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The new job is taking up a lot more of my time and energy than I initially anticipated. I’m not sure if it’s because it is more challenging or because I am pushing myself more than usual in an attempt to make up for my lack of experience (as well as my lack of seniority). It’s quite the contrast from my last job where, by the time I left in February, I had been on board for longer than every other officer save one, and was senior to half of them.

Is there a tastier snack than the Cadbury Creme Egg? I ask this in all seriousness. I am completely addicted to those little buggers. In the past week, I have eaten no less than a baker’s dozen of them, and they were not bought in bulk (yes, I’ve made that many trips to Wal-Mart). They may be the perfect dessert- or breakfast, if you’re incredibly luck- and I can see no way in which they can be improved.

A bit melty? Well that’s ok, then it almost has the consistency of a real egg. Plus, you’ll inevitably get some chocolaty creamy deliciousness on your fingers which makes for good licking well after the initial egg has been devoured. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

A bit frozen? This happens to be my personal fave. I think it improves the texture somewhat and, more importanly, makes the egg last a bit longer. For me, making those puppies last is an exercise in restraint; having the eggs semi-frozen makes it much easier. Think bumper bowling…

And in book related news, I’m currently reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma (both excellent and intriguing), as well as The Egyptologist (not very far, but is very interesting thus far).
If I finish those books and another by Monday, I will make up some ground; however, I still have a ways to go if I have any shot of getting to 150…

Why, the Tao of this guy (of course):

winnie20the20pooh1

As the title suggests, this little book by Benjamin Hoff is an introduction to Taoism which uses Winnie-the-Pooh and other friends from Hundred Acre Wood to introduce basic Eastern philosophical  principles.  In a nutshell (or perhaps a honeypot???) Pooh epitomizes the “uncarved block”, as he is fully in tune with himself, though he is often said to have little Brain.   Pooh seems positively enlightened next to the worrisome Eeyore, the “tries to hard” Owl, the busy Rabbit, and the hesitant Piglet.

I enjoyed the book- mostly because of the short, digestible description of Taoism.  Blashphemous as it may sound, I didn’t find the use of the Winni-the-Pooh characters as life altering and mind blowing as some seem to.  I thought it was original, and fairly effective, but the proverbs/maxims that Hoff lifts from the various Taoist texts were just as (if not more) enlightening as the examples he pulled from  Winnie-the-Pooh.   Still, I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who has an interest in learning something about Taoism, or perhaps someone who would just like to take a break and try looking at the world from a different perspective.  Remember,

While Eeyore frets…and Piglet hesitates…and Rabbit calculates…and Owl pontificates….Pooh just is.  And that’s the clue to the secret wisdom of the Taoists.

1.  I-10 has to be one of the easiest roads to drive in the entire country.  Entirely flat;  I seriously can’t remember one curve.

2.   It’s very disheartening to switch roads and to have TomTom  tell you that there’s 848 miles until your next road change.

3.  I was stopped three times at random checkpoints and asked the following question:  “Are you an American Citizen?”

4.  If you like a room that doesn’t have climate control, has towels more threadbare than ten year old pajamas, and no hotwater, then you really need to stay in the Super 8 motel fifty miles east of El Paso.

5.  Texas is a big freaking state.

6.  At least 99% of the world’s pickup trucks are located in the Lonestar State.  Just goes to show that some stereotypes are based on fact.

7.  Despite their reputation for being gun-crazy, the number of dead deer on the side of the highway (at least 30), it’s apparent that Texans are either terrible shots or just not hunting enough.

8.  Texas  is a big freaking state

I apologize for the lack of posting over the past week, but it’s really tough to blog whilst driving.  Last week I drove from San Diego to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.  That was 1850 miles and I don’t even know how many hours in the car.  I drove it by myself which made the ride slightly boring, but the good news is that I was still able to read two books last week, so I didn’t fall off the pace that much.  More posts to come on the books I read and also my experience driving across the country and the New Orleans debauchery.

So, as you may have noticed, I haven’t been posting quite as regularly over the last week or so.  That is because I am currently getting ready to take a road trip down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras before reporting to my next duty station in Texas.  So, you won’t be hearing too much from me over the next week, and I’m also afriad that I won’t get to read much, but I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.

Happy Reading.

Richard Feynman, John and Mary Gribbin

 

Richard Feynman was the greatest physicist of his generation.  Few people have advanced science further than he.  Whether it was his work on the atomic bomb, his theory on quantum electrodynamics that would win him the Nobel Prize, or his work on the Challenger Disaster Board, Richard Feynman was at the forefront of his field for more than fifty years.  And he did it all while remaining decidedly “normal.”  He was about as far from the stereotypical scientist as you can imagine- a safe cracking, practical joking, radio repairing, bongo playing genius.  Even more surprising, he was just as good a teacher as he was a theorist.

            This book is part biography and part scientific explanation, and should probably be required reading for physics majors, as well as anyone who has an interest in Richard Feynman.  That being said, this isn’t where I would recommend starting if you really want to get an idea of what Feynman was all about.  This book certainly does a good job of it, but I fear that the pretty advanced scientific parts would leave the average reader behind.  Had I not taken chemistry and physics in college, this book would have been beyond my grasp- or I would have taken so long trying to figure the science out that whole Feynman aspect of the work would have been lost.

After thirty months onboard, I have finally departed the ship.  I’ve been looking forward to this day for approximately 899 days.  Ok, so it hasn’t been nearly that bad, but after having spent literally almost ten percent of my life onboard, I am ready for a change.

          Fittingly enough, the last week was pretty brutal; I worked all seven days and didn’t get nearly as much reading done as I was hoping.  I fell a bit behind, but hopefully with this week off, I will be able to make up some ground.

 

I know that some of you out there probably scoff at the idea of reading fiction.  You might say to yourself, Why waste a day, hell, even a week, reading something that isn’t going to broaden my horizons?

I don’t know if this school of thought is a holdover from our high school days- where reading was forced upon us like extra helpings at grandmother’s dinner table, or if it had its genesis in some other way. 

Me?  I love fiction.  Always have.  Over the years, I think I’ve learned as much through works of fiction as I have through the many non-fiction books I have read (or at least I remember more, and that’s all the really counts, right?).  For their stories to work, authors need to have some sort of credibility with their audience.  Mostly, they need to be believable.  While I don’t like most of his work, there is little doubt that John Grisham knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the law- the man is a lawyer.  The same can be said about the late Michael Crichton.  I was in fifth grade learning about DNA while reading Jurassic Park.  It may have been science-fiction, but the “science” aspect was plausible enough (I’m sure it helped that Crichton was a medical doctor and was able to break things down into layman’s terms).

Whether it’s whaling in Moby Dick, seamanship and naval history in Master and Commander, the Great Depression in The Grapes of Wrath, genetic engineering in Jurassic Park, or Puritanism in The Scarlet Letter, there is usually something to be learned from a work of fiction, whether you are paying attention to it or not.

Parallel to this, people seem to have forgotten that reading is supposed to be fun.  Do the same folks who only read non-fiction also only watch documentaries?  Now, I understand that some people genuinely enjoy non-fiction more than fiction.  Still, I bet that for every person who prefers Thomas Friedman or William F. Buckley over Stephen King or JK Rowling or Junot Diaz, there are ten more folks on the train, clutching their pristine copies of the newest non-fiction rave, hearkening back to the days when they used to read The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew or (heavens forbid!) the latest issue of X-Men, remembering when reading used to be fun, and they didn’t have to put on a show for the literary elites on the subway or in their office.

 

One concept that seems to baffle people when I tell them about being in the military is the idea of “duty.”  Duty, in this case, is not something that I am expected to do due to moral or legal obligation; rather, it is referring to having to spend one day out of every six on the ship (for a full twenty-four hours).  Basically, the ship has to be ready to get underway at a moment’s notice; therefore, it is always manned with the sufficient complement of personnel needed to head out to sea.  If you take the total complement of personnel on the ship and divide that by the minimum amount needed to get the ship underway, you will get a number (most likely single digit) that indicates the number of sections the ship should be broken down into.  For example, if a ship has 300 people and the Captain feels that he needs at least 50 people to get the ship underway safely, then there will be six duty sections.  If you have a CO that’s particularly conservative and feels that they need 60 people to get underway, then there will be five duty sections.  Pretty simple, right?  Oh, and this isn’t like elementary school, we always round down.  So if there are 300 people on board and the CO feels that only 45 personnel are needed to get underway, we would still be in 6 section duty, though 300/45 is 6.66.

            So what does that mean?  It means that if you have duty, you need to spend the night on the ship until you relieve the following day.  Think of how firemen do it.  It pretty much works the same way for us, except we don’t have any greased poles to slide down (I understand that I just set myself up for a rather crude joke- possibly related to submarines. Please see past this).  So every six days I have to spend the night on the ship.  During the week, it’s not awful, but when you have duty on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, it can be pretty miserable.

            One of the positives is that it does leave quite a bit of time for reading (there’s not a whole lot else to do) and many of the books I’ve read in the past two and a half years were hammered out while I was stuck on the ship.

June 2017
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