Arrowman at Last

Ever since I was a Boy Scout in the 1970s, I have always wanted to be a member of the Order of the Arrow. The national honor society for the BSA is selective: candidates are elected by their troops from among scouts who have reached the First Class rank, and once selected are then tested in a weekend-long process called an Ordeal.

I never made it as a scout, and never expected to make it as an adult leader. Adult leaders are elected as well, but their candidacy is not automatic: adult candidates are then reviewed at the Council level for suitability and for demonstrated commitment to scouting ideals.

Quite unexpectedly this year, my name was submitted by my troop, and I was called out at a special ceremony at the April Camporee. I couldn’t even be there – I was in China on business. But I accepted (naturally) and submitted myself on June 1st for Ordeal.

The specifics of Ordeal are a closely-held secret, known only to members of the Order. Suffice to say that it was one of the hardest things I have ever done in four years as a scout and nine years as an adult leader, but it was also transformative in obvious and subtle ways that continue to manifest themselves months later.

It was one of my life’s great experiences, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.

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Administrative Note: Going Anti-Social

With due respect to my fellow tribesman and hapa-daddy Mark Zuckerberg, I have reached some conclusions about Facebook after nearly a decade of use.

  1. Facebook was once a magnificent means of staying in touch with friends
  2. It has, of late, become a tool of hucksters, social manipulators, propagandists, disinformation artists, and very, very angry people to a far greater degree than it remains a connective medium.
  3. It became for me, as a result, a giant black hole into which my time and attention was sucked, never to be seen again.
  4. What was worse, any content that I created was used by Facebook to make money.

As a result, I have downloaded my content, deleted my presence, and will have no more to do with the platform. I’m done, and this time for good.

This blog is now my feed. I would rather pay the nice folks at Automattic a modest fee every year to own my platform and hold it separate from the anger, noise, and manipulation of Facebook. Better to shout in the wilderness than whisper in a crowd.

The sole reason I post this is to provide you a heads-up that I will be gradually back-filling content from my Facebook feed into earlier sections of this blog, so if you see something anachronistic, it is just me saving the worthwhile tidbits from my years on Facebook.

NB: Twitter is on probation at the moment, as is WeChat.

Naturally, feel free to comment.

Calming the Sky-Chicken

I have flown well over a million miles in my life, but I am still an incurable white-knuckle flyer. When you combine that with the challenges posed by my two-meter height, air travel for me is a battle: first to get myself into a seat that isn’t excruciatingly painful to sit in, and then to cope with a constant state of incipient terror.

I cure the first by shelling out something like 10% of my take-home income for upgrades. The second condition, the fear, is like any other chronic ailment: it can be managed but never cured.

One way I manage the fear is through knowledge. I have studied aviation, weather, and spoken to countless pilots and flight crew members. I have learned enough about airlines to choose those with the best operational safety, and watch for the subtle signals that things may be on the decline. Before every flight I consult a half-dozen apps and websites that tell me what to expect. And during the flight I switch my inflight entertainment system to the “flight information” screen, and leave it there for the duration.

So you can imagine why I was so delighted, when I boarded an ANA 787-900 for a flight from Singapore to Tokyo, to discover a screen that was essentially a simplified version of the pilot’s heads-up display. Altitude, airspeed, position, direction, winds, and other flight information are portrayed against a forward -looking moving map that offers everything but air traffic and weather.

Genius.

It will not surprise you to hear that this hop was probably one of my most calm and comfortable flights ever.

Some people will never worry in an airplane: my father was one. But I have friends and colleagues that need to be chemically calmed before getting on a plane. I have no immediate remedies to offer. For me, the medicine lies in the effort to make ever more believable the comforting illusion of control.

The Delusion of Health

For some reason I was watching Family Guy the other night, and during one of the digressions, a morbidly obese dude walks into a fast food joint and says, “I want the Double Cheeseburger, but I’m gonna go healthy and pick the fish and chips.”

The scene then cuts to the fish and chips all singing “fish and chips – fat guys think we’re a diet food.”

Sobering.

I have a long-overdue trip to the UK in September (business, not pleasure), and I have resolved to sample some of the local fare. I would not place any bets on talking me out of a curry or a savory pie, but I am going to dodge the cod and fries. The image of mocking food will not soon leave me.