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Half the time I don know what is “real” and what is staged or sarcastic; and that amusing, but being an outsider, it makes me tend to not believe that anything I read here is sincere, at first. It feels like I am at a party where I don know anyone except the person who invited me. I stick around listening to in jokes and “remember the time.” stories; I give an uncomfortable “heh” once in a while. I the one in the corner, showing way too much interest in the bookshelf, standing there, drink in hand and my head tilted sideways. I walk over to a conversation and listen, I hear an opportunity to tell a pun, get a laugh or two (and a scowl from Kara), and then I slink away to stare at the bad art hanging in the hallway.
It s taken me a long time to recognize how bad my memory is. Part of the problem is that I forget how much I forget. There s an obvious paradox in this. To know that your memory is bad means remembering, if nothing else, this fact. However it does not mean remembering, in the extreme case, any actual instances of forgetting. I know this because the extreme case applies to me: I have trouble remembering the specific times I ve failed to remember. What I remember instead, as a kind of placeholder, is the fact of my forgetfulness.
I had to try and make some sense out of it I guess I would have to say that I worry I going to be waiting so long I forget what I waiting for. Does that make sense You worry you forget what you waiting for and then you worry one day you forget that you are waiting for anything at all. Maybe you get up one day and go to work, and after work you come home and sit down in front of the TV, for instance. Or the radio or whatever. And you turn the volume down because all of a sudden you have the sense that something slipped your mind. You turn the volume back up. You figure you must have just left something at work or forgot to pick something up from the grocery store, or something like that something trivial. Surely nothing important. So you shake it off. But what it is what it really is and this is the part that gets to me when I start thinking about it what it really is is this is the exact moment in your life that you forgotten you waiting for something.
then, without even knowing it, this is when you lost your hope.
Monday, April 26, 2004
To the team surprise, a sensory area of the brain called the secondary somatosensory cortex, thought only to respond to physical touch, was strongly activated by the sight of others being touched.
This suggests that empathy requires no specialised brain area. The brain simply transforms what we see into what we would have felt in the same situation. “Empathy is not an abstract capacity,” Keysers concludes. “It like you slip into another person shoes to share the experience in a very pragmatic way.”
Even more surprisingly, seeing objects collide generated the same activity. “We expected a big difference,” Keysers says, “but the results are not restricted to the social world. In a certain way we share experiences with objects.”
This dream universe was populated with enormous things. In some ways, they were like giant machines, shot through with struts and spikes at crazy angles. They were also like vast tangles of wire and stretched, half melted plastic. They were also like immense solid masses of superheavy metal. They were also somewhat like TV static. They were all these things at once. They were pitch black.
These things were always moving traveling at furious speed through the sandy desert world. They made noise. The sound doesn have any real world analogue, but it like something awful and alien rattling inside a can that being violently shaken.
Their purpose in the dream was to annihilate me by colliding with me sometimes singly, sometimes several at once. They weighed more than a planet. Their mass may actually have been infinite. In some dreams, I was trapped inside one, enclosed within its black depths as it hurtled toward inevitable impact.
Sunday, April 25, 2004
into the land of bin laden by RYP
Somewhere on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a thunderous whup, whup, whup is the soundtrack to a graceful, intertwining aerial ballet above my head on a cold December morning. Two Huey helicopters are circling a hilltop 500 yards to the east. They zoom in close enough to my perch that I can smell their turbine exhaust and clearly make out a bug helmeted door gunner gripping his minigun.
The flat, deep sound echoes off the mountains as one Huey prepares to land, feeling for the ground as if hesitant to touch down in this hostile place. The other helicopter dives and swoops behind the hills like an angry hawk, looking for attackers. On each hilltop surrounding the base is a sentry post hastily built of Hescos four by four by five foot high gray cardboard and wire mesh containers filled with gravel. On top of these are sloppily stacked sandbags and a clutter of ammunition tins; silver loops of concertina wire add a touch of paranoid sparkle. At a distance these makeshift citadels have the look of Crusader castles.
From my own redoubt atop a steep cliff, I overlook a wide valley across the barrel of a battered antiaircraft gun aimed toward Pakistan. Below sits an unnamed armed outpost, a mud fort manned by Special Forces and Afghan troops and unmarked on any official map. Its loaded weapons are pointed at an allied nation; its vehicles and gear are left packed for a hasty departure.
“Your Americans!” says the smiling Afghan soldier who manning the post alongside me, pointing to the arriving choppers. Army style fatigues and blue tinted fly sunglasses, he is one of about 40 hired guns “campaigns” at this base, each of whom make a healthy $150 a month. The tiny base beneath us watches over a well known mountain pass between the Pakistani city of Miram Shah and its Afghan neighbor, Khost. Between them lies the Durand Line, the official boundary between the two countries that was established by the British in the 19th century and has been ignored ever since.
There are four of these quickly thrown together bases along this border, the front line of the war on al Qaeda. Miram Shah was a famous supply and R base for mujahidin rebels who fought against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, and remains a major smuggling center. military, the Pakistan government, and others believe Osama bin Laden is hiding. This is the region where bin Laden worked and fought with the muj in the eighties. This is where he helped build the massive cave system at Tora Bora. This is where coordinated attacks against Afghan and American forces continue at their highest rates. Bin Laden is even believed to have used the area around Khost as the backdrop in his videos sent out to threaten the Western world.
For all the secrecy and danger at the front, however, the base was not hard to locate, or to reach. Informants in Khost, easy to spot with their $800 Thuraya satellite phones and eager American slang, gave us directions. The bearded Afghan commander of this firebase seemed unsurprised to see an unarmed American show up at his front gate in a battered yellow taxi.
I am back in Afghanistan almost two years to the day after the start of the war in late 2001. Back then, my host was Northern Alliance general Abdul Rashid Dostum. I had traveled alongside a covert American Special Forces team who, it could be said, turned the tide of the war. I was at Qala Jangi when the famous Taliban prisoner uprising occurred, when John Walker Lindh was captured, and when the first American combat casualty of the war turned out to be a CIA paramilitary, Johnny “Mike” Spann. military had just kicked off Operation Avalanche, which will send some 2,000 troops and hundreds of helicopter sorties into the border area around Khost. Their goal is to eliminate both the resurgent remnants of the Taliban (the indigenous radical group that took over the country in the mid 1990s) and the loose network of foreign, mostly Arab, extremists known collectively as al Qaeda. In 2001 Dostum and the Regulators, as my companions in the Special Forces unit dubbed themselves, were practically brothers in arms by the end of their campaign. But two years is a long time, especially in this part of the world, and I was anxious to see how Afghanistan hosts were getting along with their American guests.
What I quickly learned was that in the borderland, the enemy has returned in force and the Americans and Afghans are attacked and ambushed on a regular basis. has already abandoned two of its four outposts, those in nearby Lwarra and Shinkai. The others, soldiers here tell me, come under increasingly frequent attack and occasionally change hands between the Afghans, the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the Americans.
The attacks come from the Pakistani side and almost always happen at night. The Afghan regulars say that the fiercest begin with rockets, followed by rocket propelled grenades, and finally three wave assaults: One waiting to advance, one lying down to fire, and one advancing to repeat the process. Often, the mystery attackers take the base from the Afghans for a few hours, only to be chased out by arriving American air support or daylight. The nearby border patrol base at Shinkai came under fierce attack in August. When the sun came up, the rudimentary base was surrounded by more than 20 dead bodies, their identities a mystery. One Afghan fighter insisted that the attackers couldn possibly have been Islamic fundamentalists. “The bodies were already rotting the next day,” he told me. “We could smell alcohol. They had been drinking cheap wine.”
As I scan the area through my binoculars from my clifftop aerie, to the right I can see rolling foothills, steep valleys, and widely spaced scrub pine trees. Off to the left, in the foreground, is a mountain from which my Afghan hosts say the frequent rocket attacks have been coming. Far below us on the dusty road, colorful and overloaded jinga trucks clank and groan as they bring goods from Pakistan into Afghanistan. Or to be more accurate, toward Afghanistan. One reason that bin Laden and former Taliban leader Mullah Omar are still at large is that things can get fuzzy in the Pashtun borderlands. military denies that any of these bases along the Duran Line, armed by Afghans and utilized by American forces, are situated outside of Afghan territory. Maybe my GPS is acting up, though. It indicates that I standing eight kilometers inside Pakistan.
At the landing area, the two Hueys depart, leaving a group of silver haired officers, each wearing a bulletproof vest and a pistol. Driving toward the base are two armored tan Humvees, a beige camouflage pickup with an orange marker panel on top, and a brown and green camo Land Rover to transport the VIPs, all followed by a convoy of Toyota pickup trucks overflowing with Afghan troops who wave and show off their heavy weapons and their new sand goggles, shooting gloves, and sunglasses.
I walk over from my perch and casually begin talking to the assembled American soldiers guarding the landing area. Army Special Forces, Delta Force, Navy SEALs, and CIA paramilitaries and ordered to hunt for “high value targets.” (The group existence and ability to operate inside of countries, like Pakistan, where conventional US. Army 20th Special Forces Group, a unit of Army reservists shipped in from Alabama, a young Air Force Combat Controller, and an unshaven American in civilian clothes: khakis, photographer vest, hiking boots. He wears Oakley shades and keeps a finger forward grip on a battered AK 47 an unusual weapon for an American, even in this neck of the woods, and the mark of a contractor rather than a soldier. He quickly leaves after the convoy disappears.