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Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal -

The regimental Sergeant Major of the MP (Military Police) corps talked to us yesterday at the Warrior Club. Being the senior ranking enlisted member of the entire corps, he is directly involved with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. This is a paraphrase of what he told us:

"Now, Abu Ghraib, this is all I'm gonna say about this. Those individuals will be taken care of. Those soldiers will be dealt with, but I don't want to focus on 5 or 6 that did the wrong thing, but the other 30,000 (reffering to the MP corps) that are out there doing the right thing."

Now, I agree that these abuses were wrong. Yes, wrong. Those individuals will be dealt with, believe me. The military is good at crucifying those individuals that fuck up and smear its reputation when it's as important as it is right now. Hopefully those Iraqi individuals can accept America's sincere apologies, because believe me, us on the ground ALL think it is a disgrace and completely against what we are trying to accomplish. Now if they were actually hostile insurgents, while it was still wrong, they should still be prosecuted as hostile enemy paramilitary forces.

He told us, during question and answer, that there were two things we could ask about: Things pertaining to us as a unit, and New Jersey. Also, he told us to expect some soldiers from our unit to find themselves in Iraq in the near future.

Update: I was just told that they deploying platoon would be taking 1 soldier from each section in Headquarters. There are 2 qualified soldiers in my section, me and a female that is overweight and already left Iraq due to mental problems. She also has a kid. Who do you think they will choose?

WEeeeeeEEeeEE! amnesiac sure is a funny guy.

Today, I signed up for my very own Gmail account, courtesy of an invitation from a complete stranger. This was achieved via the site Gmailswap, (www.gmailswap.com), a rather nifty little service in which one posts what he or she will provide in exchange for an invite (as Gmail is still invitation-only), which those who happen to have an invite handy can peruse and choose from. It's free, it's rather cool, you might want to give it a try if you're looking for an account before the unwashed masses.

What do I think of Gmail itself? Essentially, it's Google with a different slant - which is a good thing, in my point of view. While I could wax lyrical about how great Google is, let's just say it works. The adverts are small and unobtrusive, and although there's no way to turn them off, there is virtually no need to. Just like the ads on Google's other pages, they blend into the page well, almost disappearing if you're not actually looking for them. Great stuff.

In other news, I've gotten hold of a nice 21" monitor of the Sun variety (although it's actually made by Sony, which is up for grabs to anyone who wants it for the princely sum of a hundred pounds on eBay. Shameless self promotion aside, I would like it to go to a good home, so if you're in the UK and are looking for a fuck off sized screen, and don't mind collecting it, /msg me and we can work something out.

In case some of this random group of people who have never ever met me in the real world aren't aware, I work in an outsourced call center answering customer service calls for an internet company.

I was taking calls yesterday, devoting the normal fraction of my attention that it takes to recognize the horribly predictable excuses that customers have to offer me on why we should offer them a product without asking anything from them, when I get a call from a soft-spoken and seemingly very kind lady.

I asked her to verify her name and address, as I am required to do, and she stumbled and stuttered over her street name and zip code. I laughed a bit, and explained that I understood, it had been a long week and I was barely capable of speaking coherently myself.

The lady thanked me, and explained that she was very frazzled. She explained that a family member had died, and that she was not able to make it to the funeral, which upset her, and times had been very difficult since her husband had passed away eight years ago, and really the only thing she had left in life was talking with her friends on the internet... ... ...

At this point, she began weeping.

In case you're wondering, she had called b/c her account had been suspended pending a payment of $18.90.

I had no idea what to do. I told her it was OK, I was here to help her, but the heart-wrenching sobs from the other end didn't cease. I put the phone on mute, and listened to this poor woman sob her heart and soul out to me. Pure, unadulterated sorrow was pouring through my headset, and there wasn't a damn thing I can do about it. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry..." she cried over and over again, while she helplessly wept.

I listened to her for about eight minutes, before I came back on and asked if she was OK.

I wish I would have had something to say. Something pure, and true, and able to take the crushing pain from this broken woman. But I didn't.

A heart filled with human compassion, and a voice that can't express even an inkling of it to a creature that needed it. I've never felt so goddamned helpless.

So I did the only thing I could do.

I helped her get on the internet. I told her what was wrong with her account.

Soft and frightened: "I don't have any money... My social security check isn't here yet..." ::sounds of valiantly, but ultimately futilely, suppressed sobs::

Normally, I would have told them "too bad". But as little as it seemed, the only thing I could give to this person was a way to get back online. A way back to the only pleasure left in her life.

I helped her set up a new account. I told her it would come with a free month, and that she could use that, and just let the other account cancel out on it's own.

In all my life, with every drop of blood and sweat and tears that I've given to these delightful beings that enliven and frustrate me the way the do, I've never had someone be more thankful for me than this woman. For something as simple as setting her up with an account, and turning a blind eye to less than twenty bucks she owed a company that I have no loyalty to, she offered me her deepest gratitude, and even called on her higher power to bless me for doing this for her.

I don't know if this faceless lady knows, but she changed a person that day. After seeing such sorrow and pain in a person's life, it's easier to remember that I am strong and alive, and that the mate I have chosen in life is strong and healthy with me, and that I have friends and family in my life to lift me up when I can't carry myself any longer.

Just know that I am thankful for you all, and I am ashamed that it took the tears of someone I've never met to really make me stop and think about just how fortunate I am.

I am ashamed that I was not able to reach out and touch this woman's heart, not in the way I wanted to. I can only hope that the little bit I gave in my tongue-tied confusion was enough to get her to a place where she could find what she needed.

I really do.

Happy Birthday, Mr. T

Rare sighting of Tiefling's daylog

Last night, the penny finally dropped that I'd been acting like a jerk since about new year. Sorry, everyone. Anyway, on with the show. My writer's block has mostly cleared up now, and I've stopped drinking so many energy drinks. Hopefully, I'll be able to node like I kept telling everyone I would last autumn. This daylog isn't going to be quality writing, but just random things I've seen and done. Earlier in the year, I don't think I'd have been collected enough to string even this lot together.

From Saturday to Wednesday this week I was down at Torquay, in the West Country, at my trade union conference. It went well, and I think the seaside and the wonderful sunny weather did me some good. That said, I spent most of the time in uncomfortable, cramped seating in a conference centre. Maybe getting right away from the office and the internet helped, too. The evenings were marked by lots of drinking, loud music, and a pub quiz which I didn't do so well in. Basically a good experience, though.

Yesterday I sorted out all the things which were waiting for me back at the office. I picked up a couple of old laptops I'd bought in an office sale, and made the cheering discovery that I'd earned loads of flexitime by going to the conference. In the evening, I caught up with various friends online and by 'phone. In the process, I gained an uncomfortable perspective on how badly I'd behaved. I think I'd already turned the corner by then, but looking back over the past few months was embarassing and a little upsetting. I hope you'll all bear with me as I return to what passes for normal. All in all, a fairly good day, in retrospect.

Things are a lot more focussed this morning. The grey mental fog is lifting. Wanting to do things is no longer a dull ache of not being able to achieve them, but a positive desire to see them done. Thanks to my new-found flexi-time, I set off for work a little late, and took things easy. On the tube, I sat opposite a frumpy woman wearing a diamond-effect necklace reading 'COOL'. As I arrived at the office, the row of old townhouses which it's part of seemed to be like a great speaker stack, as brisk military music flooded toward me. Apparently, while I've been away in Devon, marching bands have been practising up and down the road along the edge of St James's Park behind the office most days. They're probably preparing for Trooping the Colour. Several more bands passed by during the day.

I got an e-mail from someone saying I hadn't sent her the right document in reply to some earlier e-mail. I was sure I had, and checked my sent messages to be sure. Then I called her, and discovered that she was pretty confused about what she wanted. She seemed to be asking for something which would have required me to spend most of the afternoon photocopying. Then, just as we'd thrashed out what it was that was needed, she found it sitting on her desk. I hope she didn't overhear me grinding my teeth at that point. The rest of the morning passed off uneventfully, although reading about the latest from Abu Ghraib on the BBC News website made me pretty angry. I had a pleasant and relaxing lunch, and came back to the office to the sound of Big Ben striking one o'clock.

The afternoon passed off peacefully, and I browsed a few bookshops before coming home. The TV news remains bad, but other than that things seem all right. I'm looking forward to a relaxing weekend. Who knows when I'll daylog again? It feels good to be able to, though. Catch you all later.

Today (aka An expose on the existence of 'god', in four paragraphs.)
(aka a frustration in four parts)
My Grandparents are back from Calgary.
My little cousin Natasha, who has Rett's Syndrome, is going on a fast downwards spiral that will lead to death. Strange, their family is the most well versed in the Bible and religious things, and yet they are one of the biggest examples of why I don't believe there is a god who is looking out for us.

All the faith in the world is not going to save my cousin, and yet everyone prays and prays and blindly believes that it is part of god's plan, that whatever is meant to happen will happen. No, no no no, if that were true than that god is a sadistic one who makes bad things happen to good people.

And yet, I would not have sisters if it weren't for this so called god, according to my mom. See, my mom was never supposed to have kids after me... something about the body changing blood types and thinking the fetus is an intruder, and the body killing it. But that blood type thing is something I learned about in biology and made me rethink my thoughts on what my mom had told me about, how all the prayers and love somehow saved my sister. See, scientifically speaking, what happed was a miracle. My mom just got better, her blood type fixed itself and recognized my sister as a friend, not foe. That doesn't happen. And yet it did, and my sisters, my two best friends, are alive because of it.

This only confuses the matter for me. "I just don't debate it anymore, because I could debate it forever, and I still wouldn't have any proof." - Donnie Darko. See I think it all has to do with the laws of the universe. Nothing it does is either good nor bad, but things just happen. My little cousin's existence has been a constant source of thinking for me, because I love her, and yet she has a life expectancy lower than my cat. And I love and hate her at the same time, for all the joy, and pain, she is causing. I wonder if we will ever meet again... together we will go punch god in the face.

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