Thursday, November 26, 2009

At least it's a dry cold

I don't recall which book it was in which discussed how most Americans have never experienced true hardship - cold, heat, hunger, etc. For most people, cold is the time between your car and the building. Same with heat. With very few exceptions, hunger is only experienced by Americans as "I need to go get something to eat," as opposed to "I haven't eaten for days."

During my time in the Army, I have experienced "true" cold - cold in which there was no foreseeable end in sight, when you are in the field, the cold lasts until you come back from the field, which on some occasions is days away. It sucks.

And yet, even with that experience, it wasn't until this trip here that I finally came to the realization that there is a distinct difference between a dry cold and a wet cold. Much like heat, the dry cold is much easier to deal with.

And the large proportion of this is because of the mud. Even in the States, when it's cold and rainy, and even when you are out in the field, there is still infrastructure, electricity, and (most important) paved roads. And roofs that keep the water out.

The last time it rained here, I discovered that my roof leaks. So not only was it wet and gross outside, it was wet and gross inside. And muddy - it sticks to your shoes, and collects on the back of your legs. Your shoes get both wet and dirty, your socks get wet and dirty. And the air is just saturated with wet. And dust.

The most recent rain dropped the average temperature here by about ten degrees. And did I mention it was wet? Three days later, the rain stopped, and it dried out. But it was still cold. And that was my realization that there is a distinct difference between a dry cold, which sucks, and a wet cold, which REALLY sucks.

It's still cold now, but at least it's a dry cold.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Adam Lambert

My only awareness of this guy is from RoflRazzi, talking about his femininity. Never heard his music, don't really care.

But strangely, I now have more respect for him:

But he noted that Lady Gaga smashed whiskey bottles during her performance, Eminem rapped about rape and Janet Jackson briefly groped a male dancer.

"Janet Jackson, crotch grab," he said. "I haven't heard one peep about that."

He said that "if it had been a female pop performer doing (his) moves that were on the stage, I don't think there would be nearly as much of an outrage."

"I think it's because I'm a gay male," he added.

Offered a chance to apologize, he declined. He said he didn't consider that there may have been children watching because his American Music Awards performance came at nearly 11 p.m., and that it's a parent's job to monitor what their children are watching on TV.

"I'm not a baby sitter," he said. "I'm a performer."

Asked what he'd do differently if he had the chance, Lambert said, "I would sing it a little bit better."

Source: Associated Press

You go, girl!

Friday, November 20, 2009

First Names

I've recently gotten into an online argument (it's like the Special Olympics, I know), and in the course of this argument, I realized I was switching back and forth between first and last names.

For the last ten years, I have either been a graduate student or an enlisted soldier (or both). Which basically means that when I wasn't calling someone "sir" I was calling them "Captain something" or "Professor something."

I think one of the biggest, but subtlest changes, after finishing my dissertation (and almost finishing my contract), has been moving to using first names for professors and officers. Its an odd shift, calling someone "Mike" or "Bill" instead of Professor Smith or Captain Green. (Especially when the name is "Bob" which is my father's name, and constantly freaks me out). Assuming I ever actually get an academic job, referring to other professors by first name I'm sure will be as big of a shift.

But this whole thing has gotten me thinking about first and last names. On the one hand, as a friend of mine put it "he asked me to call him Bob. I don't know, it's like 'no, I respect you too much to not call you Colonel." What's interesting is at the same time, I have used first names to denote respect, and last names as a subtle insult.

I think this is very similar to the technique a sergeant has for making a "sir" into an insult.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Iraqi ingenuity

So, apparently the rainy season is upon us a month or so early. And me without my boots...

But, as seems to be my lot, my roof leaks. The last time I was here during rainfall, my roof leaked, as well. Maybe it's me. But I mentioned this to the "landlord" and he had the "engineers" work on it.

Apparently, the best technique to fix a leaking roof here is to just install another roof on top of it...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's started

Well, after three months, I am proud to announce the discovery of my first lost sock.

It's entirely possible that I have lost socks on this rotation before, but they must have been lost in pairs, as this is my first encounter with the lonely sock, the only one of its type sitting sadly in my sock drawer, surrounded by matched pairs of other varieties.

I think it must be lonely. Do you think socks pair bond like wolves, or do they not really care which sock they end up with at the end of the day?

Sometimes I mismatch socks on my feet, and now I worry that I may have encouraged the other socks to try and force them out. It's entirely possible that socks are strongly against miscegenation...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


So, I just recently finished reading Tom Vanderbilt's book Traffic.

It was pretty interesting,although he seems to put a bit too much reliance on the advantages of market-based solutions to traffic problems. For instance, he tries to make the case for HOT lanes as a solution to traffic problems, which I fundamentally disagree with. This mainly comes from my admittedly shoddy memory of the Dulles Access Road commuter sticker, which was an HOT solution of a sort, except it wasn't really a solution so much as a traffic jam. So there was the creation of the Dulles Toll Road, which is also a toll-based solution to traffic problems, but isn't. Again, its just a traffic jam which people have shown over and over again they are willing to pay to travel on.

He also ignores the effects of a market-based solution when he gets the opportunity to sit in at the Los Angeles traffic control hub during Oscar night. Possibly one of the most interesting parts of the book, except that the entire thing is about how the rich and famous in Los Angeles are catered to by the traffic control system. Lights are computed based on getting these rich people to their award night, without much concern for the regular inhabitants of the city who have to commute to and from their normal regular lives. Maybe I'm a bit Marxist but this kind of elitism has always bugged me (see my rant on the Fly Clear program, I'm so happy that's gone away).

Moving on, though, he does point to the distinct traffic cultures which exist around the world, from driving in some idyllic village communities in Europe to the insanity which exists in many third-world countries. My own personal experience of this was one night in Baghdad in 2004, when we shut down one half of a four-lane highway because of an accident and shooting. After being stuck at our improvised roadblock for about ten minutes, the Iraqi drivers just started moving over into oncoming traffic on the other side of the highway, bulldozing their way up and around the roadblock before coming back onto the correct side. And the amazing thing about this was it worked. No one in the United States would have ever done this, we all just sit and wait, and sit, and wait, until whatever the problem is gets cleared out. It's kind of a shame, really, we are driving automatons in the States most of the time.

However, I think if Vanderbilt had gone to a military post, it would have added a very interesting element to his "driving culture" theory. Because driving on a military post is a world in and of itself.

First, the speed limit. The highest speed limit here is 30MPH. On the clearest open road. Most areas have a speed limit between 10 and 15 MPH, and one of my favorite signs makes it clear that if you try and drive faster than someone can jog, you can get a ticket:

I don't know if you've ever tried to drive 5 MPH. It's almost physically painful. Plus, most cars idle faster than 5 MPH.

Moving on, Vanderbilt also talks about the overabundance of signs on the road. For instance, the Children Playing, School Ahead, signs like that. The people that are speeding through the streets and not paying attention and will hit a kid playing, well, he's not the kind of person that will slow down because of a Children Playing sign..

And that brings me to my next on-base piece of signage I find very amusing:

I fucking hope so.

And last, just because soldiers apparently have a sense of humor:

Sunday, November 8, 2009


So, he's not exactly a roommate. I share a trailer with one of the TCNs here, and a bathroom, but we each have our own "room." Anyways, I recently got a new roommate. My old roommate was quiet, except for the five different languages that would blast from his TV on different nights, and a bit OCD when it came to keeping the bathroom clean. So much that I occasionally felt bad, since, well, I'm not.

He left. My new roommate is, well, not as clean. And he spits, loud. Like really loud, sometimes it makes me think he's about to throw up. Its quite disturbing.

And I don't know what he does with the toilet, but it's like he can't go into the bathroom without spraying the toilet down with water. And the floor.

Like, seriously, what's up with the water?

Oh, and the smell.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's a topsy-turvy world in Iraq

Dana Perino and Michelle Bachman are on BBC

and Nigella Lawson is on NPR


Sunday, November 1, 2009

No H1N1 virus for me...

I have anti-microbial ballpoint pens...

Here's my issue with this (above and beyond the silliness of an anti-microbial pen): it's effing Skilcraft. The company doesn't really need to market silly gimmicks to its customers - they have one of the largest captive audiences in the world...