Friday, March 28, 2008

Well read.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Too early.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


One of the reasons the military amuses me so greatly is because they talk funny for no reason at all. I was at a conference at the Quantico Naval Base today. At lunchtime the Brigadier General who was conducting the day's events told us in a rumbling baritone, "There are some guards outside who will vector you to the lunch hall." I didn't know what he meant, but I was hoping that it would involve helicopters.

It turns out it did not.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A difference of opinion.

Skye says to me, "Oh hey, I think I saw someone downtown wearing that same sweatshirt that you bought. Yeah, I think he was homeless or something."

Some things can't be explained.

I like to run over by the Capital. It's a nice place to be on the weekends and after work, and for this reason there are always lots of other people out running and walking around.
Today, as I was making my way back up Capital Hill after having finished a loop down on the Mall, I passed a woman jogging while pushing one of those fancy jogging strollers. You know, the three wheeled things that are aerodynamically designed and have special neon colored materials on the sides. She was focused straight ahead, pushing her stroller. Her hair in a pony tail bouncing with each stride. Seated in the stroller, his head peaking out over the front was a large, slobbering bulldog.
I have no explanation for this.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Words for the new folks.

I found this posted on my friend Joe's page. ( If you get a minute check out his page, it's got lots of great pictures from Yap and Ulithi.
Near the end of our Peace Corps service we were all asked to write letters to the incoming group of volunteers. Here is what I wrote, I still kinda like some of the advice. Feeding the pigs is fun.

Dear New Volunteer,
It's probably best to just accept the fact that you are going to do everything wrong and feel really stupid all the time. It’s okay, it's not your fault. And since this is going to happen anyway, try all of the things you’re afraid you might be bad at. In fact, while you’re at it, try all of the things that seem really stupid and boring too. The worst thing that could happen is that you get bored for a little while. But you never know; it might turn out that you really like singing at church, feeding pigs, or preparing for a funeral.
Spend at least a half an hour every day sitting with your host parents. Even if you don’t say anything and can’t understand a word, it will help your relationship.
Make sure you learn to dive.
Everyone will tell you not to worry too much about your work project. They’re right. Don’t worry too much about your work project. If you spend time in the beginning getting to know your co-workers instead of focusing on bigger goals, you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to accomplish those goals later on with their help and support.
Church and rice are the same thing. Just learn to accept that they’re always going to be a part of everything in your life. You will not change this, just shrug your shoulders, roll your eyes, and stop worrying about it.
Keep a journal.
If your friends stop sending you letters in the mail it's not because they don’t miss you or don’t care, they’re just idiots. They can’t possibly understand what this is like for you.
I think that I’ve run out of platitudes for now. Good luck. You’ll be okay. It's all worth it.
Adam, Kosrae PCV

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The week ends.

The day got off to bad a start. On my walk to the metro I said good morning to everyone I passed, and I didn't get a single response. Things dragged on at work, but on my way home the day started to turned around.
A older man in a conservative dark suit got on the metro. He was carrying a 12 pack of Coors Light. This made me smile.
And then a girl got on at the next stop, she was listening to her ipod so loud that the song echoed throughout our mostly empty train. She was listening to Prince. We both got off at the same stop and on the way up the escalator I told her how much I liked the song she was listening to. She took her headphones out and I repeated to her that she was listening to my favorite Prince song. She smiled, "Oh, I know. I just love him." She put her headphones back on and walked off into the night.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

At work.

Howard’s been in my office four times already today. He’s looking for Carla, one of my office mates. She is in a meeting, a fact that I’ve relayed to Howard each time that he comes in, but it does not seem to register with him. I’ve even offered to alert Carla that Howard is looking for him as soon as she gets back. But Howard prefers to return every twenty minutes and physically examines her workspace for signs of life.
Howard has dark black hair that is starting to grey at the temples. He sometimes wears white running shoes with suits. He is not well liked. Mostly this is because Howard is nosy. At all times, Howard must know what people are doing and for what reason.
The first time that I tell him that Carla is in a meeting, he immediately asks me where the meeting is, what it is about, and why Carla is there and he is not. I know the answers to all of these questions, but I don’t like Howard either. I shrug at his questions and reply simply, “She’s at a meeting. I’ll tell her you are looking for her.”
I go back to my desk with the knowledge that Howard and I will replay this scene every half hour until Carla returns.

Friday, March 7, 2008


On my walk home from the metro today I passed an old woman walking in the other direction. She was wearing a light blue trench coat and her face was barely visible underneath a tattered, old umbrella. As she approached, I smiled at her.
She responded immediately in a hiss, "What you smiling about?" And then continued on to herself as we passed each other, "Cracker-ass kids moving into my neighborhood smiling all the time."
Naturally this made me smile even more.

Everyone's got stories.

People who have been working in the international development field for a long time all have lots of stories. It's hard to avoid them at work, but I don't mind. I'm looking forward to having my own soon.
While trying to book a flight for some of our advisors from Dubai into Kabul, I ask boss #1 which airline we should use.
“Well, I guess Kam Air is the best bet. Although one time back in 2004 on one of their flights we had to make an unscheduled stop in (Taliban stronghold and opium growing area) Kandahar. We sat on the ground for an hour and weren't allowed off the plane. At some point a bunch of Afghan soldiers boarded the plane with four prisoners. The prisoners were cuffed and seated in the back. They were the first people to be escorted off the plane when we finally landed in Kabul.”
Boss #2 chimes in, “Still, Kam Air is probably your best bet. The airline we used to use doesn't even exist anymore. I was on a flight one time from Kabul back to Kuwait City. Suddenly this guy behind me starts making all kinds of noise and flops to the floor in the aisle. Flight attendants run towards him from the front and the back. It turns out the guy is having a heart attack.
“That's bad enough, but we happen to be flying over Iran at the time. So we make an emergency landing at some airstrip in Eastern Iran. Soldiers board the plane while doctors take the guy off and presumably to a hospital. For the entire hour that we are on the ground in Iran, not a single passenger says a word.”
Okay, good to know. So you want me to book a flight with Kam Air?


Wednesday, March 5, 2008


While on hold with the body armor manufacturers, again:

“At _____ Armor, we manufacture a variety of products possessing threat defeating capabilities that exceed those specified by the US military. Our explosive blast resistant window casing applications are just one more example of our latest in safety and threat resistance products.”

This gave me time to peruse the website and learn more about the world of ‘high threat physical security products.’ I learned the difference between low-spalling armored glass and no-spalling armored glass. I learned about the V-50, or the theoretical velocity at which a given projectile is going to penetrate ballistic material 50% of the time and be defeated by armored material 50% of the time. I learned about blunt force trauma and about the difference between ballistic vests and penetration resistant vests. And while I did not follow the link for the article "Window Response Comparison of Open-Air and Shock Tube Testing" which is published by the Department of Defense Explosive Safety Board, I felt like I had learned a lot while listening to classical music over the phone.

Finally, Greg answered my call. I was calling just to check on the status of the vest that I had ordered a few weeks ago. It took Greg a few seconds to recall who I was.

“Oh, you’re that little guy that needs a small vest for Pakistan .”

Uh, well the vest is not actually for me and it will be used in Afghanistan . But yes, I did place an order a few weeks ago. Do you have an estimate for the delivery date?