Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fishing off Newport Beach

Plenty of Red Snapper and Rockfish on a beautiful fall day

Whenever I travel near the coasts, whether for business or pleasure, I look for an opportunity to go fishing. Back in late October I attended a great higher education Information Technology conference in the Los Angeles area. Thousands attended. When the conference ended mid-day on Friday, my colleagues all headed to the airport to fly back home, but I picked up a rental car and drove southwest to Newport Beach. As an avid fisherman who has fished more on the east coast, I was hoping to do some west coast fishing.

Fishing Station
The area where I wanted to fish, Catalina Island, has a great range of fish including Red Snapper, California Sheephead, Bonito, Tuna, and many kinds of Rockfish. What really had my attention, though, was that this area can sometimes be a great place to fish for Yellowtail, a kind of colorful amberjack that is often featured in sushi restaurants.

I headed down to the docks on Friday afternoon, found the Newport Landing Fishing Company, and confirmed a 12-hour trip for Saturday morning with a 5:30am boarding time and a 6am start. I was told that only 19 fisherman were booked on a boat that can accommodate up to 40 fishermen. This was called a “limited load all-day” trip, meaning there would be plenty of room to fish and enough time to have a good shot at good fish.

The Patriot
Though the Newport area had plenty of great restaurants and nightlife, I got to bed early on Friday evening to be rested up for an early start. I woke up at 4:30am, dressed in layers, and headed down to the docks to check in at the fishing station where I bought my one-day fishing license, rented a 7-foot rod with a big spinning reel, and got some fishing tackle for the trip. Next, I bought a cup of coffee and started chatting with two other fishermen waiting to board, Kyle and James, who were both in their mid-30s. I later found out that James was getting married in a week or two and this was part of Kyle’s bachelor party gift to him. That’s a good friend! The three of us ended up hanging out together for the day.

Heading out at dawn
The Patriot, our boat, was an older boat and not very fast. It had three mates, Mike, Matt and Jake, and a captain (whose name I never caught). Overall there were 19 fishermen and 4 crew ready for a day of fishing on the Patriot. As it happens, there was not one woman aboard. Fishing can sometimes be like that. 

We shoved off and motored out past the moored boats and waterfront properties on both sides. We made a quick stop at the floating bait barge near the mouth of the inlet for a big supply of live sardines. It was barely 6am and the sky was still dark, but I could see and hear the sea lions breaking the surface near the boat and gobbling up any stray sardines that fell from the net and didn’t make it into the bait well. Loaded down with bait, we started the long trip out to Catalina Island. Every fishermen threw a $5 bill into the winner-take-all jackpot for the heaviest fish at the end of the day, and most of us ordered breakfast. There was plenty of time during the two and half hour ride to watch the sun rise, to sleep a bit, to sit up at the bow and look for dolphin, to hang out at the stern and watch the sea birds chase us, and to eat a breakfast burrito cooked by the head mate, Mike. As the sun came up and Catalina Island started to come into view, we got our tackle rigged up and staked out our spots at the rail. Kyle, James and I picked out a big section of the starboard side stern right near the bait. Fishing at the stern is considered lucky by lots of fishermen. Whether lucky or not, I know the distance from the water to the rail is shortest in the stern, which means you can get your fish into the boat faster and more reliably.

I took some photos of Catalina Island in the morning sunlight and watched the dolphins swim close by. The boat settled into our first fishing spot and we baited up and let the lines go down. 200 feet of water! That means even cranking up to check on your bait is hard work, let alone reeling in a fish.

It was a relatively calm day, with the sun peaking out behind some high clouds. Good visibility and plenty to see. As we fished we saw dolphins, sea lions, and lots of sea birds including cormorants which swim under water to go fishing. At one point we saw a marlin resting at the surface before slipping back down into deeper water. A little later, a small mako shark swam alongside the boat looking for a free meal. One of the mates actually tried (unsuccessfully) to gaff him!

The day wore on and it was clear that there would be no real opportunity for Yellowtail, but that didn’t matter. It had been a beautiful day out on the water, with plenty of action. We caught lots of Rockfish, Red Snapper, White Seabass, Sheephead, and even a few flatfish. None of the fish were huge on this day, but we appreciated catching every one them. My arms were tired by the end of the day! We pulled up lines for the last time at around 4pm, and secured our fishing rods, grabbed some cold beers from the galley for the long ride home and started to check the catch to see who would take home the jackpot. In the end, one of the larger Sheephead was the winner and we congratulated the guy who caught it.

Heading in after sunset
As we rode home, the mates cleaned and filleted fish for us for tips. I had my fish cleaned and kept just enough for dinner (about a pound of Red Snapper filets) and gave the rest to Kyle and James. They told me that these fish would be on the menu for a big barbeque the next day as the celebration for James' pending nuptials continued. I was glad I could add something small to the festivities. I tipped the mates well and bought a round of beers for Kyle, James and myself.

We motored in closer to 7pm, and the skies had already grown dark again. The houses and docks were lit up beautifully. We pulled in at the docks and, grabbing our bags of fresh fish, headed our separate ways. I wished Kyle and James well and, on advice from one of the mates, took my fresh Red Snapper fish filets to a local restaurant that was happy to cook them for me. A delicious end to a great day out on the water.

When I travel, a day of fishing will always be on the menu when possible. For me, it's therapy. It reminds me of days fishing with my father and grandfather and it makes me happy knowing that I've passed on my love for the water and sea life to my sons.


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Monday, May 30, 2016

Five Years Blogging

A little more than 5 years ago I started the RapidGroove blog with a post called “I think that bird said beep.”

I had my reasons for starting to blog; I wanted to challenge myself to be productive through more frequent writing on interesting non-work topics and hoped that it would help me to hone my writing skills. I also hoped it would be a fun way to connect with friends on interesting topics in an even deeper way than is practical on Facebook and Twitter.

In the spring of 2011 I had applied to grad school and was wait-listed. I knew I’d try again in 2012, so the year in between was a time during which disciplined writing practice made good sense. I’m happy to say that I got into my graduate program the following year on my second try, and two years after that completed my Ed.D. degree. 

During these last 5 years I’ve written nearly 200 blog posts – sometimes just once a month, at other times as many as 3 in a week. I even borrowed from my studies from time to time to share something with RapidGroove readers, such as when I posted a piece I wrote called Does History Matter.

Life Happens

Also during this same 5 year period, I have had some life experiences. During a management restructuring in 2015, after 20 years with my then employer, I suddenly found myself unemployed. I took the opportunity to step up my commitment to teaching both graduate and undergraduate college classes at several Philadelphia-area colleges and universities. I taught 7 courses over a little more than a year and attended many seminars and training sessions on modern teaching and learning practices. Most of all, I confirmed my suspicions that I would really enjoy teaching and being part of the student experience. I know that teaching is something I will return to when I can.

During this same time period, I started to look for a new challenge in a professional Information Technology position. Despite all the conventional career advice that a man in his 50s who finds himself out of work should look for a lateral move (that is, look for another Senior Director or Executive Director position in my field), I decided early on that I would set my sights higher. I would focus on moving up to a Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO) position.  As long as I was being aspirational, I decided that for now I would not seriously consider relocating, and I would remain focused on higher education, so I would be looking for great college and university positions within driving distance. That was a tall order – there aren’t all that many positions that met my criteria. Thank goodness my wife was supportive and well-employed. We could afford for me to methodically pursue such a position.

Months passed. I was teaching classes and applying for only a few great opportunities. I was also visiting my elderly mother more often. It was clear that she was coming to the end of her life and I was very glad that I could be with her more often. When she died in early February of 2016, I was grateful that I had spent quality time with her, including being with her on the day she passed away.

Over the months, I had made it to the final round of a few CIO searches but had not landed a position. By March, an exceptional local university was moving toward a decision and I was again a finalist. In April I accepted a position as Vice President and Chief Information Officer at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. I’ve been there now for about a month and I’m thrilled and honored to be part of their leadership team.

So what about that blog?

During these last five years, whatever else was going on (grad school, family issues, job changes, etc.), I blogged when I could. My blog posts have been seen more than 40,000 times. That’s a small number compared with the many popular sites on the Internet, but seems to me to be a fairly large number for a personal blog. I’m surprised and happy. Some of my popular posts have, predictably, been on technology topics. But other popular posts have been on grilling seafood, boating and fishing, and even the importance of voting. These and many other subjects I've written on are integral parts of who I am, and it is truly a pleasure to discuss them with all of you and to listen whether you agree or disagree with me.

Writing this blog has been a fun and rewarding experience for me. I’ll take a break for a while as I put all my effort into succeeding at my new position at West Chester University. But from time to time when an interesting topic comes my way, I still hope to write... just not as regularly or as often.

Thanks to you all for a great 5 years.


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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Tesla Model 3

I don't hide the fact that I’m a fan of Tesla Motors and their founder Elon Musk. Back in June of 2012, I wrote in this blog about the introduction of the Tesla Model S. Since that time, I’ve seen the stylish Model S on the road from time to time. With it’s luxury car price tag and limited availability, though, these cars are still a bit rare. If you happen to own a Model S and would like to take me for a ride in it, I won’t argue at all.
Tesla Model 3

Announcing the Model 3

Now Tesla has announced a car that promises to be within reach of many more electric car enthusiasts – their new Model 3. When Tesla opened the books for pre-orders late last month, more than 325,000 interested buyers put down $1,000 each in just the first few days, meaning that Tesla collected $325M for a car that doesn’t yet exist. Not a bad start.

This new car from Tesla might be a direct competitor for the Chevy Bolt, with the Bolt shipping late in 2016 or early in 2017, and the Model 3 likely shipping later in 2017. A nice comparison is available from Motor Trend here.

Tesla Model 3 Features
The Model 3, which Tesla says “combines real world range, performance, safety and spaciousness into a premium sedan,” is the lowest priced car from Tesla yet, starting at $35,000. It will have a range of over 200 miles on a full charge. The graphic at left shows some of the features that Tesla emphasizes about their new Model 3.

According to that same Motor Trend article, “Tesla currently claims a best-case charge scenario of 170 miles of range within 30 minutes of Supercharging for Model S and Model X owners; it’ll likely be the same story for the Model 3.”

What would it take for you to seriously consider a Tesla? Is $35,000 to $40,000 a reasonable price for such a car? Does the range (170 miles on a fast charge, a little over 200 on a longer charge) work for your uses, or would you need more? Would charging stations need to be as numerous and distributed as gas stations are today? For electric cars to truly get a foothold in the auto market, these are some of the early questions that I think consumers will be asking themselves.

In other Tesla news

Tesla Model X
Earlier this month, Tesla announced a recall affecting a few thousand of their earliest Model X SUVs. Some of these cars, in very limited supply, appear to have a problem with a hinge that affects the third row of seats.

Tesla also recently announced some updates to its Model S. The new styling seems to echo some of the design choices made for the Model 3.

Tesla as a major force in the industry?

In my view, Tesla continues to innovate with interesting new cars and is having a positive impact on the auto industry. Perhaps my next car will be a Tesla.

Would you be interested in the Model 3 or one of the other models? Leave a comment and let us know.


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