Saturday, January 29, 2011

Miami Olympic Class Regatta

A while ago I posted about Olympic sailing and the controversy about what types of boats, windsurfers, kiteboards, etc. should be Olympic classes. This week there was an Olympic Class Regatta in Miami for all the types that will be competing in 2012. The videos from that do a good job of showing what the competition is like for the different kinds of boats. (Day 2 video below.)

It was a good regatta for the American contenders in the RS:X Windsurfing class, led by Robert Willis for the men and Farrah Hall for the women, who were 15th of 31 and 12th of 30 international competitors, respectively. That's pretty amazing, considering that for the last several years the Americans, generally underfunded and lacking national support compared to the windsurfing athletes from other countries, had struggled to break into to the top international level of competition. Their big improvement this year shows that the American athletes, coaches, and various support people are starting to really get it together. Go USA!

PS- There are more pictures of the windsurfing part of the competition on Alex Morales' Miami windsurfing website:
PPS- There are even more pictures, videos, and lots of detailed reports and analyses at

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Massachusetts vs. Florida, Advertisements, Etc.

First of all, sorry about the ads. Most people I surveyed said they would tolerate them, so they're in. Basically I still have around $10,000.00 of student loan debt from my undergraduate studies at Rice University and I figure even if I just make ten bucks a month it will help with that.

Second of all, O.M.G., Florida is totally underrated. I appreciated it well enough when I lived there, but I didn't fully grasp the glory of the F state until last weekend when I left the ice-crusted soul grinder of the urban northeast and stepped into the summery eden of Florida's Treasure Coast. What a change going from the crooked, narrow, dirty, slush-lined streets of Lynn and Revere to the warm wide avenues of West Palm Beach and Vero. From run-down roast beef sandwich shops to charming open-air restaurants. From craggy skeletal trees to lush palms and Bougainvillea flowers. From paying $46 to skid down an icy hill on a snowboard to riding free over the warm ocean on my buddy's kiteboarding gear. From lonely bachelorhood to my girlfriend's sweet embrace.

Here's some recent pictures from before, during and after the recent Florida trip. This first one is from Logan airport on my way out. By some miracle my flight was one of the few that wasn't cancelled during that particular blizzard.

This next one is from Florida. It's Emily at her birthday lunch. Cute, huh? She's not actually Mexican, but she can speak Spanish and she enjoys guacamole and fiestas.

Back to reality again, these two are at the "Wonderland" subway station in Revere, Massachusetts. It's the nearest subway station to where I live in Lynn, but you still have to take a longish bus ride to get there. It's across from an abandoned dog-racing track. Yuck. Revere and Lynn are mysteries to me. I don't get how ideally located waterfront communities so near the thriving yuppie metropolis of Boston can maintain such a level of sleaziness.

This one is from my trudge home from the Lynn bus station. That's my luggage, which probably isn't designed for such challenging urban terrain and weather conditions. The snow pile alongside the road is over my head.

Wednesday we had another big snow. After I dug out of my parking spot the plow came and piled a bunch of snow in it so now I don't have anywhere to park where I won't get towed when it snows. Shucks. I actually like the snow, though. It's pretty. It's just the urban living that gets me down sometimes.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Addendum to Overrated / Underrated

It seems I left a potentially misleading section in my recent post, "Overrated / Underrated 2010".

With regards to ideals of beauty being overrated, I meant to say that there was more than one way to look attractive and that different people have different tastes.

I didn't mean to say that I wasn't into the classically gorgeous one-in-a-million supermodel look, i.e. my girlfriend's look, because I totally am. Tall thin girls with angular faces and pouty lips are not overrated, just rare.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

An Explanation of My Stup.. I mean Genius Invention

Ok, so I put together a little "demo" of my amazingly useful and wonderful website invention for lighting your face nicely when you're talking on a webcam.

So far I've only earned $0.01 from the combination of advertising on and on james' blog, so it might be a while before I'm ready to take anyone for a ride on my yacht.

Apparently They Windsurf in Rhode Island

And they actually do it a lot better than me, as evidenced in this high quality amateur film documenting the 2009 / 2010 Rhode Island windsurfing season. The film, "An Ocean State of Mind" was put together by a guy named Steve Frazier. It's half an hour long, but it's good all the way through if you've got the time.

An Ocean State of Mind from Silent Ink. Productions on Vimeo.

I'm glad I'm not the guy whose nose picking and subsequent wiping-it-on-his-wetsuit was forever immortalized at 7:01 in the video. If that was me I'd have been a little sore with the videographer.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Interactive Kiteboarding Calculator

A while ago I posted a table relating kite size to body weight and wind speed for kiteboarding. It starting getting a lot of hits, so I decided to go ahead and soup it up as an entirely interactive kiteboarding calculator, modeled after my windsurfing calculator spreadsheet. It has two pages- one for kites and one for boards, which you can switch between by clicking the "kitesize" and "boardsize" tabs at the bottom. As with any effort to apply simple math to a complicated and subjective thing, it ain't perfect, but it ought to help give less experienced kiters a rough idea about what kind of gear they need.

If you can't view the embedded version, you can download the file here.

A genius idea that will make me rich beyond belief

Boy, am I smart. I just came up with an invention that will revolutionize electronic communication forever and make me a bazillionaire like the guys from Google and Facebook. It's a mostly blank screen with a yellowish background and a few orange words. The purpose? To give your face a bright, warm "monitor glow" when you're using a webcam. (It assumes you have your incoming webcam image "windowed" small enough that my bright background will be sufficiently exposed to do its work.) I've tested this side by side with a plain white screen and concluded that it makes the user look at least 50% less like an evil wizard / witch and 50% more like a romance novel hunk / heroine.


Try it for yourself at It will have an ad banner, but you can drag your webcam window over that part. Help me make this thing go viral and I might let you ride on my yacht later when I'm cruising the Med'.

PS- Note that this is MY original invention, established 17 January 2011, and if anyone tries to copy or steal it I will sue your pants off like the Winklevoss Twins.

Nice MLK Quote

"Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image from

I'm bad at following MLK's advice, since I tend to rant self-righteously, and often hypocritically, instead of reaching out to those with whom I disagree. But I'll see if I can change that a little in the coming year.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Greatest Mistake of My Life?

I've always put two spaces after a period, but it turns out that's absolutely wrong. If the only writing of mine that you ever read was my blog you wouldn't have noticed my two-space habit, because automatically changes all double spaces to single spaces when one publishes a post. I thought their space deletion was a glitch, but now I realize it was an autocorrection. Dang.

It was shocking to suddenly switch from thinking I was the smart one doing it right to realizing I was the dumb one doing it wrong, but I am now doing my best to adjust and change. Even as I type these sentences, though, my thumbs can't resist their reflexive double-tap after a period. This will be difficult.

PS- Thank you M. Scott Jones for pointing this out to me.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Overrated / Underrated 2010

As a belated end-of-the-year post I wrote this paired list of things that I think are overrated and underrated. I meant it to be a mix of serious and funny, but it might have just come off as a snobby liberal rant. If so, sorry. Anyway...

Overrated: Ideals of Beauty. There's much more variety and flexibility to what people find attractive than you would think from looking at magazines where the models are uniformly tall and thin with angular faces and pouty lips. Yes, the model look is beautiful to most people, but there are lots of different face and body types that some people find just as good or better than the model look. So however YOU look, you are probably quite attractive to some people, and with luck you may find a mutual attraction.
Underrated: Nudity. There are many practical applications for nudity besides sex, including feeling the sun and the breeze, even-tanning, temperature control, simultaneous humbling and confidence building, and comedy.

Overrated: Gambling. It's so lame. I can't believe it's one of the top 3 vices. I wouldn't even put it in the top 100 vices.
Underrated: Windsurfing. An endless free ride, boundless territory to explore, thrilling speed and sensations, safe and accessible to kids and retirees alike. Yet only a few have tasted the glory.

Overrated: Bunches of people. I don't know exactly what the relationship is between the size of an urban area and the average happiness of the people in it, but I'm pretty sure there's a point where bigger is NOT better. Yeah, I know cities offer cultural stimulation and diversity, potentially. But shoulder to shoulder, bumper to bumper, wall to wall just doesn't strike me as a karmically- or ecologically-sound mode of living, especially when the urban area is so big and overlapped with other urban areas that it takes forever to get out of it and into a more rural or natural place. I think a decent rule of thumb is that any urban area that takes more than about 15 minutes to flee is too big for its own residents' good.
Underrated: Individual people. Notwithstanding a few real sociopaths, I think the majority of folks are nice when you get to know them, and are strong, intelligent and beautiful in their own ways. I reckon it's important not to let your preferences and prejudices regarding nationality, age, gender, politics, race, social status, etc. block your ability to see and value any individual person. Of course, it's hard to open your mind to the amazing wonderfulness of individuals when you encounter so many at one time, in such a stressfully impersonal setting, that they become "bunches of people," as above.

Overrated: Skinny Jeans on Men. Two words- pinched, testicles.
Properly Rated: Leggings on Women. By all accounts this fashionable type of lower-body covering is very comfortable and practical for women, and from the man's point of view, "Rrrraow!"
Underrated: Sweatpants. I'm wearing some right now. Damn, I'm cozy. Please, fashion gods, make these cool so I can wear them outside without people giggling.

Overrated: The Threat of Socialism in a Democracy. There's nothing bad about moderate socialism in a democracy, really. In fact, the USA has always been governed in a partially socialistic way, has it not? I think most Americans would like to keep free 911 emergency services, keep free parks, public restrooms and freeways, keep free education for poor kids, and keep old people taken care of, even though all those things are socialistic. Yes, some socialistic countries like the USSR have been awful, but some like Sweden have been awesome, so we ought to realize that socialism itself is not the threat, and start trying to figure out what REALLY makes the difference between an awesome or awful country.
Underrated: The Threat of Capitalism out of Control. The flipside of the "socialism is evil" thing seems to be the naive idea that capitalism is perfect as long as the government doesn't interfere, to which I say, "yeah, right". For capitalism to work, I think the government NEEDS to interfere sometimes, just like a referee needs to blow a whistle and call foul to keeps sports teams playing fair. If there's no referee, or if one of the teams buys off the referee, you go from a "best man wins" situation to a "dirtiest cheater wins" situation. You get Tonya Harding on the podium and Nancy Kerrigan stuffed in a dumpster, which is where I'm afraid the whole country is going if we keep letting corporations muck with government.

Overrated: Making the most money. I think we focus too exclusively on wealth as the measure of success, which I reckon makes people greedier and more narrow-minded in their pursuits.
Underrated: Being a good person. We ought to appreciate other measures of a person's success, like the quality of their work, the positivity of their relationships, and their contributions to making the world a better place.

Overrated: Commuting. Seriously, what an awful way to spend a large fraction of your time, money, and mental reserves of patience.
Underrated: Living near where you work and play, or vice versa. That's the way to do it, in my opinion. Walking is also extremely underrated as a way to get from point A to point B, get a little exercise, get some mental clarity, etc.

Overrated: Tech Toys. Does checking email on your phone really make you $50 a month happier?
Underrated: Science Itself. Like, as a way of understanding and appreciating the universe.

Overrated: Growth. Nothing can grow forever on a planet that isn't getting any bigger- not the economy or anything else. So why do we always make it our implicit or explicit goal to increase growth?
Underrated: Sustainability. Yep, sustainability is what we ought to shoot for. But not "sustainable growth", which is the oxymoron of the century.

Overrated: Booze. The better it makes you feel, the worse it makes you feel, and the older you get the trickier it is to break even.
Slightly Overrated: Caffeine. It doesn't get you very high, but you still get addicted. On the plus side, it's the only drug you can do as much as you want at work.
Slightly Underrated: Marijuana. It can set your thoughts and perceptions loose in a happy, dreamy way, and open your mind to the intricate and miraculous wonder of the universe. Or it can make you feel queasy, insecure, and lost in existential weirdness. But either way it's pretty safe, as long as you don't get caught.
Underrated: Endorphins and Adrenaline. It's amazing how positive, relaxed, and satisfied thrilling physical activities can make you feel. These are probably the closest thing there is to the perfect drug.

Overrated: Advertising. We have to pay for cable tv. So why does it still have stupid ads? I guess as long as we keep watching ads they'll keep showing ads.

Underrated: Education. Education is underrated in general, but also specifically as an aid to critical thinking and an antidote to the intense brainwashing kids get from advertising. I reckon all tykes should have to take a class at some point on how to recognize and resist marketing tricks and not just take for granted all the ads they see.

Overrated: Packaging and Containers. The amount of bags, boxes, wrappers, cups, bottles, etc. that we use one and then throw away is totally ridiculous.
Slightly Overrated: Recycling. Taking a perfectly good bottle, grinding it to bits, melting it down in a giant furnace, and making it into another identical bottle isn't much more earth friendly than just making a bottle from scratch.
Underrated: Reducing and Reusing. Reusing bags, bottles, and containers and not buying stuff with a lot of excess packaging is the smart way to go. As a corollary, tap water is extremely underrated and bottled water is extremely overrated.

Overrated: Faith. I should be specific about this, because I don't think all kinds of faith are overrated. Faith can mean being able to trust people and be optimistic and hopeful in the face of adversity, which I think is cool. But faith can also mean steadfastly believing something without evidence, and refusing to change your belief even if evidence arises that it is untrue. That's the overrated kind of faith; the kind that makes most religions certain that they're right and the others are wrong, even though they're all on equally shaky ground.
Slightly Overrated: Common Sense. Common sense is often ok, but there's a fine line between common sense and naive oversimplification, and some smug proponents of common sense are actually way over on the wrong side of the line. Ahem, *Palin*.
Underrated: Skeptical Inquiry. Have you ever seen something you were directly involved with get reported on the news, and been appalled at how inaccurately or misleadingly it was represented? Well, I have, and now I assume that everything I see or read is a little off the mark, either accidentally or as a result of deliberate bias, even if it's presented with a tone of authority. I think if you really want to know about something you have to dig a lot and think critically.

Overrated: Our Level of Control Over Nature. We can't make food and drinking water from nothing, we can't make our garbage, shit and pollution disappear, we can't change the day-to-day weather, we can't always get rid of invasive species and diseases, and we can't bring back critters that we've driven too close to extinction.
Underrated: Our Ability to Inadvertently Screw Up Nature. We have already massively transformed the surface of the earth, the contents of the oceans, the gas composition of the atmosphere, the course of our rivers, the supply of our groundwater, and the number of species alive. Every piece of the planet is traced with our tracks and wakes, bullet holes and bomb craters, sidewalks and sewage lines, and the roar of engines and factories is everywhere. To assume that none of those huge, man-made changes could ever have any harmful side-effects, i.e. global warming or ocean acidification, would be very stupid.

Alright, that's it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Bunny Hill of DOOM

Do not underestimate the danger of a bunny, or a bunny hill.

I went snowboarding with some pals today at "Nashoba Valley", a small ski resort near Boston. Since we were all newbies or nearly-newbies we stayed on the "bunny hill". A bunny hill is a small hill with a gentle incline for beginner skiers and snowboarders.

Back when I lived in Washington State I was a decent downhill skier and would have scoffed at the sissyness of a bunny hill. But on a snowboard I found the little hill plenty challenging, and even managed to bang myself up a fair amount until I began to get the feel by the end of the day. My friend Katie was also having a tough time at first, but leapfrogged ahead of her husband Nick and me when she traded her rented snowboard for skis in the afternoon. I took some video with my GoPro camera. The more awkward / funny stuff is at the beginning, and the getting-the-hang-of-it is towards the end, set to "Electric Feel" by the band "MGMT".

Bunny Hill Snowboard at Nashoba VAlley from James Douglass on Vimeo.

I'm really stoked on snowboarding now and I'm going to try to get some more sessions this winter. I actually went ahead and bought a board, boots, and bindings with the some of the $$ I got from selling my kiteboarding stuff. (It wasn't too expensive, and I should still have plenty for visiting my Florida sweetheart, which is my #1 winter well-being expenditure.) Anyway, the board is a "Ride Agenda 159" 2010 model.


The folks at the shop helped me set it up for a "duck foot" stance, which is with both feet angled slightly toward the tips. Most people set up their snowboards asymmetrically based on which foot they prefer to be the "front", but I went for the symmetrical duck foot stance because:

1. That's how kiteboards are set up, so I figured I would already be used to riding with either foot forward.
2. I'm just obsessive compulsive enough that asymmetry nags me.

The stance worked fine and I was able to lead with either foot, but it was easier leading with my right foot, which means my natural stance is "goofy foot" and I'll have to work a little harder to get the hang of left foot forward.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Rare Humongous Waves in Fort Pierce, Florida

This happened a couple months ago, but the YouTube video just turned up today, prompting my post. A strong, long Nor'easter storm off New England sent mega swells South to Florida, where they turned usually-tame Fort Pierce inlet into a heavy, double-overhead break. Some of my kiter buddies were brave enough to ride it. Here's Brent Beringhaus and Greg "GK" Kuklinski. Wow.


And the video.

I don't know if any windsurfers made it out that day. I was in Boston. Wah wah.