The ADD Brain and Boat Maintenance Reading

Great literature!

Hi there blog readers. So earlier this week Mike posted about the kinds of books one needs in a good boat maintenance library: the kind my husband likes to read. Books like [amazon_link id=”0071475354″ target=”_blank” ]Marine Diesel Engines[/amazon_link] by Nigel Calder are light reading for Mike. He loves to snuggle down on a rainy day with a good book, and since he’s already read the entire Oxford English Dictionary, fine print edition,  this book on diesel engines will do.

This is where we part company. Unlike Mike, I did not grow up reading the dictionary for entertainment. No, I grew up reading Nancy Drew, like all red-blooded American women my age. If my husband had read The Hardy Boys rather than the dictionary and various other reference materials, we’d probably be on the same proverbial page about good literature and what constitutes reading entertainment.

Good reading!

There are two basic problems here. First, Mike has the kind of brain that can pick up a book like Marine Diesel Engines and understand what the bloody hell the author is talking about. He can see it in his mind as Nigel waxes poetic about tracing fuel lines, Pneumatic Sensors, and Flexible-Impeller Pumps. When Mike reads about ‘four-cycle’ engines, he knows the author is not talking about permanent press, delicate, pre-wash, or soak.  The term ‘planetary transmissions’ does not, to him, mean that Mercury is retrograde until August 2012.

Now, I don’t want to be accused of stereotyping here (a crime that never goes unpunished in our household), but I submit to you that part of the reason we are different this way is that Mike grew up a boy in Tennessee. He carried a knife because it’s a useful item. He cut his teeth on screwdrivers, pliers, hammers, and their ilk.  While he was busy taking things apart, I was busy putting things together in artsy craftsy ways. My tools tended toward needles, thread, scissors, and glue with the occasional wood thrown in as a test.  I think you know what I’m saying here without getting into the whole ridiculous nature/nuture argument, as if there is a way to separate those things. In a nutshell, Nigel speaks Mike’s native tongue. I, however, am from a different planet altogether.

Here’s the other reason I will never be able to get cozy with a book on diesel engines. My brain cannot cope with it.  I believe this issue is more closely related to the whole ‘native tongue’ issue than to my ‘native intelligence’, but regardless of that it’s a good thing I have a rather decent amount of self-esteem or I’d be pretty upset. I mean, who wouldn’t like to think they could get cozy with diesel engines at any time, any place?

Rather than try to explain, let me illustrate the difference between what goes on in my head when I’m reading such a book and what goes on in Mike’s head while reading the same passage. I use a passage on page 36 of the book, under the heading ‘Wet and Dry Exhausts’ ( It certainly does!).

Mike’s brain:

“Noise is a rather complicated business, but one of its major causes is the velocity with which gases exit an engine. Another is the sudden pressure changes created as each cylinder discharges its exhaust gases. Decreasing the volume of the gases or expanding them into a larger area reduces velocity. A certain amount of back pressure in the exhaust system smoothes out pressure changes.”

My brain:

“Noise is a rather complicated business,……. I need to think of something to take to the brunch on Sunday. It shouldn’t be egg based… Shit! What did I just read? Focus, Melissa, Focus!….Noise is a rather complicated business, but one of its major causes is the velocity with which gases exit an engine. Another is the sudden pressure…..I forgot to take the clothes out of the dryer. Damn! Now I’m going to have to get out the iron. No, I’ll just run them through the dryer again…. A certain amount of back pressure in the exhaust system smoothes out pressure changes. I need to add coffee to the shopping list. And I need to make sure the long underwear is on the boat. I think I left my sailing jacket there, but better check the closet to be sure. Crap!  Noise is a rather complicated business….”

No, Nigel. Noise is really rather simple. But reading this book is a VERY complicated business for me. I think I will go makes some dolls.




12 thoughts on “The ADD Brain and Boat Maintenance Reading

  1. Oh Melissa! You are so funny! And isn’t all of this so true for many of us! I laughed out loud as I read how you read these intriguing tomes of mechanical wisdom. I love Nigel Calder’s writing and, although he does make it all very accessible, it is still much like work for me to read it also.

    I was a teacher-librarian for many years and having worked with thousands of children and viewing their reading habits I can truly say that you and Mike are rather typical of our genders (as you say some may think this is stereotyping, but there have actually been serious studies done in this area which results show that there is a high tendency for boys to prefer non-fiction and girls fiction for many and varied reasons!). I love how you highlight our differences with love and humour 🙂

    Vive la differance!

    All the best to you both and happy reading!

    • What a delightful comment, Cathy! Many thanks! Yes, you are so right that there is much documentation on the differences between male and female brains and how we take in and process information. Sure, there is always the odd one out, like Mike, who can do both. And I personally know a woman who is a boat captain and can probably talk turkey with Nigel any day. Still, I will go to my grave knowing for certain that the absence of that extra X chromosome makes a difference on every level. Vive la differance, indeed! 🙂

  2. All of the above comments are true. Melissa and I have been laughing over how her posts generate abundant positive comments while my more technical posts seem to languish in a field of chirping crickets. I shall endeavor to do better. I am thinking I can take a lesson from Cosmo magazine to spice up my writing. “99 surefire ways to make your batteries sizzle!”

    • I feel you. I try to spice my tech posts up. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Dani can post about anything and get a million comments.

      For a long time it was almost just me alone blogging. The engine refit and the electrical stuff. But once you get hard into it you pick up a few readers that are into that sort of thing.

      I love techie posts. Men unite!

  3. Great post. While my brain tends to be a bit more Mike-like, I can completely identify with Melissa’s wandering brain. However, for me the wandering happens when I’m ostensibly reading The Hardy Boys or watching a movie but am really thinking about why the starter battery seems to be draining or where the antifreeze leak is originating or whether it’s worth it to keep running the generator when the batteries reach the point of accepting only 4-5 amps.

    Mike: I’m looking forward to that battery-sizzling article (he says while fanning himself).


  4. LOL….I, too, grew up on Nancy Drew. Still have many of the books, actually! One reason I could never live on a book–my books would sink the book.

  5. I’ve decided I need to get a Nook-like device for that very reason. And my collection of vintage Nancy Drew books is in the attic. I’ll probably have to let them go, more’s the pity. Maybe I should read them all one more time.

  6. haha..I also read all the Nancy Drews in school and during the summer!

    I read some of the Hardy boys as well. My interest in certain topics depends alot on How much Tate has researched..He does such a better job at just telling me what he thinks is best as I ask a million questions.

    Also if my knowledge of the topic will help me greatly…I am usually more interested..It’s those “well it would be good to know” things that seem to lose my interest.

    • We think alike on these things, Dani. I prefer to NOT have to wade through tons of extraneous information that I really do not have room to store ‘up there’, since it’s not going to hold my interest. Now if I had to sit and take apart diesel engines all day, perhaps I would feel differently, but so far life has not thrown that at me. I really feel like it is similar to learning a foreign language. I might learn to speak a few words, but I am unlikely to be as fluent as a native, and I’m always going to have a wierd accent.
      My cousin once offered to give me his entire set of Hardy Boys as he had outgrown them. My mother made me say ‘no’. I’ve never forgiven her for this slight. 🙂

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