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.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Great sports trophies

Some are more venerable than others

As most sailors know, but much of the rest of the world doesn't, the America's Cup is the oldest perpetual trophy in all of sports. It was made in 1848 and was first contested in 1851. It spent much of its life in the United States, until 1983, when boats from other countries began to win it, and it has since traveled around the world.

Another trophy that has been around for a while is the FA Cup, awarded to the champion of English football (what Americans call soccer), and first contested in 1871. While it is a perpetual trophy that goes home with the winning team each year, it has actually been replaced a few times over the years. It also is not an international trophy the way the America's Cup is.

For an international trophy, we can look at The Ashes, commemorating a long series of cricket matches between England and Australia. This trophy originated in 1882 following a match in which the Australians gave the English team its first defeat on home soil. The name originated from a satirical piece in which the death of English cricket was announced, with the notice that it would be cremated and its ashes sent to Australia. The Ashes is a terra cotta urn that supposedly contains the ashes of a burnt cricket bail (or possibly some other piece of cricket equipment). However, The Ashes isn't a true perpetual trophy and was never intended to be one; it is fragile and remains in a museum in England. Instead, a much newer trophy is currently used as the official award for winning the test match series.

In North America, the Stanley Cup is often erroneously supposed to be the oldest perpetual trophy in sport. It has certainly been around for a long time, since 1893. It is also international, as the National Hockey League has teams in both the United States and Canada. While it doesn't even come close to the America's Cup in age, it can be recognized as the oldest trophy in professional sports in North America.

Some newer trophies can also be recognized as great. The Borg-Warner Trophy, for example, has been awarded to the winner of the Indianapolis 500 automobile race since 1936. Part of what makes this trophy special is that it bears a sculptured likeness of all of the winners of the race since its inception in 1911, rather than a mere inscription of the winner and the date.

And then we come to the Rio Grande Sailing Club's own Jack and Jill Bucket. The annual Jack and Jill Regatta is held in mid-May and is a his-and-hers race. To commemorate the name of the regatta, the trophy is a galvanized pail; each year, the previous year's winner is to place a bottle of champagne into the bucket before turning it over to the new trophy holder. For several years, Zorro and I had been the holders of the bucket; however, last year, he failed to show up, and we ended up forfeiting the pail to Yoda and Esther (one more thing that went wrong in 2009). This year, Zorro promises he will show up, and so we plan to take it back.

(Note: I hope to add a photo to this post soon, so you can see the Jack and Jill Bucket in all its glory.)

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Work: the worst sailing innovation ever

The number one cause of people not sailing

Over at Proper Course, Tillerman has issued another writing challenge. This time around, he's asking members of the sailing blogosphere to write about what they consider to be the worst sailing innovation ever – the one invention that most detracts from the experience of sailing.

I would nominate work as the worst innovation. In the Peanuts cartoon, Snoopy once commented, "Work is the crabgrass in the lawn of life." It is something that sucks the time out of one's week until there is little or no time left for sailing. Take a look at just about any sailing venue, and especially on a weekday, you will mostly see people sailing who do not work – typically, they're retired. Those of us who do have to work are often working 40 hours a week, and sometimes more. That's time that can't be spent sailing. It's also time that can't be spent working on boats to keep them in sailing condition, or reading about sailing in order to improve one's ability to sail, or blogging about sailing.

I'm somewhat lucky in that I don't generally have to work on Fridays – those are reserved for faculty meetings, and my contract specifies that, as a part-time instructor, I can't be compelled to attend them. But even though I only get paid for five hours per class per week (generally 15 or 20 hours), I do still have a lot of other work to do: grading papers, preparing lessons, copying class handouts (or cursing at the copier for preventing that task). In reality, I probably do work close to 40 hours a week.

Other people have even more demands on their time. For example, Bonnie of Frogma frequently complains that she has to work overtime, at night, or on weekends. And in the current economic climate, many companies have laid off some workers and overburdened the others, who in turn feel compelled to work overtime in order not to risk being the next one laid off. Then these overworked people are so stressed out about work that even when they're not at work, they have a hard time enjoying themselves at pastimes like sailing.

As someone once said, "Work is a four-letter word."

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Friday, February 05, 2010

The copier temptation

Oooooh, so close …

One of the tasks I find myself doing often at work is making copies. Sure, the community college where I work has a central copying service, but it has a couple of strikes against it. One is that it takes time to get documents processed, copied, and delivered to my mailbox, and I'm often printing things on short notice. The other is that, while it does offer a while-you-wait service, that service is only available limited hours of the day, and those hours don't include the hours that I'm usually on campus, since most of the classes I teach are evening classes.

This means that I have come to know the copiers in the faculty workrooms very well over the years. The one that was at the campus where I'm teaching this term was getting to be like an old friend – or sometimes a familiar adversary. I knew exactly which buttons to push, where the paper was likely to jam, how to run a butcher knife along the edge of the paper supply in the bottom drawer to straighten the stack and prevent false "out of paper" messages. (Why there's a butcher knife in the faculty workroom is another story.) My familiarity with copiers even led to my first National Novel Writing Month mystery, Murder at the Community College, in which I used a copier as the murder weapon.

But that old machine really hadn't been adequate for the burdens placed upon it, and lately it had been having more problems than usual – jamming more often, doing a half-hearted job of punching holes when asked to, claiming to be out of toner when it wasn't, and not responding to the persuasion of the butcher knife.

Wednesday, I stopped by the workroom to check my mailbox before going to teach my afternoon class, and I was treated to a heavenly vision. There in the place where the old machine had sat was a gleaming new one, bigger and more powerful, all shiny, with a heavy-duty paper magazine. It seemed to have a glowing purplish aura about it, and in my head I heard heavenly music – the sort that plays in the film It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World whenever somebody spots the big W.

"Whooooa!" I found myself involuntarily gasping. I was soon to head off to teach my class, but once it was done, I had some heavy-duty copying to do. I was really looking forward to taking that baby through its paces, multiple page handouts, simplex to duplex and duplex to duplex, collating, stapling, three-hole punching. I was drooling.

Two hours later, when I returned to the workroom after teaching my class, a sign had been taped to the copier: "OUT OF ORDER. Technician has been called."

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