Saturday, May 11, 2013

A little of this, a little of that

Dear Blog Readers,

Needless to say, it has been a while since I've posted. Work has left me with enough time to do a few fun and interesting things, but no extra time to write about those things. Now that the academic semester is over, though, I have a little more freedom and flexibility. Here's a brief rundown of recent events that didn't quite make it onto James' Blog:

1. My employer, Florida Gulf Coast University, gained national recognition due to the unexpectedly high performance of their men's basketball team in the NCAA tournament. I'm generally cynical about college sports mania. Indeed, I find it ironic that the fleeting athletic achievements of a small group of tall boys garnered more attention for FGCU than the ongoing hard-work and diverse scholarly activities of thousands of students and faculty over a dozen years. But, as the saying goes, you don't look a gift horse in the mouth. The gift of national attention could benefit all aspects of the university. For example, the widely broadcast footage of our undergraduate dormitories along the sandy beach of a palm-lined lake will probably entice more students to apply to FGCU. That means we can be more selective about admissions and we can raise tuitions, eventually raising the overall quality and academic reputation of the University.

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2. In March I went to the “Benthic Ecology Meeting” for the first time as a professor with students in tow. The meeting was in Savannah, Georgia- a cool city that I hadn't visited previously.

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My students and I presented marine biology research related to a seagrass project I'm doing in the Caloosahatchee Estuary in Fort Myers, Florida. After the meeting I got a lot of emails from prospective graduate students inquiring about working with me at FGCU. So that was cool.

3. I had a good time and a good challenge teaching “Marine Systems,” an introductory marine science class with 72 freshman non-science majors. In comparison to my fall semester experience teaching junior and senior marine science majors, the freshmen were harder to manage and motivate. For the most part they seemed not to have learned any science at all in their first 12 years of Florida public education. I had to teach them that molecules are made of atoms and dolphins are air-breathing mammals- stuff like that. As a prelude to a mid-semester “pep talk,” I asked the class to write down the best academic advice they had ever received. The first girl I called on to share her answer said, “C's get degrees!” (Sigh...) That was a good segue for me to go into my pep talk, where I gave her and the rest of the class a lot better advice, such as, “If something is worth doing, it's worth doing WELL.” Anyway, by end of the semester the students had shaped up quite a bit, and I was proud of how most of them did on their final exams and nature projects.

4. I traded my old Starboard F135 formula board for an equally old Bic v1.2 formula board. The latter has 25 liters more volume, 6 cm more length, 2.5 cm more width than the former, which makes it more comfortable to shlog. Other than that, I don't think there's much difference in the performance of the two boards- just a slight difference in feel. I'm happy with the switch, and I've had some awesome powered-up freeride sessions on the new board in both onshore and offshore winds.

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5. Poor Rhonda re-injured her bum foot while bravely attempting to sail the WindSUP 11'8” over a sandbar with steep breaking waves. She was doing great, but the daggerboard rubbed the bottom, putting her off balance, then a wave knocked her off and she twisted her leg around weird when she hit the bottom. Now she's wearing a boot cast and fighting to stay positive while mostly confined indoors during perfect beach weather. She says she can't wait to windsurf again, though, and we're talking about a honeymoon in Bonaire. Send her your collective positive healing vibes. (I love you, Rhonda.)

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6. My Macbook died, possibly due to a “liquid incursion” (don't ask). The geniuses at the Mac store in Coconut Point were able to resurrect him relatively cheaply via a keyboard replacement, but they completely erased his hard drive during the resurrection. So I lost all my iPhoto pictures and all my GoPro movies and stuff, along with Microsoft Office and whatever other non-Mac applications I had installed. Oh, well. At least all my important work files were stored safely “in the cloud.” I couldn't find the install disks for Microsoft Office, so I'm trying out “Open Office” now. We'll see how that goes.

7. For Valentine's Day I bought Rhonda and myself tickets to see an opera in Fort Lauderdale. The show, La Traviata, didn't happen until last week, so we had a lot of time to anticipate and prepare for it. Rhonda booked a pet-friendly hotel in Fort Lauderdale (the La Quinta), so we could bring Grace and Gertie with us. I think Grace was nervous that we were going to leave her in Fort Lauderdale, but both girls behaved well. I.e., they didn't leave big dookies on the floor or tear up the pillows or anything. La Traviata was really quite good, with fantastic singing, a live orchestra, cool costumes and sets, and a plot full of good emotional drama. Plus it was cool being in a fancy place with a hot date.

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8. My Aunt Laura-Jean and Uncle Craig from Seattle, whom I rarely see anymore, visited us as one of their stops on a long, cross-country road trip. One of the highlights was going stand-up paddleboarding in the Imperial River near my house with Uncle Craig. He's in his upper 60s now but it only took him a few strokes on the WindSUP before he looked like he had been doing it all his life. Laura-Jean also gave me a big jar of raspberry jam from the berry bushes in her rainy Pacific Northwest garden. Whenever I put the delicious jam on pancakes I'm transported back to my cool and verdant rainforest home. 

Anyway, I'm going to try to blog a little more regularly this summer. Some potential blog posts that are brewing in my mind are:

1. Windsurf stuff I wish they would invent.
2. How Florida's pollution-control wetlands have become pollution-producing ponds.
3. A beach access manifesto / rant.
4. The science of picking the right swimsuit for windsurfing.

Let me know in the comments section if you want to vote one or the other of those up or down.


Johnny Douglass said...

Ahh, wonderful to hear all your newsy news. I sure hope Rhonda's foot heals up once and for all.

jay herne said...

yo james always enjoy your blog being an avid windsurfer...and doing what I believe you would call an undergard in biology here in Canada can more then understand your biology posts.
I have an old starboard 135 as well....thinking of siking tow fin boxes in it and twinser'ing it other thing ARE their eagles in florida or is the eagle sports team thing just one of those eagle things.

James Douglass said...

Hi Jay,

Yes, there are actually a lot of bald eagles in Florida. They don't seem to mind the heat as long as there are lots of fish and waterfowl for them to eat, and Florida has those. That's an interesting idea about putting twin fins on the F135. You might get the same effect by just using one, short, fat fin. I think some companies make special "shallow water" fins for formula boards.


Allison Cohen said...

I vote for #2 & #3.

Wishing Rhonda a speedy recovery!

Lady Notorious said...

Sorry I didn't read this sooner, what a great post!

Thanks for cheering me up with my bum foot, and for understanding that sometimes being under bum-foot-house-arrest makes me rage. You're the best!


Also, while I'm not keen to hear another beach access rant, I would like to hear "windsurfing things I wish they'd invent," that sounds really interesting. I bet you've come up with a lot of ideas in your career so far.