Sunday, December 31, 2006

And so,
We begin anew.
I've already written about new year's and how we, as a people, arbitrarily choose this as a "time" of new beginnings. Enough about that. Still, it is time, for some, to write resolutions. I, however, prefer to concoct a wish list. So, here are the things I'd like, starting now and for now on:
1. For my children: To be healthy and happy with their lives. To experience the rich life I have enjoyed. To recognize the best in themselves and to use it to give back to the Universe.
2. For my wife, Lady Linda: To be healthy and to enjoy, along with me, grandchildren. To honor herself for her gifts and for what she has done for our little family. To tolerate and love me and, just once in a while, want to jump my bones.
3. For my friends, too many to mention, and you know who you are: To continue to be the wonderful and decent people that you are and to enjoy the rewards of being so. Good health and many happy days on the water or (for non paddling friends) hours filled with the times you enjoy. To experience the richness of soul from a life well lived.
4. For my dog, Ansel: To remain spry in your old age and to maintain your wonderful and gentle disposition. To find wonderful smells on every tree and hydrant. To know your companionship is cherished.
5. For Peter S.: Send me the freakin' boat already.
6. For me: To be of service to my family, friends, community and Universe. To not be a burden to them. To obtain the wisdom to do right and do good deeds. (And, maybe, to digress a little less...but I digress).

What the hell, might as well shoot for the moon. Happy new year, good health and (just maybe this year) peace.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Today's picture tells today's story
jos (you will have to click on th eDec 30th pic when you get there)
Let me explain. Greg and I headed for Bradford beach yesterday. There was a mild easterly (onshore) wind, and I expected a pleasant paddle. During the trip down, I was able to get a glimpse of the lake between the homes on the cliffs. It looked fairly calm. There weren't even any white caps. I had fail led to consider some of the other factors effecting water, i.e., fetch and shallows.
Arriving at the beach, we found the surf line to be about 3x further from shore than usual. No problem. Helmet on, off we go. A few hundred yards off shore, we found ourselves in 4 footers. No problem with that. They were breaking and some were dumping. No problem there. And, they were coming close together and from every direction. That could be a problem.
We went back into the shallows to play in the smaller waves, mostly taking them on the beam and staying up with an edge and an occasional brace. I was aware of two photographers on shore and wondered if they were getting any cool pics of us. I had, in fact, once before ended up on the front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
My day began with an acute onset of reality when I opened an e mail from JB to our Milwaukee paddling group. It directed us to the link above and, sadly, to the image the photog had chosen to use. As I have no permission to post the pic, I have given the link...JOS...above to click on. Be aware that it is for today's date only.
Paddle safe...

Friday, December 29, 2006

New Directions?As the year draws to an end, folks are planning new year's parties and getting set to write new year's resolutions. The thing is that the start of the "new year" is a rather man-made and arbitrary way to keep track of something called time. It seems we, as humans, have a need to measure such things. So, we calculate the revolutions of the earth around the sun and make calendars and, for whatever reason, designate a day "one" and call it special.
We use the impetus of such a "special" day to declare it a time of new beginnings. This is when we declare that we will turn over a new leaf, quit a bad habit, start a good habit and, in general, finally get down to living our authentic lives. The thing is, the choice to make these changes is available to us on a daily basis and, if we were clear about our desire to make such a change, we could act now...whenever now is.
Ah, but the flesh is weak and, a year later, we still smoke, don't exercise and haven't lost a pound (probably gained a few...but I digress). We are, in the end, who we always were and who we have chosen to be. Does that mean we are stuck in our present form forever? I think not.
I have seen enormous changes in myself over my life time. Some have occurred over a period of years while others seem to have come about in an instant. Now and then, there have been life-changing experiences that have caused the old-me to die and the new-me to appear. It's sort of like the hard working author who says, "It only took me 40 years to become an over night success."
In any event, I wish you well with your resolutions and caution you about your expectations. Maybe it would be better for all of us if, instead of making resolutions, we took an inventory of the good qualities (our gold) that we some how fail to honor.
Paddle safe...
Mr. Googles crappy site doesn't upload pics again today. I am going paddling.
Paddle safe...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hey, Mate. Might you be coming or going?Yesterday, Derrick posted a wonderful and thoughtful blog on his upcoming Tour De Force around Puerto Rico. In it, he muses about the old quandary of whether it is the journey or the destination that calls and considers many things that draw paddlers out onto the open water. I am guessing most of us have entertained these thoughts in private. I also am guessing that many of us have, at one time or another, contemplated a long journey...and never took it.

I know that during my sailing days I was always making my 42-foot cutter ready for that trans oceanic trip...which I never took. I would go out onto Lake Michigan when no one else was leaving their slips, and I'd do it single handed...the way I would cross the ocean. I was constantly adjusting this and tuning that and reading catalogues to see what goodies could be added to my little ship. To be sure, boats like her (Hans Christian 42) are sailing the Pacific as we speak. In the end, I never went further than the confines of the lake. When the time came (a physical problem...but I digress), I sold her and moved on. I became one of the majority of sailors who think about and never take that long trip.

For us, I suspect, the journey was the planning and the dreaming and that there was no destination in mind or worth seeking. For some, there was lack of time, money and opportunity. For many, however, I believe the dreaming and "practicing" was enough and that right here was, in the final analysis, a better (safer?) place than out there spending endless days alone.

So, we take mini adventures in our kayaks. We drive somewhere not far away in order to launch and land at a new place. We do an all-dayer, packing a lunch to eat ashore in an unfamiliar place. Sometimes it is a matter of going out from the same old launch site but into more threatening seas. In the end, it is to touch the need in us to take risk, however small, and to conquer our fears.

Others never go, I suspect, because here is better than anywhere else they can imagine being. In the end, I wonder if those that do go are going toward something or getting away from something. No matter if the trip fulfills that need, and I wish each of them well.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Getting back my perspectiveI am a very focused individual...and a creature of habit. When I get into something, I am so focused and intense that I can miss a dragon walking through the room. I also run a lot on auto pilot and don't recall doing something after completing a task. Any interruption in my routine requires me to consciously track what I am doing.

Here I sit freshly back from a wonderful visit with my daughter and son in law. It was joyful and satisfying, and it was a change in my routine. Ending it with an airplane flight didn't help. Then I was picked up (not literally, but by car...but I digress) by daughter #2 and my son-in-law-to-be. "Suddenly", I was home and back into my routine...but I wasn't.

My routine had been changed, interrupted for a few days, and it would take awhile to get back into it. Well, I am back to my usual sleeping and eating and walking Ansel routine, yet something isn't quite right yet. I am, it seems, in withdrawal. I haven't been in a boat since before the drive-visit-trip to Cincinnati. I must go down to the sea again.

As I write this, I have e mails out to round up the usual suspects, and I hope to be on the water by this afternoon. Then, deep in my bones, I will be back.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The shapes of things to comeAs this year draws to an end, I marvel at what has happened in the recent past and wonder about what awaits us in the new year. Kayaks have gone from skin on frame to plastic, to fiber glass, to Kevlar, to carbon, to roto mold, to racers, to skates and there is more to soon come off the production line.

Paddles have gone from wood, to fiber glass, to carbon to wing, to adjustable, to costs beyond one's imagination. Progress, more or less.

ACA and BCU are still two separate entities with petty differences and each with hard fast dictums of little use when the hull hits the waves. One can still paddle in shorts and shirt or invest a life time of savings in all sorts of goodies.

At the end of the day, getting out on the water, be it lake, pond or rapids is still what it is all about. The new boats are neat, and I still like rolling around in a skin on frame using a Greenland style stick...both designs being thousands of years old.

Aside from kayaking, we end the year still at war (this is a given in modern civilization...but I digress), political ideologs on both sides are name-calling, natural disasters still conquer modern cities and taxes (stated and hidden, alike) take a chuck of my change.

As usual, network TV is banal, music is louder, lyrics are offensive and some fashions are inexplicable.

Still, I continue to enjoy wonderful friendships, connection to family and service to others. Those are the things I can control. They also happen to be the things most important to me. I need no more and only ask (for myself) the wisdom to do good stuff. I leave the rest for you to fix...if you care to.

Paddle safe...

Monday, December 25, 2006

You know you're old when... find references to yourself in a museum, like the one above at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. My daughter and her husband brought me here for a visit, and I found what I expected to find, but I didn't expect to feel the way I did about it. I looked for, and easily found, the 2-seater Wild Weasel version of the F-105 in which I flew in SE Asia in 1967-68.But then I began finding the flight suits I wore and the patches, one (the squadron bulldog patch of the 354th) and the 100-mission patches, the pursuit of which got some of my guys killed and some a room in the Hanoi Hilton.

I was, suddenly, remembering the war. Then, it got strangely real for me. There was Chris Martin, the Chaplain with whom I'd served. And...oh heavens...Sparkie, who flew with our sister squadron, the 355th. I knew these men. I lived with these men. I experienced war with these men. (Sparkie made Colonel eventually, and you can see him on the Discovery Military channel if you catch their episode of Wild Weasels. It shows combat footage of my guys along with an overdue, tell-it-like-it-was version of how the then President and McNamara got us killed for nothing...and that digression felt good).

All around us, through 3 massive hangers, we found everything from the Wright Brothers' plane to missiles. All around me I saw the magnificence we've achieved in the art of air war. And, I looked at the enormous price tags on each plane knowing it represented the cheapest cost we paid.

Peach on earth...what do you say?

Paddle safe...


Sunday, December 24, 2006

I haven't seen everything...yet

(but I just got a whole lot closer)

Among our fondest mythologies and stories, is the coming of St.Nicholas. This time of year, children around the world await his arrival for he brings good cheer and gifts. Over the years, and depending on time and culture, Santa's method of getting his bag of goodies from the sleigh to under the Christmas tree has evolved. In our culture, today, it is well documented by double blind studies (funded by the toy industry....but I digress) that the jolly fellow comes down the chimney. Never mind the huge number of homes without fire places. This is his story, and he is sticking with it...up until now.
A Silbs Blog Exclusive: I made this less-than-sharp photo journalistic coup last night in down town Cincinnati. I stood out in the windy and cold weather so that my readers would be first to see and know of the quantum change in an old story. As you can see from the photo: SANTA REPELS DOWN THE SIDES OF BUILDINGS ALONG WITH HIS ELVES! And, lest you think that this is a photoshop event, here is a picture showing the entire gestalt:

Need more proof? Want to talk to someone who was there, even part of it? Then, talk to this guy, Scott, who worked one of the spotlights that illuminated this coming of Santa. And, in case you think you can't believe him (either), think again. The man is my son in law.

For those of you who still refuse to believe: Kentucky is just across the river where there is no shortage of coal for your stocking.


Paddle safe...


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Where is this , anyway?As the miles slipped by between Milwaukee and Ohio, I noticed again how the interstate system looks the same where ever I go. In fact, I notice how the cities and villages, too, have lost the uniqueness of their areas. It once was that you could tell where you were by the look of the homes and the landscapes around them. Then, as we cemented over more and more of the country and cities grew larger and larger, the big boys with their big box stores multiplied like bunnies and erased any local characteristics left. Something important, to me, was lost.

So it doesn't matter where this book store is (it is in Ohio). It looks like every other one of its kind across the country. Even the books inside are 99% the same in every store. After a while, one has to wonder if it makes any difference where they themselves are.

Well, that does make a difference to me. This is where my older daughter and her husband live. This is where my grandchild is germinating. This is where they are buying a home. This place, therefore, is important to me. It is different than any other place on earth to me. So, in keeping with that thinking, I had to find something else unique here, something that said, "You are here, not in Milwaukee, but here...and no where else." So I found such a place.The beer was cold and the sandwhiches delicious.

Paddle safe...

Friday, December 22, 2006

No Blog

I am tavelling and am now in Ohio. After I settle in, I will try to get my own laptop on line and get something out. Meanwhile...

Paddle safe...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What a difference a day makes
with thanks to GaryLearning, at least skill learning for me, comes step-wise rather than gradually. I will work on a skill by visualizing it, doing it slowly and practicing it over and over. I often am frustrated when it doesn't work. Then, one day, it comes together and seems easy and obvious.
The day before yesterday, I was at Gary Simon's house discussing (as we usually do) the forward stroke. When I began kayaking I was told (and I tell my students...but I digress) that one learns the forward stroke in one day and then spends forever perfecting it. There is no greater devotee to the study of the forward stroke that I know than Gary. In any event, he was excited about having reached one of his Holy-Grail-steps by burying the blade quicly enough to meet his standards. He described what he was doing, showed me one of his DVDs (The Kayak Forward Stroke from and took me to his work out room in the basement where he has a Concept II rowing machine with the kayak paddling adaptor.
The next day (yesterday), I went onto Lake Michigan and (having reviewed the dvd at home) applied, one by one, the points I deemed essential to improving my stroke. That was when it came together and the magic happened. I began with being sure my arm was straight before planting the blade. I shortened my stroke and did not let my pulling arm bend past 90 degrees. I made sure that the top arm remained bent until it was time to lift the blade out. My body rotation, as always, was excellent. My little Romany took off and would not slow down. Even when I went to a relaxed cadence with a lower angle suitable for touring, the boat stayed at hull speed. For the first time I really felt myself pulling the boat through the water. Best of all, I felt, for the first time since starting kayaking, that I was in the same aerobic groove I knew as a long distance runner. Joy.
My next goal is to paddle in Carnigie Hall, so I must practice, practice, practice.
Paddle safe...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

All in the Family
(with apologies to the t.v. show)

There is something unique and a lot the same about the dogs we make part of our famalies. They all do a good job of seeming to be glad to see us when we've been away for a while. We must remember, of course, that these loyal pals don't have apposable thumbs and cannot work the can opener. But, aside from their dependence on us, they have been bred over the decades to be our unquestioning friends.

They all (for the most part) get excited when someone comes to the door. They all use a fore paw to encourage us to scratch them, especially if we try to stop. But, what is more interesting, at least to me, is how they differ in their personalities. Some of this is apparently breed-specific and some is just a reflection of their personalities.

Sir Ansel, who dwells in the house of Silbs, is a gentle and passive soul. He scares the hell out of people when he barks with enthusiasm at their appearance at our door. What they don't realize is that this over sized baby is agog that someone has come to see him...perchance to play. In spite of being 8 years old, he still likes to burrow into the snow and stay put. When the occaission arises, however, he can run like the wind.

A bit stubborn, he is the love slave of my daughter, Tammy, whose commands he follows without hesitation. Another of his behaviors is that he "purrs" when hugged and stroked. At least he vocalizes sounds that convey the idea of feeling loved and content. Then, there is his cousin (Tammy's dog...actually, one of her dogs...but I digress), Simon.

A pure-bread bull dog, he can only be described as a rascal. When he and his step brother, Milo, are here, a playful brawl usually ensues. Ansel and Milo (who will require an entire post to describe) get into it while Simon climbs onto a foot stool. When the action is just right, Simon will leap into the fray only to be tossed out and sent tumbling as he tries to get his stubby legs beneath himself. Then, it is back onto the stool for another jumb. It is a scene right of The Road Runner. You cannot lose hm in the house since his breathing and slobbering is audible for miles.

A few months back, we thought we might lose him. He was constantly vomitting and wasn't keeping food down. X rays and other tests (that aren't free) were all negative. Afraid to leave him alone, Tammy left him with us one day when she had to go to work. Sure enough, he soon started gagging and trying to vomit. Lady Linda watched (which is unusual considering her gag reflex) and noticed something just at the tip of Simon's tongue. With great courage, she grabbed it and extracted an intact thong. Instant cure. He is now, of course, in therapy.

Here's to man's, woman's and child's best friends

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Eye of the beholder
Graffiti, an art form that is under appreciated and disrepectful of property...all at the same time. A product of folks called taggers, these works often demonstrate unique and bold techniques. Some, I am told, have underying messages, sometimes relating to gang activity. Still, with their bold colors and imaginative executions, I find many of these works better than the crap in our otherwise spectacular Milwaukee Art Center (someone there needs to say, "The Emporor has no clothes."...but I digress).
Some of these artists have actually had "legit" shows in which they have been able to demonstrate their talents. Others, unfortunately, just mess up other people's property.
Still, nature and the law of physics has, in my experience, often surpased these man-made works. Working slowly, and always within the laws of the Universe, these forces have often combined erosion, seepage and other suptle, slow-moving, forces to produce art that (like the taggers') is better than some of the stuff on the canvasas hung by the "experts".

Paddle safe...


Monday, December 18, 2006

Work Ethic

I grew up in a home in which my Dad had usually left for work before I awoke. Until I was old enough to help him (he was self-employed...but I digress), I didn't see him until just about supper time when I would hear his truck pulling into the garage. Sunshine or snow, well and ill, he never missed a day of work.

I must have learned a lesson by example because I, too, have worked my entire adult life (until retirement...another digression). I have worked picking up trash in parks, checking feet at a swimming pool, being a medic for the late shift at a factory, running ice cream carts in the summer...and so on. I worked part time all through college. On weekends, I made some bread with my quartet playing for weddings and sweet sixteen parties. I was able to pay for medical school by being a house fellow. After graduation came the military, then residency, then practice and a life of day, night, weekend and holiday work.

Each of my daughters, when they approached their teens, went out and got part time jobs. We never told them to do so or even suggested it. They did it on their own and were justifiably proud when they got a pay check. Anyway, I thought of this this morning when I went to take my youngest to work (she is without a car temporarily...but I digress for a record third time). I had to be up by 4 am to get her at 5 and to work by 5:30. As it turned out, she had been up most of the night with a hacking cough. In spite of that, and the fact she is prone to asthma, she was ready on time and showed up.

Showing up, that's the thing. Neither sleet nor hacking cough, those of us with a work ethic show up when we are expected to, and others come to rely on us. That is one small way in which we become valuable to this world. And, I guess, we learn it from out fathers/mothers. We learn it not as one learns from a classroom lecture but, rather, we learn it by seeing it modeled for us. We learn it by example. I will not belabor the obvious question as to how a child brought up in a home in which there is not a working parent learns the importance and value of work? Perhaps I will ponder that later today as I...

Paddle safe...


Sunday, December 17, 2006

BS...Squared, and The Liquid Gym

Here, in the local area, is a kayak club called The Badgerland State Boating Society or BSBS or BS Squared. Consisting of mostly white water devotees, many of us sea kayakers belong, and we do so for one common reason: the pool sessions.

Around here, winter sea kayaking is mostly done in freezing waters with all sorts of sub-comfy air temps. How, then, can one resist the opportunity to practice rolling, braces and rescues in warm waters that are crystal clear?...especially in the one place to paddle where you finish up smelling better than when you went in. Pure joy. Yet, there is, for me, another big plus to using this indoor gym.

Ever since loosing most of my left quadricept muscle on the left and having to give up long distance running, I have struggled to find an aerobic arena in which to excercise. I am, just now, delving into aerobic paddling with the help of Gary Simon, our local racing/excercise/ paddling guru. Still, steady paddling does not seem to achieve the heart rates desired for fitness training. Besides, what about strenght exercises? Well, everybody into the pool.

After two hours of constantly rolling, sculling and rescuing, I was feeling aches in places where I had forgotten muscles resided. They were those "pleasant" aches that tell me I had had a good workout and should take Vitamin I (i.e. Ibufuran/Advil) first chance I had. I did, then slept a solid 8.5 hours and actually felt only mildly (and pleasantly) stiff this morning. More pure joy.

I am seeing more and more of my old friends' names in the paper lately, mostly on the obituary page. I am, therefore, grateful for the mild aches that, if nothing else, let me know (and feel) alive.

And, I didn't (until now) digress once.

Whether on the lake or in a pool...
Paddle safe...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Man
I never knew his name. My entire "contact" with him was, maybe, 30 seconds. Then, I moved on.
It was during a trip to Israel, and we were in Jerusalem near the Arab quater. I had my old (and first...but I digress) digital camera and was no yet fluent in its use. As we walked along, I saw this man up ahead. He was sitting there and, as you can see, eating some bread. His face wreaked of character, and I knew I wanted to photograph him. But should I?
I didn't know if he was an Israeli, a Palestinian or an Arab-Israeli. I didn't know if he was rich or poor or whether or not he would take offense if I pointed a camera at him. I kept approaching until there came the moment when I was in front of him. It was now or miss the picture. He was still looking down at his food. I brought up the camera, happy that he did not seem to notice me. I could grab the shot and be off walking in seconds.
The old Minolta was not a SLR, and it didn't focus as fast as today's digitals so, it took a second or two until everything was clear in the view finder. At that very instant, as I was about to take his picture, the man looked straight into my lens. I froze and did not breathe.
His expression was inscrutable. Was he angry? Did I see a hint of amusement? I didn't know. Everything in me screamed put down the camera and get moving. But I couldn't. I was held captive by that face. I was nearlly half way around the world from home, and this moment would never occur again. I pressed the shutter release, and continued to hold my breathe. What would he do?
He continued to stare for a few seconds, then looked back down at his bread and went on eating. The non-event, for him, seemed to be over. I exhaled, turned quickly and walked off with the knowledge that I had captured one of those once-in-a-lifetime shots.
Paddle safe...

Friday, December 15, 2006

Lame Lunacy

There are so many of them, and you hear them so often. I speak, of course, of referrences to the little natural sattelite that reflects the sun, stabilizes our earth on its axis, causes the tides and is the source of blue cheese.

There is, of course, lunacy, a misconstrued concept that exposure to a full moon produces crazy phenomena down here (statistics do not bear this out, but I digress). And there has to be a kazillion songs about this little piece of stellar real estate. I bet I've been in bands playing Moonlight Seranade a million times (exaggeration for emphasis, but I digress again). I also bet that some of you have initiated intimate acts while under the spell of the glow of a full moon.

The lexicon goes on and on about this little orb. One can moon another, although the source of this expression has never been clear to me. The moon, after all, does not have a visible canyon designating a vertical equator running from pole to pole.

The brightness of the moon is the same as earth during bright sunlight. In fact, to photograh it, one must use the same settings as taking a picture in bright sunlight.

Just at moonrise, on the night of a fool moon, the thing appears huge as it peeks above the horizon, an optical illusion that provides for a magnificent backround for paddling.

Still, at the end of the day, the first prize goes to Robin Williams who, in a shakesperian voice once proclaimed, " The moon, like a testicle, hangs low in the sky."

Paddle safe...


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Check it outUp early with a fun day ahead of me. Before having lunch with the folks from the office in which I used to practice, I am meeting my old partner at the Heart Hospital for a stress test. It is just a check to be sure I don't have silent ischemia.

At the risk of turning this into a medical advise column, let me tell you that as high as 40% of people with significant coronary blockage do not feel angina when their hearts are not getting adequate blood. This is especially true for diabetics (who are like everyone else, only more so...but I digress). As a diagnostic tool, the stress test is otherwise pretty useless (unless you are at risk) since the degree of blockage in a coronary artery is no predictor for getting a heart attack.

As it turns out, it is the quality of the blockage, that is, how likely it is to rupture, cause a clot and bring on a heart attack that determines when youwill grasp your chest and slam your face into the floor. Evaluation and treatment of this gets into cholesterol fractions and particle sizes, an area in which I enjoyed great preventative success. Now to the point.

Although this knowledge is fairlly well worked out and has been around for awhile, it is sorely under utilized...even by many cardiologists. You see, during those "successful" years in preventive cardiology, I made about $0.00 since I spent too much time with patients and never got paid enough to cover overhead. So, we continue to spend tens of thousands of dollars on angioplasties and bypasses (and say we saved a life), putting out fires that could have been prevented.
(Going on a rant...a service of this blog...and you never know what it will be about)

Paddle safe...

Check it out

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What's going on here?
The woman in this picture:
a, Just learned of the death of a family member
b, Just won the lottery
c, Just left the confessional and feels the joy of relief
d, Just learned that the girl she is hugging is engaged
e, Is a model hired for this photo shoot
f, a and d
g, b and c
i, I don't know
j, I don't care
I recall one year at the Wisconsin State Fair when I saw a guy selling books. I picked up one entitled, Everything I've learned about women. The author was Albert Einstein, and every page in the book was blank. Am I seeing some nods out there?
I used to understand women, but after 30 years of marriage and living with two daughters, I'm not so sure. In any event, this theme (which I've addressed before...but I digress) popped into my mind as I woke this morning. I'd slept in (to 7 AM) and, when I looked out the window, was greeted by what looked like a 4 AM blahish scene. Still, it is warm (40 F.), and I will paddle later today.
The point of all this? None, absolutely none; and, if that makes you angry or uncomfortable, I invite you to look at that little character flaw. Hey, maybe you know as much about men as you do about women....your welcome.
(d is the correct answer, i and j are acceptable answers, as well)
Paddle safe...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What's he up to?It was after paddling out of South Milwaukee at the end of Grant park, and I was driving home. I chose to go through the park to enjoy its scenery when I noticed this fellow acting in a way that was, at least to me, a bit strange. I'm no Martk Trail type, and I don't hunt. So I am not heavily into deer psychopathology.

He would trot a few feet, then lower his head, trot and so on. Watching him (I had stopped the car by now...but I digress), it occured to me that he was tracking something by smell, just as I've seen my dog, Ansel, do. But what? Deer aren't, to the best of my knowledge, carnivorous, and plants (also to the best of myknowledge, but I never took botany...but I digress again), don't leave trails. I soon became worried that he was sick with that deer-brain disease we have in Wisconsin.

As I drove off, I wondered if I should notify the officials--the official what I don't know. Then I came around a little curve, and there they were, a lovely bunch of does. Look back at the picture, and you will see it. The guy was just horny.

(With apologies to punsters around the world)

Paddle safe...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Daddy is happyI have done many many things so far in life and have been to a place or two. I still do lots of things and will probably still see a new spot now and then. In all of this, I have learned to derive pleasure (the soul-satisfying type, not of-the-flesh-kind...but I digress) from many sources.

There have been the excitement-pleasures such as executing a perfect Uchi Mata on the center mat of a huge Judo tournament or flying upside down 300 feet above the jungle at 400 knots. On the other hand, there have been the quiet pleasures such as sitting 35 feet away while Count Basie and an army of skilled artists set my toes and heart beating to the sounds of their jazz.

My Mother, rest her soul, once told me that I would never know what it was like to be a man until I held my own child (I hope to be referring to that time in a future blog in May...but I digress...again). What she didn't tell me was what it would be like to feel great joy simply by watching my children experiencing their own happiness.

I felt that joy when daughter #1 got married. I feel it again, now when daughter #2 has found a man who makes her happy. Such are the simple pleasures in life. I hope you are happy too, and I hope you will...

Paddle safe...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Young guys teaching
Old guys teaching
Young guys
new tricksThis will only make sense if you have read or first read yesterday's post and Alex's response

Alex, you are right, and I would never question your business knowledge, your temporal calculations and your ability to do a sweep roll. Having said that, I have referred your reply to the Dean of the Wharton School of Business, and he has replied as follows:

Dear Silbs, thank you for your letter. As you know, I am a huge fan of your blog, Silbs Says, and welcome the opportunity to participate in it. Your young friend, Alex (who you tell me is a fine fellow and is very talented and bright...but, Silbs, I digress) is, of course correct in what he has calculated and written. But, alas, his lack of experience shows through.

To be sure, based on time and price only, gas is relatively cheap compared to the wonderful times you referred to in your posting. There is, however, more to it, not the least of which is the fact that young people sometimes fail to appreciate the warmth and joy of a well written nostalgia piece such as yours.

Still, there is more to it than just bringing the price of the fuel into 2006 prices. There is the cost of labor. Alex, presuming he gives a rat's patoot about his vehicle, must get out of the car, check his own oil and check all four tires plus the spare for air pressure. This time must be accounted for based on today's minimum wage. Then there is the very act of getting in and out of the car and the wear and tear it puts on the seat covers and the door hinges. In a similar way, Alex needs to prorate the cost of his clothes (including shoes) during these tasks since they are now part of the cost of obtaining gas.

Harder to assess, but just as important, is the mental stress, the weakening of the immune system and any resulting medical expenses (compare those prices to 1950 my little Inuit Wannabee).

Then, there is the incalculable loss of time from thinking about his work while sitting in the car and letting someone else do the mundane labor.

Last, and not least, is the cost of a map these days,, a map that would have been free. I won't pile on the free glass you often could have gotten back then since this already brings the current price of gas up to a real cost of $23.42 per gallon.

Thanks again, Silbs, for letting me join you in battle...etc, etc.

Paddle safe..

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Gas PainsIt was yesterday.
It was actually the 1950's, and they justifiably called them service stations. You drove in with your car and stopped next to the pump. Did I say car? If you're younger than, say, 50, you don't realize what that means.
It meant a solid, heavy metal tank with seat covers and a little triangular window on the door. That little window, placed just ahead of where the side window is now days, could be opened and turned to direct a torrent of wind onto the hot driver. This was a good thing as there were no air conditioners in cars back then. Of course, opening that window screwed up the aerodynamics of the beast. No matter, gas was 25 cents a gallon. But I've digressed...and I won't even go into the size of the back seat (can you say king-sized bed?).
You'd drive up to the pump, and an attendant would immediately appear. Usually two. With a nonchalance of a millionaire in a thrift shop, you'd say, "Fill 'er up." You were confident because you had a fiver in your pocket and would be leaving with change...and, often, a free glass. Need a map? Help yourself...they're free.
While one guy filled your tank (no automatic turn off, you had to hold it all the while it filled...and, I digress again), another guy (sometimes a third, as well), checked your oil (showing you the dip stick in the process), checked the air in your tires and washed all the windows. And you? You never left the car. They brought you your change, and you drove off.
It's different now. Is it better? That's for you to decide. Besides, if you're too young, you haven't believed a word I've written here. I swear it's true.
Paddle safe...

Friday, December 08, 2006

With apologies to
Oprah and Mr. PulitzerI thank my dear friend Erich Moraine for gifting me this book which, to the best of my knowledge, is pronounced Fake Tan. An interesting title for a "travel guide", don't you thing? (It is published by Chronicle Books...but I digress).
I had not heard of this country and, since I'd lived for a year in Thailand and traveled SE Asia, that got my attenae up. Then I looked at a map in this book to discover that the country contained some interesting names of cities, such as Bumpattabumpah and Sukkondat. Hmm.
The front cover opens and unfolds to show a portrait of the King and Queen which is said to have been painted "...on the occasion of their country's 25th unsuccessful Royal Coup attempt." It only gets funnier from there.
There are photos of folks identified as "contributors" along with little bios. One gal, with the title "Dr.", "...was in charge of prove reading this book." (No, I copied it just as it is in the book). Another gal, was reported as having written another book, Fine Dining in PHaic Tan, which "...won a Global Traveller award for 'Best Work of Fiction.' "
It goes on and on like this with pictures (some of places I recognize and which had different names when I was there...but I digress again) and helpful hints. An example is a tip about a certain area where a resturant might advertise having a string quartet. The book warns that "...this ensemble will traditionallly consists of a banjo, two ukeleles and a yo-yo."
Go broaden your mind and read a good book this winter. And...
Paddle safe...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Getting along with the old man
(or not)

It's a paradox. I've always preferred cooler weather to hot weather. With the former I can always don a sweater and be comfy, but hot and sweaty conditions require retreat to an air conditioned area. I say it is a paradox because I really don't like cold.

I've never tolerated the cold well until I began sea kayaking. That was when, for the first time, I followed the advise to layer with proper materials and cover with fleece. Once I was onto the great cotton conspiracy, I found myself going onto the lake in all sorts of weather. My other issue with the cold has always been my hands.

Nothing keeps my hands warm in winter. On the water, 3.5mm mittens do the job. Still, all winter I suffer painful cracks on some finger and thumb tips (I use Aquaphor with some benefit...but I digress). In addition, my skin is dry all winter, a conditioned further aggravated by the city's chlorinated water. So, Old Man Winter and I have a love-hate relationship.

Then I read things like Michael's blog, A Canadian Sea Kayaker ( and am greeted by his heading that says he looks for wild places, the wilder the better. I am intrigued. I read on.

He is dog sleding...and seal hunting....with Inuits. The man is living the life from which our sport is born. I am intrigued and learn much from his posts. But, Michael, the cold. I have to wear long underwear and an extra layer of fleece just to look at your pictures.

Then I walk out of my garage and understand what is going on when my in laws tell me there are a lot of Canadians down there in Florida right now.

P.S. Thanks, Mr. Google, the pics went up nicely.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

They're sorry.
(imagine a picture here)

"Sorry doesn't cut it." Ever hear that statement before? Of course you have. And "sorry" sometimes doesn't cut it. I back up my car and park on your chest. "Sorry" just doesn't cut it.

You are doing a paddle self-rescue when your paddling buddy rams his boat into you and breaks your paddle, your boat and your ribs. "Sorry" won't make everything okay. Sometimes, something more is required. Sometimes, "sorry" needs to be accompanied by amends (called a make up in men's work...but I digress).

Now, making such amends can, if done improperly, make the original sin worse. For example, "I am sorry I parked on your chest. Here, take this $20 bill." Not a good plan. Or, as you drive your buddy home from the emergency room, "Sorry about the ribs and paddle, Dude. Next time we have beers, they're on me."

The offer of amends is not to undo the wrong, that's not possible. It is, rather, a way to "make up" for what you've done and to, with a small act of kindness, get back with the other person. So, maybe, "I am sorry, and I would like to come over and bring you super tonight" (since it is hard to cook in a body cast...this is unspoken...but I digress). Sure, the other person can sue you for a million bucks, but you were friends before, you didn't intentionally act like a stupid ass and you want to remain friends. So you offer this small act of kindness. What does the injured party do?

They accept it, and let go of any anger over the whole affair. Why? Because of the reasons given above for offering the act in the first place. To say, "No, Screw you. I am ticked at you," is to prevent your friendship from healing and, in a very real way, to punish the person for hurting you. If that, in fact, is the way you feel about it, you need to say so up front. Something like, "I am angry about you parking on my chest/ramming my boat. It feels like you aren't a safe person with whom to be, and that scares me. I can't trust you any more." Then, tell the other what you want.

Maybe you want him/her out of your life. Perhaps you want them to take those lessons they never took. What ever. The point is that you are being upfront and not petty with your anger.

So, Mr. Google, I am frustrated and angry that I couldn't upload my pictures this morning. I am afraid to rely on you. It feels like I cannot trust you and that you don't know what the hell you are doing. What I would ask of you is to fix this recurring problem once and for all.

And, because in my heart of hearts I know he is a decent guy, I can hear Mr. Google saying, "Thank you Silbs. I will look into it and do everything I can to make it work."

That's all I ask.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Never say Never About a year ago, I taught an Anatomy and Physiology course at a local college. I put a lot of effort into it and was as creative as I could be in presenting the material. Still, the majority of the class either dropped out along the way or failled to pass. There were no A grades.
The student body of this school is drawn, in large part, from a poplulation in which the parents have no education beyond high school, if that. These young people have had, in almost all cases, no exposure to science. More over, they have not had anything happen in their lives that would lead them to believe in themselves or their ability to learn the material. In fact, they told me at the first class meeting that by midterm half of them would be gone. That had been their experience with education at that level.
Unlike their English and Math courses, where one can study and come to understand the material, my course (by necessity) required the learning of facts, one after the other. That's true, at least, of the anatomy part. This is the heart, this is the left foot, etc.. Physiology, on the other hand, consists of the same process plus understanding how things work. In any event, it was too overwhelming for most of them (I had a dean sit in on my classes so I could be sure it wasn't the way I was wasn't...but I digress).
My point here is that (I believe) these fine folks arrived on day one with the belief, I can never learn this stuff. Kind of how a lot of us felt after our first rolling lesson...but I digress...again. In any event, at the end of the course I decided I would never teach there again.
Now, involved in a mentoring program with high school students, I am seeing the best and the brightest of the kids in the neighborhood where I grew up. When I talk with them I find myself exchanging ideas with quick minds that are adept at grasping new ideas. I see a group with a positive attitude, something I've come to learn that they learned at home. And, after meeting their parents, I see how they grew up that way...even though the parents, themselves, have no advanced education.
It occurs to me that there must be a way to bring that pool of college kids around to a place in which they at least believe they can learn something new. There must be a way to guide them and encourage them to a place of confidence. There has to be a way to help them succeed. Hell, even I learned to roll. I also believe that at least part of what they need is an understanding and empathic teacher who is willing to search, along with them, for a way to turn on that little light upstairs and ignite the flame.
My class will be held Wednesday nights starting the second week in January.
Paddle safe...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Are you playing with a
Full Deck?
(Back to basics)

Two Romany's ready to go out onto Lake Michigan. Two able paddlers, one a certified instructor. Both have essentially identical equipment. The main difference is that the boat on the left (owned and manned by the instructor) has its splits (spare paddle) on the foredeck while the boat on the right has them on the aft deck. Does it make a difference? I think it does.

Like tipping over, losing a paddle is most likely to occur in adverse conditions. In such a state, with the seas and wind buffeting your boat, how can one hope to turn around enough to retrieve the paddles on the rear deck? In addition, should a wet exit occur, a paddle float reentry would necessitate climbing onto those paddles and incur the risk of getting the pfd or something else dangling from your body caught. Not a good thing, especially in bad conditions.

Paddles kept on the foredeck, on the other hand, are visible. You know they are there and you know if they are working loose. They are also reachable, not only while sitting upright but when inverted. It is worth practicing for the time when you tip over, lose your paddle and pull one of the splits off to use to roll up (that's what pool sessions are for...but I digress). Finally, the rear deck is clean and safe for any and all reentry attempts. Above all, there is no obstruction to seeing all the cool decals you have back there. Just another thing to consider if you wish to

Paddle safe...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Damn that Derrick
(A brief treaste on victimhood)

I shouldn't complain. After all, I knew it was coming because he had shown it to me yesterday. But that was yesterday, and I am sitting here now. I am sitting here now feeling like it is a great day to hunker under the covers (I've already slept later than usual, but I digress), eat fatty stomach-filling meals and not have to do anything. That would work because right now I feel as creative as an Amish dress designer.

It's sunday, chill factor 0 degrees and no one (especially me) is paddling. I have nothing planned. One part of me is thinking about how to pay or another wedding in October while another part whispers "Go with bankruptcy." I am willing, at least for today, to play the victim. The world should go easy on me today.

So, what does Derrick do (he of the old He changes the name of his site. Wait, he doesn't just change it, he changes it to a brilliant new concept. I'd tell you the name,but can't spell the Q word...and has an excellent graphic...and then piles it on with a sensational tag line. That's what happens when an average guy from a small town does his first DVD cover. You can still call up his site at the old address and, if you apprciate creative and mysterious ideas, I recommend you do.

So congradulations and thanks a lot for doing it today, Derrick. Hey, it's alright, don't worry about me, I'll be fine. I'll just sit here alone untile something terrible happens, and then I will have a new idea too.

Paddle Safe...


Saturday, December 02, 2006

The $0.05 Post Card

The five cent post card is long gone,and mailing a letter now requires a second mortgage on one's home (I exaggerate for emphasis..but I digress). As a matter of fact, just in my life time, lots of things have gone by the wayside. I remember when all houses had plaster walls and hard wood floors. Hand fashioned joinery work was the rule of the day. Those properties, unless poorly treated, are still standing and in fine shape 100 years later. Milwaukee's west and far east sides are full of them.

But there are always trade offs. Today we have clap board or, rather, plaster board homes. They go up faster and, for the most part, are easier to repair. Younger people, who have never known quality craftmanship cannot appreciate how things use to be...and will not be again.

Post cards may be far more expensive, but now we have cyberspace with essentially free pixels. No more waiting for that letter to arrive. Heck, you don't even have to leave your house to shop anymore. The WWW has changed everything...well, almost.

Blogs (news blogs, not this one) have become the source of news for many people. It's faster than a newspaper, and you don't have to go out into the cold wearing pajamas to pick it up off the lawn. Most blog sites, such as this, are free to both the reader and the bloger. The site offers the writer a place to sound off and to even upload photos...sometimes.

It seems, alas, that quality in this area is about as good as mass produced radios. Make enough and some will work. If it doesn't, junk it and replace it. It is too complicated and too expensive to repair.

So why am I not surprised to go online, bring up my posting site and find that (without explanation) there is no longer a way to upload photos? Gone. Just not there, and when it is it often doesn't work. No explanation. I even checked the outage for repairs schedule. Nada.

The 5 cent postcard is gone. We now have free electronic communications, and it is worth every penny we pay for it. (sorry for the uncentered title and small headline print...that feature seems to have disappeared as well).

Paddle safe...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Winning the marathon
Beat the Clock

There were some excellent comments on yesterday's posting, and I appreciate them. One, from Andrew, brought back memories of competition and winning. I was once quite active in competitive Judo...when I was younger. Later in life (during my 50s, but I digress), I took up running. As often happens with the "You-should" syndrome, I ran longer and longer and, one day, discovered I was training for a marathon.

I did my home work, took a year to train and knew exactly how fast I could do the "race". I say "race" since I had no expectations of finishing first...or 100th for that matter. I ended up doing the Milwaukee Ladefront Marathon 3 times (best time 3.5 hours, an 8 minute/mile pace, and I digress again). But this particular memory goes back to the day after my first outing.

A friend asked me how the marathon had gone, and I said, "I won." That stopped him dead in his tracks. "You won? You were first?" "No," I replied, "I was xxxxxth (don't remember)."

I left him perplexed, but I knew what I had meant. I had met my challenge, my personal goals, and I had run my race, my way with near-perfect results. Then, I spent the rest of the week going down stairs backwards (marathon runners will know wht that means).

I think that is what Andrew is shooting for, and I honor him for it.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Stuck" on square #1

(a CASKA photo)

I am one of those folks who does a lot of stuff, and when I do something I really do it. Once I develope an interest, I often get obsessed with learning and doing more with it. Like sea kayaking. Once I took JB's course at 'Baga, I was hooked. I got a boat and was on the water every moment I could find free to do so. The next summer I was back to do instructor training and evaluation. I started teaching at symposiums and took advanced rescue scenario classes. I built a wood boat from a kit. I built a skin on frame and got a traditional style paddle and a tuilick. Now, certified by the ACA, I have to decide whether or not to do the BCU package which, in the final analysis, covers the same ground. After all, don't they tell us that if we stop growing we die?

That was all by way of introduction (the ultimate digression), now for the meat. I own the trademark Work/WorkShop and do seminars, trainings and one-on-one education around careers. The group that interests me the most is the mid-life crises bunch, usually men. Most of these guys are "successful" and miserable, having risen to the top of a mountain they had wanted to climb only to find there's nothing but ice up there.

Zen teaches that we think with and are driven to suffering by our egos. If so, it begs the question for whom are we climbing the mountain? The answer is often to impress others and/or to meet the expectations of others. In they end, they could care less, and we are left alone atop an inhospital pinnacle.

When is the last time someone turned down a promotion that took them out of field work (which they loved) and into management (which they knew nothing about and didn't like doing)? To say "no" to a step up is to say, "I resign." Why would you turn down the honor, the prestige and the money? Well, you might, but your ego wouldn't.

I have a copy of a cartoon (I don't show it here because I do not have the author's permission...but I digress). It shows a man in a business suit, carrying a brief case and standing in the lobby of an office building. The design of the floor consists of large square tiles, and he is standing looking down at the one he is in. Next to it is a sign that reads, "Square #1. The captions, which is what he is thinking, reads, "This feels pretty good right here."

So, how far are you going in your career? In paddling? Do you actually like lazy paddles on quiet rivers but have "evolved" to big water upon which you never feel comfortable? Has acquiring more and more equipment become boring? Do you no longer look forward to going out with the gang...the group that insists on seeking out 6-foot waves? Would you rather be alone or with one or two others on a quiet inland lake? Who do you paddle for? Do you really need to be an instructor and, if so, how many letters do you need on your resume?

When was the last time you looked forward to a paddle and enjoyed it without worrying about meeting someone else's expectations? Perhaps that one time was your square #1, and there is nothing wrong with staying there...but you have to give yourself the permission to do so.

Disclaimer: None of this applies to DM ( who still has the goal of standing on one finger in his cockpit :-)

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Kilmer was right

As much as I love to read, I'd rather look at things that give me a quiet inner pleasure, like trees. Kilmer was right, a poem is seldom as lovely as a tree.

Trees, like people, come in all sorts of sizes and styles and, like the rest of us, often gain a dignity that comes only with age. This lumpy old fellow lives in the park just across the river from my home. I pass him often, while walking Ansel, and wonder what he has seen during his many years on earth. He does look tired and seems unable to hold up his arms as he did when he was younger.

Some trees find their way into service in the form of lumber or fuel. Others fall apart in death, and their pieces go off to sea to float about, see the world and get polished by the waves. These, too, once they've found their way back to land, provide a visual pleasure for those lucky enough to come upon them.Others, alas, complete their life's cycle by returning to Mother Earth to nurture the next generation. We could do worse in searching for a role model.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Before you appear in the newspaper
Something you don't see, and probably don't want to, is what your doctor's staff does every morning: they go through the obituary page of the local papers to see if any patients have died. We did it in our practice so that we could send a note of comfort to the family. So, there is the old joke about reading the obit page in the morning and, if you are not listed there, getting on with your day.

Take Ansel, pictured here on an outing last week. He's nine (I don't know what that is in "dog years"...but I digress). He used to run more than he does now. He still has his moments when he is friskie and playful, but he has slowed down.
This leaf was once a bud with nothing but a bright future ahead of it...and that was only months ago. Here it is, in November, clinging to the branch and probably unaware that its useful life is over. But is it?
Did it not catch my attention and give me a little pleasure when I photographed it (although I have no illusions that that was not its mission on earth). Come to think of it, does Ansel know the pleasure he has brought to our family? Is he aware of how we value his companionship and how we look after him as one of us? (Very nice, Dick, but what is the point?).
I am willing to bet that if I ask you to list your warts, faults and short-comings that you will produce an endless list of items. Most of us, it seems, are fulling aware of our lackings. But what if, instead, I asked you to list your inner assests, your gold? Some how folks seem unable to come up with much of anything on this side of the ledger.
Yet, if you ask a friend or a loved one to innumerate your pluses I bet that they will be able to come up with a lenghty list. Is that because we value modesty or that we feel it is wrong to brag (if it's true it ain't bragging)? I have some thoughts on that, but they will have to await another day.
Point here is that, like Ansel and the leaf, few of us realize the gifts and joy we give others just by being here and in their lives. We hear the inner voice of the critic while tuning out the voice of the King or Crone within. In doing so, we miss knowing that inner joy of having mattered and having made a difference and that, my friend, is to miss out on one of the sacred joys of life.
So, while you walk slower up the hill or cling to what life you have left, you can still look within and do a little gold mining...before you end up in the newspaper.
Paddle safe...

Monday, November 27, 2006

A quiet paddle
No big philosophical lesson here today. Just a quiet paddle. JB and I launched yesterday from the ramps at Port Washington, just north of Milwaukee. We paddled out of the harbor into calm waters and saturated air and simply worked our way south along the shore while the eroding cliffs peeked in and out of the haze. (taken on way back north, hence land on the left...but I digress).

Now and then, we heard hundreds of geese out on the water as they gathered for their winter vacation. Here and there, we saw birds lift off, annoyed by our presence.
The sun played shy behind layers of overcast and, when it did almost come out, it was best seen reflected in the water.
Sometimes the big lake plays gentle.
Paddle safe...