23 May 2006

thank you, VA


5. Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove

So I finally finished another book, only my fifth of 2006. It's been a slogging spring. I have been getting a lot of stuff done, just not reading.

I just finished reading Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove. HT is the master of alternative history fiction. A bunch of his books look really intriguing. When I was in HS I read Dick's Man in the High Castle, and have been a casual fan of the alternative history genre since. I mean, having an answer to the "What if..." question can be fun.

So the premise of this story is that just before things go really bad for the Confederacy, when things look their bleakest, a guy shows up offering some AK47s to the South. Because of these amazing guns, the South is able to push north, eventually capturing Washington DC. That's about half the book's worth of story. At first the Confeds are super willing to go along with the gun sellers, but then they start to get nervous – just what are these men capable of. To allay Lee's fears, the gun-sellers explain that they are from 150 years in the future, and that they have a machine that can bring them back exactly 150 years into the past. They explain to Lee that the South loses the Second American Revolution and that Lincoln lords it over them, putting them in a worse position than the slaves they are fighting to keep. Lee has trouble believing it, but eventually swallows the whole story.

The rest of the story discusses the political aftermath of the South's victory. The politicians quickly realize that they won't be able to keep all of the black people as slaves. And this question becomes the focus of the first election after the end of the War. In some areas Northern Armies gave the freed slaves lots of freedom, and to re-enslave them would be impossible. And the Union's black troops fought so well that even the most hardened slavery supporters had to admit that the slaves might be capable of learning. But even then, freedom doesn't mean equality in the eyes of the law.

Once the men from the future get wind of this, they freak out. They supported the South to ensure a place for the continuation and success of slavery. So the Confederate Government has to decide what to do about that, which brings us to the tidy close of the book and the story.

Overall it was an interesting book and you don't have to be a Civil War scholar to be able to read it.

19 May 2006

Race on!

Raced last night in the first race of the first series of the season. Jack drove and did main, Mike and I did the headsail, and I did the foredeck (sort of). It was very, very windy when we went out to the course, so we started out with a reef and a little bit of the jib rolled out.

Even as we paced the start line the wind began to die down. After the start we shook out the reef and rolled out the rest of the jib. With the three of us on the boat, we balanced it out nicely.

As we got closer to 6 the wind picked up again and we had a good sprint back to the Invisible X Mark (it was on the other side of the committee boat). After we went back to 9, and decided not to put up the spinnaker, we tried to pole out the jib. Unfortunately the track came off the mast, at the very top, so using the pole was out of the question. We managed, though, and finished with some dignity, sails full and a bone in our teeth.

Went over to Lewis Circle for some beers with the fellas, checked out Hugh's new Flying Scot, and then returned to the slip.

We came in DFL (Dead F/n Last), which is what I expected. But who cares, we had an excellent time.

Next week is committee duty.

17 May 2006

the search continues

Had an interview at Syosset High School on Monday. I left feeling pretty good. Unfortunately I had to mention that I teach Macbeth to the 7th grade, which so far, on LI has met with disbelief and a general reaction that leaves an impression with me that they don't think I know what I am doing (opposite of the reaction they are supposed to have).

Macbeth is perfect for the 7th grade - not too complicated, it has blood and guts, lying and trickery, witches, and it's short.

I also had a second interview at the New York Harbor School and it went very well. I am pretty sure that by Memorial Day they will have offered me a job.

Interviews are very different on LI than the city. Both ask what your experiences have been, and what your extra-curricular interests would be. But on LI, they don't seem to put much stock in school leadership-type things, like running the tutoring program, like running the student teacher placement system, like teaching outside your license area, what curriculums you have written or co-written, what kinds of collaborations (inside or outside the school) you have created, or even inter-disciplinary connections you have exploited.

In the city they ask and emphasize all of that stuff LI leaves out. And I'm wondering if it's the difference between looking for leaders or followers, or maybe, additions to a team, or additions to a, uh, army, I guess. (Army in that the soldiers have no say over the direction or speed they march.)

Either school would be great opportunities. I could start a sailing program in Syosset, and it sure would be nice to work in a school and an area that has a lot of resources (yesterday their budget passed). NYHS would be closer to my personal interests, sailing and boats and whatnot, but the needs of the school and its programs may leave me with less time for my own personal sailing and boat rebuilding.

12 May 2006


After arranging to get coverage for first period, I rode my bike down to the North Cove on Tuesday morning to watch the Volvo Ocean Racers come in. Larry called and alerted me to the fact hat the boats were behind schedule (they were supposed to come in on the 8th) and that we'd likely see some action if we got down there in the morning.

I arrived around 6.40 and was just in time to see Paul Cayard's Pirates of the Caribbean paying the Statue of Liberty a visit. (Later in an interview PC said he knew he had enough cushion to take a leg down all the way to the statue "so the boys could see it.") This was before I was even at the North Cove (which is on the Hudson River Estuary, just above Battery Park, behind Ground Zero). I hurried my pace and made it there in time to see Pirates finish and drop the jib. There was a bigger crowd than I thought there would be. When Pirates finished the speakers on the dock began playing the theme of the movie, which was just martial enough to make you want to go apillaging and raid someone's booty.

Once I spotted Race Committee I headed over there. It was hard to believe, these three normal looking folks running the Actual VOR Committee. The time-keeper was using what looked to be her wristwatch. I mean, it was all working, and I shouldn't be saying anything at all, but I expected something a little more, I don't know, fancy, or complicated, or something.

Standing behind them I watched the next three boats come in – Brazil, Ericsson, and Movistar. Then I went back to where the boats were docking, on the north side of the basin, and waited for Larry to come by. He showed up just as Bonnie, from the Frogma Blog did. We chatted and took some more pictures. The crews wrapped the boat up, organizing the sails, and cleaning up loose lines and gear and all the while the skippers were giving interviews and chatting with the lackeys and groupies on the dock.

Then on Wednesday, I went down there again, early in the morning to watch the awards ceremony and check out new stuff. In England (New Zealand?) they call it "prize-giving" which I think sounds cooler. I had a job interview that afternoon so I took the whole day off so I could sneak some more looks at the boats and the crews. After the 3-2-1 prizes were given, all of the skippers got on stage for a plaque from the City of New York.

After that I tried to buy some gear, but they wouldn't let me on to the plaza level where the tents were set up because I had my bike. Mind you, I was walking the bike. And May is Bike Month here in NYC. But the small-minded, rules-loving idiot keeping law and order on the plaza wouldn't have it. I should have made him call the cops. I complained to the representative from Volvo and the guy who was announcing the awards, both from outside the US (so much more easy-going), and they laughed but offered little in the way of solutions.

There was some more mingling and I had an opportunity to meet up with Paul Cayard. We spoke for about 5 seconds and I managed to say good luck and congratulations about five times apiece. I was giddy like a school girl.

Overall the entire thing was very cool and I'm glad I got to see some of it.

10 May 2006

5 Boro Bike Tour

Last weekend, on Sunday, I did the 5 Boro Bike Tour with two of my dear pals. It was 40 miles through all five boroughs, and included a bridge I had not yet crossed, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Total mileage for the day was near 50 with all the to and fro.

The organization could have been better. There were long sections where we had to walk our bikes, and getting food and water at the rest stops was impossible. And I think the organizers should have stated some rules of the road - for example, some people thought they were suddenly bike messengers and sped through the crowd, weaving and darting. One guy even crashed into a runner in Central Park (who then proceeded to start beating his ass, I'm not kidding). And other folks thought they were on a sight seeing tour, not watching where they were going, cashing into people, stopping in the middle of the road to adjust the jackets they had tied to their seatposts but were now getting tangled in the spokes. A simple, "slower riders keep right" rule would saved a lot of people a lot of road rash.

I'm glad I did it, but I wouldn't do it again.

08 May 2006

field trip

Anyone down for going to see the Volvo Ocean Racers finish the race in New York Harbor? As I write this they have 15 hours and about 50 minutes to go until they finish. That puts them finishing at 6am. I am going to meet with Larry in the morning at/near North Cove where the boats will be docking.

So if any of the racers finishes before that we can see them dock, and if not, we'll hopefully see them finish. Or perhaps we'll go down to Battery Park. I think I read an article that said they are going to be finishing in the wind shadow of Manhattan, so that means a little more uptown than Battery Park. I think.

I'll guess I'll keep my eye on the Volvo website for details. I managed to get 1st period off (though that could change) so I can stick around until 8ish.

Look for me. I'll be the guy on/with the red bicycle.

01 May 2006


Right at the beginning of kindergarten I had to move schools because my parents were going to split up. It was still in September, in the beginning of the school-year, and I distinctly remembering my uneasiness about being behind the other kids - that they would already have known each other and that I would be the new kid. So, I go to class and when it comes time for snack I had nothing. My old school had given us a cart of milk and stuff (some lucky kids got to go pick it up, telling the lady how many milks we needed), but for some reason, I don't think the new school gave out snack. Or maybe they did for the kids who qualified for free lunch, (which I would once we filled out the forms). The point is, I was sitting there with no snack and the teacher asked the kids to share some of their treats with me. I wound up having a bigger pile of cake and candy than everyone else, and made lots of friends in the process.

Last week my Jeep was broken into and some tools were stolen, including my Jeep toolbox, my boat toolbox, some boat parts and some power tools. Since then I have gotten: a $100 from a donor who shall remain nameless, a main sail that fits an old Luders 24(?) and a great sailbag; a bag full of blocks, and shackles, and bits of gear; a solar panel; and the most excellent thing of all, an old 8" table saw that belonged to the sailing gear donor's father - it was built by the Atlas Manufacturing Company, of Kalamazoo, Michigan. You can learn more about the saw here. Pretty sweet, kind, beautiful donations, and I am feeling very fortunate.