Appendix To “At The Heart Of The Sea”

I have completely finished reading “At The Heart Of The Sea”. I read it twice a day on my way to work ad then continued on the way back. As I stated in my earlier entry on the book, it provides a nice background on whaling in the 1800s in Nantucket. It also showed where the core idea for Moby Dick came from. The real life whaling ship Essex was attacked by a sperm whale. The boat was rammed, when the whalers were off the boat hunting and only a skeleton crew of three people were on the Essex. The whale, having been dizzy from the impact, retreated at first only to approach once more and by diving underneath the boat tearing off the Essex’ 1 x 1 1/2ft keel, which caused the boat to take on water and become am unrepairable wreck to be abandoned.

What followed Melville did not even remotely include in his epic story of Moby Dick. The events following the sinking of the Essex were too gruesome and would have completely tarnished the “heroic deeds” the whalers were associated with. It tells the story of the surviving crew and how they get their onion peeled. How people die of starvation and thirst; how others survive and why they survive. It becomes an account of cannibalism interspersed with other historical accounts of ship-wrecked sailors and research on starvation and decision making under duress.

I still recommend the book strongly, but what started out for me a romantic read of the sea turned into an author-led expedition into the dark basement of human behavior under extreme circumstances. How a “Never in my life” becomes a “Well, why not?”

Excellent book, thank you Emily. I hope that when you read this book with your students instead of Moby Dick, it should create lots of discussion….which is what you want, right?

Markus \m/

More News From The City of Thick Air And Eternal Summer

Last weekend we went snorkeling off the coast of Pattaya, near Ko Larn. But, the most important things wasn’t sea life and all the other things usually associated with snorkeling. No the most important thing was, that we all made it back save and sound without any accidents and that everyone ha a good time. “Markus, this sounds like Apple Pie and Mother’s Love”, you may say. I would agree with you, but we have had five co-workers with us, all non-swimmers…although intrepid. But it turned out to be absolutely great. Since, I volunteered to get then into the water and snorkeling, I had to lay down a few ground rules. There were actually only three.

  1. Do as I say and relax.
  2. If you don’t do as I say and start to panic, I will inflict massive pain on you in order to rescue you.
  3. Enjoy what you are about to see.

We had thrown out a 50ft rope with a swim-ring tied to one end and the other end tied to the dive boat. Then with their swim vests on, I brought them into the water one by one. We practiced just floating on our back with our arms spread out and looking up into the sky – beautiful already. As they were lying on their back, I had them hold onto the rope, much like Linus holds onto his security blanket.

When everyone was comfortable and had played around with rolling from back to chest and back again, we got the diving masks and snorkels out. This was when the fun really started. I cannot imagine what it must be like to not be able to swim, yet see the underwater world crystal clear below, while breathing through a snorkel. Everyone was very happy and excited. My engineers vowed to take swim lessons in order to rid themselves of the swim-vests and become more mobile underwater.

As if that wasn’t astonishing enough, my guys then wondered whether it was possible to jump with the life vests on into the water. Hey, we are in development, let’s run an experiment and try out. Summary, it works within three attempts one of my guys was jumping off the upper deck of the boat, about 3m off the water surface….not bad for a guy who can’t swim. Of course, I was waiting in the water and had instructed to jump backwards, as top prevent water from directly hitting the face, but he jumped non-the-less.

On our way back, I thanked the army of guardian angels and sea creatures that must have undeniably watched over this little expedition. For me personally, this was a super rewarding experience for obvious reasons.

Because, I had my hands full with my guys and they had to focus on snorkeling and not drowning, there is no photographic evidence. Thus, I will post a few recent impressions of Bangkok.

We were walking through one of the many hidden side Sois in Bangkok and found the girl “manning” a shoe shop – really there sold hand-made flip-flops, that we call in German Schläppls or Schläppsche. As we were perusing her offerings she just sat there reading. As you can clearly see she has got a lot of reading to do while a work.

On the same exploration for hidden geographic gems, we ended up in this family’s backyard, where they had their boat parked.

When we were in Huahin over New Year’s, we walked through the night market downtown. One of the booths had all these brass figures. The image reminded me of the Chinese Terracotta Warriors with all the figure standing around. But upon closer inspection, it became obvious, that these were no warriors and even if they were, some of them appear to be somewhat distracted from a potentially looming battle. Take a closer look and you’ll see what I mean.

When you walk, bike, rollerblade or otherwise propel yourself through Lumphini Park in Bangkok, you will inevitably see Ta-Kraw players. Ta-Kraw is a mix of Volleyball and Football (Soccer). Two players on each team try to score points by kicking the bamboo ball over the net, so that the ball cannot be kicked back by the other team before the ball touches the ground. The rules are very simple, but for spectators its brilliant entertainment, because athletic skill is paired with acrobatics.

And to close this post, my James Bond moment: A n image of looking through the spy-hole in our entry door – very conspirative.

So, this concludes the updates from Bangkok.

I will try to get into a posting rhythm again and keep you updated on our lives here.

Take care and teach how to swim.

Markus \m/

Way Deep Into The New Year Already

Yes, yes, I know, I have been a bit tardy…to say the least. I fed you on with an almost daily, then a twice weekly, slowing down to a weekly and now it’s become almost a monthly publication. This cannot stand. So, let me catch up. To all of you a happy new year, or at least that the remaining 359 days are better than last year and of course better than the first six of this year. Not that I am full of myself, but I assume, that my readership are generally all model citizens, meaning all of you were extra special good for the entire Christmas Accounting Cycle (12/25-12/24, commonly known as the CAC = Christmas Accounting Cycle) and thus were rewarded handsomely by old Saint Nick – correct?!

Well, what did we do. We complied with an invitation from the government and spend Christmas in Minneapolis. To get to Minneapolis, we experienced not the usual 13h time shift, but instead it was six months and 13 hours. Even though we have lied through many MN winters, it cam as a bit of a shock, when for example one has to wear socks again or an undershirt or breathe air that is not perfectly humidified and constantly at a comfortable 85F. But, no complaining, talk about a white Christmas – extra white with knee-deep snow, that’s what the Coke Christmas commercials have been drilling into our heads since close to the beginning of time.

Hm, weird, I am picking up this blog from last week and i am going to finish it now and I will post it.

I have had writer’s block…no Bloggers Block. While at work everything is running fine the words seem not to be flowing as freely from my fingers as they used to. I think it has to do with our slightly excessive “Friends” watching. Our neighbors have all seasons and we just started watching the episodes season by season. Unfortunately this means that your brain is out in La-La-Land, thus blogging becomes the kind of shit you have been reading for the last 3 minutes.

And as in every media train-wreck that has a shred of self-respect, we are going to commercial…a commercial for Bangkok. That’s right, I will show you a few more images.

Sometimes it turns out, that on the bottom of the bottle you find gold. Chances for that to happen however are very slim.

Next is a new interpretation of a recurring Bangkok theme – Highly Viscous Traffic….just about to solidify.

Another great characteristic of Bangkok and all Thais for that matter is their ability to make do with what they have, such as using this 1/2 ton pick-up truck as a fully grown dump truck.

Last weekend we went to a really cool outdoor night market. They had all kinds of vendors there that sold old stuff (I thought most of it was junk, but thought calling it that in parentheses is less offensive). Anyway, there was this gentleman who sat amid the chaos of goods and feet and people and voices and music and was playing his song on the flute.

I will close with two images from Huahin where e spent new years. On Jan. 1st still suffering from the 26h combined jet lag over 7 days, I got up early and spent time on the beach taking images of odd and ends – as you can imagine, there aren’t that many people on the beach at 5:00AM on any given January 1st. Well I don’t drink, hence no hang-over…I guess that explains it.

Sunrise on January 1st 2011 at around 5:45AM.

Buddhist monks are living of alms. They cannot accept money and have to have collected and consumed everything by noon of each day. This image is taken as the monk had just picked up his food from the hotel staff where we stayed. In return he chanted his blessings. I was privileged enough to witness the whole thing take place. I didn’t take any pictures during the blessings, but as he walked away I took this fleeting shot.

I also have the same shot in color, but I like the B/W better. To me it conveys the atmosphere as I perceived it better – but judge for yourself.

Alright, I will quit Friends the TV show and dedicate myself more to my real friends and readers who still frequent these entries.

Take care

Markus \m/

Will The Real Moby Dick Please Stand Up

For Christmas I got a great book. Actually I got a few great books, but among them is  historical account of the events that became the template for Melville’s Moby Dick. The Book is called In The Heart Of The Sea – The Tragedy Of The Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick.

I had no idea, that Moby Dick was inspired by actual events – my friend Emily however, being an English High School teacher knows that stuff and thought it might be a great gift for me…which it is. II love the details about the quakers, that settled on Nantucket and the stark contrast between their pacifist philosophy and their blood-thirsty behavior towards the whales. I am not going to give away the content, since most of you are familiar with the story of Moby Dick and elaborating further would not do the book justice.

The book is a great read for anybody with a romantic vein for the sea and a bit of interest in history of America in its early days right after the first settlers arrived. I say excellent read.

 

Secondly, I am reading The Orange Revolution – a management book on how to build great teams. Again picking up on Emily’s new years wish about being nicer to each other, I must say that the only people really benefitting from organizational management books are the people who write them.

The Orange Revolution does not reveal anything new. In fact most of these books don’t. If anybody is amazed, that great teams work best is there is trust in each other, people get praise, people make commitments and hold each other accountable, then I really pity you. Honestly, all of these insight can be quickly derived if we take a quiet moment and do some reflection by asking us what do I want. Chances are that what you want is likely what the others want, too.

I guess, by reading the book, I am taking the time to think about it again and Ido some more reflection….as I do by writing in this entry about it. But seriously, we human beings are not that different from each other, that there are people who truly enjoy being treated with disrespect while surprisingly there are also those who enjoy being respected. No, not the case.

It comes down to being deliberate. We are usually very deliberate about goals and then we reward the one person who may appear to have been the shining star, because after all, someone had to have been the leader the rest of the team subordinated to – NO!. The best teams switch leadership depending on what kind of style is asked for – just think sports teams. Who stepped up when Michael Jordan was double teamed? JUst like great team pass the ball, they have multiple players who can step up for each other and not for themselves.

Anyway, I’ll get off of my soap box.

Enjoy the books.

 

Markus \m/