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» Hatrack River Forum » Archives » Landmark Threads » Why I'm Going (landmark 8000...ish) (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Why I'm Going (landmark 8000...ish)
ak
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As some of you know, I'm currently looking for work on reconstruction projects in Iraq. I've been thinking of doing this for a year now, but only now have circumstances worked out so I can go. I'm contacting all the large U.S. firms doing work over there, and it's looking very positive for me going.

But when talking to my friends and family, and to others here in the U.S. about what I’m planning to do, I keep encountering negative reactions, ranging from sadness to long lists of objections to outright eye rolling astonishment. (Right now the score is: People who think I shouldn't go and are trying to talk me out of it -- 47; supporters – 5 (thanks, y’all!).) So I wanted to put on record my reasons for going, for the benefit of all who might wonder why I would do such a fool thing and question my sanity. [Smile] Hatrack has had a large part in bringing me to this point of view, so it's appropriate to post my reasons here. I don't know if I'm near any landmark number of posts, but this is truly a landmark in my life.

I've always had rather a global outlook. No, I take that back. The perspective from which I view the human species comes in large part from my early love of astronomy. I have more of a galactic outlook. Or wider. A "this-particular-big-bang-universe" outlook. Yeah, I know, I know, that's hopelessly parochial and limiting. [Smile] There are likely to be untold billions of big bangs going on throughout the cosmos, yet we don't know anything about any but this one, so I narrow down my view and consider only our own dear little home-sweet-pocket-of-spacetime (POST).

Right now in the human journey, we are stewards over a tiny blue marble in a mind-bogglingly vast sea of nothingness. (Well, not quite nothing... there is about one hydrogen atom on average in each cubic meter of space.) So our position in space is rather precarious. Our position in time is as well.

From reading Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould, and others, I've come to see more about where the human species fits in the history of our POST. The solar system is five and a half billion (with nine zeroes) years old, and we've been around for at most the last several million (with six zeroes). (Innumerate people hear those numbers and just hear gazillion. Thank goodness none of us are like that! [Wink] ) The truth is that if the age of the earth so far were mapped to a 24 hour day, humans would inhabit only the last few seconds before midnight.

Life on earth from the first photosynthetic bacterium to us has gone through a lot of changes. Nothing is inevitable. Life is not a ladder but a bush. The story of life on earth is one of expansion and pruning, of good times and bad, of radiation of species and of massive devastating dyings. Many times in the history of the planet has the face of the earth been remade, and the life thereon utterly changed forever. There is no assurance of our continuation.

One offshoot of that is my campaign to put in place some sort of asteroid defense program. I watched Shoemaker Levy 9 slam into Jupiter, and it had quite an impact on me (pun intended). Another is my push to get the subject "Averting Human Extinction" on the curricula of every university in the country (and the world). Yet another is my desire to teach women in the whole world, (particularly the third world, where they are in such need), all the knowledge and understanding we have ourselves, so that they may be empowered to make choices about their families which are best for them and for their planet. Another still is my wish to get the human species into space. Until we have multiple independent self-sufficient pockets of earthlife scattered throughout the solar system, our human legacy will be quit unsafe.

Extinction is not inevitable. It's up to us. Like so many things in life, we choose. We can be careful and prudent stewards of all we've been given, and pass the incredible legacy of the human spirit down to our grandchildren. Or we can take no thought for them and leave them to ashes and death. We can be heedless and stupid, or we can be wise and smart. It's in our hands.

I just love Shakespeare, you know? And Bach. I feel rather sad thinking of a universe in which nobody is around who can appreciate Beethoven's Ninth, or remembers how one small group of people defended their city against another for 10 years in the lands near the Aegean, and ultimately failed. It's so cool how one species of ape joined forces with other species: wheat, rice, corn, horses, cattle, dogs, cats, and grew thereby in power and began seeing the world with a new understanding. How we've learned to use rocks, iron, gunpowder, atoms, unlocked the meaning and sense of so much that's happening around us, and found how to join God as cocreaters of our surroundings. How we've gone from mere sufferers of what occurs to active participants. I think humanity has done some pretty amazing things. It breaks my heart to think of all that being gone forever.

There’s no reason why it has to be. We act like heedless adolescents, thinking all that will take care of itself. That we are immortal. Like adolescents, we are acting in ways that aren’t sustainable, that don’t take into account the long term. We are reckless and rather suicidal, you know. And we do a lot of damage that’s going to be long and hard to repair, the part that’s reparable. But it’s time now for the species to grow up. If we’re going to make it through our awkward endearing youth and on to maturity and hopefully wisdom, we are going to have to rein ourselves in a bit. To gird our loins and find a change of heart.

As an engineer I’ve gained the perspective of the “sons of Martha”. Our religion does not teach that God will alert us a little before the nuts work loose (though in His great mercy He sometimes does). The boats and planes and trains of the world, the power plants and water processing facilities, the plumbing and trucks and grocery store shelves of this world don’t run automatically, but because lots of careful planning and systems keep them running. Lots of thought and attention go into keeping things stable. Because I’ve been privileged to contribute in a small way to all of this, I notice it and realize it doesn’t have to be. I know that civilization is a great legacy, a gift to us from our ancestors. Those unlucky enough to live without it realize this. We have nearly forgotten it.

Seeing Rwanda happen, and realizing that there’s nothing inevitable about the peace and plenty which is all around me was another step in my education.

Yet another was my conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I just love Mormons. For a second I want to talk about them as I saw them before they were an “us”. Honest, hard working, dorky, kind, chaste, fair, responsible, boring, unfailingly polite and cheerful, joyful, straight arrow, eagle scouts, thrifty, in love with children, not wasting and spending but always carefully husbanding and building. Always learning, always serving, they provide for those in need, they stay out of debt, they’re connected to the past and to the future, and whenever it’s required of them, they can pack a few things into a hand cart and push it across the country to build a new life in the wilderness, and turn a desert wasteland into a lovely garden. I love my people.

The LDS have tried to teach me to be a good steward of the wonderful gifts God has bestowed upon me. To me He hasn’t given a husband or family (at least so far), yet I look around and see that instead He gave me the universe to be my toy and playground. He gave me this planet with its astonishing beauty and amazing diversity of life. He gave me this species of stubborn, cantankerous, silly and wonderful, stupid and brilliant, shining hopeful children of God. So I’ll probably screw up totally but I’m trying to do right by them.

For a long time I watched to see what was my work. How I could use my life in a way that would matter. Then Iraq happened, and hey, there are people trying to build a life for themselves. They are trying to set up a system of freedom and justice, like we have here. Other people are blowing them up. That happened here, too, in my own home, in the sixties when I was a small child. Some people wanted freedom and justice here in America, and others didn’t want that, so they assassinated and lynched and bombed trying to stop it from happening.

I’m dismayed at how easily people here are thinking of giving up. At how even after 9/11 we can think that oppression and misery on the other side of the world is nothing to do with us. That we should enjoy our luxury and peace and leave the rest of the world to work things out for themselves. If they in Iraq can just get the economy on its feet, if they can have good jobs and a future, then the chaos and murder will surely settle down. The main thing they need to allow the economy to work is infrastructure. It’s work I have done and can do. I am called to it.

My people, when they were called to do it, walked across the country pushing handcarts. They suffered extreme privations, many of them dying along the way. And in the end they succeeded in their aim. They built a new home for themselves free of persecution.

My people here in the south risked lynchings, shootings, bombings, beatings and jail to stand up for freedom and justice in the sixties in the civil rights movement. Rather than go along to get along, they took a stand, risked their lives, and gave the great gift to posterity and to all of us. They gave us America. The place where all are equal under the law. Where everyone’s voice can be heard.

How can I, with such a legacy, sit here in comfort and luxury and watch the struggle continue and not take part? The universe is my home, the earth is my neighborhood. As a good neighbor I am called to help. As a good steward, I must use my resources wisely. Am I so attached to my air conditioning and baths every day that I’m unable to give them up temporarily to help someone in desperate need? If so I would feel ashamed.

Vaclav Havel said that hope is not an assurance that things will turn out well. It’s knowing that things have meaning, no matter how they turn out. I may not accomplish enormous things over in Iraq. I may even be killed. But life is more than just staying alive until you die. I’ve been given my life to use however I will. I want to use it to work toward the future, looking forward with a perfect brightness of hope, to the continuation of the magnificent journey of the human spirit.

[ August 19, 2004, 03:09 AM: Message edited by: ak ]

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TomDavidson
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Anne Kate, I think your explanation makes perfect sense WITHOUT the asteroids and paramecium.

You want to go because they need help more than anyone else you can think of, offhand, and you have skills you believe are needed. Why make things more complicated?

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Shan
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quote:
But life is more than just staying alive until you die. I’ve been given my life to use however I will. I want to use it to work toward the future, looking forward with a perfect brightness of hope, to the continuation of the magnificent journey of the human spirit.
That's inspirational, ak - [Smile]

Follow your dreams and goals. It sounds like life is pretty limitless for you, and I think that's a great thing. It's the stuff do-ers of great deeds are made of!

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katharina
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*hugs* Go for it, sweetie. [Smile]
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Kasie H
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Yeah, add me to the list of supporters, please.
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Hobbes
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[Smile] ((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((AK))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))) [Smile]

You'll make us proud. [Hat]

Hobbes [Smile]

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rubble
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ak

Good luck. Be safe. Write often to let us know what it is really like on the ground in Iraq. We and the Iraqis need as much help as you can provide.

rubble

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TMedina
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Best of luck, ak.

-Trevor

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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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[Big Grin] I applaud you.
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Synesthesia
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Excellent thoughts... Not to sound rude, but I still think they shouldn't allow foreign civilians in Iraq until things are more stable.
But your reasons are excellent, give it your all, and be careful!
When are you going?
That echoes with my reasons why writing is the only job I really want to do... In order to contribute SOMETHING to humanity...

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TMedina
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I had similar thoughts Syn, but I didn't want to be included in the nay-sayers.

S'why I deleted the "how to choke a man into unconsciousness in ten seconds" bit of my post. [Big Grin]

Although I don't know if the Middle East will ever become stable enough to encourage American visitors.

-Trevor

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BannaOj
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Anne Kate rawks!

AJ

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Synesthesia
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Cannot say I am completely a nay-sayer...
I just wish....
*sigh*
But it is an act of excellent pure courage!
You just let that light shine.

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Insanity Plea
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I think that's the point of going though, circumstances won't change unless people go to show that there is good faith and caring coming out of here. Mei mei, I love you :: hugs :: be safe and write, aye?
Satyagraha

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TMedina
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Permit me to remind you ak - Dr. Pepper will be in short supply. [Big Grin]

-Trevor

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ak
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TMedina: "S'why I deleted the "how to choke a man into unconsciousness in ten seconds" bit of my post." Email me that at annekateard@bham.rr.com please. It might come in handy. [Smile]

Thanks so much to everyone for your support and good wishes! You guys rawk! <<<<<hatrack>>>>>

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Rakeesh
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Tom is right, as usual. Add my name to that second column, and take care, Anne Kate [Smile]
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eslaine
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Take care of you, lady.

I am proud to be your acolyte.

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mackillian
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Anne Kate, I've always believed in this choice of yours and in your ability to carry it out.

Tom said it the best, I think, the reasoning that's needed. [Smile]

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Whitehorse
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Beautifully written, AK. I'll give you a hug for seeing the bigger picture of life on this little planet. ((((((((((ak)))))))))))

Without seeming like a naysayer, what about the people here in America who need your help? The thing that angers me about this war in Iraq is the $87 billion dollars that were spending to build shools and hospitals for Iraq when we need them here.

Been to inner city Youngstown lately? How about the East Side of Cleveland?
Sincerely, Whitehorse.

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rubble
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Good point Whitehorse.

I think that one should contribute where one has an ability and where one is motivated. If that means that you are excited by foreign travel and elect to help abroad so be it.

In a different vernacular: Everyone must follow their calling.

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TMedina
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Email sent ak.

-Trevor

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Farmgirl
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Whatever you feel called to do, ak! Do as your heart leads..

We will be here for you.

Farmgirl

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Eduardo_Sauron
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I'd tell you that it could be dangerous. Looking to my life, though, my advice would be a bad pun. So, just do what you feel like doing. It's rewarding (although sometimes you may want to call yourself stupid for doing it).
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Storm Saxon
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I need to change my alias to Mean Old Storm Saxon or something. [Wink]

ak, I guess I have a question. Is there a shortage of engineers in Iraq? The US is waving a lot of money around over there. The Iraqis have revenues from oil and a fairly substantial educational infrastructure and a large number of people out of work. I just don't see it.

If you want to engage your engineering skills to help rebuild a country or people that need your skills because of lack of cash or available engineers in their own country, aren't there better candidates?

I do salute your desire to do good in the world. I just don't see how if there's not a need for you in Iraq how you would be doing 'good'.

I'm not trying to talk you out of going to Iraq. I support you in that (as if it matters). Again, just not sure that you couldn't do more good somewhere else. I mean, if you are doing what you're going to do for humanity, any bunch of humans is just as good as another, right? [Smile]

Good luck, whatever you do. [Smile]

[ July 27, 2004, 01:35 PM: Message edited by: Storm Saxon ]

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Annie
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The thing is, there are people, and then there are absolutely fantabulous people. You are one of the latter.

The world had plenty of people everywhere. The shortage, however, of absolutely fantabulous people is just about universal. Any time an absolutely fantabulous person makes a choice to do something for someone else, it is a blessing and a cause for celebration.

Love ya, sister! *hugs*

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ak
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Storm Saxon, Iraq is the place I'm called for many reasons, but mainly because unless peace and stability and democracy come soon to the middle east, and to the Arab world, I don't give the species much chance of surviving.

The history of technology is one of putting more and more power into the hands of fewer and fewer people. The knowlege of biology and genetic engineering, nuclear technology, chemical processing, and so on is constantly advancing and disseminating. Transportation is making the world a lot smaller. Small groups of people will continue to gain more power to cause mayhem and damage. We have to keep up, somehow, in the advances of peace and justice and civilization.

The middle east is the scariest spot in the world right now, I think. It's totally not enough for me to straighten deck chairs on the Titanic, (to use an overused recent metaphor), instead I've opted to work on melting the nearest icebergs as they loom up.

[ July 27, 2004, 01:56 PM: Message edited by: ak ]

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Telperion the Silver
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Rock on AK!!

Long live our POST!

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ak
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And yes, if you think the beheadings and so on have not had an effect on public opinion and private resolve, then you're mistaken. The destroyers justly feel that they are on a roll. People here seem like they're starting to lose heart. I don't think that I by myself can change everything, but if I'm not willing to go then why should I ask someone else to?
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Derrell
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Take care of yourself and come back in one piece. Hatrack wouldn't be the same without you. (((ak)))
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Yozhik
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Good luck, Sister aka. I wish you success.
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JonnyNotSoBravo
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quote:
Tom wrote: You want to go because they need help more than anyone else you can think of, offhand, and you have skills you believe are needed. Why make things more complicated?
Hmmm. But things are more complicated. Like is it more important to try to stop the genocide going on in the Sudan (off the top of my head) and help those people rather than helping the Iraqis who already have a good start towards an improving country as well as America's national attention? Do I really need that new car or those new video games or that larger house, or should I be spending my money on the education of the economically disadvantaged kids in this country and countries around the world? Life is complicated. We make choices all the time, ignoring lots of information. In this, I think, ak is better than most of us because she is doing something while the majority of the rest of us do little more than talk. I fully support her efforts because she is making an effort.

quote:
ak wrote:And yes, if you think the beheadings and so on have not had an effect on public opinion and private resolve, then you're mistaken. The destroyers justly feel that they are on a roll.
There's a horrible pun in here about heads rolling, I just know it!

You have massive amounts of very practical knowledge that will be useful anywhere you go, ak. Thanks for using your powers for good!

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pooka
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(((ak))) a(s) salaam aleykum.
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Teshi
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You have courage that I do not! Good luck!
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punwit
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I have a friend that is set on climbing Mount Everest. He has experienced the same type of resistance from loved ones that you have. I suppose I numbered among those that weren't entirely supportive.

Many times those that cherish you the most lose sight of what is important to you and think more of themselves. They envision the loss of you in thier lives. This is what leads to the negativity that you have encountered. I'm not excusing this behaviour I just see it as a normal reaction. Some of your friends and loved ones will see their way clear to send you off with thier support and blessing but not all. Forgive them ahead of time for they are insecure because they fear they may never again bask in the joy that is you.

Although I don't know you I wish you well and I think you will be an excellant ambassador for America. Hopefully your caring nature will in some small part ameliorate the negative American image.

[ July 27, 2004, 05:50 PM: Message edited by: punwit ]

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Ethics Gradient
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Do great things, Anne Kate.
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beverly
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A beautiful and inspiring message, Ak. May you do much good for our world!
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CalvinMaker
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While I completely support what you're doing, and think it is awesome, there's still a part of me that disapproves for the sole reason that I'm really worried about your safety.

So...

Go make your changes in this universe, and come home safe!

Best of luck sis!

-Noah

[ July 27, 2004, 08:21 PM: Message edited by: CalvinMaker ]

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Dagonee
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Wow. It's a really brave thing to do. [Hat]

Dagonee

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imogen
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I wish you all the best and for a safe and fulfilling trip.

I think what you are doing is incredibly courageous - both in the "I'm going to a very instable place" sense and in your internal courage and integrity.

It's a lot harder to rebuild a war-torn country then it is to carry out the warfare - I think the people who do the former should be praised and encouraged.

Praised and encouraged and also told sternly to come back safely. Or else.

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Raia
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You know ak, I'm in a similar situation, what with going to Israel, and encountering all of the negative emotional outbursts and such... that was really a great post to read, it really made me feel a lot better about all of that. Thank you. [Smile]
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ak
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Oh good, Raia! Your experience in Israel makes me feel better about going to Iraq, too! So we're both happy! [Smile]
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Raia
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[Smile]
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Toretha
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Just be careful. And write! And...if you encounter unfriendly people, try to avoid lecture 27, ok? Might aggravate them. And definitely skip the one about why we are indoor cats :-p

And how am I going to be able to send you postcards there?????

[ July 27, 2004, 11:15 PM: Message edited by: Toretha ]

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Space Opera
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We're all called to different things, and ak I'm so glad that you have figured out where you're supposed to be. Good luck!

space opera

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ak
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[ROFL] I would think lecture 27 would win over anyone!
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HRE
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A n00b is wondering what lecture 27 is, and why we are indoor cats.

<-- Hint: N00b!

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tt&t
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(((((aka))))) [Smile]

Come back safe.

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ak
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Ah, <laughs> I have a lecture list for all those lectures I tend to deliver over and over, so I can just refer to them by number and save time and trouble. Lecture 27 is by far the most famous of all. It's the one about the importance of proteins in the diet, and seems to be information all college students greatly need.

It includes a description of cellular mechanics, protein synthesis from amino acids, and the concept of essential amino acids, those which cannot be synthesized by the human body but must come from the food we eat (i.e. proteins). I go on to describe how the cellular machinery will be hung up waiting for the particular amino acids it needs, if they are not provided in the diet, and describe the effect that can have on the immune system, muscle regeneration after exercise, and various organs of the body.

I then usually give a short list of the foods which contain the most protein, along with an estimate of the absolute minimum daily recommendation for adult protein consumption.

Ordinarily I will finish up with a tie-in to any sickness or fatigue the lecture-recipient has reported recently, and try to suggest they consider a possible connection between that and the fact that they are having only a baked potato (0 gms) for supper once again after having had a doughnut (0 gms) for breakfast and skipping lunch. [Smile]

My lecture list is still under development, but eventually I plan a whole Virtual Mom (tm) website where, for instance, you can click on the link "my boyfriend just dumped me" and go to that page, which starts out with a big hug then states, "Well, you know I never liked him anyway."

[ July 28, 2004, 01:24 AM: Message edited by: ak ]

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Zotto!
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Stay safe, ak. [Smile] *adds name to supporter list*

(((ak)))

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