Sunday, July 29, 2007


Refugee Realizes Dream of Citizenship
A Decade After Fleeing Iraq, Woman, 20, Is Serving as a U.S. Marine

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 25, 2007; Page A10

It was 1996 in Iraq, and Saddam Hussein was in power. U.N. inspectors were searching for weapons of mass destruction, and U.N. sanctions were on. U.S. jets screamed overhead in no-fly zones. Rival Kurdish factions battled openly. And the Babani family regularly stacked giant bags of powdered milk against the windows of their home in northern Iraq to protect against stray bullets.

Sona Babani was 10 years old at the time. She played hopscotch with her neighbors when she wasn't in her basement hiding from gunshots. Yesterday, Babani, 20, dressed in her Marine best and became a U.S. citizen.

Babani was surrounded by 24 men and women from 14 countries in a ceremony at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, where she led those in the room in the Pledge of Allegiance. Twelve others in the group were also members of the U.S. military. They joined about 26,000 other "green card" service members -- noncitizens serving in the U.S. military -- who have become citizens since September 2001.

"I am an American. I am a citizen of a country I am fighting for," Babani said, explaining her desire to become a citizen. "It's kind of personal. I have loved America since I was little."

NSA/CSS Adds New Name to Cryptologic Memorial Wall

On 24 July 2007, LTG Keith B. Alexander, USA, Director, National Security Agency/ Chief, Central Security Service, paid special tribute to CTT1 Steven P. Daugherty at a Memorial Ceremony. The service was attended by family, friends, and distinguished guests.

Petty Officer Daugherty, USN, a Cryptologic Technician Technical was a member of Navy Information Operations Command Norfolk, who was deployed in direct support of Commander, Naval Special Warfare Group TWO’s Tactical Support Center. He perished on 6 July 2007 while performing a cryptologic mission in Baghdad when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detonated near his humvee.

The ceremony included a traditional wreath laying and the unveiling of the name "CTT1 Steven P. Daugherty" on the NSA/CSS Cryptologic Memorial Wall. The wall, dedicated in 1996, lists the names of 157 Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, and civilian cryptologists who have made the ultimate sacrifice, "serving in silence," in the performance of their duties since World War II.

Additional information on the Memorial Wall and a special historical monograph highlighting CTT1 Daugherty’s life, service, and sacrifice can be viewed via the NSA/CSS web site at

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Why Persian Women Are Also Super Hot

Much as KassyK defended Israeli hott(i)ness, I couldn't help myself after I read the article.

See? This woman (the very un-chador'ed one at left) can only be found in Iran. Pick another Islami-super-state, and you'll come up dry. Well, at least on the streets. Saudi Arabia? Nope. Kuwait? Not a chance.

Among the many wondrous traits of the Persian female, finding ever-more creative ways to push the boundaries and, for lack of a better term, fight the man is perhaps paramount. Despite living in a patriarchal culture (to say nothing of it being the world's only theocracy -- now, now, the Vatican doesn't count...), Persian women by-and-large willfully continue to maintain their femininity. They have (*cough*) balls.

Exhibit: Let's call her Laleh (tulip). Look closely and observe that Laleh's manteau is form-fitting (likely tailored) and just barely covers her butt. Her roosari (headscarf) is patterned, and more importantly, pushed sufficiently back to reveal her diligently coiffed (and sinful) hair. Her jeans -- yes! designer jeans!! (Remember the Bedazzler?)

Of course, she has been stopped by a woman servant of the vice police... and she will likely end-up on a bus headed to a police substation where she'll have to promise (ay khoda!) to never be such a wanton slut again. But the point is: she left her house knowing that it was possible she'd be stopped and harassed. And she did it anyway. (Better, though, the matron than the club-wielding, motorcycle-riding asshat basiji.)

She and countless others just like her will, anshallah, one day resurrect the glorious Persian culture that brought the world such graceful beauties as Farah Pahlavi, the Shahbanu.

He’s now working on what he thinks is the perfect rock band for Iran.

“It has the usual things: drums, bass, guitars . . . but with girls!” They’re going to be Iran’s answer to the Spice Girls, but with a very different kind of girl power. The law says that the lead vocalist in a publicly approved rock band cannot be a girl. His trick is that all members of the band are vocalists, so it can’t be said that the lead vocalist is a girl. It is in thousands of such small tests of change that Iranians from all walks of life are transforming their country.


Friday, July 20, 2007


My MadisonKelsey Briggs

My mind has been swimming with thoughts of my daughter. I miss her. And I'm so afraid.

Somehow, three unrelated events have set me ill at ease.

First, I recently exchanged emails with my ex-wife:
Just wanted to go over a few things with you regarding Madison. First of all, she absolutely loved the letter you sent her so maybe in the future you could send her one every now and then. Secondly, my parents leave in 2 weeks and she's taking it very hard. She's had a bit of an attitude problem lately, but her therapist seems to think it's all the changes that are happening around her and the absence of you. I'm trying to be very patient with her because I know she is extremely upset about everything. She misses you terribly and cannot wait for you to come home, but she is also afraid of having to stay with you so we're basically at square one again with her. Do you know when you might be home? Other than that, things are fine. She's having a great time at camp. Talk to you soon.


Thank you for letting me know about how things are going, especially with Madison. I'm very sorry, for all of us, that your parents are leaving so soon. We both know that it will be an amazingly difficult transition for Madison.

That being said, I'm sure we can deal with it. Perhaps it makes you angry (but I hope not) to see me write we can deal with it , but never for a moment have I thought that I could be half the parent I am without you. Not even close. We have been through a lot -- each of us, independently, and certainly as a family. Even still, as a family. I hope you understand what I mean.

Nonetheless, we've done alright. You've done unbelievably . It will be a series of challenges with Madison in the coming months, but no more difficult or terribly different from the challenges that she faced when we split up, or when the relationships among you, me and S were so strained.

In case you haven't heard it in a while, N, I believe you are the best mother I could have ever hoped for. Sincerely.

As it is, I'm not sure when I'll make it home. I'm currently waiting for my relief -- he's been delayed for some unknown reason. I may be out of here anytime between now and in a couple of weeks. As sure as I know something, of course, I will immediately let you know.

I'm sorry.


p.s. Please give Madison her Daddy's love. Did she get the email I sent you about the cheetahs?

Second, a fellow blogger is struggling to keep her head above water in a situation very similar to one I've experienced myself. A new city. New job. Failed marriage. Separation from her daughter. A tenuous new relationship. She's been very open in her blog -- her journal, really -- as she makes efforts at coming to grips with everything that has happened. And I was saddened, somewhat, to read comments that absolutely lacked any sense of empathy.

In my professional circles, those that know I blog have asked "why?" countless times... a question to which I've developed a rote reply: it is the equivalent of a diary. Or a journal, if you prefer the more "masculine" sense. Nonetheless, it is on occasions such as reading spiteful and accusatory posts or comments that I re-join my old-person-pre-interwebs-world and consider this whole thing a silly exercise in self-aggrandizement... and of little real use in reflecting on ourselves and others. *shrug*

Third, I was introduced to the story of Kelsey Briggs, linked from ALa at Blonde Sagacity. I went in search of additional information, and I found a news article, and later, a web site that her grandparents created. I am crying as I write this...

I have two tabs open: this blog editor and Kelsey's Purpose. That poor little girl. Inside me I can feel a flicker of shame. Shame for tying this girl's life (and death) to my own feelings for my healthy and loved and cared-for daughter, and shame for the inexplicable sense that I am trivializing it all by writing a goddamned blog about it. And shame for being so wispy and woe-is-me and even offering sympathetic encouragement to Other Deployed Dads when, frankly, we have it pretty damned good.

Our ex-wives haven't married someone who is engaged in raping our baby daughters to death.

I have faith. I have such love for this world. But sometimes I feel like I am forcibly deluding myself. God, this world can be horrible. I love that little girl, and I never knew about her until her ignominious death brought her to the forefront of fucking political blogs. How shallow I seem -- how we all seem.

And yet... here I am in the business of war. One might think that I'd be numb to such things. As appalling as the idea of a pilot's corpse being dragged through Mogadishu is, or some bearded asshat in Kandahar strapping-on a really heavy vest and walking through a base checkpoint... these things don't generally faze me. Not like the truth of what people will do to their own children.

I need to go home.
My name is Kelsey, I'm only two.
I'm way too young to know right from wrong, I can barely sing a children's song.
When you hurt me, why can't you see, I don't understand, I'm not even three.
I try to walk: "Can't!"
My little body's black and blue and now you have taken my family too.
I love my daddy and he loves me, Grandma, PaPa, where can you be?
I don't forget, I think of you and when I'm hurt, your love shines through.
It's dark in here, I can't go on.... No! Wait! There's light, an angel's song.
I feel God's hand lift me away, he has the perfect place to play.
I know you hurt, I see your tears, but only God knows why I'm here.
Daddy, I'm okay, my body's new and I will never, ever forget you.
My name was Kelsey.

Connie Mathews
Kelsey's great-aunt

Monday, July 16, 2007

that which does not kill me

I have been delayed. My relief won't get here for a week or two... Bah.
Oh well -- good things come to those who wait, right?

(I suppose it happened because I'd been too happy about it. And I likely talked about coming home waaaay too much. I jinxed myself.)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

a consistent but temporary absence from the World

With but five days remaining on my current deployment, I have restarted taking stock of my life. My situation. My status, if you will. This is a habitual practice.

I have great experience with leaving the World behind for months and months and months at a time. Perhaps it is a survival mechanism, perhaps it is apathy, perhaps it is just something we're trained to do, but when I'm gone... I'm gone. The World doesn't really cease to exist, but it certainly becomes less important. Less poignant. Less today, and less real. To think and to worry and to wonder is suicidal -- we realize that doing so will change nothing. The changes occur without us, and we are disarmed and disconnected.

Four days after 9/11, I was on an airplane to the Middle East. Two days after my arrival, I disappeared. Now, I don't mean disappeared in some special The Unit kind of way. I mean disappeared because the tiny bubble I would inhabit for the next seven months was as utterly disconnected from the World as you can imagine.

My World collapsed and became intensely focused. On such falsely sexy things as mission objectives and survival and the team and my unit and just making it to the end of the det. These things replace others. Like reading the paper. Watching TV. Grabbing a drink at Happy Hour. Running in the park. Sleeping In. Squeezing daughters. Kissing wives and girlfriends.

Anyway. I missed the breaking news alerts. I missed the candle light vigils. I missed the little flags in car windows. I missed the stories of heroism and survival. I missed the heart-swelling. I missed the Toby Keith songs. I missed the tributes and the memorials and the tears and the hugs and the overwhelming, palpable pride in being American.

That sucked. I came home, and everything was normal. Or normal-ish. To that end, today I fervently watch re-runs of History Channel documentaries on the Twin Towers, much the same way my father used to watch anything that had anything to do with Vietnam, but for different reasons. I was the first in line at United 93. I crank up Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue every time I hear it.

Yet the History Channel didn't produce a documentary on my daughter's first steps. No one made a film about my then-wife's struggles to manage a family and a home and a career in my absence. Toby Keith didn't sing a song about Dad going to work at Pelican Bay State Prison. I can't get any of those things back. I was gone. None of these things happened -- not for me.

And here I am yet again, nearing the conclusion of what is my 17th deployment in 14 years of service. Of course, there was no cataclysmic world event that prefaced my trip this time... but I am nonetheless soon to rejoin the World, and I can only imagine what has happened in my absence.

My daughter will be taller. She will have big-people teeth where before there were vacancies. She will be blonder and smarter and more sweetly precocious than she was when I left.

S will be gone. She was gone before I deployed, but only in the ephemeral sense -- her fresh ghost still haunted my house and my room and my things and my thoughts and my heart, but I left with her as the driving force in my life. I will have returned to find her absence as the driving force in my life.

My best friend will be wearing business casual every day of the week. He retired from the Navy a month ago, and I didn't attend his ceremony.

My house will have changed. People I have never met and (likely never will) will be living in it. My home is now Scott's couch.

My office will have changed. There will be people there I've never met, and friends I'll miss will have left.

All of these changes occurred without my influence. Or presence. Inversely, as much as I say the World disappears, I suppose its really me that disappears. What other changes occurred?

It is always perversely difficult to return; that first step down the jetway is charged with excitement and anticipation and fear. When I finally breathe Baltimore air just outside baggage claim, I will again be confronted with the World.

Hope I can manage.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ignore me.

I am posting this having consumed a significant amount of Tusker's beer.

Nonetheless. I earned my wings today. Hooray. And the reason for the celebration. Or so I'm told. Or believe.

I miss her - S. And her - Madison.

And I would trade neither Scott nor Adam for anything in the world.

Six days or so 'til my relief gets here. Thank God.

I think I'll have a headache tomorrow. Or today, as it were. Gah.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

seeking that life less impossible

It's all so god damned confusing.

I don't have anything figured out. I'm not entirely confident that I ever will -- though I suppose that can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The ever-inspiring INPY recently wrote something that cut me right to the core:

Love is risk, and often times, many times, it’s risk without reward. And it doesn’t owe you a God damned thing. There is no “I deserve”. You don’t deserve anymore than anyone else does, and everyone deserves it. Everyone. And in the end? There’s really only “I am willing to work, to try, to risk”…and even that just brings up that there are no guarantees. You can work, and you can try, and you can still come home to an empty apartment and a note.

Jesus. I think that was me. Or is me. I work so hard for everything: professionally, academically, everything. And I must admit it: I work for something thinking that I'll have earned it. I think I extend the same sort of -- for lack of a better word -- work ethic in my relationships. This must be bad. Not that I develop a sense of entitlement, per se... but, I most certainly have a goal in mind -- and it's not self-serving, aside from the pride in having made her happy.

Wait. Where is the line between earning something and deserving it? And where is the line between falling on a sword and being selfless?

I'm fucking it all up.

I wrote this almost three months ago:

Which, of course, reminds me of one of those precious few moments, there at the end, when S spoke and I believed what she said as the naked truth. She told me -- that night I came home and thought I'd won her back -- that she "didn't deserve my love," and that she didn't return half of what I gave her, every day.

I insisted that she was wrong. That she did, in countless ways that she just couldn't see right then. I gave her examples; examples that I'm sure she'd forgotten, or simply didn't realize were so important to me. They were for not, of course.

In reflection though, I remember the moment with absolute clarity. As though it happened just moments ago. And I remember a very dark, very small, very secret place in my heart nodded when she said that. It was quick; fleeting. Somewhere deep inside me, I agreed. That I worked harder at us than she did.

But I pushed it away. Hard. Quicker than the breath came that carried my protest, it was gone.

I knew she was right.
I don't know which one of me I believe, now. That she did deserve it? That she didn't deserve it? That I resisted? That I agreed?


I have diagnosed myself with Knight in Shining Armor Syndrome. I'm a helper. A healer. A consoler. A listener. The shoulder that's always there. The problem-solver. Mostly, I'm the doer.

--Edit: One of my closest friends just emailed me and (as is his endearing habit,) bluntly told me that the above paragraph makes me sound like a martyr. This was not my intent at all. I should clarify, by adding:

This compulsion of mine -- the Knight thing -- is a penchant to save
her even when it is not requested. I have failed --repeatedly-- at just listening and empathizing... instead, I see a problem as an obstacle, and recommend an action to get past it. I have this intrinsic need to jump into her problems and solve them, and take responsibility for them, even when it is both unsolicited and, frankly, unwarranted. This has, in the past, lead to a great deal of frustration; mine for being "unappreciated" and confused, and hers for not having had the opportunity to deal with whatever it is on her own. Alas, as I've said, it's been a very tough habit to break. As much as I endeavor to listen, I've been much quicker to just do. Which is bad.--

My ex-wife was a diagnosed depressive. I left when I finally came to realize that misery really does love company. No matter how many problems I solved, always others came springing up to take their place. No matter how empathetic I tried to be, I remember falling asleep many a night, wondering, "What is so bad? Why is it so hard for her?"

She had reasons to be depressed. They are still very good reasons. But I couldn't compensate for them. I exhausted myself -- and our relationship -- fighting demons that I could not see, and that were not my own.

Next came S, the truest and purest and most assured form of love I could have ever imagined. She had demons, too. And also for good reasons. I tried to help. But there was that wall -- damn the cliche, but damn it! -- there was a wall. I only got to peek over it, every so often. Cradling her head in my arms, I felt it. Deep. Stroking her cheek, wet with tears.

Yet my line of thinking was this: I'll prove myself worthy. Of her trust. Of her love. That I'll hold her and never let go.

Jokingly, I used to say that I must attract this kind of woman. With problems -- not in the banal sense, that "problems" -- but the Maiden in Distress.

I think, maybe, that I seek them. And I can't stop. I don't want to stop. It is me. It is who I am.

Heaven help me.

Jess, at what? the curtains? also poignantly reflected on love:
That, to me, love really isn’t about completing another person. It isn’t about some soul connection that should be backgrounded by swelling violins.
The truth is that we are all incomplete and are meant to be so. But we can seek to know more about everything by questioning and analyzing ourselves and the world. Of realizing some answers cannot be explained but simply known.

And I think the new thing for me is this: One of the most incredible things about love is the possibility of knowing someone else. It’s not a simple thing, and it’s a wonderfully courageous undertaking. Because it also requires letting them know you.
I let S know me. I wish she'd have let me know her. I think I thought I deserved it. And now I'm afraid that I'm down by two counts: thinking that I deserved it, and being attracted to women who engender the feeling.

But then again, the only thing in common between my ex-wife and S is: ME. Perhaps it isn't them -- perhaps it's me. Perhaps in ascribing the failures to some sort of wall, I'm excusing my own responsibility. Which only makes me want to try harder, next time. That has to be bad, too.

It's all unraveling. Another cliche: the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know a damned thing. Dad would've been proud at that realization, I think.

All my knowledge and piety I detest

What have I gained from your love in my breast?

Though the wind of separation blew away my zest

I kept my vows to Thee, sincere, honest.

As a spec of dust, I may be small at best

But through love, the sun itself is my nest.

Bring forth the wine, let me joyously ingest

For safety and security, in joy I didn’t invest.

If you are sober, save your advice and protest

Waste not your words on me, the drunken pest.

From shame, can’t keep my head above my chest

I was not of worthy service, in my quest.

Beloved didn’t say, though life Hafiz molest

Let me send him a cure to put him to rest.

-- Hafez

Sunday, July 1, 2007

a screenshot... or... holy hell, it's hot

This, folks, is a screenshot. I've just taken it from my desktop. You will kindly note that the time you see indicated on the clock is PM.

One hundred and eleven degrees. In the dark.

Holy hell.