Ruby Ramblings


Teaser Tuesday
March 31, 2009, 1:39 pm
Filed under: Books, Travel | Tags: , , ,

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read. Let the book fall open to a random page. Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given. Please avoid spoilers!

My Two Teasers:
Burma“‘The randomness inherent in this system means you can never be sure what the consequences of your actions may be.’ Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.” Pg. 188

Finding George Orwell in Burma, by Emma Larkin

Leave a comment at www.shouldbereading.wordpress.com to let everyone see your teaser.



Big Boys and Evil Literature
March 29, 2009, 6:01 pm
Filed under: Books, economics, Peace, War | Tags: , , , ,

Big Boy Big Boy Rules: America’s Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq by Steve Fainaru

I’ve been listening to the audio version in my car. Usually I avoid books that look like this because they are glorified versions of weapons technology, hero worship, and killing “the other.” This cover was slightly deceiving, and luckily, I had heard a book review on NPR before I saw the cover.

Fainaru has spent a lot of time in Iraq as a embedded journalist were he became interested in the “parallel army” that arose around the US military. When there weren’t enough US soldiers to cover missions, private contract armies arose including the now famous Blackwater, and Fainaru follows two lesser known companies (that contract to Halliburton); Crescent and Triple Canopy.

These contract armies have no rules, no official equipment, very little training, and make enormous paychecks. As opposed to many of the soldiers who make a small enough paycheck on combat pay that they are eligible for welfare benefits, the contract “soldiers” are pulling in $7,000 a month. Fainaru decides, under great controversy, to call these contract workers mercenaries. Hired guns. The problem is that ultimately, since they are contract workers, the US government is paying these bills. Enlisted soldiers stand by insulted while the “mercs” rake it in.

These mercs are the same young men who make up the US army. But they aren’t protected in the same ways. The contract mercenary that Fainaru follows throughout the beginning of the book swore that he would never get captured, and even had a death pact with his fellow mercenaries. John Cote, pronounced Co-Tay, was captured, skinned alive, and beheaded not too long after these series of interviews. He had done two tours of duty in the real US military in Iraq and Afghanistan and decided he couldn’t go back to “civilian life”. He traded his twenties, and eventually his life, for the money and adventure of working in a contract security company.

Because of the lack of rules and military control over the contract mercenaries, there is a lot of confusion over who governs them. When this question was posed to George Bush, Bush laughed and said, “That’s a great question, I’m going to have to ask Rumsfeld about that.” To which Rumsfeld replied that he didn’t know, and thought the President was responsible for that. Which means there was no one there to bring accountability when a merc went crazy and shot up a cab filled with civilians. There is no screening process, several of the mercenaries are self-proclaimed alcoholics and people who “just want to kill.” The residents of Alice’s Restaurant are welcome here.

Likewise, there is no one there when a convoy of mercenaries is driving around with no armor and no back-up support.

At the same time I’ve been reading Literature from the “Axis of Evil”: Writing from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Other Enemy Nations released by Words Without Borders.

This is a collection of stories from states considered enemies of the US government. It starts with the official Axis of Evil, Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. Countries that have little to nothing to do with each other, but which had been lumped into the same category by the Bush administration. The editors of this book note that they are in objection to the use of terms like Axis of Evil, and declare that they are also against the US notion of being against free trade of literature and culture with countries it doesn’t agree with. Many of the authors in this book are living in exile, being the subject of that kind of discrimination in their own countries.

The opening story, The Vice Principal in my opinion, is the best. It is an Iranian story of a boy who takes liberties with a writing assignment, and feels the wrath of a teacher who doesn’t agree with his opinion.

In the section of stories by North Korean authors, it is very apparent that there are tight restrictions on what people are allowed to write about, and I would even say that in the first story presented, A Tale of Music it appears that some of the original work was taken out and propaganda about “our dear leader” put in it’s place.

Other countries included are Syria, Libya, Sudan and Cuba. Cuba stands out, in that it is a culture that is much more open about sexuality than most of the others included. With it being the last group of stories included, the open sex and discussion of a character’s girlfriend’s period almost comes as a shock.

These two books were very interesting to read together. The mixing of US force policy and the point of view of the countries our policy is forced upon.



Thursday Thirteen
March 26, 2009, 12:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I can’t believe it’s Thursday again already.


Things Jim has said to me, that if I didn’t know he was joking, would be grounds for a break-up. He’s a funny one.

1. When I commented that my ass was starting to resemble a shelf, “That’s great! You need someplace to put all these damn books.”

2. Don’t tell me what to do Devil Woman.

3. When the bad cat rips the toilet paper roll to shreds, “He’s yours devil woman.”

4. I like my new status as devil woman. I saw a bumper sticker once that said, “Be the kind of woman that when you get up in the morning, the devil thinks, ‘Oh shit, she’s up.’” 5. Which is usually what Jim thinks when I get up because I get up a lot earlier than him and can only wait so long before I start poking him and demanding that we do something productive with the day.

6. Maybe there aren’t 13 things on this list, especially since Jim is a physical humor kind of guy. 7. The devil cats woke me up at 6 this morning, so I’m obsessing.

8. We just did a survey job together in Northern Kentucky. At alternating times we both wanted to quit, especially while working in the rain, but luckily not at the same time, or we might have just driven off in the truck, thinking that it would be our last CRM job anyway. 9. This may not be true now that the dollar has tanked so bad, or initial offer in S. Korea is worth half of what we thought it would be. 10. Even though I’ve taught English in two different Asian countries, and Jim’s never taught or been out of the US, he was offered a higher rate of pay then me. I told him he just always has to pay for dinner. 11. Since we heard from a couple people that they often base your pay on how attractive they find you, Jim said he must be $200 a month more attractive than me. 12. Which is really funny because Jim is really insecure about his appearance, even though I think he’s adorable. Which brings me to ….

13. “Jim, do you know where the broom is?” to which he replied without even blinking, “Why do you need to go somewhere?”

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!



Passing of Orphan Mother Mrs. Haregewoin Teferra

One of the best books I read all of last year was:
There Is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue Her Country’s Children

Heregewoin Teferra was a woman living in Ethiopia, like most people, living her own life and not too concerned with what was going on outside of her immediate friends and family. That is until her husband had a sudden heart attack, and her oldest daughter died of seemingly no cause (although years of emotional abuse from her husband probably had a lot to do with it.)

When she became a recluse and had withdrawn from her social life, a local priest came to her needing help taking care of a couple of teenage orphans. This first attempt at taking in orphans was not her most successful, but after several years, her house turned from a stopover for an orphan or two, to a major house complex, including its own medical facility and school, for dozens of abandoned children, many of them HIV positive.

Fellow blogger Real Mama recently informed me that Mrs. Teferra has passed away, leaving 59 orphans with no care.

WorldWide Orphans Foundation is taking donations and trying to find these children, again most of them HIV positive, new homes. If you choose to donate, make you sure you check the box indicating the money is for the Heregewoin orphanage.

Pictures from Melissa Greene’s wesite:
Bossy one
Teferra



Thursday Thirteen
March 19, 2009, 4:09 pm
Filed under: Travel

I haven’t done one of these in a long time. Thursday Thirteen is a blog group that posts, every Thursday, 13 interesting, mundane, profound, or pointless things; just for the sake of doing it.

Things I Hope to Learn in South Korea.

1. How to make a good Asian Noodle Soup. Noodle Soup
2. I hope to spend much time hanging around temples, learning better meditation skills, and immersing myself in Buddhist culture.
S. Korea Temple

3. How to speak a little of the language. Korean Although, when I was in Nepal, there were some Christian Korean missionaries trying to convert teachers at my school, and I literally thought at first that I was hearing dogs barking. It turned out to be two ministers speaking to each other.
4. How to be a better teacher.
5. How not to get lost in the world’s 11th largest city, Seoul.

6. Find out if I like kimchi. Kimchi

7. How to get to other places and get paid such as Mongolia, Bhutan, and Cambodia.
8. Do some research on time periods when Buddhist culture was oppressed by various forces in Korea.
10. Get to travel around the country, although it looks like we’ll have very little vacation time.
11. Finally meet, in person, my bookcrossing friends who have been living and teaching in S. Korea.

12. Learn some local music, maybe even take up a traditional instrument. S. Korean Instrument

13. Temples, Temples, and more Temples.
(My thanks to the owners of all the images I just used off of google image search.)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

View More Thursday Thirteen Participants



Geography of Happiness
March 18, 2009, 2:48 pm
Filed under: Books, Peace, Travel | Tags: , ,

12

Twelve Publishing is a Canadian publishing company that has dedicated itself to publishing one book a month. The twelve best books it receives every year.

I’m currently reading one of their choices, which has turned out to be superb.
Geo of bliss The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner.

The NPR correspondent goes around the world, travelling to the places considered the happiest to discover their collective secrets. We often relate our happiness to our geography, and he seeks to find out if this has any truth to it. “With our words, we subconsciously conflate geography and happiness. We speak of searching for happiness, of finding contentment, as if these were locations in an atlas, actual places that we could visit if only we had the proper map and the right navigational skills. Anyone who has taken a vacation to, say, some Caribbean island and had flash through their mind the uninvited thought, ‘I could be happy here’ knows what I mean.”

He travels to the Netherlands where happiness is being researched scientifically, to Switzerland where shear boredom and cleanliness seems to be the answer to the world’s purported happiest people, to Bhutan where happiness is a government goal and mandate. In Qatar he finds folks who think money can buy anything, including happiness, to Iceland – the happiness of failure, and in Thailand where happiness is just plain not thinking about it. In Moldova he finds the concept that happiness is always somewhere else, and in the US where it is in the place you consider home.

I laughed outloud three times while reading just the opening page. Weiner’s descriptions are so good, I was brought back to the places I’ve been, and felt a huge sense of desire for the places I haven’t seen yet. Except for Moldova. Moldova is the one place he visited that isn’t happy. They are described as the unhappiest people in the world. Their reasoning is that they don’t have enough money. But as Weiner viewed in Bhutan, money isn’t as important as a strong sense of culture and belonging. 90% of Bhutanese that have a chance to study in the US or Britain return to their home country, even though there is virtually no economy there. (To which an American tourist commented, “well, why would they do that.”) The real reason Weiner encounters for unhappiness is a lack of trust and true friendships, two qualities that are belittled as weakness in Moldova.

Overall, I just found this to be an intensely enjoyable book.

NPR Review of Geography of Bliss

NPR story on the Happiness Index



Driving in the Smoky Mts.
March 13, 2009, 3:06 pm
Filed under: Nashville, Travel

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