Friday, July 28, 2006

Change and Love

As most of my posts this one has been inspired by the book I’m currently reading. It is G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy (the entire book is free online if anyone wants to read it). This was written around 1908 as a rebuttal to some critics of Chesterton for not sharing his personal beliefs while criticizing their beliefs. I selected it because it is often quoted in other books I’ve read…the jury is still out as to whether I’m going to like this book or not, but it has some potential.

In the current chapter I'm reading Chesterton wrote about patriotism or love of country. As he said “Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.” The idea is that at some point in the past a group had loved the area and that love mode the land grow and develop into a beautiful city that is world renowned to this day. This point was contrasted with a second type of love in which someone loves a region for some present attribute. This second type will actually harm the country because it can’t improve because the love will leave if things were to change. For example if I love Pigeon for its stoplight (it is a nice stoplight) then I would resist the possibility of adding a second one even if it is the result of a growing local economy because it would no longer have the quality that I love. However if I love Pigeon because of the land and the people then any growth and success that comes its way will make me happy because I love Pigeon and want her to improve. I thought this was kind of interesting and while I drove from Memphis to Ann Arbor (I’m back in Ann Arbor trying to quickly fix a major problem with my experiment then return to Memphis) I pondered the idea.

The more I thought about it I found it somewhat odd that he made this observation without mentioning the more obvious (in my opinion) situation that really brings out this point. That is love between a husband and wife (or boyfriend and girlfriend)…it could be generalized with all loves, but I don’t think the case is as strong. If you love a woman for some specific quality of her it will never be sufficient because she desires that you love her for the overall person…her heart, beauty, and spirit. The problem with “falling in love” with her for some specific quality is that it doesn’t allow for any progression in the relationship and will fail once change is faced. Lets give an example…if a guy says he loves a girl because she is hot no healthy relationship can result. His love will fade with time and will only stay because of a created dependence for the relationship over the years…if he doesn’t eventually find a new “love” the result will be a loveless relationship. On her side she will know that he loves how “hot” she is and will either give up on the relationship if she feels that her beauty was fading or will make desperate attempts to maintain her past beauty instead of embracing her new beauty. Now let’s contrast that with someone that falls in love with the woman rather than her appearance, as time passes the love remains because while there are changes they don’t become a different person.

This makes me think of a horrible question that has been asked me by a past girlfriend…what is it about me that makes you love me? I was young and immature so I didn’t know that as soon as the question was asked I was screwed. How could I answer it? In my youth I started rattling off all the good qualities that make her great, but no matter how long the list was the response at the end was always…is that all? The reality is that as long as I made a list of qualities I was really saying that my love was conditional…not on her just being herself.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


There is plenty of bad publicity for smoking now a days with the whole cancer, death, addiction, etc, but today I got thinking about the positives to smoking (ok so if you are easily influenced by stupid comments from random people you may want to stop reading).

Today I was driving on the highway when all of a sudden the thought popped into my head that I wished I was a smoker. Now I thought it was kind of funny since I hate smoking, have only tried half a cigarette in my life, and in reality I would never ever actually become a smoker. I quickly decided that this is one of those thoughts that working 12-14 hours a day in Memphis brings on. I believe there are two things that made me think it would be a good idea to be a smoker: (1) you can take breaks all the time…if you are a smoker at work you can just step outside and hangout for a few minutes whenever you want, but a non-smoker can only go to the bathroom or get a drink of water…neither are ideal hangouts and shouldn’t take all that long. (2) When your life becomes stressful you have something to do that "calms" you…alright I know this one is bad because we should be going to God in those moments and an addiction only gives temporary relief not healing, but from a purely earthly mentality it has its benefits. I’m going to stick with the non-smoker position, but I thought I should share the less talked about benefits of smoking.

Now with this random thought it has afforded me the opportunity to share with everyone my all time favorite smoking story. I was in high school and my friend Eric and I were hanging out at my house when we decided to take off for somewhere (I don’t know where). I saw that my dad’s pickup truck was in the drive way so I decided to take his truck instead of my car. We go and hop into the truck and immediately notice that it stinks of cigarette smoke. The smell was so bad that whoever was smoking in there had to of been smoking with the windows rolled up. I came home that night and ask my dad what was up with his pickup (no one in my family smokes so I figured someone else must have been with my dad or borrowed the pickup). Now if my dad could lie he certainly would have taken this opportunity to try and pull one over on us, but he is honest and fessed up to smoking with his buddy in the pickup. Apparently he and his friend were out golfing when they found a pack of cigarettes. The two of them got the bright idea of taking this pack and smoking them…obviously in my dad’s pickup. So like a couple of teenagers they took this random pack of cigarettes to their car and smoked one. So after my dad told us the story and we gave him a hard time about it he added the cherry on top of this story…they were smoking Virginia Slims. To this day I'll ask my dad if he needs a smoke, and he usually says they aren’t his kind (at least if they aren’t Virginia Slims).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Southern Talk

I had mentioned in previous post that I hoped to share the cool southern phrases that I learn while down in Memphis. Well I’m starting to realize that I can’t just wait till the end to share all of them because I will forget…seriously my mind becomes so numb down here. It is only week 2 and I’m having a hard time focusing and it is about impossible to think of anything besides my project. So I will share short stories as they come up down here.

This evening the crew and I went out to eat at Amerigos (an awesome Italian restaurant). I always love eating there because everyone is in suit and tie besides us that show up in extremely dirty jeans and t-shirts. Well this place is rather fancy with the whole dimmed lights, dressed up waiters, etc, and the waiter comes over to our table and says “How are ya’ll doing tonight?” Now I think ya’ll is a fine word to use, but it certainly seems out of place in a fine dining kind of place. This made me laugh as it reminded me of another southern conversation I had.

During the my last test in Memphis, Eric and I had both been in Memphis for a couple of months by the time the eperiment was finishing up. We had a penthouse room at a local hotel that had an upstairs room and a downstairs one. Eric came walking down the stairs, pointed at a box, and said “are you fixing to use that box?” I responded with “I reckon.” We both caught it at the same time and realized that neither of us was joking…it kind of freaked us out. We looked at each other and both agreed that we had been in Memphis way too long.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Weird Night

Last night I hung out with Sherry and we watched a couple of movies and tried the Simpson’s Trivia (I made the leader board, but I don’t think I’ll stay on the leader board…I’m "Pigeon"). I stayed up kind of late and then went to bed. The entire night I was having stupid dreams about work. I think one I was assembling a manifold for our static pressure measurements and another one I was installing the inflatable seal on the test model. The weird part was that throughout all the dreams there was a constant beeping noise. After a few of these dreams I finally decided that I had to find out where it was coming from (still within my dream), and I looked at the piece of hose I was holding and it beeped again. I was so surprised but somehow content to know that the beeping was coming from the hose. So I continued with my dream, but it kept beeping and really started to annoy me. I became aware that I was dreaming and told myself that I can control this because it is my dream, but to my surprise I couldn’t control it. So I decided I had to wake up to figure this out.

I awoke, looked at the clock that read 6am, and waited for the beep…sure enough something in my apartment was beeping. I try to ignore it…sleepy logic is quite humorous. But it was too annoying so I get up to find it. I decide it must be the fire alarm and head out into the kitchen to check it and as soon as I walk out there the beep comes from my behind me. I then start getting really annoyed looking all over the place for this beep until I remember I have a CO detector in my apartment. I find it and take the batteries out and try to go back to sleep.

As I lay there I know keep thinking that it was going off because there was CO in my apartment…even though there is no reason it should be. I finally decided that I would just convince myself that I’m fine because I’m lying next to an open window with a fan blowing on me from outside. Unfortunately I was not satisfied with that…after a half hour of laying there I got up, plugged in the alarm, confirmed that it was a low battery warning, and then went back to bed. I slept like a baby until around noon…sweet, sweet rest.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


For the Fourth of July I made a visit up north to my hometown of Pigeon. It is a small farming community in the Thumb of Michigan. My house is located just north of town…in fact my backyard is what separates the town from our house.

My backyard and the off to the left Pigeon Co-op
Our house has been in our family for 99 years (it’ll be 100 years on April 20th, 2007…my 26th birthday). I’ve always felt a special attachment to the house…perhaps because we both became Elbings on the same day.

My home...isn't she beautiful

So let me share my favorite story related to this house. When my grandma lived in this house she had told the family that every 10 years a ball of light would engulf the house, condense to a small ball in front of the upstairs window (the one in the middle of the picture), come into the house, go down the stairs, and turn off her television. My grandma passed away and our family moved into the house. One night, about 2 years after moving into the house, I was walking to my bedroom in the dark (I rarely turn hallway lights on in the house…even to this day). All of a sudden the entire house was surrounded in light…I could see bright light from every window. I knew something was weird because the light was different then when a car passes by the house. I was staring straight out the middle upstairs window when I saw the light condense down to a ball just outside of the window. Suddenly it shot through the window and hit me in the stomach. At this point I know anyone who doesn’t know me will think I'm crazy, but when I looked where the light had hit me I could see through my stomach. This obviously totally freaked me out, and I proceeded to run into my sister’s room and shake her. I continued to shake her until my mom made it upstairs to pull me off. To this day I don’t know what happened, but it certainly is the freakiest thing. The following day we asked the neighbors if they noticed anything unusual about our house the previous night, and they said that our house was all lit up.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Naval Security

I just got back to Michigan last night from my first week in Memphis. Everything is going quite well…there was a small explosion that I caused but no damage was done (to people or equipment). One of the most intriguing aspects of working on a “secure” naval research facility is how the rules change constantly. Some times they are really strict about having foreign nationals carefully watched (this time since Laetitia is French we can't go past the front gate until another car comes to lead us in) and other times it seems like they don’t care (the previous test we once had to go back to let the guards know we had a foreign national with us). So for this post I decided to post my top 5 naval security moments from the Navy’s Large Cavitation Channel (LCC).

1) During the first test I was involved in (Fall 2004 – Hiplate Phase III) the truck full of equipment was being unloaded when some how a dog got into the facility. All the security guards began to chase the dog to catch it…the dog won.

2) During the previous experiment (Winter 2006 – Hiplate Phase IV) the military police ran security for a week while the normal guards went away for some training. The military police follow the letter of the law, so when they searched our car in the morning they had each individual open up their bags. Well the first morning Eric was really annoyed by it and told the guard to open it up themselves, but they aren’t allowed to touch our bags. So after a few minutes Eric finally caved in and started pulling out all of his clothes from the bag while the guard kept saying "you don’t have to take out everything." But Eric just kept going and saying “here look at my underwear” or “make sure you search the entire bag I might have hidden something in here.” I don’t know if this sounds as funny as it actually was…I was cracking up the whole time.

3) Early during the Winter 2006 test Eric and I were working inside when one of the security guards came in to let Eric know that a package had arrived for him. We were waiting for the arrival of our test model (10 ft by 45 ft large piece of stainless steal), so Eric asked if the package happened to be 50 ft long, obviously joking. The guard responded that he didn’t know since he didn’t take a good look at the package…Eric and I laughed thinking he simply hadn't listened to what Eric said. He heads out to the guard shack and asks the guard where his package was, and they responded with “oh it’s coming around the corner right now.” Eric looks and sure enough it was a 50 ft flatbed semi with our test model on it. I’m really kind of curious what they wanted Eric to do with it…carry it in on his back?

4) Once again during the Winter 2006 test we came driving up to the front gate, and the security guard let us in. We pulled up and were told to pull off to the side to get our car searched like normal. Right then another car pulled up and the guard got all confused. After a couple seconds of thinking he leans over to us and says “man there is another car so I’m just going to have to let you slide this morning.” So since there were actually two cars we didn’t have to get searched…we finally figured out how to beat their security system.

5) This past week (Summer 2006 – Hiplate Phase V) I was driving around Memphis taking care of some odds and ends that needed to be done. I was going to drive back to the facility, but I needed to know if a package I was waiting for had arrived so I called the security guards to ask if any packages for me had been delivered that day. After a long discussion with a security guard I still didn’t know if any packages had been delivered, but they did take down a description of the package (a brown box with my name on it) so they could keep their eyes out for it. Frustrated I headed back to the facility hoping that it really was there so I won’t have to go back out to buy it. I pull up to the front gate and ask the guard if any packages were delivered today (there is only one gate with one guard that watches it), and he responds with “I don’t know if any packages were delivered today but he did see packages a few days earlier.” I really didn’t know what to make of this response so I just smiled and nodded.

While many people find the guards extremely annoying, I find them rather funny. It is always an adventure with them, and for the most part they really are nice guys. I just thought I would share with my readers some of their finer moments on the job.