On Killing Book Review

On Killing

I finished Lt. Col Dave Grossman’s book On Killing recently. It’s about soldiers’ resistance to kill, how the military overcomes that instinct, and the larger reprecussions of that type of training on society. It is not a “how-to” book as I feared many people might’ve thought whenever I read it in public.

At the start I should say that Grossman presents a good case. He backs it up with hundreds of interviews with soldiers and his personal impressions from being in the service. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a lot of hard data to support his point. Why? Because for the most part there just haven’t been a lot of studies on how to get someone to kill another person. It ranges into the unethical territory of psychological studies. The data he does have is convincing. Continue reading

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Tectoctar

Jevanicia

Tectoctar was a small city of 6,000 people who the rest of the world described as degenerates. Tectoctar was one of the most awful places one could imagine to live in. It had food and shelter, but not of a particularly good kind. The place had its share of problems with all the bugs, the seasonal flooding, and the continual sinking of any building into Danar’s Swamp. It’s rumored that some of the oldest buildings have basements so far done that they go into the Underdark.

Tectoctar was built on Danar’s Swamp, not next to it, under it, or over it, but on it. The town was built by Tectoctar, a Xorian general turned renegade, who led his army to the north and settled in the swamp when he received a sign from Zeus. Zeus had intended the usurper to die in the swamp, but Tectoctar was an excellent commander and managed to force his troops to stay and work through the absolute discipline he had instilled in them prior to their expedition. Additionally he had his lieutenant general cast a spell that let him read people’s thoughts allowing him to punish traitors before they committed their first act of sedition. Unfortunately for Tectoctar the side effect of knowing every man’s thoughts within a two mile radius is rather destructive. The tyrant general went insane and disappeared into the western reaches of the bog. The citizens of the city had already settled down and knowing they would not be welcomed back in Xoria decided to stay.

Tectoctar had no city plan of any kind. Occasionally an architectural accident would make a front door unreachable and required a new one to be cut in the walls. The principal building material was wood sent upriver from Bigby’s forest. The wood was used to create a frame for the house and then covered with hides, leaves, or hay to keep the rain and bugs out. Any building made with a heavier structure sank into the ground within a few months and even the wooden structures were constantly sinking, creating basements of ever increasing size beneath the city.

The extremely moist soil of Tectoctar was quite good for growing rice, but excruciatingly bad for anything else most people consider edible. A type of flower grows in the swamp that can be eaten called Shorehorn. The animal life that served as the protein for most Tectoctarian dishes is revolting. Snails, slugs, leeches, unclean fish, snakes, and other reptiles. The lucky outsider was served Tojanida. These monsters dwell in the swamp and when a dead one is found it was often sold to the wealthy of the town.

As Tectoctar grew older more people immigrated who were rejected by other cities and countries and were told of a paradise where everyone is welcome. Many of them were not impressed by the “paradise.” Some vagabonds left if they could, but most had run out of money getting to the city and were forced to stay. The rare few actually liked Tectoctar better because at least they are the same as everyone else here. The descendants of these immigrants composed the majority of the city’s population.

Tectoctar neither exported nor imported anything because it is nothing more than a large poor town in the middle of a swamp. The one attraction to the town was their local artifact of chewing gum, a type of food that oozes from trees that you cannot actually stop getting sustenance from. You could chew gum forever and never have to worry about eating, drinking, or going to the bathroom again. Unfortunately this miraculous item does not keep for more than a day, so it was only traded in mass quantities to the most foolish of tourists.

The city was ruled by the Race Council. An influential member of each race that lived in Tectoctar was appointed by their brethren to the council. The council had representatives from many different species including, Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Dragons, Ogres, Giants, Goblins, Orcs, Lizardfolk, Gnolls, Trolls, Kobolds, and Troglodytes. Each off shoot of one race was still considered the same. A rather extreme example of the inequity of this policy was present in the representation of Drow by a High Elf councilor. The Race council met once every three months to decide on issues that affected the entire city.

The Xorian government long resented the existence of Tectoctar as it was technically a rebel city. During the regency of Queen Anajakaze, the Xorian army attacked and defeated Tectoctar. It’s people were executed, enslaved, or driven out of the city. With no one else to inhabit the buildings, the city slowly sank into the swamp. The structures still exist beneath the muck, slowly rotting away, but also perhaps holding magic treasures for explorers brave and clever enough to find them.

After the destruction of Tectoctar, Queen Anajakaze created a new colony on the edge of Danar’s Swamp named Jevanicia.

-GoCorral

Rice Husks and Video Games

I was dehusking some rice seeds today in order to sterilize them.
I was dehusking some rice seeds today in order to sterilize them.

Rice seeds grow with a husk around them. After the husk is removed they look like the rice you buy in a store.

Sometimes the seeds from a particular strain don’t grow right.

The lack of growth often happens because a fungus infected the seed from the start.

The fungus is removed by washing the seed.

The husk needs to be removed first to ensure the seed is fully cleaned, just like you have to take off all of your clothes to ensure your body is fully cleaned when you shower or bathe.

While I was washing the seeds in diluted bleach I talked with one of my friends in the lab about streaming Hearthstone.

The oldest member of the lab besides the professor (I sometimes call him the lab fossil) overheard us and was curious about what streaming was.

We described it to him and he was a little surprised that people would want to watch others play video games.

He’s seen his son play first person shooter (FPS) games and he dislikes them, but not for the usual reasons.

The lab fossil dislikes FPS games because they don’t match reality.

He feels they teach people that if you die/fail you can just get a do-over where you try again.

The real world and the real battlefield doesn’t work that way. If you die in real life, you’re dead.

You can’t respawn, you can’t start over from the beginning. It’s over.

He told us about when he was in the army for two years.

All the time they would do drills and the drills were about staying alive.

Not about shooting and killing others no matter the consequences to yourself like in FPS games.

One of the first things the lab fossil learned is that if you hear gunfire, you should immediately drop to the ground (something people in gang neighborhoods already know).

He told us that the way you survive a battle is by finding cover, not shooting your gun.

He said bullets are heavy, you don’t want to waste them, you might need them later to survive.

My past experience with army veterans is that they never want to talk about their experiences.

Out of respect, I’ve never asked them to recall memories that might be painful for them.

This was one of the first times I actually got to talk about war with a soldier, even if he’d never been actively deployed.

It was a good learning experience.

-Mister Ed