Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Summer vacation and winter wood

Yep. I've been busy. After a few days home, spent sleeping and fishing we packed up LP and the mutt and drove down to my FIL's cabin on a small lake. We then spent another week fishing, sleeping and eating like royalty. Man, the food is really, really good down there. The fishing was also great, if you were LP. Her and I went out every day in a little paddle boat. I typically caught 2-3 fish to her 25. She caught the biggest damn perch I've ever seen-a 14" master angler freaking perch. It would've looked nice mounted between the 12" crappie and the 10" bluegill she also caught.

We made it back home on Sunday night and did absolutely nothing on Monday, but the last two days I've been putting up firewood for the winter. I've got 4 full cords cut, split and stacked in the woodshed, alongside my driveway, in the basement racks and the rack in the living room is half full. The only thing left to do is split a little kindling and I'm ready for the snow.

Now, if my back recovers before I have to fly out in a week, I'll be a happy man.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summer fun

One of the downsides to my piracy career is that often I miss a season, or get very little of it.  Such is the case with this summer.  I've three weeks now and then it's over for me.  With motivation like that, I woke LP early yesterday.  Fed her a hearty breakfast, dressed her warm and off we went for an early morning fish.  We started on one of our favorite streams to hike.  It has a wooden boardwalk on both sides, as it winds lazily through a slough, into the big canal that divides the two biggest towns in this area. Its also dotted with several fishing stations and benches along the way, but in the end, despite the beauty of the river and the comfort of the boardwalk, it remains a fall salmon river only, unless you hike way up into the headwaters to hunt for brookies. 

We left and hit another favorite spot, this time a favorite for fishing. A small, wooded point on the canal, it's right in town, but nearly always deserted and boasts a 24 ft drop-off.  We drifted worms and pieces of hotdog, but the wind and current were against us.  Hiking back to the car, LP found a nice piece of float copper.  After a quick lunch, we next fished a long, wooden dock on the canal right in front of Mr. Budd's house.  LP had all the luck and I had a wonderful time watching her.

Instead of going home in the afternoon, LP wanted to go four-wheeling.  We drove out into the bush and I gave LP the wheel.  She loves to drive and especially in the mud.  She drove us all over the woods, finding every single mud bog in the forest.  We also stopped at our favorite wilderness lakes, saw a timberdoodle, deer and some ducks.  After LP took a year, or two off the life of the truck, we limped home and I stayed pretty close to the couch for the rest of the evening. 

Finally, that other summer tradition, ticks.  Got a big, hairy bastard trying to suck me dry right through my kneecap.  Smothered him in vasoline and scraped him off a few minutes later.  Ticks.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The trip home

Almost home.  I've made it to Atlanta.  It's been 50 hours since I left my ship, since I slept.  The trip started out badly when my backpack and laptop got soaked during the jet boat ride over to the supply ship.  I didn't find out until the next morning, as it was only wet on the bottom, but during the night it soaked up through everything.  I emptied my bag and laid everything out at the entrance to the engine room, where 120-degree air constantly blows up from a stairwell, and it all dried pretty quickly. This is the first time I've powered up the laptop and it works (knock wood).  The ride into Luanda, Angola took about 20 hours.  Spent most of the time reading, watching movies or bullshitting with a guy from one of the other boats in the operation.  I haven't seen him since we worked together up in Alaska a few years ago, which coincidentally, was the start of my original blog, Life of a Pirate. 

I should note that on that ship we live in a metal box, or container, strapped down on the back deck.  From living in the box, we moved into the cage on the dock in Luanda.  This time we literally walked in and right back out of the cage, which was a treat. Any day not in the cage is a good one.  We took a bus up the bluff to the airport.  Our driver was obviously paid by the mile.  our navigators reckoned we drove a star pattern, taking us to each corner of  the city along the way.

Our handlers efficiently shuffled us through to ticketing and then promptly split.  Running the gauntlet of security, customs, immigration and the Quanza Man (TM) is simply a major fucking drag.  Everyone you encounter except the Quanza Man (TM) likes to stare at you and do nothing.  Just stare. I think they look for a reaction to see if you're running late, then they stare longer while you sweat and fidget.  I smile a lot and try hard to fart.  That is usually a very effective buzzkill that immediately gets you shuffled to the next official.

So, I farted at customs, passed gas at immigration and managed security without the need for flatulence and then had to face the Quanza Man (TM).

Quanza Man (TM) is unique in my experience and he has one of the best jobs in the world.  He is paid to steal your money, if he can.  Thats it.  You have to enter his office and he tries to steal your money.   I was out of gas by the time I got to his office and well, it doesn't work on him, anyway.  You see, he wears a rubber glove to work.  Yep.  He'll find that cash even if you've keistered it.  And this is what happens:  Quanza man holds up a rubber-gloved finger and asks you if you have any Quanza (local currency).  I say no.  He asks again, wiggling the finger, looking for a sign of weakness.  I say no, I work on a ship-no Quanza.  Then he demands US dollars.  I say I have none.  He then demands all my money.  I say no.  He says give me your US dollars and I lean forward, say no and stare into his dead eyes.  We stay locked like this for at least a full minute as he waits for me to break.  I don't and he tells me to get out.

It happens this way every time I'm confronted by Quanza Man (TM).  For others, it goes differently and mostly a bit tougher.  He is, after all wearing a rubber glove and he's not afraid to use it.  Mostly, he gets people to open their wallets, turn out their pockets, or open their carry-ons.  If you're weak enough to agree, he'll take any currency he finds and stuff it in his pocket, unless you raise all holy hell.  He's hard to stop once he sees your money, which is why I simply stare him down and say no to whatever he demands.  This time he manged to get one guy to open a wallet that had at least ten different currencies and they spent some long minutes yelling about it.  I tell you, I wish I had that fucker's job.

Anyway, I went to the bar, slammed 6 beers in 20 minutes and flew the fuck outta there.  Had a couple hours layover in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Hit the lounge for a while, then had a decent Malaysian curry with a couple of my shipmates from the Philippines.  The flight from Jo'burg was 16 hours.  Man, I hate those long ones.  I start to question my sanity after about 12 hours and start talking to myself soon after that.

Atlanta is a decent airport, overlooking the long trek to the main terminal, and a place where you can smoke.  Met a lot of soldiers.  They are everywhere in here and it's simply impossible to say hello, welcome them back, or wish them luck and thank them for their service.  It would be a full time job for like an army of people.  Anyway, I thanked as many as I could while waiting in line for security and whatnot.

Now its off to my next flight and Minnie...only two more to go!

UPDATE:  I'm home, recovering pretty well and heading out to see the new Harry Potter movie with all 3 of my kids!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

In which I exit stage left

Up with the dawn patrol this morning.  The sea was black as the sun popped up over the horizon.  Managed to eat a few bites of breakfast and dutifully took my Malarone to ward of the evil malaria.  I'm a little tired, but ready to get the hell off here in another 4 hours, or so.  Stayed up kind of late last night doing laundry and watching a little British telly with the gun chief.  We spent a few hours trading stories and talking about the old days in this business.

Anyway, the seas are calm, my supply ship's ETA is 1100 hrs.  Jet boat is fueled up and we are ready to rock. 

I'll see all you cats on the beach, Tuesday.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Web cam

So I'm sitting out here slightly bored, whiling away the last hour of my last full shift.  I only have a short 5-6 hours to cover tomorrow morning, before crew-x.  I'm surfing the web and come across a website in my bookmarks I haven't seen in a while and remember that it has a web cam only a mile or so from my house.  Called up PW and LP and asked them to stop at the cam on their way into town.  You can walk right up to this one.   They did and I got to see them on the web cam:)  Nice treat to be able to see them when I'm 12,000 miles away and hundreds of miles offshore. It also makes a nice wallpaper for the computer as I spend my last hours onboard.  I guess I'll throw up an update tomorrow morning, but for now...time to sauna, do laundry, pack and try to catch a few hours sleep before the long journey home.  You all have a great day, a wonderful weekend and if you happen to be in the Copper Country, I'll see you soon.

Flag Dispute

Found this to be interesting.  According to my admittedly feeble knowledge of law and tradition and the principles this country was founded on, I think this veteran was within his rights and further has earned the right to signal his distress by flying his flag upside down, having offered his life to defend it. 

It is, in some ways, a tough nut, in that we founded this country on the belief that people have the right to offend each other, but there it is.  Living under the flag gives you the right to burn it in protest, if you're so inclined.  It is exactly that basic freedom that makes us who we are as a nation and a people and not a bunch of poor schmucks living under a King, or much, much worse.

 I think the Marinette County District Attorney might need to pull his head out of his ass, especially after citing that it's illegal to cause a disruption as any decent lawyer could tear his ass apart in court for trying to portray a difference of opinion as a disruption (I see no mention of people rioting in the streets over this).  Whatever, it was an interesting story and not all that far from home, either.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Nicky!

For those who find enjoyment in learning why things are, today is Nikola Tesla's Brithday!  He was born in Serbia, contributed to the scientific world like few others, in the fields of electromagnetics, robotics, radar, nuclear physics, ballistics and many others.  The SI unit of magnetic measure (actually the measure of magnetic flux density ), the Tesla, is named after him.  My favorite Tesla fact is that he calculated the resonant frequency of the Earth (~8Hz).  Happy b-day Nicky.

The distance from here to there

Crew-x is right around the corner, only 72 hours hence. Doing a bit of rough navigation, I've calculated the Great Circle routes home.

From Luanda, Angola
Latitude: 8° 50' 17" S
Longitude: 13° 14' 3" E

to Johannesburg, South Africa
Latitude: 26° 12' 0" S
Longitude: 28° 5' -1" E

That's 1,339 miles, or 2,480 Km.

Then northwest from there to Houghton, Mi
Latitude: 47° 7' 19" N
Longitude: 88° 34' 8" W

For another 8,750 miles, or 14,081 Km.

Adding up the two gives me a grand total commute of 10,089 miles, or 16,561 Km, as the crow flies.

This time around, I've got excellent flights and layovers which should put me at about 29 hours total flying time, plus a 24 hour boat ride into Luanda and half a day clearing customs and immigration. All in all, not a bad commute home as long as I can avoid rush hour traffic...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Better to be pissed off than pissed on

Stunning news, just "leaked" to the public.  Current energy suppliers will be "pissed", as demand for their contributions to the energy "stream" diminishes.
"Yer in" for some big changes when pee power hits the market, putting the oil and coal industries.... in the toilet.

Kill them all

I think I might have possibly mentioned in the past that I get upset with the majority of fellow fliers not following the carry-on baggage rules and observing some sort of respect of others when loading their bags in the overhead bins.  Well, if it takes big brother, then that's what it takes.

As many miles of wire as the Q house...

Dude!  They're going to bulldoze the Bevatron!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

And that's all she wrote, folks...

Just watched Nigeria kick the crap out of France in our first annual ping-pong tournament.  Watching, I realized I'm not even on the same planet with these guys.  It was hard to even follow the ball at times.  It was an awesome game and fun to have most of the crew together to watch it happen.  Back to work...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More of a Pirate's miscellany

Woke up tired today.  Exhaustion from the 12-18 every day is starting to set in.  Drinking coffee, non-stop, from wake up till I hit the rack.  That's usually a good sign that it's time to get off the ship-anything over, say, 30 cups/day.  Five hours in and I'm on cup 9...

Found Buzz Aldrin on Twitter today.  Didn't know he did a rap video with Snoop??  Also, decided to follow Obama for a while, sort of a morbid curiosity thing, you know?  Also Noted Danny Evans (The Almighty Dad Gone Mad) decided to follow me, yesterday.   If you Tweet, go check out my followers, followees.  Maybe you'll find somebody new and worthwhile...

Food quality has been going way up and WAY down, lately.  I've been eating mostly salads, anyway.  Freaking fresh veggies on the ship, here in West Africa, are like crack! 

Ripped open the side of my foot trying to get out of my bathroom in rough seas.  Cannot find what actually sliced my foot open (down the entire side, from little toe to heal!).  On top of something unknown, lurking in the shadows, waiting to rip open my other foot, the wound looks to be infected.  Red lines running up your leg are a bad thing, no?

Was informed that one of our small boats on another ship had an accident and capsized, with the guys bailing out into the sea.  Hate to hear things like this, but at least they all survived and we can learn a few lessons from it.  It's a vivid reminder that what we do out here can seem like a just the daily grind, but is, in reality, extremely dangerous.  The dangers of fire, explosion, crushing, dismemberment, drowning, sharks, etc., are all around us out here, yet you sometimes tend to loose the sense of immediacy when dealing with them on a day-to-day basis.  Reminders are a good thing.

Still waiting to find out where I'm going next.  I'm really hoping for Peru, or Madagascar and NOT waiting around for more Angola, late in the year, though that will most likely happen no matter where I go in the interim.

Whatever the case, I'm outta here in 5 more days and outta Angola in 6...God willing the creek don't rise.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Seismic Week

It's Seismic Week, at least on Discovery Channel's website.  The purpose is to recognize all things seismic, including me (of course) and the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America.  Go check it out, you'll be amazed at what is down there, trust me.

Mohan alert!

"Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomeini warned Western countries on Monday against interfering in Iranian affairs after its disputed presidential election, state television reported." 

Guy just doesn't fucking get it, does he?  I think somebody needs to tell him we don't need to meddle-his own fucking people are LP would say - 


Movie of the week

Minutes after I rolled out of the rack this morning, I got the call to go out filming.  Had to turn up with my first mug of coffee and drink it on the way back to the gear.  It was a glorious morning, sun just up and shining brightly.  The seas were calm, with a gentle, long-period swell and no chop.  Copped a smoke, drank coffee on the leisurely ride back to the gear, where we filmed, underwater, for about an hour.  I played the part of producer and tried my best to keep the director in line, but he spent the better part of an hour giving the cameraman and key grip a ton of shit. Freaking directors.   Still, all in all it was a great trip, an escape from the ship and work and everything.  Good times.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Fresh fruits and veggies from the supply ship!  Huge salad, carrots, broccoli and cukes.  Heaven.  Also had some sort of pastry with a mango yogurt topping.  Very yummy.  I love supply ships:)

A Pirate's Miscellany

I think I forgot to mention I saw a bunch of whales the other day; mother and calf and a few stray bulls shadowing us.  Sperm whales from their distinctive, one-blow hole, 45 degree blow.

Today, a pack of dolphins were hunting off our port bow.  From the look of the panicked little dudes, the tuna were the object of the hunt.  They were all trying to make like flying fish, with little, or no success.

The weather here is really hot today. Like Africa hot, oddly enough.

My crew-x "limo" is alongside right now.  I was just out doing laps on the heli-deck and boy oh boy, did it look inviting.  Wish today was next Sunday and I was getting on that fucker and heading for the beach.

Watched the first half of LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring last night.  The file came from someone on the crew from outside the US and again, there were a ton of scenes new to me.  This time, it did tend to add to the story a bit (possibly unlike the difference between The Professional and Leon).

Still reading A Short History of Nearly Everything.  What a delightful book!  He pops in and out of each science as needed to tell the tale of everything, and we've just dropped back in to visit Geology and the fact that Yellowstone is one, giant caldera, ready to obliterate humans from the face of North America.  Very cool.

That's all the Sunday News from West Africa that's fit to print.  Peter Frampton has just replaced Gloria Gaynor on my laptop and the young Indonesian working next me is seriously considering taking a fire axe to the side of my head over the strange music I play 18 hrs/day.  Ya'll have a great day.  Be cool and stay in school.

"You have the right to remain glazed..."

Concerned cops help keep the donuts flowing.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

HAPPY 4th!

Happy 4th of July everyone!  I hope you are all BBQ'ing, drinking too much and blowing each other up with highly explosive fireworks.  Well, that's what I would be doing if I wasn't floating some 250 miles off the coast of Angola, right now...

My celebration consisted of the following:
1.  Improvised tea party, where I waved a little, home-made American flag and dumped 3 Tetley tea bags overboard. 
2.  Teasing the Brits onboard, mercilessly.
3.  Read both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, online.  (Forgot to bring my pocket book versions!)

I sincerely hope you all have a great 4th of July and a wonderful weekend.

Stromtroopers coming, you better beware...

So. The big thing onboard this morning has been the Myers-Briggs personality test. My corporation uses it in one of our management courses and we just downloaded it. Somebody made a huge banner of the 16 personality-type matrix. Now we are all taking the test and putting our names in the appropriate personality square. It's been interesting to see where we all fall and more so to read the individual personality inventory/assessments. I find a mixture of truth and fiction in mine, though some seem to have been nailed to the wall by the test. The results of my test? It says I'm an ISTJ-type guy. Some notable ISTJ's include 8 US presidents; Washington, Harrison, G. Bush Sr., and Andrew Johnson. Others; investor Warren Buffet, former Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson and my personal favorite Darth Freaking Vadar. "I am your father, Luke." Also; Torquemada(one of the leaders of the Spanish Inquisition), and Yuri Andropov.

The full description of my personality varies from the results of my actual test:

Serious, quiet, earn success by concentration and thoroughness. Practical, orderly, matter-of-fact, logical, realistic, and dependable. See to it that everything is well-organized. Take responsibility. Make up your own mind as to what should be accomplished and work toward it steadily, regardless of protests or distractions. You relate more easily to the inner world of ideas than to the outer world of people and things. You like quiet for concentration, tend to be careful with details, dislike sweeping statements, have trouble remembering names and faces, dislike telephone intrusions and interruptions, work contentedly alone, have some problems communicating. You would rather work with known facts than look for new possibilities and relationships. You dislike new problems unless there are standard ways to solve them, like an established way of doing things, enjoy using skills already learned more than learning new ones, seldom make errors of fact, tend to be good at precise work, are patient with routine details. You base your judgments more on impersonal analysis and logic than on personal values. You do not show emotion readily and are often uncomfortable dealing with people's feelings, may hurt people's feelings without knowing it, like analysis and putting things into logical order, tend to decide impersonally sometimes paying insufficient attention to people's wishes, are able to reprimand people or fire them when necessary. You like a planned, decided orderly way of life better than a flexible, spontaneous way. You work best when you can plan your work and follow the plan, like to get things settled and finished, may decide things too quickly, may dislike to interrupt the project you are on for a more urgent one. * * * Some Vocational Implications Of Your Personality Preferences * * * You focus your attention on facts and handle them with impersonal analysis, thus you tend to become practical and matter-of-fact and find scope for your abilities in technical skills with facts and objects. For example: Applied science, business, production, construction

I see a lot of truth in here. I dislike interruptions, I am fascinated by ideas and learning and I think I may tend to hurt people's feelings without knowing it. My work is an applied science, doing production of a sort and I also worked in construction for 15 years.

To the online description I found on a Meyers-Briggs website:

The Thought Police

ISTJs are characterized by loyalty, duty, and civic responsibility. As an ISTJ, you have a natural understanding of the value of civil harmony and order, and a deep-seated dislike of non-conformity, anarchy, and chaos.

For an ISTJ, work is very important to a sense of self-satisfaction. Happiness comes most easily for you when you have a job that allows you to express your ethic. Whether it's blasting traitorous rebel scum as a proud Imperial Stormtrooper or monitoring the population's cerebral implants searching for evidence of unauthorized thought patterns as one of the Thought Police, you're most satisfied when you are crushing the population beneath the iron boot heel of oppression on behalf of your masters.

RECREATION; ISTJs approach leisure with the same dedication they bring to spreading tyrrany and oppression. Common ISTJ pasttimes include cleaning their rifles, improving their marksmanship, betting on political dissidents in the Gladiator Arena, and macrame.

COMPATIBILITY: ISTJs are capable of stong emotional connections, bonding closely with the other ISTJs in their unit, platoon, or sector.

All I have to say about this characterization is that while I do thoroughly enjoy cleaning my rifle and improving my marksmanship, I do not engage in macrame.

Well, now you know more than you ever wanted, or needed to know about me. If you're curious where you test out, try the following link: Meyers-Briggs.

Friday, July 3, 2009

All things A-Twitter

Ripped from one of Adam Savage's Tweets.  The top-10 ironic ads from history.  Irony abounds.

On that note, I'm now following the narrator and a MythBusters writer, but I'm not yet sure why...I also, somehow dropped Grant Imahara for a while, but just rectified the problem.  My daughter and I loves us some MythBusters!

Although I cannot fathom why, if you'd like to follow me on Twitter....I'm here.

End of days

Things are heating up.  Crew-x is less than 10 days away.   End of trip paperwork is piling up, people freaking out over crew-x logistics, canceled flights, etc.  Good times.  There's also a few minor annoyances such as water condensate dripping from the A/C units, everywhere.  Buckets in doorways, on couches and whatnot. 


To top it off, the smell of our diesel fuel is permeating the ship.  We're draining and venting one of the big fuel tanks and there is simply no way to avoid the smell.  Personally, I'm happy with it.  I happen to love the smell of gasoline and diesel.  Yeah, I know it's weird, but when I wake up and smell that fuel, it's like manna from heaven.


We've got satellite TV onboard.  I don't watch it, except when I pop in to the proper smoking lounge for a quick smokey treat (usually, I head out on the back deck).  Last night I popped in there and actually flipped through the channels.  We get one news channel.  Al Jazeera.  One movie channel. Sky? I think. One sports channel that shows cricket and football (that shit they play in Europe, not Oklahoma).   And finally, the UK version of Discovery.  Rather slim pickings for the boys. 


I'm glad I'm a reader and not a TV watcher.
Note: Reading A short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.  It is wonderful; packed with science, history, betrayal, murder and a guy who thought he could turn his pee into gold and did, in fact, just that (sort of).  Bill takes his readers on an extraordinary journey to discover and understand everything around us and in my opinion, succedes with style, grace and healthy dollup of irony.  I would consider it a must-read for everyone, but especially Blondie, LL and Mr. Budd.  (Dear Mr. Budd, I would bring it home for you but I took it in the sauna too many times and it fell apart.)


However, I do occasionally watch a movie on my laptop and I just watched the European version of The "Professional", called "LEON".  Their version is like 30 minutes longer.  In this one, Mathilda is shown accompanying Leon to meet Big Tony, and on several hits, learning how to kill (double-tap to the chest, not the face) as well as them falling in love.  Not sure the extra time actually adds to the film, but it's still damn good.


That's about it from here.........oh!  Yesterday I saw a bunch of whales.  Mother and calf, plus a few stray bulls.  They looked quite happy and content (for whales) 

Ya'll be cool

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I'm sure the title of the post will draw some new readers.  Sorry to disappoint, but I was simply spanked by the third engineer in PING-PONG.  Bastardo beat me in two games straight, like 21-3 and 21-5.  The quarterfinals are a whole new level that I just don't exist on.  My bad back did not help, either.
Nothing much else happening, here.  Had meetings all morning, then paperwork from the meetings.  Just biding my time till crew-x, which is now in jeopardy (of course) due to some mechanical/ops issues.  Shee-it, it wouldn't be crew-x if it wasn't in danger of being canceled, or delayed.  Even if I do make it, I'm flying into Atlanta and it has a bad record of canceled flights/unable to land bullshit, for me. Would rather be coming into Newark, JFK, Dulles, Miami, Houston, or (please, someday!) direct to Minnie.  Seems the weather is always against me in Atlanta.  C'est La Vie...