Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quote of the century...

Regarding the Murmansk run during WWII...

"We had a 25% fatality rate on each voyage, so the only way to keep enough officers to man the ship was to guarantee that they'd advance in rank after one voyage. I was 3rd mate on my first trip, 2nd on the second trip. One year after I graduated, I was chief mate. I was captain by the time I was 24, and had been torpedoed twice by then. Now, kids are whining that they can't handle the stress of paying their credit cards on time. Pussies."

This is the conversation I had while sitting in my doctor's waiting room this morning. The vet in question, sitting next to me, commented on my shirt, which bears the outline of a tanker in profile. What followed was a 10 minute conversation that had the entire waiting room in complete silence.
The guy was awesome. He absolutely did not give a shit about anything mundane, which is as it should be, when one has run through the gauntlet at an early age.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

the most important thing I can tell you today.

The ultimate summer drink... take the best part of a mojito and a gin-and-tonic, take away the shitty aspects (mint in your teeth, sweetness that makes your teeth ache), and add a splash of sexy. This drink tastes like summer, and in winter, it tastes like a picture of the tropics looks, if that makes any sense. And thus, I present,

Innapropriately Hot foreign Wife's Caiperinha (pronounced 'kai-per een yah'

1 pint glass or a martini mixer
sugar (fine, granulated, it doesn't matter)
Cachaca (pronounced 'ka sha sa', available at any decent liquor store, especially in MA, FL, NJ and NY). Cachaca is a finely-distilled rum-like spirit made from cane sugar. Bad cachaca tastes like good tequila. Good cachaca tastes like sexy time. Expect to pay $20-30 for a good bottle.

1) Rinse and slice your lime. Throw the slices in the pint glass.
2) crush the living hell out of the slices with a pestle, potato masher, or whatever you've got. I mean it, you want to beat the balls off this lime if you can. Add 2 generous heaping tablespoons of the sugar and grind the mix up a little with the pestle or what have you.
3) add enough cachaca to make the pint glass 60-70% full.
4) add ice, just enough to make the mix ice cold.
5) fill the glass to 90% with water.
6) stir or mix up. Serves two, or one, if you're not driving.
WARNING: your capacity aside, one full glass of Caiperinha is enough to put a 200 lb man close to the legal limit for driving.

7). Beware. This is the reason why Brazil stops and takes a week to party before every Easter, and why the maternity ward is full 9 months later.

You're welcome. You're about to try the best mixed drink you've ever tried.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

a riddle

What's got two thumbs, and is going out for sushi and one too many scorpion bowls?

(Pointing thumbs at chest) THIS GUY!

That is all.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

OK now, bye-bye then (for now)

Ugh. So, I was relieved at work about 12 hours early, which was full of awesomeness. I drive home on Tuesday/Wednesday during the overnight, then slept in my own bed for 5 awesome hours. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I had 12 hours of wedded bliss, when I get the phone call and was asked to go down to the Gulf of Mexico to fill in for someone.

My thinking is this: Oh. Hell. No.

I hate the Gulf. If I owned real estate in the Gulf and in hell, I'd rent out the Gulf place, and live in hell.

Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife was the pragmatic one. Awful as it is, 2 weeks of extra work isn't something to be sneered at while the economy is what it is.
So here I am, laptop just chimed and told me that it's 5am, and I'm at the airport in Boston. Ugh.

UPDATE: less than 2 minutes before I was about to get on my plane, the dispatcher calls and says "never mind." Change of plans. I am now on a ferry, heading back home. Right. Long morning. Damn. I'm very happy to be staying, though my head is not in the game yet.

Monday, August 23, 2010

skip the kool-aid at the Ministry of Truth

Borepatch has a fantastic post about the disconnect between science and public perception, and the pitfalls of forming public policy using the tools of the trade, in this case, within the hot mess of the day, global warming.

...What Mann did that has been the source of controversy is use a pretty unusual statistical analysis method. It's been shown that his method generates hockey stick shaped graphs when even random data is used as the input - say, the list of telephone numbers in your town. So far, the debate about this has had more than a bit of the playground did too/did not to it. This means that the hockey stick graph has won, because it is so visually striking.

Read the whole thing here- don't be afraid- he's written this for everyone, not just science geeks!

When I was performing the actual data collection of the first big money research study I worked on, I ran into a brick wall right away. I had designed a test regime to look at the interplay between differing types of neural input and behavior in lobsters. My particular holy grail was trying to discover how animals like lobsters use smell to find food in the water. It's a dry subject to me, now, but at the time I was fascinated... the belief was that if we could understand the lobster's ability to track smells, we could design robots to seek out oil, chemical, or explosive traces in the water, with no human involvement or risk.

Well, I ran into a problem, I did. The gigantic laboratory I needed, with the 60-foot long water tank that made smell-free, turbulence-free water (the turbulence affects how smells are distributed- chaotic patterns exist, and it's complicated, but we made a turbulent-free environment to eliminate the need for chaotic math, and thus, the gigantic water tank about half the volume of an olympic pool). Motion-sensitive low-light cameras, lobster blindfolds, you name it, a couple of million bucks went into this.
My problem was that the lobsters weren't hungry when they were in the tank. They were uninterested in following the smells I injected (along with the fluorescing dye that I once accidentally released into the neighboring estuary, dying the water, vegetation, and about 50 expensive sailboats a pleasing red). For three months, I sat in the dark and watched seemingly random lobster behavior, most of which consisted of finding a little house to sit in until the trial was over and it was time to go back in their personal tanks.
Well, I'm no supergenius, I'm a worker. I was probably the least intelligent person in my lab, but I'm a fast learner, can bullshit with the best of them, and can put in 18 hour days without throwing a hissy fit. I cranked out my study, and more or less got a crash course in neurobiology in 3 months, as I started off knowing almost nothing about the subject.
I'm not the brightest bulb, as I said, but my supervisor was. My supervisor earned two Ph.D's at the same time, which was why he was at Woods Hole... and he didn't see much good in the statistical array we had designed to test the data.
So, we did what so many scientists do. We broke up the datasets, and reverse-engineered the statistics. We found statistical tests that worked, and formed null hypotheses that fit the test and the data. Nowadays, this is called data mining, but such a term is disingenuous, to me. What we did was make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
Now, my sow's ear and I were well received, don't get me wrong. We got the animal behavior geeks all hot and bothered, and the neuro folks got all soggy and hard to light. I disproved a couple of hypotheses that were popular at the time, and proved something small and significant, but I didn't prove anything earth-shattering... and, as I discovered not long afterwards, there was a good reason why I'm more interested in fisheries and fish farming: I got a prison pallor, sitting in the dark down on Cape Cod in the summer, and, sharing a house with 5 single women, 3 of whom were hot, I wasn't even around enough to hit on any of them.


Although I don't do any research anymore, more's the pity, I do occasionally lecture at conferences designed to prepare social science students to perform cross-cultural research studies. Social 'sciences' being for the most part mental masturbation, in my opinion, I try to shogun the need for rigorous statistical analysis as part and parcel of a good study. Rule number one, in my book, is for the researcher to understand that statistics are not meant to prove or disprove anything, and are not meant to unveil higher truths... they are simply ways to help support your main point in the study, without the need for a crowd of 50 other scientists to testify in person, that you're not full of shit.

I think the kids like my colorful language. I've lost the fear of public speaking, and I like to sound like a lobsterman, not a geek.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

cultural geography lesson

Because it's been a few months, and because you guys ate all your vegetables, here are some photos from Brazil- specifically, from the national women's soccer league, which has, for some reason, become very popular this year.

But, Brazil is not all about football. There are also lonely single women out there, just looking to meet a nice guy.

I guess dating sites show that all cultures share some common ground, although, from what I remember from my college days,this is more likely what we see here in the states on places like match.com

Anyhow, when choosing a mail order bride, whether from New Jersey or Sao Paulo, just remember to use a reputable shipping company. There's no refunds if your new mate shows up dead in the crate.

hee hee

#1 comment on Yahoo regarding this: "Well, that settles it. North Korea is gay."

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

gone, but not forgotten

photo courtesy of the Colton company.

Scratch two more ITB's off the list of active US tankships. SMT's two ITB's (Integrated Tug/Barge- a ship with the ability to separate the house and Engine room from the forward hull), have gone for scrap. This isn't new news, of course- when ships sit around for 6 months gathering dust, then suddenly load with grain or rice, it's a fair bet that the breaker's yard lies at the end of the next discharge.

These were interesting ships. They were designed to be classed as tugboats, since they were separable from the tank vessel. They weren't designed to operate separately, as the catermaran-stlye tug portion was neither seaworthy nor stable when separated from the 'barge'.
This loophole was closed after a while, and today's integrated units are fully-capable (well, sort of- the new ATB's aren't really that stable when out of the notch, either) of sailing separate from the barge. In addition, modern units pitch independent of the barge- they're connected via pin or bludworth clamp, and thus the slightly different name- Articulated Tug Barge. The ITB's were essentially fused and mated with the barge, and moved in series with it in a sea.

Here's what they look like separated. Neat. (Photo courtesy of Cascade General Shipyard)

A few of these boats are still working, but they're OPA 90'ing out fast. There's at least one of them that's a grain carrier, (the one in the shipyard photos!) and I'd imagine that she'll stay in service awhile.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Posting has been sparse. I'm wrapping up a research project done in what little spare time we have. Bunkering ops in Philadelphia have picked up slightly- may be a sign, may be a cyclic convergence for the regulars on the milk runs for reefer and containerized goods. Hard to say, and it has been no where near as busy as it was this spring, all the same. Still, I see the end of the summer slowdown, I think.

I went home for a few days, came back to work, and in a little less than a week I'll be heading home again. If all goes well, I'll be heading up to my favorite place in the world, Downeast Maine, for a weekend when I get off of here. Hanging with my old boss, the former chief mate of the mothballed tanker 'New River'

Oh, and my hair is coming back. Both my wife and I are happy about that.YAY, hair! Also, looking at the photo, I'm excited to see that I was able to button the top button of my shirt. I have a size 22 neck, but the rest of me looks good in a tailored size 19 shirt. 4 months ago that button would NOT be buttoned.

I'm trying to find any info on the tanker Anasazi, which was picked up for a song at auction a few months ago... anyone with word, drop me a line!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

back fo mo

A whirlwind weekend- got to go home, see my nephew off to the Navy, appeared at a wedding, and got my truck fixed. 700+ miles later, here I am back on board.

If you want an amazing and striking read, check out Will (of TUGSTER fame)'s new blog MY BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY , and excerpts from what will eventually be a remarkable book, where he publishes notes from his diary during his time as a hostage and involuntary human shield during the first Gulf War.

Seriously, go check it out. Come back here in a few days after you do.

Friday, August 13, 2010

rage run

I can't even begin to tell you how proud I am regarding my nephew. This weekend my oldest brother is throwing a going away party, because his son #1 will be inducted into the US Navy on Monday. My nephew is entering the same program that my brother did- aviation electronic repair and calibration. My oldest brother focused on electronic counterwarfare gear. Who can say where my nephew will end up?
Today I'll be battling friday traffic all the way from Philly to Boston. Between the parking lot and the highway here in Philly, my departure will coincide with people leaving for the Jersey Shore, plus 100,000 aging hippies are arriving down the street to go see Paul McCartney...something of a gauntlet to warm me up for hitting New York traffic just about Rush hour.
So b it. I'm focusing on the downside I guess, but the upside is pretty damn significant. I get to see my whole family, plus I get an unscheduled weekend ashore with Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife. On Sunday, I have to go to a wedding for someone I don't know. Apparently, some of the folks at my wife's church don't believe that I really exist... what can I say about that? I think I exist.

Monday, August 9, 2010

science-y stuff

I've been geeking out here at Hawsepiper's floating HQ since I read that my dad's old sub, the ALVIN has been undergoing an upgrade to expand her capabilities. You can read about it here.

It seems smart that if the groups that are pushing to increase the sub's maximum dive depth another 2,000 meters are going to put the effort in, that finally, after 40 years, they are going to put a seat in there for the pilot. The box the pilot sits on, currently, is apparently called 'the hemorrhoid factory'

The Alvin has come a long way in 40 years- her capabilities have increased dramatically, and her max dive depth has tripled. All the same, the most memorable and dramatic job of her career happened early on, when the Alvin was used to recover a lost nuclear weapon. On March 17 1966, Alvin was used to locate a submerged 1.45-megaton hydrogen bomb lost in an aircraft accident. My dad was there. His recollection of the events was mostly focused on refitting ALVIN with a juryrigged 'basket on a stick' fitted to her hydraulic manipulators, rather than on the political and military dog-and-pony show.
Still, I'm having another one of those moments where I wish I was still working down in Woods Hole. I never did work on a grant large enough to afford (or need, sadly) time on ALVIN.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

long night...

I look back on my first year aboard bunker barges (it's been a year now), and I seem to remember struggling to complete jobs a lot more when I was first starting... I guess experience really does make a difference there...
But the other day, that's a different story.
We weren't working, and I was sleeping fitfully. I had gone to bed at 0800, and it was about 1000. I woke up in a sweat- the AC was dead. We made our calls and learned that there was no way to get anyone to fix the thing until the next morning. We cursed, heavily and frequently. 96 degrees outside, and no AC and no fans to move the warming air. Plus, we're in a steel box, with the water heater and 'fridge pumping out more warm air. At least we didn't have a job. We could sit on deck for the next 18 hours if we had to.
A few moments later, while we were cursing and wailing, a tug bumped us. This is the universal sign of 'oh shit' aboard a manned barge. The other guy made up the tug. I got on the phone to do some whining and ask questions.
The office dumped a job on us. Our company's local diesel barge was down for service, and a tugboat was looking for diesel fuel. We have segregated diesel tanks along with black oil tanks.
I wasn't too happy. I says "we can't cook, we can't sleep, and we can't even have a cold shower (our water tanks are in the generator house, which is a steady 100-120 in the summer). There's another barge capable of doing this nearby. What gives?
Well, what gave was that we were the guys for the job. This was explained to me, patiently (amazing, really. I hate to bitch, but everyone likes being bitched at even less. Someone was very understanding.) . We're not equipped for it, but we were off to fuel up the T in an AT/B.

Now, I hate the heat. I turn into a little girl in the head. In 6 years of hard work as a commercial fisherman, I only argued with The Notorious B.O.B. two times- on the two days we worked when the temperature hit 100. It's my Achilles' heel.

But, we worked. We loaded up one single tank with a little splash of diesel, about 150 tons.

Now, I've bunkered up some AT/B's. (Articulated Tug/Barges, for the non-mariners. The tugboat is designed with two steel pins that come out just aft of the bow, to fit into slots in the stern of a barge. The end result looks like this:

Photo courtesy of BOATNERD.com

This is not the vessel (or company) we worked with, but is similar to the type. In our case, the problem we had is that the vessel's fueling connection is close to the gunwale, just forward of the Texas bar (the big bar across the back deck). Getting close enough to pass a hose to the tug meant that we'd have to moor kitty-corner to the barge- that is, there would be a difference in angle between his barge and mine. I would have to cock the stern of my barge close to the stern of his tug, and allow the bow of my barge to pooch out away from his, to pivot on one of our rubber bumpers.
We made it work, with much consternation, initially, from the tug captain. We trussed the barges up tight, and, hey, I know how to be safe. When we were all fast, everyone was happy.

And then I found out that the tug is rigged for a teeny tiny fueling hose.

Ugh. I am not set up for fueling little boats. I can fuel up a purpose-built modern AT/B, which runs on black oil and is rigged to be serviced by a bunker barge, but I have nothing to go from my diesel hose to his diesel connection- no reducers or anything to fit onto a tug's quick-connect style fittings.
So, I raid our tugboat, and find something that will work, luckily. I am limited in what I can cobble together because I can't have more than two reducers in my lineup- doing so is a no-no, and I won't compromise on something that means my job... but I'm also feeling the pressure because the tug has a schedule, too.
Anyhow, I found what I needed. I rigged a sling with the reducer and coupling and hung the sling on my boom along with the fueling hose.

Now, the chief engineer on the tug is frustrated, too. We've been polite, but both of us are frazzled at this point. He refuses the hose, because he's afraid that the height difference between my deck and his, along with the 60-feet of my hose, will result in a slug of fuel in the end of the hose, and he has no containment to speak of if he does get diesel on deck. I sigh, swing my hose back, and rig up the fittings. I also tell the engineer that he's a grumpy old fart, and making me crazy, even if he's correct.

We get everything connected, and transfer the fuel sloooooooowly. I don't like having a gap between me and the vessel we're fueling, but we've got one. His boat's little fuel lines are putting back pressure on my pumps, so it takes hours.
In the meanwhile, we've got no AC, and it's now over 100 inside. I can't write up the documents for the fuel transfer, because sweat is running down my arms and blurring the ink on the pages. I have to go outside to do the paperwork, and feed the bugs a bit.

Anyhow, the night went on like that . It was a long night, and we got back to the dock just before sunrise. The AC guy came later that morning. By that time, I had cramps from the heat, and hadn't had a leak in a full 24 hours. My employers were kind enough to leave us alone, and both of us slept a full 8 hours undisturbed... and then, with no work, we were able to relax a few hours. Both of us are still sore, 48 hours later, like we got in a fight.

The new machine

I ended up buying an Asus A73 for my new laptop. It's big, almost half again as big as my old Toshiba Satellite.
My wife is going to flip when she sees this thing. It's by far the most expensive thing I've ever bought myself, with the exception of vehicles, I mean. But it's sweet. 500gigs of memory (I could have gotten the upgrade to 1tb, but let's face it, I'd just be tempted to fill it with porn), 6 gigs of RAM, plus 2 gigs dedicated 100% to video. She's a Cadillac.
I bought this thing on the advice of other mariners within my company. Aside from playing online games (about 10% of all bargemen here play World of Warcraft; it's disconcerting), the computer has a lot of space dedicated to cooling, expansion slots everywhere (except for the RAM), and is the most durable laptop out there with the exception of the Toughbook. What I really like, though, are the little things in the software package- first off, the computer can be restored to factory condition at any time, should the registry get really effed. Windows 7 is still a dog, though, although this thing is helping. I'm still exploring the features, really.
My old Toshiba is a warhorse, though. I'm going to get her a new keyboard and put it back in service.
You know what's miserable? Getting your old files onto a new computer. Pictures, movies, video, documents, etc. My tax files from the past 10 years are on 3 computers. I can't consolidate. The old stuff I can toss, I know, but the files won't be readable if I copy them. End result is that I have a pile of hard drives that I've encased and made into portable hard drives... but they're ancient, for the most part- USB 1.0 connections, which meant that the 60 gigs I transferred off of the first one took an hour. I haven't even bothered transferring stuff off of the other three.
Ah well.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

taste and see...

Bought yet another laptop. This one's packing some serious ass. Weighs in at 8lbs, w/ 6 gigs of RAM. No more lagtime.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

wow, I feel...special

So, with the research almost complete, I've found someone to publish the article I have planned on gross waste in the Department of Homeland Security, but part of the deal includes exclusive publishing access... at least for now.

Monday, August 2, 2010

fluff piece- sources for disinformation dissemination

So, "Self" magazine (which, I assume from the name, is by pretentious narcissist assholes, for pretentious narcissist assholes (and housewives), did a fluff piece recently about the growing trend among American married couples of keeping separate bedrooms.

What I find interesting is that this piece is full of bullshit, straw men, begging the question, and false logic... pretty much all crap, even where it manages to be right.

Honestly, I don't give a fuck about this issue. What I care about is how stupid this article was. I suppose I should not be too surprised, given the forum. I've never heard of "self" but I assume that it's kept behind other fine quality publications on the bottom shelf of the impulse buy rack at the local grocery store.

"Times points out the trend of more and more couples sleeping in separate rooms. Nearly one in four American couples does so and, according the National Association of Home Builders, it's expected that 60 percent of custom homes will have dual master bedrooms by 2015."

...AAAANNNND, our aging population, with the largest grouping (the baby boomers) now approaching retirement, and said group being also the most suburban and affluent of the middle class in the US... well, that's the group who're building custom homes. Joey and Susie Newlywed aren't pouring over architect's plans. They're trying like hell not to end up in a 60-year old single wide.

So, there's the demographic completely misidentified. The article mentions nothing about the subject group being the pre-fossils among us.

Is anyone else not surprised that old folks don't want to share the same bed? I've shared a bunkroom with an older guy, and he used to cough and fart all night long, and the only way to tell the difference in the dark was to wait and see if the smell of saurkraut or ass was going to be the reward.
This article is not about old people, however. It's about all married couples. It contains some bland platitudes obviously written up by someone who wasn't married, but who's parents were, at least for a little while. And, like any crap based on behavioral science that doesn't actually contain any evidence of scientific thinking, this shite is presented under the umbrella of 'women's health,' which also leads me to a sense of wonderment. Why do women's health articles have to pass a bar set so much lower than men's health? Aren't we supposed to be equals? There's no way that this crap would be found in a men's magazine. The smell of bullshit is too pervasive; the force is strong with this one.

Like so much of what I see in magazines, this article is full of high-school level logic, and based on... well, I don't know what it's based on. It's like the author went to a dog pound to research parakeet breeding. Since, I'm sure, 'Self' magazine contains lots of pictures to help the less literate among us, and since every other article has to be about all the sex we're having and not having, I shoudn't be so surprised- the target audience isn't likely to pick up "Self" with their copy of The New Yorker. Still, I hate to see bullshit baked in a pie and presented as chocolate cake.

I guess it's like my dad used to say: "Imagine speaking with someone who is only of very averge intelligence. Half the world is less intelligent than that person."