- I have learned that I shouldn't promise what the next blog post will be, since that seems to almost guarantee that something else will come up first.
- If all you do for 16 hours a day is wash dishes, you will start to have engaging dreams about dishwashing that feel far superior to the real experience of dishwashing. This despite it being exactly the same activity. A Zen master once asked if he was a butterfly who dreams that he was a man, or a man who dreams that he was a butterfly; Am I a dishwasher who dreams himself to be a dishwasher, or vice versa?
- After a good inspection, we are often warned against complacency, and after a bad inspection we are usually told that we are getting complacent (and the complainant is typically correct in that assessment). I found out why those warnings had no apparent effect on the troublemakers-- only four of the twelve crewmen in this class know what the word "complacency" means, the rest having no idea, and some believing the word to have been made up by our administrators as a catch all term for things they don't like.
- A task you undertake yourself is always more enjoyable than one you are ordered into. Either that or polishing copper pipes is an intrinsically more enjoyable task than dishwashing. I am genuinely undecided as to which hypothesis is more correct.
- There appear to be two types of people who perform poorly in the academic setting (a third, those with disabilities, is discounted here). There are people who are generally clever but fall short in one or more academic areas due to lack of motivation, talent, or a poor foundation. These people often consider themselves "dumb", even though they can be perfectly competant and otherwise well rounded individuals. Then there are people who are just stupid, seemingly incapable of functioning appropriately in modern life who fall short academically as part of a pattern of falling short in all aspects of civilized life. These people seem to consider themselves great and brilliant people and expect what is owed them for their talents to find its way to them any day now. The fact that they have managed to escape what is due to them for 20+ years baffles me as well, though perhaps there is a selection effect in my sample.
- For all that they insist that we as a crew must be self policing and clamp down on laziness and conflict, the system the union has put us in rewards carrying the slack of the lazy people far more than it punishes laziness itself. It having become clear exactly who the lazy people are and to what extent they are afflicted with moral turpitude, we have come to the general conclusion that if we point out and punish the lazy or allow the lazy to be noticed by an instructor or administrator (the course of action represented by the words of the union) then we will be punished as a class through extra work and delayed transition out of the boot camp mode of living. If we let them slide until they get on their first ship and get fired (the course of action that the union is adamantly opposed to, since it endangers union funding for the trainee program, union reputation with shipping companies, and entry level slots for future trainees), then we get to coast through the program without drawing negative attention, and then get the extra satisfaction of watching the lazy people waste difficult months of their life, build a huge resume hole, and possibly get stranded in a third world hellhole to catch a hopefully painful disease and die slowly away from anyone who speaks a language they can communicate in. I consider this bad mostly on a theoretical level.
- At the union-wide meeting, I learned that there are people who will promote their own self-interest through government plunder without the slightest bit of shame. At issue were $20 million of the $180 million Maritime Security Program scheduled to be cut in a recent House bill. This, we were told by our valiant union officers, was a bad idea because A) it could cost up to 120 union jobs when those seven ships leave government service and either get scrapped to sold of to a non-union purpose, B) $20 million is basically nothing in compared to the huge federal government, and C) "Congress promised us the full $180 million" with an implied in exchange for your votes "and now they are breaking their promise". No mention was made of the strategic value or lack thereof of those seven ships on the chopping block (a point on which I am genuinely agnostic; it is an active program but whether the best number of ships held on lease is 60 or 53 is more than I know), nor of competing budget priorities even among the maritime and defense interests. I had not thought to see such a display of arrogant, selfish plundering outside an Ayn Rand novel.
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Things I Have Learned
I have learned an number of new things in the last month, chief among them that any novel experience and situation can be a learning moment, even if that situation is a hellish nightmare realm of steel wool and diswashing liquid.