Sunday, August 24, 2008

Greendragon goes a-kayaking, Chapter 8

Swift River
Originally uploaded by greendragon50
The Swift River is hardly swift, but it is wide and beautiful.

The day started out early and misty. I was on the road my 7:45. I was halfway to the Mass Pike when I discovered that I had left my cell phone at home. So, back I want to get it.

It's odd...I spent years driving everywhere without a cell phone. Now, I get anxious if I'm a mile from home without it. It's as if I'm tempting the traveling gods to take revenge if I'm not prepared for an emergency. Silly.

The trip to Belchertown (really, what kind of a name is that!?) at the agreed upon time and, with a fellow paddler's help, get the boat off the car and in the water in a few minutes.

The fog burns away and the sun shines gently on us. It's perfect weather...not too hot, not windy, and the river is kind to us. We head downstream for awhile, as one member of our group has to leave early and has never been on the downstream end of the river.

We go as far as we can, until we hit the waterfall. We decide not to venture too the end of the river there looks like you're approaching the end of the world, when the world was flat.

The amazing thing about this river is that the water is so remarkabl clear. As one person puts it, it's like paddling on top of an aquarium. You can see EVERYTHING below, water plants, sand, you name it. I manage to miss *every* siting of the big trout (rainbow, I think) but I do see the little fry swimming about. The turtles, mergansers, and ducks are a bit too quick for me to capture on the camera.

In the end, a fine day of paddling. Very much worth the hour trip to get there.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A moment of silence for Colin the whale

I've been following a story from Australia about a baby humpback whale that has been trying to suckle from yachts and other ships. Poor thing was abandoned and latched on (literally) to anything that vaguely resembled Mama Whale.

But, of course, trying to suckle a yacht is not going to help a baby whale (the Australians have named it Colin). Marine experts were monitoring its health and they have determined that it is in very poor condition, and injured -- possibly from a shark attack.

And so, the decision was made to euthenize Colin. I am surprised that there was no way to bring the whale into captivity and feed it. The original article that I read said that because the whale had not been weaned, there was no way that humans could feed it properly. Was there not an aquarium that could have taken him in? Or is that just not possible with humpbacks?

On the other hand, Nature is not benevolent...Nature is. If the whale had not wandered into human territory, it would have died, as all such creatures do. So perhaps human interference isn't what is called for in this case. Let Nature do as it always does....keep the balance of those who are strong enough to survive and let go of the others. It's not pretty or clean. It just is.

I suppose the only positive note here is that Colin will not die alone. He will be surrounded by other mammals who will comfort him as best they can and send him on to wherever innocent, dead whales go when life on earth ends for them.

Peace be with you, Colin.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Square fruit?!

I dunno....square fruit just seems, well, wrong. So very, very wrong.,28804,1614837_1663720_1663727,00.html?xid=feed-netzero-featured

I didn't realize that square watermelons already exist (developed by someone in Japan). Now, someone in South Korea has developed square apples. I mean really, can you imagine the Apple logo as a square instead of the lovely apple shape it has now?

No, I say...NO to square fruit. It's not nice. It's not right. It's not what I want from my fruit!

Greendragon goes a-kayaking, Chapter 7

Sunset on the water
Originally uploaded by greendragon50
The summer season is nearing its end. There's a hint of coolness in the early evening air and the sun makes its daily trip below the horizon earlier and earlier.

I ease out into the lake, into a slight chop, as there is a small breeze this evening. There are a few motor boats out and about, but in general, the non-motorized boats rule the water tonight.

As the sun starts to drop below the treeline, the birds are starting to come home to roost. I pass two cormorants, standing sentinel on some half-submerged logs. They stand so still, they almost seem to be part of the branches. But, as I get closer, there's no mistaking their distinct forms.

As the sky darkens, I head back to the boat ramp but pause for awhile, to just take in the scenery and the gentle but persistent sounds as the insects start their night-time songs.

Finally, reluctantly, I pull the boat out of the water and start the loading process. The end of kayaking season is coming --- there's about another month before the water gets too cold for me to feel safe on the water.

For the first time, kayaking has become a regular activity for me. There's no where else I really want to be other than on the water. It has become my summer haven.

I'll miss this when the seasons change.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Greendragon goes a kayaking - Chapter 6 - a Full Moon Paddle

It's late, around 10 pm. The sky has cleared and the stars are are shining above. The moon is a large, white, orb, shining down on us with that silvery light that only appears on special nights. I attach the light to the back deck of my Green Merlin and we ease our boats into the dark, quiet, water.


We head out to the far edge of Whitehall Reservoir. I've paddled this lake many times in the daytime, but at night, I'm finding it hard to recognize any landmarks. The trip organizers know the lake like the back of their hands, so we just follow their lead.

The air is cool, but no wind. The threatening storm clouds from earlier in the day are gone. And it's quiet...other than the gentle sound of paddles gliding into the water and the quiet conversations of my fellow kayakers, it is so very quiet. We pause and float, listening to the summer serenade of the night-time insects. As we drift, I catch a quick movement of a dark shadow ...bats! Yes, bats are out..they zip over us, speeding by without pause...if you don't look fast, they disappear almost before you're aware they are there. They own the night, we are just visitors.

As we move around the lake, we see something of substance at the edge of one of the islands. Someone shines their light in that direction and we see four Canada Geese standing at the edge of the water. They must wonder who are these creatures invading their special space at this time. We move on. I feel a little guilty that we've disturbed them, but we are respectful and don't linger long.

We continue to paddle among the various islands. The moon rises higher in the sky. It's amazing how much light it provides. But still, it's hard to seem anyone other than the slowly moving lights attached to the kayaks or the kayakers. One of the leaders is wearing a "headset" if red lights. Each time he turns his head, I think of the Red Eye of Sauron shining out from Mordor. But, these kayakers are kind, and friendly. No Dark Lord is here tonight.

This was my first kayak trip at night. It was extraordinary. My boat received many compliments (she always does, she's a very pretty boat) and everyone wanted a deck light like mine (thank you REI for having one last light that I snagged the night before). I had all the right clothes on, for a change. The only regret I have is that I left my camera in the car.

A very magical evening.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Greendragon goes a-kayaking, Chapter 5

Evening on Lake Quinsigamond...

It was a perfect day. Not a cloud in the sky (for once!), not particularly hot, and a gentle breeze whispered through the trees. Too bad I had to work indoors all day.

I had loaded the boat on the way to work, hoping that the good weather would hold. And it did. I had planned to leave a bit early, but meetings and conversations with co-workers swept away my sense of time. Before I realized it, leaving early was no longer an option.

I dashed down to G's house. G leaves on the banks of the Lake Quinsigamond. I had been promising for weeks that I would bring the boat to her house so we could kayak on the lake. Finally, my schedule and hers coincided!

We get the boats down into the water and push off. It's a bit late for starting out, close to 6:30 and we only have about an hour and a half before it's dark. I don't have any lights with me so staying out on the water in the dark is not going to happen.

The water is calm, with the occasional motor boat causing a wake that we easily ride through. Poor G has some kind of white water kayak that is not suited for paddling in a straight line, but she gets her beast under control and we leisurely paddle down to the other side of the lake. The shoreline is filled with a wide variety of houses. Some that are run down and others that are huge and obviously very expensive. Everyone has a dock, of course. We pass one where a woman is feeding the ducks and swans something. There must have been about a hundred ducks surrounding that dock, all squawking and quacking and just have a good old time. Quite the party for the birds.

As the sun starts going down, we turn around and head back to G's dock. We pass a number of small cottages that are the archetype of lake community homes from the '50s. Small cottages, all in a row. It's an image from a very different time.

The amazing thing about this area is that despite it being very densely populated, it's amazingly quiet. We get back to the dock and just float for awhile. As the sky darkens, the lights come on around the lake. It's an incredibly beautiful view.

But, we're hungry, so we don't linger long. We get the boats out of the water and I decide I might as well get my boat loaded on the car before it gets completely dark. After loading my boat, we forget completely about G's boat, which she left on the little beachlet near the dock. We grab the food and start the grill. We're chatting away when G says, "Is that your boat?" pointing out towards the middle of the lake. Of course boat is on my car. We suddenly realize that G's kayak has decided to take a trip all by itself and it is now drifting away from home. Brave, little kayak! G borrows a kayak from one of her housemates and goes out to rescue the little creature!

After that excitement, we settle down to cooking and eating. A fine evening was had by all.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I am the Green Dragon

I am the Green Dragon
Originally uploaded by greendragon50
I just finished a class in sandblasting on glass. Glass work has become a hobby of mine and I've spent the last 6 months taking a variety of classes.

My very favorite element of sandblasting is using photoresist to create images that you can sandblast onto the glass. I am quite pleased to now have a true green dragon in my possession.

Whitehall State Park

Whitehall State Park
Originally uploaded by greendragon50
My traditional kayak picture...see the Greendragon goes a-kayaking, Chapter 4 post

Greendragon goes a-kayaking, Chapter 4

I returned to Whitehall State Park on a brilliant Sunday afternoon. This time, I managed to get myself out early, so I could be sure to avoid the late afternoon thunderstorm.

(Crikey...I feel like I live in Florida --- it seems like we have a storm of some sort almost every afternoon. I'm learning to plan my play time around this event.)

The day is warm, but not hot. The sky is full of those cumulonimbus clouds that presage celestial pyrotechnics. The parking lot is packed so I decide to park on the side of the road, near the put-in for the lake. I get the boat down off the car in record time (I'm really getting good at this!) and grab the rest of my gear.

I remembered to bring my camera this time, carefully stashed in a plastic zip-lock bag. I carry my boat over to the boat ramp and carefully pose it for its first portrait photo. Click! Got it.

I launch the boat and start heading out to the North side of the lake, the opposite direction of my usual path here. Seems to be a lot more folks fishing on this side of the lake, both in boats and on the shoreline. There's a dam here which looks like a perfect place for the fishermen and women. Only one solitary person there, casting, casting, casting.

I carefully pull out the camera and take a few shots of the view. The cloud formations are perfect for picture taking; they're fairly low -- I almost feel like I can reach out and pull one down. I take the traditional "kayak" know, the one where you see the bow of the boat and the shoreline and the horizon? It turns out to be a fantastic picture and I'm very proud of it.

As I paddle around, I suddenly catch a glimpse of a small but elegant heron. I don't think it's a Great Blue, seems a bit too small. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a good shot of the bird --- I was afraid to get too close. But, I spent quite some time watching. I also try to get some shots of the cormorants but, they fly off before I can get within range. I love how these birds sit so low in the water...they look a little like miniature sea monsters, with just their necks and heads floating above the water.

I float, paddle, float, and just relax for awhile. Sundays are becoming my special "me" days, where I don't make plans with anyone so I can spend some time on my own. Spending this time on the water is incredibly soothing and theraputic. I'm not sure what I'll do with this time in the winter, but for now, I love my time on the water.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Greendragon goes a-kayaking, Chapter 3

A couple of friends of mine are new to the kayaking scene. Until recently, they shied away from the personal-powered boats. But, after a company outing, they realized that kayaks were not the wild beasts they thought.

So, I took them out to the Charles River for an after-work kayak session. The weather has been a royal pain in the butt, with thunderstorms showing up at the worst of times. The weather had been iffy all week, but on the day of our planned outing, I made the executive decision that we would risk the thunderstorm threat and hope to get some kayaking in before the celestial pyrotechnics rolled in.

I dashed out at lunch time and loaded the boat (I'm pleased to report that my boat loading/unloading skills are getting better and better. I can get the boat up and tied down in 10-15 minutes now). The plan was to leave around 4:30 or so. My friend B called at 3:00 and tried to convince me to leave at that very moment. Coming from a person who tends to work all hours of the night and weekend, I had to laugh. We ended up heading out to the river by 4:00.

By the time we got out to the river, the clouds were building up, but the sun was still shining so we got onto the water in fairly quick order. I like the Charles River, but for those of us who bring our own boats, the put-in is awful. People like to feed the ducks and geese, so there's always a large flock of birds loitering around the put-in. You literally have to walk among the birds, hoping that they'll move out of the way rather than peck you to death. So far, they've been cooperative. But walking out into the fowl-infested water to launch the boat is just icky and stinky. Bleah. People who feed these birds should have their bread crumbs confiscated.

So, now we're out on the water, me and the two newbies. And they're doing fine. We paddle, we talk, we watch the local swan families. And then, there's the rumble of thunder. We ignore it for awhile, paddle, paddle, paddle. Then, a flash of lightening. My two friends start to panic...I'm thinking that if we keep paddling, we'll avoid the storm. But, I come to my senses and we head back to the dock. And we managed to get back before the storm hit.

After loading my boat on my car, I remember to slap the cockpit cover on the boat. I know a thunderstorm will erupt at anymoment. The thought of having a boat full of water on top of my car makes me nervous. We head out for dinner to a fantastic Asian restaurant. While we dine in comfort, the storm finally hits and it looks like a monsoon outside. I quietly hope that my boat cover will hold up.

By the time we're stuffed to the gills and are ready to leave the restaurant, the monsoon has subsided to a gentle mist. The boat cover is still on the boat, so all is wel. I pull out of my parking spot and look in the rear view mirror...there's a torrent of water streaming off the back of my boat. The boat cover has a ton of water built up and through the wonders of physics, I have a waterfall on the back of my car. I feel bad for anyone driving behind me as the water continues to drain off the boat. Eventually, there's no more water left and I can drive home without worrying about splashing anyone else.

And, so ended

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Too many social networks!

I just discovered that any pictures I load onto my blog end up in a Picasa web site. I had no idea.

Yet another social networking/sharing site.

I have no idea what to do with the ones I'm signed up for now. Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Flickr, and now Picasa?

And of course, the blog. Which very few people read, so somehow that feels a little bit safe.

I'm beginning to feel quite exposed to the public. I'm not sure if I like that.


Greendragon goes a-kayaking, Chapter 2

A friend of mine and I had talked about going kayaking together for what seemed like months. Finally, our schedules converged and we decided to get out of work early and head over to the Charles River, since he needed to rent a boat and it's the only place where it's convenient to do so after work hours.

Odd thing this year...most of the kayak rental places close way too early for after work activities. It wasn't this way in the past, because I used to go with friends after work and we never had to leave work especially early.

The solution is everyone should just buy a boat!

OK, so we get out on the river and the weather is glorious, for a change. No thunderstorms, no rain, just puffy clouds and sun. My friend is new to kayaking and he's all elbows and splashing. I try to give him some gentle tips, but decide that he's having fun, why get all teacher-like.

We get all the way down to Waltham before turning back. My friend discovers he has a spider in the boat with him. This is a freaky thing because he's just recovered from an alleged brown recluse bite which landed him in the hospital (I say alleged, because no one knows for sure if it *was* a recluse bite, but it was something spider-ish and very toxic). Once we get the spider scare out of the way, we can relax and just enjoy the scenery. We indulged ourselves with some gentle chasing of the resident swans.

And my friend was kind enough to take over the whole loading/unloading of my boat for me. He just picked up my boat over his head and plunked it on the rack. I was awestruck. Granted, the boat doesn't weigh a lot...still, for all the times people have helped load my boat, no one has ever done it so well. :-)

Greendragon goes a-kayaking: Chapter 1

One thing that I wanted to make sure to do this year is to my kayak out on the water a lot more than last year.

The sad story from last year is that I had a new car, which required me to buy a new rack system. I bought a side-loading thingamajig cuz the new wheels has a fancy spoiler on the back and I didn't think I could load the boat up the back of the car anymore. It sounded good in theory. But, I was clueless and didn't have a good method of loading the boat. One day, I dropped the boat on the new car. I was horrified. There was a long black scrape down the front quarter panel. Luckily, I was able to polish out everything except a few, very faint scratches. I was spooked, though.

This year, though, I figured out the mechanics of moving the boat on and off the rack and I'm doing what I can to get out on the water as often as possible. Thanks to the steady stream of thunderstorms, it's been a bit tough.

Last week, I went to the local state part for a late afternoon paddle. Just as I get the boat off the car, next to the boat ramp, I start hearing the rumble of thunder. The sky was a mixed bag of dark clouds and sunny spots. I waited. Thunder continued and I didn't see anyone else getting into the water. So, back up goes the boat but I decided to wait a bit in the parking lot.

Wait, wait, wait. After about a half hour, the sky is still partly cloudy, but it looks like they might be heading somewhere else. So, back down comes the boat. And still, I hesitated. I KNOW it's stupid to be on the water during a thunderstorm, but I REALLY, REALLY, want to get out on the water.

Wait, wait, wait.

Finally, I see other folks putting in at the boat ramp. I decide to risk it and in I go. Within 5 minutes, the rain starts to pour down (but, no lightening, so far!). I head for some sheltering shrubs at the shoreline and hunker down with another group of intrepid paddlers.

Wait, wait wait.

The rain stops and I head out to the other side of the lake where the sky is clear and the sun is shining. I got a couple of good hours in...spent some time looking for a co-working who often goes fishing at the same lake (I found out later that he WAS there at exactly the same time as me, but he was at the one part of the lake that I didn't go towards; how ironic).

When I head over to the boat ramp to get out, the sky is once again dark and threatening. I get the boat out and loaded in good time...lots of thunder and the wind was picking up. As I turn out of the parking lot, the sky clears and no more rain for the rest of the day.

Nutty weather.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Startup Predictor Tool - YouNoodle

Saw this on a recent edition of the New England Tech Wire publication:

YouNoodle, the developer of an online platform for the entrepreneurial community, said on Thursday that it has launched its new "Startup Predictor" tool, which the company said analyzes data on early-stage startups and generates a scientific prediction of their future outcomes. The first version of the tool is now available as a free, web-based service. It allows users to enter information -- such as details about key employees or advisors, relationships between team members, products, patentable technology and capital invested by the founders -- through an online test. The tool then generates an estimate of the company's valuation in three years, as well as a "YouNoodle Score" -- a number similar to a credit rating, based on a 1,000-point scale, that gauges the "feasibility and promise" of the company's future. YouNoodle then matches users with other members that could be of value, such as potential employees, advisors and business partners.

Interesting tool. I thought I'd try it on a startup where a friend of mine works. Several steps in, I realized I was floundering. The level of questions was curious. For example, I had to know how long the founders had known each other, professionally and socially (I guessed). I had to know how many years of experience the founders had in the business. And I also had to know a lot about much, when, what the intial goals were and so forth. I started guessing, just to see if I could get through the questionnaire.

I came to a grinding halt when the application asked me for email addresses. Heck, I don't even know the founders and here's this application asking me for their email address?? It was totally unclear how this information would be used. The note on the page said that the address would not be used without my permission...but how did I know that was the truth? So, I stopped at that point. Too bad, I would have liked to have seen the prediction for this company (which I personally think has great potential).

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

iPhone auto performance app!

Just stumbled across this app for the iPhone:

Dynolicious, an automotive performance meter (

Apparently, this iPhone application uses the accelerometer to provide performance metrics while you drive. According to the web site, you get metrics for:

0-60 Acceleration
1/4 Mile Elapsed Time
Lateral G's (huh? G-force stuff? cool!).

Not that I'm any kind of a performance driver, but my little Civic SI Coupe has a little bit of power to it and it would be fun to see what the iPhone says about it.