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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Archive for May, 2008

Eclipse Kites, a layman’s review

Posted by direwolff on May 28, 2008

This past Saturday, my buddy Charlie and I had a chance to borrow and ride our friend Gabe’s Eclipse Thruster 14m and Eclipse Nano 12m kites back to back, with a third session on our respective mainstay kites, which for me is the Best Bularoo ’07 10m. Oh yeah, and made a new friend along the way. But first, the kites.

I started on the Thruster at around 2:25pm in what were relatively low winds for Crissy Field on a flood tide. Here’s what the day’s wind graph looked like:

The 14m Thruster handled these conditions like a champ (note the dip to an average of below 10 kts at around 2:40pm). It felt powered the whole ride, and at times even went into near over-powered situations in the gusts (hard to tell from the graph above, but the other side of the Bay is quite a bit more powered than where the meter readings are coming from). The Thruster stays further ahead of the window and was just pulling me ahead faster rather than off the edge of the directional board as the Bularoo tends to do when over powered. So long as I kept a good streamlined body position and handled the speed it never felt like there would be a need to downwind to slow down. For the Cabrinha Race Series at Crissy Field, this kite is going to be very interesting. The kite also wanted to be moved to avoid allowing it to get into its low-end. Moving the kite created tremendous effective wind and I never felt that it would drop out of the sky on the heavy lulls we experienced. The low-end did feel a bit weaker and less stable than my Bularoo, but I attribute this more to the higher aspect ratio of this kite.

After about 40-45 minutes, Charlie and I switched kites. The Nano is a completely different type of kite. First off, it’s much more medium-to-low aspect, which is quickly noticeable by its profile. The Nano is considered Eclipse’s true wave kite and for good reason. The turning speed on this kite was unreal and the effective wind it generates was significantly more powerful than the Thruster’s. It feels like it’s always ready for a fast turn, to the point that it’s a bit twitchy for my style of riding and in the locations that I frequent. I do enjoy riding waves a lot, but unlike the serious wave riders, I still prefer a more stable kite that I don’t have to move as much. Having said that, it was amazing how a 12m kite was just as powerful as a 14m of a different design. Lest you think this has something to do with the Eclipse riding small, another friend was out on his 14m Ocean Rodeo Rise and he was just as powered as we were on the Thruster.

If I was going to start to do more strapless wave riding and was a regular stance rider, the Nano would probably be the smarter kite to ride, but as a goofy footer who likes to use a seat harness and gets a little lazy, the stability of the Thruster is much more welcomed.

As the winds picked up, Charlie and I moved back to our smaller kites. The big difference I could feel (besides the obvious size differences), was that the Bullie a bit more stable, but would quickly loose ground on an upwind tack compared to the Thruster. Actually, when Charlie, whom I can easily out upwind because of my quad fin board, was leaving me in the dust when he was on the Thruster and I was on the Nano. He had at least a 2 to 5 degree advantage which may not make much of a difference over a few feet, but makes a heck of a difference over a quarter or half mile reach. I’m really looking forward to trying the 10m Thruster and experience the combination of its smaller kite turning speed with its upwindability.

The one significant down side I see with the Eclipse kites is their bar, in two regards. First, the throw is very short relative to the Best bars. What’s nice about the long throw is that you can dump 100% of the power which is very handy in strong gusty conditions which we often have to deal with in the Bay area. Second, the locking device to shorten the throw is very clumsy. Best and Slingshot long ago figured out a very simple stopper system that can be moved with one hand under most circumstances. The Eclipse mechanism requires more steps than should be necessary. While the shorter throw would normally be a big issue to me, with the kite upwinding as it does, I’m confident that it’s just a matter of getting used to this because I shouldn’t get yanked off my edge in the direction the kite pulls.

Now for my new acquaintance. As I was walking to my car after the cold Crissy Field shower, I saw this guy that looked familiar but couldn’t place him. And then it struck me. Several friends (most recently fellow Seesmic co-conspirator, Cathy Brooks) had mentioned to me that the well known international blogger Loic Le Meur of Le Web and Seesmic fame was a kiteboarder at Crissy, but for some reason we had never run into each other. Well, that all changed on Saturday. We had actually been riding near each other for part of our last session, so conversation was easy and pretty much kiting oriented. Put two kiters in the same room and no matter what they do outside of this sport will remain a mystery to by-standers as all they will talk about is the latest session…or the one before that. It was no different between us that day :) As an ol’ hand on the Bay area kiting scene I was able to share some of the webcam links we use to track local conditions. You’ll see these now appearing on his del.icio.us page. Always fun to meet a fellow addict, and it’s clear that Loic fits that bill well.

*** Update 5/28/08, late evening: Forgot to mention that I was so psyched after riding the Thruster that I ordered 10 & 14m kites.  Can’t wait to ride’em :)

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Posted in Kitesurfing & Extreme Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Surprise, surprise…NOT!

Posted by direwolff on May 28, 2008

What kills me about the following story that’s now making it’s way through the press, is how obvious the deceptions were while they were happening (except apparently to the folks in the Red States and the mainstream media), but it takes this book for every one to now believe it.  If you’re wondering what I’m referring to, it’s former White House press secretary, Scott McClellan‘s upcoming book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception“.

You can read about some of the juicy tidbits in this Washington Post article:

Ex-Press Aide Writes That Bush Misled U.S. on Iraq

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 28, 2008; A01

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes in a new memoir that the Iraq war was sold to the American people with a sophisticated “political propaganda campaign” led by President Bush and aimed at “manipulating sources of public opinion” and “downplaying the major reason for going to war.”

McClellan includes the charges in a 341-page book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” that delivers a harsh look at the White House and the man he served for close to a decade. He describes Bush as demonstrating a “lack of inquisitiveness,” says the White House operated in “permanent campaign” mode, and admits to having been deceived by some in the president’s inner circle about the leak of a CIA operative’s name.

I wonder if any country or our own Congress will have the guts to call for war crimes trials against this administration once they’re out of office.  Come on, who am I kidding.

Posted in Public Policy | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

U.S. Kiteboarding Nationals are COMING!!!

Posted by direwolff on May 23, 2008

Yee-ha, can’t wait!!!

June 9th through June 15th 2008, San Francisco will be the lucky host of the U.S. Kiteboarding National Championships – 2008.  Should be very exciting with team riders flying in from all over the world to participate in the excitement.  Crissy Field will be where it all goes down.  Whether you’re enthusiast or just curious, come down to check out the pagentry of this event.  For registration information you can check out: http://www.uskitenationals.com.

There will also be parties in the evenings where all are welcome.

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RONSTAN Bay Challenge – St. Francis Yacht Club

Posted by direwolff on May 22, 2008

RONSTAN Bay Challenge
St. Francis Yacht Club
May 31-June 1, 2008
NOTICE OF RACE

1.0 RULES
1.1 The regatta will be governed by the rules as defined in The Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS), except as any of these are altered by the Sailing Instructions.
1.2 All competitors are required to wear a wetsuit at all times while racing.
1.3 Competitors in the Formula class must display sail numbers on both sides of all sails.
1.4 Competitors in the Kite class must wear a numbered jersey.

2.0 ELIGIBILITY AND ENTRY
2.1 The following classes are invited to participate: Kite and Formula.
2.2 Eligible boats may enter by completing the online registration form located at www.stfyc.com.
2.3 Fleets must have six boats registered by the entry deadline to qualify for a class start.

3.0 FEES
3.1 Entry fee is $85, less $5 with proof of current USSA or USWA membership, if received by May 28, 2008.
3.2 Entry fee is $95, less $5 with proof of current USSA or USWA membership, if received after May 28, 2008.

4.0 SCHEDULE
4.1 Late Registration: Saturday, May 31 from 1000 hours to 1030 hours.
4.2 Racing will be held Saturday, May 31 & Sunday, June 1.
4.3 The scheduled time of the Warning Signal for the first race each day is 1130 hours. A Sailors’ Meeting will be held at 1030 hours on Saturday, May 31.
4.4 Sailors and their guests are welcome to attend a social on Saturday night and a trophy ceremony following the conclusion of racing on Sunday.

5.0 SAILING INSTRUCTIONS
The Sailing Instructions will be available at the check-in before the Sailors’ Meeting, while an unofficial copy may be found on the St. Francis Yacht Club web site by Thursday, May 29.

6.0 RACING AREA
The intended course racing area will be set on the City Front utilizing inflatable marks. The intended area for the distance race will be from the City Front to the Berkeley Pier and back for some classes.

7.0 SCORING
7.1 One race shall constitute a series.
7.2 Kite and Formula classes will sail one distance race on Saturday, and three course races on Sunday. The distance race will be scored separately from the course racing. All course races will count towards a boats final course racing score.

8.0 BERTHING
If you plan on leaving a trailer in the City parking lot prior to Saturday morning or overnight on Sunday, please contact the Harbor Master’s Office 415-292-2013 for an overnight parking permit. All trailers will be towed without a city permit. On Saturday night, all trailers must be stored at the direction of the St. Francis Yacht Club Dock Master. Competitors are responsible for their own board and gear storage.

9.0 DISCLAIMER OF LIABILITY
Competitors participate in the regatta entirely at their own risk. See rule 4, decision to race. The organizing authority will not accept any liability for material damage or personal injury or death sustained in conjunction with or prior to, during, or after the regatta.

10.0 FURTHER INFORMATION
For further information please contact the St Francis Yacht Club race office at 415.563.6363, email raceoffice@stfyc.com , or visit www.stfyc.com .

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Google Health…the start of a dangerous precedent

Posted by direwolff on May 19, 2008

Just caught VentureBeat’s post on the release of Google Health which naturally lead me to go check it out. I was greeted by a login screen, and so my “Spidey senses” started tingling. First off I welcome the idea of a vertically focused search service for health issues. As an advisor to Healia, which was recently acquired by Meredith Corporation, I learned to appreciate the value and the challenges in a vertically focused search service for health matters. What was nice about Healia is that I didn’t have to identify myself to gain a tremendous amount of value. Should I want to get more involved, the ability to join health communities was there and enabled me to self-identify with a health matter and pursue several types of activities. However, the ability to pursue certain activities anonymously was always there.

Google Health, by asking me to sign-in (since I’m a user of other Google services) or register if I’m new to Google services and they don’t find a cookie, is now able to track my use of the service (which presumably includes my searches) and associate these to my registered e-mail address. Imagine I search for something that has nothing to do with any medical condition I have, but perhaps is something my mother is suffering from, does this mean that that information gets correlated to me? Not sure, but it’s not a stretch to think that some of Google’s behavioral and contextual analysis technology would make this association. How long will it be before the insurance industry catches up to this and begins to require that I provide them access to this information if I want to get medical or life insurance? Again, not sure, but it’s not a stretch to see this possibility.

In reading the Google Health Privacy Policy there was a reference to Google’s standard Privacy Policy. Specifically interesting is the section below on Information Sharing:

Information sharing

Google only shares personal information with other companies or individuals outside of Google in the following limited circumstances:

We have your consent. We require opt-in consent for the sharing of any sensitive personal information.

We provide such information to our subsidiaries, affiliated companies or other trusted businesses or persons for the purpose of processing personal information on our behalf. We require that these parties agree to process such information based on our instructions and in compliance with this Policy and any other appropriate confidentiality and security measures.

We have a good faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to (a) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request, (b) enforce applicable Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations thereof, (c) detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues, or (d) protect against imminent harm to the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public as required or permitted by law.

If Google becomes involved in a merger, acquisition, or any form of sale of some or all of its assets, we will provide notice before personal information is transferred and becomes subject to a different privacy policy.

We may share with third parties certain pieces of aggregated, non-personal information, such as the number of users who searched for a particular term, for example, or how many users clicked on a particular advertisement. Such information does not identify you individually.

Please contact us at the address below for any additional questions about the management or use of personal data.

What this basically communicates to me, is that there are situations in which Google will share my information that may be at odds with my desire to have this information shared. While it’s entirely understandable why legally they need to lay out these terms, enforcing them comes at their discretion whether or not they are right in doing so. The only person who suffers in those situations is me, or us should this apply to many people. While my general surfing habits are one thing, when we get into medical situations I believe this could create a challenging situation for all of us to be in.

Yes, it’s great that they are providing us a place to aggregate and manage our medical information, and yes it’s nice to be able to correlate this to helpful information and possible helpful diagnosis on our ailments. It’s even nice to get information on how medications may interact adversely, or even be able to re-order medications easily and find local suppliers. But at the risk of sounding like a luddite, the trade-off of the greater dangers of centralizing this information for government use or for institutional use, specifically those of the insurance industry, is totally not worth it and a slippery road we go down if people begin to adopt the use of this service.

Posted in Online Community, Public Policy, reviews, search & categorization | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Super Cool Astronaut & Endeavor Images

Posted by direwolff on May 17, 2008

These are super high quality pics that really blew me away and provides us a small glimpse of what it must be like to be out there.  Here’s an example:

Posted in Just Fun, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

COMCAST "FUCKEN" ROCKS!!!

Posted by direwolff on May 2, 2008

A few days ago, after reading an article about a guy named Frank Eliason at Comcast keeping up with Twitter and RSS feeds on any mention of Comcast, I decided to try to get his attention on a problem that had stumped their tech support and made life difficult for me and Lil’ Pinot. I wrote the following blog post, “Frank Eliason from Comcast, can you hear me”.

Well wouldn’t you know it, Frank responded the very next day. I hadn’t checked my e-mail so I only got it tonight and responded to him. Also updated my post to note that he had gotten back to me. It gets even better, after my note back to him elaborating on the issue his next response was the perfect answer and solved our problems!!! Two e-mails and the guy nailed it, all from me posting it on my blog. While there’s plenty of bad things we can say about Comcast, it’s clear that we need to differentiate between the institutional issues and the people, because when it comes to the people it’s clear that some care a lot about the customer. Note, Frank’s interactions with me occurred from 10:30pm to 11:00pm on a Friday night. That blew my mind and really forces me to rethink how I consider this company. It’s clear that some people there totally *GET IT*.

Posted in Online Community, reviews | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Kitesurfing Ad in Tel Aviv…COOL!

Posted by direwolff on May 2, 2008

A buddy of mine took this picture of a billboard in Tel Aviv advertising kitesurfing just outside of his hotel there.

Gotta love that! :)  SEND IT!!!

Posted in Kitesurfing & Extreme Sports | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Bularoo Update…

Posted by direwolff on May 1, 2008

As you may recall from my previous post on this matter, “Best Bularoo Quiver; the Good, the Bad and the Ugly“, I mentioned the mishap that happened with my 10m Bularoo that was suffering from two slow leaks. The good news is that my dealer, Live2kite.com, replaced it without incident and told me that he would take care of this with Best. The bad news is that today is day number 4 of riding the new kite, and again a slow leak seems to have manifested itself. This time I was in very intense waters just outside of the Golden Gate Bridge, with big swells and somewhat gusty winds averaging 21kts (16-26kt range). After falling off a swell, while holding my kite up above me and reaching for my board I noticed the kite nearly fold up then straighten out again. This sometimes happens if a big gust hits it followed by a big lull. But something about the way it folded didn’t feel right.

I immediately signaled to my buddy Bill that I was going to head back to shore, and we both motored down wind. It took about 15 minutes to get back to Crissy Field and sure enough upon landing the kite and checking the main bladder it had lost tons of air. The leading edge was very soft and I was very lucky to have made it back to shore when I did or I would have surely experienced another kitemare. This is nuts!!! As I let it sit for a bit longer, more air escaped so that it was nearly all flat within another hour. This is the second brand new Bularoo 10m kite I’ve gotten in a month that’s had this happen to it. I’m pumping it up to the recommended 10psi and making sure every valve is properly closed (especially these days since my last incidents).

Well, I need to get to the bottom of this and find out what’s going on here. I’d hate to believe that Best is selling defective kites. I’m a big fan and have lots of other friends riding their other kites. One of my buddies is riding the Bullies too and two days ago he felt one of his end rib bladders was low. Not good. I’ll update this post with what I learn, but suffice it to say, I “ain’t” happy. Given the conditions and situations we get into up here in Nor Cal, having unreliable kites is not only disconcerting but downright dangerous and the last thing you want on your mind as you get out to sea.

*** UPDATE 5/2/08: After the Cabrinha Thursday Night Race Series at Crissy Field last night, the racers are invited to unwind at St. Francis Yacht Club adjacent to the park. While there, I met a young guy whose name escapes me, but he flies a Best Nemesis XP quiver. We got to talking about the slow leak issue I’ve been facing and he explained that it’s a known problem. What’s happening is that the small plugs for the valves on the struts are actually a tiny bit too small. Under air pressure from being pumped up, they tend to release air. This was also happening to his kites. He explained what he learned from another friend.

Pull the plugs off the velcro and the plastic ring that keeps them attached to the valve. Find a pencil or something that can be inserted into the hollow end of the plug that will stretch this. Next, boil some water, then drop the plugs in (I’d recommend one at a time since it doesn’t take long to soften a plug) for a minute. While soft from having been in the hot water, insert the pencil or other device into the hollow end of the plug so that it’s forced to stretch just a tiny bit (the pencil seemed to work best as it barely fit and provided just enough stretch for the plug). Stretching the plug too much will mean that it won’t be able to fit in the valve when you put it all back together, so err on the side of less stretching, not more. After putting the pencil into the plug, then dip the two into cold water to harden the plastic. Consider twisting the pencil while inside the plug before dipping in the cold water just to make sure that the plug is legitimately stretched. That’s it. Then put the plugs back in the velcro and in the plastic holder that’s attached to the valve, and you should be good to go.

Yesterday I pumped my kite up to check on it before fixing it, and it deflated sufficiently to notice within 10 mins. and by 30 mins. it had lost a lot of air. After fixing it today, I left it out for 3 hours and no air had escaped. This afternoon, with a bit of confidence under my belt, I went out to Crissy Field again in 25 kt winds and it held up perfectly. Checked all the ribs and the leading edge, and everything appeared to hold up fine. While I’m no fan of buying a new kite that I then have to work on, I’m just happy to gain some peace of mind from having this issue resolved. I wish Best Kiteboarding would take the time to make this information available as it’s my understanding that this problem is not occurring with Bularoos only, but with all of their kites. Nothing on their web site or their forums explicitly addresses this issue, and from what I understand from the guy who shared this, he has discussed it with Shannon Best to no avail. Sad but true.

*** UPDATE 5/17/08: So the saga continues. Well, I had a re-occurrence of the slow leak issue on 5/15 after 45 mins of riding. Just had a sneaking suspicion I should come in just to check things out despite not having had recent problems since applying “the fix”. Well, sure enough it was slow leaking again. Anyway, on the second page of the thread where we have been discussing this issue on the Best Kiteboarding forums, you should be able to find a link to the instructions from Best on fixing this problem w/zipties, and another forum participant actually put up some pics of where the zipties should be applied. Check out: http://forum.bestkiteboarding.com/viewtopic.php?t=4621&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=15 for more info.

Posted in Kitesurfing & Extreme Sports, reviews | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

Frank Eliason from Comcast…can you hear me…hear me…hear me…

Posted by direwolff on May 1, 2008

Just got done reading the Social Media Insider e-mail newsletter from MediaPost titled, “All A-Twitter About Comcast’s Twitter Guy“.

It’s a great post about how Frank Eliason from Comcast has been tracking RSS feeds and Twitter to keep up with commentary on the company. It’s very cool and innovative, so I’m going to give it a try by talking about them here about a specific nasty little problem that’s developed with our use of Comcast at our home/office. It all started on April 3rd of this year when all of a sudden my wife called me while I was on business in New York to tell me that she couldn’t send e-mail. She was receiving e-mail just fine, but was getting errors in sending e-mail. My first thought was that she’d gone and done something weird and just needed to reboot and everything would be fixed. That didn’t work. Then I went and looked at our domain service and our hosted e-mail service to make sure those were operational, and sure enough they checked out. On my end, I was having no problems sending and receiving e-mails to my Crackberry so I knew the basics were working just fine.

When I got back home a day later, my computer got on our wi-fi network without a hitch and I was able to get on the Internet and was receiving e-mails with no probs, but guess what? Sending e-mails wasn’t working. Actually, the more I diagnosed things the worse it seemed. Not only could I not send e-mail to the SMTP servers from our domain but I couldn’t send e-mail through Yahoo! Mail or Gmail from her machine or mine. Note, she’s using a MacBook with Microsoft Entourage and I’m using a PC running Vista and Microsoft Outlook 2007. This was nutty. So I booted up my old PC with XP and Outlook 2003 on it to see if that would work, and surely that too didn’t work. Note that the POP protocol was working fine since we could receive e-mail, but sending through SMTP both where it was secured and where it wasn’t didn’t work.

In calling Comcast support, I knew this would be out of the league of a general support person as this was a very nuanced problem. Considering we have been living in the same house for nearly three years without a problem other than the occasional reboot of our computers, the wi-fi router or the cable modem, and all of a sudden computers using three different operating systems and three different mail clients stopped working, it wasn’t going to be easy to diagnose. He recommended that we try our Comcast mail account which we had never used. It was easy enough to add it to the list of e-mail accounts and once again, this too was able to receive e-mail through the client apps but not send any. Yikes!!! He then mentioned that they didn’t support Outlook, only Outlook Express, which sounded like an immediate cop out. For Pete’s sake, given the dominance of the Outlook platform, you’d have to be an idiotic company not to support your users’ use of all flavors of Outlook. More importantly, it was clear that it wasn’t the problem since we had been using our e-mail clients for nearly three years without incident. I did also try to “ping” the e-mail servers and in a twist of irony I could ping all of the SMTP servers and get responses except for the Comcast SMTP server. Too funny, but weird at the same time. Why can I get a response off of “ping” but not from the Outlook test sends to the accounts. Hmm…

Well, since this fiasco I’ve been relegated to using Gmail through the Web client which is perhaps a good thing as it’s helping me virtualize my system and reduce my dependency on my PC’s software, basically I’m now working off the cloud ;) However, it is frustrating having to change my organizational system.

With this said, I hope Frank catches my blog post so that I too can write about the awesome Comcast service that I’ve grown accustomed to and have found to be reliable. My wife is not as pleased with the virtualization experiment, so it would be helpful to resolve this issue so her life could be made easier since she finds using the Web e-mail clients impractical for keeping track of her e-mails.

Frank, can you hear me?!!! Please…

*** UPDATE 5/2/08: I hadn’t had a chance to check my e-mail yesterday, but Frank responded with some thoughtful consideration.  We haven’t fixed it yet, but at least we’re in a dialog.  This guy ROCKS!!!  That he saw my post and responded shows that Comcast has some really bright people who understand and care about their customers.  Some times bureaucracy gets in the way of people being able to do the right thing, but every now and then a few get together to overcome this and do the right thing.  Frank and whatever team he has working with him on keeping up with these channels of communications deserve a big fat round of applause.  I’m totally blown away that this story about Frank is actually true and someone at Comcast is helping me get through a really tough time.  This is how to keep a customer, and in an age where customer acquisition costs are growing rapidly and making a switch to another service is fairly easy, this kind of behavior will always be rewarded with loyalty and a story I will tell any friend who disses Comcast.

Posted in reviews, Technology | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »