I looked up at the moon the other night and saw it was just a touch past full.
Ramadan is half over. Ramadan is a 40-day period of fasting and religious devotion observed to celebrate the time when Muhhamad is believed to have recieved the Koran. It occurs once a year, beginning with the new moon at the start of the 9th month on the Muslim (lunar) calender. Curiously, the Koran specifies that Ramadan begins when the new moon "is sighted". Each Muslim country has a religious leader that is charged with, among other duties, declaring the beginning of Ramadan. Some Islamic countries use astronomy and scientific calculations to determine the beginning of the holiday, such as Turkey, Kuwait (I believe), and Muslims in the US and Canada. The rest of the Islamic world believes that a strict interpretation of the Koran requires an actual visual sighting of the new moon, leading to different starting days for Ramadan, depending on country, and all the confusion such an approach ensures.
It seems incredibly strange to me that a culture that once lead the world in the sciences would distrust scientific methods in favor of more subjective means of measuring time.
The real world interrupted my thoughts, as I heard the high-pitched whine of an Air Force AC-130 Spectre gunship overhead, followed by its minigun opening up on some unseen target with a sound like heavy cloth tearing. Circling like some vindictive spirit, it unloaded a stream of flares and another blast from the minigun, and was gone. In the distance, there was the sound of rotor blades, and I imagined the faceless medics preparing to help broken men brought in by the choppers. Sometimes they go to other nearby bases, sometimes they come here; sometimes they are American, sometimes Iraqi. All were fighting for the future of Iraq.