Sometimes. Sometimes melodramatic. Sometimes clever and sometimes overwrought. Sometimes funny and sometimes lame.

I found two online comics today. Well, one comic and one that claims to be something else. 

The first is called Tiny Ghosts and it's the one that claims to be something else. It is really. The author says that each strip is actually a full story in two lines (with two pictures). Some of them are good. In fact, I find some of them really stunningly good. If you have some free time, pick through them. 

Some aren't so good. 

It's like spending an hour sorting through a thrift store; the junk is just interesting enough to keep you looking and sometimes you find something really great. That you think must have been mispriced at only 25 cents.

They have those here in Iraq. Most of the items for sale come from the US or Europe. It's weird and out of place to see used tupperware and Mr.T T-shirts in the bazaar. 

It's intersting to pick through things that belonged to someone a world away and wonder how each thing wound up on Iraq. In a flea market.

And, while I know this post would make it seem like I might have ADD, stick with me.

The other site is a comic. It's called The Perry Bible Fellowship. Don't let the name fool you, it isn't bible-related. It's a fairly clever comic. Again, some are funny, some aren't. Some are really very clever.

I hope you enjoy.


Merry Christmas

I was just trying to make cookies and I totally burned them.

I hate cooking sometimes. 

I am also making a turkey for tomorrow. I'm brining it and, given the time it takes to make a turkey, I probably won't burn it.     

I am planning to try a new recipe for it. You can see it here. I'm not actually following the recipe entirely. i'm just going to do the part that'll make my turkey golden brown and beautiful.

Or, at least orange...

I've never cooked with saffron before, but it was only $1, so I figured I could experiment a little.

Tomorrow night we'll have Christmas dinner and then on Christmas day, we're all going to a local hotel for breakfast. I hope it's good.

Did I mention that I have taken a part-time job teaching English? Knowing how much I love to teach English, you may be asking yourself why I did that. The answer is simple; they pay me to do it. 

It's also a good way to meet people, but they all think I talk too fast. 

I tell them to suck it up and stop whining. 

Of course, I don't really say that. I say "I will try to talk slower." But then I don't. I mean, they need to learn how to comprehend spoken English sometime, right?

Today in class we talked about using one/ones. Like, "How much is that one?" or "Which ones? These?"

I told them they couldn't say, "How much are those ones? What about these ones?"

Then I said, "Well, you could say it if you were from Ohio, but it isn't right."

Merry Christmas from these ones in Iraq!!


All The Pretty ... UFOs?

Earlier this week Turkey bombed Iraq. They sent some number of planes into Iraqi Kurdistan to kill PKK forces operating here, but that's not the point of this post.

The next evening, Aram saw fast moving lights in the sky and got a little freaked out. I think he thought they were Turkish jets, but he described them as fast red lights and the more he talked the more they sounded like UFOs and they less they sounded like man-made aircrafts.

He called the police and asked whether anyone had reported this. They said no. 

Angie and I assumed that the Turks were coming and we heard the faint sound of jet engines and went outside to search the sky a few times, but we most likely were hearing the same sounds we hear every night of cars and taxis on the street. Our imaginations had gotten the best of us.

Tonight, we went to the Butterfly Cafe for dinner (I had the pasta. It was good, thanks for asking) and the lights went out - as they do. As we were sitting in the dark, Angie noticed a light in the sky outside.

It was red and seemed to be moving very quickly toward us. It was very small, but we watched it for a minute or so. I got up and went to the window to watch it more closely. It looked like a small point of fire. It was moving quickly but erratically through the night sky.

I watched it for a minute more and then realized what I was seeing.

It was totally a UFO!

I went back to the table and told Angie. The lights came back on and we prepared to meet the aliens.

Just kidding - obviously, but it took me a while to pinpoint exactly what it was. 

A week ago, we were at a department store in town and we saw some guys lighting what looked like cotton attached to a bag. It was a hot air balloon of sorts - a bag with fire that floats up into the sky. Just like you would expect.

This is what we were seeing tonight and it makes me wonder if this is what all the fuss was about earlier in the week; not an invasion of Turkish jets, but semi-dangerous Chinese toys.

Or aliens. That's always an option...


No Explanation Needed*


* Explanation needed. I cannot provide it...


Quick Questions

Is it appropriate to leave a banana peel on an end table in the living room overnight? If someone asks you to throw it away, can you defer the task to the morning?

Please take a minute to weigh in!

Interesting Personality Test...

Your Score: 8 - the Asserter

Thanks for taking the test !

you chose AY - your Enneagram type is EIGHT (aka "The Challenger").

"I must be strong"

Asserters are direct, self-reliant, self-confident, and protective.

How to Get Along with Me

  • Stand up for yourself... and me.

  • Be confident, strong, and direct.

  • Don't gossip about me or betray my trust.

  • Be vulnerable and share your feelings. See and acknowledge my tender,
    vulnerable side.

  • Give me space to be alone.

  • Acknowledge the contributions I make, but don't flatter me.

  • I often speak in an assertive way. Don't automatically assume it's
    a personal attack.

  • When I scream, curse, and stomp around, try to remember that's just
    the way I am.

  • What I Like About Being a EIGHT

  • being independent and self-reliant

  • being able to take charge and meet challenges head on

  • being courageous, straightforward, and honest

  • getting all the enjoyment I can out of life

  • supporting, empowering, and protecting those close to me

  • upholding just causes

  • What's Hard About Being a EIGHT

  • overwhelming people with my bluntness; scaring them away when I don't intend to

  • being restless and impatient with others' incompetence

  • sticking my neck out for people and receiving no appreciation for it

  • never forgetting injuries or injustices

  • putting too much pressure on myself

  • getting high blood pressure when people don't obey the rules or when
    things don't go right

  • EIGHTs as Children Often

  • are independent; have an inner strength and a fighting spirit

  • are sometimes loners

  • seize control so they won't be controlled

  • fugure out others' weaknesses

  • attack verbally or physically when provoked

  • take charge in the family because they perceive themselves as the strongest, or grow up in difficult or abusive surroundings

  • EIGHTs as Parents

  • are often loyal, caring, involved, and devoted

  • are sometimes overprotective

  • can be demanding, controlling, and rigid

  • Link: The Quick & Painless ENNEAGRAM Test written by felk on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

    I Know That Guy...

    Iraqi Kurd Media Bill Draws Protest

    By YAHYA BARZANJI – 2 days ago

    SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq (AP) — Lawmakers in Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region approved a measure that would allow courts to accuse journalists of "vague offenses" relating to terrorism or disturbing security, drawing protests Friday from Kurdish journalists and an international media advocate.

    The Committee to Protect Journalists said the bill, approved Tuesday in a sparsely attended parliamentary session, could be "exploited by pro-government judges to put critical newspapers out of business."

    Aws Herdi, editor of the weekly Kurdish newspaper Owena, accused the major Kurdish parties that supported the measure of hypocrisy, saying their slogans for freedom "are only empty words."

    "This new law will send journalists to prison, ban newspapers and allow for outrageous fines under various pretexts," Herdi said at a protest Friday in Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles northeast of Baghdad. He said any journalist who writes about terrorism could be accused of a crime under the measure.

    The bill must be approved by the Kurdish president, Massoud Barzani, before it goes into effect.
    Among the lawmakers who opposed the measure was Suzan Shihab of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Of the semiautonomous region's 111 lawmakers, only 57 attended the session. Of those, 11 abstained and seven voted against it.
    "This law means silencing people, journalists, and intellectuals who usually criticize the government and its mistakes," said Shihab, who attended Friday's protest. There was a similar gathering in Irbil, another Kurdish city.

    Shihab called on Barzani to veto the measure.

    Under the measure, journalists can be prosecuted in counterterrorism courts, which could bring the death penalty, and newspapers can be shut down for up to six months and face fines up to $8,200.

    "Given the tenuous financial and political situation of independent papers — several operate at losses or barely break even — the bill's elastic language could be exploited by pro-government judges to put critical newspapers out of business," the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement Friday.

    The Kurdish government has said a new media law is needed to replace the current law, which dates to the era of Saddam Hussein, but has otherwise not commented on the specifics of the measure.

    Aso Jabbar, a government critic who attended Friday's protest, said the law would not make him back down.

    "We shouldn't be frightened of prisons," he said. "Putting me in prison for my views is an honor."

    The Kurdish Air Force

    So, Turkey has begun bombing northern Iraq - aka southern Kurdistan.

    I should stress before I go any further that this activity is no where near us and there is no reason to believe that it will ever come anywhere near me, Angie and Nila. Unless, of course, Nila joins the PKK. Not to say that she's thinking about it, but....maybe.

    So, tonight I was reading this article and talking to Aram. He pointed to a picture of Turkish fighter jets and said,

    "This is bad. We don't have these."

    I said,

    "You have actual turkeys, though. You could just tape bombs to them and send them off... the Kurdish Air Force."

    I laughed and laughed at this idea. He didn't think think it was as funny.


    I still think my joke was hilarious, but for a more serious discussion of the Kurdish Air Force read this post.


    A Post For Nikki

    Hey, Nikki!

    I don't know if the readers are aware but Nikki ran her first 5k earlier this month.

    She's also the only person I know who uses "JK" in regular conversation.

    So this link is for her.


    Never Cut a Pancake Again.

    I kid you not.

    Read this.

    It's an invention called the Snap Jack (#4).

    Then read the rest of the list. It's pretty funny.

    The last line of the Snap Jack review made me laugh out loud. Or LOL for the nerds.



    Click This

    I know you think I should be posting important things here.

    Until then, enjoy the link!


    Come Misuse the Meyers-Briggs

    Your Score: Criminal- ISTP

    26% Extraversion, 20% Intuition, 60% Thinking, 40% Judging

    Rules? Hah! Who needs rules? They merely prevent you from doing your own thing, right? Down with the MAN!

    Wow. I wasn't aware that you had access to OKCupid! in prison. And if you're not behind bars, all signs say you're well on your way there in the near future.

    You love taking risks. You love the adrenaline rush of extreme sports. You love taking action. Generally, anything that's idiotic, you're in. Wanna light yourself on fire and dive from a 500 metre high cliff into shark-infested waters? I'll write your name down.

    However, you do need a lot of alone time because that's when you can finally sort things out in your mind most clearly.

    If it wasn't for your analytical and logical skills, I'd vouch that you didn't have a brain at all. The fact that you do have a brain merely means that the likelihood of you being a criminal has just gone up.

    Thankfully, you're most probably a good athlete, which will help when running away from the police. If not, prison doesn't seem too far away from you at all.

    Just please... stay far away from me.


    If you want to learn more about your personality type in a slightly less negative way, check out this.


    Link: The Brutally Honest Personality Test written by UltimateMaster on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test


    Waste Time, But Feel Good About It

    So, before I left for Iraq, I found a great new time wasting website, www.freerice.com.

    Here's the deal: you answer vocabulary questions and for every correct answer, you donate 10 grains of rice to help feed the riceless.

    I know 10 doesn't sound like much, but the site also tracks your vocab level (from 1 to 50), so you can compete against yourself to see how much you know. For me, this means, I can play for hours trying to get my score up to 50.

    I haven't yet. So far, I top out at 47. In all honesty, I average in the 40-42 range most of the time.

    It's pretty addicting. You need to answer three right to move up a level, but each wrong answer pushes you back a level. It's a lot of fun and you can rack up a lot of rice.

    Even if it is vocabulary.


    Let's All Try for a Day

    I have mentioned here before that the government of Iran has a reputation for crazy. I, myself, have refrained from calling anyone over there crazy and I intend to continue to do. However, from time to time, I find it necessary to point out goings-on with my new neighbor which could - possibly - be construed as, if not crazy, a little unusual.

    Case in point: state run Irani television has banned the use of the word "women." Read more here.

    The word has been replaced with "family." I am not sure how this works in practice. Perhaps in Farsi it all makes perfect sense, but I imagine the evening news must sound like this:

    "Today in Tehran, thousands of families protested our eradication of the term currently known as 'family.'"

    or is it "Today in Tehran, thousands of family protested...?"

    Wait, my mistake. It would be "Today in Tehran, everything was great and many families celebrated their love for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a devout manner."

    I just can't imagine why any nation would replace a plural noun with a singular noun!

    Oh, wait. My mistake again. They do it to get the international media to cover nonsense rather than stories like this one.

    I intend to stop using the word women on my blog in honor of Iran and their diversion skills. I will also use family.

    At least I will until I forget.

    Just like Iran wants...


    Hank Hill Sold It To Me

    Everytime I come to Iraq I want to write something meaningful, but I usually end up writing junk. I think it's very interesting junk, but it's junk nonetheless.

    I don't know why I don't write anything substantial. I just don't usually feel much like it.

    Or it could be because Angie won't stop talking to me while I try to write this. (Hi, Angie)

    Today, we bought propane heaters for the house. That's right. Propane. Believe it or not it's a step up. We've been using kerosene until now. It stinks and is rather dirty.

    Supposedly, propane is safer and healthier for us. That's what the ex-pats tell us, so we decided to give it a try. We haven't actually purchased any propane, though, so we can't use the heaters. I don't know when I'll be able to give you an update on the quality of propane-generated heat, but I will as soon as I can as I am sure you're just dying to know.

    Once you have my recommendation, you can rush out and buy your own propane heaters to replace your old kerosene sopas...

    In other news, I have internet at home and it's wireless if you can believe it. And it works! It's a little slow, but that's because I opted for the cheapest package. I may have to change that this next week.

    I need faster internet so I can download Christmas Music!


    Kurdish Food


    I saw this website today, though and I drooled a little.


    I feel guilty for this fake picture. See here and here for real pictures and a rice recipe.


    Why Does the Internet Refuse to Work?

    Usually, the internet works just fine, but now that I want to get online to help Todd fill out his Visa application, I am without the web.

    I shouldn't be surprised, but I always am when things don't work.

    I am using something called blog.gears to type this. It allows me to use Blogger offline, and then publishes it when I am online again. Whenever that is. Who knows?

    I am writing this on Monday night. Hopefully, this will upload the same day. Maybe not.

    Things are going well. No complaints.

    It's chilly, but not yet cold and Nila is doing really well. I know that's the only reason most of you check this blog anyways.


    Nothing Much to Say, but...

    ...I figure I am in iraq, so I should update this every now and again.

    It's interesting to be back again. I have never been here in the Autumn, so that's new. I've also never been here with a wife and a baby, so that's new, too.

    The people here love Nila. They are very happy to meet her and she's gotten some very interesting gifts already. My favorite is a tiny stuffed animal on a keychain. When you press the button in its stomach, it squeals and then says "I love you" while it's eyes light up and the light is red.

    So, it's great. A little sqealing, red-eyed animal.

    We're starting to make plans for Thanksgiving dinner, too. We'll be able to find a Turkey, but someone will have to kill it (not me) and I don't know what other goodies we'll be able to recreate, but between the ten of us here in the office, we should be able to come up with something good.

    It won't be the same as spending Thanksgiving in Ohio, of course. No family, no frui-pagne, no Macy's parade, no Watergate salad, none of Erin's off-color jokes, no White Castle at midnight, no driving to Jeffersonville. Just not the same.


    Back in Iraq

    Hello, everyone!

    Me, Angie and Nila made it safely to Iraq. We arrived yesterday and today we're settling into our house and office. So far, Nila seems pretty happy.

    We spent Thursday night in Dubai and it was very nice, but super hot and really humid. I didn't expect it to be humid. I also didn't expect there to be so many Indian people! We had great Indian food, though.

    I'll let you know when I have something more exciting to share.


    What is the What

    It's almost 4:30 am and here I am writing a blog post.

    I am finishing up the last of the laundry so I can pack. I don't want to be rushed tomorrow, so I decided to stay up all night or until I was finished washing clothes.

    I had another task, too. I had to finish reading What is the What by Dave Eggers. It's a library book, so I can't take it with me. I started reading it before I went to California, but, as usual, I got busy and didn't finish it, but I was determined to read the whole thing.

    It's a fantastic book that I can't recommend strongly enough.

    It's about the Lost Boys of Sudan and it's stunning in it's depiction of the struggles - a word too soft - these boys and thousands of Sudanese refugees endured and are still enduring in Africa.

    Here's a link to more information on Southern Sudan.


    So Little Time

    So much to do!

    Would you believe that we only have two days left before we're on a plane to Dubai!?!

    It's crazy.



    Somewhere along the way Halloween has become an important family holiday. I don't know what your family does - maybe nothing. But, my family has a tradition.

    Every year we all get together for Beggar's Night to see the kids' costumes, pass out candy and eat pizza. It's grown since it first started at Christy's and it centered around Kate trick-or-treating. Now there are three kids carting candy home. next year there may be four if Angie and I get desperate enough for candy to force our 14 month-old out onto the streets. And it's changed locations to Vanessa and Rob's home and neighborhood.

    But some things remain the same. We still take tons of pictures, we still eat too much pizza and drink too much pop. It goes without saying that we eat too much candy. We laugh alot, too.

    That's the best part.

    Check out more pictures here.


    That Fake Map is Boss

    Next Wednesday, we'll be on a plane headed for Iraq!

    It's crazy to think that in the past two years, I've travelled to Iraq 3 times.

    Ummm, it's crazy to think that in the past two years I've travelled to Iraq.


    In other news, I saw this fake map today on the Columbus Underground.

    I wish this really existed! That would be pretty boss.

    Yeah, that's right. I said boss. I'm bringing it back.

    Happy Halloween!

    I hope yours is boss.


    Fun Video

    This video is long, but funny.

    If you understand German, you'll know that they're twins! I hope that doesn't ruin it for you, but the announcer says it right away.

    $1000 Is A Lot of Money

    Below are two links to the same story. An Iraqi military unit raised $1000 to donate to the victims of the wildfires in San Diego. This is from men who make very little defending their country. Angie found the story at Michael Totten's blog and CNN picked it up a bit later.

    Michael Totten


    After reading this, I read some more of Michael Totten's work. I am familiar with his blog, but I read this article from Azure magazine. You should check it out. It includes this quote:

    "Erbil, the largest city in Kurdistan, has suffered three terrorist attacks since coalition forces terminated the Baath regime in 2003. The second-largest city, Suleimaniah, was struck only once. The third-largest city, Dohuk, has never been hit at all. More people have been wounded or killed by terrorists in Spain than in Iraqi Kurdistan since 2003. No one has been kidnapped."


    "You Kinda Look Like Jerry Revish"

    Angie, Nila and I arrived back in Columbus today. We fled the San Diego fires, spent four hours in the air and came home to Mom, Sis and pizza - oh, and a fussy baby!

    She was great on the flight, but not so great now that she's back home after the excitement.

    During the 10 o'clock news, Sis told me i look like Jerry Revish. A younger, white Jerry Revish. For those of you who may not know, Jerry Revish is one of the anchors at WBNS, Columbus's CBS affiliate. Well, and also for our CW station at 10 o'clock, which, of course, is where I watched him this evening.

    Also, I learned that there's a huge MERDS outbreak in the city. Please take precautions against MERDS!


    California Burning

    Yes, much of San Diego County is on fire.

    Yes, over 250,000 people have been evacuated.

    No, Angie, Nila and I are not among these evacuees. We're perfectly safe. We can see the huge smoke clouds to the north and south of us from our house. From the training center, we get a pretty spectacular view of the the smoke from the fires in southeast San Diego county.

    We have been pushed around a little by the Santa Ana winds, but we're good.


    Hi, Everybody

    I don't have much to say.

    Training has been going well. We'll be taking a well-prepared, capable and intelligent group back to Iraq with us, so that's good.

    Not like those fools who've gone before. haha

    Last night Angie made me eat dinner at a place called "Chinese Food and Donuts." We'd had the donuts last week and they were very tasty. Angie deduced that they must also have good Chinese food, too. She was mistaken. It was some of the lamest Chinese food I've eaten. She was sorely dissappointed.


    Turkey Makes Me Sleepy

    Has anyone been following this is the news?

    Here's a link to a good story on Turkey's threats to attack Souhtern Kurdistan/Northern Iraq.

    If you haven't been following along, here's the deal:

    Turkey has been building up troop levels in it's eastern province along the Iraqi border all summer and they've been threatening to attack the PKK bases in the Kurdish mountains.

    The PKK is a Kurdish seperatist group active in Turkey with guerrilla bases inside Iraq. Last week 15 Turkish soldiers were killed by this group (although this blog makes a case for the improbibility that the PKK in Iraq actually had anything to do with it). Since this, Turkey has moved foward with plans and threats to attack.

    Here's where things get interesting. Currently, the US Congress is being presented with a nonbinding resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide! the Turks have recalled their ambassador over it (although, they insist he will return). Last year, France approved a similar resolution much to Turkey's consternation. If approved, Turkey may cut off military ties with the US (like they did with France). This would mean that the US could no longer use Turkey as a base for operations in Iraq. Of course, the Bush administration is pushing Congress to reject (or even just ignore) the resolution.

    Also, Iran has recently been shelling PJAK in Iraq. PJAK is like the Iranian PKK. Neither Turkey nor Iran admit that their militaries are coordinating attacks against Iraqi Kurdistan. So it must just be a coincidence, I'm sure.

    The question, though, is: How will all this affect me? It won't. Even if Turkey attacks, they won't attack anywhere near where we live. The biggest fear would be that Turkey (and maybe Iran) will close their borders to trade. That would mean an end to tasty Turkish cookies in the stores. That would make my life sadder and more difficult.


    Nila Meets People

    The day before we came to California, we went to a family reunion of sorts. It was Grandma Kay's sisters and brother (although he was sick and unable to come) and their families. I hadn't seen many of them for years, so it was nice to get together and have a good time and, of course, eat.

    When we first told Grandma (Nila) Kay that we intended to name our baby after her, she said "Oh, no. Don't do that. I don't even like my name. No, no."

    I did it anyways because I knew at some point this would happen:

    It was the first time anyone in this part of the family had seen Nila and Grandma introduced her to each person as "Nila, named after me." She was obviously very happy to have her first grandchild named after her. It was totally worth it.


    Alive and Well

    I haven't been able to keep the blog updated because...umm...

    Would you believe that there's a giant sink hole? Well, it's true. There's a giant sink hole/ landslide incident here in San Diego. It makes it very hard to blog with this type of disaster happening in one's vicinity.

    Of course, by vicinity I mean a thirty minute drive from where I actually am staying and working, but still. It's on tv and stuff.

    In truth, I've just been working hard teaching language and the apartment in which Angie, Nila and I are staying doesn't have internet. We can sporadiclly intercept someone else's wifi, but it isn't consistent enough to rely on.


    I Thought It Was Funny

    I found this on CollegeHumor.com which, honestly, just tries too hard, but I thought this was prett funny.

    Click on the picture and it will open larger so you can read it.


    Another Round

    I feel like all of my most recent posts have been impersonal. I haven't said anything compelling which let's you, friendly reader, know about my life. Who am I? Where am I going? Why?

    Well, sorry. I know it's hurt your heart a little each time I just post a new link to a website or link to a story about Hilary Clinton. I feel your pain.

    Angie, Nila and I head to California on Sunday for another round of training. We're not being trained again, mind you. We are training others. I'll be teaching them how to speak Kurdish and Angie will be teaching them how to breast feed. 

    This will be my fourth trip to training! Can you believe it. It's crazy really. After the first time i wondered if I'd ever see the people involved again. The answer to those wonderings was yes. And yes. And yes again.

    Remember the other times?

    This time we'll be in California through October 25. We'll be just in time for Halloween, so we can dress Nila up like a potato or something even more clever.

    And, while I know this post is all about me, I have another link for you. I know the elections are still a year away, but the Council on Foreign Relations has a nice feature which lists the candidates' positions on various foreign policy topics. It's pretty good. In fact, I have my preferred candidate narrowed to three choices, two Republicans and a Democrat, none of whom will win their party's nomination, but, hey, at least I am learning, right?

    You can click here to check it out. 

    Just kidding. You have to click here.

    Ok. Really. Click here.



    So, I read a post on a local blog, the 270, about a new service offered (meaning newly purchased) by Google. 

    It's called Grand Central and, while this is the part where I should describe the service, I'm not sure I can. See, I sent Sis and invitation to check it out and she asked me a simple question:

    "What is this?"

    My response was mostly giggling with smatterings of laughter. Once you actually check out Grand Central, you probably won't understand why, but when asked directly I couldn't put it in words. It's one of those things that's either so awesome that I am lucky to be part of the beta, or it's something so useless that I shouldn't waste my time and in a year I'll pretend i had no part. 

    I told Sis "You get a new phone number that you can route all of your phones to." 

    "You mean my one phone?" 

    "Umm, yeah." Giggle. "But you can record all of your voice messages and share them with your friends."

    She gave me a look that suggested I had perhaps lost my mind -and, let's be honest, maybe I have- and she asked "Why?"

    I don't know. In case you need to take your stalker to court. Or in case OJ robs you, I guess.

    Take a look at Grand Central and let me know what you think. If you want an invite, I can give you one and we can be weirdos together.

    Oh, also, there's a feature that lets me post a "Call Me" button on my website. Then people can call me. Here's how it works (I think): you press the button (mine is there on the right) then you enter your phone number. The Grand Central gnomes then call your phone and mine and hook us up. The beauty is that the people that choose to call me with this feature never learn my phone number. 

    I can imagine that has some uses.

    Quiz Answers +

    Here's a link to the quiz answers. You can listen to the songs, too. Go here and select the playlist titled Blog Game Answers.

    In other news, Iraq now has a casino. It seems a Russian businessman smelled money. Read more about it here or listen to an interview with the Russian here.


    I have One Eyebrow Raised

    So, the solution to the problems with US health care is to legally require all of us to buy health insurance?

    According to a leading presidential candidate: "a mandate requiring every American to purchase health insurance was the only way to achieve universal health care but [he or she] rejected the notion of punitive measures to force individuals into the health care system." (quoting the article, not the person)

    Guess which one!

    Come on guess. Really, make a mental guess and then read this article to see how you did.


    Blog Redesign Spreading

    Cinderella Jenkins has updated her blog, too. You should check it out. 

    Not only did she add two new posts, but she's also got a whole new look. I've been on kick lately. The LGHG blog, the Restaurant List and Everybody Loves Nila have all been tweaked. 

    Ok, let's play a game. I'm going to listen to 5 songs on Anywhere.fm. I'll list random lyrics below. If you can name all five songs and artists, I'll give you a prize

    1. Bring my happy back again. So happy to show us. Oh, I ate the lotus.
    2. Notice me. Take my hand. Why are we strangers when our love is strong. Why carry on without me?
    3. Now, don't just walk away pretending everything's OK and you don't care about me. 
    4. Off to college, yes you went away. Straight from high school you up and left me...
    5. You can take all the tea in China, put in a big brown bag for me, sail right round all the seven oceans, drop in straight into the deep blue sea
    There. I skipped a few songs to make it easier. I think all five of these are doable. The first one is probably the hardest. I know that none of you will actually do this... Suckers.

    Why not do this on your own blog and challenge your readers to do the same? Come on. It's a fun game!

    Remembering 2005

    I was reading a friend's blog the other day and in his newest post he introduces us all to his new girlfriend.

    I have to admit it was a little too much for me and I may have thrown up in my mouth a little bit.

    I kid, of course. It was a beautiful outpouring of heart-felt emotion and true feeling...so you know, I actually threw up in my mouth a lot.

    Ah. I amuse myself. 

    Here's a link to the first time Angie made an appearance on my blog two years ago. And here's the link to her first photo.


    International House of Petitions

    Sign the petition to bring IHOP to Columbus, so Mom will stop whining.

    Sign it here and be sure to check out signatures 326 through 330. You won't be disappointed.


    Lunch is Good

    Hey, Carrie, I finally got to go to Chipotle.

    My Chipotle Burrito:

    Chipotle Fan.com

    I did not get the burrito depicted above, though. That's my usual, but today I got one of the bols (or bowl for those that don't do Chipotle).

    I went to the Chipotle website to check out the nutrition info, but they no longer post it. Do you know why? Apparently NYC has passed an ordinance which requires all restaurants which post nutrition information on their websites to also post it in the restaurant. On the menu board. The same size as the writing on the menu. And they have to list everything. 

    Do you know how many combinations are possible at Chipotle? Over 40,000!

    Thanks NYC, you've ruined it for everyone else once again. You suck.

    Chipotle stopped posting the nutrition info on their website to avoid the new law, but there's another website which does. It's Chipotlefan.com. They also allow one to make a burrito and post it on one's website (see above).


    Dancer in the Dark

    Have you ever seen that movie with Bjork, Dancer in the Dark?

    I saw it a few years ago, but I had forgotten about it completely. It's really pretty good. It's on right now and, though I should be sleeping, I can't stop watching it.

    Sorry, Vanessa

    Vanessa doesn't like the picture of the animal parts, so I am posing to move it down the page.

    You're welcome.

    I have been using a new web radio type thing for a few weeks now. It's called Anywhere.fm. It allows me to upload all of the songs from iTunes on my computer. Then I can listen to them like a radio on any computer. Anywhere.

    Get it? 

    This is great since the bulk of my music lives on the iMac. At home. In Columbus. No matter where I am, there it is. Until now. Now if I have internet, I have all of my music.

    This will be especially sweet when someone buys me one of the new ipods with wifi! I'm not hinting or anything, but I do have an anniversary on the 22nd of this month. The traditional gift is paper. The contemporary gift is a clock.

    The new ipod comes with a manual (paper) and has a built in clock. Check and check, my friends!

    Back to Anywhere.fm

    You can also listen to the collections of others. I am rdmeeker there, too if you want to listen. Let me know when you add and I'll listen to yours. 

    Be warned, though, it does take some time to upload. 


    ...and a Picture, Too

    I really wanted to post something tonight. So here it is. 

    It's a lovely picture and a list of things I need to do over the next few days. Lucky you.

    This picture was taken from the car on the way back from Halabja. Notice the eye and then notice the horrible beak-like structure to the right of the eye. Disgusting, no?

    I need to do the following things this week:
    • Finish our newsletter - Angie's already done most of the work
    • Begin contacting supporters and prospective supporters - Angie and I have been working on our financial goals now that Nila's here, so now we need to get on the proverbial ball.
    • Find a kind-hearted soul willing to donate $460.61 for airline tickets to a certain California town for a certain training program. [That's three round-trip tickets for that price, though. Can you believe it? Thank you, Skybus.]
    • Begin seriously studying language texts for above mentioned training program.
    • Take and post more pictures of Nila.
    • Watch Todd's video. He sent me home with a copy of a couple of his tv programs, but I haven't watched them yet because I don't have a VCR. 
    • Send those books to Mamosta A and e-mail him to let him know I did it.
    • Continue to work on my business plan
    Speaking of, did I tell you have a business plan. I am not ready to discuss it, yet. I know it seems like, since I mentioned it here on a very public blog, I must really want to discuss it and I am being coy, but it's not true.

    Ok, it's a little true. I will probably discuss it here more as I become more comfortable with the idea to open it up to criticism. I like to mold my ideas in my head for a long time before I share them [especially if I think they're good] and I am totally averse to criticism. But that last bit's a secret. so don't tell anyone.


    Change is Inevitable


    I decided to make some changes around here, but I'm not sure about the outcome, so things may be in flux for a while.

    I loved my old theme here based on my favorite game, Fly the Copter, but it was based on the old Blogger, so the template wasn't as flexible. In fact, Angie had to do a lot of work to create the old one - the one I've so unceremoniously erased. Sorry, Angie.

    I can edit this one fairly easily, so I gain flexibility and control, so I figure it's better in  the long run even though I've lost the copter.


    Useless and Unnecessary

    I saw this posted on Plime as "Pointless Lyrics Page."

    As a Daft Punk fan, I found it pretty funny, but if you aren't familiar with the song, you'll probably wonder why I wasted your time. 



    Did you know this? 

    Also, your newborn can recognize whether sounds are part of his or her native language.

    Your newborn continues to learn language by listening to the basic and distinct sounds (phonemes), such as the "tr" and "cl" sounds in the English language. Your baby remembers sounds and continually learns more nuances of language, which are later expressed when he or she begins to talk.

    From WebMD.

    There isn't too much happening here in the land of the Meekers. Nila has a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning. She went on Wednesday and she goes tomorrow just to be weighed again. She's just below average (the bottom limit of which is 5.5 pounds) and she's lost about 6 ounces since she was born (normal weight loss) which she should regain in the first 10 to 14 days. 

    See? WebMD is very handy. I've also read the booklet we received from OSU about what to expect with our newborn (Angie's mom laughed and called it an instruction manual. As is "babies never used to come with instruction manuals") cover to cover which means I know a lot of things I never expected to. 

    Like: did you know that a new mother doesn't start producing milk until the 3rd or 4th day? That means Angie's only been producing milk since Tuesday or Wednesday night. This explains the baby's weight loss. I also know about the colostrum - or pre-milk. [If you google colostrum to make sure you've spelled it correctly, the first link is for bovine colostrum. Surprising.]

     I am taking recommendations for good newborn development books, so let me know if you've read one.

    Before Nila's birth I vowed not to become one of "those parents." You know, the ones who read baby books and always post crap about their baby on their blogs. But what's a dad to do when he has the most beautiful baby ever? 

    Thursday's Post is Full of Grace

    So here's the information on Nila Nickles:


    Birthstone: Sapphire

    Flower: Aster or Morning glory

    Sign: Virgo

    Chinese Sign: The Pig

    September 1, This Day in History:
    • 1752 - The Liberty Bell arrives in Philadelphia.
    • 1897 - The Boston subway opens, becoming the first underground metro in North America.
    • 1905 - Alberta and Saskatchewan join the Canadian confederation..
    • 1939 - World War II: Nazi Germany attacks Poland, beginning the war. 
    • 1969 - A revolution in Libya brings Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi to power
    • 1972 - In Reykjavík, Iceland, American Bobby Fischer beats Russian Boris Spassky and becomes the world chess champion.
    • 2004 - The Beslan school hostage crisis begins when armed terrorists take hundreds of school children and adults hostage in the Russian town of Beslan in North Ossetia.
    • 2007 - Appalachian State becomes the first ever team in the college football division formerly known as 1-AA to defeat an AP top 25 team, upsetting Michigan 34 to 32. (For the Buckeye fans)

    Saturday's child works hard for a living.

    Nila will start kindergarten in 2012, be old enough to drive a car in 2023, finish high school in 2025, and will graduate from college with the class of 2029, give or take a year.



    Pictures from Day One, Hour One

    These are the first few pictures of Nila. We're all back home home now, so we'll post more pictures in the next couple of days.

    After we take naps.


    Introducing Nila!

    Yesterday, September 1 at exactly 6:00 PM, we welcomed Nila into the world!

    She weighs 5 pounds on the dot and is 19 inches long. She is very healthy and both she and Angie are doing really well. We'll all be home tomorrow, Labor Day, and we will upload pictures here, on Angie's blog and, of course, Nila's blog.

    Oh, and the middle name is Nicole.


    Addicted to the Internet

    PC Magazine apparently has a list of the top 100 underrated websites of the year. I won't link to it here, i think you're all capable of a google search.

    I checked out a few of them and I have found one that I enjoy very much. It's called GoodReads.com. Here's the deal: you create a profile and begin reviewing books that you are reading/ have read. You can invite your friends and keep up-to-date with what they're reading as well as their reviews of books read.

    I have been fighting the temptation to add every book I've ever read! But, I want each book I add to have some sort of value - a good review or something. I have to admit that I have added more books already than I plan to review, so I am trying to slow myself down and just add new books as I read them. We'll see how I do.

    If you decide to join, seek me out and be my friend. Unless, of course, you read crap books that I don't want to know about. I don't think that's be anyone who reads this, though.

    In the spirit of book love, I've also added the GoodReads widget down below my archives on the right hand side of this page.

    Also, you will notice that I have added a new blog to the blog list on the right. Be sure to check it out. Wink, wink.


    Breaking News

    Heather Tom is on The Bold and the Beautiful now.




    Audiobooks for those who like audiobooks. For free.

    I don't listen to audiobooks, but for those of you who do, this would be a good find.


    Nerdy, but...

    Ok, Ok. This is from a movie that isn't out yet which is based on a book which I have not read and do not intend to read. I took a quiz and was matched with an animal which may be the animal representation of my spirit. I'm not sure, I didn't really read the website.

    Here's what I do know. My animal is a snow leopard. You can click on the pic and take a short quiz about ME. If you don't agree with my self-assessment, then the animal will change from a snow leopard to something else, say a flamingo or a snail. Who knows.

    I promise to do the same for you - if you are nerdy enough to create your own!

    ;param name="movie" value="http://goldenc!

    This is How I Roll

    I don't really have anything to write about tonight, I just wanted to write something.

    Tomorrow, I'll be babysitting Vanessa and Rob's kids. It should be fun. I'll get to meet Hannah at the bus stop after her first day of second grade. I am looking forward to it.

    Other than that excitement, there isn't too much going on. The labor day weekend is coming up, so I am looking for something exciting (I need a thesaurus) to do. Vanessa is planning a game night for Sunday and Mom is making lunch before taking Angie on a shopping spree* for baby supplies. That also occurs on Sunday. All of the activities clumped onto one day leaves me open Friday, Saturday and Monday.

    If you're having a party let me know, I'll be there with bells on (not literally, of course, so don't let that stop you from shelling out the invite). But I will need a ride...

    You might be interested to know that I stumbled upon an online game that has become an obsession. It's called Tower Bloxx. Check it out.

    *Probably not an actual spree


    On a Roll

    I like to share things here that i know you will love and I knew you would love this picture.


    Seriously, People

    I am posting another article about Iran. This time, I can't vouch for the source. I haven't had time to research them, but the info included has been read other places so I decided to post it. It was forwarded to me by someone with an interest in the Kurds - and evil hearts. You know who you are.

    You know me and my strict rules for authenticity...

    Here's a (lengthy) quote:

    The Turks have been threatening for months to go after the PKK, who have tens of thousands of fighters training in camps inside Iraq, along the Turkish border.

    And so the Iranians have spread the rumor, which until now has been accepted at face value, that its own Kurdish dissidents (PJAK) are actually the Iranian branch of the PKK, which the U.S. has designated as an international terrorist organization.

    The State Department took Turkey’s insistence that PJAK was allied with the PKK seriously enough that it refused to meet earlier this month with visiting PJAK leader, Rahman Haj Ahmadi, despite his open support for the U.S. military presence in Iraq and his identification with U.S. goals in the region.

    Both the PKK and PJAK have training camps in the Qanbil mountain range in northern Iraq. But because of the difficult geography, and their different needs, they inhabit “different sides of the mountains,” Rahman Ahmadi told me in Washington.

    “The PKK doesn’t need us,” he said. “They have tens of thousands of fighters, and hundreds of thousands of sympathizers.”

    But Ahmadi acknowledges that PJAK and the PKK cooperate to a certain degree, if only to prevent clashes between their own fighters.

    “The president of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional government, Massoud Barzani, also has an agreement with the PKK,” he told me. “Does that make Barzani a supporter of the PKK?”

    This is not the first time the Turks have played us in Iraq. In 2003, on a flimsy pretext of domestic opposition, they successfully prevented the 4th Infantry Division from crossing Turkey to join coalition forces that liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein.

    We can sit by and allow Iran to violate Iraq’s sovereignty, defy the U.S. military, and smash a significant Iranian opposition group on the slim pretext that Iran is “merely” seeking to punish its own rebels, just as Turkey.

    Or we can extend protection to the Iranian Kurds who have established training camps in the rugged mountains of northeastern Iraq, and inflict a double blow on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.

    Clearly, the Iranians believe they can thumb their noses at the U.S. military. For more than a week, they have conducted intermittent shelling of Iraqi Kurdish villages in the general vicinity of suspected PJAK bases.

    My Iranian sources tell me that the Iranians are hoping to expel PJAK from the area and replace them with Ansar al-Islam, the precursor group to al Qaeda in Iraq.

    See? Turkey is the devil. Just like I have always said.


    Hee Hee

    This and other super posters can be found here.


    Here's another story about Iran's leaflets. I assume the leaflets mentioned are the same leaflets from a few days ago.

    This newest article was listed on the Drudge Report, so the story is making it's way to the American media. Although, I think the Drudge Report isn't so interested in the Kurdish side of the story as much as supporting the "Iran is cr-a-a-a-a-azy" theme they have going.

    But, really, they might just be crazy.

    Here's an old Saddam joke, updated for the day:

    Q: What do Ahmadinejad and Little Miss Muffet have in common?

    A: They both have Kurds in their way.

    Get it? Curds in their whey. Kurds in their way.

    So funny......


    Good Morning

    I left the house this morning at 8 am. That's right. AM. Sis convinced me to go with her to the YMCA so we could work out.

    On the way out the door, I found my luggage sitting on the porch! I don't know when it came, but there it was. I was thrilled. Everything was inside and intact, too.

    Yay for me.


    "Iran is Attacking Us Like Satan"

    In continuation of my last post, here are a few more links about Iran's shelling of Iraqi Kurdistan. It seems that Iran may be threatening to invade.

    Reuters India
    Iran Focus

    I encourage you to take time to read these, but, if you can only read one, read the Reuters article.

    I have been looking at maps and I finally found the area being bombed. It's pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It's on the other side of Lake Dukan between the lake and the border. That'll help some of you get your bearings.


    Real News

    After a few days of just posting silliness, I decided to talk about a real issue.

    The Guardian is reporting the Iran has shelled Kurdish villages inside Iraq. (Read more here) The article fails to name the villages, but I can assume that it's areas north of Halabja - maybe an hour or more away if one is driving. That would put it about three hours away from Sulemania and even farther from Hewler, the capital.

    Of course, that's just an assumption. I'll keep searching the news to find more information. If you find something out, let me know.

    PJAK is, in simple terms, the Iranian version of the PKK in Turkey. The article mentions the Qandil mountains which is the same place the PKK is typically accused of setting up camp. I don't know enough to explain how the two are related, but I know that both battle against oppressive regimes - one supported by the US (Turkey) and one opposed by the US (Iran).

    Oops. Did I say "battle against oppressive regimes?" I meant to say "are terrorists." Just in case the CIA reads 13Months...

    Also interesting is the lack of reporting by the US media.


    I Don't Know Why...

    I was bored today so I checked out what they call the "Meez" feature on Photobucket..

    It's fairly lame in that it's hard to get the "Meez" to actually look like me - which wouldn't be a big deal except that's the whole point of the thing.

    However, once I realized I could make it do the Elaine dance from Seinfeld, I was sold.



    Angie is a Stalker

    Dear Kate,

    Angie told me that you had been reading her blog. She asked if you had left any comments here. I was a little offended since you hadn't left me a comment, but had clearly left one for Angie. But it turns out she only knew you'd been checking in because she reads through her site statistics.

    I usually don't stalk people that read my blog, but I checked my sitemeter and saw someone from Miami U had been reading. That must mean you! 

    Or your weirdo roommate, I guess. Maybe she's the one checking in. 

    So, how's it going? How's the room? Have you met anyone cool? lame? super? supercreepy? I am excited to hear what's up.




    Dear Kate's Roommate,

    Kate did NOT tell me that you were a weirdo.

    I just made an assumption.

    I hope this doesn't adversely affect your relationship with Kate. If so, feel free to use her irrational fear of zombies against her.


    Robert, Kate's brother


    Luggage Watch 2007

    So, I'm fairly certain that you are all waiting on the edges of your seats waiting for an update on my luggage. 

    Here's the good news: American Airlines has a tracking number for my luggage. This was up in the air for a while given the situation in Dubai; I didn't actually check in my own luggage.

    Here's the bad news: That tracking number attached to my bags hasn't led to any actual tracking. It's still lost somewhere between Dubai and Columbus. 

    I am getting a lot of use out of my Kurdish shoes, though, since they're the only shoes I have. I must say, though, they may not have been made with the modern world in mind. I bought the Iranian shoes rather than the traditional. The leather and fabric bottoms leave me sliding all over the place. It was worse when I was travelling the marble-floored airports. Now, I mostly walk on carpet and concrete so I'm good. 

    I wanted to post pictures of my sister Vanessa's 30th birthday party last night, but I can't find the camera, so the world will have to wait. 



    I am home in Ohio once again. 

    Here's how the trip went down. 

    Flight #1 - Unidentified Iraqi city to Dubai

    This one was scheduled to leave at 6:30 pm, but left 1o hours later at 4:30 am. Luckily, I got to leave the airport, so I did a whole host of things while I waited: attended a birthday party, repacked my suitcase, ate dinner, got a haircut, took a shower, cancelled my hotel plans in Dubai. 

    The plane was fairly nice and there were no chickens running up and down the aisles, so I was pleased. I got to Dubai with just enough time to run (ride a shuttle) to the British Airways counter in the other terminal.

    Flight #2 - Dubai to London

    When I got to the desk it was final call and the desk attendant gave me a "well we're a little late aren't we." Yes, 10 hours late to be exact I told her. They were very helpful, but unable to print a boarding pass; the printers wouldn't work. I had to wait half an hour for the pass which someone just wrote by hand when they finally gave up on the printer. 

    Did you know it takes about 7 hours to fly from Dubai to London? I did not. 

    Flight #3 - London to Chicago

    Just before leaving London, I purchased a Coke. It was flavored with oranges and was disgusting, but I had to try it since I'd never seen it before. 

    This flight was typical and uneventful except that the baby in the seat behind me made a sound like the villains in "The Grudge" only louder and she made it for almost 8 hours straight. I had to keep my headphones on to drown it out.

    When I landed in Chicago, I had to collect my luggage for customs, except, ooops, I didn't have any luggage. The American Airlines agent was very unfriendly and told me that no one could help me until I got to Columbus. I tried to explain that I wouldn't fly to Columbus until the next day, but he dismissed me and my concerns. I was not pleased, but I was too tired to do much about it. 

    I spent the night in the airport Hilton which was delightful. I really needed a good night's sleep in a comfortable bed by that point.

    Flight #4 - Chicago to Columbus

    This one was simple and fast; just over an hour. 

    I came home and was greeted by Angie and Sis. Later we had dinner with Mom, Grandma, Vanessa, Hannah, Matt, Sam and Nikki. I surprised Mom, Grandma and the kids since the others knew I was home. Mom was super surprised, so I was happy.

    I gave her a birthday card that said "Happy Bat Mitzfah!" but I inserted the word old before the words Bat Mitzfah. Get it? 


    ... and I Just Gave Up.

    But, then! Three new posts in just a few weeks!

    Sakes alive, y'all. Read my mom's blog here.

    And wish her a happy birthday! The big 5-0 is Monday, August 12.


    Bad Day

    Ok. So I have been pretty busy lately; staying at the office until 1 am or later and getting up early for classes or trips to see gypsies or whatever.

    I've been pretty tired for the past couple of days and today I feel just plain worn out.

    I didn't know how bad things were until I made a trip to the bathroom today. I put my underwear on backwards this morning. Backwards! Seriously.

    I think I need a nap.


    Dear Anonymous,

    I am nowhere near Tal Afar. That's over by Syria and I am closer to Iran. Closer to Kirkuk.

    In fact, I'm probably closer to Baghdad than Tal Afar. I can actually hear bombs when they explode in Baghdad. And sometimes armed men patrol the streets and we all have to hide inside until they pass so they don't kidnap us or steal the children.

    Plus, when we go the market we have to keep our eyes open for truck bombers, or car bombers, or suicide bombers or snipers and the like. It's pretty stressful. Especially since so many of our friends have died in the past few years. It's been pretty hard on all of us.

    My neighbors have even started moving away. The ones that can afford it have left the country and many have gone north to the safer regions, but the ones that can't afford it have gone to the refugee camps up north or in Syria. I hear it's pretty rough there.

    But even more than the ones who have left are the ones who stay behind. I don't know if they can't leave or they just have hope for the future, but they stay around like us; afraid everyday.

    Of course, this isn't really true for me. I walk around the city without fear and I've never heard a bomb, but it is true for millions of people in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq (like Tal Afar). So, I thank God everyday that I don't live there and I pray every day that they would know peace like I know peace.


    Terrorism Strikes Close to Home

    Three nights ago my city was without power for an entire night. This means that across town fans and coolers were deadly silent and the citizens of our fair city sweltered in their brick*-oven homes

    Two nights ago, we learned the truth**. Terrorists had cut the power line that runs from Baghdad to Kirkuk and our local dam couldn't produce enough electricity to give us our usual 6 to 8 hours of power.

    We were also warned that the following night would be just as bad as crews frantically*** tried to repair the damage.

    To my fellow foreigners I said: "Well, it was fine when the terrorists were just killing innocent civilians, but now that they've attacked my electricity, I am angry****."

    Oh, and the picture has nothing to do with the post, but she does seem angry about the power situation.

    *Of course, I mean cinder blocks
    **Total unsubstantiated rumor
    ***No one here works frantically. I mean frantically in the slowest and most lackadaisical [btw, I totally had to run that word back through the spell checker. I am convinced that this spelling is incorrect, but dictionary.com agrees] manner possible.
    **** Allegedly


    Don't Take Sides

    Ok, I read this article today which suggests that the US government is planning to assist the Turkish government to attack the PKK in Iraq.

    As you may know, the PKK has bases in Northern Iraq (aka Southern Kurdistan) from which they attack the Turkish military across the border.


    You know how I hate to drag up politics on the old blog.....

    But, give me a break GW! Your willing to risk the peace and stability of Kurdistan on Turkey's anti-Kurd campaign of oppression and would-be genocide? Really?


    I am appalled at my government.

    In other news, Turkeys recent elections saw the first openly Kurdish candidates elected to the Turkish parliament - twenty of them to be exact. This is a big step in a country where being Kurdish is in fact outlawed. How do you outlaw a race of people?

    Of course, the Kurds have their own issues. As previously noted on this (high-quality) blog, Iraq won the Asia Cup final a few days ago. This led to much hoopla, flag waving and literal dancing in the streets. Unfortunately for about 50 people, they waved the wrong flag. The Iraqi flag is illegal up here in Kurdistan, so eager Iraq supporters hoisted the hated flag and landed themselves in jail.

    I saw at least 200 individual Iraqi flags on the street that evening just between my house and the place we watched the game, so I know most people were not hassled by the fuzz, but it's ridiculous that even 50 were.

    Speaking of the fuzz, Todd and I got stopped at a checkpoint yesterday and had to hand over the registration and his ID (he was driving). Our registration is expired (long story) so they told him they'd keep his ID until we could prove we had a new registration.

    I wasn't having any of that, so I got out and argued with the officer. He ignored me, so we went to speak to the officer in charge of the checkpoint. I had spoken to the lesser officer in Kurdish, but I wanted to be as American as possible for the leader; i knew I'd get farther. I again explained that it wasn't Todd's car, so they shouldn't keep his license. He didn't care. He said that's just how it's done.

    I used Todd to translate, by the way. I think he secretly loves to translate for me when I argue with Kurdish people.

    The officer told me I could go ahead and pay 7000 Dinar and get the ID back right away. I told him it sounded like bribery, but I am pretty sure Todd did not translate that.

    So, I asked him for a copy of the traffic laws. You know, something written down that I could study to be sure that I didn't break any more laws. He laughed and said that this wasn't America. I said "Well, YOU must have learned these laws somehow since YOU know when I have broken one. Can I get a copy of what you used to study?"

    I am pretty sure that Todd translated all of that. The police officer just shook his head and laughed.

    And totally caved. We left with Todd's license.

    Oh, and we have a thermometer at the office now. It's currently only about 106 degrees. Feels great!


    I am qualified for this job because I'm HOT

    We did MadLibs in class today.

    This is my favorite line.


    Piroze, Iraq

    I am sure you all already know the following information, what being such huge soccer fans and all, but Iraq beat Saudi Arabia this evening to win the Asia Cup.

    That's right, the Iraqi soccer team is the best in all of Asia and everyone is pretty excited about it (except the Saudis and the other non-Iraqi Asians, I assume.)

    There is much celebrating in the streets at the moment, even here in Kurdistan. So, I say "Good for Iraq. Way to go," or simply "piroze" in Kurdish.


    My Fan

    Yesterday, I bought a fan in the bazaar. My fan was made in Japan and came with a great set of instructions and warnings. Here a couple of my favorites.

    1. Keep the fan in the dry place and far from sunlight.

    I think Iraq qualifies as THE dry place.

    2. Easy cleaning by using the damp cloth to wipe out the dirty.

    3. Do not use the fan near a light object. It will cause a dangerous because fan will imbibe all that light object into the fan.

    So, my fan is a tiny black hole sucking all light into itself? This one had me a little worried. I mean, I certainly don't want to be the cause of a dangerous. Especially one that involves imbibing the light object.

    I used my fan last night and I slept very well, thank you, but I turned off all the light objects before I turned the fan on. Just in case.



    This link has famous poems rewritten as limericks.

    Here's my personal favorite:

    Footprints in the Sand

    There was a man who, at low tide
    Would walk with the Lord by his side
    Jesus said "Now look back;
    You'll see one set of tracks.
    That's when you got a piggy-back ride."

    My First Movie

    For a couple of weeks I have seen posters around town for a movie. I was excited because I assumed that meant there must be some theater somewhere showing this movie.

    It is called Jani Gal and is based on a novel by Ibrahim Ahmed about life in Kurdistan following the assassination of Sheikh Mahmoud. Well, at least that's what the movie's about. Turns out the book is about the Algerian war for independence.

    I kept asking around about the movie and I was told that maybe it would be on TV or maybe I'd just have to buy a copy and watch it at home. Finally, the English-language newspaper published an article that said the movie would show at a theater in Sulemania... as soon as they could find one with quality equipment.

    I thought that just meant never.

    But, Friday, I saw an ad on PUK TV saying that the movie would play for three nights on that channel. I copied down the dates and the time and told everybody in the office (we were all excited to see it), but I found out later I was wrong.

    The movie wasn't going to be on TV; it was going to show at a local theater (an actual theater, not a movie theater) and it would show for three days. We decided to try for the opening night, but we got a call just as we were headed to the theater telling us that it was VIP only and no one could get in. The best we could do would be to get tickets for the next night.

    We were already almost in the car so we decided to head to the theater and try to get tickets as soon as we could.

    Todd came with us managed to get himself inside the theater while we waited outside watching SUVs pull up and armed guards pop out to protect the Very Important Guests. Before long, Todd came outside and waved us in. He hadn't gotten us tickets for the next night, he had managed to get us admitted to the premiere. He told someone he had American guests and that it would be a shame if we couldn't get inside. The man inside agreed so we got in and got seats and saw our first movie premiere.

    More importantly, though, Jalal Talabani's wife was there, Hero. She is Ibrahim Ahmed's daughter. After the movie we got our picture taken with her - again thanks to Todd who schmoozed one of the actors to get us in a picture with the First Lady.

    So, I am now closer than ever to my dream of meeting the man himself, Mam Jalal!


    Lighter Fare

    Ok, so I decided to post a much less heavy post today.

    To the left you see a bunch of junk for sale on a cart. You can't see the cart, but it looks like you'd expect. It's flat with three wheels underneath and two handles for pushing.

    Men will push these all over town filled with goods for sale: candy, vegetables, shoes, dishes. It's called an arabanna.

    Do you know the difference between an arabanna and an Arab?

    An arabanna wears the tire underneath and an Arab wears it on his head...

    Ah, Kurdish jokes...

    Do you know the difference between a traffic cop and ice cream?

    Ice cream runs when it's hot.



    I know nothing about racism.

    Today, I listened to D-Dog, our cook, relate the story of her recent trip to Baghdad to Janie. I heard her say that all of the Arabs are dirty and that she feared for her life the whole time she was there. Janie tried to assure her that, in fact, all the Arabs are not dirty.

    But what does Janie know? Like me, Janie grew up learning about pluralism and stereotyping, so we know that there's no possible way that ever member of any group can possibly fit all the stereotypes associated with the group; all Arabs can't possibly be terrorist. The facts back us up on this point.

    But how much do the facts matter if you are targeted for murder or worse just because you're Kurdish? How would I feel if I went to Baghdad? And I were Kurdish? And old? And had no choice but to go to the center of Hell just to take my mother to the hospital?

    Northern Iraq is being flooded with Arab refugees. The Kurds are very hospitable, but behind closed doors they whisper about the Arabs. They distrust them and warn us to avoid them lest we be kidnapped by one of them. Kurdish television runs heart-wrenching PSAs reminding us all of the situation of the Arabs in the south and compelling us to be accepting of them as they flee the violence.

    But these are the people that have been murdering the Kurds for hundreds of years. These are the people who burned down Kurdish villages and forced the Kurds into the mountains. These are the people that murdered 5000 people in a single day in Halabja. These are the people that have always treated the Kurds like second-class citizens belittling them and strangling their economy. These are the people that have laid waste to Baghdad and Mosul and Kirkuk. These are the people that packed a truck bomb under blocks of ice to ensure that their bomb infused with nails didn't explode into the sky, but rather killed as many Kurds as possible last month. These are the people that killed almost 100 people in Kirkuk just a few days ago.

    And now, here they are. Living among the Kurds, looking for jobs, relying on the Kurds for their future.

    No, it's not the same people. Of course, I know that. I know the difference between Arabs and insurgents. But I also know that if a bomb ever explodes in my city, if hundreds of Kurds die, it won't be from a Kurdish bomber. It'll be an Arab.

    But, even knowing that, I am uncomfortable when the Kurds point to an Arab and whisper “Pise.” I shake my head and say, no, they're not dirty. When a certain friend rails against the Arabs and the Muslims, I remind him that Jesus tells us to love our enemies.

    Today, I heard that tattoos are all the rage in Baghdad and Kirkuk. It seemed like a very un-Muslim thing to do, so I was surprised and I started to make a joke about it, but then Cory told the rest of the story. It's so families can identify bodies.

    People are getting tattoos so their mothers can find their bodies after a suicide bomb attack.

    And still they must forgive.

    I know nothing about forgiveness, either.


    Fourth Meal

    So, I read today that Burger King is staying open later. You can read it too. Here.

    Now, I'm not a huge fan of the Burger King - just that genius chicken fries commercial. The important part of the story is that "Fourth Meal" is apparently a real industry term. I thought it was just something that Taco Bell made up. I was wrong.

    "Fourth Meal" is a meal eaten after dinner. It's not the same as a do-over meal, although they are similar. This is for the hearty eater unsatisfied with 3 meals and between-meal snacks and it's eaten after 10 pm.

    Kurdistan doesn't have anything like this really. Except that they eat dinner really late, so sometimes you eat fruit and drink tea after 10 pm, but it can't count as fourth meal because it's attached to the third meal.

    I find myself only eating second meal most days because I get up too late for the first one and I'm too lazy to make the third one myself. I think this is why it's so important for Kurds to get married; so no one goes hungry.

    Did you know that White Castle was the first fast-food restaurant to stay open 24 hours? Well, you do now. The article is fairly interesting and it warns us that KFC may soon join the late-night fray, so watch out.