Kipling Friday

Beast and Man in India

Written for John Lockwood Kipling's
They  killed a Child to please the Gods
In Earth's young penitence,
And I have bled in that Babe's stead
Because of innocence.

I bear the sins of sinful men
That have no sin of my own,
They drive me forth to Heaven's wrath
Unpastured and alone.

I am the meat of sacrifice,        
The ransom of man's guilt,
For they give my life to the altar-knife
Wherever shrine is built.
                               The Goat.

Between the waving tufts of jungle-grass,
Up from the river as the twilight falls,
Across the dust-beclouded plain they pass
On to the village walls.

Great is the sword and mighty is the pen,
But over all the labouring ploughman's blade--
For on its oxen and its husbandmen
An Empire's strength is laid.
                            The Oxen.

The torn boughs trailing o'er the tusks aslant,
The saplings reeling in the path he trod,
Declare his might--our lord the Elephant,   
Chief of the ways of God.

The black bulk heaving where the oxen pant,
The bowed head toiling where the guns careen,
Declare our might--our slave the Elephant,
And servant of the Queen.
                            The Elephant.

Dark children of the mere and marsh,
Wallow and waste and lea,
Outcaste they wait at the village gate
With folk of low degree.

Their pasture is in no man's land,
Their food the cattle's scorn;
Their rest is mire and their desire
The thicket and the thorn.

But woe to those that break their sleep,
And woe to those that dare
To rouse the herd-bull from his keep,
The wild boar from his lair!
                                 Pigs and Buffaloes.

The beasts are very wise,
Their mouths are clean of lies,
They talk one to the other,
Bullock to bullock's brother
Resting after their labours,
Each in stall with his neighbours.
But man with goad and whip,
Breaks up their fellowship,
Shouts in their silky ears
Filling their soul with fears.
When he has ploughed the land,
He says:  "They understand."
But the beasts in stall together,
Freed from the yoke and tether,
Say as the torn flanks smoke:
"Nay, 'twas the whip that spoke."

Why Is STEM Education So Boring?

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve received the response of  “That’s cool; I’d be an engineer too if it weren’t for all of the science[math/drudgery/chemistry/fill in the blank],” I’d probably be driving a brand, spankin’ new Lamborghini Aventador with all of the trimmings. But usually all I get are excuses about why somebody would rather cover up the harsh truth than just admit that they weren’t passionate about science in order to pursue an education or career in it. But I do agree on one point and one point only: Unless you’re a huge nerd (I’m only a moderately-sized one), science can be a bit boring and dry. This is why I’ve always been a fan of people like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan, and Richard Feynman. These men had the ability (Dr. Tyson still does) to encapsulate the wonderment and awe that accompanies the pursuit of scientific discovery. Professor Tyson does an exceptional job in this video:

It’s that sense of grandeur that propels those of us who consider ourselves scientists and engineers and mathematicians to continue to explore the world and universe around us. It’s the same feeling that I get when I take things apart just to see how they work. The same feeling that I feel when I look up at the night sky, while far out to sea, and gaze upon the might Milky Way.

If we could but impart this same feeling to each and every one of our children, we’d create so much more interest in STEM education.

Kipling Friday

A return to my humble roots. Kipling Friday Returns!

 

The Anvil

Norman Conquest, 1066

ENGLAND'S on the anvil--hear the hammers ring--
      Clanging from the Severn to the Tyne!
Never was a blacksmith like our Norman King--
      England's being hammered, hammered, hammered into line!

England's on the anvil!  Heavy are the blows!
      (But the work will be a marvel when it's done.)
Little bits of Kingdoms cannot stand against their foes.
      England's being   hammered  hammered, hammered into one!

There shall be one people--it shall serve one Lord--
       (Neither Priest nor Baron shall escape!)
It shall have one  speech  and  law,  soul  and  strength  and  sword.
      England's  being  hammered,  hammered,  hammered  into
         shape!

The Dream

Shortly after I graduated in May of 2010, I had the time to start watching television again. It may not be in quite the same volume as the days of my adolescence, but it was quite a bit more than when I was but a tired, bitter, over-worked engineering student at Ye Olde Military Institute of Virginia. My viewing habits trend towards cop shows, medical dramas, spy dramas, and just about anything on the History, Military, or Discovery channels. That said, I had been watching the mini-series America: The Story of Us on the History Channel. I’m also became a huge fan of the show When We Left Earth on Discovery. Both of these shows are illustrative of the American Dream. The dream that no matter your creed or color, you could achieve anything you wanted in America as long as you had the drive, the dedication, and the heart to accomplish it.

America’s history overflows with examples of men and women who have left their mark on history based upon sheer determination alone. Men like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller built empires from dust while presidents like Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy bridged oceans and landed men upon the moon. Even men born into slavery achieved lives of success winning freedom for all men and women.

This is what has always set the United States apart from any other country on earth; the fact that what unites us is not some shared ethnicity or allegiance to some common monarch, but one mutual idea that all men are imbued by God with an equal opportunity to turn their dreams into reality.

I fear that we’ve lost that. Not only that, but that we’ve lost the capacity for it. That somehow all of the doom and gloom and “Me First!” consumerism has killed our ability to dream of new tomorrows and soar upwards to a brighter future. With the talk of fiscal cliff this and debt ceiling that, we’ve lost our footing and forgotten who we are as Americans.

We’re dreamers, workers, fighters. We take the bull by the horns and work diligently until even the wildest vestiges of our imaginations are turned into reality. We did it in 1776 by taking on the world’s preeminent super power and birthing a new nation based upon the ideals of equality for all men before the law and liberty. We did it again in 1865 when we emerged from our bloodiest war united after struggling for the soul of our Nation. We did it again in 1914 when we bridged the world’s largest oceans in Panama. We did it once more in 1945 when we rescued the world from fascism and pure evil. And our crowning achievement was when we turned lunatic science fiction into concrete scientific history in 1969 when we landed men on the moon.

We can do it again, but we the people MUST gather together and make it happen. We cannot continue down this road of selfishness and animosity.

Tennyson Friday

The Charge of the Light Brigade

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

 

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!’ he said.
Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
    Someone had blunder’d.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death,
    Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
    Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death
Into the mouth of hell
    Rode the six hundred.
Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
    All the world wonder’d.
Plunged in battery smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke.
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke
    Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not,
    Not the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
    Volley’d and thundr’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
    Left of six hundred.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
    All the world wonder’d.
Honor the charge they made!
Honor the Light Brigade,
    Noble six hundred.

Tennyson Friday

The Captain

A Legend of the Navy

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

 

He that only rule by terror
    Doeth grievous wrong.
Deep as hell I count his error.
    Let him hear my song.
Brave the Captain was; the seamen
    Made a gallant crew,
Gallant sons of English freemen,
    Sailors bold and true,
But they hated his oppression;
    Stern he was and rash,
So for every light transgression
    Doom’d them to the lash.
Day by day more hard and cruel
    Seem’d the Captain’s mood.
Secret wrath like smother’d fuel
    Burnt in each men’s blood.
Yet he hoped to purchase glory
    Hoped to make the name
Of his vessel great in story,
    Wheresoe’er he came.
So they past by capes and islands,
    Many a harbor-mouth,
Sailing under palmy highlands
    Far within the South.
On a day when they were going
    O’er the lone expanse,
In the north, her canvas flowing,
    Rose a ship of France.
Then the Captain’s color heighten’d,
    Joyful came his speech;
But the cloudy gladness lighten’d
    In the eyes of each.
‘Chase,’ he said; the sheep flew forward,
    And the wind did blow;
Stately, lightly went she northward,
    Till she near’d the foe.
Then they look’d at him they hated,
    Had what they desired;
Mute with folded arms they waited –
    Not a gun was fired.
But they heard the foeman’s thunder
    Roaring out their doom;
All the air was turn in sunder,
    Crashing went the boom,
Spars were splinter’d, decks were shatter’d,
    Bullets fell like rain;
Over mast and deck were scatter’d
    Blood and brains of men.
Spars were splinter’d; decks were broken;
    Every mother’s son –
Down they dropt – nor word were spoken –
    Each behind his gun.
On the decks as they were lying,
    Were their faces grim.
In their blood, as they lay dying,
    Did they smile on him.
Those in whom he had reliance
    For his noble name
With one smile of still defiance
    Sold him into shame.
Shame and wrath his heart confounded,
    Pale he turn’d and red,
Till himself was deadly wounded
    Falling on the dead.
Dismal error! fearful slaughter!
    Years have wander’d by;
Side by side beneath the water
    Crew and Captain lie;
There the sunlit ocean tosses
    O’er them the mouldering,
And the lonely seabird crosses
    With one waft of the wing.

What Happens In Thailand. . .

Foreign Liberty: Nothing Beats It

If you’ve spent any time around the Navy or Sailors you’ve probably heard unbelievable stories about the wondrous things that can be found in the Far East. In Hong Kong you can find yourself a personal tailor and have an entire bespoke wardroom made for you for pennies on the dollar. In Singapore you can find out just why they call it a “Singapore Sling”. In the Philippines you can enjoy the many multifaceted joys of Filipino gourmet cooking. But with all of the joys awaiting you in the Orient, there’s one place that is only talked about after the drinks start flowing and that’s Thailand. In the interests of keeping the blog out of the gutter and far away from the censors, I’ll refrain from retelling some of the stories I’ve been told of adventures in places like Phuket and Bangkok. Just remember, if ever you invite your friends from a West Pac deployment to your retirement, ensure that they don’t tell stories of the good times you had.

I’m honestly surprised that something like that doesn’t happen more often. Anyway, I just thought I’d share some humor on this glorious Tuesday.

Tennyson Friday

The Sailor Boy

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

 

He rose at dawn and fired with hope,
    Shot o’er the seething harbor-bar,
And reach’d the ship and caught the rope,
    And whistled to the morning star.

And while he whistled long and loud 
    He heard a fierce mermaiden cry,
‘O boy, tho’ thou are young and proud,
    I see the place where thou wilt lie.

‘The sands and yeasty surges mix
    In cave s about the dreary bay,
And on thy ribs the limpet sticks,
    And in thy heart the scrawl shall play.’

‘Fool,’ he answer’d , ‘death is sure
    To those that stay and those that roam,
But I will nevermore endure  
    To sit with empty hands at home.

‘My mother clings about my neck,
    My sisters crying,  :”Stay for shame;”
My father raves of death and wreck,- 
    They are all to blame, they are all to blame.

‘God help me! save I take my part 
    Of danger on the roaring sea,
A devil rises in my heart,
    Far worse than any death to me.’

The Fire of a Thousand Suns

A sailor is sprayed in the face with liquid fire.
This is how it begins.

Back in April, I had to undergo an armed sentry course in order to be qualified to carry a weapon while on duty. I was also taught how to properly use the collapsible baton and OC spray. In order to be certified on the use of each, I needed to pass through the trial by fire that is being sprayed in the face with OC spray.

Now, in order to understand just how bad this is you must first understand what exactly OC spray is. “OC” stands for “Oleoresin Capsicum,” which is an oily resin derived from the fruit of hot peppers and chilis. In other words, this is what is commonly referred to as pepper spray, the same stuff that the police use in order to quell riots, brawls, lawlessness, and general ruckuses. This spray contains a high concentration of capsaicin, the chemical that makes spicy foods muy caliente. Because of that, it makes an excellent less-than-lethal weapon to be used in crowd control, subduing a violently resistant bad guy, and generally getting people to do what you want them to do. And now dear reader, you may ask “Well, just how does it do that?”

Continue reading “The Fire of a Thousand Suns”

The New Grand Old Party

We Republicans stand at a cross roads: We can choose to change and each faction of the party can compromise some of their views and we can unite or we can go the same way as the Whig Party did before. There’s just no other way to go. The Democrats have moved ahead of us in diversifying their base and grabbing a larger chunk of the American populace as their loyal voters; namely the black, Latino, and women’s rights votes. By many, Republicans are seen as old, decrepit, backers of big business and out of touch with the needs and struggles of the majority of average America.

But it wasn’t always like this. The Republican Party used to be the party of intelligent progressivism. We used to be the party that moved America forward. My personal hero, Theodore Roosevelt, was a staunch Republican who battled for such things as anti-trust legislation, equal rights for all Americans, and liberty. Many other prominent Republicans supported similar legislation and policies such as Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. Our party is built upon the ideals of personal responsibility balanced by a government which keeps its nose out of the personal affairs of the people.

Meghan McCain recently published an opinion piece along these same lines. In it she says the same things I’ve been thinking for years chief amongst which is that we’ve decided to follow the Religious Right and Social Conservatives so far down the rabbit hole that we’ve delude ourselves into thinking we can legislate people’s morality. It’s hurt us, as evidenced by the last two presidential elections. We focus on issues like abortion and gay marriage when we should really be fighting the increasing burden of debt that represents a serious national security threat to this nation. We must hone our message around the base of a sane fiscal policy, a strong national defense, and a dedication to the idea that every American should have an equal opportunity for success and should be left to do as they please so long as they don’t violate the rights of other Americans. These are the principles that made America and the GOP strong. They will again in the future only if we speak out in favor of them.

We need a return to the traditional role of the Republican Party as the party that moves America forward and not the party calling for a return to the Dark Ages.

Tennyson Friday

Sea Dreams

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

What does little birdie say
In her nest at peep of day?
Let me fly, says little birdie,
Mother, let me fly away.
Birdie, rest a little longer,
Till the little wings are stronger,
So she rests a little longer,
Then she flies away.

What does little baby say,
In her bed at peep of day?
Baby says, like little birdie,
Let me rise and fly away.
Baby, sleep a little longer,
Till the little limbs are stronger;
If she sleeps a little longer,
Baby too shall fly away.

Rules of the Road

Every year, we Surface Warfare Officers are required to take an exam on the US Coast Guard’s Navigation Rules, and we must pass with a ninety-percent or more of our answers correct. This is no mean feat as the  Collision Regulations (aka ColRegs, Rules of the Road, COMDTINST M16672.2D) are written more for the joy of the Maritime Lawyer than the Professional Mariner and as such serve better as a sleep aid than an exciting novel. Unfortunately, my job as a mariner requires memorization of the Rules, something I’ve always struggled with. But with enough studying, I can usually pull off a passing grade. At sea, it’s a bit easier since real life makes comprehension of the regulations easier. For those who don’t understand and heed the rules, a sad fate awaits:

Anyway, I have a ColRegs test tomorrow and needed something to break up the boredom of studying for it. If you’d like to try your hand at some of the questions, follow this link to USCGQ.com and chose the Rules of the Road question deck. Best of luck!

Never Underestimate The Mafia

Fresh Bread Baked Daily! The Best Thing About Being Underway.

I mentioned the Duffel Blog a few weeks back, and have stumbled across another article I thought worthy of mention due to its ability to shed some light on some of the more interesting facets of Navy life. The article is a discussion of the first non-Filipino cook aboard a warship, which is big news, considering the stranglehold that the Manila Mafia has on certain rates like Culinary Specialist.

Back in the day, when we still had a base in the Philippines, the Status of Forces Agreement we held allowed for 2000 Filipinos to enlist in the Navy in any rate not requiring a security clearance. Naturally, that meant that a large portion of them went into the supply rates. Sadly, the practice stopped when we left the Philippines in the 1990s.

Is the Filipino Mafia an actual criminal organization within an organization that is the bedrock of national defense? No, not even close; but the Filipinos are a tight-knit bunch. Their culture places a lot of emphasis on family values and community which means that they tend to seek each other out on board the ship. Usually the most nefarious thing they have planned is a cook out.

Now, I like the Manila Mafia. The Filipino Sailors I’ve had the privilege to work were some of the most efficient and hardest workers I’ve had the pleasure to work with. And one of the benefits of their tight community is the advantage of being able to tap into the network and using it to work out solutions to problems through back channels. For instance, say you happen to need a solenoid valve that no one seems to be able to locate within the confusing vast Navy Supply system, just reach out to the Filipino Mafia and that valve will be in your hands within a few days. Just remember: When that valve arrives, don’t ask questions of how it got there.

Saying Farewell To A Hero

The Flag is folded over the cremains of Neil Armstrong
The Flag is folded over the cremains of Neil Armstrong

I’ve written about the US Space Program before on this blog, and having worked in support of it, I’m very passionate about our exploration of the final frontier. Therefore it should come as no surprise that one of my personal heroes was Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on an alien world. Armstrong was an outstanding leader, an amazingly-talented pilot, and a humble man who accomplished extraordinary feats. He also valued his privacy and kept his professional and personal life separated.

As for me, I’ve admired Neil Armstrong since I was a young boy and learned that man had landed on the moon. I  was instantly captivated by his feats and those of his colleagues. I wanted to be like him, and had it not been for Neil Armstrong, I would never have slogged through the four years of toil that it took to earn my engineering degree. Had it not been for him, I would not have chosen to join the Navy, instead following in the footsteps of my Uncle and Grandfather into the United States Air Force. But by my logic, if the Navy produced talented aviators like Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, and Gene Cernan, then by God that’s where I wanted to learn how to fly.

And so the news a few months ago that Armstrong had passed away struck me terribly hard. But I felt an unusual sense of kinship when I learned of his request to be buried at sea. While a Naval Aviator serving in Korea, he had developed a love of the ocean, something I can certainly sympathize with. I too have come to love the sea with all of her mystery and her tempestuous nature. It was his final wish for his earthly remains to be committed to the deep and so a ship was chosen for the solemn duty of carrying him to sea one last time.

In a strange bit of kismet, the ship chosen happened to be the USS Philippine Sea stationed in the same place as I. The Norns didn’t stop there, weaving our paths to cross one final time. As I was participating in our morning physical training, I suddenly heard the whistle blasts  calling all hands topside to attention on all of the ships throughout the basin. Scant minutes later, I spied the Phil Sea, as she made her way towards to the breakers, her crew manning the rails dressed in their whites. I instantly realized what was happening and I stopped mid-stride. I came to the position of attention and stood stock-still as I watched my hero make way towards his final resting place. The cruiser soon passed and the whistle signal to carry on with assigned duties was blown and I returned to my run a bit older than I had been before.

Tennyson Friday

In honor of the recent premiere of the newest installment of the James Bond saga, Skyfall, I’ve decided to share the entirety of Lord Tennyson’s poem Ulysses. The movie itself is outstanding and Adele’s wonderful voice places her theme song in the upper echelons of James Bond theme songs, alongside Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever.

Ulysses

by Lord Alfred Tennyson
It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known--cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all,--
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
   This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle,
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
   There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me,
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads--you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done, 
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it.