The Navy Times Fumbles

Note to Navy Times: Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) is a different rating than Intel Specialist. Still, CTI1 Joshua Beemer is the Navy Times Sailor of the Year. Ignore the title: Intel specialist is 2013 Navy Times Sailor of the Year. I remember names and faces, but sometimes not places. I’ve worked with CTI1 Beemer, I just can’t remember where. Sharp Sailor, good linguist. Glad to hear of his success. (Update one day later: After a little pressure, the Navy Times has corrected his rate.)

Female Lieutenant Commanders I Have Known

When I was younger, my mouth would sometimes get me into trouble. I was not mean, but owned a quick tongue. That is, I spoke before completely thinking out my response. I’ve learned discernment over the years and slowed down my response time to give my brain a chance to catch up with my loose cannon. Still, I like to joke around and half of joking-around is timing. And jokes age faster than collagened lips in Hollywood. Full confession: one female Lieutenant Commander, who I work with, will no longer talk to me over my big mouth.

She arrived at our command three months ago and was very cordial right from the get-go. I did not work with her (yet) but stopped and chatted with her on a couple of occasions. Chatty banter which I cannot remember the content. We were friendly, but not friends.

Come three weeks ago and I get a new responsibility that requires a meeting. I trucked down to a conference room across base and she was in there. Great, someone I can shoot it with. Still, very nice, the LCDR was.

Then last week, before our meeting, I asked what officer community she was a member of. (Our communities correspond with our jobs.)

Oh, I am an Engineering Duty Officer now.

Now? I inquired. You were a SWO before you lateral transferred? 

(A SWO is a Surface Warfare Officer, a boat driver. The saying goes: SWOs eat their young. . .)

A Nuke SWO, she corrected me with an intense grimace.

I smiled (and did not engage my brain apparatus before speaking next.) Whoah, I said in a kind of whoop-di-do type of way.

In all fairness to me, I am a linguist and am used to being ribbed unmercifully for it. Languages do something odd to your brain; they marinate us with sauces normal people don’t get. So I was kind of just playing around with her, the same way folks poke at me. And speaking of marinades, I was really quite mild and not as tangy as I coulda been. This was nothing in my mind.

She shot me a look that would freeze hot coals at 1000 yards. I smiled weakly; she turned around and did not say another word.

Two more meetings later. And I continue to greet her, with a lackluster hey as her only response. If you ever hear that naval officers are not coordinating amongst themselves, know that I am the cause. . .

The Home Language

As a linguist, I like watching trends in the field. And I am all for preserving small languages. Who knows who the next codetalkers will be? Could be the Latvians:

Latvian voters resoundingly rejected a proposal to give official status to Russian, the mother tongue of their former Soviet occupiers, though the defeated referendum Saturday is expected to leave scars on an already divided society.

Russian is the first language for about one-third of the Baltic country’s 2.1 million people, and many of them would like to accord official status to the language to reverse what they claim has been 20 years of discrimination.

“Latvia is the only place throughout the world where Latvian is spoken, so we have to protect it,” said Martins Dzerve, 37, in Riga, Latvia’s capital. “But Russian is everywhere.”

“Society is divided into two classes — one half has full rights, and the other half’s rights are violated,” said Aleksejs Yevdokimovs, 36. “The Latvian half always employs a presumption of guilt toward the Russian half, so that we have to prove things that shouldn’t need to be proven,” he said.

In Chicago, Mara Varpa, 57, said she voted against the proposal since Latvian is an integral part of the national identity and should therefore remain the sole official language.

Good job, Latvians. Keep pushing back. Maintain your language. It is your country.

The Wild West

I have had dozens of linguists work for me over the years. Some were in the military, others were civilians, US citizens, but born abroad. One of my guys was a Pashtun who once lived in Kabul, Afghanistan with his family, long before the Soviet invasion of the late 1970s. His father was a senior guy in Afghanistan’s Education Ministry.

One day, the jihadis came for his dad. I am not sure if they were aligned with the Taliban or not. If you study the region, there are a number of bad actors, some of whom work together, others who do not.

They shot at his father with their leveled AK-47s. Miraculously, he shielded his body with his arms and lost a lot of blood, but lived. His forearms were riddled with bullet-holes. He had an operation in England and the English doctors saved his life. And then, the family emigrated to the United States. Kansas or Nebraska of all places. . .

I once asked him what Peshawar was like. (It is right over the Af-Pak border, in Pakistan.) He replied: Oh, it is like the Wild West there. Read: it is very dangerous. . .

Although the below picture is of Karachi, far to the south, it too looks western. But for other reasons:

Clifton Beach in Karachi, Pakistan