Ramblings

conundrum-world-war-two-fuel-cable-operation
An Englishman’s home is his castle they say, so as a young lad I was intrigued as to why there were doors in the high wooden fencing separating my grandma’s back yard in England from her neighbors’ gardens. That sort of thing was against the norm, as one mostly kept oneself to oneself except when spying on the neighbors from behind net curtains.

The reason became clear when it was explained that grandma’s garden shed, that ugly, half-buried thing made of corrugated steel panels with earth covering the roof, was in fact a communal six-person neighborhood bomb shelter during WW2. As a tool shed it was dark, damp and dank, and I imagine it was probably no more welcoming in its original incarnation.

USNA aerial 640x368
The first clue that the upcoming week was to be no normal week in Annapolis came during a trip to the local grocery store on Sunday. It seemed unusually busy, and closer inspection of the wandering shoppers showed that many were wearing clothing and hats emblazoned with emblems and logos depicting their support of or attachment to the US Naval Academy. The next clue came to light from a quick scan of my Eastport neighborhood, where unfamiliar vehicles, flags, and gently rocking porch occupants adorned a number of residences.

OK, I’ve got it! It’s Commissioning Week at the Naval Academy, and a good number of locals have rented their houses out to make way for families of graduating Midshipmen while pocketing a sizeable chunk of cash in the process. And why not indeed.

For those not familiar with Annapolis, it must be understood that the US Naval Academy is Annapolis, and Annapolis is the US Naval Academy. The two are inseparable, which will be apparent from a quick look at a map where the magnitude and proximity of the Academy relative to the town is evident. This is no distant fixture perched on a remote hill, but right there breathing down the necks of the shops on Main Street and the boats at City Dock.

Having to accommodate around 4,500 Midshipmen, plus staff and ancillary workers, it is a sizeable chunk of real estate and provides much employment and income for the surrounding area. Don’t get the impression that Annapolis is alive and crawling with marauding Mids, as they are for the most part incarcerated behind the imposing perimeter walls. The few lucky ones that are allowed out for brief sojourns into the real world are noticeable only by being impeccably dressed in crisp uniforms.

So what is Commissioning Week all about?

boat gas explosion

We all make mistakes … don’t we? For me the worst things seem to happen when I rush something or am pushed to a time limit. And having someone look over my shoulder adds an even greater level of stress that can end in a right old fustercluck. Take the time many years ago when a customer insisted he watch as I installed a new alternator and regulator.

I hadn’t been in business that long, and was scrambling for any work I could get in deep, dark rural Virginia, so the chance to install a high-output alternator and remote regulator on a sailboat was welcome indeed. But I hadn’t reckoned on the owner insisting he be on board and watch me, and after a while I just knew this wasn’t going to work. “Don’t worry about me” he said, “I’ll just sit here and keep quiet. You’ll not even know I’m here.”

monkey thinking carefully
I’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately. I don’t know why, maybe it was the winter blues bringing on a bout of the melancholies. In particular, I’m often fascinated with things that just seem to happen, but without any obvious visible clues as to why or how. Take the theory of flight, for example.

I was on a ‘plane recently, and got to thinking about the whole theory of lift and flight. We are taught that air flows over the wing and bla bla bla. But air doesn’t actually flow over the wing, now does it? No, it’s the wing that slices through the air.

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