It was a dark time in a long, drawn-out war. Afghanistan was festering with resentment. The Pentagon brass were desperate. It was the kind of last-ditch moment when authorities start throwing an era’s weirdest ideas at its most hopeless bureaucratic mistakes.
For a long time, the Taj Guest House was about the only place you could get a beer in Jalalabad. The provincial capital, about 30 miles from the infamous mountains of Tora Bora, has been the main staging ground for U.S.-led forces in the eastern part of Afghanistan since the early days of the war. When I showed up in the city in November 2011 to report on the propaganda efforts of a franchising Taliban, I found myself at the Taj. There wasn’t much to the pub—just a bamboo-covered bar, a fireplace, a glass-fronted cooler with some Heineken stacked inside, and a few bottles of vodka and other spirits lined up under the red glow of a lamp.
Plus there was an odd little sign: “We share information, communication, (and beer).”
Phi Beta Iota: We have noticed with irritation the number of beltway bandits and think tanks claiming to have OpenBTS well in hand, and vying for the declining government dollar. There is only one company that has a legitimate claim to offering OpenBTS, and that company’s name is Range Networks, featured at DEMO 2010 and a spin-off from Kestrel Signal Processing.
The OpenBTS project was by ‘Camp Papa Legba’, named after the Haitian Loa.
“In Haitian Vodou, Papa Legba is the intermediary between the loa and humanity. He stands at a spiritual crossroads and gives (or denies) permission to speak with the spirits of Guinee, and is believed to speak all human languages. He is always the first and last spirit invoked in any ceremony, because his permission is needed for any communication between mortals and the loa – he opens and closes the doorway. In Haiti, he is the great elocution, the voice of God, as it were. Legba facilitates communication, speech and understanding.”
Dave Warner is a Medical Neuroscientist and the Director of Medical Intelligence at MindTel. His interests include interventional informatics, medical communications, distributed medical intelligence, biosensors, quantitative human performance, expressional interface systems and physio-informatics. He has been engaged in humanitarian assistance and information and communication technologies (ICT) applications for a number of years, with recent activity in Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa, and Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Dr. Warner graduated from San Diego State University in 1988, with a degree in Physical Science. He then entered the combined MD/PhD program at Loma Linda University Medical Center (LLUMC). His passion as an undergraduate was human expression. Specifically, he sought to learn how a thought becomes an intention for expression and then how the physiology of the body facilitates that expression through some medium. The medium he chose was information systems: informatics. At LLUMC Dr. Warner’s doctoral research was in the Department of Neurophysiology. He also founded MindTel in May 1997 to commercialize intelligent communication products for healthcare, education, and recreation. An initial focus is the development of hardware and software products that can be deployed cost-effectively so that disabled computer users can more effectively express themselves through the World Wide Web. The hardware products include sensors, transducers, and computer interface modules. The associated NeatTools software comprises a highly versatile visual programming environment for interfacing hardware and software modules. MindTel is also actively engaged in consulting activities in telemedicine and Web-based communication systems.