Thursday, May 26, 2016

rule of unintended consequences, or just being whiny

So, this happened:

  (DNV GL) – Ships constructed on or after January 1, 2016 and entering into the North American or U.S. Caribbean Emission Control Areas (ECA) must comply with the Tier III NOx requirement of MARPOL Annex VI, Chapter 3, Regulation

 Basically, that means that new ships need new, low-emissions engines in our neighborhood.

 An ECA is an 'Emission Control Area'  A region designated by the MARPOL treaty, one of the big anti-pollution treaties that you deal with when you work on the water. I'm not going to get into nomenclature and details too heavily- too many memories of when I had to study this shit under some  real A-holes back in the day. 
     Anyways, ECA's are mostly about the sulfur content in boat fuel, but have been implemented to be ready to manage oxides, as well- NOx, for short, and another source of air pollution on top of sulfur.

         My employer replaced the HQ's  cargo pump engines (2 big diesels) with Tier III compliant engines, after the Coast guard expressed concerns about the electronic management system of the old engines. Sort of a twofer, was my impression.

          The new engines were rated for the same horsepower, and had a smaller footprint. All to the good- fuel consumption is about the same. But that's the upsides. The downsides? The new engines have significantly less torque, poor performance at low temperatures, and a less able governor system- they do like to stall out more when taking a load at low speeds.
 I'm not bitching here. Just the way things are. The new engines work fine, for what they are, and I'm a bit of a Luddite, anyhow. I wish they were old school turbo'd  Detroit 871's or Cat 3608's, something that you fix with a hammer and a pipe wrench, you know? Newer diesels, you look at them funny, something falls off them. They're awful expensive, too, but they do burn cleaner, I'll say that.

    At any rate, for the bigger picture, I get it. I like clean air, especially because working so much around NY harbor, there's not a lot of it. Every time I get home, I'm hacking up lung clams for the first day, and then it stops. I'm all for things that make that better for everyone, though I'm aware that there's a price to be paid, in cash, for the effort.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sailors and ironworkers know about this

Needle gun season is in high gear! We're already making inroads on killing off last years' rust. Ah, metal chips in the eye, black snot, and the energizing feeling of grit, paint chips and dirt between one's butt cheeks as you dream of the shower at the end of the watch, capped off by NO FUCKING CHANCE whatsoever that anyone  within 500 feet will be resting or able to hear anything.

the best laid plans

With no orders currently, sitting at anchor overnight, somewhere around sunrise I woke up, briefly, and thought I might do some needle gunning ater breakfast,  break up rust on deck here and there, something I used to do for hours and days and weeks at a time when I was first going to sea.
 I'm currently waiting for my back to stop being sore. Slept on it wrong, and it's cranky. 

 A needle gun is a cylindrical air tool, about 18 inches long, with 18 or 24 long steel needles sticking out of one end. Pushing the trigger while connected to an air hose makes the needles vibrate about 3/8 of an inch back and forth, hundreds of times a second, and the vibration and impact of this causes any rust and paint to fly off the steel underneath. It's incredibly loud, and also very dirty work. After a quick buffing with a grinder, the spots are treated with an acid bath, then rinsed off a few hours later and repainted.

Friday, May 20, 2016

no quarter in Brazil

I've really enjoyed getting caught up on the news and innuendo (but I repeat myself) online, after being at home and more or less ignoring what's been happening.

     One thing we did see at home is that while Venezuela's in the news of late, as they're Feeling the Bern of socialism, there hasn't been as much attention focused on Brazil, where the government, led by President Dilma Roussef, a communist and former terrorist (who was naturally placed in charge of Brazil's state run oil company, Petrobras, prior to being president...

 Well, have you heard about this? Petrobras has been exposed for major corruption- over 100 billion US dollars down the memory hole, and half the standing government is implicated.  Last week, Roussef was impeached, and in 6 months she'll face  a senate trial. There's a strong feeling that she's a puppet, with former President Lula Da Silva, a socialist former union leader (the man who appointed her to head Petrobras) elbow deep, still calling the shots.

 The call for impeachment was already in the air, but when investigators started closing in on Lula, Roussef attempted to appoint him to a governmental cabinet position that came with prosecutorial immunity, which would have made him bulletproof. The attempted appointment was blocked by government, and this seemed to have been the last nail in the coffin. The impeachment vote happened, and Roussef is out. Of course, the interim leader, her political opponent, was her Vice President, and he too is under investigation.

        I never allow the TV to be on when we're eating a meal at home- I make a point that we sit down and eat as a family. We might be eating hot dogs and hamburgers, but we're eating it off of good plates and silverware, with the table properly set... but I made an exception when all this was going down in Brazil- we ate and watched the action, my wife and kid translating the bigger words for me.

 Honest to God, the drama of all this, and the utter ridiculousness, it was like watching one of their soap opera novellas.

    As things wound down, and shockingly, Roussef initially refused to step down, but was escorted off peacefully, surrounded by her cronies, we gave up on the TV, but it was pretty exciting.

 I'm slightly optimistic here. Brazil has a chance to make some positive changes and join civilized humanity, rather than being a banana republic with mines and oil instead of bananas. Getting over spending Other People's Money will be hard, and the people have gotten used to socialism after 30 years of indoctrination- it's cheaper to buy a poor man's vote than a wealthy one's, for certain, and Brazil has an ample supply of poor, plus, on top of that they have this really awful variety of morality, where, if no one sees you sin, it's not really a sin, and from the top down in their culture, this has poisoned them and made efforts at democracy almost impossible. I mean, their counterculture is Christian evangelism.
       Even religion is poisoned there. My own Catholic faith, which has certainly got very little room to throw stones, is absolutely openly corrupted in Brazil. I walked out of the cathedral church of St. Bonfim in Salvador, in the state of Bahia, physically nauseated. People were being encouraged to buy their way out of sin and illness. Shit that was a big part of causing the fucking Protestant Reformation, for God's sake, still going on. A big chunk of what little respect I had left for my own church died that day. Now I view Catholicism the same way I view the United States. Wonderful, except for the people that run it.

       Anyhow, Socialists and Communists have been calling the shots politically in Brazil for the past generation, and the graft that is so openly accepted seems to be getting harder to get away with as Other People's Money starts running out. The Olympics is coming up, and I suspect that's going to make things rough in Brazil- aside from the fact that it has been a running money-redistribution scheme for the pals of the folks in Government, and now the country has no money and massive unemployment now, and between Zika and pollution and other nice things that are going to be an issue, too, daylight is a hell of a disinfectant, and there's more opportunity for Brazil's corruptocrats to have a Come To Jesus moment. Amidst the chaos, there is opportunity for positive change.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Housekeeping- new blogs!

I had to clean up my blogroll a bit, and added some new blogs in there- stuff I've been reading a while. I'm terrible at linking to people who's stuff I like.

John C. Wright's Journal- sci-fi writer, recovering lawyer, and a deeply religious man, John Wright writes with a great gift for metaphor and  he's not someone you want to get into a debate with if you don't come armed with subject-matter expertise. Dude will pray for you then dissect you. I enjoy seeing him do this.

Captain Jill's Journey's- Captain Jill is a ship's master who specializes in oil rigs (they have maritime officers just like a traditional hulled ship), and writes about her travel, domestic adventures in Texas, blogging and photography, and the state of the oil patch (currently horrible). She's an avid Libertarian and lover of the remains of formerly free America, and is very persuasive but writes sparingly on politics.

Nobody Asked Me- A retired naval Intelligence officer, Old NFO writes about military stuff, flying, America, and the absurdities of politics.

 Check 'em out- they're in my list of sites I check every day, and maybe you'll see why...

cute little booger

I may end up with one of these little dogs. Small body, big spirit.

Channeling Winston Churchill to Battle Eurotrash in Miami

My 42nd birthday was almost perfect.

           My kid had a busy weekend preparing for a competition later this summer, and had asked to spend the weekend at a friends' house. As it happened, that Saturday was my birthday, so my wife and I agreed, and made reservations at a hotel on South beach in Miami.

   South Beach is one of the biggest party spots in the US. I booked a hotel room that was horrifyingly expensive, because I don't want to hear dance music at 3am, or deal with idiots flipping their shit back at the hotel after the clubs get out.

     Man, this place was POSH. It's called the Z Ocean Hotel, and I got a rooftop balcony suite- aside from my room, which had a full bar and a marble shower with heads in the ceiling and several of the walls, couple of TV's, nice bose stereo, etc... you know, how the other half is supposed to live, I guess. Anyways, wicked nice, and there was a covered balcony outside that overlooked the pool down below, and a spiral staircase off of that that led to the rooftop.
 The roof of this place... holy shit. Well, you get what you pay for. There was a sun bed, table, private entrance for the waitstaff, and tons of privacy away from the deck edge and balcony- a 4-person jacuzzi on a raised marble dais in the corner, and an outdoor sound system for the music of our choice. No shit, I felt like, as expensive as it was, I got a good deal. Plus, big jacuzzi.

 So, other than a light lunch downstairs, we stayed in our suite for the next 22 hours. And by 'stayed in our suite' I mean hung out on the roof, drank champagne (I brought a couple of bottles of the moderately good stuff - hey, I ain't paying $100 for a $20 bottle of hotel champagne). ordered room service, drank wine and whisky, and got drunk in the jacuzzi, then ordered room service again, until about 3 am.

Funny thing is, neither of us actually like south beach very much. We go mostly for the people watching- it's a freak show- the beautiful people advertized on TV? Not so much. Every corner seems to have a shemale fighting with someone over the phone, yelling energetically, and people of every color, nationality and orientation all being rude to each other while going from A to B. Great to watch.

 This time, though, other than our lunch and the walk back and forth to the hotel, we kept to ourselves, and that was even better, in my book. Although by this time I had already been home for a week and a half, and Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I had spent most of every day together, it was nice to do so in relative isolation, and enjoy the sun, food, jacuzzi, drinks, music and each other's company.
     Seriously, if you're a mariner, and work on a long or longer rotation, you know what I mean- you can make your life such that every trip home can be a little honeymoon. Normally we don't splurge like this, paying out a week's pay for normal people on an overnight trip, but surprisingly, it was worth it, and I went home the next day tired, but with no guilt.

   Oh, the downside? This hotel is on South Beach, and attracts Eurotrash 20-somethings. Who have money and are as a rule, rude. So at 3:15AM, just as we went to bed, the afterparty picked up a couple of doors down, and rather than party on the roof, they did so in their suite, and the awful techno music wasn't audible, but the ridiculous bass was, so that happened. My wife is a sound sleeper. She dozed right off. Half drunk or no, I'm not going to be sleeping with that. Ever had a black kid pull up next to you in a car with the bass blasting so much that it makes your teeth itch? Yeah, that.
     So, after a while, the wind being just right for it, I went outside, lit up a horrifically foul-smelling ancient cheap torpedo cigar out on the balcony, and clad in a bathrobe and naught else, parts cooling in the breeze just out of sight, put my feet up and stank the hell out of those inconsiderate little shits 2 doors over downwind for about 90 minutes. I'm not kidding, this cigar has been languishing in the bottom of a bag for over a year, and was the size and diameter of a sawed-off baseball bat. I had to get a glass of whisky and ice to deal with the dryness of it. So I smoked my cigar, drank my whisky (which, the tapering off effect combined with drinking lots of water, I credit with preventing a hangover), and read a book on my Kindle. You know, making lemonade from lemons.
       After about an hour, listening to accents and languages only half-understood, comments from the balcony down the way ("My God, the smell" "Vulgar" "Why won't he go to bed?" Someone turned the music down, and I had finished Satan's Stogie as I watched the sky lighten up, took a shower, brushed my teeth and went to bed for a few hours.

      My wife, being a late sleeper but normally a light drinker, was surprisingly enough, up at a reasonable hour. We packed up, surveyed the carnage, and went to breakfast.

 Oh, one last, cool thing. The hotel pool has glass windows on the bottom, and on the floor below the pool is a bar adjoining the restaurant. So you have shade, but the skylights are actually the pool. Pretty neat, and while, like most hotels, the American breakfast is of indifferent quality, the mimosas were excellent and there was a giant chessboard next to our seats, where we discovered that after all these years, neither of us actually enjoy chess at all.
It also doesn't help when neither of you know the name of the pieces in the others' native language. 

       After we got out of there, I suddenly had enough, and although we were going to spend a couple of hours, the knowledge that I was heading back to work in a couple of days really hit home, and I wanted to just go get my kid and have the day as a family, so that is exactly what we did.