Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year?

So far, the new year is not going well. I work the midnight to noon shift this trip (perk of being the boss-I choose my shift and naturally chose the quieter one and the one matching best with PW and LP). Here, on New Zealand time, it's already January first.

I walk into work a few minutes before midnight and the new year and get handed a load of crap. We've got a problem creating one of our final products. It's complicated, confusing and just plain doesn't work like any of our documentation states it should. Fucking bits and bytes, one's and zero's, formats, formulas, algorithms and unrecognizable errors.

While the entire ship's company gathers on the bridge wing for fireworks (see emergency flares), I sit at my computer, contemplating a steaming pile of shit that is our first attempt at our final product. I've not had my first cuppa joe and I'm calculating expected file sizes, examining error logs and wracking my brain for an answer. Midnight passes and I take no notice. I have no time to wonder what the new year will bring, as it's first gift sits before me, steaming and noxious.

OK, enough self-pity and bitter frustration, but I really had to get that off my chest. I told myself that I would attempt to post regularly during this trip, if for no other reason than to give myself a much-needed break and diversion, during my shifts, knowing they would exceed the standard 12 hours and be full of nasties like the one -hold on, I have an urgent message from an engineer onshore....OK, I'm hot swapping data disks (good fun, that) so I'll have to get back to you people later....

...shit like this makes me feel like one of the astronauts on Apollo 13. Here I am in my little ship, getting instructions on how to perform a mission-critical task from a controller thousands of miles away. He can't see what I see and I don't have access to the data he's using to make decisions and communications are lousy. We keep hitting the dead band and must be floating close to gimbal-lock. Yes, Blondie, sometimes I feel like yelling, "I don't need to hear the obvious. I got the frappin' eight-ball right in front of me!", as I try to pilot this dying ship, but I might be on VOX...

Anyway, I was going to do a little post-by-post tour of the ship and had planned to write about the gym on here, but instead I'll post a shot of the theatre since I never use it, have little to say about it and can close out this, the first post of 2008. The theatre; it's large, with comfortable-looking leather chairs and a big TV.

Happy New Year, Landlubbers!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The angry sea

Seas are very heavy tonight. We're having difficulties controlling the gear and had to shut down a recovery operation of a portion of our in-sea equipment, due to the danger. We're being tossed around in a rousing good Southern Ocean blow-up. Earlier, we took a good rogue wave abeam that tossed shit everywhere. I had two, wood shelving bars come down on my head and was thankful I had taken down all the large objects when I noticed the bar mounts were missing several days ago. Wish I had moved the loose bars, though. My head hurts, but at least the keyboard wasn't damaged when they bounced off my head and landed on it.

We're now heading into a turn, which could get dicey for the towed gear and will really liven things up in here. My opposite should be heading to the rack soon and I suspect he may find it difficult to sleep. He's had little, or no practice wedging himself into a rack and you always fall out the first few times:) I've now a chair with no wheels so I'm not rolling around the room and the other chairs are firmly wedged. Thank God PW found me a proper coffee mug, too. Hey honey, this isn't a hurricane, but the mug hasn't budged an inch, nor spilt a drop! I LOVE YOU.

Yesterday, my plans for a leisurely, 10K run were ruined by the Saturday Drill. Because safety is a big issue out here, we have to cross-train in a variety of areas, both emergency and operational. Normally, a drill is one either a fire, man-overboard, abandon-ship, or a chemical spill exercise. Yesterday, we mustered then broke into small groups, each completing a round-robin tour of several stations where we trained on different life-saving equipment, in order that anyone on the crew can take over any other crew member's duties during any type of emergency. The training included, pyrotechnics and tow-rope rocket launcher, defibrillator and First Responder gear, such as ventilators, oxygen, etc., life boat davit launching and operation, life raft launching, life vest maintenance, and EPIRB operation.

It's a lot of STUFF for a guy who's been hired to sit and run computers for a living, but I enjoy those bits and bobs, especially the fire-fighting, which is the most critical of all emergency operations because we have nowhere to go if fire breaks out. we had a fire drill last week, but I'm new to the vessel and wasn't placed on a fire team. I have to sit with the spuds and wait to be called on to monitor for hot spots, or perform boundary cooling around a burning section. Boring, but necessary, too.

After our drill, we retired to the mess, where we had a quick, general safety meeting then listened to a presentation on marine mammals and sea birds, given by one of the certified, Marine Mammal Observers onboard. It was pretty good, despite none of the material being new to me. I trained to be a certified MMO during a hitch back in 2005. Still, most of the crew were unfamiliar with the subject and it was a good refresher for me. It was also nice to find out which whales, dolphins, manatees and sea birds are expected down here.

Last week, the gun mechanics rescued a very tired sea bird and after rehabilitating him, set him free, again. I missed seeing the little dude, but saw his picture during the presentation and he looked pretty damn wore out from the bad weather of late.

Finally, I have one of those coveted, corner offices here. Well, they are not coveted here, but you know what I mean. It's adjacent to a door that leads to a changing room, which in turn leads to the back deck where all the gear is stored and deployed from. I step out there from time to time to get some "fresh" air and this is what I see while "relaxing". That reel is about 25 feet high and I'm surrounded by eight of them.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A hodge-podge of miscellany, thank you very much

Along the same lines as "where do the missing, left socks go?", I wonder why all chairs ordered for a SHIP come with wheels. We're in heavy swell and my back hurts from trying to stay braced close to my desk. On other ships, I've set up bungee cord restraints for my chair, but it's such a pain in the ass when your moving from workstation-to-work station, hopping chairs on a spread-out system like the one I have on this ship.

In the quest to transform myself from Jelly Roll Man, to a leaner, meaner pirate, I finally dumped work at shift change (or only a little, tiny bit after) and stomped down to the gym for the first time in 5 days. I pushed through another 12.5KM on the elliptical machine and hope to arrive at the second village, Penzance, sometime tomorrow morning. I also modified my goal for the trip, from and unrealistic 389KM to Gloucester, to a reasonable 240-some KM to a town called Taunton, which reminds of a city mentioned in a book I read long ago, called Deep Taunton. In an attempt to foil my grandiose plans of loosing a few pounds, our chef prepared custard and whipped cream-filled pastries, walking out with a fresh tray right in front of me as I headed for a post-workout snack of dry toast and yogurt. Bastard. Yes, I folded like a house of cards in an earthquake.

What else? oh, while bobbing around at sea, 15,000 miles from home, I read online that my cell phone bill will increase due to Michigan trying to soak every last dime out of everything they can, which, if I read correctly in a previous article, includes a tax on baby shoe bronzing. Yes, it was specifically mentioned in the tax notice. Baby shoe bronzers ( you know, those people who smell like burnt metal and reside in the dark places us common folk pretend to ignore, but steer away from as if Satan himself waited among the shadows, but I digress...)need to band together and stand up to the Man. And while they're at it, they need to something about my cell phone bill.

That's a wrap from down here in the Southern Ocean. Weather and work suck, in tandem and I'm tired of both. Be good up there, or Ill break out my estoppel-yes, its sharp and I'm just itching to use it...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The blogging Knight, or " My estoppel will cut your nuts off if you give me any trouble..."

Have you ever started a post without a clue as to what you plan to write about? I opened this up without thinking, once I'd read everyone's blogs, checked my emails, both work and personal, and put some music on. Hmm, subconsciously preparing to blog. I assume that my subconscious mind opened this post because it has something it desperately wants to convey to you................................and I'm waiting for it to take over and do the deed........................

Nada, my subconscious is pulling a classic, turtle head maneuver. I'm not impressed. Nor do I have anything relevant, witty, or interesting to say, myself. In fact, I'm listening to Mozart's piano concerto no. 20 and it's very nice wake up music. Makes me want to drift off for a nap and I may just do that for 10 minutes, or so...

Ok, waking up to his majesty's symphony No. 40 in G-minor, I read an intellectual property copyright on one of my work documents, as sort of manual for powering my system on and off. Therein lie the following statements:

No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, blah, blah...translated into any language, or computer language in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, magnetic, optical, chemical, maunal, or otherwise...blah, blah, blah... OR OTHERWISE? As if electronic, mechanical, magnetic, optical, chemical and manual don't cover the bases! What other methods do we use to reproduce, or store information? I must have missed a few emerging technologies..then I read:

Each individual document published by (Large Corporation X) may contain , blah, blah, conferring by implication, estoppel, or otherwise....

So, I have to look up the word estoppel. It's like getting a new tool for Christmas. you want to go build something with it, right away. This Christmas I built our new wine rack with the screwdrivers my son gave me. So, off to Wikipedia to check out my new it a hammer, or a saw, clamp, or perhaps a wrench to tighten up my prose-I can't wait! and this is what I find:

Estoppel is a legal doctrine recognised both at common law and in equity in various forms. It is meant to complement the requirement of consideration in contract law. In general it protects a party who would suffer detriment if:

* The defendant has done or said something to induce an expectation
* The plaintiff relied (reasonably) on the expectation...
* ...and would suffer detriment if that expectation were false.

Unconscionability by the defendant has been accepted as another element by courts, in an attempt to unify the many individual rules of estoppel.

Estoppel is generally only a defense that prevents a representor from enforcing legal rights, or from relying on a set of facts that would give rise to enforceable rights (e.g. words said or actions performed) if that enforcement or reliance would be unfair to the representee. Because its effect is to defeat generally enforceable legal rights, the scope of the remedy is often limited. Note, however, that proprietary estoppel (applicable in English land law) can be both a sword and a shield and the scope of its remedy is wide.

A sword and a shield!! and the scope of it's remedy is wide. HA! Leave a nasty comment on here and I'll cut you!

Yep, another tool in the tool box and this time it's a sword and a shield. This is why they say the pen is mightier than the sword-cause it's a shield, too. I'm now an armed and shielded knight among my steed and away to slay yon dragon with my estoppel!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Farewell, Admiral

Slept the sleep of the dead, yesterday. A long, black, tunnel I barely escaped tonight at shift-x. Made it in with a minute to spare. Good thing traffic was light on the way in. Rush hour in the companionway can be a bitch, so it's the customary excuse for being late, out here. Anyway, the circles under my eyes no longer resemble boot-black and I can talk without mixing up the words-a definite problem at shift-x.

On this ship I have my own office, just off the instrument room where all the activity taks place, steering the ship, monitoring and driving the in-sea gear, as well as recording and QC of the data we collect. On my last ship, I sat in the middle of instrument room, with 8 people directly behind my back, talking and shouting at each other. It's strange, quiet and a little lonely sitting in my office, here-this after complaining about the distractions and wearing my headphones for a year...still I'm getting work done a bit easier here and I have exponentially more to do now, without another senior to share the administrative tasks with.

Speaking of differences, this ship contains quite a few women. There are at least 3 on my shift and possibly 8 on the whole crew, though I'm not sure-I still haven't met everyone and am familiar with only a few of the crew from days gone by, or my last trip on here in '05-'06. That reminds me to say a few words about "The Admiral".

I've finally found out that one of my old captains as well as one of my favorites, has retired. We lost touch after I was last on here and I found that he retired after guiding this ship through a category 5 hurricane off of Australia, on the trip following mine. He and I went through 3 hurricanes during one 5 week trip off the coast of Newfoundland back in the '90's and at that time he vowed to retire if he ever got caught in another. Ten years later he was true to his word. I will miss him and our nightly, world politics arguments over coffee and cigarettes, in the day room. He was from Germany and has been at sea over 40 years. He had a great sense of humor and knew his place in this world.

I will always remember the time I received a phone call while I was sleeping off-shift. He answered it for me. It was from my brother, to inform me that a family member had been struck very ill (not PW, or the kids). This captain knew me well enough to know that I wouldn't request a chopper and leave. He took down all the information I would need and want and during the night, organized an evac chopper for first light. He booked my flights and an hour before first light woke me to give me the bad news and my travel details. He was already packing my bags and told me to shower, eat and hit the heli-deck. I don't know any other captains that would choose to make that call, except maybe one, but I don't know him quite as well. Here's to ya, Admiral. I hope you and the wife are already sailing that little boat around the med, or down to South Africa. Keep yer powder dry and stay masts to the sky, always.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holiday at Sea

Celebrating Christmas on a ship, thousands of miles from home, family and friends is at it's best, a melancholy affair. Some years are better than others and the ship and crew play a big part in how poorly, or well the holiday season passes at sea. Some vessels/crews will choose to ignore the holidays completely, creating a serious and moody atmosphere, not at all the place you want to contemplate being away from your family on Christmas eve. Most, with what ever resources are available onboard, try to create a festive atmosphere and do their best to keep the crew happy.

In the 12 years I've been at sea, I've spent more than 5 holiday seasons on the high seas. Two have been spent on my current ship, including this trip. Two years ago, I sailed from Loyang, Singapore up into the Strait of Malacca-the world's deadliest waters for pirates. I spent Christmas eve on a windswept, darkened deck, standing Pirate Watch, alone. (Ironic, I know) Christmas morning, we exchanged gifts, had a decent meal and Santa even visited for a brief time. It was the best you could hope for-not too depressing.

This year again aboard the same vessel, but with much of the old crew now gone, it was quite a different story. The vessel was decorated much the same and the plan was as it was 2 years ago. At the noon meal, Santa would arrive, we'd exchange gifts and drift back to work, or sleep. However, with this crew things went a bit differently and this has turned out to be the best time I've ever had during a Christmas at sea. The meal laid out by our Kiwi galley staff was second to none. Click on the menu for a closer look...

I tried to sample a bit of everything I'd never eaten and failed, miserably. I decided I finally don't like mince pies, English pudding is still pretty good with custard and these crustacean thingies the Kiwis call "bugs" are better than lobster, though I had two whole lobsters and only one bug. I also put away ham, turkey, raspberry dumplings, a dozen oysters on the half shell, a handful of clams on the half, a pile of prawns a ton of fresh fruit, and approximately 7 desserts and a bon-bon.

After the meal, Santa and his helper, Grumpy arrived and entertained us with the funniest hour I have ever spent at sea. Words cannot describe...

The Party Chief said a few solemn words on Christmas, religion, culture and family, giving us all pause to contemplate our families back home and what they mean to us. Then, Santa and his helper got down to business, passing out gifts, insulting the crew and keeping us in stitches. I received a T-shirt, pen, duffel bag, Asian cookies and Wally, the Australian National Soccer team's stuffed Kangaroo mascot. LP has already been informed of him and is keen to lay her hands on him.

After the gifts were opened, a team treasure hunt was conducted, with the winning team receiving prizes. Bingo was up next and while I consider Bingo to be up there with golf and watching grass grow, I found it to be quite fun as many of the crew shouted BINGO!, only to be sent back from the caller's table, chastised for being unable to track simple, alphanumeric combinations and identify common shapes, as we struggled to fill straight-line, four corner, nine patch and cloverleaf patterns.

With the end of bingo, which btw, was called out over the ships radio network, allowing crew at their stations to play, came the end of the festivities. Crew drifted back to work, or off to their cabins to sleep off a huge meal. I retired to the sauna for an hour then hit the rack.

Today, the mood is subdued, except for the occasional gathering of crew to view pictures, or video of yesterday's good times. We are once again focused on fighting the weather and seas, repairing gear, monitoring systems, processing data, training and earning our paychecks.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Despite the dates on my laptop and camera, it is well into Christmas morning, here in Southern Ocean, South of New Zealand. The ship's tree is decorated and leaning against the far wall of the mess, drunk as usual. In truth, he's taken several years of wave-induced damage cause he never gets properly supported. However, the broken ornaments have been replaced and he's been back to something resembling a tree, albeit a drunken one, so we are happy with him. The presents for our gift exchange weren't yet placed under the tree, but were, eventually. The exchange and our Christmas meal will be at noon when both crews are up for shift change. The Europeans and Asians and Kiwis will probably all go out to play Cricket on the heli-deck. The American will put a few more KM's on the elliptical machine, take a smoking hot sauna and pass out. He's tired. And hates Cricket. Or maybe he just doesn't understand the object of the game.

In any case, I wish you all Happy Holidays, Peace and Joy and Family and Friends.

Hello LP and PW. I miss you both so much!! See my tree, LP? I've hung your locket on it for the day. PAPA LOVES YOU :o)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The long way to John O'Groats

Need to kill a few minutes and finally copied the photos from camera to the laptop. Thought I'd post a few random ones from my trip so far, which thanks to my medic is going to be a lot longer than I thought, but more on that, later.

First, after all these years I should post one of Tom, the guy at the airport who has taken care of me for the last 10 years. This guy has held planes for me, stopped a plane to bring me a forgotten item, sent a pair of tennis shoes to follow me to Minneapolis via a faster jet, so that I was handed my shoes as I disembarked from my flight on the way to work. He's fixed up botched reservations, missing flights and even called to wake me up when it looked like I might be late for a flight and all this because I show up at his airport every few weeks. Oh yeah and he always upgrades me to first class. To me, he IS first class.
I love you, man.

After saying my goodbyes to PW and Tom, I spent a very typical layover in Minnie. Water, Chinese food, chopsticks and a good book. In this case it was a VERY good book and I also stopped into one of those gourmet chocolate shops and dropped 20 bucks on some comfort food because I was feeling incredibly sorry for myself and missing PW and the kids after only an hour or so.

Before leaving for LA and quick turnover for the 15 hr. flight to Auckland, I took a couple of muscle relaxers and while flying had a few drinks, so I was in no shape to take photos until after my Auckland/Christchurch and Christchurch/Invercargill flights. Well, I did attempt to take a shot first look at new Zealand sheep, cause, well, you know what they say about New Zealanders.

While in Invercargill, I peed in a cup, shopped and stopped in the theatre I mentioned the other day. Walking to the theatre from the grocery store I came upon this mural at a gas station, of all places.

Finally, after 3 days, 5 flights, two buses, one car, a ferry and a jet boat, I arrived onboard the ship. My cabin was not tiny, dirty, rusty, smelly and contained only a British cabin mate, no cockroaches. I didn't have time to call the maid before snapping a picture. I snagged the bottom bunk, pulling rank, citing age and a bad back. My laptop/home theatre is set up on the chair. John Wayne's Alamo was playing that night.

So, now that I'm here all I want to do is escape. The medic issued a challenge to the crew, called the Land's End to John O'Groats Challenge. This trip we are cycling, running, and I am ellipticaling from the southern tip of Great Britain, all the way to John O'Groats on the North shore, some 1371 KM. Yes, I made up a word for exercising on an elliptical machine-sue me. Anyway, not to be outdone by the young punk working for me, I struggled through 12.5 KM on the elliptical machine after shift, then collapsed in the sauna in a puddle of puke. Did I mention that most of my ships have a sauna? This one is big, hot and comes with a changing area and showers. So, I'm almost to Penzance, the first stop 16 KM North of Land's End. My goal for this trip is Gloucester, a long, 382 KM down the road to John O'Groats.

A small test

I've managed to connect my laptop up to the network and now have access to my pics.  Sooo, I'm going to try to post one via email...not that I have to, i just wonder if it works.  I should have an image of myself and fellow crew member from the Philippines somewhere in this post...we posed on the deck of the Stewart Island ferry we hijacked to get out to the ship after donning our survival/gumby suits and helmets awaiting transfer to the ship via our jet-powered rescue boat.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Where's the ketchup?

Last night after a long, drawn out fire drill, I pop down into the mess for a light snack before hitting the rack.  For the first time, I hunt around the whole mess, searching out where everything is stored.  Unlike my last tiny, dirty, poorly-outfitted ship, this ship is mammoth, clean, well-appointed and well-stocked.  The mess is a full-size cafeteria affair with a 15 ft steam table, double refrigerated cabinet, salad cooler, bread table, coffee, bar and a host of other features.   Throw in the wall-to wall dry cabinets and I have a fair bit of digging to do.  

My previous ship had been in US waters for some years.  The crew was 99% US.  The stores came from Mississippi.  This ship hasn't been to US waters in a Coon's age, if ever.  The crew is made up of Poles, Brits, Malays, Filipinos, Aussies, Kiwis, Indians, Russians,  Scots and Vietnamese.  And me.  The stores are all from southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.  After about a half hour of digging around the mess and the dry stores behind the galley, I realized that once again, I am on a truly international ship and there's no dang ketchup.  I'm not a fan of ketchup.  There aren't any fries onboard, no hamburgers, or pasties.  No reason to use ketchup.  Still, it's one of those things l like hanging around, I guess.    

I settle on a package of something unpronounceable, but resembling raman noodles.  It smells like Thai food, spicy and aromatic.  Pleasant taste, but I don't know what it is.  Sans ketchup, I  choose to pour a small amount of a bottle labeled "sweet chili sauce for chicken", product of Malaysia, onto my psuedo-raman noodles.  I vaguely remember putting something similar on my eggs ( Satanic Eared-Nightjar eggs, not chicken ) when last on this ship, in Borneo, Singapore and Myanmar (formerly Burma).  It doesn't compliment the aromatic noodles, well.  My snack is a bust.

Thinking I might as well be eating a shaved and oiled ferret (Inside joke), I toss the failure into the garbage and hunt some more.  Mind you, dinner was steamed peaches, onions and chicken breast in mango sauce, wrapped in filo bread.  Nasty.  A tray of cold cuts offers promise, but upon investigation, none of the cuts are familiar and all are too spicy and taste "off", to my decidedly Americanized palate, of the last two years.  The cheeses were all alien and only 2 were to my liking.  Once again, I brave the brown goat cheese and once again, gag.  Can't seem to develop a taste for it and finally it can join the ranks of vegemite and ludifisk, never to be eaten again.

As a last resort, I halve two kiwis, slurp down an expired yogurt and as I'm leaving, check one more cabinet and find small bags of Doritos.  Not a fan of these, either, but they are a reminder of home and America and ketchup, fries, burgers and Budweiser.  I read the bag.  It's 50 grams of Australian corn, Cheeso Supremeo flavor with 1020 units of energy noted on the nutritional label.  I put them back.

Not quite home.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

We don't need no stinking vitamin B

So I miss breakfast d/t some pressing work.  A couple hours later, I wander down to the mess, starving.  The fruit is looking poorly and the yogurt is expired.  Cold cuts are, well cold and uninspired in the early morning.  Ah ha!  I see a large Tupperware-type container with some nondescript brown blobs inside.  Crack the lid and there before me are a dozen, perfectly baked cinnamon bun-looking thingies.  Completely forgetting where in the fucking world I'm working, I grab one and manage to cram most of it into my mouth.  After a few chews and a swallow or two I realize there's some sort of odd backup between my lips and my stomach.  Subconsciously, I just shut down and then the taste hits me and I'm retching with a huge mouthful of roll being the only thing saving me from spewing the rest of the roll and six cups of coffee all over the mess.  I made it to the bin and emptied myself of the offending roll.  I'm in New Zealand.  It was a vegemite roll.  Like it or not, everyday out here is adventure.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Time Flies and stuff...

Looking at the calendar, it's hard to believe I left home 7 days ago.  In reality, it's only been 6 days, what with the International Dateline magic, but it doesn't seem like 6 days, either.  I've been balls-to-the-wall busy since arriving and as usual, traveling half way around the world is a small nightmare of O.J. dashes through airports, baggage woes and language barriers.  Still, nearly a week!!

I've not managed to get my laptop connected, so no photos, but I'm trying.  I came across a poster about the color of your pee, in one of the common heads and I'm dying to post a photo of it.  Can you imagine your bosses being concerned about the color of your pee?  Mine are.  Really.

I'm mourning the loss of the Queen's blog, but these things happen as anyone who used to read LOAP knows.  Damn shame, but I totally understand as long as I get another book installment, ahem...

The cooks onboard prepare a midnight meal.  SWEET!  However, that means when I woke up, I had steak and corn for breakfast...

Finally, my pee looks quite normal (to me, anyway) and that's all I have at 3am down here in the Southern.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Jet Lag

Well, it took a couple of days, but I was finally hit with jet lag, last night.  Couldn't get to sleep for hours, even after pulling a 16-hr shift.  Then, I couldn't get out of bed this morning-totally wrecked.  I'm on large mug o coffee number 9 this morning and I'm still bleary-eyed and mumbling.  Today, we all put our Christmas presents in a box which some un-named person will deposit under the Christmas tree in the mess.  After the noon meal on Christmas day we'll do a gift exchange where we all draw numbers out of a hat.  Those of us who believe in Santa, anyway.

My new cabin is huge, about the size of a hotel room.  It has a wonderfully clean shower, heated bathroom floor and not a hint of rust anywhere.  It's also NOT a steel box welded to the hull and is quiet as a church on Monday.  My cabin is over the MOB boat davit so on days when the boat gets launched for operations, or man-overboard drills, it will get quite noisy in there, but it's tolerable.  I've got a huge desk and comfy couch, too.  It's a 2-man cabin and I'm sharing it with the kid who works for me, but our bunks are large with planty of head room, so no more waking up and smacking my forehead on the bunk above:)

The ship itself is mammoth compared to my last ride.  It's a fair bit over 100 meters and nine decks tall.  It has a 25 M diameter heli-deck on the bow for jogging!  The gym is wonderful-several rowing machines, treadmills and ellipticals.  Two, multi-station weight machines, free weights, heavy bag and a few other goodies, like a killer sound system and a wide screen TV with DVD.  The sauna is large enough for 12 and gets HOT:)  I just wish the light was brighter-had a helluva time trying to read in there and I've got a great book right now-Failure Is Not An Option, by Gene Krantz-recommended by Blondie:)

The rest of the ship is much the same, big, shiny and nice.  We've got a 30-seat theatre, with leather recliners and somewhere a nice day room, but I can't seem to find it.  The mess is huge, well-appointed with cold and hot displays and an exspresso machine.  The cooks are Kiwis and so far have done a bang-up job with the chow.  They even put on a midnight meal, which is a first for me.  They bake a lot of goodies, which is bad, though.

I suppose at some point, once I get a handle on this project and get my processing caught up with acquisitiion, I'll wander around and take a few photos to post here, if I manage to work out photo-posting via email...

Hope you're all safe and sound up there!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Contemplation on the rhythm of a ship

This is not my first time onboard this ship.  I was here two years ago, nearly to the day, spending the holidays in Borneo, Singapore and Mynamar.  I remember spending Christmas Eve standing pirate watch on the dark and windy back deck as we sailed the Strait of Malacca, between Malaysia/Thailand and Indonesia.  Not the best Christmas Eve ever, but different.    Before I get too far off topic, the reason I mention I've been here before is that every ship seems to have a rhythm, a beat to which the crew marches.  It varies a little as the crew composition changes, but remains much the same, belonging to the ship and not those that reside there.  Maybe it has something to do with the layout, I don't know.

So, two years later I find myself back aboard this ship and to my surprise, without much thought, I'm falling back into the rhythm of my last trip on here.  Last night/day?? after my first shift, I hit the galley for a piece of fruit, fired up the sauna, unpacked, took a book and hit the sauna for a good sweat.  Showered, I stopped in the instrument room to check on things, then hit the rack.  This morning, I stopped in the mess, made coffee, toast and grabbed a yogurt and a piece of fruit and then it hit me-this is exactly what I did on here two years ago, every night and morning.  So far this shift, I've worked the same, visited the same places and people on the ship and I wonder how that happens.  Why do I do things a certain way on one ship and totally different on others?  I really don't know unless it's the ship directing the rhythm and rhyme of my daily grind...


co·nun·drum      [kuh-nuhn-druh m] Pronunciation Key
1.a riddle, the answer to which involves a pun or play on words, as What is black and white and read all over? A newspaper.
2.anything that puzzles.

[Origin: 1590–1600; pseudo-L word of obscure orig. ]

I work for a HUGE corporation.  I've just noticed that I've been given a rather substantial raise in my salary, with no notice, or explanation.  Do you think it pays to question it?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The only way to blog

Well folks, I'm back at sea. Somewhere in the Southern Ocean, not too far from NZ. Looks like I may not be able to get the old laptop connected to a Satellite this trip. The network admin onboard is being a stickler for the rules and regulations and that doesn't bode well. Who has time to blog anyway, what with chicks in grass skirts, boat drinks, daily massages and thrice-daily naps? Seriously, I've setup the old blogging by email thing and this is the first shot at it. I assume I email this to the correct address, it puts the subject in as the title and the text is posted-who knows?? Anyway, this is the only way I can do it, legally. Not sure about photos, given this novel way of blogging and a very slow sat connection.

The good news? Came onboard to find out the smokes in the bonded store have been locked down by NZ customs. The smokers are freaking out and the fire axes have already been locked up. The Captain thinks we can have them shipped out to us at a cost of roughly $100USD/carton...

Nick off for a bit o kip

Had a bit of a dust off with the Captain and the Party Manager, down at the bar. I planned to get a bit of rack time before the 3am departure, but realized i hadn't eaten a proper meal since Friday and it's Sunday night. Granted, I lost a day but I was HUNGRY.

So, 4-5 beers later, I hit the hotel restaurant for the Sunday Carvery. The carvery is a buffet of salads, side-dishes and deserts accenting a hand-carved roast and ham. I ate like pig. I also ate a lot of pig. The ham was perfect. Simply perfect. The beef roast was good, but they spiced it with something like Italian salad dressing, so I limited out on the ham. Desert was an apple crumble, followed by twin helpings of chocolate raspberry and banana cream pies. I washed the whole mess down with one more pint of Guinness on tap. I am drunk, stuffed and bone-tired. I also have no idea what time my body thinks it is, so I've told it that it is bedtime. Which it is, if I've a 3am departure time.

Seems we are foregoing helicopters due to the seas state and instead have hijacked the local ferry and will use the jet boat to transfer between ships. Going to be a wet and wild ride, but it beats an hour in an uncomfortable chopper, I hope. So, until I make my ship,


ps. I love Kiwis just like I love Aussies. They are just like rowdy Americans with funny accents:)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

shopping trip, Invercargill

As promised-a photo from the airplane. This shot has the Southern Alps in the background, on the way from Christchurch to Invercargill.
While shopping, I came across a beautiful, old theatre and went inside. A very kind lady escorted me around the theatre, despite a production getting ready and it being closed to guests. The presidium arch was gorgeous and I took lots of photos, but non of them turned out and I have no idea why. Nonetheless, here's a shot of the outside. I wish I could have taken at least one good photo of the presidium arch. there was a saying on it that was broken up my the emlbem in the middle. Evidently, there's been a debate raging since the theatre was built in 1905, as to whether you read the two lines on one side, then the two on the other, or if you read the entire, but broken top line, then the entire broken bottom line. It worked both ways for me...

As I was leaving, she asked where I was from and why I was in town. When I told her what I do, she got very excited and took me over to the other ladies doing the ushering, I suppose. They all gave me hugs and wished us well out there. Over the years, I've been to many countries and more often than not, the locals are not happy to have us. It was a real treat to be welcome, here.

On the downside, it cost me 40 bucks to buy toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, razor and shaving cream. Dinner and drinks are going to cost a fortune! And that's about it from here. I expect a 3am wake-up call and I need to have a shower and a lie down as my British buddy would say.

One other thing about this travel business. You know, crossing the International Dateline, you loose a day. December 15th, 2007 never existed for me, or I never existed for that day. I lost a day of my life and can't get it back...

New Zealand

No worries. Flew half way around the world without a toothbrush, but I'm nestled in the Kelvin Hotel, Invercargill, New Zealand. Peed in a cup, snagged some Kiwi dollars from a cashpoint (that's an ATM in the US) and in about five minutes, the front desk tells me I'll have broadband to post this.

So, yeah, the only real hitch in the trip was the fact I left my shaving kit at home and arrived here without a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, razor, shaving cream, etc. My lousy Alltel service doesn't have international roaming/long-distance, so I can't call PW and LP until I get to the ship, which sucks, but the bar opens in 2 hours so I can drink away my sorrows.

People are VERY friendly, sound a bit like Aussies and drive on the wrong side of the road. They also have roundabouts, instead of intersections. I took a few airplane window photos of the Southern Alps on the way here and will try to post a couple if any turn out. Bought a new camera an hour before I left and I'm having a bit of trouble with it.

Met some old friends from other vessels, who are slated for one trip here, as I am. Good to catch up. And now, I'm off to find a pharmacy, or grocery store, so I can brush my teeth.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Six yr. old logic

Dinner at Applebees, tonight.

PW- "You like vegetables."

LP- "I'm a veterinarian who only eats hot dogs."

Man, am I going to miss her for the next six weeks...

Work intrudes

Sitting here on a lazy Wednesday morning, drinking coffee in my boxers (too much? Tough.) I slept in very late after staying up late to varnish some molding. I turn on the laptop and find out that I'm scheduled to leave for NZ Friday morning. W.T.F. ???

Crew-x isn't until next Wed, but they've found it necessary to ship me out Friday and didn't bother to fucking tell me until today. The early Christmas planned for Saturday? Out. Finishing the odds and ends in the bathroom like lights and power? Out. Finishing PW's secret Christmas present? Out. Mailing out Christmas presents top friends abroad? Out. One last leisurely weekend with my precious family? Out.

So, I have to shop for necessities, pack, snowblow the driveway once more and finish my Christmas shopping while spending as much time with the family as I can for the next 1.5 days and the kids are in school all day. Fuck.

OK, done bitching. Yes, I realize I just took a 3-month, paid vacation, but dammit, I hate leaving and worse, finding out at the very last minute.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Midwestern Gourmet

Late night snack: leftover mac n' cheese with chunks of venison mukkuda, reheated in the microwave and eaten out of the Tupperware. Wash it all down with a bottle of Sangiovese while watching Die Hard 2. I'm wearing camo and a ball cap and feeling very American.

Yippie Ki Yay, motherfuckers...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I've got tunes, too

Thank's to LL for jarring my little pea-brain to think about going back and updating my Last.FM player to include an auto play option so you all are now subjected to my music, like it, or not. I guess this means I better start turning on the Last.FM recorder widget on Media Player when I'm rockin on the laptop. It hasn't been used in at least two months.

Oh, and that's about all I got, folks. Regular, boring old life has been happening here in the cove. Went to LP's Christmas concert, put labels on my wine bottles, did a science experiment with MP tonight-nothing very blog-worthy. Roughly 6-8 days before I head out for NZ and the Southern Ocean, so I'm keeping a low profile and hanging out with the family.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pirate Mutiny

I've just been attacked by LP and PW, both armed with straws and spitwads. PW shot me in the eye with a spitwad! I think she got the dog and BP, too. I'm thinking about retaliation with this.

What'da want? I've been hunting for 15 days

Other than Nightmare's Drunken Nun (which I LOVED, but PW said it had to be classy) and mr. bud's translations of piratey stuff, I didn't get much help for a label. I really need to get my bottles labeled so I can send a few out for the holidays, so I forced myself to sit down and think about wine and not hunting. It really didn't work. I'm still really in hunting mode. I dream about being in the woods every night. I scan the woods along the highway for deer. I'm even eating venison nearly every day, if not every meal. For example, tonight I had venison spaghetti for dinner.

So my non-hunting, wine-only, brain-storming session produced this-

What do you think?

Yooper Style

In one of those "I wish I had a camera" incidents, I noticed one of my neighbors clearing his driveway with a "yooper scooper". This is a what a yooper scooper looks like-

However, my neighbor was wearing sweat pants and shoe-boots and knee-high, woolly socks with red stripes, pulled up over his sweat pants. Oh yeah he also had on a leather Detroit Lions jacket and a blaze-orange hunting mask. And my wife says Yoopers have no sense of style...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Call for Help

Here's the deal-

I've completed my first batch of wine, but after spending the last two weeks in the woods, hunting deer, I can't come up with a name, nor an idea for the label. All I get is something to do with deer, or bucks, or snow. PW has already said NO PIRATE THEME. I would love it if you guys could toss me a few bones. If anyone comes up with a winner, I'll give you credit on the label and send you a bottle in the mail...

If it helps, it's a Sangiovese.

End of the Road Trip

We're back. We concluded a fast-paced two days with BP being subjected to back-to-back interviews while I sat in the truck stealing Internet access from somebody who lives to close to the college and didn't bother to encrypt their network, then reading research posters for an hour in the biology department. Whatever the outcome of the scholars competition, BP has already been accepted to the University and received a partial scholarship. Yesterday and today he competed with about 200 other whiz kids for a full-ride scholarship. My wallet wishes him well. He'll be notified of the results in a few weeks. Even if he misses out, the past two days were a great experience and he was able to talk to the directors of the Freshman Fellows and Honors programs, both of whom urged him to apply. For me, I'm hopeful my wallet gets a break and I enjoyed breakfast...

So, after a slightly nasty, two-hour drive, we're back home. There's a lot of snow to move out of the driveway and I have to head back into town to pick up LP from her after-school program.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Road Trip

My oldest boy (BP) and I have traveled half way across the UP (sort of) in order for him to compete in a presidential scholarship competition for one of the universities he may attend next fall. I suddenly feel old actually typing out that my little guy will be attending college next year:(

Despite warnings of yet another fucking blizzard, we had clear roads the whole way (only about a 2 hour drive). We've checked into our hotel and are now off for lunch and a campus tour. Ive got a camera and unless the boy threatens mutiny, I'll post a few pics. Wish I had thought to bring a bottle of wine and an opener...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Tying up some loose ends

A few things have been wrapped up, here in the cove. The 2007 rifle season ended with a whimper for me. More accurately, it ended with me whimpering as I tried to get back out of the woods. That drive stands as the worst I have ever experienced. I was sweating and shaking by the time I blasted through the plow pile and out onto the road, exiting the trail I take in and out. Nonetheless, I wrapped up the season yesterday by driving in, digging out the blind, taking it down and driving out, all in about 2hours. I didn't even stay to hunt-too anxious about getting stuck out there. I did have the gun out and loaded, just in case a shot presented itself, though.

Last night, I spent a few hours cleaning wine bottles and scraping label glue off with a razor blade and some Goo Gone (TM). This morning, LP and I headed into town to the winery, to finish up our wine and get hammered. We bottled up the batch of Sangiovese and made plans for a large wine rack to store all these batches of wine down in our basement. It was pretty fun and LP was a big help, especially with corking and putting on the shrinks, but spent way too much time overall, drinking up the free wine they put out to make your bottling experience a pleasant one. Since I was driving, I limited myself to two glasses; one of our new batch (way too green, yet) and one of the multipulciano. Of course we bought a bottle of the multipulciano to go with the venison steaks tonight:) Had them last night, but mr. bud and the boys didn't make it out so we have TONS of leftovers, still soaking in the orange/raspberry marinade.

While still at the winery, my local butcher called to tell me that the venison mukkuda was ready to pick up. Mukkuda (I have no idea how to spell it, but that's how it sounds- muh' kuh duh) is the local word for a certain type of sausage, simmilar to a summer sausage, typically made from venison. Most local butchers offer to take a portion of your venison to make mukkuda links and mine is no exception, although they farm out the job to a local meat compaany called Volworths. We had (5) 2lb sticks made up and we'll have mukkuda, cheese and cracker appetizers prior to our vension steaks tonight:)

Because I'm leaving for New Zealand on the 18th (if my work visa is processed in time), we picked up a Christmas tree today and will celebrate the holiday early, on the 15th. LP and I picked out a Charlie Brown tree at a stand next door to the local massage parlor-Maggies. my back was killing me and I so wanted to dump the freaking tree and get a massage instead!

Now, we're finally back home (near blizzard conditions still, for the 4th day in a row), waiting for PW to get home from work so we can chow on venison and empty that bottle of multipulciano. Well, I'm going to empty the bottle-LP had more than her share at the winery;)