Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Doorway behavior

Maybe it’s just another of those Venus and Mars things

Since we’re currently short a car, I’ve been getting rides to and from work from Pat and occasionally Tadpole. At the end of the day, if my ride is late, I wait just inside an airlock with heavy doors, one side of which is equipped with electric motors for opening the doors, for handicapped access.

I have noticed a strict division along gender lines in how people use the doors. For example, men, no matter how heavily burdened, seem never to use the electric doors. I have seen men laden with briefcases, armloads of books, lunchboxes, and the occasional umbrella who, in spite of being able to get the door to open itself with a mere tap of a hip or elbow on the door button, will still go through the non-electric door instead. They have to go through all sorts of difficult maneuvers – have you ever seen someone do a kung-fu kick while carrying 40 pounds of books and a briefcase? On occasion, when I’ve seen a heavily burdened man approaching the door, I will push the button for him, but he still won’t go through the electric door.

Women, on the other hand, seem to have more common sense. I’ve never seen a woman with an armload of books and papers go through the non-electric door, unless someone else was holding it open for her. Even with relatively light loads, or with a piece of wheeled luggage to haul the books and papers, women take advantage of the ease of the electric door. It can be hard to open those heavy doors manually when one is towing a “trailer” – swing the door open wide, and then quickly pull the suitcase through before the door shuts.

So I’m left wondering why there is such a difference in how men and women use the door. Men’s approach just doesn’t make any sense to me. Sure, non-disabled people shouldn’t park in handicapped parking spaces, but that’s because when able-bodied people park there, the space is no longer available for those who need it. Using the electric door doesn’t deprive disabled people of it, so I can’t see any reason for not using it, if doing so makes one’s life easier.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Desert Classic conclusion

You’ve heard it before: On average, it’s perfect

Not much to say about Sunday, the second day of the Desert Classic Regatta. While Saturday was characterized by extremely light winds, Sunday started out breezy, escalated to blustery, and then went on to howling. We got two races off before conditions deteriorated to the point that it got dangerous – and the race committee boat, which had to stick around to see that everybody got off the course safely, got caught in conditions that led to a broken tiller and a really challenging voyage back to the boat ramp.

Pat, Penzance, and I all picked up our share of bruises, and I’m feeling a lot of aches and pains, especially in my legs, from all of the exertions involved in keeping a racing boat going in stiff conditions. We chose not to attempt to fly the spinnaker; that was probably a good choice for us, since far more experienced sailors were having major problems downwind in those conditions. We had our share of equipment failures, most significantly a broken boom vang, and flying the chute would have complicated that problem.

Upwind, our performance could have been better. Pat was concentrating on depowering during the gusts, and he wasn’t all that quick about sheeting in or pulling the traveler up or letting off the backstay once the gust was over. He has trouble getting rid of old data that’s no longer relevant; I no longer have problems with occasionally dipping the chainplates in the water, and I certainly don’t want all weather helm eliminated. I need to learn that when the helm starts feeling mushy, I should tell him, “Give me POWER!”

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At last, a meaningful millennial visitor

I want to be known for grammar and sailing, and at last, that’s happening

*Cue trumpet fanfare* The 24,000th visitor to Five O’Clock Somewhere is someone from Oceanside, California, using the most common operating system and browser, in (of course) the Pacific time zone. The visitor stayed for nearly a quarter of an hour and visited three pages.

The visitor’s question: “Clocks is what part of speech?”

The answer: It depends. You have to look at the sentence that it’s in, and see how it behaves.

It could be a noun: The antique store had many lovely clocks for sale.

Or it could be a verb: The automatic timing system clocks all of the racers as they finish.

At least for this particular word, I can’t come up with any other parts of speech that it could be. … If it didn’t have the s on the end, it could be an adjective or adverb, but even then, it couldn’t be a pronoun, preposition or conjunction, and it could be an interjection only in a fictional world with its own slang: Clocks! Did you see that double-bogus hurdle-whang ticktock?

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Desert Classic Regatta

First regatta of the fall series

The weather predictions for Saturday were really good for sailing, winds of 10 to 15 mph with gusts to 20. But that was definitely NOT the wind conditions that we actually had. We (Pat and I and our faithful middle/tactician Penzance) bobbed around on the lake in near dead calm conditions for nearly three hours, until finally there was enough of a puff of air to make sailboats go, sort of. Eventually, two races were completed.

One of the more “interesting” aspects of this regatta was that there was also a major powerboat event happening on the lake, a poker-run race that involved very-fast-moving loud-noise-making testosterone-invoking machines dashing across the lake from place to place. At one point while we were drifting around the race starting area waiting for wind, a veritable wall of massed horsepower came over us like a tsunami – with a low-flying helicopter in hot pursuit, presumably filming the whole thing. Since we weren’t racing yet, it wasn’t a serious problem, but we did have to secure loose objects, including crew sunbathing on deck, and once the thunder died down, I realized I had a splitting headache.

The headache got worse, and so by the time the racing actually did start, I turned the helm over to Pat. I just wasn’t up to concentrating on the helm, but I knew I could do jib trim just fine. Plus, Pat has been begging for more experience on the boat, and I also knew that spending some time at the helm would allow Pat to learn and understand some of the things he hasn’t understood before, such as how the helm behaves (or doesn’t) under particular conditions. I hope he learned enough that, once I’m back at the helm, he will no longer nag me to do what I’m already doing.

After mostly dead air Saturday during the day, Saturday night the winds finally arrived, and they are howling through gaps in the window frames of the motel we’re in. To save money, we’re in one of the cheaper places in town – it has recently been remodeled, but the remodeling consisted primarily of a fresh coat of paint, new window-unit air conditioners, and designation of about half the rooms as non-smoking, so the price of a room went up only a few dollars. BUT there’s a new amenity: wireless high-speed Internet.

Oh, yeah, the room also has a mini-fridge and a microwave (those were in place before the remodel), but those two appliances and the television share only two electric outlets among them, so we must unplug the television to use the microwave. Not that that’s a major hardship for us; the main reason we use the television is to get weather reports, and we can use the high-speed Internet for that.

Meanwhile, we’re hoping for good winds Sunday; after the racing is over, there’s a potential buyer for one of our surplus boats who wants to take it for a test sail.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Dulce has a boyfriend

Cats are loners, right?

Since Tres died, Dulce has been an only cat. She’s had a hard time adjusting; when we have to leave her behind when we go away for a weekend, she’s frantic when we return.

There have been a couple of cats who wander through the neighborhood. A sleek black cat occasionally prowls through the back yard; Dulce doesn’t like him at all, and she growls and hisses when he shows up. But the regular visitor to the front yard is a mellow part-Siamese-looking fellow that she’s taken a liking to. She will sit in her cat tree in front of the living-room picture window, and Romeo will sit below on the front porch.

Lately, it looks like Romeo has taken up residence in the ivy vine at one end of the porch. He’s too well-fed to be a stray, but apparently he’s decided this is a good second home. We don’t have to worry about kitty romance or kittens, since Dulce has been spayed, but the two of them do appear to enjoy each other’s company. His presence does seem to have eased her loneliness when we have to be gone.

The other day, as Tadpole was leaving in the morning for school, he discovered that Romeo had left a gift – a field mouse on the doorstep.


Monday, September 17, 2007


A new variety of serendipity

It turns out that the burglars who hit us while we were off at Dillon were even less fortunate than I had thought. I already knew that they had made off with a flat-panel television that was nearly worthless – we had picked it up for a mere $60 because it didn’t have an HD tuner, and the store was trying to get rid of it before the deadline after which all TVs were required to have one.

And they left a $25 bottle of Scotch sitting on the kitchen counter and a perfectly good VCR in the living room that we had bundled up with its remote and owner’s manual in preparation for donation to charity.

Now I have discovered that, when they took my big jewelry chest, they didn’t make off with all of the loot that I thought they had.

A year or more ago, Pat and I had gone on vacation during the holiday season, and I had packed some of my nicer jewelry in a travel pouch so I could wear it for some special occasions. When we returned from that trip, I never got around to returning the jewelry to the big chest. This afternoon, I was looking for something else, and I found the travel bag, which had fallen down behind the desk in the bedroom and been buried by the mess that the burglars made when they ransacked the bedroom, which I hadn’t had the heart to clean up.

In the pouch was most of my silver-and-turquoise Native American jewelry, including all of the most valuable pieces, my grandmother’s college class ring, and a few other items.

Still missing are all of the academic honor society insignia, most of the opal jewelry, all of my other grandmother’s costume jewelry, and most of the seasonal/novelty jewelry my mother has given me over the years.

But now I have the Henderson State College Class of ’32 ring, a memento of my grandmother, a teacher whose legacy includes an extended family full of educators.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why all the Sunfish?

In short, it’s good marketing

Pat and I now have eight Sunfish sailboats. People keep asking us, if we’re a family of three, with one heading off to college in the near future, why we have so many boats.

The answer is that we’re doing it for the good of the sailing club and for the sport of sailing in general. Our club has a lot of older members, and many of them have health and mobility issues that keep them from sailing – or even coming to the marina, given the steep trail that has become necessary while the lake level is down. We have a shortage of younger members.

Just as the tobacco companies have to advertise to young people in order to recruit new smokers to replace customers who have died off, we need to recruit young people and get them on boats having fun sailing. The difference is that our activity is beneficial to health rather than harmful.

If we get kids out on boats, having fun sailing, then they just might grow up and continue sailing. That’s good for the kids, and it’s also good for the sailing club. In the short term, we might get the kids’ parents on board in the club, bringing in a lot more energy and help for club projects. In the long term, the kids themselves can be a driving force in club activities.

That’s the point behind having a Sunfish fleet. We’ve had church youth groups and Scout troops out on the boats, and we welcome any youth organization that has reasonably good adult supervision to come and sail our boats.

Sure, the Sunfish isn’t all that much of a high-performance boat. But it does have the power of getting people hooked on sailing. Since Pat and I have started the Sunfish fleet, we’ve heard many tales from now-dedicated sailors, about their first, fondly remembered, sailing experiences on a Sunfish.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

The Object at Hand

It’s a car radio antenna, even if it looks like something Harry Potter would be waving around

Smithsonian magazine runs a regular feature titled “The Object at Hand,” in which a particular item in the Smithsonian collection is featured and discussed. It’s usually something slightly obscure, but that has a strong human-interest story behind it.

The object at hand on my desk is a car radio antenna. It may not be as venerable as most of the items in the Smithsonian’s collection, but it has a story.

Some time ago, the radio antenna was stolen off El Caballero. I knew that going to the local GM dealer would get me an antenna just like the stolen one, but also probably at a premium price, so I went online to see whether I could get a better deal. I was expecting to spend $40 or so.

A quick online search revealed that I could get a much better price than that. I even found an online merchant who specialized in nothing but automotive radio antennas. This merchant could provide an antenna identical to the General Motors original equipment antenna for $15, or a cool-looking “Eurostyle” antenna for a mere $10. Comments on the website indicated that the Eurostyle antenna actually performed better, but I discounted those comments. I bought the $10 antenna because I’m a cheapskate.

Shortly after I placed the order, I received an email from the online merchant: “Our warehouse has been hit by three hurricanes in two months, and some of our shipments may be delayed. If you wish, you may cancel your order.”

I chose not to cancel. Two days later, I received my antenna. Its standard configuration is General Motors, but it came with adaptors to make it fit Ford, Chrysler, Asian, and European cars. Since El Caballero was General Motors, I discarded the adaptors and screwed the antenna onto the antenna fitting of the car.

I discovered that the low-life who stole my antenna did me a favor. The new antenna performed awesomely. I could pick up my favorite stations much more clearly than before, and I could pick them up from farther away, such that there was no longer a gap between where my favorite Albuquerque station faded away and where the radio could pick up the Chama station.

Then this summer came the accident that totaled El Caballero. One of the items we salvaged from it, before the insurance company took possession and subsequently took it to an auto-parts-salvage/auction operation, was the antenna. My dad’s car is General Motors, and his favorite radio station is a classical station with a very weak signal. His radio is identical to El Caballero’s, so this antenna should be a great improvement for him.

In a way, I guess, this lowly car radio antenna is about hope and recovery. Because of the theft in the first place, I ended up with a better antenna. In spite of the hurricanes, the antenna seller managed to deliver. El Caballero may be no more, but my dad’s car can get an antenna transplant.

I have to keep holding on to little things like that … otherwise the big things overwhelm me.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Poetry Corner: a few words from the circus

Anybody who thinks the circus is cheerful has another think coming

Life has been more than a little crazy for me lately, to the point that I feel I am part of a circus, in which there is so much chaos. So today I am featuring two songs that I sang in my high-school choir many long years ago, and that have resonated with me especially well lately.

The first is from Stephen Sondheim’s musical A Little Night Music, and it has been interpreted by many artists over the years. The second-to-last verse has been omitted in many recordings, including those by Frank Sinatra and Joan Collins; Barbra Streisand included the verse in her recording. The syncopated 12/8 rhythm makes the song even more poignant.

Send In The Clowns

words and music by Stephen Sondheim

Isn't it rich,
Aren't we a pair
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air
Send in the clowns

Isn't it bliss,
Don't you approve
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can't move
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns

Just when I stopped opening doors
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours
Making my entrance again with my usual flair
Sure of my lines - no one is there

Don't you love farce,
My fault I fear
I thought that you'd want what I want,
Sorry my dear
But where are the clowns
There ought to be clowns
Quick send in the clowns

What a surprise,
Who could foresee?
I've come to feel about you what you felt about me
Why only now when I see that you've drifted away
What a surprise, what a cliché

Isn't it rich, isn't it queer
Losing my timing this late in my career
And where are the clowns
Quick send in the clowns
Don't bother; they're here.

The second piece was made famous by Melissa Manchester in the late 1970s. I had to do some digging to find the writers of the song. It doesn’t have the sophistication of Sondheim’s work, but it does have the poignancy.

Don't Cry Out Loud

words by Carol Bayer Sager, music by Peter Allen

Baby cried the day the circus came to town
'cause she didn't want parades just passin' by her
So she painted on a smile and took up with some clown
While she danced without a net upon the wire
I know a lot about 'er 'cause, you see
Baby is an awful lot like me

Don't cry out loud
Just keep it inside, learn how to hide your feelings
Fly high and proud
And if you should fall, remember you almost had it all

Baby saw that when they pulled that big top down
They left behind her dreams among the litter
The different kind of love she thought she'd found
There was nothin' left but sawdust and some glitter
But baby can't be broken 'cause you see
She had the finest teacher-that was me-I told 'er

Don't cry out loud
Just keep it inside and learn how to hide your feelings
Fly high and proud
And if you should fall, remember you almost had it all

Don't cry out loud
Just keep it inside and learn how to hide your feelings
Fly high and proud
And if you should fall, remember you almost made it

Don't cry out loud
Just keep it inside and learn how to hide your feelings
Fly high and proud
And if you should fall, remember you almost had it all

Yeah, I’ve been a bit depressed lately. And the miscues and miscommunications haven’t made things any easier. My life feels like a circus, and not the happy, cheerful side of the circus. It’s the tawdry, out-of-control backside of the circus.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A geography lesson?

It’s good to know where you are

The following joke showed up in the electronic version of the faculty newsletter at the community college where I teach:

The teacher of the earth science class was lecturing on map reading.

After explaining about latitude, longitude, degrees and minutes the teacher asked, "Suppose I asked you to meet me for lunch at 23 degrees, 4 minutes north latitude and 45 degrees, 15 minutes east longitude...?"

After a confused silence, a voice volunteered, "I guess you'd be eating alone."

Now, I’m sure the main point of the joke is that the students didn’t grasp the concept of latitude and longitude, and therefore wouldn’t know how to get to the coordinates the teacher specified.

However, I was curious enough to look up the coordinates on a map, and maybe the students were more right than they thought – the location is Hariq, Saudi Arabia, not far from the Rub‛ al Khali desert. It doesn’t appear to be a pleasant place to have lunch.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Getting closer

Thirteen and counting …

Tonight, I count more time zones than I have in a long time, possibly the most ever. Thanks to visitors from widely dispersed places, such as the Netherlands Antilles, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel, the most recent 100 visits to 5OCSW cover 13 different time zones.

As many of you are aware, my goal is world domination – that is, at some point, I want to look at that graph on Sitemeter and find at least one visitor from each of the 24 time zones of the world. Then I really will be able to say, “It’s five o’clock somewhere!”

Yes, it’s going to be hard to reach that goal with Sitemeter looking back at only the last 100 visits. I could improve my odds by paying extra and having the service keep records going further back. But that would take all the fun out of the enterprise.

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