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Friday, August 12, 2011

I Have Met Them
A Fighter Pilot's Tribute to the Fallen Heroes of DevGru

I never met the fallen heroes of DevGru. I did not know their names, never saw their faces. They shun recognition from outside their tribe, thinking those not of them cannot appreciate what they endure, what they accomplish. But I have met them, or men like them.

I know fighter pilots. I know them well. They give pride of place to few. Their arrogance is legendary. I know fighter pilots who can make an airplane sing; who turn the turbulent world of air combat into an operatic ballet, conducting every bar and beat, certain of the denouement. Yet even fighter pilots, in their most private moments, nod with respect to those noble few, who bring death to our nation’s foes by sea, air and land. No man, of any rank or skill, earns respect more than the Navy SEAL.
If I had played the game right, or caught a lucky break, I might earned flag rank. However, I know I do not have, never did have, what it takes to be a SEAL. The selection process is rigorous, the training withering. Many think they could be a SEAL. However, if a candidate demonstrates any weakness of intelligence, dedication, strength, endurance, or the ability to work in a team, they are done. There is no court of appeals. When the staff decides a candidate does not have what it takes to fight alongside their brothers in arms, that person leaves thinking it was his decision. He rings the bell and is grateful.
Grasping the intricacies of advanced training and making the cut are merely the preamble. For the few who do, those who proudly wear the Budweiser, the real challenges begin. They go to places so utterly foreign, and fight foes so thoroughly implacable that to accept the mission willingly places all they have, all they love, at risk in a desperate gamble.
They practice until action seems involuntary. They enjoy the company of men who know, trust and love them in return, in the rough way of warriors. They have certainty in the justice of their cause, and the depravity of their enemies. Fate, however, plays its own games. As they feel the beat of their hearts, they know – as young men should never have to know – that the next beat is not promised; that no matter training, experience or skill, the fog of war is ineluctable. Knowing things can and will go wrong, they taunt fate.
They go into battle, lives trembling in the balance, as do the lives of those who depend upon them. They go, knowing there is something even more important than life: the ideals America represents, best exemplified by the men who fight alongside. They do not dwell on this, nor wear it on their sleeves. Nonetheless, it is there.
I know this, because I have met then, or men like them.
SEALs are as humble in public as fighter pilots can be obnoxious. A fighter pilot may feel he has something to prove, a SEAL knows he does not, at least not before mere mortals. It is enough that he has proven himself to his God and his teammates. 
A SEAL’s lot is privation and hardship, a monastic devotion to fitness, warrior prowess and his brothers. He spends long days of rehearsal, creeping hours approaching contact, and moments of fierce combat. SEALs expect no quarter, give little, and live in each moment, knowing it could be the last. Buttressed by the man to his left and right, the SEAL faces the foe, fights and wins, or fights and dies. He has no ejection seat.
There is a tradition among TOPGUN instructors when departing to leave something for those who will follow. One instructor left a plaque that reads, “For those who know, no explanation is necessary. For those who don’t, no explanation is possible.”
SEALs know … 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Will Apple and Steve Jobs Buy Barnes and Noble?

I read the rumor first on FB from Tonya Kappes then on author D.D. Scott's blog. Here are my thoughts: 

In any market it is a waste to sit on $76 Billion in cash (think how little the return is on T-bills). Jobs needs to invest somewhere or he will be a poor steward of Apple's money (as in the biblical character who hid God's largess under a rock for fear of losing it). 

It makes sense, even if Apple is late to the party, to try to cut into Amazon's market. Apple is a successful competitor for Microsoft even though its market share in software is only a fraction of Microsoft's. Apple accomplishes this by the integration of software and hardware. Using Barnes and Noble as a platform could similarly give him the best of both world's, the touchy-feely of a retail distribution chain (for those of us who still need to touch and feel before we buy) and a credible internet distribution presence (hardware/software integration). 

Jobs has won before by making the user experience superior (ironclad Apple operating system) and by innovation (iPads, iPhones, music downloads). I would look for Apple to do the same with B&N's formative publishing systems. 

However, publishing and book selling are only tiny portions of what I think Apple will try to develop, IF they make the acquisition. It makes more sense to think of B&N as a platform to compete with Amazon across its entire distribution model. While Amazon is clearly the largest player in the world distributing goods and services in the fashion it does, even Amazon has only scratched the surface of the existing market currently handled by outlets with a real physical presence. That's where the integration of physical B&N distribution outlets and internet distribution begin to make sense for Apple. 

Cheers, Pete Grimm