MasterPo says: This blog is about topics and issues that are of importance to me. I am not one of the countless blogging lemmings that are tripping over each other scurrying down the hill and off the cliff of blogging oblivion trying to write the greatest blog on the latest topic de'jour. Your comments are welcome.

June 28, 2009

Selecting a Fishing Kayak: The Two Factors

4 years ago I took up the sport of kayak fishing. For many years friends had been doing it and I had watch them have a lot of fun (as well as catch a lot of fish!). So I finally broke down and bought my kayak, the "Goldfish". It's been a wonderful and productive experience ever since!

There are plenty of articles and websites all about how to pick a fishing kayak so I'm not going to be just another one. Nor do I hold myself out as a kayak fishing expert with only 4 years in the sport. However, being still fairly new to the sport yet having some experience under my belt there is one question that people are constantly asking me that I want to address in this article: How fast and how stable is a fishing kayak?

The bottom line is: Depends.

The factors that make a kayak stable inherently make a kayak slower in the water and visa-versa.
A kayak that is heavy, wide and deep will be more stable than a light, narrow and shallow kayak. The weight, wide "foot print" in the water, and depth that it sits in the water all add to stability factors. But at the same time the greater weight takes more paddling energy to break the inertia.

The greater surface (hull) area in contact with the water adds greater drag in the water.

Conversely, a light kayak takes less energy to get moving. A long, thin, shallow kayak has less hull in contact with the water for less resistance and this therefore faster. But being lighter means it has less mass to absorb the energy from waves and tends to roll more. Being shallow and thin gives less surface distribution to hold steady.

This not to say some kayaks are unstable! Not at all. Simply that it's a trade off of more stability features for speed or speedy features for a bit less stability.

Which is better? Again: Depends.

When I bought my kayak I had heard so many stories of people who tipped over (rolled) at the slightest turn that I chose to go for the greatest stability I could get. My kayak is very stable and I feel very secure in it. But it is slow and extremely heavy. I don't regret at all getting the Goldfish but if I ever need to get a new kayak I will go for a more speedy design instead.

But in the end, choosing a fishing kayak is much a personal choice is so much else in fishing.

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June 24, 2009

Motivation Comes From the Heart

"Motivation", aka inspiration, challenging, doing your job.

These are all terms so much associated with leadership.

We are constantly told a good leader "motivates" his/her followers or underlings. That may be. But there are many forms of motivation.

The good: Recognition in the form of awards or promotions, extra pay or other benefits, time off etc.

The bad: yelling and screaming, name calling, attempts at public humiliation, threatening to fire/dismiss you etc.

All of these do work to one extent or another. I'll leave it up to others to debate which is the better way to go.

But when all is said and done you can only motivate a person so far. The rest has to come from with in them self.

And that's the kicker.

How do you "motivate" someone to act professionally or at least maturely if they don't have it in them already? I don't see how. I've been management over people and the lack of self motivation is definitely there. I don't mean just being lazy or not caring. I mean people who see no reason to just do what they know has to be done.

In the work place especially, no matter what brilliant plan to energize and motivate the workforce at some point the people involved have to come on board and do their part. In private organizations it can be even harder when people aren't being paid or other tangible incentives to just attend meetings.

But you just can't instill a sense of motivation in someone if they don't have it already. And especially can't instill it when things are going tough. If their motivation is lacking in good times it certainly won't come through in bad times.

You can lead a horse to water but….

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June 21, 2009

Taxation WITH Representation

The classic story of the American revolution is the 13 British colonies ultimately rebelled and declared independence for excessive taxation without having a voice in the British government that was taxing them. King George III was basically siphoning money out of the colonies to pay for other British operations. Land tax, Townsend tax, and the famous tea tax just to name a few. All without the colonies being able to say or do anything about it. Thus, the saying "No taxation without representation" came about.

But what about excessive taxation with representation?

What about people being taxed every which way with the blessing and even encouragement of those they elected to represent them?!

To be clear, I am not a zero tax proponent. Taxation is a required of a nation in order to fund certain functions of being an organized nation. Most notably those functions that you and I can't do ourselves and have to be done collectively. Things like waterways construction and management, international relations and management, police and emergency responders, a common military defense etc. All these things need funding and it's part of the "dues" of being in a society to help support them. You and I can't ourselves build a bridge, dig a canal, defend our shores against an attack, etc.

But what do you do when your elected officials vote for excessive taxation?

Part of the problem is defining "excessive" in terms of taxation. For 20 years in my conversations with people the same theme comes up, quote "I don't mind paying taxes because I know it's helping people", or, "I wouldn't mind paying more to help people."

Noble sentiments.

But where's the evidence that it is in fact helping?!

Seems to me there are just as many, if not more, people crying for help as ever.

And where's the line?

Surely taxes at all levels have gone up and up and up over the last 20 years with little obvious bang for the buck.

So what do you do when your elected representatives keep voting for ever higher and higher taxes?

Something to ponder.

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June 18, 2009

Tolerance – or Acceptance? The Loss of Condemnation.

In an "enlighten" society like we're supposed to be in now, we are told to be more understanding and tolerant of people with different views and different ways of doing things. On the surface that sounds like a great concept. And after all, not being knee-jerk in reaction or being open minded is (as we are told) the sign of being "enlightened" and more mature.

But there is a very thin line between tolerance and outright acceptance, which ultimately leads to apathy or outright promotion.

Tolerance is when things happen that you have no control over and just have to deal with.
You tolerate rain on the day of your annual BBQ because you can't control the weather.
You tolerate a crying baby on a plane flight because you have to get from A to B the fastest you can.
You tolerate long lines at a store checkout during holiday season because that's the nature of shopping in person (as opposed to online) during that time of year.

And so on….

But how do you tolerate someone who is not only opposed to your point of view but actually working against you? For example, a terrorist.

Some "enlightened" folks tell terrorists are just acting our frustrations at the poor state of their own lives and environment. That's funny. When things aren't going as I want in my life I don't go around blowing up shops and air planes! We are told that we should be tolerant of the different religious point of view of these people. But how "tolerant" can you be when someone insists it is the will of their Faith that he (or she) wants YOU dead?! Sorry, I won't roll over and die for your tolerance.

Another example: A drunk.

We are told people who are chronic drinkers have a "disease". Bull! I don't buy it. Being weak willed is not a disease. Stop being so self centered! If I have to "tolerate" your so-called disease of alcoholism then doesn't that automatically make excessive drinking acceptable? After all, if I can't condemn you for it but have to tolerate it then I must be accepting it? (yes, I have known people with drinking problems and while I have helped them get treatment I still didn't tolerate or accept it in them!)

When you try to become "enlightened" understanding naturally leads to understanding and explaining behaviors and points of view that don't need explanation but need action! Sure it feels good (maybe) to think of yourself on a higher plane of thought and view than others. But you still live in the world of reality.

I don't really care why a terrorist is trying to kill me. Just that they are is good enough for me to oppose them!

I don't really care why someone is addicted to booze or drugs. Just that they are is good enough reason for me to avoid them in my life until they get cleaned up and prove they can stay that way.
There are forces in the world no one can avoid in life. But other things can be met head on and dealt with. The question is: Will you deal with reality head on or prefer to live in a fantasy that feels good?

I choose reality.

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June 15, 2009

For the Children's Sake: Ban It Already!! (or, The Hypocrisy of Keeping Smoking Legal)

The commercial starts with a child, grade school age, in bed obviously sick. The mother call the school to tell them she isn't coming into class that day because of her cold. Meanwhile, the mother lights up a cigarette. The commercial fades to black and someone voices over how many thousands of children miss school every day due to second hand smoking related health problems.

I shout out at the TV "Then ban it!"

Another commercial comes on. This time it shows a family of 4 sitting around the TV. Both parents have lit cigarettes in hand or mouth. The younger child, playing next to the parents, reaches into his pocket and takes out an inhaler. The kid shakes it up and takes a big lung full of the medication. Then goes back to playing. The screen goes dark and a voice over tells how many thousands of children suffer from asthma due to second hand smoke.

I shout at the TV "Then ban the stuff already!!"

My wife hates it when I do that. But I'm serious.

Depending on which group's website you read as many as 20,000 or 30,000 or even 50,000 children it is claimed die from second hand smoke every year!

If any of this is true then why not just ban tobacco already?!?!

The government bans anything at the drop of hat for cause far less injuries or deaths. Especially if it can be pegged to children.

Think about it: If there was a food or a medicine or a toy or anything else that caused from 10,000 to 50,000 child deaths nationally per year heads would be rolling in Washington as to why it hasn't yet been banned! And we have been told about the claimed evils of second hand smoke for at least 15 years now. So if there is any truth to those figures that means between 150,000 and 750,000 children are dead because of tobacco in that time period!! Yet it's still legal.

Because the government at the federal, state and local levels can collect taxes from it. So if these figures are correct the government is allowing tens of thousands of children to be sick and even die every year just to collect taxes.

But I don't see any outcries about it.

I am not an anti-smoking Nazi. Someone wants to smoke, in this day and age if you aren't aware of the health risks you've been living in a cave. Freedom is the chance to make bad, even life threatening, decisions.

But stop this hypocrisy right now. If smoking tobacco is in fact sickening and killing tens of thousands of children a year than have the ethical guts to just ban the stuff and be done with it.
Businesses are constantly being vilified for claims of putting profits before people. But I guess it's OK for government to put tax revenues before children's lives


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June 11, 2009

Impractical Solutions – Part 1 (The Green Commute)

Go green.

So the saying is anyway.

And one of the ways being touted these days it to take public transportation to/from work instead of driving. Seems reasonable, right?

There's an old saying:

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

If that is so that the first mile has to be paved with this impractical idea. At least impractical for me (and I'm sure millions of other Americans).

My job is 12 miles from my house. I drive to work now which takes me about 25-30 minutes (a lot of traffic lights). And there is ample free (and relatively safe/secure) parking at my building.

I have looked into taking public transportation and will possible it is greatly impractical.

Here's why:

Bus: To get to work by public transportation bus I would have to take 3 separate buses from my home to work (and back of course). There is no free transfer between these bus lines either! The first bus stop is a 10 minute walk from home. There is no parking near by so I'd have to walk to/from the stop in all weather. There is a 5-10 minute walk between stops for buses 1&2 and 2&3. Also exposed to the weather. None of the bus stops have shelters. And the closest stop for bus #3 to my job is another 10 minute walk.

By the way, some of the areas I would have to walk through and wait to change buses aren't the nicest neighborhoods on Long Island, especially in the dark.

If that weren't bad enough, based on the published bus schedules for Suffolk County in order to arrive at work by 9am I would have to leave my house by 6:00am to make the first scheduled bus at 6:20am. That's presuming a perfect scenario day too (e.g. good weather, no traffic, etc.). Likewise, coming home presuming a good work day that I can leave at 5pm on the dot, by the published schedules I wouldn't get home until a minimum of 7:30pm.

To put it another way, my current 45-60 minute round trip commute per day I have now would grow to at least 5-6 hours every day! And that is best-case-scenario. Add in bad weather like ice, snow, or heavy rain, add in traffic, road construction, an accident, and the inevitable bus breakdown and who knows how long it can take!

Train: To take the closest Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station to my house and get to the nearest LIRR station to my job I would actually have to go in the opposite direction from work into New York City and take a train back to Long Island! (and visa-versa to go home) That is the most direct train path from my local LIRR station to my job. According to the published LIRR schedules the trip is 2 and a half hours long. That would be in addition to a 10 minute walk from my house to the train station. And the closest station to my job is itself at least a 30 minute walk from my building (also through a not-so-nice neighborhood!). So in totally I would be looking at a minimum of 3 hours each way!

It's also important to note the train line that services the closest station to my job is not the most reliable in the LIRR system. It frequently has delays, breakdowns, and even cancelled trains.

Bicycle: Though not public transportation, it deserves mention here too for the same reasons.
Riding a bicycle would require me to bike 12 miles each way. That’s 24 miles a day!

Even in my glorious youth I never road 12 miles in a single day much less 24! Neither is the terrain flat all the way (many hills to climb).

As before, cycling would require riding through several not-so-nice neighborhoods too. And what of the weather? I can't see riding a bike in the snow or a stormy day or the dog days of August.

Public transportation is certainly a good idea. And in some case it is practical. When I work in New York City driving into the city is impractical so the trains in/out is the only way to go.

But I don't work in the city now. And neither do millions of Americans.

There is no reasonable public transportation available to me and them. And there isn't going to be any built. That's reality.

It is impractical.

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June 8, 2009

An Open Letter to President Obama: Keep the Uncertainty Flowing, the Economy Loves It (Not!)

Dear President Obama,

You have done a masterful job as President so far with the economy.

No other President in American history has talked down such a high market into the doldrums.
No other President has talked down consumer confidence as well.
Nor has any other President crushed the short and intermediate plans of so many Americans. (maybe even ending the long term plans for many too!)

It is truly an accomplishment, though not one I would suggest putting on your resume.

But I will say that are you partially correct on one aspect: Spending will turn the economy around.

But only consumer spending will, not government spend.

To be sure, when you throw so many trillions of dollars against the wall something is bound to stick. But that just can't be sustained as a matter of forward policy. No. Consumer and not government spending is the process you need to get moving again to turn the economy around. And it doesn't help when you want to usurp the power to take over businesses and industries at will while at the same time saying there is no promise it will save the business or a factory or someone's job.

It further doesn't help when every week yet another proposed ban on this, mandatory change to that, or something extreme change to individual's lives comes out of Washington. People understand: those things will cost them money!

And factor in the inevitable rise in taxes to pay for this awesome spending. People know it will hit them. Even if a direct tax on them they know business they rely on – food, medicine, fuel, clothing etc. – will just pass the cost on to the consumer.

So people are not willing to spend. Why should they? If they have money, have high incomes they know your policy Mr. President is to tax the hilt out of them. So they will need the money to pay your taxes. If you tax their employer they know that's less income down to them or even may loose their job! So they need their money to survive on. And even taxing other business when those businesses pass the costs down to the consumer the people will need their money just to purchase the daily staples of life. So they don't spend on extras.

Let me give you a personal example:

I am an avid sport fisherman. A few years ago I became involved in the sport of kayak fishing. I purchased a starter-level kayak, outfitted it with accessories, and have done very well with it. Now that I have some years of experience under my belt I better know what I like and don't like in a fishing kayak.

As such I have been entertaining the idea of buying a new, more advanced model fishing kayak. This new kayak would cost me around $1,800 just for the hull. Add in accessories and the total cost will come to at least $2,500. I would buy this kayak from a local kayak dealer who as much makes his living selling kayaks and kayak accessories. And I would be paying New York State and Suffolk county sales tax on this purchase.

I have the funds to buy it. But I hesitate to make the purchase.


I strongly believe I will need those funds to pay future taxes. Or to pay for markedly rising staples of daily life. Or some other directly or indirectly forced tax, fee, charge, excise, etc. mandated from Washington. So for now I choose to hold on to my money, not spend it, and there for not contribute to stimulating my local (and by extension, the national) economy.

I am not the only one who is taking this stance on discretionary purchases.

Always remember Mr. President: It is discretionary purchases that grow an economy and make a nation and its people prosper! Not simply the supplying and selling of the basics of life.

This is what your administration's policies have wrought upon our nation.

Very truly yours,


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June 4, 2009

Harry Potter and the War On Terror

(WARNING! This article contains spoilers for the movies "Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire" and "Harry Potter and The Order Of The Phoenix"!)

Having seen the movie "Harry Potter and The Order Of The Phoenix" I was struck but how much art imitates life. That is, how this movie is so close paralleling the actions, or rather the thinking, that is going on today with the war on terrorism.

The parallel actually started at the conclusion of the prior movie in the series "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" when Professor Dumbledore announces to the assembled school that Voldemort has returned. In so announcing the return Dumbledore says there are those who want to keep this information suppressed but he feels that the students, being up and coming would-be wizards and witches (Voldemort's prime targets), they need to know to be prepared.

Later in "The Order Of The Phoenix" this stance is taken to the next greater level as the leadership of the wizard world (the Ministry of Magic and the Minister of Magic himself) vehemently denies the return of Voldemort. Not only denying it but takes active steps to seemingly disarm the wizard/witch students at Hogwarts from any knowledge of defensive magic and the teaching of protection against dark forces. All the while repeating with smile how there is nothing out there to need to be protected from, even though the patterns of Voldemort's return are clear.

What does any of this have to with fighting terrorism?


It appears that we – by way of the Obama administration – are just as head in the sand about terrorists and terrorism and the Minister of Magic his about Voldemort in the movie.

For starters, the words "terrorist" and "terrorism" is no longer used. When the new head of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, gave her first appearance before a Congressional committee she used the word "hurricane" 7 times and "attack" only twice. She never used the words "terrorist" or "terrorism" at all! This in spite of the fact that Homeland Security was created for the sole reason of protecting America mainland from terrorism!! I guess she must think a hurricane is a bigger threat than a terrorist.

The White House and, by order there from, the Pentagon no longer uses the phrase "war on terror" and instead calls it "overseas contingency operations". Yea. That describes protecting America from terrorists very well. I'm sure the terrorists are quaking in their shoes about our new "overseas contingency operations".

Seems like President Obama has completely forgotten about the 9/11 commission, specifically when the report clearly states that the terrorists where at war with us for years long before 9/11 and before we recognized it as a war. Looks like we don't recognize it anymore either.

I fear that, just as in the movie, the reality of the situation will only be recognized when it's right in our faces – again.

How many thousands of Americans must die this time to renew the point this is a war and not just some "operation"?

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

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June 1, 2009

Your Internet "Foot Print" is Not as Big as You Think!

For years there have been articles and news reports on nearly a daily basis about how open and vulnerable we all are on the internet. The articles and reports project an image that our lives are all an open book on the net waiting for some unscrupulous person to find out everything about us from our home address to our shoe size and when we were first potty trained.

That simply is not true – on the whole.

Yes there is some information about you on the internet. But no more than what is already easily obtained from a phone book or public records.

Putting aside for the sake of this article the crimes of fraud and general hackers, the real detailed information about you and your life simply is not on the internet – unless you put it out there!

You have to put all the detailed information about yourself and your family out there for others to find (or provide it to someone else for them to put out there). That is you have to purposely go out onto the internet and create things like Myspace, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages about yourself for others to have personal information about you. Or create a personal website or blog and use your real name. Or join Classmates or one of the other school/reunion web sites. Or a dating website.

Even posting on message boards doesn't automatically leave a "cyber trail" as some have put it because most people don't use their real names on message boards. And you'd be a fool to do that anyway (at least on the vast majority of message boards).

In short, it really is a lot harder to find out detailed personal information about someone on the internet unless they themselves put that information out there. That's not to say caution can be thrown to the wind. But just being connected to the net doesn't make your life an open book to the world.

Such panic sells newspapers and makes ratings. But the truth isn't all that sensational.

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