The Six P’s

When I was twelve, I took SCUBA diving lessons so I could go on a field trip to dive in San Carlos, Mexico. My SCUBA instructor, Rick, sits us down in class one day and, for the first time, introduces me to the six P’s:

Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

He goes through the meaning of every “P”:

  1. Proper: you can certainly prepare in a way that doesn’t set you up for staying alive under water.
  2. Prior: you need to prepare everything for a safe dive before you enter the water. Or you could die.
  3. Preparation: Every aspect of the dive must be planned out ahead of time, all your equipment thoroughly inspected and in order. You must consult your dive tables and know how long your air will last at the depth you will go.
  4. Prevents: accidents can happen no matter how well you prepare. But the most common ones happen from equipment failure. You can prevent that.
  5. Poor: the opposite of perfect. An amazing dive can be ruined by drowning.
  6. Performance: the most dangerous thing in the ocean is not a shark. It’s yourself.  Staying under water is a foreign environment for your body, and you don’t need a single sea creature within a mile of you to drown.

Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

I did well in my SCUBA training, and was prepared to dive in the Sea of Cortez.  We traveled from Arizona to Mexico by van, and set up in a rented beach cottage in San Carlos.  When we all went out for our first dive, I quickly noticed that while many things I had prepared well for, there were two things I had not:

  1. We come out onto to the beach, and all the other divers first spread out a large tarp to lay out their gear and prep everything for the dive.  I did not remember seeing this item on the equipment list, I did not bring a tarp.  It was fine when we were prepping our gear on the poolside and in a boat, but the beach sand now threatened to coat everything.  All I have is my beach towel.  I laid out everything on my towel, a tiny square of clean in a wasteland of dirt.
  2. We rented my wetsuit, and when I got in the training pool I noticed that it did not fit perfectly and bulged out in the waist.  Every time I moved, the bulge allowed fresh cold water to circulate around my torso.  My weight belt helped a little in tightening up that area, so I thought I would be okay.  Now we were in the sea, not a heated swimming pool.  I got so chilly that it became very unpleasant and my teeth were chattering as I dragged myself up onto the beach.

Now I see the full implications of not bringing a tarp.  I am chilled to the bone, staring at my beach towel which is covered with wet diving gear, and the six P’s are thoroughly burning through my brain.  Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.


I learned my first hard lesson from the six P’s.  I had prepared, mostly.  The trip was great, and I made many wonderful memories.  And I didn’t drown.  But because my improper preparations had made the night dive a little scary and I got so cold that I was overwhelmed and I didn’t go on the last dive, the deep dive.

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  I wish I could say that the rest of my life was guided by the six P’s and I became a master planner and event organizer.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Those six P’s will likely haunt me until the day I die.

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Why read?

Recently I was given a Kindle as a belated Christmas present.  My wife and I make it a priority that our kids read a half hour every day.  I find myself reading all the time. Sometimes I pick up books in my house, sometimes the bible on my phone app, and many times stuff written on the interwebs.  But I’ve always been a reader.

Most recently, after reading some old D.C. Beard books (the subject of my last post), I read some Wikipedia articles about World War I battleships, called Dreadnoughts.  I saw a Revel plastic model of the USS Arizona in Michael’s, and mentioned it in passing to my wife.  She gave me that model for Christmas.  So as I looked at the antiquated design, I wanted to know why these older battleships were called dreadnoughts.  I knew that there was a dreadnought on the back of a 1918 two-dollar bill, so they were obviously important to public psyche back then.

1918 $2 Federal Reserve Bank Note BattleshipCollectors tend to call this the USS New York (BB-34), although no name is assigned to the ship in the vignette.  I looked up the Wiki article for BB-34 and found this picture:


We have a match with the angle of view and many of the details, except the artist rendered this dreadnought under a full head of steam, with anchors aweigh and flags stowed.

So I read all about the HMS Dreadnought, and the international arms race it began.  Very interesting to me and I think, in general, that period from around 1880-1920 is fascinating to me.  I let you explore that further if you wish, but the reason I’m writing this morning is because the present of the Kindle Reader got me thinking about reading as one of my avid pastimes.

I remember as a teenager, I felt bad about reading because I would never finish the books I picked up.  Then somewhere along the line I realized that my problem was that I don’t like reading fiction as much as non-fiction.  A good story is most interesting to me if it’s an account of historical events.  Also, reference books appeal to me and I have many.

I went through a long phase of self-help books, but after awhile I realized that the bible contained everything I really needed to know about helping me make my life better.  So I read the whole bible over the calendar year of 2014, using The Discipleship Journal Reading Plan.  It was an amazing journey, and I’m repeating the experience again this year.  I’m using a little different of a reading plan, also put out by Discipleship Journal called the Book-at-a-time Bible Reading Plan.

Committing to reading the bible is very ambitious, and I only succeeded because I supplemented my reading with a CD collection I picked up used called The Listener’s Bible, narrated by Max McLean.  This time, I’m listening to Max read as I follow along with the written word.  I’m hoping this will help me understand and retain more of what I heard.

Why do I read?  My pastor calls the scriptures spiritual food for the Christian.  If I’m not reading God’s message to us, I find that I’m not in fellowship with Him on a regular basis.  I’m not praying as much.  I’m not following the values I believe in when I starve myself of the bible.  I have a deep desire to improve myself, to be more than I am.  Self-help books always seem to derive their wisdom from man’s opinions, and nearly always fall short of the wisdom I rediscovered in the bible last year.

But besides the bible, reference books and how-to articles always capture my interest.  The authors improved themselves to a point of mastery and succeeded in sharing their knowledge with their peers and codified their knowledge for posterity.  By the very fact that they wrote a book about their knowledge means that they know something I can learn.

I have tons of ambition and a mere fraction of the willpower to commit to one thing enough to master it.  It’s so frustrating; perhaps the most frustrating thing about my life.  I can’t seem to pick my main course and sink my teeth in.  I’m always ordering the sampler platter.

That’s why I have so many books.  When I read, I can use my time to take my mind where others take their money and energy.  But I never get around to doing the cool things I read about.  My wife has many cookbooks but rarely fixes dinner.  I have many home-improvement books but no useable workshop space in my garage.  If I spent fifteen minutes doing for every hour I spend reading about doing them, I’d probably get a whole ton of things accomplished.

It’s sick, I know.  But at least I’ve successfully weaned myself off of smartphone video games.  I’d like to think that’s a step in the right direction.

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An excerpt from DC Beard’s 1914 book “Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties”

An excerpt from Chapter XLVI;

How a Forty-Foot-Front, Two-Story Pioneer Log House
Was Put Up with the Help of “Backwoods Farmers”
—Making Plans with a Pocket Knife.

Almost all of the original log cabins that were once sprinkled through the eastern part of our country disappeared with the advent of the saw-mill, and the few which still exist in the northern part of the country east of the Allegheny Mountains would not be recognized as log houses by the casual observer, for the picturesque log exteriors have been concealed by a covering of clapboards.

To my surprise I discovered that even among the old mountaineers I could find none who had ever attended a log-rolling frolic or participated in the erection of a real log house. Most of these old fellows, however, could remember living in such houses in their youth, but they could not understand why any sane man of to-day wanted “to waste so much good lumber,” and in the quaint old American dialect still preserved in these regions they explained the wastefulness of my plans and pointed out to me the number of good planks which might be sawed from each log.

When I make the claim that any ordinary man can build himself a summer home, I do not mean to say that he will not make blunders and plenty of them; only fools never make mistakes, wise men profit by them, and the reader may profit by mine, for there is no lack of them in our log house at Big Tink. But the house still stands on the bank overlooking the lake and is practically as sound as it was when the last spike was driven, twenty-seven years ago.


A house is never really finished until one loses interest in it and stops tinkering and planning homely improvements.  This sort of work is a healthy, wholesome occupation and just the kind necessary to people of sedentary occupations or those whose misfortune it is to be engaged in some of the nerve-racking business peculiar to life in big cities.

Dwellers in our big cities do not seem to realize that there is any other life possible for them than a continuous nightmare existence amid monstrous buildings, noisy traffic, and the tainted air of unsanitary streets. They seem to have forgotten that the same sun that in summer scorches the towering masonry and paved sidewalks until the canyon-like streets become unbearable also shines on green woods, tumbling waters, and mirror-like lakes; or, if they are dimly conscious of this fact, they think such places are so far distant as to be practically out of their reach in every sense.

Yet in reality the wilderness is almost knocking at our doors, for within one hundred miles of New York bears, spotted wildcats, and timid deer live unconfined in their primitive wild condition.  Fish caught in the streams can be cooked for dinner in New York the same day.

In 1887, when the writer was himself a bachelor, he went out into the wilderness on the shores of Big Tink Pond, upon which he built the log house shown in the sketch. At first he kept bachelor hall there with some choice spirits, not the kind you find in bottles on the barroom shelf, but the human kind who love the outdoor world and nature, or he took his parents and near relatives with him for a vacation in the woods.

Like all sensible men, in course of time he married, and then he took his bride out to the cabin in the woods. At length the time came when he found it necessary to shoulder his axe and go to the woods to secure material for a new piece of furniture.  He cut the young chestnut-trees, peeled them, and with them constructed a crib; and every year for the last eight years that crib has been occupied part of the season.

Thus, you see, a camp of this kind becomes hallowed with the most sacred of human memories and becomes a joy not only to the builder thereof but also to the coming generation. At the big, open fire in the grill-room, with the old-fashioned cooking utensils gathered from farmhouses on Long Island, I have cooked venison steaks, tenderloin of the great northern hare, the plump, white breasts of the ruffed grouse, all broiled over the hot coals with slices of bacon, and when done to a turn, placed in a big platter with fresh butter and served to a crowd who watched the operation and sniffed the delicious odor until they literally drooled at the corners of their mouths.  As the house was built on a deer runway, all these things were products of the surrounding country, and on several occasions they have all been served at one meal.


P.S. One of the reasons I picked up this book is that the author, Daniel Carter Beard, is one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America.  His books are fun to read, and I find it no small coincidence that this book happened to be published 100 years ago.

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An Important Dream

I had a dream this morning of eating lunch on the shaded patio of a restaurant near my house.  The people around me noticed a strange phenomena where the shadows were very black, and the sunlight was dim like during a partial eclipse.  I said it was the day and exact moment of the equinox.  Then there was a flash of light on the horizon across the bay, toward the ocean.  I knew it was time to run home to my family.

As I approached the train tracks that separated me from my neighborhood, a long train pulling high, open gondola cars rolled in.  The first cars had hundreds of manikins dressed in unfamiliar military uniforms and accessories, but as the train slowed to a deliberate stop, the cars further back had actual soldiers wearing green woodland camouflage.  They were speaking English and were in high spirits, chatting jocularly and readying their gear as they awaited orders.

Several men had gotten off the train by the time I had crossed under the tracks and was walking along the right-of-way toward my street, a coeul-de-sac up near where the locomotives stopped.  A balding, shorter man standing near the car he had just disembarked was holding a weapon unfamiliar to me.  It had a very wide barrel but was short and light-duty.  I got a closer look at his fatigues and knew that they were not US armed forces, but he was clearly an American by the way he talked.

As I tried to move past him inconspicuously, he spied the bottle in my hand, which I had been carrying home from lunch.  “Mmm, balsamic vinegar,” he said, sizing me up.  I did not respond or meet his gaze, but quickened my pace to put some distance between us.  Displeased by my reaction, he armed and leveled his weapon at me.  It shot out a canister like a can of spray paint that landed about six feet short of me.  One end of it was on fire like a Molotov cocktail.

I didn’t linger to see if it indeed burst into flame, but instead I broke out into a full run toward home.  I could hear him yelling at me in disappointment as I rounded the corner, and another canister landed, but I had exceeded the weapon’s range.  Very alarmed at this point, I knew that this was an occupying force and not National Guardsmen.  It was time for us to flee as refugees, never to return.  I woke up before I reached my home and family.

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The Electronic Household

I passed by the house of the electronics addict, by the yard of the man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with thistles and dandelions, and its fence was broken down.

Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction.  A little Candy Crush, a little television, a little folding of the hands over the iPad, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

Paraphrased from Proverbs 24:30-34

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Every Day Carry

I was browsing on for a birthday present, when I happened upon last Wednesday’s journal post titled “Weekly Pocket Dump.”  They show pictures of items they like that were posted on the tumblr called “Everyday Carry,” aka “EDC”.  I got so intrigued by the photos submitted to EDC that I decided to follow the instructions:

  • Drop what you’re carrying, organize it into right angles, zoom out, and snap a pic. That’s your Pocket Dump.
  • List each item individually (make and model)
  • Include your profession and location.
  • Describe your carry.
  • Check any related tags.

It took a little while to look up the web links to each of the items.  What I found out is that it would cost me $1,205.20 to replace everything I’m carrying on my person.  That is much higher than I expected, given how rag-tag it all looks.  That’s not even including the cards in my wallet.


Research Administrator in Berkeley, CA

So, the phone does account for 50% of the total, the wedding ring 26%, and eyeglasses 13%.  It’s kind of sad to me that my wedding ring is only half the cost of my phone.  But to me, it’s the most valuable thing I own.  I found out it was made by Frederick Goldman.  The coin purse is also a sentimental item, an inheritance from my grandmother.

I’m not quite sure what this all says about me; but I’ll be giving it some thought.

UPDATE: My submission was not posted to EDC.  I think this is because my pockets did not represent their ethos.

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Old Journal Entry: Regretting Moving Away

October 11, 1999

How can I write a song that would successfully express this emotion I’m feeling?  Would it have lyrics?  If I were to write a song, it would evoke this feeling: “I could be happy, if you were with me.”

Add to the texture of your life
I walk through my preparations for having a wife
Knowing that I could be a wonderful husband
I cannot wait to learn to work out problems
And compromise with love and respect.

Just as I am complete and happy by myself,
I know you are too.
But to combine the two of us is multiplication, not just addition
We will talk about the things that really matter–
Not what we just think we should say because we’re afraid.
I am afraid right now, to reach out, and make connection.

There is so much love from God within me, but
I am scared to show it to others.
I will not have the time to keep promises,
To stay out late, to stay overnight.
To move in with you, to build a future.

I am so used to being self-sufficient
Because I cannot trust
I fear that I will sound desperate
I fear that I am too clingy
I fear that you will not like an impression I give you
Before you find out who I really am.

Perhaps the more I am me, the less I will be
The stuffy afraid person you normally see.
I love God very much.  I love being silly.
The more I act like the thing I think women want,
The harder it will be to let her find me.

I have been so concerned about the rules of this adult world
That I don’t even like myself anymore.
I act stuffy and isolationist
I don’t know what to say because
I can only role play so far
Before the character is so totally unlike me
That I can’t imagine what he would say.

Fortune cookie: Love cannot be bought or stolen.  It can only be given away.

It really hurts inside
I am mad and angry
I suddenly think of my last love.
She discussed “cheating” on me.
She was scared and alone
As I am right now.

You stupid wretch of thoughtlessness
You thought you were being clever
You selfish ass.

I can’t decide if you’re responsible
And you can’t decide if I am.
She was the best I ever had…
And she was right about me.
She was good for me,
And I didn’t even know it.

I let myself slide down the slippery slope of love,
And yet all the way through I wanted to keep it as friendship.
The chain of events seem so obvious to me now
And yet, I still don’t know how to apply that knowledge
To my current situation.

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