Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fame! Recognition! News!

Not a lot of time for a post, as it's been a somewhat stressful watch and it's not quite over, but here's what's happening in my world just the now.

 1). Fame! Recognition!   A management-level TWIC administrator contacted me today. Called me, in fact, having read my last blog post but one, where I invited the TWIC program administrator, Morpho Trust, to eat a dick in the comments section. I wish I had been slightly more on my game but I was dozing off, having gone off watch shortly before, and I was also slightly abashed, as being called and talking about my blog post to a total stranger made me very aware of how critical I can be in my online persona. Not that I'm a cherub in person, but I actually do make a point to try to keep conflict to a minimum. Anyways, to my stalker who offered to assist in helping me with my TWIC issues, I appreciate it very much- more than you know, seeing you go that extra step. I hope you successfully implement my suggestion to pressure Morpho Trust to up their staffing to more appropriate levels so that their offices don't look like a bad night at the Kabul ER, or, barring that, implement my other suggestion, and, indeed, encourage morpho trust to eat a dick. Regardless, thanks for thinking of me and please don't make a windchime out of my genitals if you really do decide to stalk me.

2). News!  

     On a more serious issue, Ron Jeremy had heart surgery today. I'm sure that you'll join me in praying for his full recovery. As the most successful and least-appreciated sex educator in the history of the human race, Here's hoping that Ron is up and about again soon.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

TWIC in hand = $500, 3 days and a whole lot of Maalox

Well, I got my TWIC card, anyways. Only took 1000 miles of driving, 3 lost days of productivity, a couple of sleepy nights... and $500.

To recap, again, the TWIC is a port-entry ID required for anyone who works on, in or for our nations' ports. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks didn't focus on our ports, and there's never been an incident, threat or attempted security breach involving a terror plot in our nation's ports, the thinking was that "we MUST make our ports more secure!" Also, "we MUST come up with a job for our #3 defense contractor, since they can't seem to make an airplane in the past 40 years that anyone would ever, EVER want to buy!"
Well, you get where I'm going with that.

 At any rate, the theme of the nation's TWIC network of offices is "accountability," by which I mean, "be directed to an 800 number that no one ever answers."   Well, I kid, but not by much. The shortest wait time I had was 35 minutes on hold. The longest? 1 hour 20 minutes.

      Now that's service, baby.
      What happened was that I went in to renew my card- great service, rapid turnaround in the suburban Boston area-office. Then I wait for a phone call telling me that my card is ready for pickup... a few days to a few weeks later. OK, I get my call in about a week. So far so good... and we get a 24-hour window of down time at work in NY, so I drive the 4 hours to Boston, catch a quick nap with the Mrs, and go get my ID... but I do not get to pass go or collect $200. The administrator isn't in that day, you see, so I'm not getting my card. Tough shitski. I wait a day, now burning some goodwill with my employer. I return to the office the next day. The card is in, according to the computer, but it ain't in the office. I am given the direct number to the regional administrator for the TWIC program... amazingly, she answers, seems nice... but her computer is down.
   I give up, return to NY and the now much-dreaded daytime drive down rt. 95 between Boston and NY.
      Along the way, the administrator calls me directly. For some reason, my card was sent to Cape Cod, but the office there is only open on Fridays and Mondays... WTF? OK I'm 1/2way to NYC, so I'm not turning around anyhow. The next day the nice lady calls me again, to confirm that my card is there, and I can go get it whenever I want... but they can't mail it to another office, so I have to drive down or start the process over again if I want to pick up the card in NY.
  So as fate would have it (and by fate I mean calling in a favor to a friend), we have a 15 hour window of free time between Sunday night and Monday afternoon. I take advantage of this and race home, sleep, and drive to Cape Cod the next morning.

      Long story short, I got my card, but there was drama. I got there early, before the crowd, and also before the ONE girl at that office opened up. She's overworked and stressed, and apologizing to everyone saying that she's so overloaded that many cards that are supposed to be ready are not. I have a silent heart attack and possibly a stroke. I wait 15 minutes while she takes care of the 2 guys who were ahead of me, and, amazingly, she calls my name- and notes that her boss told her to have the card ready for me, so I'm getting the VIP treatment.
         The TWIC is a 'smart card,' by which I mean it has a revolutionary computer chip in it that justifies it costing like $150. By which I mean it has the same programming as a phone card in Brazil or a rail card in London from 1990, which cost me 1 pound, about $1.50 US  at the time. Inflation, I guess.
      This amazing brandy-newie technology designed to make our ports safer than a baby's crib in a bank vault contains amazing volumes of data... by which I mean your fingerprints from your index fingers.
         OK, sailors sometimes do this shit with their hands called 'handling lines' or 'using tools' which, amazingly, must be done in the rain or between September and June in temperate climates. Shockingly, mysteriously, this sometimes has the effect of making your fingers callused or dry, which makes fingerprints not work so well.
       So, yeah, my fingerprints aren't readable the other day. The girl asks me why I don't ever use lotion. I say (and this is no shit) "ummm... because I'm not gay?"   not being sarcastic or sexist or anything, just an off the cuff, unpremeditated answer. She bursts out laughing, but has to call her boss for a special code number to put in the computer because I'm like a smooth criminal or something. Amazingly her boss answers, again.
 Good worker, that boss. For an organization that has overall sucks harder than Linda Lovelace, who pretty much fucked up every step since day one, they've got some decent folk, no shit, if you can et a hold of them. I walk out with my card a few minutes later, get in the truck, and drive to NY, where there's a hot tugboat waiting at my barge, and, on climbing aboard, we go to work.


Friday, January 25, 2013

TWIC cards, hypertension, and traffic

So, as anyone from work will tell you, I got a wicked good Boston accent. People from Boston note that I got a wicked good accent. I'll admit it. It's not an affectation, just how I talk. As a sailor, in my younger years, I developed something of a skill in using my accent and a certain ability to articulate my frustrations to get downright poetic with the english language using blasphemy and cuss words like a lumberjack uses boot spikes and a chainsaw... and this week, I've leveled up, plateaued, and leveled up again. My blood pressure jacked up so high the other day that I was the color of an eggplant, and, while I did not explode, I very definitely was just a few seconds away from achieving fusion. If looks could kill, I was channeling the black plague behind my eyes.

      I lost a lottery of sorts- I was one of those unlucky mariners you hear about who had headaches with my TWIC card. If you don't know, the TWIC (Transportation Worker ID Credential) is an ID that certifies that you passed a background check and probably won't stir shit up in port areas. It became mandatory for all commercial mariners to get one about 5 years ago. They're good for 5 years, and thus, it's renewal time.

         My card is almost expired. When I applied for a renewal, I wasn't planning on spending a month down in the Caribbean before picking up the card, so I was late to apply and pick my new one up. Not terribly late, but down to a close margin to my original card's expiration date. It just arrived at the regional office (no BS, a paternity-testing company in the 'burbs, so that tells you something about how ridiculous the Department of Homeland Security is. They should have farmed the contract out to the folks who pick peanuts out of elephant shit at Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey).

   The TWIC program was managed until recently by a down-at-heels military contractor who is always coming in second place in designing airplanes and shit to blow up shit contests. The TWIC card was a gimme program that fed their coffers a little while they tried and failed to come up with yet another military aircraft that someone would want somewhere.

 My beef with the TWIC is that every mariner with a Merchant Mariner's Credential already passes a  rigorous background check by the FBI and Coast Guard. Why should we be vetted twice on the same issue every 5 years just to cut a check to the Coast Guard AND the Ministry of Offense (Department of Homeland Security) for $150 each to be given a card that isn't even accepted when presented to the DHS security agents who issued the card in the first place? Sounds crazy? Yeah, try showing the card when you're in line at the rape-o-scan at the airport.

 One thing in my favor is that I'm actually pretty good at paperwork. I tend to do well when dealing with gubmint business when submitting applications. BUT...
     This time, no. I got the robo call last week that my new card is ready. We had a break in our schedule the other day, so I jumped in my truck and drove from my company's yard in Brooklyn home to Boston during the overnight, and had enough time to kiss the wife and catch a 90-minute nap before going into the paternity testing office to pick up my TWIC card... but the administrator wasn't in that day.
         Apparently, only a TWIC administrator can 'activate' (fancy talk for 'give you') a card. The secretary wasn't an administrator. I drove 250 miles to be told that no one could reach in the stack of envelopes I WAS LOOKING RIGHT AT to give me mine. To say I was livid is an understatement.

 Little silver lining in this cloud. My employer says to stay home and get my card the next morning, then come back to work. OK, I get a day with the fam, and am feeling better, if guilty.
     Next day, I'm in the door at 9:01.  My name is called 5 minutes later.

... and no one can find my card. You know, the one that they called me about, the one I paid for, the one that cost me 2 tanks of gas and a wicked bout of stomach cramps from eating rest stop food?  Yeah, no one can find it, AND I can't talk to a supervisor because her computer isn't working.

 So I go back to New York empty handed, make some phone calls and abase myself. On the way, I get a phone call. My card is on vacation, apparently, as it's sitting in an office on Cape Cod. Why? I don't know. What I do know is that they won't mail it to an office in New York. If I want to pick it up elsewhere, they have to shred it and start over- they WILL NOT MAIL IT TWICE. That's a big thing for them, I guess. And it would place me without a card when my current one expires, so no bueno.

So, next time there's a break in our schedule, I'm headed back up there for another long haul.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

What I'm watching...

I'm watching "Elementary."  Best show on TV, I think, seeing as I don't actually watch anything else.

 Also, if anyone can find a picture of Lucy Liu eating a banana, please let me know care of this blog.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

It's so cold...

It's so cold tonight that the democrats have their hands in their OWN pockets!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

best picture ever. EVER!

Well, site traffic is down, so here is a picture of Sofia Vergara eating a banana.

 You're welcome.

Thank you, internets. 

Pictures from St. Maarten 1

just a dreamy ride, having a dozen claustrophobic sweating sailors on a small plane, most of whom come from countries that don't emphasize personal hygiene.

Spanish-built tug. Rugged as hell, but, again, smells like a hamster cage vis a vis the crew.

loading dock for small (800-foot) ships.

Christmas day. Just feel the cheer!

having no dock to load barges is a lot cheaper to maintain that, say, having a dock. They just drag the end of the hose to you with a little boat. Self-serve.

St. Maarten at sunrise.

Home sweet home.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Welcome back!

So, about 20 minutes before I go on watch for the first time since returning to my regular post in NY harbor, a nice steady freezing rain starts coming down- how appropriate.

       I'm back at work- it feels like I've been gone forever, but in reality it's only been about 5 weeks. Even so, the otherworldly, not-quite-there-yet feeling had me tracing and retracing my steps in the first cargo load I took on soon after mooring the barge.

   Ever since I came home, I feel like I'm operating in a slight fog in most things. My former roommate Johnny Sparks, when we met up at the bar on Saturday, asked me if I was being fucked up on purpose or was just dazed. I claimed the latter.

 Dunno. I do know that I'm back on the scene, and regardless of the events of the past month, I'm ready to work again. As promised, I do have pictures to share from my time in the Caribbean, but that'll have to wait until I get my hard drive sorted out and such. For now, I'm just catching up on news and other things I didn't have time to check into while enjoying my brief 4-day stint at home.

 All is well, at any rate. New York sucks in the freezing rain, but I probably won't get diaper rash in January in the northeast, anyhow.

Friday, January 11, 2013


After a month at sea, which was spent in the waters of the Netherland Antilles- specifically the waters between St. Maarten, Statia, Saba and St. Kitts and Nevis, I'm home for a very few days. I'm sick with accrued sleep debt, can't readily focus on much of anything for more than a minute or SQUIRREL!  two, but I'm happy and satisfied- I had a great time, but holy cow is my ass beat.

 More later- I've got pictures to share, too.