Monday, May 28, 2007

A blogger's life

We all construct stories. Stories that we use to help others define who we are, or stories to try and manipulate an image of how we want others to see us.

The New York Times published an intriguing article last week, based on the work by Dan P. McAdams, a professor of psychology at Northwestern and author of the 2006 book, “The Redemptive Self.”

He believes that the stories that we construct about ourselves define not only how we see ourselves in the past, but how we see ourselves in the future.

Perhaps this can also be applied to the blogs that I’m most familiar with, those based around the world of kayaking, and a small part of the lives of those who write these blogs. Here we are creating stories about ourselves in the present, our experiences as they’ve recently happened, usually within a 24-hour time frame. With the power of the blog, we’re actually living each other's stories as they’re lived, or constructed.

And this also means that we’re immediately at hand while stories are deconstructed or manipulated. Just recently, there’s been a bit of a blip in the kayaking blogosphere, and this has shown that the human brain’s natural affinity for narrative construction also has a talent for constructing stories that may misrepresent who we really are, and attack the story that others have created to represent their own life journeys.

I hope that we can soon return to the stories that we share, that define the joy of experiencing life’s adventures, and those that we take pleasure from as they're so kindly shared.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Playing possum

NZ possums are an amazing critter. Kiwis love ‘em and hate ‘em, all in the one breath. We have a similar attitude to possums as we do to bunnies – the fewer of them around, the better.

A prime example happened back in Kiwiland last night - a possum on a Wairarapa powerline knocked out electricity to Masterton, Carterton, Greytown and Featherston. Thankfully, justice was served immediately to the culprit - the possum exploded after touching the powerlines, which caused electricity to arc metres through the air to blow up a nearby water main.

There are reportedly 7o million possums in NZ, chomping through seven million tonnes of native and non-native vegetation per year. With a human population of four million, that’s quite a ratio.

High on cute factor – they’re remarkably good looking compared to the right ugly ones I would dispatch from this world when we lived in San Diego – possum byproducts are now seeing the retail light of the world. The fur is being made into high-end bed spreads and jackets, while the hollow-fibre strands are being woven into cozy gloves, scarves and jumpers. Dang, I’ve even seen possum fur nipple warmers!

Most folks will see possums on the road at night, dazed by your oncoming headlights. It’s your duty to try and hit them. NZ’s fabulous national museum, Te Papa, even features a possum skeleton that’s melted into a road’s tarseal.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Race for the Cup

I cannot believe how much I have emotionally invested in this year’s America’s Cup.

Yesterday was a cliff hanger to see if the Kiwis would finally take out the Spanish to win their semi-final for the Louis Vuitton Cup. For just over an hour I had one ear open to the race live on my laptop at work. The Kiwis had been 4-2 up over the Spanish in the best of nine races, the Spanish running on pure adrenalin just getting this far in their first America’s Cup challenge.

Conditions were perfect for the Kiwi boat – absolute Hauraki Gulf sailing conditions most New Zealanders are familiar with – 1m chop and 15-25 knot winds. Spray was flying, bows were heaving in the most extreme weather the boats have yet to experience off Valencia – it’s terrific what imagery even a radio commentary can conjure up.

The finals for the Louis Vuitton kick off June 1. The Kiwis against the Italians in Luna Rossa, skippered by the young and awesome Aussie, James Spithill. This all brings back shades of 2000, when Luna Rossa had beaten the Americans to take the Louis Vuitton and win the right to challenge Team NZ for the America’s Cup. NZ finally retained the Cup at 5-0; but the Italians have come a long way over the last seven years, effectively shutting out BMW Oracle 5-1 to win their Louis Vuitton semi-final - tough times for Larry Ellison and the American boat. (One wonders what BMW Oracle, skipper, helmsman and CEO Chris Dickson will be doing once he wraps Ellison’s syndicate up in Valencia.)

And then whoever wins the Louis Vuitton wins the right to challenge the current America’s Cup holders, the Swiss in their powerhouse, Alinghi. That duel starts June 23.

I, for one, will be hanging on every word, and every image. Sport, and sailing, at its best.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Preparing for the next flood

Another historic ship is again seeing the light of day. Greenpeace is building a modern day replica of Noah's Ark atop Mount Ararat.

As an appeal for action on global warming, the German and Turkish activists building the Ark hope to have it complete by May 31st. At 10m x 4m x 4m, that's quite a bit of timber.
Lying at 2,500m above sea level, we can hope that waters don't rise that much.

The NZ Herald has some great shots as construction progresses.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cutty Sark

A really sad day for maritime history, the what could be deliberate burning of the Cutty Sark. I just don't have the capacity to figure out why anyone would want to burn such a venerable grand dame.

Touted as the world's last surviving tea clipper, the 138-year-old ship was built at Dumbarton on the Clyde in Scotland and launched in 1869. The opening of the Suez Canal that year, however, shortened her life as a tea-clipper, the tea trade being soon taken over by steam ships. From 1885
Cutty Sark became involved in the Australian wool trade and was famous for her speed, setting several records for the fastest passage between Sydney and England. Later, Cutty Sark was bought by Portuguese owners and continued to sail under various names up to 1938.

half the planking and the masts had been taken away as part of the clipper's current restoration project.

I first saw her when I was living in London in the nineties, and visiting Greenwich one lazy Sunday. Fully planked and painted, with masts and rigging standing majestically. Such a wonderful sight to behold.

Let's hope we get to see her again that way.

Cutty Sark, by Kendrick Smithyman

In company with Cutty Sark at sea
only once, on Himalaya off Brazil.
They sailed into the doldrums.
Day after day another sail came into sight,
would lose the wind, then idle.
Forty-two ships counted from the masthead.

Sent up with a glass at daybreak
to mark if anything stirred, reported
a clipper coming from the south carrying
canvas, the mate observing from the poop
later was first to say ‘That’s Cutty Sark.’
They watched her through the day.
At last light she was hull down, northing,
had sailed right through the might as well
have been derelict fleet, forty-plus of them,
some getting on for four weeks there.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

2007 Tybee 500

I've been avidly following this year's Tybee 500, a six-stage catamaran sailing race from Hollywood Beach, FL, to Tybee Island, GA.

For two reasons the race has been a highlight this week: SandyBottom's son, Alan is crew on Team Velocity Sailing with skipper Trey; and the challenging weather has made for some dead exciting beach starts and landings.

Accordingly, I think SandyBottom's a wee bit worried for her offspring, but knowing the fun and excitment Alan (SOS) had during this year's Everglades Challenge, he'll be lapping up every minute of the race.

After some real drama, the boys are currently lying in 4th position.

For some seat-of-your-pants video, click over to here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wally Funk, DS

It’s a proud week for a good friend of mine, Wally Funk. Not a name that rings a bell?

Wally was one of the “Mercury 13” women. And on Saturday, these brave women received honorary Doctor of Science degrees from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh at its commencement.

Wally’s a pilot extraordinaire. She was the first woman to be employed by the FAA as a crash investigator. And she always wanted to get up into space. So nearly 50 years ago, and at 21 the youngest of the crew, Wally went through all the top secret rigorous tests that the 13 women were subjected to, to see if they could hold up to the psychological and physical stresses of space.

They proved they could. In fact the majority of the women beat their male counterparts – the Mercury 7 men and others - hands down. This is probably what scared the current administration of the time, who firmly cancelled the testing program. And, sadly, John Glenn was a staunch opponent. (It’s rumoured that Wally did better than Glenn on her tests ;)

If you’re interested in reading more on the subject, Martha Ackmann’s book, Mercury 13 tells the story and plight of those brave and daring women.

BTW, Wally’s a BubbaGirl

* Photo above: Wally and myself at San Diego's Aerospace Museum, in front of the Mercury 7 exhibit.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mothers' Day!

It's our first Mothers' Day. Times two. Mommy and Mummy.

Andrew's a week old (May 3 at 0219hrs), and Mum has obviously got multi-tasking down to a fine art. Just couldn't hold the cuppa at the same time.

Oscar is slowly getting used to the fact that he has a new brother.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Bit of a break

I'll be taking a bit of a break for a few days, folks. Day 2 at Duke Hospital and baby Andrew's (hopefully) on the way, albeit a week early. Can't control these things though.

Gotta love the fact that one has Internet connection in one's own birthing room!

Shot above of Andrew at 20 months. Well, on-the-way-Andrew.