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Has anyone else seen the Sonic commericals with the two guys? They don’t have Sonics anywhere in North Dakota, but they still play the commercials here. The one I’ve been seeing is with these two guys eating burgers in their car. I can’t find the commercial on YouTube, but here’s how it goes:

Passenger: “I was never very good at food math.”

Driver: “What? How many burgers are you holding?”

(This is my favorite part!)

Passenger: “I don’t know. Eight!”

Anyone know what I’m talking about?

I found a different video on YouTube:

This is what I watched all day Tuesday. I was giggling uncontrollably in my parents’ basement as I watched. I love me some Mole!

[clearspring_widget title=”The Mole on” wid=”483e0b2a1ecfc820″ pid=”488ffe903810406a” width=”300″ height=”250″ domain=””]

Scene: Outside the house my twin brothers live in near Jamestown College:

Mom: Wow. You look really thin!

Me: No I don’t! I’ve been pigging out for two months.

She is such a liar!

I’m back on American soil. I’m at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, waiting for my flight out to Jamestown, where my parents will be picking me up. I’m tired and smelly, but, surprisingly, in a good mood. It feels good to be back home.

So, apparently, Fall Out Boy recorded a cover of “Beat It.” Northwest Airlines’ had the song looping on their onboard music playlist. And it’s total crap. It’s just one of those songs you don’t cover.

But the song got me thinking about what I missed during the summer. I had limited access to goings-on across the U.S. so I’m sure I missed stuff. For example, a few months ago I found out that in 2003 (when I was in Iraq and had virtually NO access to the outside world), Lifesavers replaced the lime-flavored candy with green apple. I love me some green apple, but as an amateur candy connoisseur, I was floored.

So here’s my question to you, dear reader: What did I miss this summer? What was going in the news while I was on the high seas? What has everyone been watching, reading, listening to while I was searching for octopi in the Pacific?

Here’s a list of things I already know:

  • The Dark Knight is flooring audiences and causing controversy. I saw the film on my last night in Japan. Heath Ledger was amazing and it’s even more sad that he’s gone. He made that movie. In fact, I would say the Batman played second fiddle to the Joker. (The theater, however, did not show the Watchmen preview. I’m not a big fan, but I read an interesting story in Entertainment Weekly. Anyone see the preview?)
  • Comedians and newsmen died over the summer (George Carlin, Tony Snow, etc.)
  • When You’re Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris. I’ve had some time to think about the book now, and the stories I remember the most are the ones about the old-lady neighbor, the crazy birds, the spider, and the human skeleton. Anyone else read this yet? What stood out to you?

And if anyone says anything about The Mole I will kill them. I am planning to watch the episodes online when I get to my parents’ place.

I swear to god, I’ll hunt you down and kill you like I did those Iraqis!

I am in Yokosuka, Japan, sitting at a food court on base, coughing because I think I’ve contracted a cold from one of the sailors. Luckily, Bryan Johnson isn’t here to walk me around a lake or something and get me even sicker (Ah, good times!)

My class is winding down. We are working on the final paper, the argument, which is worth 25% of their final grades. The paper is due by noon on Saturday and I’ll be spending my weekend grading papers and determining final grades. I’ll be flying out of Japan for North Dakota on Monday.

I’m actually kind of torn about leaving. On one hand, I’ve had a great time onboard. The sailors are great, and I’ve established a rapport with them that’s better than the rapport I’ve had with any other class (Although, my 242 class comes close). I actually felt bad when I told them that I wasn’t going to be teaching the second class. They said, Well that sucks. Just when we’re getting used to you, you leave. Plus, I’m in Japan and I’ve always wanted to visit this country.

On the other hand, it’s been hard work and I’m ready to go home. Teaching onboard a naval ship is a lot more difficult than I imagined it would be. I’ve liked doing it and I learned a lot, but I’m ready for the next challenge – China. I keep telling myself that I’ll be coming back over to this part of the globe, so if I don’t get to explore Japan, I can do it next year when I’m living over here.

So, I’ll be state-side in a few days. I’ll be spending a week (and my birthday) with my family, but then I was thinking of coming to Fargo and then Mankato for a few days. I’ll keep everyone posted.

Parallelism: Correct the sentences by using parallel (matching) grammatical structure.

5. The gnomes were holding rakes, sitting on mushrooms, and they had books in their hands.


Well, I’m back in South Korea. This is my fourth time in South Korea, and there isn’t a whole lot different. I’m in Busan (also called Pusan). I was here last summer for a weekend. It’s basically the summer capital of South Korea because of all the beaches and water.

Thanks for all the comments and e-mails. Here’s the answers to some of your questions:

What have you been reading on this trip? – Bryan, Mankato

In my rush to prepare and leave for this assignment, I only packed one book – River Town by Peter Hessler. Dick recommended the book because it’s about a Peace Corps volunteer teaching for two years in a remote part of China. It’s a long book, and on the ship, I tried to savor every last bit of it. I tried to read it slowly and take it all in. Unfortunately, I have a lot of time on the ship and I finished it in no time. So I went to the ship’s “library” – half dozen carbboard boxes full of mostly shitty paperbacks and advanced, uncorrected proofs (I’m not sure why so many uncorrected proofs). It was here where I found Charles Baxter’s The Soul Thief. I’d be interested in discussing this book with anyone who’s read it. I love Baxter’s short stories “Griffin” and “Snow,” but I didn’t care for this book. In Hong Kong, I found Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys and Sebatian Junger’s The Perfect Storm. I couldn’t read Chabon’s novel because the movie (which I love and have seen a million times) closely follows the book, and I found myself drifting back to the movie. It felt like I was wasting my time, so I put the book down. The Perfect Storm was great. This book has been on my bookshelf for years, waiting to be read, and I’ve finally gotten to it. When I got to Guam, I was eager for some new reading material. I found David Sedaris’ new collection When You Are Engulfed in Flames. I finished it in a day. I’d say that it’s even better than Dress Your Family … Finally, I’ve read two Iraq books: Rory Stewart’s The Prince of the Marshes and Imperial Life in the Emerald City (I forget the author of this one). Both good books.

Do they have a poop deck, and when did it stop being funny when people said it seriously, as in “Hurry! The poop deck’s aflame!”? – Bryan, Mankato

I have yet to find the poop deck. I think it’s a myth. I’ll have to make this a top priority during my last two weeks on the ship.

How many of these sweaty-balled sailors have anchor tattoos? – Amanda, Mankato & Have you talked any sailor into getting a regrettable tattoo of Asian script? And have you gotten a regrettable tatto of Asian script? – Bryan, Mankato

You know, I’ve kind of fallen for the tatooed sailors. There is something sexy about all their tattoos. It’s true that many sailors have tattooes, which is funny because at every port the command says that they can’t get tattooes (most sailors do anyway!). But to answer this questions – I have not personally inspected any sailors for anchor tattoos or Asian symbols, although I kind of wanted to.

Have you had a chance to stand out on the edge of the ship close your eyes and open your arms real wide. I hear that feels like flying…but maybe you need Leonardo DiCaprio holding you for that sensation. – Bryan, Mankato

Yes, and it felt wonderful. And any tattooed sailor is a fine stand-in for DiCaprio!

Is where you’re sleeping another chamber of farts like your tent in Iraq? – Bryan, Mankato

For those unfamiliar, Bryan is referring to the chapter I read at my thesis reading. The answer: No, sailors don’t seem as gassy. But, here’s a related story. I live in what they call “overflow.” The boat is backed so “overflow” consists of a bay for the enlisted sailors and a section for officers and chiefs. I’m in the section for officers and chiefs, which is divided from the rest of the room by a 3/4 wall and a door. I can’t really see the sailors but I can hear them. The funny thing is that I kind of live with some of my students. We share a head (bathroom), so there are a number of times when I’ve caught my students wandering to the head in nothing but boxers or shirtless. It’s kind of weird. It totally shatters the “teacher-student” wall I try to put up.

Has anyone offered you a pair of bell bottoms and a wedge cap to fit in? – Amanda, Mankato

No. Bell bottoms have gone out of style – even in the navy. It’s a shame really. I wore my white bell bottoms the first day of teaching and boy did I get some stares!

Who’s sexier? Sailors or soldiers, now that you’ve been surrounded by both? – Amanda, Mankato

This is a tough one, but I’m going to go with sailors. It’s the tattoos that are swaying my decision.

Do you intend on telling your grandchildren that you served in the “Pacific theater” during the War on Terror? – Bryan, Mankato

You bet!

Did you take a Buddha picture with your I’m Sorry You Feel That Way tote??? – Diana, Mankato

I left my bag at home. But, I do have it packed for China, so if I make it back to Hong Kong, I’ll get a pic with the bag and the buddha. If nothing else, I’ll have to find the world’s largest standing buddha and get a pic with it.

What date do you come back? – Teri, Fargo

The last day of class is July 27th. We should pull into Japan shortly after that. I should be back in North Dakota by Aug. 1.

That’s it for now. I should be wrapping it up in the next two weeks. I’ll post more details shortly.

Here’s a picture of the world’s largest seated buddha. It is on Lantau Island, one of the over 200 island that make up Hong Kong. I have a million pictures (including one with the buddha and my gnome!). I’ll upload my pictures once I get back.


Since, curious readers have written in with a number of questions, I will now answer a few of them:

What does the ship smell like? Motor oil, sweaty balls and fish is my guess. – Bryan, Wisconsin

Well, surprisingly, the sea doesn’t really smell anything like fish. I think the fish smell comes from the docks, where they cut and gut fish. But, there is a lot of motor oil and sweaty ball smell drifting around the ship. Remember, I’m living in tight quarters with hundreds of other men. I think Jessica’s clothes had more room in her closets in Mankato than I do now. So yes, the smell of sweaty balls is pretty strong … unless we’ve pulled into port and all the sailors have dowsed themselves in cologne (so they can smell good for the hookers).

Does anyone swab anything anymore? – Bryan, Wisconsin

It depends on your definition of swab. Every floor is called a deck and there is a lot of mopping (aka swabbing) going on. I did see someone sweeping water off the weatherdeck today.

Speaking of weird Navy things, what is a weatherdeck? – Bronson, Guam

Weatherdecks are any deck exposed to the weather. Duh!

Have you seen any sea creaters – dolphins, giant octupi? – Bryan, Wisconsin

No. But a couple nights ago I had a dream where I saw a manatee jumping around the sea. I thought it was a dolphin but I was assured (by myself, I guess) that it was a manatee.

You mentioned seeing the season finale of Lost, so – do they have the L-Word? – Ashley, Fargo

No. They do not have the L-Word. But, the sailors were watching a movie called Teeth, featuring a woman who has teeth in her va-jay-jay.

Is the food better than in Iraq? If not, I’d suggest gathering the sailors and starting a mutiny. – Ashley, Fargo

The food is better than the MREs – which we had for the summer we were in Baghdad – but not as good as the food they shipped into the chow halls in Iraq, near the end of the tour.

How was Hong Kong? – Ashley, Fargo

Lots of SARs and hookers. I stayed away because, as Bryan noted on Jessica’s blog, “they both eat your face off.” (I’ll post more on Hong Kong shortly!)

That is all. Keep your emails and questions coming (or just post comments with questions). I’ll try and answer then next week when we’re in Korea.


Hey. Greeting from Guam. I am sitting at a coffeehouse at the Naval base in Guam, enjoying the sun and high-speed wireless internet! I’m sorry I haven’t been able to post updates to the blog or e-mail, but internet access is extremely limited aboard the ship and they wouldn’t let me check my Hotmail account.

I don’t want to make this too long, but here’s some highlights from my trip thus far:

  • I flew to Hawaii at the end of May. Once there I caught what they call a COD out to the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier. If any of you watched the PBS special Carrier, you’ll know what this is like. The landing is the worst landing you’ll ever go through! I feared that we’d skid across the runway and slide right off the other end of the carrier. But I made it safely.
  • I spent a night on board the Reagan. It’s just like the documentary. There’s this long “p-way” (hallway) with these pill-shaped door hatches, and if you look down the hall you can see dozens of people stepping through these doorways. It’s kind of surreal, something you’d dream about.
  • After that first night, I took a helicopter (which I later found out is named Red Stinger 1) over to the USS Chancellorsville, one of the many ships traveling with the Reagan. It’s a “small boy,” so there’s only about 200 people on board. On the flight over, I watched the sea bubble and foam, and I kept thinking the bubbles were the spots on the back of whales, but they were just bubbles.
  • I felt a little out of place on board (being the only civilian), but I quickly got over that. I found my “sea legs” quite quickly. I feel right at home now.
  • The Navy is a whole, different world. There are all kinds of acronyms (more than the Army). And it’s always loud. The 1MC (that’s the speaker system throughout the ship) is always spitting out instructions or other noise. It sounds at 6 a.m. for reveille (and yes, I do get up with the sailors at 6 a.m.). There are constantly announcements for “flight quarts” – Flight quarters, flight quarters. Designated personnel man your flight quarter stations. And there are these bell chimes every half-hour and these annoying whistles (which are part of Navy traditions, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying!). What I like best about the 1MC is the evening prayer at 10 p.m. I’m not religious, but I’ve fallen for the voice of the sailor who does the announcements. He could read Windows 97 user manuals and I’d still be smitten. He has this perfect, soothing radio voice, and at the end of the prayer he says, “Goodnight Chancellorsville. God bless always. One love.” I like that, mostly because I feel part of the Chancellorsville he addresses.
  • My students are pretty good. I have 3 women and 27 men of varying ages. At first I thought sailors would be different – always on time and always respectful and dedicated to the material. I was wrong. Some come in late. Some turn in assignments late. Some just don’t seem to care about the class (they don’t have to pay for it; the Navy pays their tuition). But, I have a few favorite students who put the time into the class. And, they are always respectful; they call me Sir a lot (which I kind of like).
  • One of my favorite things thus far have been the Steel Beach Parties. On Sundays (and for the 4th of July), the ship hosts these parties on the fantail (back) of the ship. They have three grills that they use to BBQ chicken and ribs, and they have speakers with music. At first it felt kind of weird because I’d be sitting on the fantail, enjoying some ribs, while in front of me would be a the giant barrel of a gun, and around me would be miles upon miles of blue ocean. I’ve also witnessed a burial at sea, watched as the ship did a humanitarian mission to the people of the Philippines after the typhoon that came through there at the end of June, and observed a swim call, where they stop the boat and let people jump into the ocean to go swimming. The best part of the swim call is that they had this small, motorboat loaded with sailors with guns. They are there to shoot the sharks if they approached and tried to nibble off a few sailor-legs. We did the swim call near the deepest part of the Pacific, off the coast of Guam.

Well, that should tide you over until my next update. We’re scheduled to go up to South Korea and then Japan. I should be leaving the ship in a little under a month. Thanks for the e-mails.


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