Where can you find pleasure
Search the world for treasure
Learn science, technology
Where can you begin
To make your dreams all come true
On the land or on the sea

For those of you whom may not be aware, I have recently graduated from the University of Calgary, with a Mechanical Engineering degree. And by recently, I mean way back at the end of April. Ever since then, I have been desperately attempting to obtain gainful employment. You know, something that requires me to actually have my degree, instead of oh say, high school and a pair of steel-toed boots. The boots of course, being the only one they check.

Where can you learn to fly
Play in sports or skindive
Study oceanography
Sign up for the big band
Or sit in the grand stand
When your team and others meet

So, I've been applying to a whole load of places. And hearing back from very few of them. A total of two interviews in the last year or so that I've been trying to find a job for after I graduated. And one of those interviews was with the Canadian Armed Forces.

So, that was back in August. Wasn't quite sure if or when I'd be hearing back from them. So it was a rather pleasant surprise when three weeks ago, I got a call from the recruiting center, saying that I had been selected to attend the Naval Officer Assessment Board, last week in Victoria. Thankfully, getting the week off work was a small matter of making a 1 minute phone call to my boss.

And so, last Saturday I packed my things, and headed onto my flight for lovely Victoria, British Columbia, and the Naval Base there. When I left Calgary, it was snowing quite heavily. When I arrived in Victoria an hour and a half later, the sun was shining and it was about 12 degrees Celsius out. Good start to the week.

They kept us busy. Monday was a whole load of PowerPoint presentations. About general life in the Navy, the purpose of Canada's Naval Fleet, the specific occupations that the people here were applying for, what training we'd be doing, and a whole load more. Unfortunately, it turns out that we do a bit more than sail from port to port to attend cocktail parties. That's just a side benefit.

Tuesday was a day sail, on the HMCS Regina, one of the Halifax Class Frigates. That thing is awesome. When it was turning at full speed, it was listing at about 30 degrees. It could accelerate to full speed in about a minute, and could stop in about two shiplengths, which I'm told is the naval equivalent of stopping on a dime. Explored the living quarters, the engine room, the control rooms, the bridge, the officer's mess.

After that, was a dinner / cocktail party at the Officer's Club back at the base. Man, let me tell you, that place is really nice. It's placed on top of the hill, overlooking the entrance to the harbour, with massive windows looking out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, at the Olympic Mountains in Washington. Upstairs has what is quite honestly the nicest bar that I have ever seen in my life. Most of that time was spent just listening to some of the stories that the guys and gals had accumulated over the years.

In the Navy
Yes, you can sail the seven seas
In the Navy
Yes, you can put your mind at ease

Wednesday they started the official evaluation portion of the week, although of course the people they had escorting us the entire time had been watching our behaviour rather closely. But at about 8:00 Wednesday morning they started the interviews. I myself was 3rd on the list. Mind you, they weren't long by any stretch of the imagination. After all, they did have 47 of these to burn through. However, I know I'm not the only one who got a fair bit nervous facing a panel of people with a total of over 100 years of experience in the armed forces.

Thursday morning was the aptitude test. It certainly wasn't hard, per say. It was, however, timed such that there was little to no chance that you could actually complete all the questions in the time allotted. It was a matter of quickly figuring out which types of questions were the fast ones, doing those, and then trying to work on the others if you have a chance. Apparently I did ok on that.

Between all this, more to kill time while other groups were doing interviews and the tests than anything else, we had more tours. They've got some cool stuff there.

Friday was not so much fun. For one thing, I was rather hung over. We had, naturally, been going out and having fun with the rest of the group, the entire time. As a result of Thursday night in particular, I was not able to keep food or water inside my stomach for any particular amount of time. Which was not fun on the bus for the tour of Victoria, lemme tell you.

And of course, right after lunch, we were all finding out the results of the week. One by one, they called us in, and told us if we were accepted or not. Of the 20 people applying for engineering positions, they had said they were looking to hire 9 of us. I think I was the 10th last person to find out, so I had a fair while to sit there and stew. There are very few points in my life when I had been as anxious as that.

So, needless to say, I was rather relieved when Commander Deslauriers, the head of the board, asked me "So, after all you've seen this week, do you still want to be in the Navy?", as I sat down. It's not like I'm going to say yes, and then he's going to say that sucks, because we've decided that you can't be. Apparently, at the end of it all, my interview was rather weak, and I need to work more on projecting self confidence, but the rest of it went fine, so I was offered a position as a Marine Systems Engineer.

Turns out that of the 20 engineers, they picked about 14 of them. Not sure exactly how many of the other guys they picked. So, now, I basically gotta get into shape for basic officer training, which commences January 17, in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. I imagine that'll be rather chilly.

In the Navy
Come on now people make a stand
In the Navy
Can't you see we need a hand
In the Navy
Come on protect the motherland
In the Navy
Come on and join your fellow man

America is a religious country. Our polls say a clear majority of Americans want their leaders to be men of faith, who use their beliefs as a guiding principle in their life. With the election so divided that my home state, Ohio, is a toss-up between John Kerry and George W. Bush, it is no surprise that many ministers today chose to preach on the subject of the election. Including mine. The topic of the sermon was about compromise, when to compromise and where to stand firm.

For Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Rod Parsley and others, the point of no compromise is on sexual morality. Specifically, they condemn gay marriage and legal abortion. For Wayne LaPierre and the NRA any attempt to restrict their ability to buy multiple guns without hindrance represents the break point. For others it is support for the war. I disagree profoundly with their beliefs, as does the United Church of Christ. But we would never argue it is wrong to have a point where you will not bend.

Belief has implications. One of my theology professors said it best, "Your religion is the principles by which you order your life.” Your true religion is the one you act on. Some people worship money and power. Others material possessions or the pursuit of sex. Those earthly things are what they devote all their time and attention too. Whatever church they attend, if they bow their head down to mammon, then mammon is their true God, and the material their religion. A man or woman who worships God must go where God calls, and make real sacrifice to do His work.

For my pastor, the issue he will not compromise on is poverty. The Bible does not mention abortion at all, and while it does mention homosexuality it also calls for us to worship in a purple tent and has Noah's son and his offspring sent into slavery for daring to look on Daddy's pee-pee. Moreover those condemnations pale in comparison to the calls for love and forgiveness, particularly when Christ himself spent all his time with the most despised of his society. One out of every sixteen verses in the Bible speaks of poverty. For him, this over-riding theme outweighs all other concerns, and makes all other issues negotiable.

For myself I had never framed the debate quite in that way. I ended the sermon wondering what were my no-compromise issues. When you train in political science, you try to see everything as negotiable. The reasons are fairly obvious. Unanimity of opinion is simply not found among the human species. No one gets everything they want from a political system, unless it is at the expense of the vast majority of those within the system. To get along you must give, because that is the price of maintaining the larger goal of community.

Yet there are transcendent Evils in this world. Hitler alone is proof of that. Upon a short period of reflection I realized that my no-compromise point was another issue common in the scriptures: peace. A just peace, not peace at any price.

A peace that lasts builds good will between the former combatants. A peace that lasts must be based on respect. A peace that lasts is not selfish. It may involve the use of force, but does not involve bullying. Peace is patient.

The model chosen by many Americans focuses on the differences between World War I and World War II. The Treaty of Versailles rubbed Germany's face in the dirt. It stripped Germany of dignity and resources, and attempted to make it pay for whatever crimes may have been committed. Given the economic chaos and ill-will that followed is it any wonder Hitler arose and plunged the world into war.

After World War II the victors did not demand reparations. Instead reconstruction was funded. Post-war crowing was restrained, and the attitude was more to pick your enemies up and dust them off after the fight had been decided. The result was enemies made into friends.

America is powerful, but we are one nation living in a larger community of nations. America is a nation run by men, and thus vulnerable to all the wisdom and folly characteristic of the human species. We often have disagreements with other nations, but friends ought to be permitted to disagree. Who among us goes through life without disputes? Moreover, true friends tell you when you are screwing up.

The America I see today does not understand these simple truths. Friendship to George W. Bush consists of doing what he wants you to do. Now. Dissent is treated like treachery. Europe and Japan we count as our greatest friends. Thanks to President Bush most Europeans regard America as the greatest threat to world peace. America's word and honor made us seen as a light in the world. Lies about weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Quaeda have ruined our credibility in the world.

Worst of all, we have treated much of the Islamic world as unruly children, who need to be bitch-slapped into shape. Their feelings and grievances are ignored. The administration has made little or no attempt to understand what those people wanted or needed before it decided that the best way to make peace was to make war.

Make no mistake, the Middle East is a troubled place. Four centuries ago, the Ottoman Empire stood on top of the world, with a progressive education system, scholarship, military strength and prosperity. Today most Muslims live in poverty, their governments are anti-democratic and brutal in the extreme. They have a rapidly growing population, which means lots of military age (foolish) males and insufficient resources to ensure these people of meaningful work. They're so weak that they're combined might cannot hope to defeat tiny Israel, and may Worse, the most common answer they seem to have come up with is a return to an peculiar Levantine, ultra-orthodox view of Islam that is violent and frankly, barbaric.

George W. Bush's answer to that was to invade Iraq using the flimsiest of excuses, and worse, without a coherent plan to reconstruct that country. He chose to ‘take the war to the terrorists' by invading a country where the terrorists were not to be found. He abandoned forty years of U.S. policy of trying to serve as an intermediary between Israel and the Arabs to side entirely to Israel, going so far as to deliberately undercut his Secretary of State for poltical points during a military crisis between Israel and the Palestinians. During the run up to the Iraq war he announced a plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians but then expended not one iota of political capital trying to bring agreement about, turning what might have been a promising plan into nothing more than a publicity stunt. He has ensured a loss of strategic credibility be sending an inadequate force to hold Iraq which will almost certainly lead to strategic defeat there. He ignored words of caution from our friends and allies abroad, from Democrats at home and even from within his own party. And remains incapable of admitting error.

In short, George W. Bush is not a man who approaches war with prudence or healthy skepticism. He is a man who listens only the opinions he likes. And he is willing to gamble with the lives of others, both American and Iraqi. He has brought America quagmire, and turned our good name to mud.

Once, when the campaign was going ill, George W. Bush tried to speak of himself as a "peace president". A peace president need not be a pacifist, but he must approach war with prudence and judgment, and real respect for others. George W. Bush does none of those things. If long-term peace is my non-negotiable point, then my Christian faith requires me to oppose George W. Bush.

Well, my Friday night was interesting. I went out drinking at my friend's house a few blocks from my place. I showed up pretty drunk already (like 6 beers or so). I was there for about an hour when two of my friends suggested taking a few Jagermeister shots. Since I was already drunk, I said of course. So 6 shots and 10 minutes later my friend pulls out some weed. This gets smoked up, and then we head back downstairs. It's about midnight or 12:30 right now.

(INSERT BLACKOUT MEMORIES HERE)

So it's 3:30 or so and I'm on the 3rd floor of an apartment complex about 8 blocks from my residence and police are around me. I'm handcuffed. Apparently I was knocking on someone's door that didn't know me (nor I them) and they called the cops. And my shoes were nowhere to be found. Nor my flask or my lighter, but my cell phone and wallet and everything were still on my person. And my socks were in my pocket. Oh, and my pants were sitting beside me. So the cops put me in the back of the cruiser, gave me a ride home, and walked me inside to make sure I lived here. They told me that they didn't see my shoes.

Yesterday morning I woke up and walked around attempting to find my shoes. Why? Because they're Doc Martens, that's why. I looked around the area for a while with no luck. I then decided to call the radio dispatch part of the Columbus Police Department to figure out where I got picked up. So they told me, and I looked around there with no luck.

Lesson of the day: Don't take 6 shots of Jagermeister and smoke 2 bowls of weed in 20 minutes. You'll regret it the next day.

Ok, so I got back from a date a few nights ago and, as is my habit, checked my email.

One email. An email from the girl who dumped me flat a little over a year ago. Subject: I wish it was. Body: last september.

...where we could lose ourselves in crowds everyday. First line from a song I considered ours for a long, long time, by a man I desperately want to be.

One line from a song that sould refer to anything at all, a line I nevertheless assume can only be about one. She was always a fan of...ambiguity. And I was THIS close to being over her. Or maybe not.

So...what the fuck do I do now?

Today's my birthday. I'm 22.

Feels about the same. I'm still short and grossly overweight, and still keep telling myself I have to do something about the latter while stuffing fatty foods down my throat. Still a cynical atheist. Still depressed, or at least very unhappy. Still periodically go on crying jags for no discernible reason. Still a loner, to some extent due to the fact that I simply never learned how to make friends. Still a virgin.

Still telling total strangers more than they would ever want to know about me.

Oh, there is one new thing. As of tomorrow, I'll no longer have medical insurance.

The only present I got was a copy of Metroid: Zero Mission from my brother. He's living in Las Vegas, so he mailed it and it came a few days ago. I've already beaten it.

My parents can't afford to get either of us anything; money is tight. (Of course, it might not be so tight if they hadn't made foolish purchases - like, say, a $3000 big-screen TV.) They told me they'd make up for it at Hannukah. Frankly, I don't really care about presents, but they just reminded me that I'm going to spend another year pretending at religiosity, however half-heartedly. And I'm tired of it, desperately tired. But I don't trust them. For all their "tolerance", they almost disowned my brother when he came out of the closet. It's just a good thing my parents aren't Orthodox Jews or Pentecostals or something.

A few days ago I ran into a friend (of sorts) that I hadn't seen since high school. He's an Iranian immigrant; I believe his family was accepted as political refugees - they're Baha'i, which makes them a prime target for persecution in their homeland. We talked for a while, and traded cell phone numbers and email addresses. I'd like to stay in contact with him, but something tells me we'll just drift again. Because that's been the way of every friendship I've ever had.

I think I need to stop now. This is getting depressing, even for me.

The summer when I was married to Roger we lived on the farm. He brought a goat home once and his father made him get rid of it, saying the goat would eat the tar paper shingles off the side of the house. This was in Wisconsin, and my parents weren't talking to me because I had disgraced them so.

We went to Kenosha to visit his brothers and Roger bought an old Buick that had twin carbs in it but one was not hooked up. Buick had designed the model just before WWII, but produced it with only one carburetor connected because of fuel shortages. One Sunday afternoon we took that Buick out into the 40 across the road from the home place and chased some pigs his brother was raising.

I had fun with Roger, but he didn't want to be married. After the baby died and all the other trouble, I moved back to my parents' house and got a divorce. My folks tried to keep me there but as soon as I was 21 I went to the city and that was the start of my moving around. I've been pretty much all over the world.

If the baby hadn't died I'd probably still be in Tipler, chasing pigs.

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