I spent this morning cleaning the head and packing the deep freezer. If the weather doesn't play merry hell with travel plans for my relief, I will be on the last train to Boston tomorrow night, there to reunite with my family, spend a couple of days visiting, then drive back with the wife and kid to my home in south Florida over the course of a couple of days.
I'm trying to remember how many Christmases I've spent away from home. I'm 41, and my first one was when I was 18... so it's probably easier to think of the number of times I've been home for Christmas. Maybe 8 times?
Although you can't see it in the above picture, we decorate the HQ every year. lights, a small tree, etc, and make a big dinner. I cooked this year. Ham, sweet potato pie, mashed potatoes, broccoli, stuffing, biscuits and apple pie. Sufficient to clog both the pipes AND our arteries.
This year was one of the best times I've had since I started going to sea. Most of the time we work on Christmas, and celebrate just by having a nice meal. This year, we were off for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but we were anchored, and there were other barges rafted up to us. So Christmas Eve, we had dinner next door, and everyone on the mooring came in and out for dinner and visits. Christmas day I cooked, and we had dinner, and did more visiting throughout the day.
Each of us would have preferred to be at home, of course. But where we couldn't do that, we were able to have a good time nonetheless. Being able to share moments like that with people who you really like helps a lot.
Today it's back to the routine. We'll be loading later on, and working on the leftovers for another day or two. Couple more days, I'm being relieved, and can go home.
"...those familiar with the legislation say the lawmakers look upon the language as a starting point in negotiations."
Oh, their limitations on ammo purchases are less than a box for any caliber, per 90 day period. So they already know they're full of shit, but trying to come out the gate strong. FUCK THEM. New York sucks in most ways anyhow, but it's a great place to be a gun-carrying criminal.
...and there you have it. A question as to why law-abiding folks like me accept that at some point we will become knowing felons, in the name of a constitution that we understand will in the future no longer apply to us.
That's a terrible thing to acknowledge and accept. I don't want to be a fucking criminal. But I don't want to be a part of a victim class more.
In talking with friends, associates and fellow bloggers, we've thrown around a question as to how many rounds we should keep in inventory for the guns we have. The 'shocking' numbers that are reported in stockpiles that are owned by criminals are only shocking to our media lords and masters and also the cake-eaters among the coastal liberal elites.
...the closest I've seen to consensus thus far seems to range from 2,500 to 5,000 rounds per gun for normal citizens.
Granted, that number is far higher than it was 8 years ago, you know, back when, even with bans and all, we were governed by a President and not a priest-king, and our representatives still believed that the constitution was a thing.
For me, being cheap, I try to leave one more box per weapon than I started with, every time I go back to work. I'm not yet at the 2,500 mark, but I'll get there and decide then whether or not I'll keep going.
One of my good friends out here runs a barge that is chartered long-term to an oil major.
Now, let me back up. HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Centers for Excellence in All Things Except Maybe Enthusiasm During the Holidays plays the spot market- that is, all the local oil suppliers keep tabs on us, and, when a job comes up for bid and my company picks it up, we're a known quantity to both my company and the supplier, and they send us out to do the job for a fee. For this reason, both my company and the suppliers periodically send vetters aboard, people whose job it is to make sure we're up to everyone's standard in terms of practice and compliance towards all standards of operation.
So yeah, we're harbor whores, the village bicycle.
Now, the alternative is for a vessel to be chartered exclusively by a single oil company. In that situation, the oil company has exclusive access rights to use of the vessel- instead of competing for work, the vessel just stands by until the supplier sends orders out to go and do something, and in this case, the boat gets paid whether or not they're working. Well, that's a bit simple, but you get the idea.
Now, my friend has a reputation for being able to handle demanding charters- not all are equal. Some companies have policies and procedures that are mariner-friendly, others micro-manage and have esoteric paperwork volumes and processes, and others have rabidly-strict policies that are done for their own reason but not necessarily the most conducive to employee happiness. Well, sometimes it's the small things- I once got fussed at for writing with a blue pen, but whatever, they sign the checks that pay for the checks I sign, and so it goes.
So my friend also frequently gets trainees and evaluees aboard, too. He's a good teacher.
We do not get trainees on board the HQ all that often. First off, we have nowhere to berth them, and second, neither I nor B, my opposite, have the correct personality type to enjoy training someone.
A tankerman trainee is like a Jedi's padawan- he's got to mirror you and learn the hundred subtle things and dozen or so major ones that make up doing the job competently. Other than bathroom breaks, a trainee is with you from the moment you sign onto the watch until you're relieved. You end up cooking, eating, working and taking breaks together, and all this on deck or in a very small living space, regardless of how much you might or might not enjoy the others' company.
... and that's the part we don't like on here. I like to be alone, and find that explaining myself detracts from my quality-of-life out here- while I have actual experience lecturing on esoterica long ago, I'm not talking about chloride cell function in salmon gills or population models for sea urchins (honest, that was the shit that I used to be into). Being a good tankerman, like any mid-level position that combines labor and management, is about creating a mileau of professional conduct and standards to idiot-proof operations as a buffer against errors that inevitably come up at the worst times. It's absolutely not rocket science- it's repetition, knowledge of policy, procedure and law, and dynamic behavioral and situational awareness.
Much ado about not much, really. "Ya gotta know the contract, know the job and know your boat (or barge)." It absolutely ain't rocket science, but the difference between skating by and doing a decent job depends on how well you channel your inner Rain Man.
So, yeah, it's not for everyone. Being a plebe-level tankerman is not an elite position. It can be a good job for loners, the mildly autistic and folks with OCD. It requires more brainwork than being a deckhand or AB, certainly, but can also breed laziness and sloth, and both of these issues can be troublesome.
Now, my friend is a people person. I am too, but I'm someone who likes small groups and, after a time, retreating to solitude- I've got about a 2-hour limit on how long I really enjoy social meetings. More than that and I'll probably look for alcohol or an activity to keep me from retreating inside my own head, neither of which is appropriate for a tanker vessel, so you might see where babysitting a trainee might become a strain.
Now, my company is as prone as any towards promoting people to their maximum level of incompetence. Not every sailor is destined to be captain, of course, but sometimes men who don't have the mental wherewithal or personality fit are encouraged to become tankermen just to get them out of someone's hair... and this isn't a bad thing, for the most part, as sometimes a little push out of the nest will encourage a hidebound personality to pick up new skills and discover a latent talent or preference for doing something other than what they've always been doing.
...but not every deckhand is destined to be a tankerman. And my friend, an experienced trainer, had a guy recently who, after an average amount of time, just wasn't able to put together the confluence of information input and behavioral output necessary to be left alone to stand watch. When asked by the white-shirted man from the office whether or not the trainee was ready to be released into the unassigned tankerman pool, my friend had to say 'not yet,' knowing that it would probably mean that this very nice man would be demoted. The alternative, saying yes, while often carried out, has resulted in some spectacular disasters, but more frequently results in chronic bad behavior and performance as others try to pick up the slack for the sake of their boat's performance. Ultimately, a disservice to all involved... and my friend wasn't ready to do that to the man in question, hoping, ultimately, that he might be given time with a new trainer who might continue the process.
Well, the person in question was demoted, and demoralized, of course, and we commiserated, as this was a fine shipmate, a great guy who just wasn't there yet. One big difference between being a tankerman vs a tugboater or ship crew is that relationships with shipmates are a critical part of our well-being. A ship can absorb the effect of having an asshole or a sea lawyer or an under-performing person aboard. We can't. We live in very close quarters and in much smaller numbers, so there's just less people to pick up the slack. Vessel-specific training is absolutely critical to us, and the impact of having a right-hand man who is struggling makes it absolutely impossible to have peace whether you're on deck or in the rack, and our job is especially prone to accidents related to error chains. The million little details get muddied when you're doing both your job and that of the guy who is supposed to be supporting you.
And believe me, at raft-ups or at shared berths, tankermen talk about each other. We gossip like a group of women over reputations, disasters, personalities, etc. We're not above bitching, but whiners are slut-shamed more than any other group. Rather than crab-basket ourselves as a group, pushing others down, we tend towards encouraging the rising tide that will lift all boats.
Well at any rate, however bad we felt for the guy who got demoted, my friend made the right choice. I wish the man in question had been farmed out to another trainer, to see if a different personality type could season him up some, but I'm not privy to the reasoning behind decisions made in the office, and I'm sure as shit not volunteering. I'd offer to pay my company NOT to give me trainees, if it came down to it.
Blogging has been light lately. I had a crown put on a tooth the day before last crew change, and the underlying tooth (a molar) got infected, apparently. I've been trying to muscle through it, but it's made me summat grumpy. Going to get antibiotics later today, so I can get the tooth pulled or a root canal when I get home in a couple of weeks.
It's not the tooth that's killing me, it's the sweet, sweet rifle I wanted to buy with the money that will now be going towards being able to eat my damn salad in peace. Grrr.
When people talk about the Millenial generation being a sucking hole of shame, taken as a whole, it's an indictment of the parenting skills of my generation, the 40-something Perpetual Children, the generation that appropriated entertainment media like comic books and cartoons from their audience (kids) and avidly consume both as a significant form of entertainment.
So, if I'm throwing stones, there's plenty of fucking targets, but look at this article, and God forgive me for sending traffic to the assbags who put it up.
The Special Snowflake generation likes to produce and watch Youtube videos and follow people more interesting than themselves on Instagram. Mostly women and effeminate men, mind you, but there's a lot of them. See the thing on finger-pointing at parents, above.
Pictured: harsh truth.
Apparently, being "youtube famous" is a thing. And these millennial children, again, mostly single girls, are saddened and disturbed by the fact that people who watch their shit won't pay them for their shit.
Look, I'm not saying that I've never watched a youtube video on my phone while sitting on the toilet, but let's be honest, that's what youtube mostly is for. If someone wants to be an attention whore, of course, that's their business. Me, I prefer real whores. More interesting people, and fun to drink with. Plus, they actually have a job, and produce something of value.
... and that's what these dumb folks don't get. TV stars don't get paid just because they act. They get paid because advertisers will pay to shill their shit for the 1/3 of the time when the ads are on, and not the show. But let's face it, I'm willing to sit through 10 minutes of bullshit to watch 20 minutes of Sofia Vergara on TV, yes. But I've yet to find a desire inside myself to watch an uninteresting dumpy 22-year old upper-middle class lesbian with bad skin and granny glasses talk about herself to a camera.
But maybe that's just me. I find it similar enough to the idea of a bird preening, and I choose not to indulge some lonely sad person's public attempts to make money via emotional masturbation. I mean, I'm not above enjoying writing my own thoughts here, but I'm under no illusions. I'm not expecting the world to pay me for throwing shit at the wall like a monkey, which, at the end of the day, is pretty much what these instagram and youtube personalities are doing.
My kid occasionally acts up. He's 12. That happens.
Thing is, at home, he's remarkably well-behaved. When he acts up, it's with his teachers and school officials.
Over the years, I've gotten maybe 5-6 phone calls from frustrated teacher and school officials.
Each time I absolutely sided with my kid. Sometimes I keep quiet about it, sometimes not.
Whenever it happens, it's usually something we laugh about. One of the best was when the teacher made the kids sit in groups. Kids who finished the assignment first were supposed to help those who struggled. (This was Massachusetts, mind, where teachers are forbidden from 'tracking' or separating kids by ability, so they are expected to learn at the pace of the dumbest kid in the class.) My kid likes to rush through his work, but after a while he stopped helping the other kids, because he doesn't like teaching. So we got a phone call about how uncooperative he was being.
Me: "Is he being rude or disrespectful?"
Teacher: "No, defiant and willful."
Me: "Meaning he doesn't want to do your job, and teach children?"
Actually she had a lot to say, mostly about how wrong I was. Once I established my kid had shown proper respect but refused to comply because he was sick to death of doing her fucking job, I was nice but direct:
"I'm not going to punish him for refusing to teach. That's not why he's in your class. I can assure you that we're going to support him in his decision to not do your job."
In the end it was an agree to disagree situation, and it all worked out. But I was damn proud of my kid.
There have been a few calls of that nature over the years. In FL schools, kids can be separated by ability, so my kid mostly studies with the kids 2 grades ahead of him, and the only phone calls come from a frustrated functionary who notes that my kid won't wear a uniform jacket to school.
Last week, I pretty much dared the guy to send my kid home for not wearing school clothes when he's not at school. "He takes the jacket off when he walks through the doors, yes?"
"Yes, but that's not the point."
"Doesn't matter. He's in uniform the second he's through your doors. He doesn't wear the jacket because he says the jacket is ugly as shit. I'm not buying one this year."
I never imagined I'd be one of THOSE parents. But honestly, my kid's making rock solid decisions, and I'm proud as hell of him for choosing where to stand his ground. I wasn't anywhere near so ready to stand up for myself at his age.
Here's a tough situation for you: In a channel, constrained by draft, a partially-loaded small tanker encounters a very small pleasure boat with engine trouble. Watch the video.
* * * *
Here's my take on it: The ugly truth is that in some situations, it would be easier for the officer of the watch to run down the boat rather than leave the channel and run aground at speed... Not sure if the video just didn't capture the ship blowing the whistle or not, but I would have expected someone to be blowing the danger signal like a madman.
I'm not going to quote the relevant rules of the road, which do apply here, but this is an obvious lose-lose situation. The OOW on the ship would be strung up for not doing everything possible to avoid the collision... but if he ran aground and caused environmental damage to a protected animal habitat (which is a thing), or, heaven forfend, a hull breach leads to an oil spill, said OOW is going to be crucified.
Simply put, the consequences of running down that boat may be far less than the potential consequences of trying to avoid it. And that's fucked up.
I value my ass as being worth more than that ship, the oil and a pile of dead and fouled animals stretching from here to the moon.
I've been on both ends. The Notorious B.O.B. and I once gently planted the Rita C's bow in a mudflat to let a ship go by about 20 feet past our stern in the Fore River channel up in Boston Harbor. We were in touch with the pilot the whole time, but he did NOT like our decision to do so, but we were in the middle of a 25-pot trawl (traps strung 15 fathoms apart on a single groundline) of lobster traps, and judged the maneuver safe if marginal. That being said, we were under power and could have beached the boat if necessary to get out of the way. As it was, all went well but we agreed later that we should have cut and run.
Best job I ever had.
From the other end, when I was sailing as Able Seaman on the tanker New River, and I was steering us out of Tampa (All AB's are qualified quartermasters, or helmsmen) on July 4 one year, a boatload of drunks cut across our bow while in a very shallow channel (we had two foot of under keel clearance, which is pretty normal), with coral stands on either side. The pilot had me make a small course correction (2 degrees, about all we had to work with) to try to maximize the small boat's chance of survival. The bow lookout flipped out and was screaming over the radio, the captain was leaning on the whistle, blowing the danger signal, and the pilot looks back at me, sadly, and says 'steady as you go, now,' meaning: hold this course.
In the end, our bow wake grabbed the boat, flipped it on her beam, and pushed it aside. The drunks managed to stay in the boat, and once the boat was past our bow, the pilot had me reverse the rudder and swing 4 degrees over to get the boat away from our stern, which had a wineglass-shaped hull and could easily suck the boat in. Which it did not, thankfully.
After it was all over, the pilot looked at the captain, grinned, and asked the captain if he had her for a minute. When the captain said yes, the pilot says, "boys, I'm gonna go back and have a piss, check my drawers. Might need to borrow a pair of skivvies from one o' you."
Shit like that happened on the New River. More often than you might think. Sailing on that old tub was an adventure.
I picked up my newest piece just before I went back to work. It's a Benelli Nova.
This one is just a general field sporting gun. I wanted something that could handle up to 3 1/2" shells because reasons, but from the composite stock (the cheek piece is a heavier add-on to balance the gun), I think 3 1/2" heavy stuff is going to give a fairly rugged kick compared to a traditional wood stock. Still, I'm a big boy, and used to enjoy double-barreling double-ought shot at one point in my yoot. I tried this and the SuperNova, and this one was more comfortable. The SuperNova has a ribbed stock with gel pads, but both are lightweight, and the Supernova's bigger trigger guard, when it came time to shoot, left me worried about jerking the trigger in the heat of the moment if I were to shoot a moving target.
"Now, let's get this perfectly straight, would-be gun-banners: There is a much better
chance, it is far more likely, that God will answer people's prayers,
descend from on high, and forever put an end to all gun violence tomorrow morning before breakfast than tens of millions of armed Americans will EVER permit you, or the federal government, or anyone else, to disarm them.
Give it up. It isn't happening. Not now. Not ever. Deal with it. We
don't care how many dead bureaucrats or how many corpses of kindergarten
kids you want to run up your bloody flag and wave. WE. DON'T. CARE. We
aren't falling for the sob stories again. Not now. Not ever. Molon labe, motherfuckers. Molon labe."
This morning I flew from my home to Philly, had a layover, and then flew on to New York, there to take a taxi to a grocery store, load up on fresh greens, and head to HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Sensory Deprivation Chamber.
Flying out of south Florida in the cool season is an exercise in patience. Average age of he passengers is about 60. For every 40ish person, there's an 80-ish person. When they call for people who need extra help or time to get on board, usually that's about 15-20% of the passengers, so being in an early boarding group courtesy of being a regular on a particular airline, I can expect to not sit around in the queue from April-October, but the rest of the year, I've got to jump to it in order to be sure I can get my damn carry-on bag into a bin. And there are ALWAYS idiots who bring a steamer trunk on wheels as a carry-on. Usually hipsters. Today, and this is no shit, a fuckhead tried to bring a hardshell case for his guitar as a carryon, and the retarded staff at the gate actually let him get past so that the stewardesses had to be the heavies and tell him to get his giant dildo (I'm assuming. 50/50 bet on whether it was a collection of traffic-cone sized dildos or a guitar) checked along with all the other non-special snowflakes. I thought maybe the guy bought a seat to keep his guitar in climate control. I saw someone do that with a cello once.
Anyhow, we got loaded, left the gate late, of course, and sailed off to the smell of warm Depends and Sanka breath.
From Philly onward, everyone was sick. It was gross. Seriously, my connecting flight was a flying leper colony, and the passengers just luuuuvvvved to broadcast cough their pestilence everywhere. Arab guy at the sink next to me in the shithouse at Laguardia hawked up a giant lung clam into the sink and walked away from it. I admit that I'm already nervous around arabs at an airport, but that was over the top enough to elicit a fairly loud 'fucking savage' from myself, which got me a dirty look, and for which I had the good grace to be temporarily ashamed of having let slip out. Temporarily.
I'm not a germophobe, but I could certainly feel the nastiness. It continued on.
I really hope I don't pick anything up. I'd forgotten how gross airplanes can be.
Anyhow, it's like 78-80 and sunny at home today. It was 47 and raining heavily when I got out of the taxi and threw my shit up on deck and zipped up the ladder.
Complaining aside, it was a nice time home, and I arrived to a clean, warm, and dry HQ.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Whether you're at sea, on land, with family, avoiding family or serving others through work or military duty, I hope this very American holiday brings a little thoughtful peace to your part of our broken-hearted world.
My wife's busy tonight, so I'm sort of on my own. We bought my kid some painting canvases, and he's up in his room, slinging paint and grunting like a caveman if we disturb his wa.
So I'm on the patio, and enjoying the night. It's a cool south Florida night- breezy, maybe 68-70. First night of the year where folks can get away with long sleeves. I'm on the Caribbean diet tonight. Rum and a cigar.
My house has double sliding glass doors that face my pond, which I share with my neighbors. It's about 15-20 acres, and I can see 4 houses across the way. The houses with families have kids coming and going past the windows. It being after 9pm, the rest are dark, as the elderly sleep.
It's peaceful as hell, is what I'm saying. Seeing the colors of the neighbors' lights reflect off my pond provides some background color for me. My windchimes are just barely making themselves known. It's one of those moments that I ache for, when I'm at work. Later, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife will come out with an ice bucket and a bottle of champagne. I've already got the glasses on the table. Should be a nice cap to a busy day. Plus, I went to the dentist today, and I need a fucking root canal, same week I shelled out to have my mother in law fly up from Brazil for the holiday season. Daddy's gonna be drinking the cheap shit after this week.
He rose at dawn and, fired with hope,
Shot o’er the seething harbour-bar,
And reach’d the ship and caught the rope,
And whistled to the morning star.
And while he whistled long and loud
He heard a fierce mermaiden cry,
“O boy, tho' thou are young and proud,
I see the place where thou wilt lie.
“The sands and yeasty surges mix
In caves about the dreary bay,
And on thy ribs the limpet sticks,
And in thy heart the scrawl shall play.”
“Fool,” he answer’d , “death is sure
To those that stay and those that roam,
But I will nevermore endure
To sit with empty hands at home.
“My mother clings about my neck,
My sisters crying, ‘Stay for shame;’
My father raves of death and wreck,-
They are all to blame, they are all to blame.
“God help me! save I take my part
Of danger on the roaring sea,
A devil rises in my heart,
Far worse than any death to me.”
Well, Thursday is Thanksgiving, and this will be my first one down in FL where it's just our cadet branch of the B family. The rest of the B family will be gathering up north.
This week we celebrate the insanely brave, and sometimes just insane colonists of Plimouth Plantation, who, despite being surrounded by the Wampanoag tribe on all sides, refused to cave in to their demands to join in the Wampanoag's continuous state of war and commit an act of genocide against the neighboring tribes, starting with the Pequod to their south.
I grew up down the road from Plymouth. I had to take a school field trip to the fucking plantation every. damn. year.For some reason, the details of the conditions around the time of the first treaty with the Wampanoag get left out.
Still, it makes it harder to stomach the whole 'day of mourning' shit the hyphen-americans like to trot out. The baby in this bathwater is that they're protesting how the fundamentalist Protestants didn't want to become a mercenary army fighting for the Wampanoags.
I can't stand that whole 'peaceful, living in harmony' shit that the Indians got away with. Being in continuous war for centuries at a time isn't peace. And that whole respecting nature bullshit? It's super easy to find where Indians camped in New England. NOTHING GROWS THERE, HUNDREDS OF YEARS LATER. Scorched earth like the Romans dreamed of.
And this is not to say that it was by any means a justification for what the colonists did to the natives in the long run. It's reasonable to cite the Indians, Irish and Caribbean peoples and just say that it was just the British being British, and we inherited that unsavory dehumanizing attitude towards indigenous peoples.Throwing all the casinos and tax free tobacco we can at their descendents just doesn't seem like enough to assuage that guilt.
When I was 8-9, the old timer who taught me how to lobster had a big steel Maxwell House coffee can with baling wire handles. You remember those old giant cans- seems like they held about a gallon of coffee. Well, he would sometimes bring along some bits and pieces of food in a bag, and early in the morning he'd mix up a batch of the base stock for chowder, and whatever went in it for meat went in it for meat. Usually it was Codfish and a short lobster that got crunched or had its' shell damaged, and was judged as not going to survive, so into the pot he went. This was shelled and cut up, along with the cod and maybe a couple of clams from the basket of clams the old timer hung off the back of the dock.
The old timer dug clams when low tide coincided with sunrise or morning twilight before the game warden woke up. These got stored in a special hidden basket built inconspicuously into the dock itself, accessed by moving a loose plank. When we left the dock in the morning, the can sometimes came out, along with a small jug of milk, and everything went in the can. We would then lift up the engine hatch, and the can would get hung off the exhaust manifold of the engine.
By noon or so, we had a hot lunch of short lobster chowder. Being intently curious and the old timer having saintly patience when it came to answering a million how-to questions about fishing each day, I learned how to cook this meal- one of the tastiest things you'll ever eat, and a real taste of rural New England.
After I grew up and the old timer gave up fishing, he sold the boat to my high school English teacher, who had a smaller boat and was looking to upgrade. I came along as part of the sale. Billy Dee taught me more about fishing legally, and the rights and wrongs of fishing commercially, and I never again saw or saw fit myself to eat or keep a short lobster. In my yoot, I was innocent, and it was a different time, of course, when living off the sea was still a thing for a New Englander to do.
Anyhow, as I'm barbecuing some leftover freezer meats today, before they get freezer burnt and go bad, I have time, and I was thinking about my fishing days, so here's the recipe. You can make it on a stove, too, of course, but it ain't gonna be the same. Cook time and temp will vary with your patience. If possible, I'd recommend around the temperature of the air around the exhaust manifold of a Detroit 453 with keel coolers and a dry stack exhaust.
DETROIT DIESEL FISH CHOWDER
(Serves 6, or 2 fishermen)
Salt Pork (cut fine, 1-4oz.)
3 tbsp. butter
2 medium onions, cubed.
Savory and/or Thyme (or both) 1 tsp.
2 lbs potatoes, cubed fine.
3-4 bay leaves
5 cups chicken broth
2-3 lbs cod, lobster, or both, thick cubes.
salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2-2 cups of milk or heavy cream
To cook- throw everything in a coffee can, and hang it off the manifold, let cook for 4-5 hours. Or, cook it in a stock pot.
Home! Goddamn there was drama and excitement on my last watch, mostly related to me trying to get to the damn airport from Port Elizabeth NJ. Long story short, it involved tugboat rides, giving a cabbie directions to a street with no name, and then a taxi ride into Manhattan during rush hour, then a couple of tunnel transits to Brooklyn, there to get to the airport. The 2 hours in the taxi would have been hard enough but the kindly old gentleman in the taxi had a case of the farts something serious, and although he opened and closed the window constantly, I got marinated.
Seriously, I started thinking about what I'm doing with my life on that cab ride.
Anyhow, I'm home, all is joyful, and I bought a new hunting shotgun, too.
We're alongside a PCTC today (a Pure Car/Truck Carrier), similar to this one below.
This is how your Japanese car gets to the US
This one today is old and rotten, very obviously not well cared for. Unsuprisingly, it's crewed by Mohammadans, who, to be fair, don't have a reputation for sterling attention to details like maintenance or, you know, working much.
Anyhow, like so many of their co-religionists who sail, the crew on today's customer are slow, lazy, unprofessional and unintelligent. I went from agitated, to frustrated, to furious, and now, thankfully, to Zen. Fuck them, I'm going home tomorrow. I hope.
I say I hope because in my furious phase, I used some choice words to describe their unprofessional, unhygienic and infuriating laziness this morning.
Well, long story short, without being verbally abusive to any singled out individual or saying anything truly bigoted, racist or provocative (at least out loud), I suddenly realized that I could be just a few more vulgar observations from having one of these dirty, deeply stupid individuals decide to go allahu snackbar and stuff his life jacket full of exploding tickets to his 72 virgins.
Honestly, that random, deeply unlikely thought threw me off my harangue game, and I ended my rant with a pretty lame "You damn shoemakers need some fucking soap and some smarts. Un-Pro-Fessional."
Not my best work. I pride myself on being able to dress down those who deserve it in a manner tailored to both my mood and their class or lack thereof.
With the radical Amish militant Mohammedans having shed a whole lot of innocent blood in Paris last night, my ears are ringing from all the cries from the rest of Islam decrying ISIS' actions.
Oh, wait, my sarcasm key is broken.
We ain't heard shit from the rest of the Islamic world. Is that an artifact of selective reporting, or just a matter of horror being thin on the ground just now on the streets of Mecca?
I'm not enough of a subject matter expert to bother sharing my thoughts on reprisal. I just hope there is one, and that it's more than the usual Kabuki show and the odd assassination via Predator drone.
No, I want to share what I believe may be going on inside the head of non-ISIS members, say the quiet, unassimilated and peaceful muslims who just seem to be increasing in numbers all the time here in the US.
Bear with me, as I'm going on a tangent here.
If you go by polls, depending on who you reference, anywhere between 35 and 65% of all Muslims in the US believe that some form of Sharia law should be introduced in the US. Let's get that out there as background.
Now, as a young man, I was sympathetic to the IRA and their cause. I grew up in the suburbs of Boston. I wasn't enthusiastic enough to contribute or provide material support, but having grown up around people who dealt with the Orangemen first hand, and being able to read the news, I thought it reasonable to protest with violence when people couldn't hold office or vote without facing violence in their own country. Terrorism to fight slavery? Well, so long as I didn't have to get blood on MY hands, I was OK with that, even knowing that innocent Brits were being killed. I viewed with benign passive interest, as a terrible shame, the acts of desperate men who wished only to govern themselves. All of us looky-loos in Boston breathed a sigh of relief when England capitulated and allowed Home Rule, and the IRA gave up violence.
... and that's where I see mainstream Islam fitting in. So long as their hands aren't actually dripping blood, I don't think most Mohammedans are losing a lot of sleep over what happened in Paris. "It's a damn shame" and maybe some head-shaking, and hey, what's for dinner?
Only ISIS isn't looking for the right to vote. They're looking for a Caliphate, for Sharia law to be the law of the land... the law for all lands. And we already know that the muslim population is actually pretty cool with that in the US, for the most part. And hey, a little spilled blood? Damn shame, but hey, it wasn't me doing the killing, and what's for dinner?
I'll admit that I'm curious about France's response. For all that the EU has been shrilly screaming Kumbaya for the past generation, there's no doubt in my head that they'll go from zero- to -get in the ovens faster than an American can say Howdy, once the anger reaches critical mass. I don't see them getting there just yet, but it's on the horizon now, I'd guess. Without the cultural emphasis on the right of individual self-determination that America still sort of has, Europeans have a greater desire for safety in numbers while defining goodthink, so when the goodthink opinion gets behind committing atrocity or violence, there is absolution to be found in weight of numbers. It's not a sin when everyone's involved, to the European mind... and I can't help but wonder when the day will come when another crusade will be announced as a result.
They stood by us when no one else would. Maybe they had their reasons, but they spilled the blood of their sons in our name.
We gave the very best of our Greatest Generation that they might be free, and each year, forgetting politics and statesmanship, they give thanks for our sacrifice.
You can't always choose your brothers, but you goddamn well better stand by them.
My dad was right when he said that time passes faster as you get older.
It doesn't seem like all that long ago, but x number of years ago, on this day, I met Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife for the first time. No shit, we were at a wedding, and she had caught the bouquet, and I caught the garter.
That was a number of years ago... and a lifetime ago, too. My life was much more simple, and, although I didn't know it at the time, much more empty.
Today we had a fair sized cargo. A medium-sized containership- a Panamax, if it matters, was topping off- they took 3,700 tons of fuel oil and 300 tons of diesel.
The job itself went off shitty- pumping oil was easy. The crew were awful, but whatever, that happens.
Thing is, I worked 8 hours yesterday, in the rain, mostly out on deck. Full rainsuit, but of course you get soaked anyhow, eventually. I handed off the watch at 1600, and went to bed.
At midnight, we were still there. And it was still raining, and I spent 3 hours more outside. After we finished and docked at our lay berth, I had a chance to check emails and the news and such.
And damn, just 1 hour in my chair, and I've stiffened up like no one's business. Today wasn't physically taxing, just spending 12 hours in the rain was enough to get me feeling like I put in a hard day's work.
I've always hated working in the rain, but it never left me feeling like I came in second in a 2-man ass-kicking contest before. This getting older shit isn't great.
I got called twice on not being PC on Facebook today. There was much butthurt, and I responded in predictable fashion.
There was a fellow mariner, who didn't like that I used the word 'retarded' in a post. I know that some people don't like it. Fuck them. So I responded "Retarded. Ree-tah-did. Insert my Boston accent. No one puts baby in the corner! "
Guy laughed at me, because he's normal.
The other one, well, it was a female fellow alum, a friend from college. Leftist feminist, pretty much. She posted an article about how Hillary Clinton is being unfairly demonized, blah blah blah.
OK, granted, I occasionally troll this girl, who has been less and less tolerant of it, despite my efforts to keep my trolling light. But this morning I was a tad grumpy, so, since there was a big picture of Ms. Clinton's unsavory mug and a stupid gotcha headline, I just responded with 'would not bang.'
And got unfriended, which, actually, was a good thing.
People need to lighten the fuck up. Life's hard. Wear a fucking helmet if you need to. If a lighthearted jest about a political figure ruins your day, you must have an awesome life. My days get ruined by more concrete things- I have yet to go sulk in the corner because someone was mean when they talked about Ronald Reagan (PBUH).
I wonder if my 20th college reunion would be worth going to for the lulz.
I got online to write, and for some reason, my browser wasn't working, so I jumped onto firefox, and since I don't use it much anymore, it pointed to Yahoo, which used to be my homepage. Well, I wasn't logged in, so the default news feed, you know where it has the basic headlines for 'news' as they call it- well, 4 out of the 5 headlines involved that idiotic hollywood family, you know, the karwhoosits, whatever the fuck you call them, the Armenian women with the shemale father.
80 % of yahoo's headlines were for a family of socialites. Fuck me with a traffic cone, we're in trouble.
Shit is fucked. up. Canada can't ship us their oil because our President is an asshole, and so it most of congress, but fuck it, Iran can send us every gallon and we'll pretend they're not doing exactly what they're doing, which is bringing about the end of a golden era of relative global peace. But God forbid those damn Canadians make a dollar pumping their oil to US suppliers. Our President likes to bend over and spread his cheeks for those who hate us and wish us harm, but allies and friends can go fuck themselves.
I don't know. This wasn't what I planned on posting tonight, but there it is. My plans got all messed up. Can't we ship those fucking women to Turkey or something? Our good friends in Turkey, you know that nation that got away with genocide? They wipe out millions upon millions of innocent people, and leave that one fucking family intact.
Almost 3 years back, I invited Morpho Trust, the TWIC program administrator, to eat a dick. They certainly earned that scorn I handed out. Cost me lost time at work, people not where they were supposed to be, and making me pay, literally, for their mistakes.
Oh, the TWIC card is a port access ID that the Ministry of Fear Department of Homeland Security came up with, you know to make our ports safer after no one attacked them, ever. Morpho Trust was awarded the contract to administer the pain process of applying for and handing out TWIC cards.
Well, it went so well last time. It took 3 appointments to get them to accept my application, then 2 appointments to get my card, which, also, turns out, was sent to the wrong office, so I missed a couple days of work chasing it down because they refused to mail it.
Well, as I said, last time, I invited them to eat a dick.
3 years later, I have applied for a renewal. OK, it was way too expensive, but the process has been streamlined, and, I'm pleased to report, it went as well as it possibly could. I made my appointment online, found a local office, and did my renewal. The one guy running the show was fast and efficient, polite even, and I was back on the road in 25 minutes. One week later my card showed up in the mail. EVERY. SINGLE. MISTAKE. GOT. CORRECTED.
So, last time I wrote, an exec from Morpho Trust called me at my home, scaring the shit out of me, and personally apologized for all their fuckups. I've got to say, they have really gotten their shit together, going by my experience.
So, to the folks at Morpho Trust, I say attaboy. I'm not going to thank someone for merely doing their job, but I sure do appreciate the improvements they made. Morpho Trust is no longer invited to eat a dick, in my book.
Through a random quirk, our schedule has been such that I haven't had to be on watch and idle for the midwatch in a while. For now, it's 3am, I've got 3 1/2 hours to wait until our next job, so it's been a good time to catch up on news, mail, and cooking dinner, too, of course. Tonight included a big as steak, zucchini and baked potato with many, many fixins'. I'm feeling fat and sassy.
You know, southerners do that weird head-tilt thing like a dog does when you say something they don't understand.
In pulling into Port Elizabeth, NJ earlier, we swung around to point bow out, so when we leave, it'll be a straight shot. When the tugboat deckhand asked what was up, I said "We're bangin' a yooey."
Head tilt ensued.
It's one of those things, I guess. Many southerners wouldn't understand that I was referring to a u-turn.
I'd like to think that I'm a little more clued in, these days. For instance, I know that when a southerner says 'bless your heart' they're really saying "oh, fuck you."
Strange, though, I didn't realize that Florida is mostly not part of the south. Now that I'm a resident, I realize that everyone moved there, but few were born there.
I didn't link to any of those articles, because most of those assholes masturbate furiously to their sitemeter, so... fuck them, you know? I don't want to send them traffic, I just want to illustrate that there's a lot of women and men who want to be women (and men who want to be real men) who loathe, and self-loathe with furious abandon, the concept of traditional masculinity.
Just... stop that shit, please.
If you don't know whether or not you're manly enough, you aint.
If you need someone else to validate your self-opinion, you aint a man, either.
I'm not going to pontificate here. And you're welcome. It's time to stop this shit.
People at work are occasionally surprised when I let slip some personal information and they realize that I'm actually a fairly sensitive, well-read and educated person. At work, that's not often what I project, and that's fine. I'm a voracious reader. Couple of books a week if I can get them. I'm a re-reader, too. I've been re-reading Moby Dick and Saint Augustine's "The City of God", for years, because I get more out of it as I've matured. Phenomenally nuanced stuff. Fuckin' magical. Plus, the story of the fall of Rome is more poignant today for us than in any time in recent memory.
I'm vulgar and crude, not ignorant. I used to not be like that. It was an affectation when I quit being a biologist and started fishing full time. Eventually it wasn't an affectation anymore. My old roommate Johnny Sparks, an ironworker and business owner, used to introduce me as "My friend Paul. He studies crab balls and shit like that." It was sea urchin gonadal tissue that I was studying, not crab balls, but you get the idea. Eventually it made me laugh every time he said that. At first I was kinda hurt.
At any rate, my wife bitches sometimes that I'm overly masculine, sometimes a caricature of masculinity. I point out that she married me, and not one of the sensitive, soft-handed weepy Pajama Boys that she extols at times... and that's a fine life-lesson there: what women desire is a far cry from what women say they want.
My own opinion, men should be able to look another man in the eye as equals and peers, whether they or your are flipping burgers, President of the US, Albert Einstein or Larry the Cable Guy. I figure if you're a self-aware person and you can talk to another man without the urge to condescend or gush, you're most of the way there.
Am I there? I think so. I mean, it's a lifelong journey to go from here to the grave, so every man is a work in progress. I can stand among most any group and be unashamed of my masculinity. I've certainly been attacked for it, in my post-college days when I still had peers, mostly female, who were perpetual students and 'finding' themselves amidst social studies and other professional grade grievance mongering trades... most of whom, 20 years later, apparently still searching, from what I hear.
Well, whatever. Despite their disappointment, none of that matters. Women no more can help men find themselves as men qua men as Bruce Jenner can become a woman by mainlining estrogen and slapping on a pair of store-boughts. We're complementary in our traditional gender roles, not selectively hermaphroditic. For those poor souls with genetic or behavioral issues that preclude them from finding a place among men despite their desire, it's probably a fairly nebulous distinction, but they're not going to find a place, however much their desire or fitness may scream for it.
And that's sort of a shame, isn't it? Men operate best in a competitive environment where the rising tide lifts all boats. The competitive environment in which we most thrive, where we establish dominance hierarchies and lift each other up, is viewed as 'toxic' and something to be avoided in modern culture because inclusion is as much controlled by genetic fitness as behavior. If that isn't a war on men, I don't know what is.
Well, fuck it. I'm in an isolated environment, admittedly, here on the floating HQ. None of that awful PC shit reaches us.No 'Code of conduct' beyond common sense and being able to get along with people in close quarters in high-pressure situations. No giving a shit about a man because of his skin color or class, either, really. Racism doesn't work too well out here.
Well, we had our annual Coast Guard inspection yesterday. Of course it went pretty well. HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global GQ/Center for Wicked Good Accents is a workhorse- not a showpiece, so it looks workmanlike- there's some rust, there's some stuff hanging up that could be hung up better, but we're ready for work and shit won't fly around if we were in a sea, and everything's to hand and seamanlike. So we did well.
I was concerned about our safety gear, ground tackle, and being in 100% compliance with the myriad treaties, laws, codes and standards that we get pestered with constantly. We got gigged on some stuff- the Sea Scouts have to find SOMETHING, and, even though they walked past an unused escape hatch that had a box in front of it (a no-no), they were Deeply Concerned about minutia, stuff we missed, which took a grand total of 10 minutes to correct.
The boss Coastie had me open up our void hatches, which only get opened to exercise the hatches and check for hull leaks during routine inspections- normally I carry around a 20lb sledgehammer to help open the hatches- but there was a gaggle of Coasties by my toolbox, so I just used the slab of my palm to open these watertight hatches instead... and knew, right away, that that was a mistake- first real strong hit, my hand went numb, and you know that feeling means that when it ain't numb no more, it's going to feel truly good.
And it does. Today that hand doesn't feel nice. Thank God it's only my writin' hand, and not my nosepickin'/TP-holdin' hand.
Ever jam your foot in your mouth so hard that it was pretty much a case of shoving your foot out your own ass?
That was me today. Tug captain with a stern demeanor, a guy I've never had a problem with, but apparently with a dry sense of humor, goofed on me making a minor boo-boo, and yelled 'get yer head outa yer ass!'
What followed surprised even me. Total misread of the situation. I read it as him seriously being critical... and, stunned, said nothing, staring open-mouthed for about 5 seconds...and then absolutely EXPLODED. I cussed that captain up one side and down the other for a solid 30-45 seconds, saying some genuinely foul things... and he stares at me, open-mouthed, too, and says 'Jesus Christ, I was joking around with you! Didn't you see me smiling?"
No shit. Soon as he said that, I realized that this captain had a very dry sense of humor and could nail a deadpan delivery- and I responded by being an utter dick.
I wanted to light myself on fire at that point, but settled for apologizing profusely. What followed was about a half hour of hell, where I had to look at him, and his deckhand, who heard the whole thing, but tried to make me feel better by saying that he thought the captain was being serious at first, too.
I'm not autistic, at least I didn't think so until today. I'm usually pretty good at reading social cues. Don't know where the hell I missed it, where I didn't see that this guy was looking to kind of establish a new rapport in our working relationship, where we could goof on each other lightly... and I proceeded to shit on that by getting absolutely premenstrual.
Well, lesson learned. I told the captain later than they had to go, as I was too damn ashamed of myself to keep looking at them. To his credit he waved it off, saying that I wasn't going to live today down so easily.
Anyhow, that was my moment. I know I have a big damn mouth sometimes, and definitely Monday Morning Quarterback more than I should, but that was a new low. Thank God the captain was cool about it. There are other folks, guys very much like me, that could have taken a poorly-received joke and escalated it into a moment where things go downhill even faster. Thank Goodness cooler heads prevailed.
Obviously, after that I had to hide my face and not be seen in public. I went into full retreat, and still haven't poked my head outside, 8 hours later.
Well, I'm back at work, and there's much to be done. My time off was hectic and not so easy, and also awesome at times. Went back to Boston for the first time since I moved last year, but did so to visit my ailing mother. Returned to Florida and did a whole shitload of necessary financial planning, paid 1/2 golconda to the tax farmers of Massachusetts for my sins of being a resident last year, worked on the car and house, the usual, you know.
My son had his first visit to the gun range. I think I was more excited than he was, but he did awesome, and we both had fun- he asked to try shooting trap this winter, so I'm going to have to introduce him to long arms, which should also be a good time. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is about ready for her first trip to the range, too. I've successfully turned her into a pro-2A immigrant, which, to my eyes, is the best kind of immigrant. Some time around Thanksgiving she'll give it a try.
My kid had a 4 day scouting camp, so the wife and I took the opportunity to travel to the Keys (she'd never been), and we basically did the 40-something M.O. of lower keys visiting, mostly eating and drinking and watching people behave badly.
Key West, well, I hadn't been for almost 20 years. My adult impression is that it is what you make of it. It's funny to watch middle aged people happily stumble from restaurant to bar and back, and my wife made me go to a drag show, which I tolerated well, right up until the dude in a dress on stage hiked up his skirt and did the whole Silence of the Lambs weiner-tuck dance to the cheers of folks who were into that and the dozen or so bachelorette parties that were there. Anyhow, after a backwash of hot bile passed, I was able to extricate myself shortly thereafter, so I guess like a handshake to the executioner, I should probably be thankful for whoever the hell it was up there looking like Dr. Frank N. Furter.
Oh, and also
It's been forever, but say hello to some of my new daily stops when I'm online:
The Bearded Backyarder - Home of Stackz O Magz, and there's tons of funny, useful and thoughtful material, often related to, but not limited to gun stuff, making stuff and not being a pussy about it. Go. Now. Then come back. I'll wait. Fred on Everything- Fred Reed is a retired war and newspaper reporter. Dude has seen some shit, and is wicked smaht, not to mention hmorous and painfully honest. Prepare to have your assumptions challenged. A Nod to the gods - just go there. You're welcome. Unless you're a pajama boy-style liberal pansy (but I repeat myself), in which case, well, you're not going to like it there.
I spent this morning coaching my frustrated, non-native English speaking wife through about 10 pages of medical history paperwork at a gynecologist's office this morning, in case anyone is wondering why I started drinking so early.
Today's highlights: bacon and eggs with homefries, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I turning off the cell phones while my kid was at school, range time with my new pistol, and now, beer, whisky and a cigar while watching the sun go down over my pond. Fish are jumping, (bluegill and some stunted largemouths), dragonflies buzzing by, and I'm out by my fountain on the patio, with beer and laptop.
All and all, I'm starting to relax.
Vacation started off pretty rough. My mom is ill, and was hospitalized, but has recovered enough to go home, although she'll require daily medical care from now on. She has all her marbles and is modestly mobile, so I guess that's pretty good, considering the alternative.
I'm settling in with the fam, to enjoy my 10 days of remaining time off, but my kid's going camping for a long weekend with his church group, so that leaves Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I with an empty house for a few days. Thinking about going to the Keys for a few days. I dunno. Weather's gorgeous now- mid 80's in the day, 68-70 at night.
So my most recent purchase for myself was a new pistol. I bought a Springfield XDS in 9mm. Today was my first chance for some range time, and I tried out a new range in my town. Gator's Guns and Archery have thus far been friendly and helpful, and were more than willing to take my money when it comes to buying what I wanted... which was this:
This is a nice concealed carry piece, according to a few reviews- smaller, but with enough mass to keep discomfort from the recoil to a minimum. Springfield gives you a mag extender that gives an extra inch of grip, which I found much more comfortable than the flush magazines like the one in the picture. I shot some 124-gr FMJ, which gave out some more recoil than I'd expected from 9mm. After that I shot some 115-gr hollowpoint that had less punch, but twice got hung up on the lip of the ramp of the barrel when loading a fresh magazine. So, nope, won't buy any more of that.
Anyhow, I had some shooty goodness, and have since retired to my patio to indulge some other sins.
I am Paul B, and I spend most of my life at sea. Ships, Science, the life of a mariner, biology and (mostly) true stories of life among the best and the worst people in the world, the United States Merchant Marines. You'll find it here, maybe. You'll definitely find rants, raves and discussion on life aboard a merchant ship. Come back and see the Brazilian girls, too, who show up fairly regularly.