Dear Dad,

It happened again. A troubled kid carried out an unthinkable act — killing his classmates and teachers with a weapon of war.

I remember you said, “I won’t vote for them — they’ll take my guns away.” Since I can’t talk to you, I’ve asked many of the people in my life you would trust most about these military-type weapons.

Uncle Bill said no one should need a weapon like the one he carried in Vietnam just to kill a deer. Your nephew, Franklin — who is still teaching in North Carolina — agreed. …


“Mama Sue, who you gonna vote for?” I asked my 86-year-old grandmother.

“Trump,” she said, without missing a beat. “I’ve never voted for a Democrat for president, and I’m too old to start now.”

Mama Sue represents generations of Huffstetlers who have worked with their hands for a living. When my grandfather filled out his draft card, he listed “Self Farming’’ as his occupation. A friend who taught me to make a half-Windsor knot jokingly called me “first in your family to tie a tie.” That’s about right.

I can empathize with people who wonder why someone like Mama Sue supports Donald Trump. He divides people into winners and losers. And “You have to be wealthy in order to be great,” he said at a campaign rally in May. …


The importance of scoring interviews during customer development.

I had just completed my 30th demo of our product, and I remember leaving the feedback session on cloud nine. As I wrapped up showing our API to the potential customer, he suggested what we were building was “amazing.” Yes, I thought giddily, this is going to work.

It took me a few minutes to come down from the clouds and realize as a founder, I’d been here before…and while it felt good, it could also be—unfortunately—an indication of nothing.

This phenomenon of euphoria is well documented: business founders see what they want to see, or as Ben & Alistair of Lean Analytics might say, “small lies are essential to company founders.” …


I slept with a gay man for six months in Afghanistan.

No one asked. He did not tell.

In 2005, I and 200 Marines in my squadron deployed to Afghanistan to support the global war on terrorism. We were stationed at Bagram air base, a deep bowl surrounded by snowcapped mountains, where it rained and snowed while the sun beamed, prompting one Marine to remark, “Welcome to Afghanistan, the only place on Earth where you get all four seasons and a rocket in the same day.”

We lived in “B-huts,” wooden houses with no internal structure, subdivided into “rooms” by flimsy plywood boards. Every moment was spent in close quarters: working in small offices, eating meals in the chow hall, sleeping in our racks, exercising. We saw each other at our best and our worst, shared secrets and fears, lost patience with and supported one another through the duration of deployment. …


“We want to instantly connect people everywhere to what’s most important to them.” @dickc

Twitter’s new mission statement is 80 characters long but needn’t be more than 40: instantly, connect, everywhere, and important are the four words essential to both understanding Twitter’s success and moving the platform forward from a compelling idea to a powerful, ubiquitous force in the marketplace of information and commerce.

First, Twitter needs to define instantly and clarify if they want to prioritize ease of use or speed of use. Second, one of Twitter’s greatest attributes is allowing users to connect over a continuum of intimacy and familiarity, and they need to leverage that strength as web surfing continues to wane. Third, everywhere clearly means internationally, but Twitter could also utilize its platform to magnify hyperlocal culture as well. …


Armed Forces stress rules of duty, restraint

As I headed to Iraq, I told my family not to worry. Our mission here, like our mission in Afghanistan last year, does not put us in constant danger. While important, it does not provide us with the traditional opportunity for heroics. Nevertheless, the continuous scrutiny and high visibility of the war effort makes my family more concerned this year than last. Even my sister writes more often. While everyone furiously argues whether this conflict will be won or lost, the more important problem is how to learn from our past failures to ensure future victory.

Victory in the information age is more dependent upon the actions or restraint of the individual as much greater responsibility and visibility is given to individual service members. One photo from Abu Ghraib prison exemplifies this principle. Another first in this conflict, some service members have set up personal web logs to comment daily on the progress of the war. If one of them says, “I don’t have body armor,” this might be interpreted as, “no soldiers have body armor.” In this way, an individual service member is self-selected to serve as an ambassador of the entire Armed Forces or even all Americans. Terrorists have made this the foundation of their fight, knowing that the despicable acts or miscues of a few can wash away the thousand kind and brave deeds of others. Thus, victory has been privatized — not from the public sphere to the private sphere, but from “dependent upon the unit,” to “dependent upon the individual.” Because of instantaneous information flow, victory in a strategic sense is now privatized. …


A Corporal can destroy all a battalion creates

What causes terrorism? An excellent question, but one best answered by someone like Aristotle. A more interesting, and perhaps answerable, question is what causes terrorism to be used?

Disintermediation—the process of cutting out the middleman—is typically used in reference to the removal of intermediaries in a supply chain. Its application in other contexts is less clear. In terms of information, this principle allows parents to look up symptoms of their child’s illness at WebMD without directly consulting the doctor. It allows shoppers at Bizrate.com to compare prices on digital cameras. Starting with newspapers and evolving into the Internet, disintermediation continually puts us closer to the information we seek. As a society, we welcome disintermediation. …


Corps has the skills to restore order, setup services

Recent events in the Gulf Coast remind us that FEMA and the federal government in general are not organized to swiftly deploy in support of situations that require rapid-fire decisions, extended self-sustainment, and dangerous conditions. What I cannot understand is why we do not employ members of the federal government whose job already fits this description — United States Marines.

The official mission of the United States Marine Corps as established in the National security act of 1947 is to ensure that Marines are trained, organized, and equipped for offensive amphibious employment and as a “force in readiness.” …


It’s time for the Marine Corps to make better use of its Internet capabilities. 

Introduction
The motto of the Marine Corps Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) group is “Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast.” Although this is a reasonable idea given the task of directing all the information management activities in the Marine Corps, the C4 motto could do a better job in its implementation. While the motto suggests a top-down approach to information management, the Marine Corps’ current strategy is everything but. As the Training NCO with VMAQ-3, I regularly encounter instances where better-managed information would benefit everyone. …


It’s time to do more than talk about the problem. 

The Marine Corps desperately needs additional translators who can speak critical languages including Arabic and Dari. The translators are needed to support our warriors who are currently engaged with the enemy as well as supporting the indigenous populations of countries around the world. To identify, train, and deliver these translators out to the fleet as soon as possible, we need to do a much better job of identifying, recruiting, and placing those who demonstrate an aptitude to learn a foreign language.

Case in point, Corporal Howell, a Marine with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron Three (VMAQ-3). He is an outstanding young leader that is responsible for a great deal more than most 20-year olds. A native of Montgomery, Alabama, he scored a 285 on his last Physical Fitness Test, has completed 20 Marine Corps Institute courses, and is a Collateral Duty Inspector (CDI) within his Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) shop. …

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