Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mary Lee Douglass, my Grandmama

My Grandmama Douglass died today in Summerville, SC. She was a really wonderfully lady and I have a lot of good memories of her from my early childhood on up to the last time I visited her in the rest home this summer. My dad, of course, has even more memories, and he has written some of them on his blog here:

I will be going down to South Carolina on Friday to meet up with the rest of my family for the funeral.

PS- My Grandpa Enge passed away earlier this summer, too, in Sauk City, Wisconsin. He was also a really wonderful person and I'm going to see about finding something about his life to post for those interested.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Murphy's Mercy

According to "Murphy's Law", anything that CAN go wrong WILL go wrong, typically at the worst possible time.

As a serial owner of used American cars with 150,000+ miles, I am well acquainted with Murphy. For a couple months now I have been paranoid that he was about to break my el-cheapo minivan and strand me somewhere inconvenient. The Murphmeister certainly had plenty of opportunities to cause mischief. He could have struck at 10 pm on a Thursday while I was traveling a dark and twisty Maine road miles from anywhere, with no cell phone coverage. He might have attacked during morning rush hour as I headed to Northeastern University through one of Boston's endlessly long and narrow tunnels. And I'm truly amazed that he left me alone as I went back and forth between Lynn, Nahant, Salem, and Boston this weekend during my wonderful long-distance sweetheart's visit from Florida. Yes, merciful Murphy warned me he was coming with a low battery light Sunday afternoon, but he kept the van running all the way until Sunday evening, just five minutes after I dropped my darling off at the Logan Airport departure gate. He even chose to stall the van for me next to an open parking place by a subway stop, where I could wait for a tow truck in leisurely comfort.

Actually it wasn't all that leisurely since AAA and the first tow company they called screwed things up and they had to call a different tow company after I'd already been waiting two hours underdressed in the damp wind, causing a latent cold I'd been denying all weekend to bloom full force, but whatever. At least I got my weekend. And as of now I have a new alternator that works like a charm. So HA. :)


Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Biscuits and Gravy Song

Hey! It's not windsurfing but I think it's pretty cool. Check out this video by my friend's band. WARNING: Nunchucks.

Eees My Neighbor

I have a bad neighbor in the apartment directly above my mine. Like, a real bad neighbor. Like, a crashing around and yelling drunken death threats at 6 am (not to me, fortunately) bad neighbor. I transcribed some of what I could hear this morning...

"Aaah! Oooh! F*ck you Robert! I don't give a f*ck! I'll f*cking kill you right now! I WILL kill you! Don't think I won't. I'm ready to kill you. I know you chickenshit. Shut the F*CK up! F*CK you motherf*ucker! I swear to god!"

I called the cops and they said they would come over and that I could let them in the door. I was like, "My buzzer is broken, isn't there some way you can get in without me actually having to go out and let you in, and be outed as a snitch." And they were like, "No we'll just call you on your cell phone when we get there and you can let us in, but just make it look like you were getting up to check your mail or something." For better or worse, the cops never actually showed up and I went back to sleep for a while.

I was pretty upset when I woke up, though, so I went to police station in downtown Lynn and tried to make a report. On the way out the door of my apartment I happened to see the bad dude walking up the stairs of my building. I know it was the psycho threat-maker because he was muttering murderous things to himself like, "Let's do it, it's on now" in the exact same accent as his yelling. At the police station the cop behind the bulletproof glass of the front desk was nice enough, but he said there was really nothing I could do unless the bad dude made a threat against me. Is that true? I don't know because I'm not a lawyer or anything. Another thing the cop said was that I could talk to my property manager to see about getting the guy evicted, so I called my property manager, who in some way I don't quite understand is a different person than who I pay rent to.

The property manager said there were problem tenants in two units on the second floor, one of which is directly above mine. He said they were in the process of evicting one of the sets of problem tenants, but they were having trouble evicting the ones directly above me, which is where he said the nasty dude I saw on the stairs lives. The dude is an illegal from Cape Verde who they tried to deport but couldn't because Cape Verde wouldn't take him back. (Can't say I blame Cape Verde!) The property manager is also having a hard time evicting him because his girlfriend owns the unit. He said they got some kind of no contact order or something on the dude, but it backfired because he got a lawyer or something, and their current strategy is just to fine his girlfriend when he causes disturbances, until the fines pile up and they can get a lien on the unit to evict the pair. Sheesh. That might take a while, but the more I whine the more they can fine. I just need to whine sneakily so the nutcase won't retaliate against me.

One good thing that the property manager said was that the bad guy is nearly blind and usually stumbling drunk (perhaps accounting for some of the banging around I hear) so I should be able to easily escape if he comes after me.

It's really too bad because the apartment is right on the edge of a pretty nice neighborhood, the other neighbors are nice enough, I have it set up and decorated the way I want, and I just signed a one year lease with a chunky security deposit. But if I do notice any of the bad guy's ire directed at me personally I'll be out of the there in a flash.

This situation makes me think of a song I like by the band "Massive Attack"...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another Epic Windsurf Session in Nahant

Wow, I don't know if this evening and and yesterday's windsurfing conditions in Nahant, MA were at all typical or just freakishly perfect because of distant Hurricane Igor, but boy were they good. Yesterday the wind was side-off from the NW so I was doing starboard tack down-the-line wave rides, and today it was side-off from the SW so I was doing port tack down-the-line wave rides. Great practice! The size, spacing, and length of the waves made it really easy to get long rides and get creative with the turns without worrying about getting crunched. Pure bliss. And today I was the only wind-powered thing on the East side of the causeway so I had the whole paradise to myself, not counting the surfers. Used 6.8 and 106 liter board again.

This is an actual embedded google map that you can grab and scroll; not just a jpg like in my last post.

View Larger Map

Tomorrow is supposed to be really windy but not to have such big waves. I need to do some fieldwork during the late afternoon low tide but if I have time before work or during lunch hour I'll try to grab a quickie sesh. STOKE!

This video isn't mine, but it shows kind of what windsurfing offshore wind conditions is like in Nahant. The conditions I was out in were less windy but with bigger waves breaking further out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My ASS of a day, made good by EPIC Wavesailing!

Boy, what a day. It started with mandatory HR training at the Northeastern University main campus in Boston, only 14 miles from my apartment in Lynn but almost an hour drive in morning traffic with $3.50 in tolls. Since the trip in is so long I tried to get a bunch of other bureaucratic stuff done on campus while I was there, like convincing the Information Services center to correct my last name from Douglas with one s to DouglASS with two ss, which I thought I had already done after two hours back and forth on the phone last week. They said it would still take them three days to fix it, so I had to get my Campus ID card made with the name still annoyingly misspelled. So much work for a stupidly simple little thing. Sigh.

But that's just chapter one. My plan for on-the-way-home was to stop at the Registry of Motor Vehicles in the sketchy town of Revere to get my license and registration for Massachusetts. (Revere makes Lynn look like Martha's Vineyard.) For that I needed to print out a special insurance form that I had to call and order emailed to me from Progressive, which took a long time because like all big evil money-sucking corporations they stick you in endless horrible multiple choice phone menus before letting you speak to anyone real. Anyway, I got that emailed, but the only computers with printers that I could access at the University were print stations in the library with 5 minute time limits. Since the computers were slow and stupid Microsoft Hotmail was crashing and giving me overloaded server messages I could never get the pdf loaded before the @#$% computer would automatically log me off. GRRR. I called Progressive again and had them email my stuff to my Northeastern address, which worked, so then I printed the crap and hit the road, after paying an outrageous $15.00 for just half a day of parking in the campus garage. Sheesh.

At the RMV (I don't know why Massachusetts can't just call it a DMV like every other state) I waited in the pre-line for 15 minutes to talk to a grouchy old man who almost sent me home to get my passport but then caved when he realized if I got my registration first I could use the registration as the third excessive form of identification needed to get my license. Anyway, the good hearted grouch gave me a number, A180, on a little tag that said "Estimated wait time, 42 minutes". 42 minutes isn't that long when you're doing something fun, but it seemed like forever on the uncomfortable bench at the DMV in a crowd of other antsy people. Finally A180 was called and got the deed done, although I was a bit disappointed that they don't actually give you a real laminated driver's license card at the RMV; just a lame paper temporary license and then they send you the card like a month later in the mail. Boo!

To access the shopping center in Revere that holds the RMV you have to pass through this intersection from HELL, which is a combination of a two-lane roundabout (they call them "rotaries" up here) with a two-lane intersection. WTF!? I can't imagine the fear that must go through the 16 year olds' hearts when they have to face that on their drivers' exams.

A minor highlight on my way in to work, finally, was stopping at the bank to deposit my old apartment security deposit from Florida and finding that I had lots of money in my account because my electronic paycheck from the University had come. Knowing I have money always reduces my stress level. :)

At work I wanted to do something sciencey and productive like what they pay me for, but I ended up in a long back-and-forth email / phone conversation with Information Services again trying to get administrator privileges for the computer in my office. Part of the mix-up there was that the Information Services guy emailed the administrator privileges application form to j.douglas instead of j.douglass ; my email is the only electronic record of myself at Northeastern where my full ASS is correcly included. That never got completely resolved because at 5pm I had had enough and busted loose to WINDSURF!!!!!!!!!!!

The wind was 10 - 20 knots NNW, which is side-offshore at the Nahant causeway, and beautiful big clean swells from Hurricane Igor were rolling in and breaking gradually over the long, smoothly sloping sandy bottom. I rigged a 6.8 Aerotech Phantom and rode my trusty 106 liter Exocet Cross with my new 32 cm MUFin no-spin fin. It was a great combo for blasting out over the lines of whitewater, getting some jumps on the steepening waves (which were very widely spaced so you could hit them full speed; I ended up doing one very high, unintentional partial-rotation back loop off a big one - ow), and carving some glorious front-side down-the-line turns on the way in. A fair number of surfers were out, so I definitely had to watch where I was going and sometimes veer wide or pass up a wave they were on. But there were a few waves that I had completely to myself and rode ecstatically all the way in to knee deep water. Woo hoo! It was definitely the longest I've ever been "front side" on a wave. There were some kiters out, but I don't know why there weren't any other windsurfers. If you live in the area, come on out to Nahant!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin

Last night around 10 pm and again at 2 am I heard all kinds of crashing around and horrible violent yelling upstairs in my apartment. I don't know what the heck was going on. The first time I called the cops but the second time I just let it go.

When I picked my place here in Lynn, Massachusetts, I thought the fact that it was only three blocks from the ocean and the historic downtown would mean it was in a nice neighborhood. Unfortunately it seems the cutesy seaside neighborhoods of Lynn are a just thin veneer around the crowded, old, dirty, urban center, and I'm about two blocks over the line, which is demarcated by one of those skeezy liquor stores where the clerk has to buzz you in the door. Oh, well. The price is right, at least.


Reading about my town on wikipedia I found this charming poem, which originated in Lynn's early industrial era and has continued to ring true through the years, apparently...

Lynn, Lynn, city of sin
You never come out the way you went in.
Ask for water they give you a gin
the girls say no but always give in

As a nicer contrast, I also offer this old poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in which the poet reflects on the sound of churchbells in Lynn as he hears them from the beautiful semi-island of Nahant, current location of the Northeastern University Marine Science Center where I work...



O curfew of the setting sun! O Bells of Lynn!
O requiem of the dying day! O Bells of Lynn!

From the dark belfries of yon cloud-cathedral wafted,
Your sounds aerial seem to float, O Bells of Lynn!

Borne on the evening wind across the crimson twilight,
O'er land and sea they rise and fall, O Bells of Lynn!

The fisherman in his boat, far out beyond the headland,
Listens, and leisurely rows ashore, O Bells of Lynn!

Over the shining sands the wandering cattle homeward
Follow each other at your call, O Bells of Lynn!

The distant lighthouse hears, and with his flaming signal
Answers you, passing the watchword on, O Bells of Lynn!

And down the darkening coast run the tumultuous surges,
And clap their hands, and shout to you, O Bells of Lynn!

Till from the shuddering sea, with your wild incantations,
Ye summon up the spectral moon, O Bells of Lynn!

And startled at the sight like the weird woman of Endor,
Ye cry aloud, and then are still, O Bells of Lynn!

Friday, September 17, 2010

One to Savor

When I moved to Massachusetts from Florida last week I still had unedited GoPro camera footage from my final windsurfing session down south. It was a pretty good session; a little underpowered but with fun waves, good friends and sunshine. The song in the video is "Suture up Your Future" by Queens of the Stone Age.

Earl Jetty Sept 1 2010 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

I've had a few sessions up here in Nahant, MA now, too, so expect a report on those for my next windsurfing post. Peace.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Easternmost Weekend; Fieldwork in Maine

Whew, the hands-on part of my work at the Northeastern University Marine Science Center has started in earnest with five consecutive days of low-tide seaweed gathering on rocky shores in Massachussetts and Maine. I spent the weekend with my colleague Val in Lubec, Maine, the Easternmost point in the US, on the border with Canada. It was COLD up there, but beautiful, and it reminded me a lot of the Pacific Northwest where I grew up. Here's a slideshow from Lubec...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The End of The Endless Summer

I may have mentioned at some point that my two-year marine biology research fellowship in Florida was ending and that I would be moving to Boston Massachusetts soon to start another research job. Well, if I failed to say it earlier, at least now you know. I no longer live in Florida.

Yep, 24 hours driving a 16' Penske truck with my minivan towed behind it, broken up by an overnight at my sister's house in Cary, NC and another at a La Quinta hotel in Stamford CT, and I arrived at the stoop of my new home: 42 W Baltimore Street, Lynn MA. The place is smaller than where I lived in Florida, and I had a heck of a time fitting in my fabulous windsurfing board rack. The neighbors probably thought I was nuts, sawing the excess length off the 2 x 4s of the rack in the middle of the shared hallway at 9pm, shirtless and stinky with sweat and with the zipper busted off my shorts from where I tried to support the corner of a dresser with my johnson while shlepping it out of the truck. Anyway, right now I'm sitting in the computer lab at Northeastern University's Marine Science Center in Nahant, decompressing after a busy day of just-moved-to-a-new-place type work tasks and errands. Ahh.

My last week in Florida was pretty fantastic in terms of windsurfing, with a couple days of big waves and decent onshore winds related to Hurricane Earl. On the very last watersports day both the wind and the waves were nice and there were actually 5 windsurfers at the Fort Pierce South Jetty. Woo hoo! I took a few pictures from that day, presented in the slideshow below. One of the windsurfers was John Campbell, aka "floridawavesailor", who is a real good rider. He does lots of backwinded moves, like, carving 360's.

The video below is from an earlier day in the week, when the waves were good but the wind was not quite strong enough for the shortboard and 6.8 msq sail I was using. The session was saved by the "gorge effect"; the fact that the current and the wind were going in opposite directions in Fort Pierce inlet, which increased the apparent wind speed and the steepness of the waves enough to get planing and have a good time. The song in the video is one my friend Emily Westermeier sings. I think it's good but she's not so sure, so if you like it leave a nice comment or something.

Windsurfing, Special Soundtrack from James Douglass on Vimeo.

I have some video from a windier session, too, that I'll edit up later if I have more time.

PS- Got my first session in Massachusetts after work today. It was a kiteboarding session in up and down SW winds at "Dog Beach" in Nahant. Pretty fun, and the air and water were warm enough that I could get away with a shorty wetsuit. Don't expect those mild conditions will last, though!