Saturday, April 30, 2011

New View

My escape plan is set. I'll be leaving my sleazy Lynn apartment on May 31st and moving into the third floor of a funky cliffside house on "Little Nahant". The new place (131 Wilson Road, Nahant, MA) has a patio, garden, and a living room with an awesome view of the beach. Plus, I'm going to get a washing machine so I never need stinkin' quarters to do my laundry again. Woo hoo! Before I toured the place I was worried that being on the 3rd floor would complicate my windsurfing gear schlepping, but it turns out there's no problem, because the third floor is actually the first floor when accessed from a driveway on the upper side of the cliff. Heh heh heh.

It's more expensive than where I've been living, but it's a 2 bedroom, and once I split it with a roommate I'll actually be paying less than I am now.

This is the view from the living room. Lynn looks a lot better from this distance than from the inside.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ok, I'll Move

Every time I whine about my awful violent neighbor or the disheartening urban decay of Lynn, Massachusetts, folks tell me to move. Well, I think I'm ready. I worked hard to get my PhD and get a job, my student loans are fairly close to paid off, and I don't reckon I need to live in a gloomy ghetto at this point in my life. What I'll probably do is look for a 2 bedroom place on Nahant and split it with a roommate. Should end up being about the same price, and being free of my psycho neighbor (see today's video below) will be priceless.

Warning: Disturbing and Profane Content

Saturday, April 23, 2011

True Months and Other Insights

I turned 32 a couple days ago. I know that's still too young to whine about, especially since I remain fairly gorgeous and healthy, but it's old enough to make one think, and I had plenty of thinking time this week in Lubec, Maine. I spent five days up there weeding and surveying an algae experiment with the help of PhD student Kylla Benes and her dog "Moose". To tell the truth Moose didn't help much, though he did provide entertainment and moral support. In return, I removed this humongous, bloated tick from under his collar.


Apparently ticks are one of the first signs of spring at the Northernmost point on the US Atlantic Coast. Other signs I noted were frogs calling in the bogs when the temperature got near 50 (it happened a few times), some green blades of grass poking up through the brown, and a helicopter crew filming near our Quoddy Head field site for an upcoming episode of the dumbass macho reality show, "Dual Survival". (Fortunately we got to our field site at dawn before the rangers hired by the film crew blocked the trail- we had no idea what was going on until we ran into the one of the rangers as we were hiking back. He wasn't mad at us or anything, in fact he thought it was stupid that they had brought him out there, saying, "I don't why they just couldn't put up a sign instead of making me sit here on the trail all day.")

I'm back down in Massachusetts now, where spring is further along. The grass is completely green and there are buds on most of the trees. We're under a Biblical deluge at the moment, and not far from the rain / snow line...


...but if the saying "April showers bring May flowers" holds true, next month should be amazing. Plus, Jesus is coming to earth, according to this lovely billboard in my town. Yay!


Back to the topic of weather: Having now inhabited a bunch of states, I've come to the conclusion that April isn't April everywhere. Here's what April is, really-

Washington State: April is actually March; a month that lasts until June or July.
Texas: April is June, plus lupine and azaleas.
Virginia: April is April, with a little June and February thrown in.
Florida: April is July, with a seabreeze.
Massachusetts: April is March.
Maine: April is February.

Another thing I can conclude is that how much I like living in one place or another is only sort-of related to the weather. A place's social harmony, closeness to nature, and R&R opportunities are more important, as are the details of my work and personal life when I'm living there. For example, I never clicked with Houston, TX, even though it was warm and sunny. The city was so sprawlingly flat, urban, anti-nature, and socioeconomically divided, and I was so poor and overwhelmed with undergraduate work and social/romantic struggles, that I rarely felt at home. Where I'm living now in Lynn, MA is a crowded jumble of old houses, tenements, and run-down factories populated by gloomy old folks and poor new immigrants, and the weather is lousy... BUT I still like it better than Houston because my job is rewarding, I have access to windsurfing and snowboarding, my social life is ok, and I get a good fill of nature through my marine biology research trips.

The nature thing is especially important for me. Whether the weather is good or bad, every place has plants, animals, and natural features and processes that define its unique character and deepen its history. When I feel like I have a good connection to that natural history I can overlook stuff like rain and cold and stress. So I like places where the nature isn't totally obscured by development. Lynn has the sea, at least, and even Houston has a bayou or two that hasn't yet been turned into a paved flood channel.

Not this one, though.

Um, what else is new? Two weeks ago I went to the Cape Cod peninsula for the first time, and was very stoked to find such a naturally-awesome and sparsely-populated place relatively close to my new New England home. I reckon Cape Cod is to the Boston area as Cape Hatteras is to the Hampton Roads area; a beachy, relaxing vacation place a little down and to the right; a bit far for a day trip but perfect for a weekend. I went there with my coworkers to attend the North Eastern Algal Society conference at the Woods Hold Marine Biology Laboratory.

This is a picture of Dr. Matthew E. S. Bracken with his grad students on a walk to the "Knob" in Woods Hole. The wind was blowing 30+ that day but I didn't have my windsurf because we all rode down in a Northeastern University van. Doh!

On the drive to Cape Cod one crosses an impressive man-made hydrological feature called the Cape Cod Canal, which connects waters above and below the Cape to allow shorter and safer passages by ships. I hadn't even known the thing existed, so I was thrilled by how awesome it was, especially since the day we stopped there was very windy, causing the canal to look just like the Pacific Northwest's Columbia River Gorge. I wonder if anyone ever windsurfs in it?

The swells looked nice.

Anyway, NEAS was a great conference and I got a good response to my poster explaining the seaweed biodiversity experiment that pays my bills now. The slideshow below shows "plots" from the experiment. The plots are marked by a bolt drilled into the rock of the intertidal zone. The mini hula-hoop denotes the boundaries of the plot, within which we have weeded some of the seaweeds away to create "monocultures" of certain species. Thus, our three seaweed diversity treatments are: Control (no weeding), Ascophyllum monoculture (everything but that species weeded away), Fucus monoculture, Mastocarpus monoculture, and Polyculture (mix of the three main species, but thinned out to have the same starting density as a monoculture).

We have 450 of these plots distributed across 3 sites in Nahant, MA, 3 sites in the Boothbay region of ME, and 3 far-Northern sites in Quoddy Head, ME. The week before the Woods Hole conference I worked a couple days at the Boothbay region, and lucked out to have unseasonably nice weather on the second day. These final pictures are from that day, taken on the grounds of the Newagen Inn. I love how much Maine reminds me of Washington State. I get nostalgic whenever I smell the moss and pine needles and kelp and stuff.

I haven't windsurfed in over a week, but I'll get out there again soon.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

For Sale: (sniff sniff) My Slalom Board


I owe the Federal government big bucks this year and it's gonna be tight so I need to sell some stuff. My most valuable possession is probably my all-carbon, badass-black 2009 Exocet Warp SL 71 windsurfing board. It has 118 liters volume, handles 5 - 9 meter sails, and sells new for $1700. Mine is in practically new condition with no dings or anything. You can have it for $775 without a fin, or $850 with a 44 cm Tectonics Maui 44 cm slalom fin. You'll have to pick it up or pay the full cost of shipping which could be a lot.

The other stuff I'm selling is listed in the sidebar: a 4.2 Naish wavesail, a 30 cm carbon MFC freewave fin, and a semi-dry wetsuit for scuba diving.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Windsurfing Mag Board Test Wrap-Up

From left: Me, Josh Angulo, Andy McKinney, Josh Sampiero

Wow, it sure was an incredible week at the Windsurfing Mag board test house in Avon, NC. My hands are as calloused as hooves, and muscles I didn't even know I had are sore from promiscuous use of so many boards and sails. Some of my favorite memories are:

1. Giving someone's significant other her first-ever windsurf lesson, in cloudy 48 degree weather, and watching her get the hang of it and sail off on her own just a few minutes later.

2. Having the wavesailing champion of the universe, Josh Angulo, rig my sail and hook it up for me. (And remind me, as I giddily ran towards the water, that I had forgotten my harness.)

3. Hearing the chatter of an overtaking board and John Ingebritsen shouting "Yeah Baby!" as he blew past me for about the twelfth time.

4. Finding the board and sail combination that actually let me keep up with Ingebritsen for a while during the big group photoshoot. (Exocet RS5 115 and 6.5 Ezzy Freeride way beyond powered.)

5. Watching beefy editor Josh Sampiero plane on 4.2 and 3.7 sails in a nuking squall on the 110 liter Angulo CV1... while petite Anne McKinney of "Wind NC" was still able to hang on to her 4.2 and ride a 69 liter Tabou DaCurve.

6. Hating a board on my first ride, then changing the footstrap positions and loving it.

7. Watching four friends from Newfoundland raise righteous hell on the water- both in the Pamlico Sound and in the hot tub. Mainly the hot tub.

8. Seeing one range of boards (the Tabou Rockets) praised by all but a few discriminating testers, while a certain board in another range garnered nearly unanimous derision.

9. Being one of few who planed on the really light wind days. (Thank you JP Super Lightwind and Starboard UltraSonic 147, and thank you formula windsurfing for teaching me how to pump.)

10. My Virginia buddy Chad Perkins winning the board toss. W.E.T. power!

11. The awesome big dinners cooked by Sue from Buffalo, the awesome alcoholic hot chocolate drinks prepared by Maddy from Florida, and the awesome sweets made by Anne and others.

12. Having two big catapults when my fin hit a sandbar- but catching both on my helmet camera.

I'm going to try to embed my day 3 through 7 videos below.

Day 3: 8-14 mph Northeast. Rode the JP Super Lightwind in the morning (on video), and the Starboard UltraSonic 147 in the afternoon (not on video).

Day 4: 10-24 mph Northeast shifting East. Rode the Starboard Carve 111, JP All Ride 106, Angulo CV1 110, Goya FXR 116, and Tabou Rocket 125.

Day 5: 10-18 mph North in the morning, fizzled later. The only board I rode was the Starboard iSonic 117 with an 8.1 Gun Sails Future.

Day 6: 15-25 mph West. In the morning I rode the Angulo Magnum 112, RRD Firemove 110, Naish Gran Prix 128, Angulo Kihei 155, Starboard iSonic 117, F2 Xantos 140, Tabou Rocket 145, and Naish Nitrix 155. For the mid-afternoon photoshoot I rode the Exocet RS5 115, but didn't film it because I didn't want to be wearing my dorky camera in the pictures. You'll just have to trust me that it was awesome. Late in the day when the wind really cranked I nabbed a 5.0 and rode the JP All Ride 106 and the Naish Nitrix 105.

Day 7: 20-30+ mph West. Rode the JP All Ride 106 and the Naish Nitrix 105, with a smaller fin than the stock fin on the latter. Sail sizes were 5.5 way overpowered and 4.2 just right.

It's the garbage, mainly

Yesterday my friends Chad and Lisa dropped me off at the Norfolk, VA airport for my vacation-ending direct flight back to Boston. It's always gloomy going from the relaxed and verdant South to the crowded concrete North. The airplane part isn't so bad, but the subsequent subway ride to Wonderland Station, the bus transfer from there to Lynn Central square, and the walk from the square to my apartment, take one progressively deeper into post-industrial urban decrepitude.

There are a lot of sensory clues that you are entering a crummy area: The smell of the old man next to you on the bus, the feeling of rattling over potholes, the rustle of Walmart shopping bags full of Coke and Doritos. Mainly, though, it's the sight of garbage everywhere. On the road, on the sidewalk, in the marsh grass, snagged on fences, in melting snowbanks, in the branches of trees. It gives you the feeling of living in a place where nobody cares about each other or about anything; a human dumping ground.

While my car was in the shop this morning ($768.00 parts and labor for a new water pump and three new belts- F'ing A!) I took some pictures around my neighborhood and made them into this depressing musical montage. Then so nobody could accuse me of whining without taking action I got some old trashbags and picked up the parking lot next door. We'll see how long it lasts.

The song in the video is "4th of July" by Soundgarden.