Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 


 

January 8:

 

     So I was re-reading my brief and boring blog entries over the past few months and decided that perhaps I'm being a bit too negative... For those who still read this to hear about sailing, but instead have been subjected to my whining about everything that's wrong with American life, let me apologize.  With the new year, I'm turning over a new leaf.  I'm going to try to focus on the positive.  There are, after all, plenty of little pleasures to appreciate here.

        For example, America is truly the greatest place in the world to shop for stuff.  I'm no great fan of WalMart or shopping malls, but until you've lived in other places, you have no idea how amazing it is to have such a vast variety of goods available.  With 10 minutes online, a credit card, and a few days waiting for the UPS man, one can have just about anything.  It seems strange that a government would impose heavy import duties and trade restrictions to make the world's bounty unavailable to its citizens.  Yet in so many places we've been this is exactly what happens.  We came home with a long list of bits and pieces that were either prohibitively expensive or completely unavailabe to us, and now--no problem!

       Or how about coffee... it's really not that complicated to make a proper cup of espresso.  It's cheap, profitable, delicious, and lets not forget addicting.  So why has Starbucks or its imitators not spread out beyond the first world?  With the clear exception of Columbia (native land of Juan Valdez!) it has been next to impossible to find a good grande nonfat iced mocha in our travels.  I thank my wife for having the foresight to insist that Uliad be equipped with its own espresso machine.  And God Bless America for having a good coffeeshop almost anywhere. 

     Or diversity for that matter.  Now every country has a unique culture, and I love that.  Discovering what makes each place unique is a profound part of why we do what we do.  But there are few places in the world where you could possibly go out to 7 different ethnic restaurants in one week.  Even in little Greeley, Colorado I regularly encounter people from anywhere from Mexico to Somalia.  And even among non-immigrant "Americans" its pretty much OK to be openly gay or conservative Christian, militant hippie or unapologetic redneck.  Sure this diversity brings an unending litany of disagreements in our society.  But trust me, it is so much more vibrant and interesting than much of the world that works hard to maintain a degree of homogeneity.

       So in 2010, I'm going to try to notice the little pleasures of life, wherever they might be.  Why this change in attitude?  Perhaps it's because we're now past the halfway point.  Every morning I trudge out in the freezing cold with my coffee in one hand and my windshield frost scraper in the other is one day closer to sitting out under the stars on the deck of Uliad in a warm Polynesian breeze.  Like I said, I'm going to try to focus on the positive...

      

 

January 25:

      After admiring the great Rocky Mountain range on the horizon for the past few months, we finally got around to visiting them last weekend.  We met Uncle Mike at a park & ride and drove for a hour or so to Echo Mountain--the first ski slope you come to heading west out of Denver.  After Emmett's first snowboarding fiasco in November, I was a bit nervous about him having another free toboggan ride courtesy of the ski patrol.  But Em definitely seems to be getting his balance on a snowboard.  By the end of the day he was even getting up the courage to tackle the "terrain park"--which are jumps and ramps and such set up around the slope specifically for kids to terrify their parents on.

       Emmett SnowboardingEmmett's pinewood derby car.  The yellowest car of the derby.

      This event was followed by his Cub Scout Pinewood Derby car race the following weekend.  Emmett has spent weeks shaping and decorating his bright yellow wooden car dubbed "The Stinger" for the big race.  I get the impression after attending his scout meetings that this is just as competitive and exciting for the Dads as it is for the boys.  At his first "build meeting", a number of fathers had brought an admirable array of power tools, car plans, accessories, and advice for the boys on building a better and faster car.  It turns out there are precise rules regarding the weight of the car, modification of the wheels and so forth and I can see why.  Having arrived without a drill press or Dremel tool for the other Dads to admire, I was feeling a bit inferior. 

      My mind started turning to physics.   Perhaps if we replaced the little penny-nail axles with teflon bushings...and ground down the wheels to reduce friction.  Or what about carbon fiber?  Shouldn't we be adding a carbon fiber air deflector?  A quick Google search showed me that indeed there are places to buy Teflon axles for your pinewood derby car which "may or may not conform to the rules of your derby".  Aah, but the rules are clear.  And they have been carefully crafted to reign in overachieving Dads like me...right down to a careful "inspection" of all entries before the race.

      So in the end I was forced to let the pinewood derby remain what it was meant to be--fun.  And a chance to spend some time with your son and maybe give him a pointer or two on sanding or painting--or sportsmanship.  We must have spent 20 minutes in the hobby store picking out the perfect paint color, only to ditch the pearlescent top coat in the end for high gloss bright yellow.

      I ended up having to work on race day, but I understand it was a bit of a blowout.  Emmett's legal little yellow car placed dead last in two of his three races for the day.  "But Dad," he proudly pointed out later, "mine was the only yellow car."   Hey, who's to say looking good isn't more important than winning?

 

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