Friday, March 31, 2006

Bored, nothing to do

So, my database now has over 600 entries (contact name, business name, multiple addresses, etc.), and I've done all of the other extraneous tasks that my tempBoss left for me to do. Actually, I finished them all an hour ago and now have finished all of the web-surfing I can handle for now. I'd work on some freelance writing that I'm doing, but I was working on it this morning and emailed myself the updated version, but I can't download it for some reason. I didn't really do a lot to it, so I could use the version I've got on my flash disk, but I'd rather not.

So, tempBoss is at home with a plumber at his new house (he's moved his family like six different times in the past couple of years!!). I'd just leave too except that he might come back this afternoon and, if he does, I need to tell him about an interview I've got on Monday. It's with one of those lettered agencies that resides around the greater DC area.

I'm sure it's just because it's much easier this way than it would be to badge me and get me into their facility, but I feel like it's something out of Alias since I'm meeting this guy that I've never met at a random Starbucks just after lunch to talk about a job with this particular organization.

It sounds like pretty cool work, but would involve deployments to 'hazardous' locations overseas for several months at a time every couple of years. Considering that my second home is one of those places, that's not really that big of a deal to me, except that it's not just about me anymore. VNB might have some objections to me being gone for six months at a time some place that isn't exactly considered "safe."

I told the guy who called that I'd have to discuss things with my husband first, but that I wasn't saying that it'd be out of the question. He seemed ok with that answer.

In the meantime, the folks here at tempJob really like me and my work and want me to stay on until they hire someone permanently. They're interviewing now, but it could still take a few weeks. But in the meantime, I may learn something about gold futures and investments and stuff....either that or my brain will turn into mush.

But chips....and not bad stuff either - yesterday it was Berttuccis! It could be worse. Now I just need to remember to ask my "handler" how much I'm getting paid for this.

I know how to submit my timesheet and when my check gets mailed from where and when it should arrive here in the mail....but not how much it'll be worth.

Me and my crack negotiating skills.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Temping, Day 2 entry....

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Temping, Day 1

So I signed up with a temp agency last Friday. Today is the first day of my first job. I've been here for 30 minutes now and have gotten the "tour" from the poor lady who just happened to be wandering through the reception area when I came in, sat around for a few minutes while the guy I'm working for was out getting coffee, gotten the tour again from him, received five packages (and actually remembered the name of one of the people I was introduced to and was able to deliver her package to her, impressing several people with my amazing memory), checked my email, caught up on the news and all of my websites....and now I'm just waiting.....

The guy I'm working for wants me to make this database and make it like this other database that someone else already I'm waiting until she's free so that she can show me her database that I can then copy and input different data into.

In the meantime, I'm listening to this old guy down the hall who likes to talk very loudly on the phone with his door open. Not quite, but just about every other word is a curse word. I seriously haven't heard this much cursing since the time I started to watch Pulp Fiction (I left after 20 minutes because I couldn't take it).

Anyway....the lady should be done soon, so I guess I'll update more later.


Dude....the company buys everyone lunch everyday! This rocks!

Friday, March 24, 2006


Song overheard during hour 2 of my time on hold with the MVA:

"I think it's gonna be a long, long time."

(or at least that was the tag which was repeated over and over at the end of the song).

I'd laugh at the irony of that, but I've got stuff I've gotta do this afternoon.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Don't mind me....I'm just a little grumpy today, and with grumpiness comes sarcasm. I don't need to be reminded that "the right job will come along at the right time." In fact, comments along those lines will only compound the grumpiness.

10 Things You Can't Do With A MS in Aerospace Engineering

10. Use it to cook dinner (unless it's a very quick-cooking meal, in which case, see #2 below).
9. Sell it on e-Bay.
8. Use it as postage.
7. Use it as a musical instrument (unless you're wanting to sound like very small thunder, or do some serious "customer modifications" to it).
6. Use it to write the great American novel.
5. Call a friend with it.
4. Drive anywhere in it.
3. Wear it (unless you're really tiny or aren't very modest).
2. Make a real airplane with it.
1. Get a job. Or maybe that's just me.

10 Things You Can Do With A MS in Aerospace Engineering

10. Wallpaper a very small portion of a wall
9. Have a very small and short-lived fire
8. Hit people on the head with the tube they mail it to you in.
7. Be afraid to take a copy of it with you when you go to live in the Middle East for fear of being absconded by terrorists for your rocket-building skills. Oh wait....that was things you can do with a BS in aerospace engineering. Sorry...wrong list.
6. Make recruiters' eyes glaze over when you speak to them about possible job openings.
5. Make yourself extremely overqualified (to the point of being un-hireable) for blue-collar or temporary positions.
4. Make normal peoples' eyes glaze over when you tell them what your degree was in.
3. Be allowed to tell people "well, it's not rocket science" and actually mean it.
2. Be allowed to tell people "well, it is rocket science" and actually mean it.
1. Make an oddly-shaped paper airplane.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Survivor's Guilt....Sorta

So today, two years ago, five of my friends were hit by rpg/mortar and small arms fire as they were driving from Irbil to Mosul in the north of Iraq. Three died instantly, including a lady who had been my roommate for a while. One retained consciousness long enough to call for help, and one remained unconscious for a few weeks (medically-induced after a time to allow her to heal). The one who called for help was able to describe the attack to the military personnel who were attending to his wounds, but took a turn for the worse the next night, and on his way to Baghdad by medivac for further treatment, died as well. The one survivor received 12 bullet wounds, and lost three fingers, and the tip of her nose.

While that was happening, I was safely in Baghdad.

I don't question why they were killed. Their lives brought a great deal of glory to God, and their deaths have only continued, if not increased, that. I also don't question why I was spared - God obviously wanted to keep me around here for a while longer, and I'm cool with that. So, it's not really "survivor's guilt" that makes me so emotional when I think of my friends.

As I said in an earlier post, God loves me and He gives me all sorts of wonderful things - "more than I could ever ask or imagine." I'm singing a solo in church this Sunday about how faithful He's been to me, and it's very, very true. And I don't know why. I'm certainly no better than anyone else, He just seems to shelter me more.

And I think that scares me for two reasons: 1) it could mean that I'm not strong enough to handle life, so he's made it easy for me, or 2) (and this is the one that I lean toward out of pride, but also because I know it's true) to whom much is given, much is expected....and someday, much will be expected of me. I guess I'm scared that I won't be able to handle whatever it is, and I'm scared that I will be able to handle it.

The title of my blog is "Who Said Anything About Common Sense?" One of the things I've come to believe over the course of the last few years is that common sense is something that we Western Christians have come to hide behind. We say that 'God gave us a brain, so we should use it' and not do anything crazy like walk on water, or any number of other things which were counted among the great acts of faith, simply because it "doesn't make common sense."

I guess what I really fear is that, as He's done so many other times, God will call that bluff of mine someday too. He will ask me to do something which makes no common sense...and I'll have to do it and hang the consequences because 'to whom much is given, much is expected' - and He's given me so much (and because I've been such a loudmouth against common sense).

This is what scares me and is in the back of my mind when I'm reminded of how He protected me while in Iraq (not that it was better protection than my friends,' just different - He wanted me to do more here on Earth, while their tasks were done).

So someday, when I do something crazy for the glory of God, remember that I was scared to do it.

And remember my friends:
Karen Watson (my roommate)
Larry & Jean Elliott
David & Carrie McDonnall (Carrie is the survivor)

Karen's favorite song, which we sang at their Iraqi memorial service:
"If I Could Just Sit With You Awhile"

When I can not feel
When my wounds don't heal
Lord I humbly kneel
Hidden in You
Lord you are my life
So I don't mind to die
Just as long as I
Am hidden in You

Cause I could just sit with You awhile
You could just hold me
Nothing can touch me
Though I'm wounded
Though I've died
If I could just sit with You awhile
I need You to hold me
Moment by moment 'till forever passes by

Moment by moment 'till forever passes by

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Saddm's Secrets

So the most surreal thing happened to me yesterday. I was in the Family Christian Store in Laurel, looking for a book (which they didn't have). I was on my way up to the register to ask if they had it and I just hadn't seen it, when I saw a book entitled "Saddam's Secrets" on their 'special buy' rack. Now, any book about Iraq or the middle east or Saddam catches my eye...but this one made me stop in my tracks.

It was written by a neighbor of mine when I lived there.

Now, normally, that would be an exceptionally good thing...except that General Georges and I didn't exactly see eye-to-eye on a great number of things. I didn't trust him, partly because I felt that my bosses trusted him too much (if he said "don't cook chicken on Thursday - it might be dangerous," we didn't cook chicken on Thursday, and I'm not at all exaggerating, but I think what sticks in my craw most about this aspect is that I felt he was a little too happy to be able to boss around a group of Americans); partly because he'd been high up in Saddam's government, so (regardless of his lack of participation in the Ba'ath party) was not someone to be trusted (the only people who got rich under Saddam were people that Saddam allowed to be rich, and Georges wasn't exactly hurting for cash); and partly because he helped his brother's construction company fleece our organization on a project that I was in charge of. They didn't finish the work and ended up charging us at least twice what we'd originally contracted for. This resulted in my company feeling that all of the projects that I was in charge of were "failures" (yes, that is a direct quote, given multiple times at an all hands meeting), and ultimately (this is the part that really broke my heart) causing them to prohibit me from even visiting the friends that I'd made in that area, muchless completing the projects and being true to my word to those that I'd promised to help.

So, needless to say, I don't exactly have a warm feeling when I think of Gen. Georges.

That's not to say that he didn't do some good things for us too. He's the reason that my boss got to meet and chat several times with Ambassador Paul Bremer. He's the reason that my friends who died two years ago this week were given a memorial service (attended by Amb. Bremer) at the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority - housed in Saddam's main palace, in the "Green Zone"). His position in the CPA, and then in the interim government, helped open doors for my organization - I can't deny that.

...but, there's still not a really warm feeling for him in my heart.

I've only read the first 18 pages so far, although I'm sure I'll finish the book before week's end. I don't know if I, my bosses, our organization, or our projects are mentioned in his chapters on Iraq's rebuilding (I'll let you know, although I doubt it in some ways, and think that it's very likely in others).

Thinking self-centeredly here, did this book appear because God thinks it's time for me to let go of this resentment against Gen. Georges? Did it appear the same week my friends died for a reason? I'm not sure I want to understand Georges better. I want to hang on to that bitterness. I want to revel in the nausea that comes when I realize that Georges, who is already rich, is now getting a little richer because he's published a book and I (of all people) bought it.

But at the same time, for all that I am bitter against Georges, I know that this book speaks the truth about life under and after Saddam, and I want people to know that truth. I've not been given many opportunities to speak about that (I've been trying since I got back a year and a half ago to get a Sunday night time slot at my church, but they keep telling me that calendar's just too full - there's time for a talk about the two-week trip that the pastor (and I, and others) made to Africa, but not time to hear about the 15 months I spent overseas), and some of the people that I have spoken to either a) don't believe me, regardless of what I say; b) hear what they want to hear, regardless of what I say, or c) just don't, despite the bile that rises to my throat when I type this, I tell you, all of my faithful readers....if you really want to know the truth about life under Saddam, during the occupation, and now when the Iraqis are again in control, and you want to hear it from someone who is Iraqi who was both high up in Saddam's regime, and also high up in both the CPA and the current government. If you're not afraid of how the truth might affect your beliefs about the current (and previous) war(s) in Iraq, then read this book.

Here are its particulars:
Title: "Saddam's Secrets: How and Iraqi General Defied and Survived Saddam Hussein"
Authors: Iraqi General Georges Sada with Jim Nelson Black
Publisher: Integrity Publishers
ISBN: 1-59145-404-2
Cover price: $24.99
Family Christian Store price: $19.99 + tax price: $15.74 + shipping

Once saved, always saved?

Having been raised as a Southern Baptist, I was taught very early on how we believe that once you've become a believer, then you're set for life, regardless of what you do or don't do....but that idea has troubled me lately. Let me explain why.

I'm reading Douglas Adams' post-humously-published collection of speeches, random thoughts, interviews, web postings, a short story, and an unfinished novel called "The Salmon of Doubt." Adams is probably best known for writing "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." An interesting note for those who, like me, avoided the movie because it was different from the book - apparently the book was different from the radio shows which originated the storyline, and the tv show which came after the book was different still - all at Adam's request due to the different media, and his own (and Hitchhiker's) maturing process. So, I'm going to now rent the movie at some point and see if I can enjoy it like my friends who had never read the book did because Adams never meant it to be exactly the same. (Side-side note: until C.S. Lewis comes back from the dead and says that the Narnia storyline was better in the movie than the way he wrote it, I'm still going to be wary of that movie.)

Anyway, Adams began life as a believer, which is rather unusual in England where many claim a church or denomination, but few actually ever participate in said church or denomination. When he was 18 or so, he had a "conversion" first to agnosticism, then to what he called "radical atheism," meaning that he didn't just believe that there wasn't a god, he felt that he knew that there wasn't one. He died unexpectedly at the age of 41, I believe, a few years ago, presumably still holding this belief. He explains the conversion process in this book, and says that it was initially because he realized one day (thanks to a street evangelist) that religion is not held up to the same rigors of logic that the rest of life is held to.

That just makes me sad. It makes me wish that I had met him before he died and that we'd gotten into a conversation about religion's lack of logic so that I'd been able to point him towards C.S. Lewis' non-fiction (Lewis went from childhood faith to atheism and back to faith). It also makes me sad because this man whose work I love and whose presence I'm pretty sure I would have enjoyed, died and went to hell.

Except that, according to SB tradition, he didn't because until he was 18, he was a believer.

Now, I'm not a Biblical scholar. My degrees are in aerospace engineering, not theology or religion, or even philosophy. But that just seems weird to me. Jesus says:
"And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven." (Matt. 12:31 NIV)
"I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." (Mark 3:28-29)

Does that mean that Adams was forgiven until he decided that the Holy Spirit didn't exist, but then he wasn't forgiven anymore?

It gives me a new respect for Mormons and their practice of baptism for the dead.

It also makes my head spin because if that's the case, then salvation isn't a permanent thing like I've always been taught to believe. Granted, there's only this one sin that can take it away (not every sin like Methodists believe)...but still...

Most people are more concerned with salvation the other way around - "What if Hitler, the moment before his death, became a believer? Would he go to heaven?" What about Saddam? Since I believe that no sin is "bigger" than any other, then the short answer to those questions would be "yes." Their sin was no "bigger" than my own, so they are no more separated from God than I am. So the same salvation that works for me could work for them, even at the very last moment of their lives.

But what about the person who truly has a salvation experience as a child, but then later in life completely recants those beliefs? I'm not talking about the person who simply fails to live as I think a believer should - I'm talking about someone who actively preaches against faith in a god of any kind.

There was an article in our local paper recently about another such man. He became a believer in high school, went (by his own choice) to one of the most conservative Christian colleges in America, got multiple degrees in various aspects of religion, then gradually lost his faith (he calls himself an agnostic now) due to his studies. He now goes around speaking about how erroneous the Bible is and has written multiple books on the subject. His wife still goes to church, but he actively speaks against it.

These men both preach(ed) against Christianity, despite faith as youth.

It's not my place to judge, but the easy answer would be to say that those weren't true "conversion" experiences in their childhood (and, to be frank, Adams never recounts such an experience, he just cites active involvement in his local church). That would leave in tact SB's "once saved, always saved."

But where does that leave a friend of mine from college who says something similar? He remembers his salvation experience and knows that he truly meant it at the time...but now he doesn't quite believe all of that anymore. He's not an atheist, and not even an agnostic that I know of....but he just doesn't quite believe those same things anymore. He's not earning his living preaching/speaking against mainstream Christianity, so does that mean he's safe?

It makes me sad. It makes me curious. It makes me wish I knew where Douglas Adams was right now. It makes me want to run an experiment to see what happens with each type of belief experience...but that thought also makes me slightly ill because of the eternal ramifications for some test subjects.

I don't really know how to conclude this. Any comments, you theologians out there?