Sunday, April 20, 2008

Moving, Pizza, and My Brother

A few updates, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The lovely and talented Tracy is away for the week, visiting her family in New York. I'm packing up some of our stuff, in advance of our moving date (in early May). We've done some staging work, so all the books are in one area - I only need to empty a couple of bookcases into boxes. We've also donated some kitchen gear that we haven't used enough to justify moving. I'm going to pack the kitchen next, so that'll be a bunch of stuff ready to go.

We're donating a bunch of books, too. We're both pack-rats, so we had a bunch of old textbooks and paperback novels that we culled. If you have books that you no longer need, try They'll even come pick up your books. I'll let you know how it all goes, once they've picked up.

I also found a pizza place I like, called Franco's, on Moody St, in Waltham, MA. It's classic thin-crust bar pie. Crispy and thin, with just a little bit of doughy crust. It's nothing fancy, but they have live music on the weekends, and cold beer. It's pretty cool, and a large pizza is less than $10, which is rare these days. Yeah, it's a dive. But it's a good dive. With good pizza. And that makes up for a lot.

Lastly, my globe-trotting brother is due back in the States early this week. He was, you may recall, working on a freighter that was heading to Bangladesh, where it would be run upon the beach and sold for scrap. I'm not sure how he'll be flying back - the last report was maybe via Bangkok. I was hoping he'd go via London, with a nice, 8-hour layover so he could see the city, but as long as he gets home safely, I'll take it. My fingers are crossed.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

My Globetrotting Brother

My brother is a recent graduate of Mass Maritime Academy, and is at sea right now on a ship out of Corpus Christi, TX, that up until recently hauled asphalt up and down the east coast. It's a neat gig, and so different from what I do that I'm frequently in awe. This isn't some little barge - it's a real live freighter, like the one on which you'd hitch a ride as you went off to join the Legion in an old adventure novel. I say, "up until recently," because the company that runs the ship just sold it. While it was at sea. To an Indian firm. For scrap. Yeah.

So now my kid brother is steaming through the Indian Ocean, having crossed the Atlantic, and rounded the Cape of Good Hope. They're heading north-east, toward the Bay of Bengal, where they will anchor in the harbor at Chittagong, Bangladesh. They'll sit at anchor for a few days, waiting for papers to pass and the tide to cooperate, at which point, they'll run the ship up on the beach. No, that's not a euphemism. They're going to beach her. Literally. Then they'll fly home. The flight should take, oh, 128 hours, give or take. But what a hell of trip.

He's been sending regular e-mails to us back home via the ship's satellite link (something they didn't have in those old adventure novels). Below is his most recent, in which he explains one of the ways in which the crew is combating the boredom of not seeing land for weeks. Remember, these guys are used to a few days between ports, all of which are in the United States.

What can I say? My kid brother's a heck of a guy.

Hey everybody,

It's Thursday, April X, 1045 Z, 0645 EDT.

We're out here in the Bay of Bengal, proceeding for Chittagong, Bangladesh.

We should be arriving the morning of the XXth, around XX00, and going to

Haven't had any more word on beaching and going home since the crew meeting
we had yesterday.

Latest is beaching on the XXth and getting on a plane that afternoon or the
next, so home by the XXst.

I know, you've heard all this already.

With the lack of action onboard the Asphalt Commander, the crew has taken to
speed walking and jogging the deck.

The Captain started it just after leaving Curacao, speed walking a zig-zag
obstacle course across / around the deck.

A weight vest adds to the challenge. Before long most of the crew was doing
it, some speed walking, others just jogging laps around the deck.

I myself went for the laps around the deck. By my measurements, its about 5
laps to a mile. I had been doing it pretty regularly, but have fallen off it the past week with the heat, rain, and wind we've been going through.

Today was the Official First Annual Asphalt Commander Speed walking
Championship, with all entrants being timed on the course.

The course began on the bridge, down the stbd. side ladders to the main
deck, up the deck, zig-zagging rail to rail, following a spray-painted course, up onto and around the foc'sle deck, down into the foc'sle, where the punching bag must be struck 10 time, back up out of the foc'sle onto the foredeck, back down to the main deck, and again zig-zagging down the deck, following the spray-painted arrows to the house, up the port side ladders, back to the bridge.

Judges were placed along the course and in the foc'sle to ensure that no
competitors jogged or ran, and that all rail markers were tagged as the competitor passed.

The official ruling has been made that one foot must remain on the deck at
all times to define a walk, where as a jog is constituted by both the competitor's feet coming clear of the deck during the stride.

You can't make this up.

Sounds pretty easy, but doing it for competition, the speed walking really
does wear you down. Its actually a grueling 7 to 9 mins on deck. And the speed walking seems to be tougher that just jogging it at an easy pace.

Anyway, got an ok time, had fun.

Can't wait to be back on soil.

Especially of the US variety.

How the heck am I supposed to compete with that?

Yes, apartment hunt finished.

Yup, we signed the lease last night. It'll be ready for May 1. Yay! Now we get to see if FiOS really is available. Verizon's website said it is, but you never know. I'm glad the hunt is over. It was getting frustrating. Now I can't wait to move in.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Apartment hunt finished?

Well, we may have found a new apartment. We're meeting the guy to sign the lease (and give him the check) tonight after work, and he says it's a done deal. Of course, I won't be sure it's done until I've signed something, and he's holding my check, but he said it was ours, so I'll assume we're all set. I'm glad that search is finally over.

It's sunny and warm outside today - and it'll be raining this weekend. Oh, yay.

In other news, for a few years now a friend has been telling me I'd really like Coldplay. I've been apathetic, and haven't really looked into it. Last night, I listened to a few clips on iTunes. Well, OK, then. She was right. Neat! I like finding a new band that already has a few albums out there, since it gives me a bunch of new stuff, all at once. This jives with my theory that you never start reading a sci-fi or fantasy book series until it's complete. I've already been burned by the Wheel of Time.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sunny Days and Famous Ray's

The sun is out! And it's actually warm, at the same time! I know!

The apartment hunt continues, with yet another place forgetting to mention the lack of a dishwasher. This time, the person actually said, "all appliances." I realize that a dishwasher is not one of the appliances required by law to rent a place, and thus it was not technically a lie. But seriously, if you reply to a question about a washer and dryer by saying a place has "ALL appliances," and use all caps for the word "ALL," can't I reasonably expect to see a dishwasher? Come on.

We did find a place we like, and we sent in apps today. Hopefully it'll all work out. I just want to be done with the hunt. Such is life, I suppose.

As for the Famous Ray's reference, I've been craving pizza for a few weeks. Unfortunately, most of the pizza near us is, well, not great. Yeah, we'll go with not great. There are three places that are good. All of them are a little bit too trendy to satisfy the craving. I like organic Thai pepper pizza as much as the next guy, but when I'm craving a nice, thin-crust, (dare I say it) New York pizza, there's nowhere convenient to us that does it. I guess a trip to Regina in the North End is in order, and soon. Oh well.