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December 14, 2006

Guest-blogging stint
Posted by Patrick at 09:18 AM *

Making Light co-blogger Jim Macdonald and his spouse-and-collaborator Debra Doyle are guest-blogging this week at the Eos Books blog, in conjunction with the publication of their American Civil War naval fantasy novel Land of Mist and Snow. Here’s Jim introducing a post about sea stories:

Here’s what to do if you miss being in the Navy: Put on your foul-weather jacket. Hang two Coke bottles around your neck. Go stand in your shower from midnight to four a.m., with the water turned on full cold and all the lights out. Get out of the shower, strip down, and go to sleep on the top shelf of your closet.

It’s only recently that I’ve gone past the point where I’ve been out of the Navy longer than I was in it, and I do miss it. Just not enough to go stand in a cold shower for four hours at a time. Instead, I write about it.

And here’s Debra on the advantages of fantasy:
[W]hen it comes to dealing with large important issues (things like slavery and freedom, for instance) fantasy has some advantages that realism doesn’t. Fantasy is the genre in which metaphors and symbols can be given life and physical existence. Instead of dealing with ideals and abstractions at one remove, the writer can introduce them directly into the tale as independent actors. And issues in this country don’t come much larger or more important than the Civil War.

If the stories and legends of King Arthur make up the Matter of Britain, and those of Charlemagne the Matter of France, then the Civil War is surely the heart of the Matter of America: It is the painful working-out in blood of the original sin of the Republic, the failure to deal with the problem of slavery; and the resolution by force of arms of the contradictory existence of sovereign states inside a sovereign nation.

Drop over there and give ‘em a shout.
Comments on Guest-blogging stint:
#1 ::: Karl Kindred ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 10:49 AM:

I was wondering what is the specific purpose of the two coke bottles around the neck?

I get the rest of it, but...just for the added fatigue?

#2 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 10:58 AM:

Karl:

7x50 binoculars. Or larger.

#3 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 11:12 AM:

You make being in the Navy sound like funfunfun... Meanwhile, I just called the nearby Borders and they have four copies. Got to go get mine.

#4 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 11:15 AM:

You'd want to use old-fashioned glass bottles, for the proper effect.

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 11:19 AM:

Fantasy treatments of the American Civil War exist, certainly, but I don't know that they do much to illuminate that conflict or the aftermath. I'm thinking in particular of Turtledove's 'War Between the Provinces' trilogy (and here I am sitting in Marthasville in Peachtree Province).

#6 ::: RichM ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 12:59 PM:

So is that what Bob Dylan was singing about with the jewels and binoculars hanging from the head of the mule: coke bottles?

#7 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 02:05 PM:

That description makes me think of Alistair Maclean's HMS Ulysses, about a destroyer escort on convoy duty to Murmansk in WW2.

My Navy days were all shore duty (I was only on active duty for two years), thanks to some deity or personnel requirement specialist at BuPers.

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 02:13 PM:

My father-in-law served in the Navy in the late Fifties, on the ship that years before had been the scene of Hiro Hito formally surrendering. It was a more pleasant experience for him, maybe because he was an officer. He especially enjoyed it when his ship stopped in a French port - beholding the Parisian danseuses was... er... an eye-opener.

#10 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 03:00 PM:

"In The Navy"
(the Village People)

Where can you find pleasure
Search the world for treasure
Learn science technology
Where can you begin to make your dreams all come true
On the land or on the sea
Where can you learn to fly
Play in sports or skin dive
Study oceanography
Sign up for the big band
Or sit in the grandstand
When your team and others meet

In the navy
Yes, you can sail the seven seas
In the navy
Yes, you can put your mind at ease
In the navy
Come on now, people, make a stand
In the navy, in the navy
Can't you see we need a hand
In the navy
Come on, protect the motherland
In the navy
Come on and join your fellow man
In the navy
Come on people, and make a stand
In the navy, in the navy, in the navy (in the navy)

They want you, they want you
They want you as a new recruit

If you like adventure
Don't you wait to enter
The recruiting office fast
Don't you hesitate
There is no need to wait
They're signing up new seamen fast
Maybe you are too young
To join up today
But don't you worry 'bout a thing
For I'm sure there will be
Always a good navy
Protecting the land and sea

In the navy
Yes, you can sail the seven seas
In the navy
Yes, you can put your mind at ease
In the navy
Come on now people, make a stand
In the navy, in the navy
Can't you see we need a hand
In the navy
Come on, protect the motherland
In the navy
Come on and join your fellow man
In the navy
Come on people, and make a stand
In the navy, in the navy, in the navy (in the navy)

They want you, they want you
They want you as a new recruit

Who me?

They want you, they want you
They want you as a new recruit

But, but, but I'm afraid of water.
Hey, hey look
Man, I get seasick even watchin' it on TV!

They want you, they want you in the navy

Oh my goodness.
What am I gonna do in a submarine?

They want you, they want you in the navy

#11 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 03:06 PM:

Serge, Hirohito wasn't actually on the Missouri when the Japanese surrender took place, but a whole bunch of other famous folks were. Here's the official site of the ship as it currently is: a museum/memorial which sits opposite the Arizona Memorial within site of my back deck.

#12 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 03:09 PM:

Darn memory again, Linkmeister. I distinctly remember that he had served on a ship where the Emperor had shown up. Obviously I was wrong about why he was there.

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 03:18 PM:

I now have my copy of Land of Mist and Snow. That plus The Atrocity Archives and River of Gods means I won't be lacking for reading material during the Holidays.

#14 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 03:22 PM:

"I'm blue, navy blue,
I'm as blue as I can be
'cause my steady boy said, "Ship ahoy"
And joined the Nay-yay-veeee"

#15 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 03:54 PM:

Y'all know what NAVY stands for?

Never Again Volunteer Yourself.

#16 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 04:07 PM:

Linkmeister @ #7:
"That description makes me think of Alistair Maclean's HMS Ulysses, about a destroyer escort on convoy duty to Murmansk in WW2."

I had thoughts of the same book.

One of the most spectacular scenes in HMS ULYSSES was when one of the larger convoy ships was fatally struck and starting to roll over to one side before sinking. In MacLean's book, a smaller ship turns and comes along/against the side of the stricken ship, allowing the first ship's seamen to make wild, desperate leaps onto the deck of the second. It was such an incredibly dangerous, reckless, insane thing for the second ship to do that I found the scene almost unbelievable.

About a month ago I was reading Tristan Jones' HEART OF OAK, a WWII-memoir, and came across... a description of an almost identical event. (Jones was one of the jumpers.) MacLean based his scene on something that really happened. It really happened. Wow. Wow.

-----

My own father served in the US Navy during WWII. South Pacific duty, so his four-hour showers were warmer ones. I wish I had tried to talk to him about his service before he died; he was almost totally silent on the subject.

I know that two of the ships he served on sank in combat, so he probably saw a number of his friends and companions die.

I know his major duty was running the water-distilling equipment on board ship. My mother once pointed out to me that this almost certainly meant he also knew how to make moonshine.

I know one of the few souvenirs he kept of his service was a grainy snapshot of a stripper in a bar on a South Pacific island. I've always wondered why he kept that photo for over thirty years, even though it must have annoyed my mother. If there was a story to the photo, he never told it.

The only specific story I remember him telling was of the time he and some fellow sailors returned from a spot of shore leave driving an Army Jeep they had, umm, "requisitioned", then hooked up a winch and lifted the Jeep up onto the deck of their ship. (Their captain made them put it back before they sailed.)

And those few fragments are all I know about those years in my father's life.

#17 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 04:08 PM:

Yvan eht nioj.

#18 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 04:50 PM:

The Cruel Sea

There's also Montserrat's "Three Corvettes.

#19 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 04:57 PM:

Also, less seriously, The Navy Lark. I don't know if the BBC let everyone get at the Listen Again service, but check Wednesday afternoons on BBC7.

#20 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 05:02 PM:

Dave Bell #18:

That's Monsarrat. Montserrat is:

(a) a hill in Catalonia with an abbey on it; or

(b) an island in the Caribbean named by Columbus after said abbey; or

(c) the first name of a famous diva (and a fair number of Spanish women); or

(d) a ship of the Compañia Transátlantica Española on which, inter alia, V.S. Naipaul travelled.

#21 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 05:20 PM:

The books I recall as being about destroyer escorts in the north Atlantic, with the fatigue and privation being the main enemy, were the aforementioned "The Cruel Sea", but also one by C S Forester: "The Good Shepherd".

#22 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 07:16 PM:

Strange syncrhonicity, I've just put a recording of this in my CD player.

#23 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 07:26 PM:

Jim - I find that a regular brick works better then two coke bottles.

Chris Gerrib
LT, USN (got-the-hell-out!)

#24 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 07:34 PM:

How to have a good time on liberty:

1) Go up on deck. Throw all your money over the side.

2) Go to your berthing space. Bang your head on the bulkhead a few times.

3) Slam your dick in your locker door.

4) Put an old pair of socks in your mouth.

5) Hit your rack.

In the morning: Your head hurts, your dick hurts, your money's gone, your mouth tastes like old socks, and you can't remember leaving the ship. You must have had a good time.

#25 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 07:58 PM:

Bruce Arthurs wrote: "I know his major duty was running the water-distilling equipment on board ship. My mother once pointed out to me that this almost certainly meant he also knew how to make moonshine."

I think your mother may have been blaming the Navy for somebody else's contribution to his education.

Having some experience with WW2-era marine fresh-water distillation plants myself, as well as some experience making ethyl alcohol for drinking purposes, I can assure you that a reasonable person could spend several years making fresh water out of sea water on a daily basis and still not know enough about fractional distillation of ethanol to keep from poisoning themselves when they drink the condensate.

#26 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 08:31 PM:

My dad always gives one of two reasons for going into the Navy, depending on his audience: 1) he would have been drafted into the army, and b) they were having me and it would be cheaper in the Navy.

#27 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2006, 09:57 PM:

j. h. woodyatt: tell us more? 28 years ago I worked with a small land-based unit (Barnstead, 3 gal/hr), which was supposed to get rid of both minerals and organics in tap water; it was tuned by reducing the coolant flow in the condenser until the condensate was \almost/ boiling and there was steady steam coming out of the vent, which I'd expect to blow off any methanol (reportedly the most common contaminant in ethanol). I also wonder what ethanol sources would have produced toxics; I used to homebrew (all extract) and don't recall any warnings about byproducts....

#28 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2006, 01:00 AM:

Well, the distiller unit I remember working on was a three-stage flash evaporator. Sea water pumped into the first stage would evaporate at about 180 F or so, and at 165 F in the second stage, and at around 140 F in the third stage. Brine and fresh water would come out the other end in a continuous flow. The heat source was waste steam.

Every moonshine operation I've ever seen was a simple batch fractional distillation system, and the traditional way to poison yourself in that procedure is to forget that the first few milliliters of condensate are usually loaded with methanol and other things that make for unpleasant flavor and nose. Another good way is to forget that ethanol is a very versatile solvent, and you probably don't want to drink the first pass through a still made from the radiator coil of a 1971 Chevy Impala.

#29 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2006, 09:29 AM:

talking about Jim, i don't remember being told about this interview at IT Conversations.

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2006, 09:42 AM:

j h woodyatt... you probably don't want to drink the first pass through a still made from the radiator coil of a 1971 Chevy Impala

Human ingenuity never ceases to amaze me, especially when booze is involved.

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2006, 04:05 PM:

I'd like to ask something of those who post here and who have served in the military.

What kind of person makes a better commanding officer?

Notice that I'm not asking which kind of CO you'd prefer serving under. Let's say you have two officers who have been given the same orders, the results of which will mean severe casualties for those serving under them. One of those officers is motivated mainly by looking good to his/her own superiors. The other officer hates sending those under into a messy situation, but still does it.

Again, what kind of person makes a better commanding officer? Who is likely to have the better fighting force?

It should be irrelevant what motivates one's officer, but we're not machines.

#33 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2006, 05:12 PM:

Neither, I'd say. (And who can know another's heart in any case?)

The better CO would be someone who's predictable and consistent. One with whom you know where you stand, who is fair, and fair-minded, who considers the options before making a decision, but doesn't hesitate to make a decision when it's needed -- not half-an-hour late.

Always assuming basic competence and intelligence.

The best COs are very smart and very competent indeed.

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2006, 05:34 PM:

Thanks for the response, James. I'd guess that a CO mostly concerned with looking good to those above wouldn't fall in the category of 'fair'. I'm only basing that on my 'life' in the corporate world, as I never served.

#35 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2006, 08:45 PM:

j. h. woodyatt: It doesn't sound like the experience would carry over. OTOH I can see why moonshiners have problems -- sounds like there's a practical reason single-malt distillers leave the foreshots (aka "feints") out of the final cut.

#37 ::: . ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2007, 03:22 PM:

.

[Posted from 91.104.135.236]

#38 ::: Xopher sees moronic semiliterate drive-by ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2007, 03:27 PM:

Wotta maroon.

#39 ::: abi considers human folly ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2007, 03:28 PM:

Self-revelation
Is all very well.
This is confirmation
That trolls just can't spell.

#40 ::: abi is beaten to the punch by Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2007, 03:30 PM:

Drat you, you gay basterd*.

-----
* Better At Spotting Trollish Effusions Requiring Deletion

#41 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2007, 04:51 PM:

I dunno, I think it's kinda cute. Like, (s)he calls us all gay basterds, but with a smiley face. And then the second half kind of seems like the way you might tell a dog she's a good girl, yes she is, which is a little amusing.

On top of it all, this person who is calling us all gay basterds, is using the username "i am gay." I think it's a message of cheery solidarity.

#42 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2007, 05:13 PM:

I wonder if saying "You're a gay bastard, yes you are, yes you are" is similar to throwing one's arms in the air and declaiming "YOU'RE A KITTY!"

I must say, the temptation didn't present itself when I met Xopher. Maybe if I saw Xopher and ethan at the same time?

#43 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2007, 05:51 PM:

throwing one's arms in the air and declaiming "YOU'RE A KITTY!"

I share my house with a cat who has taken serious exception to that. To the point of biting the declaimer.

Of course, it takes a strange mindset to call a fully-grown male Maine Coon "kitty".

#44 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2007, 06:04 PM:

TexAnne 42: While it would delight me to meet ethan, and it would be fun to hang out with you at the same time, I have to admit I would be nonplussed if, on that occasion, you threw up your arms and exclaimed "YOU'RE A KITTY!"

I can't speak for ethan on this, but I suspect his reaction might be similar.

#45 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2007, 06:14 PM:

Jules (43):
Of course, it takes a strange mindset to call a fully-grown male Maine Coon "kitty".
Nah, it just takes a big, strong, basso profundo voice. Then it works.

#46 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2007, 06:27 PM:

u are all gay basterds :)
u are
yes u are :)

confidence can I have it ?
LOL
you am all in my eyes
eating away
my peace

u are all gay basterds :)
u are
yes u are :)

peace can I have it ?
LOL
you am all in my mind
eatin away
my self

u are all gay basterds :)
u are
yes u are :)

self can I have it ?
LOL
you am over my words
eating away
all sense

u are all gay basterds :)
u are
yes u are :)

confidence can I make it ?
I are with no mind
I are with no peace
My self
eaten away

I are all gay basterd :)
u am
yes u am :)

#47 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2007, 06:49 PM:

Jules (#43):Of course, it takes a strange mindset to call a fully-grown male Maine Coon "kitty".

Nah, all it takes is pride.
Just ask Nanny Ogg. Or Professor Xavier.

#48 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2007, 07:05 PM:

MD² 47: When people make jokes like that, I could just put them right through the wall.

#49 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2007, 07:08 PM:

Some days I'm gayer than others. Right now, I'm hoping this hot chocolate will cheer me up.

#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2007, 07:24 PM:

This reminds me that it's been a long time since Turner Classic Movies treated us to Fred & Ginger in The Gay Divorcee.

#51 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2007, 11:56 PM:

#45: OK, that immediately flashed me back to one of my favorite childhood jokes:

What does a 500-pound canary say?

[boomy bass voice]
Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!
[/boomy bass voice]

#52 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2007, 03:24 AM:

Xopher #44: I'd only be OK with that if TexAnne were a magician, and a good enough one to turn us back into gay basterds after making us kitties.

#53 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2007, 05:16 AM:

Xopher @44:
I have to admit I would be nonplussed if, on that occasion, you threw up your arms and exclaimed "YOU'RE A KITTY!"

Note to self: if I ever meet Xopher or ethan, I now have the appropriate greeting.

MD² @46:
Well done. I like it.

#54 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2007, 12:27 PM:

...threw up your arms... Doesn't that belong on the trauma thread (involving, as it does, both vomit and things with bones)?

Lately we've been discussing weights in terms of our cat, Emperor Horton: 2 Hortons = 40 pounds, and so forth. But he'll *look* much heftier when he loses the last few mats we can't get out of his fur (without bodily injury to ourselves) and grows back his gorgeous winter coat.

#55 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2007, 01:14 PM:

MD²... Nah, all it takes is pride. Just ask Nanny Ogg. Or Professor Xavier.

And what is the family name of Xavier's student Kitty?
Pryde.
I tell you, that gay agenda is everywhere!

#56 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2007, 01:58 PM:

Faren 54: I've often said, when speaking of an intractable problem, "I'd throw up my hands, but that's painful, because the thumbs get stuck in my throat."

#57 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2007, 12:55 PM:

@Xopher (#48): thankfully if you would, my Garou² blood would show. One can hope.

(Anyone that gets this one, I owe you a cup of coffee with some home made apple pie...)

@Serge (#55): I wish ! Just try to go to your nearest stationery trade and ask for a gay diary, and see if they can sell you one (bilingual bad jokes ftw! ... hum).

@abi (#53): thanks a lot. Had this one stuck in a dark corner of my brain for some time now, due to some of your comments in the LOLCatz thread, but I couldn't find the right context to try to pull it off. Glad you like it.

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