Middle Ground

"DEAD Center America" [Jan. 16] was one of the most evocative pieces of journalism I have read. Without the benefit of an exotic locale, it took a potentially sleepy travel story to a transcendent level with power, depth and beautiful imagery. It was everything a travel story should be. Well done, Mr. Baechtel! And thanks, Post Travel, for carrying it!

Dick Stinson


MARK BAECHTEL did an excellent job describing the unmitigated vastness of the Kansas landscape at Lebanon. I grew up in Hutchinson, Kan., an even flatter but somewhat more urbane area some 150 miles south of Lebanon.

I think that Baechtel may have misread his notes about bearded milo. Wheat seed has beards. Milo, sometimes milo maize, is what they call sorghum in Kansas. It has heads of red BB-sized, non-bearded seeds. At least that is the way it was 50 years ago; could even that have changed?

Michael Coyne


I HAVE seen the word "contiguous" misused almost everywhere, but I didn't expect to see it The Washington Post. Your caption read, "A lonely sign marks the center of the contiguous U.S." According to my dictionary, "contiguous" means 1) in physical contact; touching along all or most of one side; or 2) near, next, or adjacent.

For there to be a "contiguous U.S.," all states would have to be in physical contact with one another, and this is not true. The correct term is "conterminous," which is defined as "contained within the same boundaries or limits."

Jeff Green


According to Jon Campbell of the U.S. Geological Survey, the terms are nearly synonymous. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names recommends that either term may be applied to indicate the Lower 48, although the traditional preference of the U.S. Geological Survey is "conterminous." We do, however, own up to misusing the term "continental U.S." Alaska, as part of continental North America, is not a reference point when determining the center of the contiguous United States.

Yemen Chorus

THANK YOU for an article that portrays Arabs as people to be embraced and celebrated rather than people to be feared and avoided ["Not Your Father's Detroit," Jan. 9]. So much media coverage of Arabs these days is negative; your article was a most welcome exception.

Tasneem Jennifer Crooker

College Park

I WAS surprised that your article on Arab Detroit described a person or thing from Yemen as "Yemenese," especially when the Yemeni Benevolent Association is also mentioned in the article.

On the other hand, might that explain why Yemen was the answer to Extreme Travel Trivia that week?

Karl Olson



YOUR ITEM on euro traveler's checks [Coming and Going, Jan. 9] states that "national currencies often fluctuate more than the euro." Actually, national currencies in the First Wave of currency integration are tied to the euro at a fixed rate.

Since there are fewer of them, I think that it would be more useful to have a mnemonic for Western European countries that will not be in the First Wave. I suggest DUKSNGIS (pronounced "ducks 'n' geese") for Denmark, United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Iceland and Switzerland.

John R. Woods


HOW about BAFFLING SIP? I believe more euros will be spent on baffling sips than on spiffing labs.

Dolph Sand


Yes, contrary to our report, European national currencies do not fluctuate more than the euro. Your mnemonics are better, too.

Below Average Joe?

SMART MOUTH indeed! Travel writers eager to demonstrate expertise in the local lingo sometimes come up with nonsense. Excellent Costa Rican coffee is indeed brewed by the chorreada method ["In Costa Rica, Not Your Average Joe," Jan. 9], but chorreada means "drip," "squirt" or "stream," and has nothing to do with socks. Nor is decaf called descafe nada in Costa Rica. It is descafeinado.

David M. Fishlow


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