A few more random return-to-the-homeland notes

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I will never do this systematically, so I'll keep jotting them down at random. As I repatriate, I notice:

- Not as many very fat large Americans as I was expecting. Am I looking in the wrong places? So propagandized into thinking that all of my countrymen are obese that expectations are off? Something gone wrong with my visual judgment? Something gone right with public health? I don't know. Just telling you what I have (not) seen.

- In a number of airports the past few days. I can't help noticing the moronic, utterly rote and meaningless announcements that begin, "The Department of Homeland Security has determined that the threat level is Orange. Please be alert..." The way you can tell that I'm still not fully acclimated is that I notice the announcements at all. For everyone else, they are 100% white noise. Is there a stupider aspect of national policy at the moment than these formulaic "threat level" announcements, which are always orange and which give no useful info whatsoever? Okay, I'm sure there's something stupider, but for rhetorical purposes I'll say that I can't think of one right now.

evilbag.jpg

- When I am king: I will outlaw "wheelie"- style rollable bags for carry-on luggage. Wheels and a handle on a big, heavy suitcase meant to be checked? Perfectly reasonable. But if you're going to carry something onto the plane, the law should require you actually to carry the thing, all the way to your seat. Why do I care? The wheelie triples or quadruples the floor space occupied by any one person, and the people tugging them don't look behind. I get my revenge by kicking the bags as they're being dragged across my path and tripping me. Then I act like it was an "accident."

- But even before that I will outlaw: leafblowers. God in heaven, do I hate that noise. Unfortunately, the neighborhood abounds in households that love hiring crews for the all-out leafblower experience -- they stagger their days, so it happens pretty much nonstop. I realize that the Beijing approach (below) is probably not practical in the U.S. But, hey, I actually have used a rake in my time. Part of the new Clean Energy policy for America?

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As is obvious, I'm auditioning for Andy Rooney's role as public crank.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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