February 27, 2011

Navigating Treacherous Waters


Things are definitely ratcheting up in the business of Tillerman writing projects.

Just look at the state of affairs in the current project - the one about 'Navigation', inspired by the recent release in the US of Tristan Gooley's book, The Natural Navigator.

In the old days of Tillerman writing projects, you would drag your feet for a week and a half, wondering how the devil you could write yet another opus about yet another preposterous topic, and then, at the very last, you'd cobble something together somehow and post it.

And that was it.

Done. End of story. Miller time.

But that was then and this is now. Those simple, carefree, innocent times have receded in the rear-view mirror of life like a smoking, misfiring VW camper van with bad valves.

In this post-modern world of watery blogal competition, things are far more complex. The stakes are higher now. The competitors are more seasoned and wise. The bar has been raised.

Just as in other arenas of high-stakes competition, where careers and reputations teeter in the balance - the Pulitzer Prizes, the Oscars, the figure-eight demolition races at Islip Speedway - knowing how to finesse the writing project game can be just as important as blogging skill. If you don't know how to interpret the rules and politick the judges, if you fail to keep up with the latest writing project trends, you are lost.

The unknowing neophyte, for instance, probably hasn't a clue that it is no longer enough to post a single entry in a Tillerman writing project. Somehow - and I don't know exactly when this happened - we have passed into the era of the multiple entry. Once merely an option, this is now a virtual requirement to ensure a win.

Just look at the work of avant-garde, trendsetting London blogger, Captain JP. In one short week, he has posted no fewer than 15 to 18 entries (I haven't checked his blog in the past 20 minutes so can't be sure of the exact number). And still they come. He has even enlisted the help of his co-blogger - a Mr. Buff Staysail - to keep the posting machine cranking out copy 24 hours a day.

Not to be caught short, in ultra-competitive New York City, crafty kayaker Bonnie Frogma has also managed to quickly put up multiple posts, after waking up and smelling the endless cups of coffee being brewed in Blighty.

The word has also made its way to the high deserts of New Mexico, where intrepid wordsmith, Carol Anne, had a perfectly serviceable and well-crafted entry posted, wherein she navigated from from one begonia to another. But reading the handwriting on Frogma's New York subway walls, she got the message post-haste and hastily re-posted.

Things were once more at impasse until Miss Frogma hatched an ingenious two-part counter plan to crush all opposition:

Part 1) Her second post references an earlier post about - what else - natural navigation (an obvious ploy that plays to the judges' tastes for anything about natural navigation)

part 2 - and this is just brilliant) There's a comment on the referenced post by none other than Tristan Gooley hisself!

Hokey smokes! How do you compete against stuff like that? Game, set, and match to the clever kayaker from Canarsie. She has this one in the bag!

Me, I completely missed the mark (sorry, meager attempt at navigation humor).  I was soldiering stupidly on, thinking a single, sober, soundly-researched and scholarly post might fare well in this competition. What was I thinking? I have been outclassed by these world-class bloggers.

I guess I could have thought to link to some old, mouldy posts of my own about the dangers of over-confidence in navigation, about navigating at night in total darkness, or about navigating in fog. But, I'm from laid-back California. It's bad form to appear to be trying too hard. Zealous over-achievers are regarded with suspicion here.

But wait a minute, I could change the name of this post from The State of Things in Tillerman Writing Projects to something that would hoodwink the judges into thinking this is about navigation, too. Could I turn this into a multiple entry of my own?

I just might be back in the running!


February 22, 2011

A History Of Navigation, In Verse


In the beginning was the hallowed cross staff.
And while your friends might giggle and laugh
Who saw you staring into the sun,
You at least knew your latitude when done.

An improvement was the nifty back staff.
And while your friends might still giggle and laugh,
(Why are friends so often that way?)
From the sun you could now turn away.

Let us not forgot the clumsy quadrant,
As unwieldy as a fire hydrant.
Its users would stumble and trip
On the deck of a rolling ship.

Equally painful was the neat astrolabe
For while latitude it neatly gabe,
If you also required your longitude,
The astrolabe wasn't singing your song, dude.

And even the touted sextant,
The most complex device yet extant,
For measuring the height of the sun,
Left you equally lost, when done.

For these devices, simple or devious,
All had a failing mischievious.
If you cared to return to the dock,
Then you also required a clock.

The Englishman, John Harrison,
Sought the longitude prize, but never won.
Still, they gave him an outrageous sum
For a clock with no pendulum.

So the scourge of old sailing fables,
The sextant, the clock, and the tables,
Navigation, remained a morass.
A colossal pain in the brass.

Until finally, God made GPS
Which did away with that awful old mess.
At long last man would be free
To venture safe upon the sea.

Today, the old navigators' art
Requires neither math nor chart.
We may voyage from Sundays to Saturdays,
If we remember to bring the batturays.


February 14, 2011


Some things, you just can't make up.

Walking to my boat this weekend, for the first time in about three months, I was taken aback.

I was taken afront.

I was just plain taken.

What was this? How could this be? Had the fates decided that my life hasn't been eventful enough lately?

Meet the new boat on O Dock:

Of all the docks, in all the marinas, in all the world, she sails into mine. And right in my face, too. I have to walk right past this boat to get to mine.

Is my little cockroach friend, Arnold, having some fun with me?

He was, supposedly, a vers-libre poet in a former life. Is this some form of poetic justice?

Is this his way of suggesting he needs some blogging companionship? Will he be inviting in friends to join him in his tapdance across my keyboard in the wee hours?

If all of this cockroach talk has you baffled, you can find out more about Mehitabel's namesake here.

I haven't met the owners yet. It's possible the boat has been in the marina for a while. There's been a lot of slip shuffling lately since they rebuilt some of the oldest  docks on the other side of the marina.

(You may remember that Superblogger Edward used to keep his boat over on one of those hardscrabble docks and was forced to move when the reconstruction began.)

I don't recognize what type of boat this is, but it's probably from the mid-70s. More as I find out. Here's a slightly wider shot. Anyone have any idea what kind of boat or maybe know something about this particular one? On the interwebs, I did find an Islander 27 named Mehitabel in Seattle, but this is definitely not it.

Think of this as a photo quiz without the free hat.

Wotthehell is going on?


February 9, 2011

The Mad Hatter

Some blog posts begin with the best of intentions. But, sometimes we assume too much.

You may know the old adage:

When you assume, you make a blogger out of you and out of me.

For my last post, I thought I had the perfect formula for a successful post:

- An online quiz and googling contest - which, you may have heard, are very popular today.

- A picture of a cute kid wearing a funny hat.

- A guaranteed prize of a free hat, which is very rare today (there seldom being such a thing as a truly free hat).

How could I miss? The perfect formula for the perfect blog post. Well, like the producers of the halftime show at the SuperBowl sometimes discover, the perfect formula can sometimes end in a shambles, no matter how many people you have wearing funny costumes.

You may know the old adage:

When you assume, you make a black-eyed pea out of you and out of me.

As much as I like the crab hat featured in my last post, and as much as I would still like to have one, it turns out there is a very good reason why I couldn't find one on The Google, and why anyone who tried probably couldn't find it either. It appears the hats have not been marketed commercially for some time. I figured, since the wearer of the hat in the photo was of fairly recent vintage, that the hat was too.

You may know the old adage:

When you assume, you make a little pooper out of you and out of me.

I also figured that since the wearer of the hat was Tillerman's grandkid, that Tillerman would know of the hat's origins and so, for fairness to other contestants, he should be declared ineligible to compete.

Bad call.

As it turns out, Tillerman is one of the few people on the planet who actually does know where the hat comes from, which significantly limited the field of potential contestants. I did go back to The Google and, try as I might, found no reference to that crab hat I hold so dear. It is on the internets, but you really need to know where to start looking to have any chance of finding it.

You may know the old adage:

When you assume, you make a crustacean out of you and out of me.

The hat does have an interesting story though, which, thanks to Tillerman, I have been able to unravel. The guy who originally designed and made it is something of an artist who has created a whole series of cleverly designed hats, as well as other artwork, too. You can view his art at his web site here, and here are a few photos of his hats, stolen from his web site, for which I will probably be sued for copyright infringement.

You may know the old adage:

When you assume, you make a defendant out of you and out of me.

All photos copyright Tom Hyndman

But the hats are just the beginning of what is, for me, a far more interesting story.

The artist, Tom Hyndman, while minding his business and trying to survive as an artist in Syracuse, New York, happened into one of those quirks of happenstance a few years ago that many people dream about finding their whole lives.

He won what amounted to a lottery of sorts to become caretaker of a three hundred-year-old inn owned by the Scottish government on one of the most remote of the remote Shetland Islands, halfway between the mainland of Scotland and never-never land. He's technically in the UK, but closer to Oslo, Norway than London, on an island so small that it's accessible only by boat. Oh, heck - accessible only by boat.

Here is the crummy old place he now lives in.

And here is the insufferable view out his front window that torments him, day in and day out.

But it gets worse.

Even that depressing view is blocked half the time by these funny looking birds (which are, for some reason, popular with surfers on Long Island). These birds are in the way, no matter where you look.

And, half the time, he can't get out of his driveway, because it is blocked by flocks of Shetland sweaters on the hoof.

Tom's island is occupied by 65 people, 1200 of the sweaters on the hoof, and about 50,000 of the funny birds. And by a whole lot of other kinds of critters, from which he draws inspiration for the designs of his hats and other artwork.

So, you may want to take a look at Tom's web site if you are someone who likes fish or funny birds, or if you live in the UK, or if you used to live in the UK, or even if you are just fascinated by those rare places on this planet that still look a lot like they did before those of us who walk upright started messing everything up.

Oh, a few more words about hats. Tom's web site says he sells his hats directly now, but I don't know which ones are available or how much they cost. I think you have to e-mail him if you want some.

And if you think that you might like to visit Tom, you can. The old inn, or auld inn I should say, is now a B&B, so I'm sure Tom would love to see you.

So, I apologize if I led you on a wild hat chase. But, the chase took me somewhere I never expected to get, which, in this case, turned out to be a good thing for me, and, I hope, for you, too. There won't be a free hat after all, but, then again, there seldom really is.

This did prove that the internets and Mr. Google can lead you to places and people you never knew existed, if you know how to fly them (the internets, not the people). And if you read the label on your grandkid's hat.

And I am still interested in getting one of the crab hats - which must be one of the best sailing hats you can wear. But another of Tom's hats caught my eye, so I may have to get one of those, too:


February 6, 2011

Win This Free Hat


This post is bound to get me in trouble with someone.

But do I care?


I am on a quest and I am determined.

I am prepared to pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship** to obtain the object of that quest.

And doing so means that, inevitably, I will raise the ire of some - probably some of the following:

- Arnold the cockroach, who thinks I already waste too much time on Googling contests that appear on other people's blogs

- Tillerman - whom I am always managing to tick off for one reason or another

- the easily annoyed activist group People for Shellfish Sensitivity, Education, and Defense (PISSED)

So what is the object of this quest and why is it worth ticking people off?

It is nothing less than this hat:

This photo showed up on a recent Tillerman blog post. I'm not quite sure what the post is about. I've read it three times now and still don't know. Which is unusual for me because I generally understand his posts by the second reading.

The post has something to do with Disney Toy Story movies, Randy Newman, Tillerman's daughter-in-law's blog, and a kid wearing a crab hat.

I don't care about most of that, but - holy crap - I've got to have one of those hats. Wouldn't that make one of the coolest sailing hats ever?

So, as usual, I started Googling to find the hat online, but didn't see it in the first page of Google hits. I'm pretty lazy and easily distracted by all of the photos that show up in any Google image search, so, as usual, I gave up by the end of the first page.

I even tried to leave some broad hints over on Tillerman's blog that he award the hat to someone who could figure out the answer to a puzzle that I already knew the answer to. No go. He was on to my little game.

 But then I had one of those epiphanic moments.

Why should I do all of this work to find the crab hat when my readers could do that for me?

So here is the O Dock Crab Hat Challenge.

Find out where I can buy the hat that appears in the photo above and I will buy two of those hats.

One for me, of course, and one for the first person who posts the answer in the comments here.

For once, you actually will win a free hat, if any hat can be said to be truly free.

Employees of Proper Course and members of their immediate families are ineligible to enter this part of the contest, but there's a second way to win, for which they and all others are eligible.

If you can suggest a better sailing hat than the crab hat, I will consider those suggestions and will then buy two of those hats, one for me and one for you. But I think it's highly unlikely that a better sailing hat than the crab hat exists.

Decision of the O Dock judges will be final, but may be influenced by appropriate bribery.

As usual, anyone may post off-topic comments, grammatical or content-related corrections, or anything that will lift the level of discussion here.

**Don't you just hate it when a citation is referenced to an asterisked footnote and then there's no asterisked footnote anywhere on the page? Well, we're much more considerate of our readers here on O Dock. This is the asterisked footnote that is referred to at the beginning of this post.


February 3, 2011

what is smart



arnold again

what a butthead o docker has been lately

he runs around the office here like a blogger without a head with no time to work on his blog

and then he spends what spare time he does have working out the answers to the contests that have been showing up on other bloggers blogs

it seems to be the latest trend in blogging

quotation contests photo contests old movie contests

what is he trying to prove anyway

it s not like it used to be when smart people were the ones with all of the answers in their heads

today no one has any answers in their heads

the answers are all on google and you try to make yourself look smart by outgoogling other googlers

is that smart

or is that being a butthead

don t get me wrong

google can be a wonderful thing

it makes it easy to track down a lot of stuff that it used to take forever to track down

and the more you google the more you know how to google

but knowing a lot of facts has never really been a sign of smart

does anyone remember cliff clavin

if you don t you could find him on google

what a butthead

sometimes o docker reminds me of cliff clavin

i think smart has always been what you do with the facts that you have

be those facts in a book in your head or on google

knowing which facts are the important ones has always taken some smarts

and stringing the right facts together so that they make sense and help you find your way through life has always been a job for smart people

uh oh here he comes again

what is it tonight

where is this beach

what is this boat

who put the bomp

in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp

contests are a lot of fun but isn t it smart to just have fun with them

and not mistake winning a googling contest for being smart

most cockroaches know that