Friday, June 27, 2014


This week was the first week of lifeboating class, focusing on the older style of lifeboats, the open lifeboat (looks like a canoe). The assessment was literally getting out on the water and taking turns rowing or acting as coxswain (the order shouting guy) and getting graded on rowing and shouting. As promised, I return here to share the things I have learned.

  • I always thought "homophobia" was the wrong term, because 'phobia' indicates fear, but I always thought homophobes hated homosexuals, not feared them, in the way that racists hate people of different skin colors and sexists hate the other gender. It turns out that there actually are people who are absolutely terrified of homosexuals and lose their shit when someone makes a gay joke. I have had a lot of new experiences, but having "don't rape me, faggot" shouted in a squeaky voice at me by a black man twice my size in response to a (wholly inappropriate) joke will definitely stick with me.
  • This school apparently has basically zero institutional memory. According to the teachers, the living standards, militarization, and hazing swing back and forth wildly within the space of a few months. The teachers are constant(-ish) and the commandant has been there forever, but because leadership turns over every month and the longest stay on the base is the three months of phase 1, what is and is not acceptable changes to such an unbelievable amount that even the upgraders who were here five years ago call it unrecognizable-- and I get the sense that the five years before that could have said the same.
  • Some people simply have no intention of making an effort when things get difficult. They will quit, and then be surprised when they remain incompetent and resentful of all the people who put in the effort and got better. I had always thought that these people who resent the wealth and achievements of others just didn't see the hard work people put in to get to that level, but even when that hard work happens right in front of them they still don't seem to understand.
  • Similarly, in college I always was baffled by how my professor would write basically the same article over and over in popular press about really basic facts like "more population is on net a benefit to society", "free trade makes a nation stronger", "big businesses don't actually have power in the way that police and politicians do", and "businesses lowering prices is good for consumers". But the ignorance of otherwise clever people who simply have never thought to examine their opinions systematically is truly astounding. As is the fact that, when confronted on these and other abstract issues, people don't seem interested in hearing that they may be wrong or even in nuancing their present understanding and will shout you down the moment they find out you disagree in the slightest. Having shouted you down, they will present themselves as having won a moral and intellectual victory. I simply do not understand these people who are so threatened and ruled by the opinions of others.
  • When in a lifeboat out at sea, do not eat or drink for the first 24 hours unless someone is very ill. Since your body already has stores of food and water, allow yourself to excrete that and then when you do eat you will get more benefit out of it. 
  • Nearly all fish can be eaten raw unless it has spines or puffs up. For a change of pace, throw fish guts in the air with your fishing hook attached to catch a diving seagull.
  • According to best procedures, the first things a coxswain should do to in a life raft out at sea are, in order:
    • Row or use the motor to get a safe distance away from a sinking ship
    • Distribute anti-seasickness tablets to everyone
    • Scan for and row towards useful wreckage or survivors
    • Collect all knives, weapons and sharp objects from the other passengers to prevent mutiny
    • Then open up the survival manual included in the life raft and read a much longer checklist.
  • Power corrupts. Every time. 
  • The smaller the stakes, the more viciously those who think themselves important will fight over it.
Also learned a bunch of technical aspects of lifeboating, but you, dear reader, need only concern yourself with rule #1: if you are in my lifeboat, do what I tell you to do and don't complain.

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