My first (super tiny) Italian victory

I have tried many, many times to teach myself Italian. I tried and I failed. Something always came up and I’d skip a day, greasing the skids for missing two days, and on and on. I’m giving it one more go and so far, after 16 lessons, I’m sticking with it.

Over Thanksgiving I was talking to Herself about how I loved the fact that Italian has a separate verb for each each of the meals of the day. “I am having lunch” is pranzare. “I am having dinner” is cenare. I love it. Mmmmm, food.

So there I was walking home from work tonight, going through the hood on 6th St, when I look up and happen to notice a pizza place called “Pranzo Pizza”. That would translate to “Luncheon Pizza” or some such. I was so thrilled at having recognized an Italian word in the world that I, well, had to rush home and write about it.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn another language, do it. Just do it. It is so worth it. I’m using Pimsleur and really liking it.



“Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain

Reading this book was like having a really nice person walk up, pat me on the back, and tell me it was ok to be me.

It opens with quite a bit of historical content discussing the development of the concepts of introverts/extroverts. That was interesting enough on its own, but then the next section dives pretty deeply into the latest research on how various types of situations and (especially) environments affect people differently. (I now feel less like a curmudgeon and more like a victim vis-a-vis open office plans.) The final section gives a lot of advice for employers/coworkers and parents on how to support the introverts they work with and care for.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who works in the tech industry. If nothing else, it was neat; but you might just help salvage the career of someone you care about who just needs a little bit of quiet so they can think (and maybe that person is you!).

Update: Bill Gates just put Miss Cain’s TED Talk about her book on his list of 13 favorite talks.


Flirting With Mermaids

“Flirting With Mermaids: The Unpredictable Life of a Sailboat Delivery Skipper” by John Kretschmer

Sometimes a person will buy a boat that isn’t local and need it delivered to them. Sometimes an owner will want their boat brought back and forth between multiple cruising locales during different times of the year. Whatever the reason for moving the boat there are people out there to move them for you—delivery captains. These people, and the short-term crews they take with them, are a little-seen and under-appreciated part of the marine industry. For a couple thousand dollars (plus expenses) they’ll take your boat where you need it to be.

This book is a collection of stories from the deliveries made by the author, John Kretschmer. John gained some notoriety in 1984 when he sailed from New York to San Francisco, rounding Cape Horn against the prevailing winds, in a little Contessa 32. Since that early adventure he’s had quite a few others, and they made for good stories in the book.

I can’t remember where I first heard about this book, but it was a fun read. I recommend it if you’re nautically minded.


Natural Amphitheater

If you’ve paid any attention at all to the America’s Cup World Series regattas going on in San Francisco you are probably sick to death of the announcers describing the bay as “a natural amphitheater” for sailboat racing. I know I’m sick of hearing it. But you know what? They’re totally right.

It’s a pretty fantastic view.


Moonwalking with Einstein

“Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” by Joshua Foer

As a gigantic Apple fanboi I spent a huge portion of my life hating Microsoft, and by extension, Bill Gates. As such, I was as shocked as anyone when I found myself picking up a book because Mr. Gates had made a blog post about it from his summer reading list. Although I have never liked Microsoft products, or business methods, I have had a profound respect for Bill’s intellect. His summer reading retreats are the stuff of geek legend and I have always been envious.

So anyway, here is one of the world’s richest men, successful captain of industry, inspirational philanthropist, and deep thinkers saying that this book caught him off guard and had him believing that he could still improve his memory. It was an endorsement that caught my attention. You see, when Bill was in college he wrote an interpreter for the BASIC programming language for a computer he’d never seen. The amount of stuff he would have had to have kept in his head would be unfathomable to most modern programmers who can’t get through the day without their iDE telling them how the arguments to their functions are ordered.

While doing a research article for Discover Magazine, Mr. Foer got exposed to the world of competitive memorization—people who can memorize multiple decks of cards, hundreds of binary digits, or a previously unpublished poem very very quickly. By the end of the book we find him competing in the American finals.

Along the way he meets an interesting array of competitors, each with their own mnemonic tricks; savants; amnesiacs; and researchers. Thrown into it all is a pretty damn interesting history about memorization through the ages.

I really enjoyed the book and burned through it in two days.


A new annual tradition

A couple of weeks ago we raced in the Summer Keelboat Invitational out of the San Francisco Yacht Club in Tiburon. I love sailing out of that club, and the racing was great. The only downside is that after two days of exhausting racing we have to bring the boat back to San Francisco, clean her up and put her away. This time of year the return trip is usually cold, wet, and choppy.

For the past two years I’ve been the one driving the boat back while everyone else on board huddles down below in dry, warm comfort. They also take pictures of me while I get drenched at the helm. It also seems that there has to be some sort of issue involving my feet. This year I twisted my ankle. Last year I was barefoot and someone broke a hole cooler full of beer bottles in the cockpit.

I’m looking forward to next year’s picture.






(Note that the fenders are stacked the same way both years. You won’t lose any money betting that I’ll do things on the boat the same way every time.)

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Marlinspike Seamanship

A good marlinspike deserves a tidy bit of marlinspike seamanship to hold it fast. Oh how I love playing with a knots and a bit of cord.


knife and marlinspike on lanyard


This is San Francisco

“Pick out by the street light the names of the pier sheds. ‘Java,’ they say, and ‘Singapore’ and ‘Hong Kong’ and ‘Pago Pago.’ Repeat them and look to the dark west and know that all America is at your back. You’re at the end of the continent, and the water you hear whispering under the wharf has whitened the sands of Tahiti and tossed the ice floes in the Bering Sea. The spices you smell are from Cathay.”


Robert O’Brien
This is San Francisco: A Classic Portrait of the City
New York: Whittlesey House, 1948


“REAMDE” by Neal Stephenson

“Reamde: A Novel” by Neal Stephenson


This book did not disappoint and I continue to be a huge Neal Stephenson fan. I shall say this though, it is not a book for readers with weak wrists—1044 pages.

It’s pretty common for adventure novels like this to gather all of the characters together for the denouement by means of contrived means. REAMDE, however, gave me a really believable set of plot devices that got everyone to where they needed to be. It was pretty great.

If you hate the monologuing that Neal’s characters fall into about 3/4 of the way through the work then don’t worry, you’ll get to hate it in this book too. 😉


A few hours on the ocean

Thought I’m in my third year as a competitive sailor in San Francisco, I’ve only had three opportunities to go out into the ocean. Yesterday was one of those.

The skipper and I went out double-handed to G7 (highlighted below), a shipping channel approach buoy about seven miles past the Golden Gate Bridge. I got tons of time to practice manning the helm in fresh seas. The wind was up over 20 knots for much of the day, and there was a pretty big swell. I got my first-ever opportunity to look up at a wave. That was actually a bit harrowing.

Even after three years of sailing I still get a bit anxious when the boat heels over a lot. It just doesn’t seem right that we should be dipping the toe rail in the water and have it be ok. But hey, boats are designed to float, and float she did. Driving up big waves, heeled over while reaching, or surfing waves downwind, she performed admirably. I need to remind myself that you’ll fail if you try to sail the boat; but succeed if you instead help the boat to sail herself.

After that we took a leisurely cruise down to Pier 80 where Oracle Racing has set up shop for their America’s Cup campaign. They had things buttoned up so there wasn’t much to see. We turned around and left when we realized that we had wandered into small remote-control sailboat regatta that some of the staff were holding. Whoops.

Although we normally race with a crew of 10, I started off as a single-handed sailor and I definitely prefer the times when there are just a few of us on the boat. Perfect weather, technical sailing, and good company. Fantastic day.

Marine chart of ocean just outside the Golden Gate Bridge