Thursday, June 28, 2007

22 June 2007. Email from the USA

>Cloudless skies sound wonderful until you realize what they can entail. >It's >good that you know what signs indicate a need for fluid. I've never heard >of >dark urine as an indicator, but then I've never lived anywhere so hot and >dry. (Thailand was hot but humid, even in winter, and India (around Delhi) >and Nepal were entirely pleasant.) it sounds bizarre, but you must force yourself to drink water in this desert. The temp reached 126 yesterday, and the heat is dry with zero humidity. I spend as little time as possible outdoors. I have programmed the thermostat on my trailer air-conditioner to come on at 600pm, so that the trailer will be cool when I arrive at 700pm. > > > >It's good that you've trained yourself to shutter out noise. Given too many >years in busy editorial offices, I learned to do the same thing until I >reached a point where I could work comfortably in a boiler factory. I am still not used to noise. There are two 10-kilowatt generators about 100 yards from the trailer. They run 24 hours a day. I can usually get to sleep quite easily, but when I wake up at 0400am, I can hear them humming. > > > >This whole dress-code business is so nonsensical. I was with Unisys when >they first decided on casual Fridays and then all-week casual. Fine - dress >appropriately when it's appropriate for a business meeting, but for the >rest. no way. I suspect the influence of Joe McGrath, the CEO who came >after >Weinbach, who seemed to be a more open-minded, rational person. > The firm has a dress code for all engineers here in Iraq. And I can see their point. When an engineer has to meet with some Colonel, or some high-ranking civilian, you want to present a professional image. Too many of our guys were going "over the top", so the firm banned short pants, football team jerseys with numbers and team names, and loose-baggy clothing. I made some informal inquiries around here, and the Army doesn't care one way or another what the civilians wear. When I am climbing on a roof in 126 degree heat, I can wear anything I like, and the Army will not object. > >There's clearly an advantage to being a computer geek, especially if the >nearest town has no interest for you. Baghdad may have been interesting a >few years (or centuries) back, but it's not a place I'd care to visit these >days either. Baghdad is the last place I wish to go. Our firm does not permit any of us to use the airport there. I just found out that there are direct non-stop flights from Baghdad to Chicago. (There are other non-stop flights from Baghdad to USA destinations as well). The only civilian carrier flying in/out of Baghdad is Royal Jordanian. I suspect that the US military keeps the airport open, even with only one civilian carrier, as a political statement. It would be a propaganda bonanza, if the terrorists succeeded in closing the airport. > > >As best I can tell from the ancient maps I've tracked down on the Internet, >Tall'Afar is probably near Kish, which isn't of any particular importance >in >Sumerian history. So much for that idea - especially since you don't want >to >get involved in any "flak'n'kevlar" activities. Going off this post, to the civilian areas nearby is not on my list! I can see civilian buildings off in the distance, but I have no desire to visit any of them. > > > >I was going to make a joke about the unlikelihood of your being able to get >Amazon to send books to Iraq, but now I'm impressed. Do they send them >through a military address in the US? I'm trying to recall what my mother >had to do when she send packages to my brothers. That's clearly one good >thing about your posting - having time to catch up with your reading. Oh yes! We rely on APO mail. (Army post office). Anyone can send a letter or package to us here. You pay only the cost from your residence to the collection point at Fort Dix New Jersey. Then the packages/letters are placed on a military aircraft and sent here. You can mail almost anything that you can send through the US mail. NO lighter fluids or combustibles, etc. I get all kinds of books and videos from I also buy some personal care items from . I have done more reading in the past 6 months than in the past six years. I just finished reading biographies of Tip O'Neill, Sam Rayburn, and Douglas MacArthur. I have ordered biographies of FDR, Truman, and John Adams. > > > >It has to be difficult to find colleagues who share your interest in >politics - not to mention other areas in which Mensans enjoy debating. Are >you aware of any Mensans nearby? It isn't that hard to get a political discussion. We are watching the races with intensity. I think Hillary Clinton may go for all the marbles. If she can do all right in Iowa/New Hampshire, and then put forth a decent showing in Fla/Calif,etc. she can have the nomination. > > > >This next election certainly has an interesting field of candidates. Small >wonder Larissa hasn't decided yet. Before I start bashing candidates, I >should ask you where your party allegiances (if any) lie so that I don't >turn up the heat in your trailer with my comments. I am wide open when it comes to politics. I am watching everyone with interest. I like Fred Thompson, because I am from the south. I like McCains personal integrity and political independence, problem is he is too old, past the prime. Obama is a charismatic person, but so far he has shown little substance. Larisa is brand-new at this. She got citizenship in June 2005, and she watched the 2000 election with much interest. She will not get lathered-up about anyone. She may not even vote in 2008. Feel free to make any comment you like, maybe you even have a favorite. > > > >Kameel, as the son of an Egyptian (now a long-time American citizen) >married >to my very-New-England cousin, is fluent in Arabic, but I have no idea what >kind of clearance he may have had. Most Americans do better with languages >that use the same alphabet, which is why we have such trouble with Arabic, >Chinese, etc. Sometimes I think that if I had the classic one wish, I'd >choose the gift of tongues. The Tower of Babel was a very bad idea! Then >again, American English can drive learners daft with its inconsistencies >and >illogic - the various pronunciations of the "ough" words being only one >glaring example. I speak French, German, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, and I am a qualified American Sign Language interpreter (I do not have a certification, so I cannot interpret in court,etc). Language aptitude is inherent, some have it, some do not. I can handle the Russian Cyrillic alphabet fairly easily, both the printed form, and the cursive. Westerners generally can handle the alphabets, but the grammar and sentence structure are a hassle. Chinese has a very simple grammar, the entire rules can fit on one sheet of paper. Arabic has an incredibly complex grammar. Russian has 12 (twelve!) different words for "pencil" (and all nouns) depending on how the word is used in a sentence. True- English spelling is a tough nut to crack even for Americans. You see- Before Noah Webster, there were no rules. You would often see the same word spelled three different ways on the same page! Webster decided to standardize the spelling, and we went on from there. Personally, I cannot see the need for silent letters: Knight, Knife, Phlegm, etc. > > > >Being an American is something too valuable to lose - no matter how many >foreign countries we may have lived in. I'm with you there. I have been in Iraq for 22 months (except for three weeks in Moscow). I will not see the USA again until Sept/Oct 2007. It will be good to get back home.

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