A "Fun" Day

I had a very fun day yesterday.

It started with three hours of sleep. I went to groggily toast a bagel, and burnt it a bit. I turned the kitchen fan on to exhaust the smoke. We have an older style kitchen fan in the ceiling, not one over our range. Apparently, a shingle from the roof fell into the fan, and it got cut up and made a huge racket. Scared the hell out of me, and woke Trish up (at 5AM, mind you).

Got to work at Mariani (the asphalt terminal) and they only have an hour left to pump. Broken equipment AND a short shift? Oh yay! Plus, while I was there, I found out that the 2hrs of drive time to port manatee are billed differently, so we don't get overtime on them. I get why they're doing it, but I do not want it to set a precedent that they can class hours doing different things in ways that avoid overtime... or maybe one day, I'll work 32 hours for KMI, and 16 for Citgo, but I'll only get 48 hours of straight time.

Then, on to berth 222 over at the port of Tampa. The TMI-17 comes in and it's trouble from the start. They complained about where I spotted them, on MLA-1 because that means they couldn't put their gangway down... "we always use #4 over here!" well, then why the fuck didn't your deck guy tell me this when I said "unless you have a reason to do otherwise, let's go with #1."? It only got more fun from that point on.

Next, the chief mate refused to agree to the simultaneous Murphy/TPSI discharge. Pete (from TPSI) came down to talk to them, and there was a lot of arguing involved. Eventually, they reach an agreement. So I go on board, and start dealing with two sets of paperwork. We get to the 2nd DOI, and the prick refuses to sign it. Says it's illegal or some shit. So either we've been doing it wrong all this time using two DOIs, or the chief mate is right, and we should have been using only one. Of course, this is something that should have been worked out before we started doing multiple simultaneous discharges.

Next was port manatee. I got stuck behind some dumbass trucker who didn't know procedure in the line to activate my TWIC for access. cost me almost 10m. The rest of it wasn't bad there, until the end. Then, the irksome mate from the B284 starts bitching about having to use his crane. In tired frustration, I throw up my hands, and he gets aggressive because I "have a problem" with him. At this point in my day, I'm pretty much out of patience, so as he's getting aggressive, I just say "you're the one with the fucking problem, buddy! I'm done.". I walk back to the shack, get my shit together, and tell Joed "Here, this shit's all yours. I'm done.". The crew member did apologize a minute later, but apologies don't restore patience and sanity that've been stripped away, nor relieve the stress that it creates.

Thinking I'm finally done, I get a call from Ryan on the way home, asking me when I can come back for another shift. And then, four of the lanes of tollbooths at the Sunshine Skyway (the bridge I need to take to get home from manatee) are closed. I think that I can't pay because I have only a SunPass and no cash, but it turns out all the lanes are enabled for them, even if they're not marked. After crossing the bridge, I find out that several miles of 275N is cut down to a single lane for construction. Hooray. 25-30MPH in a 65MPH zone.

An irksome, stressful day. I want a stiff drink and a nap.

"You're a special kind of stupid, aren't you?"

I bitch about work a lot, I'm aware. But sometime there comes a failure so completely epic that if I wasn't witnessing it, I would probably be laughing uproariously at it.

I started this week by opening the MR Orestes, a foreign ship carrying jet fuel. Foreign vessels are almost always a hassle, but this one was beyond the pale.

Right from the beginning, when they lined up at the wrong arm, I knew it was going to be trouble. I sent the shore radio aboard with the gauger, but they never called me to let me know that they were ready to hook up the arm. Then eventually, I called them on the radio, and they told me they were ready, in very broken English. An hour later, no one on deck. I call them again, and they said they did have someone on deck, and asked if I was ready. Sigh.

It took half an hour and five yelled attempts to get them to send me a rope to tie to the MLA's lead line. Normally, I just pitch it up over the rail, but this boat was drafting up so high I'd have never made it. I can't throw that good! After that, they took bloody fucking ages to get the arm hooked up... 40 minutes. 10-12 is typical.

Once I went aboard to do the pre-transfer conference and paperwork, I notice that the deck crew is all coughing. Get inside the ship's office, and the chief mate is also coughing. Wondered to myself if I was going to contract some sort of exotic foreign disease from just being in there. Start going through the paperwork with the chief mate, and he's got a letter of protest related to freedom of crew movement. For christ's sake, we hadn't even done anything yet!

Throughout the entire discharge, the ship was very difficult to reach on the radio, often taking 3-4 attempts, and having to speak in small words and very slowly to be understood. I understand that English isn't your first language, but you should not be handling hazardous cargo if your communication isn't adequate.

At one point, I asked them for a 2hr notice including stripping, and they gave me it at 1700. At 1700, they told me that they were starting to strip and that it would be two more hours.

At the end, I had to go up on board and open the vent on the arm so it could be evacuated. They told me it was open, but they either lied, or had no idea what I was saying to them. While I was up there, the chief mate tried to dump a bunch of paperwork on me... including no less than eight pages of letters of protest. I've never seen that many from a single vessel. I stood on the deck for a moment flipping through them on the clipboard and pondering just tearing them up, or literally wiping my ass with them and handing them back. Insult upon injury, or something like that. But I didn't. I just refused them firmly.

I was very sorely tempted to write my own letter of protest charging the vessel and its crew with lack of sufficient proficiency with English, inability to follow instructions, incompetence, and unsafe operations. But I didn't know if that would reflect badly on either KMI or the company I work for, so I asked the gauger (who the boat also fucked over) to write one, since he also had a legitimate grievance. And he did, taking note of what I said for a letter from his company (Inspectorate).

Like The Song Says… Money

I about shit a brick when I opened this year's W2 and found out I'd made $36k in 2013.

That's a hell of a lot more than I'd made the year previously… 2012 had just squeaked by as being the year where I'd made the most I had made (narrowly beating that one year at Target where the overtime was an obscene amount). I must've worked a lot more overtime this year than I thought I had, because I made almost ten grand more.

The disturbing part is that I really don't know where it all went. I really should be keeping better track of my money, or at least my expenses, especially now that I'm not so poor that I expect to always be broke.

It's good to finally feel affluent, but it's definitely going to take some adjustment.
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What The Frell?!

My Own Personal "Housing Crisis"

As I've observed on numerous occasions before, renting sucks. It's a miserable experience in myriad ways.

Getting out of it, however, is far from easy, even if you have the means. It's almost as if you have to run an obstacle course, or at least that's how it's starting to feel from my perspective.

One of the reasons I want to own instead of rent is that renting is spending a large sum of money every month with nothing to show for it, except not being homeless. If you're paying a mortgage, at least you're making progress towards something, rather than spinning your wheels.

However, with a bank loan, you're saddled with several expensive conditions to fulfill: chief among them being flood insurance (which ranges from "pricy" to "HOLY FUCK" here), homeowner's insurance, and mortgage insurance. The only way for those things to be optional (or in the case of the last, completely unnecessary) is to buy outright. Of course, in order to save enough in any sane time to buy outright even a modest home (let's say $70k, which is the rage I'm looking at currently) your cost of housing has to be almost nothing at the same time.

Assuming that's possible, the numbers say that $1500/mo would add up to $70k in 46.6 months. Rounded up to a full 48, four years isn't really all that long. But in order to sock away that much, I wouldn't be able to pay more than $300/mo or so in rent.

I keep churning over in my low-cost solutions for housing on a temporary basis for those four years that it would take, but the best I seem to be able to come up with is either buying a cheap RV and living in that, or buying a mobile home and paying lot rent… ideally split with someone renting one of the two bedrooms in order to further curb the costs.

It's fucking frustrating, all the hoops I have to jump through in order to make this happen.
Matrix Code


With my new discretionary income, I have been able to periodically get myself some new gadgets. The solar panel I bought to use over at the Citgo dock (where there's no outlets) turned out to be extremely practical, given the typical amount of sunlight Florida gets. It has kept my phone alive for several long days while working over there.

Just recently, I won an eBay auction for a used Kindle in very good condition. I wasn't really terribly interested in one, but I want to read some HTML ebooks, and the e-ink display and battery life measured in weeks (not to mention the moderate price point) convinced me to give it a shot. It's shipping out today, I'll post more about it after I've had a chance to play with it.

Actually, both of those purchases were direct results of the restrictions of working at Citgo. Hmm.


Achieving Affluence

I'm finally feeling like I'm doing well financially, and that's not something I'm used to. I'd been accustomed to struggling and scraping by with little to no margin or error. Being able to occasionally do things for myself was usually something I did solely out of my tax refund (which is basically a 0% involuntary savings account).

But the last few months have changed this. I've been working more and more, and the hourly rate I make now is actually reasonable. I haven't had a real problem like I'd had for the first year or so (on and off) with there never being enough hours to rely on. I've actually been putting in overtime pretty consistently for the last few months, and the paychecks are really nice.

I'm able to do things like go out to eat, buy books, and visit people (fuel isn't cheap) without serious financial jiggery-pokery. In fact, after I move this next time, I'm going to spend the time I'm living in this new apartment looking to buy a house. I actually make enough now to be able to make that work, finally.

I'm certainly not rich, not even really making white-collar money. But for my fairly frugal level of living, I'm actually pretty damn comfortable with what I'm making now. It feels good.
Ludovico Technique

My Boss

Now, everyone who works for someone else has stories about how they hate their boss. I don't claim to be unique or special in this regard.

However, he displays a level of incompetence above and beyond what I have any experience dealing with. And to make it worse, he has an arrogant know-it-all attitude that makes dealing with his stupidity all the more galling.

He is so bad at the minimal tasks of his job (scheduling) that we basically do it for him, and he still manages to fuck it up. Especially when he makes arbitrary decisions that demonstrate his frequent lack of foresight.

Eric, you're a retard and you suck at your job. That is all.
What The Frell?!

"What next? A flirtation with square wheels?!"

I just watched a car ad. This car ad. In the ad, they use the trunk opening size as a selling point. Note the bit with the golf clubs.

Before the 1990s, trunk openings were wider and square. Auto makers create a problem with shitty design, and then take 20 years to solve that problem.

Standard trunk opening until the mid 1990s. Wide and rectangular, more or less.

A current one. Compare and contrast. Plenty of room in there, but good luck getting any single large object in there, say a golf bag. The oversized rear lights take up 20% of the fucking opening width. Most cars are like that now. It's needless and stupid. You want big lights back there? Put them on the trunk lid!

Automakers created the problem with stupid designs (which I've griped about for years) and now that someone had the goddamn sense to not make an idiotic design decision, they're acting like it was an amazing stroke of genius.

Hell, it's even happened to hatchbacks! Early 1990s / Today

Smaller opening with sharp angles equals inability to place object in trunk that would fit perfectly fine within it otherwise. I haul things around a lot, which is why I have been griping about this for so long.

Take flat-pack furniture, for example. If you have a car with a squared trunk opening, then it goes in easy, and you might even be able to close it. But angled inward like modern ones? Good luck jamming it in at all, and if it does go, the angle is awkward as fuck. And unless you have an SUV, you don't have a roof rack anymore.

It makes my brain bleed is how they can create a problem, solve it 20 years later, and then think they're goddamn geniuses for going back to doing things the way that isn't stupid.
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What The Frell?!

"I see this is going to be a twelve change of underwear trip."

I bitch more than I probably should about bad drivers, I admit it. But every so often, there's an incident that makes me feel justified in my jaw-on-floor awe of the stupidity they allow behind the wheel.

Tonight: I'm driving down I-275s, in the middle lane. I'm approaching a construction zone ahead, where the leftmost of three lanes is closed. There's several cars in the right-hand lane, a fair bit of merging traffic from the various on-ramps. To my left and somewhat behind me is a ratty old white van.

As both myself and the van close in to where the road cones and flashing arrow indicate the lance closure, I naturally expect the van to merge right and get behind me. Or at least signal and try to zoom past me. To my shock, the van simply continues straight ahead (at this point it's next to me, no longer behind) and plows through a dozen or so road cones, embedding one in it's grille and busting a headlight. After I have a small heart attack, I jam on the throttle and zoom ahead to get away from this crazy fuck, hoping that they won't realize what they're doing and try to get out of the closed lane before I can get away from them. As I jumped on it, I laid on the horn for a good 30s or so, hoping to snap them out of it, or at least force them to notice me and hopefully avoid hitting me. I hope the driver was drunk, because the thought of anyone that stupid while sober would be fucking terrifying.

After I got through Ybor and was about to take the road that cuts under the Veteran's expressway, I saw that it was closed and I had to take the detour. I have no idea what they're doing there, because I never see any actual construction work being done, just a shitload of cops. Maybe they're just closing the road to have a giant donut rave, I don't know. In any case, I grumbled and took the side road detour. As I'm getting back near the port, I hear a tractor trailer's air horn honk, and I glance behind me (I'd been looking left because I was stopped at a stop sign prior to making a turn) and see one tractor trailer jerk onto the shoulder to avoid hitting another square on the side.