Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Day 1, The race is on

As we motored south along the Chicago Lakeshore, we encountered several Tartan-10 boats. The Tartan-10 is the largest one-design fleet in the Great Lakes, and as such they have their own 37 boat section in the race to Mackinac. The Tartan-10 boats have a slightly slower rating than the boats in our section (Section 7). Knowing that the Tartan-10’s start the race exactly 10 minutes before we do, we followed them to Navy Pier and eased ourselves into a space between some of them for the parade past the East end of the Pier.

When we were close enough to see people standing on the Pier, I called my parents to let them know to start looking for us and where to look. It was difficult to see individuals in the crowd through the fog and misty rain, but I hoped that the boat was large enough and distinct enough for them to identify. We passed once, headed south, at quite a distance. Then we lined up to head North right alongside the east end of the pier. The captains of each of the boats in the race provided the Chicago Yacht Club with a paragraph of information about their boat and crew that could be used to talk about the boats as they passed by during the parade. As we approached the pier, I could hear the announcer commenting on how he recognized certain boats and trying to read the names off the hulls of the boats he didn’t recognize. Clearly he wasn’t making use of the provided information. A few days after the race I learned that the printouts of the boat information had been destroyed in the rain, and that the announcer was doing what he could with information from the spectators near him, and what he already knew about the various boats.

As I could hear the announcer talking about the boat in front of us, I noticed my mother standing near the announcer on the pier pointing at our boat and talking to the announcer. In the background over the public address system I thought I could hear her voice excitedly asking him to talk about “Cyclone”. He made a comment about how she seemed more excited than anyone else there, and asked her if she’d like to introduce the boat. She agreed and took the microphone.

Everyone on Cyclone seemed entertained by the fact that we had our own personal announcer and that she sounded so excited as she announced our sail number “51804” and explained that this was Cyclone’s first time competing in the Race to Mackinac. My family snapped off a few pictures and a short video, as we all waved to the crowd. We turned east and received an acknowledgement from the committee boat as we made our way out of the breakwater and joined the growing numbers of boats in the starting area.

In the low visibility it took us a short while to find the markers that identify the start line, but we had it all figured out, had our watches synchronized with the race committee starting sequence, had our mainsail raised, and our engine turned off before the 10 minute warning for the Tartan-10 section. Once the Tartan-10 section crossed the start line, the starting area became far less crowded and we found plenty of room to get lined up for our start. We were surprised to hear over the radio that there were less than 5 Tartan-10 boats recalled for crossing the line early. We heard the race committee announce to each of the early boats that they were clear as they returned to the start-line.

When the 5 minute warning sounded for our section we raised our jib. Two minutes before the start we headed parallel to the start-line and checked the time as we passed beyond the floating mark that indicates the end of the line. The “P” semaphore flag indicating “prepare for the start of the race” is dropped from the starting boat flag pole along with the sounding of a horn at exactly one minute before the start of the race, and we used this signal as our indication that it was time to turn the boat around 180 degrees and head back toward the start-line. With 15 seconds until the start for our section, we sailed past the near marker of the start-line and continued parallel to the line for the next 15 seconds. I was surprised that we had such a wide open area at this time. I’m accustomed to a much more crowded start-line with our weekend club races. I suspect that we were fortunate to have a larger than necessary line for our 25 boat section to provide enough room for some of the larger sections that would be starting before and after us. I also suspect that the terribly light winds made it difficult for many of the boats to time their approach to the line. As it was, there were no boats over the line early in our section and moments after the starting gun, we were headed downwind across the line.

Once we were clearly across the line and certain that we weren’t going to run into any issues where we might need to avoid another boat, it was time to launch the spinnaker. We extend the bowsprit, reel in the tack-line to bring the tack of the sail out to the end of the bowsprit, and quickly use the halyard to raise the head of the sail up the mast. I run around to the upwind side of the boat as Holly hands me the Spinnaker sheet. Then I quickly look up at the sail to watch it take shape as it fills with air so I can trim it for the best possible speed given our current heading.

Only it doesn’t fill with air or take shape. It just dangles there like a flag on a windless day. I try pulling it in tight to stretch it as flat as possible in hopes that a light breeze will catch it. I shout to John to head further upwind in hopes that any breeze that might exist will catch it at a good angle. I try letting it out completely in case I’v got it pulled to tight to take shape. I beg for wind and I start pulling it in again. With less than 5 knots of wind and the boat moving at over 1 knot, the breeze just isn’t enough to work even this light-weight sail. After what was probably less than a minute, but felt like twenty minutes, the breeze picked up just enough to fill the sail and we worked our way down the course. Before we had worked our way north back up near Montrose harbor where we began our day, we had already passed several Tartan-10 boats (remember they started 10 minutes before us), and had others that we were catching up to. There were J/105 boats that started after us (they are rated as slightly faster) that were unable to catch up to us. This was a great start to the race, and what little wind we had was coming from the south like we had hoped.

We were aware that the weather report called for changing weather conditions before the race was over, but we were sure feeling good about our accomplishments at this point. The race continued like this as we headed north-east. After several uneventful hours of passing boats and watching the fog get thicker, and knowing that we had days of racing ahead of us I handed off the Spinnaker sheets to Nora and headed down below to get some sleep. My next shift would begin at 8:00pm.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pre-Mac Prep.

7/6/2008
I had decided that my relatively long hair was going to be a hassle for the race to Mackinac. So I asked my sister Ginette if she would mind using the trimmer she has to buzz cut it for me. I wanted it to have time to grow out just a bit so I arranged for her to cut it about 2 weeks ahead of time.



7/17/2008
I had this “great” idea that since my hair is so short and buzzed in the back, I could get the team logo shaved into the hair on the back of my head. I talked to a hair stylist and she said to make a copy of the logo, enlarge it on a copier and then cut it out to be used as a stencil. So, Thursday night, I stayed up most of the night cutting stencils into plastic transparency sheets to be used to shave the boat logo into the hair on the back of my head.




7/18/2008
I stopped off after work with my stencils to get the boat logo shaved into the hair on the back of my head. The person who did the work didn’t realize that the connecting pieces of the stencil weren’t part of the logo and that they were just there to hold the letters together, so I had what really looked like a stencil on the back of my head. When I got home, Lisa cleaned up the logo so it would stand out better, and shaved the hair all the way down to the bare skin. Then she used a red Sharpie permanent marker to color the skin and hair to match the boat logo.



I went to sleep and when I woke up the next morning, I found the pillow case stained with red permanent marker.



I took a shower and discovered the “permanent” marker wasn’t so permanent on scalp skin and hair. I was left with a slight pink color on the skin, and no color in the hair at all.

7/19/2008
I overslept and got ready to go as quickly as possible. The schedule called for everyone to meet at the dock by the boat at 8:00AM. In order to make it to the boat by then, those who were leaving a car at Capt. John’s house needed to meet at his house by 7:30. Since Lisa needed to be at work by 8:00am, there wasn’t time for her to drop me off at the boat or at John’s house, so I made arrangements to ride to John’s house with another crew member, Holly, who lives in Orland Park. To make it to John’s house on time we needed to leave Orland Park by 6:30am. Lisa said she could drop me off in Orland before she got ready for work, so I needed to leave home by 5:45am. I was supposed to wake up at 5:00am. This did not happen.

After waking at 5:28am, I quickly took a shower and finished up some last minute packing. There were a pair of sailing gloves I really wanted to bring with me, that I had to search the house for before they finally turned up. Then Lisa offered to quickly touch up the logo in my hair with the red “permanent” marker again so it would at least stand out until the race started. I’d need to wash it out before my first sleep shift so I wouldn’t stain my sleeping bag or anything on the boat. It didn’t look as good as it had the night before, but it was better than nothing. Everytime I thought I was ready to walk out the door I thought of something else that I needed/wanted. As we backed down the driveway, I realized that I had never printed out the directions to Holly’s house and I didn’t know where she lived. I ran back into the house to look up her address on the team website and write it down along with her phone number. By the time we were actually on the road, it was a few minutes after 6:00am.

I called Holly to let her know that we were running later than expected, and that I wouldn’t be there early like I had originally intended, but that I should still make it there by 6:30. I asked for directions to her house and as she explained, I realized that with all the stoplights on LaGrange Ave by the mall, we’d need to get pretty lucky and catch all the green lights to get to her house by 6:30.

After catching the eighth stoplight in a row, I called Holly again to explain that we were going to be a little late, and to ask if there is somewhere along the way that we could meet up to reduce the delay in getting to John’s house on time. Holy suggested a gas station on LaGrange avenue a bit north of the mall, and we agreed to meet up with her there.

When we got to the gas station, Holly wasn’t there yet, and I noticed it was a convenience store as well. I took a look inside and found they had red permanent markers. Since we had a bit of time while we waited for Holly to arrive, and since Lisa was disappointed with how the logo looked this morning when she quickly traced over it with the marker we had at home, and since I had already committed to washing it out after the start of the race, I purchased the marker and brought it out for Lisa to touch up the logo and make it look better.





Holly showed up shortly after, and the rest of the morning was relatively uneventful. We got to John’s house on time, where we met up with Scott, and John. Then we headed down to the pier where we met up with Wally and Nora. Wally’s family came with him to see us off, as did John’s girlfriend. Nancy, a member of the usual Cyclone crew, was originally slated to be a member of the crew for the race to Mackinac, however due to an injury she had to withdraw a few weeks before the race, and Scott took her place. Capt. John Madey has a friend John Frendreiss who is a hobby photographer and maintains the Cyclone website for him. Nancy and John F. agreed to be our “shore crew” to carry equipment not needed for the race, but that would be needed after the race up to Mackinac for us. They both showed up at the pier to see us off. John F. got a few good pictures, and then everyone who came to see us off headed to Navy Pier to see us in the boat parade. We fired up the diesel and cast off, in the dreary gray drizzle and the barely there breeze to head out to the pre-race boat parade at Navy Pier.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

In case I don't have your email

The following email went out to everyone in my email address book. In case I don't have your email address, I'm posting a copy of the email message here:

As many of you know I am racing in the 2008 Chicago to Mackinac sailboat race. This year's race is the 100th running and a record 440 boats from around the world will be participating. The race starts this Saturday July 19th, A boat parade will be going past the east end of Navy Pier starting at 10AM. Best place to watch is from the east end of the second tier of the pier. There will be TV crews and an announcer talking about the boats. Look for "Cyclone" # 51804. We will be starting the race at 12:10PM about 1 mile east of the Chicago lighthouse. This year all of the boats will be equipped with satellite tracking transponders. You can watch my teams progress at:
http://charthorizon.com/races/2008_chicago_mackinac/htdocs/

Pictures, race reports and video can be found at:
http://www.chicagomackinac.com/2008/

For additional information check out the various links at the Chicago Yacht Club's official Race to Mackinac website:
http://chicagoyachtclub.org/racetomackinac/

If it is an average race we should finish sometime Monday afternoon/ early evening. At 30 ft we are one of the smallest boats in the race (smallest is 28 ft) and we are the smallest boat in our section which is "Section 7". We will be in direct competition with boats up to 50 ft and with only six people on board we have one of the smallest crews. Feel free cheer us on by keeping your browser on us.

Again the boat name is "Cyclone" and the sail number is 51804.

- Danny

FAQ:

Q. If you guys are one of the smallest boats how can you guys win?
A. Boats are handicapped by a mathematical rating systems which predict how fast they should be capable of sailing under a variety of conditions. Applying these ratings to each boat's elapsed time on the race course determines which boat sailed the best relative to their rating, and therefore determines the winner. This allows the entire fleet to compete against each other. We have just as much chance of winning as the 96 ft "Genuine Risk". They might finish before us but after the handicap is applied we can correct on the bigger boats. Although we are one of the smallest we are somewhere in the middle for speed. Cyclone is a bit of a hot rod for its size.

Q. Do you race at night?
A. Yes the crew is divided into shifts, half of the crew is down below sleeping while the other half is sailing. If the on deck crew needs help they call "all hands on deck" for help.

Q. What about food and water?
A. We bring enough to last till Tuesday.

Q. What if someone has to go to the bathroom?
A. Cyclone has a head, know as a toilet to landlubbers.

Q. What if there is bad weather?
A. We race right through it and we have lots of required safety equipment in case something bad happens. The worst part is if there is no wind, the flies can get very bad.

Q. Is there a shower?
A. No, if you finish 25 Mac races you are called an "Old Goat" you can guess why they have that name.

Q. How do you know how to get there?
A. We have a GPS (Global Positioning System) that tells us where we are, and we carry printed charts as a backup.

Q. Does the Coast Guard know about this?
A. Yes and they send the 245 ft ice breaker "USCG Mackinaw" and the 140 ft "USCG Mobile Bay" to shadow the fleet.

Q. What do the winners receive?
A. The Chicago to Mackinac race is an amateur event, so no prize money is awarded. The Section winners will receive a plaque, a flag, and bragging rights for the next year. The overall winners have their names engraved on the permanent trophies that are displayed at Chicago Yacht Club.

MasterCard

  • Life Jacket - $
  • Harness -$
  • 6 Foot Tether - $
  • Emergency Strobe Light - $
  • 2 Pair Sailing Gloves - $
  • 2 Pair Sunglasses - $
  • 1 8-oz. Bottle Sunblock - $
  • Team Shirt - $
  • Team Cap - (free)
  • Pocket Knife - $
  • Foul Weather Gear - $
  • Sleeping Bag - $
  • Entry Fee - $
  • Provisions - $
  • Lodging on Island for 2 nights - $
Participating in the 100th running of one of the oldest and longest freshwater sailboat races in the world. . . .

Priceless.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Where's Waldo (Danny)

For the first time in the 107 year history of the race, every boat in the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac will be supplied with a GPS tracking system. This means that for the few who are interested, this can be a spectator sport. This link should take you to a website that will allow you to identify the current location of all the boats participating in the race. To find out where in Lake Michigan I am at any time during the race, you'll need to choose our boat, Cyclone, from the selection list. I've never used this tracking system before, so I can't offer much advice on how to use it. I've been informed that right now you can look at the "2008 Newport Bermuda Race" under the "View Past Races" to get an idea of how the website is supposed to work for the Mac race once the Mac race begins.

Information you may (or may not) find useful when attempting to determine how well we are doing, and where we are located:

Our boat name - Cyclone
Our sail number - 51804
Our section - 7
Our Division - Chicago-Mackinac Trophy Division
Our start time - 12:10pm
Our class flag - Pink

Our rivalries - Dos Aguilas, Most Wanted, Pegasus, Vayu

Boats with a similar ORR rating - Drumbeat, Sociable

Slowest boats in our section (they better be behind us, because their position will improve on ours after the race due to the ORR rating adjustments) - Celerity, Foray

Fastest boats in our section (they need to be way ahead of us to beat us, because our position will improve on them after the race due to the ORR rating adjustments) - Madcap, Windrunner, Challenge

On The Tube

Tomorrow, Thursday July 17, WGN Channel 9 will broadcast a special segment on the Island Goats Sailing Society between 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.

In honor of the 100th running of the Mac, WTTW will be re-broadcasting a 45-minute documentary made in 2000 about the Race to Mackinac. The program will air at 8pm tomorrow, Thursday July 17th, on WTTW Channel 11.

Tonight, Wednesday July 16th, WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” program will talk about the 100th running of the Mac and promoting the Thursday night documentary broadcast. That will be between 7pm and 8pm.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Weather of Course

In my previous post, I mention that the course for a sailboat race is frequently chosen to reduce any advantage a particular boat design might have. Most of the races Cyclone participates in are set up this way. Some boats have an advantage upwind, others downwind, and still others when sailing sideways to the wind. To keep things reasonably fair, one common course used for our weekly races begins with a destination that is nearly straight upwind three fourths of a mile. From this destination the course turns left and heads sideways to the wind (and just slightly down wind) with the wind blowing on the starboard (right) side of the boat for nearly six tenths of a mile. The course then turns left again heading straight downwind for one mile. Turning left yet again, the course proceeds sideways to the wind (and just slightly downwind) again, this time with the wind blowing on the port (left) side of the boat for nearly six tenths of a mile again. Turning left again, the course is once again straight upwind and heading towards the start-line (which is also used as the finish-line). To extend the distance of the race, this course is typically sailed "twice around". If you are familiar with geometric shapes this course is an isosceles trapezoid. The race begins and finishes at the midpoint of the long base of the trapezoid, and the wind is blowing straight down this line.

This course forces all the racers to sail upwind (also known as "close hauled", "on a beat" or "on a tack"), downwind (also known as "running", or "on a run"), and sideways to the wind (also known as "reaching" or "on a reach").

Because the Chicago to Mackinac race is a one way race, and the start-line and finish-line really can't be moved, the weather can have a significant effect on the results of the race. The ORR handicapping system used for this race attempts to compensate for variations in boat design, and without sufficient skill and talent a racing crew is unlikely to win even with the best possible conditions for their boat. However, if two boats of differing design are raced equally well, the one whose design is most adversely affected by the weather will lose.

This means that under certain weather conditions if we sail our boat perfectly without making a single mistake, while we will finish ahead of those with less skill and talent, competitors who sail their boats as well as we do will beat us. Under other weather conditions, if we sail our boat perfectly, we will be unbeatable since even if they sail perfectly as well the competing boat will not be able to overcome the effects of the weather. Of course, if we make mistakes and sail "less than optimally" we will finish a bit later than we could have and will create an opportunity for the skill and talent of a competitor to compensate for the limitations the weather on their boat.

Length of the boat has a large effect on the ability of the boat to sail upwind. Typically, the longer the boat, the better it can sail upwind. At 30 feet Cyclone is the shortest hull length in our section. As such, any wind blowing from anywhere in a north-like direction (northwest, north, northeast, just slightly north of due east, etc) will place a huge limitation on us. We will need to sail significantly better than all 22 other competitors in our section just to compensate for the limitations of the boat length. On the other hand, wind coming from the southwest or from slightly south of due west will be optimal for us. With a wind coming from a southwest (or similar) direction, our competitors will need to overcome limitations of the designs of their boats, and if we can sail just slightly better than they do we will almost certainly win against the boats in our section.

In a race that will take multiple days to complete, the weather is likely to change multiple times throughout the race. Sometimes we will benefit, sometimes our competitors will. Part of our challenge will be to look at weather predictions before and during the race and determine where the weather is likely to help us the most (or hurt us the least), and sail the boat to try to be in the appropriate location when the weather is right.

For now all we can do is wait until the weather forecasts become more reliable and hope for southwest winds.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cyclone

I'll begin the week with a bit of information about the boat I've been racing on for the past 5 years, which is also the boat I'll be racing on in the 100'th Chicago Yacht Club race to Mackinac, Cyclone.

Cyclone is a J/92. This is a model built by the company J/Boats. The model name is an indication of the length of the boat in decimeters. It draws a bit less than 6 feet deep, and has a beam of 10 feet in width. Though a bit smaller, the J/92 is rather simlar to the J/105. It has a fixed keel, an open transom, and a retracting bowsprit. In addition to the smaller size, a significant difference in design between the J/105 and the J/92 is the use of a tiller in the J/92 instead of a steering wheel. While it is capable of running downwind with a symmetric spinnaker and a spinnaker pole, it is not typical to rig a J/92 for symetric spinnaker. On Cyclone, the only spinnakers we carry and use are asymmetric spinnakers .

When multiple boats of an identical model race against each other it is referred to as "one design" racing. In a one-design race the boats typically all start together and the first one to cross the finish-line is the "winner". If there aren't multiple boats of a particular design near enough to each other and willing to race, boats can be handicapped according to various specification of the design of the boat along with real life testing of the limits of the boat. One such handicapping system is known as Performace Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF) This handicapping system assigns each boat an expected difference in seconds-per-mile as compared to a standard. PHRF is the handicapping system we use in most of the races we participate in.

Example:
We race a 7.5 mile course. Cyclone's PHRF rating is 111, indicating 111 seconds slower per mile than the defined standard when sailed optimally. One of the boats we race against has a PHRF rating of 126. We cross the finish-line 2 hours, 30 minutes, and 13 seconds after the start of the race. Our competitor crosses the finish-line 80 seconds after us (2 hours, 31 minutes, 33 seconds). Since his boat is rated as being slower than ours by 15 seconds per mile, after our times are adjusted our competitor's finish time improves by 113 seconds more than ours does(15 seconds per mile X 7.5 miles, rounded up). We end up officially placing behind this competitor by 33 seconds.

In theory, if both teams sail their boats optimally with respect to the boat's design, we would finish 112.5 seconds before the competitor and after adjusting for the handicap, the race would result in a tie. By handicapping the boats, the race measures the teams ability to sail the boat, rather than the boat owner's ability to purchase a faster boat design.

In reality each boat has particular sea/weather conditions in which it performs best. When sailed optimally without any mistakes, the boat which happens to encounter favorable water/weather conditions will end up winning. The course of the race is typically set up attempting to neutralize any water/weather condition advantage a design might have over another. While the advantage is not always entirely eliminated by the choice of course, it is generally reduced to a manageable level. If one team is more skilled and sails their boat better, the difference in skill will generally overcome any small advantage their competitor might gain from water/weather conditions.

There are other handicapping systems (The Chicago Yacht Club uses Offshore Racing Rule, ORR, for the race to Mackinac). While I am unfamiliar with the specifics of any of the other systems, they all attempt create a race that measures crew sailing skill by adjusting appropriately for the intrinsic speed of the design of the boat.

ISLA GIATT?

It seems the name I chose for this blog has revealed itself to be somewhat prophetic. For those who haven't figured it out yet, the blog title "ISLA GIATT" is an acronym for the phrase "It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time". There are a variety of things I've done in my life which in hind-sight appear to have been a rather poor decision. I never intend to make a poor decision, but at the time when a decision is made, it isn't always obvious that it will be a poor decision. As such, when asked about the reasoning behind making the decision, frequently phrased along the lines of "Why (exclamatory remark such as 'in the world') would you do such a thing?", the best answer I can offer is, "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

When considering creating a blog, I figured this title served two purposes. First, I assumed that some of my most significant and interesting posts would be written about these "seemed like a good idea at the time" events in my life. Second, I was somewhat aware of my personal writing skills as well as the difficulty of keeping a blog updated on a regular basis. As such I realized that while blogging seemed like a good idea, the blog itself just might be one of those ideas that only seemed good at the time the decision was made.

I began the blog with the best of intentions. Shortly after the new year, I rededicated myself to a renewed attempt to posing on a regular basis. I always assumed that once sailing season started up, I'd post weekly updates as to the results and events of the weekend races, as well as frequent updates on preparations for the Chicago to Mac race. Clearly this hasn't occurred.

I have not yet given up. I really do want this blog to work. I want this to be a creative outlet where I can write interesting things others want to read. While this blog itself is beginning to show signs of "Seemed like a good idea at the time", for me it still seems like a good idea at this time.

The Chicago to Mac race begins in less than a week. I've wanted to participate in this race ever since I discovered that I enjoy sailing. I've been urging the owner, Captain John, of the boat, Cyclone, to enter the boat in the race (at significant cost to himself) during every one of the 5 years I've been a member of his racing team. I have a lot I want to say about this race. I don't know yet if it will all come out in one long post, or if I'll find a way to break it up into reasonable daily updates. Either way, you'll hopefully find that I've posted quite a bit about the race between now and 5:30am Saturday morning.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

How to make a killing in predatory lending.
(or how to lose your shirt lending to deadbeats)

A little more than a year ago while listening to the radio on the way home from work I heard about www.prosper.com, a website where individuals can bid on personal loans much like eBay. It was an interesting concept.

Traditionally people leave their money in banks. The banks then lend the money out to people who need for a while but who the bank feels can pay it back. In exchange for being allowed to use your money in this way the bank pays you some interest on your money. The bank charges a much higher rate on the loans it makes than on the interest it pays you, and the difference between the interest charged on loans and the interest paid on savings is the bank's profit. Of course this is an oversimplification, and banks offer many other services and have a variety of methods available to them to earn a profit. However, it always seemed like I could be making the profit instead of the bank if I could make the loans directly. Additionally, it always seemed like interest I paid on loans was higher than it needed to be just so the bank could earn a profit off me. If the people saving money could loan directly to the people borrowing money it seems like they'd both come out ahead. Higher interest paid to the lender than a bank typically pays, and lower interest rates for the borrower than the bank typically charges.

This is essentially the business model of Prosper.com.

Someone who wants a loan can apply at prosper.com. They create a listing to "Sell" their loan to potential lenders much like a seller might create a listing on eBay to sell something. In the listing they describe what the loan is for and why they should be considered as a potential borrower. Prosper.com then collects data from the borrower's credit report and makes it available to potential lenders.

Someone who has money to lend creates an account at Prosper.com and transfers some money to the account. They can then search and filter their way through the loan listings until they find a loan they are willing to partially fund. The lender takes into consideration the credit history, likelihood of the borrower making payments, and the reported income and debts of the borrower. They then indicate in an auction like "bid" to Prosper.com the portion of the loan they are willing to fund and the minimum interest rate they are willing to accept for the loan. A loan is not made unless there are enough bids to fully fund the loan.

Prosper.com keeps track of all the bid amounts and interest rates. Once a loan is fully funded, lenders bid against each other driving down the interest rate on the loan. Eventually the listing expiration date comes along and so long as the loan is fully funded, the highest qualifying interest rate determines the rate that the borrower will pay, and the rate the lenders will all earn.

All Prosper.com loans are 3 year loans, and borrowers can pay more than the minimum payment (and even pay off the entire loan) at any time. Prosper.com takes each payment and divides it proportionally among all the winning lenders.

As an example:

A borrower wants to buy his girlfriend a $3,000 engagement ring. Due to some bad marks on his credit rating he can't get a credit card or other loan for less than 19.8% He creates a listing at Prosper.com indicating the purpose of the loan, as well as stating his current income and monthly expenses. He explains that the bad marks on his credit report are from when he was unemployed 2 years ago, and that he now has had a job for over a year and has not missed any payments on anything since getting this job. Prosper.com reports he has a "C" credit rating and that while he has 15 delinquencies in the past 7 years and one lien in the past 10 years, he has nothing currently delinquent and no bankruptcies, liens, or judgements in the past 12 months.

Lenders discover this loan and initially decide that if they are going to lend any money they want a substantial return for the risk they are taking. Each potential lender decides how much money they are willing to risk loaning to this individual in $50 increments as well as the minimum interest rate they are willing to accept. After a couple of days 30 lenders have each decided to bid on the loan in amounts between $50 and $250. Adding up all the amounts bid the total is less than the $3,000 requested. If there are no further lenders over the next few days the loan will not be made. If more lenders decide to loan this borrower some money eventually the total of all the loan bids will exceed the requested $3,000. At this point the interest rate is set at the highest "minimum" bid. If there are no further bids before the expiration of the listing, using a smaller number of bidders for the sake of simplicity in my example, if there are 5 bidders

$1,000 at a minimum rate of 19%
$1,500 at a minimum rate of 22%
$250 at a minimum rate of 22.8%
$200 at a minimum rate of 23.7%
$50 at a minimum rate of 26%

Then the loan will be made for 26% and all 5 lenders will receive an APR of 26% on the money loaned. Prosper will take the amount bid from each bidder's account and combine it all together to make a single 3 year $3,000 loan to the borrower at 26%. As the borrower makes each payment to Prosper.com, the payment will be split up with 50% of the payment going to the person who loaned $1,500, 33.3% of the payment going to the person who loaned $1,000, and so on down to 1.67% of the payment going to the person who loaned $50.

Assuming instead that there are additional bidders, if the sixth bidder bids $250 at a minimum interest rate of 20%, this bid will knock the higher "minimums" ($50@26% and $200@23.7%) out of the "auction". What will remain will be:

$1,000 @ 19%
$250 @ 20%
$1,500 @ 22%
$250 @ 22.8%

Meaning that with no additional bidders before the listing expires, the borrower and lenders are now all looking at an interest rate of 22.8% Bidding will continue to drive down the interest rate until there are no longer any lenders willing to accept such a low rate for the potential risk of not having the loan paid in full. Potentially this might create a loan for $3,000 at 15% or so. This is an improvement of 3.8% for the borrower over anything they could find outside of Prosper.com and a significant improvement for the lenders over most other potential investments (assuming the lender doesn't default on the loan at some point).

To increase the likelihood of the borrower making their payments, Prosper.com updates the borrower's credit report with payments made or missed allowing the borrower to improve (or damage) their credit score. Additionally Prosper.com works with a collection agency to collect from borrowers who miss payments. Finally, Prosper.com makes automatic withdrawals from the borrower's bank account available as an option to the borrower and indicates in the loan listing if the borrower has chosen this option.

My initial thought was that the only borrowers that would turn to Prosper.com are "risky" borrowers who couldn't get a traditional loan elsewhere. After looking at the site for the past 16 months, I've come to realize that by reducing the potential profit that the banks traditionally make off of loans, Prosper.com can frequently generate loans at a better interest rate even for those with a great credit rating and debt-to-income ratio. These loans will generate many bids and drive interest rates really low as lenders consider them "safe" loans to make.

I tried participating in 5 different loans at $50 each time over the past 16 months, and as of yet none of the 5 borrowers have missed a payment and I'm earning an average of 15.43% annual return on my $250.

There certainly are risks that borrowers will fail to pay the loan in full, but as a lender I can choose, by looking at the credit report information, how much risk I'm willing to take on and what sort of return I want in exchange for that risk. If enough others are willing to take on the same risk for less return, then they are welcome to do so, and I'll move on to the next listing.

As a final note, through the end of June 2008 Prosper.com is offering a referral program. If you are referred by an existing Prosper.com borrower or lender, and you borrow money, the person who refers you gets a $50 referral bonus. If you lend money, then both you and the referrer each receive a $25 referral bonus. Qualification for the bonus requires that you create an I.D. within 30 days of the referral and that you either lend or borrow money within 90 days of the referral. If you intend to create an I.D. and lend or borrow money at Prosper.com, please consider using the link at the end of this post to create your I.D.

Prosper.com link with embedded referral for referral bonus

Business & Personal Loans. Great Rates. Prosper.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Poker Tourney Last Weekend

I played in a poker tournament last weekend. I was happy with the way I played, but I didn't win anything. The tournament started at 3:00pm with 100 players. By 7:30 there were less than 50 players remaining, and I had three times as many chips as I started with. By 8:30 I was knocked out of the tournament. If you aren't interested in my "bad-beat" story, there's no need to read any further, you can consider this the end of today's post.

My loosing hand went like this:

I had 5 and 6 of spades. The player sitting in the "under the gun" (UTG) position limped in with a call of the big blind. This was followed by the next 4 players with fold, call, fold, fold, respectively. No I had a lot of chips and by now I've established myself as a VERY tight player so I figured I'd bluff and try to push the limpers and the blinds off their hands. I raised three times the big blind.

The player sitting in the button position as well as both blinds fold. So far I've accomplished what I intended. Now I'll be thrilled if the two original callers dump their hands, but if I get one caller, things are still ok. If I get raised, I'll certainly fold.

Both of the original two callers call me. Both players have previously demonstrated some skill and knowledge of the game, so I've got to figure they've got strong hands. At this point I figure them for either high cards (AK AQ) or a decent pair (9s or higher). I know I'm behind, but it's an easy hand to get away from if I don't hit the flop.

Flop: 7 spades, 8 hearts, Q spades

Not bad, any 4 or 9 will give me a straight, and a and spade will give me a flush. I'd prefer to check this and get a free card if I can, I'll call a small bet, and fold to a raise or large bet.

UTG bets a bit less than 1/3 of what's in the pot so far. It's a bit more than I wanted to call. I figure UTG for a pair of Queens with a decent kicker, probably a K or A, or perhaps a pair of Kings or Aces. If the next player were to raise I'd figure them for 2 pair or better, and with two players both with better hands than me, I'll have to fold. If he folds, there won't be enough in the pot to make it worth calling, and I'll probably fold.

The next player calls.

Ok, so now I've got to call about 4X the big blind for a decent draw to win at least 20X the big blind.

I decide the following about this player:
unlikely to have 9,10 or he'd have folded to my raise pre-flop.
unlikely to have a pair less than QQ or they'd fold to the UTG post-flop bet.
unlikely to have a QQ with a kicker less than K or they'd have folded to the UTG post-flop bet.
unlikely to have 2 pair or they'd raise to try to thin the field.
unlikely to be bluffing, because that would require a raise.
unlikely to be trying to draw out against 2 betting/raising players with a gutshot straight draw (holding a 10,J or 4,5) or low kicker flush.

My best guess is that he has a flush draw with the Ace or King.

I can call this bet with a pay-off of at least 5X my bet if I catch the straight with out a spade. If there is a spade, I act last so I can wait and see how the other 2 play before I make my decision.

Turn: 9 diamonds

What do you know? I caught my straight, and it wasn't a spade.

UTG checks.

I'm feeling pretty confident that UTG is sitting on a pair of queens with a decent kicker. She's now a bit frightened by the potential straight, and a bit worried with neither of us backing down up to now that one of us might have her out-kicked,or have 2 pair or trips. She's probably not too concerned about the potential straight. My pre-flop raise should have her thinking that I've got some high cards, and the other players call would indicate the same.

The next player bets about half the pot.

I figure he probably wants to test us and thin the field. He sees the same opportunity as I do to convince the UTG position to fold her cards, and he needs to find out if my hand is better than his or not. I still figure he's got the flush draw with the Ace or King, but it's also possible that he could have:
QQ with A kicker
KK
AA
Trip Q's
or if he was playing really crazy pre-flop he might have flopped 2 pair.

I've got the straight and I'm sure I've got them beat. I raise 4X the current bet. This is enough that it should get them all to fold. A flush draw might call me, but if s/he doesn't catch on the river, I'm set.

UTG folds. Yep, I'm nearly certain that she was sitting on QQ with a K or A kicker. Probably the A.

Next guy raises me all in.

What?!?!

Ok, so I spend the next three minutes or so replaying all this in my mind, recalling just how each stage played out and deciding what hands might be played the way he did. He's betting into me with a potential straight on the board, and knowing that I raised pre-flop and post-turn. I finally decide that he can't figure me for the straight for the same reasons that I know he doesn't have the straight. There are a few hands that might be played the way he did.

AA: He figures me for KK or for QQ with A kicker.
QQQ: He figures me for trip 7's, trip 8's, or a pair of Q's, K's or A's.
two pair, trip 7's, or trip 8's: He called pre-flop to change it up a bit and got a lucky flop.

I've got the second best hand possible right now. The only hand that could beat me is a 10 and J. (Perhaps you can see where this is going) If he had 10,J he'd likely have folded to the raise/call pre-flop. It would be obvious that he was dominated by at least one and probably two players. If it was suited, he might have called but still unlikely. He'd definitely have folded the gutshot draw on the flop when UTG bet out and he still had me behind him.

I'm excited that I'm about to double up and will probably set myself up for an eventual place at the final table. I can feel the adrenalin as my heart rate increases. In the back of my mind I'm telling myself that he can't possibly have the 10,J and yet I wonder. I call.

We flip up our cards, and I know immediately that I'm probably headed home. He's got the 10 hearts and the J diamonds.
I hope for a spade, but when 3 other players announce having folded spades I realize it's very unlikely. I have no idea why he didn't fold pre-flop or pre-turn, but once that 9 came out, he had me.

I can't find a time in this sequence that I should have played it differently. I played well, but lost. Perhaps if I was better at reading "tells", I might have been able to figure out that he had me beat.

I went home proud of how I played but disappointed with the result.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Odds and Ends

It seems that with yesterday being 1 week since my last post, quite a few people were expecting a new post from me. My hit counter showed a 300% increase in hits yesterday as compared to the average number of hits over the past 4 days. I don't have my thoughts as organized as I'd like, so I'll just toss a handful of ideas into one quick post.

When I logged into Blogger today I saw a new feature. I figured I'd give it a try. You'll find the "Call Me" button on the right. You can click on it and the free service will call your phone and connect you to me (or my voicemail if I don't answer your call). Since it's free I figured I'd give it a try.

I figured that 2 months past Christmas the number of Nintendo Wii game consoles in stores would reach a reasonable level. I decided my birthday would be a good time to get one. It seems I was wrong. Over the past week I've called 82 different stores trying to find one, with no luck. If you know me well enough to know my phone number, and you are aware of anywhere within 90 miles of my house that has Wii game consoles in stock, call me right away and let me know where. If you don't know my phone number, but you know of anywhere in the Greater Chicagoland area with Wii game consoles in stock, try clicking the "Call Me" button on this web page, and leave me a voicemail. Thanks!

I took some pictures of the Lunar Eclipse last week. It was a perfectly clear night, and it was bitter cold. So cold that my camera battery kept freezing, and I could only get about 20 pictures (or 20 minutes) or so before it indicated it was discharged and I had to bring it into the house to warm up. Fortunately I have two batteries for the camera, so I was able to swap them between the house and the camera to allow continuous use of the camera. I was disappointed that during the "partial" portion of the eclipse the camera couldn't capture the red glow of the eclipsed part of the moon without overexposing the uneclipsed portion. Then when the moon was fully eclipsed I found I needed to use about a 2 second exposure to get a proper exposure of the red eclipsed moon. Because the moon is slowly moving across the sky, and I was using a 600mm telephoto lens, the 2 second exposure left me with a horribly blurred image. I tried faster shutter speeds and managed to get an exceptibly clear underexposed image that Ill post below. Depending on the brightness and contrast settings of your monitor you may or may not be able to see it very well. It looks much better printed out at Jewel/Osco's photo department. The partial eclipse that includes the red eclipsed portion below is actually two separate images that I've pasted together using free photo editing software called "Gimp".

Before

Early

Late

Merged

Full

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Dark Side of the Moon

If you enjoy looking up at the night sky get ready for a show tonight. A total eclipse of the moon will occur between 9:01 pm CST and 9:51 pm CST.

At 6:35 pm CST the east facing edge of the moon will enter the outer edge of the earth's shadow. At this point it is unlikely that you will be able to see any change. The outer portion (penumbra) of the earth's shadow is far brighter than the center portion (umbra).

At 7:43 pm CST the east-facing edge will enter the dark center portion (umbra) of the earth's shadow. Over the next 78 minutes you can watch the dark shadow of the earth slowly overtake the surface of the moon. At 9:01 pm CST the moon's entire surface will be covered by the earth's dark umbra.

Due to the distance between the sun, earth, and moon the earth is large enough that if it didn't have an atmosphere the moon would practically disappear into the night sky. However (fortunate for us) the earth does have an atmosphere. The sunlight that hits the daytime side of the earth lights up this atmosphere and the mostly transparent air acts like a lens to bend the sunlight around the earth and allow some of it to escape on the unlit side of the earth. Because this light must pass through so much of the atmosphere, much like a sunrise or sunset, the redder portion of the sunlight is what survives the trip around the earth the best. If you were standing in the earth's shadow on the moon, looking up at the earth in the sky, you would see a ring of red light surrounding the earth. This red light shines on the darkened moon's surface giving the moon a red glow. Depending on the condition of the earth's atmosphere (storms, pollution, dust, etc) at the time of the eclipse this will range anywhere from a barely perceptible pink hue to an almost blood like red to a deep dark maroon.

Fifty minutes later at 9:51 pm CST the east-facing edge will exit the dark umbra of the earth's shadow and begin to brighten up in the penumbra. The moons surface will slowly brighten from it's east facing edge to it's west facing edge over the next 78 minutes. By 11:09 pm CST the moon will be entirely in the penumbra and the eclipse will likely be imperceptible again. The moon will finally leave the earth's shadow entirely at 12:17 pm CST.

The entire process will take over 5 and a half hours from 6:35 pm to 12:17 pm CST. The part of the show that is most noticeable will happen slowly over a bit less than 3 and a half hours from 7:43 pm to 11:09 pm CST. If you are not completely enthralled by the activities in the sky, this might get a bit boring. I'd suggest taking a look at the full moon at least once sometime between sunset and 7:43 pm CST just to remind your mind exactly what a brilliant full moon looks like. Then head back out at least once between 8:00 pm and 8:45 pm CST (set an alarm so you don't forget). Each time you look during this period of time you'll notice more of the moon disappearing. Finally, head back out as close to 9:26 pm CST as you can (set another alarm). At that time the moon will be as deep in the shadow as it is going to get. The is when you'll best notice any reddening of the moon. Everything after that is just the reverse of what you've already seen. Of course this means that if you forget to take a look between 8:00 pm and 8:45 pm CST, you'll get a second chance between 10:00 pm and 10:45 pm.

I hope to get my telescopes set up in the driveway to take a look tonight, and I'll probably put the digital camera's out on tri-pods as well. I'm not sure how well the cameras will work in the bitter temperatures predicted this evening in my area, but if I get any good pictures I'll post them.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Did you buy a lot of stuff?

It's tax season, and I thought I'd share some useful information I found regarding tax deductions. If you find talk of taxes boring, and typically pay someone to do your taxes for you, skip to the very last sentence in today's post. For those who do their own taxes and those who find talk of tax deductions interesting, read on. . . .

Prior to 2004, when filing federal income taxes, taxpayers were allowed to deduct from their income the state and local income tax they paid. This was great for those, like me, living in states that collect an income tax. However, it was a bit annoying to people living in states with no income tax, such as Florida and Nevada. In 2004 the government passed the American Jobs Creation Act which, among other things allowed tax payers to deduct from their income the state and local sales tax they paid (see bullet point #4 at this link). While this law was due to expire after 2005, it was extended for one year in 2006 and then extended again for one year in 2007. If it is not extended again this year, then this will be the last year you will be able to make use of the deduction.

There are a few "catches" of course. For instance, you can deduct either the income tax or the sales tax, but not both. Additionally the deduction is only available if you itemize your deductions, not if you take the standard deduction.

If you live in a state that has no sales tax, such as Oregon and Delaware, you'll generally be better off deducting the state income tax you paid. If you live in a state with no income tax, you'll generally be better off deducting the sales tax you paid. Those are obvious, and the people who live on those states are probably already aware of this. On the other hand if, like me, you live in a state with both an income tax and a sales tax, it gets a bit more confusing. The only way to be sure is to figure out your tax burden both ways and see which come out better.

So if you live in a state with both a sales tax and an income tax and you kept every receipt for every purchase you made in 2007, go ahead and add up the sales tax amounts on all those receipts. Bah. Like I'm going to remember to ask for a receipt for every purchase I make for an entire year. Even if I did, there is no way I'm going to be able to keep track of them all. The hassle of trying to find the sales tax on each receipt and add it all up? No way. The odds of me adding it all up without making a single mistake? About the same as the odds that gravity will invert and we'll all start falling up.

But wait, don't give up yet. Those ingenious lawmakers seemed to have realized that was too much too ask. So, they offer a way to estimate your sales tax for the year. So now, if you itemize your deductions, you have a choice of keeping all your receipts and taking the deduction for the actual sales tax you paid or tossing your receipts and taking an estimated sales tax deduction. The IRS provides instructions on how to calculate this estimate, and they also provide a calculator online to save you from having to know how to do math. Great!

Most of the time, where I live, the estimated sales tax is less than the state income tax. This has the unfortunate effect of creating a habit of deducting the state income tax. This brings me to the reason I'm writing this public service announcement. One common reason you might come out ahead deducting the estimated sales tax is the purchase of a transportation vehicle. This is because, if you choose to use the estimated sales tax, the law allows you to additionally deduct the sales tax on the purchase of any cars, boats, airplanes, or other motor vehicles as well as any sales tax on the purchase of a home or home building materials.

I found this information to be quite useful, and I suspect that others will as well. If you bought a motor vehicle, a home, or home building materials in 2007, I'd definitely recommend taking the time to calculate the sales tax deduction using the estimated sales tax plus the vehicle general sales tax to see if it reduces your tax burden. If you made several large purchases and still have the receipts, you might want to give serious consideration to finding those receipts and adding up the sales tax. If you typically pay someone to file your taxes for you, and you made several large purchases or you purchased a home, a motor vehicle, or home building materials, bring those receipts with and mention to the tax preparer that you brought the receipts in case your state sales tax deduction comes out higher than state your income tax.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The House Is Filling With Smoke!

Scene: Valentine's Eve. I'm listening to the radio, riding home in rush hour traffic. Traffic is crawling along at 20 MPH. The temperature outside is 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and there isn't much wind at all.

(Cell phone rings)

I search my coat pockets looking for cell phone.

(Cell phone rings again)

I finally find the phone on the floor on the passenger side of the car.


Me: Hello?

Lisa: Which way does the flue open in the fireplace?

I'm thinking it's sweet that Lisa wants to have a fire going in the fireplace for me when I get home.

Me: Pull the handle from the upper left down to the right.

Lisa: (Urgently) There's smoke coming into the house! The fire alarms are going to go off soon!

Me: You've got to get the flue open. Use the log tongs and grab the handle and pull it down.

Lisa: (cough) The smoke isn't going up the chimney! (cough) Bandit, get away from there!

Me: The damper handle should swing freely. Tap it with the tongs or poker, and if it isn't swinging freely, it needs to be opened. If it is swinging freely then the smoke will be going up the chimney.

Lisa: (cough) It is open. (cough, cough) The house is filling with smoke! (cough, cough) I know Bandit, I’m trying.

Me: If you can't get the flue open you'll have to put the fire out.

Lisa: You said the handle should swing freely, right?

Me: Yes, if it's open.

Lisa: It is swinging freely; the smoke is still coming into the house.

Me: You either need to get that fire put out, or you need to call the fire department right now.

Lisa: (cough, cough)

Me: Get some water from the sink and pour it on the logs. You've got to either get the fire put out or call the fire department!

Lisa: (cough) Bandit, get out of here.

Several seconds pass.

Lisa: (a distant sounding shout) Can you hear me?

Me: Hello? Is the fire out?

Lisa: I didn't know where I set the phone down. I couldn't find it.

I realize I must be on speakerphone.

Me: Is the fire out?

Lisa: The smoke is still coming into the house.

Me: I told you, you need to get some water and put it out.

Lisa: I did, but some pieces of wood are still smoldering a bit.

Me: No, you need to soak all the wood. You need to get that smoldering out. There shouldn't be any more smoke at all.

Lisa gets the wood completely put out and comments on how the inside of the fireplace is like a swamp now. Lisa opens several windows in the area around the fireplace to try and get the smoke out of the house. I suggest turning on the exhaust fans in all the bathrooms to try and suck some of the smoke out of the house. Since the bedroom door was closed the entire time, there’s no smoke in there. Lisa heads there to keep warmer while waiting for the smoke to dissipate. She gets Bandit to come with her.

Forty minutes later when I get home, there’s no visible smoke, but the whole house sure smells of smoke. I close the windows near the fireplace, and open the windows that are farthest from the fireplace. I turn off the exhaust fans in the bathrooms. I remove the wood from the fireplace and verify that Lisa did have the flue open. I light the gas burner in the fireplace and crank the flame all the way up. The airflow seems to be going up the flue. I'm hoping that fresh air will be pulled in through the open windows and flow through the whole house towards the fireplace where it will vent up the chimney. I notice that the house is quickly cooling off, and figure this is a good sign that fresh air is coming in. I let the fireplace run like this for about 15 or 20 minutes checking regularly that the fireplace exhaust is not coming into the room. Then I close all the windows, and put some fresh dry pieces of wood on the fire. Before long there is a very hot roaring fire in the fireplace and the room begins to warm.

After talking to Lisa I've discovered that she didn't forget to open the flue like I originally thought. She opened it first, and noticed there seemed to be a bit of a draft coming from the fireplace. Having not lit many fires in the past, she didn't realize this was unusual. The draft was strong enough to blow out the match when she first tried to light the gas. Then when she got the gas lit, the flames weren't vertical, but rather were pointing into the room. This seemed wrong to her, but before she could get the gas turned back off, some of the loose bark on the wood caught and started smoking. The smoke immediately started coming into the room instead of going up the chimney.

My best guess is that the chimney walls were bitter cold and the chimney was filled with cold air. Since cold air is heavier than warmer air it came pouring into the room, much like a column of water with an open valve at the bottom, when she opened the damper. Fresh cold air was pulled into the chimney from the top and this continued the flow as she tried to get the fire started. By the time I got home things had probably evened out in the room. The draft from the chimney was gone. Running the gas fire for a bit heated up the fireplace and the chimney walls enough to create the proper updraft.

I hope this experience doesn't discourage Lisa from trying to start a fire in the future. It is nice to come home to a roaring fire after a long drive on a frigid night. We've agreed that it's probably a good idea to hold off on putting wood into the fire until the gas flame is lit and looks like it’s vertical. I've also suggested waiting 10 minutes or so before lighting the gas flame if there is a noticeable draft from the chimney when opening the damper.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Nothing New

I said I'd post at least once per week, and it's been a week. I'm actually in the midst of collecting my ideas and trying to form something interesting to read out of them. Since I don't know if I'll have that done by the end of the day today, I figured I'd quickly mention that I've added a few new blogs to my blogroll. Take some time to check them out (if you haven't already) while you wait for my next post.

Friday, February 1, 2008

At Least Once Per Week

Hmm. . . . Apparently I'm not very good at this blogging stuff. I mean, I've left all my loyal readers hanging for 3 months without a single update. For me, the official end of sailing season is the crew BBQ. After that winter rolls into Chicago. Hobby on hiatus, short days, long nights, grey skies, cold weather, long dark commutes, snow covered car, road salt on everything, etc. This situation does not lend itself to creative thinking.

Don’t like that excuse? Ok how about this one:

I was procrastinating, but I was most certainly going to write about my road trip to nowhere in particular where Lisa and I tried camping in the Prius. Then she wrote about it on her blog, and I didn’t feel like repeating everything she said. Then I figured I’d write about my niece’s birthday party, but I procrastinated so long that Lisa ended up writing about that before I got to it. Family started asking when I’d post to my blog and I decided I’d probably write about my New Year’s Eve, but Lisa has already done that as well. I could write about the diet we’ve started again, but since Lisa has written about that, I won’t bother.

Enough with the excuses. Basically, I’ve been lazy, unmotivated, and procrastinating. My New Year’s Resolution (a month late) is as of this moment, to post to this blog a minimum of once per week.

There, that takes care of this week. I’ll try to have more captivating monologue available for you soon.