January 30, 2011

Valis At The Bridge


The Outlook wasn't brilliant for the Valis two that day:
The ebb was running heavy as they got under way.
And then the wind went three knots, then two knots, then to one,
The Valis crew would be adrift, before their day was done.

Some lesser boats headed home in the troughs. but Valis on a crest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only the number one would fly upon its stay,
They'd put up even money, that Valis could win the day.

But the sportboats nipped at Valis , as did the Moore 24's,
And the former were a terror and the latter would suck their doors;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy stayed,
For there seemed but little chance of Valis ever winning the day.

But as they drifted to the line, to the wonderment of all,
A zephyr floated under the gate, and shatttered the deathly pall;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
Valis had safely started and the Moores were flipping the bird.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the ridge,
For Valis, mighty Valis, was advancing to the bridge.

There was ease in Valis' manner as she slipped by Marina Green;
There was pride in Valis' bearing and smiles could be seen.
And when, responding to the cheers, she deftly popped the chute,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Edward yelling, "Woot!".

Ten thousand eyes were on them as run turned into reach;
Five thousand tongues had warned them to keep it off the beach.
Then while the writhing after guy snarled with every jibe,
They snuck behind Treasure Island on the changing tide.

And now what passed for reaching wind came hurtling through the air,
And Valis did the best she could in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy helmsman, the trimmer eased it out.
"That ain't my style," said Valis, and eyebrows rose in doubt.

From the crowds at Berkeley marina, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
"Trim it! Trim the main in!" shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely that's what saved them as they took the sheet to hand.

With a smile of Christian piety great Valis' visage shone;
They slowly closed on Red Rock; they just might make it home;
Once more the great wheel spun, once more the luff did shake;
Upon a wing, upon a prayer, Red Rock was in their wake.

"Hope!" cried the frantic thousands, and echo answered hope;
But scornful looks from the helmsman turned the audience to dopes.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
For the sun was dropping mighty fast as they crossed the bay again.

The sneer is gone from Edward's lip, his teeth are set and foaming;
He pounds with cruel violence winch handle on the coaming.
And now into the purple dusk Valis reaches slow,
And now the air is dwindling and now has ceased to blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men hoist tankards, and swing them right and left;
But there is no joy in Berkeley - mighty Valis has DNF'd.


January 19, 2011



The last post on this blog may have puzzled some readers.

It was written by a cockroach named arnold who has taken up residence in my computer keyboard at work.

Normally, for computer bugs, I just run a Norton or Symantec scan, but I have decided to coexist peacefully with arnold.

I kind of like the little guy. Being a cockroach, he forces me to look at life from a different perspective, and sometimes that can be a good thing. He takes things a little more seriously than I do, and has little patience for my usual buffoonery.

Things around O Dock have gotten more hectic lately and I've had less time for blogging than I used to. Allowing arnold to guest blog has taken some of the pressure off me. arnold and I have never actually met, face to antennae. But I have enough confidence in him that I've sent him an e-mail asking if any of his friends might also be interested in guest blogging here. I'm not sure where that might lead.

I've been writing this blog for about a year and a half, now - long enough to take stock of just what the heck it is I'm doing. When I started, I had no idea what I would blog about. It's not like I go sailing every few days and could write about that. And I'm an expert on practically nothing in the world of sailing. Any sailing subject you can think of already has six bloggers writing about it who are better informed than I am.

Nevertheless (how often do you get to start a sentence with 'nevertheless' anymore?), I seem to have found a precarious niche in the sail blogging world, judging from the response to most posts. I will still try to fill that niche if I ever figure out exactly what it is.

But I will also keep trying new things, too. And considering my unstable mental state, those new things could turn out to be downright shocking.

Consider yourself warned.

Arnold took on quite a task for a cockroach in his last post, writing about a serious and potentially delicate subject.

Maybe some people were offended by a cockroach discussing such a subject. I guess you could see that as trivializing or demeaning the memory of a man who is respected more than most of this country's political leaders, and who managed to accomplish more than most of our presidents have. For me, arnold's unique perspective helped me to see a few things I might not have realized about a great man, so I let his post stand. I'm still responsible for everything that gets posted here.

At any rate, arnold has asked me to apologize to you if he stepped on some toes.

With six legs, it's a lot easier for him to step on toes.


January 17, 2011

did you go sailing today



arnold the cockroach again

it has been awfully quiet around the office where o docker works today

just about everyone had the day off but i wonder how many of them remember why

after a few years have passed it is hard to remember much about where holidays come from - only that we get another day to go sailing or skiing or to hang out at the shopping mall

how many think much about veterans on veterans day

or about the guy they named christmas for when it is his birthday

o docker is a butthead just like the rest of them - for him this is just another three day weekend

but we cockroaches remember more than most people do about why today is a holiday

dr king was one of those rare creatures

rare for a human or for a cockroach

he thought more about the well being of other creatures than he thought about himself

and he taught us that if we want others to respect us we must first respect ourselves

in fact if we concentrate on making ourselves worthy of our own respect everything else will start to fall into place

without a lot of yelling and hollering

what a simple and yet powerful idea that is

if others see that we respect ourselves they will respect us too

not everyone agreed with dr king but in the end more did than did not

that is probably why they made his birthday a holiday

for everyone

so why do cockroaches remember dr king

well cockroaches often have a hard time with our self respect

humans are always beating up on us pretty bad and it is easy to think that we are not worth much

in fact the worst thing that humans do to us is rob us of our self respect

cockroaches have been around for millions of years and have a heritage and culture we can be proud of

it is not our fault if humans are stupid about that

we cockroaches perform some pretty valuable work

we do a lot of the work that humans think they are too good to do

like cleaning the crumbs out of typewriter keyboards

o docker would never get down here to clean out his own keyboard

who does he think is going to do that

if it were not for cockroaches - working out of the light where we are seldom noticed - crumbs would just pile up until everything just ground to a halt

we are no lesser creatures because of the work that we do

it is not our fault that all that is left to us most of the time is just the crumbs

some people think that dr king was working to help only people of his own culture

that culture has now become so mainstream that it is easy to forget about some of the harder struggles of 50 years ago

it is too tempting to just go shopping

but cockroaches everywhere know better than that

some of us are still struggling for our dignity and for our self respect

if the struggle is at all easier than it used to be we probably have dr king to thank for that


January 11, 2011

The Rich Get Richer


OK, I promise this will be my last snarky post about Larry Ellison.

Well, for a while, anyway.

I'm usually a pretty mild-mannered blogger, in search of the sweeter lessons of life to be learned from sailing. I try to hold my snippier side in check, unless I'm egged on by a certain Rhode Island Laser sailor (you know how they can be sometimes).

So why am I so riled up by Larry Ellison when I should be ecstatic that the America's Cup is coming to San Francisco? Am I the only one who feels this way?

I guess his claim of bringing the Cup to SF just because 'it's the right thing to do for the sport of sailing' is so far from believable that others are starting to wince, too.

Others like sailing's normally sober and upbeat voice of reason - Scuttlebutt.

Scuttlebutt last week linked to an investigative piece by the SF Examiner that revealed details of Larry's final deal with the city to hold America's Cup 34 there. The Examiner, being a litigation-fearing newspaper, kept their headline safe, restrained, and business-like:

America's Cup deal was sweetened to bring race to San Francisco


How sweet.

Scuttlebutt, somewhat uncharacteristically, edged toward snarkiness in their own headline:

How The Rich Get Richer

I, of course, am neither sober, restrained, nor fearful of litigation (sometimes, writing a low-profile blog has its advantages). Having spent some time in New Jersey, I would probably write a headline that spoke more to the bargaining tactics of team Oracle - something like:

An Offer They Couldn't Refuse

The details of the deal highlight Larry's true zeal to bring the Cup to the magnificent natural amphitheater and  iconic waterfront of San Francisco. Apparently, he loves that iconic waterfront so much that he already has plans to build iconic condominiums there.

And here is why Larry has become so successful. while I languish in relative obscurity.

In my first posts on this deal, about three months ago, I thought that Larry could cash in his long-term leases by charging people to park cars along our iconic waterfront. What was I thinking?

I knew that he would be smart enough to figure out something more profitable than that. Years of scrambling to the top of the heap in Silicon Valley's cutthroat software industry have taught him to think outside the box. It takes a true entrepreneurial genius to hit on the idea of building condos there!

You see, building waterfront condos with literally million-dollar views of the Bay Bridge not only lines Larry pockets, but it also gives back to sailing by providing space on the water for all sorts of community sailing programs.

No wait, I guess it doesn't do that.

I must have been dreaming that part. I must have just assumed that any sailor making a bundle from this deal would have included some sailing facility, especially considering how that sheltered part of the bay would be perfect for a sail training site. But I read the Examiner article three times and there's no mention of that at all.

So what exactly are the changes that, uh, 'sweeten' Larry's deal?

Well, you can read the details here. And as you do, maybe, with each one, the hairs will start rising on the back of your neck as mine did.  But the one that really made my day, the one that finally proved to me that Larry is a sailor at heart just like you and me, is the one where the city wanted to retain just a small percentage of the sales that Larry would realize on those million-dollar condos. Just a few crumbs for the city from what is almost guaranteed to be a very juicy pie.

No way, Larry said. If you want any percentage of my condo profits at all, I'm taking the whole show on the road and heading for Rhode Island.

You can see what a soft spot he has in his heart for the sport of sailing and for our iconic waterfront.

The third richest man in America just got a little richer, while sailors and city fathers in both San Francisco and Rhode Island may be feeling more than a little used.

And that can make even the mildest-mannered blogger a little snarky.


January 2, 2011

Our Natural Amphitheater

It's been only three days since the announcement that San Francisco has been chosen to host the 34th America's Cup, but already much has been made of how the bay is a 'natural amphitheater' for viewing sailing events.

What the heck is a 'natural amphitheater' anyway?

As far as I can tell, it's a term to describe San Francisco Bay that found its way into a press release from team Oracle a few months back and that has been repeated repeatedly by a lot of people who are too lazy to make up their own descriptive metaphors.

'Amphitheater' comes from two Greek words meaning 'on both sides' and 'place for viewing'. An ancient amphitheater looks a lot like what we'd call a stadium today.

Ancient amphitheater

Modern (sort of) stadium

But you can imagine the raised eyebrows there'd be in a roomful of marketing dudes writing a press release for Larry Ellison if someone suggested the next America's Cup was going to be sailed in "the big stadium" of San Francisco.

The marketing dudes must have been sitting around an impressive iroko table before lunch, getting hungrier and thirstier, staring at a whiteboard with the words 'big stadium' crossed out, and with everyone drumming their fingers on the table.

Then, some genius blurted it out - "Wait a minute, I've got it!"

"Natural Amphitheater"

"That's it! It's got flow. It's got grandeur. It's total bullshit."

"OK, lunch!"

It's roomfuls of thirsty admen that have given us all sorts of cool, meaningless phrases like that.

- Corinthian leather.

- Natural beechwood aging

- Tastes great, less filling

- If nature didn't, Warner's will.

(Maybe most of my readers are too young to remember that last one, but it's still one of my favorites. You could look it up)

At any rate, what's bothering me most about this is the huge number of container ships, tankers, tugboats, ferries, sightseeing boats, and other badass commercial traffic that always seems to be plowing right through the orchestra pit of our natural amphitheater.

I know that almost every time I want to pirouette from stage left to stage right, I have to alter course to avoid being mowed down by that badass traffic.

Maybe I should be crossing from Blackaller Buoy over to Angel Island via the mezzanine of our natural amphitheater.

This has been tossed off by many as a simple problem to solve, but what exactly are they going to do with this endless parade of freighters and tankers that needs to get from the Golden Gate over to Richmond or Oakland? Our natural amphitheater doesn't have a green room where they can wait for the better part of a day. We can't call up China and say, "Look, could you hold up on the refrigerators, iPads, and SpongeBob SquarePants dolls until next month?"

I say we do nothing at all. Let them all come.

If Larry wants this to be the America's Cup for the rest of us - the one that the public can actually get to see and connect with - then why not let it be racing the way the rest of us race? For what Midwinters or Big Boat series or Three Bridge Fiasco or Friday night beercan race is all commercial traffic stopped in our natural amphitheater?

If you have to plan the next upwind leg around your best guess of what the Mitsubishi Maru is going to do, then why shouldn't Russell Coutts?

How cool would it be to watch two monster high-tech cats splitting tacks around an 800-foot long supertanker doing 18 knots down the starboard layline?

Now that's what I'd call a natural amphitheater.


January 1, 2011

An America's Cup For The Rest Of Us


This just in to the O Dock newsroom....

Fresh on the news that San Francisco has been named the official host to the 34th America's Cup, team Oracle is already demonstrating its commitment to sweeping changes that are promised to make the Cup more accessible to millions of TV viewers worldwide.

Not only will cameramen be allowed on the race boats themselves, but a spokesman for Larry Ellison today announced cameras will also be mounted where most previous America's Cup races have been decided - in New York State appellate courtrooms. For the first time in the Cup's 160-year history, yacht racing fans will witness live video coverage of all the heartstopping gavel to gavel action!

ESPN has been secretly working under wraps with technicians from George Lucas' Industrial Light And Magic to develop the high-definition 3-D 'DocketCam' that supposedly will explain in easy to understand onscreen graphics the legal maneuvers that make America's Cup racing so exciting.

ESPN's exclusive high-definition 3-D DocketCam shown mounted in a New York state courtroom.

Ellison said in a New Year's day interview, "The big obstacle to drawing a wider cup audience in the past has been that, after three years of legal competition, most people are clueless about what the heck is going on. We hope the DocketCam will solve that problem."

Finally, home viewers will be able to watch the drama of some of the world's highest paid tort attorneys deftly maneuvering to force their opponents into costly errors just before the start.

"This is match racing at its finest," Ellison said.

Remember, you heard about it first here on O Dock.