Conning a Ship

Good Morning, Sunshine

So, you’re coming up on the one month anniversary of your local lockdown orders. You’ve burned through every show you could possibly find on Netflix, in a desperate search for something, anything, to replace the emptiness that was once filled with productive work or meaningful connection with friends and family.

Well after an hour of comparing your boring life to the comparative excitement of Very Famous And Good-Looking People on Instagram, your phone complains of hunger, politely requesting that you attach it to a charger, and as a good steward of lithium-ion chemistry, you happily oblige.  After wiping your slightly sweaty hands on flannel pants you haven’t bothered to change for two days, you glance furtively at the three inches of brown liquid remaining in your bottle of Jameson left on the coffee table from last night’s failed attempt to find existential redemption.

It’s only 10:06 am, but hell, it’s past 5 pm in Reykjavik, and you heard somewhere that those Icelanders can drink like bastards, so here’s to them. Only two weeks, you tell yourself. In two weeks the country will be opened up and life will return to normal. If only there was something else to do than watch tiger shows between now and then.

You’re a perfectly respectable middle manager at a medium-sized industrial consulting company. Before all this, you drove a midsize sedan from your 2400 square foot home in a safe neighborhood to 1207 East Linkola Drive, a grey building with few windows and tinted glass doors. Now, you’re at home, and the company-assigned work laptop is open to a spreadsheet, tab D. You can’t figure out why on earth cell Y49 is showing a net loss – a rather large one – when the projection has an 8% process efficiency improvement over today. You squint your eyes and pinch your nose in exasperation. Time for a break. The company laptop runs some software that prevents you from running any application or site not explicitly approved by upper management.

Nine percent battery ought to be enough. You retrieve your slightly-less-hungry phone and open the YouTube app. Scrolling through the prank videos, songs you’ve heard at least a hundred times already, and “news briefings” on the pandemic, you spot what appears to be an error. The recommendation algorithm screwed up again, you figure. What is this, two million views in three days on the absurd topic of making a sourdough starter? That can’t be right. Breadmaking, you? Ha! But, it’s not as if any of the other videos look any better, and this one is only seven minutes long.  Lord knows you spent more time than that watching booty-shaking on TikTok yesterday. Sure you’re on the clock, but your brain is stuck on that damned cell Y49 problem and you could give your mind a brief rest. You tap the video, and a smiling middle-aged woman in a kitchen with entirely too much white cabinetry fades in…

The Perils of Insect Life

There’s something going on in the world right now. Something easy to miss if one were not paying attention, but certainly churning under the noise and distraction of the news cycle. Something that suggests there is more to quarantine life than the morose ennui of dropping into a show hole. Something that feels natural, organic, and dare we say, a bit more human.

While some people are futilely lamenting the loss of two-day prime shipping, others are slowly waking up to the stark reality that their entire existence is wholly predicated on a complex system of supply chains that could be interrupted suddenly, and without warning. For the latter group, a group which is swelling in numbers with each passing day of quarantine, re-discovering the basics of self-sufficiency is taking on a greater and more urgent share of stuck-at-home time.

Interest in breadmaking, container gardening, woodworking, sewing, small-scale blacksmithing, do-it-yourself carpentry, bushcraft, fruit preserving, leatherworking, canning, and hundreds of other “old-timey” skills have exploded in the last month.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

Some of the human insects of our highly competitive, highly specialized world are coming to realize that no matter how unlikely the need to conn a ship will arise, there could be tremendous value in at least knowing how, if we had to.

Many people have started down the long and meandering road to discovery of The Old Ways by way of the excellent Foxfire books. They are a little dated, but they’re very entertaining and we encourage everyone to at least check them out and see if they’re for you. If not, we’d like to take our readers down our own version of that road over future blog posts. Check back here in a week or so.

P.S. We know this article feels like a bit of an anti-consumption screed, but last we checked, we still have a few bills to pay, so please consider donning some Sailboat Socks before commandeering a ship with your newfound skills. Thanks.

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