Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Machines of the Future

The Machines of the Future By David Eric Renner
There I stood, seabag in one hand, nervous as hell and awed by the sheer size of the M. S. Patriot. She was about nine hundred feet of solid blue hull, a full eleven stories towering above the dock, with twenty two life boats strung around her main deck halfway up, very impressive. This blue monster floated there in stark contrast to the low profile killing machines I knew: submarines, where to float or sink was an option. My short military career had ended bitterly, leaving me without the skills I had signed up to learn and a poisonous level of disillusionment about the world in general. It was here amidst the dock workers and tourists I was about to embark on the most crucial job of my life, though I couldn’t have known that at the time.
As a submariner I was a radioman, a task equivalent to programming fourteen VCR’s at the same time, with the added weight of one of those machines potentially telling me to relay to the Captain missile coordinates for one of our nuclear payloads. As an ex-member of society, this had a heavy impact on my conscience, tearing me up from the inside out. There was a silver lining to my cloud of gloom and potential doom, though, as emphasized by Jane Bybee, psychology professor at Suffolk University during an interview for the ABC news article “Is guilt good for you?,” by John Stossel. She points out that “One of the markers of a psychopath is that the person doesn't experience guilt at all. Serial killer Ted Bundy, for example, said he felt no guilt after killing 28 people.” (Stossel) Twenty eight people is one thing, but I was a vital link in the conduit for several hundred thousand potential deaths, maybe more. While Ted Bundy had the courtesy to kill those people himself, at least my guilt says one decent thing about me; that I am still human. Consequences carrying such gravity are simply not a common thing in the civilian world. I wasn’t the only one with doubts in the service, the military just has a way of sounding right, no matter what. If there was anything I had learned in the navy, it was that if you did something with enough confidence, and the targeted organization was big and loose enough, you almost always got away with it. For the most part, that’s how the military deals with the public. That was why I was nervous: I was signed on for deck crew, and there was absolutely no way I was chipping paint for five months. However, it was my tentative foot in the door, and given enough bravado, I intended to grace the engines department and discover an entirely new and fascinating realm of mechanics, irrevocably changing my life and setting me on the path of engineering.
I was a civilian now, irritated by the lack of discipline and focus of my supposed peers. Regardless if I liked those traits or not, they certainly provided a certain “greasing of the cogs” and made life simple and smooth in the navy. All I knew was that I despised the civilian unskilled working realm and hated the military even more. My feelings were not completely unfounded, as painstakingly demonstrated by Barbara Ehrenriech in her misadventures through the blue collar working world. “Something is wrong, very wrong, when a single person in good health, a person who in addition possesses a working car, can barely support herself by the sweat of her own brow. You don’t need a degree in economics to see that wages are too low and rents too high.” (Ehrenriech) Of this I had fist hand experience in Hawaii, where the rich are really rich and the poor live to serve them. That all changed when I stepped aboard the cruise liner, the M.S. Patriot.
Once I had waltzed my way into the engine room, I felt something I had never felt before; I was enjoying my job! In the military a task is written in stone, the procedures set down as if they were sacred texts, reverently practiced by sharply uniformed monks with bad mustaches. On the other hand, our ship, the Patriot, was in a state of disarray and turmoil. The previous owners, Norwegian Cruises, had run her in pristine condition with a full engines crew of thirty plus. When ownership changed hands, her crew stole most of the tools and slacked off on maintenance, creating the ideal chaotic environment for me to get a crash course in wrenching and rigging. An opportunity like this would never have occurred had I set sail on any other ship. Here I found what I was good at: problem solving and learning, particularly when it came to machines. It was that element of chaos the navy lacked, for obvious reasons, that galvanized my approach to trouble shooting and work ethics.
While discipline and focus have their merits, something must be said for relaxing on the beach at three in the afternoon on a workday. This is a phenomenon that simply does not occur on the service side, not if your Command has anything to say about it. Since we were essentially doing figure eights around the Hawaiian islands with a load of tourists, port call came often. On good days, we would complete our tasks and be in the surf by early afternoon. At night there was the cool ocean air to accompany the sight of lava flowing into the ocean at a thousand yards off shore, or the stars above the bay. There are more factors than stars and lava that promote, or disrupt, the satisfaction of a workplace. Lynn Franco, director of the consumer research center for the New York Conference Board points out “The interest in the work, the people you work with -- that kind of thing may help compensate for wages.” (Anderson) The first biweekly paycheck aboard the cruise liner was worth nearly a months pay of a third class petty officer, my old rank. In naval dry dock: the act of putting a submarine on blocks for extensive maintenance, my lot was to keep company with a bunch of ornery, smelly men, speaking such abominations as to peel the paint off a nuclear burrito the length of a football field. I remember feeling my life draining away in utter worthlessness while standing watch, staring at two sixty foot high doors holding back the entire sea. You can’t tell the ocean to stop and show identification, you can only ask nicely, and it is likely she won’t listen.
Throughout the spring and summer aboard the Patriot I absorbed more mechanical knowledge than in my entire life prior. I developed a connection to machinery, a deeper “grokking of,” to borrow a term from Robert A. Hienlien and his Martian, Valentine Michael Smith (Hienlien). Here was something that felt right, not a waste of time or boring repetition of mind numbing activity, such as standing watch against unstoppable forces. Paranoid as George Orwell may be, he brought up a very good point in his dark novel, 1984, under the “Theory and practice of Oligarchical Collectivism by Emanuel Goldstein,” illustrating very succinctly what I felt my entire military career: “War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.” (Orwell) I had no future there and felt it with every fiber of my being. But when it came to machines and the things they could do, all that potential whirring and clicking away, I saw emancipation for myself and for anyone else involved. This was something that I could pour my entire being into, and receive more from it in terms of satisfaction and enjoyment than invested. Mechanics and engineering were to become my future that summer, a future that is gaining in clarification and brilliance every day.


















Works Cited
Anderson, Porter; Job Satisfaction: Oxymoron? CNN News Interview with Lynn Franco. 24 Oct. 2000
Ehrenreich, Barbara; Nickel and Dimed. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2001.
Hienlien, Robert A.; Stranger in a Strange Land. New York: Ace Books, 1961
Orwell, George; 1984. Public Domain: Copyright Expired george-orwell.org
Stossel, John; Is Guilt Good for You? ABC News Interview with Jane Bybee. 17 Jan. 2004

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Response of the response of the review of the preview

I am abysmally disappointed. No gnashing of teeth or ripping asunder of bad concepts or poorly organized texts. Just a half hearted "good descriptions". I was rather thrilled with the air of confusion surrounding my thesis though, so now I have something to work with.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

A Line in the Sand

There is a line drawn in the sand of everyone's individual beach as to where friends stop being "just friends", and start becoming deeper, more intimate relationships. This line gets washed away and rescratched many times, and is certain to be different for everyone. Personally, I view love and friendship as one and the same, just different levels of engagement.
I have love for my friends and family, and I can certainly say I love my family more than my friends. Allow me to clarify my version of love briefly: love is the combining of, the point where two people stop being two people and share something on a level deeper than words. It can be as simple as two friends pointing and laughing at a frivolous thing or down the spiralling depths of a fully intimate romance, conscious minds melting together into one pulsating, brilliant being, drawing lasting connections together like flash spots in the retina after looking at the sun. Enter the line in the sand, a door way, a defensive wall. This protection is a natural thing derived from social upbringing and reinforced by experience. We realize over time that relations are not permenent, not even family. People die, move and change, and so do we. For every engagement there are consequences, and our line in the sand is the decisive tool, weighing out pro's and con's against experience and our own mysterious psyches.

The Machines of the Future

The Machines of the Future
By Eric Renner
There I stood, seabag in one hand, nervous as hell and awed by the size of the M. S. Patriot. She was about nine hundred feet of solid blue hull, a full eleven stories towering above the dock, with twenty two life boats strung about the top deck, very impressive. I was about to embark on the most crucial job of my life, though I couldn’t have known that at the time. All I knew was that I despised the civilian unskilled working realm and hated the military even more. My short military service career had ended bitterly, leaving me without the skills I had signed up to learn and a poisonous level of disillusionment about the world in general.
Two weeks prior I had met an employee of this behemoth vessel and put it firmly in my head to go work on the engines. I had never done anything of the sort before, so I was winging it all the way. If there was anything I had learned in the military it was that if you did something with enough confidence, and the organization was big and loose enough, you almost always got away with it. That was why I was nervous: I was signed on for deck crew, but there was absolutely no way I was chipping paint for five months. However, that was my foot in the door, and given enough confidence I was to grace the engine’s department and discover an entirely new and fascinating realm of mechanics, changing my life and setting me on the path of engineering.
After I had waltzed my way into the engine room, I felt something I had never felt before; I was enjoying my job! Our ship, the Patriot, was bought from the Dutch, and the entire crew sacked, leaving the engine department in disarray and turmoil, cultivating fertile ground for a crash course in wrenching and rigging. Here I found out what it was that I was good at: problem solving and learning, particularly when it came to machines. There was an element of chaos that the navy lacked, for obvious reasons, but that galvanized my approach to trouble shooting and work ethics.
Since we were essentially doing figure eights around the Hawaiian Islands, port call came often. We would complete our duties and be on the beach by early afternoon on good days. At night there was the cool ocean air to accompany the sight of lava flowing into the sea, or stars above the bay. Dry dock was never this much fun; a bunch of ornery, smelly men speaking such abominations as to peel the paint off a nuclear burrito the length of a football field. I remember feeling my life draining away in utter worthlessness while standing watch, staring at two sixty foot high doors holding back the entire sea. You can’t tell the ocean to stop and show identification, you can only ask nicely, and it is likely she won’t listen.
Throughout the spring and summer aboard the Patriot I absorbed more mechanical knowledge than in my entire life prior. I developed a connection to machinery, a deeper “groking” of, to borrow from Robert A. Hienlien. Here was something that felt right, not a waste of time or boring repetition of mind numbing activity. This was something I could pour my entire being into and get back more from it in terms of satisfaction and enjoyment. Mechanics and engineering were to become my future that summer, a future that is gaining in clarification and brilliance every day.