Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Review: Vampires, Vikings and Mailmen

As mentioned back in mid-winter, I was given an advance copy of Kevin Glennon's first book, VIKINGS, VAMPIRES AND MAILMEN. I read the book over the course of several off-watch periods at sea, and, after I recovered from the accumulated sleep debt, I was very happy to be asked to write a review.  If you like a good read in the adventure/fantasy genre, I heartily recommend this book- You can follow the US Vampire Service link on my right-side menu bar here, or check out the book's website here.  If you want to just take my word for it, you can order the book through the usual online sources, or directly from right here.

VIKINGS, VAMPIRES AND MAILMEN is the freshman novel of Kevin Glennon, and a return to sanity for those who want their vampire-hunting books to not be sold in the Romance section of your local bookstore. There is no foofoo clothing, teen angst or sparkling in these vampires. The creatures in question are near mindless ‘bugs;’ walking hungry murder machines who seem oddly drawn to the woods of Wolf Bay, AL, the latest town to suffer an infestation.
                Enter the United States Vampire Service (USVS), postal contractors who are paid to deal with tamping down the odd vampire outbreak. First among equals is the narrator, Othniel O’Connor, hereditary chief; admittedly not the best, but the best available administrator and a perfectly serviceable bug killer. VAMPIRES follows one particularly inexplicable outbreak where the concentration and variety of vampires shows signs of a troubling outside influence on their behavior. Headaches with the local populace, Washington, and the heavy-handed influence of the USVS’s European counterparts complicate an already-difficult job.
             In VAMPIRES, Glennon must reinvent the wheel to introduce readers to the language, tech, and tactics characters rely on, and he does so with detail and style. Explaining how the CEO of Mack trucks becomes a fan after the necessity of cluing him into why they need multiple custom armored assault vehicles is done nonchalantly and sarcastically, with plenty of dark humor. Humor is a double-edged sword in this book. Sarcasm often masks serious issues, and the reality of men dealing with troubling and disturbing news with black humor and plenty of dick and fart jokes makes this book read believably. For pure escapist fantasy, this is a fast, fun read.
         The story evolves. Characters find flaws in longstanding beliefs, myths are dispelled rather quickly, assumptions are questioned, and sacred tactics are found to be less than sacrosanct. The book evolves, too. VAMPIRES feels like two books on the same subject- a primer to the trade, and the story of the Alabama outbreak. Both story arcs interplay, but in the thick of the Alabama outbreak, Glennon’s writing truly breaks out- characters and events take on their true depth, and the reader (or this reader, anyhow) realizes that there is no place for Happily Ever After for people exposed to daily trauma in the workplace. The reader sees Glennon’s chops as a writer evolve, too, and, going into this book with the foreknowledge that this is his first published novel, it’s revealing and rewarding to see how a book starts to take on a life of its’ own. This is a story meant to be continued.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Day

It's Sunday, we're at a lay berth awaiting orders for the next job, and I feel I have earned the rest. For the first time since I came aboard on Wednesday, I got a decent night's sleep- 6 uninterrupted hours' worth, which was wonderful. I find that without the regimentation of standing watches, I tend to work 20-hour days, which is harmful out here- we can't work more than 15-in-24 without a damn good reason under the law, and are supposed to have 6 hours' rest after 12. At any rate, I'm feeling good again, and enjoying the prospect of spending a day aboard this tub where I'm not running around with any sort of situational awareness.
     Coming aboard a new class of tank vessel, everything's familiar-ish, but the little differences are disorienting. I can't sit in my bunk and listen to the engines and work up a mental picture of what's going on on deck. The engines are larger and different from those I'm used to, and they don't change pitch like mine do. I don't know where the rope locker is. I can't time cargo discharges so that I know that I can go grab a sandwich between stripping out cargo tanks. If I need a tool, it might take me 10 minutes to find it. Little things.

 But some good things are happening too- I am enjoying New York harbor again after a few months away. I am watching the traffic, seeing familar faces, saying hi to friends out here. Good stuff.

 This, like Salma Hayek's underwear drawer, is where the good stuff is at. The Cargo Control Room.

Like Salma, herself, I feel that I look better with longer hair. This is the longest my hair has been in years. You can tell I took the picture after a few weeks at sea 'cus o the beard. 

 Tug "Oyster Creek."  One of the small (3,000hp) class of boat that my employer fields in NY harbor. The pulley and lines on the back deck that lead to the winch are the push cables, used for shoving barges from behind (as opposed to towing them). The Texas Bar across the stern is for towing- it acts as a fairlead for the tow wire as it stretches out behind the tug. 

 HORIZON NAVIGATOR. Outdated, small, ugly as the south end of a northbound donkey, but she's one of the few American container ships out there, and pays very, very well if one works on board.

 The view from my office yesterday. Beats the shit out of waiting 10 years to get a view of a frigging parking lot, don't it!
 Both a submarine AND proof that drugs are bad. "We take a sub, right," *snorts 3 lines of cocaine* "and then, we put, like... a jet on it!" 

USS Intrepid- next time I see this museum ship, she'll have a goddamned SPACE SHUTTLE on it. How cool is that!

 Lay berth- on the right is an old concrete hulk, a storage ship that is no longer used. I climbed the mast to take this shot. 

*needs work*

Saturday, April 28, 2012

mein bach!

Up at 0400. Ever get that awesome feeling in your lower back after a couple of days in a strange bed? You know, where your back is so sore that even your legs ache? Sciatic nerve, I suppose, but just because I can ID it doesn't mean I can do squat about it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

having the chinese disease

A lame pun, but an old stand-by joke from my days of sailing on an oil tanker was accusing a layabout or slow-mover of having 'The Chinese disease' (spoken in a chinease accent, you would then say 'drahgon...ahss").
    I'm certainly dragging ass tonight. I'm on a strange vessel, don't know quite where all the doodads and switches are, and I've discovered that the main deck crane is so very, very sensitive. I send that bugger dancing like a spastic kid on cocaine. As I type, we're moored alongside a 1,000ft container ship, and getting ready to head to a loading terminal to take on oil for fueling 3 separate ships, which equates to a mile high pile of paperwork and a certain anxiety regarding the fact that I have no idea how the current management here on board organizes their computer system. One of the best reasons for me to occasionally work extra weeks on strange vessels is that I can familiarize myself with how others do the things I do myself, and find better ways to do my own job well, but that's cold comfort now. Fow now, I'll just be happy to get this thing where it needs to be, and maybe in another 8 hours or so get some decent sleep.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

no home for you!

With another month-long tour finished in the floating metal pickle barrel I call my own, today was crew change day, where I get relieved, and my opposite comes out to work so I can go home for my 14 days of shoreside R&R... so I hopped on 95 north and left Philadelphia at abut 0530, driving into the rising sun.

 Didn't make it home, though. I drove to Brooklyn today, not Boston. I'm 'working over.' That is, rather than go home, like a dumbass I volunteered to work on another tank barge for 2 weeks, whereupon I'll again drive somewhere south to meet up with HAWSEPIPER's afloat global HQ/all-male revue.

 So, rather than surrounding myself with loved ones and seeing my wife and kid, I am smelling sulphur fumes and looking out over the deck of this tub and writing to you fine people. FML.
 To make myself feel better, here is this week's supply of lovely ladies from Brazil. Chances are all the extra money I'm making will go towards my next trip there, anyhow. With a true Brazilian beauty waiting 10 weeks for my dumb ass to come home, I really am feeling a wee bit of regret just now.

The New Irish

Bloggers and writers that I like and respect have been writing on the issue of illegal immigration quite a bit lately, and I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon. There is plenty of news fodder to mine, and, being a Massachusetts resident, I live (when I'm on shore) in the safest haven for illegal immigrants in the US.

   My own opinions are colored by experience and a certain bitterness towards those who blindly believe that the issue of illegal immigration can be solved by one or two Simple Things, and mysteriously, no one with power can see that or is willing to do those Simple Things.

 I've been guilty of that, myself, but people grow and change.

    My wife was an illegal when we met- her visa required that she periodically return to her home country during its' 10-year duration, and she didn't. I met a whole community of illegals. Hardworking people who religiously avoided drawing the attention of citizens and public officials in their community.

     So my position on illegal immigration softened. The ground had already been prepared- I come from an Irish family, and Boston has a proud history of funding public efforts to feed stray animals but letting the Irish starve to death.  So, yeah, I heard stories about discrimination before the weight of numbers changed anything.
 As it happens, many of my friends and associates are descendents of Irish and Italian immigrants, and these folks are among the loudest and angriest in opposition to lax immigration rules.

     My own opinion? Every dollar... every PENNY that an illegal earns is money handed off, ultimately, by a US citizen who knowingly and with premeditation decided to screw their fellow-countrymen and save some money by hiring an illegal to do a job that a citizen could do. The problem isn't the illegals there, it's us.

      My wife has a fascinating mix of opinions on the subject. She's regularly assaulted by reality now as she's studying for US citizenship- living in MA is a lesson in civics, for certain. My illegal relatives get the same health care that I spend $8,000 a year on for insurance... for free. But guess who created, funded and managed that system? We did. Citizens.

       There's a moral dilemma to dealing with immigration, as well, and I suppose that's where we get hung up. Morally, if one claims membership in a Christian faith, one is obligated to see to the welfare of the weak and oppressed. Most people who come to the US illegally come from shitholes that make Roxbury, Lawrence and Brockton (ghetto cities within MA) look like Valhalla, Heaven and Tir Nan Og combined. Sending them home forcibly amounts to a death sentence to some- the aged and non able-bodied, especially. So we have that ugly quandry to consider.
        Reality may favor a balanced approach to the issue before a crisis develops, at which point drastic measures will be employed, with no certainty of a morally-palatable option. I worry about our paralysis on the issue. Why aren't citizens who hire illegals punished or prosecuted? Sure, a month before Appropriations season, when budgets get submitted, a token company will get raided in an effort to appear proactive, but this is so much window dressing. Where does the easy but morally-unjustified jingoism/racism come into play, and why is that more palatable than having a good long look in the mirror and seeing the real culprits?
 As my wife says when she ends this discussion firmly "Dis is your fault. De Oo Ess Ay won't feex the problem beeecause dere ees gooood monee in hiring someone too afraid to ask you for a raise, ever, paying dem next to noffink, and you don' pay de IRS nuttink eider."

 She's right.

Monday, April 23, 2012


I saw the new movie "Battleship" last night.

 Oh, my goodness, that was absolutely awful. It was certainly creative, in that they cobbled together CGI and stock footage of navy ships, but the story was insipid, the acting was wooden, and they very obviously never consulted with a Navy vet when writing dialogue or plotting out the storyline. Typical Hollywood fashion, every naval ship was run as a democracy, as though a chain of command never existed. Shit, I never went in the navy, much to my shame, and even I know how the pecking order works.

 Anyways, if you want to save yourself some effort, rather than wading through this ass-high pile of afterbirth of a movie, watch some youtube footage of naval exercises, watch "Transformers," then take $20 and two hours of your life, and wipe your ass with it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What I'm reading now.

Thanks to Larry Correia I've been introduced to Dan Wells, another author that you might not have heard of yet, but dammit, you will. I'm now an enthusiastic fan of both these authors, who fill VERY different but equally enjoyable niches in my reading tastes.

    Larry Correia (damn, it's finally easy to correctly spell Portuguese names. Trying to remember the 50+ last names of my wife's Brazilian cousins paid off) writes easy reading- his 'Monster Hunter' series is unadulterated fun reading for the action fiction crowd, with a wonderful dose of detailed legitimate gun tech for the discriminating second-amendment enthusiast like yours truly. Larry writes in the same genre as my friend and occasional drinking buddy Kevin Glennon, another writer addressing the important fact that vampires shouldn't sparkle and remind one of that kid in summer camp who kept asking people to play tummy sticks after lights-out.

 Also, and I swear this has nothing to do with the fact that I owe Kevin 3 pints of beer, you should absolutely buy his book "Vikings, Vampires and Mailmen" available HERE along with some fine swag. You can also find the US Vampire Service logo on the right hand side of the menu here on this blog and visit that way.

 Dan Wells  is the latest find in my search for escapist reading. His latest book "Partials" is a seriously thought-provoking modern dystopian (and you thought I didn't know big words!) novel. While I hate to couch an author's work in terms of another author's efforts, 'Partials' has flavors of "The Hunger Games" and "Children of Men' in there, but this is NOT a kids' book. Partials has the darkest Chapter 1 I've ever read. Your average teen would absolutely have bad dreams, videogame violence-attenuation or no.  I'm looking forward to "I am Not a Serial Killer" next, although I have some heavy lifting to do before that. It's time to reread the unabridged version of "Moby Dick" first. I'm still trying to pull every bit of the allegorical references out of that beast.

semi-permanent bedhead

It's Sunday afternoon as I type, and I am watching the Bruins game, drinking an energy drink and generally enjoying not being rained on, as we've got a Nor'easter settling in on her haunches to rinse the rust dust off our decks. I had forgotten how filthy everything gets here- Philadelphia has some foul air quality courtesy of the prevailing wind bringing in all the pollution and airborn particulates from the Ohio valley and the upstream portion of the Rust Belt. The end result is that light rains make my decks far dirtier than they were before the rain. Today's rains are NOT light however, and I have hope that for a few days after the weather passes, anyone on deck won't need goggles when we cross the eye of the wind while underway.

   As I started to write, though, I'm fresh out of bed. Although we're in the best place possible with shit weather bearing down (the wind coming later is reputed to be quite nautical in force and duration), namely, up a river and moored to a lay berth with no operations scheduled, I don't like the sound of the wind whipping through our antennas one deck overhead, and I tend to sleep lightly. Something about spending almost 10 years on a real bitch of a ship that griped and rolled in any kind of a sea. Though my days on the New River are gone, the memories of being vaulted, mattress and all, out of my bunk and sailed 10 feet or so across my room to land like a bug on a windshield on the far side of my room... well, that stays with you.
    At any rate, we've been sitting for too long. I haven't combed my hair in I don't know how long.
 On Tuesday, I'll be relieved here, scheduled  for 2 weeks of I&I (Intercourse and Intoxication) (No one tell my wife about that one, or there'll be bloody little of either)... or would be, if I wasn't working over. I'm going to New York for 2 weeks, there to work one of the cadillacs of my employer's fleet, the newest and most ergonomically-friendly bunker barge they own. So, while I'd rather be home, certainly, this means that this will be a 10-week hitch for me, as I'll come back here when my 2 weeks are up, there to take up another 4 weeks of doing whatever it is we do.

 Oh, and, speaking of, some never before seen shots from the S.S. New River. The last photo is a fish-eye lens shot giving you a view of the 70' athwartships sweep of the forward bridge. You don't see any electronics because the radars and plotting computer are stand-alone cabinet units mounted in the after part of the bridge- the cabinets are visible in the picture, but the radars are not. Since she was a steamship, with throttle control being carried out down in the engine room, there is little evidence of technology.

Monday, April 16, 2012

On board the Titanic bandwagon (warning: contains SCIENCE!)

The above photo was recently released as a reminder that the RMS TITANIC is an underwater graveyard, the final resting place of over 1,200 people.

   The Titanic media blitz can't go 30 seconds without mentioning some fucking people who made a fucking movie, and the guy who told them how to read the goddamned words on the paper they were holding.

    I need to mention this: I don't give a shit about the movie, or the people who made it. I don't even give a shit about the guy who found the Titanic in the first place. He was simply a fundraiser who knew how to hire someone who could read maps, and is good at getting money out of people. For this, he gets called a 'scientist' though he certainly isn't. He doesn't study anything, but rather finds funding for people to study things, and then accepts credit for it. My dad sailed for the same organization for years, and was on the construction, testing and operating team that ran the submarine they used to find the ship. He retired long before the Titanic search took place, back when they used the sub to do things like find lost nuclear bombs and do actual scientific research instead of using the Navy's construction budget to engage in the intellectual equivalent of masturbating in front of a full length mirror and calling it 'art.'
(Edit: I sound hostile in the above because the ALVIN is expensive to charter, and there's a long line to get time on her. The initial TITANIC search, while pretty amazing, tied up the sub for a long while at a time when geophysicists and physical oceanographers with something to offer the world went sub-less. Had the Alvin been released ASAP to continue on her scientific mission, I'd be singing a different tune).

     The only thing I really care about the TITANIC:

 1).  SOLAS (The international convention on Safety Of Life At Sea) came from it, ushering in a new era of safety, about 400 years too late, but welcome still, so that the terrible lessons learned could have meaning, and be prevented in future.

2). The Titanic is a sunken graveyard, the final resting place of over 1,200 souls who died in the name of  greed and hubris (so what else is new!). As such, it should be (and is not) afforded the same level of protection as your town's graveyard, or that of other shipwrecks that aren't quite so profitable to certain interested  *cough cough james cameron cough cough* parties.

 Today's notable pap, showing the true value of self-education when a rich drama queen decides to 'do marine science' without benefit of education, or, more charitably, having a basic science education, comes from the self-serving sultan of Smug himself, James Cameron, recent creator of a cartoon version of Dances With Wolves, set in space. With big blue cats. This from the same guy who's justification in strip mining the TITANIC like a child with a booger-filled nose is that he's "never seen human remains".

Sigh. What does he want? The answer, of course, is dramatically-posed skeletons, a true double-edged sword. On the one hand, dramatic photos of well-dressed dead people would sell. On the other, photos of the mortal remains of accident victims might actually create enough of an outcry that the Titanic wreck site would be protected with a certain amount of dignity. Regardless, the skeletons in questionare nowhere to be found, and, therefore, makes this not desecrating a mass grave, but rather, some form of  'research' by mass media standards.
      Why aren't there skeletons? Chemistry. Same reason ocean water is ocean water. Something I learned on the 3rd day of Intro to Marine Biology. There's plenty of calcium in seawater, which is why mollusc shells and other calcium-heavy things don't dissolve quickly in water, despite a rather intense demand for calcium by creatures such as molluscs and other animals, who can pull it out of seawater and incorporate it into bones and shells and such. Below a certain depth, however, calcium carbonate (shells, bones and such are made up heavily of this stuff) gets aggressively dissolved rather more quickly than in the shallows. This is called the Carbonate Compensation Depth, or CCD. The Titanic rests in deep, deep water, well below the CCD. Aside from the animal life that would be interested in mortal remains, the bones wouldn't last too long, either. And so, once again, basic ignorance of day 1 science shit can be used as a wonderful reason to exploit the dead for fun and profit.
 Now look at that. You learned something! See, there's no reason to blindly dislike people. There's plenty of perfectly good reasons to dislike people.


A little inspiration (From Brazil) to get through the week... (semi NSFW)

Over at Wirecutter's, he's rolling out a new feature out there on the Left Coast. MILFy Mondays. I for one welcome the idea.

 In the meanwhile, I've included some pictures of my own from my time in Brazil in this week's collection of Nice Things. To recap, this being Tax month at home in the People's Democratic Volksreich of Massachusetts, I'm doing my part to promote cultural understanding and tolerance by introducing folks here to some nice people from Brazil. You're welcome.

 Also, bit of trivia: it's very hard to find outdoor pictures from Brazil that don't include butt-floss bikinis, because they're everywhere. This is awesome until you go yourself, and see wild packs of steroid-assisted 21-year old guys ogling your wife because her bikini fits in a test tube. This is also why Americans can't bring their guns. Lesson learned: don't bring your wife to the beach in Brazil. On the upside, they have traveling beer salesmen there who will, literally, come up to you with an ice-cold freshie if they see you've finished yours.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Self-Serve Stores Day

Once a month or so, it becomes necessary to resupply the consumables- groceries we handle ourselves- we do our own shopping, we take on fuel and change out crew from local tugboats... but we still have to take on stores.

 For the most part, the monthly wish list looks similar from request to request. Absorbent pads to mop up oil drips and spills, boxes of rags for general cleanup, surfactants, detergents and solvents to keep every SINGLE drop of oil off the deck so we don't put a sheen in the water (requiring everyone to spend a lot of time on hands and knees scrubbing- there's a reason why no one wants to work with me, I guess). Then there are tools, lightbulbs, rope, paint, ladders, safety glasses and boots, office supplies (we kill a LOT of trees. The US Gubmint's idea of environmental protection is to armor us all with reams of copy paper and ink jet cartridges, forms, binders, notebooks and electronic gadgets, mops and brooms, assorted gloves for all occasions (yours truly has delicate hands held together with baling wire and duct tape) and other assorted goodies.
    Normally, stores get palletized and one of us will swing a deck crane out to pick up the pallets from a forklift or the bobbing deck of a tug. Today, however, it's self serve Sunday. Yours truly was stupid enough to mention that I have my pickup with me, and we're idle, being moored several miles upriver from our local warehouse. So I get to go load my truck at the warehouse, drive over, and hump goodies for stowage. To celebrate, I broke out the cast-iron skillet this morning, and went all full-breakfast. Unfortunately, this resulted in mass food coma, so, once that lifts, we'll try to get something done around here. Might be a while.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ankah Da Tankah!

When I was sailing as an AB (Able-Bodied seaman) on the cranky old steamship SS New River, the captain used to goof on my Boston accent all the time. Between me, the Chief mate and Chief engineer (both from downeast Maine), there was plenty of fodder for his work. "Ankah Da Tankah" was one of his favorite phrases while I was up on the bridge at the wheel. Always, when it came time to anchor, that meant that our schedule was going to go to hell. We'd never leave on time, or, 15 minutes after the anchor was down, it would be on its' way up again from a change of plans.

    So, yesterday afternoon, I'm making chili (!) when I get the call that the terminal slated to discharge our latest cargo didn't want it, but another one would take it early- as in right now, get underway. So, we did.
         Someone in an office somewhere decided to play games. The tug that was shoving us got told to drop us and run south for work in the mid-Atlantic, and another tug was going to meet us, so we'd drop anchor, make the switch, and get underway again. This seemed counterintuitive to me, as we were 30 minutes from the dock at this point, and it would take an hour to make the switches and get our horrifically slow anchor windlass to yank the hook. But what do I know.
    Of course, once the anchor is down, the delays make a slow march across the board, which is why I'm typing this after midnight, reheating chili. One more reason to hate Philadelphia- we never, ever anchored in New York.

EDIT- so, about 2 hours later, now. 5 minutes after posting that last entry I got word that our berth was available, and so we heaved anchor- the tug with us did a great job of swinging us into the anchor rode's sweet spot-a place in the water directly downstream and only slightly aft of the anchor itself, so the rode slipped onto the capstan with just a whisper.
As an aside: tugboaters don't use the point system for giving relative bearings- they use the very lubberly 'O'clock' reference. Friggin' shoemakers. 

       To point out an object's bearing, it's all based on your bow being 'dead ahead' but it goes like this:

This is the way of things for a good reason, besides tradition. It accounts for parallax (the error caused by the difference  in vertical and horizontal angle between the eye and the object in question) errors caused by the lookout's vs. the OOW's position, since the o'clock system gives only 30-degree increments, while the maritime relative bearings listed above gives an 11.25 degree increment. One simply has a better idea of what you're looking at.  But I digress. And no, I don't box the compass. 

 Also, while in our modern era things can be wonderfully convenient, handheld radios are not. They're susceptible to interference, static, and getting 'blown out' by the wind. Hearing every other word, which happens all the goddam time, is an issue that must be dealt with- as an example, hearing "bearing (static) points on the port bow" gives you a 45-degree arc to worry about, while hearing "it's at (static) o'clock" gives you exactly jack squat. You just get better info, at the end of the discussion. 

      But I'm certainly not going to try to teach that to another boat's deckhands. Many of them were working this area while I was in grade school.  All I can do is make suggestions, remind them to tie their shoes, eat their veggies, and call them names in a good natured way, hoping to inspire them to be more curious about the weird-ass way I talk sometimes, accent or no. I've got to admit, seeing the blank look in their eyes is fun when I say "look 2 points abaft the port beam." It's the exact same look my nephew had when he was soiling his diaper as a baby. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

This week in Brazil (semi NSFW)

As promised, this week's imports from South America, in an effort to combat tax-related depression.


So, tonight's my night to stand the 0000-0800 watch, and that's OK, I guess. I'd rather stand the midwatch while we're loading (it's quiet w/out the screaming roar of the cargo pumps) than when we're sitting between jobs- idle hands, and all that.
         I had some trouble drifting off to sleep in my last off-watch period, and, when I did doze off, I kept waking up from nasty short dreams. Strange how the mind works. I didn't go to bed particularly preoccupied.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

in which we let the cat out o' the bag.

listening to a co-worker go on and on about the wonders of fish, and healthy eating makes me realize that I know something about how fish gets from a polluted rice paddy in Cambodia to your dinner table. I'm going to follow up on that with some actual blog content, I think.

 Oh, and until then, ruminate on this:  most fish you buy comes from outside the US. People like me used to marinate fish feed in methyl-testosterone to make all the babies male so they wouldn't breed while being grown out for market. While that's no longer legal in the US, it's very legal in most other places... the kind of places where you get fish.


It's damn quiet here. Today's the halfway point of this tour for me, and crew change, so there's some fresh blood aboard, but I am here for another 14 days, and looking forward to the next cargo, some time tomorrow. We're approaching the home stretch of this particular project cargo, and, with only a few more (hopefully) loads to go, we can sail north soon after and take up our regular line of work.
 Anyhow, I'm feeling slightly nostalgic for days gone by, when I used to truly sail, where the water was blue, not brown.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

dry weekend

Rumors exist that after just 3 more cargo loads, we'll be steaming back up north to New York to take up residency again as the bunker busters par excellence. Sadly, this is just in time for cruise ship season, which means fueling up these ugly-ass ships under the watchful eye of 3,000 drunks and other shitheads who try to throw lit cigarettes on my deck in an effort to blow us all up.

 Some pictures from co-workers- thought I'd throw 'em in today,

Friday, April 6, 2012

What do they put in the water down there?

In April, the men of Massachusetts' minds turn towards spring, and we all know what that means. Tax season.
So, to keep everyone from shooting themselves in the head or dousing themselves in gasoline, This month I'll be presenting weekly posts of the lovely women of Brazil. You're welcome.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

hard water

We're in the Doldrums here at HAWSEPIPER's afloat global HQ/freelance gynecology clinic.

The last week has been far too quiet. In an hour or so we'll be sailing to start another job, thank God, but there was some down time- too much down time, if such a thing can be said to exist. And, turns out, it can.

    April is a beautiful time to be on the water in the Northeast, but not at sea in the Northeast. At home, April is a time of hideously unstable weather and choppy, cold seas that seem to exert a disproportionate amount of force upon a boat hull- the warm days belie the cold water, and boats get knocked about in an unforgiving fashion by normally benign seas. Simply put, to a careful observer, the cold water hits harder, making a rougher ride in the same sea states that will feel comfortable in just a few more months.
      In the summer, thermoclines form- boundary layers in the water column, where the water temperature changes rapidly with depth- it's not unusual for water temperature to change 15 degrees as one moves, say, from 15 to 18 feet of depth while swimming. Water changes density with temperature, so the differing densities don't like to mix so much- rather, the bodies of water at differing temperatures slide across each other and resist mixing. This provides the lovely coolish water than makes ocean swimming so enjoyable in New England in the summertime- if you're like me, and like to swim in deeper water, it gets bloody cold awful fast when you drop down a few feet.
 At home, April is the time when the lobster boats start moving traps into the bays from their wintering spots further offshore, and, for many, it's also a time to move traps off the dock and back into the water. Running a boat with a 6-foot high pile of traps covering the deck is always an exiting time- deckhands disappear behind the stacks, so everyone's nervous as the traps are reset. Optimism reigns.
     For the earlybird pleasureboaters, people sometimes get a little surprise when the 2-foot chop they ignore in July rattles the fillings out of their heads in April. That cold, dense water packs a little punch. Even in a ship, the difference is visible- in my old union, there was a collier that regularly made winter runs around my home area, and the ship aged prematurely. Massachusetts Bay doesn't have the deep ocean swells common to waters south of Rhode Island, but it does have an almighty short chop that makes life miserable. In my head I often wonder if the late-season trips across the Great Lakes feel similar.
    I feel the usual April restlessness that used to make me quit my stable, career-oriented job and give it up for another season of Lobster Wishin' when I was younger. I just can't afford that lifestyle (or, don't want to, I guess), anymore, but the desire is still there, and on days like today, when I'm walking down the sterile length of my steel deck, looking at valves, holidays in the paint topcoat, coiled lengths of hawser and grease fittings EVERYWHERE, thinking thoughts like "hmm, I need at least 80 gallons of red paint to get started on recoating this deck," l feel the tidal pull for a teeny, unstable, wet slippery deck than can be paced in a half-dozen stuttering steps instead of a 5 minute walk.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Lets all the po' people sto'

We're currently sitting still, waiting on a cargo to be fixed (found) for us from our one customer here in Philly. I'm down here for just one refiner's pleasure, and it seems they don't have much need of us right now. I know that will change rapidly at some point, when they'll give us just a few hours' notice that there's a cargo waiting, but for now, we've been moored at a lay berth for the weekend, and I've had enough sitting around. I want to be working.
           To fill the time, now that we're caught up on maintenance and tidying up the place, I've been walking into Philadelphia to buy something every day. It's a 2-mile jaunt through the industrial (read: butt-ass fugly) waterfront one way to the nearest store, so I'm getting my exercise- mostly because my sneakers are shit, and I have to wear a pair of heavy workboots that wear like cement shoes.
       Today's jaunt brought us up to an Aldi,   a discount foreign grocery store- the kind of grocery store that has no name brand items, and doesn't supply bags- you have to bring your own or buy some hemp-looking bullshit bag for a buck. Basically the kind of place where you can absolutely save some bucks to buy staple items.
       I guess this post makes me aware that I'm a snob. I love to save a buck. I'm cheap, like the budgie, on a good day. I don't mind this store. It's the goddamned people in it that make me wish for mandatory sterilization of people I don't like. Sure, I can shop there and save $10-20 bucks, but I walk out a total fucking misanthrope, and what price will I pay for not spending 30 minutes wishing for a plague of locusts to descend on everyone within eyeball distance.
        I'm not sure what it is about rubbing shoulders with the downtrodden masses, but being the only person who says 'excuse me' and doesn't hip-check his way down the aisle is a real downer. Being stuck behind multiple 400-lb women in yoga pants   makes me soggy and hard to light, especially when they spend 90% of their time stopped in the middle of the goddamned store aisle blocking traffic while they chew their cud and try to decide on which blend of fake Crystal Light defines them as a person. I'm all like "Excuse me... excuse me! Can I get by you? Thanks!" in my polite indoor voice, all the while wishing they would install a fucking weigh station or a truck lane so Mrs. Foodstamps can get a citation for being more than 8'6" across the beam without a goddamned yellow sign.  
      As a fellow overweight person, I am sensitive to the plight of the vertically-challenged. However, being a fat person in a world made up mostly of non-obese people, I respond by being polite, light on my feet and very careful about where I am standing or moving. If I collide with someone, they tend to move further than I will, so it's only fair. So it makes me annoyed when someone who looks like they maybe ate someone my size for lunch doesn't have the human decency to at least be polite, or even courteous when they're orbiting their way down the store aisle, I get bent out of shape. I armor myself with polite language, a friendly smile, and momentum. If someone is going to pretend that there isn't a 6'2" (I was wearing logging boots) 220+lb man quietly asking for safe passage, I'm going to take a step back, get a running start, and shoot between said Leviathan and the shelving, and do so fast enough to achieve escape velocity and avoid getting stuck in orbit by her gravitational field. It works, although I will end up with friction burns. And then I can get to the far end of the aisle where I'll have to do the same thing again with another gatekeeper pouring over the cracker selection like an archeologist at a dig.
         I don't care about people's economic condition. I care about politeness in public, which is all about having some class. The Po' People Sto' is full of people with no class, which is why I go out of my way to shop under normal circumstances with the middle class, or acting-middle class, anyhow.
   At any rate, I got 2 bags of tortillas and a nifty hemp bag for $4. It took me 30 minutes to work my way from the tortillas to the checkout, and now I have PTSD. Screw Philadelphia.