"The object of discussion was an ancient, dust-clogged, diesel-powered water pump which the [Iraqi] farmers wanted to start, with the help of the US marines, who control the roadside area east of the town of Diwaniya where the farmers have their fields. The pump lies under the very guns of the marines, hunkered down in foxholes behind a high sand wall, scanning the landscape for signs of the elusive, intangible, incomprehensible enemy.Link, Discuss, (Thanks, John Von!)
Cooper, a major in the military's civil affairs department, didn't have an interpreter, exactly. He had a handheld black plastic device the size of an eggbox called a Phrasealator. Users run a stylus down a series of menus on a screen, pick a phrase in English, touch the line, and the Phrasealator squawks the equivalent in Arabic.
The machine lacks elementary social skills. It only covers a handful of situations, such as crowd control, law and order and emergencies. If you want to tell someone to get out of their car slowly or not to be frightened, it's great. If you have to talk to farmers in rural Iraq about intimate details of their lives, families, crops and horticultural needs, and understand what they say back, it's useless.."
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.