Simple Ideas

Research Lab

Politics, Community & Society | January 4, 2012

"Evolutionary psychologists consider human emotions to be best adapted to the life our ancestors led in nomadic foraging bands."

Emotions are adapting, but slowly and suffice to say, painfully. We are running out of small nomadic bands of people on earth. There are few groups left in the Kalahari and others in what are either geographically isolated or climatically challenged areas. But by and large people are moving to cities. Given the difficulty in figuring exactly where everyone lives, we can't pinpoint the exact date. The UN was predicting over half the world population would live in major urban areas by the end of 2008. Not sure if it happened then, but at some point in the last 4 years there was significant change in how humans arranged themselves on the face of the planet.

And based on the consensus of the evolutionary psychologists, we are carrying around a fair amount of baggage from back in the day when it was all about the tribe. Your tribe vs an environment that could kill you. Your tribe vs other tribes that could kill you. Your tribe vs big scary creatures that could kill you. You get the idea, there was a lot to be afraid of. Fear was a survival skill that probably helped decide which tribes made it and which didn't.

There are at least 14 physical indications of vestigiality in the human body. Granted you need to buy into evolution and statistical analysis to fully get the idea. Most people are aware of the appendix and wisdom teeth as "stuff you have but don't really need". But there are ar least a dozen more such remnants in some versions of home sapiens.

Which brings me back to the fear response. Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist working at NYU, has researched this response and found that there are two version of the response. Here is his view of the two systems

"In the older system, sensory information travels directly and quickly from the thalamus to the amygdala where it elicits the autonomic and motor responses we call fear. In the younger system, sensory information travels from the thalamus to the relevant cortical sensory areas (touch to the somatosensory cortex, vision to the visual cortex, etc.) and on to frontal association areas, where appraisal occurs."

What he is saying is that we have evolved relative to fear. The old system is still with us in some format, but the newer system appears to have more applicability to the modern experience of living in a city. Rarely do we need the fast system as we rarely have to avoid a pouncing tiger. But over time we do need to be able to develop a rational response to sales people in stores and pan handlers on street corners. As those are both products of urban life, it would appears that the new, slow system would come up with a better response than the old, fast system.

So let me give you an example of how I saw these two systems at work over the past 6 months or so. My old fast system is still there. When I broke my skull in the spring, I felt that system fire in the split second before my head was split open. I wasn't in a position to do anything more than squeeze my eyes shut. But that the response.

Lesson should have been learned. The problem was that I exited my surf board, rolled and went under the surface so that when I came up, I was facing my surfboard and presented my forehead to the board for cracking. You would have thought once would have been enough.

It wasn't. I did the exact same thing at least three more times after the injury. Each time that I did it, the fast system fired and I was lucky that there was not a repeat of the earlier accident. But after about the third time, the new slow system kicked in. Since then, I've stopped the rolling action that gets me in trouble. And I've adopted a variety of approaches to insert physical barriers between the board and my head. Granted the simplest barrier would be to "not go surfing", but then I'd be out of the research lab. That holds very little interest.

I'll end this with one other evolutionary theory. In this case it is a forward looking theory. Here the researcher is Paul Cooijmans and he reports the idea that what is now term Asperger's Syndrome is the next step in the evolution of the human being. The argument goes something like this. It is nearly impossible to find a historical figure that was considered a genius that didn't have the traits that are called Aspergoid. The society we live in now is heavily weighted on the work of these individuals, so as such, the species should be selecting the Aspergoid traits and allowing the Non-Aspergoid traits to become vestigial.

None of us will be around to see if this is how it plays out. But it will be interesting to see if the post rural environment leads to this evolutionary path.

Happy Old Year

Lifestyle & Culture | December 31, 2011

There is something unsettling about the year changing depending on where you are on the globe. At some level, i think the new year should start for everyone in time zone where they were born. In that case, I'd have an hour left, as opposed to 4 hours left, in 2011. Just seems like slacking to be lagging three hours behind the others who were born on the East Coast. Thought I'd write a few words to ease that unsettled feeling, if you don't mind.

I can say that whenever the old year departs, it will depart having left me a happier person in the end. So I'm taking a moment. This is a moment of taking stock.

So how did 2011 go? At work, quite well. Late in 2010 I went to my dept chair and asked that I not teach with two professors who clashed with my style. I never said they were bad people, just oil and water. But with them out of the line up in 2011, the evaluations given by the students improved. Those were the end of class ratings, so I didn't give them as much weight. At the end of the class, you get a lot of "yay I passed" love. That is appreciated, but what I really appreciate is the 6 month to a year later love.

Those folks showed up in droves in the last quarter of the year. I could not walk down a hallway on a Monday without some former student coming up and telling me that "they tell all their friends to take my classes". That really is the sign to me that my job is making a difference. And at the end of the year, that is the kind of job I want to look back on. Not that people liked me, but that I did my job in a way that people remembered and recommended.

Surfing improved this year. Oh sure, there was that little incident with the skull fracture and the surgery and the larceny perpetrated by a TV personality. water under the bridge, big picture. Because big picture, I got two new boards this year and I learned how to turn them. Year one was stand up and go straight to the beach. This year, I got some new skills.

It was also the year that I taught my brother to surf. Ranked among the best moments of the year was surfing side by side with my brother. Two kids from the underbelly of PA learning to surf after the age of 50? Whodathunk? Doesn't matter, it happened and it was a moment that will never fade.

Then there is the future grandchild. My oldest is about 7.5 months into baking my first grand-kid. Arguably the focus of my life has been "live long enough to be a good grandpa". That focus appeared when my own grandparents started dropping dead about the time I was 10. I considered that very rude and changed my diet and exercise program to, I hope, provide for a longer span of gran-parenting to the grand-kids. No one can control the outcome, but you do the best you can with the inputs and see how it goes.

I talked to my Mom today. Yep, all my grandparents are now gone. And I'm down to one parent. That is the the last cushion a child has. The idea that as long as you have one parent alive, you got a generation left. Its false hope, because you never really know when your number is up, but at least you can thing you still have the prior generation running interference for you. And as 2011 comes to a close, I have Mom as the pulling guard while I sweep the left side of the line. Thanks Mom.

I spent the whole year in America. That may sound trivial or Jingoistic, but it was just how it played out. My last trip abroad was Korea in December, 2010. That was a fun trip, but I never made it outside the US in 2011. I don't see 2012 going that way, I expect I'll get the bug to head to Europe or Asia, but in the end 2011 was an all USA kind of year.

So with that in mind, I'll do a brief recap of how my last day has played out.

I woke up and got online to play a MMRPG. A friend who I've played with for 15 years but never met in person was there. We killed monsters and caught up. It was a good start.

I made breakfast and did my hour of yoga. I watched a documentary on the history of technology while doing yoga, very good piece of work. After that I went for run. I'd been unable to run for 6 months, but I just finished the healing process and am back. The best thing I can say is that for most of my life 6 months off running would have caused a massive depression. Now it just caused me to surf more.

After that it was time to package some books for shipment. I did that and headed to the post office. Only to find it was closed. Good move by the Post Office as they are oversubscribed. And the fact that I hadn't been there since last Christmas is a good sign that they didn't need that office. I biked to another office and mailed out the annual copies of our book.

Made lunch and geared up for surfing and food shopping. That was my moment of weakness. I hate food shopping. I should hire a food shopper and take this item off my weekly list of things to do. But it is still there. So I headed out to do both.

I surfed at Gator Beach where the Navy SEALS do their basic training. Not a great surf beach, but I can surf any beach with my longboard. It was a good workout, but I had a power outage a half hour in. That sometimes happens when my blood sugar goes wonky I think. It wasn't so bad that I had to stop surfing. I was just, you know, a little dizzy. Perhaps I looked more stylish as I tried to stay vertical.

Leaving the beach i was stunned that this was, actually is, my life. There are roughly 190 countries on the planet. But very few where you can start where I started...and end up where I was on that beach today.

I headed home after food shopping and unpacked my surf gear. Opened a great bottle of wine and hit the hot tub to reflect a bit more while I unkinked the muscles that the day had kinked. The wine was a 2002 Epitome from Pine Ridge in Napa. The wine was on par with the beach today. And the year as a whole.

So when I look at 2011, now down to the last 3 hours and 20 minutes out West, I have only one regret.

There is only one glass of wine left in that bottle.


NaNo a No No

Writing | November 12, 2011

My brother, bless his heart, stuck his toe in the NaNoWriMo pool this November.

November, was a good call for this project. It has a couple of strategically placed national holidays. That frees up the working folks who compromise most of the talent pool for this process. Professional writers rarely try this approach. Although now and then, a publishable product will arise from the ashes if this month.

The "central problem" facing most of the writers is the omnipresent word count. Quanity is the goal, you need 50,000 words to qualify. That is roughly 1,667 a day. To be safe, most folks try to get ahead of the power curve and bank a couple big days early in the month.

A good typer can crank out the daily minimum in 2 hours.

My brother knocked out 1,800 in under an hour.

There is no doubt he can crank out the words in the allotted time period. Even with a job and domestic chores and hours spent in his basement perfecting his impression of a recliner. Even with all this, it is very doable.

Except for one small problem.

He writes by not writing. That is to say, he spends a lot of time thinking, planning, plotting, figuring out what he is going to write. Not saying that is bad. We all work in different ways. Finding the way that works for you is the key.

This is the day after Veteran's Day. Veterans Day was the day he was going to format the 2011 book that we are working on. It's now the day after and the formatting is still on the recliner to do list.

In the interim, he killed a deer. Not with a gun, it was a government vehicle. 8 pointer, before the impact. Afterwards...not so much. I don't know if he's working on the book or not as that is also another part of this style, to not announce progress in process, it doesn't exist until it's finished.

The central problem with NaNo writing is the same for most people. Unless you have some sort of typing OCD issus, the problem is the daily word count. That was the problem for me. Hitting the daily numbers resulted in me going from my usual state of sleep deprived to the even worse state of sleep depraved.

We turn the clocks back in November too, so the month is an hour longer. The writers get every benefit of the clock and calender. But the central problem is still the same, crank out the words.

I'm pretty sure I'd have never finished a piece that long were it not for this national effort. But thinking back, it was a horror of a month

I can't imagine me ever doing this again willingly. Or on a bet. Perhaps if it were somehow tied to national security, I'd think about it. A little more likely if the future of the human race depended on it. Ok, fine, put the Universe on it, I'm practically there.

But not this year.

Nice Door

Politics, Community & Society | October 29, 2011

The door.

I get a knock on my door. This is a rare event for both me and my door. Few people visit, those who do are more apt to use the bell than to rap on the door.

Approaching the door, I figure it is one of two things. Either a parcel delivery (unexpected) or someone soliciting.

It was the latter. Two fairly well dressed gentlemen introduce themselves.

"That is a really nice door you have there, that is way better than the door on my house!" exclaims the older of the two men.

He introduces himself as Dave and says "This strapping young man is Andy."

There is a pause where I try to figure out if they are door-to-door door salesmen and are now saddened that my door is so nice they can't sell me an upgraded door.

Dave is being cordial

"Hope we didn't catch you at a bad time..."

I was in the middle of playing a computer game, which I was doing while I was on break from doing yoga, which I was doing mostly to procrastinate on two bathrooms I had to clean. All things considered, I could honestly answer

"No, not a bad time."

Though the sight of me in yoga pants and a coffee stained shirt that sported a beer logo was probably not their target demographic, they proceeded gamely.

"I know everyone is busy these days, I'll be brief" Cordial Dave said.

He's right, I had the book edits to do today also. But I hadn't much else on the agenda, bike ride, hot tub, waves weren't looking good for surfing. I'd hear them out.

out come the brochures!

The brochure.

I'm ok with the brochure idea. Here two complete strangers stop by my humble abode, complete with an elegantly fenestrated entry, and want to drop off a brochure, apparently free of charge. This is way better than the first two guys that stopped by a few weeks after I moved in. Those two were parole officers looking for the prior residents. These guys were pussy cats.

Dave goes on, pointing to the brochure

"Can you imagine ever living in a place this nice in the future?"

I look and see a small child feeding fruit to a bear. Well, I admit to myself, that is a stretch. And growing up I never expected to live in a place with as a door as my current house. But all I say out loud is

"I'm not really very good at predicting the future."

Dave agrees and I remember that I wasn't actually playing a game when they knocked. I was interrupted from the game by some research I was doing on double moving averages in statistics and, um, how those averages could be used to predict the future. I didn't share that with Dave and Andy, thinking it probably wasn't going to add much to the proceedings.

Dave goes on "Do you mind if I read a passage from John, or I mean Revelations?"

No I didn't. And he wasn't that far off as the author of Revelations refers to himself as "John" a number of times in the text. I didn't mention that to Dave either. See above for the rationale.Dave went on with his passage.

I don't think it was the King James Version he was quoting from, didn't sound quite right. But here was the gist of it.

God has a plan for a paradise. People who ruin the planet, well, those people are going to be facing some bad news on judgement day.

So basically what Dave was saying was polluters are going to hell. Personally, I'm an avid recycler and pretty good about turning off lights and such. I hadn't given much thought to the afterlife, but now I'm thinking I might just do OK come judgement day. I'm waiting for the recruitment pitch for the "First Church of the Environment" or some idea when they gather together in an environmentally affirmative space.

But the pitch never comes. They hand me the brochure and move on. Leading me to think that they are on some sort of quota plan. They need to read one line of scripture to as many people as they can in a day. That actually fits the context. In that sense, I am the target demographic. An introvert with a few minutes to listen.

They left and I have to say that in the end I was fine with Dave and Andy. While I may not agree with thier ecological theology, they were acting on their beliefs in a nonviolent way.

I think that is about as good as it gets for our race.

So hey, I'll keep recycling and mebbe catch up with those guys in the hereafter.

Shape Shifter

Sport | October 15, 2011

  • It starts with a blank.

Surf board shaping is much like the surf business. The idea of surfing is centered on that relaxed blissed out moment in the sun. The idea of business is kill or be killed. It's a ruthless make the numbers work game . When you understand that surfing and business are diametrically opposed ends of the spectrum of the human experience, it is easy to understand why "surf business" is doomed. Surfers can't run a business, businessmen can't surf.

And yet, surf businesses exist...somehow. And surf boards get shaped, somehow. The somehow I'm dealing with here has more to do with the shaping, but in the process I couldn't help but learn a bit about the business.

I found the shapers website and it turns out it was a spiff website. The shaper was a former telecom worked like myself. He put together a nice site. I gave him a call. Phone was disconnected. Here is a critical moment in the interaction with a surf business. You can go two ways. First, assume that like any normal business, this means the business folded. Valid for a non-surf business. Complete bollocks for a surf place. So I drove over.

Sure enough, there was a sign indicating it was a business. The door was open! I went in, no one there. I waited ten to twenty minutes when the proprietor wandered in.

"Hi, I'm Greg" I say.

"Hi, I'm Ray, I was doing some plumbing for the guy next door...this surf business barely pays the bills."

"I was wondering about that..."

I was there to drop off a board that was trashed the day before and inquire about a custom board. My initial thought was a Stand Up Paddleboard and he immediately offered

"Oh I have a demo you can take..."

Basically, I got a free three day rental of a board that would cost $9 to $15 an hour elsewhere. It was a $1300 board that I got with no collateral other than my $500 board that he was holding. If I were dishonest, or a business person, this would be a quick score. But I'm a surfer, so there was no score.

I tried the demo board and whoa! No way. I'd been on a beginner board before. This was an advanced product that I was years away from using. Drop back 20 and punt. First I needed a year on a real long board, not the mini board I have.

I brought the board back to his shop. No one there, again. No problem, I unload it and put it back in place, then I give him a call.


"HI, I'm up the road, be back in 90 minutes!"

"Ok, well I put everything back in place. I can swing back later to pick up my board."

We talk a bit and I explain that the SUP didn't work, but that I'd like a long board that I could nose ride. He can make that he says and mentions he has one I can try. We chat amicably for a while and then he asks

"Who is in my shop?"

"Oh, just me and the lady singing on Pandora."

"Oh" (long pause) "OK."

Once again, its that surf business thing. Yes I could have walked out with as much surf gear as I could put in my car, but I'm still a surfer.

Eventually, I get my damaged board board and we talk about building a custom board. He grabs his board, a 10'6" pintail and shows me that. Very sleek. Me likee!

I talk about getting a 9'6" long board to add to my quiver. He says I really should come by and watch him shape it. What that really means is I come by and help decide the parameters of the board. That is the idea, and it really is the essence of the custom board. Of course I come by. I'm a surfer, my weekend schedule is the essence of flexible-as long as I'm in surf mode.

He's going to buy the blank between 10 and 11 and call me when he gets it. At 12:30 I know what to do. I go by his shop and find he is working another project. He finishes that and says "I have your blank in my truck, lemme get it."

Here is the deal with surf guys, they live in the present tense. Any reference to the future is purely hypothetical. Meaning, he might have called me when he was done with the present tense. But the present tense is so, so, so...present, that to get the board shaped I had to become part of the present tense. Which meant driving over to his shop.

I'm a quick like that.

The blank appears as do templates (top photo). The blank costs $100 bucks and with a stringer (wood core that is the backbone of the board) and polyurethane foam that makes the thing float. He selected a very low rocker blank that was also one of the hardest densities as he figured that was what I needed. I think that decision was based on my trashing my other board. I didn't take offense.

The first decision was board length. I had said 9'6" the day before, thinking square tail, but he suggested pin tail. Doing the math I figured 9'9" pin tail was the same as 9'6" square tail, so lets go 9-9...

We agree on

that and he templates out the two tail configurations.

I'm a bit concerned about the pin tail as that could put out an eye or fracture a skull, but since I already did the skull fracture thing I thought "What is the chance that could happen twice in lifetime?" Ok, pretty high actually, but I went pintail anyway. No one lives forever.

He smiles and pulls out...a hand saw?

Yup, he takes the blank down to the templated shape with a hand saw.

As you can see, he mostly works with hand tools. There is the pneumatic hose and a couple of electric planers. But for the better part of three hours his primary energy was good old fashioned American elbow grease. No doubt the electric planer saved him an hour, but in the end, it was still a slow process to turn that original ironing board into a surfboard.

They say that a good surfer can surf an ironing board. I've seen video's of this, it is in fact true. Likewise I can learn to surf most anything. That is where the fun is for me. Figuring out what they board wants to do, what the wave wants to do...and negotiating a settlement that between the two that involves me being vertical.

So in that regard, the board itself isn't that critical to having fun surfing. But I wanted a board I could nose ride...and my current board fails in that regard. Too short, too narrow and way too much rocker up front.

The challenge is getting this board to where it could be ride-able in that way. After a bit of research there are four keys, bottom contour, nose width, tail width and soft rails.

What I really want is an all around long board that can be nosed on occasion, as opposed to a pure nose rider that rejects efforts to do anything else. I the end, I think I got that. But I won't know for sure for a few weeks.

The shaping progressed. I saw a lot of rocker going into the tail. I ask

"How do you control the rocker?"

"Mostly I buy a blank that doesn't have much rocker, but I do put a fair amount of rocker in the tail so it can turn. I also leave the rear tail hard so it can turn."

I credit the guy, he was able to say that without adding "Knucklehead Engineer". Because in truth I was busy with the design parameters. Of course all I had was math. He had 40 years shaping boards. Yeah, my math is good, But I'm deferring to the big guy with the hand tools.

The big guy.

The shaper is a joy to watch. Reminds me of my Dad when he was shaping RC airplane wings. Same level of focus and concentration. Work, check, feel, worry, repeat. TIme was moved to another dimension while he was working. It was simple, do what had to be done next.

To the shaper, the nose and the tail are the keys. Lock in those and then get the middle to match. He worked long and hard on the bottom surface of the board. That made sense as that is where the function occurs. The bottom has to ride the water. I figured the top was a throw away, all that had to do was support me.

He spent longer on the top.

"This is the hardest part of shaping a board, this is where you can really screw the pooch!"

I wanted soft rails and the top was critical to that as that is where most the rail material would be lost. He did that almost all by hand. He did use a planer, but it was the low power planer, too much risk to use the big boy.

I looked and thought "No way this can work, its too boxy-maybe the fiberglass makes up the difference."

Wrong again. It is cross hatching with a variety of sanding devices that gets the smooth curves. It was close to magic to watch curves replace the blocks.

Shaping the stringer was a nightmare. There was an issue with the grain, that issue added a half hour and removed a quarter inch of stringer. I'd have written that off. But then, I'm not a shaper.

His comment on my store bought board was "Too thick in the nose". He said that after looking at it for 10 seconds a week prior. Now he elaborated. "The guy who shaped your board got lazy at the end. A couple more passes and that would have been a great board. Now it just looks boxy in the nose."

This board he was making was going to look good to other shapers, I got that now. It may cost me a bit in performance on the nose, but hey, that was my thing. I was the figure it out guy. He was the shaper, this board would represent him in the water.

In the end, I was stunned that he could get such a sharp looking shape out of that boxy blank. I could hardly wait to see it glassed and painted and ready to ride. But first, there is the payment issue.

I took money out of the ATM and was ready with that, but that wasn't the payment I'm referencing here.

He writes on the stringer "Shaped for Greg Maffett by Ray..."

That was the payment. That was the extra half hour of getting the nose and tail aestetically perfect. Of getting past the grain on that stringer. There is no way he could slop together an ugly yet functional nose rider. No way. Just like there was no way my Dad could tolerate an asymmetrical wing on his planes. This is how craftsmen craft.

That is the only way any of us know to end up with something like

Ventura Surf Blog

Sport | September 16, 2011

"Hey Mister, you Ok?"

Of course I was OK. Kids these days, they have no idea the abuse that a 53 year old can take. The kindly little four year old that ran up to me and asked that question had just witnessed one of my more inelegant dismounts from my longboard. But I raised my hand to show that all my fingers were attached. That combined with the lack of blood spurting from an artery is my definition of OK.

I'd spent the better part of an hour north of the pier shown in the above photo. The waves were thundering in to the beach and anyone silly enough to get in their way. I was in the way and got pounded into the sand enough times that the idea of hiring a staff chiropractor was batted around the inside of my head.

But all in all it was a good day. I started at a tame beach called Mondos. Mondos is populated by two kinds of surfers. Hot Chicks and old guys. You would think Mondos would be the place for me. But I'm only old on the outside. I was bored out of my gourd at Mondos. It was worse than the day at Waikiki where I caught two waves in an hour. This is not surfing. This is lallygagging on a board with friends while pretending to surf. I don't lallygag. After a half hour, I bailed and headed south.

I visited Silver Strand. There the only car in the parking lot was mine. There was one more car in the lot than there were waves on the shore. Not good, but I remembered a guy at Mugu saying Hueneme Beach was good...

I think the Silver Stand/Hueneme Beach set up is like Scripps and North Island in San Diego. If one is flat, the other is firing. Hueneme was firing. Yes it was very sectiony, which is to say nearly closed out. But there were a half dozen guys outside and me inside.

I was happy inside. I have the basics of surfing figured out. Paddling, popping up, looking cool...all good. But there is thing called "turning" that I'm looking to add to the list. Turning, that I don't have figured. But I've seen other people turn. And I've watched a how to video on the Internet. Actually had to watch it three times to really get the idea. Basically, I was trying to turn in a not very effective manner. I was trying to turn the board like a steering wheel on a car. Wrong. The right way is to bank it like an airplane.

In theory, it works fine. But it takes practice. Involved in that practice is falling off the side of the board as you turn. Falling a lot. Then getting slammed into the beach. Slammed hard, in ways that tweak your lower back. On the upside there are those adrenalin charged moments where you notice you are actually turning. Up til that day, I'd never turned the board more than about 20 degrees. Here I somehow made a 90 degree turn at one point.

The goal is 180 degrees. Once you are there you can go down a wave and back up it. So I'm not there, but I've gone from maybe 1/6 of the way there to halfway there.

I left the beach with a number of aches and pains that would be more noticeable once the adrenalin level dropped. But that was a long way off...

New day, new beach.

My next attempt at becoming adept at turning would take place a little farther up the coast. This would be Ellwood Beach. This is just north of Sand Beach. Sand beach is a well known surf spot. Ellwood, not so much. I expect part of the reason is that most people end up having to park 15 minutes away and hike over a sizable bluff to get there.

This was an interesting area. There was an offshore oil rig visible and a couple large ships docked to the left. Took a while to figure this beach out. The waves would crash and roar with lots of power about 50 yards offshore. Then by 40 yards they were flat an mushy. Then they picked up again about 20 yards out. I know that meant the sand was at differing depths, but it made surfing a challenge. Unlike Hueneme, where once you got a wave it screamed to the shore, here you can catch a wave then lose it before it gathered itself for the final assault on the beach.

The key to this I found was to really paddle hard into the wave. I needed to get enough speed to carry me through the mush until it started hopping again. Once I got that figured I made a few good (for me) turns. One mental highlight was carving a turn and watching spray (yes, Ocean Spray!) flying off the side of my board. Just like getting the board parallel to the shore the day before, this was a wonderfully puzzling sight.

I was just inside a kelp bed, so there were lots of tangles around my legs. And I was at the beach alone. I saw two ladies walking the beach when I arrived but they quickly departed. No lifeguard here. I'd say I was somewhere between hypersensitive and hallucinating for the first half hour. I saw a 3 meter diameter piece of metal, a skeleton and a couple of fins. In retrospect, I didn't see any of that when I looked a second time.

About 40 minutes in I heard a chopper overhead. Odd, I thought. That usually only happens at home right after I hop in the hot tub. Five minutes later I see a guy walk the beach, no shirt and jeans. Also odd. I think about exiting the water as I had my glasses and car key on the beach and it would be tough to get home without them. But I catch one more wave.

When I'm done that I see a local sheriff has appeared and has the guy on his knees and is cuffing him. I now think this is probably a good time to end my day at this beach. I walk by the sheriff who asks the guy

"So what is your policy on telling the truth, again?"

the guy answers

"It just gets you in more trouble."

The truth was, I had a very good couple of days and was totally wiped out from fighting the surf inside. It was a good workout, but it was time to quit while I was ahead.

Made it back to the car and eventually cranked up the stereo. I'd been listening to a Bruce Springsteen CD that materialized while I was cleaning my car earlier in the week.

The key line from that CD has been...

"Baby if you wanna be wild, you got a lot to learn!"

True. Doubly true, actually.

_____ing and Driving

Politics, Community & Society | September 5, 2011

Fill in the blank with whatever you like. Driving under the influence. Driving with an open container. Texting and driving. Speeding and driving. Talking on the cell phone and driving. Being screamed at by your passenger and driving.

All of those are arguably a cause for a traffic accident. All but the last one are a cause for a fine. In fact, it goes the other way. You get to use the HOV lane the more of these potentially disruptive creatures you put in your vehicle.

A bit schizophrenic, no? Drivers who are distracted by inert distractors are the problem, not those distracted by live distractors. If the lawmakers really are on the warpath against distracted driving, then go all the way. One person per vehicle. Alcohol interlock on the ignition. Mandate that cellphones have a GPS device in them that will disable them when they are moving faster than a human being can walk.

The issue is that lawmakers aren't really serious about the problem. What they are serious about is looking for things to tax. And the essence of the fines for all the mobile "offences" are yet one more tax. A tax that turns the police into revenue agents while annoying the population.

People always fall on a bell curve. There are those who are perfectly capable of multitasking a car and a texting device. And there are those who aren't. Those who aren't will find out soon enough as they plow their vehicle into a guard rail, vehicle or cow pasture. They will learn that just like walking and chewing gum, texting and driving is more than they can handle.

For those of us on the other end of the bell curve, it is nothing but one more waste of time and money.

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