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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sailing Away - Virtually

Matt and I plan to sail away one day - escape the drudgery of being "dirt-dwellers" as Cap'n Fatty calls us land-lubbers. We'll cast off the lines and head back to my home, the Caribbean. For me, spontaneously packing up and taking off for an adventure with a half-thought through plan is perfectly reasonable. That's how I ended up in the Caribbean to begin with. Matt's not quite so...flexible. He's the planner in this family. He has to research his moves, everything from buying a tablet (the Asus Transformer Prime topped his list) to buying a car, or moving to Europe. I like to be surprised by what I find, he likes to know what to expect. Somehow, we've learned to balance each other out. I know when I'm over his comfort level on the "winging it" approach to life, and he knows when he's reached my tolerance threshhold for planning. So, we've found a compromise on sailing away. We'll wait until he can retire with his full benefits (only about 8 more years). That will give him plenty of time to research destinations and boats, for both of us to get more sailing experience, and to gradually lose all our "stuff" that so securely ties us to shore.

To keep my wanderlust in check, I live a vicarious sailing life by following some of my favorite sailing bloggers and reading about their sailing adventures. For any of you looking to sail away from the rat race, here are some very fun blogs and books to dive into.

One of my favorite sailing adventures, Motion of the Ocean, by Janna Cawrse Esary, is an hilarious account of her two year long honeymoon sailing across the Pacific. On her blog, she shares her "path to publication" and provides some great advice to aspiring writers.

Cap'n Fatty Goodlander writes about his and wife Carolyn's sailing adventures circumnavigating the globe. His tales range from rip-roaring comic adventures (Chasing the Horizon), to moonlit romance (sprinkled liberally throughout all his writing - Fatty is nothing if not madly in love with Carolyn and willing to shout that out to the whole world), to swash-buckling encounters with pirates (Red Sea Run), and even practical advice on "How to Inexpensively and Safely BUY, OUTFIT, and SAIL a Small Vessel Around the World." (You can be sure that last title has become Matt's and my guiding light for our eventual escape!)

For those of you who think, "Boy, I'd love to just sail away, but we have kids. We could never do that," here's the blog for you!   Bringing Baby Home - all about one family's sailing adventures with a boatload of kids! Lots of great pictures and fun posts.

Well, those are my favorite spots to get an sailing fix. Take a look - I think you'll enjoy these sites!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Talking and Driving: Just Say NO!

April is Distracted Driving Month. To raise awareness of the dangers of driving distracted, the following message was sent to all Department of Commerce employees to remind us 1) how easily and severely we can be distracted with phones and conversations, not just text messages, and 2) that it is against federal regulations to talk or text on your phone while driving a government vehicle or in your own vehicle on work-related business.

While it isn't illegal everywhere yet, common sense dictates we shouldn't do it, none of us, ever. If you have a true emergency, pull over, then get on the phone. My friend Seri posted a great suggestion on Facebook yesterday: Whenever you get in the car, put your phone in the back seat, out of reach. No message is as important as your life.

From the Department of Commerce:

Do you believe you can talk on your cell phone (handheld or hands-free) and drive safely at the same time?  Before you answer, please read the following story:

In January 2004, at 4:00 p.m., in Michigan, a 20-year-old woman ran a red light while talking on a cell phone.  The driver’s vehicle slammed into another vehicle crossing with the green light directly in front of her.  The vehicle she hit was not the first car through the intersection, it was the third or fourth.  The police investigation deter­mined the driver never touched her brakes and was traveling 48 mph when she hit the other vehicle.  The crash cost the life of a 12-year-old boy.  Witnesses told investigators that the driver was not looking down, not dialing the phone, or texting.  She was observed looking straight out the windshield talking on her cell phone as she sped past four cars and a school bus stopped in the other south bound lane of traffic.  Researchers have called this crash a classic case of inattention blindness caused by the cognitive distraction of a cell phone conversation.  (To read the full study, go to:

Throughout April, the Department of Commerce is supporting the National Safety Council’s (NSC) Distracted Driving Month and is urging its employees and contractors to consider the lives of others on the road and to stop using cell phones (handheld and hands-free) and to stop texting while driving.  To spread the message, all Commerce employees should talk with their families and friends not just about stopping cell phone use and texting, but about eliminating all distractions while driving.  (Go to the following NSC webpage to take the Pledge to Drive Cell Free:

Some statistics:
·         Sending text or e-mail messages while driving is extremely dangerous, as it draws the driver’s eyes, mind, and hands away from the road.  On average, texting causes drivers to look away from the road for 4.6 seconds.  At 55 mph, the vehicle travels the length of an entire football field during that time, while the driver isn’t looking!
·         NSC estimates 28 percent of all crashes – or 1.6 million – each year are caused by drivers using their handheld or hands-free cell phones and texting while driving.  This is much greater than the number of crashes caused by any other distraction. 
·         A University of Utah driving simulator study found drivers using cell phones had slower reaction times than drivers impaired by alcohol at a .08 blood alcohol concentration, the legal intoxication limit.  Braking time also was delayed for drivers talking on hands-free and handheld phones.

Employees who drive as part of their job are prohibited from texting while driving.  Executive Order (EO) 13513 – Federal Leadership on Reducing Text Messaging While Driving (October 1, 2009) notes that “Federal employees shall not engage in text messaging (a) when driving GOV (Government-Owned Vehicle), or when driving POV (Privately-Owned Vehicle) while on official Government business, or (b) when using electronic equipment supplied by the Government while driving.”

Saturday, April 7, 2012

On snakes and guns in South Carolina

My Biology 102 class has been studying vertebrates over the past few weeks: fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. This is always a fun unit because the students are more familiar with this group of organisms than the invertebrates, plants, and microbes.

Most semesters, I have "experts" in the class--someone is an aquarist, fishermen, or students with birds, dogs, cats, or lizards for pets. This semester, my class expert is a part-time employee at the SC Aquarium who works with the reptiles. Specifically, the snakes. He also has six pet snakes (western hognose, python, milk snake, cobra, and two others that I can't remember.)

Being in South Carolina, everyone has some interest in the reptiles and my student offered to bring a few snakes in for "show and tell." That's when I learned an amazingly bizarre tidbit about the infinitely baffling state laws of South Carolina. You don't need a permit to buy or possess a gun, but to keep a pet snake, you have to take and pass a written test in order to obtain a permit.

Obviously, in their gloriously obscure thought processes, the good state legislators saw the alarming number of cases of robbery, domestic disputes, and drug-deals gone bad that ended in the lethal use of snake and so felt the need to protect the good citizens of the state from such violence.

So, if you'd like to buy one of those interesting or exotic snakes at the pet store, be prepared to prove that you have the emotional and intellectual capacity to own such a lethal weapon. If you don't, you might just have to content yourself with buying a firearm. You don't need to show any level of responsibility or intelligence to own one of those.