Vindicated! (actually, not really)

A year or so ago, I was talking with a friend about world politics and I mentioned that I thought it was entirely possible for a Palestinian/Israeli peace deal to erupt suddenly in spite of the utter lack of progress.  He kind of laughed at me with a smirk that screamed “How could you be so naive?!?!?!?”  I explained that I wasn’t arguing that it was eminent or expected, just that I could see a situation emerge where the general population in Israel/Palestine got it in their heads that they wanted to shake up the status quo and impose a little of their desire for change, peace, and stability. He scoffed and stood on his belief that Israel will never change until the USA changes its stance and that the Palestinians will never be able to inject themselves into it outside of another intifada.

Now we’ve got serious proof that social and political Black Swans swim with the economic ones. And its not just Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and the other Freedom Dominoes, it:s happening in the USA as well.  The Tea Party was a Black Swan and its looking like the teacher protests in Wisconsin are another unanticipated event that could redefine society.

It’s pretty easy to get comfortable with the status quo but the world’s a complex place and you just never know what is or isn’t going to happen.  Best keep an open mind and don’t discount anything.

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Going overboard on UAB

Last night we gathered up my books, kitchen stuffis, hobby gear, and clothes in a big pile in the living room. Originally I was planning just to take about 1/2 of our 600 lbs of UAB but as we started putting the stuff together we realized that my wife and daughter don’t need to so much later on so I would take the majority of it. The big challenges were that I have waaaay to many books plus I wanted to bring my iMac (heavy), computer desk, and chair. I don’t think we’ll get the desk and chair into UAB next time but the Japanese movers were willing to ship anything UAB as long as it was under 600 lbs total.

As they started packing up the boxes, though, it became immediately apparent that I’d too many books designated for UAB. I was prepared for emergency library triage and we pared it down to two boxes of books and a box of DVD and books, maybe 2/3 of what I’d set out as shipping candidates. They packed up 19 boxes and we weighed them before breaking down the computer desk and boxing up the iMac and chair:

711 pounds. Only a mere 111 pounds overweight. We found out that we could ship the overweight goods for about $10/lb which would add a measly $1400 out of pocket, plus port-home delivery fees in the USA, so we had to make a quick decision. If we dropped the boxes of books and clothes, we could take the computer, desk, and chair. We’ll still have to mail the books (which are packed! Thank you!) and take an extra suitcase or two, but that will still come to far less than the extra shipping charges we’d be facing.

I felt really bad for doing this to the movers. The main mover guy was such a professional, both in demeanor as in his packing technique. It was amazing him ninja up a custom box for the chair. But they were expecting a 250-300 lb. packout and we threw them into a 700+ lb debacle that involved packing boxes that weren’t shipped. This also muxed up their inventory, as they’d meticulously written down the contents of every box only to have us ask them to pull 6 or 7 of them out at the end.

We’re really fortunate to have Japanese movers, I think. They were gracious and accommodating, more so than I reasonably could have expected. I know that I packed plenty of non-essentials that could have gone into HHE (and will before departing for the first post). We’ll also find out how much we regret not saving and UAB for the family in a few months.

So what does the Foreign Service do again?

I found a couple of nice postings that provide a quick encapsulation of the work and life of people in the foreign service. First, Ben Casnocha talks about the work that the FS does that no one seems to know about and Four Globetrotters has a great review of what life in the FS has been like for her family in her letter to her senator opposing the cuts to FS overseas compatibility pay. Four Globetrotters has a couple of other posts about getting evacuated that are pretty good too (#1 and #2). Check ’em out.