Monday, July 30, 2018

Check these guys out: ACORN TO ARABELLA

 On the occasions where I have a decent cell signal, and after other business gets taken care of, I like to watch Youtube videos of people who make stuff. Boats, woodwork, fiberglass, manufacturing processes, whatever. And hunting videos, too, just because the one color I don't see out here is the green you find on leaves- well, with the exception of the enormous pothos plant that I've been growing in my galley for the past 8 years, which has vines about 30' long running across the overhead.

       I have my regular sites that I watch, some of which you can see in the links on the sidebar.

 One new channel that I've been enjoying is 'Acorn To Arabella,' two young guys from MA who are building a wooden sailboat utterly from scratch. 

   And I'm not kidding, when I say 'from scratch.'   These guys are felling trees and milling logs to get the wood they need. And they're doing it, too. The process of cutting stock, building an assembly shed, and lofting the lines is all documented, errors and all, which is half the fun of youtube.

   While I spent last week bitching that the mailman delivered me some shitty walnut planks, you can watch Steve hanging 20' in the air limbing a tree trying to make room for a shed.

I can't link to youtube here because I'm piggybacking on the HQ's Wifi, and the powers that be believe that Youtube is the devil. But here's their channel. Check it out.

 If you're of a mind to, maybe throw them a couple of bucks. These guys are working hard and worthy of support. 


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Be not afraid

My generation grew up with some fears. We were taught to fear Soviets, nuclear war, and, for some reason, quicksand.
 Seriously, I really grew up thinking quicksand was going to be something I would have to be mindful of.

 Without diminishing the worry of nuclear war or the soviet threat, which was somewhat of a fatalistic worry- I grew up in a town with a big Navy base, a shipyard nearby, and Boston was right across the harbor) which is to say that we understood that if it happened, we weren't going to know much about it, being at ground zero, so why worry?  In retrospect, that was fairly reasonable.

     As I got into my late teens, the hole in the ozone layer, radon, CFC's, overpopulation, and global warming all filled the gap left by the Russians... but by then, we had fearmongering fatigue, and that helped too. We were tired of being told to be afraid, with the 'big one' already behind us, realizing that a lot of time and energy had been wasted.

 Teenagers today, however, don't get a break. At school they receive a barrage of fearmongering. They are taught that we're living in a dangerous time where violence, hatred and greed are destroying everything. The environment is irreparably damaged. Global warming is going to make it worse.  Overpopulation. Racial disparity. Income inequality.

 The media they consume is even worse. I suspect that the spike in interest in fantasy movies and superhero TV is an escape valve from this.

 I talk to my kid about being afraid. About the difference between reasonable and unreasonable fears. About how much easier it is to manipulate people through fear than via any other emotional medium, and that for the most part, this is a conscious decision on behalf of those who hold or grasp at the strings. I hope it's enough. My kid is sarcastic, and this gets him in trouble at times. I've gotten phone calls. It's been a good lesson in power dynamics. I've also learned where I have to caution my kid about repeating lessons on critical thinking and the nature of behavior- on being sure the juice is worth the squeeze when it comes to sharing ideas that people don't like because they're true. The role of instinct in virtually all behavior. Altruism. Class and culture. Those are volatile subjects, and while my kid enjoys a certain amount of leeway in talking about certain social topics because he's not caucasian, he also is vulnerable to accusations of 'acting white.'  I mean, what the hell would I know about that? There's not much I can do there except note that ignorant minds can't distinguish between color and class. It's not an easy subject.

My son is more aware and concerned about these issues listed above than I certainly am, and I suppose that's inevitable. Where I have rational arguments against a specific issue, I'll talk to him about it. The power of critical thinking is such that it's relatively easy to turn the tables on someone merely by asking questions about their platform, which also leads to being able to disagree with less conflict, unless one is dealing with a fool or a zealot, and there's no angle on wasting time on either.

 Trying to balance teaching a young man how to be strong, how to never back down, and how to be discreet... that's a challenge. My kid can and has been called out on being religious already. That's a fight I can't fight for him. He'll have to make his own way there. Pretty much all I can do is talk to him about it and be the best example I can manage. I worry about it of course- virtually every teen suffers a loss or dimunition of faith at some point, but if we laid a good foundation, he'll have that to build off of, once life screws him over a few times.
     Being rootless, being afraid and being discouraged- these are the lessons that my kid is being taught, for all that schools talk about affirmation and support.  For the most part, I learned 90% of what I needed at home. Trivia and details were available at school, which helped. But I'm not there nearly as much as my own father was. He was already retired when I was in grade school, I could talk to him every morning and night.
   No, I don't have that luxury. All I can do is to teach my son to be confident in his ability to judge, to be fair and strong without being brittle or a bully. Above all, I hope to teach him to be optimistic for his future, for achieving his goals. More than anything else, our culture of fear steals that away from our children. They might be taught to strive for success, they might be encouraged, but that gets measured and balanced against the other, darker lessons, the rampant nihilism and fear for the future that is being jammed down their throats in these jumbled mixed messages that our poor confused kids have to deal with.

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Review of 'Primordial Threat' by M.A. Rothman

For a merchant mariner, a really enjoyable book is dangerous- you end up staying up too late reading it on your off-watch time, and end up tired on the next watch… and then you do it again!
    It’s our equivalent of reading under a blanket with a flashlight when you were a kid. 

   From what I gathered online, Mike Rothman has a strong professional science background, and a good sense of humor. He shares little vignettes about being a husband and father that can get a laugh out of anyone who’s in the same shoes.  I was lucky enough to score an advance copy.

    Primordial Threat is classic hard science fiction. By classic I mean that it takes place in the near future (the moon has a small manned colony and there are asteroid mining crews making a living in the solar system near earth), and science and technology play a central supporting role in what is primarily a story about people.  It hits on some of the foundational themes you might find in many sci-fi books and films, and puts an original twist on them. This is NOT a a story about thin and handsome WASPS with great hair flying around space, fighting aliens that look just like us but with fucked up foreheads. This story isn’t about the wonders of diversity; the characters are created for content, not for color, but whose color in fact flavors the story to good effect.

Recently promoted, Burt Radcliffe is trying to get settled into his job as administrator of one of NASA's programs after increased asteroid activity is noticed far out in our solar system, moving inward.              

With earth threatened by asteroid impacts and behind that, a wandering  primordial black hole (which is a thing!), Dr. David Holmes, the one scientist who foresaw the threat (and had his career destroyed as a result) and later disappeared, a search ensues, and this is where the book starts to  shine- it’s not just space and big guns, but a cop procedural, a military thriller, a disaster story, and a mystery, all wrapped around near-future tech. A shadowy death cult with global reach begins to ramp up a campaign to ensure the Armageddon that will (in their eyes) rain death and judgement on all of humanity, but even there, the scale and scope of the cult is realistic. No standing armies, but terror cells.
The fact that Dave Holmes found a new career that roughened him up around the edges, coarsened his language and put 40lbs of muscle on him also rang true with me. I know a little bit about that.  

     Rothman’s writing style is clear and crisp, for the most part, although the backstories of the characters feel a bit shoehorned at the beginning of the book. The action is well-paced and fun, and the obvious dark dread of characters facing the end of the world and trying to do something about it (and often failing in the stepwise progression towards goals) is realistic without being overwhelming. The heroes are all over the board- a NYPD officer, a brilliant Indian lady who is difficult to get along with, a space agency administrator, and Dr. Holmes himself, a disgraced former science agency head who has a target painted on his back because he might be able to save the world.

   The use of tech is a central part of the story without taking away from the characters. From the evolution of Reagan’s SDI, materials science, the agonizing slow development of nuclear fusion and the true apex of all science fiction, chasing the dream of relativistic space travel.  The end goal is something beyond what anyone would imagine- not space ships, but a project beyond a scale that is easily imagined, but which scientifically remains possible. 

 It’s all in here, and all play a supportive role of what is, in the end, an accounting of the cost of a generational leap in humanity’s future. And it's a lot of fun to read, too.


 PRIMORDIAL THREAT will be released online August 31

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Salaciously reporting in

Oh, sorry, I don't have anything salacious to report. It's just one of those words I don't use too often, and has a vaguely negative tone it it, like 'moist.'

 I'm back at work, and got here a little late. Rotten weather up and down the entire east coast on my travel day saw my flight get cancelled, which resulted in me having to wait until the next morning to fly out. The flight was... sloppy, let's say. I actually arrived to Newark NJ (I had to get a flight there, although it was somewhat out of my way, or lose another day) and was slightly nauseous. The last 90 minutes of the flight was a shit show, and the very nervous foreign person next to me stank.

 Have you ever gotten a whiff of the fear stink that comes off a dog during a thunderstorm? Imagine that, plus B.O.  

     Unfortunately, Victorr the Carbarian was my driver at the airport.

     The car service we use in the northeast is made up of a bunch of good guys. Victor is an elderly hispanic dude who drives with two lead feet- one on the brake, and one on the gas. He has two speeds: 'Screeching halt' and 'floor it.'   EVERYONE is routinely carsick when Victor lays waste to our middle ear balance with his assault taxi.

 So, as HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Seahabilitation Center was at anchor, I went directly to the grocery store to stock up on grub, and proceeded to shop while nauseous. By the time I was finished, I felt fine, but was at the register with like a potato and 5 liters of Pepto-Bismol, so I backtracked and actually shopped reasonably.

   I had a VERY full time off, and beyond not enjoying the travel, I'm in a good headspace, feeling rested and all, mentally, at least. I didn't sleep much my last day at home, but that's OK.


       I have a trainee for the first two weeks aboard, a former tugboat deckhand I worked with many times over the past few years, someone I legitimately like and know a bit, so hopefully it won't be too bad.
      I let my port captain know several years ago that I would prefer to be laid off than to have a trainee. I have a little teaching experience as a biologist, and part of being a research scientist is sharing your knowledge so I tried to learn teaching techniques when I was much younger and more motivated. I learned enough to know that outside of the regimented confines of scientific reporting, I do NOT enjoy teaching. I have steadfastly refused to be a Sea Daddy to any ordinary seamen, and with the exception of training my replacement on the ISHMAEL, who is himself a commercial fishing vessel owner and captain today,  I didn't like working with greenhorns as a commercial fisherman, either.

 But I do actually like this guy, and he deserves better than to be dismissed. That, and no one told me he was coming, so I couldn't kick him off without insulting him, and he doesn't deserve that. I'm going to need a new tankerman in the near future, so I might just be training my new right-hand man.  But I'm not too thrilled about it, either. The best part of my job is not having to be nice to anyone when I don't feel like it. Still, I'm sure I'll survive, and perhaps being nice to people won't actually be as bad as it seems.  It's going to make the peace and quiet I crave more difficult to find, through no fault of this guy, and at least he's a good egg.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

On hands, and not being creative

I don't think I have all that much creativity inside me.

  I'm a linear thinker. I'm pretty decent at organization and problem-solving, neither of which require creativity. I'm pretty good at making some things in fiberglass, or covering them in fiberglass and refining and shaping the surfaces after. Still not creative, though. I write, here and elsewhere, and am far more comfortable with technical writing; reducing complex things into a series of stepped statements that build off each other. Again, organization, not creativity. When I get off the reservation and write freely on ephemera, a sort of journeyman-quality of writing appears if I take the time to do it right... but it doesn't come easy. I suspect that it comes a lot harder for me than it does for the creative author crowd I interact with online- pro writers like Cedar Sanderson, Sarah Hoyt, Peter Grant and Michael Z. Williamson, who bust their chops and produce... well I know it's never actually easy, but I can't imagine that they spend as much time staring at a screen and picking their nose as I do, screaming inside because they can't articulate their thoughts fast enough before they're gone.

      So, with my shop projects, I've consciously been trying to develop myself a bit, and improve myself on several levels. With my conscious effort this year to spend more time at home with my family, and less at sea, I've had a lot more time to mess about.

         I've mentioned before that I have issues with my hands. I always have. I found it impossible to print or write neatly as a kid. I didn't, and don't, have the ability to describe smooth curves using my hands. Grasping a pen or pencil was never very comfortable for me. As such, I can't draw or write well. I have a lot of trouble being understood when I leave a note.

Ironically, I have a zone of VERY fine motor control, however. I can thread a needle without effort, and I was a machine when it came to dissection as a biologist. Despite not being able to take notes with a pen and paper, I found it easy to do things others did not, like being able to slice a section of fetal calf aorta (think of a cheerio-sized donut with the texture of pasta, about 1mm thick), then half it like a sliced pie, flatten it like a sheet of paper, then cut it freehand through the middle with a scalpel into two 0.5mm leaves- imagine sawing a piece of 8x11 notebook paper in half so you have two very thin 8x11 pieces... I could do that, and did, to clone fetal calf aorta cells.

   I could do those things, but I can't draw a smiley face without it looking like a half-cooked shrinky dink.  

See, technically, I can write... but that's not creative writing. I'm just putting down a recipe. 

       Building model ships has been good for my manual dexterity. I've noticed significant increases in my ability to hold and use a pen before cramping and pain make it impossible to continue. I can write 2-3 sentences now, where before a single sentence was pretty painful.  As a kid, printing and writing wasn't painful, I was just bad at it. An accident when I was a teen severed the nerves, tendons and muscle of several of the fingers on my right hand, so that didn't help.  My deep and abiding love of the ocean, coupled with spending much of my spare time on a lobster boat from age 8 to 33, despite my having developed exposure-based skin allergy to fish oil by age 10, left me with a chronic infection in my hands the entirety of my fishing career. My hands looked like an old man's, like birds's feet, much of my life, until I gave up fishing.  It took two years for the infection to go away, but along the way, tasks involving moderate movement, like writing, or playing music (I used to play bass until my mid-20's) became painful. Microfine movement is fine, however, which is nice, as is coarse movement, like swinging a hammer or sawing wood.

    So, with my latest model ship proceeding nicely if slowly, I have been branching out into larger woodworking projects,and the challenge I set for myself was to learn how to deal with curves, which has been difficult at best, and still make them decent-looking without spending days sanding and fixing boo-boos.  Since I have much love for the appearance of wood, but without the skills and experience to translate thought to deed, I wanted to make something simple but curvy where I couldn't fall back on fixing my mistakes with sanding- if you make two surfaces mate on a curve, it's not possible to sand  (and take away) surface, and still make it match, at least not with the level of aggressive sanding usually required by my unskilled ass...  But I can problem-solve pretty well, and figuring out how to make something curved in shape despite my lack of skill represents a noble challenge to me. So since I had a fair amount of low-quality maple and walnut wood, and some decent quality stuff too,  I made a charcuterie board, something out of Dr. Seuss's kitchen.

          These are just 1x2 sticks of walnut and maple, jointed and cut, and glued and recut, then routed with a rounding-over bit. The curves are deceptively simple, and even my monkey ass got them pretty well right. Hell with it, it looks nice. I finished it by melting beeswax and mixing in mineral oil in a saucepan, then rubbed it in and buffed it.

 This may well be the first ever creative thing I've actually done. I mean, jointing and gluing is day1 shit for apprentice woodworkers, and while this is better than I thought I could do, it's not exactly groundbreaking. Still, I'm happy with having done something decent for once without relying on plans or someone else's skills.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Caveat Emptor for buying wood online

Well, as an experiment I ordered some expensive hardwood boards from a big box store, to be delivered to my house.

 I knew that this was a risk- after all, choosing planks that are considerably more expensive than #2 pine boards at Home Depot  means getting value for your money- all wood has imperfections, and given the subjective nature of what you might turn a given board into, finding boards that you can work with requires they be hand-selected.
           So I tried paying a premium for a small amount of S4S  (sanded on all four sides) pre- dimensioned wood in walnut and rock maple. It was delivered to my house, and only about 75% of it was usable. Voids, checks, knots... all the things that you don't want.

 While I was running around, I stopped at a custom woodworking shop in my area- these guys custom make molding and joinery for the old-money billionaires in Palm Beach.  Talking with the manager, a young guy who I immediately took to, he showed me custom molding and cove-cutting blades made to match century-old crown molding in a mansion- a service they offer at $20/inch. They were cutting 260 feet of mahogany boards for someone's ballroom.
 Although it turns out the shop isn't set up for selling direct to the public, they were willing and able to sell me rough-cut hardwood boards in small or moderate quantities. I bought several LARGE rock maple and walnut boards- about 8x the quantity I got from the big box store, and the grain was exactly what I wanted, and the quality was near-flawless- and it still cost me less. Given the disparity of prices, and the shop's willingness to support local amateurs like me, I bought a planer yesterday to mill the boards down to size for the little projects I have in mind. The scrap from this I'll also try to use. Cutting boards, little boxes, salt cellars and the like.

 Unfortunately, I'm running out of days at home. I'll be back to work after the weekend. 

 I also finished the hull of my latest little boat and have starting fairing it. More on that later.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Time Flying

Man, time really flies when you're at home vs floating around on and in a big metal gas can.

   It's been a hell of a ride. First week was a lot of obligations and errands, this week is (in theory) more about relaxing and having some shop time and fun at home.

      Celebrating an anniversary milestone, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I spent the weekend at Key West. It was a good time, as most people know. On the way down, we met famous plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Rey "Dr. 90210," who had a reality show in the early days of reality shows. Great guy, and he lived in Boston for a bunch of years, and hearing my accent, was immediately on a tour down memory lane. We ended up talking for about an hour and a half. Since the guy is Brazilian (we met him in Boca Raton, which has a massive Brazilian population), and fluent in both English and Portuguese, conversation was free and easy with all three of us.

 We also ended up in the middle of  a Corsa America Rally, and I'll write about that when I'm back at work. Basically 150 supercars and their owners in town for a good time. Quite a show.

        I scored a HUGE bargain on some supersweet walnut and rock maple planks- it was such a good deal that it's actually worth me buying a jointer-planer to mill them down... which I'll hopefully be able to do this weekend. Buy the planer, I mean. I doubt I'll have time to mess with the wood too much. Got other irons in the fire.

 At any rate, I'm not dead but I also have stuff I want to do today, so I'm out.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Last watch, and how I got kicked off yet another facebook page.

Well, we're loaded pretty deep, waiting on our tugboat to ease us into the Kills, and head for Port Elizabeth NJ, where we'll transfer some 3,500 tons of fuel oil to a waiting ship. At some point after we get all fast, I'll be relieved, and can go home. Looking forward to it.

 Before I go, I have to share the absolute and definitive sign of the End Of Days:

STUDY: Fossil fuels contribute to ‘petro-masculinity’ 


  • Professor Cara Daggett, who teaches classes on politics and global security at Virginia Tech, is warning that fossil fuels are contributing to a warped sense of “masculine identity” and “authoritarianism” among men.
  • Writing in response to the 2016 election, Daggett coins the term “petro-masculinity” to describe what she sees as a convergence of “climate change, a threatened fossil fuel system, and an increasingly fragile Western hypermasculinity.”

  •  Don't click on this unless you like feeling that Armageddon would be a relief right now.

     Folks, you can't make this shit up... Well, obviously you can, because this is shit, raw and unrefined, and also made up.

     It also got me kicked off a Facebook page for my having made fun of the people who provide this retarded shit a platform.

       I shouldn't be surprised. This is from the same people who brought you studies retardsplaining how "Farts are sexist tools of the Patriarchy" and from this same 'author,' "How Unmanned Weapons Queer the Experience in War."

     I have to wonder why the hell Jesus died to save these particular people, and if he regrets it now.


           You know, on reflection, though, in this case I think the author is right? I mean, I am pretty petromasculine.
    What if she's REALLY on to something? Maybe there's something to all this feminist/pussy male PC bullshit.

     I really did become quite a bit more masculine after I started working on oil tankers. Prior to my first job on a ship, I was a pretty quiet, introspective and somewhat shy person. Not at all the way I am today. Working with oil did make me more masculine... so, petromasculinity is now a thing, and I will embrace it.
            Everyone knows that these days, when I walk into a room with my bulging petromasculinity oozing out of my every pore, every woman in the room spontaneously ovulates, and soyboys start lactating explosively out of shame and fear.
    So let me petrosplain something to you:  If you don't like it then you're petrophobic and should check your cispetronormative privelige. Petrophobia is now also real and also a thing, and you should be ashamed of yourself if you have it.

     Petromasculinity is here. I'm going to have to apply to one of these Asshole Concentration Camps they call liberal arts colleges so I can get Petromasculine assigned one of the 99 new genders that these shitbiscuits are trying to tell us are also real. I mean, it's way cooler than being a Furry, at least, and the ladies love it, once they get over the smell of sulphur coming out of your pores the first night home at least.

    Saturday, July 7, 2018

    I got wood- AND NEW BLOGS!

    I mentioned before that I've spent a fair bit of money in the past few weeks, replacing and upgrading some tools and buying some additional hardwood stock for raw material.I took a BIG gamble.

        I've been living in south FL for 4 years now. I still don't know the area as well as I should. As such, I know of a few places where I can get specialty wood for certain projects, but not much.

          Purchasing hardwood is a process, and it's an intimidating one for the non-professional. I guess I stand at the educated amateur level there. I know what I need and what I want, but I have to think about it. It's not second nature to me. If you've never bought wood at a hardwood supplier, it's certainly not like Home Depot. You have to ask for what you want, specifically, there's weird nomenclature and a lot of math, and the prices are just... really high.

     Fortunately, I know how to build and fix small boats, so I have a slight leg up, because otherwise I'd just be utterly lost instead of somewhat lost amidst the stacks.

     So I saw a good deal online on some walnut planks, and while I was there, the price on rock maple was decent too... but I'd be buying sight unseen, which is never a good idea, especially as neither I nor my neighbors have a planer, so any misshape, knots or such are going to make the wood undesirable.. but the rep of the seller is good, and  so I'm taking a chance, and if it pans out I've got a new resource.

     I really don't want to buy a jointer/planer until I buy a new house and expand my shop space next summer. They're expensive and take a while to dial in, moreso because I've never owned or used one.

     One advantage to having dicked around with wood boats is that curves don't scare me near as much as they perhaps should. Spherical trig is a thing in carpentry, just not taught much outside of boatbuilding.

     So I've got a couple of little projects to knock out this time, and I'd like to experiment with some joinery using interlocking curved pieces of hardwood with greatly contrasting color, like the white of rock maple with the deep brown of walnut. Still, I need to start off simple, like dead simple.
     The cost of wood being what it is, and my monkey ass being a rank amateur at joinery, I'm going to make some stuff with pine, and if I like it, remake it in more interesting and useful wood. I've been putting off making a stepstool for Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife to use in the kitchen and also outside, as a low seat when she's messing about with the potted plants. Being only 5' 3", and my kitchen having 9' ceilings and tall cabinets, she is at a disadvantage when she has to get rarely-used stuff off the top shelf, so a 2-step stepstool in wood would be a lot nicer than the folding Wal-mart abortion that currently clogs up space in my shop 'till she needs it. I'm going to make that in just pine, using scraps from my scrap bin, I think. Might need to get a 1x8 at the most.
          I've been hemming and hawwing for a while over it, but I also need a fresh set of chisels. Mine are just beat to hell. I spent too much time tapping on them with a framing hammer and beating the steel through the handles. Where my hands are so goddamn shaky all the time (and always have been, for some reason), chisels represent a Rubicon in skill for me, something I don't lightly cross. Think of a surgeon with Parkinson's, and you'll get the idea. Truly fine woodworking might just be beyond me, but hopefully I'll find out.

    I've been watching a fair number of boatbuilding and carpentry videos for a while now, and I've edited my blogroll. It's been great watching true professional artists and some amazing amateurs, too.  Among my new favorites are:


    Tips From a Shipwright :  Louis Sauzedde is a master shipbuilder from Bristol RI. He owns a shop there, and makes small boats, including skiffs that he draws out and builds piece by piece online via Youtube.  Along with having the ability to explain a damn-near mythical lost art of wooden boat building, he's also down-to-earth and a great teacher.

    The Sea Dreamer ProjectFollows an upper-state NY carpenter, a not boatbuilder who is building a 41' trawler yacht out of wood using designs and methods drawn up by the late George Beuhler, a well-known marine architect who dedicated his career to making boats for regular people to build. 

     Sampson Boat CoLeo is a young British shipwright who moved to the US to buy and restore a rotten ancient sailboat, the 'Tally Ho' and helps underwrite the costs by filming and producing weekly videos about the whole process, including his time off, when he works on other peoples' boats to help pay the bills.

     General Carpentry

    The Wood Whisperer: Marc is a master furnituremaker whose easily-accessible youtube videos have made a carpentry superstar out of him. Funny and clear, his stuff is really worth watching.

     Check them out!

    Wednesday, July 4, 2018

    Patriotism and New Americans

    This isn't my story to tell. This year, on July 4, I am at anchor awaiting a berth for our next cargo. After dark I'll have a great seat to watch the NY Fireworks, hopefully.

       No, this Independence Day, it's Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife who is celebrating.

        When I called home to say goodnight last night, my wife told me that she got into an argument with one of her closer friends about politics. This friend is also a US citizen, like my wife, and also Brazilian. On failing to come to agree with her friend's view, my wife was dismissed with a 'I forget, you're American now. You wouldn't understand."

     It was an interesting story. We both know this was meant as an insult, but it wasn't received that way at all.

          When we were newlyweds, after about a year of processing, my wife received her first green card. She had been living here on a visa, but overstayed. By 10 years. The occasional brush with local law enforcement for getting pulled over, or what have you, just required undoing a button on her blouse and a smile, and she'd shortly be  on her way. Perks of being Inappropriately Hot, I guess. Still, she was VERY aware of how tenuous her existence was. One female cop, or one hardass, and her life would be a mess in short order.  

     On the day we had the immigration interview, when the USCIS agent asked us questions to see if we were really married, she was issued residency. I'll never, ever forget the ride home.

     We were driving south on Rt 93, coming out of the Chinatown tunnel in Boston, headed for the suburbs.  The reality had already set in. The happy yelling, the jumping up and down, all the hugs and kisses had been dealt out before we got back to the car to go home and celebrate. We were just talking happily, holding hands as I drove.

    The Big Dig, Boston's massive construction project, was still going on. I took the HOV lane to cut down on traffic.  At the HOV lane entrance, a Massachusetts State Trooper waited, looking to pull over anyone who was driving solo. Traffic slowed to a crawl, and my wife slunk down in the seat by a full foot, just trying to make herself smaller, less visible, less noticeable.
         Realizing what was going on, that cops to her represented great danger, I squeezed her hand, smiled and said "Hey, relax, honey. You're a resident now. You're allowed to be here."
          Instead of the reaction I was expecting, I got a shaky smile and then she burst into tears.
         I had no idea how much living in fear had been eating away at her.

        In due course, the week after she qualified three years later, she applied for citizenship. But a funny thing happened.

            Becoming an American Citizen doesn't mean much to many immigrants, especially the ones who solely reside inside an immigrant enclave, like the insulated miscellaneous Latino communities in Massachusetts, where being a monoglot with no English presents no problems. There's no interaction there, citizen or alien, legal or not.

     Somewhere along the way, my wife started listening to me, and reading about American history a bit, ostensibly as a way to familiarize herself with the citizenship exam... but she took it to heart.
     Despite having been here for over a decade, my wife knew little about the American culture. She very much still had both feet in her parent culture... but this started changing. She finally had one foot firmly planted on the day of her Citizenship ceremony... since she had dual citizenship, however, she didn't feel very American yet. Even so, during the Ceremony, it opened a door in her mind about what it actually means to be American... and she realized she still didn't really know, but for the first time, she really wanted to find out. Better late than never, I guess, but I think this might actually be pretty common. So few immigrants actually want to integrate and learn that becoming American comes with pride but also a sense of responsibility, that citizenship isn't a license to take free shit, but a license to trade- to give back and receive in equal measure- to earn a place and recognize that some things must be worked for. At the citizenship ceremony, my wife wasn't Americanized, but she became a patriot.

    "I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

    Citizenship Day

     Of course it being Massachusetts, my wife was heavily pressured to join the Democrat party before we even made home that night. It didn't take, despite the hard sell tactics. As she explained it later, the allure of the party of All The Free Shit is absolutely amazing to people who grew up in the third world with so little. So she was registered Democrat for a while until she actually wanted to vote, when she went Unenrolled so she could vote the person and not the party. 

         In he runup to the last Presidential election, however, things changed. Our lives had changed, and my wife was now more invested in America. She's got a claim staked here, a dog in the fight, and her politics changed as a result.  Somewhere along the way, she started arguing with her friends who got concerned regarding the steady supply of All The Free Shit. Somewhere along the way, she Figured It Out, what it actually means to be American, and that as an immigrant, regardless of her political opinions, her vote was no longer for sale in exchange for Free Shit, and the act of trying to purchase it cheaply with stuff was actually a pretty grievous insult. 

     Somewhere along the way, her friends calling my wife an American as an insult lost its' sting and became something to be answered 'I am. So?"

     So today, along with a bunch of other Brazilians from her community, they're getting together to celebrate. They have good reason to. They've seen, and lived under a different system, and choose this one, not for the Free Shit, but for the freedom.

    Monday, July 2, 2018

    stocking up for time at home

    Even though I've got another week to go on here, I've been stocking up on wood and woodworking materials online, setting up delivery for the day after I get home.
         I got a line on some balsa and basswood planks in a size that should help with some planking issues I had with my current model boat project. I have been destroying plywood by trying to bend it past it's maximum bending modulus in order to get it to conform to the shape of the upper bow section on my boat hull. It just wasn't happening in one piece. Essentially, I had a 90-degree twist to take over a relatively short run, and even my standby tricks- soaking the ply in Windex and then using a steam iron to melt the adhesive glue at the spot where it always snaps the plywook... well, short answer, it wasn't happening, so I'm going to plank the hull. In doing that, this also means I need to restock sanding and shaping and fiberglassing supplies, so I had to buy that too.
     And then Amazon had a deal on plunge routers, so I got one of those too.

        The Coast guard issued my new credentials with my new higher-tonnage mate's license, so I'm done there, and with everything renewed recently, I don't need to go to the CG until I have the 360 days at sea to up from my higher-tonnage mate's ticket to Master. So I should have almost 2 years until I have to deal with the true rigamarole, although I will be messing with them again this fall when I have to take a leadership and management class. But that's another day.

     It's hotter than hell this week, with air temps in the high 90's and lots of sun. Pretty much the same as at my house, although my house will have higher humidity, I'm sure. But my house also has beer, wine and whiskey, so that's nice, those things being lacking here.

     I've been watching "The Wood Whisperer" a lot this week. I'm feeling creative.