Friday, June 27, 2008

For the junior anthropology students out there.

For those of you that have been curious about the nomads. I took this picture about a week ago. These tents are all over the place randomly in the countryside. Sometimes they are in groups of them up to 5 or so, sometimes single. There are usually people around herding sheep or goats.

Click on the picture to see all the details:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"Holy Airborne Particulate Batman!" or "...tastes like dirting"

This is posted purely because of my own ego and because I look so good and want you to see too. I could get a grooming standards waver if I needed, but unfortunately my guys all wear big mustaches instead of beards so I would be the odd one if I had a beard. Maybe this winter I will be able to take advantage of it, but I think beards have lost a lot of popularity among guys that want to look young since the Taliban left.

What do they say... "if you are scared of something, the best thing to do is face your fears." That's what this is. Lets combine Hot, High, and Dusty all at once. Can you feel the chest hair growing already!

This series was taken by one of the ANA pilots that was on the ground. We are practicing landing in dust... so we were expecting all this. Though pretty much everywhere around here you should expect this sort of thing to happen... even on the FOB's. My impression so far is that snow is worse to land in... but that may change the more I do this. It seems to me that you loose all the texture of the ground in the snow, and it doesn't quite happen as severely in the dust.

I know, it is pretty picturesque around here... (if you blow this one up, you can see some nomad tents in the background along the horizon.)

A rooster tail, but with out the threat of sharks!

Like being inside the ping pong ball... but orange, and a gritty.

Good, we are still upright in there!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I became a confirmed "ACE" today. A few weeks ago i flew through a group of fighting kites. I have no doubt that I took out four of them in one pass. I thought there may have been a fifth, but today for sure I made ace.

Some background information:
Apparently kite fighting is the national pastime around here... along with a horse game like polo but with a dead goat. For kite fighting, they make these kites and glue broken glass and razors on the string. Then fly them over their neighborhoods looking for a fight. If the challenge is accepted, more kites join that one. They fight each other by trying to cut the other kites out of the air using the razors and glass that are glued to the string. The last kite still flying is the victor. From what I hear it is biggest at the end of winter. Then, there can be thousands of kites. Right now it is to hot so there are only a few kites fighting.

Let me put these stories in proper aviation format...

First bout with the Kabul fighting kites!

"So there I was... Low over Kabul. (hands demonstrating low over Kabul) I was looking down into peoples houses and yards thinking thoughts like, 'if only we were in suburban Atlanta there would be hotties topless sun bathing,' and 'what the hell are those sheep eating; dirt, or rocks?' when for no reason but pure pilot instinct, I look up. My first though was "Shit! BIRDS!!!" about a millisecond later my eyes focused on the vertical strings that they were attached to. The thought instantly changed to "Shit! Kites!!!" My body tensed. You can imagine that about the time you are close enough for your eyes focus on kite strings at 200 km/h you are a little to close to effect the outcome to much. There was nothing I could do now... brace myself... nothing. Absolutely nothing. I didn't feel it, the aircraft kept flying... nothing at all. That wasn't all that bad. Though I have had uncomfortable dreams about hitting kites several times since then. I survived my first encounter with the fighting kites of Kabul"

New jet, new day.

"So there I was... in a turning rejoin low over a different neighborhood of Kabul. (hands demonstrating a perfect turning rejoin) This one, I saw from a ways off... sort of... My brain saw them and understood them as brown plastic bags. It is windy here a lot so it isn't inconceivable that there could be garbage blown high up into the air. No problem, I'll be passing under them... "Fuck! that's a Kite, nope two of them" was the thought I had in my head, though all I actually said out loud was, "KITE!"

Again, right through the strings damn it.

I looked over at the other pilot. He looks at me and just shrugs.

I just shrugged back. "Thats 'splash six' for us now Hey?"

"TWO... IN... IS?" he says.

"Yep, 'two is in' ...did you see those kites?"

"Dari... dari... dari... dari..." is the reply.

"I don't know what you just said dude, but we are still here so I guess we win today.""

There you go... My two stories of aerial combat above the mud brick walls of Kabul that make me a kite ace. As thrilling as all that is, I don't think I will be looking to tangle with them again. I will also be keeping my hands inside the window when I am low. I don't really want to see what glass shards do to my forearm at 200 km/h.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Some gratuitous helicopter photos... photo.

I know it has been a wile since I have posted pictures of machines in action. Today though! you are in luck!

...Alright, here is the only picture of helicopters I seem to be able to upload today. I guess that is what happens when your internet is actually just carrier pigeons carrying torn up notebook paper with ones and zeros scribbled on it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

How many Zen Masters does it take to change a lightbulb?


What is an individual organism? It seems that there is no such thing as an individual organism that lives within itself. A single person is no more an autonomous being than a single liver cell is it's own individual. What do I mean? Perhaps we are just looking at a particular scale of the entire being that is earth?

Have you ever thought about what your individual cells feel about being part of you? You last much longer than any particular molecule stays in your body and much longer than any individual living cell exists. From what I under stand, in ten years, there shouldn't be a single piece of you that is exactly the same as it is today... yet your being is still the same isn't it.

Expand on this idea

Does the United States exist? It seems it must certainly exist! But is this the same country as it was in 1900? Obviously it has aged, and changed... but is it still the same country? There is almost not a single person that is the same as part of the population of the United States yet I think it would be hard to argue that it isn't the same overall affiliation of people, land. laws... etc.

We are just looking at different scales along a continuum that exists on earth. Any organization acts as if it were an organism. Fighting for survival, expanding, reproducing in it's own way. I don't see any difference between the way a particular large complicated organization behaves and any complicated organism behaves. Some organizations are more successful than others just as some organisms are more successful.

So the question arises, "Where do you end?" Where does any living being end? At first it would seem obvious what is you, and what isn't... but think about it. What do you need to live? Is the air around your body part of you? When it is inside of you is it? What about the Oxygen as it travels through your arteries on the red blood cells? Are you still maintaining that separation between you and the air and claiming it is just a chemical that your body is using? Then what about water that you drink. While it is in your cells, is it you? Where do you even exist? If everything about you is transient... then how can you say what is in and what is out? Is there such a thing as a plant or is there only the forest? The cell in the plant, the plant in the forest, the forest in the biosphere...

Now moving into relationships between living beings. Are you totally your own organism... if you are in a close relationship as in marriage or living with another individual. You start to act symbiotically... or parasitically. For example, lets take a married couple. For the purposes of discussion lets say that the man brings home the money, the wife shops for food/ prepares it an maintains the interior of the house. They spend quite a bit of time with each other and for the most part rely on each other for survival. Though they each could operate by themselves, they don't! which is what is important in this case. They rely on each other just as much as your brain relies on your circulatory system. How is the system that has developed between them and how they exist in the world any different than your own respiratory system verses the rest of your body? I would argue that they end up acting more or less as one organism. Now take an example as an army. Here the parallels are even more obvious. In an army no individual operates by himself any more than any of your cells operate alone. Cells make up organs, organs make up organisms... solders make up battalions, battalions make up armies. etc... It seems quite arbitrary to draw the line at "Nick" why not have the organism be "The Household" or "Nick" vs "The 40th Helicopter Squadron"

I am not sure that I can reasonably separate myself from the rest of the biosphere... or the universe in general.

So, if organizations act like organisms... it seems obvious that the whole circle of life thing must apply. Does one organization have to consume others for it's own survival. Whether or not it is required for survival of these organisms, it obviously happens. Two governments fighting for land, or two economies fighting for oil, is the same as two monkeys fighting over a fruit tree.

Where is this competition between these super organisms going to go? Take religions as examples of these organisms. Some religions act as large complex beings, some act more like corral reefs or slime molds... regardless... in this frame work the world takes on a different look. It seems like Christianity and Islam are not just competing ideological delusions... they are actually competing organisms, fighting for survival in an arena of finite resources.

This view actually makes more sense of what is happening in the world than any other thought I have considered. Taking the example of two monkeys fighting over the fruit tree... The individual cells of one monkey don't have anything in particular against the individual cells of the other monkey... yet as they are organized, they are mortal enemies. It is the same between two governments... or religions... or baseball teams. The individuals of each religion/government/baseball team have nothing against each other, yet... watch the news.

Are we destined to be locked into these eternal struggles between these super organisms as they fight for survival on this planet? Most likely, but there is another alternative... the way that humans are becoming more and more dependent on each other over the whole world, perhaps we are becoming one huge human organism. Between the internet, global economy, and humanities ability to change the climate, maybe we are becoming one very large human organism.

Are we watching Evolution of these super organisms?

This also explains why people act to stop other individuals from being different. Group Norming or group standards aren't just around for their own sake. It is part of the larger organism's immune system. The kid in middle school that makes fun of your back pack because it is different isn't just being a bully... on some level he is preventing cancer within his larger organism. First you wear a loud and different shirt, the next thing you are starting a new religion or government that may be in competition with existing ones.

So to think about this all at the same time... there is no arbitrary inside/outside of "ME" there is only the Universe as examined on different scales.

The Zen Master is the lightbulb.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Quote of the day."?"

"If I survive this year, I am going to become a Muslim... it seems to work around here." -LtCol X.

Also, I would like to bring readers attention to two recently added links. They are additional assosiates of mine.



The mercenary sociologist.
The Merc Soc

The merc soc has been there for a while, but I never brought attention to it.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Italian C-130

So, yesterday... I think it was yesterday... Anyways, recently I saw that two italian C-130Js were coming here for a quick turn. I figured, "what the hell, I'll go check... my flight isn't happening today." The aircraft comes to a stop... and out pops Matteo!

How about that shit!

Kodjo, Matteo says "hello to the little girl... and today you can eat bacon! Please don't be silly... It is not meat, it is bacon!"

Anyways. Matteo and I got to talk for about 40 minutes on the ramp here. We pretty much got caught up on everything. I related everything that has happened to me in the last year as far as career, cars, snowboarding, and women. He related everything pertaining to his career, skiing, women, the problems with buying duty free here and smuggling it back to Italy, and women again.

Conclusions: We decided that a) We need to find a snow covered hill sometime in the next year and a half, b) neither of us will EVER "chase" a woman again, and c) I should buys some rugs... and maybe some designer perfume.

Allison; yep, 40 minutes is all the time that is needed to exchange that much information, and that was even with earplugs on!

It is starting to seem like war zones are a lot like the University of Michigan Diag, eventually all of your friends will come by... Jr, See you soon somewhere eventually for sure, Veggie, I hope you like dirt and conex containers... because I might need a new roommate in a few months. Bro... well, we can work on the timing.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Nag'n Natasha and other constants of the Universe.

US aircraft have the famous "Bitchin' Betty" that gives directions to pilots... like "Pull Up" and other directive type commentary on your flying. The Russians have the same system though instead of Bitchin' Betty, it is "Nag'n Natasha." I am not even making that up... that is what every one the flies russian aircraft calls her. I know this both from Ukraine as well as overhearing conversations in Czech and Dari where the only word I recognize is "Natasha" Normally, the voice of Natasha is a quite stern, but still sultry russian woman. I flew an aircraft a few days ago that someone had taught English to. I got to hear her in English... it is much better when it is in russian. It had to be the most ear piercing female voice I have ever heard!


Damn it! How am I supposed to recall the schematics of the fuel system in my head to see if this is serious with this chick crabbing in my ear? It was one of those rare times that almost no one sees when my emotional state goes from totally chill to livid in zero seconds.

They guy I was flying with only knew two words in English, "Roger," and, "Copy." And he always said them together and in that order... "Roger copy." Well, somehow he understood my, "Shut that GOD DAMN thing OFF!" ...though I did just read a book on body language, so it is possible that he got that message through more subtle means like the angle of my arm or a twitch of my eyebrow.

Perhaps they should use a less annoying female voice for the English aircraft.

Later, (today actually) I was told by an Afghan maintenance dude that I could not fly an aircraft today because Natasha was not at work today... (The voice informer system was broken.) This pretty much blew my mind. These guys will take off with damaged tail rotors, and I can't take off without that bitch on board? What the heck? So I ask the Czechs... Indeed it turns out that according to the russian manuals, she is required to be operational for flight. I don't know how this Afghan found out this. I have never seen a manual here yet...

The Czechs were willing to let me fly with it not working, not because it is just a back up system that I now plan to leave off, but because I don't speak russian very well and that aircraft doesn't speak english. I wouldn't know what she wanted to tell me anyways. Mean while, the Afghans wouldn't let me fly it, because today was the day they decided to follow a rule. Who would have thought that was how the logic would go.

Now for the universal constants:

NVG's and the finger... every time I have ever been in a room of guys using Night Vision Goggles for the first time everyone always stands in the nearly complete darkness and gives each other the finger. The Afghans did exactly the same thing... Off go the lights, down go the goggles, look around... and everyone is giving each other the finger.

hmm... I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't taught them that yet.

Suddenly a quick burst of Dari, and the room is full of laughter...

"Mister Nick, I told him his sister's pie is delicious! do you understand what is Pie?"

"Yes, we have the same joke in English..."

"Mister Nick, yes! But he tells me that my mother's pie is the best!... but this is the joke only for your friends..."

Holy shit! an I'm banging your sister/girlfriend/mother joke... I wouldn't have expected that quality of humor from these cats!

Maybe there is hope for world Peace after all!