What books are you reading or have finished lately

I read this article: https://medium.com/lapsed-historian/the-long-way-round-the-plane-that-accidentally-circumnavigated-the-world-c04ca734c6bb

Which led me to this book:

Which I’ll be getting into shortly, it might not be boaty but seems like a helluva sea story nonetheless.

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I’m just finishing my slog through The Perfectionists by Simon Winchester. Is he always like this? These sentences are shockingly baroque to the point where they interfere with the meaning and sometimes the grammar. Halfway though I see that he’s been trained as a petroleum geologist: that explains why I had to brush up on Steno’s laws just to get any meaning out these pages. I enjoyed the anecdotes about the Hubble telescope’s struggles, but the rest of it is… I’ll be glad to give it back to the library. Here’s an example of the way he builds a sentence. There’s one or more example like this on every of 355 pages.

The technology that now binds the two companies together (footnote about an investment decision) is performed on such an infinitesimally minute scale, and to tolerances that would have seemed unimaginably absurd and well-nigh unachievable only decades ago, that it is taking precision into the world of the barely believable-- except that it is a world that manifestly must be believed, a world from which, one can argue, modern humankind benefits mightily and for whose existence it is all the better, an assertation with which both Intel and ASML would readily agree.

Does this guy hate his readers or does he just have a dysfunctional relationship with his editor?

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I re-read two… The Left Handed Monkey Wrench by Richard McKenna and Papillon.

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Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton.

Best pirate story I’ve ever come across.

Had an opportunity to look something up in Adam Hochschild’s “King Leopold’s Ghost” and ended up rereading the whole thing. Fascinating story of how a no-name shipping clerk took down the King of Belgium.




For an adventure on land I’d mention a great read I finished awhile back.

“Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West” by Stephen E. Ambrose

One of the most amazing stories in American history.

Early in 1803 President Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon Bonaparte, an area just under 1,000,000 square miles in size. The Revolutionary War had ended and the Continental Government was strapped for funds, but the $15 million dollar price tag for the land and what it could do in building the nation
was too enticing.

Soon after the purchase was made, Meriwether Lewis and William Rogers Clark were commissioned to take an exploration expedition into this region and inventory what all was there. A survey of Native people, animals & birds, natural resources and cartographers would produce maps for Jefferson . On their return Jefferson was eager to debrief them and examine the samples that they brought back. It exceeded his wildest dreams.

It’s a complete story of what we know as The Lewis & Clark Expedition.

I think anyone with an adventurous spirit could find this a fascinating read.

As a side note, 14 years later Governor Dewitt Clinton of New York
was able to start the building of the Erie Canal, which was followed by Ohio’s Erie Canal that had Portsmouth, Ohio as it’s southern terminus. When all was running a European traveler could arrive in New York City and in 30 days time arrive in New Orleans having traveled across the land on water in canal boats and River Steamers…
By 1832 travelers could arrive at Cairo, Illinois at the confluence of the Ohio River and the Mississippi River with the lands of the Louisiana Purchase laying before them.

I read those back in my teens. Absolutely captivating, King might be the only author I know who manages relatable surrealism.

I just finished Shark Drunk by Morten A. Strøksnes. It is whimsical and slightly mysterious, but ends up saying a lot about our fundamental relationship to the sea. Highly recommended.

Woody, Cisco, and Me: Seamen Three in the Merchant Marine

Woody Guthrie and friends ship out during WW2. Funny book, i’d recommend to anyone in the merchant marine or interested in Woody Guthrie.

Can be had very cheap used on Amazon.

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“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - An Inquiry into Values”

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A great Book Zen. A friend of mine was taken across the USA on a Honda Gold Wing for her 12th birthday. and she was explaining how her Dad read it to her at night as they camped out.

Later he bought this old Pickup Truck and they went around in it visit historic spots around where they lived. He found this Book titled, “Truck: a love story” and she said that she liked it equally as well.

Her Dad was a Teacher so he had the summer months off. Mom and Dad were divorced and she chose staying with Dad.

Truck: A Love Story

Most recent book maritime related is the Caine Mutiny. I have re-read it a few times now.

Most recent book I read and would recommmend would be David Goggins- Can’t Hurt me.
If you don’t know who he is, here is a blurb on the book- For David Goggins, childhood was a nightmare - poverty, prejudice, and physical abuse colored his days and haunted his nights. But through self-discipline, mental toughness, and hard work, Goggins transformed himself from a depressed, overweight young man with no future into a U.S. Armed Forces icon and one of the world’s top endurance athletes. The only man in history to complete elite training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller, he went on to set records in numerous endurance events, inspiring Outside magazine to name him The Fittest (Real) Man in America.

Definitely a classic, and a great movie… though I found their case against the ship’s officers flimsy. Giving your captain support and loyalty won’t prevent him from endangering the ship and all lives onboard, certainly not if they have a few screws loose to begin with.


Fighting Admirals of the Second World War by David Wragg. One of the surprises is Admiral Bertram Ramsey. He masterminded the British retreat from Dunkirk and commanded the Allied fleet for the D day landings. He was a confidant of Eisenhower and unusually enjoyed good relations with Admiral King. He was described as one of the greatest generals of all time by Field Marshal Montgomery for his grasp of the complete picture of the war theatre.
He died in a plane crash 3 weeks after D day.

On Bullshit
by Harry G. Frankfurt

This book opens with:

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained inquiry.

This short (67 pages) and small (6" x 4") book then proceeds to establish a theoretical and philosophical framework from which to explore the world of BS.

Much of the book examines why bullshitting is NOT the same thing as lying. Simplistically the premise is that liars do have some kind of relationship with the truth since “to invent a lie at all, he must think he knows what is true and in order to invent an effective lie, he must design his falsehood under the guidance of that truth.”

For the bullshitter “his eye is not on the facts at all”. If you are not concerned with what is correct or being correct then what is the bullshitter concerned with? Frankfurt proposes “sincerity” has arisen in place of “correctness”. “Rather than seeking primarily to arrive at accurate representations of a common world, the individual turns toward trying to provide honest representations of himself”.

Yeah that seems to ring true with me lately when listening to various streams of BS the generators seem sooo sincere about it. “Facts? What facts? This is what I believe man. This is what I really believe.”

I’m not speaking about the current state of public discourse in the US (and other parts of the world) I’m talking about technical discussions about real things that work in a real way. These things don’t care what you feel should be happening and yet lately I’ve listened to some phantasmagoric explanation of purely technical situations.

This mindset remains a mystery to me but the notion that these BS emitters simply have no concern about this technical situation at all seems to make sense. Put aside the questions of how they got this way, and what’s their motive because that doesn’t seem to matter. They’re not trying to convince you of anything - why you’re wrong or why they are right - they simply must expound. Must get out their story,

Unfortunately the book does not provide any how-to, ways and means to deal with the BS’er. Lately all I can muster in the face of these expositions is staring at them slack jawed. Realizing they are not really engaged in a real conversation about real things but only meaning to convey their sincerest feelings about what should be. Knowing there will be no real communication is a real time saver, you don’t have to try very hard to convince them of anything because they are not in receiving mode, only transmitting.

A nice quick read If nothing else.

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Interesting little book. Did it mention anything about the ancient Greek and later Roman Orators/Rhetoricians? In their day Ethos, Logos, and Pathos were the principle persuasion techniques.(those may be seen as BSing today)

Ethos (the appearance of the speaker lending him credibility) and Pathos (the appeal by emotional persuasion) could easily today account for much of the BS.

Logos (the persuasion of logic, facts and figures) could have a chance of avoiding the BS if they aren’t somehow “cooked”.

What triggers my response is the similarities I notice that we have today to ancient Athens Greece where every man then was supposedly responsible to participate in daily politics. There it took place at the Ecclesia and here and now it’s the internet.

I see so much of the BS today owing to the dapper public speakers and the bleeding hearts. There are just so many of them 24/7 everywhere. And so many of them are only “self listening”.

Those who try to support their views with facts, figures, and numbers are almost a problem unto themselves. Their data is almost immediately challenged when presented and dismissed as false.

But the biggest trend I notice is that of people seeking privacy with their Cells and noise canceling earbuds as soon as they go off duty.
The art of avoiding each other seems to be overtaking the art of conversation and togetherness. And that can’t be healthy.

At the end of the day the BS wins just with the strength of numbers.

“Gullgutten” by Jon Michelet. The title translates as “Golden Boy”, and is part of a fictional series about a merchant mariner in WW2. None of the books in the series are out in English yet, but the author has stated that he’s working hard on translating them, so they should be coming out shortly.

I usually avoid Michelet because his whole class war thing gets tiresome pretty quickly, and I’ve failed to make it through some of his bestsellers, such as Orion’s Belt. However, Gullgutten was a pleasant surprise. It is written in a whimsical style that gives the feel of an autobiography, and it’s easy to forget that you’re reading a work of fiction. While this leaves a whole bunch of loose threads and broken subplots, it also provides a unique window into what it was like to sail in those terrible years. The characters are also quite believable, rendered with a lot more nuance than I’m used to from Jon Michelet.

All in all, this one gets my heartfelt recommendation.

Also, I just made it through The Boys in the Boat. Not much to say about that one, except that the story arc about the evils of the Nazi propaganda machine is shoddily written to the point of incompetence. The part about Joe Rantz was good, and it would have been an excellent book with more sources of the same caliber. Read only if you’re a big fan of US sports journalism.

The Good Soldier Švejk

Discharged from the Austrian military for idiocy; Svejk is called back up to service when WW1 breaks out. He bounces around from place to place, never reaching the frontlines (the book is unfinished). The entire time he causes a headache for all his superiors

The 1970 translation by Cecil Parrot has plenty of footnotes explaining the Czech references. His introduction also explains the difficulty of capturing some of the jokes and tone of the book in translation.

The first 100 pages seemed a little dull/slow. Once Svejk joins up with the Chaplain the story picks up and gets better. It is quite funny in places. Unfortunately the book is unfinished and simply ends where the author died.

The Autobiography of Malcom X

I cant believe how good this book was. I can’t do it justice with a gcaptain forum post. It’s $10 or less on Amazon to get a paperback.

The Merchant marine is frequently mentioned in this book. Malcom’s brother was a mariner during WW2 before he joined NOI. He also mentions buying drugs and guns from merchant seaman who had smuggled/stolen them.

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The Glencannon books.
I loved the TV series and read every book I could find in the library when I was a kid. I would love to find them as epub. I keep trying