Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Master and Commander - 2

I have just finished the chapter where the Sophie seizes a small French cargo ship off the French coast. Since the cargo is all gunpowder, needing very careful handling, Captain Aubrey orders his Lieutenant, James Dillon, to take the ship in to the port of Mahon.

Meanwhile the wife of the French ship's captain has gone into labor with her first child. Dr. Maturin goes over to help deliver the baby. When there are complications he says that he needs to stay on the ship to help with the delivery.

After the baby is born Maturin and Dillon spend their evening eating and drinking some good wine courtesy of the grateful French captain. This is their first chance to honestly discuss their past in the United Irishmen. Neither was involved in the uprising, but they regret how it ended and all the friends they lost. Maturin says he no longer believes in political revolutions.

At one point Dillon asks Maturing if he is really becoming Captain Aubrey's friend. Maturin says that he really appreciates the Captain's good qualities. Dillon says that he can't like the Captain. He is resentful that he didn't get a command. He despises the Captain's eagerness to go after enemy ships to condemn them for profit, partially because he, Dillon, already has money. He also suspects that the Captain may not be truly brave as he let an enemy galley go in a previous engagement, even though he needed to to save a ship in the convoy. Dillon admits that his criticisms may have no basis in fact and are even contradictory. But he says he can't help how he feels. This doesn't mean he won't do his duty though.

In the end he apologizes for having spoken so freely to Maturin. It shows however, that Maturin knows what he is doing as he becomes more involved with the Navy and as he and Aubrey become closer friends.


I also noticed in several scenes how the author describes Maturin's reptilian gaze when he is startled or before he understands the situation.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Rereading Master and Commander

I have been tempted for a while to reread Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander and maybe go through the series again.

In the opening, when Maturin and Aubrey meet at a concert, I was surprised that their meeting almost resulted in a duel! Aubrey couldn't help tapping with the beat and bumped into Maturin. Fortunately, when they met the next day Jack apologized.

The story is so much about relationships. When Jack takes over the Sophie he has to navigate his way through the Navy hierarchy in his new role to get the ship parts and supplies. Even getting all the men he needs is a delicate process.

Having read the whole series I am surprised at how many themes that will come up later are already there. For example, Admiral Harte is already against Jack and suspects him of having eyes on his wife, which he does. The steward, Killick, has already made his appearance. But as of yet he is not described as mean or ill-natured. 

In a few scenes Jack is adjusting to the loneliness of command. When he eats his first meal in his cabin, he is alone and misses the companionship of the wardroom. Yet, even so, we know his is destined to command.

Monday, December 17, 2012



We've been watching Museum Secrets on the Smithsonion Channel this evening. They have been showing the American History Museum in New York. Many of the displays with the stuffed animals were pioneering efforts in the 1920's to show the animals in more lifelike poses than they had before. They even had much better taxidermy methods, which had been developed by Carl Akeley, who started his career working on the preservation of Jumbo the elephant. Unfortunately, Akeley never saw the opening of his exhibits. He died in Africa before they could open.

And here are my pictures I took while visiting the museum in 2008.

Friday, December 07, 2012


A few weeks ago I brought the students for a lab at the Waynesboro Watershed Dam. I noticed some milkweed that had opened up and were dispersing. It was fun trying to get some closeup pictures.

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