June 2008

Here’s a trailer for a new movie about the son of a gunsmith in the Northwest Frontier Province.

The director said that the young boy who starred in the movie quickly went from respectful young boy to disrespectful egomaniac during the filming of the movie.

“You’ll never work in this town again!”


Safrang thinks swimming in Lake Qargha is serious business? I say he is over exaggerating. Afghanistan is a veritable swimmers’ paradise. Why, just look at this photo of swimmers in the pristine Kabul River:

Kabul river

This photo, taken by Bill Podlich, was not taken in 1967. Honestly.

Just give me a minute to find another pic of the crystal clear healing waters of the Kabul River. Um….OK…here! Just look at Tamer Ali’s photo:

Kabul river bad

Uh, whoops. Wrong picture.

Badaxi Boy in Argu, Badaxan, originally uploaded by From Afghanistan With Loveّ.

This spring, i visited Badaxan (Badakhshan), in northeastern Afghanistan. Even in Afghanistan the province stands out for its uniquely harsh terrain and remoteness. Badaxan has traditionally been one of the most under-developed provinces of the country, and remains somewhat the same even now (the province has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.)

There are districts of Badaxan that are off limits to all motorized vehicles, and during the ‘open’ seasons it takes upwards of a week to reach from the province center -often involving long treks on horseback. For much of the rest of the year, these parts are closed off from the rest of the world.

I took this picture in Argu, a district close to the provincial capital of Faizabad. The boys of the village had gathered around to take a good look at the team of visitors. This boy had an intense gaze and sense of purpose about him.

From Afghanistan with love,

Somebody with a blog named Swedish Meatballs Confidential has linked to me and demanded I participate in some sort of meme (really a ruse to ascertain my true identity). As part of this meme I must reveal 7 things about myself and provide a picture of martial (not marital) discord. And no, I haven’t linked back to Swedish Meatball Confidential since the site combines politics and information analysis with “tasteful” nudity (or not so tasteful). It really depends on your perspective. So I’ll leave it to you to google that blog if you like.

So here are seven things:

1. I look at my keyboard when I type. but i still make a lot of mistkaes.

2. I am disappointed that those Russian Village Prose writers turned out to be sort of fascist. I’m looking at you, Valentin Rasputin.

3. I was attacked by a giant crab in Baja California when I was a little kid. I got sympathy from my mom even though she knew that I had probably provoked it. I did. Crabs have really strong claws.

4. I used to drink too much coffee. But the price of coffee at my current location has forced me to cut back.

5. I love sturgeon fishing (catch and release). So I refuse to eat caviar.

6. I was given a C- in one of my undergrad classes. My teacher was evil.

7. Growing up I had a gun (a .22 rifle). But I never shot anything animate (except for a few trees).

Photo of martial discord? Here’s a photo of a vicious Afghan insurgent attacking an American:

Dog Afghanistan

I’m supposed to pass on this meme. However, I already have passed on memes twice before and have used up all the blogs I read. So this branch of the meme dies here.

Lake Qargha to the immediate west of Kabul is a veritable cesspool of all things ‎imaginable -a little like the primordial soup. ‎

Of the non-living variety, the bottom of the lake is awash with pointed rocks, wires, ‎deflated soccer balls, discarded plastic bottle, broken glass bottles with unforgiving sharp ‎edges, silverware and other kitchen/household needs, artificial flowers, items of clothing ‎and footwear, various forms of ordnance and ammunition, dumped vehicles and ‎television sets, assorted printed material, electronics, and the occasional valuable such as ‎watches and jewelry along with many secrets. ‎

Of the living varieties, there is an abundance of organisms thriving on the rich nutrients ‎of the lake’s water which also lends it an overall greenish look. When you wade into the ‎water, the rocks, already round and smooth in texture, are rendered even more slippery by ‎algae growth and plant life, making it hard for one to stand on them. There is sure to be ‎some fish and amphibian life in the depths of the lake away from the shallows, and ‎perhaps the occasional aquatic serpent. Brown crabs of a particularly hostile variety are ‎rumored to roam the lake.‎

And then there are the other non-living but still organic residues that are dissolved in the ‎lake’s water and make up an integral part of its biodiversity. These are the decomposing ‎or long-decomposed bodies of drowned swimmers (of which there have been many, what ‎with the absence of life-guards and rescue facilities and the nonchalant attitude of the ‎visitors- although all unfortunate incidents are invariably attributed to the supernatural ‎and mystic qualities of the lake), dogs, birds, tree-trunks, watermelon peels, spongy Naan ‎bread, urea, and assorted bodily fluids. ‎

The lake is one of Kabul’s few weekend getaways, and certainly its most accessible and ‎closest. This proximity and the scarcity of other nearby picnic areas, plus the fact that the ‎population of the capital has been bulging cancerously for the past several years only ‎adds to the color, texture, and the molecular diversity and richness of the lake.‎

The lake may have the unique and dubious distinction of being the only freshwater lake ‎in the world that contains all things except fresh water. As such, there is a possibility that ‎the life forms and the ecosystem supported by the lake are neither of the marine nor the ‎freshwater typologies, but altogether new and perhaps as yet undiscovered. ‎

In point of fact, if the lake is to be stripped of all its living inhabitants and made into an ‎entirely self-contained closed system, given enough time on an evolutionary scale, it ‎could witness the return of life through the many possible combinations and re-‎combinations of its ingredient molecules, thereby giving rise to the first nucleic acids and ‎thereafter self-replicating chromosomes and mono-cellular organisms. ‎

As such, the lake has an important -albeit unacknowledged- future role to play in the ‎event of a catastrophic collapse of all life-forms on earth as a spawning ground for ‎organic life and a return of the human and other species and the very continuation of ‎earth as a living planet. Because of this, here is a proposal to sanctify the lake Qargha as a ‎mother-ship, a launching-pad, a regrouping ground for future life, including human life, ‎in an ever approaching post-apocalyptic world. This massive and organically rich petri-‎dish should be given the due attention and respect it deserves, and it should be opened up ‎to the world that will one day owe its life on this planet to the lake. ‎

I am planning to discuss this proposal with the current operators of the lake lest they get ‎any crazy ideas about ‘cleaning’ it up without realizing its existential significance. In fact, ‎once it is opened up to the world, a sanctifying ritual dip by visitors of all races, colors, ‎and creeds should be made mandatory so as to add to the richness of its contents. Further, ‎my plan proposes sealing off the small stream that lets out a couple of cubic feet of its ‎water now, thereby letting valuable ingredients go to waste.‎

I took my own purifying dip in the lake this past Thursday. Although I jumped in and ‎swam the lake on a dare -which at the time I thought of as a rather stupid thing to do- in ‎retrospect, I am glad it happened. How else would I have realized the vast richness of the ‎lake and its potential promise of life preservation on our green little planet? In fact, in the ‎larger scheme of things at stake above, even the pain in my ears and the burning ‎sensation in my eyes do not bother me anymore.‎


Afghan goats

Are goats really that bad? Growing up I hated goats. They were ornery and environmentally destructive (to fruit tree bark and other vegetation). One neighborhood billy goat butted me and left a huge bruise on my side. One of my sister’s goats actually murdered one of my other sister’s goats (haven’t we had enough goat-on-goat violence?). Chickens, cattle and sheep; they’re alright.

But then at some age it was explained to me why goats are so important to people in other parts of the world who are not just keeping them for cheese-making: goats can eat anything and survive in very marginal grazing environments. You have a dry rocky hillside in Afghanistan? Graze your goats there on the sticks, twigs and tufts of random plant life and they will provide you with milk, meat, leather and hides.

That’s all well and good. But you really need to be wary of over-grazing and erosion (but most Afghans don’t have that luxury).

Photo of Afghan shepherd girl by Craig Mullaney:

This is an exchange I had with my computer screen when I received this email, sentence by sentence:

Hello Prospective Employee,

How presumptuous!

Are you looking for a career in the Intelligence World?


Would you like to work for a fast growing company with lots of advancement potential?


[Not McDonald’s] has been providing foreign language and intelligence support services to the United States Military for more than a decade. In addition to stateside services, we provide support and training across the world, including, but not limited to Iraq, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay.

I’ll never work in Germany! Never!

My name is [stereotypical WASP name]. I am Project Coordinator at [my little north Virginia venture]. At this time, I am seeking an experienced TS/SCI Uzbek Linguist. This position has availability in Bethesda, MD and St. Louis, MO.

Uzbekcha gapira olmaiman!

The period of performance is from July 6, 2008-July 5, 2009. All candidates must possess the following criteria:

Limited working proficiency of the following languages (one for each FTE). A minimum proficiency skill level 2 for Reading is required as defined by the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) Proficiency Levels or the equivalent that meets or exceeds the ILR skill level 2. For award qualification, testing must have taken place within two years prior to the date of this SOW. After award, and, at vendor expense, linguists must maintain a two year currency at level 2 or higher verified by test results submitted to the Government.

Level 2? Haha! You guys are screwed!

[blah blah blah] Arabic, Dari, French, Indonesian, Kurdish, Pashto, Uzbek and Farsi

French? Are Algerian terrorists still speaking French? That’s just so…..uh, so something. The French have a word for it.

Basic knowledge:

Familiar with computer operations

Knowledge of data retrieval/storage and generating reports

Computer skills? I know how to use Youtube. Does that count?

Demonstrated time management skills

I’m blogging instead of finishing my research proposal. That should give you a perspective on my time management skills.

Knowledge of computer programs:

Common office software i.e. Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and e-mail

What is Excel? No seriously, what is Excel?

Basic knowledge of geography, cartography, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS):

Basic knowledge of geography

Basic map reading skills

Skills, Knowledge and understanding of GIS applications (i.e., ArcGIS or GeoMedia Pro)

Create and edit GIS datasets then import and export datasets between GIS software and Microsoft Excel

Are you still speaking English? I didn’t understand any of that.

NGA specific/unique training may be required

Sounds ominous. Is that like Marine Corps boot camp?

Basic knowledge of research gathering:

Internet search tools

Search query: “girls of the Big Ten” + free photos. Does that count?

Library functions (query, ordering, etc.)

Some of the foreign male students at my last university would watch pornography on the computers in the library research stacks because they didn’t have enough money to have their own computers in their dorm room to watch pornography on. The inequality made me sad.

As an employee of [War Profiteering, Inc.], we offer you an excellent salary of $112K. You will also receive 10 paid holidays and 12 paid vacation days. Please do not miss a great opportunity to work with an accelerated company. I look forward to speaking with you soon.

You liars. You shameless liars. You do not pay that much. You, and every other company lie about how much you will pay translators. You then knock about 45% off of what was initially promised because translators are weenies who don’t stick up for themselves. Contractors are truthful to the guys who are hired as security because they are former marines who will pistol-whip their employers if they get lied to about salary/wages. Translators, on the other hand, go to some yuppie-ish northern Virginia/DC lounge and get drunk while complaining about how they got screwed by their employer.

Anyways, this is the first email that has come without my name at the beginning. You guys are getting lazy. But the best email by far said that the anonymous company would pay for my moving expenses to Guantanamo Bay. Really, who doesn’t have their moving expenses to Gitmo pre-paid?

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