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Wasted Breath

How was the flight?

Truth is, it was fine but I’ll do us both a favor and spare you the answer.

I waited for my baggage the other day and had to listen to some lady tell her friend the details of what was a mundane trip.  Turns out she had to walk a little bit to meet her connecting flight.  She also was apparently the only one on our flight who experienced a ”hard landing.”

Why not just eat another bag of peanuts and shut your freaking mouth?

What is the function of idle chit chat?  Does it fill the silence?  Serve as an ice breaker?  It’s unneeded, there is way too much comical, important or necessary things to talk about.

Next time, save the useless banter and talk about the good shit.

The Best Books I Read in 2012

The Cat in the Hat also endorses these books

The Cat in the Hat also endorses these books

Who am I to publish a reading list?  GFY

Read/listen to these books and your life will be better (no particular order):

Charlotte’s Web, EB White:  Amazing writing and solid characters.  Read this in two days to remember what real writing can be.

Linchpin, Seth Godin:  Listen or read this on your way to work then tell your boss that things are going to be a little different around here.  Stop doing what everyone tells you and do what’s right.  Applies to work, school and life.

Hunger Games:  Not just for teenage girls.  Read this then notice the horrifying parallels to today.  A ruling party, a buried working class and clueless voters.  Good luck society.  After I read Hunger Games 1-3, I read A Clockwork Orange then Fahrenheit 451.  The Hunger Games is an awakening to the best ‘watch out for government’ books of the century.  1984 is next or maybe Brave New World.

A Way with Words (audio lecture by Dr Michael Drout):  An easy to understand approach to rhetoric and language that could change the way you speak and write.  Communication lessons from the study of language, not from a business book.  High list price but $8 for Audible members.

Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman:  Never make a decision the same way again.  Every conclusion in this book cites real research.  Completely counterintuitive which tells me that I’ve learned something.

Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi:  Changed my life, just kidding- this book sucked.  Don’t waste your time.  I’ll summarize it for you: never eat alone, know more people to get more done.  Can I have my $13 back now?

4-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferris:  His thesis is laid out for all the wrong reasons but the lessons are still great.  Harness technology, market and align priorities to make life work for you.  His approach is somewhat self-fulfilling, mine is a bit more altruistic.

How to Win Friends and Influencing People, Dale Carnegie:  I’m predisposed to be candid and short. WFIP is a reminder of how you can act to make people happy and get what you want.  This is an annual read.

Why this post?  Because I can and I believe in customer reviews and word of mouth.

What are the best books you’ve read in 2012?  Comment or at least tell someone.

My Take: Act of Valor

I saw Act of Valor this afternoon. A pretty good action movie on the surface. Nice set pieces and some good gun play. When the boats show up to exfil them on the first mission it is pretty cool. The banter is authentic and they do a good job of not making us follow too many characters. The movie centers around the leadership, and everything sort of filters down from there. They try to do a little character development at the start on a pretty contrived beach party scene. I can see a few of them getting together, but not the whole unit. These guys are going to live on top of each other for the next several months. The last thing they want to do is spend time together on their last night.


But I am nitpicking… 


The movie has some great “first person” camera work. Kind of a mix between combat camera style footage and what you see on some of the extreme sports shows.


The plot comes from a story Richard Clarke wrote for the Atlantic a couple of years ago. A very real scenario, especially using Filipinos and the threat from the Pacific rim. 


The bad guys are great and menacing.  Nothing like throwing in some former Russian gangsters into the mix and the best villian out there is the Chechnyan Jihadist.


But my favorite scene was the interrogation on the yacht between the Russian gangster and the master chief. From the time the Master Chief steps on the deck of the yacht to the end, the movie was perfect. The dialogue was crisp and the way the Master Chief carries himself was beyond authentic. I know and I’ve talked to dudes just like him. By far my favorite part.


A couple of other quick observations…


1) The suicide vest stuff parts are scary and all to real.


2) The fact that this SEAL unit gets tapped to do some of the things they do in this movies stretches reality. I think some of these missions would likely go to JSOC and some of the other skilled operators in the military.


3) The idea that a team works because of a love of home and for the fact that guys fight for their brothers to their left and right was spot on and is stuff I’ve heard from units throughout the military.


4) I think for not being actors, these guys did a good job with the drama part of it. I know they didn’t have any problems with CQB or any of the jumps or diving. But some of the quiet scenes were good.


5) I don’t think the Navy recruiting office will be slow tomorrow. They are going to have a glut of dudes wanting to join the SEALs. From the parachute jumps, to the dives, to the action, the theater I was in was full of dudes who all talked about joining up as they walked out. 


Two things to leave you with…


1) People clapped at the end. 


2) When do the Green Berets get their turn?

What would you say if D-Day failed?

The Atlantic Wire dug up “Doomsday” speeches from  General Dwight Eisenhower in the event the Germans stopped the D-Day invasion and from Pres. Nixon had Apollo 11 failed. The story points out the different styles of both speeches.


Eisenhower on D-Day:

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air, and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.


And the start of Nixon’s speech on Apollo 11:

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

I dig the Atlantic’s take on the two speeches:

Eisenhower’s communication was brief and matter of fact because the events did not need interpretation. The stakes of D-Day were clear: it was a major offensive on the road to victory.

By contrast, Nixon’s speech is poetic and rich in imagery because the meaning of the moon landing was not self-evident. The event was deeply symbolic, capturing the individual human spirit, America’s technological prowess in the Cold War, and a giant leap for mankind.


What struck me was how you it might feel to deliver those words. I love how simple Eisenhower’s statement is on the invasion, but also the leadership it shows. This man understood what it meant to be a combat leader. He was willing to take the blame, as he should as the commanding general, for making the call. A call that I can’t imagine ever being made again. Can you fathom now a general committing five divisions to such a high risk mission, knowing that the chances of defeat are high?

As for Nixon, his is a scarier speech because like the Atlantic points out the Apollo 11 mission, while life and death, was really more about as he put it “a search for truth and understanding.” It isn’t as easy to explain things with such lofty goals. But I think the tone of the speech helps hammer home the point. The US space program was a big step for Earth, not just one country.

Overall, an interesting look at a history that could have been and the words that would have defined it.



It all comes down to leadership

Over the past few weeks  failures in leadership abound. I am finding more and more evidence the ills of the world are caused by a lack of action, lack of direction and an absence of knowing what right looks like.

Take football coach Joe Paterno’s interview with the Washington Post. He tells the paper he didn’t know how to deal with the initial allegation of abuse.

“I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was,” Paterno told the paper. “So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.”

Imagine if one of his players came to him after getting in trouble or not reporting problems on the team and said the same thing. Paterno has taught generations of men how to act, how to play, and I am sure those skills have carried over to how they live. But when he was faced with a tough situation, he forgot all his lessons and punted.

How about this bit of leadership?

Did you see Rick Perry’s comments about the Marines pissing on the Taliban fighters? Perry told the NY Daily News the U.S. Marines shown on a You Tude video urinating on dead Taliban fighters were justing acting like “kids.”

According to the paper, he called the reaction to the footage “over the top” on CNN’s “State of the Union” show.

“Obviously 18, 19-year-old kids make stupid mistakes all too often and that’s what’s occurred here,” Perry said on the show. “What is really disturbing to me is the over-the-top rhetoric from this administration and their disdain for the military.”

Come on, man. Really? My first question when I saw it was where was the squad leader, platoon sergeant, and platoon leader? Look, we all know what right looks like. And that, my friends, was not right. Perry goes on to say it was not a criminal act. Kind of agree with him on that. But a stupid act for sure, and one that comes back to leadership.

I heard Herm Edwards on ESPN’s Mike & Mike. He was talking about how the Lions kept getting personal foul penalties and said it all went back to the head coach because either you teach that behavior or you condone it. Same goes for the Marines. Why did they even think that was something you could do let alone it was OK to do?

There have been all kinds of books written about how to lead and what it means to be a great leader. But for the past couple of months, most of our leaders have forgotten what it means to lead. And that is a shame.

Holding the Moral High Ground

On his blog, Tom Ricks has an interesting bit of trivia about war and Afghanistan.

He writes:

What those urinating Marines did was wrong, but hardly shocking in the context of what goes on in war — especially in Afghanistan. I remember reading in a history of fighting in Waziristan that British officers were warned that if they were captured, Pushtun fighters likely would jam a sprig of camelthorn up the captive’s penis and then tie him naked and spreadeagled over and anthill and leave him there to roast in the sun until he died. Given the historical memory of Afghans, I would expect that knowledge of those practices is widespread.

Just reading that makes me uncomfortable… Ah, war in Afghanistan. But as my Dad said, two wrongs don’t make a right. For the most part, except for a few examples that we all know already, the U.S. military has an exceptional record of fighting by the rules.

Here is my one question, is there any benefit to holding the “moral high ground” and if so, what does it get you?