Monday, January 31, 2011

Portugese Man-O-War

After returning from Europe Tuesday night, I went surfing at Lower Kanaha on Wednesday morning and one of these combative little fuckers lit me up pretty good.

I actually never saw the creature. Probably what stung me was a detatched tentacle. It was so thin I couldn't see it; it wrapped around my wristwatch and stung the sh!t out of my forearm until I was able to grab it with my other hand (by feel) and toss it away. The whole incident consumed less than 2 seconds.

I have been stung by Man-O-War about a half-dozen times (on several occasions much worse than this), so for those of you who dive, surf, swim in the ocean, kiteboard, and so forth, I thought I'd expound a bit on what to do should you find yourself a victim.

My right forearm, 5 days after the fact.

Unless you're one of those unfortunate people so allergic to bites you must carry an anaphylactic pen, Man-O-War stings are not that big a deal. They "smart". They won't kill you, they won't even put you out of commission for a day. Depending on the size of the creature and the severity of the stings, a Man O War attack feels like somewhere between 4 and 15 bee stings.

When you're being stung, it feels like the aforementioned bee stings, or, if you've ever been dumb enough to do it, like sticking your tongue between the poles of a 9v battery.

As soon as you feel yourself being stung, find the tentacles and get them off. Otherwise the damn thing will sting you for an hour.

Once the stinging stops, it's decision time. If the injury feels like a half-doze bee stings or less, there's no reason to paddle in or get back in the boat. The cool ocean water will salve the stings and after 10 minutes, it will stop hurting. If the stings are worse, then get out of the water and go lie down for a while.

What happens when you get stung badly is the toxins congregate in your lymph nodes, and in about 3-6 minutes you will start to get a dull ache in your groin, your neck, and perhaps your armpits. Best to be lying down sipping a cold drink when this happens, not out in the ocean swimming around. It's not a terrible pain, but a dull ache - like being smacked in the Family Jewels by a soccer ball. Not nearly as bad as being kicked in the groin or punched in the throat.

Even if the stings are bad, it will all stop hurting in about a half hour. Then the fun starts.

Applying ammonia or vinegar to your stings will, well, take out the sting. In Hawai'i, any lifeguard will probably have a spray bottle of ammonia. If you can't find a lifeguard, then pee on the stings. I am not making this up. It works. If you haven't had anything to drink for a few hours, get a friend to pee on you (it helps the sting and it's a great conversation starter). Walk up to any local in a beachside parking lot in Hawaii (HINT: a local will be driving a banged-up pickup truck, not a freshly-washed Mustang convertible) and ask him / her to pee on you. Odds are they are a surfer, a windsurfer, a kiteboarder, a sponger, or a SUP-er, and they will promptly oblige.

I learned this trick from my friend Keith, the Shop Manager at Simmer Hawaii. One day many years ago we were out surfing, and when I paddled in I found him in the parking lot, peeing on his wife. An interesting conversation ensued. 15 years later, they are still happily married, they have 4 kids, and they both still surf.

The real problems start the next day. Those of you who live in Florida will know exactly what I'm talking about when I say that after about a day, Man-O-War stings turn into fire ant bites. The area itches so bad you will have an irresistible urge to fillet the skin right off the stung area with a combat knife.

This, also, is easily dealt with. Use aloe. Aloe grows wild all over Hawaii. I have dozens of aloe plants in my front yard. Like these....

And these.....
Grab a stalk of fresh aloe, peel back the skin to expose the clear, viscous balm within, and rub liberally into the stung skin.

The itch will vanish for about 4 hours.

If you're not lucky enough to have aloe (pronounced AH-low by us haoles and ah-LOW-ay by the locals) growing all over your front yard, and can't find any growing wild in the parking lot of your condo / hotel, then buy a bottle of this stuff, it works just as well as the fresh stuff, if not better:

Expect the bites to itch like hell, and look unsightly, for about 5 days.

Years ago I was out windsurfing one day at Ku'au and I got stung REALLY bad. I had tentacles around my neck, across my face, on my forehead. It stung like hell. I sailed in and laid down on the rocks until the nausea and pain in my lymph nodes went away. Then I sailed out and rode more waves. The next morning, when I woke up, the pain was gone and I actually forgot I'd been stung until I stepped in front of the mirror to brush my teeth. I looked up and actually screamed. I looked like the guy in Aliens with the vampire squid attached to his face. I had huge nasty angry-looking red welts spidered across my face, neck, and forehead. It was really gross. My girlfriend at the time was flying in that night from Florida, I had to call her and warn her not to be scared when she saw me with a vampire squid on my face at Kahului Airport.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bad Government Policy vs Good Government Policy

Subject: Yesterday's trip home from Europe. British Air from Munich to London, AA from London to LAX, AA from LAX to OGG.

Good Government Policy: Using the Global Entry kiosk, I passed through United States Customs in Los Angeles in less than 45 seconds. Slapped my hand down on the fingerprint scanner, touched a few boxes, and POOF...I was through to Baggage Claim. I was done and dusted before most people on my flight even got through the cattle guides to start waiting in the Customs line.

Bad Government Policy: I had to go through security screening three, count 'em THREE times. Once in Munich, again after switching terminals at Heathrow, and yet again after arriving at LAX. Passing through Customs at LAX dumps you right out to curbside, so you have to go through the full gamut of TSA Barefoot Kabuki Dance bullshit to get back airside to catch any continuing flights. Grrrrrrr.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Grugger's Crash at Kitzbühel Hahnenkamm

Not for the squeamish.

The Mausefalle is notorious for maiming and, a few times, almost killing ski racers. Ironically, in the time we've been Rolex Official Timing here (6 years) there hasn't been one crash in the Mausefalle.

Until TRAINING ONE, 2011.

Grugger is a really, really good downhiller. One of the 20 best in the world. Hard to say what went wrong. No wind, Extremely icy. Looks like he was just a fraction of a second late on his pre-jump.

Word is we almost lost him. When the medics reached him, his heart had stopped and he had to be intubated right there at Interval One. It's always a bad sign when the flight-for-life chopper drops off the medic and immediately RTBs and lands. If the skier is merely hurt, the pilot hovers for 2 minutes while the skier is bundled into the basket, then picks up the basket and the rescue worker, and off they go. The helipad is 200 meters from our HQ, so when Mr Chopper RTB'd and we were still watching a gaggle of EMTs working on Grugger up at the Mausefalle, we knew it was bad.

Benni Raich, an Austrian who has won two Crystal Globes (overall World Cup Champion), pulled out of the downhill after seeing Grugger's crash. Raich hasn't been skiing speed well this season and he's not really a downhiller anyway. He's arguably the best technical skier in the world, and only races downhill to try to pick up some points toward the overall. Very wisely, Raich took stock and faced the uncomfortable reality that even with 100% confidence, Kitzbühel is so risky that facing the Hahnenkamm at racing speeds with anything less than hubris is foolish.

Everybody around here has nothing but loads of respect for Raich, and his decision did nothing to change that. 4 or 5 years ago, Raich was in the gate when US downhiller Scott Macartney crashed in the Zielsprung and almost died. Raich had to wait around for 20 minutes while the EMTs worked on Macartney in the finish stadium, struggling to keep the American alive, watching it on TV in the Starthaus. When the course cleared, Raich launched and had a solid run. That takes a level of balls none of the "extreme" ramp monkeys in all of those made-for-TV sports can ever begin to fathom.

Only 55 guys in the world had the nut-sacks to attempt this race in 2011. Bode Miller, who also hasn't been skiing well this season, pulled himself together and laid down an amazing run. He looked like the sure winner. Then Didier Cuche, who has won here 3 times previously, beat Miller by almost a second.

Some truly amazing skiing. As US downhiller Steve Nyman said the other day, "Kitzbühel is composed of section after section where you can either become a ski racing god or a hospital patient. It all comes down to what you're willing to risk that day".

Thursday, January 20, 2011




Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Video Wall Erection, Kitzbühel Style

"Just like back in Saigon! Eh, Slick?"

-Special Agent Johnson, Die Hard

People frequently tell me I lead an exotic life. To me, one of the coolest things about doing what I do is getting the chance to watch other guys with other, equally exotic skillsets doing their thing, in their element.

And I'm not talking about the athletes. When I get home from a gig, I rarely can remember who won. I rarely watch the field of play. I'm too busy concentrating on keeping the 1's and 0's flowing smoothly and in the correct order.

Ski races are the most difficult sports production environment I've ever seen. The course is about 5000 meters long, and the change in vertical elevation between start and finish is about 3000 feet. Its usually cold (except at Whistler) and frequently snowing. Deploying almost anything, almost anywhere on the course, is a logistical cast-iron bitch. The guys who work for me are all shit-hot skiers, and they all work themselves half to death. At the end of a ski gig, we are all completely bricked.

It's a challenge. And of course, Kitzbühel, being the biggest, baddest of them all, is the biggest challenge.

Today was one of those times when I stood gob-smacked by the skills of others.

The KSC arranged for their helicopter contractor, WUCHER, to sling our video wall in 5 pieces up onto a scaffolding in the slalom arena. Normally it would take 5 or 6 guys all day to get the modules up on the hill and assemble them in place. WUCHER did it in 21 minutes. That included 5 round-trips from a freight yard over in Kirchberg, the next town down the train line from Kitz, where we assembled the sub-assemblies.

I'm not sure who was more impressive, the load-master or the pilot. The load-master can take a look at a piece of freight, walk around it a few times, and make a 100% reliable, life-or-death, go/no go decision as to whether then thing can be lifted up and set into place. The pilot was simply awesome. If you were laying out in a lawn chair, this guy could pop a piece of chocolate tied to the end of a 100-foot-long chain into your mouth without touching your lips. I exaggerate not.

Unfortunately, a lot of these photos are pretty sucky because I was actively involved in the process, and the frantic pace of doing a day's work in 21 minutes left little time to get my camera ready.

There is video as well.

READY. The first sub-assembly stands ready over in Kirchberg.


Here comes the extremely bad-ass pilot.

The guy in the orange is the load-master. He's also one extremely bad-ass motherf......

In this business, nobody gets an "oops".

Later, dude! See you in 4 minutes!

Meanwhile, on the receiving end......

(photos courtesy of Michael Walker Photography)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tornado Damage to The Streif

In early August a tornado scored a direct hit on the notorious Hahnenkamm. The Strief racecourse looks totally different this year, as the storm ripped out entire hillsides of old growth trees on both sides of the track.

One local told me, in respectful tones, "the Hahnenkamm is a dangerous mountain, not only in the sporting context".

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ein Kleine NachtFun, Austrian Style

You may find the first part of this post a little boring.

Trust me, it gets better.

This is what I've been doing for the last (approximately) 48 hours.

Flew 5 hours Maui - LAX. Killed an hour in the AA Flagship Lounge.

Flew 5 hours LAX - JFK. Killed an hour in the AA Flagship Lounge.

Flew 6 hours JFK - Heathrow. Killed an hour in the BA Lounge. Managed to abstain from all the nasty starchy cookies and tea-nibbling finger foods.

Flew 90 minutes LHR - Munich. Walked across Munich Airport to the Deutche Bahn station.

Rode the train 40 minutes Munich Airport - Munich Ost. Switched trains.

Rode 40 minutes Munich Ost - Rosenheim.

Rosenheim is a small switch point on the Deutche Bahn. 4 tracks, 8 platforms. I found myself pretty much alone out on platform 8. I could see a few people milling about at the other end of a distant platform. Hermi6, my boss at the Hahnenkamm, was to pick me up at the Hahnekamm train station, and had requested that I show up in Kitzbühel suited up and ready to ski. At some point, I had to change into my ski clothes, because Hermi6 is Vice President of the KSC Board of Directors. Skiing with Hermi6 is a BIG DEAL. This would be like "Buzzy" calling and telling you to be ready to play 18 holes at Augusta National when you show up to start installing network switches. Now was as good a time as any. The weather was around 30 degrees F (-1C), no wind. Rather than schlepping both my rolling Samsonite suitcases into the Rosenheim terminal building and finding a mens room, I took a quick look around, opened my suitcase, and stripped down to my undies (NOTE : I wear briefs. I know, too much information). As I grabbed a wool t-shirt and my FlyLow outfit out of my suitcase, I turned around, glanced across at the next platform, and saw there was a nun standing there watching me. In full habit. A full-on, Sally Fields-league nun, complete with white Tupolev 144 variable-geometry canards sprouting from her head. I looked at her. She looked at me, an almost-naked guy with a deep tan which ends mid-thigh and mid-bicep (from sunny Hawaii days spent cycling). She held my gaze for a moment, spun on her heel, and walked off.

I wonder what SHE's writing on her blog tonight?

Rode 30 minutes Rosenheim - Kufstein. Now in my ski clothes. Switched trains.

Rode 30 minutes Kufstein - Wörgl. Switched trains.

Rode 30 minutes Kufstein - Kitzbühel.

Hermi6 met me at the train. In the back of his car, he had an absolutely killer, brand new set of Dynafit touring skis for me, with the bindungen already pre-sized to my boots (I'd given him the sole length of my boots over the phone). The latest and greatest bad-ass alpentouring setup. Right there in the parking lot of the Kitzbühelhorn train station, he popped my boots into the Dynafit bindings. They were about 1 cm off, so he whipped out a barrel and adjusted them for me.

This is the VP of the KSC, one of the most powerful guys in ski racing. This would be like "Buzzy" fetching you at the airport with a brand new bag of PINGs and a few boxes of Titleists, ready to go hack through a quick 18.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention one thing. It was 18:00. It was dark.

A few weeks ago, my friend The Big Guy asked me to opine on an article he read describing the 10 most difficult ski mountains in the world. #1 was The Streif, site of the notorious racer-killing Hahnenkamm downhill, which I described as the "nastiest, gnarliest, baddest-motherfuckerest of them all".

What Hermi6 had cooked up was this: We were going to ski The Hahnenkamm right then and there. At night. Using headlamps. Me, after traveling for 36 hours straight.

But first we had to climb it, using skis with skins. Almost 3000 vertical feet, up one of the steepest ski pistes on the planet. And then we would knock back a few beers, and pound down a shot or two of schnapps at a pub called Hochech-hutte at the Hahnenkammbahn bergstation, which stays open until late for people who want to ride the cable car at night to check out the lights of the valley. What he said, exactly, was this: "Oont zen vee haff some schnacks ooont a couple ufff beee-ah". "Und zen vee schki zeh Hahnenkamm".

Did I mention it was 6 PM and dark?

Did I mention I had just flown through 11 time zones?

Did I mention I'm not very adept at drinking alcohol?

Yes, dear readers, Austrians find their amusement in some interesting ways.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. And I lived to tell it.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sadness & Fury

Sitting here immersed in sadness and fury over the shootings in AZ.

Sad because 6 people, including a sitting Federal Judge and the 9 year old granddaughter of former MLB Manager Dallas Green, were casually murdered by yet another gun-wielding nut in a long series of gun-wielding nuts in this country.

Sad because Gabrielle Giffords, a star Congresswoman, was shot through the head in the attack, currently is in intensive care, and by all accounts has been injured to a degree where an eventual return to her previous life would be just short of a miracle.

Giffords, along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Jon Tester, are among the few newer members of Congress who have impressed me.

Furious to read the killer bought his gun "legally", thus tragically highlighting for the umpteenth time that 4 million NRA members continue to hold the other 266 million of us hostage by blocking reasonable gun laws. NRA have managed to block access to gun ownership records through Freedom Of Information Act requests. They have managed to block the ATF from assembling a computerized national gun ownership registry. They have blocked all attempts to limit ownership of assault weapons.

If you look at worldwide gun ownership, no country has even half the gun ownership rate the US does, and the countries approaching half our guns are either war-torn (Yemen and Lebanon, for example) or are tiny countries with citizen militias (Switzerland, Israel). This country does not have, nor does it need, citizen militias. When somebody or something pisses us off, we send in the 82nd Airborne and the USS Enterprise Carrier Group, not a bunch of farmers and teachers carrying their personal Glocks. There is absolutely no reason why an American civilian needs to own a fully- or even a semi-automatic weapon.

I just finished a book entitled The Gun, by CJ Chivers. It is, more or less, a biography of the machine gun. Chivers makes the following points: (1) the Kalashnikov family of weapons are crappy examples of gun technology. They are so inaccurate that they can't be reliably used to hit or kill anything or anybody the gunman couldn't hit with a rock thrown by hand. An AK is only good for hosing down objects in close proximity, not for "hunting" (2) one of the reasons Kalashnikovs are so popular is because they can be operated, cleaned, and maintained by ill-trained people. Child soldiers and terrorists, basically. Why do we need weapons like that, and like the semiautomatic Glock submachine pistol used in the AZ shootings, in the US?

Furious because idiot moron dumb-ass (but popular) Sarah Palin encouraged violence against member of Congress via a map on her web site bearing gun cross-hairs aimed at certain Districts where she wasn't happy with the representatives. She wrote those representatives should be "targeted". One of those Districts was that of Gabrielle Giffords. Palin should be in leg-irons right now for conspiracy to commit murder and incitement of violence.

Furious because the extremely smart, extremely talented, and batshit crazy Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have their pawprints on this violence as well. Limbaugh for his encouragement of rioting, and Beck for statements like "you can shoot me in the head but there are 10 other who line up" and "there is a coup going on, this is a stealing of America". Unlike Palin, they both were smart enough to make their messages oblique enough to where they can't be charged, but they are nonetheless guilty of being drug-addicted demagogues who have enriched themselves by appealing to the base instincts of disturbed people.

Furious that a lot of the rage people like the above-mentioned, Michelle Malkin and the various dullards on Fox News have incited is due to lies they have concocted about the new health care law.

The health care provisions that have gone into effect as of Jan 1 are:

-> Children age 21-26 can now stay on their parents' policies.

-> Preventative care for seniors included in Medicare.

-> Medicare prescription medication "donut hole" closed.

-> Insurance companies' profits have been capped at 20%. If they earn more than 20% they must give the excess profits back to policyholders.

-> Fast-food restaurants must display a nutritional analysis of their offerings.

The health care law wasn't exactly what I'd hoped it would be (no "public option"), but I fail to see many negatives in the above provisions, and I most certainly fail to see anything worth shooting anybody over.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Top Risks of 2011

The Eurasia Group, a non-partisan think-tank which specializes in "The Business of Politics", has released its Top 10 Geopolitical Risks For 2011 list.

Very interesting reading.

Notice, dear friends of the Republican and Tea Party persuasion, that the Top 10 does not include "Obama reveals he's really a Muslim and is trying to kill us all through health care legislation" or whatever crazed drivel the Looney Tunes Dumb-Ass Twins (Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin) are hawking, for profit, this week.

For those of us who do business in Europe and generally like Europe and Europeans (except for The Frogs, of course), #2 is particularly ominous. A gaping inherent weakness in the homogeneous structure of The Euro Zone has been revealed, and since the Bankers Gone Wild cartel can essentially short anything (through derivatives) with free money provided by America's own clueless problem children (Bernanke and Geithner), a partial collapse of the Euro in 2011 is a distinct possibility. The most dangerous word in the English Language right now is leverage.

The Brits are looking pretty damn smart for having eschewed The Euro. Britain, Switzerland, and a crippled, staggering Germany/Austria may be the only ones left standing in the rubble of European prosperity if the Euro Zone implodes.

With most currencies on Earth currently competing to make themselves as worthless as possible, there are huge pressures building in the currency markets. These pressures are being multiplied, as usual, by Bankers Gone Wild using free capital from The Federal Reserve. And as we all know (from the Great Tech Bubble of the late 1990s and the Great Housing Bubble of the 2000's), when pressure builds and builds and builds, something....sooner or later....goes BOOM.

Or, as the noted economist Sly Stone once wisely opined, "BOOM lackah lackah lackah BOOM lackah lackah lackah"

Book I Just Finished: The Gun, by CJ Chivers
Book I Just Started: Traders, Guns, And Money, by Satyajit Das

24 Hours of Global Air Traffic


Global Air Traffic in 24 Hours


First thing I noticed is how the air traffic leaves Hawai'i in bursts.