8 votes

What did you do this week?

As part of a weekly series, these topics are a place for users to casually discuss the things they did — or didn't do — during their week. Did you accomplish any goals? Suffer a failure? Do nothing at all? Tell us about it!

9 comments

  1. skybrian
    Link
    I finally got my new hearing aids with bluetooth. (The appointment got delayed two months due to the virus.) They are very nice for phone calls, which I previously had a tendency to avoid, and...

    I finally got my new hearing aids with bluetooth. (The appointment got delayed two months due to the virus.)

    They are very nice for phone calls, which I previously had a tendency to avoid, and they will probably be okay for watching videos that aren't primarily about music. But they're pretty meh for music if you'd like to actually enjoy the music rather than just hearing it. After trying it with Spotify, I won't be using them as music headphones.

    Also, they make musical instruments sound different by boosting the treble and adding an odd vibration to pure sounds. My digital piano sounds like a toy piano, and a melodica sounds closer to a trumpet than a clarinet. So I'm still using my old hearing aid for anything to do with music. I made an appointment to adjust the settings.

    It's frustrating having to make an appointment to adjust settings when I could probably do it myself. I could probably even learn to program the firmware myself if I had the source code. (The audiologist said they should soon have a way to adjust settings remotely but Kaiser needs to fix a firewall problem.)

    There is also a smartphone app which would in theory be nice except that the app is borderline-unusable, and again this is an area where having the source code would really help. Unfortunately, open source is barely getting started for hearing aids and most models are still closed source.

    6 votes
  2. [8]
    CALICO
    Link
    I shaved my head. I'm not particularly jazzed about it. Coronavirus got onto Kandahar Air Base again, and the barber closed down again. Stupid-me had been putting off a haircut (undercut to cool...

    I shaved my head. I'm not particularly jazzed about it.

    Coronavirus got onto Kandahar Air Base again, and the barber closed down again. Stupid-me had been putting off a haircut (undercut to cool off) because eh, I'll get it done tomorrow. Lost my chance, and the hot climate forced my hand. It's only getting hotter, and it could be months before they open up again.
    I've always liked to keep my hair pretty long for a male-bodied professional, long enough to ride the line on professional/unprofessional (which is nonsense but w/e). My hairline has been slowly receding anyway, but it wasn't so drastic that the length looked like shit. I had intended to give minoxidil & finasteride a try once back in the States, but shaving it all off has really taken the wind out of my sails.
    Male-pattern baldness is a weird thing, doubly weird if you're a non-transitioning trans*. There's a level of shame that comes with balding, and even if swallowing your pride and taking the plunge is objectively a good idea, that doesn't make it easy. In my shoes, there's gender dysphoria shit to grapple with too. Not fun. Two days ago I had a ponytail, and I made it look good. It's not that I look bad with a shaved head—beard+muscles make it an aesthetic that works—but I don't like it, have never liked it, and don't think I can ever be actively happy about it.

    The one upside is that I'm far less warm now.

    *It's complicated, don't bother trying to convince me to transition

    5 votes
    1. [7]
      cfabbro
      Link Parent
      Wait, are you in Kandahar? Neat! I didn't know we had any US military members on the site.

      Wait, are you in Kandahar? Neat! I didn't know we had any US military members on the site.

      1 vote
      1. [6]
        CALICO
        Link Parent
        Former! I'm prior Air Force, current dirty-contractor, future ????? I'm here to facilitate and support transfer of the mission over to the Afghan National Army; doing my best to set GIRoA up for...

        Former! I'm prior Air Force, current dirty-contractor, future ?????
        I'm here to facilitate and support transfer of the mission over to the Afghan National Army; doing my best to set GIRoA up for success after we pull out in 2021.

        2 votes
        1. [5]
          cfabbro
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Also neat! How goes that? Are you confident that the Afghan government and armed forces will be able to successfully keep their country and people safe once the US pulls out? p.s. I don't mean to...

          Also neat! How goes that? Are you confident that the Afghan government and armed forces will be able to successfully keep their country and people safe once the US pulls out?

          p.s. I don't mean to pry, and I understand it might be a very touchy subject, so feel free to not answer, but I have never had the opportunity to talk to someone who is on the ground there and has first hand experience with this, so you have piqued my curiosity. :P

          2 votes
          1. [4]
            CALICO
            Link Parent
            Not very well, and not really. Best-case scenario: the Taliban take everything except Kabul within 24 months after the US & Coalition Forces leave. Realistically I can see another Afghan Civil...

            Not very well, and not really. Best-case scenario: the Taliban take everything except Kabul within 24 months after the US & Coalition Forces leave. Realistically I can see another Afghan Civil War, another Taliban-controlled Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and tribal rule by Warlords in the West and North.
            I primarily blame Trump. The order to leave was ill-timed, IF our goal was to leave a country stable enough to survive on its own. I assess we'd need at least an additional year on top of what we have left, and with no ceasefire agreement. We can debate the ethics of our coming here in the first place, but in 2015 the mission shifted to "Train, Advise, and Assist" in Operation Resolute Support. In that respect, the whole things bungled, and he's been in charge for most of Resolute Support.

            There are other individuals I could name, but at risk of doxxing myself and revealing privileged information.

            Bush and Obama have blame on them as well. I'm not talking about the offensive measures, but the minimal amount of Nation-Building. The history and culture of Afghanistan is long, and complex. The British Empire didn't understand it, the Soviet Union didn't understand it, and NATO as well made the same mistake. There is not, and never has been a sense of national unity among the general Afghan populace. If you want to have an effective national government, you need some level of national consciousness. A lot of the citizens of Afghanistan don't see themselves as Afghans. They see themselves as a Pashtun, Hazara, Baloch, etc. first, and a resident of Haji Mullah's village in X-region second. They don't recognize the borders of Afghanistan, partially because they didn't draw them. Honestly, a large part of this failure can be placed on the shoulders of the British Empire, but the problems go back millennia and include the Muslim conquests of Afghanistan nearly 1,400 years ago.
            The prevalence of ethnic consciousness incentivises action that benefit your ethnic group, or your home region, over the benefit of your government. The primarily-Pashtun Taliban understand this; they make deals with some areas, war with others. What matters most is that your village is safe, not so much who controls it. If our purpose was to support the Government of Afghanistan, we should have been doing a lot more to encourage a sense of national identity among Afghans. The how of that is not my expertise, but in my own experience I have noticed a distinct lack of effort.

            Bonus: do some reading on the recent Afghan election. That has given the people a few more reasons to distrust the Government overall.

            The decision of pulling out was not strategic, it was for political brownie points. The American People are rightfully tired of war. But leaving when we're leaving is not an intelligent decision.

            There's geopolitics at play here too. Countries who are not Afghanistan, but are counter to the interests of the US, want the US out of the region for economic, strategic, and ideological reasons. US Bases in Afghanistan are right next door to China, and Iran, for one. We have much smaller bases in the Middle East, including Kuwait and Iraq, but the bulk majority of our presence is in Afghanistan. Once that's gone, others will sweep in and use the country for their own benefit at the expense of the Afghan people, or otherwise take advantage of a minimal US presence in the Middle East. Surely everyone is aware of our current tensions with Iran; assuming the trajectory of Iran remains relatively unchanged by the effects of coronavirus, I assess a high probability of Iran warring with Israel once we're gone from Afghanistan—perhaps with proxy groups, perhaps open war. Let's imagine for a moment what a horrendous clusterfuck of destruction and killing that will become, especially if a certain US President wins reelection and is in office when it goes down. I wouldn't take a nuclear detonation or two off the table—not necessary deployed by the United States.

            I'm really not optimistic overall. This extended past your initial question, but these are the things I'm required to consider in my field and they occupy a large part of my mind.

            The whole thing makes me deeply sad. There are no good answers about what to do with the situation we have, just various degrees of less-bad. I work with Afghans seven days a week, and I've found myself accustomed and endeared to these people. I try not to think about how many of them will be killed, or turn against what they've been working towards to protect their families. But, I have to try and do what I can do.

            4 votes
            1. [3]
              cfabbro
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              Thank you very much for your frank answer, and sharing your opinions on the current situation there with me. Depressing as it was to hear, regardless of that, it is still much appreciated. And...

              Thank you very much for your frank answer, and sharing your opinions on the current situation there with me. Depressing as it was to hear, regardless of that, it is still much appreciated.

              And yeah, I am familiar with the history (and military history in particular) in the region, especially because of my interest in the Byzantine and later Ottoman Empires, as well as its thoughtless partitioning after WWI, the consequences of which we are still seeing today. However I have unfortunately not spent nearly enough time trying to understand modern issues in the region (other than doing some reading on the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Iranian revolution + Shah's reign leading up to that, and Iran-Iraq war)... so I will definitely have to remedy that.

              Speaking of which, do you have any recommendations for good books, podcasts, or any other sources for learning about the current situation in Afghanistan and surrounding area?

              2 votes
              1. [2]
                CALICO
                Link Parent
                For present-day, I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you; most of my knowledge here comes from working this mission for so long. I'm sure there's some great books and journalism on the topic, but I...

                For present-day, I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you; most of my knowledge here comes from working this mission for so long. I'm sure there's some great books and journalism on the topic, but I couldn't tell you what it is.

                For how we got here, how the Taliban came to power to overthrow the government in 1996, how some of the local powers interact with the region, and up to the invasion, I would recommend:

                Modernizing Women: Gender and Social Change in the Middle East (1993), by Valentine Moghadam (and other works by the same)
                Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (2000), by Ahmed Rashid
                Ghost Wars (2004), by Steve Coll
                and Taliban: The Unknown Enemy (2011), by James Fergusson

                2 votes
                1. cfabbro
                  Link Parent
                  Ah dang, I guess I will just have to seek out some current stuff on my own. I added those books to my reading wishlist though, so thanks for those recommendations, and the pleasant convo! :)

                  Ah dang, I guess I will just have to seek out some current stuff on my own. I added those books to my reading wishlist though, so thanks for those recommendations, and the pleasant convo! :)

                  2 votes