Spam

When I was growing up, spam was a rather nasty meat like product that came out of a can. You could batter and deep fry it, which unlike the original product came close in my eyes to a food of the gods. The original – well nuff said, it was what you eat when you ran out of cat food.

Now spam means something completely different, and it is the poisonous problem that most of us that operate blogs or have an email account suffer from, where some basement dwelling troll or worse, some Nigerian con artist is sending us messages about their dearly beloved auntie who wants to send us 10 million dollars, or in the case of blogs, some fake post in the hope that we will put the comment up and link back to a site selling fake Louis Vuitton sunglasses.

Are you friggin stupid, or do you think that I am? There is no way in gods green earth that I am going to fall for either of these rather stupid little schemes and if you believe that I will, then you have the IQ of a carrot, so please stop sending this crap. I still have a few mental faculties working, so just trying and trying again will not work. Now having said that – maybe you should just keep going for another 10 or 20 years, and by that time, my brain may have rotted enough for me to go…..hmmmm good idea. Nah – let me repeat – IT ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN…. so please stop

I get so tired of clearing out my spam folder every morning, so if you are going to persist with this, at least be creative about it, and give me a good laugh.

For me spam is just a total annoyance, but I am so glad my parents are not on the net. They, unlike me are trusting souls and would fall for the little girl trapped in a foreign country scam and that is the real tragedy of all of this, that the people that are least able to defend themselves are likely the victims, so lets get out the pitchforks and deal with this problem.

Life lessons from boat racing – heads up

The worst tangles that I have ever got into in a boat race come down to one thing and that is not keeping a weather eye out, If you see trouble coming then you have time to come up with a counter strategy which, while it may not eliminate the threat, will minimize the impact on you.

It could be a boat that is on starboard and you are on port, or it could be a traffic jam developing at a turning mark or being headed up at the starting line. If you see it coming then you can  figure out an exit strategy.

If you don’t see it coming, then there is usually lots of yelling followed by a sub optimal solution. Hopefully there isn’t any crashing sounds, but when you are blindsided that is definitely one of the possible outcomes.

Life works the same way – keep your head up and don’t get so engrossed in the task at hand that you can’t see that your path is taking you over a cliff.

Life lessons from boat racing – keep it clean

My boat is fairly quick, but is heavy and needs time to accelerate. I have a pretty stiff handicap and need to stretch out as much from slower boats as possible.

To that end, the best solution for me in a race is to get into clear air and keep it that way. That way there isn’t disturbed air coming off other boats, and I get a chance to accelerate up to full speed for the tack that I am on and keep it that way. If I get trapped in traffic, the boat doesn’t get a chance to use it’s full speed potential, and I get bogged down.

The same is true with sailing against a fleet – I need to keep in mind that the real objective is to get around the course as fast as possible by tactically playing it right and reading and using wind shifts and wind lanes to my best advantage. I only should engage with other boats when absolutely necessary and always keep in mind that when I’m battling another boat, the likelihood is that the rest of the fleet is making gains as we have our own little private war.

The same is true in life. If you get into a pissing competition, the likelihood is that you will both get wet feet, and the rest of the world will pass you by. You need to keep your eye on the end game and not get distracted.

Election spleen vent

I have just been to vote in the Ontario provincial election.

I must admit, I don’t find any of the candidates in my riding particularly enticing, but I have always said that if you don’t vote, you lose your right to bitch. So off to vote I went.

This is where it went a little sideways. Unless I am very much mistaken, the two official languages in Canada are English and French. So how come the people that were staffing the polling station were conversant in neither?

I have voted many times before, so the process is well known to me, but if I hadn’t gone through it before, I’m pretty sure that I would have had difficulty after the totally mangled explanation that was given to me by the elections officer. I wondered if it was just the one person that was dealing with me, but her partner was having similar difficulties with the next person in line.

I was very tempted to switch to French to see what sort of reaction that would provoke, but instead decided that the best course would be to simply vote and get out of there before I said.something that I would regret. Well I’m going to say it anyway. Why for heavens sake can’t the hiring criteria state ability to speak and understand either official language clearly is mandatory.

 

Life lessons from boat racing – be on time

One of the keys to having a great race is to hit the ground running at the start right on time. This is as important in life as in boat racing, as in life, you really have difficulty changing a first impression. In boat racing, if you are mired in the pack, then you are starting at a huge disadvantage, and will probably have to make some changes to your plan that are driven more by necessity than desire.

For a fairly heavy boat like mine, you can’t hang about stationary near the line and then power up as the clock runs down with any degree of accuracy, and simply getting a heavy boat up to speed means you have to take a run at it. It is the same with people, most have trouble getting started and inertia is as true in life as it is on a boat.

To that end, all of our starts are timed efforts where we run a test to see how long it will take us from a particular point to the starting line at full speed. We then run back and forth around that area as the clock runs down with the aim of hitting that point at full speed a good 30 seconds before we need to. You can always scrub off a little speed, but you can’t add much, so being a little early is good.

We then keep a weather eye out for boats that can cause us starting issues and off we go. If all works to plan – then your start will be good with you  crossing the start line at full speed as the starting gun goes off. In boat racing as in life, you will have the odd curve thrown in, such as a boat heading you up, but if you are aware of your surroundings then you can usually work around that and still have a great start.

Life lessons learned from boat racing – communication

One of the keys to boat racing is to get your crew doing the right thing at the right time. When you have a crew that has been with you for years, it becomes much easier as they pretty much know what to do, but even then you can get into trouble making assumptions.

To that end, unless it is an emergency, such as we are about to t-bone another boat, one of the things that we try to do is to have a brief discussion of who is going to what and when, prior to starting any maneuver. It doesn’t matter whether this is something that we have done many times before, or whether it is a first time through. It may be as simple as Bill, you are on release, Terry you are tailing, John you are on main – are we all ready? Ok – helm over.

The number of times we have aborted an action because someone said – no – hold on – the sheet is twisted, or highlighted some other issue makes it well worth it, as holding off on a maneuver is usually a heck of a lot better than messing one up. The other thing that is important is that if there is an issue, anyone who notices it speaks up. The idea is that we do our maneuvers as well as we can, and everyone is key to getting it right. If it doesn’t go right – then there is a quick debrief about how we need to do it differently next time, but we aren’t looking to assign blame, we are just looking to improve.

Wouldn’t it be nice if other areas of our lives worked the same way – so no egos, or turf wars or cover ups. I can’t say that all of these things will go away, but it is certainly worth a try and open communication is pretty key to this.

Life lessons learned from boat racing – play to your strengths

I sailed a CS27 called L’Autre Femme for years, and by the end of my tenure with the boat, I knew exactly what it could do well and what it couldn’t. The boat pointed very well, so sailing up wind in a fleet was easy as I could keep as high as everyone else in the fleet, and if forced I could squeak out an extra little. That meant that I wasn’t usually in a situation where the boat was sinking down behind someone else and getting stalled by them.

The sails on the boat were getting a little old and didn’t have quite the shape that they had in their youth (oh boy does that also apply to life) so really pushing the boat hard to wind wasn’t something you did except in dire circumstances. What suited the boat was sailing a little lower and faster, but pointing high was still definitely a tool in the tool box.

L’Autre Femme was designed as a cruiser rather than a racer, so it is heavy. That means you race it like racing a truck. You get it up to speed and do everything you can to keep the speed up. It isn’t agile and you can’t sail it that way. You need to minimize tacks and never get into a tacking duel with an agile boat like a J24.

My new boat is a CS36 Merlin called Emrys. It is again a racer/cruiser so fairly heavy, but it carries a lot of sail so powers up quite quickly. It is a wing keel as opposed to the fin on L’Autre Femme, and doesn’t tend to point quite as well but goes like a train a couple of degrees off hard to wind. Its headsail is in very poor shape and needs replacing, but until that is done, finding the upwind slot is very touchy and it is easy to stall the boat, so trying to go high upwind is a low percentage move.

It also has a wheel as opposed to the tiller on L’Autre Femme, so you don’t get to feel the helm response quite as much and can load up a lot of weather helm if you aren’t paying attention, and the cues are a lot different. It can tack quite quickly, but it is a lot of work to haul the sails in, so we can get into tacking duels, but not long ones as our arms sue for divorce after the 3rd tack.

The new boat is also carrying a LOT more sail, so it powers up in light winds very well, but you are looking to reef at a lot lower wind velocity.

So two different boats with very different characteristics, and you race them very differently to play to their strengths and try to avoid their weaknesses.

With L’Autre Femme I would quite often fight for the committee boat end at the start and pinch up a little above the fleet. With Emrys, I hardly ever start at the committee boat end and much prefer hitting midline at full speed.

With L’Autre Femme I would always consider trying to point a little higher to get out of trouble, with Emrys that isn’t on the cards, so you foot the boat and power through.

Neither boat is one that you want to get into a tacking duel with lighter more agile boats, so that is to be avoided with both.

With L’Autre Femme you would always consider pushing the upper end of the sail as the wind increased, With Emrys, you downsail or reef early.

Emrys has a brutal handicap, so you simply can’t afford to be trapped within the fleet, whereas L’Autre Femmes handicap allowed you to think a little more about options in that situation.

In life it is exactly the same, you play to your strengths and avoid your weaknesses. If you are a detail person, those are the tasks you will excel at. If you like to paint with a broader brush, you should avoid jobs that need that detail skill. If you are not a people person, then sales isn’t for you. The list goes on, but in sailing as in life, the first trick is to understand your strengths and weaknesses of you and your  boat and capitalize on the good ones and avoid the other.

 

Life lessons learned from boat racing

I’m about to head out to my boat club for our weekly race around the cans that occurs every Wednesday. I’m a keen sailor and have been for many years, and have had mixed results on the race course.

For the first few years, I was learning the trade and spent a lot of time at the back of the fleet. Slowly my results improved to the point that I had a good few years as the club champion in my fleet. Two years ago I bought a new boat and since that point my results again have been less than stellar.

I’m not dragging ass at the back end of the fleet, but compared to the results with my old boat, there is a lot of improvement that still needs to be made. That had me thinking about what we need to do to get us back to the podium, and hence this series of articles. Each and every time you go out to race your boat you learn lessons. Some are given to you by other competitors, some are learned through making mistakes and some are taught to you by the weather and other factors that aren’t really in your control. Each and every one of them is not only applicable in the world of boat racing, they are also applicable in the wider world.

The list is long, and I’m sure that as I go through it, I will see more, but like boat racing if you don’t start you can’t finish, so without further ago I will get started on the first. They aren’t in any real order of importance, they are just presented as they occurred to me.

Attack adverts

It is election day -1 here in Ontario, and as a follow up to a prior article about attack adverts, I would like to reiterate my objection to disingenuous names. It isn’t the Working Families Coalition, it is a variety of teachers unions.

These have been among the most vitriolic of the attack adverts against Tim Hudak, and it gives the impression that it is a group of concerned citizens, when in fact it is a very expensive media campaign by teachers unions.

There have been many others including a particularly nasty set by “Project Ontario” who I have been unable to identify.

Let me state again. I have no objections to attack advertising. They are part of the political landscape. I would much rather see politicians talking about their own platforms rather than saying little about what they would do and lots about how awful their opposition is. Where I have an objection is when unions and other organizations spend millions of dollars on slur campaigns and then hide behind innocuous names like the Working Families Coalition.

Hopefully these attempts to paint Hudak as some latter day Faust who has sold his soul to big corporations will suffer the fate that they should and cause a backlash. The question one needs to ask when seeing attack ads like that is to wonder what has been promised for a group of unions to spend so much money.

Home again and other musings

I’ve just returned from helping deliver a boat from Platsville New York to Toronto Canada. We navigated .Lake Champlain, the Eire Canal, the Hudson River, Lake Onieda, the Mohawk River and finally across Lake Ontario. We were blessed with good weather for most of the trip, but the final leg across Ontario was definitely on the chilly side.

I had a few firsts, including baking Chocolate chip cookies in the middle of Lake Ontario.The locks on the Eire were a bit forbidding for someone used to the somewhat smaller locks in Ireland, but we soon got the hang of them. We had a few frazzled nerves in a couple of places, but generally the trip went off according to plan.

The one thing that I would really like to note was the friendliness of the people of New York State. Everywhere we went the people were lovely and went out of their way to help us, whether it was in the Rochester Yacht club, the lock keepers on the canal, the cashier in the supermarket in Waterford or the on-duty personnel at the Red Neck boat club on the canal. Everyone was .helpful and had a smile on their face. For me, it was the highlight of the trip.