Friday, January 26, 2018

What's in a race?

  1. 1
    a competition between runners, horses, vehicles, boats, etc., to see which is the fastest in covering a set course.

  1. each of the major divisions of humankind, having distinct physical characteristics.

    "people of all races, colors, and creeds"

With what has been the craziest year in politics, since Trump came to power, January 20, 2017. For better, for worse, this guy shook up the country like a 2-liter of Diet Coke...  and dropped a Mentos in it.

What Trump HAS done, that i like, is really expose the underbellies of people for who they are and what they are, including himself. Given the polarization of policy and relations across the USA the past year, and really since the election started, citizens have become polar, but as i heard a historian say, the USA has only really been unified twice (maybe thrice) in it's 200+ year history- WWII and 9-11 . Of the myriad of problems that have plagued our country, race relations; an ever-present, scourge on society and our state of affairs seems to shower the news.

The Charlottesville rally that ended with chaos and a dead woman, sparked the fire, again, literally and figuratively, about race and racism, in a small, western Virginia college town, that ironically (or not), is home to President Thomas Jefferson, a conundrum in himself- declared- "All men are created equal", but was a noted slave holder, who himself fathered children with his own slave, Sally Hemmings, who herself was half sister to his wife Martha. Digest that.... 

While i've always thought racism was ridiculous: not liking someone because of the color or their skin, seems so 1800's and archaic to me. I thought everyone evolved from the cradle of humanity, 
Africa. Some people went closer to the poles and lost their skin tone and those who stayed closer to the equator, maintained their color. 

In today's day and age, DNA testing can show you where your ancestry came from, what i wanna know is, how white is white and how black is black? There's no need to call someone an African American, unless they were born in Africa or emigrated, just as there's no reason to call someone an Irish American, unless they came here. I think when government and society tries to ascertain your "race" when you fill out forms or registrations, undermines who we are as a country.

When I moved to New Orleans in 2001, at age 22, there was an albino kid in my neighborhood, his parents were black, so in effect he was a white, black kid. This took everything i knew, or thought i knew about race, and tossed it all out the window, i'd never met 'Caucasian' albino, let alone an 'African American' one, for that matter.  Yellowman, a reggae icon and albino, was orphaned as a child in Jamaica (due to his parents rejection of him), and went on to be one of the most successful musicians from the island nation. 

"Dont' judge a book by it's cover" is a simple and powerful metaphor to describe preconceived notions, race being one; which is echoed in Martin Luther King Jr.' famous speech, on August 28, 1963- 

     "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character"

Sunday, November 19, 2017

America the Beautiful... Infrastructure 🚃

In all of 241 years, the United States of America, has risen to become the richest country and greatest power, ever.  The equity and assets built since the industrial revolution and furthermore, since WW2, have shaped this country into a leader and innovator.

The USA, where any man or woman can persevere to become whatever they want- "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"; there are no caste systems, and everyone is guaranteed these "unalienable rights", as prescribed in the Declaration of Independence. With it's capitalist economy (and safety nets), independent states/republics and freedoms, it's no wonder that  millions (billions?) of people from all over the world want to live here.

That being said... The United States aren't without their problems and perils. The financial position of the USA is eroding, in part, due to developing nations increasing their wealth and adding to the global economy.  Although the wealth of the USA is growing, in terms of GDP- gross domestic product, it's at a slower rate than developing nations. Coupled with slower growth are increased liabilities or debt.

As far as money, debt and liabilities are concerned, you could point to countless inefficiencies and WASTE along the Federal, state and local governments, that contribute to our fiscal situation. Most of the time, when it comes to sorting out the problems, it all comes back to $$$.  Where are the tax dollars going? Well,  ~ 60% of the Federal budget goes to maintain social security, medicare/medicaid, safety net programs.  Spending is always on the lawmakers lips and government budgets seem to be a daily headline.  Whether it be funding for a new public high school, resurfacing for a major highway, military, social security, medicare, etc...  Soaring healthcare costs/spending and social security depletion are always talked about, but little is done.

If the USA is so rich, why are many services and systems sub standard when compared to other industrialized countries? 

"All politics is local" - Tip O'Neill

Infrastructure: roads, bridges, railroads, utilities, airports and ports, are the veins and arteries (literally) are the transportation systems that keep our country alive.  Hundreds of millions of Americans depend on them everyday.  Maintaining these infrastructures relies on a a stream of funding from all different sources- taxes (federal, state, local) to tolls and ridership fees.

One key component of major metropolitan cities are their commuter rail or subway systems that ferry people in and out of economic centers. The largest of which, the New York City Subway system, fittingly, operates in the largest city in the USA.  Although the Subway is the largest in terms of size and ridership, the problems experienced by it are mirrored in other aging transit systems across the country- increased ridership, worsening service.

The impressive assessment of NYC Subway, by the NYTimes- How Politics and Bad Decisions Starved New York's Subways is a scathing report of waste and mismanagement.

Now, without going into all the details regarding the disrepair of the system, (one of the oldest and largest in the world), the first few paragraphs struck like a sword-
"Signal problems and car equipment failures occur twice as frequently as a decade ago, but hundreds of mechanic positions have been cut because there is not enough money to pay them — even though the average total compensation for subway managers has grown to nearly $300,000 a year."

"Daily ridership has nearly doubled in the past two decades to 5.7 million, but New York is the only major city in the world with fewer miles of track than it had during World War II. Efforts to add new lines have been hampered by generous agreements with labor unions and private contractors that have inflated construction costs to five times the international average."

Among all the news/noise Americans hear all day, everyday, about current events and the likes, the most subvert situation nobody has challenged effectively are the cost, salaries and compensation of public works projects, workers and their impact on the areas they serve.

Now how is it, that a manager for the MTA (metro transit authority) makes $300k???  the same amount,as a highly trained, licensed, and experienced shipping pilot (captain), who him/herself is unionized too....   Public works and "fare wage" rates have gone through the roof and it's about time somebody stepped up to the mic, assess the problems and hold those accountable. BRAVO New York Times #NYTIMES for a great piece on the nation's most critical transportation system, and it's fleecing by directors, unions, politicians, contractors, and the likes.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Hurricane Alley

As of today, there have already been two Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes and 13 named (Atlantic) storms in total- the official hurricane season doesn't end until November 30th.

"The season is one of only six years to feature at least two Category 5 hurricanes" 

The bulk of the battery from these storms, has been felt by the Caribbean islands, mostly the Leeward Islands and the Bahamas.  Living and growing up in Hurricane Alley, the residents know how devastating these storms are, and what peril they bring.  I have spent much time in the Caribbean, and have a great affinity and kindred spirit for the islands, their people and the culture. My heart goes out to the people of these islands.

Although i've lived along the Atlantic seaboard and Gulf Coast the majority of my life, the most powerful hurricane i've had to endure was Hurricane Bob, in August 1991. Bob was only a Category 2-3 storm and wreaked havoc on North Carolina, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Long Island and Connecticut.

In the wake of Hurricane Bob and the ferocious Hurricane Andrew in 1992 (a Category 5 storm with 175mph winds), which blasted the Bahamas and Florida- Construction/building codes and standards were updated and upgraded across the maritime Atlantic states (and still are) to withstand the brutal impacts of these storms With Miami-Dade county, going so far as to writing their own.

In addition to the obvious destruction- loss of power and water, flooding and general chaos; one thing that blows me away, is how much the Caribbean islands still need proper education and training on wood frame and reinforced concrete construction.  Obviously, high-end construction is built to high standards, but that's because they have to protect their investments.

What i'm talking about, is the wealthy parent countries- like Britain, France, the Netherlands and USA, investing in infrastructure (buildings, roads and utilities), training and materials, to mitigate these disasters; in their overseas playgrounds, these small, autonomous, tourist dependent colonies.  Of these islands, the US territories (Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands) have, by far, the best infrastructure ~ in the Caribbean, that I have witnessed.

'Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.'

Materials, as paltry as a $0.27 - Simpson Strong-Tie H2.5A Hurricane tie, 
can mean the difference between your roof blowing off, or staying on.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Politically speaking

After waking up and seeing the Bloomberg headline yesterday, "Deepening Feud Pushes U.S. and Mexico toward trade war" i took to facebook (pathetic), to rant and vent to my 'Friends'; as if they didn't have better things to read than some diatribe about economics and how NAFTA is important. Albeit in a maniacal, profane rant:
Economics crash course: USA manufacturing is at all time high, skilled manufacturing is and has been understaffed for years. Automation kills jobs too, assholes. If people think that they can just sit back and think that this coked up Messiah is gonna change your lives, you're fucked. Mexico 🇲🇽 is our #3 trading partner, #2 China and #1 Canada

From January 2016, from

I did this, because some people are ignorant and need to wake the fuck up. I know that some people have it rough, but compared to 8-9-10 years ago, i'd say 80-95% of Americans are better off than they were after the Great Recession. But WTF, the government can't do everything for you, we live in a BIG country, one without border walls and one you are free to move around and live wherever you want.
I wrote on twitter (another social media shitstorm), that 30 years ago, kids had paper routes, now nobody reads papers, you don't see former paperboys sitting around, commiserating about getting their jobs back. You need to be able to adapt to the world instead of expecting the world to adapt to you.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

El Faro

The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) released the transcript from the Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) of the SS EL Faro; a cargo ship which sunk at ~7:39 am, October 1, 2015, as it steamed into a rapidly developing Hurricane Joaquin, on it's way to Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville, Florida.

                                                             El Faro in 2008. Peter Ferrary / Flickr

The transcript shows that Captain Michael Davidson repeatedly shot down his junior officer's suggestions and requests to change course, and that Davidson was mired in consternation throughout the trip.

Despite crew questions, El Faro captain steered toward hurricane, transcript shows - Miami Herald

The morning of the tragedy, the captain got back to the bridge, at just after 4 am (after being in his stateroom, since 8 pm the night before).  The ship's capabilities were being tested by Hurricane Joaquin, yet he still downplayed the storm.

Chief mate: "I turned off the off course alarm.  it was going off every five seconds. hearing' it ring- ring- ring- ring."

With the ship and storm on a collision course, cargo was getting compromised, the engineers were trying to balance the ship, maintain the plant and pump out seawater from the holds of the old steamship. After losing propulsion, the ship was at the mercy of 50 foot waves and 140 mph winds.  The SS El Faro, was only 22 miles from the storm center when it sunk.

Once again, the Miami Herald and Florida Times-Union ( do a great job in covering the SS El Faro. The Miami Herald map, below, shows the relationship of the ship's path into Hurricane Joaquin.

Point of no return- Oct. 1 - 1:30 a.m.

As the map above shows, the ship turned towards the hurricane at 1:30 am, but third mate Reihm (3M) says to the helmsman, AB-3, hours before, at 9:19 pm:

21:19:40.3 well right now– we got nowhere to go. you would have to– but later on there's a gap in the chart– you can head south– you know.– it's a good idea to have a– really– ideally– what (you/we) should have is a other alternate– you should have a backup route...

This is the most important conversation of the whole transcript, in my opinion. The "you can head south" bit, is, where I think Reihm is suggesting using the Crooked Islands passage as the "backup route..."

Reihm contacted the captain, in his room, nearly two hrs later:


uhh well it's– the– the– the current forecast has it uhh– max winds um a hundred miles– an hour. at the center.– umm and if I'm lookin' at this right– um– and it's moving at– at two-three-zero at uh five knots. so I assume it stays on that same– moves that same direction for say the next five hours. and uh so it's advancing toward our trackline– and uhh– puts us real close to it. umm you know like– I could be more specific– I could um– plot that out. but it's gunna be like real close (and). and uh– don't know. uh– uh I can give ya a better number and call ya back. we're lookin' a meet it at say like four o'clock in the morning. (you know).

Reihm calls Davidson back a few minutes later after figuring out the tracks of the ship and hurricane:

23:13:38.3 so– at oh–four hundred we'll be twenty-two miles from the center. with uh max one hundred with gusts to one-twenty and strengthening so– the option that we do have– umm from what I can see– is at oh-two hundred we could head south. and that would open it up some– so I mean of course I'd want you to verify what I'm seeing. I do understand you expect us not get into the quadrant dead ahead and (expose) us. just so you know that– that's how that's how close we'll be.– your welcome.

A few hours later, second mate Danielle Randolph, 2M, now in charge of the bridge, called captain Davidson @ 1:20 am to discuss the escalating situation. Although the conversation is not whole, the Captain and second mate (2M) talk on ship's phone (ET) about the ship's course and Danielle says:

2M-ET 01:20:50.3 "– right now my uh– trackline I have zero-two hundred– alter course straight south and then (we'll) * go through all these * shallow areas. umm (and the next) course change (will/gunna) be (through the Bahamas) and then (just gunna) turn * * *."

I think what 2M Randolph is saying is, at 2 am, there is a change course to "straight south", which would send the ship through the Crooked Islands Passage, west of the Crooked islands (see nautical chart above); what 3rd mate Reihm suggested to Capt. Davidson, hours earlier on his watch... But, it seems, she doesn't like that route or is confused as to what course to take (it's unclear), Randolph mentions that the south route will put them over shallows and go through the Bahamas. In reality, the "shallows" she refers to is a commonly used, deep water pass (thousands of feet deep), that would not have added much, if any time to the run and would afforded some protection to the ship from the incoming hurricane.

2M-ET alright I'm gunna adjust course (that) @3M (had/planned) * * *. he wants to (run) * * *. * * *. * * * one-one-six. okay. thank you.

This short, 1.5 minute conversation between Capt. and 2M Randolph was a mind fuck.  I think Reihm kept his southerly track as a "backup route" on the chart plotter, in the hopes of the second mate and captain taking his advice; after he left watch at midnight. This miscommunication between the captain and his officers, was the last order of disconnect that ultimately sealed the crew's fate.

After the call ends, the helmsman (AB-2) and Randolph, discuss the route change. The second mate contradicts herself when asked if they are gonna switch to heading 116.

2M- he said to run it. hooold on to your ass @AB-2. [spoken very loud and dramatically and then the sound of laughter.]
AB-2- he wants to change course to one-one-six?
2M- nope. [sound of laughing.] oh no– that's– that's the original course. that umm– uhh @3M– planned out. that gets us in– into the storm at four o'clock in the morning.
AB-2- so– we're– gunna stay on this course?
2M- with the course change. yeah– the one that you see on the radar.
AB-2- uhh we (want to come to) one-one-six.
2M- yeah. eventually.

Then, a minute later, as if the conversation with the AB-2 didn't just happen, she says- "alright @AB-2- let's start easing it over to one-one-six- nice and slow" You can see on Miami Herald map, where on Oct. 1 - 1:30 a.m., the ship changes direction to the direction of the storm, instead of heading south to the left/west of the Crooked Islands.

It seemed to me, throughout this transcript, the AB: the abled bodied seaman, the helmsman, the ones with decades of experience on the water and the wheel, but low on the totem pole; were the only voice of reason on the bridge during the voyage, in addition to third mate Jeremie Riehm, himself being the lowest ranking deck officer on ship. RIP Sailors.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Apple vs. Adobe Flash

WTF is going on these days? it's 2016 and apple still won't accept Flash and Vice versa. Personally, I think flash sucks, and it's beat, but WTF?!
And since i'm on topic, WTF is up with all these tech companies not working together, to make more seamless communication?! Google, Apple, Microsoft, Adobe,and other belligerents; GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER. "Blah, blah, we're competitors" is their narrative, well idiots, the consumers are gonna pick the ones that work the best.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Kaught looking.

A few weeks ago, a young, emotional, major league pitcher for the Miami Marlins perished, along with two friends. Although speed was most definitely a factor, the vehicle they were in wasn't an exotic European sports car or private jet, it was a 32 foot sport fishing boat.
Here is a great synopsis of that fateful night-

Monday, June 13, 2016

Weather and WIND

For years, the weather game has been getting more complex, with satellites and new weather models giving amazing pictures and data, predicting storms and helping people go about their lives. We can thank the US Government and it's employees for most of this information. Like many US Government agencies/assets, The National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provide invaluable weather and climate data with their DATA gathered from Satellites, Doppler Radar, Ocean weather buoys, and weather stations across the United States and the world.
What is most important to me and many others around the ocean and maritimes, is ACCURATE WIND SPEEDS and wind predictions. The information is out there, but many weather outlets (phone apps and websites) incorporate shoddy data from suspect sources (backyard weather stations), with the reliable, accurate info. All these inaccurate stations do is create noise, and distract from legitimate data.