Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Don't walk it-cross it

It has been said before that it is good to be King.  It was certainly better than being a Pollywog, today.   The Wogs were called to and detained in the ship's office.  In pairs, they were led out, blindfolded, to answer to myself (King Neptune) and my court.  My Bashers, Doctor and Chief Inquisitor did the dirty work as myself, my Queen and our Baby held court and watched the proceedings. 

The Wogs were led to a purifying bath, made of rotten food and numerous sauces, oils, vinegars and just plain nasty shit.  Once kneeling in the foul brew, the charges against them were read aloud, they were allowed to plead and I judged them.  All were found wanting and judged guilty, whatever the charges, which ranged from sleeping on shift, to being French.  Forced to drink a purifying drink of Tabasco, chicken sauce, balsamic vinegar, custard and other nasties; they were then baptized in the bathwater and ritually shaved- an eyebrow or a bald stripe right through the center of their hair.

Pulled from the bath, they were then forced to kneel and crawl to my feet, where I passed sentence on them.  All were sentenced to appear before our Baby and hammered with custard pies, before being set free as Shellbacks.

All in all, a very pleasant day for myself and the rest of the veteran Shellbacks.  The Wogs?  Well, they will all get over it, someday.  Most likely the day they sit in my seat and have nothing to fear, but sunburn.  I burnt my forehead and the tops of my feet during the ceremony:(

So, this long-standing tradition, handed down through several hundred years of seafaring still stands tall and yet another generation of sailors have been abused, ridiculed, poisoned and shaved.  It's been a good day.  What do think of my mustache?

It's good to be King

We have crossed the Equator.  Twenty-two crew are now Shellbacks, judged and found wanting by myself, King Neptune.  Pictures to follow...

Monday, September 29, 2008

$%&*! Reader

Is anyone else having problems with Google Reader?  Mine comes up blank!  It's driving me nuts and it's VERY bad timing since I have a crap satellite connection up here in the Java Sea.  It takes forever to load a blog and some just will not load before timing out:(  I miss reading my blogs-WAH!

In other news, we're just a day from the Equator, now.  It's 1am and freaking HOT out.  Seas are calm and so is the ship.  The crew are quietly preparing for the absolute chaos that will occur when we hit the Quay.  Fortunately, for us this port call/ dry dock will only last 19 days-until crew-x.  Our opposites may face a much longer time and all, or most of it in dry dock, which can be decidedly more uncomfortable than a mere port call.

Hopefully, I won't have to return to Singapore.  It's not that I don't like the place, I do.  They have great food, cheap beer, etc.  It's just that I'm ready to move on.  I've been traveling to this region for nearly a year and I've had enough.  It's half way around the world and I'm sick of 40 hours flying, flirting with Deep Vein Thrombosis and eating muscle relaxers and painkillers like mixed nuts, just to commute to work.  I'm ready for South African wine country, working West Africa again and if latest rumour bears fruit, summer in Alaska...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Veeesta tidbit

Just found a helpful hint for Vista users out there.  Unlike in previous versions of Windows, Vista has no GUI for Disk Defragmenter. You can't tell how fragmented your disk is, how long it will take to defrag and how far along the process is, while it's going.  You also get no results back when it's finished and often it tells you that the disk needs to be defragged as soon as it finishes!  This sucks from all angles.

Cruising the nerdy, tech sites I learned that you can still crank this puppy up from the command line, with options.  You can get summary reports for analysis, or both analysis and results.  You can also choose your disk, do a partial defrag, etc.  The command is simply defrag <drive you want to defrag>: followed by any flag you want/need.  The flags simply modify the command and are in the format -c, -v, -a,-w, -r, etc.  If you want to defrag your C drive and see a report for before and after defrag, you type this at the command prompt:   defrag C: -v

A complete and coherent explanation can be found at Ask the Performance Team.  These guys are great at breaking down complicated and unfamiliar topics, synthesizing them into something the lay person can easily understand and take home to use on their own boxes.  Hope this helps ya'll.

Vista has some real shitty quirks, but I'm liking it better every day as I learn more about it, or at least learn how to get around the shit I don't like about it, like that annoying User Account Control.

Singapore soon

Still steaming North in the Java Sea, between Sumatra and Borneo, still working, still have a cold and it's still getting hotter by the minute.  The temperature was only about 90, but it felt like the sun was about an inch from the back of my neck...

We're about one day's sail from the Equator.  I'll try to post some photo's of the crossing ceremony.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Has come and gone.  We passed the Island sometime this morning, around dawn.  There was not much to note, other than some green mountains, a multitude of small vessels and one fishing net that appeared stuck to our bow for a while.

This afternoon, we began to prepare for the transit along Indonesia, where piracy is a real and constant threat.  We held a meeting to review the ISPS procedures related to acts of piracy, going over the crew response and what to expect if boarded.  In my opinion, expect the unexpected, prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  The crew were issued swords and began practicing to repel boarders.  Just kidding, we only use fire hoses, unfortunately.

The Equator and Singapore are close and we should reach port in a few days.  Port call promises to be chaos, but I am looking forward to planting my feet on dry ground and whetting my whistle with a cold beer in Changi.  Work progresses with little issue and I'm pleased at that:)  Knock wood....

It seems I have what you might call a distant relative, living in Singapore and I hope they are able to come down and get a tour of my ship-they would be the first ever to do so.  I've often hoped my family could visit during port call, somewhere, and actually see where I go to live and work, at least seven months of every year.  I feel like the people I care about really have no clue about where I go, what I do and how I live most of my life and it saddens me, makes me feel apart from everyone.  I think that you can't appreciate what this place is like until you've at least had a look at the ship, in person and up close.  Pictures, words and even video, just don't do it justice.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Still going...

North.   Not yet to Bali, still out in Indian Ocean.  The crew has mostly recovered from the paint fumes, just a few disturbing memories of wild dreams and dark thoughts.  Weather is good, a bit choppy, but all in all, good sailing weather.  Work is progressing smoothly, with only the expected hiccups and issues.  My sinus infection is holding on tightly, despite saunas every night after shift.  The big news of the day was acquiring a pair of work pants to replace my long-sleeve boiler suit.  I was not looking forward to wearing that in Singapore...

Watching the state of the economy and politics from afar, I am getting quite a dismal picture of home.  Somebody fix that shit before I come back!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Even with a sinus infection

I can smell paint fumes.  Some idiot painted the floor of the A/C room and the fumes have penetrated the whole interior of the ship.  It's about 105 degrees outside-too hot to just sit out there.  The guys off shift can't sleep from the fumes and I think they're going to kill the paint guy...

Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act of 1940 (amended 2003)

Browsing the news today I came across a reference to the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and noted that among other benefits, soldiers can have their interest rates on loans, mortgages and credit cards reduced, while on active duty.  This includes rates on debts incurred prior to active duty.  There are several other sections and benefits, as well.  This reference offers a simple explanation of the act.  This site offers a more complete explanation of the amended act (2003), for certain sections.  Finally, questions and answers from JAG

Maybe most soldiers and sailors and their families are aware of this, but it was news to me and I'd hate to see anyone on active military duty who needs it, to miss out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Steam to Singapore: Day 2

Just 24 hours into the steam North, it is getting HOT.  We're still days away from the Equator...

I've got what seems to be a sinus infection, from breathing in 15 years of accumulated dust and debris while pulling old cable last night and am planning on spending my second night in a row, sitting in the sauna.  While sailing to the Equator...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Steaming North

We're on our way to Loyang, Singapore.  Cleared customs and immigration this morning.  I got a call early this morning while in the shower to report to the ship's office and get cleared.  Ran up there thinking I'd get interviewed, fingerprinted and interrogated.  The girl says "Right, let's have a look at you, then" and promptly dismissed me. Interrupted my shower for nothing!

Anyway, we split Dampier and headed North through the many whales.  They were jumping everywhere, today.  We should be there in nine days, I think.

There was little of my normal work to do today, so I jumped in to help one of the other departments.  As we're heading into port and dry dock for some major work, we had tons of shit to dismantle and pack up.  I donned a climbing harness and went into the rails and beams above one of the interior decks (despite being afraid of heights-it was only about 20 feet up) and pulled out about 26 miles of heavy cable.  I'm soaked in sweat and head-to-toe black with grease, dirt and sea-slime, but I feel pretty damn good.  It was a rather enjoyable day, actually.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Thar she blows!

We've been anchored up off a few islands since last night.  The islands were striking and beautiful.  Brilliant white beaches, rocky plateaus and sand dunes, with a little scrub here and there.  The waves crashing over the reefs and not a soul in sight.  I think they are deserted and quarantined as nature preserves.

On the seaward side of the ship, numerous pods of whales frolicked in the waves.  Mostly sperm whales, they were quite active-breaching and sending up huge, white splashes against the sparkling blue water.  Many of the crew lined the bridge wings, taking photos.  I chose to simply enjoy the show, but perhaps later I can snag a couple of photos and post them.

We have to stay another day here to clear customs and immigration, then we're off for Singapore. 


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sweat sock-flavored candy

In the corner of the mess, the cooks lay out a small selection of candy, gum and little bags of Fisherman's Friends.  Occasionally, I grab a bag of the cough drops-living in AC for 5-6 weeks dries out my throat.  Today, I stopped for a bag because my throat is REALLY sore.  Some fucker gave me the plague.

Anyway, I see a roll of MUSK-FLAVORED Lifesavers.  FUCKING MUSK!! 

Now, if you've never had a musk-flavored Lifesaver, you can't imagine the taste, OR the smell.  Not in your worst nightmares.  Three hours later, I still cannot get the taste out of my mouth and I spit it out almost instantly...

Kiwis are some weird motherfuckers.


By the way, I forget to tell you I've posted another review

Goodbye to Oz

Tomorrow will be my last day in Oz, if everything goes right.  We're nearly done packing shit up and expect to clear customs tomorrow.  We'll sail up out of the Indian Ocean, through Indonesia-probably between Bali and Sumbawa, into the Java Sea.  From there, we'll swing northwest and pass between Sumatra and Borneo, where I once had a run-in with an evil orangutan.  Singapore, an Island nation on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, is little more than a very large city.  It's in some ways, very modern and boasts a mix of Asian cultures, foods and people.  For sailors, it's mostly known for a downtown bar complex called "Four Floors of Whores".  I'll spend some time on the northeastern side of the Island, just North of the Singapore City International Airport, in Loyang, the port outside of Changi Village, which is at the entrance to Serangoon Harbor.  Later, We'll move over to the Southwest end of the island, to the Industrial Estate of Jurong, where we'll enter dry dock.

It's going to busy for me, both on the steam up and once we're in port.  Hopefully, I'll get some time to walk into Changi Village, though.  A few years ago, I had one of the best meals of my life at little food stall located in an outdoor pavilion full of food vendors and a little bar.  Eating and drinking for 4 hours cost me just over 10 dollars...

Anyhoo, I'm sick and really should get my ass out on deck, too.  Peace.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Riddle me this, Batman

Yesterday was full of riddles, puzzles, mysteries and mayhem.   I felt like, well, I don't know what I felt like, but it wasn't exactly pleasant, I can tell you.  The data I work on and the methods I use presented me with enough mystery to give Sherlock Holmes a stroke.  Meanwhile, crew are walking around asking riddles and puzzles.  A few even ASKED me for a riddle, or to show them a few puzzles/tricks that I've pulled out before on slow days.

I cannot and will not go into the work details, but I wish I could:  LL would LOVE the one that takes 3rd grade math and turns it into a mind-fucking puzzle.  I will, however, relate a couple of things:

Riddle me this:  A man lives on the 20th floor of an apartment building.  Every morning he gets in the elevator, takes it to the ground floor and goes to work.  Every evening he returns to his building, gets in the elevator, rides it to the 15th floor and takes the stairs the rest of the way to the 20th.  Why?

This next one is a bit more complicated. 


A man walks into a restaurant, sits down and orders a quail dinner.  When his food arrives, he stands up walks out of the restaurant and promptly kills himself.  Why?
You may ask (20) YES, or NO questions.  Any question asked may also be considered irrelevant and will not count against your 20.

Send me the questions via email, which you can find in my profile.  Send them one at a time and consider the answer before submitting another.  From time to time, I may throw out a clue, if people are struggling.  First one to piece together the entire story wins, oh, i don't know-a bottle of vino, or a gold star on yer forehead-we'll cross that causeway when the hurricane comes.

In other news, the big puzzle is what are we going to do out here during my trip.  It seems that our plans are so totally up in the air that I have no idea what country I'm going to be in next week.  Undaunted, I chose my crew-x flights just today and have tentative plans to fly home via Perth, AUS.  Four weeks to go, people.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Found under the desk along with an old raisin, a button and a crumpled piece of paper

Know anybody who asks dumb questions while sitting in front of a perfectly good computer connected to the Interwebs and Google?  Send them this wonderfully helpful link, courtesy of The Pirate.

Yo Ho Ho! Another Review...

Hola landlubbers!  The Pirate has yet another product review for ya'll.  This time, it's the latest program to grace my laptop.  Free and easy and not too cheesy.  Peace and Good Beer to all of you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Day 3

Lost contact with friends who live/lived in Galveston:(  I really hope they got out.  For a moderate hurricane it looks like it has done some serious damage to the Texas coast.  I lived in South Houston many years ago when it was last directly hit by a major hurricane and while the place flooded badly, it faired much better than it has after Ike.  Friends in Houston say it's pretty bad right now and the images on the Internet remind me of driving up the Mississippi Delta into New Orleans just after Katrina.  Having rode out one hurricane on land and several at sea I can only say that mother nature always wins, it's just a matter of how hard you get fucked.

Today I had a 3-way chat with a guy in the Beaufort Sea and another in the North Sea.  I've done it before, but it always sort of blows my mind that we're so far away on the Earth as well as so far from civilization, yet we chat like the three of us are at the bar and not off the coasts of Alaska, Norway and Australia:)

I think my next crew-x is now going to be in Bali.  Yet another place I can say I saw for a day, drank a beer in and left.  I hope they have cold beer.  It now looks like I'll see Singapore City, Capetown, South Africa and Luanda, Angola after that.  I'm just filling in holes on the map left and right.  I wish I could work in Hawaii, or Idaho. 

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Day 2

After four days with no sleep, it was good to finally get my head down and sleep the sleep of the dead.  Took a sauna after shift and actually had a tough time walking back up to my cabin, I was so tired.  This morning, after a huge breakfast, I felt almost human.  We had a muster drill just after shift started-the sun and wind up on deck felt great. 

Two days ago, one of my good friends in the business, passed away at home.  He left behind three children.  I was informed just after arriving here and it was not a good start to the trip.  I've had contact with most of the group we both worked with in past years and it's a tough blow.  I feel so bad for his family:(  He was a good co-worker, friend, husband and father and will sorely be missed.  I can still here him talking about his oldest daughter's success in basketball, going to the championship and state finals. 

He and I were part of a small group onboard that read a lot.  We would each bring back a pile a of books and trade them back and forth during the trip.  It was always a treat to see what he brought-mostly obscure books that you would never choose for yourself, but always interesting and surprising.  He favored period novels that were heavily descriptive of certain skills or crafts that have been lost to time and technology. 

My favorite was a novel that centered around the exploits of a man who, after making what he thought was a horrible mistake, left civilization to drag a giant keg of whiskey up into the wilds of what is now the eastern border of the US and Canada.  The guy made a whole life out of this keg and a slave girl he traded for just as he was leaving.  It turned out to be one of the best books I've ever read and and would never of read it if it hadn't been for my friend, first giving me the book, then urging me to keep reading when I tried to give it back after reading only 30-40 pages.

Anyway, today I'm running only a few, small, automated tasks.  While they run, I'm out on the back deck working with the in-sea gear, winches and that kind of shit.  I need the physical work, so life is good.  By the way, has anyone out there been to Angola, lately??

Saturday, September 13, 2008

just when you think you know

As soon as you know where your next job is in this business, it changes.  Looks like India is out and West Africa is in.  I might even get a crew-x in Capetown, sometime in December.  Just talked to the medic (lives in Capetown) and he says he'd be delighted to give me a tour of wine country.  YUM!!  South African wines!!

Life on the big blue

Now that I'm back at sea and loving it, here are a few simple steps to simulating shipboard life.  They're old, but oh, so true...

1. Sleep on the shelf in your closet. Replace the closet door with a curtain. Six hours after you go to sleep, have your wife whip open the curtain, shine a flashlight in your eyes and mumble "Sorry, wrong rack".

2. Renovate your bathroom. Build a wall across the middle of your bathtub and move the shower head down to chest level. When you take showers, make sure you shut off the water while soaping.  Plug the drain for a week, every other week.

3. Every time there's a thunderstorm, go sit in a wobbly rocking chair and rock as hard as you can until you're nauseous.

4. Put lube oil in your humidifier instead of water and set it to "High".

5. Don't watch TV except movies in the middle of the night. Also, have your family vote on which movie, then show a different one.

6. Leave lawnmower running in your living room six hours a day for proper noise level.

7. Have the paperboy give you a haircut.

8. Once a week blow compressed air up through your chimney, making sure the wind carries the soot across and onto your neighbor's house. Laugh at him when he curses you.

9. Store up garbage in the other side of your bathtub.  Burn it all, every two weeks.  Just under your open, dining room window.  While you eat.

10. Wake up every night at midnight and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on stale bread, if anything. (Optional: Canned ravioli or cold soup).

11. Make up your family menu a week ahead of time without looking in your food cabinets or refrigerator.

12. Set your alarm clock to go off at random times during the night. When it goes off, jump out of bed and get dressed as fast as you can, then run out into your yard and break out the garden hose.

13. Once a month take every major appliance completely apart and then put them back together.  When anything you own breaks, fix it yourself or don't use it ever again.

14. Use 18 scoops of coffee per pot and allow it to sit for 5 or 6 hours before drinking.

15. Invite at least 45 people you don't really like to come and visit for a couple of months.

16. Have a fluorescent lamp installed on the bottom of your coffee table and lie under it to read books.

17. Raise the thresholds and lower the top sills on your front and back doors so that you either trip over the threshold or hit your head on the sill every time you pass through one of them.

18. Lockwire the lugnuts on your car.

19. When making cakes, prop up one side of the pan while it is cooking. Then spread icing really thick on one side to level off the top.

20. Every so often, throw your cat into the swimming pool, shout "Man overboard, ship recovery!", run into the kitchen and sweep all the pots/pans/dishes off of the counter onto the floor, then yell at your wife for not having the place "stowed for sea".

21. Put on the headphones from your stereo (don't plug them in). Go and stand in front of your stove. Say (to nobody in particular) "Stove manned and ready". Stand there for 3 or 4 hours. Say (once again to nobody in particular) "Stove secured". Roll up the headphone cord and put them away.

22. Wake up at 0-Dark-30, line up in the driveway in a light drizzle, and have your mother-in-law criticize your clothes and read you the newspaper.

23.  Next time you need dentistry done, have your auto mechanic perform it while you sit in a rocking chair, rocking as fast as you can.

24. Lay out a 25 meter circle in your backyard.  Fence it in.  Climb in and run laps every time you want some exercise.

25. Buy a new washer and dryer.  From Norway.  Install and use them without reading any directions.  If you know how to read Norwegian, buy them in Indonesia.

26.  Throw out all your clothes, toiletries and personal effects except for what you can fit in one, small duffel bag that weighs less than 30 pounds.  Then loose it for 2 weeks.  Wash the clothes on your back every 4 days while standing in a towel at the local laundry mat.  Borrow a friend's toothbrush and deodorant every other day for that "fresh and clean" feeling.

27.  Make no more than 20 minutes of phone calls per week.  Pull the phone cord out of the plug in the middle of every third call.  Do the same with your Internet connection every 4-5 minutes.

28.  Every time someone you know gets a cold, or the flu, go live with them.

29.  Do not sleep on the weekends, alternate between standing in the middle of a room staring at advertisements, sitting in a folding chair facing the wall and running from one end of your street to the other as fast as you possibly can with a fully-packed piece of carry-on luggage.  Consume only fast food and alcohol.  Then, go to work on Monday and work 15 hours non-stop.

30.  Go to work and live there for one or two months.  Never venture more than 150 feet from your desk.

Back to Oz

48 hours it took to get to Perth.  Qantas lost my bag and caused me to miss my connection in Brisbane.  Typical crew-x.  They gave me AUS100 for the lost bag, but to buy a duffle bag, one pair of jeans, one pair skivvies, one pair of socks, one pair of shoes, toothpaste and a fleece cost me AUS250.  Not much to go on for 5 weeks and a bit pricy considering I bought everything but the fleece at that French store, Target.

Ate a five-dollar burger at Micky-D's while surrounded by pigeons in the restaurant, showered, messaged PW and now I'm passing out since it's already 5:30pm and I have a 3am wake-up.  One more bus, plane and helicopter to go, tomorrow.  I hate this commute, but wonder if the next one will be worse-rumour has it the next job is in India.  The last time I was in that region I actually found myself in a dugout canoe, powered by a dude in loincloth, pushing us with a long pole...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Remains of the break

Took yesterday off.  Decided not work on my furnace and instead took LP out for breakfast and then into the woods.  We drove out about 10 miles on old logging roads.  While hiking the bush, we got caught in a thunderstorm and were soaked by the time we made it back to the truck.  We sat in the truck on top of a clear-cut ridge, warming up and reading a book for about an hour while it rained, then headed back home for burgers.  It was a damn good day.

Less than 48 hours till departure, now.  Back to Australia and work-ugh.  Only last night did I finally receive my flight details and only tonight did I make my seat assignments.  I hate this last minute crap because the seats are mostly assigned by now.  I was frustrated that not only did I have limited seats to choose from, but for one flight, I could not seem to change my seat.  Disgusted, I finally gave up and went back to my itinerary, only to find that the reason I couldn't choose a seat was the airline was upgrading me to first class at the exact same time.  I'm glad their change took precedent! 

Anyway, I'm clinging to the little things as the weight of leaving begins to bear down on me.  My opposite is on Google chat, giving me all the gory details about the operation down there.  Sounds as if I'll have my work cut out for me.  Just now my handover notes arrived in the inbox and I've got to check them out.  The fire needs stoking, too.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Quick Update

My oldest son is now in college.  Today, walking around my alma mater with him was a bit overwhelming.  Lots of memories.

Ripped all the heat ducting out of my house.  Replacing it all and adding cold air returns.  Not fun in a 101 yr old house.  Broke out the sheet metal to box in a few floor joists and cut the crap out of my thumb.  I hate working with sheet metal, but it's not the first, nor last of my blood put into this old house.

Still no roof.  Still waiting on a couple of quotes and getting worried that snow is just around the corner.  The temperature fell 30 degrees in 24 hours a few days ago and just today I had the first fire in our newly installed wood stove.  Man, it was nice.  Maybe a little to hot since I was working, but still sweet.  Beats paying for fuel oil, too:)

Putting in for a work visa to work in India, but in the meantime, it's only six days till I head back to Australia, one more freaking time.