Trust this baboon

Seriously, trust him. This baboon has a far greater chance of successfully guiding US foreign policy and its economy than does the current occupant of the White House. (So, when making decisions about where to invest our little nest egg while the US recovers over the next 20 years, Mexico’s looking pretty good.)

The gift that keeps on giving

In 2016 when Paul and I were trying to get our swim safety program off the ground in Nongyasai, we encountered a major obstacle. Our wise Thai friends advised us that traditional notions of modesty required both boys and girls to be covered with large swim suits from neck to knee. Large coverage = lots of spandex = lots of money. Our friends shrugged: since there’s no way the village could afford such swim suits for a large number of students, our swim program was doomed.

Or was it?

By Skype, we poured out our woes to world-famous master swimmer Brian Jacobson.

Brian responded immediately. It was on a Thursday that he launched his GoFundMe campaign to solicit funds to pay for the swim suits. By Sunday online donors had provided enough to buy the suits plus provide funding for scores of ten-free-swim punchcards to allow our kids to return to the pool to practice what they learned.

TODAY our wonderful Thai friends sent several videos showing the swim suits bought by American donors in use at a current training program in the very same pool Paul and I helped build (detail-oriented viewers will note additional skylights added to the roof — an effort to increase solar heating during “cool season” [75 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit]). One of those videos is included below. Also included below is a picture of the 10-swim punch cards and one of the kids showing off her card.

Thanks again, donors. You did a good thing.

Sweet dreams of you

You know what it’s like. A friend dies. You may be shocked. You may cry. You offer condolences, you have pleasant reminiscences with mutual friends. You tell stories featuring flattering memories of the dead friend. You say things like “we’ll miss her” and “he was a great guy”.

And then you move on.

This can seem cold. At first it feels like it’s a betrayal to laugh and be silly in light of the recent mortal event. But those moments pass and your senses are soon filled with the needs and joys of the living. The dead are just … gone. Their Cup of Life ran dry. It sucks, but there you go.

We are a fragile and frightened species. So we tend to fight the idea that when we die we’re just gone and are destined for obscurity. We’re dead certain: I’ll leave a legacy! People will hang onto their memories of me after I’m gone! They will! For sure!

Belief in the immortal soul isn’t just a con offered up by religious charlatans. There’s a demand. Cosmology responds to market forces: we all lust for the promise of never-ending life and eternal legacy. Maybe we’ll last forever as we’re repeatedly reincarnated and eventually transition to god-status. Maybe by a cosmic transplant of our memories to an ethereal life atop a fluffy cloud somewhere. A guy with a big book might make permanent record of our deeds and misdeeds. Creatures from another planet may liberate our tortured souls.

Back here on Earth, my mortal remains might be maintained under a slab of granite with my name chiseled into it. Maybe they’ll be parked in a nice little ornamental urn, or perhaps the family shrine or crypt. My weepy surviving loved ones might purchase a brick bearing my name for a local park, or maybe a bench with a brass In Memoriam plaque. Maybe a cash infusion to the Legacy Fund at one of the educational institutions I frequented? Future generations surely will read my name, right? And they’ll make an effort to learn who I was? And they’ll ask about me. For sure, they’ll ask about me.

For parents, producing offspring is a festival of potential legacy. Way down the genetic trail, a child will see a picture of me and know that he got his oversize eyebrows from me, his great-grandpa, just as I got them from my dad, and my dad’s dad. And that goofy kid will ask about me, I’m sure. What did great-grandpa think? What did he do? What was his life like?

But mere procreation is an amateur’s game. The real grasp at immortality is made by artists, composers, writers, architects, playwrights, choreographers. Want a legacy? Write or design something profound. How about a snappy YouTube video, Facebook or Instagram post? That’ll last forever. Right?

Um, no.

Sweet dreams of you, however real and justified, will be fleeting. You’re gonna be forgotten. When the people who knew you and loved you have themselves gone to rot, so too will their memories. Maybe it’ll take a generation, maybe two or three. But your erasure looms.

So, celebrate your imminent obscurity! Live your life delighted by today’s joys. Be proud that you’ve been a kind person, a smart or funny person, a loving parent, a friend, a sibling, a partner. You’ve one chance to drink from the Cup of Life, so slurp it up, baby! Don’t waste any time pretending it’ll last forever.

Hang a left at the Ohio

After sailing for the better part of a week at a crisp 14 knots, we came to the Cairo, Illinois area where the Ohio River dumps into the Mississippi. We took a hard left onto the Ohio and began to chug upstream. Lots of river! It seemed even wider than the Big Muddy. Maybe it was — it seemed to be at a dramatically high flood stage. When we arrived at Lock and Dam 52 we expected a locking delay, but discovered that all of the dam and most of the locks were well under water. The lockmaster confirmed there was plenty of room under our keel and we just sailed right over the dam.

Swinging at anchor:

Mechanical check-out prior to firing-up twin diesels

Forty tons of maritime goodness need some tender attention before venturing out. You just don’t want the engines to kill when you’re fighting upstream and a 24-barge load is bearing down on you. So….

1. Check to make sure there’s coolant in the overflow reservoir for each of the engines.

2. Check the coolant water filter for each engine to make sure the screen isn’t plugged up.

3. Check four dipsticks: one for each main engine’s oil and one for each main engine’s transmission fluid.

4. Each of the main engines has a fuel-water separator. Is there water in the pan at the bottom of either? Empty it.

5. Open each cap on each battery to make sure there is at least a quarter inch of water covering the battery plates. Fill with distilled water if low.

6. Check the oil on the generator diesel by withdrawing the yellow dipstick.

6. There is a power steering fill cap near the uppermost — storm bridge — wheel – there’s no dipstick, but you can fill with power steering fluid if the steering is becoming a bit sluggish. The fluid comes with a handpump to attach to the bottle, which makes it possible to inadvertently add air pressure to the system. Avoid this.

7. Now check the various floor hatches that give access to the bilge. Just a bit of grimy water in there, you hope; any other fluids (god forbid, fuel) and you need to do some further examination before going forward.

8. Switch the white Shore Power knob to 12 o’clock position and retrieve shore power cords (disconnect shore power end first). Counterintuitively, the business end of the white rotating knob is the short stumpy end. Also, note that “Onan” in this context is unrelated to Onanism as referenced by Mark Twain. Rather, it relates to generator-produced high voltage.

9. Switch on all the DC circuits needed while at sea: horn, wipers, lights. Go wild.

That’s it! When you verify that all fluids and filters are okay, you’re ready to fire up your Cummins twin diesels! Once the engines are warming up, verify that each engine’s exhaust is intermittently belching out cooling water.