• Category Archives Hubris
  • Elder Eyring, President Uchtdorf, and Soldiering

    The Soldier MoroniAs I grew up I was always sure that I wanted to be in the military. For a while I thought I wanted to be a full-time infantry officer. I enrolled in ROTC in college.  I joined the 19th Special Forces Group (National Guard) as an enlisted counter-intelligence agent. I spent the 9 months of Initial Entry Training watching the active duty military lifestyle at work and play. It made me realize I wanted to stay a full time civilian. I also stayed enlisted, thank heavens.

    From back then until now, 30 years in the LDS church, 4 years at Brigham Young University, 13 years in the national guard, 2 combat deployments; I always had the impression that service in the military was seen as an unwise choice for LDS men. Plenty of us served, but we were looked down upon just a little by the LDS culture.

    It’s not objecively or doctrinally true. Like I said, it was simply the impression I had and it was due to several factors. Some people at BYU (it is an academic institution after all, grubbing after government grants with the best of them) actively look down on the military services, in lockstep with the extreme left. And taking a degree in English exposed me to many such. Also, I’ve lost count of the talks I’ve heard and the testimonies born by single-term servicemen about how the military turned them into sinners when in reality all it did was force them to step away from the apron strings. I also had a long string of sunday school teachers and fellow members who were less than encouraging to my martial leanings. 

    All this has combined to leave me feeling a little at sea, left to find my own soldier specific spiritual guidance in the scriptures. Fortunately, there’s plenty there. It’s looked at as odd and incomprehensible by much of the church’s membership who consider most of Alma to be … off, but it gives me joy to find it.

    Imagine my glee when Elder Eyring gave me a huge blast of it over the modern pulpit at General Conference in April of 2009. In his talk entitled “Man Down!” he tells the story of the two delta operators who lost their lives saving a single helicopter pilot from being ripped apart by the howling ravening enemy mob in Mogadishu Somalia. To my memory that was the first time I ever heard soldiers performing a soldier’s mission held up as good examples by a general authority in my church. Thank you Elder Eyring. Someday I’d like to shake your hand for that.

    Don’t get me wrong, soldiers have been held up as good examples many times, but always for things other than being a soldier. It’s always been for resisting temptation or being brave in difficult cirumstances, and so on, nothing really specific to soldiering. Elder Eyring’s address changed all that for me.

    I got another blast of it last Sunday, October 31, 2010. President Uchtdorf gave a fireside specifically to members of the military and their spouses. I hope somebody recorded it because I’d like to hear and/or read it again. You might think that soldier specific teaching would be guaranteed at such a single purpose fireside. You’d be wrong though. President Uchtdord could easily, and profitably for us, given us an hour and a half of teaching starring soldiers but not specific to soldiers, like so many have before. He didn’t though. He went all out, designating the United States military, by name, as a force for good in the world. We were spiritually well fed, as soldiers, throughout.

    One thing in particular stood out for me though.

    It’s a small thing. Something I should have noticed before, but which I never put together and which he specifically emphasized. President Uchtdorf pointed out, with some satisfaction, that the individual chosen by God to stand atop our temples and announce the Savior when he returns is a soldier.

  • Elizabeth Moon and the Ground Zero Mosque

    Elizabeth Moon
    Elizabeth Moon

    I know Mrs. Moon. Not particularly well. We’ve sat across from each other at dinners, talked while we walked around a con, and so forth. She’s a very nice lady. We differ on many political issues.

    She wrote a blog post this year about the proposed mosque at ground zero. I thought it was well written, thoughtful, and I largely agreed with it.

    Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Elizabeth Moon was disinvited as Guest Of Honor from WisCon because of the contents of that post. She is being described as a bigot and a racist. In a shallow search of the internet the negative response to her post was vociferous and ill-informed. By that I mean that the vigor of those decrying her words seemed inversely proportional to how well they understood what she’d actually said in the post itself.

    This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. For decades now ideologues have been preying on individuals who can’t be troubled to fully understand any given issue. If the soundbite doesn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy, like a kindly revolutionary, well, you must be against that. If the soundbite doesn’t resonate with your own fears, give you a sense of belonging to the in-group, well, you must be against that. Carry on, wave your placard, dump your trash on the ground for the workers to pick up.

    Mrs. Moon’s post was largely a call to active citizenship, to responsibility, to personal accountability. A democratic republic cannot function properly if the citizens are worried only about themselves. The well-being of the group, the nation, the country, must figure largely into a good citizen’s responsibility equation. Mrs. Moon is well entitled to make that statement having served in the Marine Corps among a great many other things. Presumably she did at least a few good things that got her the Guest of Honor invitation to WisCon in the first place.

    Part of being a good citizen here in the United States is a willingness to openly consider ideas that may be different from your own. Discuss them on their merits. Examine your own ideas in their light to see if, perhaps, you can learn something. It is the mark of intellectual cowardice and dishonesty to refuse to examine, refuse to discuss, refuse even to entertain, ideas that may be different from your own.

    I’m looking at you WisCon.

  • Bullying on a Bus in New York

    This story appalls me for several reasons. It’s about three kids who beat up another kid on a school bus, apparently because they thought he was gay.

    The story mentions the victim being afraid to come forward. It says that some people think parents should get involved, asking their children, how was your day? It even mentions that the driver and ‘matron’ (whatever that means) are being questioned for not reporting the preliminary bullying that had, apparently, been going on for weeks. All well and good.

    I think a better outcome to this incident would have been the driver and/or matron storming to the back of the bus as the three little bullies stomped kicked and punched, grabbed them by their collars and either sat them down at the front of the bus or simply tossed them off to fend for themselves. Then they should have tended to the victim and called the cops, names in hand.

    Think about what would have happened to the driver and matron though, in the political climate we live in today. If the bullies resisted them, very likely, the adults would, very likely, have been castigated in the press for assaulting minors.

    You know it’s true.

  • Money as a Brainwashing Tool

    Evil Money People!So, a lot of brouhaha in the news recently about where money that American organizations spend on American political campaigns comes from, foreign money being bad.

    I’m not all that worked up about the issue. I’m a little leery at the idea of foreign interests meddling in our elections. They should mind their own business. But at the same time, that kind of crap works a lot better in the systems they’re used to, thinly veiled or open dictatorships, or rule by the elite; and not so well in an actual functioning democratic republic. Which is probably why we’ve had so much success meddling in other peoples elections over the years.

    But in the end, in our country, an election is about the candidates and their ideas. If people are voting for someone because they’ve seen them in more TV spots, the fault lies not with the people who paid for those TV spots but with the morons making their decisions that way.

    Money can have a huge effect on an election but the only legitimate gripe is if a candidate’s ideas are never heard by the electorate  due to a lack of funds. In this, the information age, that’s less and less of a concern. A voter going to the polls while uninformed has only himself to blame today. Trying to shift that blame from the voter to the evil corporations or foreign investors who failed to inform him through TV is missing the point entirely and taking it as a given that the voters are mindless sheep.

    The constitution was not written with mindless sheep in mind. Perhaps the voters ARE mindless sheep though. The fact remains that nobody forced them to be that way.

    The fact that the candidate with the most money often wins is either a sad commentary on the ignorance of our citizens or a demonstration that those citizens voted with their pocketbooks before ever going to the polls. Since foreign interests can’t do the latter, their influence is limited entirely to those who are too stupid to think for themselves. Meh. We reap what we sow.

    Bonus link

  • Not going to war

    InsideACanofWhoopAssNot going to war, for most people, is a good thing. Not all.

    What could I possibly mean by that, you may ask with a suspicious and horrified look?  Who is this ‘all’ you speak of in the negative?

    Surely, war is bad. Yes it is. There are still worse things.

    Surely, no one sane would WANT their country to go to war. Absolutely true. No one sane wants their country to go to war. In the same way no one wants to have to shoot a burglar in their house.

    Surely, no one sane wants, personally, to go to war. Meh, yes and no. I’m sure there are people who would very cogently and succinctly make the point that I am not sane. For I want to go to war.

    Surely I have done my part, having already been to war. Surely I could now stay home, honor satisfied, and enjoy my family. Yes, I have, and yes I could. But the war is not over. In some ways it is just beginning. There are still parts to be played, and if not by me, then by who?

    I’m thinking about this because of a good friend of mine, who also wants to go to war. The difference for him is that he has not yet been.

    My unit is a good one. We have deployed companies to the war on terror three times and once an entire battalion. Collectively we have killed a whole grundle of bad men who desperately needed killing, and helped a whole bunch of other people who needed help. We have done well, collecting honors and accolades. We have yet to lose a man to the war.

    The last deployment, though, was a few years ago and the next has been pushed back so far that many of the men in my unit despaired of ever going back and left, seeking other units who ARE deploying soon, or contracting jobs with the famed “military industrial complex.” (My unit doesn’t typically attract the sort who only join the military for the college benefits though most of us have used them to good effect)

    My friend is considering attaching himself to a unit in another state that is deploying but finds itself critically short of men with our expertise. I’m considering going with him. It’s a hard sell for a man in my position, but can I let my friend go alone?

    We would all prefer that there were no wars, no oppression, no murder, no crime. MacArthur was right when he said:

    The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

    Yet, if our country is at war, we want to go. It’s what drove us to join the military in the first place.

    Bonus link

  • Jump tomorrow

    And it’s on a brand new dropzone. The third in as many months.

    Ramp Jump. This guy's screwing up his exit.

    No one in our unit has ever jumped it. I sure hope I can figure out where we are before leading the way out of the plane.

    Edit: Well, we lived and it was one of the nicest jumps I’ve done.

    Soft opening. Sherpas or C-23s usually are since they’re so slow.

    Soft landing. Farmer’s field with dirt like talcum powder combined with very low winds.

    Pretty. The landscape in Western Eagle Mountain Valley actually looks more like the pic on the right than I expected. Put more mountains on the horizon and you’ve pretty much got it. Considering the pic on the right is actually over Germany that’s saying something.

  • Blindly Writing the Elephant

    So, I’m almost completely done with my second novel. This is the one I’m collaborating with Brandon Sanderson on. Working title: The Lurker.

    I think I’ve smashed my face against, then managed to wrap my arms around, a writing principle worth sharing.

    I started with a 10,000 word outline that Brandon wrote. We discussed the world and basic plot we would be working with for about four hours over two meetings before he wrote the outline.

    I wrote my first novel with an outline too, a numbered list.  I can’t speak for Brandon on The Lurker but for me, coming up with an outline was a very mechanical process.

    Arbitrarily I aimed for 120,000 words which translated neatly into 30 4,000 word chapters. My outline had 30 chapters in it. Three viewpoint characters translated to 10 chapters each. Three try/fail cycles worked out to three chapters per cycle per character, which I dutifully labeled as such on my outline.

    Then I filled in the basic events for each cycle. What, exactly, were my characters failing and then succeeding at? What did their mini-arcs consist of and how did they fit into the big book-arc?  I already had a basic idea of what I wanted the book to be about and lots of cool scenes that had written themselves in my head and so forth. That made this process a mix of putting the pieces in their proper places and filling in the blanks.

    The elephant tromped into the room when it came time to actually write the chapters so summarized on my outline. I stepped forward, hands outstretched, and started feeling that guy.

    It was my book. I knew the basic shape.  So there was no, ‘Oh, this is a snake…’ garbage. But it was definitely a process of discovery as I wrote each chapter. Some details (a lot of them really) made themselves known, either springing from my subconscious or becoming obvious due to context. Others, also a lot, I had to forge and hammer out in the creative fires. And it was all fun to do.

    Later I realized that things were much easier for me if I also outlined each chapter before I actually started in on the actual prose. In most cases, what I ended up with was less an outline for each chapter than notes on my brainstorming session for the chapter, roughly chrono-organized. Once I knew where I was going to that level of detail, getting there was almost all fun. The niftiest things pop up out of nowhere.

    The principle?  Same as always. Just climb on and write.

    My process is definitely more mechanical than a pure discovery writer, but less mechanical than some outliners. It’s mine, it works for me. It will probably change. And someday I fully expect to discover that it’s not an elephant at all but a bloody Tiger, and have to change everything.


    Thus ends my very first POST ON WRITING.

  • Working out, exercise.

    A guy named Mark Rippetoe once said, “Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.” I’ve found this to be true, not just in my military experiences, but in life generally.

    I’m not talking about powerlifters. I’m talking about people who could help me move all my boxes of books without hurting themselves. People who could grab the A pillar of my car when I forget to put on the brake and keep it from rolling away while I do.

    Nor am I talking about marathon runners. I’m talking about people who could run up five flights of stairs and tell me the building’s on fire without losing consciousness in the middle of the critical sentence. People who could take the scout troop on a hike or a bike ride and not get left behind.

    Like the man said, ‘more useful in general.’

    Where are these people? I look around and it seems there are fewer everyday.

    In fact, the US is finally emerging from a long awkward period where, in the collective consciousness, being ‘in shape’ meant being either a powerlifter or a marathon runner. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being a powerlifter or a marathon runner. The problem was not with the disciplines themselves. The problem was that people grew up thinking that anything different or less focused was not worthwhile. The concept of simply being in the kind of shape that would allow you to do a lot of varied physical work was lost. If you didn’t want to be a boulder or a stick figure, exercising was not for you. We are the poorer for it.

    There’s a new movement out there that focuses on ‘capacity for work’ when it comes to exercising. It stresses the right things, in my opinion, and can be scaled to any desired level of intensity. Alas, I fear that my generation may largely be lost to it.

    Working out under this school of thought is still hard. Varied work doesn’t mean easy work. The deal with the wall is still the same: “You hit the wall and the wall moves back an inch. Repeat.” The varied routines and exercises are more interesting to work through, but you still have to fight through the suck if you want to improve.

    In my opinion one of the easiest places to start is CrossFit. Read up, be smart, and regularly push past your limits. It won’t take you long and as you learn it will get easier.

    I promise you’ll feel better. Your body was designed to get stronger.