Sunday, September 29, 2013

American style

In the last two weeks, I had the rare opportunity to meet two designated ambassadors before they headed to their respective new posts.  The meetings were held to discuss OBO issues and projects that will affect them.  That was very interesting, and they were very nice of course.  My role in the meeting was pretty straightforward as the construction projects are constrained by the scope of the contracts.  It was great to get exposure to that meeting environment.

I took a class on protocol and etiquette yesterday, which was also very interesting.  Although I’m guessing it’s unlikely that construction engineers get invited to many formal dinner parties or receptions, you just never know.  Plus, they had a lot of other useful advice, including business cards, the proper use of silverware with both American and Continental styles, and how to handle a dinner party when a guest appears with more wives than expected.  I couldn't quite convince the presenter to say the American style is better than the Continental style, but I tried.
(This post written while listening to James Brown Hot Pants.)

Sunday, September 15, 2013


For travel to some posts, the Department of State's medical staff recommend antimalarial medicine.  Malaria prevention is a basic issue for many countries and each medication option has its pros and cons per the CDC.  Recently I looked into the three currently-recommended primary options a little deeper and found some interesting info.

Malarone (atovaquone and proguanil hydrochloride): This is what the State med unit has prescribed for me on two occasions - for reference, I'm not taking any other medication, in good health, and have had no known reactions to it.  The State doctor allowed me to choose my medication, which I thought was good.  A benefit of Malarone over Doxycycline is that Malarone is taken only for one week after returning from the trip.

Larium (mefloquine): This is no longer made under its original brand name, but a generic version is still sold.  In July, the FDA increased its product warning, adding a "black box" warning label requirement because of the danger that the drug could cause serious neurological and psychiatric side effects, some of which can become permanent.  It certainly seems to have its issues to say the least: a 2001 Netherlands study showed 67% of the people who took the drug experienced one or more adverse effects, and 6% had side effects so severe they required medical attention.  Probably not good, but it might be better than contracting malaria.

Doxycycline: While this may have the fewest side effects, you have to take this daily, and you have to continue taking it for four weeks after you've returned from your trip.  Doxycycline also has an added benefit of being an antibiotic prescribed for some infections.

I mention this to help spread the word on these issues, particularly the recent increase in the Larium warning: please check with your doctor for their advice on the most appropriate medication.  It’s also an example of one of the strange issues you might face in the Foreign Service.  Personally, I’ll take the meds and the chance of side effects over contracting malaria.  I think the harder issue is when you have to choose for your child.

(This post written while listening to Give It Away Red Hot Chili Peppers.)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Hiding boxes

For the past month or so, work has focused on the coming end of the fiscal year: funding-related documentation has increased dramatically in an effort to process single-year funding before various deadline dates. A related facet is the finance systems have a sort of dead period when no new funding can be processed for about a month, so we prepare before the financial EMP wave hits and we coast without power for a while. Speaking of which, I haven't heard any updates on sequestration effects - hopefully no news is good news. Of course, maybe there's no news because it's dark.

As a quick aside, I saw this on my way home the other day:

Peek-A-Boo - I can see you
At first I thought it was the lamest effort to hide a box e.v.e.r., then I realized the delivery person was trying to protect it from rain - very thoughtful.

(This post written while listening to Guster Satellite.)