Thursday, January 29, 2015

in my wheelhouse: fisheries economics and the Rule of Unintended Consequences

When I first got an inkling that I done fucked up by going to grad school, that I was laying the foundation for working for the bad guys (environmental special interests, green Marxists & the US Government), I already had one foot out the door. I was driving 80 miles every Friday night to go lobstering on Saturday with Chuck Z, a fisherman from my home town. We would fish for about 12 hours, and it was fall in Boston, so it was cold, often windy and/or rainy, and I would be wet and filthy for 11 of those 12 hours. It was also the high point of my week, and the only thing I looked forward to.

 Look, I had a chip on my shoulder. I came out of undergrad with a science degree, published several pieces of research as primary author and investigator in reputable journals on some practical AND some esoteric shit. As far as I know, I was the first person to predict that in most cases, where you don't give fee fun money through subsidies,  increasing regulation of commercial fishing is worse for conservation of fish populations than simply leaving fishermen alone and letting market forces drive demand.

 I got a year's worth of college credits and got to live in Scotland to try to prove that. I never had to take liberal arts classes. It was awesome. 

...and thus you have Orange Roughy, a fish where the vast majority of what is available is caught illegally, and sells for $30-50 a pound wholesale, because it's worth sneaking 6,000 miles to catch it at that price, even if you get caught and your boat forfeited 3 times out of 4. OTOH, when it was selling for $3 a pound but the money went to some uppity-ass brown-skinned folks who only had to travel 600 miles to go get it but started being able to do crazy shit like have a car and go to school with the kids of folks who passed the paper bag test... well, that's the kind of shit that gets SWPL folks like U2's bono to write lyrics to whine out while wearing tinted douchbag glasses.

 (But eat up, folks. Them fish are doomed with the instant black market that the all-white folks at Green, inc. created). 

      At any rate, I was talking about how awesome it felt to fish commercially on the weekends when I was in grad school and realized that as a marine scientist, virtually everyone I could possibly end up working for would be the type of folks I loathe.

But wait...there's more!

Well, end of tour today. I'm done. Time to go.

 But I ain't going far. I'm working over again, to head to yet another strange place with strange people, doing strange stuff. Next Wednesday I get to actually go home, as in home home.

      I'm obviously overjoyed. Yay.

       I'll be a lot happier come next payday, with the sweet filthy lucre added to my check, of course. Won't be quite so much moping around then.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Well, it's started. We're hunkered down at our lay berth, hopefully here to ride out the weather. High winds and a storm surge are forecast as well, so all mooring lines are doubled and the eyes dipped on the bollards. I suspect this is gonna suck when it comes to shovel time. Otherwise, we're snugged up in a decent spot, to windward of the nearest shore, so no fetch to give ma nature room to make  wind-blown chop. Other than maintaining a vigilant watch on our mooring lines, we're hunkered down and ready to close the watertight hatch on the quarters when it really kicks in.

   See you all on the other side! If you're in it, get out of it, and be safe, regardless...

...and if you have a moment, spare a thought for the docs, nurses, service industry folks and public safety peeps who have to be out in this shit for the sake of your well-being. If someone needs a couple thousand tons of oil to get their ship out of this weather today, I'll be one of them, but otherwise, it's time to do my first shoveling in a little bit. Not the last, I suspect.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

In which I see the worst of New Yorkers

Well, it's gonna snow tomorrow.

 The mayor of New York, who's a real asshole anyhow, induced panic by announcing that tomorrow's storm would be 'historic' (his words). So, of course, on the ONE day we get shore access during business hours, there are hundreds and hundreds of panicked New Yorkers at all the local grocery stores... like nothing I've ever seen. No riots, but at the shitty Pathmark where all the poor people shop, close to my company's docks, there are people fighting over shopping carts and parking spaces. So we tried a COSCO. No dice. Full, line down the street just to get into the parking lot.

 The high-end gourmet grocery store in Red Hook, was a little better. Hard to find parking, and it wasn't all rich women, hot babes and hippies, the usual customer base. There were poor people braving the hoi-polloi  to get at the ingredients to make French toast, which, apparently, is required when it snows, judging by the dwindling stock of milk, bread and eggs. The Free-range, GMO free Quinoa and Arugula displays were in ample supply, though, so the hippies are taking it down a notch, man, and not getting their dopamine fix via thoughts of the Vegan delights of the table.

 I picked up some pate, (Hey, I like ducks to look at AND eat, and hate to see a good goose liver go to waste), diet soda and sushi... you know, stocking up for the storm. My tankerman got his staples, as well. Then we settled in for the hour's wait in line at the register. There's a damn good reason to go to Fairway- better quality people. Even the unwashed masses were on their best behavior. I only had to scream "Hey, I'm walking here!" once as I made my way across the parking lot.

 But yeah, we're hunkering down. Shovels laid out, mooring lines doubled up, everything stowed shipshape. 24-36 inches is forecast. This is gonna suck, no doubt, but we're in a good place. I topped off our own fuel supply this week, and serviced the generators. Generally my company likes to give us a couple of really small cargo parcels during supremely bad weather, to be sure we earn our paychecks and can't get indoors. I'd like to get a large cargo fixed that requires us to fill every tank, warming the decks... that much less shoveling to do, you know? We'll have to see.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

in which I invite Southwest Airlines to dine upon a phallus

I really hate the American propensity for lawsuits. Most folks do, I'm sure, right up until they get their chance.

      There's a suit in the pipeline that I'm watching with interest. Here:

Man sues Southwest Air after carry-on bag falls on him

        Apparently a heavy, oversized bag that got shoehorned into an overhead bin fell out and bonked him in the head, causing a pretty severe neck injury.

 I flew Southwest just about 4 weeks ago, and it was a good reminder of why I'm more than willing to pay a little more to NOT fly Southwest. It's a flying leper colony staffed by unwashed, hung-over-smelling folks who look like they combed their hair with a firecracker.

 Seriously, Southwest can eat a dick, and so can the shitty people I had to fly with. I guess Southwest is the official airline of housing project residents.

      I usually don't carry a checked bag when I'm flying. I keep a full wardrobe of oily, shitty clothes aboard HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/House of Style. I fly with my laptop bag and a small gym bag containing my ditty bag, a decent pair of loafers, and a change of clothes. That's it. Meanwhile, everyone around me was stuffing hockey bags and full-sized suitcases in the overhead bins. It was total bullshit, as, since it was the holidays, the flight was full, and Southwest does cattle call random-ass seating, and the stewardess, herself sporting dandruff, a touch of B.O., and wearing a stained, wrinkled outfit that she had obviously slept in, tried pretty hard to get me to check my bag. Rather than make a scene and get fingered by a TSA agent for a second time (I figure one rape-style handjob from a dude per flight is enough), I politely said no, the bag contained medication, and would fit under my seat just fine. But seriously, I guess since I was the only one not sporting prison tattoos on my face and neck, I was the one who was going to be asked to check a bag. 

      Well, at any rate, we left the gate only 25 minutes late to handle last-minute maintenance. I guess doing that shit ahead of time like the other airlines do must be too expensive. I got where I was going, eventually, and the car service my company uses sent me a driver who I know a little, and is real nice, so I didn't lose my shit or anything. If anything, it made me happy(ish) to arrive at the Q and settle into work.

         Still, I cringe whenever I have to fly Southwest. I can handle the sardine-like density, the miniature armrests, the stewardesses who need to go to rehab. It's the passengers that truly kill me. I'm becoming a snob. I swear on Sting's flying metal codpiece from 'Dune' that I'll do all in my power to not fly them again.

Preach, sistah.

Read. Enjoy. Think. Agree.

 ...and you're welcome, too.

Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is a stay-at-home-mother. Now, she regularly sends money to her mom in Brazil. When we were dating and first married, my wife worked about 60 hours a week.

    These days my wife is a stay-at-home mom. I got my patriarch on, and said that my kid needed his mom more than we needed the extra money. And my wife's brother wasn't exactly killing himself sending money to Brazil, so it was time to step up anyhow.
     This was a sea change for my wife, who had been working since she was 12.But it's absolutely borne fruit. My kid went from an A/B student to all A's, is a genuinely happy, nice kid, and is 11 going on 40, maturity-wise...and it's good for both of them, with me being away on the water 2/3 of the time.
 Am I bragging? Maybe a little.

 But damn, I do miss that extra money. Worth it, though. I'm grateful for having the skills, affinity and opportunity to do something I enjoy and be able to support a family pretty well on it as a sole breadwinner.

 Anyhow, read the damn article. It's thought-provoking.

EDIT: also, it's wicked shitty outside. There's about 4 inches of slush on deck, which I'm about to fix by loading half my tanks with 120-degree black oil. While black oil smells like satan's bung, it's warm and melts slush, which is a good thing.

Friday, January 23, 2015

the truth revealed

I've been trying to understand why I've been so soggy and hard to light the past few days. I can be short-tempered at work. Incompetence makes me apoplectic, regardless of whatever else happens, and many foreign-crewed ships employ short-bus seat warmers as crew just to fulfill manning requirements, so I do get worked up a lot. So I haven't been MORE short-tempered than usual, but I haven't been bouncing back quickly, which is my usual M.O. The other day Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife asked me if I was having my period, so there's some bleed-through happening I guess.

 All the cool people went to the SHOT show this week. I missed out, and that's a shame. Instead, I'm sitting at a lay berth in Newark, NJ, waiting for a ship to come in and take the last of our oil from us, so that we can immediately go back and load more after. Oh, and it'll be snowing and sleeting here shortly.

 I guess I answered my own question.


 I'm also starting to push potential visitors to come down and spend some time in Heaven's Waiting Room, my new home. I've still got about 10 more days here before i go home, and no visitors this time, as we had one last time I was there, but I've got March and April covered, hopefully, between friends and family, so if we're friends or family in meatspace, and you're thinking about visiting, May would be lovely. After that, it gets a little warm down there. Bring bourbon.
Red wine for meat, white for fish or chicken, blue for tasty vomit when it comes back up. 


The Union of Unemployable "Scientists" has again moved the doomsday clock two minutes closer to midnight. Those fuckheads have been doing that on a regular basis for 40 fucking years, and we're still not there. Where the fuck did they start from? Also, in 40 years, no one still has managed to give a shit. So... situation normal.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cooking with Hawsepiper: The big-ass salad

One of our regular visitors here at the 'Q is a deckhand off one of our tugboats, a guy I'm trying to recruit to the darkside, and make a tankerman out of him. He seems weird enough to fit in. Slightly misanthropic, good conversationalist, super neat, a good cook, and he can count above 11 without taking off his shoes or unzipping his fly. Pretty much our target demographic for recruiting someone to work with oil.

 This guy's a healthy person, and has shown me some real support with my efforts in 2014 to get my health in order once and for all. But he only recently saw my big-ass salad.

 The Big-Ass salad is my staple food while I'm on board HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/home for neurotic OCD enthusiasts. It's what I eat for my main meals about 80% of the time. It gets a little dull, but it's a nutritionally-balanced protein-laden and filling meal that keeps food from being the keystone to my happiness while I'm at sea... you see, that's part of the problem. I love to cook and eat. My salad is good, but unexciting, and I don't have the overweening need to sleep after I'm done eating. Instead, I walk or do maintenance, or, God forbid, sometimes even stand watch and work. I tend to have more energy AFTER I eat, which is good if you're someone who worked 100-hour weeks all through his 30's and still managed to stay overweight.

 Only downside to the salad is that I have to get to the grocery store once a week. Buying greenstuff in our home port is an exercise. Getting ashore is a challenge all alone. In New York, greens turn into browns very quickly, so fresh food isn't fresh long. But anyhow, here it is.

 The salad is made in 2 large 1+gallon tupperware bowls. Chicken is my base protein, but there's always beans. Calorie count tends to run around 630ish per bowl. One bowl lasts one day.

1 to 1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breast, skin off
large onion
large green (or red or orange) pepper
large zucchini or spaghetti squash
1 handful baby bella mushrooms
2 heads of romaine lettuce
6 cornichon pickles (small pickles, or whatever's at hand)
1 15oz can of black, red, pinto or navy beans
handful of green beans, chopped
8 beet slices
8 medium green olives (I prefer garlic stuffed, but whatever)
1 large tomato
3 oz shredded cheddar cheese
4 celery stalks
1 large cucumber
2 carrots
black pepper
1 packet of Goya "Sazon" seasoning with saffron
 2oz olive oil
3 oz fat-free Italian dressing

  Cube chicken, slice onion, zucchini, mushrooms, pepper. Add 1oz oil to a frying pan, and throw everything in the pan. Season with black pepper and sazon.

 While that's cooking, cut lettuce, carrots, celery, tomato,pickles and cucumber, half to each bowl. Split beets, olives, beans (rinse well under cold water first!), cheese and cilantro between the bowls, as well. Add 1.5oz Italian dressing to each bowl. Add cooked chicken and vegetables, half to each bowl. Toss thoroughly, cover and refrigerate.

 And that's it. I usually mess with the chicken to change the flavor. Sometimes I cook it in soy sauce, Worcestershire or add a little ginger and honey while it's sauteing. Just shaking things up a little, you know?

 At any rate, since I started eating like this 9 months ago, I've lost 85lbs, so it works along with exercise and a daily walk.

April- about 290

Oct/Nov, 70lbs later.

Monday, January 19, 2015

it's cold here...but hot in Brazil! (NSFW)

Well, I had kind of a shitty day. Nothing terrible, just a grind where I constantly butted heads with a foreign engineer who accused me of lying, cheating and stealing... so, a fairly regular day.

 It's been a while, so I could certainly use some cheering up, and maybe you can too. Here's January's Brazilian ladies for you to look at. You're welcome.

Friday, January 16, 2015


We're on track for a record-breaking month in terms of tons of cargo carried here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/money factory. We're moving oil, folks, and we're moving ALL THE TIME.

   Last January was also a blockbuster. So it goes. Seems to be the busiest month for bunkering around the NY area. My guess is that it's a combination of restocking from Christmas, popular late-model cars being shipped after having been well-received in their new model-years' debut a few months ago, and home heating oil season. Add to that the increased traffic headed to  Albany NY via the Hudson river (Albany is a convenient pipeline terminus for shale oil from the Midwest), and you've got some ship traffic. Well, that and my employer locked down another two contracts from bunker suppliers here in NY... which, I think, pretty much makes all of them, now.

 So business is booming here in the land of the ice and snow.

     Down here on the shit end of the stick, practically speaking, this means that we're BUSY. Most of the time, nonstop. Jobs are stacked up in a queue, and we're perpetually late because terminals are also crazy busy, ship's engineers don't give a shit, and the ONE boom boat that services the entire port of Bayonne NJ is apparently run by a narcoleptic.  Seriously, Bayonne is all about the terminals, and they have ONE frigging boat to run oil-spill boom around vessels while they load (a legal requirement), and, while it's admittedly frustrating to lose time and sometimes work because we can't get unboomed, at any time there might be 6 ships and 10 barges actively loading and unloading at the same time. That's some serious business.

   What this means for us is pretty much we roll out of the bunk, eat, caffeinate, look over the cargo plan, and relieve the watch, stand our watch (loading or unloading, we finish, the tugboat comes, we make them up, they bring us to the next job. In between we scramble to scan, fax and scribble, filing one job and planning out the next. Then the other guy wakes up, eats, caffeinates, looks over the cargo plan, relieves the watch, and you shower and go to bed. Repeat.

 Not a lot of time for fun or to wind down, but so it goes. Every couple of days, there will be a delay or 3-4 hours between jobs while you wait for the tide so we can go into a berth, and then I scramble to do maintenance and catch up on paperwork and the hundred little things that need doing. I never quite catch up, but I don't fall far, far behind, so it's doable.

   Am I complaining? No. This is how we pay for the quiet weeks later in the year, and, so far, once a week I have a major delay or a simple but large job where one of us can run ashore and stock up on food, pick up supplies and drop off bags and bags of paperwork. Also, trash, which also comes in bags and bags. Since it's so busy, only gasoline barges and guys with major maintenance issues get shore access, so everything is done remotely, by tugboat.

 Yesterday was my turn to go ashore, and it was OK. It could have been glorious, but I managed to get some black oil on a brand new shore-going jacket and my best pair of jeans. Dammit, now I've got a $150 set of work clothes. So it goes. That wasn't enough to stop me from getting a quick 5-mile walk in and to stock up on green stuff before running a couple of pallets of boxes and bulky stuff like mooring lines and a new liferaft  back out to the anchorage, where, on arrival, everything was sent up via crane, stowed, and I jumped into the shower, then bed.
 So, after that, back to the routine. Wake up, eat, caffeinate, check the load plan, relieve the watch.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Crew change tomorrow, so I'm feeling blah. Still a few weeks to go. Here's something to brighten up your day.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Renew, review

So, after just 36 hours on board, I left HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/prison barge and took a train to Philadelphia to attend a company-mandated Tankerman PIC refresher class. I did NOT do this with enthusiasm, as I am an active professional who oversees somewhere around 10-20 cargo transfers a week for 38+ weeks a year. Hell, I don't need a review, right? This is how I make my living, after all.

 Well, it turned out to be a good thing. I was mildly ashamed of how tentative my knowledge of legal matters could be, when it came to the laws that don't impact my day-to-day operations. Same with some health and safety procedures. The same strident censure I have handed out by the bucket in regards to how complaisance kills should have probably come with a mirror for me to look into sometimes. I missed some stuff, and was rusty on others. For the most part, I'm on my game, but we're not talking about esoterica. Things that I should have known in the back of my mind (safety factors related to half vs. full-face masks, for example), rather than needing to reach for a reference were identified. All in all, it helped me quite a bit, and was a pleasant reminder of the stakes that are at play in the course of my average day.

 So, yeah. I'm glad I was there. Aside from the class, there was also the opportunity to network, touch base with folks with whom I have a decent phone relationship but have either never or rarely met in person... stuff like that.

 I also got to see that most of the other PIC's in the class were evaluees or new tankerman. My company is in the middle of a massive expansion, much like the one that saw me hired 6 years ago, and there was an ominous warning that those of us who weren't utter fuckups (which I assume, but can't confirm includes myself) were going to be mentoring some new hires here and there, something I look forward to with the same relish I usually reserve for colonoscopies or dysentery. So it goes.
       I returned to NY last night, and crawled into the bunk. Between the anxiety of starting another tour, travel, sleeping in a hotel in a bad neighborhood (about 20 police cruisers showed up at 0200 at my motel to break up a fistfight in the parking lot, then stayed and blasted their radios and blue strobes until about 5)... well, not much sleep these past few days.

     I was looking forward to some sleep yesterday afternoon, but it was not to be. Swells, blowing winds, insane cold weather and some noisy-ass visiting engineers from a chemical ship saw me with a nice rest, but little sleep. I'll hopefully fix that this morning after 0800.

 For now though, it's 5 degrees outside. That sucks.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Busy few days. FL this past week, NY on Saturday and Sunday, Philly on Mon/Tues, and then back to NY tues night, plus a boat ride to NJ. My ass is international.

Now to get caught up on my rest. Schedule's pretty busy.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

the year in review

The New Year was only 30 minutes old when I turned, hugged my wife, and said that this was the first New Year's Eve where my overweening sentiment wasn't "Well, I hope this year is better than the last, anyhow. Can't be much worse."

2014 was the best year I've had since I was old enough to ride a bike, I think. My wife and I were brought closer together by the stresses of a cross-country move, my kid loves where we live now, and between new friends and new places, I'm looking at the world through a different lens these days. I didn't get too much actual time with my family, but the time we did have was fantastic. I don't see me having much more time with them this year, too, plans being what they are, but I am finding that the time we do have is carrying me forward.
 My health is under control. I weigh 85lbs less than I did last New Year's. Well, 75lbs, now, as I wasn't dieting for the holidays, but am already back at it, as of yesterday when I returned to NY for work. This is the year where I have to tone up some. Doesn't seem as daunting as the diet itself.

        Contrasting with friends, associates and family, I had a great year, and feel a little guilty about crowing about it even here, in my space. My mom's general health was under assault last year, one of my brothers was badly injured with life-altering severity, friends have gone through chronic unemployment, health crises, lost parents... and I had my head down, cursing all around me because I was working too much, which, on reflection, was pretty shitty. I should have been on my knees thanking God for all I have.

 Which I did, while I was home. Reality being what it is, this high point won't last, but this year saw plans I had in place for 15 years coming to fruition after thousands of days of agonizing, sacrificing and second-guessing. I have the foresight to be thankful to God above for what I've been given, especially for the ability to work towards what I want.

 It wasn't all fun. I spent the past year working 1-2, sometimes 3 months at a time, then coming home for 6-7 days before going back to sea. 
   One of the single largest fights I have ever had with my wife came about as a result of family conflict. At terrible cost to myself and my family, in terms of lost time, I spent several months at sea this year, nonstop, to pay for the life-saving surgery for my mother-in-law in Brazil, because her able bodied son didn't have the money (no sin there. Times are tough), but  wouldn't borrow money to pay for her surgery. But he spent enough money at the Apple store to buy plenty of toys.  I had just moved my family, so we didn't have the cash on hand, either.  So I borrowed it, and spent 300 days of the past year at sea, partially as a result.

 The fight didn't come from money issues. The fight came from when her brother thanked God for making his mother's surgery possible. I can't remember what I punched, but I remember it breaking spectacularly loud, and shouting that the 'stupid bastard pronounced my name wrong. Thank ME for your mom still being alive!"  Aside from the blasphemy, the broken stuff and the spending the night feeling like a dick, I think the point was made, and here, several months later, I've apologized to my wife, and God himself. Not the brother, though. Guy can go eat a dick.
         And that was another good thing about 2014. I spent more time telling people off who needed it. Internet heroism aside, I've been conflict-averse to a fault in the past few years. That ended, too. Working too much gave me a short fuse, and that's not a good thing, but, on reflection, some of the people I blew up at really had it coming, and I have been able to keep from apologizing when I didn't mean it. The apologies I've given, and there have been too many, are all legit. I really am sorry when I say I am.

 So, yeah, in the lifelong list of who can go and eat a dick, there were some additions, but 2014 is not on that list.

back at it

I'm back at work, launched right into it for a few days. I've got meetings out of town for a bit next week, so I'm only here for 48 hours before again setting out. No stops at home this time, though, just an overnight in Philly.
I'm back at work, I'm cold, it's 33 and raining. Not fertile ground for posting.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

almost there

Couple of days to go on my vacation. Back to work this weekend.

 What a time it has been.