Monday, November 21, 2011

My Life in the Water

Since even before I can remember, I have always been happiest in the water. I spent the first four years of my life in Holland, where my parents used to park me in the bow of a sailboat as they sailed up and down Holland's many canals. They describe the bliss on my face as I sat in the front of the boat. We didn't have to be going anywhere for me to be happy; it was sufficient just to be at the dock. The gentle rocking of the waves and the feeling of wind in my face was enough.

Moving forward in time, the family moved back to the States in the Boston area. In the summertime we would head down to Cape Cod and my love affair with water continued. I learned how to bodysurf, and I would spend hours diving over or under waves, and riding waves in to shore on my belly. The temperature of the water did not deter me. In June and early July the water was still very cold but I would stay in there until my hands turned blue and I was dizzy from hypothermia. Then I would stumble to shore and lie down in the sand and sun to warm up and do it all over again. During high tide the waves would break on the shore. One of my favorite games was to lie in the water and get thrown into shore with the waves and get sucked back out into the oncoming breakers. I learned how to avoid getting smashed and just relax like a seal or a walrus as the waves pushed me in to shore and pulled me back out again. I would drift over rounded stones that looked to me like small planets with their rings of colors. Then I would stand several feet away from where the waves break and plant my feet. As the water rushed past my feet and retreated back to the ocean, my feet would get buried farther and farther into the sand. I liked to watch the different patterns of foam the swirling water created. I never got tired of these activities even during my teenage years.

In my twenties I didn't spend much time in the water. I lived in the city and often lacked the transportation to get to the Cape. The Boston Harbor was not too clean at that time so the closer beaches like Revere Beach and Nantasket didn't really appeal to me. But in the next decade my mother bought an old 25 foot Hunter sailboat and I acquired sailing fever. I just loved the fact that you could anchor in the most beautiful shorelines and call them home. It was like having unlimited waterfront property. I also felt connected to the ancient explorers as I sailed by chart and compass to various destinations like Nantucket, the Elizabethan Islands on Buzzards bay, and various bays and harbors on Martha's Vineyard. On occasion I would sail through pea soup fog having charted courses from one buoy to another and was always amazed how accurate a compass can really be. Often times I would almost hit the buoy head-on even though the last buoy was miles away.

I loved the sights and sounds of New England harbors: the multitude of portuguese fishing boats traveling back and forth from New Bedford to the Grand Banks, the oil tankers and shipping boats coming from all over the world, and the beautiful sailing yachts speeding past my heavy-keeled, slow boat. I loved the ringing bells of buoys, the cries of seagulls, and the splash of waves against the side of the boat. Even sounds that would annoy some are music to my ears, like the clanking of metal within the masts of sailboats as they rock back and forth in a mooring field.

Eventually my mother moved to San Diego leaving me with the dilapidated Hunter named “Moonshadow” whose keel was in danger of falling off. I drilled lag bolts into the lead keel and hoped for the best. I continued to have adventures and misadventures, sailing every weekend that weather permitted. My sister and I would coordinate our vacations so that we could spend a week or two on the boat sailing around the Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay. We had several favorite destinations, and we usually set a route that would hit them all in a specific order. The first was Cuttyhunk, a small Island between Buzzards Bay and the Vineyard Sound. It was always a thrill to see the masts of other sailboats that had ventured across the bay to this small island become visible above the horizon. We would tie up to a mooring and row into shore, which was difficult in the rubber dinghy with the winds and currents. There was a long jetty heading into Cuttyhunk harbor and inside the harbor were pilings that looked like partially submerged telephone polls that we could tie up to, although at first we opted for the cheaper option of anchoring outside the harbor near the mooring field. However, we often slipped anchor in the middle of the night and luckily woke up to find ourselves drifting fairly rapidly toward a six-figure boat and having to pull-start the motor on short notice to avoid a collision. After a couple of these episodes we decided to pay the thirty dollars for a mooring.

After having breakfast and exploring the small island, we would row back out to the boat and head to our next destination which was was Tarpaulin Cove, a small bay cutting into Naushon Island on the Vineyard Sound side, where the first Revolutionary fleet had its beginning, and where previously many pirate ships and privateers had taken refuge from bad weather. It was a very calm cove and a nice place to anchor. In the morning we would row into shore where there was only one small farm house off to the side and a beautiful white sand beach lined with sea grass and rose hips. Then we would head across the Sound to Menemsha Harbor on Martha's Vineyard, which is a pretty little harbor but treacherous to get into due to an undocumented rock that was just below the water's surface. If the tide was high enough you could pass over it unscathed. We always had to ask locals where it was when we wanted to get around it. Eventually I did hit the rock, but luckily it was rounded like a whale's back and didn't even dent the thick fiberglass of my boat, though I did get stuck there until the tide came back in. Unfortunately the incident occurred right across from the Coast Guard station, but luckily I didn't get boarded and fined for not having the proper safety equipment. Some nice people in Zodiacs formed a chain and helped my boat get unstuck.

Menemsha Harbor is located at the narrowest point of the Vineyard near Gayhead and leads to a small pond that goes all the way to the beach on the south side of the island. We would usually dock on the fuel dock, get some fuel, eat breakfast, and sometimes walk over to Gayhead on the southern most point of the island. For the rest of the vacation we would sail down the Vineyard Sound stopping at various harbors along the way, and ending in Edgartown harbor. This is my sister's favorite spot, in part because the flat ferry boats going back and forth between Chappaquiddick and Edgartown remind her of the video game “Frogger.” The famous Black Dog restaurant is there and there are pay showers which is fortunate because we tended to get pretty salty and grimy by that leg of the trip. All cleaned up, we were ready for the long sail home through Woods Hole into Buzzards Bay and across Buzzards Bay to New Bedford where I had a mooring.

I finally gave up the boat when I realized how much money I was spending on moorings, “haulouts”, winter storage, and repairs. But another reason I gave up the boat was that I was not entirely convinced that my lag bolt remedy would hold the keel in place. I had a hard time figuring out how to get rid of the boat. Ethically I couldn't sell it knowing the keel could fall off at any second. I tried donating it to charity but nobody wanted it. I even considered sinking the boat but realized that would not be very responsible. I eventually gave the boat to someone with the stipulation that they would not put any children or people who couldn't swim on the boat and that they would never sell the boat to anyone. I hope they stuck to their promise.

Several winters later, I decided to move to California where most of my family now live and where I have nephews. I moved to lovely San Diego, which is a water lover's paradise. I then found the perfect sport for someone who loves the ocean: surfing. I was surprised, however, how difficult surfing really is. You can't be a casual surfer or you will never learn. I think many people give up surfing after renting a surfboard and realizing they don't have the upper body strength to get beyond the breakers. When I first started, I would use up all my energy at first just getting out to where the waves broke. Then after paddling hard enough to catch a wave I would be too tired to push myself up to stand on the board. It took about six months of obsessive surfing before I was decent enough to catch a wave, stand up, and go left or right following the break of the wave. But the first time I did the thrill was unbelievable. I was riding along the glassy surface of a wave looking down as the wave curled up and broke right behind me. I could only achieve this wonderful result inconsistently at first, but after about a year and a half, I could consistently go left on waves. Going right was still a challenge as the wave faced my back.

Surfing helped me get to know the ocean and its many moods so much better: the calm glassiness of morning before the wind kicks up, the choppy bumpy water of midday, the inky gray color of the waves as they reflect the overcast marine layer, the pinks and purples of sunset – you can see them all so much better when you're way out there among the waves, dolphins, and seals. There are sharks too, but I have never seen one, and I try not to think about them. If I see a dolphin I feel protected because I know sharks don't like to be in the same area where schools of dolphins are. If I see only seals, I'm a little worried because seals are shark food and with my black wetsuit on I can look like a seal or probably more like a walrus. Nonetheless the ocean is my home and I feel safe there. Even though the ocean is dangerous I feel like it protects me, that it appreciates my love for it. It is in the ocean that I want my ashes to be spread.

Fast forward to the present time: my next stage of ocean adventures is just beginning. I am moving onto a 34 foot Columbia sailboat equipped with all the essentials for living. I will be docked at a slip and have all the amenities for living, but I can pull away from the dock at any time and cruise up and down the coast of California and the Baja peninsula or up the coast to Oregon and Washington state. I plan to get a captain's license so that I can move other people's boats up and down the coast. So it is back to sleeping on a boat with the gentle waves lapping against the side, supported and buoyed by the salt water, and connected to every ocean in the world.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Give It Away In Order to Keep It

Many people in my life are aware that I am a person who experiences periodic depression and anxiety. The depression is genetic from one side of the family and the anxiety from the other. These two converged issues in my life have led to bad coping mechanisms the worst of which was drinking.

Several years ago I came across an organization that suggested that service to others is the only true way to happiness. Service to others? How's that going to help me? I'm the one who's unhappy, not them. How's putting gas in another person's car going to get me anywhere. What I didn't understand was that I was expecting a spiritual concept to operate under the same principles as a material concept. For me the spiritual world was new anyway, and continues to be new - but it was far less real to me than it is now.

Over the years I have realized there actually is a spiritual plane and it actually does operate under completely different laws and logic than the material plane. Because I have the unique station of being a human, I straddle both these planes. What actions I perform on the spiritual plane affect my experience of the material plane and actions I perform on the material plane affect my spiritual condition.

I never truly got to experience the truth of how service to others brings happiness until I started volunteering for Second Chance Dog Rescue. I suddenly found myself talking to potential adoptees on the phone with joy and happiness. I have been surrounded by love and joy from the animal kingdom which has given me a faith that the true nature of creation is Love. I now know for myself that joyful service to humanity, to the animal kingdom, and to God is a true path to happiness.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I give up

Only disaster will get us into the 21st century.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Irony in Obama's election

Yesterday was a mixed blessing for me. I was very happy for America and for African-Americans especially and for my own African-American nephews that a black man was elected president of the United States. At the same time I was deeply saddened by a vote on Proposition 8 that told me that I was not accepted and not equal. I felt personally rejected by the state that I live in. I felt the weight of a mass of people that dislike me, fear me, and wish I wasn't around. I can only imagine that's how black people feel on a daily basis as white people look at them with fear or instant judgment. It took a vote for me to feel that same slap in the face. I'm very happy that Obama's presidency and the visibility of his family may go a long way in lifting this instant judgment, fear, and misunderstanding for African-Americans and other people of color. But while that great step forward was taken a giant step backward was taken for gay people. While one hand giveth, the other taketh away.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Arguments against gay marriage

I would like to know any reasonable arguments for denying marriage to same sex individuals. The arguments I've seen don't hold water according to our constitution and bill of rights. Here are the arguments I've seen:
  1. It's in the Bible.
    That doesn't hold up - our constitution and bill of rights ensure religious freedom and not imposing a specific religion through government on anyone. Our founding fathers were very clear on this.
  2. It's unnatural.
    This also doesn't hold water. There is tons of evidence that all kinds of animals engage in homosexual activity and that it's part of the natural order.
  3. It's a lifestyle choice not an innate characteristic.
    This would be the only argument that would justify the denying of any right to gay people. Obviously discrimination against characteristics that come at birth like skin color are against the constitution and bill or rights because they are inherently unfair. If being gay were a choice then you would not have to provide the same rights to a gay person because it's a behavioral decision. But clearly this is not true.
Despite what the vast majority of gay people say, that it is not a choice, straight people refuse to believe them. Well, if you're straight, ask yourself these set of questions?
  1. Why would anyone in this society choose to be gay?
  2. Can you choose to be gay? Would having sex with the same sex feel natural to you?
    If you are truly 100% straight the answers to these questions will be no. If you're 100% gay the answers will be exactly the same. Having sex with the opposite sex will seem unnatural and impossible. Many gay people live a majority of their lives pretending or wanting to be straight. If it were a choice why would this choice fail?

    So if it is not a choice, denying a right to a group that has an innate characteristic that is outside of their control is against the constitution and bill of rights. It seems pretty simple. People claim that the courts are undertaking a social agenda or social activism. I disagree - they are just enforcing the constitution and unfortunately for those who oppose gay marriage, the arguments are clearly not strong for their side.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why I may not buy the new macbook

So, I was waiting and waiting for the expected date of arrival of new MacBooks - Oct. 14th - because my old mac book has a broken keyboard, super-drive, etc. I was hoping for faster cpu, better battery life. Some of the features of the new Mac Book are improvements but overall I'm disappointed.

Here are the improvements:
  • Aluminum case with more sturdyness due to single block design.
  • Better graphics card with offloaded graphics processing.
  • Macbook pro-like look.
  • That's about it.
Here are the main detractors that may keep me from buying it:
  • No firewire port. What?
  • Higher price. Double-what?
  • No major increases in power or battery life.
  • Looks more like an HP than a mac.
I think I can get basically a much better computer for $800 and put Linux on it and buy an external battery. I admit I still haven't seen one in person. Maybe I'll be over-awed by the coolnesss of it and buy it anyway.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Myth of Socialism

I've been hearing a lot of cries of "socialism" in our current election. The word is used with a lot of misunderstanding and often as a scare tactic.

The American political system is a mixture of democracy, capitalism, and social programs. Social programs are not necessarily the same thing as socialism. Here is the webster definition of socialism: "Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods."

To advocate social programs is not the same as advocating socialism. But when the social program refers to "universal healthcare" or tax breaks for the middle class or government programs that benefit the middle class, the label "socialist" is often applied.

We have many "social" or government run programs. Examples - our highway and transportation system, our agricultural subsidies, welfare, social security, education, higher education in state universities, medicare, fire, police and national security.

Why do we have these? Because we've chosen to take a portion of our incomes and collectively pool them towards enterprises that are necessary for the functioning of our society as a whole. Businesses rely on these enterprises as much as we do. No one calls our military "socialist", or are education system, or our police, fire department, or legal system. The fact is that free enterprise is not structured to fulfill these type of infrastructure needs. Individual corporations are only responsible to their shareholders and to produce the greatest profits. But free enterprise is dependent on all the services that we collectively provide through our elected government and taxes.

There's a common political philosophy that free enterprise left alone will take care of everything. How can that be possible if each individual corporation is only responsible for itself and its shareholders?

The truth is that some kind of collective investment in the infrastructure required for a stable and healthy society is necessary. Once you have this investment, it will need to be administered towards the required infrastructure. Those who invest(we the people) will want oversight and decision making power as to how this investment is administered.

There has to be some structure to administer the collective investment in infrastructure. This is commonly called "government". Government governs the common investment. We vote on "representatives" who represent our interests in how this common investment should be administered. In a well working system of government, we decide what we require in this infrastructure, what the priorities are, and how the money will be spent on different parts of the infrastructure.

We have temporarily lost control of this process. More often than not corporations are deciding how this money should be spent and which parts of the infrastructure are important. Nowadays much of our infrastructure has been turned over to private enterprises. This is not inherently bad, as long as our representatives ensure that the corporate entities best fulfill our interests in implementing specific pieces of our infrastructure. But currently there is an incestuous relationship between corporations and our representatives, for several reasons. One, a lot of our law makers are extremely wealthy. Two, it requires a lot of money to get elected. Most of this money is donated by corporate entities who want the business that government provides or want the advantages in business that government can pave for them.

Nowadays, government's job has been to help facilitate corporations - to pave the way for their unlimited growth. We are more closely approaching the real definition of socialism as government and business become more and more tightly coupled. Recall: "state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods". Our government - through deregulation - just allowed our banking system to freeze up and almost collapse, and in order to prevent that collapse, they just bought up major sections of our financial and banking system. What is more "socialist" than that?

Is a government run health care system socialist? Or is government turning health care legally over to corporate entities and paving their way for financial success socialist?

Certain parts of our infrastructure, I believe, should not be in the hands of corporations. Health care is one of them. A business that operates on profit should not be making life or death decisions. On the flip-side, certain parts of our economy should not be in the hands of government.

As a society we need to rework the following:
1. What are the necessary parts of our infrastructure for a healthy society?
2. Which parts can be run by private enterprise and which parts can not?

We have to break the incestuous bond between private enterprise and government so that "we the people" are truly making this decision.

Also we need to eliminate the myth of socialism because it doesn't help in making these decisions and is often used as a tool against us. It blurs our clear vision.

Most of all, we need to be educated. Only through education will we learn the discrimination necessary to administer our own government. Remember - this is our government. We truly can have control over how our government runs, but only if we, as citizens, are educated enough to understand the concept of government and the principles this country was founded on.