FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Year in Weekly Reading: Africa, the Navy, Foreign Affairs, Travel, Reading, Family, God and Leadership

I only started posting my weekly reading summaries beginning this past April but you will find a few hundred great articles from this past year.  Many of them are #longreads so enjoy!

What I read this week:  I read a quite a few articles that sprouted up in response to a young naval officer's 'resignation letter'--most were unsympathetic to her millennial assertions and aspirations.  

Stanley McChrystal on how to shake up the military.  His milkshake brings all the CEOs to the yard.

Incoming: Thank You for Your Service.  A 4-star that quotes Jim Morrison--gotta love him.

The Science of Improving Your Performance at Almost Anything.  Deliberate short practice 'chunks' and get plenty of sleep.

The Introvert’s Guide to Surviving an In-Person Conference.  It's amazing what forcing yourself to smile can do.  It works when you hit a rough patch while running too.

How successful people work less—and get more done -- Don't work more than 50 hours a week, it will cost you.

The Disintegration of the World -- Geopolitical consultancy now a hot commodity for businesses.

How Serious is the Rebalance? US Military Record Tells (part of) the Story -- Is the US military really sold on the rebalance to Asia?

$30 for a roll of aluminum foil.  A place that makes Nigeria looks like Switzerland.   It's frightening to think how much the myriad global companies dumping in hundreds of millions must be making off this country.  

A rehash bash of powerpoints which is always entertaining.  This one is a bit of a deep dive which is refreshing.  I am a big fan of using a powerpoint with no words--only pictures or maps.  RADM Lemmons--a former Director of International Engagement for the Navy used to talk for 45 fascinating minutes off three slides that just had photos and a map on them.  
The Delta.  Navy EOD stud Brad Snyder loses his eyesight to an IED and rediscovers meaning in the swimming pool and a new direction in his life.  
This is probably pretty true.  That's why it's vital that you have sharp people on your country team downrange--as this author aptly points out.  I will say this--don't listen to 'natural health people'--AMBIEN is your friend.  It is vital that you get sleep on that red-eye or on that first night.  
Focus on the person that you're with.  Ask yourself what connections can I make for other people?!
Fascinating read.  "For people like Sagarra who study the way our brains make sense of new languages, the challenge is figuring out when learning actually takes place. When is the brain playing by the new rules? In 2013, Sagarra and her colleague Nick Ellis, of the University of Michigan, foundthrough eye-tracking technology that people’s proficiency level determines where they spend their time concentrating. In that particular study, the investigators focused on adverb-verb congruency (“Yesterday the man eats” versus “Yesterday the man ate”) among English and Romanian learners of Spanish."
A great retro-read from 2009 on Army COIN work in Afghanistan.  It's illuminating to read in light of where we are today.  
Wow. Just wow.  This article reads like a twilight zone political thriller.  Incredible reporting that delves into the quasi-state Russian sponsored global troll/pseudo-news network.  This will blow your mind a little bit.
Mandatory reading.  An unfathomable account of a kidnapped journalist tale of survival amidst Somali pirates--and an interesting thought piece on paying ransoms.

Who knew that the wine world got down like this...
Love me some Paris insider information.
One of the best writers today tells the heart-breaking tale of her father's kidnapping in Nigeria.   It's one of those pieces that sticks with you and can you give the reader more insight into a country than 20 pieces of political analysis.  Adiche fails to mention, HOWEVER, that she and her father are dual-citizens (US and Nigeria) and she leaves out just who helped get her father back--a glaring omission.
An Egyptian Arab Baptist revival in the Bible belt--a fascinating piece.  I'd be curious to get more background on the Arab Baptists--are they all Muslim converts or are some Coptic Christian Baptist crossovers?
The Supe at the Naval Academy pens a thoughtful piece on receiving thanks for one's service.  I love his suggested response: "Thank you for your trust."
I like his suggestion for 15 minutes of mobility work you can do in the office without getting all sweaty.
Stavridis continues to kill it with these pieces--it's so intimidating to be confronted with such a prolific writer and academic.
McConnel is one of the top pens reporting in Africa--I make sure to read everything he writes.
A story with excellent research that tells the story of the hard fought battles for growth within the aviation industry.
A rather brutal story that never made it to the international press back in 2012.
Yikes.  Flee Rwanda only to be choked to death in your hotel room.  From genocide to assassination in Rwanda.
I began my love affair with moleskine notebooks on 11 November 2013.  You know how I know that date? Because I looked in my moleskin notebook that's on my desk.
Interesting history on Amsterdam's love affair...with bikes.
Gritty Americana writing on the Bakersfield sound, a slowly dying Honky-Tonk and the melancholy existence of a fading Elvis.

Thorough and fascinating reporting on the most secretive SEAL team.  With contribution by none other than my former detailer and friend John Ismay.  
The power of "done."
A quick bio on the nations newest PLOTUS (Poet Laureate Of The United States).  Witty, funny and on-target poetry--I've added his incredibly titled 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007  to my Amazon wish list.  
Now that my WIRLW is kind of a thing--I want to further delineate the trove of links and articles with the Best Thing I Read All Week (BTIRAW).  The WIRL column is useful for me because I read so many articles every week but previously had no repository (aside from the Evernote notebook I created online).  Finally, for me it's a good analytical exercise to condense what I read into a short sentence or two.

Powerful autobiographical #longread about Rwandan genocide flee-er turned wandering refugee turned Yale student turned young woman who found her voice.   Her story casts aside any easy categorizations of her struggle and journey.  I found myself checking the cursor on the right side of my IPAD screen to see how much of the article I had left--I didn't want it to end.  For someone who admits struggling with her English writing--she is superb.  Incidentally, this story is published on medium.com which in Comoros (where I am right now) you can't access without using a VPN.
Les Autres:
I've found this to be especially true in Madagascar--especially when you invite a counterpart and his/her spouse to an event--they will almost always reply yes for both people but then only one shows up.  Personally, I think the idea of an aspirational RSVP is juvenile and rubbish.
Hilarious.  All English majors dream of having a position from which we can dictate our very own 'elements of style'
A good reality check and warning against religion (versus love for God).
A nice plug from Men's Journal.  I previously wrote about two of the books he mentions (Redeployment and Preparation for the Next Life) herehere, and here.
Stavridis--the writing machine plugs ideas for Afloat Staging Base and highlights opportunities for public-private partnership.
A lengthy Navy Times investigation into the tragic mishap that occurred at my old squadron HS-6.  It highlights that facts that aviation squadrons can write HAZREPs till they are blue in the face but if SWOs aren't required to read them it is often all for nought.
One of my favorite writers that I only discovered this past year.  I've written about this author several times--despite some philosophical/moral differences I am sad that his reign within the realm of the written word has passed.
An unlikely story about a sector that sorely needs reform.
I've got mad respect for cobblers, much like the disappearing shoeshine stand, they are a dying breed. If you invest in nice dress shoes, a good cobbler is a godsend.  I've had several shoes resoled through the years and I personally preferred them in their repaired state to when I first bought them.  
Eye opening read on life in South Sudan.  
I like the disruption suggestion of making academic literature more relevant...and more widely read.
Six fascinating articles on learning languages.
An online photo museum of Madagascar.  This has some great photos of original construction of many of the buildings around town...from the 50's and 60s.
An intriguing excerpt from Julia Siler's The House of Mondavi.  It reads like a soap opera and tickled my interests enough to add it to my Amazon wish list for Christmas. 
An ode to the joys of of sommeliers.
An inspiring look at the re-entry program headed by the Anti-Recidivism Coalition that focuses on relationships and which is led by former prisoners.
In which Hemingway says the "Racing Form" (with regard to the subject of going to the races) is the true art of fiction.
A working habit he has had from the beginning, Hemingway stands when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.
A great post related to the exploding heroin addiction problem in the United States.  Turns out addiction is less pronounced and powerful when people are in community.  People crave relationships...we were made for them.
It was only recently translated from Italian into English.  It's billed as a multi-generational fictional history of Libya beginning from the 1900s in the vein of the epic The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street --one of my favorites.  I just started it and am adding it to my 2015 Reading List.  
In which a very intelligent writer named Ursula Lindsey lays out exactly why The Confines of the Shadow is such an important book.
Cool little video about a Malagasy stunt bike rider named Dada up in Nosy Be.
Don't need to say much more than the title.   The hiker described has started a cool charity called The Far Sight Foundation .  He was the first blink hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail--check out his website.
A great post from the Chaplain for Mercy Ships that is here in Madagascar right now.  In it he offers a template to write out your hopes for your children by the time they turn 18.  Working backward from that then gives you an ability to build up those characteristics in your children.
A preacher's journey toward an expansive understanding of pro-life the grew from one focused on protecting the unborn to also protecting life in general through gun control.  Personally, I tend to agree that protecting the unborn goes hand in hand with fighting gun violence from a consistency aspect.
While we're reading about the value of life, this is a sober account of what the aftermath of a missile strike looks like for civilians.  So often, the actuality of these events are masked behind passive headlines--it's important to remember that a person's value is independent of their country of origin and that government's relationship to another.
An intriguing and frightening glimpse into the seedy underworld of Japan's crime world.  The depth to which the photographer seems to have been lulled into its pull speaks to families' power--he glosses over the deleterious aspects of their existence quickly--ignoring the implications of prostitution, bribery and corruption.
While Soamiely may be pretty much the only person writing in English on Malagasy culture and politics, he's also an incredible talented and interesting writer.  He's on my weekly reading list.  This article is a great example from June this year in which he dissects the (in)efficacy of the government in Madagascar to make concrete progress.
I will just give you the rule: "If an argument crosses over from anger to contempt, it needs to stop immediately."
This is a bit more of Moyo's "Dead Aid" redux...foreign aid comes in so many shapes and flavors it is quite difficult to quantify on a purely economic/quantitative basis. For example, you can't really quantify the economic effect of 15 million mosquito nets for example. On the other end of the spectrum sometimes those nets are used by fishermen instead...the best aspect that the author highlights is the difficult of quantifying aid since so many of the variables are micro (i.e., local) ones.
The third installment of an expected 17 volumes of Hemingway's letters.  Hemingway is one of my favorite writers (along with Salter and Markham) so this volume will automatically get added to my Amazon wish list.  Evidently Hemingway was not as stoic and guarded in his letters as he was in his fiction.
A fascinating look at the poor tired huddled masses that have come to the US from around the world over the past 100 years.  Who knew that the largest immigrant population group in South Dakota is Ethiopia...and in PA is China.
For whatever reason I've been coming across a lot of Libya-Italy articles/literature.  Unfortunately, Scego's novel has yet to be translated into English.  BUT, I'm currently reading another Italian-Libyan author named Spina's newly-ish translated The Confines of the Shadow--a century long look at life and colonization in Italy.
In the meantime you can read one of Scega's translated short stories: Sausages
The age old question.  And an article that examines the important question of territorial sovereignty as a function of state legitimacy.
Project cure.  I am hard pressed to see a better way to spend $100.  
Yeah, the title of the article says it all.  Not an impossibility 100 years from now.  
A lovely little vignette that captures the special relationship enjoyed by the children of ex-pats and their household help.
CJ Chivers is pretty much the man when it comes to reporting and this is an amazing tribute to him but also to the importance of family. 
Quick summary--a ton.  If you are an American, South Africa is pretty much the most awesome place to vacation right now.  The dollar is super strong--you can live like a prince there.  An amazing dinner for two with apps, dinner, dessert, bottle of wine at a nice restaurant will run you maybe $40...it's crazy--why haven't you bought your plane ticket yet.
Beautiful little vignette on Sicily but also father-son relationships.
Can't hate on the good old broil.
Before 1883 the US had over 300 different time zones--who knew?  A well-researched cogent argument for ditching the daylight savings system.  You can follow her on twitter here.
McConnell is quite simply one of the best reporters in Africa today.  If he writes it, I read it--you should too.  This is a must read article for senior military leaders and policy-makers alike.  Key quote:  "It matters because global terrorism and the international ivory trade are distinct problems, requiring different strategies; conflating the two risks undermining the fight against both." 
Donald Miller's 'Storyline Blog' is mandatory reading for introverts (I'm a borderline introvert) and I know exactly what he means about a people hangover.  
If your church or group sends Christmas shoeboxes abroad to Africa --PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE read this helpful post first.
Great article by the prolific Staviridis.  Some great food for thought--I especially liked the idea of integrating the Af-Pak hands cadre across appropriate military planning staffs.  And of course, I also appreciation his plug for foreign area officers.
A rather complex wicked problem here in Madagascar.  Over 60% of children in Madagascar suffering from stunting--that is to say, chronic and lasting malnutrition that not only affect height but also long-term cognitive ability.
Looks like an interesting new magazine--but unfortunately the only way to read it is to download it as a PDF...not the most user friendly.
Short explanation: crack down on the financial flow from Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.
Published this past March, this is THE definitive 'scenesetter' on ISIS and its origins--a terrifying read.
Ezra Klein breaks it down a very complex subject in a digestible manner.
A good historical background on Saudi.
A great read and a challenging article about the dangers of unguided tolerance.
21 Steps is quite thorough BUT not one of them involves checking their facebook/twitter accounts.
This story will blow your mind!  I never had any idea about Squanto's incredible path.
A good reminder about preparing ours hearts for Christmas
Born to Run is one of my favorite books and made me fall in love with running.
Fascinating look at what makes a state a state and the wide disparity in Africa.

Such a beautifully written article about language, culture, identity and writing--a piece that will be cherished by every English major.
Terrific geeky article on the history and eclectic path of the English language.
An interesting idea by RZA...truly turning music into art.  A better execution might have been to sell it to a museum and that way people would have to physically travel to the museum to listen to the album.

So this dude just got arrested on securities fraud--guess he got what he had coming to him.  Guess he can try out his Wu-Tang style in prison, en garde.
Great little vignette on good old Mister Rogers.
Good OSC work being done to consolidate lessons learned from the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
Fascinating article...you likely won't guess the largest constituency buying up land in Africa--you will have to click to find out.  While you are clicking, check out two great books below.

I've been on quite a few flights out here where I've spent most of the time praying...that the plane wouldn't fall apart.
Brit Ash Dyke is attempting to become the first person to traverse the world's 4th largest island on foot.
These are the types of articles every American should read.  Islam, the Koran and Islamism are too often simplified and then misunderstood by our society at large.  On its face, the idea of wearing the 'hijab' in solidarity seems to be a praiseworthy idea but as the author demonstrates running through the Koran, the 'hijab' is used in many muslim cultures to denigrate and control women.  And on the other side of the argument, in some cultures wearing the 'hijab' is nearly devoid of any religious connotation.
A beautifully written piece that should be mandatory reading for everyone--especially anyone with a knee-jerk reaction in either direction.
Great book review by BJ Armstrong that completely sold me on the need for this book to be on every naval officer's bookshelf...filled with highlights.

This is the reading list you wish you were smart enough to tackle.  That said, I did find a few books (that I may or may not understand) to add to my wish list (below)

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