Saturday, May 26, 2012

On Behalf of a Grateful Nation -- and Me Too

On Monday, our nation will again observe Memorial Day.  It is a day set aside to remember those in the military who have given their lives in defense of the Freedoms we as American Citizens enjoy.  I recently heard a quote from General George S. Patton:

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."

I could not agree more,  on Memorial Day we should remember and be grateful for the ultimate price that was paid by those who died keeping the United States free;  but it should not be in mourning - it should be with the joy of what they accomplished by making that sacrifice.

Story behind the pix.
My viewpoint of this day is probably a bit different than most, because of my background.  I came into this world in a US Army hospital and spent the first 20 or so years of my life traveling to Army bases all over the US due to my father's career.  Then, like many, I took over the family business of defending America by going into the Air Force and spent 20 years doing that.  Now, my career still aligns with the military in my work as a civilian.

As a result of that upbringing,  I had friends when I was young who lost fathers in Viet Nam - including one friend whose father is still MIA.   So please join me on Memorial Day in remembering those who lost parents and had their lives permanently changed.  That parent was enough of a patriot to put on a uniform and swear to support and defend our Constitution at all costs - up to and including their own life.  

Story behind the pix
When I was in the Air Force, I knew Airmen who died in peacetime training accidents, aircraft mishaps, and traffic casualties that were a direct result of their being in the service.  That was the period of the Cold War and even though we were shooting rhetoric and not bullets, those deaths left spouses without their partner, a fiancé left incomplete, and friends with the loss of someone they cared about.  Please remember those losses as well,  just because it was not an enemy bullet that ended their life, it is no less worthy of being memorialized.  Also, remember that in the end, we won the Cold War because we were vigilant and prepared for a real war with a very real threat.
Finally, I work with other Veterans and many of them carry wounds and scars from their service.  Most of them have memories of Desert Storm or Operation Enduring Freedom or other desert wars as well as actions in Africa and the Pacific.  They survived those actions,  but as a result of things like Gulf War Syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injury, PTSD, and other wounds they have cut years off their life in selfless service to our nation.  Remember that sacrifice as well and be grateful that because of them America is still free.

I have heard that only 1% of Americans serve in uniform, that is not a bad thing it is the result of being a free nation.  However,  I do feel that all Americans should know the oath that is taken by all men and women who agree to wear a uniform in defense of our nation.  Consider these words today as well - they were spoken by every man and woman who gave their lives in defense of this country.  Notice that I said gave?  As a free nation, no one who may have conscientious or religious objections is forced to serve - it is a freewill choice.  The oath:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God

So, today let us remember that we live in a nation governed and run by that Constitution and be thankful that a select few men and women among us were there at the right time to ensure its continued existence.  From Crispus Attucks (who was the first combatant casualty of the Revolutionary War) to 2nd Lt. Travis Mirgado (who died yesterday in Kandahar, Afghanistan), may we all thank God that they lived.

Note:  Where there was a story for the pix,  I included the link.  Other pix include my son at the American Cemetery in Normandy, My Dad’s Jumping Mustangs Viet Nam Reunion, the Michigan Patriot Guard, after a Blue Highway Dedication, and Rolling Thunder.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

When the Hot Water Gets Colder Than the Cold Water Is Cool

I knew the day was coming. The temperature for the past two weeks has been over 105° every single day. At night, the temperature seldom goes below 95°, at least near the heart of the city where I live. I'm sure that somewhere out in the desert temperatures cooler because of the nice breeze and the absence of hundreds of concrete heat storing buildings.  Over the past five days three of them have been over 111°. That is actually the good news, when you consider we just started summer here and the temperatures on average go over 130° daily by the hottest months.  As I write this a 10AM it is 106°.

The other morning I got ready to take my shower in the morning, and noticed that the hot water knob actually seemed to increase water that was cooler than the cold water knob.  Now I realize that someone could have swapped the connections to the pipes but there is less sinister explanation. If you've noticed in the pictures I have sent the buildings here have water tanks on the roofs. They do this to supply water pressure within the building, using low pressure pumps to fill the tanks as needed. It should be noted that Kuwait has no abundant source of fresh water. All the water supply to the pipes in the city is desalinated from seawater at a huge plant just outside the city. There are some brands of bottled water that claim to be from some deep water source, but I'm not sure exactly where that might be located. Anyway, I digress...

The huge tanks on the top of the buildings are in the sun all day long. The tanks sit on top of metal stands which are above white concrete roofs which reflect the heat as well.  It is a glorious natural hot water heater. Since that is the source of the water that comes out of the cold water spigot, when that water reaches 140-180°, that is what you get when you turn on the cold water. My apartment has several small hot water heaters located throughout it. Each of them is controlled by their own switch. So, at this time of year, if you turn that switch off you get a few gallons of cooler water because it is stored inside your air-conditioned space. 

The whole thing is kind of bizarre, and I actually wonder if they do something similar in Arizona or New Mexico in the United States. Anyway, last Wednesday marked the day when my hot water was colder than the cold water was cool.  Can't wait for summer when there will probably be steam coming out of the spigot when I turn on the cold water.

Until next week...


Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Little of the Small Stuff

Some things that happen here are kind of minor in the bigger scheme of things but they still affect my daily life. When I was located in Germany in the 80s they had done away with the use of pennies to avoid the cost of moving them back and forth from the United States when necessary. So, all prices were rounded up for rounded down to the shore paying by credit card and then you will build the exact amount. Over here rather than transporting any coins at all, you deal with cardboard pogs for change. There still are no pennies, but there is no loose change to be accidentally carried into combat either.

A lot of people see these as more of an annoyance than actual currency and treat them rather carelessly or throw them away. On the other hand, there are people who run around collecting them from where they've been thrown away and trading them in for real money. Either way, it's just one of those things that I deal with on a daily basis.

On occasion, I read the local Kuwaiti newspaper. It is published in English and is available online for free. You can read it yourself here at the Kuwait Times website. Aside from reading the goings on in the Parliament there is a section that covers local crime. I hate to refer to anything where people are hurt as mundane but most of the crimes are similar to the United States. However, sometimes the way they are written about or just what is considered a crime here is funny. Here are a few examples:

Sheep Stolen
A citizen accused two thieves of tying him and his Bangladeshi guard up at gunpoint. They then stole sheep and a television set from his animal pen.

I told you before about the goat that got to ride in the front of the truck. He would be jealous to know about the sheep that had his own television set. 

A police inspection car cited a police patrol car for obstructing traffic and parking in a no parking zone.

When have you ever heard in the United States of one policeman writing anther policeman a ticket. Especially when the policeman receiving a ticket was in a police car?

Theft cases
A citizen in Fahaheel told police that his car was stolen, after he left it running near a pharmacy. A theft complaint was lodged, and the car owner was cited for negligence.

His car was stolen and then he gets the ticket. That's adding insult to injury.

A taxi driver accused a passenger of stealing his ATM card and withdrawing KD 50 from his account. He said the thief may have left the country, because his last destination was the airport

I was suspicious from the moment I read this. If the passenger and stolen his ATM card why did he only take 50 KD (about $170)? Since the passenger was in the airport, why didn't the taxi driver go back and go to security there?  How did he hope to get the money back if the thief left the country?  I truly think that what happened here was that I lost 50 KD while playing cards and needed a way to cover it up so his wife wouldn't be mad.

On Monday they came in the building to work on the AC and left the ceiling tiles open (you need a ladder to reach them).  Tuesday morning this sign showed up.  Ever since we don't have to fight off Ninjas who were crowding the other exits.

This poster is hanging outside the Chaplain’s office. A good place to find truths.

Anyway, that's enough of minor and mundane from here for this week. Temperature every day this week has been over 100° and usually reached 111° during the day.  Summer is definitely coming upon us fast.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Saving The World From Dangerous Man Eating Terriers

I have been fortunate enough to live in several different countries during my life. I have traveled to dozens more and overall that experience has been very positive for me and, I hope, for the people that I've met. A majority of the time I've traveled on behalf of the government and as a result have been in a unique situation when I've resided overseas. Rather than being an average tourist or an expatriate simply living in that environment, I've had certain obligations that tend to limit my freedoms while there. This is not a bad thing, it tends to prevent problems but at the same time keeps me from speaking out against things that I think are bad or should be changed. Realistically, as a nonresident it is not really my place to tell the country how to run this business anyway.

When I first arrived in Kuwait I met a gentleman by the name of Carlos who lived in the apartment building that I reside in now. Carlos has a fascinating history; he wound up in Kuwait after escaping the revolution in Libya via catamaran.  He was there working for an oil company and they put him here temporarily until they could straighten out where they needed to do and where they need to send him next. Eventually they decided to send him to Thailand, which is how our lives intersected.

Carlos and his family have a dog. The dog itself had a unique history because it was originally a gift given by a man that he works with to his girlfriend. However, before the man could give it to the girl, she dumped him.  So the man was going to take the dog out into the desert and turn it loose because it reminded him too much of the woman who had just broken his heart. Carlos rescued the dog.

This is where our lives intersect. Carlos and I met at a party was given by someone that I work with and at the party I met the dog and was petting him when Carlos asked me if I would like it. The dog is a West Highland Terrier and it weighs about 20 pounds or so.  Originally I thought the dog was a Japanese Spitz based on his color and a few other characteristics but I found out later that I was wrong. Its fur is kind of wiry and pure white. Anyway, after giving it some thought I decided I would go ahead and take the dog and it could travel home with me when my tour here was done. I did some quick checking and found out what shots and paperwork was going to be required in order to take the dog home, it was no more than simple shots and validation of those shots.  So, we set up for me to take the dog when his family left for Thailand in June.

Originally Carlos told me that the dog was spayed and that it had been chipped.  I found out recently that the dog was not spayed but it had been chipped with its breed information etc.  Because I believe in helping to control pet populations, I called the international veterinary clinic here to make arrangements to have the dog spayed and get her shots taken care of. The vet assistant on the phone helped me with all the information I would need for the shots but when I asked about what I would need is for his paperwork later to export the dog she told me that I would not be able to export the dog due to its breed. Kuwait is one of many countries that have rules about what breeds of dogs can be imported and exported, mostly it is to prevent the importation of what are considered dangerous dogs and dogs that could be used for fighting.

I was amazed that anyone could think that a 20 pound Westie could be considered dangerous or be used for fighting. The folks at the clinic were very patient in explaining to me that the Kuwaiti government rather than banning these specific pit bull breed chose to ban the entire branch of dogs that it belongs to and that covers all Terriers.  I might have been able to enter him as a mixed breed Spitz on paperwork, there was no way I was going to get around a microchip which positively declares the dog as a Terrier. To me it was going to be very unfair to the dog for me to take it for 9 or 10 months and then have to find another new home for it, so I will not be taking the dog at all.

In some ways it is frustrating when you run into something like this, but it does require some understanding that I am just a guest here and I'm required to abide by the rules and part of that is not questioning things even though sometimes they don't seem to make a lot of sense to me.

Anyway, I am going to try and help Carlos find another home for the puppy, since I know several contractors who will be here for years or permanently and will provide a more stable environment for the dog.

Until next week…