An open letter to my Wife and the World

It’s funny how music can be a motivator, a hinderance, or a controller of emotion.

Right now I’m underway working in my office.

I have this great playlist that has about 250+ songs on it that range from high tempo hard techno to slow loving and emotionally charged ballads. The music has driven me in many directions. And while sometimes it is merely a distraction, some of it has actually driven me to be better.

As some may know, I’ve been on my own for the last 10 months of my life. Those 10 months have been the most difficult of my life.

I have had experiences that have reduced me to tears. Brought me to the edge of the bounds of sanity. Destroyed my ability to function. And for a period of time, dragged me down into the realm of suicide.

Nearly everything in my life that is of value was removed from me by my own actions leaving me no one to blame but myself.

To anyone reading this, That is a VERY difficult pill to swallow.

Since I have been alone, a lot of things have taken place. I have learned. I have observed my mistakes and the mistakes of those around me. I have made alterations to my life, my personality, and who I am in an attempt to restore a modicum of order to my existence.

I am slated to transfer from my current unit within the next few months.

I have spent three years stationed at a facility that has beaten me, broken my will, and destroyed my faith in the service to which I have toiled for the last 10 years of my life. I was, and sometimes still am, in the position where I don’t even know if holding on to this job is worth the stress.

I look forward to the day that I walk across the brow of this ship for the last time, never to return. Only to turn back one final time to flip the bird and dust my feet. I have plans for getting away from this three year disaster that has made up the most recent chapter of my life.

The plans I speak of are simple. But because of the pain, the suffering, the lonliness, and the constant heartache that I have suffered, I will execute these plans with such vehement passion that you would not recognize it as coming from the man writing these words.

I am moving across the country. 2034 miles from here.

I will rent me a home with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and off street parking.

I will have my lovely wife Andrea by my side. My two Children Hayden and Lillie will be there as well.

I will work my required 8 to 4 shift each day. Traveling as required.

I will ensure that two Fridays each month my lovely wife will have the uninterrupted hours dedicated to a night out as a couple.

I will ensure that my children have the time each night dedicated to them as people instead of wasting my time on a computer.

My kids will be read a story each night at bedtime. They will be tucked in, kissed on the forehead, and told that they are loved.

My eternal companion, my spouse, my lover, my wife… Andrea will receive her nightly foot rub as I did each night when we were still together. She will get her backrub as often as she desires just as I did for her before.

Each time I have the opportunity to do so, I will tell her that I love her. I will not only show her through my usual deeds of cooking, cleaning, and watching the kids, but I will buy her flowers. I will get her little gifts just because I was thinking of her.

Weekends will be dedicated to taking the kids to a park, a movie, or just playing on the beach.

As I have done for the last 10 months, the “noise” that only my wife knows of has ceased, and it will continue to stay that way.

I am a horrible person as judged by my history.

No sane person would consider associating themselves with me if they knew of my personal atrocities.

I am dedicated to resolving my personal failings.

I am committed to exceeding the expectations laid out by my loved ones.

I am committed to being the best Father, Husband, Lover, Spouse, Companion, and Friend that I can be.

While some involved are apprehensive, I have too much riding on the line to fail.

If I have learned anything in the last 10 months of my life, I have learned that I can succeed.

Now… I just have to show the right people so that they can judge for themselves.

My wife made a comment on the 4th of July back in 2011. She told me to find out what makes me happy. To find what I enjoy in life and to seize it.

I did.

I figured it out.

It’s kind of funny how you can find contentment in life with the things that make you happy, but still know that there is that last piece that makes the good things even better.

My name is Garen Anderson.

I am going to retrieve my family.

We are moving to Oregon where I will fill my role as Father and Husband.

I fucked up!

I’m fixing it.

God as my witness!


It’s Icebreaker Red

Holy Crap. It’s been a while.

I could apologize, but hey, it’s my blog. I can do what I want.

So…. here is the post.

Let me preface what I did and why.

I have never done a mod before. Today was my very first.
There were a lot of lessons learned.
There were a few mistakes.
There were a few moments where I was really glad that I have the job I have.

So, with that in mind, let me show you what I’ve been up to.

I’m in the process of building a new uITX machine and I wanted to go with a tiny case. But after a little debating, I decided to go with a Micro-ATX.

I’m cheap, so because of that, the case had to be cheap.

Enter the Cooler Master Elite 343.

343, 80mm, bill, blowhole, build, case, coolermaster, elite, engraved, firt, gawds, icebreaker, inspiration, mackinaw, mod, owen, pc, red, tape, window

This case seemed really awesome in my view. Two weeks ago when I settled on this piece of steel and plastic, I said to myself “Garen… That’s a really nice case”.
I figured since it was a nice case that I would wind up putting it on the floor by the desk and just occasionally admire its stunning rugged black beauty.

Then came Bill Owen.
I stumbled on him on the internet and suddenly I had this urge to cut holes in stuff. Paint stuff. And all round be a little more manly.
Thanks Bill… I think.

Anyways… I am in the Coast Guard and I serve on a ship.
The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw to be specific.
See? This is my ship.

Now, being in the military give me access to all sorts of cool stuff.
Wanna install a blowhole? Great. Here is a steel knockout punch.
Wanna cut plexi? Great, here is the bandsaw.
Wanna engrave someone on that plexi? Awesome, here is the engraver.
Wanna cut a freehand hole? Perfect, here is the jigsaw.
You can see that having access to these kinds of toys can be a bit dangerous.

Anyways, you saw the picture above, I started with a fairly attractive case.
However, after watching the MonsterMawd videos, listening to the podcasts, and spending WAY too much time reading this forum, I decided on the following.

-I need a blowhole.
-I want a window. But not something gaudy.
-I need something custom that says… “Me”.
-I have to have contrasting paint colors.

I’m still figuring out what I’m going to be doing for the electronics, switches, and so forth, so those will come later… but with this list of awesome features (Simple ones to start with), I have created the following.

Notice the contrasting icebreaker red and the black? This inspiration came from the colors of my ships hull. You can see a better version of that contrast here…

But enough of the ship… back to what I built.

The blowhole is clearly visible here.

Chrome on Red looks nice if you ask me. I used a hydraulic steel knockout punch to make the 3″ hole. No sharp edges. A touch of sanding. And a perfect circle. No sparks, noise, or metal shavings to deal with.

More view of the backside and the blowhole.

A side profile shot of the case.

My cuts weren’t the straightest on the window hole. However, this was my first time. Next time I’m going to use a jig to ensure straight lines. The window is 1mm plexi. I’m going to use 1/8″ or 1/4″ next time I think.

I wasn’t able to get my hands on the 3M 4010 (Tape of the Gawds), but I was able to find the Loctite equivilent. It works well enough.

Now, if you look close, you can see that there is a little etching on the plexi. This was engraved. The symbol you are looking at is my rating designator. I am an E6 / IT1 in the Coast Guard. This is the badge that I wear on my sleeve (In dress uniform) that tells you what my job is. I figured this was the part that screamed “Me”.

Here is is a little closer.

Okay, so we have the paint, the window, the blowhole, the etching, and the tape of the demi-gawds.

Honestly, I’m happy with my work.

I don’t think I’m done with the project yet though. While the parts for the computer showed up today, and I’m writing this post on the new system, I think the case is going to receive a few more tweaks.

Handles are next.

Here is the info I’m using for that step….

I hope the read was enjoyable.


Scenes from Underway – 2

Again, we know that life underway is different than anything else that can be experienced, so I bring you the following.
A few pictures depicting scenes from underway.

Here we have two of my shipmates standing outside the skin of the ship. We were departing from St. Ignace. If you were to judge by the light you would think it was twilight, when in reality it was only 10:00am. While outside, they were enjoying a quick smoke break. The opportunity to get a few minutes to ones self is valuable on a ship.

The flag as it is draped from the flagstaff on the fan tail. There was no wind that morning. A light dusting of snow had already made itself known since colors were posted that morning. Nothing overly fancy, I just thought it was a nice picture.
Quiet moments are worth noticing when you realize that you hear the diesel engines 24/7 on board.

Here we have an Electronics Technician pulling some cable. I believe he was installing some new CCTV cameras, but I’m not positive. The work that each person on board does is very specific to their training and abilities. Being an ET, this shipmate is good with cameras, radios, radars, and other fancy mechanical gizmos.
Work carries on regardless of the time of day. In this case, it was late afternoon and he was rushing to finish before heading off to watch.

In preperation for an Admirals visit, it was all hands on deck commencing a Field Day. For those not in the know, a field day is where we clean every last surface on the ship. Considering all of the wires in those overheads, that’s a LOT of surfaces. PO Poppink is diligently operating a swab in this great photo. Due to the small crew size on Mackinaw, everyone from the lowest grunt up to the senior enlisted guys will be involved in shipwide cleaning.

This is another photo from the field day that was going on before Admiral Parks came to visit. Two of our cooks were working on the messdeck to make sure it was ready. There was horeseplay involved for sure, but they were still working. From cleaning stainless steel, to making sure the china was ready, to even going as far as to clean under the soda syrup boxes inside a cabinet, they were making sure their spaces were ready. Any time we have a flag officer coming aboard, there will be an all hands evolution to get the ship ready.

After a few days underway, hiding from some weather, a day or so anchored out somewhere, and plenty of steaming south, we finally arrived in Cleveland. It was actually really nice while we were there. 43 degrees in the middle of January is unheard of. I can’t complain about the good weather really. We had moored at the Port Authority in Cleveland just next to the Browns stadium. We were close enough to hit it with a rock if we really tried.

Recors (Pronounced Recourse) power plant. During the winter, this is one of our homes away from home. Half way down the St. Claire river from Port Huron, this place had a deep enough moorage that we will pull in at night and prep to be underway the next morning for additional ice breaking. Considering how mild this winter has been so far, we don’t have any ice to be breaking right now. I’m not complaining mind you, but it’s mildly frustrating when our purpose for being out here is stalled by a lack of ice.

The majority of the work we’re doing is weather based so we can’t really predict what we’re going to be doing. Either way, we are still out here. We’re still doing the patrols. We’re still ensuring public safety.
I love what I do, and while being on a ship is hard, it’s rewarding.
As usual, I hope these simple photos give a glimpse into life underway.


Professionalism and Growth

I recently had a counseling session with three of my supervisors who discussed professional development with me.
I was told that while I am an excellent technician, and am wonderful in the leadership role that I am currently filling, I still lacked the required leadership skills needed to advance to the next level of responsibility.

while I pondered on this decision, I came to conclude that they may be right. People will always rise to their own level of incompetence. You will advance to the point that you can’t advance any further without looking like a fool.
I have advanced as far as I can without making drastic changes to my styles of leadership and management.
So, because of this, I am currently working on improving my personal leadership and management attitudes.

Facebook is a plaything and occasionally a tool. I became aware that if I am going to lead people, then I need to be viewed as a leader. My personal life, my comments, stupidity, concerns, and private issues need to stay just that… Private. Because of this, my facebook does not have any ‘friends’ whom I work with. It’s nothing personal, just business.

Proper respect is key as well. If I want people to respect me as a leader, then I need to act as if I am to be respected. Looking out for my people, not acting childish around those that are supposed to respect me, and not acting worse than those that I am supposed to be governing.

Looking the part is also just as important I have realized. If I don’t have a clean shirt and buffed shoes on myself, then how can I expect that from others? Lead from the front.

Now, while I have these conclusions, and a handful of others, I am also aware that this is not the first time I have been in this spot. I was in the exact same situation nearly 4 years ago. while I was dealing with that, I came to develop a few personal sayings as well as work with some sayings that were passed to me by my father Kent Anderson. Because they have affected me in such a positive way, I’ll share them with you here.

1. Trust your people to do the job that they were trained to do. -Garen Anderson
I believe this statement because most of the people in my field have received the same training that I have received. They know just as much as I do. As a technician, the general thought is that if something isn’t going how YOU want it to go, then shove them out of the way and do it yourself. A leader delegates, not operates. Let them put their training to work.

2. Nothing in life is worth getting mad about.
Sure, you need to be concerned about things. Sure you need to make things get done. But is it worth getting mad about? Will it really make a difference in 20 years? Most likely your being mad does more harm than good. Just take a deep breath and you’ll be fine. Relax a little bit.

3. Nothing in life is worth stressing. If you can’t do something about it, then why are you stressing it? If you CAN do something about it, then do it… then stop stressing it.
Honestly, this one is fairly self explainatory. If you can’t do anything about it, stop worrying. If you can, then do it. And THEN stop worrying.

So there you go. Three small pieces of advice. Just remember what they say about advice. It’s worth exactly as much as you paid for it. Last I checked, this was free.

The cheapest drug an internet addict can get.

The internet is an amazing tool that will allow even the heartiest adventurer to succomb to the paings of addiction.

Be it Stumbleupon, bloggin, online gaming, cats on youtube, memes, or even the fine art of trolling, the internet provides us a wide array of addicting substances.

While I enjoy each of these addictions in kind, I have found recently that the one that is providing the most joy for me is blogging.

I have written about a large number of things. Work, Religion, my wife Andrea, personal life, and even a post or two about video games. Each of these topics have been very entertaining to me as a writer. Actually, I’m not really a writer. I just think of an idea and belch it out onto digital paper and hit publish. Hopefully someone at leasts find my posts entertaining or worth their time. The last thing that I want is for someone to read something I wrote and just blink at it and exclaim tl;dr.

Regardless of what people currently think, todays post is going to be based on something compeltely different. I’m going to talk about “What People Currently Think!”. (See what I did there?)

So, with this in mind, I am asking you as a reader to actually take the few minutes required and give me some feedback. That is afterall what the comments section is for.

What would you like to see?

Video Game related topics?

Religion related topics?

More stories from my personal life?

Stories and pictures from work?

More political commentary?

If I can find out what people WANT to read, then I can find what it is in that topic that interests me and I can write on it more often. Hell, I can even write on it somewhat regularly.

Now, I pointed out that blogging is one of the internets addictions. And while that may be true, the big part of blogging for me that holds the addiction is the view counter.


That’s what I like to see. I like to see that number grow saying people have read my blog post. Maybe even told their friends about it.

So, with this in mind, I am willing to do the following:

I will post regularly. Maybe even on a schedule.

I will post on those topics that my readers would like to see.

I will read the blogs of people that comment on mine. I will even comment on yours.

in exchange for this, I just ask that you tell me what it is that you want to see.

Because if you don’t, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and I don’t think I’m doing it right.


Scenes from Underway – 1

Life underway creates some interesting experiences.

You see some things that just can’t really be captured unless you are there.

Let’s see if we can try though.


While working in the warehouse prior to getting underway, we found the rolling bottom to a garbage can.

We weren’t quite sure what we wanted to do with it, so being the awesomely immature people that we are, my shipmate and I decided that the best use for such a thing would be to roll around on the floor like a skateboard with it. Marks in saftey? Threes!


I was standing watch in Main Control during some drills a few weeks back. I was monitoring some equipment on the CCTV system and I had noticed the the majority of the crew had mustered on the pier. I figured I’d get a snapshot of the ordeal.

Usually both screens look like the one on the right, but in this case I wanted to see a better view of the crew. That’s a lot of screens to monitor at any given time.


I had just walked back in to the ship from the fantail recently. It was cold. It was windy. I was getting a little seasick (read VERY seasick!) and I was looking forward to going down to the messdeck for some crackers. After closing the door behind me and taking off my hat I turned around to see this. It’s a closed hatch with a closed scuttle. For the record, I hate scuttles. I sighed quite heavily, turned around and went back outside to find a different door into the ship that didn’t require me to open a scuttle. FWIW…Totally worth going back into the cold.


We were underway near Mackinaw Island the other day. It was cold (20 degrees), there was a strong 25kt wind, and it was cloudy as hell. While we were out there the deck was starting to accumulate some lake effect snow. The Island was visible in the distance. I was out there a few months back during the summer while it was green and covered in trees and grass. But now, it’s just snow, cold, grey, and hibernating waiting for the spring to come back.



I came in one morning getting ready for a duty day and this was the scene that I found. The Cutter Alder was tied up next to the Mackinaw. They had been there overnight and were getting ready to get underway. We are bigger than the Alder by a good 15 feet (Doesn’t seem like much on the outside) and we have been tied up with them once or twice in the past. It never ceases to amaze me though to see two ships of this size tied up together. You don’t get to see it very often though so I guess that makes sense.


Frigid weather, high winds, and a mooring evolution. This shot shows a few members of the crew putting heaving lines over to the pier and being involved in the mooring of the ship. Considering the weather and conditions involved in that particular evolution, this was a hairy one. They are highly skilled though so it went flawlessly, just like it always does.



So, that’s it for this entry. These are a few scenes from underway on the Mackinaw.

Scenes from underway ( A precursor)

Underway life on a Coast Guard Cutter is interesting.

There are so many aspects of life that each person experiences on a ship that the regular world never even knows exist. From schedules, to work routines, to the simple types of every day humor that the world at large just doesn’t get. The whole thing is laced with little jokes, actions that produce snickers and laughter, and general innuendo that some people might raise an eyebrow at but those of us on board see as signs of affection and comraderie. We have names for people that just don’t make sense anywhere else. Life underway is an almost etherial experience. There is nothing else like it anywhere I have ever worked. When you cram 60 people into a steel box for months on end and tell them to go complete some vague task under the flag of military direction, you get some weird stuff.

Since I already know that I want to take pictures of this kind of thing, and try to give people a glimpse of what it is we’re doing out there, I figured I’ve give you a precursor and let you know that I am going to blog about those Scenes from Underway and see what you think.

Comments are always good.

Here we go. The posts will follow soon.


Comments to the peanut gallery

Just a few short things I’ve wanted to say bu haven’t had anyone to say them to.

– I am participating in a funeral on the 8th. I get to dress up in my bravos.

– I’m the assigned EOW for ECC for all of the drills on the boat now. Not a huge deal, but kinda cool.

– I beat level 10 on Descent 2. Strangely, it’s the farthest I’ve ever gotten.

-My friend Rob is transferring off of the boat. It makes me sad.

– I lost a really big filling the other day. It hurts.

That’s all I guess.

Wow… she has a big butt.

Since we are getting ready to leave dry dock right now, I figure I’ll post a few pictures to give you an idea of what’s been taking place here since we went high and dry.

A little background on the ship.

We’re 240’ feet long, 58 feet wide, big, red, and heavy as hell.

So, with that in mind, I’ll get to the photo’s.

This is the side view of the Mackinaw out of the water. Most people never get to see something like this. Since there aren’t people in this picture, it’s difficult to give you an idea of how big she really is.

This is a view from the ground of her up on the blocks. It’s actually a somewhat scary sight when you are right there. 440,000 long tons up on cement blocks. It’s even work when you crawl underneath her.

Just sayin.

All I can really say here is “Dang, she has a nice butt.”

The ship uses something called an AZIPOD for propulsion. How big are these things? MONSTEROUS!

They crank out 4460 horse power a piece.

In relation to one of these, I’m tiny.

See? Told ya.

This right here is the bow thruster. It’s the entire reason we are here in the first place. The ice-knife assembly on the left there is actually made up of 117 hand cut and hand welded pieces. It’s the only one of its kind in existence.

And here is a picture of the ship at night. I thought it was kind of cool, so I figured I’d share.

Honestly, this is all there is for this post. I hope you enjoyed seeing the boat, a little of what we experienced while stuck out here in sturgeon bay.

However, this post is being finished right now, because we are underway and I want to go eat lunch.

The buttons… they almost press themselves.

Being stationed on the Mackinaw has been an adventure that I’m not sure I would relive if I had a choice. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. I enjoy my job. There is satisfaction to be found that I haven’t found anywhere else. I have job security. I have good pay. I have a wonderful home in a beautiful town with a large lawn. Honestly, I want for nothing here. But, this billet has been filled with ups, downs, bigger downs, and the occasional down that has posed as an up. Really, it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride.

Until recently.

Honestly, the opener to this post has nothing to do with the post itself. I guess I was just looking for something that I could write that would have a little detail to it and give some insight to my recent triumph. But really, the story has nothing to do with the following.


I’m an engineer on the ship. And Engineer of the Watch, or EOW. I don’t work on the engines or the mechanical equipment, but I do monitor them for 4 hours at a time while I stand watch underway.

The process for becoming an EOW usually takes anywhere from 3 to 9 months. In my case, it took 2 years.

Now, before you decide to jump my case and give me a hard time for that, there are a few reasons it took so long and to make the long story short, I’m going to simply say that in the beginning it was my fault, but at the end it wasn’t. And I’m sticking to that.

Anywho, it’s a long qualification process. You are required to learn tons of information. Get 250 different signatures for sign offs, and sit through a large number of drills and an oral board.

The problem that I saw when I first reported aboard was that the information I was required to know was nowhere to be found. You could ask people and they might know one or two of the parameters. Another person might be able to show you how to reset a system. And the rest would simply say “I had to look it up, you can to.” Frankly, that attitude sucked. I didn’t like dealing with it. No one was willing to help someone that was supposedly a “shipmate”. You would think that helping someone get qualified would help your personal duty rotation. Make it better. Give you more time at home. Etc.

Here? Not so much.

So, for two solid years, I fought, kicked, screamed, studied, tore through manuals, wrote study information for myself, and compiled a veritable treasure trove of knowledge that if used properly, could probably overthrow a small third-world nation.

The collection of data was immense!

I had flash cards, study guides, work sheets, notes from meetings, recordings of conversations, print outs of e-mails, and copies of peoples personal thoughts included in this behemoth of a quall packet.

I was ready.

At least, I thought I was ready.




I walked in to the board, passed the info that I knew. I answered the questions. I passed. (More or less) Then, I was qualified. Life got easier.

Now, anyone that really knows me knows that I’m not a jerk. I don’t usually do things to make peoples lives harder. I don’t like to put up a fight or make a fuss.

If I can do something that will make someone else’s life easier, then I will.

And about 2 months ago, I stumbled on something, quite by accident that would make everyone’s lives easier.

We have 12 new engineers reporting this season. That’s a lot of people to get qualified.  I really don’t want to wait 9 months for my duty rotation to get fat again, and that is where my idea came in to play.

I have this touch screen down in main control that isn’t being used. So, I built a computer and filled the hole. On the computer, I installed a web page. A very fancy touch screen style web page.

One that contained the essential essence of my monstrosity of a note collection.

Every stupid little stat, note, hard to find piece of information, manual, drawing, recording, and diagram that will be used in the process of getting qualified was placed on the that web page, and it was all done in an easy to use, shiny, attractive interface.


I installed it. I grinned to myself being quite proud of my work. And then I walked away.

I waited.

I watched.

Three days passed……. Nothing.

Hmm, “maybe people don’t realize what is sitting here” I thought.

So, I walked down to main control three or four times a day and played with it. I asked questions. I took more notes. I probed people for information on what they would like to see available to them.

I spent another week programming and compiling data and then I redeployed it.

I waited.

Suddenly, it happened.

I walked by Main Control on my way to fix something that some uneducated fool had broken (again!), and I saw someone sitting in front of my terminal. I stopped and watched from outside the room.

They were pushing buttons.

They stopped, read, and then wrote something down.

They pushed a few more buttons, stopped, read, and then wrote something down.


I smirked and walked away.

On my way back to my office, I walked by Main control again and there was a different person repeating the process that the first had done.
Over the course of the next few days, I had noticed that there was almost always someone sitting in front of that terminal using it for information, reference, and compiling their own study information for their qualls and for their board.

My frustration at my situation over the last two years, in a matter of moments, suddenly went away.

I had suffered through something that had allowed me to design and distribute a resource to the crew that is already decreasing qualification time.

I’m receiving praise from my supervisors. Even the one that doesn’t like me.

I realized earlier today that since seeing this, I haven’t scowled at my job. (Other things? Yes. My job? No.)

I guess the long story can be summed up in a few short sentences.

I made something that made the lives of my shipmates easier. I decided to take the route of helping those around me, and I’m seeing the benefits and reaping the rewards.

Honestly? It feels good.