Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pull Here. Hold Here.

I marvel at today's packaging technology. Tonight, for dinner, I had to open up a package of Sargento Cheese (shredded mild cheddar). The bag itself is sealed entirely, so normally I pull out some scissors to open the top. However, in the top-left corner of the bag was the direction: "Pull Here". Pulling there with one hand, I didn't see how that would help me at all. But then I saw another direction on the bag: "Hold Here." Holding there with my other hand, I saw immediately what had to be done. I pulled with my first hand while holding with my second hand, and the top-most part of the sealed package cut open cleanly. Dairy treasure! Of course the bag had its own resealable Ziploc. I stared at the bag like it was some magic trick, which I got right the first time. Marvelous.

Pull Here. Hold Here.

Monday, February 18, 2008


I was reading David Brin's The Uplift War. This is the first science fiction book that I've read in some time, and it's terrific so far. The aliens and humans in this book have a separate language which is interesting to read (the book provides a glossary). Of course, there are English words that I have to look up, and one of them was cachinnatous. The online dictionary I use didn't have this word, but they had a similar word called cachinnatory, which is an adjective for "accompanied by immoderate laughter". That seemed to fit the sentence (the word was used in "a gaggle of cachinnatous humans"). Humans laughing a little too loudly perhaps? I think so.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Review: Voyage of the Manteño

I can't remember when, but at one point I mentioned to Jenn that I was fascinated by adventures on the open sea. We conversed about it, and she told me about Kon-Tiki, the famed book by explorer Thor Heyerdahl. In that book, he builds a raft and then goes on an expedition from South America to the Polynesian Islands. I think I received this book as a gift, and eventually I began to read it.

Somehow, during the reading of Kon-Tiki, an e-mail arrived from John Haslett. "I was wondering if I could induce you to read my new book." His book? Voyage of the Manteño: The Education of a Modern-Day Expeditioner.

Both books describe the details of building balsa rafts. Both books describe the arcane politics of setting sail from a foreign land. Both books were about open sea voyages (in the case of Manteño, multiple voyages), and the effort it takes to make a voyage work. In each there are fascinating passages about the ocean which any sea-dreaming land lubber like me could enjoy.

While Kon-Tiki is the more popular of the two, and certainly the more heralded (it was first published in 1950), John Haslett's book comes much closer to telling me what I wanted to know. What does the ocean feel like in a storm? What are your emotions when you're adrift at sea? And what happens when you get pissed at your shipmates? (Both authors had a small crew.)

Voyage of the Manteño took on these questions and more. John describes the ocean in all its beauty and fury. He describes feelings of elation, anxiety, and abject terror. He describes the emotional fortitude required to be a true explorer. He writes about his shipmates as worthy companions, even though some of them couldn't hack the sea-faring life. His book is ultimately an adventure of great endurance.

When I finished reading it, I felt immense satisfaction that John was still out there, planning his next voyage. I hope he'll write about it.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Happy Birthday to Jenn

My wife's birthday is today. Hurray!