Friday, July 17, 2009

Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton

Jackie and I both read this and liked it. It's the story of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who entered Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 and worked with local, often competing, warlord factions to overthrow the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. You get to know the men and their training prior to deployment and then follow them as they move from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan via the worst helicopter ride you'll ever read about to the headquarters of one of the warlords. They lived with, and at the level of, the local fighters, which is to say they were very deprived and operated under extreme circumstances for long periods of time. It was touch-and-go near the end and could easily have resulted in a campaign that lasted years instead of months. We are a fortunate people to have those among us willing to live the life these Special Forces troops have chosen.
For those who've read "The Kite Runner" and "Three Cups of Tea," this is a compliment to those views of life in Afghanistan. I got a stronger sense of just how widespread and evil the Taliban regime was and how complex Afghan society is. I'm not sure if the country can be governed as a republic in the same way as occurs in the U.S., but it sounds like our initial foray into that country started on the right foot and gave us a better chance as being viewed as liberators rather than conquerors.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Beckie sent this book for Father's Day and mentioned she thought of me while reading it. It was a thoughtful gift. You've probably read about this professor who only had a few months to live and gave a last lecture at his university. He had three small children and wanted to leave snippets of himself for them to access when they were older in addition to the video tapes of him interacting with them. The lecture and book focused on dreams he had as a boy and approaches to life he used to attain those dreams and live that life.

Randy Pausch had a self-described large ego that came through in the book. I found it a little off-putting but in the end also thought he did a good job of weaving his life approaches into the narrative of giving the lecture and approaching the end of life. I also understand why Beckie thought of me because so many of the things he described as approaches to life have come out of my mouth and into the ears of Beckie and Amanda. Maybe the ego was there, too, which is a little disconcerting. He had more specific dreams for the future as a boy than most people I know and did a good job of attaining those dreams.

As a whole, you could do worse than following his advise for living a life. It's a quick and clear read that's worthwhile for all our blogger community. It also brings up the question of how you'd spend your last few months if you knew that was the limit. He made interesting choices with that question.