Archives / 2004 / August
  • Bitmask Helper Function

    I had a need recently to be able to determine if a given position of an integer bitmask was set or not (for example, given the bitmask 0101 which is 5 in decimal, how would you check if the 4 position is set? -- this is less obvious for, say decimal 75 -- is 16 set?).  Here's the method I came up with, which could be done in one line but is broken into several for clarity and ease of debugging: Updated (thanks to Scott Allen):private bool IsBitSetSmartWay(int bitmask, int bitpositionvalue){   // bitmask is an integer bitmask value (e.g. 1111 = 15)   // bitpositionvalue is a power of 2 (e.g. 1,2,4,8,16)   return (bitmask & bitpositionvalue) > … more

  • Big Guns

    No, not my muscles...  We had weapons qualification earlier this week and brought along some other weapons to familiarize with (courtesy of EOD).  I got a few pictures and a couple of nice movies of the experience.  All the pictures are in the August gallery.  Here's one of my favorites: More pics in the gallery, including some with a Dragunov russian sniper rifle (that was having some issues with actually firing).The M82 is a beast of a gun.  It fires the same rounds as the .50 cal machine guns that we use.  It's heavy and extremely loud.  You'll see what I mean in the movie below - it literally causes a shockwave that shakes the ground enough … more

  • Some Product Reviews and Packing Tips

    Still love all my UnderArmour stuff -- I don't wear anything else for shirts/underwear now. Got a Gilette Mach3 razor from my wife a few days ago to replace my Gillette Sensor (figured I'd give the new one a shot and see how I liked it).  The difference was amazing - there's no way I'm going back to the Sensor.  I know it's a pretty simple thing, shaving, but seeing as I'm doing 7 days a week now I really appreciate having the better razor. I've read a couple of books since I've been here, both by Tom Clancy.  One was Red Rabbit, which I think I started back in the states, and only finished maybe a week and a half ago.  It wasn't one of his better books, IMHO.  The … more

  • Outlook Search Plugin Lookout! Note to self - download this and try it out ASAP. more

  • Update From Caldwell

    Things are moving along here.  I'm fine.  My roommate moved to another base a few days ago, so now I've got a room to myself.  However, that probably won't last since it sounds like I'll be moving to another base (separate from Chris) as well in a few weeks.  Still most likely doing the same kinds of missions, though.  Accomodations won't be as nice if and when I move, and Internet access will be much more limited as well. I got a request to talk a bit about the living conditions for the Iraqis here.  In this area things are very rural most of the places we go.  The largest city nearby is Balad Ruz, which you'll find on CNN a bit if you do some searching as … more

  • EQT Training

    Because I'm stationed at the same base as my battalion and brigade headquarters ('close to the flagpole'), my platoon (and company) has to endure some silliness that units further from here do not.  For instance, while back home, some of the major training activities that national guard units do include common task training (CTT), engineer qualification tables (EQT), army physical fitness tests (APFT), and weapons qualification (strangely, no acronym for this one).  If I were at one of the other FOBs, it would be sufficient that I would be deployed in a hostile country and trying to perform my wartime missions.  However, at this base, in addition to doing all of that, we're … more

  • Goodies for Iraqi Kids

    I wrote last month about how the Iraqi children come running and waving whenever we drive through villages, and how sometimes our troops have candy and stuff to throw to them.  Since I have most of what I need to get by here, I told people wanting to send me stuff that they could send me stuff to give to the kids.  My mom and a friend of my other mom's from Stow both sent me some big care packages last week with a bunch of stuff for kids, including bulk hard candy, crayons (which, amazingly, survived without melting or getting broken), pens, loose leaf filler paper, hair barretts, and kid sunglasses.  I spent an hour or so last Saturday filling up 25 large ziploc bags with a … more

  • Letters

    I got two letters this morning, one from my wife and one from my mom.  One was sent on July 12th and the other on July 27th.  So, as you can tell, the mail system is sometimes a bit flaky, but so far it seems like everything that's been sent has been getting to me, eventually. more

  • Changes Coming in Whidbey B2

    In case you've been in Iraq or something and haven't already seen this, here's a post from Shanku about upcoming changes to ASP.NET coming in Beta 2 (mostly features that won't make the cut). Somehow, despite my being in Iraq at the moment, this blog still gets way more readers than my current one at  I guess that's a good thing, since when I get home next year I'll still have a few readers here to come back to. more

  • Engineers Doing EOD Work Get Incentive Pay

    This Stars and Stripes article:,13319,FL_pay_042004,00.html Describes how engineers doing the work of ordnance disposal are now (as of last November) eligible  to receive incentive pay of $150/month.  So far I haven't seen this but at some point I should since I've been doing this since July and my company has been tracking this. more

  • Army Aphorisms

    Here's a few Army aphorisms I've picked up over the years and tend to live by: 1. “Sleep when you can” -- this is something every soldier should live by.  Basically, you never know when you'll get your next chance to sleep, so take the opportunities when they present themselves. 2. “Semper Gumby” -- Loosely translated: Ever Flexible.  It's usually pointless to plan anything more than a few days out (or perhaps next drill in the Guard/Reserves), since it invariably gets changed, usually by higher headquarters.  Thus, it's more important to be ready to adjust when things change. 3. “It's a soldier's right to bitch” -- Pretty much speaks for … more

  • Care Packages

    I got a couple of packages yesterday.  The mail here is unpredictable, and usually only comes about 1-2 times per week.  The average time is around 2 weeks.  One package I got was sent 2 August (10 days), the other like 27 July (16 days).  What sometimes happens is several containers of stuff will get staged at another location and newer stuff will block in older stuff (e.g. a stack scenario -- Last In First Out), and so sometimes a container of mail can get 'lost' at a way station until the stack is completely removed, which could take a few months. Anyway, my mom and my wife sent me some goodies (thanks!).  I now have lots of kool-aid and lemonade and … more

  • Happy Anniversary (to us)

    Not much new here.  Today's my ninth wedding anniversary, so I just wanted to say Happy Anniversary and 'I love you' to Michelle. Hanging in there... more

  • Fun 550 Cord Tricks

    A friend of mine from Kent State (hi jen) had one of these cool 550 paracord square braids on her keychain that interested me (a couple of years ago), but she didn't know how to make it, since it was a gift from someone she knew in the army.  Having missed that particular class during my prior service, I was a bit bummed but didn't worry too much about it since I was out and all.  Once I got called back, I tried to find how to do it on the Internet, but couldn't find anything.  However, upon arriving in Iraq I found that most of the unit had the same woven cord braids for their earplug cases (which in the guard are typically worn with BDUs/DCUs and attached with black dog tag … more

  • Paracord Square Weave Braid Rope

    I learned how to do this from another LT here in Iraq, who said he learned how to do it in the Boy Scouts.  I'd seen a few of them on friends' key chains but they'd been given to them as gifts by folks they knew in the Army, so they didn't know how to do it.  I tried to find how to do it on the Internet, but couldn't.  Once my buddy showed me how to do it, though, it was pretty simple.  To share it with others who may be looking for how to do it, I'm putting together this article. To start, you need two pieces of paracord.  In this case, I'm making a pretty long braid, starting with two 4 foot long pieces of 550 cord. Next, you need to gut the rope -- pull out the … more

  • AK-47

    Got to play with an AK-47 earlier this week.  It's got a lot more kick than the M16.  It was fun to fire, though.   more

  • 1ID Article About Engineers Mission

    This article does a good job of summing up what my mission is here in Iraq. The Engineers and EOD…Working Together to Clear Iraq One IED at a Time more

  • Road Trip: Baghdad

    My platoon made a trip to a base in Baghdad this weekend to pick up some stuff.  It was my first major convoy over here.  Everything went pretty smoothly.  We ended up leaving a day later than planned since the first day we made it about 2 hours out when my humvee's engine died, so we had to turn back with it in tow.  The next day, though, the replacement humvee did fine.  The base we went to had some pretty nice palace buildings, although most of them were pretty damaged from the 'shock and awe' campaign.  We slept across the street from the palace that I think belonged to Hussein's sons and which was on CNN showing before and after pictures of the … more