Thursday, May 31, 2012
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The news hit me like a freight train. I had just seen him 24 hours ago. We had one of our best classes yet, capped off with a run of his famous puns. His smile and wit brought groans but also immense appreciation.
We were talking about organizations and the culture around them. He had assigned homework due after the weekend. Time and time again his class provided me with actual insights and useful tidbits for when I lead. This leadership class was one which thrived on his knowledge but most importantly his passions for us and the subject.
I went and talked to the program head, Dr. Westbrook the moment I found out. He helped clear up some stuff, and I originally told myself to go check to see how he was doing. Maybe I needed it more than he did.
After our conversation, I got into my car, and just opened up. I haven’t had an intense cry of this caliber in probably a decade. So I called my dad. It did not seem fair. A 53 year old man, leaving behind a wife, a six year old daughter and sons aged eleven and thirteen? What kind of world is this?
A lot of strange things can happen in college, most of which lead to something good. The loss of one of my favorite professors, mid semester is not anything we can prepare for. And at times it is hard to find how this is a gift. What Drake does give us though, is Professors who lead lives worth celebrating and from which we can learn lessons to carry with us forever. It gives us friends who can put a comforting hand on our shoulder. It gives us other professors who open their doors to talk. It gives me a girlfriend who rushed home from her teaching position to comfort me and just be with me. In a time of utter darkness, Drake gives us hope. And it is with hope and blessings that I know Dr. Jack Fellers will be reunited with his Beloved Jesus.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
“I can’t believe you are moving that. It is really winding down,” my roommate mentioned last week as he inspected my disassembled futon and helped me load it on the roof of my van. This has been one more reminder of what is quickly approaching: the end of my undergraduate experience. That futon has been in my possession since sophomore year. I have had residents sitting on it telling me about their deepest fears, I have had sports parties where we spilled beer. I have fallen asleep on it to the sun of an afternoon nap, and enjoyed late nights that ended with a sunrise (and started with a tequila version of said sunrise.) Now it will be passed down to my younger brother as he makes his way through college.
(Side note: if you are going to buy a futon, get a nice one. I got this from Golde’s in Madison, WI. Much more comfortable than the $80.00 box store brands, and holds up.
I also got my cap and gown yesterday. It is weird thinking that 4 years ago, I was trying on my purple cap and gown and walking across the stage. College graduation, seems much more low key. There aren’t the huge parties roaming from house to house for weekends on end. I am even more certain than I was in high school that I won’t see many folks again for a long time. Some of our porch conversations have consisted of whom we will try to stay in touch with, or would invite to our weddings. Drake has Relays, which continuously calls folks back. I intend to not have to come back to Drake itself until a 5 year reunion, but doubt that will happen. The place always draws me back, even when I swear I will see it in the rearview mirror for the last time.
Only a few of my friends have positions yet which is scary, but I talked to a woman I graduated from high school with, and she said she wont even be looking until this summer for employment, even though we head out at the same time. I am eternally delighted to have my Navy position.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
We sat down at the bar, everyone was introduced to me, and as the beer flowed so did the stories. These were tales I told thousands of times before, but this time the audience was different. At this table was my team leader and resident director in the revolution which made this blog popular. Others were around and seemed to enjoy it as they kept asking questions.
The week was a great closure for me. We were there to present our story and help the study abroad community plan for evacuations. It turned into a way to reconnect with those I had become so emotionally close to because of the threats we faced in Alexandria. The last time I saw these two people was over a year ago, jumping on a plane. It was great to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
“Show me the metrics.” “Prove that you are doing better, don’t just tell me about.” “What can we do to engrain the progress we have made.” “We need to be able to tell them. It is time for budget cuts, and they like graphs-can you make one to prove our effectiveness?”
All of the above has been said to me in the last month, which has brought me a new love in my life: excel/google spreadsheet. I have been religiously tracking many things in my life.
It started with my Army PT class. We had semester and midterm evals, which though mildly useful did not bring immediate changes (I have been in this class for 4 years now, so I have had a decent look at the squads.) Therefore After every workout I would rate how smoked I was (1 being should have stayed in bed, 10 equals puked passed out or dead) and how enjoyable the workout was (variety.) I would rate that for each segment of the morning (muscle endurance and run group) along with comments about what I liked and what we did. I did this every morning for a month, getting the rankings of my cadets. When I had enough data, I approached the lieutenant seeking advice on how to bring this up to my leadership (which I felt might be a touchy subject, as it was discussed with others over breakfast, but no one saw what the rankings were like.) It had to go out in order to mean something in real time. As we talked he became more and more excited about the idea and now it happens for every cadet rated by all participants at the end of the workout. The leadership gets immediate feedback, and I have noticed some changes within the next workout due to the effects of the metrics.
Thanks to google docs on my phone, I can also track my personal lifting (PT is great, but not enough to really excel in OCS.) After every lift I can track to see my weights becoming heavier and heavier and see what has been working well along with when is time to boost up. In one month I have increased my bench by 30 pounds.
Metrics can be used for almost every possible concept. What do you track?
Thursday, February 23, 2012
“Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company”-Lord Byron
Lent was yesterday, which kicks off the annual conversations over the Hubbell lunch tables of “so what are you giving up?” My favorite one was in middle school giving up Nickelodeon (channel 47 back home,) and then ended up not really enjoying it after Easter. This is probably why I have never given up milkshakes. A few years ago a close friend told me that instead of giving up something she was going to be adding something good for her (in this particular case, drinking a full nalgene of water each day.) Having already giving up the more fun things in life last spring (the Middle East provides for a lengthened unintentional fasting from some of the traditional aspects people give up for the holiday.) This time I will be writing letters.
Two days in, and I have written two letters. I will keep you updated how it goes. I am looking forward to the one to the Commander in Chief and to my sailors.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
I have a job. I am eternally thankful for it, and the income I have made from it has greatly served me well. However that job becomes more and more real each day.
I found the list for NROTC members of what ships they will go to upon graduation. Two months after I walk across the stage, I will be presented with another list. I will have to marry the type of ship I want with the homeport I want. I had hoped for Bahrain, but that looks more and more unlikely with the impending Iran showdown (no one wants untested officers in the fight straight out of training and it is not a normal port as very few ships are homeported there.) I am still keeping my fingers crossed but preparing for more options. When I turned 20 I told one of my best friends I would spend as much of the next decade overseas as possible. For the Navy this means Forward Deployed, in……Japan.
Time to learn to like sushi.
I don’t know if that is where I will end up but it is a real possibility. I have tried to not come to that realization, but subconsciously knew it might be the case, hence why I took a class on Japan this semester (not needed for my major track.) Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, San Diego or even the Philippines are other options. If I went to Norfolk, Virginia I could spend my off days staring at the USS Wisconsin the way some guys stare at photos of swimsuit models in their lockers.
I have also started research into the IW part of my SWO-IW specialty. Information Warfare (Information Dominance) will become my job after I get my SWO pin and am qualified to drive and fight the ship. This job is becoming more and more called upon and diverse. The amount of IA assignments-when we get detached and go somewhere to help without a ship (Iraq, Afghanistan the Pentagon, etc.) increases for IA due to the technical nature of our positions and for SWOs because we are generalists. I will have both, which should lead to my dream job of Foreign Area Officer (Military Embassy work) a few years down the line.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
This was a pretty eclectic weekend. On Friday afternoon my girlfriend and I went to Dos Rios, a downtown Mexican Restaurant. They have one of the best margaritas I have ever had. The food is particularly good as well. I had a seasoned shrimp and rice.
Saturday morning I was at an “Outclass your competition/Dinning with Diplomats” etiquette luncheon. This was put on at no cost to us by the LEAD concentration (http://www.drake.edu/catalog/ugrad/artsci/leadershipconc.php) at Drake, of which I am a member. We learned networking basics-I apparently close my eyes when meeting someone (so that I can remember their face and name) however it comes off as odd to the other person. Information was presented on body language and posture (my go-to, “at ease” hands behind my back stance when mingling/ waiting was deemed inappropriate in the civilian world because my hands cannot be seen, thus creating an acute sense of wonder/distrust.) We then moved into a receiving line and a three-course formal business meal complete with continental vs. American dining styles, toasts, and a discussion on the difference between social and business dining. This was the first time I had even been through the dinner portion of these classes and the Tero (http://www.tero.com/) folks did a splendid job.
Saturday afternoon I got to finish up a fair amount of reading followed by a jaunt downtown with my girlfriend and a close friend of ours. I am eternally in search for the best cheeseburger possible, and think I have found it at Americana, also located downtown Des Moines. The restaurant is a very urban feel with a large mix of clientele. Heading to our table we walked past some young professionals acting out what looked like an adult prom, dressed to the nines. We were fine in business causal attire (I had a t-shirt on underneath my blazer in preparation to catch the Drake game afterwards.) The prices are fine for a weekend dinner, and the food is simply amazing!
After stopping by another watering hole, the girlfriend and I ended up listening to the Live Jimmy Concert in Orlando (thank you internet radio) which was an amazing way to cap off the evening.
Keeping with the “chill” vibe of the weekend, as I was getting ready today “A Pirate’s look at 40” came on my speakers in my basement. I hoped into my hammock, which I strung up yesterday and was overcome with the swaying of the ocean and the sounds of the Mayor of Margaritaville.
Monday, January 30, 2012
Set sail from Bequia to St. V today. Tomorrow I go home. Clean the boat when we got in and had lunch. I am now ASA 101 and 103 certified, which is one of the goals I had come here to pursue. My hotel room overlooks Blue lagoon and the ocean past that. I smoked a Cuban cigar, watched the sun set and rum. I am no longer moving, which is an odd feeling. My bed stays in one place, and the lapping of the ways against the hull no longer lulls me to sleep. Tomorrow I board a plane and head back to winter, civilization and responsibility. I will leave behind a lifestyle I have grown to adore. I learned to skipper, sail, navigate and take care of a 44 foot sailboat and crew. I learned more about photography, which I hope you enjoyed. (Find me on facebook for the whole album.) I learned to once again fall in love with the stars, music and the sea.
Above all I learned to sail fast, live slow.
Salt Whistle to Bequia. Close hauled the whole way. 5 hours of 8 foot waves. Felt like a marathon. Found some abandoned homes on the South of Admiralty. Anchored in the bay and read A Pirate looks at 50. Scott and I had been making Jimmy Buffett's Boat Drink jokes the whole day so he obliged with the song over the speaker system as the sun went down along with the drinks. On shore I had my best meal yet at the Gingerbread Restaurant. (No idea why, but that was the style of the architecture.) I had shrimp sauteed in garlic and chardonnay with a drink I asked the bartender to make in honor of our ship's name. Wine an rum cake followed. Sleeping on deck tonight.
Woke up before the 3am alarm. Glasses on, stumbled upon deck. Find Sagittarius, and Scorpio-old friends of mine. The clouds clear-to the lower right a reason to “remember just why I cam this way…The Southern Cross!”
Written by Crosby Still Nash Young, my favorite version comes from the Mayor of Margarittaville:
Got out of town on a boat for the Southern Islands
Sailing to reach before a following sea
She was makin' for the Trades on the outside
And the downhill run to Papeete
Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas
We got eighty feet of waterline, nicely making way
In a noisy bar in Avalon I tried to call you
But on a midnight watch I realized why twice you ran away
Think about how many times I have fallen
Spirits are using me, larger voices callin'
What heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten
I have been around the world looking for that woman girl
Who knows love can endure
And you know it will
And you know it will
When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
‘Cause the truth you might be runnin' from is so small
But it's as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day
So I'm sailing for tomorrow, my dreams are a dyin'
And my love is an anchor tied to you, tied with a silver chain
I have my ship and all her flags are a flyin'
She is all I have left and music is her name
Think about how many times I have fallen
Spirits are using me, larger voices callin'
What heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten
I have been around the world lookin' for that woman girl
Who knows love can endure
And you know it will
lAnd you know it will
So we cheated and we lied and we tested
And we never failed to fail, it was the easiest thing to do
You will survive being bested, somebody fine will come along
Make me forget about loving you and the Southern Cross
Later that day:
Left Union for Mayeau and Salt Whistle Bay. I stay on the foredeck long enough to get into some real water and sing the ode to the constellation I had witnessed a few hours before. The wind was blowing and the waves were rocking against the hull meaning only the Ocean heard my song. The cross was fun, with lots of man over board drills. Made it Salt Whistle Bay and went swimming. I ended up swimming from the boat to the shore and back, loaded up after passing my 103 test and hiked into town. Went into a Rastafarian bar owned by a named Robert Righteous. He hung out with our crew and an English couple for an hour before making dinner (so we were starving by the time the food came.) I slipped out during the conversation to run up to a church and shoot the stars. One got a real idea of how small we are looking at the vast blue sea under stars from atop the hill. After we finally finished our food, margaritas (way too much tequila, but in a good way) rum punches and beer we made our way back to Andato. Owen and I ferried the others back and then hit the beach again, achieving my favorite shot of the trip:
6:15pm Sitting on a mountain top while the sun bids adieu to the Caribbean. An hour ago I had rum and our boat played Bob Marley’s “No, woman, no cry” as we gently rocked in the bay. I watched the sun start to set and the stars start to come out.
Got to shoot stars tonight on a beach. I am getting up in a few hours for the Southern Cross.
Practiced man overboard and points of sail stuff today. Got mom her vanilla. Finally found a tourist shop in the town we left Dad off in-but it lacked postcards. I wonder where he is now? He would have loved the stars before the moon washed them out. Definitely will need to come here in the summer for the Milky Way.
“Jimmy, I wish you would take me
Where the grass is greener
I really couldn't say where it may be
Somewhere up high on a mountain top
Or down by the deep blue sea”
-Nothin’ but a breeze
two rum punches and a hairoun into the evening at writing-
Morning started with ride to Baradol, a small island in the Cays. We did the white sandy beach on a deserted isle thing. Scott, Dad and I hiked a bit and found iguanas which would give Godzilla a fright. The water was a dreamy blue color
We made fish for dinner which superb. There is a bar at the head of the harbor-made of conch shells and cement. The younger guys all went for rum punch where we were solicited for prostitution and local agrarian products. I think. Saw a shooting star. I continue my Caribbean adventures minus one Weller.
Looking at the chart I see a reef titled World’s End Reef. We will be going by there to get to the Tobago Cays. After leaving Bequia, we encountered super rough seas which put Dad out of commission, and sailed for four hours to the Tobago Cays where we are anchored now. I got to listen to Jimmy underway, many of my favorite songs played while I took the helm. Zac Brown also lamented about having his toes in the water while the waves pounded over our bow. Once we anchored I snorkeled in that light blue water so adoring in post cards (haven’t found any yet for sale yet.) I saw some green back turtles and manta rays swimming around Andato. Ended the day watching the moon come up from under the shrouds by the bow with Orion and the Pleiades over head. A magical day.
Woke up this morning and headed to the boat. Her name is Andato, and she is a 44 foot Gib’Sea, probably older than I am. Lacking the modern cruising amenities (furling main/ electric winches-though we do having a furling jib, but we will be attaching and running up an older style, non furling one) means we will learn lots! I took the American Sailing Association 101 test (Basic Keelboat) and got 7 wrong, meaning I passed. So did Dad, which I was rather worried about because he had been super busy and not been able to study much. At 1:48 pm we “got out of town on a boat to the southern islands on a reach for following seas.” Fins up!
We made it across the channel to Bequia, the largest island of the Grenadines. Dad steered and I set the jib. Now I am sitting on the bow under a full moon among 50 ships- the mast head lights also look like stars. Dinner was lobster quesadillas at a bar in Port Elizabeth where I had more Hairoun. Tomorrow we sail for 4 hours South and will again practice anchoring and points of sail. I am absorbing and understanding the information from the classes very well.
There were big waves today, ocean rollers coming in from Africa. Gear and Dad holding up well. Still surprised by the lack of tourists, really only yatchies. Excited for our sail tomorrow!
I had breakfast by the sea, and then we drove for a few hours through towns and villages along the coast. The area was gorgeous and the people were all smiles. They look different than those from TnT. Lots of men were walking down the roads, with dreadlocks. Many of them also had backpacks and machetes, meaning they were tending to the country’s GDP in the mountains. As we drive I am in the backseat, meaning it is hard to take photographs.
Our driver is named Phyllis and has lived in St. Vincent all her life. She has a wonderful jovial way of speaking, wishing friends a “blessed day.” I notice as she greats other women they both use the term “mon” which I assumed was only meant for males as an accented way of saying “man.”
We make it to Dark View falls where we ventured between the low and high falls after crossing river a few times. On the way back we stopped at Wallibou, the dilapidated set location for much of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. It lacked few interesting things for tourists, but did have a bar with rum (naturally I indulged in the local specialty of rum punch.) It was still awesome to see the place where some of my favorite movies have been shot.
There are few Americans on St. Vincent, apparently they congregate in the southern Grenadines, away from things (like people, and presumably the law.) A Jimmy Buffett book once warned not to question the histories of American’s met in the Banana republics which is fine as other than the Barefoot staff I haven’t seen any. Actually I haven’t seen really any tourists, although there is a cruise ship in port. The tourist infrastructure is also lacking; I haven’t witnessed a t shirt or postcard for sale. Tomorrow I go sailing!
When we made it to the Grenadines I immediately got fresh fish and a local brew called Hairoun (great stuff, much like what Landshark Lager tries to be.)In our flat we met our neighbors who offered us dinner and drinks. They worked at Barefoot, the school we were learning sailing from. Chris was the director and Scott would be our teacher for the week. The weather is gorgeous, around 80 degrees with strong easterly winds (the reason this area is so wonderful for sailing.) We learned that the coast guard doesn’t work (the boat is currently beached) so other sailors provide the rescue, and that roughly 50% of the GDP comes from marijuana. This also means anyone attempting to get anything done must do so before noon as people are either drunk, high, or napping. Seems like a perfect pirate hideaway.
The following blogs were translated from my journal as my technology failed and I had to use traditional pen and notebook.
“Until you got here, I was the only white guy in line” My father and I were in a vary cold Toronto airport, waiting to check into a Caribbean Airlines flight. Due to the oddness that is Expedia, we were on separate flights, but eventually wound our way to the Windward West Indies with a brief stop in Trinidad. The people there were mostly a color and mix I had not ever seen before and were exotically intriguing. I knew I was in a developing country as the first thing I saw in the Trinidad customs line was “whitening cream,” which was repulsively popular in the Arab Gulf states I travelled in. (It makes ones skin allegedly look lighter, but ends up looking like a sad paste.) There was also a large amount of Nescafe for sale.
My gear has been holding up well. In Chicago and Toronto I could have quickly made the earlier flights due to only using a carry on.
As the sun came up over Port of Spain I walked outside of the airport, into a tiki bar and traffic, on the other side of the road.