Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas...

...and Happy Holidays to you all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dinner with Noah and the aliens

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

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

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


Monday, December 22, 2008

Early Christmas

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

Christmas, MI

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

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Elvis was in the building

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

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

Friday, December 19, 2008

Back to normal

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


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

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

The long road from Angola

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Later folks.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Time for me to fly...

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

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

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

Saturday, December 13, 2008

X-mas meme

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

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

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

Friday, December 12, 2008


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

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

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


Charred meat

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

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

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

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

More of the same

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Passing of a friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tour Guide

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

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

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

Monday, December 8, 2008


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

Land, sort of...

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

Port 2

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

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

Sunday, December 7, 2008


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

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

Mining in the UP

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

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

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

1976, or Cut me, Mick!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bloody Skeeter

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Two days out

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 5, 2008

The sun will shine tomorrow

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

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

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Namibia, maybe?

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Yet another Pirate Review...

Yo ho people.

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

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Rounding the cape

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

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

Monday, December 1, 2008

Book meme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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