Thursday, April 30, 2009

Something Good Came of It
Lots of paddlers go nuts looking for the perfect boat, and I've written about that before. I realized another obsession (of mine) this past week when (for the second year in a row) lightening terminated the REI demo day. In spite of the weather, Greg and I did manage a little time on the lagoon. But, you ask, what about the obsession?
Well, while everyone else is looking for the perfect boat, I am obsessed in my search for the perfect paddle. I have a 220 Werner with a low angle blade and have always felt it was a wee bit too long for me.. So, I have gone to different sites where you punch in your height, boat length, style, etc., and every last one says, "Thou shalt use a 220 paddle." Danny Mongo, Ph.D. in paddling, told me the same thing. Then I had a little conversation with the Irish man.

Turns out, Sam Crowley uses a 215. AHA! "...Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout." He told me that it just felt right. This past week, I asked Greg what he was using, and it turned out to be a 210 Shuma, a high angle paddle (so a shorter paddle). But I never evaluated Greg's style as being all that high angle. I asked, and he let me try it.

I used it low angle, medium angle and high angle, and it felt more natural than my 220. How's about that? More over, the additional blade area gave me a better bite in the water.

I will be teaching in Madison this weekend and will make every effort to try some different combinations while there. Who knows? I may end up with a paddle like Greg's. If I do, I will have to find some way to get those silly bends out of the shaft.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

And then...
...after meeting Richard (yesterday's post), there was Brett. I had just missed his launch as he was paddling south when I arrived. He was in what turned out to be a stitch and glue Pygmy and was clutching a paddle he had made himself. He wore neoprene and a PFD that was closed. Looked to me to be the real deal and, in a very real way, he is.

Turns out he is pretty much self taught, has less than 2 years on the water and is already signed up for our Door County Sea Kayak Symposium in July. In chatting, I learned he was registered for stroke progressions on the first day and rolling classes on Saturday and Sunday. I suggested that he consider taking the one day intro to sea kayaking on Friday to nail down the basics and to fill in the holes of any self taught course. That would leave him Saturday and Sunday to fit in these other lessons. By the way, the paddle he had made was in fine form.

So, that day was quite an experience considering the habits I had observed. I had seen a boy who paddled bare chested and sans PFD in 40(F) degree water in a crude rec boat on one of our great lakes. And, I had met Richard, an affable guy, and Brett in whom I see gobs of potential. At the end of my paddle, Richard, Bret and I had a chance to chat together, and it all seemed so natural. We wee, in our own ways, paddlers with a common love of the water. As I always told my residents and fellow: We are colleagues, and I just happen to be designated the teacher in this group because I am a bit further along in this career. I expect, however, to learn a great deal from you.

This weekend I head to Madison to teach a two day kayak progression course. I hope the weather is kind as it is always problematic to have new students do wet exits in cold water. I will have to scrounge up some appropriate gear for them to wear. I hope I learn a lot.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

After a Year...
10 Minutes Late

Each spring, on the first really nice day, I like going out for a paddle at our local launch site on Lake Michigan. Those days are also the ones during which I usually see the first recreational paddler of the year doing all sorts of inappropriate things. It generally makes for a good photo and posting. This year I arrived 10 minutes late. The guy was getting out of his rec kayak (it had a behemoth cockpit) and was able to load it on his car before I could dig out my camera. Too bad, it would have been a classic photo.

It was in the 70's (F), sun full out and water temps around 40. There was no pfd in site, and the young man, who was topless, wore cotton shorts. It just does not get any better than that. Oh well, I pushed off and was soon rewarded by the sighting of another rec paddler out for a spin. He looked like an older, more mature individual, and what attracted me was the upside down and backward way he held his paddle. I paddled ove,r as he turned to meet me, and asked if he didn't mind a suggestion.
He said he didn't, and that's when I noticed his open pfd and time-honored slouch paddling style. Any way, his name is Richard, and he is a friendly guy. He said he had heard of me and that I was supposed to be a tough teacher. (to the contrary, I am a pussy cat) I asked if I could take his picture and use it in this blog. He said fine.

So, while I missed my classic shot, I did meet a nice fellow. It was, after all, a fine day on the water for me.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

HP Printers
Disposable Crap?

When I think disposable, I think of little cheap cameras and diapers, but a printer that retails of over $600? No way. At least, not until now. You see, after much research, I "invested" in an HP Photosmart Pro B9180 to reproduce fine prints. And it did, for a while. I hardly used it, but I left it on so the injectors would always auto clean. This printer uses pigmented ink and requires such codling. Since I didn't use it often (ink and paper cost a fortun), the warranty has run out. Suddenly, the piece of crap no longer prints.

While happy to run blank paper through its rollers, it simply won't print. So I contact HP and go through many many e mail exchanges doing this and that as instructed. No dice, the sucker is out of commission. Contact their partners, Best Buy, for help, they say. They cannot help me either. No one wants to fix this out of warranty machine.

Many of you know how much I love doing my photography and that I trained as a fine art, B&W, large format photographer. With my darkroom closed, this printer (a big investment for me) was my way of making permanent some precious few images I wanted to hang on my wall. Now, forget it. No more darkroom and no more printer. With no one to fix it and my unwillingness to dump $500+ into another paper weight, I need to close that chapter on my life. I guess I can still use the online printing services out there, although I don't know how expensive they might be.

Shame on you HP for turning out such expensive and unreliable junk. I have asked you for a way to send the machine to you for repairs at my expense and get the same old, same old in return. If your R&D folks want it, they will find it at my curb sadly awaiting the garbage men.

Paddle safe...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Talking About

It was only a few weeks ago that I sent my first text message on a cellular phone. What a high. I suddenly felt as hip as a NASA scientist. I had conquered technology (and I never even took calculus in school). No longer was I some old guy who expected to see dials on phones. No sir. I was a new-ager with a computer and a cell phone and a digital camera. I could even do a few things in PhotoShop.Then #1 daughter sends me these pictures made by "bored" graphic artists, and I suddenly realized that while I was sending that first text message technology was continuing to out pace my knowledge and abilities. Oh well. It's all good, and my grandchildren will grow up with it all and understand stuff I never will.

It's supposed to get up to 80F today, and I just might go paddling in my kayak. I think I will use my high tech Greenland stick, just to make a point to, if no one else, my self.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

everything is different
It started the other evening when I gave a talk on getting started in kayaking. Actually, it began a bit before that as I loaded selected items into the Blazer, items to help illustrate the talk. Yes, there was a dry suit, but there was also a Farmer John and paddling tops. You know, stuff you don't wear when paddling in the arctic.

Then there were the folks. No one was there up to 10 minutes before the talk. Then, they just appeared, all different, all with different and equally good questions. Suddenly, I was talking about paddling and showing pics of kayaks on a "warm" Lake Michigan. The juices flowed.

[I digress: having lived with a wife for over 30 years and a good part of that with two daughters, I love to teach because people actually listen to me...back to the subject at hand.]

This weekend I will be on the water, and I have already gotten my first teaching assignment at Rutabaga in Madison. I will be going over to Michigan with Derrick to staff a symposium. I will be heading north with JB to staff two happenings one of which will include an instructor's clinic with Nigel Dennis. To put the cherry on the top, I have a job teaching nursing level students two courses, and the college is letting me do it all in one day a week. Sweat.

I have to say, with the unusual ice conditions keeping me ashore and the long hours-in-the-chair doing class work, this winter has aged me. I don't like the way I have been feeling, i.e., old. Yes, I know I am, in fact, older than most (usually all) of the folks with whom I paddle, but denial is a great art form. I have been fatigued and stiff, and I need to get my butt back in the boat.

Well, winter is more or less over, and everything is different. Let's hit the water.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

First Boat
First Wife

Last evening, I gave an intro to kayak talk at the local REI. The most frequently asked questions were concerning how to choose a new boat. Today I see that DaveO has written on that very subject. I guess it must be important. So, using my enviable talent for teaching by analogy, I offer today's advise column to the lonely (paddler). The analogy, for better or worse, is to consider the process similar to choosing your first wife.

First of all, how will you use her (the boat). Are you content with a series of calm encounters with no surprises? If so, you want a recreational model. Get one that looks okay and is easy to handle. They're cheap to own and make few demands. Just be sure you have a place to keep her during those many days when you will have nothing to do with her.

If, on the other hand, if all you want are wild encounters with lots of wet rolling around going on, you're looking at a white water, boat. You want her to be responsive (I don't know if a boat can anticipate your needs), and you want her to be able to take a lot of rough handling. You will also want to practice safe paddling. After wards, of course, you will want to gently wipe her down and give her tender loving care.

Most folks, as it turns out, are looking for something that is reliable and will take care of them in their times of need. You want to know how she is going to act in any situation, no surprises. Here, interestingly, appearance becomes important in your selection, especially the first time around. Whether you get to test drive her or not will depend on store policies. After all, the gang is going to meet her the first time you drive up with her strapped onto your car top. The guys will be checking out the lines of her hull and, whether they say so or not, they will be thinking how she would feel under them out in the waves.

The ultimate proof lies in how long you keep the damn thing. Some "out grow" their acquisitions and quickly "trade up." I, for instance, sold my original purchase after a few years. She just wasn't what I ultimately needed. Lady Linda, on the other hand, will have been in the fleet 33 years come September. Sometimes you get lucky and get the right rig on the first try.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I'm Almost Back
Getting There From Here

A series of events and exhaustion have kept me away from these pages for the past few weeks. First, there was the birth of our grand daughter and travel down to Illinois. There was, as well, the never ending prep for the three classes I teach and time needed to write and correct exams. Finally, last weekend, I traveled to Seattle on Friday, lectured 6 hours Saturday and almost flew home on Sunday.

Arriving in Chicago, I learned my flight to Milwaukee had been cancelled and that there were no other flights available that evening. It was raining, and the weather was supposedly to blame. In any event, I was given a voucher to catch a bus to the Milwaukee airport.

So outside I went, through the rain and over to where the buses loaded up. There, I was told that the voucher (and, for that matter, a ticket) did not guarantee a seat on any bus. First come, first serve. No matter, I got onto the first bus. What followed, however, has left me upset.

At subsequent stops, the driver stopped and opened the door to let the hapless folks there know that the bus was full. Another would be along soon, however, everyone of us knew that all of those would also be filled and that these folks, some with families, were in effect stranded. I was angry and, at the same time, sad for those left standing in the damp air.

The airlines give not a shit. The workers punch out and go home by the clock. No one, it appears, cares about the travelers left abandoned and with no good alternatives. Sure, some could afford to rent a car and/or get a hotel room (if there were one available). Others, and I suspect they are the majority, were at the end of trips that had been saved and budgeted for (he said ending with a preposition). Their memory for their once in a lifetime trip will likely be of being left in the darkening evening, standing in the rain and wondering how the hell they are going to get home.

No one cared. No agency took charge and, knowing dozens of flights had been cancelled, ordered more buses. The incompetence, the uncaring and the injustice of it all is still with me.

Better to go by kayak.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On a Happier Note

Adena, our new grand daughter, was born last friday. She and her parents are doing just fine.


I Feel Afraid

This isn't about kayaking or even water sports in general. This is about a bad feeling I have been having lately and cannot rationalize away. This is about a vague sense that history may be repeating itself, and not in a good way.

I was born before Pearl Harbor day and remember all the wars since then, including the cold war. I remember, too, the countries with dictators and the atrocities those "leaders" carried out. I remember the countries that were free and healthy only to fall to dictators and decay. Perhaps those memories wounded my psyche and made me over interpret things I see. Perhaps not.

Almost no one I know is aware of my political leanings, and I have never spoken to anyone about how I voted in the last election. But since the new administration has taken over, I have felt that something insidious may be in the offing. No, I am not normally paranoid nor do I see a conspiracy around every corner.

What I do see is a government stepping deeply into the offices of private enterprise in a way the founding Fathers had never envisioned. Were this not enough, it turns out that the homeland office people have a list of criteria of people who may need watching. In essence, this includes such dangerous individuals as disgruntled veterans and right leaning and out spoken people.

So far, no harm, no foul. But I hear ghosts of the past marching, and I remember how fast some unthinkable things happened in my life time. Some how, I find it hard to think about paddling just now.

Now, please, go back to what you were doing and wait for this to play itself out.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Still Exhausted

Lady Linda and I were in the Chicago area for the birth of our grand daughter last Friday. Without going into all the details, it was a long 24 hours until we knew that mom and baby were fine. Our grand daughter, Adena, remains under UV lights for jaundice, just as her cousin (our grand son) had had to do.

We just received some pictures including one of my son in law feeding the baby and, boy, did that bring back memories. My mother had once told me that there was something about being a man that I would never understand until I held my own child. As usual, she was right.

So, blessing to the new family with hopes for a long, healthy and satisfying life.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Worse than I thought...see yesterday's posting.

I just found this on Picasa:

When you delete photos and folders in Picasa, they are deleted from your computer's hard drive as well. Deleted items are sent to the Recycle bin (Windows) or the Trash (Mac). Deleting photos from Picasa will not remove them from Picasa Web Albums.

Emphasis my own. They won't let go.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Please tell me that I'm wrong

I don't know how I came about it, I wasn't looking for it, but I found that I have a Google photo thingy (Picasso?). Seems there are over 400 photos there which I gather are ones I have either e mailed or posted on this blog (blogspot is apparently a Google thingy too).

Not really wanting my stuff out there, I went to delete it which, in turn, brought up a warning that should I delete any picture or folder the same would be deleted from my hard drive. If this is true, I feel scammed (I know I signed one of those "I agree" statements). Who the hell are they to have access to my hard drive?

Now why on earth would they do such a thing. Are those photos now theirs? To what use could they possibly put them? Besides, there are no model releases for any people in any of the photos.

Until I do find out, I will not be posting any more pictures. If I do find out it is true, then no pictures and little point to blogging.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Up In The Attic
As a kid, I loved going up into the attic of our old duplex to rummage through boxes of old clothes, toys and photographs. I still do. Thing is, I don't have an attic, not a real one anyway. What we have now is a space with insulation and no floor. But I do have a big trunk down in the basement, and there is lots of memorabilia in it. Thing is, they revolve mostly around my time in the military. So, now, I have to rummage through folders of pixels instead; but it still serves the same purpose.
Some bring back memories, and some are just interesting. They all, however, remind me of how quickly time is passing.
I could spend hours with my images, both those on the computer and the stacks of mounted 11x14 black and white prints in the basement. Just now, I have to leave to teach. The images will wait for me.

Paddle safe...

Monday, April 06, 2009

Hurry up...
and Wait
Although her due date is officially not until Easter Sunday, daughter number 2 is carrying my soon-to-be grand daughter awfully low. Being a creative bunch, Lady Linda and I have advised everything from getting on a pogo stick to water skiing in order to encourage the appearance of our newest family member.

If you haven't enjoyed this situation, it is like sending off your 25 cents with ten box tops, then waiting at the mailbox every day until your secret decoder ring arrives. Or, maybe you can relate to ordering that special kayak and waiting for the store to call to say it has a arrived. It's something like that, but much more special.

Oh, well, #2 always did march to her own drummer. I just wish the drummer would pick up the beat.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Got Nothing to Do April 18th?
Gonna' Be in Wisconsin?

I'll be in Seattle, but here's something that can get you ready for the spring warm air and still near freezing water temps.

Paddle safe...

Friday, April 03, 2009

Hurry Up

This past Sunday I woke in Atlanta at 4:00 AM to make an early flight home. I got to the airport (already jammed) in plenty of time to wait 4 hours for the flight to actually take off. Oh, well.

North of here there is an old coal burning car ferry that crosses lake Michigan a number of times a day. I take it when I go to QAJAQ camp which is in northern Michigan. I drive a few hours north, always mindful of time, line up my car for loading and wait an hour before boarding and setting off.

This June a few of us will take the go-fast catamaran ferry out of Milwaukee so we can attend the Western Michigan Sea Kayak Symposium. I am sure there will be a wait, but the trip should go faster as the boat does 40 knots on flat water.

Just now, I am waiting for my virus to clear up so that I can hit the lake, hopefully soon. There is, however, another waiting going on as daughter #2 is about to go into labor. They say that all good things are worth waiting for, and it's all good.

They also say that all comes to he who waits, including senility.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

This image was passed around the WEB sometime in the past, and I don't know whom to credit. In any event, most folks look at it and see two old faces looking at one another. Some see a yellow chalice in the middle. Then one recognizes that the faces are made of people, one playing a guitar. Keep looking and you will find more. Your perspective will change with time. So it goes with paddling.

The goals and joys of the twenty year old are often different than those past 50. This difference is even more pronounced as we pass 60. Strength wanes and healing slows. More over, the older paddler has seen more of life and is often satisfied with what, to others, seems less.

This winter (around here) has been hard on folks. Long, cold and dark days have taken their toll on fitness and mental outlook. Some studies have documented Vitamin D levels of nearly zero in many. Lack of sunshine and, when it is there, the presence of 10 layers of clothes and sun screen over what does show has been named the cause.

For many years I have had my patients take huge doses of D, up to 2000 units a day. The vitamin is involved in serotonin synthesis, and many patients have experienced a lift in their SADS (seasonal affective disorder) and plain old depression...but, I digress.

All of the above, piled onto my accumulated years, have made me feel like less than. In spite of frequent visits to the gym, I don't have some of the muscle power or endurance I did just one year ago. Yesterday my deltoid, or rotator cuff, started hurting on the left...and, I hadn't done anything (at least, anything of which I was aware). So it goes. The years have been incredibly good to me, and I hope for many more. I presume I will be able to do less and less as time goes on, but right now I just want to get on the water (perhaps alone) and begin a series of slow-paced paddles, gradually extending their lengths.

My perspective on old age is a lot different than that of a lot of friends my age. The thing is that they never did do much with their bodies but found contentment in other interests. Nothing wrong with that, their choice. Mine is to push on, stay in the game, show up and do as much safely as I can for as long as I can. I will see you out there.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sam Crowley Expected To Make Full Recovery
(investigation still in progress)
Sam Crowley, after circumnavigating Ireland unscathed, met near disaster in what at this time appears to have been a common bar brawl. It is nothing less than ironic that this instructor trainer (ACA) would survive so many miles only to suffer multiple fractures so close to home. This was not, to be clear, a kayaking accident. Although the police have not yet made public exactly what happened to Sam, a personal friend of mine has informed me that they are looking at John Browning, a fellow IT, as a "person of interest". (This same individual, who wishes to remain anonymous, also supplied me with the picture of Sam taken as he awaited transportation to a local hospital).
In a case such as this, involving two men whom I consider teachers, colleagues and friends, I am hesitant to speculate about just what may have happened. We do know that the two of them were meeting at a local pub to plan this spring's Instructor Training Workshop. Apparently (according to vague reports), there was some disagreement between them concerning something about the course. Witnesses (not identified) indicated that the men had been arguing and that their voices had become quite loud (these are two usually soft spoken men).

No one heard everything, however rumor has it that they reported snippets they did hear to the police. There were words something like, " do all the fun stuff and leave me with the crap...," and "...Nancy made me do it." There was a mention of someone's mother just before the fight broke out. I could not reach Sam in the hospital, but I did manage to talk to JB by phone. Understandably, he was hesitant to say much, but he did indicate that he has retained local paddlers and attorneys Gary Simon and Bob Bertram to represent him in this whole affair. Gary and Bob would not give me any additional information indicating client priveledge.

Again, all is speculation, but I will say that these two like their beer and ales. I mean, really like their beer and ales, and I can only wonder if inebriated egos let things get out of control that evening. Another curiosity is the fact that JB apparently remained unscratched raising rumors of involvement of some local bar girl and her "boy friend". Never one to judge, I wish Sam a speedy recovery. I know he would appreciate hearing words of encouragement from you.

Paddle safe...