Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Microwave Man

Hi folks,

Wow, I can't believe I have gone so long without posting anything new to excite and inspire you....My bad.

Anyways, here is a cool picture.

What you are seeing is me on the roof of our offices/training center with two VSAT dishes. The small one is the original one, which had very limited bandwidth and the installer was kinda lame. The second is the new dish, which provides dedicated bandwidth and more than doubles our upload/download capacity. I stood there only to give you a sense of scale...the dishes were not activated when I took the picture....believe me, with a brother who is a tort attorney for people who get injured on the job, I know better than to stand in a dish that is turned on.

Remember the Darwin Awards piece about the guy working security at a dish farm somewhere who decided, "Dammit, I have to work on Christmas Eve...I am going to get a six-pack and chill out..." Well it was really cold that night on the open plains of North Dakota (or wherever), so he took his six-pack and climbed up into one of the dishes where it was warm. Got drunk, fell asleep, and cooked himself to a crisp. Urban legend or truth? We will probably never know.

In other news:

It has been raining like you would not believe here, almost every afternoon for the last three days (with the exception of yesterday, which was gorgeous blue sky and sunshine all day). My soccer field is a sodden mess, because when I built it, I did not anticipate drainage problems. PPPP or P^4 would be the military expression. If you don't get it, ask a friend who has worked in the military or international development. Should have had a layer of gravel between the topsoil and the clay that is basically the base layer of all the land around here. As it is, the clay absorbs the first bit of water that comes in, and then turns to rock, relegating all remaining water to either pool up in puddles on the field or run off to the side and form a big muddy pond/swamp.

Luckily, it's getting cold here....too cold for my morass to be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Haven't held a practice for the kids in three straight days, because I don't want to destroy my field by running on it when it is as soft as it is. Also, I don't want them to go home so muddy that their mothers won't let them come back to play.

On a more positive note, I caught a snapping turtle outside the office the other day. I put it in a box and took it back to the compound with me, and set it free in my swamp. While I have not seen it since it first started to paddle around in the mud, I am sure that it is happy in my swamp. I chucked a bit of leftover meat into the general vicinity of where I last saw it, and in the morning it was gone.

Could have been the swifter cats, or rats, that got it, but I like to think Tracy the Turtle got it.

Should have built it a mud cave before setting it free, so it would domesticate a bit and stay around. I even have a little miniature soccer ball--about the size of a golf ball--would have made great pictures on my field--the turtle with the ball, like the Comcast commercials. Maybe I could even have sold the idea to them.

In other, other news:

Our building is coming along quite nicely. We have buttressed the new outer section with reinforced concrete to relieve any fears about structural integrity; once the concrete is cured, it will be plastered and painted. We've begun the process of hiring armed guards for the overnight shift. We've almost completed the internet/LAN upgrade. We've hired two new cleaner/maintenance people. Probably mid-late November we will open officially.

I have a new housemate--lady about 50 years old. She is originally Iraqi...a Chaldean Catholic...but has lived in the US most of her life. She is an English teacher, and will be working with my project to help government officials learn English. Since I am also a linguist, we have a lot to talk about and it's nice to have company on a steady basis, as opposed to the comes-and-goes that I normally share the house with. She is also a good cook, and knows Erbil's best places to get prepared food. And she's for Obama in this election. We get along great.

At the same time, she is high-maintenance. Not very computer-savvy. Very demanding. And since she lives across the hall from me, she can knock on my door at any time with a request for this or that. She does the same at the office....since I am her closest colleague, she comes to me for everything from where to get staples to how to work the gets frustrating. And this is a woman who speaks fluent Arabic and can easily get the answers for herself if she would take the time to find out who does what in the office, and for Pete's sake, remember their names!!!!

I actually really like her, but she needs to settle down and learn the ropes here so that she can become a bit more independent, and not run all her requirements through me.

She has developed an amazing curriculum for teaching English reading and writing for native illiterate and/or dyslexic speakers, and also reading, writing and speaking for non-native speakers. She already has several published books, and is going to pay me to edit her remaining manuscripts for copyright and publication. Also to audio-record materials in a native American English accent. She is very serious about her work....probably why she is so demanding.

I guess that's my blog for today!

Love and Peace to all!

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