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...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Here we go again

It seems like most of 2005 was spent planning daughter #1's wedding. Upstairs became wedding planning central and was filled with books and papers and notes. Lady Linda was constantly on the phone like a hawker selling penny stocks. All I heard were numbers: number of people, number of tables, number of rooms, number of flowers and, of course, number of dollars. Note books and other info was collected. But, alas, it was a success, and I entered into recovery (Hi, I'm Dick, and I just paid for a wedding. But I digress).

Well, they're back. I can see it starting up again. She's on the phone again with the next new mother in law to be. I again come home to find (this time) daughter #2 and Lady Linda sitting at the kitchen table going through books, brochures and heaven knows what. I see pencils and pads of papers, and I know there are numbers on them. I break into a sweat, my knees feel weak.

Somewhere out there is a bank with lots of cash on hand and a really bad security system. I must find it.

For today, however, I will rehab with JB out on the big lake somewhere north of here. Yesterday, a small group of us paddled out to the main bell buoy near south shore. The gentle seas caused it to constantly ring. I couldn't tell if I was hearing wedding bells or the sound of a cash register.

Paddle safe...


Saturday, November 25, 2006

I'm #3
I used to be, or thought I was, the bravest man in the world. Hey, it only took me 35 years to muster the courage to wed. But I did, and (as many of you know) I have two wonderful daughters.
Daughter number one, my right-brained daughter, is a college educated woman with a degree in English. This does not, however, prevent her from mispelling every word in the english language and often using the wrong form of a word...but I digress.
In any event, she met and fell in love with the dude at the right. Scott, who has a masters in creative lighting and works in the field, has always wanted to be a chef, and he would be a good one. All thanksgiving weekend we have been enjoying multiple-course meals prepared in our kitchen and on our gas grill by Scott. He even cleans up the place when he is done. Earlier this year Scott displaced me as the bravest man in the world by hitching up with one of my daughters, a dangerous and trying adventure not meant for the faint of heart. I became the second bravest man in the world.
Daughter number two is my left brain child.
She has a degree in philosophy. Her intentions were to go into medical bioethics. Then, she started talking about law school, and I thought heaven help us if she starts to argue in a court room. She has a logical mind and a sense of right, and when she is sure she is on the right side of an arguement she is like a mother bear protecting her cubs. Sometimes she scares the hell out of me (me, the second, up to now, bravest man in the world...but I digress). Along comes this man, Ben.
Ben is employed by the Bosch company in Germany (although he works in their Chicago office, is an American and has no relatives in Germany...not really a digression but, rather, backround info for the reader). His degree is in something that involves gears, engines, diagnostics and lots of other things that I understand even less than I understand my daughters.
In any event, throwing caution to the wind and mindless of mental safety, he became engaged to daughter number two right after thanksgiving dinner. Maybe he was stuffed and his head flooded with endorphins, who knows. But he came with a ring in his pocket, and that's premeditation in anyone's book.
So, that's the news. From it, I can give you two soon-to-be-true pieces of data that are of interest:
1. Scott will, in spring, become a father at the exact moment I become a grandfather.
2. The moment daughter #2 marries (presuming it is after event #1), she will become Mrs. Wiess, and Ben will be for ever known (in this family) as (wait for it) Uncle Ben Wiess.
Paddle safe...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Mall Rx
(Newer Bigger Better)

Okay, thanksgiving is over, passe, done, so yesterday. Enough of the warm family fuzzies and bountiful tables full of cholesterol. Enough of hugs and family (more on that in another blog...but I digress).

Hopefully, guests have gone to the airp0rt and the last crumb of evidence has been vacuumed from the carpet. People, we have a legacy to live up to. We have an obligation to support this country and its economy. Have you forgotten? This is the busiest shopping day of the year. Are you prepared to do your part?

Screw up or come up short today and those retail stocks in your retirement portfolio just might tank along with your future security. Besides, you know you want to go and buy stuff. Buy what? Buy anything, for anyone...but be sure to buy stuff for yourself (hell, it's on sale). That, after all is what mall therapy is all about.

There was a time, and I can remember it well, when shop was used as a noun. It was synonomous with a store. When someone needed (as opposed to wanted) something specific, they went and bought it (if they had the cash). Now, when people are bored and are in need of nothing, they go and shop. They actually go from store to store fondling merchandise and allowing themselves to be more wowed by the latest jewelery or chlothing than they ever were by the joy of being of service. They see the latest glittere and know instantly that they must have it, even though they have zero need for it. In fact, they don't even have the cash...they have plastic.

But we are simple folk who only need a boat and a paddle and the bare necessities in order to live a happy life. We, as paddlers, are above the superficial wants and materialistic behavoir of the great washed (face it, more often than not, it is we who are the unwashed. At least it often smells that way...but I digress again). We will go for days eating tree bark, paddling and sleeping in one set of reeking clothes and catching rain water with our ponchos. We are Yule Gibbons and Smoky the Bear all rolled into one............until we go to the candy store (read: paddle shop).

There, placed by the devil herself (no sexism here) we find the neatest, newest, bestest paddle top, and we just have to have it (to hang next to the other 3 we hardly use). The hell with the kids' tuition or the root canal our partner needs, this is the latest gear, we are paddlers and we will be prepared and well equiped. Charge!

There is a momentary high that follows the acquisition (purchase) of just about anything. Problem is, it is a short lived high. Sadly, it is like a drug and must be done again and in larger doses until we hit bottom or max out our plastic card. It is the American condition, and it has been studied and well documented.

I'll stop there since it isn't Sunday and I've just given a sermon. I,ll just close with save your pennies and

Paddle safe...


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Day

My wish for you is that you experience the blessings of the Universe, have a sense of awe and the courage to follow your soul. This is the day we have, and we do not know what awaits us tomorrow or the day after. Over those things we have little control. We can, however, choose to revel in the gifts of the past and what we have today and to humble ourselves in gratitude.

High on the list I place family, friends, opportunities to serve and give back and my integrity.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

According to Eckhart
Our daily news rag carries a strip called MUTTS, drawn by Patrick McDonnell. It is to this sacred source I turn in my need to find a way to express gratitude.
Being grateful is something I find hard to express, to myself and to others. It is a feeling that wells within and begs to be shared with friends and loved ones. As I anticipate tomorrow, I find this need stronger than ever.
Tomorrow, as I envision it, will be a gathering of 3.5 generations (that includes Lady Linda's parents, us and our contemporaries, our children and son in law and a fetus--the .5--yet to be named...but I digress). The mere thought of it fills me with a sense of having been blessed by the Universe. Now, how to express all that? Does one offer a prayer?
Enter MUTTS, a cartoon strip that is delightful while shining light on the condition of domesticated pets. For the past few days, the subject of the strip has been the same and has contained one quote from Meister Eckhart. Now, I don't know Meister personally and am not even sure who he is. I don't know if he sea kayaks, does white water or rec boats. Heck, for all I know he paddles a tandem (okay, here's where some of you over-educated types can chime in...but I digress). I do know that I sense some wisdom in the quote that has reappeared in the past few MUTTS strips. He is said to have said...
If the only prayer you say in your like is thank you, that would suffice.
So, for today, and in anticipation of tomorrow, I look inward and upward and offer, "Thank you."
Paddles safe...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Putting dreams in the bank
You wake one night, for what ever reason, and start to get out of bed. You know you had been dreaming the moment before, but the memory of the dream seems to slip away like a handful of water. Seconds later, you cannot for the life of you remember the dream. It was about something or other, of that you're sure; but the dream, the real meat of it is gone and, what's more, you know in your guts that it was a great dream and that you'd do anything to recapture its magic.

The same thing happens with ideas. It can be an idea for a gift for someone, the plot of the great American novel, an innovative way to solve a problem that's been bugging you forever or a pun for a blog. As life would have it, these ideas seem to come at inopportune times such as when you're driving at high speeds, paddling with no pencil or paper handy or while jogging. In fact, they are most likely to come at times that produce anything like a runner's high, that euphoric detachment that comes from floods of brain endorphins. Or maybe those ideas come when they do because they can.

It is during those moments when we've let go of thinking, when we have some how achieved a meditative-like state and the right (creative) brain comes out to play. After all, isn't that how dreaming comes about? In any event, what are the lessons of all those wonderful head shows they we lust to recapture but continue to elude us?

The first, and easiest to come to, is to write it down...immediately. No pencil and paper around? That used to happen to me on long distant runs, so I would make up a little song with the idea in it and sing my thoughts until I arrived home. Or pic a few key words that are sure to conger the idea up again and recite them as a mantra.

The secon lesson is to let go, get away or pretend to look the other way so that the idea won't know you're looking for it. But that sentence is a paradox in itself because in trying to do it (not think about it) you do it. That's where the running and paddling comes in. They are wonderful things to do, and they focus your mind elsewhere, just as the magician gets you to watch one hand while the other fumbles in his sleeve for the king of diamonds. So, if you are in need of a good idea, get out there and...

Paddle safe...

Monday, November 20, 2006

As Advertised
(Observations on taking a good dump)

All of us who flew in jet fighters went through ejection seat training. This included being shot up a set of railroad tracks while seated in an ejection seat mock up. The exercise gave us a feel (and it wasn't a comfy one) of just how violent an ejection would be and what we could expect to feel (I don't remember going up, just coming down the tracks and hurting evrywhere. I used to be 6'7" before that exercise...but I digress). The training must have been good because every time one of my pilots got shot down and had to eject and was rescued, each reported to me (as flight surgeon, I always got to interview them first, even before the base commander...but I digress again), "It worked just as advertised." In fact, the system never failled to work properly during the time I was there.

Jump ahead four decades, to yesterday even. I'm out with JB and Derrick (see pics on his site kayaking, and we're playing in the waves along shore. We try to surf, and that doesn't work. I spend most of the time just off shore taking waves on the beam (that's the side of the boat for you land lubbers). Sometime I catch foam and slide half way to the beach. Other times I luck into a breaker, maybe 2-3 feet high, and enjoy that great sensation of low bracing into it and coming up. Just before ending the outing, I got caught from behind by a wave I didn't see, and I was suddenly upside down.

First, I imagined yelling the Sh*T word (I'm submerged and the sand makes it too turbid to see let alone talk...but I digress yet again) and then started to plan my own rescue. The wave had me pinned against the fore deck, so I waited for the pressure to ease. As it did, I started to move my paddle to the set up position in preparation of wowing my buddies (and me) with a roll up in the surf in water that was now only about 2-3 foot deep. That's when the next wave spun the boat, and I (sans helmet) decided it was time to wet exit. So, as we used to say in the fighter planes, I punched out. And everything worked as advertised.

I had my paddle and I had my boat. And I kept the boat between me and the shore as the waves pushed us in. And I noticed something: I was warm and dry. My wet suit, along with all my training, etc, was working as advertised. The water temp was in the forties.

I'm still miffed that I didn't get to roll up, but glad everything went so well and so easily. Good equipment, taking care of it and good training pays off and helps one

Paddle safe...


Saturday, November 18, 2006

I don't fishBut I am taking off today and Sunday. Today, I will be pouring a sweat lodge at a site called Dancing Shadows. Tomorrow, JB and DM and I will splash around in kayaks on the big lake. You
Paddle safe...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Just getting it out of my system
This has been a rough week for me. It has left me fatigued and just a tad glum (not much, hence a tad...but I digress). That has been reflected in my writing and my photography. I have been unable to make progress on the book I am presently working on, and my photography has been obssessed with the end of the inhabitable seasons around here.
Fall started out with Mother Nature's sucker punch of lovely colors, a device meant to ease one out of the joys of the warm summer and into the transition toward hell frozen over.But it didn't take long for the colors to be washed and blown away and for the landscape (and sky) to begin to morph into a monochromatic scene. It was as if the world had been put into Photo Shop and someone hit the "desturate" key. Well, I shall not let it beat me. Greg and I hope to paddle the now frigid waers of Lake Michigan later today. The wind is going offshore and, unfortunately, we will miss most of the great wave action that was out there yesterday (when I had no time to paddle). Still, we will make do while the really smart paddlers with the where with all to do so head south to places like Florida and SeaKayak Georgia.
we should all
Paddle safe...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

It's over...that's clear enough
It's over. Not just spring, but fall as well. Maybe not officially or astronomically. But, in essence, it's over. What color there is lies hidden among soon to be mulch. The sun rises when it is supposed to, but I seldom can see it through the dreary blanket of clouds. Anyway, it doesn't stay around very long, not this time of year. Everyone around me is coughing and blowing their noses. People are showering in hopes that the steam will open their sinuses. Mean while, their skin gets drier and drier and dandruff sits like snow on their shoulders.

Some of the geese have gone south, some are gathering to do so soon, while (it seems like most) are staking out their share of the parks' lawns for winter grazing. Mild winters and folks feeding them have resulted in more of them staying year around. When I walk Ansel, I always pick up his business and dispose of it while the cement pier in the park (photo above) remains coated with goose turds.

Oh well, like the old saying goes, A voice said cheer up, things could be worse. So I cheered up and, sure enough, they got worse.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, November 15, 2006 addendum to today's earlier blog

I never intended this to be a political blog and have said as much on these pages. Today's musings were about my concern tainted by my sense of history and not a political statement. JB, who is my mentor and friend, wrote a political reply...and that is okay, it is how he reacted to it. It is clear he is not a neocon nor a member of the Bush fan club. I hope you cannot tell where I come down on that question.

In any event, CNN (certainly not a far right winged network) will be airing a special on terrorism soon (it may even be tonight, I don't know). Maybe I can learn something from it that will put my concerns to rest...or scare the hell out of me. Now, continue to

Paddle safe...
Cycles, history, doom and gloom
I have never been nominated for optimist of the year (although I did once win a speech contest in a Jr. Optimist Club...but I already digress). Neither have I ever been nominated for the Nostridamus award for predicting the future. Now, I feel I have a shot at the second and will never get the first.

Maybe it's just about getting older or, perhaps, the changing of the seasons with all the leaves dying. Whatever, I sense a repetition of history that began when I was born...just before Pearl Harbor. For some reason that famous news clip of Neville Chaimberlain getting out of the plane and waving the paper Hitler had signed...and the headline, "Peace in our time." Right.

Well, there has never been peace since that day, not in my life time. Each generation has had its war. Hell, I went to one myself. This time around, however, it is different...and the same. This time it promises to be big time as in nuclear. And all the little leaders are waving papers on which they've written, we need to talk. Talk my ass.

In a recent documentary film, a former Nazi youth leader explained how indocrination practices now being used are similar to what he had done back in the forties. The difference, and what makes today more dangerous, is that the present would be rulers of the world act in the name of a higher power.

Crazy is crazy, and if we sit down to play chess you cannot win if I am player checkers. I will jump every man on the board and kill them. Not fair, you say? Not playing by the rules? Fine, let's talk, and while we are I will just keep jumping everything in sight.

So, this is a hell of a way to start the day, especially for a kayaker. But, I get up early most days, and my sense of what is going to be has been uncannily accurate over the years. In any event, we shall see...or our children will.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dor l'va Dor

I often write about traditions and what I see as truisms in life. The title of today's piece is from the Hebrew, Generation to Generation. It speaks, at least to me, of our human need to connect with the world. For some, that connection comes from a belief in a higher being. For many, the more tangible connection is to family.

Take the two old codgers, Joe and Miriam, pictured above. He is 90 years old, and they have been married for over 120 years. During that time, they managed to produce two so-so sons and a marvelous daughter (the youngest son was almost born on Christmas day, in which case Joe and Miriam would have named him Jesus. He wasn't, however, and ended up with the moniker, Dennis...but I digress).

Their children have married, and the two sons have only produced more boys....oh, well. Their daughter, on the other hand, married well and has given her wonderful husband two fantastic daughters. All these offsprings, of course, are Joe's and Miriam's grandchildren...and there are great grandchildren on the way.

Their son in law's parents are long gone, and Joe and Miriam have been the only grandparents the two girls have ever really known. And what a blessing that has been for them. From grand parent to parent to grand child the stories and the teachings of life have been passed. Because of them, my daughters have had two wonderful role models of right living, charitable giving and firm but loving discipline. I suspect that it will serve them well when they have children of them all.

This all came to mind as I did some writing about the traditional padddling camp held by QAJAQ USA and how knowledge was shared and passed along from one paddler to another. Then, I came across this picture of my in laws and immediately thought of the connection and how they too have passed along their experience and love from generation to generation. My wish and hope is that my generation does as well.

Paddle safe...


Monday, November 13, 2006

Good news/Bad news

There have been some interesting articles in the local newspaper the past few days. They've been on the subject of shooting deaths in Milwaukee (who says we're not a "real" big city?...but I digress). Seems people around town are being shot to death in robberies, personal feuds and the occassional stray bullet, sometimes at a rate that compares favorably to Iraq. Some kid in high risk areas actually sleep in bath tubs since some have been killed in their homes by stray projectiles. In any event, the folks with the pointy pencils make little marks on paper and keep track of how many folks get shot and how many of those die each year.

The good news: It seems that shooting deaths may have leveled off and, in some periods, actually declined.

The bad news (which, I think, contains some good news): There are as many or more shootings as ever. Thing is, more of the victims are surviving because of the increasing skills of our trauma center and EMTs (thank you JB). So that's a mixed message.

(That reminds me of an article I read that talked about army surgeons spending time at Los Angeles emergency rooms to learn about the treatment of gunshot wounds. Maybe we civilians should be getting hazardous duty pay).

In the Pulse section (an insert on scientific subjects) today, there was a well illustrated full page demonstration showing how different caliber bullets cause different tissue damage and different exit wounds. I was surprised to see that the 9mm round (which I shoot at the target range) is a real show stopper. It seems that, along with better surgical skills, our enlightened society is producing a better quality bullet. On the other hand, we are also producing more nonlethal devices now in use by several police departments.

I've always worried about crime, especially since having children. Now, with a grandchild on the way, I worry more than ever.

Paddle safe...


Sunday, November 12, 2006

To sleep perchance to dream....

Ah, to slip into sleep, into the arms of Morpheus (I think I've written this before, but I am fatigued and the very redundancy will make the point...yet I digress).

JB just e mailed (4 AM). He has been up all night as an EMT (after working his usual job) and is unsure if he will paddle this morning. His spelling belies his fatigue.

Due to a family situation, I have been up early and late the past several days in order to help folks get to places they need to be. I must say that it feels differently than back in 1966 when I interned at D.C. General and loved being awake all night. In those days I would leap from bed and rush to the wards when summoned. Each occurence was an adventure and a learning experience. I slept when I could and got along fine.

Jump ahead four decades and getting out of bed is akin to getting out of an ill-fitting kayak after a 17 hour paddle. I go to brush my teeth and stare dumbly into the mirror while calculating how many hours until I can crawl under the covers again. Something has clearly changed.

Anyway, I best not tarry here as the 35 degree air awaits Ansel and myself. Besides, I am due to be somewhere at 5 am and to meet Derrick at 9:30 to paddle the icy waters of Lake Michigan. How do I feel right now? Fatigue, it makes cowards of us all.

Paddle safe...


Saturday, November 11, 2006

I'm betting on the old lady

I'll probably get the exact name and the spelling wrong, but there is this great poem we read in high school, Ode to Ozymandius. It tells of a traveler coming across a statue of a long past king. The inscription extorts all to look around at the king's great kingdom and acquisitions. But time has passed since the statue and king were founded, and there is nothing around to see save for rubble. The message is that little of us or our stuff (with apologies to George Carlin...but I digress) survive the slow, steady and irresistable erosion of the forces of Mother Nature.I've read somewhere that if we have severe global warming, or another ice age or even a nuclear winter that the last thing likely to survive will be the cockroach. I guess the little guys must be Mom's mascots. But, then, so are plants. We've all seen trees that grow out of rocks. Even these little plants I photographed during a recent paddle in the inner harbor have overcome barriers erected by modern kings who think they can conquer the environment.Some how, I take heart from their ability to survive on very little while slowly growing and patiently waiting for what man has put in their way to rust and rot. Oh well, there is always plastic and fiberglass.

Paddle safe...


Friday, November 10, 2006

Row, Row, Roll your boat

A recent issue of SEAKAYAKER magazine published my letter in which I stated my opinion about the state of art of teaching rolling. No other single skill seems to define the sport, especially to non-kayakers. To many who do padddle, this skill has an elusive and mysterious quality that seems unattainable...until they do their first roll.

While discussing this with Sherri Mertz (ACA open water instr. with rolling endorsement), she pointed out that rolling is an either/or skill. That is, unlike the forward stroke which, even when done badly always produces some forward motion, one either does the entire roll or has 100% failure. That is why I think it so important to get to that first successful roll, no matter how it's done.

The way it is usually done now is to teach the C to C roll which requires a vigorous hipsnap and precise timing of all elements. I find this unfortunate, especially since there are much easier and more readily learned ways of rolling. Enter the sweep roll.

Given a decent boat and a Greenland stick, a beginner can usually get in a roll in the first lesson. Using a Euro paddle with a modified sweep can be just as effective. This method of rolling can be seen the DVD The Kayak Roll put out by Performance Video and Instruction, Inc... (performancevideo .com). The DVD also offers teaching techniques and diagnostic help for those having problems.

By the way, I made the front page cover of, and I just want to let you know that I am not as old as I look. I just feel that way.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Lady Linda is away for a few days, I have errands to run...lots, and a dog to walk. Plus I have to get my daughter to work, let her dogs out during the day and pick her up. Besides, I want to get a paddle in yet today. So, I am writing myself a doctor's Rx and excusing myself this morning from bloggging duties. Maybe later today. Meanwhile...

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Bird Brains
(In surprising places)
I am aware of two places on the south side of Milwaukee where birds regularly gather to sit on overhead wires. One place is on Holt just off I-43 and the other is where we launch at South Shore. That's where they gather and...well, just sit and do nothing.
Maybe it's a sense of community they get, or a sense of safety in numbers. Maybe the folks using those lines make a lot of 1-900 calls and the hot vibes warm the birds' feet.

I looked for heat sources or food sources or something else that the birds needed to exist. Nadda. They just gather with their tiny feet and tiny brains and waste their time hanging out on an electric or phone line.

I noticed this on sunday when we gathered to go through our routine of unloading boats, donning dry suits, putting paddles onto decks, checking pfds and, then, launching onto the lake to hang out together as we have a thousand times before.

Birds. Go figure.

Paddle safe...

Monday, November 06, 2006

First, kill all the lawyers?

Don't know why I thought of this just now (at 6 in th am). It was probably my habit of scanning through my pic files and coming across the shot above which I took on some island. And, of course, I thought of the Bar Association (work with me here, I'm not fulling awake yet).

Here in Wisconsin, we have the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR), a board that evaluates complaints made against attorneys and recommends its findings to the Wisconsin Supreme Court (Remind me to tell you about the time the Chief Justice called me...but I digress). The panels on OLR are mostly made up of attorneys, however, there are a few lay members in each group. I am such a member.

Over the 3+ years I have served, I have been most impressed with the legal profession's conduct in this area. First, they thoroughly investigate the complaints gathering evidence and statements from all involved (and, they do this all for no fee, as do I). The appointed investigators for a complaint prepare reports which we then evaluate and, then, decide whether or not there has been a violation of the Wisconsin codes. If there is, we make a recommendation that can range anywhere from a private reprimand to suspension of a license. This all goes to the Supreme Beings in Madison who make the final call.

In all my dealings with this group, I have found them to be fair. They have often held their noses when evaluating a colleague of questionable repute and deciding that, at least this time, nothing wrong had occured. I have also seen them find that some of the area's icons have performed a violation and to recommend consequences I have always found appropriate.

Now, this may all seem like an odd topic for this site, but it states at the top that this is a place for musing. And besides, I need to think positively to get through what I fear will be the most gag-invoking day of compaign ads this season. So ignore my famous, if offensive, quote at the top of the page. Instead, let's all work together and kill all the politicians.

Paddle safe...


Sunday, November 05, 2006

It's Sunday

Gone paddling with the Milwaukee group.

Paddle safe...


Saturday, November 04, 2006

There are none so blind
As those who will not see

Yesterday, I talked about the error of omission. I would like to expand on, or at least explore, another facet of that phenomena: our reluctance to see what is in front of our faces.

In our book, The Hand Book of Peak Performance, Ron Hering and I write about how people think in pictures, actually holograms. This is easy to demonstrate. Right now, I wish you not to think about a hot fudge sundae in a tall chilled class with rivlets of moisture runnining down the sides. Do not think about the rounded mound of ice cream and the dark fudge beneath a pillow whipped cream. That's all...and I am willing to bet that you had a very vivid image of that sundae as you read the above. The thing is, we "see" what we are thinking about and not what is in front of us.

That soccer mom on the cell phone going 10 over the limit probably doesn't see anything in front of her nose. Neuroanatomists tell us she is using her striate nucleus or automatic brain to drive the car. Interestingly, this is the part of the brain that birds use most (to the best of my knowledge). If an emergency happens, mom will lose precious moments of reaction time while her brain switches to conscious thinking. You don't want to be in front of her during that brief,but possibly leathal, transition. But enough of the fun stuff and back to my point (I hugely digressed...a megagression).

Just as the student doctors (re: yesterday's blog) cannot say they have not seen a certain disease, the civilians around here cannot claim there is no wild life in our little corner of the earth. I realize there is a difference here. Had my neighbor actually seen an elephant crossing his lawn he would have known it. But if he didn't look out the window, he wouldn't know the elephant (and what it dumped) was there.

We are always on our mental cell phones, or so it seems. I've written about how we worry about the future and rue the past while all the while missing the present. So it was a day ago while I awaited Sir Ansel to decide that he was good and ready to hop into the Blazer to be whisked to the park for a walk. Instead of thinking about how I'd like to ring his neck for making me wait...I, instead (with empty, Zen mind) took in what was there. That's when I saw the Red Tail Hawk sitting in my neighbor's tree (the elephant was gone by then).

He just sat and watched (had I been more observant, I would have noticed the total abscence of song birds which is a sure indication that the hawk is around...yes, a minigression). And I watched him because it felt like a gift to be able to see this proud independent bird up on his throne; and I wondered why the Universe had sent him to me and what it was I was supposed to learn from his presence. I know he wasn't sent for blog material. Perhaps he was there just to remind me to stop, listen, look around....let's all see what's going on.

Paddle safe...

Friday, November 03, 2006

The answer is never no
(you never know what you're missing)

On my teaching service, I would often ask a student, resident or fellow if they had ever seen a case of a certain disease. Some would answer that they had while most would say, "no." I would respond to the no-sayers with, "How do you know that?"

They would often appear perplexed, so I would ask if they knew how many toes the patient we were about to examine had. Even though the young doctor had already examined the patient in preperation for out session, he or she would almost invariably start to reach for the covers at the foot of the bed. They were sure that this patient had 9 or maybe 11 toes and that they had missed it, otherwise, why would I be making such a big deal over such a small thing? At this point, I would stop them from looking and stop the torture.

I would explain that I was certain that they knew how to count toes and that if they didn't know how many the patient had it was due to having not counted them. The lesson was that the most common error in medicine (and I suspect in other aspects of digression here) is the error of omission. If I don't ask the question or look and count, I can't know one way or the other. That leads us to the title of this blog, you can't say no.

When asked if you've ever seen a rare disease, the only possibly correct answers are 1, yes, I have or 2, not to my knowledge because answering "no" infers an infallibility. To say no means you are sure you never saw and missed the diagnosis of the disease, and such thinking can be dangerous, especially in medicine.

They say there are two types of bike riders, those that have fallen and those who will. I am sure you can come up with a similar adage around paddling. But, first, let me ask you something: Have you ever, while kayaking, done something that almost got you killed? (Not so fast...).

Paddle safe...


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Maybe I can make it after all

I once read in one of the paddling magazines that if you think you are drowning you need to think, just one more second and then, just one more second until you wet exit or roll up or help arrives. The idea is that, however desperate things get, we can hold on just a little longer.

I thought of this the other day as I was picking up the business my dog had done on someone's lawn. The smell and sight of the warm pile remininded me that this is the last week...and maybe, just maybe, I can get through it.

I speak, of course, of the campaigns going on around local, state and federal elections. It is the annual who can out BS, out spend and down right out lie the other candidate, thusly allowing the informed voter to pick the lesser of two evils.

As I've pointed out before, this is not a political forum, and I will not endorse either party's warm pile but, after the election, I know I will be left to pick it up.

You need to understand that much of the way I conduct my personal life is based on trust and integrity. Trust goes to how I feel about you. Integrety is about how I conduct myself when no one is watching. Into this cohesive world intrudes the politician, someone who makes it a career to "serve" the public while nicely looking after his or her own warm pile. It leaves me frustrated.

I see professional office holders who know only know living off the public largess, and I see ideologs who vote the party line. When asked why they aren't making the changes we elected them to make, they give some convoluted answer like, "I have to vote this way to get reelected so I can change the things in the way I promised." Another warm pile is dumped onto the airways and pages of the newspapers.

So, come not week, I will--as always--show up at the polling place, hold my nose and pick a pile to keep warm until next election.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Been there
So, why do that?

A few days ago, with the temps trying for 60, I paddled out of south shore with Sherri Mertz (an excellent instructor and paddler who works at a local paddle shop. She had managed to have a monday off...but I digress).

We launched from the same place our paddling group launches virtually every sunday of the year. And our route was nothing you'd buy a dvd to see. Just out the gap in the newly repaired stone pile of a breakwater, north on the outside to catch a foot and a half following sea, then into the outer harbor to check out construction on the island and lagoon for small boats being constructed off the Summer Fest grounds. The reach home across the harbor was into gusting winds of 15-20knots, and there was some traffic including a tug with a barge carrying stones, a sailboat and a little jobber that moved along smartly under power. total time: 2.5 hours.

These were the waters I've sailed for 30+ years and paddle weekly and, yet, it was the first time I'd done that paddle. (Reminds me of the Zennish book, You can't step into the same river twice).

It was the same when I was able to do long distance running (marathons, before loosing some muscle function in one leg...but I digress...again). I pretty much had only two or three routes that I ran, and which I chose was dictated by the wind direction. I must have taken a bazillion foot steps over the same area during those years.

And so it is with sea kayaking. Unless we're on a trip or going somewhere, the paddling is the thing. It is probably different for each of us, yet more alike for all of us. It is foremost, for me, being on the water and feeling it's motion moving me and my small craft. Secondly, its the tradition, the following in the foot steps (?paddle steps) of some unknown people who did what I am doing...only they did it over 7000 years ago. Then there is the joy in the balancing act, something that made judo so enjoyable for me. There is, too, the ability to get out in all sorts of weather and conditions and to take care of myself and, should the need arise, help another. It is being part of another world.

I guess there really is no such thing as just another paddle. Hell, I did thousands and thousands of heart catheterizations and never considered any of them just another cath. Why would I approach this any differently?

Paddle Safe...