Monday, November 19, 2018

Evanston: UNDER FIRE; BASEBALL; exception

        Yesterday I finished reading an excellent book and watching an excellent television series.
        The book was UNDER FIRE by Henri Barbusse, justly acclaimed as one of the finest memoirs by a WWI soldier.  
        Barbusse was a published writer before war broke out and in 1914 at age 41 enlisted as a private in the French Army.  He served for 17 months, mostly in the trenches, until broken health caused him to be assigned to a desk job.
        The French title of the novel translates literally as FIRE:  The Story of a Squad and Barbusse writes superbly about the lives of common French soldiers in and out of the trenches, lives in which the almost unimaginable and unthinkable become soul destroyingly commonplace.  His images are vivid:  a screaming tree, the hand of a corpse that the men stepped on as they moved along a trench “fleshless and worn, a sort of withered fin.”  And a description of men unable to extricate themselves from mud drowning as trench walls collapsed in a deluge.
        UNDER FIRE may be the best written WWI memoir I have read.
        I have started rereading STORM OF STEEL by the Ernst Junger, the best known German WWI memoir, to remind myself of what life was like on the other side of no man’s land.
        There are many differences, among them that Junger was a junior officer, not an enlisted man, and believed in the military and the German cause.  Barbusse was for the common soldier, but against the military, generals, war profiteers and politicians. 
        Surprisingly Barbusse’s book was published in 1916, during the war, in stark contrast with official war propaganda, and was an immediate success.
        Junger’s book wasn’t published until 1920 and Erich Maria Remarque's novel, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, not until 1929.

        The series was Ken Burns’ eleven part BASEBALL.  Originally airing in 1994 in nine parts, episodes ten and and eleven were added in 2010 to cover the intervening years
        I don’t know how I missed the series until now.
        One of the changes I have observed in myself is that over the past decade or so, I have come to like baseball more and American football less.
        Like all Burns’ series that I have seen, BASEBALL is an informative and entertaining masterpiece worth viewing even by those who have little interest in the game.
        I watched on Amazon Prime Video

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        Under the ‘exceptions to every rule’ Ken writes from Perth, Australia, that there are penguins there and even a Penguin Island.  I have sailed to Fremantle, Perth’s harbor, and I did not remember that.  I goggled and found that the current water temperature in Perth is a comfortable  22.8ºC/73ºF.  Ken says that like the Bay of Islands, Perth’s penguins are small and suggests my principle be modified by adding ‘big’ before ‘penquins’.  While that would be more accurate, I am going to stick to my principle and not swim with penguins of any size.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Evanston: snow; three principles to live by


        I provide this photo taken from our condo this morning as a pubic service to enrich the lives of those of you unfortunate, or perhaps intelligent enough to live in places with good climates.  A blizzard it wasn’t, lasting less than an hour and even with temperature only slightly above freezing the snow is already gone.

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        In an exchange of emails with a friend, I wrote:
        There are small penguins, not much bigger than a football, in NZ waters.  I have few principles, but one of them is not to swim in water cold enough for penguins.
        John wrote back:

        I like the penguin principle, that's a good way to live, with a few solid principles.  When my son sailed from California to Australia with little offshore experience I tried to imbue him with two principles : 1) stay on the boat,  2) keep the water out of the boat.  It gets confusing if you have too many.

        I agree.  Those three are enough.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Evanston: too easy; heat wave

        Three readers sent me links to an article in OUTSIDE made reference to at Sailing Anarchy about a 71 year old retired psychiatrist who went missing while trying to sail alone across the Pacific Ocean after sending several bizarre messages.  I strongly disagree with Sailing Anarchy’s assertion that it is a great article. 
        I only skimmed the piece.  My reaction:  Maybe I am making this look too easy.  
        Not everyone should go to sea alone.  This man obviously should not have.  His death is not a tragedy.  I don’t even think it is of interest except to his family.
        From what I read I do wonder why he ever thought he wanted to sail an ocean alone.  Like many others, his mind never really left the land.
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        Yesterday morning when I woke up at 6:30 the temperature was 20ºF/-6.6C with a ‘feels like’ of 8º/-13.3C.  Today when I woke up at the same time, the temperature was again 20ºF, but the ‘feels like’ was 13ºF/-10.5C.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Evanston: FREE SOLO

        Mark recommended the documentary film, FREE SOLO, about Alex Honnold’s climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.  I thank him.  Carol and I saw it yesterday and both of us are still thinking and talking about it today.  I would not have thought what Alex Honnold did is humanly possible.  Four hours requiring incredible strength and balance with zero margin for error.  The film shows cameramen turning away from their cameras, unable to endure the tension, knowing that at any instant they might be filming a man falling to his death.
        Mark advised that the film is best seen on a big screen.  I agree, but if that is not possible, I expect that in time FREE SOLO will appear on the National Geographic TV channel.

        Here is a link to the trailer:






Sunday, November 11, 2018

Evanston: on the 100th anniversary of the War to End All Wars

        Michael, who was crunched by time and chance and an automobile two months ago and only yesterday was released from his rehab facility, reminded me this morning of the poem, ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’, by William Butler Yeats, part of which I quoted at the front of STORM PASSAGE.  Though he mentioned it in a different context, it is appropriate on this one hundredth anniversary of the end of WW1.

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public man, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

                  — W. B. Yeats, 1919

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Evanston: my last 76th evening

        This might be ill advised.  It is almost 10 PM as I start writing and I have a second glass of Laphroaig beside me  which was preceded by half a bottle of wine.
        Carol has gone to bed.  
        I watched college football for a while with the sound muted, listening to music.  Some Bach naturally—the best thing that might be said about Webb Chiles is that without any musical talent or education, Bach spoke to him as no other did—and then a shuffled list of contemporary music.
        Four poets:  Dante, Tennyson, Kazantzakis, Cavafy, saw a Ulysses who would not after the Trojan War and his ten year return to Ithaca be satisfied to remain there and would as an old man set out for the edge of human experience again.
        I doubt that any of those poets thought of a Ulysses 77 years old.  
        I also doubt that any of them thought of Penelope, who according to the legend was faithful for twenty years, giving up the natural fulfillment of her beauty and life.  I have often thought of and admire Penelope.
        I wrote in a long ago deleted poem, ‘intensity not duration’, yet incredibly and inexplicably I have known both.  
        That Webb Chiles has grown old is a statistical aberration almost beyond belief.
        Yet I am sitting in a comfortable condominium in front of a fireplace.  A life that would be envied by almost all our species, but which is redeemed for me only because I know that in two months I will be doing something difficult and dangerous, something that no other of our species has ever done before,
        There is no ego in this.  Or I hope not much.
        I was given by freak chance a one in a hundred billion horse to ride and the ability to write about that ride.  If I deserve any credit, it is that I did not quite fall off and I rode far beyond what anyone, including myself,  thought possible.  77 tomorrow I am still riding hard.
        And I wonder, assuming time and chance permit me to reach San Diego next year, what I will do next.
        I pause.  A sailor a thousand miles from the sea with a problem beyond the imagination of poets.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Evanston: MORNING OF FIRE; an experiment; bragging; sign of the times

        I had never heard of John Kendrick until BookBub offered MORNING OF FIRE and I should have. He was an exceptional man who fell through the cracks of history.
       Only a few years after the United States came into being he lead an extraordinary voyage to establish an American presence on the west coast of the continent. Once there, after a torturous rounding of Cape Horn, he and his men and ships were as remote as if they were on the far side of the moon, and without Houston Control.
        Scott Ridley tells John Kentrick’s dramatic life and death well. A friend who is reading the book has been riveted and disgusted. Recommendation enough.


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        While still useable, my 12” MacBook is showing signs of age, so yesterday I rode the train to an Apple store and bought a 12.9” iPad Pro in the hope that it can be a laptop replacement, despite some reviews that say it can’t.
        I also bought a keyboard and pencil and am writing this on the iPad. It is too early to know if the experiment will be a success.
       With the keyboard attached, the iPad weighs about the same two pounds as the MacBook, is about as thick, is slightly wider, is considerably more powerful and has a bigger display.
        While I have used IOS on phones and an iPad mini, there is a steep learning curve. Almost nothing works the same as on other devices or my MacBook and the solutions to most of the differences are far from intuitive.
        The display is huge and vivid.  I like the touch of the keyboard better than that on the MacBook. Visiting sites on the Internet, reading in the Kindle app and magazines in Texture are all excellent. I have already become so used to the touch screen that I found myself futilely touching the screen of the MacBook.  And I am gradually figuring out how to do the things I want and need to do.
        An unexpected consequence of this transition has been to cause me to like iNavX less and iSailor more.
        When you buy charts from iSailor they can be downloaded to any number of devices. I opened iSailor on this iPad and my charts were soon all there.
       With iNavX the number and types of device are limited. Buy the Navionics charts for the US for your iPhone and you will have to buy a different version for iPad. Those charts are now available as an in-app purchase in iNavX. So yesterday I paid $69.99 and was informed that the charts were limited to this single device.
        A few minutes after making the purchase, I received an email from Apple that my ‘subscription’ would automatically renew at the same price a year from now.
        It turns out that I will not have to pay for the charts every year and that automatic renewal of ‘subscriptions’ is Apple’s standard policy. If I do not renew, I will still have the charts but I won’t get updates.
        I use both iSailor and iNavX. I find some actions easier on one than the other. However, I am now going to make a strong effort to use only iSailor.


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        This is unabashed bragging. I can’t even ask your forgiveness.
        I was feeling good when I did my workout Wednesday and instead of stopping at my age or 80, I went to 90 push-ups and crunches in the first set, a personal best for push-ups. I could have done more. I am not sure I could have done 100. Maybe one day I’ll see.
       90 push-ups would be doing my age through November 10, 2032. These dates are becoming ridiculous.


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        I had lunch with a friend today at a restaurant a half mile away. Seven people passed me walking the other way as I returned home. Every one of them was glued to their phones. One woman was staring at her phone while walking her dog.
        My friend, Michael, who is himself going home tomorrow after two months in hospital and rehab, tells me that his very superior dog, Rusty, is irritated if he sees Michael glancing at his phone while they are out walking.
        I am with Rusty.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Evanston: a correction; a fairy tale; Armistice Day

        If you read the last entry before 7 or 8 PM US Central Time Friday you received wrong information.  I dropped a decimal point when I wrote that 1.4 grams equals ½ or 0.5 of an ounce.  The true number is 0.05 of an ounce, which is ten times more astounding and  about the weight of a half of a penny coin.  Truly almost beyond comprehension.  At least mine.

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        I thank Ron for a link to a clever and amusing ‘fairy tale’ of how Leonard Cohen’s song, ‘Suzanne’, might have been written.

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        A week from today will mark three momentous events:  my 77th birthday; the expiration of my driver’s license; and the 100th anniversary of the end of what was then hopefully but sadly wrongly called, “The War to End All Wars”.  
        One of these events may be slightly more significant than the others.
        Of all that I have read commemorating that anniversary by far the best is a long article in the SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE by William T. Vollman which is both accurate and moving.  Long and well worth your time.
        I just googled and the median age of the world population in the year 2000 was 26.4 years.  Presumably it is now slightly higher, but still half the people now living have been born since 1990.  I doubt very many of them read much history or have any understanding of how cataclysmic and significant WWI was.
        The American philosopher, George Santayana, wrote:  Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Evanston: two clarifications; a cartoon; rubber band airplanes



        Recently I have been asked two questions by several readers.  
        First, do I do my age in push-ups without stopping? I do.
        As I have written here before, but not recently, my workout, done three times a week when I'm in Evanston, takes nineteen or twenty minutes and starts with some stretching, then my age--actually I now usually go to 80--in push-ups, my age or 80 crunches, 60 knee bends, then 40 push-ups, 40 crunches, 40 knee bends, then 40 push-ups, 40 crunches, 100 side leg raises each leg, and 150 knee bends.  All moving immediately from one to another, though I do sometimes pause for a couple of breathes between the first 80 push-ups and the first 80 crunches.  
        Since I almost severed the supraspinatus in my left shoulder rotator cuff in a fall two or three years ago I do not do nose to the carpet push-ups any longer, but do get my elbows to at least 90º angles.  When I started physical therapy for my shoulder they did not expect I would ever be able to do a push-up again, but I was within a few months.    
        I've always been able to do my age in push-ups and adding one more each year is not difficult.  Beyond 80 it may be.
        I exercise differently three other days a week and take Sundays off.
        Second, do I intend to sail from Panama directly to San Diego?  I do.
       As some of you know, that will not be an easy sail, with the last 1000+ miles against the prevailing winds and the cold California current.  I sailed against them in EGREGIOUS on the final passage from Tahiti to San Diego, but GANNET is a bit wetter than EGREGIOUS.
        It is possible that I will find it too difficult in GANNET, in which case I will ease the sheets and sail to Hilo, Hawaii, which is much easier and close the circle there.
        And there is always the temptation to head WSW for the Marquesas Islands and then proceed across the Pacific to New Zealand.  If I did, I would close the circle of the GANNET circumnavigation in Neiafu, Tonga.
        But I find compelling symmetry in completing the ‘Being’ part of my life in San Diego where it began on November 2, 1974, when I pushed EGREGIOUS away from the dock on my first attempt at Cape Horn.

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        I am now officially a cartoon.
        Zane in New Zealand thought that in the photo I ran Monday I was in something of a ‘preacher pose’ and so provided captions.
        I think I thank him.

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        From John, a sailor, boat builder, cellist, I have learned of what I believe are called F1 Rubber Band Airplanes, elegant feats of gossamer engineering so delicate that applause can cause them to crash, but which can stay aloft for more than thirty minutes on the twist of the rubber band.  John once folded his plane in half by not walking back to the table with it slowly enough.  
        His class has a weight limit of 1.4 grams which is 0.05 of an ounce.
        Here are some links to this ethereal world, including one of the world championships held in a Romanian salt mine.




        Thanks, John, for broadening my education.

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        The lead photo is a stylized version of a photo I have run here before.  I find it more compelling than the original.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Evanston: A Horrible Scene at Sea; adjusted


        Tim, of marathon running in the morning and  playing violin in a symphony orchestra that evening fame, also likes to read old newspaper archives and sent me this article from the Saint Genevieve, Missouri, FAIR PLAY, dated October 24, 1872.  If you click on the images to enlarge them, I believe you will be able to read it.  I wonder why the crew were unable to jury rig something and reach land.  I certainly would have tried.




        Tim, who lives near Kansas City, Missouri, also noted that the fall leaves are more colorful this year than usual.  That is true here as well.  The photo is of one of the two trees in front of our condo.

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        As I have noted before, it takes me a while to make the transition between the disparate parts of my life.  I am now adapted to being in Evanston.  I resumed my workouts on Monday.  After not doing them for a few months, in this case two, I always wonder if I can still do my age in push-ups.  I can.  In fact I did 80 in the first set, which will carry me to November 10, 2022.
        I walked down to the lake yesterday in a blizzard of falling leaves.  Most are still on the trees, but won’t be much longer.  That process of thousands of tons of leaves being recreated each spring and lost each fall is stunning.
        I’m catching up on the AMC series, Better Call Saul.
        I have been considering what I need to buy before sailing for Panama in January and have decided to wait and order it just before I fly to Hilton Head and have it delivered there rather than buy stuff now and have to check a bag on the flight.  There is not a lot.  I have found that CampMor no longer carries Mountain House freeze dry meals, which is my favorite American brand, so I will have to buy them elsewhere.
        And this morning I started writing an article about the sail to Saint Michaels.  I had not planned to write about that, but the material is there and I certainly have the time.