Monday, January 26, 2009

And then my head exploded

I think I've mentioned that operation we're doing out here is extremely complicated and confusing.  Lot of people walking around so wrapped up in thought that it's not uncommon to see someone bumping into a bulkhead, or desk, muttering to themselves about some problem, or whatever.  Today, the level of complexity and my confusion just went through the roof and then my head exploded...the end

Sunday, January 25, 2009

In which only some manage to escape

Today, one one of the screens in the instrument room, several of us watched choppers taking off and landing on the vessel next to us.  We are using multiple vessels on this particular operation and one is always a few hundred yards off our beam.  We have a remotely operated camera trained on it and watched them leave.  Watching on a screen and listening to the comments of people around me, reminded me of watching some sort of old WWII escape movie.  Except at the end, I'm still stuck here.

The high point of my day has been a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich made with a stale bun.  Good times.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

African Sunshine

Today was the first day in at least a week I went outside and saw the sun.  It was definitely Africa hot.  Maybe 95-100 and the sun felt like it was 6 inches off of the back of my neck.  It hurt.

A fire drill was the occasion.  Nothing less would've pulled me out of my cave.  Been working hella long hours every day, trying to solve the myriad problems on a very complex project of a type we've never done before as a ship, or company.  It's challenging, but 18 hour migraine headaches are only interesting for a day or so.

I read in the Yahoo! news that just North of us in Nigeria, it was reported that one of two guys caught stealing a car, turned into a goat when cornered.  I think the goat was charged with auto theft.  Yes, interesting times in West Africa folks and don't trust the goat-man.

The only other interesting thing of note out here is that tonight at dinner I learned that if you smother half a lobster in cheese, it's hard to tell that it's been in the freezer for 18 months.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

and then...

Somebody gave me copies of the other three Trans Siberian Orchestra albums I was lacking.  Just like Christmas:)  LP will be happy.  And then I went to their website to see what I missed on this year's tour.  Steven Tyler and Robin Zander played this year-fuck.  Admittedly, not as great as their 07 guests-Roger Daltrey, Greg Lake, Paul Rodgers and Tommy Shaw and howz that for a fucking guest list?  And then noticed that the new album must be coming along.  You can already buy one song of the album on Amazon for a buck.  Can't wait to hear it.  Been listening to my 3 new albums for the last 3-4 hours and they are pretty damn good.


Today something significant occurred.  I actually communicated with my boss in real time, on a company chat program-almost like talking to him.  He promised someday we might even meet each other, like face to face.  It would be really weird to actually meet the man after all these years.


Woke up late and very tired this morning.  Got a surprise when I entered the mess for breakfast.  Normally, the cooks make these white beans in tomato sauce that the Brits like to put over toast.  They look somewhat like baked beans, but taste like shit.  This morning, I find a big pan of re-fried beans!  Now, I loves me some re-fried beans, so I pass on the oatmeal and yogurt and make a huge plate of garlic rice smothered in re-fried beans, with some scrambled eggs. 

I sit down at a nearly full table and scoop a bunch of my frijolies into my mouth and gag.  Unknown to me, everyone else at the table was watching, intently.  They all wondered what the dark brown slop was and were excited to see me try it.  Turns out I had smothered garlic rice in chocolate rice pudding. I threw out my plate and went back to oatmeal and yogurt.  And that is how my day started out, today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The big day is today, isn't it?

How's it going back there?  I think we have a new president, but I'm honestly, not entirely sure it's today.  I feel so far removed from home and the US right now that Mugabe Mouse seems more familiar to me than Obama.  Hard to believe I've been gone for only a week.

Life rolls on, slowly, here... 

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Why? Because we love you...

A memo has come out that the junior personnel on my ship should be working in Angola during their time off.  The young Malaysian girl that works for me is very upset, desperately not wanting to work in Angola.  I've been singing the "Mugabe Mouse" song to her all day, saying she can visit Mugabe Mouse at Disneyland Zimbabwe.  She hates me for some reason.  I'm led to believe that Malaysian people have no sense of humor.  The Filipino guy who shares our office thinks it's a riot and sings with me.  THEY know funny. 

"Who's the leader of the club
That's made for you and me?"

"M-U-G-A-B-E  M-O-U-S-E!"

Friday, January 16, 2009

Back to Africa

Back at sea.  It took three days to get here.  Made it to London Heathrow by the second day.  Had a 10-hour layover and needed to fly out of London Gatwick.  Took a cab from Heathrow to Gatwick.  On the way, an accident on the motorway caused us to get off and take country roads the whole way.  The cabbie woke me up so I could see the sights.  I wasn't happy, but the drive was gorgeous, very picturesque.  Rolling green hills, hedgerows, sheep, tiny cottages.

At Gatwick, after meeting some of the crew and a bunch of guys from my old operation and downing a few beers, I grabbed a room in the Yotel located in the airport.  A Yotel is very similar to the Japanese commuter hotels, just a bed built into the wall of a coffin-sized cabin.  They call them cabins, not rooms, in fact.  There is only enough room to stand in one place, or turn around, between the bed and the shitter/shower behind a sliding glass partition.  However, the bed is extremely comfortable and has a built-in wide-screen tv. A small table folds down to hold a bag, our set up a laptop.  The entire Yotel and the cabins are lit by soft, purple neon.  This has the same effect as sleeping pills.  Better, in fact.

I left Gatwick via a charter flight.  Despite the fact that 6 ships's crews were flying together, many of us managed to get an entire row to ourselves.  I even slept for an hour or two on the flight with the help of booze, muscle relaxers and codine. Luanda, was Luanda.  Customs and Immigration went better than normal, but they took my passport.  I have yet to see it.  We had to stand around in the chaos outside the airport for an hour or two, but eventually headed out in buses to the heliport.  From there, we flew quickly to Soyu, up North. 

Coming in to Soyu on the chopper, I saw my first view of the African bush.  I mean, it looked like Africa.  I expected to see herds of elephants and lions and shit.  Large flocks of birds coming up out of the mangrove swamps along the Congo, turned out to be the only visible wildlife, but it was still a great view.  So, we landed in Soyu and I stood on the banks of the Congo.

After refueling the chopper, we took a short hop to the ship, where I got a whirlwind, 2 hour handover that only covered about half of what I needed, and then I was on my own.  I walked around in confusion for a few hours, then decided to call it a day.

I unpacked, took a long sauna and fell asleep reading my book.  This morning, I feel as if I've been run over by a bus and I have no idea what's supposed to be going on out here.  I fear it's going to be a long trip.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


At best is what I am the day before I ship out for parts unknown.  Today was no exception.  I spent the morning sorting paperwork, reading procedures, emailing back and forth with my oppos on the ship, charging batteries, packing, etc.   At 1:45pm I went out and started up PW's SUV in preparation to run errands, pick up LP from school, and take her to a doctor's appointment in town.  I haven't driven my pickup truck much, lately, so I started it and let it warm up.  It was -5 this morning.

After some last minute running around, PW and I finally left the house and completed the aforementioned errands and appointments.  At 4:45, as I drove to the mall for an appointment with my barber, I realized I left the pickup running in the driveway.  Shit.

I estimated that I had less than a quarter tank of gas when I started it.  It gets probably 10 MPG idling, which must equate to 10 GPH, or Gallons Per Hour.  I arrived home expecting the truck to have run out of gas with a dead battery from running the fan I left on defrosting the windshield.   It was still running, had over a quarter tank of gas and I never turned on the defroster, at all.  The windshield was still frozen solid. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Back to sea

Got my flight details and about 60 pages of handover notes, procedures and work instructions, today.  Major downer.  No good news anywhere!  The 60 pages mostly detail problems and outstanding issues I'll face, beginning Friday when I arrive.  I suppose, the flights were good news in that they are all KLM flights, except for a charter from London to Luanda.  At least I'll add a few thousand frequent-flyer miles to the old NW account before it becomes a Delta account as the merger progresses this year.  I'm giong to see if I can't wrangle first, or business class out of them, too.  I hate dealing with cattle class when traveling half way around the world.

Anyway, this morning I got in an excellent workout, but since then it's been laundry, stoking the wood stove and wading through my handover documents.  All in all, not a stellar day.  It's getting colder and snowing like hell.  Hope the weather is better in your neck of the woods!

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Dug that bastard snowblower out of the waist-deep snow with the help of my nephew.  It was hermetically sealed under a tarp, which was frozen to the ground but we finally cleared all the snow and used a 6-foot pry bar to break it loose.  Then we had to pull it through 20 feet of waist deep snow to get it to the driveway where I could plug it in and try the electric start.  Fired right away, despite not being used in a couple years, so that was cool.  About an hour later I went back out to haul in firewood and while chatting with the neighbor, watched several fire trucks drive by.  We followed in his truck and spent the next hour watching one of our neighbors house burn to the ground.  Major bummer-most likely a chimney fire, given the cold temps and number of people up here that burn wood-like me.

salmonella-colored snow

Snow, snow and more snow.  Woke up to another 10 inches on the ground this morning, after receiving a couple yesterday.  It looks as though we may get another foot today if doesn't stop.  I took LP to school this morning and another 2 inches had fallen while I was gone.  PW and LP went snowmobiling. yesterday.  LP had a blast and now wants me to buy her one.  Evidently, she likes to cruise down the trail with her arms out, "flying".

I've been down with a case of salmonella poisoning, according to the national media.  I thought it was a touch of the flu, or a case of plain old food poisoning, but no, it's got to be salmonella.  Regardless, I will persevere and dig out the snowblower this morning.  I've only planned on digging it out for the last 17 days in a row and today is going to be the day.  Yep, any minute now...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Yooper Christmas Wishes

Found this over at a fellow Yooper's (Sue) blog. LL and Maeve may recognize a few cities in the song... Yeah, I know Christmas is over-I saw the fucking valentines candy out already at Wal-Mart.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

snow, snow, snow

All I had to do was wake up and make a dentist appointment yesterday.  From the minute I got up, things began to conspire against me.  Descending the stairs in the morning, I heard somebody running water in the kitchen, except I was the first one up and there warn't nobody in there.  Yep, the hot water, no less, was running at about half of full blast.  Baffled, I went to turn it off, but it was off.  Fuuhhhck.  Valve under the sink, frozen.  Double-fuck.  Broke the handle off trying to get it to turn.  Ended up using a pair of robo-grip pliers on the bastard.  Took a very brief and cool shower goddammit, then nuked a cuppa day old joe.  Couldn't stoke the woodstove as it was full of ash from the last couple days, so I had to pry out the grate, shovel it clean, haul the ashes outside AND THEN light a fire.  We had a nasty little blizzard some time after 3am.  Nine or ten inches of white shit covered the vehicles.  Had to put the SUV in the street to get my pick up out, so I had to clean off both of them.  Roads were nasty once I got going, but wait-forgot something and had to drive back home.  By the time I left home, it was time for my appointment.  The roads were slow-going and I, of course got stuck behind some motherfucker in a K-car, doing 25 on the highway.  I finally did make the dentist and he was kind enough to see me about a half-hour late.  He even fixed my crown at no charge:)  Later, I bought a new faucet and popped that sucker in, though I was rudely reminded that I am also in need of replacing the counter top and every other damn thing in the kitchen.

Today, I woke with a headache and had trouble getting going.  Eventually, LP and I went grocery shopping, then I loaded the wood rack up with a face cord and then out of the blue my oldest son showed up on a snowmobile with his gf in tow.  They hung out and watched a movie, then bailed for greener pastures.  I've been sitting on the couch reading and watching a bit of the tube, ever since.  It's 4:30am.  I wonder if I have insomnia?  We have another troll relative arriving tomorrow (my SIL left two days ago), if he can manage to get through the snow. Right now, it's a blizzard out there and he still has about 275 miles to go.  He holed up for the night in Mackinaw, just below the bridge, but he's gonna have the same shit tomorrow...

Or any other day for that matter.  Forecast for the week is snow every fucking day.  Anyway, I hope he makes it OK.  He wants to go ice fishing and I haven't been ice fishing in like 3 years.  Tomorrow, I'm gonna grease the tip-ups and tear apart the ice fishing pole.

Well, I've got a nasty chest pain and my eyes are getting heavy.  Finally.  Time for a last smoke and then hit the rack.