Thursday, October 30, 2014

hammer in hand

George Carlin compared doing things you don't want to do with hitting yourself in the head with a hammer: it just feels so good to stop.

 Next week is the end of week 10. My 2 1/2 tours at sea are done. And yet, I'm not done. I volunteered for another week, filling in on the barge my company can't keep crewed because it's awful to live on.

 I'm an idiot for doing it My reasoning is sound- I'm taking some extra time off over the holidays, and need one final boost to my savings to start rebuilding after paying cash for some delicate surgery for my mother-in-law down in Brazil. Coming before Christmas, and a few months after moving my family, that frigging hurt. I offered the bent banana to my wife's family for putting that shit in my lap, but there it is.

 Anyhow, I'm still working on a post about the obsessive and deeply disturbing fascination that the US Coast Guard and both national and international bodies show towards what's happening in our bathrooms here on board. I'll get to it eventually. We're having 2 days of downtime here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Home for  Troubled Adults. Maintenance, deep cleaning, that sort of thing. I'll be happyish to get back to cargo ops tomorrow night and get more rest.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2nd time. Better not be a 3rd!

2-3 years ago, I got on a crash diet, lost 75 lbs. About a year later, I had gained it all back. What can I say? I don't fish for a living anymore, and I've always carried decent muscle under the fat, so I didn't think it hindered me that much... until I lost the weight.

 The problem with crash dieting for me wasn't just its utterly unsustainable nature. It's that I got sick at the end of it. I stopped losing weight because I had a cold for weeks, and my immune system was slowed, my energy level was in the toilet despite a serious exercise regime... classic estivation... my metabolism slowed to famine-level. My skin was loose- not just in the formerly fat areas, but on my face, too.

 Anyhow, earlier this past week, I hit the 75lbs gone mark again, after having made some lifestyle changes this year. I don't look like a cancer survivor this time, either, and I feel good. Healthy.

      So what's working? I talked to my doctor, and got the straight dope from him, before I moved out of Boston this past spring.

 Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I had already booked our tickets to Florida to go house hunting. I was feeling pretty confident that we were going to make the move. Thinking about it, and with the pang of remembering that my dad died of heart disease, (despite his being more weight proportionate than I ever was), I decided that I didn't want the extra mass what with all the heat of living in the South.

 My doctor was a great guy. Always honest and direct. He said that most men do best either with Weight Watchers if they're a joiner (I'm not), or a high-quality diet using calorie limitations based on maintaining metabolism.

 He was right on all counts. With a limited number of calories to spend on food, avoiding hunger pains forces you to eat healthy- lots of lean protein (chicken breast and fish), little beef, and a metric shit-ton of vegetables, beans and salad. Fruit left me hungry, so I pretty much only get some berries and a banana on a daily basis. But no shit, I eat close to a pound of chicken breast meat most days. Beef, maybe only once every 2 weeks, so I indulge and get a decent piece of cow when it happens.

 Anyhow, it's working well, thought my stomach looks like I'm 5 days post-partum.

April 1, 2014

Oct 1, 6 months later

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hawsepiper on International Investing

I'm still writing the promised blog entry about the US Coast Guard's manic obsession with our bowel movements.

 BUT, today was election day in Brazil. Even though there were no surprises, and Brazil re-elected their president. my 401k took a *massive* shit, as EVERY. SINGLE. international fund lost their shit when the world realized that Brazil isn't going to address the corruption endemic to Brazil, or the fact that it's currently leftist corruption, which costs the same, but doesn't actually create jobs in the process.

 Anyhow, my planned retirement age went from 60 to 62 today, which was kind of shitty. I saw it coming, so it's not a surprise. Plus, I figure it'll be about 70 at best, if and I say IF I get to retire. Other shit happens. I'm actually riding this bitch. I'm going long on "Angel" funds to rescue Brazil a La Argentina (where I've been making 12% on angel funds since the last time they defaulted in the 90's.

 Seriously, does noone read the 'Investors Daily News?" I'm like 10% behind their leaders because I'm so conservative, but the very worst I've done since 2008 is 10.5% annually. Some years, 10.5% of jack shit isn't too much,but others, it's pretty OK.

 Anyhow, Brazil is funny. On the one hand, it's a wealthy banana republic with pretensions of democracy. On the other, it's an investor's 2-orgasm wet dream, if you know enough to recognize that Brazil has the Portuguese disease. Assume people are worth shit, and resources can be bought for lives.The lower the class of the folks, the cheaper the resource cost.  Everything else follows. That's why Indios are worth less than ethnic Portuguese... want a corollary? Track Vale Brazil Vs. Petrobras, then chart the ethnography of the staffing.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

crap, stand by.

OK, so I spent 2 1/2 hours writing a masterpiece of humor about interactive safety training DVD's tonight. And, having reviewed it, there's no way I can publish it without getting bit on the ass it reflecting badly on my employer, who is trying to deal with governmental demand for kabuki theatre when it comes to safety, while the folks in the home office are actually trying to keep employees safe.

 So, sad as it is, I have to keep these thoughts to myself, something that doesn't come naturally to me. But it WAS hilarious, and the satire, I thought, was a very poignant way to highlight my deeply-held low opinion of how the .gov handles maritime issues.

 And now I have no vehicle for only hinting at the insanity of many forms of governmental oversight in the maritime world, and how this creates an environment that demands kabuki, not results.
 Which leaves me no choice but to highlight a few in the near future, with no sublety at all.

 So, stay tuned for the next post, "We are Very Concerned for Your Bowels."

Friday, October 17, 2014

I think the last one was looking at me (NSFW Brazilian women)

Because I needed a little cheering up this week, I thought you might like one too. Here's some ladies from Carnival in Rio De Janeiro.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Pardon the lack of fodder. Work beckons, as does my recent rediscovery of "Skyrim."

 I'm in the doldrums anyhow. More weeks to go before I get home. More behind me, so I'm on the downward slope, but damn, I'm tired.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Our Father, who art in Heaven, thank you for inspiring me not to strangle the ever living shit out of the retarded gauger who came aboard this morning. Amen.

 First off, I woke up kinda shittily. There's a light swell here, and it's making the hawsers scream, so part of my mind, while I was sleeping, was gauging the strain on the lines. Strange that I can do that, but I can, and it's not super-restful, but better than a stick in the eye.

 Second, we were 4 hours late in finishing a cargo load, because the terminal we were loading at is full of 100-year old proud union members who do their utmost to pass any work off to the next watch, whether watch change is 30 minutes away or 6 hours away, they'll go to great lengths to sit around and complain on the radio while not working, which is great fun when you're screaming for them to shut down the flow of oil, but the radio won't transmit because they're arguing passionately about getting subs or burgers for lunch.

     The real shit frosting on this turd cake was the gauger.

 When you load oil, often the charterer, receiver, or your own interest will behoove someone to hire an inspector to gauge the volume. An inspector is a 3rd party who witnesses and prepares reports based on he and one of the crew going around and physically measuring the volume of oil in the tanks. This provides and official, documented measurement of the volume on board.

 Except today, the charterer's chosen inspection company sent the fucking B squad.

 I had just rolled out of the bunk, and grumpily gotten my shit together, and was sitting outside when the inspector starts rattling away. I semi-impolitely said that I had just woken up, and don't talk much when groggy, and wasn't on watch yet... you know, sort of politely asking the man to voluntarily fuck off. He missed that cue, I guess, so I walked back inside.

 When I was awake, and on watch a little later, having finished loading, finally, the gauger went to great pains to tell me that we did not load the proper volume of cargo. This is day 1 stuff. Once I confirmed that I had, in fact, loaded the proper volume, I went over the series of calculations that his computer carried out, and compared numbers. His numbers matched mine, yet he insisted that we loaded the wrong volume. Long story short, as he sat there chewing his cud, looking stupid on a professional basis, I realized that the guy had no fucking idea what he was doing. OK, I'm mildly sympathetic, he's a fill-in... but he's an official representative, and ultimately failing to sway him that he was making a mistake somewhere, my patience wore thin, and I suggested that if he couldn't figure out how to do his job, then I needed to get someone else who could.
 I've made calculation errors before. I understand it happens. Computers are utilitarian. Put in a bad number, you get bad results... but what you don't get, normally, is someone who is paid to be a legal representative who has no fucking idea how to do what he's being paid to do, and further, who has no interest in figuring out where he's fucking up.

 So that was fun. After I regained a little patience, we eventually resolved the issue. I was correct in figuring out where he made a mistake. No problem, really, except for lost time and a little ill-will.

 And then he hands me a Letter of Protest.

 A Letter of Protest happens when there's a dispute between the parties involved in a ship's charter. Whether it's cargo, damage claim, whatever, a Letter of Protest is how you document your take on what happened, and your understanding of the facts. It's a tool for documenting dispute... and the guy who is MY hired representative to document how much oil we've loaded, is documenting a dispute with his own customer. This was a first for everyone. When I called my own shoreside contact to ask for advice and see if, fact, this was the Rapture (which is only slightly less likely than a self-inflicted Letter of Protest), the ultra-polite person who I was speaking to said only "Well, that's retarded."

 So I accepted his insane letter. I just want the fucking guy gone, and not to come back. I saved his bacon, in finding and fixing his fuckup despite his best efforts, and was rewarded with a Letter of Protest over a point of minutia. We parted on polite terms. The most harsh thing I said was "I can't say that you represented the charterer's interest here. Bye. "

 At any rate, this has been my morning so far. On the upside, I'm pretty sure it will get better from here, and this drives home the idea that I really belong out here. I can't abide willful incompetence. When it takes more effort to continue to be wrong, as opposed to finding a way forward, I get apoplectic. It's a nice, sunny day, and I suppose I shouldn't let little shit become the screen door on my submarine. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hawsepiper on immigration

I'm going to post this one and leave it up for a while at the top. This is a subject dear to my heart, as it's one place in my little world where I have had the opportunity to live intimately on both sides of the issue. That being said, I probably should take more time and edit this before hitting 'publish,' as it's 3:30am, and I've got to try to get this done, some papers printed up, and a 10 mile walk, AND a good 4 hour nap before my next watch this afternoon.

I've always tended to be a conservative. I also tend to vote Republican. This might have something to do with my first day of lobstering, at 7 or 8 years old, when I put on a pair of adult-sized gloves and loaded bait spikes and was surprised by being given a $10 bill at the end of the day. The sternman on the boat told me to save it, as there were other people who believed that they should have some of my money, too, even though they didn't have to work all afternoon and crap in a bucket besides.

As a young adult, the immigration debate seemed pretty simple to me. Why don't they go back where they came from? I don't think I ever met an illegal until I was in my 3d year of college. I had taken a summer job to supplement my fishing income, working on a cranberry bog. The "Puerto Ricans" as the foreign gang was called, (They were Portuguese, Cape Verdeans and Hondurans) were paid 1/3 less than I was, and did the shit work- pulling weeds, digging holes, etc. But, on the other hand, I was paying 1/3 of my income in taxes, so I guess we were on par.

 It wasn't until I met my wife that I really had to think about the immigration issue. I was aware that her employer was hiring illegals, and Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I met at her manager's wedding, in fact. She caught the bouquet, I kicked the legs out of the guy in front of me to get the garter. A few months later, it was all over for me, but I waited 2 years to be sure she wasn't fishing for a green card. Which she was, of course. She just played a long game, and happened to fall in love, too, early on.

 So, my girlfriend was an illegal alien. She had a car, no license, but was insured. If she got pulled over, she smiled, pouted, and usually got asked for her phone number. No shit. I was following her to a shop one time when it happened. I've gotten ONE warning from a cop my whole life. She didn't get a ticket until she was 40.

 She and I talked a little about her immigration status, of course. She put the full-court press on to get me to marry her, and I eventually did, though I made her wait a damn while while I got my shit together and hemmed and hawed about whether or not I was being taken for a ride.

     After we got married, and applied retroactively for her green card, we went through the immigration process and it went pretty smoothly. Eventually, we got hauled in on the carpet and asked to prove that we were legitmately married- the barrage of questions, like the layout of our bedroom, and was the light switch on the left or right side of the doorway. At the end, we got a handshake and a form letter, welcoming my wife to the United States as a resident alien.
   Riding back home from Boston, there was traffic. As we approached a construction site, there was a detail cop directing traffic. I watched my wife sink lower into the seat, slowly, as we approached the cop's line of sight. When I laughed and said "Hey, you don't need to do that anymore," she surprised me by bursting into tears, crying near-hysterically. I had no idea how much anxiety being illegal brought on her.

 My wife's thoughts on illegal immigration have taken root in me since then. I guess my opinions have gotten more nuanced. As she's pointed out, immigrants do not take jobs from citizens. Citizens knowingly take jobs from citizens by offering them to illegals to cheat the IRS. If no citizens offered jobs to illegals, there would be no illegals.

 "Here the American national hypocrisy works to his advantage. The construction firm of course knows perfectly well that Pablo is undocumented. 
Companies love illegals. It means that they can pay him dirt, no benefits, no Social Security, and he can't complain without getting deported. In any contest between money and patriotism, money wins. American immigration officials catch just enough Pablos to keep the rest intimidated, but not enough to reduce the supply of cheap labor. It is a sweetheart deal for businessmen."

 From "Uncle Fred's Mexico; another take"  

         I've said (while holding court at a bar) something similar, distilled down to the idea that guilt is everywhere to be found, as is a solution to any 'crisis' on immigration. Enforce existing tax laws, and the problem is addressed directly. However, at that point employers would have to pay taxes on employment, and the Social Security/National Ponzi folks would have to give up on their free money, too. There are plenty of employers who hire illegals for minimum wage and require that they use a fake Social Security number. I would guess it's somewhere between 20-50% of all restaurant kitchen staff, to start with. So I'd imagine that the folks at Social Security might not like having their free money on tap plugged, either. It's not like all those kitchen workers will ever see a penny of it, and it's not like Social Security shares their free money with other agencies, so it behooves them to maintain the status quo. And, as a reward for maintaining this corrupt practice, certain politically-motivated individuals can take credit for being 'humanitarian' and 'caring' and get reelected without doing a goddamned thing. 

 You want someone to blame for the illegal immigration issues we face? Blame your contractors, your chefs, your landscapers, and get a mirror, too, if you've ever stopped at a home depot and picked up a brown-skinned, sleepy-looking helper to rake leaves in your yard. 


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Am I a bad person? Probably.

So, there's a facebook page about my old hometown, and, for some insane reason, I read it.

   Today someone ran over a gaggle of Canadian geese, and an outry ensued.

 My own feeling is that I'm happy the driver is safe. Canadian geese are pretty frigging big, and having a turkey-sized bird get wedged under my front bumper in the course of driving would certainly be reason enough to jerk the goddamn wheel out of sheer surprise.

 So, having said that, I'm a bad person now. All the (female) Facebook respondents, who panicked with the 'giuz, pleez call someones pleez' were thick as flies on a shitpile, and I had to have some fun.

 Look, there were a couple of dead canadian geese in the road in a town south of Boston. You've got to understand, on the MA coast, there's a 1:1 ratio of water rats to Canadian geese. Pigeons are fuckin' exotic compared to the 15lb flying rats that infest the public laws of MA.

 At any rate, I had some fun trolling the 400lb welfare moms who infest the page in question. As a former biologist, I can attest with some accuracy that no Canadian goose gets rehabbed in south suburban MA unless, by 'rehabbed' you mean  "eaten by staff." Imagine you're a poor sap who got suckered into being a wildlife biologist in the metro Boston area. You can either save 1 otter, 6-8 raptors (hawks and other birds of prey), some ducks, a racoon and a deer or two, or you can try and fail to save some Goddamned seagulls and Canadian geese.

 Personally, I don't like goose meat. The breast is the only section that ain't all bones, and it's gamy as shit.

Friday, October 3, 2014


Our last cargo discharge was kind of a ballbuster. Language barrier was there, but aside from that came the realization that incompetence transcends all languages, cultures and boundaries.

 The one guy I don't interact with except at the start and finish of a cargo discharge is the one guy who can be reasonably expected to be educated at some level... or at least not a goddam retard, anyhow. Feel free to savor that naughty word as God intended it, by the way: with my lovely Boston accent:  Ree-tahd.

At any rate, the last engineer I dealt with had some English, which he used to bitch at length about how our cargo tanks are measured using the English system, not the Metric system. I had to listen to it for far too long, my friends. 3-4 minutes of a guy who eschews underarm deodorant in favor of smelling like rotting onions is about 3-4 minutes too long. So I had to keep my mouth shut. Which I failed to do.

"I guess there are two types of countries in the world, Chief; those that use the metric system, and the one that put a man on the Goddamn moon."