In 2018, let’s throw out the surface labels in the Pikes Peak region

*Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on December 31, 2017. It can also be found online here.

I don’t always do it. But I scrolled through the comments in response to a recent opinion column of mine on the giant blue frame in the Garden of the Gods (may it rest in peace). I read them all.

This time, there were a couple that pierced my armor. One called me a “military carpetbagger,” and another said I “haven’t lived here long enough to have a stake in this issue.”

Both are worth a moment of thought. Just how long does it take a resident to gain “a stake” in local decisions? When does a “carpetbagger” become a “local?” And what is the right balance between the wishes of long-term residents and ideas of relative newcomers in a city? Continue reading “In 2018, let’s throw out the surface labels in the Pikes Peak region”

36 Black Swans, Gray Swans, and Pink Flamingoes to Watch in 2018

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

While driving along the shore of Lake Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island in September 2011, I saw them for the first time.

Black Swans.

My wife and I pulled over, jumped out, and spent a half hour with the darkly elegant cousins of the waterfowl we were accustomed to in North America. Black swans, of course, were at one time presumed not to exist (so much so there was a Latin phrase coined to cement their perceived non-existence)—until later eras, when travel to Australia and New Zealand (where they are commonly found) revealed their earthly presence.

Since then, a famous book has popularized “black swans” as a commonly used metaphor for the disproportionate effects of previously unobserved, high-impact, hard-to-predict, and rare events (in Rumsfeldian parlance, “unknown unknowns”). Continue reading “36 Black Swans, Gray Swans, and Pink Flamingoes to Watch in 2018”

Four Moments of Warrior Wisdom from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

It’s here. Unless you’ve been slumming it on Dagobah or hanging around some empty desert planet, you probably noticed Star Wars: The Last Jedi consumed all of Earth’s attention this past weekend. Even the early returns indicate the movie will make a ton of money, and critics already love the show.

But for those responsible for real wars, there’s more to this picture than 153 minutes of eye candy. There are four moments, four lines, four quotations—embedded in the script—that would speak wisdom for those warriors willing to listen. What follows (don’t worry, no spoilers) is a brief recounting of these pockets of profound knowledge. Continue reading “Four Moments of Warrior Wisdom from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi””

Big blue frame reaction is misguided anger

*Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on December 19, 2017. It can also be found online here.

It’s been almost a week since the 12-foot-tall blue frame appeared at High Point in the Garden of the Gods, and the sounds of fury have been deafening. “Shocking,” “mistake,” “an eyesore,” and “piece of junk” were just a few of the negative comments in response, spurred on by a local movement to “TakeDownThatFrame” and a popular online petition.

One thing is clear: the digital horde wanted Big Blue gone. And yesterday, they got what they wanted. The city had it removed.

My view is the frame was an earnest mistake. I live within a mile of the Garden and run there at least twice a week, which means that if the giant blue rectangle had stayed as planned through 2018, then I would have been forced to see Big Blue well over 100 times this year.

But then again, it was done. It had already been drilled into the rock. Continue reading “Big blue frame reaction is misguided anger”

From Princesses to Generals: Leia and the Evolution of Women at War

*Note: This essay, co-written with Erica Iverson, was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

“She wasn’t looking for a knight, she was looking for a sword,” wrote the poet Atticus, who might have been thinking of Star Wars’ Leia Organa. Over the forty years of the Star Wars franchise, Leia went from princess to general at the same time American military women were looking to wield their own weapons.

It wasn’t easy, but both found their swords. And they’re not done fighting. Continue reading “From Princesses to Generals: Leia and the Evolution of Women at War”

Social dynamics key to a community’s economic growth

*Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on December 4, 2017. It can also be found online here.

While about 50 million Americans traveled recently for the Thanksgiving holiday, my family stayed put. Normally, as a military family, we’re on the road for the major holidays. One year it’s Christmas in Utah to see my wife’s family and summer break in Minnesota to see my relatives. The next, it’s the other way around.

But not this year. We stayed local, and several neighbors graced our table for the big feast of gratitude. Two are exceptional writers and educators, another’s a lawyer, one a linguist and cybersecurity expert, and another is a retired professional ballerina. An impressive crowd, they collectively share a descriptive term – they’re “Anywheres.” Continue reading “Social dynamics key to a community’s economic growth”