About Me

A slightly over-educated sailor sharing the wet and dry sides of his life.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Weird-Assed Shit...

Is Mercury in Weird-Assed Shit mode?  We're talking the world of communication and the means of getting through.  It's as if you're trying to get something done, and it's the means which is keeping it from happening. 

I've been trying to ship out for the past two or three weeks, and it has been for not.  I keep on getting aced-out by others with greater priority.  But that's how unions rig things to favor those who have been on the waiting list the longest. 

Still, Mercury in WAS keeps running interferance in other ways.  The lastest victim was my recording a video clip of my many takes of two ukulele songs I've been working on.  Ha ha!!!  So I finally have a reasonably good take of Minnie The Moocher.  I turns out that the file is too big for me to upload, via email, to this blog.  OKAY!  Now what?  You see, there never is an easy way.  There never is.  Sure, the idea is so sweet, easy, and perfect--but it never works the way you were hoping it would. 

On the otherside of things, I had to visit my mom to give her a hand with some work around her house.  On the way back, I decided to take the ferry from Southworth to Fauntleroy/West Seattle.  I brought my uke along to practice some songs, in case such an opportunity presented itself. 

It was pretty sweet.  I was lucky enough to get parked at the front of the boat.  Nothing but the changing view of Puget Sound--from the departure view across to West Seattle and the east side of the Sound, the backwards entry to Vashon Island and the northerly view to Eagle Island, and the final approach into Fauntleroy.  All a while, I worked out some tunes on the uke and a number with a harmonica solo.  It felt good.  I promise to get the songs I worked on posted. 


Monday, March 22, 2010

Ukulele Baby!!!

This here is one of my musical treasures.  It is a September 2000 KoAloha Soprano ukulele. 

I bought this sweet little number new, back then in 12/2000, when I had to bail a ship in Hawaii, after a knee cap to hip bruise/contusion.  The overnight spell in Honolulu gave me the opportunity to visit the shopping mall of my childhood.  There, I found the Ala Moana Ukulele Shop kiosk--and this all koa wood soprano ukulele.  Apparently, back then, one could buy such a uke for under $400.  Nowadays, there's no hope (except for an Ebay score), to get such a perfect example of a Hawaiian koa ukulele.  Tone?  I just visited Dusty Strings, in Seattle's Fremont 'hood today.  There was this $4K Martin uke that paled in comparison.  Sure, that little flea was a very sweetly crafted instrument, but it didn't have the volume and clarity of my Kama'aina flea.  Wasn't there a band by the name of "The Screaming Fleas"?  That's my uke!

So what have I been doing with the dancing flea?  For only the last two years, after the previous eight?  Hey now!  The first song I figured out was Bob Welch's (formally of Fleetwood Mac) Sentimental Lady.  The second was the folk song, Wayfaring Stranger.  Those two took me, together, about one year.  More recently, I figured out Minnie The Moocher.  That probably took me about three weeks to memorized.  My latest project is Mac The Knife.  It's coming along.

The first version of MacHeath I heard was Bobby Darin's.  His take has been the definitive version for me, for decades.  However, I have to admit that Sting's slow rendition struck me as something that might have roots to the original stage production.  What made me think that?  Well, if you grab a uke and start slow, soulfully, staccato-raking the strings, you'll quickly get the sense of the difference between the two rhythms. 

If I get my shit together soon enough, I'll make it a point to post some videos of my playing.

Fuuuuuuck!!!!!!!  Me playing!!!!?????  Scary sheeett! 

Actually, the hardest thing to avoid is the sudden Foxtrot Uniform. 


Sunday, March 21, 2010

At Home... Still!

Well, I've been in the union hall again. It has been two weeks since I started looking for a ship again, and all has not been going as well as I would hope for. A couple of jobs were posted on the shipping board, but I was beaten out on all occasions. How did that happen? Well, it goes like this.

For one, I waited a little too long, after returning home, to re-register my shipping card. What's that all about? Well, the "game" works like this: The shipping cards issued by my union expire after 3 months. If I happen to have a ship in mind that I would like to sail on and there ought to be a job opening there on a given date, it would be a good idea to make sure my card is as mature as possible on the date that job gets posted. But it's never as easy as that.

Registering your shipping card for a ship can be tricky business. As I said before, the ideal is to have the oldest card on the job call date. However, should the ship become inordinately delayed, or there is a surprise schedule change for the ship, or someone with greater seniority beats you out, you will be left with an expired card. You are now at the bottom of your seniority list and having to wait for your card to mature all over again. Since I'm a B-card, there's always the chance that a full-book member (A-cards have invested six or more years of sea-time with the union. That can take anywhere from eight to twelve years) can snatch a job I've been gunning for out from under me.

To minimize the degree of job-seeking damage that kind of subterfuge can inflict upon me, I usually plan on having a little over two months on my card when shooting for a ship. Giving myself that extra month leeway allows me that month's worth of opportunity to salvage work somewhere else. Unfortunately, when the ship I was waiting for (the President Truman) showed up, two guys came out of the woodwork and beat me out. What made it really sting was that both of them were in my seniority level. Then again, it was obvious that they were waiting to get out for a long while. Chances are, they needed the work more than myself. No resentment there. We're all brothers in the struggle.

The Evils of Technicalities
Despite all that disappointment, there is still a bright side to all this shipping-out biz. It has wonderfully happened that American Presidents Line added an extra week to their ships' schedule--from 8 weeks/56 days to 9 weeks/63 days. What's so good about a longer voyage? According to the Sailors Union of the Pacific's Shipping Rules, Shuttle Voyages (trips that neither begin or end on the West Coast) are a minimum of 120 days and a maximum of 180 days.

How is that interpreted in cases of voyages greater or less than these times? If a given set of voyages fall short of the 120 day minimum, another voyage must be undertaken to secure a paid trip back home to the West Coast, as well as recognition as having not quit and access to unemployment insurance. That's the short side of things. With the old schedule, you had to do a three trip minimum of 24 weeks, for a total of 168 days. With the new schedule, it's down to two trips and only 18 weeks, for a total of 126 days. 42 days is a huge difference when it comes to your own personal measure of sanity, being able to score your free ticket home and unemployment money.

So here's the other tasty bit of scheduling news that's filtered down to the butt of scuttle: Despite the East Coast ships having to visit a very unsecure and unnamed port, it has been said that the ships will be visiting GENOA, ITALY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is that not AWESOME or what?

I am dancing the jungle boogie as I write.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Reptile Attacks Reporter!!! Leaping Lizards!!!

First of all, I have to thank the folks at 10 Zen Monkeys (http://www.10zenmonkeys.com/) for posting this video.  It was part of their 5 Best Videos of Animals Attacking Reporters.  You can chase down the rest--if you want.  The link is embeded in the title for your convenience.  However, I'm presenting you this one video, because this was the most harmless one, as one can say the critter wasn't really attacking the reporter.  Perhaps it mistook him for a tree? 

The reporter's reaction is priceless. What's great is how he maintains his sense of humor. 

Have a nice day, where ever you are!

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Matilda kitten sez, "Hai!"  She's hoping to snare a LOL Cat gig by the looks of it.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

At Home: Greenhouse, Bad Feather Day, and Peeps Perching.

I recently looked back into the photos I took, back when I first arrived home.  I think the subject matter says a lot.

Here's the greenhouse I built for Margaret.  It wasn't fully finished when I shipped out last year, around the end of spring.  I managed to get all the glazing on, with the exception of the door and a salvaged window pane on the east side, to the right of the door.  What was still unfinished  However, with the help of Grant, the husband of one of Margaret's friends, Betty, this is how it looks now.  Grant did a great job!  Leave it to someone who actually knows something about building construction--unlike me.

Above is a glimse inside to how Margaret decorated things.  It's her happy pod!

This is how I left it looking when I shipped out last year.  Still some shingles left to put up.  Like I said, Grant did an awesome job completing it.

Here's Edie recovering  from her first molt.  Looks like a bad feather day.  Too bad I missed out on seeing what a full-fledged molt looks like.  Only she and Henny, the other Amerucana, molted.  As it turns out, when chickens molt, they stop laying eggs.  With the combination of the loss of feathers and the onset of winter, egg production slowed to a crawl.  I suspect that mostly Penny and sometimes Butch were the only ones laying.  There were that few eggs.  Even now, in March, production isn't like last year's, though it is clear that the girls are actually ramping back up.

Here's Butch and Penny--our top layers.  Penny was the first to earn her keep, back two winters ago.  She may be the nervy, noisy type, but she always produces more than the others. 

Here's a good shot of Henny.  Notice the minimal comb and absence of wattle?  The girls do love perching on the bedroom window sill.  The rhody bush also gives them good protection from the eagles that sometimes glide by.  When the crows raise the alarm, the hens dash for cover.  Yes, I have seen that happen!

Oh, yeah.  One more picture.  This is where the girls aly their eggs and sleep the night away.  It may not look like much, but the design was more to suit the needs of a chicken than any human aesthetic.  Inside are roosts leading up to the nest boxes.  That they have to ascend to their nests adds to the sense of security needed for a stress-free egg laying session.  Nothing but the best for the girls!

Umm...  By the way, Margaret still isn't letting me post--let alone take--a picture of her. 


Monday, March 01, 2010

Back Home (Three+ Months Later...) with Flashbacks

Sorry for not posting after having been home for over three months. It's just that I always have to get my head on straight before I can begin again dealing with life ashore. If I'm lucky, I can manage that after about a week. There have been times when it took me a little over a month. No kidding. People shouldn't underestimate the experience of months of very restricted social interaction and then being thrown into a virtual ocean (pun intended) of humanity. Hey, any group of people numbering over 20 is more than I had to cope with while I was working. All I can say is to imagine someone getting out of prison after serving time.

Anyway, it's always good to be home. Unfortunately, this stay at home is going to be shorter than last time. As a matter of fact, it's now March, and I'll be back in the union hall looking for a ship towards the end of this week. Not that I'm guaranteed to get a ship, but it's more the matter that I've pointed my nose back in that direction. Fugly.

So what have I done since I got home in November? Well, let's reel things back a little. Um... How about back a lotta ways.

I really don't wish to neglect some pictures I took on my last voyage on the President Truman. This is the mosque at Port Suez, at the south end of the canal. If you click the image, you will be able to view it in greater detail. This is an amazing piece of architecture. There is so much for the eye to take in. Though I've been through the Suez Canal many times over, this particular structure never fails to engage me.

Below is a picture of one of my favorite sailors to ship out with, Mike Orosz. Big Mike and I always manage to have a good time. It doesn't matter what we might be up to, but we always manage to squeeze a laugh out of near any situation. Sadly, we somehow manage to spend no more than one round trip together on a ship. Also, he's looking to retire soon, so I'll view myself as lucky if I sail with him at least once more.

This here is one skinny waterspout I saw while the Truman was sailing north through the Straits of Malacca. I think we were off of Port Kelang, Malaysia when I spotted it.

Below is the Mount Lavinia Hotel. It's located in Colombo, Sri Lanka and dates back to the early 1800's. Apparently, the new British Governer arrived and was disappointed with the residence he was presented with. In turn, he had built this palace.

I have to say that the one thing more impressive is the view out back. The following picture was taken earlier in the day.

Very nice poolside scene.

Just before sunset, a rain squall drove everyone inside. While I waited for the dinner hour, a group of young musicians came in and started their set.  The music is pretty cool and represents well the South Asian musical traditions, though I suspect the music is of India and not Sri Lanka. Still, the drowsy sound well suited the post-rain humidity.

This is a Mediterranean fog bank. Most awesome looking, but one pain in the ass. If I recall correctly, we were sailing somewhere near Sicily. I suppose the temperature difference between the western and eastern halves of the Med and tide pushing water around is the main cause.

How do you know you're almost out of the Med? How about The Rock of Gibraltar? Cool, no?

Well that about covers the last group of pictures that I wanted to post. Whatever I forgot to include, I imagine I'll have plenty of opportunity to post new pictures of the same in the future. Next post will be of what has been so good about being home--now that I'm about to ship out again... Boo hoo!

Ciao, Peeps!