Thursday, January 29, 2009


Tomorrow marks the end-day of the three weeks of training that I've been taking at my union school. Cargo Handling, SAR, and, in 24 hours, firefighting, are hereby knocked off of my to-do list. saturday morning I'll take a leisurely 430-odd mile drive home.
Today was our day to go get heated up on the fire grounds. Lots of good stuff to do- exercises, smoke, fire, and water=fun. Plus the weather, which was idyllic- cool, sunny, and a gentle breeze- perfect for firefighting.

One real tragedy in the American maritime world is that the diversity and level of available live-fire training has declined substantially for mariners. Originally, I had to take a Basic safety Training course which included three excellent days of firefighting exercises. I did this out on Cape Cod, and it is required of every prospective oceangoing mariner before he can get his first job on a ship.
Up until about 2 years ago, in order to advance in licensure, a mariner would have to take an Advanced fire fighting course, which includes classwork on pre-fire planning, tactical training, and some train-the-trainer practice to prepare the participant to take a leadership role on board ship.

I've been told that the maritime schools began to compress these courses into a combined basic/advanced class, which is chock full of information, sort of, and short on time. Further, I've been told that my school had to switch to this format to remain competitive. So it goes.

The class has been excellent, in my opinion. We have a world-class author and experienced firefighter as the instructor, and our one day at the fire ground was a nice refresher. STILL, though, I think a disservice has been done to the mariner by compressing this training. Something had to give, and the stakeholder is the one to suffer for it.

Oh, before I go on, have a look for yerself, then:

Cool, huh?

For those of you who have been there, these pictures are pretty familiar, as the training is standard at most of these classes. It's really neat to sit in the engine room as it heats up from a fire, and to learn that the air is around 400 degrees.... good insulation in those turnout coats and pants!

Anyhow, to recap on what I said earlier, the whole point and purpose of this training is to give us a little lifeline should the need arise to save our own asses at some point, whether by putting out a small fire, or simply in buying enough time to get out of a bad situation... either way, the onus should be on the curriculum design, in terms of giving us the best value for our money, coupled with satisfying the training requirments set down under law. In this specific case, the one-week class just doesn't feel like enough for some of the guys I trained with today- and for myself, too. We lost too much time in reviewing the basics, and didn't get the time to really get much depth in tactics and such. The maritime schools have satisfied the US coast guard and the IMO in terms of satisfying the training requirements, but the need to dumb down the course in order to make it inclusive and able to fit into one week has really made a bit of a hash out of the situation. It's an important subject, and worthy of being expounded upon. I think it's great that the schools are happy with what they've done, but I'm certainly not going to pat anyone on the back for cutting my training requirements in this case.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

two things

Cat out of the bag:

I'm trying to keep my accent under control, so that people here will understand me, or at the very least, not goof on me. Of course, before the caffeine kicks in, lapses will happen, as they did this morning, when I referred to my having had too much to drink last friday as "I got wicked retahded." Cue the wisecracks.

The other thing:

I'm going to start a weekly picture posing of these Brazilian women that I'm coming across in my planning sessions as I look over my wife's country, in preparation for spending some time there myself once school is done, I've been looking all over the country's touristy spots. What I appreciate is that the Brazilian women I've met here are every bit as lovely as the girls I've seen online. I shudder at the thought that some of you poor single mugs are having to deal with American women under the age of 30.

Today's Braziliera:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Perfect timing

So I've got this nasty cold, and I'm not the only one. WonderJohannes, the cyborg/student/ friend who is impervious to hangovers, apparently, is not impervious to the common cold, either. Dt's got the squints, too. Tough week.

Anyhow, thought I'd share a highlight from my day. 1045, and I am giving the last presentation in my Emergency Procedures class. I had to create a procedural checklist for fighting a fire/explosion for an oil tanker alongside the dock, from ringing the general alarm to calling it quits.
I did well. I did my homework, and lord knows, there's plenty of info out there on the web. Well, that and I've lived through hundreds of Fire and Boat Drills on board.
I'm giving my presentation, and my sinuses, which were struggling to stay open all morning, give a lurch as I'm really settling into the podium, 5 minutes into my scenario. I sneeze.

uh oh.

It's like ice-out day on the scene at "Ice Road Truckers." My sinus cavity is about to divest itself of 5-to-10 liters of snot, and nothing is going to stop it except for a full-court press.

So, It's on. While I'm talking, I tense up my whole body like a fist, breathing carefully out of my mouth. You know how hard it is to talk in front of an audience when you have to talk and breathe out of the same cavity? I sounded like an extra from the set of The Sopranos. You know; "Ay, an den you wanda debloy ya hose teems from da staging area, but one team hasda stand by, 'cus Ay! You neveh know. Bada Boom!

OK, it wasn't that bad, but it was enough to make me sweat. I swear, blowing my nose in the privacy of the bathroom a few minutes later? It was like 72 virgins all giving up the goods at once, just for me. So good.

But not so awesome was my medical visit this afternoon. I thought I was getting a little blood drawn. Well, yeah, I did that. Then I had a full Human Performance Evaluation.
If you haven't heard about it, be glad. It's a physical exam, complete with hernia evaluation. (Cough!) Then a sadist with a stopwatch and a heart monitor runs you across an exercise floor modeled after the Westminster Dog Show. Step up on this box, 5 times. Balance on one foot for a minute, then the other. Step on this plastic board that we put over a hockey ball. Now balance on the ball/board for 3 seconds, no edges touching the floor. Now go up this ladder 6 times. Drag this sled full of weights across the carpet 10 times. Crawl, you vermin, 30 feet, and God damn you if your heart rate rises above 158!
I passed. I sweated, I'll say that. I've been worried about my hearing for some time. With the exception of one small range of sounds in my right ear, my hearing is actually pretty damn good. I have only 10% damage to one ear, and 15% in the other, which is good for a 34-year old. What wasn't so good was the damn box they put me in to take the hearing test. Fucking thing was 100 degrees, and the box was so small that I couldn't fit my shoulders between the walls without hunching. You wannna talk claustrophobia? 10 years ago, I would have burned down the neighborhood before getting in there. My first trip to sea took care of that. 120 days in a ships' double bottoms, needle gunning for 10 hours a day. That's confined, baby.
So, feeling happy and healthy, I proceeded to come back to school and drink too much. So I spent the next 4 hours rehydrating so I won't be all headachy for the morning. Awesome.

Next week is Advanced Fire Fighting. I'm looking forward to it.

Probably healthier for the liver than the beer I drank.

Oh, and also, take a look at this:

And you wondered why I'm begging the Mrs. to take me to Brazil?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Good week

Firmly entrenched at the ass end of the second week of classes, I am satisfied with what's gone on so far. Search & Rescue and Cargo Handling & Stowage are finished, and tomorrow will see the end of Emergency Procedures. I've got a quick visit to a doc-in-the-box tomorrow for a benzene screen, one of the chinks in the armor of a tankerman like myself. I have to have blood drawn at least once a year, but I usually seem to go twice, as a nod to the fact that cancer runs through my family like grease through a goose. First, though, is the exam tomorrow to mark the end of the class.

I want to share a really interesting moment that I had in the SAR class. The lecturer was a professional Coast Guard SAR expert with 28 years' experience. He brought us through the whole process, and at the end of his 30-minute talk, when he was describing the real meat of the search process, the actual time spent running the pattern and looking out, there was one moment where he made a comment that proviked a very powerful emotional reaction.

If we arrive on scene at night, and we have to search, we put a spotlight up into the sky, and leave the blue light flashing on the roof. The truth is, it doesn't help us at all, and the blue light is probably a distraction. The fact is, we aren't going to see anything useful until first light, but to a man in the water, the difference between life and death, between giving up and stuggling to stay alive through the night, can come from hope alone. Just seeing that someone wants to find you, that we're there, and we're looking for you, that hope saves lives.

What a thing that is.

On a lighter note, some dink gave me a wicked cold. I look like a wino. With my ruddy complexion, my nose glows in the dark when I get a cold. Also, my nose will peel and get all scaly too. Handsome, huh? I put some moisturizer on my schnozz after dinner tonight, and it stung so bad that my eyes were watering. Honest, my vision got blurry it was so painful.
I miss my ship. In 6 years, I only got a cold one time. Every year when I come to school, I get something.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Propaganda and good/bad science

OK, well, check this out. It'll only take a minute

Now, I wasn't planning on writing any more today, but this totally frosted my radiator.

This research study is great. Right up my alley. In fact, this gives me wood. Lignum Vitae style wood. This is cool science.

But the reporting totally puckers up my nethers.

This article calls 10,000 year old coral bed remains "Ancient," but 10,000 years is barely a blip. 10,000 years ago, the last ice age was long gone. The world was much as it is today. In fact, I can go get 15,000 year old plant and animal remains at home with just a 3 hour boat ride, 100-feet of fishing line and a little mud grab. No big deal. We can go offshore and look at the salt marsh remains that are buried just under the mud off of Stellwagen bank, 30 miles from the shore today. No big deal. The ocean moved 30 miles inland after the ice age ended. So it goes.

So, an older band of dead deep-sea coral isn't newsworthy in itself, and as much as it's cool that the group classified a couple of new marine species, it wouldn't have made even the less-than-prestigious Yahoo! News. So, throw in some political footballs fellas, 'cus it's almost grant-writing time again to pay for the next research cruise.

Read the article's incredibly lame attempted tie-in to global warming. Ocean Acidification. Puh-leeze. This has been an interesting research avenue, no doubt, despite the fact that it runs contrary to what is taught in week 2 in Introduction to Marine Biology. Calcium cycle stuff. Pffft. Chemistry is still for nerds apparently, and nerds don't do news.
Anyhow, what pissed me off is that the team leader, a scientist who should know better, spoke using the language of the media, and not science. He used scientifically meaningless numbers, numbers that aren't supportable in any meaningful way, as a hook to grab attention. 50-year projections, when we can't figure out what's 6 months ahead of us. Deep vs. shallow water-ecosystem comparisons, when the two are literally night and day, with only a tenuous interconnection caused by incedental energy transfer, which is like comparing New York City with Bozeman, Montana, because the two are cities in which one could move goods from one to the other in a limited fashion.

No, no, no. This isn't what we are supposed to be doing by researching the natural world around us. This is the kind of shit that let to evolutionary theory being used to justify social darwinism, which, if one considers eugenics, led directly to Nazism. That's the road that the politicalization of science leads down to.

So, I have to offer a big F-You to the team leader of this expedition. You are the reason that people complain about giving money to non-medical scientific research. Fuckhead. Thanks for ruining that.

I lied

OK, so I'm not reconciled to being unable to knock out all the classes I need to advance beyond my job. I'm bummed out. I'm a patient guy, sometimes. This isn't one of those times.

Being at my union school, taking these license advancement classes; well, it's addictive and it makes me enthusiastic about furthering my career. It's a supportive environment for an oddball like myself. So, understanding that I don't have the dough saved up to sit on my ass for an extra month or two really bums me out, because that's all I need to get the last classes in. As it is, I'm trying like hell to get a month's work in before early March, when I have to be home to attend to some family legal matters, in which, unfortunately, my presence will be required. It's all bullshit, like my captain likes to say. Anyhow, but for that one morning's work, I could do this thing.

Anyhow, I guess I'm saying that it's hard to be patient on matters of money and career. So it goes. Some times I kick myself for having pushed so hard on education when I was a kid. $700 a month later and I've got a wonderful education that allows me to transcend the poop and fart jokes around which my world is made, but existing in such rare air doesn't particularly pay that well anyhow, and more fool I, I focused on the wrong aspects of marine industry relative to my business today. Had I been more comfortable with myself in my yoot, perhaps I'd be in a different place these days. In the meanwhile, the only true value in my education these days comes from my ability to push back on the people who attempt to interfere with business as usual.

Ah, speculation. In the meanwhile, here I am in my hotel room, anxiously awaiting Sunday Brunch and the cast of characters who will welcome me to the table so I don't have to sit alone, surrounded by the clergy who are attending a multi-faith coalition conference here this week. I've no desire to be 'saved' whilst attempting to remember which fork goes with the salad. I'm more comfortable with my own faith's priests, who will probably be in the bar, anyhow.

So, today will be spent organizing for next week, and of course, football and beer. Last week I became a certified expert on matters of cargo handling and stowage, and this week I will become the new king of Search And Rescue/ Emergency Procedures.
Two down, Seven weeks to go. If I can play my cards right, I'll be here for Advanced Fire Fighting next week, which will leave me with only 6 weeks of classes left; Electronic Nav, Celestial Nav, Watchkeeping/Bridge Resource Management, and Basic Weather, and that'll be it. Hopefully I can bust out at least another three classes later this year, or, dare to dream, finish 'em all.
In the meanwhile, I'm enjoying the second true day off I've had in 6 months. Feels good.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Well, it's been a good week. I got some things done, I knocked out one of the STCW modules required for me to sit for the 3rd mate's exam (cargo handling and stowage, if you're interested), and met some damn decent people. Two things of note happened, which I'll mention in passing, as I have to be the bus driver for some guys at my school who have no wheels, and us about to be turned loose on Baltimore for the weekend:

1). Meeting with union officials. I attended a seminar that allowed me to learn more about my union, bylaws, and rights and responsibilities thereof, for the job above mine. It won't be soon enough, but I'll be changing divisions in my union after I get my license, and the officer's side is a lot different than the unlicensed. This way, I won't be ignorant, and also, I can put faces to names and get questions answered... this was good for me, I think, as I have been thinking that it isn't worth staying in my union once I get the license... I have reconsidered.

2). Company stuff. I touched base with my employer, which left me, strangely, with a warm fuzzy. When I walked off of my ship, I was ready to light myself on fire, or at the very least light someone nearby up. Discouragement, a low moment, whatever. I am reconciled to the fact that I have to work more in my current position, which I didn't want to do, but which will be necessary to pay the bills. So it goes. Another chance to learn more about the job above mine, whilst having none of the responsibilities thereof anyhow.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Road Trip: Boston to Baltimore

So, again, like a dumbass, I have to get out of bed at oh-dark-thirty, leaving behind a perfectly warm and sleepy wife, and drive off into the incredibly poorly-plowed snow. The worst part of road tripping through a decidedly decent snowfall is the dread. Actually driving through it... well...

0600: start the truck, brush off snow from truck and wife's car.
0610: return to kitchen, grab sea bag and laptop bag
0615: return to kitchen, grab case of diet pepsi and lunch box (Thanks honey!)
0620: return to kitchen, kiss wife and boy goodbye. Also, grab trash on the way out.
0625: we're off! All lights green, the truck tracking nicely despite the iffy secondary road conditions. Roads improve considerably once we're on the state roads.
0635: MA highway rt. 24 looks pretty good. Bump truck up to 40. It's quiet.
0650: I-95, the aorta of the Eastern seaboard, is a living hell. It's fairly quiet, and the plows obviously haven't had the blades down all the way. There's a skin of ice. Thanks, MassHighway!
0651: say a quick prayer, smile at the thought of the half ton of sand bagged up in the bed of the truck. Truck is fishtailing mildly at 35 mph. So far so good. I get paid to mitigate, so this is my compromise speed.
0730: Foxboro, MA. Idiot in a shitbox subaru cuts me off. Bad. Rear end drifts, controlled skidding, and I narrowly avoid rear-ending the idiot. Why does every idiot with 50 bumper stickers always drive a shitbox Subaru? It must be nice to be super liberal. Their thoughts are so perfectly identical that they can buy bumper stickers that perfectly express their opinions to the world. Why don't we ever see a conservative driving a hooptie with 50 bumper stickers advocating death to the opposite political party?

0745: cross into RI. Road conditions improve. I see my first plow of the day, then dozens in the next few minutes. Where are the Mass guys?

0755: pass a spun-out Isuzu SUV. Should have thought about that before you cancelled Christmas for an American family! When you build a truck with a compact car frame...

0800: seriously, why is the ride through Providence a series of turns? First one way, then the other, and the odd 90-degree turn... white knuckle time.

0830: rural RI is pretty and pristine. Slush in road now. This is good. Accelerate to 50 along with traffic.

0900: Ah, Connecticut! The very first time I'm happy to see that place. Proof that I'm making my southing.
1000: Fuck, this is a long ride through CT. The roads are now wet with no slush. Accelerate to highway speed. Note to self: Those expensive Rain-X windshield wipers are a total waste. Friggin' things are smearing the mung on my windshield, rather than removing it. Oh, and 1.99 gas on the highway. 30 cent difference if one can wait 45 minutes and get it in NJ. 35 gallon tank and you start to think like that.
1100: An observation: When you get within commuting distance to NYC, you start to see people in luxery sedans driving in the fast lane at 55mph on a 65 road. And they won't give you a courtesy pass, either. I already know that there's no way they're moving out of the lane. It's their lane. Only one thing to do. Get in front of them, and slow down to 35mph. Uh Oh! Somebody's mad! They had to turn off the cruise control! Now they stomp the gas, but Oh, noes, it doesn't worx like that. 2 ton truck needs an engine with a little boom in the room. No passing this cowboy until 20 cars have passed. Start counting. One, two, three... 5 minutes later and I can see the driver foaming at the mouth. I flash the "One minute" finger, but since it's sore, I use the one next to it, and accelerate away. I do this twice in CT. The time passes nicely. I am the male version of Miss Manners today.
1200: The fastest ride through NY ever. Never even went under 35 on the GW bridge approches! NJ Turnpike and cheap gas, along with a much needed pee. 48 OZ of diet pepsi and 2 cans of Monster energy drink, and I'm sloshing when I walk. I am also tweaking like a mad bastard.
1415: $9.05 for driving through New Jersey? They should be paying ME to be here! Christ. On the upside, I passed 20 miles of stopped traffic on the northbound lane at one point. At least my side is moving.
1430: $4 to cross a bridge and traverse 5 miles of Delaware. Then another $2 before you can get into Maryland 5 miles down the road. Need to pee again, and at $1 a mile toll, you think the fuckers could spring for a damn steamroller on this road. It's like the Mogul trail at Sunday River.

1500: I spent about 20 minutes fixing my printer yesterday to download a nice route map for myself, and I realize now that I don't need it at all. I know the whole voyage. MD has some odd interchanges. At one point I'm getting off 95 towards 695, then I'm on 95 again. Sometimes when I take this road I take one tunnel, and sometimes another. Strange. Yet I've never been lost, and I've never been able to figure out what I'm doing to take 2 differint routes at the Baltimore/Annapolis interchanges.
1530: I'm here! And no one else is apparently. I don't see another guest for almost an hour. It's sunny and much warmer. Light sweather weather. Amazing what a drive can do.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

How Can I Be So Thirsty This Morning...

...When I drank so much last night?

The appeal of beer is no longer held with wistful fondness. The breath of asslike smell is reality. No excuses. I knew what I was doing. I didn't eat enough before going down to my local Irish pub with Vman. 5-6 Belhaven Ales and 12 hours later, a long shower and 3 bouts of toothbrushing... well, it was worth it. I no longer have an urge to drink for nostalgia's sake.

as an aside...
That Belhaven ale is good. I used to have one every morning when I lived in Scotland. I was in training. I was performing a research study that required me to travel to many of the Hebridean islands, and the smaller islands have a tradition of entertainment by getting foreigners bombed on massive quantities of their drinkable whisky. Since I had to have a large population sample for my study, I had to increase my alcohol tolerance. Which I did. It took 2 months of daily drinking to warm up, but when I was ready, I was able to hold almost a pint of raw whisky a night, which came in handy on the 18 islands I visited, and I got an awesomely- coherant data set. After I returned here, I didn't drink for almost a year, and after that, being drunk lost its' appeal. Nowadays, I get sick before I get even a good buzz, so where's the fun in that?

Really, 5 or 6 beers is just a warmup for some people. One more last night and I'd have been calling Ralph on the porcelain phone. I am a total lightweight.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

1 week later...

Despite the fact that I have been home for a week, I am neither relaxed nor have I been productive. In fact, I feel pretty verklempt. Facing the prospect of a 400+ mile drive on Sunday should clear the air a bit. In the meanwhile, I did this morning what I goof on my friends for doing: waking up 15 minutes early to scrape the cars off.
The Boy's school delayed opening until 1030 this morning. What do professionals who work the 9-5 do to deal with this sort of thing? I mean, having him underfoot for an extra 2 hours has been fun, a nice surprise, except for the fact that he stuffed a juice box into the garbage disposal already and broke the DVD player, apparently. Expensive morning.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A good long look, a hard lesson

So tonight I cemented my plans for the latest batch of classes that I'll be taking in the upcoming month towards qualifying to sit for the unlimited 3rd mate's exam. Next week I'll begin a 3- week block of classes that will include Cargo Handling and Stowage, Search and Rescue/Emergency Procedures and Advanced Fire Fighting. I'll be living at my union's trade school/conference center, called MITAGS down in Maryland. This is also a fine opportunity to network, visit friends, and drink beer where I can. Nice to have a beer at the end of the day again.

I want to write about a wicked uncomfortable but undoubtedly good (in the sense of bad-tasting medicine being generally good for you) conversation that I had on my ship the night before I was paid off, and I've taken almost a full week to mull over both the material covered, and also whether or not I should share. I'm compromising here. Like my writing, I don't want to put too much detail, and, like my writing, I'll undoubtedly feel afterward like I didn't get my point across.

I ended up having a man-to-man with the chief mate on my ship. One of the mates is a close friend. The other is a more difficult man to know. Both are effective at their job, despite being polar opposites in most ways. This conversation was with the mate that I wouldn't normally be having a very personal conversation with.

Whoo. That's some bad english. End with a prepositional phrase? Shame on me.

Anyhow, that night was my 1,080th day as an Able Seaman. This is a special day, as it represents the culmination of six years of effort to satisfy the most daunting prerequisites for taking the unlimited 3rd/2nd mate's exam... the three years' sea time... and, it was my last watch for this voyage.
We talked about known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. It was a very constructively critical conversation, and you know how hard those can be, when one is forced to not only admit, but to confront one's shortcomings.

Anyhow, it was a clearing of the air, and an opportunity for me to hear from someone who actually cared enough about my prospects to methodically and tactfully point out where my personal weaknesses lie.

So yeah, it sucks to be called on the carpet, even when I appreciated that it was happening for my own good.

Also, it brought me a little closer to a somewhat enigmatic but respectable guy who I have been quick to discount in the past for doing things in a different way than I'd prefer.
I have arrived here rather humbled, I think.
* ********************************** *

This being my year-end close out, I also did something bad by accident. I lost my archived blog entries for the past three years, the ones that have chronicled so many good and bad times, and also so much name-calling that I am now embarassed about since the cat came out of the bag and co-workers and employers could search out exactly on what day I called them bad names. On the upside, I don't need those entries anymore; they were a relief valve for me, and fulfilled that function. Still, I'm going to miss a lot of it. I've even lost the brief mention of the night where I met my wife. Again, on the upside, I've also lost a lot of hyperbole and exagerated but great stories, so I no longer have to get asked if I really pulled Salma Hayak off of the deck of a sinking battleship whilst simultaneously duelling with six Klan bikers/rapists.

I resolve to be more clear about what it truth, and what is exageration.
I reserve the right to exagerate. I am of Irish descent, after all. The truth will never stand between me and a really, really good story.


I talked today about our hurricane Ike experiences, and the aftermath thereof with a couple of guys who were also stuck inside the kids' playroom/hell that is one of those Chuck E. Cheese's sort of thing today. As I told the story, I was definately feeling the usual Baron Munchausen/mental boner that I get when I collect an inadvertant audience. Like the germanic fabled hero, I felt awesome as more and more guys were circling in, and the urge to play fast and loose with the truth was there, but, so was a feeling of wanting closure, of wanting to put that episide behind me. I let the story die it's natural death, being vague on details for once, and when it was over, it felt over. I think that my time as a storytelling attention whore is over. And I'm OK with that.

Good talk.

Friday, January 2, 2009

checking in

Despite the fact that you may have called and received no answer or callback, I am actually at home. I am enjoying I am running around like a mad bastard trying to get everything done that needs doing, despite the fact that civilization is enjoying the holidays, and, thus, everything is closed most of the time. So it goes.

I'm having a hellacious time adjusting to life at home. I get the Honey Do list from the Mrs., and I gripe a little 'cus everything starts with 'buy ___________." I am a cheap prick after all. On the upside, I no longer need to refinance in order to fill my tank. I gave the high-looking clerk at Cumby's a $50 for a 1/2 tank of gas, and, to my pleasure, got like $20 back. So I bought some scratch tickets, something I NEVER do. I promptly dirtied the clean seats on my truck with scratch tickets leaving and cursed myself for breaking my 'no wasting money' rule. Why I wanted to donate $20 to Massachusetts is a mystery. They'll probably just spend it on Crack.

I always get a little squishy around the edges at the start of vacation time. Sitting on the couch, watching "Ice Road Truckers," wife asleep on one side, The Boy drped over both of us like a throw rug, also asleep... that's the kind of shit that I think of when someone complains that I get paid too much. I'd rototill a 10-foot high pile of hookers to a coppery-smelling mulch to be able to have 1/4 of the nights to spend with my family that everyone else does. It's right now, early days, when I really have to confront the truth: I am the cat that is always on the wrong side of the door. When I am home, I am pulled to sea. When I am at sea, home beckons. It's just that there isn't much pull to go to sea when I'm still folding laundry that smells like a service station.

Take tonight, for example. The Wife has choir practice, so The Boy and I are going to cue up "Finding Nemo" and surf the couch for a while. That's the good shit right there.