Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, everyone.  I'm hanging at home with a nasty head cold, thankful it is not malaria.  We've had relatives here since Christmas and we're just hanging out.  It's cold and very snowy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas...

...and Happy Holidays to you all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dinner with Noah and the aliens

After a bit of shopping, getting my daughter her ski pass for the year and an oil change, we met Mr. Bud, his boys, PR and family (YAY!  It's been 6 months.) and three other friends, for dinner.  We supped at one of the local microbreweries called The Library.  The Library is a local icon, a legend, actually.  It used to be the place to go for generations of college students, looking for liquid refreshment, or a place to study.  After a devastating fire, it was reborn as a restaurant and brew pub.  A while back, it was bought by a local guy whose been on the restaurant and bar scene as far back as I can remember.  The food is awesome and it boasts a view of the snow-covered Portage Canal.

After pushing a few tables together, we ordered drinks, sweet potato fries and a bread bowl filled with a piping-hot, super-cheesy, artichoke and spinach dip.  The second round of appa-teasers saw us passing around plates of sushi rolls and bbq'd soy beans.  Very yummy.  For the main course, I had a Cabernet-reduced burger with sauted mushrooms and onions, washed down with a raspberry daqueri, while PW had pan-seared Tuna and margaritas. 

At some point during the the spinach dip, or maybe the sushi, one of the kids mentioned a nasty fall at the ski hill (they showed up in ski boots:), then drew a picture of the wipe-out on the back of a sushi menu and passed it over for his dad to see.  And that was it.  The adults grabbed a cup of crayons and began to add to the drawing, passing it around for everyone to add something.  Jim Cantori showed up to add some drama.  Aliens.  Noah's Ark.  Flood, famine, a planet-busting meteor.  Pirates, kiwis, an ambulance, one super hero and if you look real hard, Waldo.  I think the kids were embarrassed, but the adults had a blast, even if not one of us can draw worth a damn with crayons.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Early Christmas

Sort of.  We had a new stove and refrigerator delivered today.  I installed the water line, plugged em in and loaded the old crap in the truck, so I can drop it off at the scrap metal yard down the road.  Then, I cut down the wood stove grate PW bought (3 times) so it would fit through the stove's door and cranked up the stove.  It burns so much better, now.  It even heats up to temperature in under 3 minutes now!  This pretty much completes all the crap I needed to get done before Christmas and now....I can concentrate on drinking.  Well, after I put away every tool I own and clean up 4 inches of sawdust in my workshop.  Tomorrow PR and family are visiting from the other end of the UP and we're looking forward to hanging out.  Hurry up, guys!

Christmas, MI

It's only about 3 hours from Christmas for me, no matter what time of the year it is.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Elvis was in the building

We're under a blizzard warning (and a blizzard) up here, today and tonight.  Despite the bad weather, PW, PL and I drove into town. They fed a friend's guinea pigs and cat while I shoveled their sidewalk since they're downstate.  Then, at the mall we watched a friend of ours do his infamous Elvis impersonation live on the radio.  He sang Elvis' favorite Christmas songs.   It went well and we were thoroughly entertained.  Afterward, the station held reindeer races.  LP's number was drawn as a contestant for the last race.  She won a Christmas present and before she picked it out, PW won one as a door prize.  About five minutes later, I too, won one.  The girls won bowls of the sort that men know nothing about, evidently.  I won two tarps.  You can never have enough tarps.  Yep.

Anyway, I've got a week's worth of wood stacked in the new wood rack in the living room, the snow shoveled and the fire stoked.  Winter is good.  G'night folks.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Back to normal

The holiday season and honey-do list are both in full-swing, already.

Last night PW and I opened presents LP made at school.  A Popsicle reindeer and a clay bear.   This morning, we got up a little early, dug the SUV out of teh snow and took LP to school for Breakfast With Santa, then the two of us went for a workout/sauna and all day shopping, errands and a decent lunch up in Calumet, at the Michigan House.

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a lot of freaking shopping, right?   Bought today:  A Christmas tree (typical pokey green one), refrigerator/freezer (side by side with a water/ice thing that hopefully is programmable so that you can set it up to squirt unsuspecting people in the eye), a stove (forgot to tell you about the stove, Mr. Bud!!) and some copper presents for whom I do not know.  Just now, as in JUST NOW, I dropped a couple hundred bucks to pay off a new snowboard for my oldest.  He hit a tree at one of the local ski hills (Mt. Bohemia-expert back-country runs only) and snapped his snowboard in half.  We also poked around a few antique shops, two book stores, JC Penny, a jewelry shop and the ATT phone store.  I was feeling kind of scrooge-like today, but hopefully that will pass, soon.  Tomorrow, LP and I head out to shop for PW and to watch a friend of ours do his awesome Elvis impersonation on stage at the mall.  Hopefully, Mr. Bud will join us.  Hopefully.  Mr. Bud.  Join.  12:30.  The.  Mall.  Elvis.  The show is a hoot, I saw it a few years ago at the county fair and he brought down the house.  Oh yeah, and THE BOOKSTORE IS CLOSING.  FUCK ME.  How do I buy an armload of books every five weeks for crew-x??  Don't tell me about those online book places. I need to FEEL the book, run my hot little hands over it, read the back and the inside jacket, check the copyright page, read the chapter names, peek in at a page, or 10, smell that scent when you fan it in front of your nose, kick the tires, check the oil and all that shit.  We have two used bookstores and one, little, independent store, but they just don't do it for the sheer volume I need to find and I'm a bit depressed:(

And yes, the house is crying out for attention.  I'm out of wood in the house and need to start hauling it in to dry.  But first, I needed to buy a decent size rack, then build a long, low box to put it in, to catch the dirt and chips.  Before that I need to patch the great big HOLE in the wall where the rack will go, but first I needed to bring in wood and build a fire so the mud would dry quick.  Sort of a paradox, there, but I have the last coat of mud drying, a fire going and a metal rack painted shiny black.  Still need to build the damn box and paint the wall.  I also have shit pot of snow to shovel and a ton of ice -ala- snow that's been accumulated and packed down to chop up and haul away.  The porches, woodshed and the shed roof over the kitchen need to be raked clean of about 2-3 feet of snow that just won't slide off the new metal roofing.  I'm got my eye on this handy dandy home-made roof rake my neighbor just created.  It rolls up the roof on little balloon tires, then a gentle tug drops a spring-loaded plastic blade down into the snow, locking it so you can then pull the snow straight down to you.  It's mounted on 30 feet of light-weight tubing.  He mentioned needing a radial arm saw so I'm gonna trade for the day:)  Next up I also need to haul three, 45 gallon garbage cans full of kindling into the basement, plumb the water for the fridge and get ready to trim the bathroom that should have been finished a year ago.  I might even try to find the time to make a couple of driftwood ornaments for the tree, but for the rest of the night I'm going to settle down and read a good book, or snuggle up with LP and watch a movie.  Later folks, time to feed the fire.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


After a very balky start this morning, I am finally home.

My plane boarded late, left the gate, circled the airport and ended back at the same gate for more fuel.  Fuel to get us to an alternate airport, just in case they told us.  Great.  Before we managed to back out of the gate, we were told not to come by my home airport.  Bad runway conditions.  An hour later we de-iced, then circled the airport, again.  Someone told our pilot to head back to the gate, again.  Don't know why, but before we got there, he was told to go.  So we went.  And I'm sitting next to a roaring wood stove, yawning.  It's like minus 5.  I'm going to bed.

The long road from Angola

Welcome back to Africa.  The sights, sounds and smells were almost overpowering as I left the ship some 24 hours ago.  While standing at the bottom of the gangway, two police officers walked up and began shouting, with one hand on their guns.  They gestured down the key and made it pain that we had better start walking.  I glanced back up at the ship.  One of them caught my eye and shook his head slightly, to let me know that retreat to safety was not possible.

So we yelled up at the ship that we were leaving and walked away.  They escorted us to a caged-in area and left.  We were to spend the next few hours here.  Eventually, the rest of the crew met us here and we waited.  The dust was thick, the air hot and oppressive.  Cranes, trucks and ship engines a constant background roar, punctuated by yelling from the guards, police and dock workers.  As the day grew short, the mosquitoes rose up from the shadows to feed upon us. 

Lectures on malaria and dengue fever still fresh in our heads, we broke out the mosquito spray.  The cage filled with the smell of lilacs and old lady perfume-the bug sprat here smells like anything but and is generally so sweet-smelling I would swear it attracts them.  Finally, we had some movement and small encouragement.  Someone collected our seaman's books.  Later they handed back some passports and then finally, asked us to walk through a door into the enclosure behind us.

Thus began a series of paperwork, stampings, form-filling, stapling, ripping and standing in line.  Get a form from one official, fill it out, walk a little, get the next official to stamp it so the one after can read it, then send you to another that might rip it in half, or staple it to yet another form.  It was bewildering and most men we faced were stony-faced and just begging for the chance to send you back to the cage for more waiting.

Suddenly, I stepped through another door and found myself standing in the middle of ruined section of the building.  No walls, or ceiling/roof.  Just posts and some rubble.  Deathly skinny cats chase each other in pairs, everywhere I look.  Parked there were several vans and small buses.  It was evident that the drivers were there to take us either to the hotel, or airport.  Some of us were flying out and some staying the night.  We could not get them to understand "hotel", or "airport" and so had to wait.........................................Until somebody who could translate got the message across and nine of us crammed into the first mini van.

Luanda is the capital city of Angola. I've been to a few capitols and this place?  It is the capitol of wreak and ruin, stench and suffering.  You can imagine what we drove through.  I can try to tell you but I know before I write that I haven't the words.  Nonetheless...

The first thing you notice is the dust and how incredibly thick it can be in places.  It defies gravity and hangs in the air like smoke.  Dirt covers everything and you know you're on the edge of a great desert, it hangs like a horrible weight over the city.  People on scooters, motorcycles and bikes wear masks. Then you notice the devastation.  It is difficult to discern where the dust leaves off and becomes ruin and rubble.  Everywhere I turn is broken brick, shattered stone and dirt in layers, piles, straining to break free and become the dust.

As we leave the quay and barrel through the dockside section of the city I am at once appalled, fascinated and sickened by some of what I see.  The roads are not roads, but mor resemble what you might expect an obstacle course built for tanks might look like, with no exaggeration.  In fact, I'm sure a tank driver would give pause before attempting some of what we negotiated in an overloaded minivan.  I wonder if this place was recently a battlefield, but am not up on recent Angolan history.

Amongst the ruins are little bits of rusty tin, or a cave-like openings I know to be shelter and home for the multitudes of people that line the roads and adorn every flat surface we pass.  Thousands and thousands of them.  Most seeming to be just loitering and waiting for something, what I can't imagine.  This is a place of misery, or so it would seem.  Dead, burned out cars line some of the streets and dot the alleys we weave through as short cuts.  Music and car horns blare constantly, only changing in pitch as we approach or they receed in our wake of dust.

At one point we stop and an impossibly tall woman in a golden wrap and gold-beaded headdress smiles at me from the curb. She balances an enormous basket made from what appear to be reeds, on her head.  Her eyes follow me as we pull away.  Later, I see streets lined with people selling food, cooked over small coal stoves on the ground.  The food is laid out on what appear to be burlap sacks, or maybe some sort of mat.  I can smell the food as we pass.  It doesn't cover up the smell of human waste and rotting things that hangs heavy in the air, no matter where we go.  I see feet sticking out from an overturned garbage can.  Later, I see a man sitting on the ground.  His only arm is draped over a dead animal of some sort, laying next to him.  It was big and white and looked bloated to the point of bursting.

Suddenly, the road turns to pavement and drops well below ground level.  We could now be on nearly any highway in the US.  Formed cement sides, two-lane cement highway.  I mention this and everyone but our mute driver affirms this.  The road climbs back up and we're back amongst the garbage and squalor.  In this part of the city, I see less roadside dwellings and the people are dressed better, or at least more colorfully.  The music is louder.

A few minutes later we arrive at the airport.  It is utter chaos.  It has the look and feel of a riot.  We are met by an agent, who brings a representative of our charter flight and a couple of angry-looking guys who are at least a foot taller than me.  They give us more forms to fill out.  One of the guys stands behind me, with his hand pressing into my shoulder and tells me what to write in each blank space. He pushes hard on my shoulder while explaining.  Then, we wait.  And wait.  I swear I felt a few rain drops, then look around and decide it couldn't be rain, therefor I don't want to know what it was.

Our engineer uses hand signals and mime to ask a guy holding a beer, where he obtained it.  Nearby, a small stall sells Cristal Beer for 2 US bucks a can.   A few of us head over and buy a couple to hand out, or pass around.  Before we finish the charter rep screams for us to run and follow her.  We drop the brews, grab bags and haul ass.  Only to stand in a very long line at the ticket counter.  Eventually, we get tickets, stand in another line to have them checked, then head to Customs and Immigration for the second time today.  Stamped, chopped, ripped, checked off and scribbled on, our growing pile of paperwork stays with us as we finally clear into the boarding area.  There, we find the balance of another ship's crew already drunk in the bar.  Full beers cover every table.  We grab one to drink while standing at the bar, and each of us orders 10 more beers.  We have to open them at the bar, ourselves, then grab them by the handful and squeeze them onto the tables.  I meet my old opposite, whose now on this other ship.  He introduces me to a couple of my colleagues I've not yet met in my 10 years of travels.  One of them also has 10 years under his belt and we compare boats, finding out we just missed each other on several occasions over the years.

Twice, a woman comes over and makes me put out my smoke into a beer bottle.  She does this periodically with everyone, but everyone just lights another.  I'm not sure why.  Anwyay, a lot beer and smokes later the rep comes and once again whips us into action, yelling her head off.  Both crews panic, trying to drink all the beer and finish their smokes.  She stops me as I try to get by her with a smoke and a beer.  She takes the smoke out of my mouth, puts it in hers and grabs the beer.  I run, only to end up in yet another line.  Later, one more line and we're out on the tarmac, walking to our plane.  It was still damn hot, but getting late at night.

On the plane we find out that air traffic control has lost our flight plan and are delayed for nearly an hour.  The two crews mix and mingle.  Several people bought liters of duty-free booze and we all get glasses of ice from the not too amused stews.  Most get pretty wasted and eventually pass out.  I drank a bit of nasty vodka, then washed down a couple of muscle relaxers with some Jack and coke.  Before I pass out, the girl in front of me, trades me a tall glass of shitty, iced white wine for a couple hits off my nicotine inhaler, the Gun Chief gave me for the trip home.  I doze on and off till Tunisia, then pop fully awake to find I have a melted chocolate Santa clutched in one hand.  I know not why.

Tunisia was uneventful, as was the flight to Frankfurt, Germany.  I've got 20 minutes to get my bag, clear customs and immigration, switch terminals, get ticketed and board my next flight.  This would not be humanly possible in any other country in the world.  However, there is something to be said for German efficiency and that would be that at times, it can be glorious. My bag and I made the connection.  I was stunned.  I'm approaching Iceland, as my plane follows a great circle, heading to Chicago.  Despite being stoned and exhausted, I can't sleep.  I keep closing my eyes and dropping my book on the floor, but I can't sleep.  I daydream of the images I saw in Luanda.  Twice, I opened my eyes to find myself gagging on non-existent dust.  The guy next to me is giving me strange looks.  Well, he was.  As I type this with my reading light on, he's rolled over and turned his back to me, to avoid the light.  Another 5-6 hours and I'll be back on home soil:)

Update:  Made it Minnie, only to find out my airport's been closed for 2 days due to weather.  My flight is still listed as open, but I expect when I leave this food court, I'll find it canceled like all the others.  My plan is to get a hotel for the night, then fly to Green Bay and rent a car, driving the last five hours. Been there already and got the fucking T-shirt...

Update 2:  Yes, my flight was canceled at 11pm.  Got a room at the holiday inn, went down to the bar to wash down my malaria tablet with cheese sticks and two beers.  The barmaids were friendly and were genuinely interested in the fact that I'm a pirate.  However, the drunken idiot next to me babbled incessantly about machine gun-toting crackheads that will invade our shores unless the Geologists of the country stand tall and unite in the fight to eradicate waterborne diseases.  I don't know what the fuck he was on about and beat a hasty retreat to my hotel room after the second Guinness.  Hotel bars always seem to have one absolute fucknut.  Oh yeah, before I left I asked the barmaids to go wake up the poor Asian fellow who passed out in his booth, snoring.  His wallet and cell phone were on the table and drunken idiot was eying them up.  Round two opens tomorrow at Minnie Airport...

Later folks.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Time for me to fly...

Yep.  It's that time again.  It doesn't feel like it, but today is crew-x.  Usually, there's a certain aura in the air the night before.  Some crew are excited, some can't sleep, music blasts in the instrument room, lots of extended conversations.  Not last night.  It was quiet, people seemed to be hiding.  No music.  No excitement.  One of the other Chiefs and I BS'd in the smoking lounge for a while and then both of us were knackered and retired to pass out.

I didn't want to pack.  Had no urge.  Had to force my self to prepare to leave the boat.  Others said the same thing.  Today? I'm still not done packing. People are still quiet, almost moping.  I don't get it.  Somebody must've put some funky shit in our water.  That, or Malarone is some sort of weird psychotropic drug that makes you want to stay at work.  I've been on that shit for nearly a week and the only thing I noticed is that I'm tired all the time.

Well, the engines just fired up and I believe we are making our way over to the quay.  Time to take my coffee up on deck, greet the port and the day.  Hopefully, in about 8 hours, I'll be winging my way North to Tunisia, then Frankfurt, Chee-Ka GO, Minnie and home, sometime around midnight, tomorrow.  Ya'll take care

Saturday, December 13, 2008

X-mas meme

This came as one of those chain emails and I really never respond or even read them anymore.  But I miss Dave and Lisa and always read their emails, anyway.  I thought I'd put it on here instead of emailing it back to them.  I wonder if they'll show up here?  HI LISA AND DAVE  *WAVES*

Without further adieu, 25 things you really don't want to know about me and my Christmas:

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?   both 
2. Real tree or Artificial?   Real, dammit.  Go chop it down when I can-which is not often.
3. When do you put up the tree?  Whenever I get back from Africa
4. When do you take the tree down?  As soon as I can talk someone else into taking off the decorations
5. Do you like eggnog?  Yes
6. Favorite gift received as a child?   The real Santa getting out of his reindeer-led sleigh and walking into my house when I was 5.  He laid me on a few gifts to open early, asked me a few questions, told me a story about the reindeer and left me with a candy cane, riding off into the snowy night.
7. Hardest person to buy for?   PW
8. Easiest person to buy for?   My Son 
9. Do you have a nativity scene We did, I don't know if it has survived the past few X-mas'
10. Mail or email Christmas cards?   Merry Christmas everyone!   There, consider yourself Christmas carded.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?   A gallon of mustard.  I ate it, though.  No wait!  The worst was 24 frozen Bates burgers.  the pickles, cheese, onions were all frozen separately, in little packets.  I got drunk, ate them all with a buddy and we both puked.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie?    A Christmas Story.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas At the last possible minute.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?   No
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?   Christmas cookies
16. Lights on the tree?   yes, colored
17. Favorite Christmas song?   The Wisdom of Snow [Trans-Siberian Orchestra, The Lost Christmas Eve]  Screw.  I like every single song on that CD and have it cranked up right now.  Thanks Candy and Steve!
18. Travel at Christmas or stay at home?   Staying home this year.  I'm in Africa right now and spent last Christmas in New Fucking Zealand.  I want to be HOME.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?   Yep. 
20. Angel on the tree top or a star?  Angel
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?  One on Christmas Eve, the rest of them in the morning.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?   Packed stores.
23. What theme or color are you using?   uhhhh... Christmas?  With Christmas colors?
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?   Ham I guess.  I'm all turkey'd out! 
25. What do you want for Christmas this year?   My wife and children to be healthy and happy.

Friday, December 12, 2008


The First Annual Luanda Harbor BBQ is a success, so far.  I just stopped back into the nerve center to check on message from my remote IT support after consuming 5 pounds of various charred meats, corn on the cob, shrimp, rice, fries, salad, no-drunkie beer and wine.  We listened to a strange selection of music that ranged from the Bee Gees, to Black Sabbath, to that song, Kung-fu Fighting.  The Filipino cooks have very funny taste in music.  For instance, I eat every breakfast to ABBA turned up, full-blast.  EVERY morning.  Anyway, we watched the sun set over the palm trees and played hoops on the helideck.  The Europeans now have the ball and are playing "football" with their heads and feet.  Everyone is relaxed for a change, talking about leaving, joking and generally enjoying the best day we've had out here in a long time, bar crew-x days.

No messages from my support so I guess I'm going to close this down and head back up on deck. 

Oh, If anyone happens to be in Djerba, Tunisia this Sunday night, drop me a line.  We can hook up and get a few beers...


Charred meat

Tonight, just before sunset, we're going to have a BBQ out on the helideck.  Beer and wine that won't get you drunk, but WILL give you the shits.  Burgers, steaks, sausages, chicken and every other kind of mammal you can char in flame.  Hopefully, they make some of those awesome shrimp kabobs.  I could eat thirty or forty without breaking a sweat.

I've been eating less and healthier since arriving.  I've also been hungry 24/7 except for 3 days ago when they made chicken enchiladas for dinner.  They were huge.  Most people could barely finish one.  I ate three and went into a food coma not 20 minutes later.  I mean passed out cold.  Woke up 10 hours later, still uncomfortably bloated and still full.  Damn good eats, though.  Now though?  I've considered eating my pen, but actually my cordless mouse is looking pretty plump and juicy...

I was 194 pounds back in late October and just yesterday was at 176 fighting-ready pounds.  I've still got a spare tire, but it's definitely got a slow leak;)  My latest move on the fitness front was to connect with   These fucking guys are serious about their workouts and when I found them, was really into shaving some time off my 1-2 hour workouts, while still getting the same bang.  Bastards got bang, that's for sure.  The WOD's are not for the faint of heart.  20-30 minutes of balls-to-the-wall.  You (I) need to trim a little weight off their recommendations, or drop a few reps unless you happen to be in the UFC, or a contender for 2012 Olympics.  Mostly military, ex-military, some police, fire, ems guys are found on the site.  Lots of testosterone, and these rabid workouts designed to cripple the average, fat, 40-something smoker stupid enough to join the program. Yeah.  We'll see how long this lasts...

Anyway, in about 5 minutes, I'm going to do my best to forget about tomorrow's crossfit torture and go gorge myself on charred meat. Goddammit, I've earned it!

More of the same

Sucks to get old. More and more people seem to pass away.  Today I received an email from an old friend, telling me that another old friend has just passed.  He was a hard man from doing some hard time, but could also be nice guy when he wanted to be.  We attended the same schools as kids and shared an apartment, years ago when I lived in Florida and aspired to be a beach bum.  He will be missed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Passing of a friend

I watched the sun go down tonight.  Once again, it painted the cliffs red as it fell over the palms covering the spit of land that protects the harbor.  I thought of my mentor and friend, Bill Gregg, who passed away last Saturday, I just found out.  He was my professor in college, teaching mostly structural geology. 

I had him for three classes and once spent the better part of a year working daily in one of the local, abandoned copper mines, taking his structural class.  He made us map and measure all the faults, from one end of the East adit, to the other.  It was one of those "landmark" classes you took in geology.  How many people had a classroom in college that was blasted out of solid rock?  Often, a rock, or water would fall on one of the lights, causing it to short out, or explode and we would be left in total darkness until one of us switched on a headlamp that all of us were wearing on our miners helmets.  Invariably, Bill was the one, faster at it from all his years in the mine.

I also worked for him one year, teaching the lab for his structural class, as a senior.  He took out extra time to teach me how to teach and gave me some golden advice I still use to this day, as I mentor the youngsters who end up working for me out here at sea, far from the rocks I still love, thanks to guys like Bill.

Bill was also a friend and one of the few instructors I saw socially outside the department.  He was fun to hang around, easy-going and had a great sense of humor.  I remember he and his girlfriend, soon-to-be-wife, Jane, were one of the strange cast of characters that could be found at some of our memorable dinner parties, that ranged from "things we killed", to a Star Trek dinner that saw the likes transporter accidents by the infamous JP, and baked tribbles (my dish and I will give you the recipe, if you wish) washed down with Romulan ale and Klingon blood wine.  God help us, both were food-coloring and Boones Farm wine.  I thought I would die the next day when I came to, I have never touched that crap since and I bet it was the last time for Bill, too.

Ditto on the Dave's Insanity Sauce at the Great Thanksgiving Feast on the lake that also saw the mom of one of my Indian house mates from Water St.  She went around crying and hugging everyone and I remember Bill pulling me aside after his teary hug asking me who she was, again?  He and Jane were there to cheer me on earlier that day when I invented Naked Salmon Fishing in Lake Superior and nearly froze some important bits off, too.  Unbelievably, we were all sober at that moment and I have no idea what possessed me.  I've never been that into fishing before, or since.  I love to fish, but usually draw the line well below that.

He taught me geology.  He helped to bring out my love of rocks, their origins, the processes that make and shape them and our world and how to tease out their stories, stories available at everyone's feet that only a few can read.  I am one of those lucky few thanks in part to Bill. 

We often talked in the break room down in the basement of the old geology building.  He helped me deal with splitting from my now ex-wife, being divorced himself.  He helped me with my personal life and I would like to think I helped him with his.  I told him I thought his new girlfriend Jane was a hoot, anyway and he married her, so I wasn't far off the mark. 

He had a lot of other interests and our talks ranged from space exploration, to earwigs, to the social sciences and other cultures.  He was always interested in other cultures and people and I distinctly remembering him talk of a visit to Zambia, or Zimbabwe and wondering aloud if I would ever travel the world.  He predicted I would, saying that it would suit me, well.  Here I am in Angola, some 10 years later, reading of his death, thinking of him as the sun sets over Luanda.

Finally, even my son, who now attends my alma mater, has Bill to thank for what has to be one of his best childhood memories.  While I would love to take the credit for being a "cool" dad, it was Bill, during one of our coffee breaks who suggested that my son might get a kick out of riding his bike in the mine when he heard I was taking him along for one of the off-hours mine tours I was giving to the local high school, or cub scout troop.  I know I will never forget the sight of my little boy (whose taller then me now), riding around on his little bike with training wheels, several hundred feet underground in an abandoned copper mine, his smile beaming brighter than the miners lamp on his over-sized helmet, thanks to Bill.

It's been a couple years since we last spoke.  I always made it a point to drop in on him whenever I stopped by the university, whether on business, or just for old times sake.  He never failed to drop what he was doing and take a few minutes to bullshit with me.  He would always lean back in his chair, put his feet up on the desk, hands behind his head and ask me where I'd been lately, or what I was doing.  He really listened and always had an idea to help, or a suggestion for what I was doing.  He was a thinker, of the first order, that guy.  He also always managed to sneak in a geology question, or two, just to make sure I was keeping current and not loosing it.  Sadly, I've not kept current and I lost touch with him the past two years and I see now that I fucked up.  Life has a way of capitalizing on your mistakes and knifing you in the kidneys, doesn't it?

Bill, later dude.  I'm gonna miss you and will remember that dip is always 90 degrees to strike as well as the path water takes on a dipping, flat plane.  Forever.


This afternoon we were obligated to launch all three of our small boats.  I was lucky enough to draw the jet-powered, 350 horse fast rescue craft.  We lower these into the water from a davit winch.  The harbor is rather large, with at least several dozen assorted tramp steamers, freighters, tankers, survey craft, barges, etc.  The day was bright and sunny and very, very hot.  The heat was soon dissipated as I cranked her up to 35 knots (about 40 mph).  We wave-hopped for a bit, then took turns dropping a dummy overboard, executing full -speed Williamson turns to quickly arrive back at the poor sod we pitched overboard.  We also practiced bringing him up on the water stretcher.

After that I took a few practice runs at coming alongside the ship to be retrieved, and then finally, back up we went.  It was hot, wet and a truly glorious get-away, if just for a little while.  It was certainly over much too soon and I could have stayed out for hours.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tour Guide

What a day!  I am knackered.  Tours all day and I was tagged to keep leading them.  Most of the crew led one then got to fuck off.  I was not so lucky.  For mr. Bud, who asked, who are we giving tours to:  We gave tours to current and future clients as well as some of our own office people.  Somewhere around ONE HUNDRED OF THEM...

Most of these people had never been on a ship and had no knowledge of our operation.  Had to explain everything from the toilets (vacuum), to the processing computer system (Linux-driven, parallel pc cluster).  I tromped up and down the stairs, over and over-from the bridge to the engine room and all points in between.  I sure hope we get some business from it-I AM TIRED!

Any time now we should be pulling away from quay and heading back out to anchor.  I'm off shift in 20 minutes.  I'm getting a sauna and sacking out.  Oh yeah, there go the engines-we are outta here!

Monday, December 8, 2008


Touched land in yet another, god-forsaken port.  Luanda is shanty towns, dirt roads, footpaths, skyscrapers and highly oxidized sandstone cliffs, all in one glance.   It has a distinct smell and the sun bleeds red from the dust as it sets over the dirty waters of the harbor.  Blood, to seal the promise of a long, hot tomorrow.  Peace

Land, sort of...

Well.  I've got a new experience to add to my list.  We've run aground just short of the dock.  Welcome to Angola, almost...

Port 2

We're anchored in the harbor and waiting to clear customs.  The city is massive.  There's a wrecked and half-submerged ship near the beach.  We can see a ferris wheel beyond the beach and there are ships anchored everywhere.  It is hot and very humid.  We've heard no pictures are allowed in port...

I've been tagged as a tour guide for the ninety-some potential visitors tomorrow...

Sunday, December 7, 2008


After a week-long steam we've made it to Luanda, Angola.  I see cliffs, miles and miles and miles of shanty towns and a few scattered skyscrapers.  A lot of cranes, too.  they're doing a lot of building here.

I don't believe we will make it off the ship and into the city.  We're going to be busy with tours, then leaving pretty damn soon.

Mining in the UP

For the Yoopers reading, or anyone interested in the topic of sulfide mining and the U.P., there's now a movie produced by the NWF, detailing the issue.  I'm sure it's a bit one-sided, but the Gov'nur and Kennecott refused to be interviewed.  Not that I blame them, but at least their views would've had a chance of being presented.

Personally and professionally, I have degree in Geology and worked as a Water-Quality Specialist with the USEPA and the local Native American Indian Tribe.  For a time, sulfide mining in the U.P. was the main focus of my job and I was consumed by it.  What I learned about the issue is that metallic sulfides have never been mined without severe and lasting damage to the environment , where the concentration of sulfide is high enough to produce Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), like the site to be mined in the central U.P.  Kennecott has never done it, nor has anyone else.  That is fact.  They're WELL known for exploiting a location and leaving the damage for the USEPA and people who live there, to clean up and pay for it in perpetuity.  AMD, once begun, never stops until the source (ore body and poor rock) of it is exhausted.  There is no way to "clean it up", or stop it.  I believe it's the largest, longest-running and most expensive problem the EPA faces-remediation of abandoned sulfide mines.  Dump un-oxidized heavy metals and sulfuric acid in a river and what do you get?  Death. Of. Everything.

As a Geologist, I wish, in my heart of hearts, that there was a way that sulfide mining could be done safely.  I would love to see safe and efficient sulfide mining come to the U.P. and see the area benefit from it, economically.  I would be the first to line up for a job, actually.  However, the sad reality is that the area will be exploited and destroyed and the U.P. will see little economic benefit and be left to clean up the mess with no means to pay for it.  Kennecott will make billions and the shell companies set up to realize the profits will disappear like smoke on a windy day.  So, too will the people who stood up for it, claiming it safe, claiming jobs and boost for the economy.   The Granholm administration that forced the issue through?  They too, will be long gone and forgotten when the bill comes due.  Sad, but inevitable.

1976, or Cut me, Mick!

About five months ago, I was severely injured in a drunken bowling accident.  The recovery process has been agonizingly slow and quite painful.  I've been able to live with the permanent disfigurement it caused-the stares from people on the street, horrified children shrinking behind their mothers at the sight of me and all that.  However, out here at sea there are a few rules and regulations that I am required to live by and one of them is that jewelry of all manner must be removed when working with the winches and gear we we deploy into the sea.  In one manner or another, I've been getting around those rules and trying to be as safe as possible while setting a good example for those that work for and around me.  And it really wasn't working.  I've not felt right about it and faced once again with that sort of work in the upcoming days I finally decided to do something about it, one way or another and do it right this time. 

So, I confronted my horrible disfigurement, that being a swollen ring finger and especially the permanently destroyed, first knuckle that prevented me from removing my wedding ring.  I went to the medic and enlisted his help. He looked through all his medical resources; books, manuals, index cards and the like and could find no advice.  Finally, he professionally Googled, "How do you remove a stuck ring from a finger?".  We spent a half hour browsing ad sites, scams and general bad advice before settling on the technique of trying everything.

Soap, olive oil, dental floss, sutures, suture tape and the like.  No hope of removing it.  We pried, twisted, put all of our combined weight behind it to the point of nearly ripping my finger off at the first knuckle-exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place.  I then cleaned up my finger and cried a little.  Maybe a lot.  It was that point where I was going to have face the choice of breaking the rules, possibly getting fired ( we really don't mess around when it comes to QHSE), or getting the ring cut off.

I dried my eyes and told him to hurry the fuck up before I had too much time to think.  He clamped a saw on it and cut the fucker...

Trying to pry off the mutilated ring served only to slice my finger to shreds.  Oops-forgot to look for any slivers still stuck to the inside of the ring. Personally, I think he was bored and was hoping to create the need for a few stitches... After cutting off the offending sliver, we then discovered the ring would still not come off and was also very springy, snapping back to rip through the skin if we tried to pry it apart and pull it off.  At this point I was shaking and upset and tending toward acting out violently against everything in sight, so I left.

I went to the mechanic's shack, seeking out tools and an assistant.  The inside micrometer didn't generate enough pressure to spread the ring.  The O-ring tool wouldn't hold fast on the halves of the ring.  We settled on two pair of vise-grips and a screwdriver to insert in the split and keep it from snapping back on finger.  Ripped more skin off my finger but the ring finally slid off.  My finger looks like it's been through the meat grinder and I feel the same way.

The Bloody Skeeter

For December 7th, I'll take a moment to remember those lost at Pearl Harbor in 1941...

Today is Malarone day, here on the ship as we nearing Luanda and the threat of possibly contracting the deadly form of malaria, Plasmodium falciparum.  So, I'll now be taking a daily dose of atovaquone and proguanil hydrochloride and continuing until a week after I get home.  For those medically-minded AMIAH readers, Atovaquone is a selective inhibitor of parasite mitochondrial electron transport. Proguanil hydrochloride primarily exerts its effect by means of the metabolite cycloguanil, a dihydrofolate reductase inhibitor. Inhibition of dihydrofolate reductase in the malaria parasite disrupts deoxythymidylate synthesis, and now the rest of you know more about the newest and most effective anti-malaria drug on the market.  Side effects include green poo and drooling on yourself, by the way.

Given that malaria can have such a long incubation period and that people in the Midwestern United States aren't all that familiar with the symptoms and effects of malaria, I'll also be bringing home a presentation that PW and the kids will be forced to sit through, just in case I get it and loose my head before realizing I have it.  Evidently, that is a relatively common occurrence for those of us that work in malaria-prone areas and live elsewhere.  Guys get it, go home and forget all about it, think they have the flu and drop dead three days later...not the best way to spend your break.

Oh yes, and additionally, I'll be taking  liberal doses of the local malaria preventive-The Bloody Skeeter.  This consists of a double-shot of the home-made version of a spirit similar to tequila, with two live mosquitoes floating on top.  Good times.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Two days out

So, we are now only a couple days out of Luanda.  It's finally warming up, but humid as hell.  The seas are calm.

Today is cleaning day.  Usually, we clean the night before crew-x, but there's more than usual to do after being in shipyards and dry docks for 2 months.  Also, I think we are about to get MANY visitors once we hit Luanda.  What we're doing is kind of a big deal and seems to be drawing a lot of attention.  So, we are cleaning, painting, stowing gear and generally putting on a good face.

Quite a while back, I was prompted to join something called Experience Project.  I'm not sure where I came across it, or why I joined.  I seem to remember it was one of those blogging network things people join to increase their traffic, or something.  I could really care less about being "popular", so I'm not exactly sure why I joined.  Nonetheless, I did and promptly forgot about it. 

This morning I received an email from them, about some sort of promotion, in the form of challenges.  I nearly dismissed it as junk mail, but two things caught my eye; free things for my readers and eating healthier.  Well, I love you guys and it so happens that I have been making a concerted effort to eat healthier and regularly work out this trip.  Hmmm, I followed the links, signed up for this healthy eating challenge and well, I couldn't figure out what it's all about.  I'm not the sharpest tool in the tool shed, but I just couldn't see anything to explain the deal after I hit the sign-up button.

Nonetheless, I'm a member and regardless, I AM eating healthier this trip.  I've not had any of the desserts, eat my fruits and veggies every meal.  Breakfast now includes oatmeal and yogurt instead of eggs and bacon and all my snacks have been carrots, cucumbers, kiwis, apples and bananas.  I did not eat a half a snickers bar last week, either.  Nope.  I've forsaken most of the beef and have stuck to chicken and fish.  It's not been easy and the food quality here has gone in the toilet since re-stocking in Singapore and loosing our Australian cooks, but I am plugging away, one day at a time, eating better and working out, religiously.  I think I'm dropping weight and I definitely feel better, so it's all good, right?  Right.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The sun will shine tomorrow

Lousy day.  Managed to get little or nothing accomplished.  My computer system took a dump and is still in the process of rising from the ashes.  Not 2 minutes later my PC began to act up and finally shit the bed.  Due, in part, I'm sure to the fact that I had a Samba link to my processing system.  Recovered from that to see that my company chat software was missing a dll and refused to chat.  Hmmm, use that a lot to communicate with the remote engineers that fix my ailing system.  Scratch that Idea...
So, after 12 hours I've been about as useful as a doorstop.  What a crap day, hopefully, not to be repeated and I am off for a blistering workout.  Peace

Oh, yeah, I'm still somewhere off the coast of Africa, Namibia, or's still cold, too.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Namibia, maybe?

Somewhere off the coast of West Africa...the water is dark green during the day and at night, the wave tops and vessel wake are phosphorescent. I've spent the last week dealing with a myriad of small, very frustrating problems.  I have yet to tackle the big, frustrating ones, but soon...loosing my voice due to lecturing my trainees 12 hours/day.  I figure it will be totally gone by tomorrow.  Despite the slightly long hours this trip, I've managed to keep up a regular workout schedule.  Last night, we retarded the clocks one hour to make up for the new time zone we entered somewhere along the way...I mistakenly took this to be an extra hour I could work out.  So, today, I'm not feeling so chipper.  The second half of the workout was devoted to a total-body workout on the elliptical machine, some extra lifting and the heavy bag.  I curse all of it, today.

Angola, and a lot of unknowns, loom closer in the window.  Still, not totally sure how I'm getting home.  Sounds like I could visiting a lot of countries on the way home, depending on black-listed airlines, flight availability and a as yet to be determined method of physically getting from the ship to land.  I may go home via any combination of; Brussels, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Frankfort, Paris and London.  I'm sure there are one or two more I haven't thought of...leaving only what kind of scenario we'll be greeted with at customs and immigration. This region isn't exactly known for it's honest and friendly C&I agents and I've personally had things taken, right down to a pair of dirty socks...not the best scenario when traveling with a laptop, cell phone, external HD, Bose headphones, mp3 player, camera, etc., but crew on another ship say they are relieving us of mostly just American dollars..

Still, it's not just a job, it's an adventure and only about 10 more days till it ends for the year:)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Yet another Pirate Review...

Yo ho people.

Today I reviewed socks on my review site which I will not link (Laaazy) and can be found just to the right on my sidebar.  It's short and sweet, but how much can say about socks?

Nothing going on out here in the very southern Atlantic, as we head North toward Angola.  Just working and fielding the many rumours concerning crew-x, what we're going to actually do until then ( I now hear give tours-please god help me), as well as how the hell we are going to get off the ship in light of no choppers, or boats and a mandate that we can't actually go into port in Luanda, with the ship.  I don't fancy swimming...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Rounding the cape

We will round the cape and begin heading North up the West coast of Africa today around noon.  At the moment I'm buried under a ton and a half of problems with work, but if I can crawl out from under them for a few minutes, I'll go up on deck and look for the Da Gamma Cross, one of the two monuments erected by the Portuguese to commemorate the explorer, Vasco Da Gamma.  We'll also keep an eye out for the Flying Dutchman, who is supposed to be dammed to ply these waters for all eternity...

From here, it should be a 5-6 day steam to Luanda, Angola.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Book meme

Tagged by LL, I will do the deed since I LOVE to read.  So...

I am at sea and the nearest book happens to be my work bible.  Seismic Data Analysis: Processing, Inversion and interpretation of Seismic Data, written by the one and only, the master and all-knowing God of Geophysics, Oz Yilmaz. Page 56, 5th through 8th sentences:

For example, migration moves the spatially aliased frequency components in the wrong direction and generates a dispersive noise that degrades the quality of the migrated section.

How is spatial aliasing avoided?  Compare the sections in Figures 1.2-8 and 1.2-9. Both have the same frequency content, 6 to 42 Hz.

Yes, well, if you were me, that passage would send chills down your spine.  The effects of spatial aliasing on migration can be devastating.

And on to seven weird book facts about me.  What's weird, anyway?  I read like a heroin junkie shoots.  By the way, does that sentence date me?  Should I have said coke fiend, or meth head?  Whatever.

1. I read for pleasure at about 2000 words per minute, or faster than Evelyn wood, who made a living teaching speed reading to the masses.  With the average paperback novel having about 440 words per page that's nearly 5 pages a minute.  If it's a really good book, I'm at 5-6 pages/minute, easy.  That is, by the way, with nearly 100% retention.  I took a college reading class in high school and was tested for this stuff.  My first assignment?  Extrapolate all the tables and graphs designed to measure our progress, so that they included my reading speeds.

2.  I read everything.  Books, manuals, cereal boxes, labels, patent numbers, license plates, serial numbers, encyclopedias, dictionarys, addresses, you name it. I've consumed 4 different encyclopedia sets, 2 dictionarys, cover-to-cover and read the bible, twice, as a novel.  It's like an addiction and if I don't have book in front of me, the electrical information printed on the transformer of my rechargeable beard trimmer is like methadone.

3. 90% of my reading is still Sci-Fi/Fantasy.  Sci-Fi just does it for me.  It's one thing to tell a story, it's quite another to tell a story and build an entire world, or universe and fundamental, physical laws that it lives in and must obey.  I've got a soft spot for Roger Zelazny's Amber series (some of the first Sci-Fi/Fantasy I've ever read), but Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn series is probably my all-time favorite.  You just can't beat something akin to Foundation meets Dawn of the Dead for sheer entertainment.

4. There are several books and series of books that I have read more than 20 times.

5. I rarely read single books due to the amount and speed at which I consume them.  I always look for a series.  Another reason to read Sci-Fi.

6. At age 6 I could not read a word and began first grade as the worst reader in the class.  The best reader happened to be a rather cute girl I fancied.  Before the school year was up, I had read the complete set of encyclopedias at home, was light years ahead of everyone in the class and the girl was mine.  It only takes the proper motivation, I guess.

7.  I have a rather deep belly button, which you've seen up-close if you've been reading since I shattered my sternum.  It collects an enormous amount of fuzz.  I've been known to use it as a bookmark, in a pinch.

And for the librarians who have put up with me over the years..

8.  I read every single book in my elementary and jr. high libraries.   I was banned from checking out books in both before leaving those schools, due to the number of books I lost:(  The same thing happened with my public library after my fines topped 300 dollars one year.  I used to skip school to sit in the library,ing read and I've also gotten, drunk, high, laid and puked in a library.

There, more than you want, or need to know about me and my books.  I hate to tag people, but I happen to know that Blondie is quite the reader and she's turned me on to a couple of wonderful books so I'll tag her.  Consider yourself tagged, Blondie.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Getting it straight

OK.  Before I pass the fuck out and before any of you smart asses with degrees in geography call me out...I am not heading East to Angola by way of Cape Horn and crossing the Atlantic.  Rather I am heading southwest and rounding THE CAP OF GOOD HOPE in a few short days.  Yes, I know my horns and hopes, I'm just fucking really tired.


More Storm fun

Now, after 4 1/2 hrs at work, the fact that my computer screens are all tilting first to the left, then right, then left...all in concert, is making me sick.  Definitely one of those days where it's not fun to have a desk job at sea. I think I'm heading topside to find some physical work, or maybe just puke over the side.  Mr. Bud?  I would give anything to be working under a tarp at Pedro's in a blinding snowstorm, right about now...

and right out of the gate- a nasty storm

The plan was to next post something as I rounded Cape Horn, but we've sailed out into a particularly nasty storm.  The ship's taking a bit of a beating.  Last night there was a a rather loud thunderstorm with lots of lightening.  We lost sat comms for a while.  There's been a lot of booming crashes as huge combers are slamming the bow.  A few people are a little seasick and I was unable to sleep last night from getting tossed around in bed.  By 2am, my back was giving out and I was forced to take a couple of my emergency muscle relaxers.

The thing about taking muscle relaxers in rough seas is the having to get around.  Getting from my bunk to the shower, sleepy and drugged up was not easy.  Trying to stand in my tiny shower-impossible.  I kept stumbling through the curtain until I finally gave up, rinsing out the shampoo in my sink.  Two hours into my shift and I still can't walk around with coffee in my hand.  I wish I could just walk down the companionway and go back to sleep...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Next stop Angola

After spending only two days in Durban, South Africa, I've set sail for Luanda, Angola.  The weather is windy and rainy and the seas, choppy.  Most are happy to see the port go.  Evidently, the booze was cheap and the crew was ready to get back to sea.  I arrived on no sleep, managed only two hours the first night and none the second night due to jet lag and work issues.  So, I never even made it out for a night on the town.  The entire crew went out last night and tore up the town.  I crawled into my rack and slept 18 hours-a big, black thing that was hard to crawl out from under this afternoon.  Slept through half of my shift, in fact.

Anyhoo, I'm heading South and will post next from the fabled Cape Horn, Where the Indian meets the Atlantic...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

South Africa

So, I'm back onboard my ship, currently alongside in Durban, South Africa.  The following are thoughts and observations written along the way in various airports, planes and the hotel...

While being a slightly shorter trip, it does not seem any easier.  I had only enough time to walk briskly across the airport in Minnie and make my connection.  JFK is a somewhat lousy airport.  I had to walk across the tarmac and along a winding path covered by a series of tarps to get inside.  It was windy and rainy and I was pretty wet by the time I got inside.  Once there, I was informed I had to go back outside, across two streets and a parking lot, in order to get to the train to the international terminal.  I do, however, have time to dry off in the food court while waiting the 5 hours for my next flight.  JFK has a decent food court and a wide range of shops, in both terminals 2 and 4.

McDonald's sucks all over the world and yes, here at JFK.  Should've went with the old deli sandwiches wrapped in plastic:(

Excessively overweight people should have to buy two seats if they're otherwise going to squish some poor motherfucker who already has to be trapped in planes for 36 hours, goddammit!  I'm not exactly skinny but at least I don't crush other people.  Fuck.

Wooo Hoooo!!   Flying from JFK to Dakar, Senegal.  I am NOT getting crushed!!  In fact, I have four, count-em F-O-U-R seats to myself.  The plane is nearly empty and (how much does it cost to fly an Airbus A343 from New York to Dakar?) we all get to stretch out:)  Everyone is sleeping but me.  Even after 3 muscle relaxers, 1 codeine and 2 bottles of an excellent South African Shiraz, all I can do is lay here, read, and slur my words, or get up and stumble around like wino.  Great buzz, lousy atmosphere.

South African Airlines food basically sucks, even shit-faced.  Another 7.5 hours till South Africa and I am REALLY tired of airplanes, airline food and the seats-even if I do have FOUR of them.

Finally, South Africa!   Johannesburg.  Fortunately, I was met by an agent.  With him, I was able to skip the passport line with 400 people in it and use the empty, diplomat line.  That's me, pirate and diplomat.  We ran into a bit of trouble with a self-important immigration fellow who wished to deny me entry into the country, but a stamp from another desk allowed me to finally pass.  My agent escorted me through the airport, check-in and all the way to gate security, bypassing a few more, minor, hassles.  Nice to have an agent not only at the final destination, but also the point of entry.  Often, flying into a country in one city and then disembarking permanently in another leads to major hassles, tons of paperwork and occasionally fines, deportation, or jail.  No fun.  Anyway, there aint shit to do here at the gates, but the terminal is huge, brand-new and has tons of restaurants and shops, all outside security:(  Bored, hung-over and very fucking sleepy!!

Yeah.  Durban, South Africa.  My flight here was a mid-sized jet with tons of South African flavor, from the conversations, accents and looks to the music piped in and the food.  Wonderfully different and actually woke me up a bit.   I'm staying in a giant, five-star hotel.  This place might be the nicest hotel I've ever been booked into for work.  Right on the beach.  My bathroom door is a pane of frosted glass and the bath counter is a slab of marble supported on carved wooden posts.  They wrote me a letter and left me a bag of killer chocolates.  Sushi bar downstairs.  Guinness in the pub.  Lots of ladies in dresses, like something formal is going on, but I don't see many guys...weird.

Holy Fuck.  Well, I found out why I saw a bunch of well-dressed, un-escorted women last night.  The Miss World Pageant is here.  Met miss Russia and Italy in the lift.  They seem nervous.  They were heading to breakfast, but look like they'll puke up anything they eat.  Come to think of it, that's prolly the plan, eh?  Anyway, I had breakfast out on the terrace, next to one of the pools.  First, I looked out and there is my ship, anchored about 3 miles out.  I couldn't resist.  I called the Captain and told him I was watching the ship and drinking a gin and tonic.  He told me to fuck off and hung up. (and I've posted a picture of him telling me to fuck off, taken from the poolside terrace)  Then, a few minutes later about half the miss world contestants came out to sun by the pool, or have pictures taken.  This pretty much killed all conversation at the breakfast tables and every guy with a camera started taking their own pictures.  Being married, I took exactly 2 pictures (both posted), just to prove I had breakfast with the miss world contestants this morning and there you go.

OK, off to sleep.  I've got a 6am wake up call and all day meetings and I am jet-lagged like a motherfucker.  Hope ya'll are having a safe and happy thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Back to sea

It's once again that time. Time to pack it up and head back to sea. This trip will see stops in Dakar, Senegal, Johannesburg and Durbin, South Africa and then Luanda, Angola. I've done a year in the Caribbean, several in the GoM, a year in Eastern Canada, one in Norway, Russia and the UK, a year in New Zealand and Australia. Trips in Southeast Asia, South America, Alaska and even a few visits to Africa. However, this trip starts what may amount to a year and a half on the African coast, with possibly a summer in Alaska to break up the monotony.

I'm nearly packed, have only a few household repairs and chores to do and hopefully, I'll catch a few hours shut-eye, before flying out, weather permitting. We started to get some heavy snow a few hours ago and it needs to let up by 11:45pm, or the plane I fly out in the morning will not be able to land, tonight.

Deer season was a bust. The bucks were simply not up during daylight hours where I hunted this year. Peak rut for this area was noted as opening day, and usually, the bucks are dead tired from all the wild nights and aren't seen during the day for about a week after, which was just about right. I saw movement on the last two days, but never got a clean shot. Win some, loose some and I lost this season. All I can say is that I spent about eight long days, dawn to dusk, out in the woods, slogging through knee-deep snow. It was still peaceful and damn good exercise, though.

So, it's been an extra-long break for me, I accomplished quite a bit and while I didn't get any rest, I think this trip should be a breeze, with a few days in port, a long steam and a slow start-up. Then, I should get back home, just in time for the holidays.

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work I go....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Got art?

There are many forms of art and this is stop-motion animation-what you get when a guy draws on a wall (or ceiling, floor, ground, etc), then erases it and draws more, and so on-taking photos along the way. Found this at Matt's blog.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

For want of a buck...

My freezer remains empty.  Somebody needs to tell the MI DNR that the UP doesn't need yet another antler restriction.  All we need to to do is shoot a few of these F%&KING DOES!!

Yes, that is SIX does eating my bait faster than I can stock the pile and not a buck in sight.  What you can't see are the three other does that managed to consistently evade my camera while helping the other bitches to clean me out.  Other than the ladies, I've only seen one buck since opening morning.  He came into my bait pile, but was so scrawny I let him pass.  Another hunter standing on the ridge just above me shot him less than a minute after he walked off the pile.  No, I was not pleased to see him take a bullet after I gave him a pass, nor was I pleased that some dumbass shot him in sight of my blind, bait pile and pickup.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The night before

The plan* was to lie low at 7pm, take in a mindless movie, maybe read a chapter of LP's favorite book to her, then pass the fuck out for 5-6 hours, getting up at 3am to prepare for my favorite day-OPENING DAY OF RIFLE DEER SEASON.  As with the best-laid plans of mice and men, my plan* soon went astray.  Right about pass the fuck out time, in fact.  Three hours of tossing and turning, four trips to pee, stoking the wood stove FIVE times, three smokes and three glasses of water later, here I am at 2:40 am, blogging.   I've also cleaned out my coffee thermos (not touched since last deer season), loaded up a bag o snacks, re-packed all my hunting gear, changed all the batteries in my flashlights, headlamp, GPS and camera.

Much like the night before crew-x, I have a wee bit of trouble sleeping before the hunt.  The adrenaline begins to seep into my veins about 12 hours before first light no matter what I do.   Not an ideal situation, where I need to be at the top of my game at first light and instead will be bleary-eyed and yawning, just like last year and the year before and so on...

Still, just one snapped twig, or patch of moving brown fur and I'll be right as rain.  Let's see-on the bright side, I am well-organized, a light dusting of snow has fallen in the last 4 hours and it is still above 30, I think.  That reminds me that it's time for the weather channel and my LOCAL ON THE 8"s, that is IF they aren't trying to entertain me with some jackass story of how weather changed history, or a segment on the horror that would/could/should ensue if a tsunami and an earthquake hit Cleavland simultaneously, at rush hour, on the day after Thanksgiving.  I think they call those segments Impending Doom or something to that effect.  Why the fuck would anyone turn on the weather channel to actually get a forecast when they can be fed the mindless bullshit they put up as entertainment?  I just don't know, but then I wouldn't shed a tear if all television just dried up and blew away so who am I to judge?  Give me a good book, dammit. 

In fact, I just snagged a good book to set up the afternoon snooze in the blind today:)  I may also take my laptop and do a little blogging from the blind.  I've got a digital camera, now all I need is an unprotected wireless network left on by a nearby hibernating bear...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Preparing for the hunt

At 8am this morning the mercury hovered around 20 above.  It was snowing like hell and blowing up a storm, so I went back to bed.  It was the same thing at 9, but I heard the creak of the woodstove door and knew LP was up and PW was about to crank up a fire, so I dragged my sorry ass out of bed.  Saturday, I did F&*k-all, but today was to be different.  Btw, Mr. Bud and LL, I lasted about an hour after our chat and blew chunks Friday night.  It wasn't the booze, or the pills-I ate so much for our early thanksgiving, I couldn't breathe when I laid down to pass out.  The Roman in me did the smart thing and made a little room, then it was lights out and easy breathing all night.

OK, so this morning I lugged in firewood, stoked the fire and then dug the pickup out of the snow, got my blind, bait and some other bits and bobs loaded and warmed up the truck.  LP and I slogged through the snow to my bait pile and set up the tent blind in a near blizzard.  We re-baited the pile, set out some scent bottles (you know the ones you fill with pee and come with a little wick that you can hang from a tree branch?), put up our folding chairs and buttoned up the blind until next Saturday.  After a little bit of scouting, we headed back to the homestead where PW warmed us up with a big pot of steaming hot, home-made chili.  It was awesome and the perfect food after a bitter cold day in the woods.

We hung out on the couch, working off the chili for an hour then the girls showered and I cleaned off and warmed up the SUV.  The three of us went to LP's skating lessons and after 2 hours of sitting on a bench reading a book, I was allowed to take us grocery shopping.  Two hundred bucks later we made it home just in time to haul in more wood, grab a late dinner and shuffle LP off to bed.  It is still snowing and blowing like a motherf&*ker, but the stove is cranking and I LOVE that radiant heat!

ps. I didn't pee in the little bottles-I meant fill them with DOE urine.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

F the house

I have been tagged by the DeathChick and will give it my best shot.  I can do this-an "f-list" when I'm cranky and sore...

Hmmm, this is DEFINITELY a shortened version as I am sitting on the couch in my underwear, stinky, sweaty and smelly, waiting to take a shower and anyway my back goes into spasms when I hunch over the coffee table to type.  To that end:

In no particular order:

The whole freaking electoral process and everyone running, or involved in any way.  It is supposed to be one of the things that makes our country great, but this year it made me want to puke up my waffles.
broken shoelaces
incompetent drivers
Spongebob Squarepants
insurance companies
all airlines, worldwide, except for Emarites and Singapore Air
pancreatic cancer (I just saw the commercial where Mr. pancreatic cancer is sitting in the back of Dan's car and that motherfucker better not be hiding in my backseat!)
my work boots
wet wood
metal slivers
gun control advocates who think the world will be a safer place when only the criminals are packing heat
my aching fucking back

I really feel the need to end this on an up-note so I would like to add that I LOVE thunderstorms and we are having one right now:)

Weather woes

Weather is screwing me.  Nonetheless, I am ready for deer season. nearly have the metal roofing on the woodshed and am waiting on the last part to complete my furnace work.  I only have the firewood about 1/4 loaded into the woodshed, but I'm getting that done, too.  Winter just comes too damn fast around here.  About 15 days till I head back to work, meeting my ship in Durbin, South Africa, I believe.

Friday, October 31, 2008

and the good news is....

Wrapping up a lot of projects this week and next.  We now have a new, metal roof on the castle.  It's red, per PW's request.  I completed the woodshed, minus the matching metal roofing that's on order, still.  I've got a good start on splitting the firewood and the old furnace is nearly ready to completely hook up the vacuum side.  I jacked up the old porch and replaced the rotted bottom of a post and the old stair railing.  Painted the woodshed and the porch with a Wagner power painter. 

Because I'm old and not working out much these days, I woke up pretty damn stiff and sore.  Decided to take the morning off from house projects to take a leisurely walk in the woods around my hunting area, despite not being able to hunt this year due to my work schedule.  After a half hour in the woods, I was feeling frisky and thought I would shoot up one of the taller ridges above where I set my blind.  Pushing through the thickest part along the edge of the ridge I came across a lean-to tent made from a tarp.  No trail in or out of this makeshift camp, it sits on the edge of the ridge affording no clear shooting, but excellent views of the only two vehicle access routes into the area I hunt.  It looked highly suspicious and set off alarm bells in my head.  I was still at about 150 yards in the thick shit, so I simply turned around and headed straight for my truck, quietly.

Halfway to the truck, I remembered that we have an armed fugitive in the area, sighted only a few miles from where I was.  He is supposed to be equipped with a 4WD truck and several thousand dollars in cold-weather camping gear.  I called the county sheriff and eventually led two sheriff's back to the campsite.  Turned out to be some sort of temporary camp for a survivalist-type, abandoned for at least the last month-long before this fugitive was supposed to have arrived.  Damn odd place to build a shelter and damn lucky I didn't find them during deer season with a rifle in my hands.  Anyway, the sheriffs were glad to get out in the woods and away from paperwork and we all got a good workout.

Tonight, PW and I took LP out for Halloween.  We went trick-or-treating and also to a haunted house.  Properly scared we went home to crash for the weekend.

And then I got a bit of good news...   I get an extra week and a half of vacation!  I won't join my ship until near the end of November and starting tomorrow, I am getting geared up for DEER SEASON!!  Gonna put some meat in the freezer, baby...

Monday, October 27, 2008

From the great white North

Reports of my demise have been wildly exaggerated.  I am not dead.  Yet.

I have, however, been a tad busy since arriving home from Singapore about 2 weeks ago.  I've done a bit of work on my furnace, entertained and housed some friends of ours for a long weekend and built a woodshed (almost, it needs the walls sheeted, a door installed and some metal roofing slapped on top).  LP and I spent a few long days in the woods, honing her 4WD skills and discovering new wilderness hideaways.  We finished swimming lessons and started skating lessons, but I missed yesterday's lesson due to having to get the tar paper laid down on the woodshed before the snow started. 

Yes, it's snowing here.  Been snowing on and off all night and day.  Yesterday, it started as rain, but overnight it got damn cold and down came the white stuff.  It's 30 with light snow at the moment.  I've got the woodstove humming and can't quite seem to get motivated to sheet the woodshed in this cold!

Still about 2 weeks until I have to head back to work, this time in Angola.  Really looking forward to working in West Africa, again-NOT!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Homeward Bound


Almost there. Had a driver pick me up on the docks and drop me at Changi Airport. After check-in, myself and a guy who works for me hit the bar next to the koi pond, behind this towering wall of ivy. Floor to ceiling, three stories it was. After a few over-priced glasses of a decent cab/merlot meritage, I bolted for the plane and out of Singapore. Good riddance, I say. After a short layover in Hong kong (where I bought no electronics, but was sorely tempted), I winged it back to San Fran and another short layover. Hopped the red-eye to Minnie, getting here at 5am, before even the coffee shops open up. Been here for 5 hours and hope to be leaving in about another. Spent a little time bullshitting with the TSA guys at my (sometimes) favorite security post and found some guy's lost luggage. Just met a guy who somehow managed to board the wrong flight and was just coming to the realization that he was in the wrong airport. I didn't think that possible these days, but I checked his itinerary and ticket and he was definitely NOT in Chicago. I left him with the classic line, "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto." Poor fucker.

Anyhoo, I'll be home in just 3 hours and I cannot wait. It's cold up this way and I've been a little uncomfortable since landing in San Fran but it is damn good to be home. Ya'll take care out there.


Hard to sleep last night-jet lagged, stressed and sore from sitting down for 15,700 miles. Still, I'm coffeed up, and heading out to watch my daughter have her last swimming lesson and take her test. The air is crisp and cool, smells of wet leaves and wood smoke. I am in heaven. Later.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Homeward Bound

Leaving in an hour.  See ya'll on the beach:)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

All "good" things must come to an end

Well.  It seems I no longer have to endure this shipyard.  I've been given the green light to get the fuck out of here, tomorrow afternoon.  No more welding, cutting and banging.  No more strange bastards invading my home and water that tastes like somebody pissed in it.  No more sleeping with earplugs.  Well, OK, maybe I'll still be sleeping with earplugs, but I'm flying home tomorrow evening, God willing the creek don't rise...

If anyone is going to be at or near the San Fransisco Airport between 20:15 and 00:15, give me a shout.  I plan on a short bar tour of the area...

See ya'll on the other side.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fun Fun Fun

Going to be a long two weeks.  Food is shite.  Dock workers EVERYWHERE.  Noise levels at maximum.  No of fire alarms already: 2.

Monday, October 6, 2008

New Digs

Woke up this morning to find myself in Jurong Shipyard.  I wanted to post images of the yard and the hundreds of FSPO's, jack-ups, semi-subs, tenders, freighters, tugs and tankers, but the shipyard has military contracts and photography is expressly forbidden.  I should point out that I did not take a dozen photos before becoming aware of the rule an hour or so after we docked and won't be posting them once I clear out of the country.  Nope.

Spitting is also against the law.  I think you can get caned for that and chewing gum.  Not sure what the law on chewing tobacco is, even if you swallow and don't spit.

As I write this, a twenty-story crane is swinging a 50 ton cement counterweight over my head, back and forth.  It's only a little unnerving, given that we are in a second-choice dock because our first choice (based on safety and whatnot) killed 5 people recently and has been shut down by the government.  The next two weeks should prove to be interesting, but I hope incident-free.  We are placing the utmost priority on surviving this docking and dry dock with all of our bits and bobs intact.

That said, the quality of the food is decaying and in about a week our galley will be shut down.  The current plan is to have catered food brought in and we eat under a canopy up on the helideck.  THAT will be a challenge.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I'm hungry!!

Got sheep to slaughter?  Get your slaughtering lines here.  They also have lines for cattle, pigs, poultry.

Demise of The Plan and a whorehouse broom

Occasionally, I forget how this business works.  Everything you think you know, is subject to change at a moment's notice.  A plan is only a plan once it's been discarded.  What you think is the plan, is really just supposition, smoke and mirrors.

As I sat here, writing up a post that contained some rather spectacular news just a few minutes ago, the inbox on one of my other computers "dings".  It's my equivalent of the Bat Phone (tm).  Sure as shit, it's Commissioner Gordon telling me that everything is 180 degrees turned around and I'd better get my ass down to the Bat Cave (tm, which Mr. Budd has violated, along with the local building code according to sources close to the city government who shall remain anonymous and imaginary, but I digress...) and get fucking busy instead of blogging about shit that isn't going to happen.  I should know better-as soon as you tell someone ashore what the plan is, it will be thrown out the window.

So, we've spent the last 24 hours faithfully prosecuting the old plan and now it's in the bin.  Worse, I'm not exactly sure what the new "plan" is.  I made two suggestions a while back and the reply was, "I like your suggestion, let's do that."   W.T. F.?   Which one?   Hello, somebody count to two and let me know what to do... which, come to think of it is probably a blessing-if I actually knew what the new plan was and told anybody, it would just get changed, again...

So, I plan on going to the bar the very next chance I get and sod everything else.
In other news I smell like coconut.  Despite the fact that my beloved Dr. Bronners is 100% organic oils, it just doesn't fully alleviate the dry scalp we get from living and working in an air-conditioned, zero-humidity, computer-friendly environment.  Yesterday I noticed a bottle of coconut oil on one of the desks in my office.  One of the girls that work for me brought it in to give to another crew member for dry scalp.  It seems if you rub this shit into your scalp every day, you don't have to walk around in a state of constant winter, with a perpetual snowfall and no longer ITCH.  So, yes I am oiled up like a greaser and smelling like Ft. Lauderdale in March and loving every minute of it, despite the flies who are now following me around the ship like a black, buzzing halo.

While on gangway watch this evening (taking someone else's watch so they could hit the bar, oh man am I a nice guy, what?) I watched a 500 ton crane lift a diving bell and decompression chamber onto a rig tender, parked only 30 ft across the quay from us.  The damn chamber and bell was the size of my house.  It was pretty cool to watch and took my mind off the fact that I had to pee and couldn't leave the watch for another hour!
Finally, I need to head back down to the gangway with my camera and get a picture for Blondie.  Somebody stole a big pot of orchids on their way back from the bar and it now sits just inside the gangway.  The orchids are purple and very beautiful, in a larcenous sort of way...and looks much nicer than the broom from a whorehouse, which is the traditional thing we steel while in port and then mount on the bulkhead, somewhere.  I think it's supposed to bring good luck...a sort of spiritual connection to the ladies while the crew is away at sea, or something like that.

Last day in Loyang

Singapore is taking it's toll on the crew.  There's quite a lively night life here, or at least in Singapore City, or Changi Village.  The work is also a bit brutal, especially in this heat and humidity.  Me?  I've stayed unusually close to the ship, only walking down the quay for a quick beer, once.  Maybe tonight I'll pop on the tube for a quick ride into Singapore City to tour the art galleries, botanical gardens, or hit the museum...riiiiight.

Tomorrow we move to Jurong Shipyard to prepare for getting this beast out of the water.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Prison food

Have I mentioned that one of the consequences of leaving Australia is that we loose our awesome Australian chefs and messmen.  They have been replaced by one ancient filipino cook and a guy who cleans up the mess.  We're talking like 6 trained professionals, two of them 4-star chefs replaced by a guy who cannot bake bread.  I asked where the bread was at the first meal.  "Nobody here make bread.  Me know not how."  Yeah, horrible memories of my last ship are haunting me. So far, when they out food out it's edible.  That is as far as I will go.  Edible.  The worst part of the whole issue?  I've been so spoiled I nearly cried when I found out that we no longer have a night cook.  So what do I get to eat after working 12 hours of back-breaking labor in the 100 degree heat and 100 percent humidity?  Toast and fucking yogurt.   Yeah, just what a hungry man needs after 12 hours on a chain-gang.  Fuck me.

One more day of this shit--then it gets worse

Three hours left in the shift.  Accommodations reek of adhesive fumes.  Can't wait to sleep-I can only imagine the dreams I'm going to have while whacked out on Toluene and hydxoy-7 ultra butyl mind-melting poly fucking what nots.  That is if I can figure out how to get over the watery, stinging eyes you get when exposed to the fumes for more than 30 seconds.  Anyway, one more day, then we move across the Island and prepare to be floated up out of the water and into dry dock.  Imagine pulling an eleven-story building, 300 feet long and nearly 100 ft wide, out of the water.  As always, it should be interesting...

Day 3 of port

Port calls are always chaos, no matter where you go, or what you have to get done.  This one is no exception.  Lack of supplies, incorrect, or broken equipment, trucks and cranes MIA, barefoot Indian and Chinese dockworkers swarming over the ship, walking into cabins, grabbing everything not nailed down.  Three times in two nights, people have just walked into my cabin while I was sleeping and promptly bolted as I woke up.  If I catch one of the fuckers I swear to Christ I'm gonna rip his little head off and shit down his neck.

Last night I slipped away for a much-needed break.  Myself and a couple others walked up through the supply base for a couple of quick Tiger beers.  Met the Captain, Chief Engineer and a few others at this dive called the Spindletop.  The pitchers of Tiger were cold, the owner made non-stop rounds topping off everyone's glass before it was half-empty and it was hard to leave.  We had a great BS session about everything but work, learned that our medic likes dead people in the carnal sense and argued over the best whorehouse in Bangkok.  Afterwards, I walked back in the dark, listening to the relative quiet and the insects in the trees, then it was off to the back deck to hump gear for 4 more hours.

Right after I woke up today, at shift change, the fire alarm sounded and we quickly mustered on the quay.  Turned out to be just a bunch of smoke from some electrical work in one of the public heads.  We have so many areas tore up and under construction that it's hard to keep track.  I had no idea anything was happening to the public heads.

My computer system upgrade stalled yesterday as my onshore support took an offshore vacation, but I was back in business this morning after a little bit of magic. With that settled, I can now head out into the stifling heat to hump gear off the ship, etc.