie posted some wonderful eye candy about what she’s sending (here), and in the comments, Rachel made what was probably a tongue-in-cheek offer to send 20 yards for fabric in exchange for one of the pieces heading her way instead. Which might actually happen. Which got me thinking — one yard becomes 20? Really? How else is this thing mutating in weird, wonderful ways?

6. There’s a Flickr tag for this whole thing: iraqibundlesoflove. Over on Facebook, I am linking to some of the many photos of bundles that people are posting to the web, mostly on their own websites. And I gotta say — wow, they are stunning. And very popular with the cats, since they seem to be almost magnetically attracted to these bundles, too. Probably because the bundle represents a pile that they can either 1) sit on, or 2) barf on.

7. Fans of the blog Happy Zombie might want to swing by JoCo‘s site here and download the zombie song. Yes, it’s legal to download this (even in the US), and yes, it’s free.

8. The first day this site was up, 10 people visited. And I bet they all shared the same family name as well. And Google returned no results when you searched for the phrase Iraqi Bundles of Love. Friday, the site was hammered by just a hair under 2000 hits, and what seemed like 1000 people leaving comments asking for the address (Ok, it was probably just 50). There’s been a ton of visitors from the US and Canada. And Germany, my other home. And now some from Australia (!). And the UK. And Norway. It warms my heart plenty to have so many, from so many places, offer to help out this US Soldier. So, I will leave you with one of my favorite photos of all time, that I took in Flam, Norway, back when we were expecting IBOL Kid #2. Maybe it’ll warm our heart, too.

And for the record, yes, you can now go do your part to stimulate the international economy by shopping for material to re-stock your stash.