Sunday, May 30, 2021

My First Boat

Simple beginnings


At around this time every year I write about getting my boats into the water and preparing for another boating and fishing season. I watch my neighbors getting their boats ready and, after a quick “how’s the family?”, we talk about boating and fishing in the summer to come. This year instead of looking forward I’ll look way, way back. My boats today are modern fiberglass fishing machines, fun and comfortable to ride in with cushioned seating, cup holders, and Bluetooth radios. My first boat, though, was very different.


When I was 11 years old, my family spent a few summer weeks in a fishing village that was in the process of changing into a vacation community. I spent my days climbing onto little boats with neighborhood boys, getting to know the local waters and learning the wonders of little engines which we started with a pull string and steered “tiller style” with a handle on the engine while sitting at the stern. We cruised the bays, beached the boats to explore little islands, and best of all, we went fishing. I had learned to fish at my father’s side when I was just 5 and loved it. Now at 11, I also had the “boating bug.”


My father was happy about my newly found love for boats and he and I got an empty cigar box and started a boating fund that fall. Every spare nickel was tossed into the box and about once a week I counted it. We didn’t have a lot of money in those days and so it built very slowly. By the spring almost 2 years later in about 1973 we had saved just over $300 (please don’t laugh!) and were looking for a first boat we could afford when my father stumbled across an old wooden boat that he decided was perfect for us. We bought it for $100, leaving us some money to buy equipment and also to pay for some help with hauling it out, scraping the barnacles, filling in spots with wood filler as needed, and painting it. We were willing to do the work, but we were still learning how. 

similar vintage boat

I have no pictures of this boat, but I can paint you a picture in words. It was a very old wooden v-hull boat, about 18’ long, and painted white. There was a flat windshield that, like the rest of the boat, looked cobbled together. I think this flat windshield with three window panes may have been converted from a porch window. Forward of the windshield was a small compartment for the anchor and life jackets, and aft of the windshield was just an open boat. The deck or floor of the boat was wooden decking sections that lifted out to reach the wooden bottom of the boat. 


I remember that there was always a little water in the bottom of this boat as if something was always slowly leaking. In those days, it was common to bail a boat out with a small bucket or a used Clorox bottle with the bottom cut off, thus making a scoop with a handle. A few years later, we got a kind of bilge pump that looked like a bicycle pump. It was meant to be placed on the deck of the boat and the handle at the top pumped up and down so that the water would be pumped out through the hose which was placed over the side. That was a luxury! Today, by comparison, both my boats have electric bilge pumps with a float sensor, so they turn on and off on their own, and neither boat leaks at all unless something is very wrong. The pumps are mostly to handle rainwater and wave splash.


The steering system of this first old boat of ours was a set of cables and pullies rigged to a steering wheel below that awkward flat window windshield. The cable looped around the shaft of the steering wheel and when you turned in either direction it caused the cables and pullies to pull on metal brackets mounted on each side of the engine, causing the engine, and thus the boat to turn. The steering wheel was a comically small version of a ships wheel with spoked handholds. 


Everything about this boat screamed ‘jalopy’ but we didn’t care. We had a boat of our own and if we kept up with the maintenance and saved every penny to pay for parts and labor, we could go fishing whenever we wanted to. And we did! We fished from April to November those first few years. My father was an expert fisherman, and he knew how to read the waters. In those days we had paper charts and no electronics at all. As a former Navy man, my dad had a knack for finding his way back to favorite fishing spots by triangulating landmarks on shore with buoy locations. It must have worked well because we regularly caught more fish than all the boats around us.


The boat lasted us only a few years as the wood filler couldn’t keep up with the cracks and holes. We eventually had to junk the boat, which was sad, but replaced her with a fiberglass boat of similar size and more modern affordances. Over the course of more than 45 years, I’ve had no fewer than 9 boats, but that simple and ugly wooden boat was the first. This year as the boating and fishing season gets underway, I remember how it all started.


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Sunday, April 11, 2021

10 Years of RapidGroove

10 years ago, in April 2011, I started the RapidGroove blog with a post called I think that bird said beep. I followed that a few days later with My Doctor Just "Friended" My Pancreas.

Writing a blog is a bit of a conceit. You have to believe that you have something to say and that other people might care. Twitter gives us a few hundred characters to say something, Facebook a little more. Blogs give us more space to work with and I have appreciated that. Looking back now on 240+ posts and almost 84,000 views, I'm still enjoying writing the blog.

I decided to start blogging back in 2011 to exercise my "writing muscles" and to try to get better through practice. Writing is one of those things that I believe can be valuable in many settings. I also think that when we practice writing, it helps us to appreciate the writing skills of others. That is to say, I sometimes read an article that I think is well constructed and admire the authors work and think about how they achieved it and what I can learn from it. I'm not sure I would read in quite that way if I didn't write as often as I do.

In my work as an IT Leader at three different universities over 3+ decades I wrote often, and today in my work as an Executive Partner at Gartner, I write even more.

In the RapidGroove blog, I have written about fishing, cooking, technology, and other things. I often wanted to write about other topics that interested me and on which I had an opinion, but decided that the topic was controversial in some way and that writing about it in a public way didn't serve my purposes well. For these topics, I'll gladly share a pitcher of beer or bottle of wine with friends and have friendly arguments in person! For RapidGroove, I always tried to choose topics that were interesting to many and offensive to almost nobody.

After 10 years, I don't know whether I'll continue to write in RapidGroove as often. Over the years I tried to write at least once a month, and often I wrote much more often than that. Going forward, I may just write when the mood strikes. I do have a very large writing project in mind apart from blogs, and I look forward to taking that up when I retire.

If you've been a reader of RapidGroove during these last 10 years, and especially if you commented here or in social media or in person, thank you. Your choice to engage in the discussion helped to make this more fun and interesting.

Thanks for being part of this 10 year journey!


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Sunday, March 14, 2021

Will COVID-19 Cause Airports to Change Again?

Standing in line and showing your papers 

After the horrific events of September 11th, 2001, and some subsequent terrorist attempts involving passenger air travel, we all got accustomed to real changes in the experience at the airport. Long TSA lines, taking off shoes, throwing away our water bottles at the check point, travelling with tiny containers of toiletries, plus a trip through the X-Ray machine for our luggage. I’m wondering whether we are on the eve of another set of changes at airports.


COVID-19 documents
Photo credit

One of the many Coronavirus-inspired discussions these days surrounds proof of vaccination. As the numbers of people vaccinated goes up, some still refuse vaccination and others just haven’t gotten the opportunity yet. It seems to me that the airports, and even the airlines themselves, are in uncharted territory as more people look to get back to air travel.


In order to preserve safe conditions, will we be asked to carry “vaccine passports” as proof of vaccination in order to travel to and enter some locations. Would this be one more document to show at the TSA checkpoint, or perhaps at some other airport check point? What are the implications for international travel? Today, upon entering a country from international travel, we go through customs to review what we might be bringing into the country from elsewhere. How might this change? It’s not hard to imagine something like vaccine passport checks as part of the process, given that different countries may be at different levels of vaccination and have different rules regarding travel. 


Beyond documents, will rapid testing play some part? If, as we all hope, vaccinations worldwide help to make COVID-19 rare or even "background noise" soon, maybe there’s no role for testing in airports. But what if some of the COVID-19 variants make for uncertainty over the next year or more about vaccination efficacy? Would rapid testing at airports, perhaps with short term quarantine areas, need to be considered for at least some arriving passengers depending on the locations they have visited?


We didn’t imagine the airport experience changing so drastically before September 11th, 2001. Maybe we should imagine it now.


Do you think COVID-19 may have any significant impact on the travel experience or do we go back to the February 2020 notion of “normal?” What if anything do you expect to change? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Friday, February 26, 2021

In Praise of Fishing Magazines

Over the last 10 or so years, most of my reading has shifted format. I find that I don’t hold paper in my hands in order to read the printed word very often at all anymore.

I do all of my work-related reading on my laptop, my large monitor, or on an iPad. I read for fun on the iPad, and I listen to books on Audible on my phone. I used to read physical newspapers, with all the associated folding trickery, sometimes for hours at a time. Now I read “newspaper” articles for a minute at a time on my phone when I wake up, and occasionally during the day when the alerts on my phone are sufficiently interesting. I subscribe to the New York Times but only the digital edition. I still read some of the things that arrive at my house by US Mail in the old school ways, though I recycle a lot more than I actually read. As I think about it, I read very little today in the formats and ways that I did just 10 years ago.


My one big exception is fishing magazines. I subscribe to a few fishing magazines and one boating magazine and I still get them delivered in paper form. I still pick them up in my hands, without any electronics involved, and read them that way. More than that, I keep them around for years. I often pick up old issues and read through them again.


When I first get a fishing magazine, I leaf through it slowly and take note of the article titles that are of interest to me. It won’t be all of them. The ones that catch my eye deal with the kinds of fishing that I do, and in the regions that I like to fish or hope to some day fish. Sometimes there are articles about techniques that interest me, such as kite fishing for sailfish, or trolling for tuna and wahoo, or articles about fishing rods and reels and tackle that I use or want to try. I might read these right away or remember them for later. I skip over other techniques that are less interesting for me such as fly-fishing in fresh water. I also may read the reviews of new boats and boating equipment, and I look over the ads for equipment ideas.


When I come back to one of my fishing or boating magazines, whether a week later or years later, I’m already familiar with it. I can leaf through it again and be reminded of the things that I noticed the first time. I might read an article about fishing halfway around the world, or one that caught my eye on drifting techniques or rigs for Striped Bass close to home. It doesn’t matter if the article is 3 years old, it can still inform my fishing.


Unlike news articles which are timely, and unlike most books which I generally read once from start to finish, these magazines are things I read small parts of over longer periods of time. The photos and headlines and ads fuel my fishing dreams.


My fishing and boating magazines are my favorite beach and deck reading and I keep favorite issues around for years. They really are the last big holdout in my old school reading of the printed word on paper.


Do you read much in dead-tree format? Leave a comment and let us all know.


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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Working at Home During the Pandemic

This is the 5th time I’ll be blogging on topics that are related to the pandemic. Given the profound impact it’s had on our lives, that probably shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. 

About 6 months before the pandemic really took hold in the US, and well before it had serious impact on how we work, I changed jobs. My new job involved about 75% work from home and about 25% travel. The company I work for has offices around the United States, some of which have large numbers of office workers, but my job wasn’t assigned to an office under normal circumstances. By March of 2020, as things were changing radically for many workers, I was very lucky in that I kept my job and could continue to work. More than that, the shift to 100% work from home for me was a fairly minor adjustment.

Working at home


Those who have been working from home for years probably have many “pro tips” that make them successful in working from home. I’ve been learning along the way.


Space: Some things are obvious, like having a dedicated space that’s laid out well and ideally is separated from the distractions taking place around the house. I spend a lot of my day on camera, so my space has to be well-lit and tidy, too.


Time, part 1: Some things changed immediately. In the past I had a 1 hour commute each way, so I gained back 2 hours a day. Even if I spend one of those “found hours” on work, getting even more done, I still get back one hour a day for myself and that has been great. As the family cook, I often use that time to get dinner going while listening to audio books or podcasts, which is therapeutic for me. Other times I use 5 minutes of that hour to place an online food order and then watch television or play piano.


Time, part 2: Managing time became a little different. One of the first things I began to learn was exactly how long mundane things in my life take. If I have 3 minutes before my next meeting, do I have time to run to the kitchen, get a cup of coffee, and be back and on camera before my meeting? Yes, easily. I don’t even have to run. Within the first few weeks I learned how much time I needed to make and eat lunch, or visit the restroom, or grab a sport coat for the next call. As it turns out, a few minutes are all that are needed for lots of things when they are within the limited confines of your home.


Lunch: Since I’m not out and about, I don’t buy my lunch at restaurants or delis. I have to plan ahead a bit more and have food in the house, which has been good for several reasons; I can plan for healthier lunches, and I can save some money. But the best revelation about lunch didn’t occur to me until several months in to working-from-home. For the last 35+ years I chose my lunch in ways so as not to impact my breath. Now, though, if I choose to have leftovers from last night’s garlic-laden dinner, or if I want a bunch of raw onions on a sandwich, I won’t offend my boss or my clients in afternoon meetings. This is surprisingly freeing! Of course, I still need to be considerate of others in the house.


Dress Code: The usual joke is that while on camera professionals must dress the part with shirt and jacket but don’t necessarily need pants. I do, indeed, wear pants. But while in my last job my pants were usually part of a suit, my pants these days are often jeans, or the warm-up pants I used to wear to the gym while my top half is generally neat business casual. The thing I generally don’t wear is shoes!


Clothing budget: Related to the above, there was a big change to my spend on clothing. When I wore suits, there were dry cleaning bills and the occasional additions of dress shirts or ties, and at least once a year a new suit. That stuff added up! All of that past spend is now savings for me (which I’ll probably blow all at once on a piece of music gear or a fishing trip).


The pandemic has been a terrible chapter in our lives, with many of us suffering losses of loved ones or health impacts or economic impacts. I feel very lucky so far to be managing well and will remain committed to masking, washing, and social distancing. And getting vaccinated when I am able. I remain hopeful that the second half of 2021 will look better than the present or recent past has been, with chances to visit restaurants and theaters and gather together, but will continue to adjust my life in the meantime.


How are you managing? What are your tips and tricks? Leave a comment and let us all know.



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Monday, December 28, 2020

Winter by the Water

I’m lucky to have a small beach house that I use as much as possible from May to November as home base for fishing and beaching. From time to time I visit in the off season just to maintain the place. We have to chase small critters (racoons, squirrels, rodents, even bees) away from time to time and deal with seasonal stuff and small repairs.


I had a short but fun visit late this month to take care of a few things. I managed my schedule so that I drove or walked near the water often as I did my errands. The weather was mild, the skies were clear, and the water looked great – though I’m sure it was very cold.


At this time of year all of the boats are out of the water and either stored for the winter at marinas or up on the lawns and driveways of my neighbors. We “shrink wrap” our boats in plastic to keep them clean and dry until spring when we can tear the shrink wrap off and start preparing for a new season. These first two pictures in white shrink wrap are my boats, on the driveway and lawn, and the two in blue shrink wrap are neighbors’ boats. 

The area was really quiet for these two days. None of my immediate neighbors were around, though I did see plenty of people out for walks when I was out for walks and bike rides of my own. During the season I probably see hundreds of boats every day. This time as I looked out over the water, I saw only two or three boats the entire time. The birds and fish have the waters to themselves. My favorite marina and restaurant was closed too, though I did get a great lobster roll and chowder, and some smoked fish to take home, at one of my favorite local markets.


Here are a few photos of what the beach is like in the winter – a beautiful reminder of what brings me back every spring. 

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Sunday, November 29, 2020

COVID-19 is the Common Enemy

Defeat the virus now, argue with each other later 

Let’s start off by seeing if we can agree that responding to COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the coronavirus, really shouldn’t be anything we argue about, and it certainly shouldn’t be a political issue. Everyone I know, of every political persuasion, believes that the death of innocent people is a tragedy. Everyone wants people to stay healthy. Everyone I know also wants the economy to do well for ourselves and our friends and family. Nobody wants pandemic death to devastate families, and nobody wants the pandemic to crush the economy and the livelihood of hard-working people. We all want to be back to (something close to) normal as soon as we can, able to gather together, able to go to a restaurant, a concert, a school. Can we agree that those are fair statements? 


The fight is against the coronavirus, not against each other. We’re still in the middle of this fight, and we still need to cooperate and to fight together against the virus rather than against each other.


There is good news and there is bad news. The good news is that thanks to the amazing work of the scientific community, multiple highly effective vaccines are on their way. It has been inspiring to see how multiple teams worked incredibly fast in the interests of public health. Help is on the way. 


The bad news is that the coronavirus continues to spread very quickly right now, and that new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to rapidly rise. With more holiday season gatherings taking place in indoor settings, there is a serious risk that the massive spike continues through December and January. The death toll is already well more than a quarter million American lives, rivaling the death toll of our most devastating wars and we are far from done. More Americans have died from COVID-19 than died in World War I, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined. Within a few weeks, the death toll of COVID-19 will surpass the death toll of World War II.


Now let’s get back to the part where we come together and fight effectively against the virus. If we can show some discipline now and for a few more months, we can limit the impacts.


With a good vaccine distribution plan and broad acceptance and willingness to be vaccinated, we can probably be in a much better place by mid 2021. We have to be realistic about the timeline, of course. It will probably take 5 or 6 months to get from where we are now to the point where we have achieved herd immunity through vaccines and natural immunity from those who have been infected and have recovered. So what do we do now?


I’m not suggesting shutdowns and giving up on the economy as part of fighting the coronavirus. We need a healthy economy, and the best thing for the economy is public confidence. People are showing that they are unlikely to spend and to hire in the middle of so much uncertainty. There’s a good case to be made that the best thing for public confidence is managing the impacts of the coronavirus now and defeating it in 2021 when the vaccines are broadly available.


I’m certainly not a public health expert, but I try to take the advice of those who are. There are plenty of well-credentialed researchers and public servants who have been studying viruses and advising governments on public health for decades, and they are broadly in agreement. Among the most visible of these are Dr. Deborah Birx, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, and Dr. Robert Redfield. They have been studying the spread and their advice is evolving as we learn.


Over these last 9 months, the experts have learned a lot. We understand the spread better now, and what measures help. Given the state of things today, we probably don’t have to “shut down everything” but instead we can be more surgical by restricting certain activities and certain business types and we can do it in the regions that we can see are most at risk by watching the trends in positive tests and hospitalizations. We can continue to look closely at effective practices, and yes, temporary restrictions if need be, for bars and restaurants while we try hard to keep schools open.


What we hear from the public health experts is that there are some straightforward approaches to limiting spread. Let’s all wear masks when outside our homes, practice social distancing, avoid crowds and family gatherings. When we have to be together, outdoors is better than indoors. When we have to be indoors, opening windows and improving ventilation can help. 


Again, everyone I know wants people to be healthy and wants the economy to do well, and nobody wants pandemic death to devastate families and crush the economy. The American people have always stepped up when times were tough. Let’s do it again. Let’s be strong and do the things within our power to get us through. The coronavirus is the enemy. All of us are on the same team and it is within our power to keep each other safe and to get through this together.


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