Sunday, August 28, 2011

St. Anton's Monastery

For those of you that weren't aware, the Country of Georgia is a largely Christian nation. Their Christian traditions date back to proselytizing by the apostle Andrew in the west of Georgia in the first century. But the large scale conversion (as best I tell) came from a number of missionaries from Cappadocia (a region in Turkey where early Chrisitans fled Roman persecution). The most important of which was Saint Nino who converted the then Pagan Queen Nana and King Mirian the third, in the fourth century (see my blog post from April 2011 about the trip to Ninosminda).

There was another large group of Cappodocians who came to Georgia in the sixth century to expand Chrisitanity, found churches and monasteries, all lead by St. John of Zedazeni (with Saints; Anton, David, Shio, Ise, Joseph, Zenon, Abibos, Stephan, Isidoros, Piros, Michael and Tadeoz). Most of the interesting old things to see in Georgia are tied to their Christian heritage, and it has regained support as Nationalism in Georgia also seems to be tied to their faith tradition. So, it was to the monastery founded by Saint Anton of Martkopi that I visited this weekend.

Gorgeous location in the mountains about 1/2 hour from Tbilisi, fabulous vistas (but as it was a cloudy, rainey day so I didn't take any pictures of that). We saw St. Anton's grave in the small church, attended the consecration of a man in the church building where the relics were kept (Gvtaeba), and were fervently prosyletized in Georgian by one of the monks. Dissapointed when he discovered I was not 'orthodoxy', but rather presbyterian, which he somehow assumed was like the 'baptisyists'-not exactly, but I couldn't explain the nuances of the calvinist reformation and the ninteenth century great awakening in my pigeon Georgian.

Finally he found this delightful old monk who spoke much more English than I spoke Georgian, and he wanted to convey two things: first, God is love. That one was easy. Second, he struggled with a rendition of the 10 edicts, of doing wrong and one is not better nor is it worse than another. It took a few rounds of back and forth, but I finally said, "Do you mean that in the eyes of God, all sin is equal?" (A very basic Chrisitian precept). He almost fell over, "You have heard of this?" We went on to talk about a few small points of the congress of Nicea, religion in general and faith, the primacy of grace (although, I don't think I sold him on this one). I certainly did my part to dispel the notion that American Chrisitanity is populated by a boatload of snake charming folks who don't actually read the bible.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A nifty tweaking

Sheila Merritt posted a Review of GOB on the site Hellnotes.

Click here: Hellnotes Review to have all your questions answered.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


My WIP is still in progress. I spent much of the past (busy) month picking over edits, rewriting scenes, basically getting it to where I wanted it to be with a total of 1 month worked and 400 words added.

After a Saturday morning run, a trip to the gym (I joined a very old-school Russian Style Gym here in Tbilisi...I am getting pretty good at estimating the weights: "100 kilos,'s heavy, 220 pounds"...see, pretty good), and a few hours on my NIP, I went on a roadtrip to Kojori, about 1/2 hour from Tbilisi.

Kojori is the site of a Medieval Fortress, a battle between Georgian Nationalists and Soviet invaders (circa 1921), and a pleasant mountain get away from the hustle bustle and smog of the Big City.

The Fortress is to the right. A very impressive location, built right into the rock. It might be difficult to see, but there is a winding, rusted, and partly fallen down staircase that leads to the entrance (covered by a 'murder hole' in the castle entry).

The stairs were in a sad state of disrepair, and required a little effort to negotiate. Missing treads, sheer cliffs, it was awesome, but no where near OSHA approved. Most of the treads seemed to have broken at the weld points, so I carefully tested before I went up.

From the top of the castle the views were phenomenal. In many ways the topgraphy and climate of this part of Georgia remind me of the foothills of California (think Placerville, not Santa Barbara).

We met a young Georgian butcher on a bird watching trip at the top of the fortress. Like most people we meet he was hospitible and engaging and he told us a little of the history of the fortress in halting english (which was an order of magnitude better than my pigeon Cartoli). We also heard a howling in the distance that sounded a bit like a warbly coyote bark and a dog howl to me. After a bit of back and forth, searching for the word, he told us the howling was from the Jackals. Hmmmm...might be a story in there?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Give Away at Good reads

I know how much you all really want a copy of one of my novels. And I know it's soooo hard to go to Amazon and get one, so the good people at are sponsoring a book Give away for STG and GOB.

(Enter early, enter often!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

First GOB Review

The first review of 'The Gift of the Bouda' appears in Carrie Hunt's Blog (Here). Carrie is an author as well and a member of "Goodreads", she also posted the review there as well.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Been Busy

It has been a while since my last post. I have been a tad busy. For those of you who don't know, I am still an actively participating officer in US Army Reserve (Lieutenant Colonel). I spent much of July in Carlisle Barracks, PA, finishing up my Masters Program with the US ARMY War College. Yay,

The degree is technically a Master of Science in Strategic Studies, but I prefer 'Master of War'. It's also the Military Education Level 1 course, or the LAST SCHOOL I have to go to as a soldier, ans d qualifies one for promotion to General Officer rank. I'm just hoping for Colonel (my promotion board already met, but I won't know what they decided until the results are published in November).

On the writing/reading front, I'm at about 30K words on my WIP. I polished off a John Ringo book on the plane, Dance with the Devil. For those who like scifi with a military flavor, Ringo is great. When I posted about his first book in this series, A Hymn Before Battle, I mentioned that I enjoyed it and could also see the junior NCO coming through. I thought I might explain because I saw it here too.

Every unit in the Army blames their next echelon higher for all their problems. It's true. The bosses are usually screwed up, they don't understand the 'ground truth' , they have it easier, yadda yadda. When I was an enlisted soldier (helicopter mechanic) the platoon leader and company commander were all 'jacked up'. When I was commissioned and became a platoon leader (attack platoon leader in a cobra helicopter company) the company commander and the Battalion were screwed up. When I was staff, it was the line company that didn't understand, when I was a company commander the BN commander and staff, as a troop commander it was the squadron commander that couldn't get his shit together. When I was a Battalion Commander it was the brigade commander and the brigade staff that caused all the Cluster F*cks. You see where I'm going with this? You can often tell what level a fellow rose to, by who the fellow blames and nature of the complaints.

I'd also like to think that when I jumped to the next node in the chain of command, my direct reports didn't blame me for all the problems in the world. (I'm kidding myself- they did, but one difference between a good leader and a bad one is the ability to recognize that, listen to the gripes and try to explain why they have to do the stupid shit your making them do).

I can honestly say that I have seen many of the problems with higher ups that Ringo points out. There were many careerists, selfish or lazy commanders. But these are few and far between and tended to 'crash and burn', unless they were really talented. The most common 'bad' commanders I have experienced, both in peace and in Iraq, were the people that lacked critical thinking skills (and most of these were slaves to outdated doctrine) or the ones that worried too much about what their boss would think. It's important to follow doctrine, but it's a guide and if you have the ability to think critically about what the mission dictates and the tools you have available. The people who worried about their 'evaluation' were the ones I couldn't stand. "What impact will this have on my annual report (OER)?" is something I rarely ask myself, and it comes well after; does this accomplish the mission adhering both to the letter and spirit of my orders?

But without question the leader I detest the most is the one that doesn't care for his troops. When Mr and Mrs mainstreet America entrust the welfare of their son or daughter to you, the Army leader, you need to take that responsibility seriously. I could wax philosophic or give bullet point lists for hours on this one.

I picked up a copy of 'Kaboom, embracing the suck in a savage little war' by Matt Gallagher. It's based on the blog he wrote while a cav scout platoon leader in Iraq. Peppered throughout are examples of the points I make above. He refers to his company commander in a mildly disparaging manner, while the Battalion Commander and Command Sergeant Major are known as 'LTC Larry and CSM Curly', don't know who Moe is (3 stooges). My experiences were both the same and different. I was a Major, and an operations officer for an Aviation Task force. We didn't break down doors, or drink tea with 'Haji' (it was well before COIN doctrine was articulated, in 2003-2004). But I have no doubt there were company level pukes that had listed me in their top ten most stupidest list for the things I made them do. But 11 months, 350 missions, no casualties... just sayin'.