Friday, September 30, 2011

My giant forehead looks like a drive-in screen in this pic.

My boy, Genghis B, is ready to roam the Steppes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Back soon. Went home. Party ensues.

Also, passed the 40lb mark on my diet. Pretty damn excited.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

idiots, being idiotic. In print.

So you've probably seen the news about CERN finding neutrinos that appeared to be moving faster than the speed of light, right? Time travel, Einstein is a big old dead wrong poopyhead?

Yeah, I've seen that shit too.

The members of the media who actually finished high school are waxing poetic about E=MC^2.

No one has actually read the paper, of course, in which the authors suspect a math or data contamination error, but can't find it. Yet. Being a diligent bunch, they're looking for folks to repeat the experiment and see what the hell is happening.

In the meanwhile, the media and poor saps united across the western world are booking flights to their nearest time machine.

Now, I'm not a physicist, but I had to suffer through Physics classes in college. And the psychotic, indecipherable Eastern Europeans who taught it, too.
I'm going to try to be topical, yet explain why I think this is probably another climb up Mt. Molehill.

For an object with mass, the faster it travels, the more energy is required for it to accelerate. Think of your car, and why a 60hp Dodge Neon can do 100mph, but a 120hp Toyota can't go 200mph. You need in the vicinity of 400-500 hp to get there. An 5-fold increase in power to double the speed. As you approach the speed of light, the force necessary to accelerate increases to numbers ever approaching infinity. So that's out.

I'm excluding relativity here, but I can't for long. Massless objects like Neutrinos and photons have it easier, in theory, except for the gamma value that doesn't get addressed in the simplified E=MC^2 equation. As objects move faster, they appear to move more slowly through time. This is relativity, and this is the gamma value. At speeds approaching the speed of light, time changes start to become measurable and noticeable. Gamma starts to approach a value of 1. This is why the speed of light is the speed of light. This is the speed at which the particles no longer experience time.

So the obvious question is how can something that isn't experiencing time be moving through time? If gamma can't exceed 1, but particles are moving faster than that, what is more likely, Einstein is wrong, or there's a bug in the experiment?

Never, ever go up against Einstein.

shame on me...

Well, September is almost over, and I almost forgot to post this month's beautiful Brazilian women. Shame on me. Anyhow, in the name of science, International Relations, and good genetics, I give you this month's proof that God loves us and wants us to go to Brazil again. Or me, at least. God wants me to go to Brazil again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Time flies

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of my dad's death. It's amazing how quickly the time passes.
I grew up in the shadow of my older brothers and my sister- not a black sheep by any means, but quieter, nerdier and absolutely more awkward. I followed in my father's footsteps, after a fashion, though I went wide of the path by ending up becoming a marine biologist, after listening to his stories of living and working on oceanographic ships, and later, to follow his example more closely and become a merchant mariner.

I never had to experience months, or even years of absence while my dad was at sea;my father swallowed the anchor just before I was born, though it pained him to do so and he never quite recovered from coming ashore. He was of the last generation of true globe-trotting mariners, the men who signed foreign articles bonding them to a ship for 1-2 years at a time... yet he was sympathetic when I sometimes bailed out after 100 days.

One of my fondest memories of my father came a few months before his passing, when he was in the hospital after having a new defibrillator implanted in his chest. It was in the evening, and I had gotten home after 4 weeks in Philadelphia aboard a bunker barge. I dropped my bags, and my wife and I drove into Boston to go see him. Must have been 9 or 10 at night, long after visiting hours were over. My father was reading his Office (The Book of Hours, a set of prayers meant to be read daily as part of prayer and meditation for particularly devout and scholarly Catholics) with the TV on mute in the background, and his face lit up when he saw us.
I have to back up a bit and talk about my wife's relationship with my father; my wife lost her dad early in life, and she became instantly devoted to my father when we were dating. My father was tickled by this. Without thought, once hugs and greetings were exchanged, my wife climbed into the hospital bed with my father and lay beside him, talking animatedly in her particular version of English. At that moment, seeing them together, I realized how well my father had taught me to value family, and the deep emotional connection that transcends barriers of culture, pain, anger and the million distractions that family life throws up. My dad's contented smile was wonderful to see. Although his body had been failing slowly for 25+ years, one of his favorite pastimes through the years was always to just sit and gab. Although he didn't pass that particular trait on to me, my father was rarely happier than at the moments when he was surrounded by family, simply talking to pass the time.

I'm aware that my family will be reading this post, and this is mostly geared for them. Except, of course, I'll have to run this through Google Translate for Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's sake.

Monday, September 19, 2011

running start

I don't know why I let myself get so fat, first off.

I've been on the verge of being grossly obese for a long while. My weight in college was usually around 230-240lbs. I'm sort of built like a cinderblock, so I always figured it was no big deal. And so, as more weight was added and my waistline expanded, I wasn't particularly worried about it. Working as a bouncer during the winters while I was fishing for a living, it was to my advantage. With a good running start, no one stays on their feet with that kind of momentum during a dive-tackle. Plus, in my capacity as a lobsterman, the extra weight wasn't a great impediment.
Working on a ship or tug and barge doesn't require one to be athletic. The job involves short bursts of great effort, not cardiovascular endurance. And, truth be told, I've never been overly embarassed about being overweight. It's just me, after all. I have a trophy wife, which is still crazy to me, but true. I must be doing something right.
Going to Brazil in July was a game changer for me. There aren't any fat guys in Brazil. There's some fat old men, and mentally challenged folks, I guess, but you won't find Jose Lunchpail wandering around with the equivalent of a 7-year old slung around his middle. In my whole life, while I have occasionally been embarrassed about how I look without a shirt on, I've never been ashamed of myself, and in Brazil, I was. Having my wife's family discuss my fatness in front of me, not realizing that I understand Portuguese pretty well, but don't speak it much made me embarrassed an angry. When an aunt said that I must be very rich for her beautiful neice to have married a balea (whale), I simply said "Sabe, Eu falo Portugues un pequino, mas Eu entiendo tudo, vaca" ('You know, I speak Portuguese a little, but I understand everything, you cow.)'.
On my flight back home, I realized that it is time to make changes. Being embarrassed for myself is bad, but being embarrassed for my wife was a living hell. To have family question whether or not my wife is a golddigger was a low moment in my life, and it's left me angry.

Unfortunately, anger and anxiety push me to raid the fridge when left on my own.

I did something that Jay G suggested when I first started reading his blog. I kept a diary of what I was eating, and meticulously calculated the portions and calories, and was deeply disturbed and surprised at the results. After 2 weeks of doing that, I spoke with my doctor and a dietician, and via email (being at sea, I was stuck, but damn my doctor is awesome), I started on a healthy, low cal, low cholesterol and low sodium diet, and started exercising daily; mostly walking around my deck in circles, and doing calisthenics at first.
Turns out, within a few days, I discovered that exercise is a great substitute for tamping down anger and anxiety, rather than simply filling my stomach and falling into a food coma.

I'm eating well. I'm eating foods I like- granted, there's no fried chicken or thrice-weekly steaks in my life, but I'm eating healthy, and I feel good. And I'm down 35lbs. The exercise has been a real boon to me- there's stuff going on that is making me heavily stressed out, and I find that the time for myself, the daily hour of walking and 30-45 minutes of weights and calisthenics every other day are really helping me cope with stress and anxiety from things that weigh on me.

And I look better, as represented by my waistline:

That's my belt. I'm drilling holes in it about once a week. My clothes are looking decidedly gangsta, hanging off. My goal now is to get down to 190lbs, which for me would be flat-stomach skinny. I've made a hell of a start.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What's in a name?

First off, you have to understand that life on a coastal tanker can be boring.
Life on our coastal tanker was less boring than most. The permanent crew (Captains, mates, Chiefs, 1st assistant engineers, pumpmen, bosuns and 3 of the AB's) (half of whom would be home at any one time, and the other aboard, of course) spent half or more of the year together, and our bunch was a tight knit group even so. We had plenty of characters; Eldon the pumpman was a Honduran who would eat anything; honestly, the man was half seagull, and never, ever said a cross word in all seriousness in the years I knew him. Juan the cook was an Argentinian with a similar attitude, who could boil a boot and make it look good. Ernie the other cook was trying to poison us most of the time, I suspect, as chronic diarrhea was the norm while he was aboard.
One of the chief mates is to this day one of my best friends. How the hell that happened I don't know, seeing as we first started hanging out in our off time while I was still an Ordinary Seaman. He lives in a remote place up in Maine, where I happen to have lived a worked for a time, so we knew some of the same folks. Kindred spirits, I guess. Regardless, after a few years of working together, we had adopted our own rhythm in working; stripping out the final cargo in a tank was always a race between us. Port and starboard, we'd work our way down the deck, and the mate would always goof on me if he was ahead, and become curiously silent if I was. There being other folks on watch at the time, I rarely said anything too risque, as truthfully it would be weird for morale to have an unlicensed guy buddy buddy with the mate, so we did a pretty good job of being professional, when we were working, anyhow.
When we weren't working, or when we were just talking, word games were the norm; finding synonyms for anything became high art, and figuring them out only less slightly so. Examples:

Up Spermforter= down comforter
New Hampshire valves= main valves
Exotic dancers= stripping valves
scrote= bag

...just to name a few. Example: "Ask the bosun for the ditty scrote. I tore my up spermforter. On your way back, make sure the exotic dancers are all secured."
Now, any new guys would be mystified and possibly made uncomfortable. This was just how we passed the time. There's only so much that 20 men can do for entertainment when there's no drinking allowed.

Please remember in your thoughts and prayers the 400+ seafarers being held hostage and tortured by pirates in Africa, and join me in condemning all shipping companies who fail to report pirate attacks in an attempt to save on insurance costs.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

that new blog smell...

A big "Welcome aboard" to The Gormogons, a blog containing some wonderfully thoughtful commentary on news and politics. In the week since I've been reading, these guys have become one of the first blogs I check on in my daily rounds.

Also, I am receiving a lame-duck mate on board today, a guy we specifically sent elsewhere a few weeks ago for reasons of being a shitty shipmate. Boomerang effect. Bummer.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

flying solo

Today ended up being a down day, where there wasn't a cargo to keep us busy. We were fortunate enough to dock in Brooklyn, at my employer's dock, which gave me the opportunity to go ashore for groceries and my daily walk.
Today is September 11, and that's a whole other story, one that I'm not going to share, this year. This weekend has been marked by a frenzied police presence, for certain. Maybe it wasn't the best day for a walk in New York, but I was tired of my usual multiple circuits around the deck.
I should digress here. I have anxiety about visiting New York. In the 9 months since I transferred here, I've wandered around on foot exactly zero times. Even in driving here, I've driven to and from my home in MA, and to the grocery store, and that was it. This city intimidates me, or should I say, intimidated me, as that time is finally passing. I've now driven around Brooklyn, and even walked around the area where I park my truck now. I was pleased to find that it's actually a nice place to walk- lots of shops and cafes. With the eyes of the world focused on Manhattan today, it was also pretty quiet, which is a wholly positive thing.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I don't get it.... offer someone a sincere complement on their mustache, and suddenly she's not your friend anymore.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

can't forget

...3 years ago today, aboard the somewhat unseaworthy steam tanker "New River," we started preparing for hurricane Ike, loading storm ballast and securing everything on board in preparation for a direct hit by the hurricane. Ike devastated the Galveston, TX area, and after dragging us nearly 300 miles backwards over the course of three days, spat us out on September 11, 2008.
I still have bad dreams about losing steering while at the helm on the last night, and the ship getting into a parametric roll that threw most of the crew around the house like coffee beans shaking in the can. Under extreme circumstances, the captain made several key decisions that saved the ship- storm ballasting among the most important. I often wondered if the ship would have lost stability had we not loaded down some of the cargo tanks with seawater.

thinkin' bout it.

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about what makes me happy as a person.
When my wife and I decided that we'd visit Brazil this past summer, everything was geared for our trip. My already scanty free time (2 weeks at home after 4 weeks at work) was cut in half (I went to 5 weeks on/1 week off). In 2011 I've had 6 weeks off, including my 2 in Brazil. Essentially, I've had 28 days to spend with my family. Of that time, I've had maybe seven days to do what I like to do. Brazil was an exception there. Being a tourist is fun. Being a tourist tied to my wife's apron strings viz a viz the language barrier... not as much fun, but still fine.
2011 has been the year of no fun, despite the amazing vacation in Brazil. My weight ballooned from stress and lack of exercise. My patience is AWOL.
August was a bit of a watershed month for me. With a week's preparation, on August 1st, I finally started a program of healthy eating and exercise, which I continue daily. My weight is falling fast, as it should when one is obese and no longer eating everything in arms' reach. In addition, I vowed to not work extra more than twice in the next 12 months, so I'll be back to having more free time.
On my next payday I'm going to send a check to a marine architect and have him send me the plans for building a small rowing dory. I love building boats, and even with my limited time, it should be possible to cobble something together. I'm hoping to engage one of my brothers in the project, as I have a certain lack of facility in cutting smooth curves, and it would be nice not to spend 200 hours on sanding the waves out of my cuts, as is my usual M.O.

So things are already looking up. Also, after a 3(!!!) year hiatus, I'm going to go back to my favorite place in the world, Downeast Maine, to visit some friends early next month. Bliss ensues.

an unfortunate thing

I've been a little out of touch- but I'm back now. Expect awesomeness.