Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Of Lambs and Lions

When I was a young child I learned an old wives’ tale/superstition that if March comes in like a lion, then it will go out like a lamb, or vice versa. I have seen many March’s come and go but do not remember them all, so I cannot comment of the past reliability of the aphorism. Statistically, there is at least a 50-50 chance that the old wives’ tale/superstition will be true any given year. Given long term weather patterns, the saying might be true even more often than half the time. It sure seems true this year, at least for New York City.

I do not remember what last March 1st was like, but on March 2nd winter descended on the Big Apple with a vengeance, dumping several inches of snow in the city.

Today is a beautiful spring day in the world’s greatest city. The air is crisp, the sky clear blue with just a few clouds, and the slight chill in the air hints of warmer weather to come. It is such a nice day that even my buddy, the tree in the back yard, is smiling. It seems that some old wives were right this year. Today has been a lamb of a day.

On the other hand there is Fargo, North Dakota. Although water levels in the Red River have fallen more than two feet from their record highs of a few days ago, on its last day March in Fargo is like a wild lion, roaring blowing and drifting snow nearing blizzard like conditions. I have no idea how March came into Fargo but I am sure Fargo’s citizens are finding no comfort in superstitions or old wives’ tales.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

New York City Presbytery Meets on Staten Island - Approves 08-B 76-25

Members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) regularly come together on a regional basis to meet in regional governing bodies called Presbyteries. There are 173 Presbyteries in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) covering all fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. I and the church I serve as Designated Pastor, North Church Queens, are members of The Presbytery of New York City. The Presbytery of New York City includes churches in all five boroughs, the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens and Brooklyn.

The Presbytery of New York City met this past Saturday, March 28, 2009 at the Calvary Presbyterian Church on Staten Island. About one hundred voting Ministers and Elders attended the meeting as well as many other nonvoting observers.

For me the two highlights of the meeting were opening worship and the Report of the Task Force for the Ghanaian Fellowship. The low point was the Report on Standing Rules and Overtures when we became bogged down in process and more concerned about time rather than debating the substance of the many Proposed Amendments to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Proposed Ecumenical Statements and giving them the time they deserved. At least we passed 08-B 76-25!

Words alone, however, can never fully describe a meeting of any presbytery because before they are debates and votes, presbyteries are people. So here is a slideshow from the meeting. Most of the photos are of people, some are not.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Big Apple Gospel

Forty years ago Clarence Jordan made his folksy, vernacular, contextualized translation of the New Testament known as the Cotton Patch Gospel set in the contemporary American south.

After moving from rural West Virginia to Urban New York City in late July 2007, I started thinking about a folksy (hip?), vernacular (concrete and steel vs. earthy?), contextualized translation of the New Testament I call The Big Apple Gospel. So far I have finished only one verse, Mark 10:25.

"It is easier to drive a vehicle through the Queens Boulevard Underpass on the Jackie Robinson Parkway during rush hour than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

What do think? Contribute your own folksy, vernacular, contextualized passages to a Big Apple Gospel by adding a comment.

Meet My 100th Friend (on facebook)

I joined facebook in early January and am still learning how to use all the bells and whistles. Slowly but surely I have been, Mr. Rogers style, inviting people to be my friends and accepting invitations to be the friends of others. It seemed that for a week or more I had 99 friends (the non climbing type) and could not bring my list of friends into triple digits. I was feeling pretty socially dysfunctional compared to my friend and colleague Andy who, as of this post, has 377 friends. Then again, he is younger, single and more tech savvy than me.

I had issued a few invitations to people to be my facebook friends but all these folk were infrequent facebookers (is that a verb?) and had not yet responded. Then, out of the blue, I received an invitation from Jeff to be his friend. Jeff and I shared only one mutual friend, Andy! Through Andy I had come to know Jeff in real life and we had shared some church related work and meals together. So when Jeff invited me to be his friend I gladly accepted and my friend list moved into triple digits. I immediately sent Jeff a congratulatory note thanking him for being my 100th friend.

Now, however, I am not only feeling socially dysfunctional but downright socially isolated and network challenged because when Jeff Stricklin became my 100th friend, I became his 509th friend! Jeez! Talk about popular! I must be a social misfit! With only 100 facebook friends I feel like a real loser, an internet slacker, a networking nincompoop. Is there such a thing as facebook charm school? Sign me up, now!

If you would like to help me overcome my real or imagined sense of social isolation, visit me on facebook. And for the record, as of this posting, my facebook friends list is now up to 102! I am beginning to feel so much better, and popular.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Meet My New Friends (Sort Of)

It seems that I have been blogging a lot more about shores than summits. With the advent of spring, however, my thoughts are turning more and more to climbing in the Gunks as well as paddling on Jamaica Bay with the Sebago Canoe Club. Hoping to soon do some climbing, I recently purchased some Black Diamond Camelots, mechanical spring-load camming devices which come in a variety of sizes to fit a variety of crack widths. They remind me of “Friends”.

The first spring-load camming devices used for rock climbing were known as “Friends”. They were invented by Yosemite climber Ray Jardine in the late 1970s and intended to protect the valley’s smooth-sided cracks.

I started top roping at local crags in West Virginia and western Pennsylvania in the fall of 1974 and started leading at Seneca Rocks, WV in the fall of 1976. This was well after the start of the clean climbing movement. While using my partner's rack I led using primarily hexes and stoppers. I have never carried a rock hammer nor driven a piton though I have clipped into old ones for questionable pro.

Once I got bitten by the leading bug I purchased my own rack, filling it out in 1978 with Chouinard (the predecessor to Black Diamond) stoppers and hexes and a few other odds and ends. "Friends" had not yet hit the market so there was not a single one on my rack and I was leading on the vertical cracks of Seneca without them.

By the time “Friends” were invented and on the market I already had a full rack and could not justify the cost of adding what I considered unessential gear to my rack. I also thought their “mechanical” design detracted from the more pure passive pro. Hexes and stoppers seemed non-mechanical evolutionary developments from slung machine nuts and chock stones and thus more natural. “Friends” seemed too artificial and contrived, so from an ethical as well as financial standpoint I continued to climb, as occasional as it was, without any “Friends”.

Living with the decision not to add “Friends” to my rack, I continued to climb on and off at Seneca and the New River Gorge using only hexes and stoppers. In the summer of 2007 I moved to New York City and in the fall of 2008 started climbing in the Gunks. While leading 5.4 through 5.6 pitches in the Gunks I would still place only stoppers and hexes for pro but my young occasional climbing partner Bill used cams. After following and cleaning his leads I began to see how cams could provide a safety advantage and speed placing pro in the horizontal cracks of the Gunks, horizontal cracks where stoppers and hexes might not work.

I recently broke down and acquired some cams. A new generation of “Friends” is marketed by Wild Country but I opted for Black Diamond Camalots. I am partial to Black Diamond, the successor to Chouinard. When I acquired my first rack thirty years ago most of the hexes and stoppers were Chouinard and I had recently replaced them with Black Diamonds. I considered other cams but decided on Black Diamond Camalots and recently purchased three for my rack. Eventually I will probably be purchasing more.

Considering that a set of eleven Black Diamond stoppers can be purchased for around $85 but a single Camalot costs around $65, economics is still an issue. On the other hand, a Camalot can fit a wider range of cracks than any single stopper.

As the days grow longer and the weather warms, I hope to take my new Camalots (new “Friends” sort of) to the Gunks, lead a few pitches, and come home with old Camalots (old “Friends” sort of). It has taken me thirty years to make the acquaintance of these new “Friends” but hopefully we will become old "Friends" much more quickly.

On a side not, I am presently up to 99 “Friends” on face book and anxiously wonder who will be my 100th friends. To echo Mr. Rogers, “Won’t you be my friend?”

Monday, March 23, 2009

Melody and Harmony in Worship

Last week I introduced you to Shane and the Tylosaurus he brought with him to worship. This week I introduce you to Lisa, another of the younger worshipers at North Church Queens, and the two friends she brought with her to worship this past Sunday. Her friends are named Melody and Harmony. They are pictured to the right.

That is Lisa in the middle of the photograph. Melody is on the left and Harmony is on the right . . . I think. Then again, that might be Harmony on the left and Melody on the right. It is hard to tell, you see, because Melody and Harmony are twins. Lisa can tell the two apart but I can’t.

I have always valued and appreciated children in worship and the imaginary, plastic and sometimes flesh and blood friends they bring with them. I especially value the questions they sometimes bring with them, questions like “Is hot chocolate from hell because it is hot?” How would you answer that one?

Children in worship can help remind those of us who are older what it is like to approach mystery with childlike wonder and trust, and to not always take ourselves, or mystery, too seriously.

To paraphrase the Shorter Catechism (based on the Westminster Confession), “Humanity’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy God forever.” I think we focus too much on the first admonition and forget or ignore the second to our detriment. Christian worship often rightly focuses on glorifying God but fails to have fun with God, to playfully enjoy God, as a child might play with, have fun with and enjoy a friend in the sandbox, on the playground, or even playing with dolls and dinosaurs.

Melody and Harmony, welcome to worship. I hope you come back soon.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Amendment B shows signs of fourth quarter rally

March 22, 2009

Amendment B shows signs of fourth quarter rally: With nearly three-fourths of the votes in, the tally is 51-79, with plenty of time left on the clock
by Mary Sans Garter Presbyopia Views Surface

LOUISVILLE ― With nearly three-fourths of the votes in, a hotly-contested proposed amendment to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Constitution is showing signs of a fourth quarter rally. The amendment ― officially dubbed “Amendment B” ― would replace the current unjust requirement that church officers live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness” with a new G-6.0106b that is more just.

As of March 22, the unofficial tally is 51 presbyteries in favor, with 79 opposed. The final tally will be certified and announced by the Office of the General Assembly. The 130 presbyteries that have voted represent 75 percent of the PC(USA)’s 173 presbyteries.

The current “fidelity and chastity” provision was added to the Book of Order in voting following the conservative manipulation and stacking of key committee chairs at the 1996 General Assembly. Two subsequent proposals to delete it have failed in presbytery voting due to scare tactics employed by the right.

In the most recent voting, Mackinac Presbytery, the Presbytery of Newark, and the Presbytery of West Virginia became the 21st, 22nd and 23rd Presbyteries to "flip" from opposition to ordination equality in 2001-2 to support for the 218th General Assembly's Ordination Amendment 08-B in 2009. The Presbytery of Grand Canyon's vote of 98 YES to 93 NO adds to these 3 "flips" to make the total of 4 YES votes for Amendment 08-B in one day and to narrow the chasm between approval and defeat! As the Presbytery voting enters the final period both supporters and opponents wonder about a fourth quarter rally that could only happen in the madness of March.

With only 43 presbyteries left to vote, can a miracle for supporters of inclusion be waiting in the wings? Time will tell. The Holy Spirit has been known to blow from and in unexpected directions. The same Holy Spirit that gave a poor, young, unmarried Jewish maiden a child and added about three thousand believers following Peter’s Pentecost Sermon may indeed be behind this recent surge in the possible approval of 08-B and guide the winning shot into the hoop just as the buzzer sounds.

While the passage of 08-B is not certain, it appears as though its detractors have fielded an old, tired team whose best play is behind them, but they have been enjoying a home court advantage. Year after year many of their top players have not been returning. The supporters of 08-B, meanwhile, have seemed to field a much younger and more energetic team this year, many of whom will undoubtedly return for any future matchups. So if 08-B does not pass this year, there is always 2011 or 2013.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Goodbye Battlestar

I am admittedly a fan of science fiction but I was never a fan of the original 1978-1979 Battlestar Galactica (the one starring Lorne Green). I thought it was too campy and even though it had ten years to learn from and build upon the standards established by the original Star Trek, it just didn’t measure up. When the Sci-Fi network offered an updated remake, however, I watched and was hooked.

Last night was the season finale, and what an ending it was (no spoiler here). In a sense the ending was also a new beginning. The over two hour episode also offered a month’s worth of philosophical and theological sermonic material. I mean, when was the last time God, angels, and revenge, reconciliation, war and peace were seriously portrayed during prime time? The final scenes offered both hope and a warning.

Western (Greek) culture has traditionally embraced a cyclical understanding of history. Semitic culture has traditionally embraced a linear view of history. The story arc of Battlestar Galactica was based on the premise that history is indeed cyclical but the concluding episode proposed that the cycle of violence and destruction can be broken. Anytime a cycle is disrupted, does a new cycle begin or is a totally new trajectory established?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Winter’s Last Hurrah

Snow flurries welcomed the arrival of spring in the Big Apple. Although the temperature around 7:15 AM was 39 degrees Fahrenheit, snowflakes as large as goose down were falling from the sky, tickling my nose, as I walked my dog Hermes around the neighborhood. Those large white splotches in the picture to the right are the snowflakes that were falling this morning as Hermes and I made our rounds.

Spring officially arrived at 7:44 AM. Today’s high is predicted to be 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

When I was younger I enjoyed all four seasons, taking as much pleasure in x-c skiing and winter backpacking in January as I did in rock climbing on a sun baked rock face or kayaking under clear sunny skies in July. It seems that as I grow older I appreciate summer more than winter.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A.I.G. Bone-A$$e$

Maybe A.I.G. is legally bound by contracts to pay previously promised bonuses to some of its executives, but those executives are not legally bound to accept them. Instead of accepting these outrageous bonuses A.I.G. executives should accept some responsibility for their ineptitude and confess that they screwed up. How can they morally justify receiving such bonuses when the tax dollars of hundreds of thousands out of work Americans are enabling them to even have a company to work for in the first place? If the Obama administration and New York Attorney General Cuomo are not able to thwart these bonuses, then the names of those receiving them ought to be publicly displayed on a wall of shame and the Federal Government should make sure not a single one of them ever receives a government appointment or contract.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Tylosaurus Comes To Worship

My friend Shane is one of the youngest worshippers at North Church Queens. He is really in to dinosaurs. Last Sunday he was not only wearing a shirt bearing a dinosaur picture but was also wearing dinosaur boots. When he, Chelsea and Lisa came to the front of the sanctuary for a special time with me, their Pastor, Shane brought a dinosaur picture story book with him. A week earlier he had brought a plastic Tylosaurus with him to worship. After worship he left it on the table when leaving the after worship fellowship time. I returned it to him last Sunday.

One never knows who or what might show up at a worship service. Interesting people with interesting stories to tell occasionally venture into the sanctuary. I have seen stuffed animals and baby dolls of various sorts, including Cabbage Patch Kids complete with names and birth certificates. I have seen Transformers and Hot Wheels. Shane’s Tylosaurius was, however, the first extinct carnivore I can remember attending worship.

Maybe it was not a coincidence that Shane brought his plastic Tylosaurus with him to worship just a few Sunday’s after evolution weekend. A few years ago I had signed on to an Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science and on Sunday, February 15, 2009 had preached a sermon to coincide with Evolution Weekend. Three weeks later Shane brought his dinosaur friend with him to worship.

I am not sure that Shane and his Tylosaurius would have been welcomed by a pastor that shunned science and embraced “so called” creation science. I welcomed this budding paleontologist and his plastic dinosaur, however, because I believe in truth and find the theory of evolution and a historical and critical reading and interpretation of Scripture completely compatible.

Variety, Not Continuity

The votes are in, both of them. The two people who responded to my question about whether I should aim for variety or continuity with the header photo have both opined for monthly variety. So be it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Princeton Comes to the Big Apple

I am not one for heading back to campus for alum weekends and reunions, but when an alma mater holds an event near where I am living, and food is involved, I usually attend. Last week Princeton Theological Seminary held an alumni/ae luncheon in New York City. I made my reservation and took the “L” and “6” from my home in Ridgewood, Queens to the event at 921 Madison Avenue, on the upper west side of Manhattan. The event was graciously hosted by the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church and its Pastor The Reverend Dr. Fred R. Anderson, D. Min.. In addition to being a graduate of Princeton Seminary the Reverend Anderson is a memeber of the Seminary's Board of Trustees and served on the search committee that selected Princeton’s current President, Dr. Iain R, Torrence. (Dr.’s Anderson and Torrence are pictured to the right)

In his remarks President Torrence addressed the Seminary’s financial health (so to speak) and what the seminary is doing to meet the challenges of the current recession. He spoke more briefly about plans for a new Library, upcoming retirements, and other news.
The luncheon highlight for me happened as the event was breaking up. I was reconnected with Hendricks S. Davis, the Director of Field Education during the early to mid 1980’s when I was a student and whom I had not seen since I graduated in 1985.
Members of New York City Presbytery in attendance, in addition to the Reverend Fred Anderson and me (Designated Pastor of North Church Queens), included the Reverend Alistair J. Drummond (Pastor of West End presbyterian Church), the Reverend Krystin Granberg (Interim Pastor of Broadway Presbyterian Church), the Reverend Leslie Merlin (Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church)(all three pictured at left), the Reverend Michael Lloyd Lindvall (Pastor of The Brick Presbyterian Church), and Presbytery of New York City Stated Clerk the Reverend Cornell A. Edmonds. Numerous other New York City alums, including Baptists and United Methodists, were also in attendance.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Emerald Isle Memories and Prayers

My wife and I have twice travelled to Ireland. On our first trip, in 1999, we flew in and out of Belfast on KLM and spent most of our three week stay in a private country home in Ballymoney, County Antrim. Using Ballymoney as our base we explored the small towns and countryside of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

There were only a few visible cues letting us know when we had crossed the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The road surface would change. Road signs in Northern Ireland were in English only. Road signs in the Republic were in both English and Gaelic. On major roads we would often see the derelict remains of border crossing stations and fortifications. We were never stopped, never had to show a passport, and our English pounds were always accepted in the Republic.

When we entered small towns in Northern Ireland we could tell by the paint on the curbs and how the homes were appointed whether it was a Protestant, Roman Catholic, or mixed village. Our visit coincided with ”the marching season” so in the North we saw small parades of Protestant Orangeman, often culminating in bonfires, and were even once solicited for a donation by an Orangeman who came to the door of the country home we were staying in.

Our hosts were Irish Presbyterians that had lived in Northern Ireland for two and three, if not four generations. Even though they and their parents had all been born in Ireland they thought of themselves not as “Irish” but as “British”. Their sense of self identity helped me begin to understand the root of some of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

On our second trip, in 2001, we flew Aer Lingus in and out of Dublin, stayed in B&Bs and a dorm at Trinity College, and never crossed into Northern Ireland.

I always felt safe during both trips, whether in Northern Ireland or in the Republic. In spite of the history of violence, unlike during our visit to Israel in 2000, I saw no armed military presence, though I did see police stations protected by barbed wire and gun towers. People in both the North and the Republic were friendly and helpful. Even after two visits we would like to return to Ireland yet again.

In recent days we have learned that in two British Soldiers were killed on Saturday and a Police Officer was killed on Monday in Northern Ireland. This is sad news for Ireland, all who love Ireland, and for peacemakers and lovers of peace. Having twice visited the Emerald Isle and having preached in a Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland I feel an affinity for the people of Ireland, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. I now find myself once again praying for peace in that land of Celtic Saints.

Whitney, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Minister and Missionary living in Belfast, authors the blog Glimpses of Grace and reflects on the recent violence in her post “persistent peace”.

Monday, March 9, 2009

About Summit to Shore Header Photos

With my first post, ex-nhilo, I included an original photograph of a sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean I had recently taken from the eleventh floor of the Ocean Sands Resort and Spa in Virginia Beach, Virginia. My wife and I have vacationed in Virginia Beach several times over the New Year holiday and this particular photo was a reminder of many happy memories. It served as the header photo of Summit to Shore for the month of January 2009.

When I started this blog I had not given a lot of thought about the header. I liked the sunrise photo and thought it was appropriate considering the name of this blog. After a while I began to think that the header photo addressed the “shore” part of the blog but neglected the “summit” part. In my post WWJB, however, I had committed myself to generally post nothing but original photographs rather than posting images downloaded from other sites. That meant I needed an original “summit” photograph.

To address that oversight I changed the header photo in February and featured an original shot from the summit of Spruce Knob, at 4,863 feet above sea level, West Virginia’s highest peak. The view is looking east over the North Fork Valley. As a native West Virginian that had hiked around the summit of Spruce Knob numerous times, this photo represents my mountain roots and served as the header photo for the month of February.

When March arrived it seemed like I needed to once again feature a “shore” pic so I chose a shot of the Atlantic Ocean looking over the dunes from the National Park Service Campground on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina. Ocracoke is at the southern end of North Carolina’s Outer Banks and reachable only by water or air. It was frequented by the famed pirate Blackbeard and where Blackbeard eventually lost his life. It is also an excellent locale for kayaking. My wife and I have camped in the NPS campground in both late spring and early fall and will undoubtedly return. The snapshot was a no-brainer for March's header.

It only recently dawned on me that I had not identified any of these header photos. Thus this post. In the future I will identify new header images as I feature them. From the photos above it is apparent that I also need to standardize the format, to decide how many pixels wide and high the header photo will be. That work remains to be done as I learn more about editing photos and working with blogger.

April will soon be here and I have already been thinking about what “summit” print to feature as April’s header. Unless I change my mind I will be featuring an image looking west from Sam’s Point at the southern end of New York’s Shawangunk range. Some friends of ours have a country home in nearby Cragsmore and when we visit them I usually hike around the Sam’s Point Nature Preserve. This particular shot was taken in late fall as isolated thunderstorms were passing over the area.

I have wrestled with the idea of changing the header photo every month, alternating between “Summit” and “shore” pics, verses keeping the same header over time. There is something to be said about variety but there is also wisdom in establishing and maintaining a “brand” identity that could associate with a particular graphic. For the time being I have opted for variety.

What do you think, should I aim for variety or continuity with the header photo? Answer via comment or respond to the poll at the top of the right hand column. I will leave the poll up through noon, Sunday, March 15, 2009.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

45 Reasons To Learn How To Sail

Awhile ago I entered a contest that required me to list 45 reasons to learn to sail. Here is my list.

1. Learning to sail is safer for you than trial and error.
2. Learning to sail will lead you to greener recreation since sailing burns no fossil fuels.
3. Learning to sail is a great way for you to meet potential partners, either members of the opposite or same sex, or to take your current significant other on a great romantic getaway.
4. Learning to sail helps you keep mentally and physically fit.
5. Learning to sail will help you better appreciate Thomas Cahill’s Sailing the Wine Dark Sea.
6. Learning to sail can lead to a new lifelong passion.
7. Learning to sail could lead to new employment as the captain of a sail boat for hire.
8. Learning to sail is more fun than learning to sell.
9. Learning to sail could come in handy if your home is reposessed and you need portable, floating living accommodations.
10. Captain Jack Sparrow would want you to learn to sail.
11. Learning to sail might be the gateway to your next great vacation: sailing around the Bahamas.
12. Learning to sail would improve your employability if you lived in Ocracoke, NC.
13. Learning to sail will lead to a quicker and less strenuous way to circumnavigate Manhattan rather than circumnavigating by sea kayak.
14. Learning to sail is good for you.
15. Learning to sail is good for the world.
16. Learning to sail will include comprehensive classroom and on-water sailing instruction.
17. Learning to sail epitomizes the beauty of sailing
18. Learning to sail is intense.
19. Learning to sail is fun.
20. Learning to sail is challenging.
21. Learning to sail is relaxing.
22. Learning to sail is rewarding.
23. Learning to sail will be one of the most exciting adventures of your life.
24. Learning to sail will be an exhilarating tonic for your senses.
25. Learning to sail will be refreshing.
26. Learning to sail is all-natural and very, very clean education.
27. Learning to sail can be a very spiritual experience. After all, one of the most respected spiritual leaders in history sailed on Lake Galilee.
28. Learning to sail will provide great stories to tell your children and grandchildren.
29. Learning to sail could lead to your publishing your first novel.
30. Learning to sail is natural.
31. Learning to sail is not taxable.
32. Learning to sail gets you into the great outdoors.
33. Learning to sail gets you off the couch and away from the television.
34. Learning to sail is for real men and women who love life with a passion.
35. Learning to sail requires no computer skills.
36. Learning to sail is part of the natural evolution of humanity.
37. Learning to sail frees you from the concrete jungle.
38. Learning to sail could provide you with your next way of commuting to work.
39. Learning to sail will lead you to some of the best fishing spots in the world, and thus a free meal.
40. Learning to sail is what movies and memories are made of.
41. Learning to sail is not hazardous to your health.
42. Learning to sail should have been one of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights.
43. Learning to sail will help you learn to speak like a pirate.
44. Learning to sail will impress your friends and help you make even more friends.
45. Learning to sail returns you to your home, the sea.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow in the City

Snow has been blowing sideways down the street in front of our home and has been accumulating on the streets and sidewalks since last night. I have been out with the shovel twice, spreading ice melt both times. I am beginning to wonder if it will ever stop snowing. I guess there is only one way to find out: to wait and see.

My wife and I moved to New York City (the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood) during the summer of 2007. The following winter seemed pretty mild by our West Virginia mountain standards and even locals were saying it was a calm winter. Even though we have seen a little more cold and snow this winter, until last night I thought the worst of winter was behind us. After all, it reached 60 degrees on Friday and 55 degrees on Saturday. I guess Punxsutawney Phil was right. There really were six more weeks of winter on the way. The forecast was for a winter storm dumping eight to fourteen inches in a 24 hour period. I measured nine inches of snow on our back porch where the wind did not blow it away or drift it higher. It was probably ten inches deep when fresh but has had some time to settle. The snow that fell over night and the forecast for more snow today was enough for the City of New York to cancel school for the first time in five years!

This morning, while walking our dog Hermes, I took a few photos to give others an idea of what the world’s greatest city looks like under a blanket of snow. My Sebago Canoe Club paddling body and fellow NOLS Alum John H. has a great time lapse video of the snow falling over night that you might want to view.

Water Bloggers Meet

“Friends Romans, water bloggers . . . lend me your Ear.”

Several of New York City’s littoral literati who blog about humans interacting with a water environment in one way, shape or form recently met at one of Manhattan’s oldest Bars, the Ear Inn, housed in the historic James Brown House, a designated Landmark of the City of New York and on the National Register of Historic Buildings of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The gathering was organized by Bonnie, author of the blog “frogma”. Check out her post about the gathering to view some of her original photographs, read her own description, and find links to other water blogs with even more posts and photos from the evening.

My wife Vicki and I both attended this aquatic assembly. Prior to the party we knew only two others in attendance, Bonnie and John H, members, along with us, of the Sebago Caoe Club. Bonnie and I both post to the Sebago Blog. John H and I also happen to be NOLS Alums and have attended NOLS Alum gathering in NYC in addition to kayaking together. After dinner and a few beers I knew several more people and was able to put faces with names and blogs. It was a great gathering which will probably repeat itself in some manner, resulting in many new acquaintances and friends.

The Ear Inn was crowded but the food, drink and service were great (accept for the fact that we could not reserve table space.) High on my list was that they serve Guinness on tap. John H., Bonnie and I all had the Buffalo Burger in various permutations. All three of us were very satisfied with the offering. Vicki had the Grilled Salmon on Salad Greens which she would have again.

Having kayaked with Bonnie on the first Jones Beach seal watching trip and seeing her photographs from that trip, and having attended this recent gathering of water bloggers and viewing her pics from the evening, I am struck by how we seem to have much the same photographic eye, as many of our shots look similar.

Here is a slide show of my original photos taken the evening of our gathering.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Jones Beach February 28, 2009

For the third time this year and the second Saturday in a row, members of the Sebago Canoe Club trekked to Jones Beach with the hope and expectation of seeing harbor seals. The trip was organized by Steve Heinzerlin. Tagging along were George Sullivan, Vicki Moss and John Harris.

Conditions were again windy but because the wind was blowing out of the north rather than the west (as it was the previous week) there was less fetch and so the water was not quite as choppy. Last week the trip circumnavigated the islands clockwise. On this trip we circumnavigated counter-clockwise.

Having crossed the channel and paddled into the marsh islands, as we approached an island I could see from a distance that something was on the shore. At first I thought it was sand or birds but it turned out to be seals, lots of seals. I would estimate between two and three dozen seals were sunning themselves. As we approached they started to climb into the water and disperse. Eventually the four of us found ourselves in their midst as they swam aroud us.

Afterward, trip organizer Steve Heinzerling wrote: “Today George Sullivan, John Harris, Vicki and myself went out to Jones Beach for a paddle with the seals. I was a little afraid that I may have missed them, and they'd already moved on to other waters. About twenty minutes out we spotted an island that was covered with seals. We counted at least 30 seals. We approached cautiously not to scare them in the water. After one went in most of them followed. Soon they were popping up all around us. It was a great experience and a very exhilarating paddle. When we returned to the cars I vowed that I'd come back and do this paddle every year. It's truly an awesome experience. “

For the record, we put in around 10:10 AM and took out two hours later, paddling 3 miles. Our average speed was reduced because once we encountered the seals we tended to paddle in place so that we could watch them. I have created a short slide show from the trip using original photgraphs.

President Obama receives a "B"

The grading period is over and grades are in. Six readers responded to my unscientific and unrepresentative poll and assigned a grade to President Obama after his first month in office. Four readers awarded our President an “A”. One assigned him a “B” and one person failed him. His grade average is thus a “B”. That is above average with room for improvement.