Monday, November 12, 2012

How Do We Spread the News?

For the past decade, I’ve been gnawing on the problem of how to get people in the US interested in ocean yacht racing.

As you know, during the 2001-2002 VOR I worked for an ASSA ABLOY Group company, and worked for ASSA ABLOY Corporate during the North American stopovers. Prior to the actual events, it was my job to figure out a way to convince die-hard NASCAR and NFL fans, living in Nevada, to be interested in a yacht race that didn't even come within 2,000 miles of us. I spent the time leading up to the North American stopovers being a cheerleader, following the race around the world from my desk. It was...challenging. I did it, but really- only within our company. Outside ASSA ABLOY's sphere, the Volvo was still unknown.

Recently a friend asked if I was going to go to Ken Read’s presentation in Mystic, CT. My response was: “Damn- I'll be here. WHY DON'T THEY COME HERE? People in Mystic already love sailing. They need to come pump up their Heartland audience.”

Then, after Oracle’s stunning wreck, Jimmy Spithill had an open Q&A on his Facebook page, with the “winning” question receiving a bit of the wrecked AC72. The winner asked how we as fans can support Oracle through this rough patch.

Elaine Bunting also brought up a similar question when she tweeted: "Could sailing grow as big globally as Tour de France? UK's Sir Keith Mills thinks so & will try it with #VendeeGlobe designs. Your view?" I replied “Love to see it happen, don't see it happening in the US any time soon. There will need to be a serious campaign to get the word out about sailing in the US to more than just the coasts. Have to compete with NFL and NASCAR who are entrenched in the heartland. Hard to convince ppl 1000s of miles from the ocean to care when the racetrack is RIGHT HERE.”

Christophe Baudry mentioned the huge number of TV viewers for the start of the Vendee Globe: "Bravo!@F3PaysdelaLoire: MERCI ! Vous étiez un peu plus de 1,6 million de téléspectateurs pour regarder le départ du #VG2012 sur @France3tv" I asked him how he would suggest getting that many in the US and he replied: "by a dedicated action near the us broadcaster 1 year before the event and invite them at the start... Maybe next time.."

Which got me thinking.

How do we get more people in the US to support yacht racing as a whole, and get the US media to cover the sport? (which will lead to more people being interested, and more coverage... a non-vicious circle)

For example: with the VOR- did you see the difference between Miami and the other ports? This year we saw how fantastic Galway was, welcoming the boats in the middle of the night with thousands of people. PUMA sailed into Miami in the middle of the afternoon, and while I wasn't there, only saw photos, I could almost hear crickets. I saw nothing reported about it in the larger US media outlets.
The only thing most people know about the ACs is Oracle's pitchpole, thanks to ESPN's to 10 of horrible things that happened in sports this week. Nothing about the 45s or the great races in SF.

So- how do we change that? How do we as fans, as people who are involved in the sport, raise awareness?

Which got me thinking AGAIN.

How does the VOR “get” teams? Are they sought out? Do they contact the VOR directly?

If sponsors are pursued, who decides what companies to ask? What kind of criteria is there? Is there a pitch?

If potential sponsors approach the VOR, is there vetting? What kind of process is there to make sure the sponsor can sustain the campaign?

Has anyone actively pursued any potential sponsors in the Heartland of the US? A sponsor that people in Kansas, or Nebraska or Montana could identify with? Sure- we all know PUMA, we all know Pirates of the Caribbean, but they’re still pretty far away from day to day in Kansas City, or Lincoln, or Oklahoma City.

If it were up to me, I’d suggest the VOR pursue the Hunt Sports Group of Kansas City. They’ve been associated with sports in the area for decades, they own sports teams, they’re revered in the heartland. Plus, I’m guessing they have the resources to maintain a campaign, especially with the one-design.

But that's just me.  What other ideas are out there?  How do we spread the news?


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Heartland Ocean Racing

Since my time working with ASSA ABLOY in the Volvo Ocean Race, I've been hard pressed to find news and information about ocean racing, and particularly the VOR, in mainstream US media outlets.  I'd scour the web for news, I'd search for any snippet of info from MSNBC or CNN...  most of the time I'd come up short, relying only upon the VOR website for updates and information.

With the advent and spread of Facebook and Twitter, things have become easier, but it's still a pain to locate any significant amount of news.

Even as the Race's reach has grown exponentially around the world, the USA still lags behind in views, information, and interest. I know I've mentioned this before, but there was recently an article ( released about the media reach for HALF of the most race. "For what its worth, the cumulative TV audience as of February 19th was 880 million based on 1,200 hours of coverage across dedicated programming and news items. Those figures compare with a cumulative audience of 459 million at the corresponding stage of the last race, representing a 90 percent increase."  Can you guess how many of those 1,200 hours were visible in the US?  I'd guess maybe .25%.  MAYBE 3 hours total.  A mention here, a 30 second filler there.  Dismal coverage, no wonder the race is virtually unknown in the United States, especially in the heartland.

So, I've decided to do something about it.  Enter "Heartland Ocean Racing"online newspaper.  It's a site for ocean racing fans to get news from dozens of sources, all in one place.  The page will be updated weekly to start, with more frequent updates as the news requires them.  There is a discussion area, and I look forward to the contributions readers will make.

The first edition is available now, with wrapups from VOR teams, America's Cup and Olympic news, and great photos from photographers and enthusiasts from around the world.  Go take a look!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Been a while...

It's been a while since I had the time or the brain to write something.  Mostly the brain.  I don't know what it is, but when the degrees go up, my IQ points go down.  Any extended amount of time over 100F and I will probably have to return my National Honor Society pin.  We're going on 3 weeks now, this may be my last post EVER.

It didn't help that during this recent chunk of "too damn" (in answer to the question "How hot is it?") I was finishing up my math class at KU.  Most of my brain cells went toward completing the square and remembering the quadratic formula.

Emily Sings the Quadratic Formula

Yeah.  I sang it when it came time to use it. Kind of like I sang the Preamble to the Constitution when I had to get up and recite it in class in 7th grade.

We the people...

 Anyway... I ramble.

I'm working up a new website, sort of a "one stop shop" for ocean sailing news and information, videos, photos, blog posts etc.  Trying to drum up interest in the sport here in the heartland.  As a matter of fact, I've gone and bought the URL "HeartlandOceanRacing" and made a logo and everything:

I'm pretty excited about it, there will be more info as Drew and I figure out just how to make it work.  I welcome any input.

That's it for now.  Supposed to hit 106F today, I'd better go find my pin.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mom's Top 10. Plus One.

As the mom of a member of the class of 2009 I feel like I'm in a special place to answer this. So here goes.

Mom's Top 10 Bits of Advice (plus one)

1) Follow your dreams, but remember that reality is where you live. To put it more bluntly- you have to eat. You need a roof over your head. You'll need money to pay your bills. Now, don't get me wrong- I'm all about following your dreams, living your life on your terms and all that, but if the current economic situation shows us anything, it's that living on credit will eventually come back to bite you right in the butt. Live within your means and you'll find that your means are more expansive and rewarding than you ever thought possible.

2) Be nice to the Earth. It's the only one we have (at least for now) and we want it to last for all the future generations. Plant a garden, ride your bike more, think about your impact on this fragile marble.

3) Forgive people. This does not mean "be a doormat" but rather it means understanding that not everyone thinks or experiences or lives exactly the way you do, so take a moment and ponder that before you carry a grudge around with you. We all have our own journeys to travel, grudges just weigh us down.

4) Don't take any wooden nickels. Trust but verify. Question authority. What I mean here is this- do your own research. Don't let anyone tell you something and insist that it's THE TRUTH or THE WAY or THE ONLY THING. You're smart, you've learned how to research, with the Internet you have the wealth of the world's intelligence at your fingertips. Learn the difference between what's put out there for mass consumption and what's real.

5) Be helpful. Just the fact that you can read this puts you in an elite class of people on this planet. The fact that you're reading it on a computer puts you in an even smaller class. You're fortunate people. You have more stuff in your rooms than millions of people own in their entire lives. You eat more for lunch than millions of people eat in a day. Don't be selfish with your wealth and talents. Share them to help someone else.

6) Don't be afraid to ask for help. Just because you're in those elite groups I mentioned in #5 doesn't mean you won't need help some day. When you get to the point where you need help, don't be ashamed to ask for help.

7) Stay healthy. Don't smoke, don't drink booze to excess, don't get fat and lazy. Eat good quality food, get exercise and stay healthy. You'll still die eventually, but your life will be fuller and richer than if you spend half of it sick.

8) Don't ever stop learning. You don't have to continue your formal education, but don't stop learning new things. Now that it isn't the bane of your existence, learning can be beautiful and fun.

9) Take full responsibility for your actions, even the bad ones. If you do something and fail miserably, be able to say "Wow. I failed miserably, and I take responsibility for that." Don't let anyone else be your fall guy OR take credit for the good. Don't be boastful, but remember that it's not a bad thing to say "I did that well."

10) If you're going to clam, clam big. Don't half ass your way through life.

11) Remember that there are people who will love you, no matter what stupid stuff you do. Don't shut those people out. However, if you do, they'll still love you, and they'll still be there when you decide to open that door again. 

Breaking the spell of inertia

All that is necessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration is to - act as if it were impossible to fail.  Dorothea Brande

All my life I've wondered what I wanted to be when I grew up.  For a while I thought archaeologist, then interpreter, then graphic designer, then simply employed, then Ugly Betty.  I was always amazed and envious of people who knew what they wanted to be and went out and achieved it.

For the past decade, I've kind of halfheartedly pursued a position with a VOR syndicate, to no avail.  It never seemed like a real calling until the past year and a half.  My last layoff put things in to stark perspective- I wasn't finding work doing what I had done, so I took the job I could get.

Instant.  Frustration. 

It really made me realize I was MORE than just a paycheck, that I DO have a passion, that it is important to me to find something I love to do.

So I've been chipping away, trying to find inroads into a field where I'm not sure where to start or who to start with.  It's also frustrating, but in a good way.  This frustration I feel I have some control over, that this is the frustration that will lead me somewhere, as opposed to the frustration I feel at my current job.

But that also leads me back to my opening quote- a variant on "What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?"  Well heck- I'd move to Spain, France, Ireland, Brasil... somewhere there was a syndicate starting and get hired!  Easy peasy, right?

Right.  But I'm not in a vacuum here.  I have people who depend on me, and they NEED me to not fail.  It's all well and good to say "I won't fail!" and believe it with all my heart, but reality- people DO fail.  I HAVE failed in the past.  Sure- I don't set out to fail.  But it happens.  Being optimistic is good, being realistic is better.

When my son graduated from high school, I wrote a note to him and his friends.  The first thing I told them:  Follow your dreams, but remember that reality is where you live. To put it more bluntly- you have to eat. You need a roof over your head. You'll need money to pay your bills. Now, don't get me wrong- I'm all about following your dreams, living your life on your terms and all that, but if the current economic situation shows us anything, it's that living on credit will eventually come back to bite you right in the butt. Live within your means and you'll find that your means are more expansive and rewarding than you ever thought possible.

And that is why I don't buy "act as if it were impossible to fail."  Because you have to be prepared.  Anything less is irresponsible.

And that's frustrating.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I'm obsessed, why isn't everyone else?

As you may have noticed, I have an obsession.  Well, I prefer to call it a "passion" because obsession sounds so... stalkery.

My passion is the Volvo Ocean Race.  During the 2001-2002 VOR, I was working for an ASSA ABLOY Group company, and had the unenviable task of figuring out a way to convince die-hard NASCAR and NFL fans, living in Nevada, to be interested in a yacht race that didn't even come within 2,000 miles of us. I found the hook in the story of fellow ASSA ABLOY Group employees in Africa. In AIDS-ravaged areas, funerals were (and still are) a common occurrence. Weekly, ASSA ABLOY Group employees attended funerals of their coworkers, and to show their solidarity, they would wear the ASSA ABLOY Racing Team shirts all Group employees were given. 

My coworkers were shocked that the race that they took so lightly was being used as a rallying point for people who had lost so many. Our interest spread, and we began to take the race much more seriously, and learned about our far-flung partners. 

After we made that connection, I spent the time leading up to the North American stopovers being a cheerleader, following the race around the world from my desk while arranging housing, events and other activities in two ports for over 300 people from around the world.

When I got to Miami, I lived in the Hyatt for three weeks. Up every morning, walking down Biscayne Boulevard to the race venue, which at that time was behind the basketball arena. Full day of running around like a crazy person (The chef's baby daughter needs a playpen? OK.  I need to find a Swedish-speaking babysitter? OK.  Two dozen Easter baskets for the crew‘s kids?  Bring it on.) followed by festivities at night.

When ASSA ABLOY actually arrived, in first place, in the middle of the night, it was like rock stars showed up. Stinky, sweaty, scroungy looking men piled off our beautiful boat and onto a stage. They hugged their families and drank booze out of coconuts. Shortest night ever for those of us who had to go back the next day to meet & greet the throngs of people who showed up at the Race Village.

I got to work closely with some of the crew, and picked up a little Swedish, although I speak it with a Kiwi accent evidently. I brushed up on my French, took a sail on the twin boat, and spent time on South Beach in dive bars with sailors from all over the world (much to my mother's horror I suppose).  I worked three weeks straight, 16- to 20-hour days, with one afternoon off. I washed my clothes in the sink in my room, nearly wore through a pair of sport sandals, and lost 20lbs.  It was AWESOME.

There's a thing about the people that participate in this race. They're the best in the world at what they do. If they don't do their best, people die. Even if they do their best, people die. The great thing is, while it's an exclusive bunch, they're not exclusive. You're judged, of course, but if you pass, you're almost swept into it- brought up to their level and you too are inspired to excellence. 

The most recent edition of the Race wraps up today in Galway, Ireland, with the inshore race and the prizegiving.  If photos and mad tweets are to be believed, half of Ireland, a good chunk of New Zealand and much of Sweden has descended upon Galway this week, and it looks like they're all having a ball. Presidents, Princes, sailors, moms, dads, kids, Maori, Vikings, flamenco dancers, hula hoopers, punks... you name it, they're there and they're ripping it up.  It is indeed a fitting end to the race that some call "the Everest of sailing" and "the toughest sail race in the world."  

Here are a couple pictures I gleaned from Facebook.  

The first- American team PUMA Ocean Racing arrives in Galway in the middle of the night (no joke- it was about 3am):

The second- American team PUMA Ocean Racing arrives in Miami, mid-day:


There was recently an article released about the media reach for the first half of the current race. "For what its worth, the cumulative TV audience as of February 19th was 880 million based on 1,200 hours of coverage across dedicated programming and news items. Those figures compare with a cumulative audience of 459 million at the corresponding stage of the last race, representing a 90 percent increase." The article goes on to explain why, but NINETY PERCENT INCREASE in just a few years. (

Quite possibly the BIGGEST thing in the sporting world, with the BIGGEST audience.
So riddle me this, Batman.  Why barely a peep of this amazing race in the US?  This morning, I checked the tweets and the Facebook posts, so I knew who'd won today's inport, but when I looked at several US news outlets, there was nothing.  I even searched, and found a week-old article.  Nothing new, nothing about the closest finish ever, nothing.

SADNESS.  Sadness and frustration. 

I want this race to continue, and to thrive, which it's doing nicely thanks to inroads into China and the Middle East.  (Team Sanya was the 2nd Chinese/Irish syndicate and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing made it's debut this year)  But, speaking as the Ugly American in the room- what about the US?  Sure- the US has entered teams- PUMA, Pirates of the Caribbean, but I'm pretty sure that 99.99% of people in the US have no idea.

And this presents a hurdle for the race.  Sure, I'm obsessed, and I have friends who are now casually interested because I've bludgeoned them with pictures and stories for the past 9 months, but how do we get the general public in the US even knowledgeable about the race, let alone interested?

The 45 million euro question.  (45 million being a high-end estimate for how much it costs to mount a syndicate)

The other question- how do I get to go along?

(photo courtesy of Leighton O'Connor)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Cheese moving. CHEESE. MOVING.

There's a very popular book called "Who Moved My Cheese?" that tells the story of how to deal with change.  I won't go into the whole thing, click on the link if you're interested.

Anyway, I'm much more the "MY CHEESE MOVED I'MMA PANIC" type of person.  I dislike routine, but I dislike surprises even more.  Once I get used to something, there had better be a really good reason for me to change my ways.

That being said, I always find it amusing when other people lose their minds at change.  So often they're lost in the same kind of morass I get into when confronted with something unexpected, new, different or weird, but it's funnier when they're in it than when I'm in it.  Why is that, I wonder? ;)

Case in point- yesterday, the Volvo Ocean Race moved the sail racing world's cheese by announcing  that for the next two races, every team would use the same boat.  Not the exact same craft, but all the boats would be built from the same model, no differentiation save paint scheme.  In the past there have been parameters that the designers and builders worked with, coming up with similar, but not identical boats.

This setup worked, but it favored the syndicates with deeper pockets.  More $ meant more research, design etc.  The new setup levels that playing field. 

Not surprisingly, some people are displeased with the change.  A few of the comments I've seen:
  • Perhaps the clue that the Volvo Ocean Race would introduce a one-design format for the next two races lay in the brand persona of the title sponsor itself. Volvo is not a racing brand at heart.
  • Unfortunately, future legends regattas will not feature a diverse fleet of boats that show different approaches to the design problem of racing around the world, but instead will include boats that are indistinguishable except for their sponsor brand decals and livery. This is a huge price to pay for the survival of the race.
  • Volvo way to cow down and kill a good race. So you only had 6 boats this race.... with the world in the state it is in that's huge. Yea Southern Ocean breakages, its the Southern Ocean it is meant to break boats. Cost what type of racing doesn't? Go back to an open design and stop trying to screw up a good thing!!!!!
  • A sad day for our entire sport. Monopoly never leads to something good... This is the end of the Whitbread/Volvo as we knew it.
Not everyone is crabbing though:
  • love the new boat!!!! I think its the best thing they could have done for the race!
  • How can you make something, so beautiful, even more sexy??? I love it!!!! Formula one car of sailboats.
  • The argument about Farr vs JuanK is moot when it's a OD format. It's a format for the times we live in and puts the sailors front and centre. More teams racing, more sponsors involved, more live media off the boats - this is not OD in the Volvo forever - it's for the next two races... and with the economic climate the way it is we should be glad its going to exist at all!

Of course, I have my own thoughts.  To those that complain that the one boat format limits the race, I ask is the race about the boats or about the people who sail them?

With a one design field, it will be the skill of the sailors (combined with some luck) that determines the outcome, rather than the boat. We can see from this race alone how the boat developments help or hinder a team- Team Sanya has outstanding sailors, but with an older boat, they just don't have a chance to keep up with the newer generation.

I think that this can only HELP the Volvo, as it will become a true sailors' race.  They'll be competing against the sea and against each other, not against the other teams' designers and checkbooks.

I admit that this change does adversely effect the design houses, I'm guessing that the VOR was quite a budget booster for Juan K, Botin, and some others. But this change is only for two races, other houses will get a chance later. Maybe? I don't know.

But just as in my post "To Be A Great Commander" I talk about killing the Whitbread to save the Volvo, I'm all for this change.  Let's move this cheese!

Cross your fingers that I get to see it all move in person!

(Photo Credit: Farr Yacht Design)


Friday, June 22, 2012

Do The Math

I'm going back to school to finally earn my bachelor's degree.  It'll take me a while, I get one free class per term by virtue of being a University of Kansas employee, and I'm not interested in incurring any more debt, so I'm looking at about 6 years.  I can handle that.

What I cannot handle is this- When I started my math class this summer, I went to the bookstore and found out that a new math book would be $111. I didn't buy it, I got a $40 used book. Turns out the used book doesn't have the access code for the online portion of the class, so I have to get that separately. OK- fine.

As recommended by the math department, I went to the bookstore on campus to purchase my access code. They do not have the separate access code in stock, but I could purchase the package of access code + new book for $111.

I have already purchased a used book for $40. I can’t see any reason to have two books, so I looked online, to purchase it from MyMathLab directly. $95.80. NINETY FIVE DOLLARS AND EIGHTY CENTS.

This is ridiculous. What possible reason is there for the code to cost that much, beyond the fact that MML can charge it? What if I don’t pay? What if I choose to NOT do the MathLab portions of Math 101 for the rest of my class? How badly would my grade suffer?

I'm guessing it would suffer quite a bit. ( actually- it turns out I'd lose 13% of my grade) So I'm stuck having to drop $95 on a stupid access code for a class that will be over in a month. I was furious to the point of tears.

Welcome to the world of "Why Students are $50,000+ In Debt When They Graduate."  My "free" class (for which I really am grateful) would have cost me over $250 if I hadn't been able to borrow a graphing calculator.  ($119 at the bookstore, for the cheap one at that!)  As it stands I'm down $135.

Why is this accepted?  Why is it ok for textbook companies to charge exorbitant prices, and then more often than not, not allow a decent return rate?  I can't tell you how many times I've tried to return a college text only to be told the edition had changed, the prof decided not to use it again, or just flat out "no." 

And this brings me to another point.  Part of my job is to educate people on the 3 Rs of sustainability- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  By purchasing a used book, instead of a new one, I felt I was upholding the "Reuse" part of all of that.  But, to put it bluntly, I got screwed.  I tried to save money, I tried to do the right thing ecologically, and I was smacked for it. 

What does that say about the sustainability movement?  To me it says "We'll pay you lip service, but we're not going to cut into our profits to save the environment or anything else."

Richard Branson quoted Gro Brundtland (the first female PM of Norway, and one of The Elders) recently, while at the Rio+20 Summit:

“We must break away from our sectoral ways of viewing economy and ecology. We must learn to accept the fact that environmental considerations and economic growth are parts of a unified management of our planet. The one is dependent on the other.”

I'm pretty sure what I experienced today was the opposite of what Brundtland has been advocating.  And that's a problem.

 Richard Branson and Gro Brundtland at the Rio+20 Summit. 
June, 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

Enthusiasm in Liberty

There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism. ~Alexander Hamilton

I'm hoping that by the time I finish writing this, I'll be incoherent.  See- I went to the dentist today, and had a tooth extracted.  A molar.  A molar that was not inclined to leave the safety of my head.  Not that I blame it, I spend a great deal of time in my own head, but still... it was time for the molar, and it's accompanying root infection, to leave.  So the good doctor numbed me up and wrenched it out.  Now the numbness is wearing off- I can only hope the pain meds I took will kick in before I'm completely un-numb, so that I can, well, not hurt.

So- if this gets rambly- blame the hydrocodone.

Now, on to the post. 

I've been really brave this past week.  I've faced some fears and took some steps forward.  

First, I've started seeing a counselor.  I've been diagnosed with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), and will be beginning both CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and meds.  The irony of all of this is that I'm terrified.  Anxious, one might say.  While I understand that GAD is a legitimate disorder, and millions of people are diagnosed with it, I've always felt that this is the sort of thing that I should be strong enough to handle on my own.  If I can't, I must be some sort of loser.  I know- this is not accurate.  But still, there's that little voice...  That little voice gets louder when Big Brother Depression backs it up, but as we all know- depression is a lying m'fer.  

I'm hoping that by beating back anxiety, depression will also take a hike.  But I'm still really really scared.  However, when I break down in tears in my boss' office during a meeting, because I'm terrified I'm going to get fired for doing something wrong (when I haven't- and boy was she surprised, luckily she's really nice), and I can't close my eyes when Bo drives home because I'm afraid we'll hit a deer, and I call my trucks whenever I hear a siren because I'm afraid one of my students has been hurt- well... that sort of thing gets in the way of my life.  I need to break that cycle, and reclaim my liberty.  Enthusiastically.

Second, did I mention I had a tooth pulled?  I also learned a new word:  odontophobia, or "dental fear."  Boy howdy do I ever have THAT.

All my life I've had lousy teeth.  I can remember going to the dentist as a child and getting drilled and filled every time.  Dr. Laird.  I guess he was a nice enough guy, but he had an ANCIENT drill, it was belt driven and I think was one step up from using a pedal to make it go.  The noise of the drill still resonates in my head.  Add four years of orthodontia and I'm really leery of people poking around in my gob.

When I was pregnant with Kate, I was working at a movie theater.  All the popcorn I could eat and all the soda I could drink.  I'm surprised she didn't come out looking like Orville Redenbacher.  But she's fine, the only casualties of the time were my teeth.  The combination of pregnancy, poor diet and an excess of Wild Cherry Pepsi took a toll on the enamel, and I could flake it off with my tongue.  I ended up with a beautiful daughter, and more teeth with cavities than without.

I've tried to go get my teeth fixed over the years, but now, instead of just drilling in my gob and making me crazy, dentists were lecturing.  They were mad at me!  Like I was totally insulting THEM by bringing my horrible teeth in to their shiny offices.  So I was afraid and ashamed.  So I stopped going.

Last week, one of my molars started waking me up at night.  You know that feeling, when you chew on tin foil accidentally?  (or on purpose- I don't know what you do for fun and I'm not here to judge)  Well, amplify that, and add to it the feeling of your heart beating.  Every.  Single.  Heartbeat.  Woom.  Woom.  Woom.  A stabby bass drum of heartbeats, all in my tooth. 

I had to do something.

So I made an appointment with Kate's dentist, and walked in today like a man walking to his execution.  I sat in the chair and asked the nice dental assistant to please not yell at me, I know my teeth are bad, and I'm really, really scared.  Oh- and please don't take it personally if I cry.  She must have relayed that to the doc, because when I told him the same thing he said ok.

Then he started poking around in my gob.  And I started crying.  But I didn't run away, and half an hour later, the offending tooth (hate the hateful offending tooth) was gone.  I could have had a root canal, but I told the doc that it was enough that I got in there to get the tooth yanked- I don't think I could have managed anything more.  Maybe next time, because I have a mouthful.

So where was I?  Oh- right.  Being brave and reclaiming my liberty.  Two steps forward.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bits and Bobs

This will be a post of bits and bobs, as I don't have enough of one topic to devote a whole blog to.

Holiday Mondays mess me up.  I spent all day yesterday trying to figure out why I was in my Tuesday supervisor class, and then convinced myself to leave the truck at the warehouse on Tuesday like I was supposed to.  IT WAS TUESDAY, AND I DIDN'T LEAVE THE TRUCK BECAUSE I THOUGHT IT WAS MONDAY.  Today was Thursday in my brain, and I was all excited about tomorrow being Friday.  IT IS NOT.

I propose that all Monday holidays be therefore moved to the previous Friday, so to not throw off my entire week.  Who's with me?

I gave a presentation about recycling to the members at the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence the other day.  I think it went well, I've heard nice things.  But really, who's going to come up and say "Wow, Aileen, that really stunk up the joint."  ??  Anyway- here are links to both the ppt. presentation and the pdf notes.   I'd like feedback, even if it is "That really stunk up the joint."

The 2009 movie "Up in the Air" features George Clooney as a guy who's job it is to go around the country and fire people.  Evidently he gets "grounded" and has some sort of epiphany.  I don't know.  I didn't see the film.  But at one point during the movie, he's doing his thing and says something to the effect of "I'll be back in a year and you'll be glad this happened blah blah blah."  Again- I don't know, I didn't see the film.

HOWEVER- a man who I respect quite a bit, and who's opinion I value very much did see it, and he told me about it one day as we had lunch (he was buying- yay!).  The fact that he told me about it soon after the company he ran laid me off was disconcerting, and it made me never want to see the movie, not even a little bit.

No.  What I wanted to do was punch the script writer in the face, and maybe have a go at Clooney with a stick.  I looked at my lunch partner and said something noncommittal like "I hope I get to that point."

Looking back at the time since I got laid off, I'm happy to say that...  well, if nothing else I'm on a different career path.  Getting laid off took me out of the "I want to be Ugly Betty and assist someone for the rest of my life" track and put me on the "I have to rebuild, I can be (almost) anything" track.  So for now, I'll take it.  I'm on a different path, one that might not be as clear, but it's pretty wide, so I've got that going for me.

Am I happy I got laid off?  Absolutely %$#^ not.  I wouldn't wish that, and the subsequent climb back up, on anyone.  I loved my job and my company, and I've felt like total crap since.  But at least I can say I'm no longer drifting.

I'll take that for now.

So.  Who's buying lunch??

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

To Be A Great Commander

In the movie "Gettysburg" which is based on the novel "The Killer Angels," General Robert E. Lee says to General James Longstreet; "General, soldiering has one great trap: to be a good solider you must love the army. To be a good commander, you must be willing to order the death of the thing you love."

I think of that quote often, both in my Drum and Bugle Corps dealings and in my Volvo Ocean Race dealings.  And interestingly enough, I'd only pass General Lee's "good commander" test in one.

I love Drum and Bugle Corps.  I love the thrill of the speed, the volume (MORE VOLUME) of the horns.  I love it when a corps teeters on the edge of chaos, loud and fast and crazy, but never falls over the edge.  I love old school corps- I love bugles, I love it all.

What I HATE though, is where drum corps seems to be going.  I was ok with the death of "march what you play" because it benefited me, in high school marching band.  I never would have been able to play xylophone and carry it at the same time, I just wasn't strong enough.  But I am soooo very NOT ok with amplification, electrification, the demise of the bugle (um- Drum and BUGLE CORPS MUCH??), the dancing hornlines, the seemingly forgotten basics of marching well, in step and in line when needed.  I hate the drive to be summer's version of Bands of America, and to wuss the old school right out. 

I cannot order the death of this thing I love.  By accepting the changes, I would accept something that is NOT drum corps, and is in my opinion, killing the thing I love.  So, sorry General.  I'm a lousy commander.

However, when it comes to the Volvo, I'm all for change, because I see that with change, the activity will survive.

I'm a member of a group on LinkedIn called "DARK BLUE BOOK - The Who's Who of Yacht Racing."  The Manager's Choice question this week was "In your opinion what should be the format and boat of Volvo Ocean Race in 2014-2015?"

I said: "I'd like to see longer stopovers- it just seems so rushed now between arrival, in-port and departure. I'd like to see a US west coast stopover, but I'm not sure how that would work.
As to the boats themselves, I like the 70s, but I worry about their suitability in hard conditions. From the first edition of the race that featured the 70s, and continuing to this race, there were just so many catastrophic failures. I'd like to see something that delivered the excitement of the potential speed of the 70, without the excitement of the potential damage." 

Well, that went over like a lead balloon.  That's ok though, I didn't expect my amateur opinion to weigh much with the pros, but at least I'm in there.  Once they got done either ignoring or picking my answer apart though, people started in on the "It should be the way it was" vs "We need to change or we'll die" argument.

I followed the back and forth for a while, and sent this to one of the discussion members: "It appears that you and I are on the same (pardon the pun) wavelength re: the VOR. While I understand the appeal of "let's go back to Maxi's" and "let's just go for speed not points" I fear that doing so would mean the death of the race. Like it or not, the VOR NEEDS the virtual race, it needs the corporate sponsors, it needs the casual interest generated by the plethora of non-sailing bits and bobs that are associated with the race now. Or it will die."

Would a return to the hale and hearty days of champagne, caviar and Irish hand knit sweaters be better?  It does have appeal.  The gentleman sailor, the "any yacht" aspect of it, no multimillion dollar corporate sponsors, no having to dog and pony during stop overs.  Just the men, the boats and the sea.  Mano a... um.  Mer?  Sure.  We'll say that.  Mano a Mer.

But that would kill it, you see?  That age has gone by, and even men who sailed in the early Whitbreads have embraced and raced in the Volvo.  If a syndicate is willing to drop millions of dollars to develop a state of the art boat, with the best team available, why not encourage it?  If there are tens of thousands of fans playing the VOR game online, why not expand that for the next race?

There was recently an article released about the media reach for HALF of this current race.  "For what its worth, the cumulative TV audience as of February 19th was 880 million based on 1,200 hours of coverage across dedicated programming and news items. Those figures compare with a cumulative audience of 459 million at the corresponding stage of the last race, representing a 90 percent increase."  The article goes on to explain why and all, but NINETY PERCENT INCREASE.  Why?  How?

Because of the extras- the dog and pony at stopovers, the online game, the increased exposure in China.  All these things are giving traditionalists heart attacks.  "100000 players online is great, 6 teams is not. Even if you have a million players it is irrelevant to what the race should be. The number of virtual sailors is a great tool for showing increased marketing numbers, but has no reflection on the success of the real race."  I would argue that perhaps the focus of the race is changing.

Would I like to see ten teams, a dozen teams, battling it out across the globe?  Sure.  As much as the next zealot I've decried the lack of syndicates, even to the point of pitching to Richard Branson's Virgin that THEY sponsor a team.  (to no avail...yet)  But look at the NUMBERS- even with the measly 6 entries (all of whom I love, don't get me wrong) the overall marketing numbers for this race are skyrocketing.  I believe that if we (and by we, I mean VOR) keep going the way we're going, we'll have players AND teams.  I'd say that with reports like this, 8 to 10 teams in 2014 is an achievable goal.

So yes, General Lee.  I would kill the Whitbread.  Long live the Volvo.

(I used this photo because I know Martin Sheen's General Lee said the line.  I'm not 100% sure the actual General Lee said the line.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wherein I Disclose My Fangirl Tendencies

Ok.  I'll admit it. Every time someone from the Volvo accepts my friend request, or follows me on Twitter, or connects on LinkedIn, I squee.


I try hard to be blasé about it, "Oh, you worked the race too?  I never would have known." but inside I'm composing emails to friends that say things like "OMGOMGOMG!!  I KNOW HIM!  I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!"  Emails that, of course, I don't send, because as much as I love my friends, none of them are quite as obsessed as I am, and are probably soooo very over the VOR by now.  SHOCKER I KNOW.

So anyway- I have this incredible network of people now.  Sailors, both past and present, support team members, organizers, executives...  Now what do I do with it?  As much as I like to think I played a pivotal role in ASSA ABLOY's success, I know I was a bit part.  Sure- I can say I worked with Karl-Henric Svanberg, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't remember me.  Same with Helena, or Jason, or Mikey or any number of other people who graciously tolerate my mildly stalkerish attempts for contact.

I don't want to say I have to figure out how to "use these connections," because I don't think that's the right way to go about it.  A friend recently shared an article decrying networking because of the dehumanizing effect it has.  You "connect" with someone and immediately wonder "how can I GET something from this connection?"  According to the article:           
"Maybe it was just that we misheard the career advice. Somewhere along the line we thought that building relationships with other people meant simply getting their email address and guilting them into responding."
I don't think that's healthy, sustainable or what I'm going for.  What I want "from" these people (note: NOT from these "connections") is a true network.  A bunch of people, connected in a web, some who know each other, some who don't, but who can help one another reach their goals.  HELP.  Not GET, not USE, not WHEEDLE.  HELP.

So.  How can I help my incredible network, and how can they help me as well?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

And the entire campus takes a breath.

As I said in my Facebook status: "Made it through another Move-Out. Successfully recycled from all residence halls and appeased the Housing Powers That Be. My God. College kids get rid of a lot of stuff. "

I'm becoming used to the rhythm of the university year.  January to December doesn't mean much any more- my year is August to December, January to May, May to August.  (With a little of December to January thrown in for good measure.)

"Next year" doesn't mean 2013, it means August.  Or perhaps July if I'm going by the University's fiscal calendar.  "Spring" is usually a new beginning, but in my world, it's the end of a phase.  I'm losing 5 students to graduation (how dare they grow up and leave?).  We cleaned out the dorms, and will spend the summer luxuriating in their emptiness.  Summer means dormancy, time to step back, to take a breath, to both recover and prepare.  The traditional time of harvest is my time to plant new seeds, if you can call reminders to recycle "seeds."  I'll have a whole new crop of freshmen to educate come fall.

So my year is over, time for the champagne and the balloons, the songs of memory and of hope.  Happy New Year!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Recovering, or PLSD

I've been laid off 5 times.

The first- my job moved to a different city, and didn't take me with it.
The 2nd- I was low on the pole at a business that experienced seasonal swings. They hired me back in a different position within 6 weeks. 
Third- poorly managed company closed.
Less than six months later:  the 4th- I have no idea what happened.  40 of us lost our jobs that day and I'm still not entirely sure why.
The 5th was the most painful- a job I loved, a company I would have worked for for decades if they'd let me.

Because of the number of times I've been axed, you'd think I'd be used to it by now.  That I'd be able to shake it off and move on, thick skinned and armor plating.

If anything though, each layoff made it worse.  The last one...  I wasn't sure I'd make it through to the other side after that one.  It's been over a year and a half now and I'm just starting to feel the fog lift. 

I was joking with a friend about "PLSD" (post layoff stress disorder) and by no means am I trying to trivialize PTSD, but the more I think of it, the more I'm convinced PLSD is real.  My fight or flight is on overload, any sort of job or work-related criticism (real or perceived) puts me in a panic, terrified at the prospect of another layoff, even though they were all out of the blue, sneak attack, ninja job losses and not performance-related.  I continually wonder if today's the day they'll decide to outsource, or condense, or switch or move or change and I'll be out.  If today's the day they decide I'm expendable. 

Breathe in.  Breathe out.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

One Degree of Separation

Other than my husband, my best friend is Drew.  We met in college, a hundred years ago, and have remained close ever since.

Drew graduated from college yesterday, and I couldn't be prouder of him.  I know it was difficult to go back after all these years, and he did it with a complete focus change- he was a history major originally, who went in to retail management.  Now he's the proud owner of a shiny new CIS degree, and is ready to wield it with a vengeance.

I'm also trying to get my degree, finally, I've mentioned it before.  I've always wanted to, but it wasn't ever a necessity until I moved to Kansas.  Well, more specifically- until I moved to Lawrence, KS, home of the University of Kansas and a pretty nice place to live.   Seems there's a glut of degree holders in the area, and those of us without... well...

It's very frustrating, why would anyone NEED a degree to do what I do? (executive/administrative assistant/secretary- not what I do now, but to be honest- IMO my current job doesn't need a degree either) If I did have a degree, I doubt I'd be a secretary. I'd be doing something IN MY FIELD. I don't know anybody who has a 4 year degree in secretary.  I have students right now who are graduating in a week who have NO clue what they're going to do and NO job prospects. But they're going to be able to go out and get a job that pays more than I get, simply because they have the paper.  It makes me question the value of a college degree.

So why am I proud of Drew?  Because I know he's going to USE his degree in the manner it's supposed to be used- as the starting point, not the end point.  That's my plan too, to use what I learn as a jumping off point in a career I choose, not just a job I can get.

Anyway- off to sign up for Algebra.  ;)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Toniiiiight... I'm Not Younnnng!

I work with college students. Well, I guess technically college students work FOR me, but we do a lot together during the week, I couldn't do it without them, they couldn't do it the same way without me.

Anyway- one of the things I hear over and over is that working with students "will keep you young!"

I call BS.

What it does is make me FEEL young, until it is obvious that I'm not. Once again- I beg your indulgence to stay with me.

I have some fairly hard partying employees, who aren't afraid to discuss their adventures with and around me. God help me- it sounds fun. "Let's do a Pedal Hopper!" "Let's go to martini night!" "Let's go out on a Wednesday night!" I want to go out on a Wednesday, without worrying about getting up at 5:45am on Thursday. I want to go to martini night without worrying about where Kate is while I'm at the Eldridge.

Heck yeah! Raise your glass!

But I can't. At least, I can't go out with my students. That would be frowned upon by the University, and it would probably skeeve people out.

So I sit at home and feel old. 9:00 on a Friday? BEDTIME. Crazy times on a Wednesday? Doing laundry. Never be never be anything but loud? Where are my earplugs??

Toniiiight... We're Not Younnnnng!

No. I refuse. I don't want to be old, I don't want to be stodgy. I want to be Magnus

Magnus is one of my favorite people, always at home in my heart, even though I haven't seen him in a decade. 10 years ago, Magnus was 53 (10 years older than I am now), and he sailed around the world with ASSA ABLOY. Four years ago, he sailed around the world with a crew so green they were practically fluorescent, and finished 4th overall, even after a disastrous run to Singapore.

After I got laid off (for the 5th time) in 2010, I was afraid. I've reached "an age" where one more layoff will effectively kill any career I've pursued. So I sold myself short, tried to get the "stable" job, the job that wouldn't challenge me, but wouldn't can me either. I got lucky with my gig, I am CONTINUALLY challenged. (Did I mention I work with college students??) and to be honest, I don't think I'm very good at it, but it is stable. I'm able to keep my feet under me, and look ahead.

Looking ahead now gives me hope. I may not be young, but contrary to popular opinion among my young coworkers, I'm far from old. I'm going places in my life.

But for now- anybody wanna go on a Pedal Hopper?

Pacific Vortex, More Than Clive Cussler Ever Imagined


This is why I want to get a degree in Environmental Studies, and this is why I want to apply it to the Volvo Ocean Race.

The "Great Pacific Gyre" or "Plastic Island" or "Trash Island."

I've facilitated the gathering, sorting, baling and reselling of over a million pounds of recyclable material in my time here at KU Recycling. That's about 702 tons of bottles, cans, paper, cardboard, plastic... stuff. The Great Pacific Gyre contains about 58 tons of stuff, but consider this: Most of the garbage patch is not visible to the naked eye because it contains particles almost too small to see.

Ponder that. 58 tons of stuff so small it can barely be seen.

Now- you might think "Big whoop. If the stuff is so tiny, what's the problem?" Well, think about what a whale eats. Think about what seabirds eat. Think about what would happen to you if you ingested tiny bits of plastic every time you ate. Plastic you can't digest, plastic that may still be outgassing. You'd eventually be killed by it, right? Well, so are the whales, so are the birds, so are the fish, so are the plants... This island is a killer.

So I guess what I'm really trying to do is stop a killer.

When I Grow Up

My future looks like a ball of yarn, post-kitten. Tangled and confusing, with the way through not always obvious from the outside.

But I think (I think) I might just maybe have found the actual string to follow.

Stay with me here.

My background is in administrative assisting. Basically, according to one boss, I'm "the duct tape and the super glue." I move, I groove, I shake, and hopefully when I'm done, the task at hand is complete to everyone's satisfaction. So there's one aspect.

My passion is the Volvo Ocean Race. ( If you know me at all, you know about that, so I'm not going to go into it right now. If you have questions- please ask.

My current situation is recycling. I run the recycling chunk of the Environmental Stewardship Program at the University of Kansas. ( I plan on using the tuition assistance program at KU to get a degree, and they offer Environmental Studies as a major. (


So I have three things:
  1. A background in making things work, administratively.
  2. A passion for the VOR.
  3. An opportunity to use my current position to advance my education, AND in a growing and exciting field.
What do y'all think of a "Sustainability Ambassador" or "Green" position within a VOR syndicate? The race is all about wind and water, there already is an emphasis on cleaning the oceans and saving the wildlife therein, I think it's a fit.

Now. How do I make it happen?