deep waters

Anyone who has gone to sea for any length of time – and with a wink to my Coast Guard brothers and sisters I mean out past “ankle deep” (out of sight of the land) – knows the sea is vast.   And it really does not matter whether the vessel taking the mariner out is a sloop, a ketch,  a six-hundred foot Navy cruiser,  a thousand-foot aircraft carrier or nine thousand-passenger and -crew  cruise liner.  At some point, everyone realizes that we are but dots in the ocean.

For poets, scholars, kings, farm boys and  fishermen, the ocean casts a spell beckoning us to it,  and yet the depths and potential hazards have been a metaphor, even among land-lubbers, for danger and despair.  Who today has not heard or used the phrases “in over your head”, “you’re in too deep”, “the deep end”,  or being “out of your depth” to describe discomfort.

I sink in the miry depths,
    where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
    the floods engulf me.   Proverbs 69:2 (NIV)

But getting in over my head was never a reason for me to avoid doing something.  I did  venture to sea, most of the eight years I was crew on 3 Navy ships.   Perhaps it was due to my early introduction to water.   I think I was learning to swim almost at the same time I was learning to walk.  My mother used to tell me how, as a toddler, I would venture off the step in the shallows of the community pool –  and her lightning-quick mother’s arm would shoot out to rein me in as my head went under.  I was a budding Jacques Cousteau.   As a young teen,  I took a class in Lifesaving, in order to become a lifeguard, and the instructor- as I recall it- tried to drown me simulating a panicked swimmer.  I punched him.  Later, in the Navy class on treading water, I never understood how some of my peers had never learned to swim.  I never feared putting my head underwater.  And in my twenties I obtained a SCUBA certification and spent some years going diving.

Still, I have a healthy respect for water whether it is gathered in rivers, large lakes, or the ocean. Perhaps it is due to my experience with lakes that appear deceptively shallow, or water that was particularly frigid on a very warm New England May day.  Or with currents in rivers, in saltwater marshes with an ebbing tide where I tried to navigate a little rowboat across.  And I’ve lost my footing in a shallow beach tidal outflow and been sucked out to the bay.

There is a magical quality to looking out at the sea,  and witnessing the deepening blue hue of the deep ocean, turn gray-blackish and whipped into white foam caps.  When a calm sea could become a violent storm in a matter of hours, there were some, myself included, who offered prayers of thanksgiving to Providence for never having been seasick . On a bright sunny day,  as the weather turns into a full-force gale.

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore. Vincent Van Gogh  / brainyquote.com

In my childhood,  I was fascinated by nautical museums, sea captain’s two hundred year-old homes, touring lighthouses and old ships, steamers, and ferry boats.   And today I am blogging about such things now and again.   At my keyboard now  I remember the first work of fiction I wrote for a college literature class being a blend of all these memories.   And I quite clearly pictured Burgess Meredith as the crusty old Salt protagonist.

Dwellers by the sea are generally superstitious; sailors always are. There is something in the illimitable expanse of sky and water that dilates the imagination. Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Strangely, I never bought a boat after my assignments at sea ended.   While I have been on several since my career in the Navy ended,  I have never wanted to scrape barnacles, chip paint, or clean the salt-corrosion ever again.   But I still know port from starboard, and even on the maritime museum, the MIDWAY at the pier in downtown San Diego, I will still request permission to come aboard.  And I can wish for others a fond  time  getting  “haze gray and underway”.

when the lights go out

Sometimes the best lighting of all is a power failure.  Douglas Coupland / http://www.brainyquote.com

I swear I only measured the voltage of the dead lamp.  I didn’t cause the whole neighborhood at that moment to go dark.

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Determining the reason why that fixture was bad was on my to-do list for six days.  In my garage, I have a cheap light fixture – the one dime-store novels feature in the dingy hotel rooms or corridors – mounted above the kitchen door.  One evening, I switched on the light switch – and the lamp went on.  I turned it off when I was done.  I turned it on again and it immediately went dark.   Seems simple enough but can be easily tested whether the light bulb burned out.   That’s where life steps in and pushes down on the to-do list.    Fast -forward to today.   Motivated,  I finally recalled where I put my digital multimeter (one of three I have) in an accessible tool bag.  I hypothesized  – I am an engineering test guy – the light switch itself went bad.     But just as touched the meter a second time to the fixture, the house and garage and outside went pitch black. Without a sound.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. Edgar Allan Poe
/www.brainyquote.com

Fumbling in the dark to find my cell phone just inside on the dining table a few feet away,  I found the “flashlight” function.  First thing through my head was the thought, were I at sea, I would have myself chewed out by myself for being so ill-prepared and untrained for emergencies.   O brother!   But before I could get all my protective gear,  tool bag and batten down the hatches,  the lights snapped back on.    My mind did not go to all the dark places, when I second-guess my actions.   I mean, really.  I just came home from a bible study group I lead tonight. I was still feeling the glow of good participation and feedback.

I wonder if this was like the last power failure where a guy hit the wrong switch by mistake.  That error a few years ago shut down virtually everything in Southern California for several hours. A “training opportunity.”   Tonight, with everything back up within a minute told me that it was human error again.

It’s a lot like my work right now.  I have a broken device, some confusing email, and my boss has absolute confidence I will determine the problem now that I am back to work.  Can you get it resolved by Thursday? Thanks.    No pressure.  I just need to run through everything myself.  I could sure use a power failure at work about noon tomorrow – maybe for a week?   Thanks.

 

making do with “stone knives and bearskins”

Fifty years ago, I became a fan of galaxy-traveling space technology wielded by an altruistic civilization.  Star Trek seemed to define technology as idealistically and problem-free as Father Knows Best defined the American family; both had stories about  the weaknesses that people possess resolved within a single episode. However, unless it was deliberate sabotage, technology always worked.  Scotty always milked the dilithium crystals to eek more power.  Technology like tri-corders and food processors rarely needed to be tweaked, banged, recharged, or be issued return-to-vendor tickets. In both shows, the fiction was total b.s.  But I didn’t let that rain on my parade.

Having been a technical worker in a military organization, and later in several technical service and engineering firms,  I know the sort of effort it takes to bring something from idea to working product and sustainable.   However, I am still a fan of the fantastic sci-fi shows like Star Trek as well as the real wizardry of the Space Shuttle,  the probe that went past Pluto or the ones now in interstellar space.  The real wizardry is when a bureaucracy – which a large company is – can still produce something that sets the international standard.   And just as I imagine that a “real” transporter or a “real” warp drive would probably have reduced first test objects to unrecognizable goo,  corporate politics,  bureaucracy, budget,  schedule-limits and management missteps would have evaluated that and then spent twice as long  at four times the cost of the original prototype, to then have the transporter redesigned with more rigorous, real-world and far less goo-like results.

Where Spock complains that he is tasked with building a complex device with “stone knives and bear skins”, it suggests that in his future, a lack of tools, materials or supply problems do not occur.  However improbable that may be,  a resourceful worker can work around conditions that hamper progress.  That is where asking for forgiveness is often more expedient than asking for permission.   And that is why, even in the future,  where the Red-Shirt enlisted guy gets eaten by a monster, the senior officer gets the glory,  the crew routinely drink, get drunk, fight, and at the point of certain death, can eek  dilithium crystals to save a galaxy – or   USS Enterprise – from certain destruction.

 

 

Ja-merican

Usain Bolt and Harry Belafonte grew up in my parish – tour bus driver & guide

On a zip-line and rafting tour in Jamaica, the limes, bananas, coconuts, and sugar cane compete with mangroves, towering Hindu bamboo and brightly colored flowering plants for my attention. While zooming through trees up to 40 mph (there are big cushions at the downhill station if the brake and guide fail to stop me) fed my adrenaline-junkie, the afternoon spent on the river was a great way to take in the people and history of Jamaica. The rafting guide explained how various plants have health and medicinal properties – and though Americans sterotypically associated ‘ganja’ with Jamaica, nothing Reginald listed in the average diet included weed.

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Patois is the native Jamaican dialect, and after a brief intro, we were all “ai’-ree” (doing well) and affirming questions with “ya, man”. Jamaicans have a deep pride in their country, and while it is very evident that the poorest Americans are richer than most of the population, I think even the “CJs” -Crazy Jamaicans, (self-named) locals who walk in front of moving trucks and buses – would find much of my complaining young countrymen more than foolish. Though this is my first trip in the Caribbean as a civilian, and a first ever to Jamaica, I can see why people return again and again. For me, the food, grog and Cuban cigars are pleasant but bouncing up and down a rocky and muddy road with a group of laughing fellow travelers and guides on the way to rafting is a lasting adventure.

“Put da lime in de coconut, stir it all up” -Jamaican health tip for lowering blood pressure

Honor, Courage, Commitment

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from DVIDS  CA, UNITED STATES
09.15.2017
Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Veloicaza 
Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

A Senior Chief Petty Officer I had the opportunity to work with during a CPO Selectee training day once asked a Selectee when did he (or she) become a Chief Petty Officer.

” I was selected this year, Senior Chief.”

“Do you know when I became a Chief Petty Officer, Selectee?”, he then asked.

“When I decided to act and take responsibility as a Chief Petty Officer.   I simply waited for the uniform to catch up.”

The article here honors the example and sacrifice of SEAL operator Michael Monsoor, whose example will be remembered in his namesake naval vessel and her crew.

via DVIDS – News – USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) Crew Welcomes Namesake into the Chief’s Mess

When these States were United

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from  envisioningtheamericandream.com

There were three sucker punches the United States of America suffered – within her borders – in history.  August 24, 1814, when the British burned the White House during the War of 1812.   The attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941.  And within the lifetime of most Americans now living,  New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the thwarted attack, probably destined for the White House, on September 11, 2001.

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. Abraham Lincoln
brainyquote.com

Out of World War II, one-time enemies became friends and Allies.  From the early Nineteenth Century, the world entered the Modern Era, mostly due to the inventiveness and creativity of people coming to these United States.  From turbines and cotton gins, to aircraft and space exploration,  ideas germinated here or were improved on and flourished, the gift of immigrants who were united in pride for this nation.

Blood has been shed defending a free people.  Ideas that flourished here have gone out into the rest of the world.  From medicine to Microsoft,  a melting -pot in America fostered new ideas and directions in the world.   Freedoms that had not been prevalent to societies in the Old World worked here.

But in the late 1940s and continuing through today, three forces have gathered in opposition to Americanism.   Socialism, atheism, and equivocation.    A failed idea of mid-19th century European intellectuals that the Industrial Revolution created oppression was embraced first by Russia, China, and imposed or embraced by nations in Europe, Asia, and some Latin American states.  It resulted in a mediocre existence, little pride in workmanship, and ironically, a small elite oppressing a majority.   It continues today due to control of information, education, and government services by an elite over a majority.  Atheism, fostered by the same socialist elites, highlights the weaknesses of mankind as being the result of and not a remedy through the Christian faith.  All the other religious orders are unopposed, generally,  by the elites – for whom, power is religion- to confound and isolate people into manageable groups.

And  from dictionary. com,

equivocation: “the use of ambiguous language to conceal the truth or to avoid committing oneself; prevarication.”

Leaders formerly stood upon principles,   Washington,  Jefferson,  Lincoln;  Martin Luther King,  Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela.    Today,  masses follow sound bites,  imagery, and shed blood based on half-truths,  lies and backroom deals.  And in the U.S.,  most politicians have only one purpose – to gain and remain in power.

On this 16th anniversary of the murder of 3,000 people, at the hands of fanatics -propelled by a  religion where the very mention of their prophet’s name can instigate murder – I pray for everyone here to embrace unity, discourse,  freedom, and respect for law and for the Constitution.

A house divided cannot stand.