Mea Culpa

Do you ever look around and realize, based on the reactions of others, just how much you've missed?

Or maybe, how much you are missing right now?

I've been called "hyper-observant" and "obsessively-compulsively pre-meditating", amongst other adjectives and adverbs which are somewhat less complimentary... and it's likely they're all true, to an extent. Whether it's a reaction to the results of previous life-choices or simply a consequence of how my genes were spliced together, I'm not sure. But I tend to pick up on things others miss, make connections (cognitive leaps) some might not.

Right now, I'm picking up on something everyone else probably already knows. I'm realizing that I've missed some really important things lately. And over the course of many moons.

I've tried to spend this weekend reflecting carefully on the meaningful impact the lives of others have had on me, and hopefully marking some meaningful impact I've had on those I love. But from my youth and adolescence in school, to young adulthood, and on to the present, I've reached a conclusion:

I'm shit at acknowledging and respecting the influence others have had on my life. Sometimes I'm just shit at letting them influence my life at all.

I knew Chris "Q" Quinonez.

Which isn't true, really. Sure, we lived and worked together the better part of two years, continued working together occasionally for another two or three after that. We might have hung out once or twice, off-duty, after hours, as groups of us did back then. I remember coming out of my place one day in 2006 or 2007 and seeing him drive by on his route. I ran over to the next place and chatted with him briefly - about who knows what - but I remember him being kind and welcoming and in no particular rush even though he was working. I also remember eating at El Chihuahua (his dads place, his place) - years and years ago - though I can't remember why or even if he had a chance to sit down and chat.

There was a kind of a wry, yet gentle smirk, perpetually fixed to his face. Like he knew the punchline before anyone else, which was probably true. He was always great about coming up with something even more sarcastic and smart-assy... He always had an amazing retort. I remember he would make everyone laugh, though sometimes his comments were lost on the guys with their heads crammed too far up their own asses - myself included - but the laughs would come once everyone had relaxed their sphincters a bit.

Mostly, and especially as I listened to stories this weekend from people who actually knew Q, those who were actually involved in his life, I remembered and marked all the things I couldn't remember about him. I didn't know the women in his life, never met his children, and I only met some of his family for the first time in the ICU. I know he was a postman and I've heard he enjoyed it quite a bit. I know he helped his dad with the restaurant, and I know a lot of The Dudes were very close to him.
I know that I was pretty excited to have that "Add" show up on Facebook a few days ago.

And as I tried to go over all of conversations we ever had in an effort to reconstruct, acknowledge and respect his influence on me, I noticed the voice I had attributed to him began to fade, it didn't quite sound like him anymore in my head. The smirk isn't quite right either, and it's become quite a lot harder to remember things that were fresh just last night...

And yet, more than anything, I am grateful to the Sinners and Saints who've been with him every step, fighting demons right by his side, giving aid and comfort, and supporting his survivors even now. Thank you all for your influence on me, for your example.

May your voices remain clear and true in my head.


Predatory Drive & Acute Stress Response

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor am I a biologist. At best, I'm a shining example of many things one should avoid doing to their body. There is a more specific warning at the end of this article. Enjoy!

If we've had even a small opportunity to work together, you've likely heard me say, "pick a target". I've also very likely gone into some prognostication about why, including words and phrases like "predatory response" and "adrenaline/endorphin release" and "stereoscopic vision".

But, why?

What follows is not something in which I have been educated. At all. My knowledge of biology and anatomy extends only to the basics I've learned in high school and college, a little more from some "combat marksmanship" courses (which revolved around ideal impact zones for lethal/less-lethal wounds), and basic trauma care - most of which I've probably forgotten. So, there are no advanced degrees or formal, professional education that has brought me to this perspective, only experiential and anecdotal evidence that seems to support the theory.

In 1998, I met a man called Jon. Jon was, and is, the consummate Marine. A dedicated marksman, in perpetual pursuit of a classic education, a part-time philosopher... Also a bit of a "warrior monk", similar to Jim Mattis. He had an effeminate manner of speech, and some of his body language raised an eyebrow or two, though no one really cared. He was quirky, and different from most other guys at his level. On top of that, it actually seemed like he cared. If I had been able to pick a mentor, he would have been at the top of my list. And Jon would publish weekly letters to those of us in his charge, many of which I still have and review from time to time. There were a couple of core principles to which he clung, and 'Predatory Drive and Acute Stress Response' is but one.

You may be more familiar with the phrase, "Fight or Flight", an evolutionary conditioned response hard-wired into the brain of most creatures that requires some kind of immediate action to avoid becoming the food of another creature. Many humans, especially in the developed world, will never recognize this state for what it is, simply because it happens so seldomly. But, that split second between you realizing the car crash is going to happen and the actual impact itself, when the corners of your vision go black and you can almost see into the future because you know exactly what is happening... If you've ever hear a story of a mother lifting a car to retrieve a baby, THAT is high-order Acute Stress Response (ASR)

If ASR is one side of that coin, where the adrenaline dump is something that simply happens as a byproduct of a situation outside the subjects control, Predatory Drive would be the other side: wherein the subject causes the adrenaline dump on their own behalf, forcing the body into a heightened state for the sake of advanced performance. This is something that happens fairly frequently with those in the profession of arms, fighters (boxers, wrestlers, MMA and Jits practitioners), and there is even a term used to describe eliciting intended responses for various situations - biohacking

But, how?

The human body is ideal as an endurance predator. Bipedal ambulation, fast- and slow-twitch muscles and groups, stereoscopic vision, stereophonic hearing, thumbs capable of opposition and apposition... The list goes on, and that's before we get into mid-level thought that gives us planning, organization, and strategy, or higher-level, abstract thought. We are machines, designed to perform.

There are a few different ways, apparently, to hack your own system. There are supplement stacks and breathing techniques and mantras, massages, ice baths, isochronic and binaural wave modulations... Each of them can provide various responses, depending on what is being sought. When it comes to an immediate, explosive, physical task, try "picking a target". Pick a mark on the far wall, focus on it. Then...
Breathe. Deeply. Quickly. Full breaths. Then, widen your eyes. Let in as much light as you can stand. Let everything but that point fall out of focus. The corners go black. You feel the hair start to stand on the back of your neck...


Maintain that focus until the task is complete. As soon as you're finished, have a seat. It's not uncommon for a shock-like feeling to come and last 2-5 minutes, especially following a task requiring maximal effort. The hormonal cascade response can trigger a dump of testosterone, estrogen, and cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine, as well as serotonin and dopamine. Using this hack repetitively or routinely for sub-maximal effort tasks is not recommended due to the potential for latent chemical dependencies, especially with regard to serotonin and dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine.


Manifestos/Walk About


There sure is a lot of manifesto-ing going on (Oh, hey Kettle...)

How about this:
Damore can write whatever he wants, wherever he wants, whenever he wants. He's free to do that, provided he doesn't whine about the consequences. You know, like getting his dumb ass fired for alienating 1/3 of his co-workers.
Likewise, Google can fire whomever they like for any reason, or no reason at all. Like, calling out 1/3 of your co-workers and charging professional ineptitude based on chromosomal happenstance, for instance. Google should also be allowed to hire and promote according to whichever qualities contribute to the overall effort in the most efficient fashion.

And it's none of your business or mine, at least until we get stock options.

But there is something to be said here about EVERYONE having an opinion lately. I see these humans, these fitness and philosophy gurus all over social media, looking for that virtual, mass-ego-stroke that comes from repeating some cliched bit about the secret to happiness or how to win at semi-professional exercising...

But they have yet to leave the continent on which they were born, aren't old enough to rent a car without Mommy helping, and haven't really bothered to make any mistakes or try anything different, but still want to pass along knowledge given to them in good faith as if it were their own, no credit to those from whom they've learned...

So, Insta-gurus, this one is for you, even though I can't see you and certainly can't see me. I don't think you need to be a certain age, or have a specific level of education, or even have achieved a significantly high level in your chosen field to be effective. I simply know that those of us who have gone on walkabout and HAVE 'seen the elephant', award you zero credibility point.
So, go abroad. Go serve a cause. Go get into a fight, maybe even lose on purpose. Just go live. Spend six months working and playing in Asia. Walk around Europe, drive through the Middle East for a year. Put yourself in a position to get an actual injury, take a moment to realize just how small you are.

Long story short? If the closest you've been to Tibet is the Festival of Colors in Utah, please keep your enlightened thoughts to yourself. Worry about you, let me worry about me.

For those of you grinding every day - I love you. Work through those clouds, slay those effing demons, and annihilate anybody standing in your way. Let me know if you want my help, I'll bring the duct tape, a plastic tarp and a freaking shovel. Let's roll.


It's Not That Simple, Part One

I started The Parthian Shot back in 2007. I had almost 6 consistent readers (thanks family). I have zero expectations of more this time around, but I'm tired of the nonsense that posting on Facebook brings and I think getting all of this stuff in my head out into the open is probably a good thing.

I've unpublished everything from 2007-9 so as not to distract from "modern life". I may revisit those posts and republish at some point, it might be interesting and cathartic to compare and contrast 28 year-old Trav with 38 year-old Trav. You're welcome to participate provided your comments are civil, constructive, based in actual fact (cite your sources), and generally promote a positive exchange of ideas. There is no such thing as free speech here, except as I consider it worthwhile.

These rules are for you, not me. It's my page, I do what I want. Here we go...

It's Not That Simple

I've been mulling over various social causes and issues for many moons, probably even years, trying to wrap my head around what I think and believe - and why - without resorting to baser instincts or childish beliefs. I'm still not sure I am managing very well. But now there is another clarification on policy, so it's time to start fleshing it out and unpacking what it all means to me.

First of all, it should go without saying that People are People. Apparently it doesn't, because I'm seeing a LOT of hate and discontent in social media feeds and on the news - from both sides. Which is disheartening, to say the least. Please try to remember that what we choose to eat, where we choose to pray, who we choose to love, or how we perceive ourselves in the deepest parts of our souls should have zero impact on whether or not we are treated with a basic level of human dignity and respect, and loved. Your morality may not mirror that of your closest friends or neighbors, and it doesn't necessarily have to, but we all found the strength to wake up one more day, the courage to step out into the world. All things considered, can we not just love each other for that, at least?

I think it's absolutely true that the current president has failed to approach MOST of his policy initiatives, positions, and decisions the right way, and his delivery of those policies and positions has been unusually and especially atrocious. It's almost as if he's trying to point out every day just how broken our system has become, like his purpose while in office is to annoy and disrupt and badger until everyone is so tired of the current system that we scrap it completely and start over. But that's a whole different post, or at least might become one. Stay tuned.

Unfortunately, he IS the President. As such, he IS the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces - administratively and operationally. They ARE "his generals", the men and women in uniform ARE "his service-members". I'm glad I don't have to follow him, and I'd probably refuse a recall to active duty with him in that chair just as quickly as I would have done with his predecessor. But right now, he does get to make the call, and it IS based - at least in part - on what those responsible for outfitting and training the military are telling him. There are a lot of obstacles, administratively, logistically, and operationally. Whether right or wrong, moral or not, there is no such thing as a "right" to serve in the military. You have the right to apply and be given equal consideration, but if your participation presents a burden for the larger group, you may be rejected.
And people are rejected for, or discharged from, military service every day for so many different reasons. Various physical, mental, or emotional conditions, the level of achieved education, marital/parental status, credit worthiness, choice of spouse (yes, it's true)... The list goes on. Most of those reasons for rejection or discharge have some root in avoiding additional encumbrance, cost, or infrastructure and lessening exterior distractions so leaders at all levels can focus on winning battles. Let me be clear about my personal feelings - your life is not a burden, you are not a burden, you are loved. With that being clear, the choices one has made, intends to make, or may choose to make in the future might actually constitute a real, tangible burden - meaning those choices have prevented the continued contribution to the overall success of the group.
So, if an applicant approaches their calling to serve from that perspective - to make adjustments and adhere to the requirements of the group rather than demanding the group make exceptions to accommodate the individual - I think far fewer people will have concerns, legitimate or otherwise.

Finally, I don't care which parts you have. I don't care how you prefer to have sex, as long as it's consensual. I don't care where you pee, what your voice sounds like, what kind of underwear you prefer... Can you get 'sight alignment, sight picture, slow-steady-squeeze' while exploiting your natural respiratory pause? Can you do it while being fired upon? When your buddy gets hit, do you have the capacity to pick his fat, gear-laden ass up and put him in the truck or run him down the road? If so, welcome to the team. Thanks for coming, we need you, let's get started! Just remember you're here to serve the team, not the other way around. The military doesn't exist to allow individuals an opportunity for personal expression - it's here to kill people and break shit. Plain and simple. At the end of the day, the war is won by the side that killed the most people and broke the most shit. Everything else is secondary.

Simply put, if you're here to help the Team and fight the fight - suit up - there are boots and canteens in the corner and you can grab a Go Girl kit on the way out.
But if you're just here to help yourself, to push some political or social agenda, or in any way make the team less effective - please pound sand and GTFO - the real fighters have shit to do.

Thanks for reading.