Hydrophobia

The Village Elders of Cotuit have decreed there will be No Water during Monday’s Fourth of July parade.

Last year the baseball team — the Cotuit Kettleers — skipped the procession because they are the traditional targets of water balloons, funnelators, power washers, garden hoses, and other roadside ambushes. To be fair, the ball players were the ones who first took to their float with SuperSoakers a few years back, so any spectator water attacks have been purely defensive.  Well … semi-defensive. Sitting out last year’s parade paid off as the Kettleers won the 2010 Cape Cod Baseball League championship.

This year — the Civic Association put up this sign at the center of the village, but someone blanked out the “No.” Photo by Paul Rifkin

 

Sean Maloney’s Rowing Recovery

I met Sean Maloney in Beijing in 2008 during the Olympics. A fellow rower, he had just returned from a row down the course at Shunyi, something I was insanely jealous of as my colleague Alice Li hooked him up with a boat and permission. I didn’t get a chance to row in China, but the expression on Sean’s face as the conversation changed from business to rowing made up for it as he described the awesome feeling of rowing down the lanes where the world’s best would compete in a few days.

Viewed as one of the top talents in Intel’s executive ranks and the likely successor for the top job, Sean suffered a stroke in 2010. The doctors said he wouldn’t row again, so he got in a boat and proved them wrong, competing in the 2010 Head of the Charles.

This video is him telling the tale of rowing and his recovery. I have to say, one year later, he sculls better than I do and has a great finish.

Cape Cod’s Aural Landscape

An interesting project, Hear Cape Cod, is recording sound samples at select locations around the peninsula to create a record of what life on Cape Cod sounds like in 2011.

The integration with Google Maps is very cool. Click on a waypoint and the recording will launch. Everything from gulls squabbling at the Pamet River to the wind turbine at the Falmouth wastewater treatment plant.

It’s all about the view ….

The Starter Castle Movement that has raped the Cape’s coastline since the late 1980s shows no sign of abating.  The ongoing tear-down and replacement of the original inventory of old shingled summer mansions built at the turn of the 19th century with wedding caked, turreted displays of Pella windows and Chem-Lawned swards of grass is enough to make me launch into a jeremiad of nostalgia. The view has changed, at least for we peons who sail by and have to peer up at the messes, but for the wealthy waterfront homeowner, the view out the window towards Nantucket Sound remains as pristine as ever. No coincidence that this upper echelon of the public led the hue and cry against the construction of a wind farm three miles offshore: the thought of anything sullying their vistas broke out the checkbooks in a flurry of environmental hand wringing.

Another thing that drives me nuts is the new obsession with outdoor lighting and the resulting light pollution. Some of these quaint $20 million haciendas are lit up like ocean liners at night, their balustrades and eaves covered with big honking spot lights to either deter pain-killer crazed burglars or show off the nitrogen-leeching Kentucky Blue Grass growing under the sprinklers. For someone on the opposite shore, the glare is beyond annoying and inspires fantasies of a Seal Team 6 sniper with a scope the size of a wine bottle.

When I was a cub reporter for the Cape Cod Times in the summer of 1980, one of my beats was the waterfront.  At a hearing of the department of natural resources on the legality of clamming with hydraulic pumps, an interesting clash of the two poles of Cape Cod society occurred in town hall. On one side of the room were three dozen commercial quahoggers: eternally tanned, biceps the size of footballs from wrestling with a bullrake all day,  hands stained black from the primordial mud at the bottom of the bays, mostly moustachioed and bearded like a biker gang. On the other side was a half dozen waterfront matrons dressed in Lily Pulitzer pink and green. They hated the sight and sound of the quahoggers working the shallows in front of their manses and wanted it stopped. A local real estate agent kicked things off by reminding the town fathers that these poor ladies paid a disproportionate amount of taxes, only resided in the town three or four months out of the year, and at the very least deserved some peace and quiet. Then, one brave matron took to the microphone and in describing how close the clammers came to her rose garden said, “They’re out there, making all this noise, about a nine-iron shot away.”

I’m convinced the  clammers won the right to keep clamming thanks to the golf reference.

Thirty years later and the current hypocrisy of the burghers of Popponesset Island has to remarked upon. Popponesset is in Mashpee — probably one of the most weirdly incorporated and developed towns in the State thanks to its historical status as the “reservation” of the Wampanoag Indian tribe. Property ownership and development in Mashpee has always had some controversy, with land titles clouded, ancient burial grounds unearthed as nitrogen-spewing golf courses are bulldozed,  and the tribe constantly rattling the legal threat of reclaiming its ancestral lands.

A commercial clammer — the term now is probably “aquaculturist” — sought permission from the Town of Mashpee to maintain a shellfish grant off the shores of Popponesset Island, a place my alma mater Forbes Magazine allegedly deemed one of the most affluent places in America thanks to an average household income of $250,000. He was given permission but the waterfront property owners swung into action, claiming, first and foremost, that the clamming operation would interfere with their view. Let’s keep in mind the waters are public property and aquaculture is a big business in most Cape towns, let alone the fact that clams are a sign of a healthy harbor.

This is extremely ironic since their view is of Cotuit, where, thanks to the philanthropic efforts of one extraordinary old summer family and the Barnstable Land Trust, most of the southern shores of the town is pristine, undeveloped saltmarsh and pine forests.  If you stand in Cotuit on those undeveloped lands — Ryefield Point or Crocker Neck — and look southwest across Popponesett Bay to the proposed site of the aquaculture grant (which is submerged and would be marked by a few buoys) you see Starter Castle after Starter Castle, some ablaze at night in a riot of floodlights, packed together, jetskis tied to the docks. Doing their best to poison the shore.

The Cape Cod Times writes this morning:

“The view from any of the homes on Popponesset Island is nothing less than postcard-perfect.

The picturesque island enclave boasts beautifully constructed homes and even more stunning natural views of the surrounding scenery.

Home prices stretch into the millions, and in January the area was named one of the nation’s most affluent neighborhoods by Forbes magazine.

Reaching the island requires a boat, or a drive over a one-lane bridge.

It’s this off-the-beaten-path charm that attracted its affluent residents — and that has pitted a group of them against the Mashpee Board of Selectmen for approving a shellfish grant homeowners believe will destroy it.

“This impairs their private property rights in a number of respects,” said attorney Brian Wall of Sandwich, who represents a group of 18 residents. “It’s basically going to be a commercial operation 30 feet away from a residential property.””

The head-shaking news that the Cotuit property of Frank and Jamie McCourt, (the battling divorcing destroyers of the Los Angeles Dodgers) is on the market for $50 million and knowing fate and circumstance, will probably be carved up into a nest of new McMansions by some developer/real-estate-agent-to-the-stars; the tear-down of Cotuit’s historic Hotel Pines; and the ongoing trashing of the harbors by human waste … Thirty years ago the preservationists of the Cape were warning the peninsula was on the road towards becoming the next Long Island. I fear we’ve arrived.

Training for the Charles in Cotuit

I remembered yesterday that the deadline for entering the Head of the Charles Regatta is coming up soon, so I logged into the HOCR.org site and filed an application for one of the precious slots in the Grand Master Singles scull event. I was lucky enough to score an entry in 2003, pulling a dismal 23’03” and finishing second-from last in a field of 39 senior masters. I had my excuses — it was my first Head alone, sculling (I’ve always participated in a team boat with at least four rowers), and I had a torn intercostal muscle in my right rib-cage, necessitating a massive overdose of Advil on the dock.

Update 8.3.11: Entry wasn’t accepted by the HOCR Gods so no Head of the Chuck this year for me. I did enter the Green Mountain Head in Putney, Vermont though. Better scenery.

Excuses, excuses and hope springs eternal. So once more I am crossing my fingers and hoping for an entry in this fall’s regatta, arguably the greatest rowing event in the world.

Application filed, I woke up this solstice morning to bluebird skies and zero wind. I set out the trash cans, drank a cup of coffee, and ten minutes later was backing away from the beach at the foot of Old Shore Road in my old Empacher. I set out around Grand Island in a counter-clockwise direction, rowing a slow stroke rate with firm power, cranking along on a mirror-like surface completely pleased to be able to do such a graceful thing on a whim on what I parochially consider the best rowing water I’ve ever rowed on. 8,000 meters and 43 minutes later, and I was pleased to see my average pace at at the same level it was eight years ago in 2003, a good harbinger I hope of some fall regatta success.

Funny, but in the back of my mind looms February and the 2012 CRASH-B sprints, the world championships of indoor rowing. Every pull-up, every overhead power snatch, kettlebell swing and burpee I’ve done this spring has been with that ugly six and a half minutes of agony in mind. To see them payoff on the water is very rewarding, but for some reason the boat is far more arbitrary a gauge than the merciless ergometer.

Training for the Head of the Charles is a matter of working towards a 5 km distance. Funny how the presence of 100,000 cheering spectators seems to shave a minute or two off the time — but to give you and idea of what I’m up against. Here’s the course on the Charles River as mapped in the g-map pedometer:

And here’s the same distance mapped on Cotuit Bay:

Do Sports Need a Soundtrack?

One of the great American sounds is that of a Wurlitzer organ inciting a stadium or arena full of fans to “Charge.”  It’s as much a part of the audible sporting experience as the crack of a bat, the hawking of a peanut vendor, and I heard my first at the age of nine at my first Bruins game inside of the old Boston Garden, taken there by my grandfather to watch from the nosebleed seats under the eaves. I’m sure the Romans played music in the Coliseum when the Lions played the Saints, but why does it strike me that the modern music experience at most sports simply sucks?

First off — there is the volume issue. Some wise marketing person in the front office of an NBA team apparently decided that lots of noise means excitement and more ticket sales and therefore out went th edict to turn up the PA and rock the roof off of the arena.  Bar owners have long known that loud music makes people uncomfortable and therefore thirsty. The New York Times reported on this phenomenon during the Mavericks-Heats finals.

“The Mavericks’ equipment involves more than simply pumping up decibels to levels that some experts fear could contribute to long-term hearing loss. Rather, with fans spoiled by earbud fidelity and 5.1-channel home theater systems, owners like the Mavericks’ Mark Cuban have turned hosting a game into producing an event — with “assisted resonance” and “crowd enhancement,” buzzwords for insiders and euphemisms for others.”

Granted, crowd noise can be a good thing — drowning out an opposing quarterback’s audible signals, expressing team unity as everyone lustily cheers for their local laundry.  I’d never begrudge a fan the opportunity to exercise their lungs. But being exhorted to “MAKE SOME NOIZE!” and led like sheep by pre-programmed call-and-respond routines is utterly inauthentic. And what’s the deal with the bad music? I’m sure some purist bitched about Wurlitzers invading stadiums, but do I really need to rock out to Aerosmith in between plays?

Stanley Cup finals. Goal is scored. Old days a loud buzzer went off along with a red light. Starting in Detroit, now every team has a supertanker fog horn and a big God Fart is flatulated whenever a goal is scored, and then an annoying piece of “We’re F$#ing Psyched!” music is played. To wit:

I think this b.s. started with soccer — vuvuzelas anyone?  — and the Ole Ole song the hooligans sing to keep themselves awake while the “beautiful” game drags on for over an hour without anything significant happening.

Baseball has become one of the worst. Every batter has a song which is played as they approach the plate. These songs are apparently relevant in some way to the player’s personality. Why? Who knows. I get it when Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ closer strolls out of the bullpen in the ninth inning to “put the other team to sleep” and Metallica’s Enter Sandman is played. Cute.  Here’s the 2010 Phillie’s compilation, keep in mind you get to hear 15 truncated seconds of this weirdness everytime the player walks up to the plate.

I appreciate the fact that Wilbur Snapp, a baseball organist, got tossed from a game in 1985when he played Three Blind Mice after the ump blew a call.

 

 

 

Nagging irritations of technology

For some reason Microsoft Office 2010 has decided I need to select a “profile” every hour on the hour. I can’t for the life of me figure out how to make it happy and go away forever. Not being an Exchange guy, I know it’s Outlook related, and since I am consulting to Edelman I am on their Exchange web client so I can gain access to their internal mail and directory. I suspect it may be related to Google Calendar sync or something, but I do wish it would go away.

Suggestions so appreciated.

Realtime Interactive Olympics? I Hope So

It would appear that the International Olympic Committee bestirred itself from its antediluvian luddite position on online media and demanded that the bidders for broadcast rights cease the ass-hatted pre-Tivo practice of taping and delaying coverage for prime-time American audiences and make available the athletic events in realtime AND online.

Online was a misery of DMA takedowns during Beijing (which I lived firsthand thanks to the paranoia of the IOC that any manifestation of YouTube video would undercut the value of its crown jewel broadcast rights).

While details are sparse from the New York Times coverage today, the second paragraph of Richard Sandomir’s article stands out: “…Comcast responded with a knockout bid and a promise that it would show every event live, on television or online, a recognition of the immediacy of technology and a drastic reversal of NBC’s policy of taping sports to show them to the largest possible audience in prime time.”

If you’ve ever watched Olympic coverage in Europe on EuroSport you’re accustomed to getting complete coverage of every event,  , no matter how long-tailed, in realtime. Think hours of men skiing with rifles and you get the European viewing experience, versus the usual NBC saccharine around some perky pre-pube gymnast who overcame Demeaning Plebney while ardent fans of the 50 meter air pistol get bupkus and have to scrounge around online in hopes someone, somewhere encoded a feed of their passion.

If the Games make it truly online — and they sort of have to now that the world is 100% obsessed with video the way they want it, when they want it — then London ought to be a delight for longtail sports fans. Let’s just hope NBC gets its online act together in time, doesn’t strike a Devil’s deal with Microsoft Silverlight, and delivers a multiplatform stream (iPad, droid, PC) that kicks ass and finally delivers on the promise of a truly interactive Olympics. If I were at NBC interactive I’d be on the phone to the MLB.com guys and looking for some technical ninja help.

The online rights and pay-per-view revenue should, in theory, kick the stuffing out of the old broadcast rights that typified the Dick Ebersol era when there were three networks, no Tivo, and no Interweb. My fingers are crossed.