Sunday, March 30, 2008

Homeward Bound

It is my last night onboard.  I packed this afternoon after shift.  Tonight, I'm wrapping up the last of my work, cleaning the place up and getting ready to disembark at the onset of nautical twilight.  We're transferring by fast rescue craft to a commercial tourist ferry.  From there, a bus, then 5 flights to get home.  The typical industry commute.  The only thing I'm missing is a chopper ride, but we'll be back to using choppers next trip up in OZ.

Somebody on the last shift started playing country music. This shift has not yet noticed.  I hope it plays all night.  I'm sick of Ibiza-type pop dance shit.  Gives me a fucking headache.  The whole ship smells of cleaning fluids.  Everything has been mopped, scrubbed, dusted, polished, painted and stowed.  We are ready.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Jay mentioned there are rules for this wordzzle thing that Raven graciously hosts every Saturday:) I don't do rules very well, but I suppose at some point, I'll maybe wander back over to Raven's place and possibly look around to see if any rules jump up and smack me in the face. In the meantime, I just went ahead, copied the words and banged out another pitiful attempt at trying to hang with literary big dogs. Even if I suck, I kind of like the creative challenge and a few minutes of not thinking about where I am and what I'm doing.

With that, here's my Saturday Wordzzle offering...

Epeius and Odysseus combined, I sit motionless. The salamanders crawl out of the bushes between my house and the next, intent on dragging the dessicated chicken leg, I'd left on the patio-a trojan horse to their Troy, Filled not with Greeks, but rat poison pellets, in my trivial pursuit of finally ridding my house of these pugnacious pests. They paused near a half-filled beer can, carelessly tossed aside by the neighbor's son, passed out behind the wheel of his car abut 10 feet from me. They began removing the pellets and dropping it into the beer. Balderdash! I thought as I watched. This can't be true! But after cleaning the poison-stuffed chicken leg of every pellet, spiking the beer and dragging the can to a spot near the neighbor kid's car where he's sure to spot it and hopefully finish it, they departed with my now harmless offering. With their own sort of binding arbitration, these fantastic little creatures had cemented a peace with me. The bottomless pit of hate I felt for the kid who routinely stole beer from my garage, music CD's from my car and once vomited what smelled like cheap whiskey all over my porch, far outweighed the mere annoyance of these small lizards who often swarmed over my house. No more Trojan horses, I would offer them frankincense ,myrrh and finally, a peace between us.

And for the mini challenge:

Inspired by Jay and his images of pink thongs...I need to get of the ship!

The maniac girl worked the telephone pole outside the video store like a crackhead stripper, moving in time to the sidewalk flute player, her skirt flying on a windy day. Splinters.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Big shark in Michigan



F*%k me I'm going home

Got this from LL's site. Yeah, it works for my site, unlike hers. Well, I hope it works, I'm not sure if the html code will show up right via an email post...

OK, it didn't freaking work. Soooo, I took the time to go back and do the DAMN thing, again.

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

I've had a lot to swear about the past few days. I've spared you most of the drama of this upcoming crew-x, but it has been a roller coaster of leaving, not leaving, leaving early, not leaving scenarios. Finally, early this evening (it's 2am) a deadlock with upper management was broken, during an 11th hour conference call with the shore-bound, stuffed suits. We are leaving this ship two days early and I am flying home a day early, as well. So, Monday morning I'm outta here!! I've got two days to make my way up to Christchurch for a Tuesday night flight back over the pond to LA. Myself and a guy from Alabama are going to spend the day in LA (anyone want to stop by for a drink or 3??), get a day room at the Four Points Sheraton, maybe tour the Queen Mary, then fly out on the red-eye. I get in Wednesday afternoon. That will give me a full 5 1/2 weeks at home, uninjured with little remodeling to do. I can't believe it! And for no apparent reason, I added the picture above. I came across it while searching for a misplaced Aussie work visa and for some reason the message and the mood evident on the guys face suit me today. I think the image was posted on my old blog way back when. Good lord, how long have I been blogging now??

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!

OK, not really.  The first paper to come from the wonder that is Galaxy Zoo is out. 

Galaxy Zoo: The large-scale spin statistics of spiral galaxies in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey has been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.  Follow the link and choose a download option in the upper right.  They don't find a handedness to the universe, or the angular momentum of it's galaxies and explain away others' conclusions as possibly a bias similar to that observed in the Galaxy Zoo results.  Not earth-shattering, or as interesting as some sort of blanket magnetic field inducing a handedness might have been, but still very worthy Garth.  Someone like LL probably has a handle on all the statistical jargon, but a fair bit of it went sailing over my head.  I understood the intent, if not the meaning, but I only took Statistics for Geoscientists, for chrisssake.  Not exactly A-level maths, there.  Whatever, I classified 6,500 galaxies and just read a paper that stemmed from all that work and it's kind of cool.

The Zookeepers promise many papers to follow, some really interesting results and of course, we still have more to come on The Hanny's Voorwerp to look forward to and you may now all go back to viewing images of men peeing in front of mannequins dressed in lingerie.

Stage fright

I suppose after posting images of things like my bellybutton and even my nads, this isn't too bad, but I still feel funny about putting up a picture of a guy taking a leak.  Nonetheless, in the spirit of adventure and free press, I found this shot of a guy peeing, on Yahoo!.   My first thought was what about guys that get stage fright?  Having whipped it out and peed in front of a half-million people once, I don't suffer from it, but it's common enough.  Half a Million people?  Yes, but that's another story, for another time. 

Anyway, it just looks creepy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

One way ticket to Berkeley

I'll be heading home through Minneapolis, MN. Early next week.  (the earlier the better)  So I'm Goggling  Minnie to get a weather forecast and I come across this.  This kind of crap makes me sick.  The school caves to political pressure and claim they did it to keep politics out of the school.  I'm sorry, but they just let one group's politics dictate what their students are allowed to experience, firmly entrenching politics the school and the minds of the students deprived of the opportunity to learn first-hand what it's like to be a soldier, or a citizen, fighting and living in a war-torn country, removed of all politics and media bias.  They probably won't ever get another chance like that, again.  Fucking pussies ought to move to Berkeley, cause they're way to close to me.  Apologies to all my Californ-i-a blogging buddies, but you already have most of the county's ass-wipes over there on the left coast, so why not stick em all in one place?

More of the same

Sorry.  All you get is more pictures.  I AM getting off this tub and early to boot, dammit.  One of the "features" of this job/life/prison sentence is that from time to time, you get stuck out here and unless you work really hard, get really creative and pray to to whatever gods you hope may favor you, have no hope of getting off.  I have been pretty damn lucky this trip and last.  Getting out of a few extra weeks, two trips in a row is unbelievably lucky.  So much so, maybe I should shut up and not jinx myself...

Images.  Shipboard gym.  Couple of stationary bikes, kick-ass treadmill, rowing machine, elliptical in the corner (my baby), weight machine, free weights and bracket for the heavy bag.  What you can't see is another massive weight machine, wide-screen TV, stereo (with infra-red, cordless headphones) and another well-placed heavy bag on the sheltered foc'sle.  Through the door on the left is a changing room, head and sauna.

Lastly, our Fast Rescue Craft, or FRC.  Three-hundred Brake Horse Power (BHP) bad-ass, jet powered water rocket, hanging over the side of the ship from it's hydraulic davit, ready to launch.  This puppy loves to get airborne off the waves and I'm just the guy to do it.  Out of everything I do out here, putting this machine in the air is my favorite pastime.  Unsinkable, self-righting; she'll easily do 30 knots, turn on a dime at that speed and even comes equipped with a suicide knob:)  Just yesterday I was discussing having to head over to a beautiful fjord in the North of Norway for a week, or two to get my coxswain ticket punched, again.  While I hate having to leave home and hearth for anything, this is always a week, or two well-spent.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Picture blog

Getting busy out here as I try to wrap things up. I finally got word that I can leave at crew-x with the rest of the crew. Exactly 2 minutes later I found out the whole may now have to stay. I have the worst good luck in the world...anyway, too busy to write much, so...

It's come to my attention that the descriptions of the last two photos were left off the end of my post. Curious. Anyway, the two pics were my of office and behind the glass door is my computer system.

This time around we have two shots of one of the three fire stations onboard just for the Fyreman since my guns aren't interesting enough for him;) The final shot is a view of the instrument room from my office. UPDATE:well, the final shot is NOW a view from my office, before it was the wrong damn picture. No, I'm not distracted...

Monday, March 24, 2008


It's quiet in here, but the seas are getting rough outside and I can just hear the muted howl of the wind as it picks up, yet again threatening a big blow.  Conversations in the instrument room just outside my office are subdued.  Mostly quiet complaints of being here too long, the lousy up and down weather and the overall lack of anything new.  A few are discussing the upcoming crew-x, flights, pubs and going home.  That keeps me in here with my headphones on.  Not knowing when, or if I will be finished here, it hurts to hear talk of home and hearth.  My near future and fate are tied up in too many unknown variables.  I'm charging the batteries to my camera and might take a walk around the interior of the ship and snap a few shots for the old blog, just to get out of here and do something different.

Yesterday, I took a trainee in tow and did an internal audit of several areas of the ship.  First, he had to actually find the areas to be audited, which can be a daunting task for somebody new to the ship and operations.  Although each member of the crew is given a safety tour of the entire ship their first day, or two aboard, usually little is retained, especially those places that you don't visit during your daily routine.  Fortunately for him, we only audited four locations; the paint locker, emergency generator room, the foc'sle, or forecastle deck, and the heli-deck.  Twice, he had to consult one of the many fire plans-a diagram of the entire ship and location of all it's fire and safety equipment.  Fire and safety equipment checks were both part of our audit.  We had to inventory, check inspection and expiry dates, re-inspect all hoses, nozzles, fittings, etc.  Inspections of the generator, heli-deck lights,and railings, windlass, breaks, hawser pipes, mooring ropes, mushroom and block leads, gangways,vents, fire pumps, keys and cutoffs were also conducted.  All the while we made notes on signage, pinch and crush points, grease fittings, paint, and general house-keeping.  Took a long damn time and a lot of tromping all over the ship to test systems and whatnot.  Funny how much time I spend doing things that really aren't in my job description like vessel inspector, firefighter, coxswain, crane operator, rigger, marine mammal observer, winch driver, gun mechanic.  It varies from ship to ship, but there's always something.  Not that I'm complaining, I'm really not a very big fan of sitting in front of a computer system for 12 hours straight.

So, I took a break, wandered around inside accommodations (it's dark outside) and snapped a few pics.  I shall post a couple after's one of our interior decks.  This one is open at the stern, right to the water line.  In rough weather (every day down here) huge waves roll onto the deck, sweeping it clean.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Rouge Wave

I've heard that some of the largest waves ever recorded, have occurred, here in the Southern Ocean.  I don't know it to be true and certainly the largest waves I've had the displeasure of riding out were all to be found elsewhere.  Most of the time, though it's at least slightly rough and never flat calm in this part of the world. you get used to the ship's motion and forget that your on a moving platform.  Suddenly a booming crash echoes through the ship.  The ship slams backwards under your feet, your chair, whatever.  She shakes like a wet dog, heaves a couple of times and settles down.  I can feel my heart pounding and everyone is wide-eyed, but silent.  Back to work.

Happy Easter from the beginning of the day

Almost forgot!  Happy Easter everyone.  I awoke to find a rather large, chocolate egg outside my cabin.  Really 3 eggs in one (bonus).

Later, I found a single, chain mail glove on my desk.  No, I don't know why, or what it's for.

Wordzzle, too

I really like the Wordzzle game that Jay found over at Raven's site. Although I also wasn't in the mood to write anything today after exhausting 2 of my 3 brain cells on the light echo explanation, much less a story that has to follow rules, I nonetheless quickly spit out something with the required 10 words. I can see my rather dark mood has come across in this little story, but such is life. I'm trapped in the middle of the Southern Ocean, with no way out in sight and well, I'm in a pretty bad fucking mood because of it, if truth be told. So, with little more fanfare, here is my attempt at playing the game. I'm skipping the 5 word version to sulk in the corner with a cup of coffee and a smoke.

The man was a lunatic, of that I am certain. His hobby was killing people. Not his calling, or mission. He really didn't fit the definition of a serial killer; he simply killed when and if he felt like it. In fact, he also didn't fit the notion of a "signature killer", except that the methods he employed came exclusively from the books he read, mostly economic texts and science fiction. It was really just a hobby, as one might collect stamps, or plant flowers.

A tree hugger from Maine, picked randomly from a headline on a protest over a tree farm gleaned from a Google search on "Christmas trees" was buried alive under a stately pine in Oregon, jammed tightly into an antique chest and given two canisters, one labeled "air" and another, "CO2". Also found in the chest were a horse shoe (presumably for good luck) and note, stating that the victim was told that he had approximately 2 hours of air in the chest and canister and that the location of his burial would not be divulged to anyone for 24 hours. He was given the choice to die quickly and relatively peacefully by inhaling the CO2, or try in vain to ration the air in the canister to last 24 hours-an impossibility, of course.

Had he known that his victim had previously and successfully battled cancer and tenaciously held on to every moment he could wrangle away from the grim reaper upon hearing the news that his cancer was in remission, he might have chose another. Given the choice of a sure, though painless death, or a 10 billion to one shot at living off of the meager ration of air until rescued, he simply chose to fight, much as he had upon learning he was stricken with cancer. The mild-mannered tree hugger from Maine shattered his wooden prison and clawed his way nearly to the surface before suffocating. His hand, reaching for the sky, was found protruding from the earth, next to a marigold, planted atop the temporary grave by his killer.

What the f&*ck is that?

OK, I've received 4 emails asking to explain the very long post copied from the GZ Blog, on The Hanny's Voorwerp, just a few days ago....

Perhaps a bit more clear than the GZ blog explanation of The Hanny's Voorwerp, this article from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory Press Room details the findings stemming from an earlier investigation of a supernova remnant now married with the results of 2 optical studies of a nearby gaseous cloud.  What they studied was a phenomenon known as "light echo".  Basically, there was a great big bang (supernova) in the past, that gave off light.  We can see the remains of the supernova, but we have no way of quantifying the amount of light given off by the supernova event, other than an estimation from it's remnant.  In the Chandra/XXM study, they went a step further and focused their attention on a dusty cloud, not too far from the supernova and found the reflection of the supernova, or it's "light echo".  All they had to do was decide how long ago the explosion was and find something that would reflect the light and was also a certain distance away from the supernova.  That distance being the distance it would take light to travel from the supernova to the reflecting object in the time since the explosion.

So, see the remnant of an explosion that happened 400 years ago.  Find an object 400 light-years from the explosion and it should be reflecting the light from an explosion 400 years ago, right now.  In truth, it's a wee bit more complicated than that, when you factor in the distance between us and the remnant and more importantly, the distance between us and the reflecting remnant, but in a nutshell, that's the very cool phenomenon of "light echo".  A cosmic fossil if you will.  Any geologists, or paleontologists out there should really appreciate the coolness factor of a true cosmic fossil.

Now, back to The Hanny's Voorwerp.  Her object is another just another dusty, gaseous cloud, but oddly, a deep blue.  She noticed it was VERY blue, bluer than the thousands of galaxies she'd classified and lacked any definable stars, star forming regions, or the shapes and structure we've come to recognize after classifying so many galaxies.  Curious, she posted on the GZ forum, asking if anyone knew what it was.  Nobody knew.  Many theories, but no answers.  The closer they looked at things like it's spectrum, the stranger it became.  Finally, astronomers and astro-geeks realized it was unique and needed to be studied, now.  Proposals went out to several of the world's largest and most powerful observatories, including HUBBLE.

Preliminary results have identified the Voorwerp as a dusty, gaseous cloud reflecting the light from a long-gone Quasar!  Scientists estimate it existed 50,000-75,000 years ago, somehow disappeared from view and we're seeing it's light reflected in a space cloud today.  From this, we should be able to go back in time and as this reflected light plays like a movie for us, determine how the missing Quasar met it's end.   That, my friends is a pretty amazing result of an ordinary person finding a blue blob in an image posted on a website and wondering aloud what it is.

In the spirit of The Hanny's Voorwerp and identifying heretofore unknown objects, I'll post an image and ask if anyone (besides mr bud and PW!) can identify exactly what it is?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tales from the Zoo: More news on the Hanny's Voorwerp

Mar 20

Voorwerp fever

Ever since it was first identified, Hanny's Voorwerp has grabbed the attention of the Zookeepers and everyone else who comes across it. One reason we've been successful in getting such a wide range of observations over just a few months (and therefore why posts on here have been delayed!) has been that colleagues seem to find it equally compelling. So what is it? Our current best guess goes something like this:

A hundred thousand years ago, a quasar blazed behind the stars which would have already looked recognizably like the constellation Leo Minor. Barely 700 million light-years away, it would have been the nearest bright quasar, shining (had anyone had a telescope to look) around 13th magnitude, several times brighter than the light of the surrounding galaxy. This galaxy, much later cataloged as IC 2497, is a massive spiral galaxy which was in the process of tidally shredding a dwarf galaxy rich in gas - gas which absorbed the intense ultraviolet and X-ray output of the quasar and in turn glowed as it cooled. But something happened to the quasar. Whether it turned off, dropped to a barely simmering level of activity as its massive black hole became starved for gas to feed its accretion, or it was quickly shrouded in gas and dust, we don't see it anymore.

But we see its echo. How could we come to such startling conclusions? An earlier blog entry showed some of our earliest data, when we already knew that the gas in Hanny's Voorwerp was ionized in such a way that it must experience a radiation field of higher energy than normal stars can produce. In fact, it looks just like the pattern of emission given off by gas around the center of Seyfert galaxies, and on the outskirts of quasars and radio galaxies. This makes sense, except for the minor detail that we don't see the active nucleus that should be there to light up the gas.

However, we could start from calculations done by astronomers trying to understand these objects, which could tell us how much radiation it would take to light up the Voorwerp. This wound up telling us how many ionizing photons there are per atom in the gas (known as the ionization parameter). That meant that we could find out how bright the missing core had to be if we could learn how dense the gas is.

Spectra are wonderful things - there is a pair of emission features from ionized sulfur atoms out in the red whose ratio depends on how often the atoms undergo collisions, and therefore on the density where they float. We had been contacting colleagues all over the map to see who might be doing spectroscopy in the red, and were fortunate to be put in touch with Nicola Bennert, who is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California campus in Riverside. She was about to work for several nights with Lick Observatory's 3-meter Shane telescope and a double spectrograph optimized to observe blue and red parts of the spectrum at once, and was intrigued by what we already knew of the Voorwerp.

She got a useful data set, in particular a very nice observation of the spectrum in red light. From this, we now know that the typical density of gas (for the pickier readers, that's the RMS density) is no greater than about 15 particles per cubic centimeter - which means that the UV and X-ray luminosities of the object were somewhat less than a hundred billion times the Sun's total energy output, in the range of quasars. (It was a nice extra feature that Nicola did her dissertation work on analysis involving measuring ionization parameters of gas in Seyfert galaxies, and she's enthusiastically joined in the project).

From the features of sulfur and nitrogen, we also have good evidence that these elements are not very abundant in the gas - maybe 10% of the fraction seen in our part of the Milky Way, more like what we find in dwarf galaxies such as the Small Magellanic Cloud. So the gas looks more like something from a low-mass dwarf rather than something ejected from the center of a luminous galaxy like IC 2497.


Meanwhile, we had asked for a quick look with instruments on the Swift satellite. Swift is designed to detect gamma-ray bursts and follow them up quickly with X-ray and ultraviolet or visible-light observations, to localize them as fast as possible ("Swift - catching gamma-ray bursts on the fly" is their motto). Thus, Swift spends a lot of its time staring at the sky, especially parts of the sky that are easy to see from ground-based telescopes, waiting for something to happen. From being on one of too many NASA committees, Bil recalled that the Swift science team had realized that, since it didn't matter exactly where they looked waiting for something to happen, they have a program to take requests. Usually these requests are for transient, time-sensitive events, but principal investigator Neil Gehrels agreed that our request would be appropriate.

So we crammed our whole science argument into 300 words and it was approved. Showing that "Swift" has more than one meaning, within a week we had our data. We had two questions in mind for its instruments. First, its X-ray telescope (known as the XRT) would easily see any active galactic nucleus, even a typical Seyfert galaxy. It saw - nothing. Second, we asked for ultraviolet images with the 30-cm Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT). These were intended to tell whether the light outside of the bright gaseous emission lines came from stars or was reflected from dust particles. The distinction could be made because, as in the scattering that makes our sky blue, short-wavelength radiation scatters more effectively from interstellar dust. As an example, the blue reflected piece of the Triffid Nebula is bluer than the illuminating star - in fact bluer than any kind of star can be. And this is what we found in the Voorwerp. Filtering a slice of ultraviolet light that shouldn't be much affected by the gas, we found the object to be ten times brighter in the mid-ultraviolet than in the shortest wavelength seen by the Sloan Survey. Not only does the gas see something bright, so does the dust.

UVOT image on the left, v band on the right

So now we have a bunch of pieces of the puzzle. Highly ionized gas, ionized by nothing we can see. Dust reflecting ultraviolet light from no apparent source. No central X-ray source, which makes it very hard to hide
something behind a cloud of gas and dust that leaves it visible from the Voorwerp. This was starting to look like a giant version of a phenomenon that astronomers have had to rediscover for several generations now - the light echo. Over the years, when we see a supernova explosion, bright nova, or a star that for some other reasons flares brightly, we often see reflections from foreground dust. If we trace the geometry of what dust we see at different times after the outburst, it must fall along an ellipsoid with the star at one focus and ourselves at the other.

It's important that the echo has spectral characteristics of the exciting source. One team has used this fact to find locations of supernovae which we would have seen in the Large Magellanic Cloud centuries ago, as their reflections still come our way from larger and larger circles of foreground dust (see this very cool and very new press release). And now we are proposing that we've found the light echo from a faded quasar, which was there 50-75,000 years ago but is invisible now.

The importance of checking on this whole picture goes well beyond the admitted coolness value, or the flashiness of a proposal that we hope our colleagues who decide who gets to use big telescopes will look on with favor. We already know that quasars (and their relatives such as Seyfert galaxies) can undergo dramatic change on everything from cosmic timescales to human ones. We observe them to fluctuate in brightness, sometimes dramatically, over times as short as weeks. And at the outside, relations between quasars and mergers in some of their surrounding "host" galaxies wouldn't exist if the quasars stay bright for much more then the nearly billion-year duration of a galaxy merger. (Only in astronomy and cosmology do we get to lump "mere" and "billion years"). In fact, we know that the whole population of quasars has changed over cosmic time - there used to be many more, and they grew brighter, in an era about 10 billion years ago. For that matter, the most powerful quasars must be temporary - if one were to shine at these enormous levels for all of cosmic history, even as miserly as gravitational energy can be about producing energy wile consuming mass, the central object would have long ago eaten its entire surrounding galaxy.

Of course we want to know more. There are more observations we can make which would test this idea, and tell us more about the nature of the Voorwerp and the history of the illuminating core. Chris headed up a proposal to map the gas with the OASIS system on the 4.2-meter William Herschel Telescope, so we could measure the Voorwerp's Doppler shifts point-by-point and see whether there are correlated changes in strengths of emission lines that would show us brightening and fading of the central source (which would make rings in our view unless the gas has a very odd structure). And there was the Hubble proposal, which would take high-resolution images of the gas in two emission lines and then look in filter bands between them to see whether the Voorwerp has stars. Actually, with all the reflecting dust, we hope mostly to see star clusters, to tell whether it started life as a dwarf galaxy. And we want to take a really close look at the nucleus of IC 2497, using Hubble's exquisite resolution to isolate the light from its innermost region in search of any gas that is lit up by even a weak active nucleus. Speaking of the nucleus of IC 2497, Bill is even as we write working to complete a proposal to use Chandra to see if we can tease out any X-rays from a now-quiet AGN. We've also requested time in the radio to see if we are only seeing part of a much larger structure.

So here we have a new possibility - of watching the history of a quasar either flaring up, practically turning off, or being hidden over a time span that we've had no other way to examine. The pattern of light emitted by gas in Hanny's Vooorwerp, and the way its dust reflect the quasar light, should be able to trace the history of its decline. Never mind heading back to the future, we can go onward into the past. Once in a while, we have the opportunity to do what paleontologists can do only in the movies.

(Chris and Bill weren't sure who should blog this. So in the spirit of Galaxy Zoo, we both did.)

Dolphins and dirty laundry

I'm drawing a blank.  As there is not much happening out here, lately, there just isn't much to write about.  My workload has been nil and sporadic.  Little bits here and there and a small amount of paperwork, mostly electronic paperwork-the worst kind.  I suppose, given our ever increasing levels of technology and everything going digital, we need to come up with a new word for "paperwork".   "Screenwork", "monitorwork", "digitalwork", "digiwork"??  Digiwork sounds the easiest and cold be further shortened to "dork".  What say you, dear readers?  I know I have a couple of word smiths out there, but I'm thinking Blondie should be the one to chime in, after all, this subject is right up her alley.

Anyhooo, other than 12 hours of dork, not much is going on here.  The weather has been better and we are trying to take advantage of it, but have had other difficulties. 

My social life out here is of course, pretty much non-existent.  Still working on the elliptical whenever my shift is less than 14 hours and there isn't a drill scheduled right after shift.  That has been rare enough that I've managed a not-so-impressive 80KM in the past 3 weeks.  Wish I could get in there more often...

Other than that, I eat, sleep, do laundry (NOTE TO SELF: MUST DO TONIGHT) and watch an occasional DVD, most of them pretty bad since I don't follow movie critics and don't pay attention to those trailer things on TV.  In fact, the only good movie I've seen in a while was one about a dentist who reunites with a college buddy, a former dentist whose family died in a plane crash.  It was pretty good and had a great soundtrack.  Eddie Vedder's rendition of The Who's "Love, Reign O'er Me" was so fucking good, I actually sat through the credits just to hear it.  I think the movie was named something like Reign Over Me, too.

So, what image to post today?  I have booze at crew-x, landscapes and seascapes to choose about a seascape with a HUGE pod o dolphins? Yep, I think so-pardon me whilst I "dig" through the image archives.  Also found that features one specific type of small craft that we deploy from hydraulically operated davits, used to work on the gear we tow behind us. 


Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I take back everything I said about being bored with the ad experiment.  Tonight I opened up my site to see  the very first ad and it was for GUNS;)    Now, I'm not a gun nut, but I love to hunt, insist in being armed in the home and can appreciate a long, blued barrel, freshly oiled and ready to rock.  I'm not a nickel-plated kind of guy and prefer to eat what I kill and kill what I eat.  So, the ad thingy gets to live for a week and hopefully produce calls to purchase midget porn, Cheeto's and cheap booze.

Pressure is mounting here as we continue to work into the storm season, taking it's toll on gear and the crew.  It also mounts as I await some sort of decision from somebody, as to how closely my immediate future is tied to this current project.  Yesterday, I received the latest version of my flight itinerary, just as I took a call from PW.  Told her I was pretty pissed off as the flights were scheduled a day late, had to many tight connections, too many flights (6) and too many airlines (6).  In the end, it would've had me flying for roughly 47 hours, with little chance of making it home and no chance of my luggage surviving 6 different carriers. 

Our Captain is the liaison for all travel-related issues.  He deals with our lousy, corporate travel agent in London.  I emailed him a rather, long-winded diatribe, railing against the agent's uncaring and ineffectual attempts to fly me from point A to point B.  I cited our journey management and QHSE policies, the impact on my health, safety and sanity and in the end, suggesting a wonderfully simple set of flights with 4 less carriers, 2 less flights and longer layovers that still gets me home 10 hours earlier than their itinerary.  I figured, as usual, he would cut out the suggested flights and paste them into a slightly more benign and professional email to the travel agent and I would receive yet another round of shitty flights, sometime next week, or the week after.  Nope, he forwarded the whole spitting-mad manifesto to the agent.  By the time I woke up tonight they had responded with a one-line email saying they had booked my requested flights.  From now on I am done fucking around and will simply rain fire and brimstone down upon their heads when I initially request my flights home  Should'a pulled my finger out long ago, I guess.

Lately, nearly every day Mr. Bud has been sending pictures from home.  The closing of PW's store, various snowbanks around town, landmarks, buildings, toilets, lamps, and now even power tools!  Power tools!  Um, I like power tools and an image of his Makita cordless drill adorns my desktop right now.  He's got a newer model than my Makita, with a better chuck and longer-lasting battery, but I digress...

The point WAS that he's sending me images from home as I post images from NZ, Myanmar, or wherever and another mutual friend sent pictures from Beijing and the Forbidden City and it has been a nice trade:)  Today, I'll post one of his and one of mine from out here-a sort of juxtaposition that is my life. 

First, home-this is the county courthouse.  It's partially constructed of Jacobsville Sandstone, a competent and often beautiful arenitic ( I think) sandstone locally quarried and used extensively in buildings across the country, especially around the turn of the century.  It has a copper roof and both Mr. Bud and I have spent entirely too much time under that roof.

Then, here-a shot of some NZ graffiti from last crew-x, I believe.  The Maori face is striking for alleyway  graffiti, no?


Monday, March 17, 2008

Saving the planet, one website at a time

So, over in the blogroll, you'll find a link to Blackle, a black Google.  They claim websites with a BLACK BACKGROUND save energy, by creating less demand on your screen and with the amount of hits, Google is the logical place to start.  How often to YOU hit up Google for information, directions, images, etc?  I even use Google as a quickie spell check, often.  Anyway, I would've called it Gackle, or Boogle, myself.

So, of course I knew all about how LOAP and now this site were saving the world mega-watts of energy and I'm thrilled to see other people jump on the bandwagon.  It's about time and welcome to the black background bandwagon, folks over at Blackle...;)   My fellow bloggers?  I challenge you all to do your part in saving the planet by going black and joining me in the dark.  It's not easy being the guy who always sets the bar, but join me and I promise you enlightenment, or some shit like that.

OK, I'm tired of that bullshit, so here's some more.  I thought it would be entertaining to start up that AD-sense nonsense and poke fun at the content-specific ads appearing over in my sidebar, while getting a check for .03 cents every couple of years.  Turns out the joke is on me.  It takes a bit of filling out forms and waiting and that kind of shit is anything but fun for me.  I'm already bored with the idea and it hasn't even kicked in, yet.  I think there's a standard hurricane relief message, or something, but that's it.  Bor--ring.

What else?  Yeah, I know I always mention work sucks, but it really does.  So many things are up in the air, like MY LIFE FOR THE NEXT MONTH and to top it off I can't even peek at online lingerie stores while at work!  I am not a happy camper.  Actually, that's not true.  I did have a wonderful phone call from LP tonight, who called the ship from the truck, on her way to school.  She was in an excellent mood, quite talkative and I enjoyed hearing her voice, immensely.

Anyhow, I need to dig around and find a photo for you-hold on....................
OK, I've got one-this is looking down on the sleepy, little port town of Lyttleton, where I disembarked back in January. It's just outside of Christchurch and seems to be a pleasant, little town (translation-it has a pub)


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Assorted views from the deck of my other life, the ship

Weather.   No.   Good.

Work.   No.   Good.

I believe that will suffice.

As promised, more photos.  Lets about one of a Crossing the Line Ceremony?  When a sailor crosses the equator for the first time, he, or she advance from a Pollywog to a Shellback (son of Neptune).  The ceremony opens as the Pollywogs are subpoenaed, one by one, to appear before Neptune, his assistants Davy Jones and Amphriti.  So begins a centuries old tradition of torture and humiliation in a myriad of wonderfully creative and entertaining forms.  Crawling across a non-skid deck on your knees, immersed in vile fluids, drinking raw eggs, beaten with a length of fire hose, pelted with rotten fruit, dressed in drag and finally forced to kiss the Royal Baby's belly, coated in axle grease.  Good fun for all and much-needed break from the extreme pressure this environment and career choice impose upon us.

Another seafaring tradition is that of firing of expired, or near expired emergency flares off on New Years Eve.  The gun is passed around among the less-experienced crew and they take turns firing flares for a sort of New Years Eve fireworks display at 15 minutes past midnight, up on the bridge wing.  It's a small thing, but for some it's a welcome diversion from thinking about the friends and family we all miss even more during the holidays.  I didn't attend this past New Years Eve, instead choosing to spend a few minutes at the stern rail, watching the phosphorescent wake trail off into the darkness, thinking about my family.  The holidays were rough for me and a few flares weren't going to help, but the trainees all seemed to enjoy the display.

Finally, a couple of picture from a past adventure in Myanmar (formerly Burma).  A shot of just a few of hundreds of the lesser pagodas, or shrines in the Buddhist Shwedagon Pagoda complex, located in the capital city of Yangon (formerly Rangoon-you know those crab thingies??) and one of the massive, central Stupa, completely covered in gold and gems.  Construction beginning somewhere between the 6th and 10th centuries, the massive Shwedagon has to be one of the most impressive constructs in the world, in progress for over two millennia.  Lovingly crafted from the finest gold, gems, wood and gemstones in the world, by Buddhists from all over the country and region.  It is today, still being adorned and added to, as they also refinish and refurbish the older structures adornments at the same time.  It is also the single only thing that the current military regime cannot fuck with.  I have been told and do not find it hard to believe that the Buddhists would die to a man, to protect this, their most sacred pagoda.  Most of the country donate their time, money, gold or jewelry to this temple every year.  Indeed, my local guide wanted nothing more than to give up his worldly possessions and spent his remaining days restoring one of the lesser pagodas that has a particular draw for him.   I spent one of the most peaceful days of my entire life walking around these temples barefoot, breathing in the incense, listening to the soft chanting, mixed with the sounds of dozens of different song birds.  I bought my girls a big bag of jade jewelry and a few hand-carved sandalwood wall hangings, haggled over in one of the cavernous stairwells beneath one of the three terraces, occupying three of the four cardinal points of the compass.  Peaceful is the only way to describe such a place and peace is the one thing that eludes us so often while at sea.


Saturday, March 15, 2008


Rough day.  Various unrelated things are putting a lot of pressure on me, not the least of which is whether or not I'll be able to go home any time next month.  The weather is making it worse.  It doesn't help when your really angry that you keep nearly falling out of your chair, or your coffee slides out of reach and sloshes over recently completed paperwork.  It's like somebody jabbing you repeatedly with a pencil and you can't make it stop.  Normally, I treat even hurricanes with little more than mild disdain, but when I'm angry?  Fucking waves just push me over the edge.

I haven't looked, but being Sunday means there's a drill after my shift.  That means I have a choice of working out, or eating-not both.  Given the weather, I'll bet it's an abandon-ship drill. In an hour, I'll be dressed up in a gumby suit, stumbling around on a heaving deck, contemplating taking the drill one step further and swimming for shore...

Peace, peace, peace, peace....

Friday, March 14, 2008

Birthday PI for Albert


Yesterday for me, today for ya'll is PI DAY:)  Celebrate, imbibe, consume pie!

It is also the birthday of Albert Einstein, whom I have always worshiped for his many contributions to physics and mankind, not just his special and general theories of relativity.

My ride gets a face-lift

Yet another day at sea.  The weather is marginal, but is calm enough to allow us to work.  It was nice to come on shift to find things humming along, for a change and every day we are working brings me one day closer to going home.  I've come to hate the Southern Ocean and cannot wait to depart, hopefully for good.  It's just too damn rough and remote down here.  The sat comms are lousy, too.  I've had to do all my posting via email and trying to surf the web has been an exercise in patience, if not futility, most days.
Mr Bud has been kind enough to send me pics of home (and Goofy) lately.  A few others, also out of the country, received the same email and one responded with pics of China, after moving there from the Copper Country.  They reminded me that I should be sending home more pics of my adventures out here.  Of course, I can't really send many thanks to the crappy sat comms, but I CAN post a few more low-res images on here for PW, LP, Mr Bud and all of you.  Promise to try, anyway!  In fact, here's a rather cool shot of my current ride, while she was in dry-dock, in Singapore, getting a face-lift among other things;)  There's nothing showing for scale, but you can walk under the ship when she's in dry-dock, if that helps.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tajiki jazz sounds like dying mountain goats.

So I've spent the last 2 hours trying to piece together a set of flights from the southern tip of NZ to the Copper Country.  I still can't seem to get around a loooong layover in LA and still avoid Zambian Airways and an itinerary with stops in Dushambe, Tajikistan and Montevedio, Uraguay.  Not that Montevedio isn't pleasant this time of year and there is the Dushambe Jazz festival going on the first week of April, but I just want to go home, hang out with the pirate family and sample my wine, skipping the piti and Tajiki jazz.

Nonetheless, it means a long day and night in LA.  So, anyone from the left coast?  What the hell is there to do in LA that doesn't involve movie stars, expensive bean sprouts and transvestite hookers?  Before you say it, I'm NOT interested in going anywhere near the beach and the ocean.  Have enough of that shit right here.

Cabbages and Condoms

There are guns going off below me on the gun deck.  I can here them echoing through the ship.  Glad I'm not sleeping right now.   We're back to work and it feels good.  Every minute we work gets me closer to getting off this tub.  I took in the night with a cuppa joe up on the helideck.  It's cold, with a freshening breeze, but pleasant.  No moon.  Seas are calm and I watched them for a long time.  That shit won't last long here.  In fact, we are planning to run for shelter again, this weekend. 

Despite a plan that has me NOT EVER leaving this ship, I've been working on getting flights home for crew-x.  I cannot believe how hard it is to fly from here to home without taking 40 hours, stopping in 4 countries and having to spend most of a day and a night in Los Angeles. I suppose if NZ had a sex industry like Thailand, it would be easy.  Plenty of non-stop, Bangkok to JFK flights for the Elliot Spitzer crowd.  What?  You think the guy spends $4300 every time he knocks one off?  No way, I bet he hits the 2 for 1 Wednesday night deals after a pleasant meal at Cabbages and Condoms.  The Thai cuisine at Cabbages and Condoms is wonderful, btw-cheep, too!  Really.  Pinky swear.  OK, go look it up if you don't believe me...

In other news, I've almost ridden my favorite elliptical machine from Christchurch to Ashbutron, some 80 kilometers.  Thanks to our wonderful chefs, I've not lost a single fucking pound (or kilo) on the way, either.  Half lobsters smothered in cheese and then baked in the oven were on the breakfast menu tonight...



Not the ship.  Me.  I'm not sure why, but I woke up tonight, utterly wrecked.  "Three cups of coffee and I can't clear my head..." sung by Lou Gramm, comes to mind.  I'm not sure why I'm in such bad shape, but it may be a combination of the last week of bad weather, hitting the gym 4 nights in a row and the stress of finding out yesterday that the powers that be expect me to stay on until the end of my current project-which could be anywhere from an extra 2 weeks to an entire 5 week trip.  In fact, the worst part about staying is that nobody knows how long this project will last, not even the client calling the shots.  I hated having to tell PW and LP the bad news.

Anyway, suffice to say, I'm pissed off about staying and today I'm wrecked.  And some clown took away the coffee cup full of spoons next to the coffee pot.  They only drink instant on here so how's a guy supposed to stir his fucking coffee?  And the Asians just now started up their shitty pop music.  Lord help me to be strong and stay away from fire axes...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On my way to work

I woke up last and while stumbling down the companionway to get coffee, ran into a girl holding a rather large sea bird making an unholy noise.  She asked me if I had a box.  I told her I didn't even have a fucking mug of coffee and pushed past her.  The bird tried to peck me. 

The odd thing is that by the time I got my coffee, I completely forgot about this strange encounter.  It wasn't until just a few minutes ago, I remembered meeting a bird in the hallway last night.  I wonder if it's on the menu for lunch??

Somebody folded my laundry, we're out of pineapple and I miss my wife. 


All the cool cats are listening to...

Digging around in the little-used corners of my music, I came across the rocking classic, reminiscent of the cool cat sixties pop, Theme from Dr. Pyser, by Ben Folds.

Great tune and I hear he's playing Bonnaroo this year!

STS-123 away!

STS-123 launched at 2:23 am, on it's way for a 16-day mission to the ISS.  Seven astronauts, a Japanese laboratory and one helluva show.  After all these years and launches, it never fails to leave me in awe of the things we are capable of, if we only put our minds to it.

[image courtesy of the wonderful folks at NASA]


Well.  The wind is still howling in the rigging and it seems as if the pitching and rolling will never end.  Once again, even from my office I can hear the low moan coming from the wires of a boat davit on the starboard side, as well as the rush of wind against the hull.  The midnight deck watch just stumbled in from outside.  He's half-frozen and windblown.  Tough to walk on deck in this shit.  Tough to do anything, really.  Showering was a workout tonight.  This weather even puts the table tennis tournament on hold, much to our dismay.  I think that this will give the crew time to organize some betting on the outcome, however.  I'm not above dropping a Ben Franklin on who I see as the dark horse.

Rumors abound concerning the end of job and when we can finally leave this motherfucker of an ocean.  The currently favored rumor of course has us leaving soon.  I wouldn't shed a tear if we left tomorrow.  This place is tough and sitting here watching my coffee mug slide back and forth, I'm ready to head North.

We're out of yogurt.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Reach for the sky!

We're looking straight down the barrel of a Really Big Gun.  I've read about how these puppies go supernova and yep, it's a really big gun with a hair trigger if it's a Wolfe-Rayet.  Fully-loaded and unfortunately, pointed toward us.  That, however is not enough to incentive to start building that underground survival shelter and finally procure that heard of sheep you've been meaning to steal from your neighbor.  We still have to firm up how precise the orientation is and how large the gamma ray burst will be.  Supernovae differ, just like people and bong hits.

Peace until the apocalypse


It's like inducting Brett Farve into the Baseball Hall of Fame because he plays football.  No fucking sense...


The Death Chic(k) noticed something that may be a bother to some of you who hang out here for the tunes.  Some of the songs in my playlist are only 30 seconds.  Seems that has only limited rights to certain songs, or some crap like that, hence the shorties.  I've gone into my list and noticed there are quite a few of those and a whole lot more than have no music, just the song title.  Hopefully, as time goes on they expand their collection, though I must admit it's pretty darn extensive.


Still very windy and a little lumpy out here.


Sunday, March 9, 2008

My lake's bigger than your lake!

Why Lake Superior is the Greatest Lake on Earth, and why it kicks your lake's butt…

How big is Lake Superior?

  • Largest fresh water lake in the world (by surface area)
  • Surface area: 31,820 square miles
  • Water volume: 2,900 cubic miles
  • Shore length: 2,725 miles
  • Maximum length: 350 miles
  • Maximum width: 160 miles
  • Surface elevation: 609 feet
  • Average depth: 482 feet
  • Maximum depth: 1,332 feet
  • Maximum depth: 723 feet below sea level

There is enough water in Lake Superior to cover the entire land mass of North and South America with a foot of water.

How Lake Superior compares

  • Lake Superior is the size of South Carolina
  • Lake Superior is larger than 10 states: WV, MD, HI, MA, VT, NH, NJ, CT, DE, and RI
  • Lake Superior is larger than the countries of: Czech Republic, Ireland, Latvia, Croatia, Switzerland, Belgium, Rwanda, and dozens of others
  • Lake Superior is 33.6% of the entire surface area and 53.5% of the entire volume of all Great Lakes combined
  • Lake Superior is 18.7 times greater in surface area than the Great Salt Lake
  • Lake Superior is 2.6 times greater in surface area than Lake Baikal, however, Lake Baikal has twice the volume
  • At the deepest point Lake Superior would drown the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty and the John Hancock Center (The Sears Tower will still stand 398 feet out the water)

Many people near Lake Champlain consider it to be the "6th Great Lake". Lake Superior is 28 times greater in surface area, and 465 times the water volume than Lake Champlain.

Other Lake Superior facts…

  • Gichigami is the Ojibwa word for Lake Superior meaning "big water"
  • Many people believe that Lake Superior resembles a wolf's head (facing west)
  • The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was the last major ship wreck in 1975
  • The surface area temperature has risen 4.5 degrees since 1979
  • Lake Superior has been described as the most oligotrophic lake in the world
  • Over 300 rivers and streams flow into Lake Superior
  • Contains ~10% of all the Earth's fresh water
  • The average surface temperature is 40 degrees
  • 1979 was the last complete freeze over
  • Produces some of the greatest lake-effect snowstorms on earth
  • ~40 miles north of Munising, MI is the deepest point at 1,332 feet
  • Annual reports of waves that are over 30 feet high
  • At 10,000 years old it is one of the youngest major features on earth (Lake Baikal in Russia is 25 million years old)
  • Features over 60 species of fish
The only item I may disagree with is that I think the coast Guard considered the lake completely frozen over back in the 90's.  I can't remember the year, but it got darn cold, everybody's sewer and water pipes froze and there was a movement to have President Clinton declare the area a Federal Disaster Area, in order to receive federal funds to mitigate the damage.  Thanks to the industrious and johnny-on-the-spot Mr. Bud, I had no such trouble with frozen pipes at H2O Street and was still able to relieve myself of the many beers had that winter, without poking anything sensitive outside...

I found the above bragging rights while trolling for local blogs at: Yooper Steez. Go check em out.  They've got a great site there AND cool things to buy:)

And it DOES kick yer Lake's butt!


We don't need no sticky wickets

Despite running far, far away, we finally hit the nasty weather.  Sometime during the afternoon, while I was sleeping, it went from the ship rolling gently to getting slammed and the vessel occasionally trying to slip out from under your feet when the big ones smack the bow, hard. Once again, it was a study in focus and determination to shower while still sleepy. Trying to maintain three points of contact and shampoo your hair at the same time, all while half-asleep is not easy.  At least if you wish to avoid eating the towel rack, or getting up ended into the toilet.  The next 36 hours should prove to be very tiring.  We're pretty far North of the prospect, but the seas there were supposed to be around 30 ft...

Yesterday my LP performed in her first ice skating show.  Oh, how I rage at missing these special moments!  She also just lost her first tooth:(  I'm sure to pout over these things for the next week, no matter how hard I try not to.  Fortunately, Mr Bud was kind enough to attend with his camera and sent me ton of pics, which I found when I arrived for shift tonight!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart Mr Bud!!!!  I guess I better post one on here for her to see;)

I haven't yet seen the standings of our table tennis tournament, but I suspect that the Asians are dominating the standings from what I've seen so far.  Yesterday, I felt pretty poor after shift and unfortunately, the flu is making rounds of the ship.  Rather than stand in a screaming crowd of rabid, table tennis fans, I retired to watch part of the latest NZ/India cricket match.  Since joining this vessel back in December, I've become somewhat of a fan.  I've got all the rules down and am coming to appreciate the subtleties of the game, like the strategies employed by the 'spinners", as opposed to the bowlers that just bring the heat, and how the wicket breaks up as the match progresses throughout the day.  I still can't tell which batsmen are the ones likely to hit 7 consecutive "sixes" in 2 overs, like the guy last year in the championship test, but I am coming to love the game and am the first guy to cry out when somebody gets "stumped".  Anyway, who couldn't love a game where the fans can come and lay around in the grass, drinking beer all day?  Its a rather sticky wicket since I can't get cricket on the telly at home, though (obligatory English/Aussie/Kiwi sentence inserted).

Hey!  I even know what a sticky wicket is.  It's a term from the days when a pitch (the field) wasn't covered when it rained.  A sticky wicket is when the wicket (where the bowler bowls the ball) gets wet from the rain, then begins to dry out forming a crusty layer on top that allows the ball to bite more when it hits and also spin off, crazily some times, making it a tough wicket to bat on:)  And i think I'll leave you all with that.


Saturday, March 8, 2008

World Cup

Our table tennis tournament started today.   In an up and down, wild ride and very tense contest, Indonesia handed England his hat in the third and final match of their series, 11-4.  England had just tied the series up in the previous game with nearly the same one-sided score.  I left the venue just as Pakistan and Italy began their first game of the match.  From the warm-up rounds, I predict Pakistan will prevail.  I believe China and Malaysia may also be squaring off later tonight and may just head back down to check out that battle of the titans.  I can tell already that the US hasn't got a prayer...
Yesterday we had a fire drill after my shift ended.  We snuffed out a computer fire in the conference room quite handily, with only some minor communication glitches and a few delays due to fire team members having to find alternative routes to the fire stations from heavy smoke in the accommodations.  All in all, a very good exercise.  Mustering up on deck, I realized I hadn't been outside, or seen the sun in many days.  It was good to breathe fresh air and get out from under the harsh glare of artificial lighting.  As a bonus, we were treated to a lovely view of the eastern coast of the south island.  Rolling hills, sea cliffs, planted fields, it was nice to see land!  We're currently cruising North up the coast to avoid rather nasty 9 meter seas....
Sat comms are still spotty and I'm not too happy. It's not like there's a lot to do out here and spotty internet/no phones makes it worse.  Fortunately, there are are a few, new diversions such as the table tennis tournament, a presentation on air pressure safety and one on handling and care of sea birds that often land on the ship, injured, or too tired to continue.  We rehabilitate and release them, except for the tasty ones, which we BBQ, or grill.  Just kidding, I'm only making sure you're paying attention.  Yesterday, a pod of killer whales was sighted!  Many of the crew had a nice, long look through binoculars and telephoto lenses.  Unfortunately, I haven't got any of the pics, or I would post one.
Well, I suppose that wraps up another addition.  I'm off to eat out of boredom, though I know I'll regret it in about 10 hours, when I hit the gym and have to do an additional 4-5KM to make up for the extra goodies.


Friday, March 7, 2008

No pun!

All things considered...maybe it was just time for him to go-WAH!

another day at sea

Due to unknown reasons, we've had  comms blackout for almost 24 hours.  I'm not sure that it won't return at any moment.  It took me 20 minutes to load up my gmail this morning and while comms are good right now, I'm not overly optimistic for the near future.  Operations are also suspended due to extremely bad weather.  We're looking at 10 meter seas for the weekend.  The loss of comms when not working is torture.  There's just nothing to do.  No work, no surfing, no email, no phone calls and no training, because it's all web-based.  Boredom, in the extreme.

Worse, it decreases the options for crew after shift and suddenly you find an extra half-dozen crew crowding into the gym with you.  I was appalled at the number of people we had to cram in there last night.  It didn't affect me, since I was there early and always spend the entire time on the elliptical machine, but it was distracting, watching to see if the guy swinging dumbbells across his waist and then up over his shoulder would cave in the head of the girl hitting the heavy bag behind him, or if the jump rope would catch on the handle of the rowing machine.  Eventually, it did affect me, now that I think of it.  After about 6KM, it was distracting me enough to throw off my breathing.  I did the next 6KM with my eyes closed, imagining I was running on the trails in the area I hunt in the fall.  Not an easy thing to do on a moving ship, working out with your eyes closed!

Anyway, I was also shocked to find people cramming in the sauna with me. I spend many nights in there and in the 3 trips I've been on this ship, nobody has ever joined me.  I've never even found evidence of anyone using it when I'm not around.  Fortunately, one person mentioned using it before I headed in so I was warned instead of offending anyone with my beached-whale nudity.  Normally, I take a sauna au-natural and given the mix of cultures and religions, I would have been sure to offend someone and for such an indiscretion, been subjected to the wrath of some P.C., stuffed suit from one of our onshore cubicle farms.  We have a girl on here who always wears a hijab, the Islamic headscarf.  She walked into the sauna without it and it took me 10 minutes to figure out who she was.  At first, I thought perhaps somehow a helicopter had managed to land in this shitty weather and brought us some new crew, but no, I've sailed and lived with her for 8 weeks and never saw her without that damn scarf.  She looks like a complete stranger!

Stranger still is the guy who's apparently been calling me by the name of another crew member for the last 8 weeks and gone un-noticed by ME.  I'm not sure I believe him, but he called me by the wrong name twice yesterday and when I mentioned it, he acted completely baffled, explaining he'd always called me "Roy" AND the other guy by my name.  I haven't yet seen the other guy today to get his side of things.  I mean, how can all three of us be so clueless for 8 weeks?

Lastly, I had beef ragout, garlic shrimp and oregano and tomato meatballs for breakfast at midnight, tonight.  What a strange diet I have out here...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

To the moon, Alice!

Cool Story on Wired

No capsicum for you!

I had a dream in which the ship capsized and rather than escape, we all kept working.  Oh, we complained about having to walk around on the ceiling and how hard it was to secure keyboards and read a monitor upside-down, but we just kept working.  My biggest bitch was trying to take a shower-the shower head, now at the floor, would not squirt water all the way up to my head, making it hard to shampoo.  The cook made a pineapple upside-down cake and we killed him.  With fire axes.

This without ingesting any mind-altering substances.

He was redeemed, in my twisted mind this morning when I found plum-chili pork, chicken satay with pineapple rice, tempura fish and cauliflower with capsicum on the breakfast menu.  Only an idiot real man would break his fast with chilis, satay and capsicum.  He knows me well.  An hour later and I'm still burping up southeast Asia. 
Which brings me to note that we are already out of milk and yogurt.  No more until April.  Fresh vegetables will disappear within a week to ten days.  We're far to remote and the seas are far to heavy all the time, to bring a supply ship alongside.  This is a tough place to work.  One of the toughest I've encountered anywhere in the world.  The arctic was bad, but the weather was calmer, most of the time.  Even South of  Tierra Del Feugo ( El Fin del Mundo) isn't as consistently rough.  
We're starting a table-tennis tournament onboard.  Most of the Asian crew are walking around with a gleam in their eye if you mention it.  I suspect that I'm about to discover that yet another stereotype is true and they are gonna kick the snot of the rest of us.
We had an "incident" with a bird on here just a day or so ago.  Turns out if a sea bird lands anywhere on the ship (even in the middle of operations), you can't touch it. They're all protected species down here-sea birds, that is.  If one lands on something you're working on, you have to step back and let him take it over for as long as he wants.  Talk about squatter's rights.

Well, that's about all that's on my mind this morning.  Time for another cuppa joe and to poke my head out on deck and check the weather.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Killer break, dude

Anyone out there remember this?  I just fell asleep on it and would rather be surfing one than modeling it...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Falls under cool AND important AND useful

I don't know where I first learned about these, but recently I came across them while classifying galaxies at Galaxy Zoo. Gravitational lensing has been discussed on the forum quite a bit and one kind soul put together images of the 67 recently found, but from COSMOS images.

Anyway, I just wanted to make it a point to tell you that if you're interested at all in space, astronomy, astrophysics and just about every other related topic, but feel like it's mostly over your head, this forum is the place to go. It is populated by a large number of hard-core astronomers, astrophysicists and the like, but also the entire spectrum of humanity. Everyday people from all walks of life, all over the planet. Because of this mix you can read explanations of the amazing wonders of the cosmos, all in layman's terms, or in as much detail as you wish. It's a great place to learn about what's out there and how we're finding it. Oh yes, and you can also participate in some ground-breaking science that's fun to do!! Soon, GZ2 will debut and the world will be a better place for it. I loves me some zoo.

Finally, these everyday people are not only looking at images of distant galaxies, stars, nebulae and assorted other cool phenomenon, they are also discovering things heretofore unseen and unexplained by science. For instance, a little blue blob, noticed by Hanny, one of the everyday folks who love to classify and learn about this great big universe we live in. She posted an image on the forum and asked if anyone knew what it was (as we all do, all the time, in the zoo). Turns out she's discovered something new, unusual and very cool. Scientific papers are being written, time is being sought after on two famous telescopes, including HUBBLE. Can you imagine finding something that leads to investigation with the world's most famous telescope? You can see the little fellow here, in the very first post by Hanny:)

ps. If you've got kids interested in space and their old enough to tell clockwise from counter-clockwise, then get 'em on the zoo. My 6 yr old loves to classify with me (for about 1/2 an hour or until something shiny is noticed...).

Father of the lab rat (among other things)

Bookmarked this the other day.  He seemed like a pretty cool cat, what with the nation's first colony of lab rats and all...


This isn't a big deal, but it definitely falls under "cool".

Monday, March 3, 2008

Spread the love

I'm not a smart man. I can admit that and still feel good about myself. I can chop firewood, or get from point A to point B without getting too lost. I can cook enough to keep myself alive, if necessary and can even change my own oil, though I rarely do. I can even help out with my children's homework, which is just about the pinnacle of my intelligence and frankly, that's enough to get by in life and enough for me.

I also like to think I'm just smart enough to identify who the really smart people are and try to pay attention to them. Ben Stein happens to be one of those people, at least to me. To me, he epitomizes intelligence tempered with honesty and common sense. He also has a unique oratory and written style that speaks to me. I found his latest NY Times article confirming a few things that have been rattling around in my brain for the past year, as headlines and Democratic politicians in our decidedly capitalist nation have decried the oil companies' recent financial successes as being excessive, evil and something to be stopped before they cause the collapse of the civilized world and the loss of the little bowls of free pennies found next to many cash registers.

Ben (and Big Oil and a free-market society, it seems) are not without their detractors, however. Seeking Alpha's Felix Salmon has a hard-on for Ben and not in the normal "I wish you were my pet sheep" kind of way. He doesn't hesitate to bring the hammer down on my hero and intellectual savior and the unforgivable greed of Big Oil, and I'm sorry, but this just plain old pisses me off. Felix argues for profit caps on a non-monopoly, which goes against everything, economically, we stand for in this country. He also ignores the fact that one must take risks in order to gain profit and Big Oil is the classic, textbook example of big risks translating to big profits for those willing to invest in the the risk. Oddly enough, he separates profits from cost and re-investment and nails XOM's $40 billion as excessive and evil. W.T.F? He really needs to consider a couple of things, in my humble opinion.

First, like any other industry, petroleum is cyclic in nature, but like minerals extraction, is violently cyclic. It is exactly these large profit margins in these heady times that allow the XOM's and Chevrons to survive the deep downturns in their industry, consistently investing in R&D, advancing the world's cutting-edge technologies that make today's exploration and extraction efficient, economic and even possible as the world's remaining reserves are found in deeper water, and more remote and hostile environments found in countries that have less and less love for the good old US of A (and the big, trans-national companies that still look like the USA to them) and are making it more an more costly to do business there.

Second, a publicly-owned entity needs a continual investment by the public and that only comes with trust. Trust built on continued successes (which require high profits allowing a large re-investment in R&D to capture increasingly more dangerous oil) and consistently high profits which guarantee maxim return on one's investment. XOM's not going to be anyone's first investment choice if Felix had his way and capped their profits. I think it's a matter of one's envy creating an illusion of another's greed.

XOM and it's brethren are not Saudi Arabia. They don't possess a sea of oil under their company headquarters, having only to open the valves and rake in $40 billion in profits. They have to spur the development of, or develop themselves, the cutting-edge technologies that many other business' come to rely on as matter of habit. The gains in computer technologies? Driven by the oil industry and everyone benefits, including Felix as he bangs out his article. Engineering, communications, transportation, materials science, the list goes on. It costs a helluva lot of money to drive a technology forward and we ALL benefit from those investments, not just the oil companies.

Big Oil doesn't exist in a vacuum. As Ben points out, XOM's profits feed pensions, funds, retirement accounts, etc. They are also directly tied to thousands of other business and industries. Manufacture of the pumps, pipes, drill rigs, computers, ships, tanker trucks, cranes, refineries, and countless thousands of other items absolutely necessary to coax a single barrel of oil from the depths, ship it to a refinery, refine it and then ship it to where it is finally used in whatever form, be it gasoline in your car's fuel tank, or the plastic of a syringe that saves the life of your child (yes, a not at all subtle reminder of the tired, old argument that your being hypocritical, slamming an industry when it's responsible for so many of the things you use to slam it with). All these things are tied to a healthy and profitable oil industry. The better it does, the better the countless thousands of business and industries that rely on the oil industry as their largest, or only customer. Big Oil is business, spread across the continuum and cannot be singled out, nor capped without cutting everything.

Politicians and journalists who find it necessary to use BIG OIL profits as a convenient and easily digestible scapegoat for the disillusioned have-nots, put me in mind of the bitter man with a funny little mustache who used a people in the same manner, many years ago and while it's nowhere near the same horrific thing, it's still wrong. You can't make someone, or something a scapegoat, blaming them for your own failings and shortcomings without expecting to get called out and taken down, eventually.

Simply Google the price of oil in any other country that's a net importer of oil. We're getting damn cheap oil from the XOM's of the world and should think twice before calling to shoot them in the back. Oh yeah, and our national debt is rapidly approaching a value incomprehensible to the majority of intelligent life in the universe and XOM paid $30 BILLION in taxes in 2007. We all benefit from that, don't we? Taxes paid are not the only figure missing from any of the arguments against big oil profits. I'm not going to look it up, but what percent of net sales do these profits represent? I think you'll find ALL XOM's financial numbers are huge, both positive and negative. Big is BIG any way you slice it, no?

On a slightly odd side-note, this month marks the anniversary of my beloved PW going through with her promise to marry me, despite all my obvious shortcomings. I sure wish I had even a small chunk of that $40 billion to buy her all the things she deserves for putting up with my shit and being such a wonderful wife, friend and mother. (especially since I'm half-way around the world and can't even take her out for a non-McDonald's dinner) I love you honey.

Anyway, as usual I'm angry and emotional instead of intelligent and rational, but people, that's how I roll and if you don't like it I also own more than one gun. That said, feel free to disagree and criticize.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cheap fuel, or mutant bugs eating away our atmosphere?

This guy's got some laudable goals, but I wonder why he thinks a suicide gene equals security?  As a geneticist, he seems to be forgetting about mutation, which is more than a little disturbing...experimentation like this has the potential to make all of our SF-like fears a frightening reality.  Still, cheap fuel would be nice, eh?

Why, why, why?

You can post images.  You can even post video.  Has anybody noticed that audio has been left out in the cold like and unwanted dog?  I've been plowing through dozens of new artists and hundreds of songs that I've accumulated lately and not yet listened to.  I've deleted a fair bit, but found a few, new artists that I would love to share on here, but alas..."The truth is, I THOUGHT it mattered - I thought that MUSIC mattered. But does it? Bollocks! Not compared to how people matter."  Thanks to Pete Postlethwaite for that, I guess I'll move on...

Um, maybe I won't.  Todays picks (not posted, dammit) would be; Martha Wainwright-Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole and Ball And Chain.  Both, beautifully composed and sung with a sort of sad fury that puts me in mind of an angry Lucinda Williams.  I'm impressed.

Oh, and I just now discovered she is the sister of Rufus Wainwright.  No surprise, given their parentage, that both would be so talented.  She may even be better that Rufus since she doesn't do that thing where he takes forever to push his voice up to the right note on really slow songs-a bit annoying, that.  I'm rambling and I'll stop....

Anyway, Go find Martha somewhere like and have a listen.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Thoughts on the weather and guns

Who was it who wrote just a few hours ago that we were sailing in good weather?  Couldn't have been me because I know to do so is the kiss of death.  Winds are gale force, waves up to 20 feet, washing over the decks.  Spilt my fucking coffee, everywhere...


" to do so is..."  How many two-letter words can one string together and still remain grammatically correct??  I might take a poke at four or five, but to do so is so at the point of being stupid...yeah, I got one more.


I've been Google Reader TRolling  (GRTR) over at Murder & Mayhem and stole this from his thoughts on guns:

6. An armed man will kill an unarmed man with monotonous regularity.

It pretty much sums up my thoughts on gun control and is just about the only thing one needs to say to someone whose in favor of it.  Thanks Dude.