Book Guilt?

Writing Techniques

What are you reading? Seems like an innocent-sounding question, especially among friends. But do you ever hesitate and wonder how your friend will react to what you’re really reading?

We used to use terms like “highbrow” and “lowbrow” to differentiate books like War and Peace from a trashy Gothic novel, but those terms are out of vogue.

But still, sometimes we have “book guilt” that what we’re reading doesn’t have sufficient “heft” or isn’t meaningful enough. I liked how Erin Smith addressed this in the Wall Street Journal:

Nearly everyone who considers themselves well-read, or just desires to be, has a book, or several, that haunts them—the classic they haven’t read.

Some take that one book on vacation, a seemingly surefire way of plowing through, and never crack the cover. Others keep an ever-lengthening list of books they feel they must read, or never forget the one they lied about completing in high school, or lied about at a cocktail party last week.

Is book guilt effective inspiration, or should it be left on the shelf with that lonely copy of “Ulysses”?

Amazon senior books editor Chris Schluep, previously a longtime editor at Random House, suggests people dealing with book guilt stop beating themselves up. If not having read a particular author is causing you stress, he says, choose the author’s shortest book.

Mr. Schluep also often reads works by Herman Melville and Daniel Defoe when waiting in line—a few pages at a time over however long it takes counts as reading. And before you dive in, Mr. Schluep suggests, get a second opinion from someone whose taste you trust. It may just be that the book isn’t for you.

Mostly, he thinks readers should just let the book guilt go. “People are way too judgmental about books,” especially the classics, Mr. Schluep says.

And if there is one particular book you just can’t struggle through, there is a way to get the gist of a classic work without doing the work. “Watch the movie,” he says.

You can read this entire insightful article here.

The U.S. Navy and Missile Defense

uss-george-washington

Last week, we posted information about the existential threat posed by Chinese ballistic missiles. It is a threat that bedevils United States national security professionals who must devise an effective counter to this real – and growing – threat. Here is part of what I posted on the Defense Media Network website:

Dealing with just the multi-headed hydra of the Chinese ballistic missile threat is a complex issue that belies a complete treatment here. Clearly, in the case of dealing with the threat the DF-21D poses for U.S. carrier strike groups that operate in the Western Pacific, a large part of the response must be naval. Add to this the fact that, as pointed out above, China’s decision to deploy the DF-21D on mobile launching systems makes it less likely that the missile can be destroyed before it is launched.

Without putting too fine of a point on it, this compels U.S. Navy carrier strike groups (CSGs) – as well as other battle formations such as expeditionary strike groups – to contend with this missile in the maritime arena. It is for this reason that the nation and the Navy are outfitting existing and emerging Aegis cruisers and destroyers, which will provide the lion’s share of the naval defense against ballistic missiles, with Aegis BMD at an accelerated pace. Clearly, the flexibility and mobility of these platforms makes them not only vital – but indispensable – assets to defend these strike groups.

Read more about the United States journey to provide world-class missile defense – and especially how the U.S. Navy is leading the way in our defense against China’s ballistic missiles – in my series of articles on missile defense on the Defense Media Network’s website here.

Being Needed

04brooks-master768

While most of us consider our lives busy – often too busy – at the end of the day what often motivates us to stay so busy is that we want to feel needed by others. But what if we aren’t?

I recently read an article co-authored by the Dalai Lama and New York Times columnist Arthur Brooks. It spoke about the dangers of not being needed. Here is part of what they said:

“In many ways, there has never been a better time to be alive. Violence plagues some corners of the world, and too many still live under the grip of tyrannical regimes. And although all the world’s major faiths teach love, compassion and tolerance, unthinkable violence is being perpetrated in the name of religion.”

“And yet, fewer among us are poor, fewer are hungry, fewer children are dying, and more men and women can read than ever before. In many countries, recognition of women’s and minority rights is now the norm. There is still much work to do, of course, but there is hope and there is progress.”

“How strange, then, to see such anger and great discontent in some of the world’s richest nations. In the United States, Britain and across the European Continent, people are convulsed with political frustration and anxiety about the future. Refugees and migrants clamor for the chance to live in these safe, prosperous countries, but those who already live in those promised lands report great uneasiness about their own futures that seems to border on hopelessness.”

“Why?” A small hint comes from interesting research about how people thrive. In one shocking experiment, researchers found that senior citizens who didn’t feel useful to others were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did feel useful. This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to be needed.”

Read more of this insightful article here.

Tricks of the Trade

Writing Techniques

We all know that empathy is important. And most of us tell ourselves we need to have more empathy for others. It’s a worthy call, but many times we fall short.

Want a trick of the trade? Try reading fiction. I read a great article by Susan Pinker that validated what I thought I knew, I just needed sometime to explain it in a way that made sense.

Here is part of what she suggested in her great article: “Novel Findings: Fiction Makes Us Feel for Others.”

“We’ve long known about the collateral benefits of habitual reading—a richer vocabulary, for example. But that’s only part of the picture. Mounting evidence over the past decade suggests that the mental calisthenics required to live inside a fictional character’s skin foster empathy for the people you meet day-to-day.”

“In 2006, a study led by University of Toronto psychologists Keith Oatley and Raymond Mar connected fiction-reading with increased sensitivity to others. To measure how much text the readers had seen in their lifetimes, they took an author-recognition test—a typical measure for this type of study. “The more fiction people read, the better they empathized,” was how Dr. Oatley summarized the findings. The effect didn’t hold for nonfiction.”

“The results? Once competing variables were statistically stripped away, fiction reading predicted higher levels of empathy. Such readers also lived large in the flesh-and-blood social sphere, with richer networks of people to provide entertainment and support than people who read less fiction. This finding put to rest the stereotype of bookworms as social misfits who use fictional characters as avatars for real friends and romantic partners.”

Thought provoking? You can read the full article here.

Scorched Earth

Scorched Earth_Cover

The focus on our latest Tom Clancy Op-Center book, Scorched Earth, is Iraq and specifically Mosul. When we began writing the book in 2015 we anticipated a long-drawn-out battle for Mosul and that is where, in December 2016, the battle still rages. And most experts predict the battle for Mosul if far from over.

We’re pleased that Tom Clancy Op-Center: Scorched Earth continues to receive positive reviews. Here is what the latest reviewer had to say:

When George Galdorisi took on Tom Clancy’s series we didn’t know what to expect; could he fill the giant shoes left with Clancy’s passing.  In Out of the Ashes he answered that question with a flourish.  Now, with Scorched Earth, Galdorisi continues to amaze.  He has pulled a page from today’s headlines making Scorched Earth relevant with your morning coffee.  This next installment of the Op-Center series takes us back into the envelope of potential world conflagration.

The novel starts off with an unexpected and gritty assassination, throwing us into the action from the get-go.  The situation unstoppably escalates to the point where the Op-Center needs to get involved.  Chase Williams and his somewhat incorrigible cast of characters jump into the fray feet first.  The action is fast and furious and takes very few prisoners.  Just when you think there’s resolution, another wrench is thrown into the machinery taking the situation in a new direction.  New characters, both good and bad, are added with the great character development that Galdorisi has come to be known for.

Scorched Earth twists and turns, leaving the reader with resolution, but at the same time, open to something new.  It’s a “page-turner” taking you from the politically incorrect environs of DC to IED laden byways a half a world away.  Even though it seems the terrorist are going to have a field day with this one, the Op-Center geeks and operators get into action keeping you guessing.  Galdorisi’s novel is an enjoyable and satisfying read, introducing new characters and concepts for future development.  Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

Missile Defense

uss-john-c-stennis

The recent presidential election campaign highlighted many issues between the United States and China. And beyond this campaign, there are many issues that the world’s two superpowers must resolve. But often lost in this dialogue is the clear and present danger presented by China’s ballistic missiles. We hear a lot about North Korea’s missile efforts, but not China’s.

Clearly, China’s ballistic missiles represent just one arrow in a quiver of offensive and defensive weapons in China’s arsenal. And just as there is danger in attempting to address this capability in isolation, it is also not especially useful examining U.S. capabilities to defend against these missiles in a stovepiped manner. In any conflict – and even in the context of saber-rattling – it is important to examine the total force each nation brings to the table today, and perhaps more importantly, in the future.

That said, it is possible to drill down and examine this one capability in detail as a means of understanding not only China’s strategic intent today, but also its likely course in the future, and perhaps most importantly, the measures the United States it taking to enable the U.S. military to address this threat today and tomorrow. There is a vast body of work in this area, and reading just some of it will put this threat in stark relief.

Read more about the United States journey to provide world-class missile defense – and especially defense against China’s ballistic missiles – in my series of articles on missile defense on the Defense Media Network’s website here.

Happy Enough?

20rosin-americatheanxious-master768

The American Declaration of Independence speaks to the importance of, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It’s not an overstatement to say that most of us are zealous in that worthy pursuit. But once we’ve satisfied our basic wants in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, when do we decide how much happiness is enough?

Hanna Rosin’s review of Ruth Whippman’s new book, America the Anxious: How our Pursuit of Happiness is creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks pulls back the curtain on this important question. In Rosin’s words:

“I had largely forgotten that slap in the face until I read Ruth Whippman’s new book, “America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness Is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks.” For us natives, reading this book can be an unnerving experience. Whippman, who is a transplanted British writer, moved to California when her husband got a job here. She spent much of her time settling in her family, but all the while she was watching us — how we read, eat, work, medicate, exercise and pray. And what she noticed the most was how the same subject comes up all the time: happiness.”

“Tuning into this alien internal monologue reveals her grand thesis about America: The problem with our quest for happiness is that, apparently, it’s making us miserable. After some idle Googling, her suspicions are confirmed. Various clever studies by psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, show that “paradoxically, the more people valued and were encouraged to value happiness as a separate life goal, the less happy they were.” When it comes to emotional temperament, America is the clumsy suitor of nations. We yearn and obsess and plot new elaborate strategies as the object of our desire shrinks ever farther away. It’s a little embarrassing.”

Want to tweak your pursuit of happiness and make it less frenetic?  You can read the full article here.

Chaos Monkeys

If there is one “entity” that has fascinated America – and likely the world – it’s Silicon Valley. It’s where we look for innovation, for cutting-edge ideas, and for the products and services that influence our lives. While Silicon Valley is a catch-all phrase for both a region and an industry, to paraphrase the Willie Nelson song, “It is always on our mind.”

But what do we really know about Silicon Valley? The answer is: Not much. Now, Antonio Garcia Martinez has written and insider’s account: Chaos Monkeys. Here is part of what David Streitfeld offers in his review of Martinez’s book that really does take you deep inside Silicon Valley:

“The literature of Silicon Valley is exceedingly thin. The tech overlords keep clear of writers who are not on their payrolls or at least in their thrall. Many in the valley feel that bringing the digital future to the masses is God’s work. Question this, and they tend to get touchy. Anger them, and they might seek revenge. The billionaire investor Peter Thiel, outed by the local arm of the Gawker media empire, secretly financed a lawsuit to destroy it. Silicon Valley did not rise en masse and say this was seriously beyond the pale. No surprise, then, that there are so few books investigating what it really takes to succeed in tech (duplicity often trumps innovation) or that critically examine such omnipresent, comforting fables as “We’re not in it for the money.””

“Antonio García Martínez’s Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley, a book whose bland all-purpose title belies the fact that this is a valley account like no other. The first hint that something is different here comes with the dedication: “To all my enemies: I could not have done it without you.” This is autobiography as revenge, naming names and sparing few, certainly not the author. “I was wholly devoid of most human boundaries or morality,” he notes in passing. In other words, he was a start-up chief executive.”

“The heart of the book is the period García Martínez spent at his start-up, which was intended to allow small businesses to efficiently advertise on Google. It was an auspicious moment. While the rest of the world was struggling to recover from the recession, the office parks of the valley were full of aggressive young men who had made pots of money by being early employees of Google. To prove they were not merely lucky, they needed to score again. Everyone was terrified of missing the next Facebook or, a little later, the next Airbnb or Uber. Smart entrepreneurs capitalized on these fears.”

A thought provoking insider’s view? You can read the full article here

Missile Defense

aegis-ballistic-missile-defense

Last month, we posted about missile defense and the U.S. Navy’s lead role in dealing with this existential threat to our nation and our allies. We continue that theme here about the ongoing evolution of this critical pillar in our national defense. Whether it is North Korean or Iranian ballistic missiles, the threat is here today and it is growing.

The National Security Strategy underscored the most important functions of the national government:

This administration has no greater responsibility than the safety and security of the American people.  And there is no greater threat to the American people then weapons of mass destruction, particularly the danger posed by the pursuit of nuclear weapons by violent extremists and their proliferation to additional states.

Today, as described earlier, the global ballistic missile threat has morphed from massed numbers of ICBMs unleashed by a peer competitor to the threat of accidental release of a ballistic missile or the threat of one fired by a so-called rogue nation or a national or international terrorist group.  And the threat of what these ballistic missiles could carry – from solely nuclear WMD to chemical and biological WMD – has multiplied the number of nations that can combine these capabilities to threaten the United States, forward-deployed forces, allies, and friends.

Read more about the United States journey to provide world-class missile defense in my series of articles on missile defense on the Defense Media Network’s website here

Our Online World

0911-bks-ronson-blog427

Who are you? Are there two yous? Increasingly, we have two personas, one we exhibit in person and an entirely different one. This is something that is all new in our society, and something brought on by the internet. Our personas and our behavior does change when we go online. A ground-breaking book helps us understand way.

Jon Ronson titles his review of Mary Akind’s book, “The Cyber Effect,” “Offline Jekylls, Online Hydes,” and it is apt, because while in person we typically adhere to what we feel “polite society” demands, offline we often are different people, sometimes people who are unrecognizable to our family and close friends. Here is part of what Ronson offers:

“This is her provocative and at times compelling thesis: The internet — “the largest unregulated social experiment of all time,” in the words of the clinical psychologist Michael Seto — is turning us, as a species, more mentally disordered, anxious, obsessive, narcissistic, exhibitionist, body dysmorphic, psychopathic, schizophrenic. All this might unleash a “surge in deviant, criminal and abnormal behavior in the general population.” We check our mobile devices 1,500 times a week, sometimes even secretly, before the plane’s pilot tells us it’s safe. Our ethics have become so impaired that some of us take selfies in front of people threatening to jump from bridges. (Having spent years with people disproportionately shamed on social media for some minor transgression, I can attest to how the internet can rob people of empathy.)”

“She paints an evocative image of sitting on a train to Galway, watching a woman breast-feed her baby: “The baby was gazing foggily upward . . . looking adoringly at the mother’s jaw, as the mother continued to gaze adoringly at her device.” How will such a seemingly tiny behavioral shift like less eye contact between mother and baby play out over time? Aiken asks. “This small and simple thing, millions of babies around the world getting less eye contact and less one-on-one attention, could result in an evolutionary blip. Yes, I said it. Evolutionary blip. Less eye contact could change the course of human civilization.””

Thought provoking? You can read the full article here