Well, it seems like only yesterday and I was graduating Nuclear Field A School, NFAS, and here I am about to graduate Nuclear Power School (assuming I pass the comprehensive exam in two weeks), arguably one of the hardest schools that the military has to offer. I can’t really even explain why this place is hard because it’s something that you would have to live through to really understand. It’s not just the material, the amount of it, and the speed at which you learn it, but the entire experience is meant to kick your ass from the day you get there to the day you graduate. Unfortunately, we’ve lost a few along the way due to different reasons, and probably a few still after the comp exam takes place.
Much like in A School, this six months has been a complete blur. It’s hard to even remember starting the school, let alone what I was doing last week. The amount of stuff we’ve crammed into our heads has been ridiculous and after this I feel like I never want to slam my head full of random information ever again. But, in 6-9 months, I will be working on a live nuclear reactor plant training to go to sea. I’m ready to just do a deployment… but 6-9 months of doing nothing sounds amazing. Speaking of which, there’s a pretty decent chance I could get TAD (temporary assigned duty) to Norfolk, VA or King’s Bay, Georgia. Nothing is decided, but we were told today that if no one voluntarily selects it, every single Sailor will be up being “voluntold” to go. Exciting. Who knows what I’ll actually get. I just want it to be easy, to be honest.
Besides work, I spent this past weekend in Savannah, GA, for the first time since, well, the last update here in March. I got to spend time with Carissa and we hit up a ton of festivals (well, two), and the beach, and in general just relaxed. Nice to get out of Charleston, that’s for sure. The Navy means something there whereas here we just have our awesome Nuke reputation to contend with.
I’m starting to get a little stir crazy at work. I suppose we all are. We’re at each others’ throats one minute and friends the next. It really depends on the mood of the class. Our section leader Buetow just had a baby this morning. He and his wife are going to make awesome parents. Pretty hectic time to come along, but hopefully he’ll have a long graduation hold before having to go away.
May 25th can’t come soon enough. 9 more days of actual work and we’re finished with this place. Or rather, Admiral Rickover is finished with us.
Amazingly, we’re almost done with the longest 14 weeks imaginable. In a 9 more days of actual work, we’ll be done with A School at NNPTC, promoted to Petty Officer Third Class, and given 10 days of leave. It’s hard to think it’s been that long because when you’re working the hours that we do, time blurs together. McGowan, a friend/classmate of mine, likes to think of it in that there are only three days to a week: Monday, Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday, and Friday. Everything runs into one really long day and by the time Friday hits, you’re pretty much ready to be done with everything and enjoy your weekend, if you don’t have duty or assignments, which we invariably do.
For me, A school hasn’t been particularly hard. I’ve managed to be the honorman throughout the school (at least, after math), and so I’ve had voluntary hours (“vols”) since nearly the second week of class. Of course, I can’t speak too soon since we still have two more machinery tests and our comp review left — and I really haven’t put much effort into preparing for any of those. Hopefully I won’t need it, but we’ll see. The only real motivation I have to do well on it is to just avoid the hassle of people yelling at me, or ordered hours, or the possibility as using it as a highlight in another officer’s package to see if I can pick up a commission.
I really would like to switch fields completely if I make officer. It seems like Nukes are generally overworked and completely unhappy with everything. Everyone else I talk to in the Navy loves their jobs, but Nukes all seem pretty disgruntled by the whole experience. That said, I think a lot of that is just the mindset of the military in general: if there’s an outlet, you better be complaining. Right now, my focus is on just getting more money so I’m not barely getting by. Once that improves, I should be much more content. Either way, if I have the opportunity, I’d like to make Public Affairs Officer like I had originally hoped — that’s what I love to do, and that’s what I find fun. I guess it’s ironic I’m complaining at all since I’m performing the best in the class (and higher than honormen in most other classes too). But, the grass is always greener I guess.
That said, a lot of the class has been entertaining because of the dialogs with the instructors and random fleet stories. But, the most entertaining is just how insane we all start to get after being around each other for so long. We tolerate each other pretty well, but we can rage here or there. I know my humor is lost on some people in the class, and a few of us are completely annoyed by each other. But for the most part, we survive just fine. McGowan is a constant source of random stories and past life anecdotes — it’s really about the only thing that you can do to keep from falling asleep or just slamming your head into your desk over and over!
In 9 days of class (which will be the 21st of October), we’ll be completely done with everything and graduating. I can’t wait for the leave, to see my family and friends, but also to just not be here for a while. And when we come back we don’t class up until December 7th, so we have time to work out, hang out (by playing Skyrim non-stop), and explore Charleston — of course, we still have to work, but at least it doesn’t involve nuclear physics for once!
So Hurricane Irene is kind of a joke. At least it is here. The command had been telling us we’d have to evac to Fort Whatever and that we’d be flooded out. We got out early on Friday and it rained for a while and the power went out. But it came back on and by 1600 it had stopped raining completely. Which meant we instantly got dressed and went to Hooters and got drunk and wing fed. After that our hurricane party took us to downtown Charleston. I have no idea how much money we spent (like 100 dollars alone at Market Street Saloon) but we were a force to be reckoned with. More so than Irene at least. Actually, I think we drank a few Irene hurricanes last night…
Although I should be studying more, I’m studying less and less and doing fine (at least until Tuesday’s test…). I don’t really mind this place when I’m not doing 18 or 20 hour days, but it’s not the best. The weekend sounds so amazing on Wednesday and by Friday I’m so tired it’s hard for me to muster up much of an effort. That said, we did a fairly good job of getting ridiculous yesterday. Wilson got ridiculously drunk and threw up in his own car, which is awesome. I hope he’s out there cleaning it right now (it’s like 100 degrees and sunny — ouch). And I finally got some pizza that wasn’t from our galley.
Today I’m doing absolutely nothing. And it feels great. Think I should go get groceries at some point. Hrm, yeah, guess I’ll do that.
Probably the single most entertaining event that happens on base every night is evening colors. Charleston Weapons Station and the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command are full of sailors going to and from work all day, and the pace never really lets up — until about 2000 every night. About this time, everyone is doing their best to get inside to avoid evening colors, which is the lowering of the ensign. It varies from day to day, so it’s always a risk. If you get caught during it, you have to stay there and salute for all of a minute or so, which is apparently the world’s worst torture to endure. The entire base turns into a ghost town and watching people do an awkward walk/run in uniform to escape it will never get old. Ever.
Anyway, things here have been going pretty well. I turned 23 and spent my birthday working. But I did manage to get out off the base for a while. This past weekend though was much more important: I phased up. A school operates on phases, and I was in phase 1 prior to this last weekend. In phase 1, you can’t drink or wear civilian clothes, which was a downer. So I definitely got extremely plastered. That was basically my entire goal. Glad to get that out of my system, but I’ll probably keep it up next weekend to a lesser extent. It’s always good to release a little steam.
I can’t really say I’ve been doing much else besides churning out a ridiculous amount of hours studying nuclear stuff. It’s all pretty uninteresting unless you’re really into boring things. I hear it gets more interesting later on. But, I’ve been doing well on my exams and it’s helped me bump up my average, which means less mandatory hours so I can finally do things like eat dinner or work out. Awesome.
Well, I’m back in touch with technology and finally at my command here in beautiful, swampy Charleston, SC (or more specifically Naval Weapons Station in Goose Creek, SC). So far, it’s been really nice, but I haven’t done anything yet class wise, so who knows.
Boot camp in Great Lakes, IL was pretty interesting as an experience. The first few days (and specifically, the first 40 hours) were intense and I just kept thinking to myself, “What the hell am I doing here?” It slowly got better after that, but overall I would say it sucked pretty hard. I spent most of my day standing at attention or sitting awkwardly on the ground cross-legged. My back hurt so much and even at taps (when we get in bed) the racks we slept in had about a 2 inch mattress.
For the most part, I stood around thinking, “Well, this is annoying…” and “When is chow?” — boot camp is a mental thing and much less of a physical thing, though beatings were pretty common. Beatings, if you haven’t figured out, are punishments for making mistakes that involve you doing a lot of eight-count pushups and mountain climbers (and sometimes doing it to Miley Cyrus’ “Another Mountain”!). Google them to see how fun they look. In general, I avoided getting beaten and managed to stay back. But, on one of my four hour compartment watches, I accidentally called a Chief a Petty Officer. The result was not good. I ended up getting dropped for about 30-40 minutes. I’m not sure how long it was, but it felt like hours. I was not a fan.
A lot of it was fun looking back, though not particularly while I was doing it. The RDCs (Recruit Division Commanders — basically drill instructors) were pretty much the funniest guys I could imagine. The things they said were hilarious, but we weren’t allowed to laugh for the first few weeks, and that proved to be a problem for some. After a while, it became less strict and we were able to laugh freely. Probably the most memorable saying was
I don’t give a fuck. Shit ain’t real!
Although personally, the best thing the RDCs told me was
Chastain, I hope you die in a fucking fire.
That’s pretty awesome. At first stuff like that bothered people, but by the end, we knew it wasn’t really serious. It’s just a part of the job, and it can be funny in itself.
Besides boot camp, I’ve been here in Charleston for a week or so. The weather is humid and gross, and running in it feels like you’re drinking water when you breathe. But besides that, I have very little complaints. The rooms are nice and cold, the food is incredible (this command has the Navy’s only five star galley), and we get liberty on the weekends free from doing watches, which is really good news. The schooling is supposed to be pretty hard, but I’m coming from graduating with a 3.5 from a hard college, so I’m not too worried. Math isn’t my strong point, but I’m sure I can push through.
I’ll go into more detail later, but right now I really need a few hours of sleep.
So this is one of the stories I had intended to write a long time ago, but never got around to it and then forgot about it completely until Emily reminded me about it the other day.
In sophomore year of college, I was living with Dan in the Trinity dorms. Although we’re pretty much bros for life, no homo, we started really getting on each other’s nerves and the only way to solve our differences was by pranking each other, and our suitemates, Andrew and Mike. I don’t really know how it started or who was the initial cause, but I definitely remember being locked in the closet once and Dan having all his belongings super glued to the desk. KJ, one of the baseball guys and our friend, actually pranked me pretty good by putting mashed potatoes in my sheets and pillowcase. This was when I was briefly dating Emily, and it definitely made things very awkward — but memorable. The escalation of these pranks turned into a phrase called “Total War”, which basically meant that we were about to turn on each other — all bets were off.
The most memorable prank ever, and probably the greatest prank in the history of human sentience, was on Dan and his crush, some girl named Shelby (who we jokingly called “Cholbi” for some reason…). While Dan was taking a shower one day, I grabbed his phone and changed my name in to the girl’s, so that they looked identical. I actually had to write a research paper that day, so I headed across campus to the library and started researching. I decided this was the perfect time to test and see if he would be able to tell if it was me texting him or the girl, so I sent him a message that invited him to study at the library with her.
Of course, Dan, being the ladies man he was, took up the offer and said he would come to the library at the far end of campus. While this was happening I was on the second story of the library researching for my paper when I saw Emily and we started talking and procrastinating. I let her know about the prank and she decided to stay and watch. When Dan finally got to the library, I told him that she was downstairs and to come find her. When he couldn’t, I said that she went upstairs. In the process of about 20 minutes, he walked around looking for her. Then Emily and I saw him wandering around aimlessly, so we called him over and said hey. I’m pretty sure I was smiling the whole time and Emily was trying her best to be serious (that’s hard to Emily). I asked what he was doing and he coyly just said he was studying, looking for some books. Yeah right, Dan — good cover.
So, after he left, I sent a text to him telling him to meet me at Coates, the university student center, which is a good walk from the library. He did that and when he got there, he texted back asking again where she was, and I replied saying she was in the bathroom and to just wait. So Dan did. For like 35 minutes. Later on, he responded with “I’m going to kill you. Total war.”
I’m sure he pranked me back, but how could anything live up to that? Dan, you got punked.
Sorry for the super long title and what I’m sure will be a super long post. Basically, I was thinking about what I learned in college and I just kept thinking about the song “I Love College” by Asher Roth — a lot of partying and social things, but not a lot of actual, tangible facts that I can pull from my head. I think my philosophy minor taught me that I don’t actually know anything, meaning college was essentially the experience of learning that I know nothing (read my last essay listed on this page). Sorry, that’s an aside.
The real point of this post is something that I learned how to do really well in college: churn out an essay. Notice that I’m not saying write an essay. This is more out of grinding process where words just manifest in nonsensical and only vaguely related ways for ten pages. The following, in a simple 7 step form, is what professors don’t want you to know, what they don’t want you to write, and what will make you graduate with a 3.5 GPA without spending almost any time writing stupid papers for classes you have little to no interest in. Yes, these papers will suck. Yes, if you do this you lack scholastic integrity. Yes, you can get back to partying with your friends.
Read your essay guidelines that usually suggest topics for you to write. I’m going to choose an actual topic from my senior year, but this method works for any subject or discipline as you will soon see. “Analyze a thematic style from a classic film director studied in this course.” Boom. Okay, find something easy that people will have obviously wrote about in the past. So, I chose “suspense in Alfred Hitchcock movies”. I know, this is an easy example — sometimes essays are harder in those upper level philosophy courses and with those you have to get much more creative in part two…
Immediately get online with your school’s library and choose a database listing. I think my favorite is Academic Search Complete because it’s got something like 50 databases in one. Make sure to check all of the databases so you search everything. So first, enter in “Suspense” and then “Alfred Hitchcock”. You might also find out what movies he has directed and then use “Suspense” and “Movie Name” to find those too, if you’re looking for particular films. Make sure to check “Full text available” on your search”
Click search, and then open about 20 sources and read their little descriptions. If they sound relevant, download the PDF files to a folder so you can get to them easily again. (I also like to check that the PDF articles are searchable when I preview them: who the hell wants to actually read these things to find content? You can search for suspense or whatever and find quotes faster.) You’ll also, at this point, want to make sure you have a RefWorks account (just Google it, but it’s usually provided through your school). This site takes those articles you’re searching and compiles your Works Cited page. Because who the hell wants to try to figure out MLA, APA, ASA or whatever formats? I didn’t, so I just let this site do it for me. You’ll see an “export to Refworks” icon on almost all databases, or something similar. You’re in college, figure it out.
So now, gather the top 10 or however many sources you need, open then, read them if you have to, or just search the PDFs (control + f) for things you need. I take five or six quotes from each article about my topic and past them in a Word document. Make sure to write down page numbers so you can cite them in your paper without having to look at the articles again.
Now you want to make a framework for your paper based on your quotes. Look at what they have in common or don’t have in common. Use this to establish three broad topics, and for each topic, three subtopics. This will give you enough BS to write about to go for several pages. So, for example, three topics in this case can be individual movies, and the subtopics can be how suspense is used in each of the movies (three examples or three different approaches). Something like that. You’ll figure it out as you start pasting it what fits or doesn’t fit.
Write your paper. So from here, write a brief introduction that is probably where the paper will go, then start filling in ways to bridge the quotes. My formula is usually quote, two sentences about the quote, another quote, two sentences, and so on.
Add more filler until you reach your page/word quota. Print it out and turn it in (because professors live in 1910 apparently) or e-mail it to the super future professors who use this advanced technology. If you’re struggling on the filler, you can always blatantly cheap. Google the period trick, which is the best way to gain a page or so when you write a paper.
So, you might be wondering how is this possible? Am I making this up? No, I’m not, and it’s really possible because I certainly did it just like I explained it. I was able to churn out the worst, yet acceptable, papers in just a few hours. So, provided below is every paper I wrote in college at Trinity University. I don’t care what you do with these essays. Use them as a reference, laugh at them, print them out and turn them in as your own (I feel like that might be kind of stupid, but hey, I don’t think many professors actually check).
As an aside, some of these classes I really enjoyed a lot, and, in general, those papers have more interesting content because I had some enjoyment from the class. I’ve denoted those classes with an asterisk after the course title.
ARTH 1307 – Art History Prehistoric to Medieval Final – Roman Verism Portraiture(Note: This is a really awful paper; in the professors feedback she wrote “thesis unclear” and then crossed it out and wrote “thesis missing“. Still got an A, but just a warning.)
COMM 4395 – Communication Major Capstone Thesis – Developing a Targeted Website(Here’s my entire thesis. Someone please print this out and turn it in as their own in an 100 level communication course and let me know what grade you get!)