Flag Counter

Flag Counter

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Arthur

Dodged the bullet. Arthur swung offshore before reaching Norfolk. We have 35 knot winds.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fukuyama - The Origins of Political Order.

Today's book review:
I have been a fan of Francis Fukuyama since reading The End of History and the Last Man. This book will be, for me, equally memorable. The End of History asks the question "is the human race figuring out how to better govern itself?" The Origins of Political Order traces the history of that noble endeavor from prehistory to the French Revolution. Why did some countries move further along the trajectory to liberal democracy than others?
I learned a great deal of political history. Like most of my (Vietnam) generation my formal history education made it from the Greeks to England and America with little or no consideration of the rise of other civilizations. In addition to supporting Dr. Fukuyama's thesis of political order this book would make a great senior high school text for whatever "history" and "government" courses are called these days.
I said "exhausting" as there is a lot of material covered. In support of his thesis we get more than an overview. Rather we get a detailed account of the political rise of many civilizations. I found on occasion that I just had to put the book down for a day or two to catch my breath. Those who need the "Cliff's Notes" version can skip to the final section "Toward a Theory of Political Development," It is a great summary of the premise. It opens with an echo of Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (which I also recommend) in its characterization of fundamental human nature. Those who are invested in Rousseau's pacific ignorance or to a lesser degree Hobbes anarchic violence as the basis of human behavior may find this section troubling.
Troubling to me was the identification of political decay as a prime mover in history. Why do countries fall into dark ages in their quest for better models of governance? I could not but be struck hard by the similarities of the histories of previous political decay and what I observe happening in the United States today. Why are some of the most egalitarian impulses not only doomed to failure but prevalent in today's American society and political order? Are we destined to destroy our own political progress by our ill-conceived humanitarian impulses? With approval of Congress in single digits, the majority of Americans believing the country is on the wrong track, the second President in a row with approval ratings below 50%, and unemployment, underemployment, and a large number of potential workers who have just given up are we in fact in a period of political decay? Legitimacy of the “State” is a core element in political order yet the American government has never been perceived by such a large majority as having less legitimacy in my lifetime. Add that war has always been a primary source of change in political order and consider the world today - the Russian invasion of Crimea, the civil wars in Iraq and Syria, Iran, Egypt, Liberia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Korea etc. I am more concerned for the future today than I was growing up during the Cold War.
I find that scary problem an interesting foreshadowing of the second volume of this series - the history from the French Revolution to the Present. Maybe there is a way out. I certainly hope so! I look forward to its publication.
Remember, "Its turtles all the way down."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

One advantage of being able to do nothing is the ability to read... My most recent review...

Since the Enlightenment philosophers have asked the question "what is the basic nature of man?" (Unfortunately back in those days women didn't count for much.) Unequiped with the modern tools of inquiry thinkers such as Hobbs (anarchic violence) and Rousseau (pacific ignorance) speculated and wrote on this question. What is the base state of the human character? What is "Nature" and what is "Nurture?" Even suggesting that "Nature" (genetic inheritance) plays a major role has gotten authors pillored - consider the reaction to The Bell Curve by the "correct" thinkers of the current age.
We have learned a lot since the days of Hobbs and Rousseau (and Marx, Lenin and Mao!) Steven Pinker's thesis is that the intellectual children of the Enlightenment have left us with three incorrect models of human nature: "The Blank Slate", "The Noble Savage", and "The Ghost in the Machine." He explodes all three. He also explodes the myth that males and females are identical except for the plumbing.
Many people will find this book uncomfortable as it challenges their basic beliefs. Those who see themselves as paragons of egalitarianism and "human" virtue will be hardest hit. Their cherished notions and solutions for what ails society are exposed as wishful thinking with little or no chance of success. Occasional even a blind squirrel finds a nut. Perhaps on occasion the right solutions come from the wrong motivations. But it is a well know fact that the best way to solve problems it is first to understand them. Otherwise one is shooting in the dark. Mr. Pinker goes a long way in providing illumination.
Given the previous paragraph I need point out that this book is not political. Ones perspective: left, right, liberal, conservative, religious, atheist will not be justified. Rather this book should give one insight into why the unexpected consequences that have become apparent outcomes of "social engineering" should not have been unexpected at all.

Fair winds and following seas:)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fort Monroe

Yup, you should not go there
For Memorial Day I tried to visit Yorktown, VA. Well, the traffic was terrible but I finally got there. It was swamped with tourists. There was nowhere to park so I decided it was a trip I would take another day. On the way back to Little Creek I stopped at Fort Monroe at Old Point Comfort. The marina at Fort Monroe has been used for years by boaters coming up the Elizabeth River or heading down to the Intracoastal Waterway. I have never been there so I decided I would do the shore side evaluation of the facility. It is quite well protected as a place for fuel and a pump out. There are no other facilities near as it is still in the middle of the fort. (BTW the marina is now public.)

Freedom's Fortress
While there I discovered that Fort Monroe has a history from the Civil War. It was here that slaves trying to escape the South could find sanctuary and freedom. Quite a history.









Battery Irwin
A major problem for the Hampton Roads area is the size of the entrance channel. Consider that the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is 20 miles long and crosses the entrance to the Roads. We didn't have guns that could fire 10 miles much less 20. So the only way to blockade the channel was with a combination of ships and shore emplacements to prevent enemy ships from having access to the Chesapeake Bay (and thus the Potomac River and Washington DC.) Also important was the entrance of the Elizabeth River with access to Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Yorktown. Hence the shore batteries at Fort Monore.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day Memory

PBR MK 1
In honor of Memorial Day I offer up this photo that brought back particularly good memories of Capt. Steve Ayres, USNR (ret.) once a "6", and all my brothers and sisters who served and have continued to serve defending our country. For you youngsters out there this is a "PBR" - Patrol Boat Riverine MK 1. Entering service in 1966 they patrolled the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. At least two sailors won the Medal of Honor while fighting from these boats. At 19000 lbs dry with a top speed of about 32 mph they were maned by mid grade Navy enlisted personnel (E-5, E-6.)
This boat is on display at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek/Fort Story (in the Norfolk, VA area.)


Fair winds and following seas :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

US Coast Guard VHF Marine Safety Broadcasts

It has been noted by me and others that sometimes the US Coast Guard VHF marine safety broadcasts (Pan-Pan, Securite-Securite) can be difficult to understand or happen so quickly that one does not have the opportunity to find pencil and paper to write down the relevant information. If you are like me you are embarrassed to pick up the microphone and ask for a repeat.

The Coast Guard agrees that this is an issue worth study to determine opportunities to improve the communications. The point of contact in the USCG is Mr. Vernon Mann (Vernon.L.Mann@uscg.mil) Short Range Communications Program,Telecommunications Strategic Plans and Policy (CG-6521.) If you have constructive ideas I encourage you to pass them on to him.

As one who has strong positive feels about the USCG I only ask that you keep your comments brief and to the point and to remember the apocryphal Coast Guard Motto:  "We have to go out, we don't have to come back."

Fair winds and following seas :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Back to the (Almost) begining

Yesterday I left the Dismal Swamp Canal and headed up to Norfolk VA. I am now at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek (Navy Base.) When I moved aboard in August 2009 Naval Operating Base Norfolk (just around the corner) was the first military marina on my cruise. It is also where I met Maury Thompson of Gypsysails, a sailing companion for many years.

Fair winds and following seas.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Be careful what you wish for

After enduring snow, sleet, freezing water and high winds the weather finally gave me a break. I was able to compound and wax Reboot. We also replaced the "pretty stripes" just below the deck level on the sides. They had cracked and flaked over the years. With new bottom paint and a new coat of wax she is looking pretty again.

Got the rudder back from repairs and we put it in Reboot this afternoon. Of course the weather decided not to cooperate again over the past couple of days - highs in the 90's. That makes working in the sun quite the dehydrating experience.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A good day on the hard?

Delaminated Rudder
It is never a good day to be in the yard. Reboot is getting new bottom paint and I decided to replace the cosmetic stripes that have become brittle and discolored over time. After the haul out I discovered that the rudder is delaminating. So I am now rudderless while it is repaired.

But last night was a good night to be in the yard. I am headed for Norfolk in the lower Chesapeake Bay. We had winds to 35 knots last night, the lower Chesapeake had winds to 70 mph. Two ships collided and a third ran aground. We are not talking pleasure boats here. Click here for a report from Fox News http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/04/16/2-ships-collide-cargo-ship-grounded-in-virginia/ I am glad I did not experience that little storm at anchor!

Back to the rudder. I was dragged onto a reef during a freak thunderstorm in Garrison Bight (Key West) and the original rudder was destroyed about two years ago. I contacted Foss Foam and they sold me a new rudder. It was installed and took me to Europe and back.

When I contacted "Al the Rudder Guy" to explain what had happened when I hauled the boat this time he was most helpful. They warranty new rudders for 1 year. However Al asked me to send the rudder back to him so that he could determine what had happened. He told me he would repair it for free and send it back. That is a great deal and I want people to know that Foss Foam stands behind their products.

Fair winds and following seas.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A day in the sun

Today the high temperature hit 81 degrees. I was planning on moving Reboot but decided to just sit in the cockpit and enjoy a quiet day working on small projects. I feel refreshed. Interesting that actually putting in 7 hours of work left me very tired. All these days in port have reduced my endurance for actual work.

Fair winds and following seas.