Friday, May 18, 2007

Maybe Bribes And Kickbacks And Mafia Payoffs Are How You Do Business

It's an America's Cup year. I am glued to the BIG screen. America vs Italy and Spain vs New Zealand are my Cubs, Yankees, BoSox and whatever they call the team that plays in the pointy ball park in Montreal or Toronto... some Canadian city that has a ball team.

I love watching sailboat racing. I really love coming home from work and there's a pair of 3 foot tall sailboats dueling for position in my living room. Since one of the boats is Italian Lisa's grandfather has been watching with me. I've been trying to explain it to him. It's not the gentlemenly past time it once was. Gone are boats featuring grand pianos or bars with trained monkey bartenders. These boats cost 35-40 million dollars. The teams have hundreds of support personel back in the boat yard. They are the height of nautical sporting technology. For a geek like me they're not technology they're ballet. I don't see a boat. I see graphite epoxy rocket ships. I see geometry in action.

Harry Allcock.

It's not a made up porn name. Harry Allcock is the worlds authority on polyphosphazenes. I took a materials science class with him at Penn State. Harry is very English. Port snifting kind of English. "A Woman Hasn't Set Foot In The Club Sitting Room Since 1763" kind of English. He gave a friend of mine an F because he had a beard. He didn't put 2&2 together when that friend shaved the beard and retook the class. Or maybe the good doctor forgave him for the self expression.

I was at PSU alone. Lisa hadn't come out to join me yet. The campus cable service sucked ass and carried crap stations in languages not even the weird grad students spoke. The cable channel that was showing The America's Cup Race wasn't offered so Lisa was bootlegging videotapes of the races to me. I would watch the races over and over until Lisa would bring me a new tape.

One morning Dr. Allcock decides to employ Socratic Method to deliver his lecture point. He describes in very general terms a sailboat and tells us there is this big race called America' Cup that have fancy boats. He asks us to think-pair-share and consider the materials that go into sailboats.

I pick up the ball and run with:

The hull are epoxy resin over fiberglass or carbon fiber with balsa wood decking or ferrocement. The standing rigging is steel or carbon fiber unless it's a rigless mast. The mast is aluminum or carbon fiber. It's definately carbon fiber if it's a rigless mast. The sails are dacron, nylon or mylar laminated in sheets over x-ply weaves of carbon fiber. The running rigging are

And that's where he stopped me because half the students in the class were furiously jotting down notes about what I was saying and the other half felt tremendously stupid. Like they showed up 20 minutes late for the first day of kindergarten and would never catch up.

Leaky asked me if I raced sailboats for a living.

Dr Allcock then debated that mylar and graphite were not used together in sails.

I know how to make coffee.

I know how to sail.

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