Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Holy Hypothermia Aquaman!

sailing card
Originally uploaded by Decay, Rattle and Hum.
This past Saturday was my last sailing class through the City of Long Beach's Leeway Sailing Center. On the agenda was a written test covering the parts of the boat and sails, a rigging test and a sailing skills test where each student had to demonstrate tacking, jibing, close hauling and a beam reach back into the dock.

My friend Susie (who e-mailed me recently that most of the US Olympic small craft women's sailing team is in their 40s so, I could still be an Olympian) would have been so proud of my performance. Even the weight disparity between my sailing partner and I, made worse by his slow response time on the jib sheets when I shouted "tack", didn't manage to ruin my run of the course. In fact, the instructor gave me kudos for how I compensated for my partner blowing my first try at the beam reach into the dock when he slowed the boat too much by not switching the jib to the port side on my last planned tack.

All tests completed, there was one final activity that each student needed to participate in to pass the class and be awarded their sailing certificate... the dreaded capsize! Which viciously and strategically, was not mentioned in the course description nor alluded to by the instruction until just the week before. Now, I've unintentionally capsized and righted Sun Fish so, it wasn't that I was afraid of the capsize itself. Although, Rod & Marianne Semrad's past admonishments to not swim in marinas (the actual sailing portion took place in a "bay" area created by a concentration of close-shore islands and peninsulas that is also home to a couple marinas and private docks) due to possible presence of effluent crossed my mind but I'd already scoped out where the fresh water hoses were so, onward... The catch (beside earthquakes and mudslides) about sunny Southern California is that the Pacific never warms to summer East Coast Atlantic or Midwest Great Lake norms.

When Friday's weather report predicted cool temps and rain for Saturday, I even called the sailing center in hopes of hearing that the capsize drill would be postponed due to weather to the following weekend when I was counting on a heat wave. No such luck, the instructor told me that we were sailing unless there was a "torrential downpour." I asked for his advice on wearing a wet suit but he assured me that I'd be in and out of the water so quickly that the suit would be liability not asset. Desperate and only somewhat kidding, I actually told a coworker, who happens to be married to the City Manager and is a former manager in the city's recreation dept., about this ludicrous hypothermia-tempting exercise. She offered to do a rain dance to ensure copious precipitation but alas, she wouldn't have her hubby cancel the class.

OK, enough digressing... back to the scene. On the day of the planned capsizing, the air temp was in the low 60s and the water temp was in the low 50s. The drill called for the two-person teams to each take a turn playing "captain" - whose role would be to quickly swim to the centerboard and use their weight to leverage the capsized boat back into an upright position and "crew" - whose role would be to hang onto the hiking strap in the bottom of the cockpit as the boat was being righted (called the "scoop method") thereby positioning them back onboard so, they could then help the "captain" climb aboard at the stern. As I mentioned above, there was a bit of weight difference between my partner and I. Specifically, I'm five foot four inches tall and around one hundred and fifteen pounds and he was over six feet and likely over two-hundred and fifty pounds. A bit self-conscious about being the only one to show up in neoprene from neck to ankle plus concerned about overheating leading up to the capsize, I passed on wearing my full wet suit but had brought along my shorty to later change into. In the end, because my shorty is only a 2/1 thickness and the current fit is too loose in the legs, I ended up never putting it on.

Other than a few classmates briefly panicking when the capsize landed them under the sails, one getting knocked on the head by the mast and everyone bitching about the water being cold, every other team's capsizing passed fairly uneventfully. The only other female of my size in the class took longer and strained more than any of my other classmates but eventually, she too was able to right the boat and "scoop" up her partner, who was only slightly taller and heavier than herself.

My partner and I were the last team. I decided that I would play "captain" first. My logic was that if I couldn't right the boat due to the weight disparity (the instructor could not be cruel enough to make me attempt it indefinitely), he and I could just trade places in the water and he could get the boat righted (I had no clue how I was going to pull him into the boat but I really wasn't thinking that far ahead). So, we capsized the boat without any problems and after the word "f*ck" loudly escaped escaped my lips instantly upon contact with the frigid water, I quickly swam around to the center board. Once there, I signaled my "crew" that I was ready to go and started propelling myself in and out of the water pressing down on the centerboard in an attempt to rock the boat back upright. And then, I did it some more... Then, my instructor shouted from the dock to try hoisting my full body weight up on the centerboard. Yeah, that didn't quite work either... By this time, I'm shivering uncontrollably, my limbs feel like they are made of Silly Putty, I'm breathing way too rapidly and my heart is racing (thanks to the internet, I now know that these are symptoms of hypothermia) . I pour everything that I have left into a combo of the two above described techniques. Finally, I can feel it starting to work. The instructor and other classmates are on the dock cheering me on. Yes! The boat was finally back upright again.

I can't tell you how long it took. It could have been five minutes; it could have been over fifteen. I swam to the back of the boat with barely functioning limbs and racing breath and heartbeat, ready to be assisted aboard by my "crew." But, who should I meet at the stern, still in the water, but my "crew." Turns out, I was able to right the boat only after he released the hiking straps and his weight was no longer counteracting my attempts to right the boat.

There was literally no way that I could have pulled myself abroad; that's how weak my arms and legs were by then. Then my partner announces that he's recovering from hernia surgery and wouldn't have been able to help me aboard anyway. Aarghh! Not sure if the instructor finally noticed my rapid breathing or had just become concerned over the eye-catching blue shade my lips had turned but he then thought to ask if I was OK. To this I emphatically replied, "Not really!" and he directed me to swim to the dock, which luckily, was only about twenty feet away.

Even wearing a life jacket, it was the longest twenty feet of my life attempting to swim in spite of the cramping and weakness in all my limbs. The instructor hauled me up on deck, made the appropriate cooing noises over my hard-earned success and then, in spite of my indigo lips and near hyperventilating, actually asked if I wanted to go back out for my partner's turn at playing "captain!" To this I wheezed "No!", the volume of my reply barely audible over the chattering of my teeth. I shakily headed to the classroom, toweled off, bundled up in some warm, dry clothes and then headed into the bathroom where I took a moment to admire the groovy blue tint still visible on my lips.

I couldn't shake the chill and stood around shivering while I waited for the instructor to finish filling out my certificate. I then wobbled and weaved to my car, where I had to rest and warm up for the next ten minutes until the shivering subsided enough for me to drive. At home, I immediately hopped into a hot shower. It didn't work... I was still shivering under a stream of scalding water so, I let the tub fill and submerged myself up to my neck. In total, I spent one and one-half hours in a state of teeth-chattering, bone-jarring shivering. After a cup of hot tea, I crawled under a down comforter and took a long nap. Waking up, I finally felt toasty but within the hour, I was shivering again and running myself another hot bath.

During my second bath, I noticed the ugliest bruises that I've ever seen along my upper arms, knees, thighs and calves where my body had obviously been connecting with the centerboard. My upper arms were (and still are) the funky purple color of the dye used by the USDA to stamp inspected beef (photos to follow once I finish this roll of film and have it developed). In the past, I've commented about how I, at times, have looked like a "battered wife" due to how easily I bruise. But, never, never has my skin turned hues like these. The bruises are so dark and purple that they look like side-effects radiation poisoning. Evidently, at some point, I also hit my chin on something but thank god, though it does hurt, it did not bruise.

So, sorry Susie... I'm passing the Olympic dream baton back to you. The intermediate class also has a capsize requirement and unlike my Open Water diving certification, where I was allowed to do my "check-out" dives in warmer, friendlier waters, with sailing, I'm stuck with the glacial Pacific, where even in summer, water temps only barely reach the mid-sixties.

To be fair, I must acknowledge that I was the only member of the class to have such an extreme reaction to the cold water, which leaves me terribly curious as to how SoCal residents, who claim to be freezing in air temperatures under seventy degrees, are somehow hardy enough to cope just fine with water temperatures low enough to chill beer!


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bill before the CA State Assembly would Pave the Way to Fund Port of LA Operations by Diverting Taxes Away from City Services

Originally uploaded by Decay, Rattle and Hum.
States allow local governments to access different types of tax diversion mechanisms to fund specific types of local projects. These tax mechanisms are known as tax increment finance or TIFs. This is not a tax abatement. The property owner still has to pay out an amount equal to the assessed property tax level. Originally, TIFs were primarily used for infrastructure. An example being the new taxes created through the development of a new industrial park could be diverted to pay bond debt service on the new roads and sewers for that same industrial park.

In California, these actions are permitted under Health & Safety Codes for the elimination of "blight." After an area has been assessed and determined to meet the state set criteria for "blight", a redevelopment plan is created to identify how the blighting influences can be eliminated. A local Redevelopment Agency, with the proper local supporting legislation, can then begin implementing the redevelopment plan in the Redevelopment Zone and utilizing the resulting net increase in tax revenues to fund the plan. California state law further proscribes that a significant portion of the diverted net tax proceeds be used to fund affordable housing opportunities.

On February 22, 2005, California State Assembly Member Karnette (oddly, of Long Beach not Los Angeles) introduced Assembly Bill 1330 (click on the word Link below for the complete Bill ). This bill, if passed, would amend various sections of California's Health and Safety Code to allow for the Port of Los Angeles to be declared "blighted", become a Redevelopment Zone and access tax increment finance to fund port infrastructure and safety improvements.

We all want our airports and sea ports to be protected from terrorism and we all want to see infrastructure improvements to decrease truck traffic on Los Angeles County's freeways... so, why do I think this is a bad idea? Because... ports have the ability to generate revenue from other sources.

Ports charge a variety of fees, which are set locally and outlined in each port's Tarriff. Fees are charged per container handled; for the time the container sits on the dock; berthing fees for the time a ship is berthed at the dock; more fees per each ton of bulk cargo; etc... Additionally, some ports, like Los Angeles, are "landlord ports." This means that they own most, if not all, of the land, facilities, cranes and ship loaders within the harbor district. And... everyone using the land, facilties, cranes and ship loaders must pay rents and fees if they want to operate their businesses at the port.

California state law protects the revenues a port generates by declaring them "enterprises." This means that revenues generated by the port must be used for port purposes. Those revenues, for example, legally can not be used to fund a city's parks and recreation programs.

The Port of Los Angeles is the busiest cruise ship port on the West Coast of the United States. The Port of Los Angeles also handles more container business than any other port in the US. Its traffic, taken in combination with the container traffic of its twin port of Long Beach, ranks it as one of the top five busiest container ports in the entire world. With a well thought out business plan, it ought to be able to generate all the funding it needs through rents and Tariffs. The Port of LA should be regularly reviewing its operating costs and ensuring that its Tariff and rents are set accordingly. If it is burdened with a legacy of long-term leases that include rents that are below market rate, the Port of L.A. should invest in legal counsel to assess the lease language and advise it if the legal grounds exist to renegotiate any of those rents.

Should, for some reason, those measures fail to generate the revenue needed to operate the port... I still say Assembly Bill 1330 is a bad idea. As California's population has grown, so have the demands on tax proceeds. The State of California and many local governments have had to cut their budgets, reduce services and lay-off employees. So, are California taxes like Port of L.A. rents and Tariffs set just too low to cover expenses? Sort of...

A ballot measure, commonly referred to as Proposition 13, passed by the California electorate in the 1970s, caps the taxable value of residential property at what the property was worth when it was purchased or if new, built. That means that owners of two identical houses, built at the same time, right next door to each other, could be paying vastly different tax bills if one property has remained under a single owner while the other has changed hands a number of times. These houses are right next to each other so, we can assume that the occupants, over time, will benefit equally from government services funded by tax proceeds such as street repairs and police and fire service. However, the owner of the property that transferred most recently, and therefore best reflects taxes paid upon a true market value, is paying his share plus subsidizing the costs of those tax-funded benefits received by his neighbor. Doesn't quite sound fair, does it?

I don't see how, on top of the current tax climate, I as an L.A. County resident and registered voter could even fathom supporting an effort to divert tax dollars away from the city's general fund where it could be used to hire additional police, fund the library system, better equip the city's firefighters...

OK, so then what? The Port of L.A. still needs money for security and infrastructure improvements and Proposition 13 isn't going away tomorrow, right? Well... has the Port of L.A. exhausted all possibilities for the grant funding of these projects from foundation, state and federal sources? Or, providing that the Port of L.A. is already operating in a fiscally efficient manner and unfortunately, news reports on its audit findings suggest it is not, did anyone bother to look into a teeny, tiny new tax levy spread across all of Los Angeles County, thereby minimizing its impact on any one person or population? The levy could even be written with a sunset clause causing it to expire in a specified number of years once absolutely needed infrastructure and safety upgrades to each of Los Angeles County's airports and sea ports were completed.

Unfortunately, this is an Assembly Bill that so far is not attracting much public or media attention. I can only hope that the level of attention and public debate over this issue increases before it is voted into law.

If you are an insomniac or a policy wonk like I am, I encourage you to read the actual wording of the bill. An additional item, which I found interesting, is that the Port of Los Angeles is named outright within the bill. It is very common for state legislation to be introduced that is designed specifically to benefit a single city or public facility. However, this type of legislative "targeting" is usually accomplished through creative verbiage crafted so narrowly that only the intended beneficiary of the bill could possibly benefit. In the case of the Port of LA, such language might have instead read "all sea ports located within a chartered city with a population of over two million and a poverty rate in excess of the national average." So, while I still disagree with the bill's objective, I do applaud its author's blatantness of intent...


Saturday, April 16, 2005

George W. Bush and Crafting a Positive Mental Construct

We still have a few more years to go of "Bushisms", fumerous televangilists, wacky cabinet-level and judicial appointments and, of course, pissing off other cultures. So... I thought I'd share my little, personal coping trick with all of you.

Life is a lot less stressful (and frankly, just plain funnier) if you stop thinking of W. as the guy with the codes to launch a nuclear ("nuke-u-lar") attack and alternately, just view him as a character in a musical comedy about Pol Pot.

Try it. It's a curiously easy mental leap to make. Isn't it?

Things I like About LA

E3 2005 017
Originally uploaded by Danny, the gaming geek.
1. There aren't a lot of pigeons and other messy birds.
2. There are barely any flies and mosquitos.
3. I didn't "hibernate" this winter like I would have in Cleveland.
4. The Long Beach Recreation Dept. has the best programs. I'm learning to sail a 14 foot Capri. I've also taken yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi classes.
5. Cantor's Deli has the leanest pastrami I've ever had.
6. I got to meet the author Ray Bradbury at a panel discussion on the 1st Amendment.
7. The Orange County Performing Arts Center attracts quality productions like Alvin Ailey, the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra, Eifman Ballet, etc...
8. I'm going to a taping of Real Time with Bill Maher this Friday.
9. The Hollywood Farmers Market in Fairfax.
10. The Sunday Farmers Market in Santa Monica.
11. Alex's Bar in Long Beach, CA. It's a total dive bar that has Punk Rock Karaoke about once a month with a live band that includes former members of the Circle Jerks, Catch-22, Social Distortion, etc. I also got to see Spider Stacey of the Pogues play the with Filthy Thieving Bastards.
12. Sidewalk cafes (though oddly banned in some communities like Seal Beach) are open year round.
13. Long Beach Airport and Jet Blue's low fares.
14. Proximity to Mexico, San Diego, Phoenix, San Francisco, Las Vegas, etc...
15. My dry cleaner thought I must be a doctor or a lawyer because I have my shirts laundered. Amusingly, I dress far less casually than the average Southern Californian.
16. People tend to be very courteous.
17. I met Gore Vidal at the LA Times Festival Books at UCLA, which is one of the most beautiful college campuses that I have ever seen.
18. I keep finding and they keep finding me, more old friends now living in LA.
19. The architecture of restaurant at LAX
20. The Bradbury Building
21. Angel's Flight funicular


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Ray Bradbury and "Italian Sex Play"

One of my and my friend Amy's favorite things to do out in bars, after we've had a couple drinks, is demand that random bar patrons tell us what their favorite words are and, if warranted, berate them over their choices (I freely admit to being nerdy and bookish). We're looking for people to choose words for the word's sake alone, how it sounds, how your mouth feels saying it, etc. The word's meaning should have nothing to do with someone choosing it as a response. So... "freedom" would be a bad choice but "persnickety" would be a good choice. Yeah, it's pretty arbitrary but the game is designed for our alcohol-enhanced entertainment and as a means of identifying like-souls.

Anyway, at a panel discussion on the 1st Amendment the other night with Ray Bradbury, Brian Lamb from CSPAN and others, a student asked Ray Bradbury what his favorite word was to which he replied "yes." I was so deflated. Granted, he wasn't aware he was playing (up until that moment, neither was I) nor would he be familiar with "the rules" but "yes"... How hackneyed; why not "hope" or worse yet "peace". Bah!

Well... you know, I couldn't just leave it alone. And no... I didn't stand up and heckle him. But later, when he was signing my book, I said, "I was a little surprised by your favorite word - 'yes'. Mine is 'funicular'." He asked "Why?" I said "Because, it's just fun to say." He said, "Hhhmmm, you don't only like a word for what it means..." Then he said, "It sounds like a form of Italian sex play." or he might have said, "sounds like a form of Italian sex toy." I'm really not sure; the video camera operator was closing in on us, so I decided to skip asking for further clarification.

What Big Bang?

The Big Bang, Creationism and Intelligent Design or... a geeky admission

I watched the movie "What the Bleep Do We Know!?" a few weeks ago. It was good to see that someone would make/finance a movie that is essentially a high-tech film strip for quantum physics and the chemo-anatomy of emotion.

Unfortunately, I repeatedly forgot that I was watching a movie and kept wandering off and doing other things like taking out the trash. Dancing flubber people grabbing at Maitlin's ankles, as she got drunk at a wedding (yes, same movie) weren't terribly effective at keeping me riveted to the tv screen. Which isn't to say it was a bad movie, just not a terribly scintillating one.

Oddly, what I did see of the movie managed to make me question my belief in the Big Bang Theory. Due to my wanderings, I'm not clear if this was discussed in the movie or not. At present, I've decided to believe that the universe has just always been here. I think its highly possible that we (scientists, not me personally) keep looking for the universe to have an origin because we're still operating under a universal precept of creationism. Pick a version: Judeo-Christian, Native American, Australian Aborigine, tribal African, etc. First there was basically nothing... and then something major and important happens. Who cares whether it's "god", sub-atomic fission or spontaneous combustion? We're still rehashing the same tale; we've just sanitized it for historic myth and religion.

Also... I really want to know if the biology text books the US government is distributing in Iraq only present the Theory of Evolution or if those texts, like some text books in various US states, now make mention of the Theory of Intelligent Design. Any thoughts on how to find out short of a public records request?

PBS sells out/buys in or the most deviously effective plea for donations ever...

The below text is from the March 28th, 2005 Adrants.com newsletter and refers to commercials that will purportedly be airing on PBS.  You can access a link to the commercials at:


Flesh Eating Virus Attacks "Public" Television

Like a flesh eating virus, advertising continues to devour every last morsel of media content forgetting that, one day, it will stand alone, left to consume itself like a black hole nearing a food-induced orgasm as its hunger ravenously overtakes its lifeblood of available content. PBS and Chipotle Mexican Grill are speeding that process with PBS' airing of three, very commercial ad units that intertwine the message with the network's content by spoofing it.

The three spots; one which shows a pledge drive MC drowned out by the sound of ringing telephones as operators gorge on burritos, one which shows an Alistaire Cook look-a-like sign language woman signing incorrectly due to her burrito eating and one which shows a newscast interrupted as the newscaster slips out of frame because the cameraman is, you guessed it, eating a burrito, are the surest sign that public television - already on a long downward spiral into commercialism - has taken one monstrously historic jump over the shark.

Like we wrote years ago, it won't be long before a brand paints a homeowner's house for free as long as the brand can paint a gigantic logo on the front of the house. View the spot here. That is, of course, after you view the TV Guide commercial sponsoring the Chipotle commercial. Is that a sick joke, Ad Age?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Getting my Tattoo Re-Inked

One spring day last year, I had the great idea of having my tattoo re-inked because it was about 7-years old and rather faded (why this bothered me I can't say because even in a bikini no one can see it).

One should never, ever get a tattoo done or re-inked spur of the moment!

I spent the whole night waking up stuck to my sheets. "Tony" kept me in the chair for 2 hours when it ought to only have
taken about 20 minutes (it's only about the size of a silver dollar!). The most apt description I can offer is that he "drilled the f*ck out of me", expletive, expletive! I think he might have just just liked working on me with my underwear pulled to the side and his forearm resting on my chest.

He showed me his 40-year old tattoo, that he woke up with in Mexico when he was in the Marines, on which only the figure's pink eye-shadow has faded (this part also involved him serenading the room with a Jimmy Buffet song as Prodigy blasted in the background; unfortunately his tattoo of a "Mexican cutie" was not anywhere he could have made it "dance" for me like you see sailors do in old movies) and telling me how he teaches doctors at the Cleveland Clinic to approximate the appearance of nipples on mastectomy patients using an ink gun (that he managed both with buzzing ink gun in hand leads me to suspect some ADHD issues or meth usage) when his 20-year old son pops in, announces that he's going to the strip club and then proceeds to kneel next to me and start hitting on me (FYI - he's learning the trade from dad and really wants to do my "next" tattoo).

Quite the slice of Americana out there at Finest Lines in Wickliffe, Ohio... yes, indeed. And that night, I stepped off the curb and splashed around in it for a little while before I sped off home in my Jetta 1.8 Turbo to my charming not-as-crazy neighborhood in the city.