Archive for September, 2012

I am old enough to remember flat, wooden-board swings in the playgrounds of my childhood. A flat wooden board wide enough for an adult’s hips, hanging on sturdy steel chains from a really high (to a child’s eyes) frame. A kid could really pump high on one of those swings, high enough to feel himself almost floating above the seat at the top of its arc, high enough that I never dared jump out of it at full swing. High enough to be scary; high enough that a fool or a daredevil could get hurt on it. Boy, they were fun.

I am young enough to remember when they swapped those wooden boards for thick flexible straps like little hammocks. They weren’t made for a kid to pump them, to swing high and feel the excitement. I couldn’t get a good swing out of them, anyways. They were made to keep a kid from falling off. They were ‘playground proofed’ to keep a kid safe – an admirable goal, I assume – but they had a hidden cost: A kid couldn’t fly high and get the thrill. And nowadays, when I look at playgrounds, I see that so much has been done to ‘keep a kid safe’ that it’s hardly possible for a kid to have fun on the stuff any more. They were designed for mommies, not for kids. And they’re deserted.

Well, it’s more than playgrounds that are ‘playground proofed’ nowadays. We find this same ‘protecting from consequences’ as a major, almost a prime, goal of modern society. What’s even more striking is that this ‘playground proofing’ is being conducted, directed, mandated, for the benefit of one class of people over another … a privileged class that has been historically protected from their bad choices, from their folly, from their mistakes and their consequences, by the other ‘class’ which were carefully taught the goal of keeping them safe, and warm, and comfy, taking care of their needs, and protecting them from harm, even if that meant protecting them from their own folly and not giving them the chance to learn from their consequences. But their bad choices and folly and mistakes have gotten so out-of-hand, their ‘needs’ so overblown, their demands so greedy and their complaints so outrageous, that more and more of the ‘underclass’ is turning its collective back on them and leaving their care and protection-from-folly to the hands of the Mommy State.

The name of the privileged class? Woman.

And the nature of the privilege, the protection, the coddling under the names of entitlement and empowerment, is such that it puts women into the role of the chronically childlike of our society – the children who don’t have to grow up emotionally, because the underclass – men – will be expected and shamed and even forced to carry their load.

This starts, remarkably, in the playgrounds and the schoolyards. Little boys are into rough-and-tumble games, and when little girls get into these games they’re prone to being rough-and-tumbled themselves. A little girl cries with a skinned knee – and the Adults are all over the boys with shaming and punishment. Never mind that Jill gave Jimmy a black eye, then danced away sing-songing, “Can’t hit a girl!”

Little Jimmy should be ashamed for earning that black eye. Obviously it’s the boys’ fault, no matter who started it. And if some games are too rough for the little girls, then the boys shouldn’t be allowed to play them either. Oh, and by the way – little Jill came home with that knee that she skinned on the blacktop. You need to put down a heavy soft layer of tanbark so that won’t happen again. And those swings aren’t safe, and that thing, and that, and the teeter-totter discriminates against heavy kids on one end and light kids on the other.

And little Jimmy, who worked off his energy in those now-banned boys’ games? He gets ‘diagnosed’ with ADHD because he can’t sit still any more. He’s fed Ritalin to make him sit still, never mind that he’s listless.

Along about puberty there’s a new game in town. The boys get interested, and the girls get interesting. It used to be a father’s job to protect his Little Red Riding Hood from all the Big Bad Wolves showing up at the family door … but now so many Fathers have been excluded from their children’s lives that the State has to step in and playground proof the innocent young things from harm (or, rather, from their own folly). More entitlement, empowerment and protection for the young ladies, while the boys are blamed and shamed and punished for just having gone along with the young ladies’ lead. I mean, now Sheila is old enough to dress up and make herself up like those ‘Bratz’ dolls she played with as a kid. How can it be her fault that Sam got a little fresh with her at the high-school dance?

Shiela can come-on to her heart’s content, but she is “proofed” from the consequences of her actions. Mommy State to the rescue, with laws and rules and regulations that penalize the boys in the name of protecting the girls.

Then you get to that magical stage – adulthood! There’s another wild and delicious game in town, now, called ‘alcohol.’ Bonnie can get that delicious dizzy feeling she used to get, spinning in the playground, out of a glass. And it makes the sensations of kissing and getting all-snuggly with a boy even more delicious. The Bratz costume is even more effective as bait, now that she’s got real curves to pack into it, and she’s getting lots of attention from the boys – from all of the boys, drat it, not just the ‘Big Man On Campus’ she really wants to hook.

Back in my college days, if Bonnie woke up in Ben’s dorm room, Gentle Ben, rather than in Dirk Studly’s, it was embarrassing and disappointing.

Now, it’s date-rape. And when she goes to the Campus police about it, Ben gets kicked out of the university – no trial, no questions, no chance to defend himself, and anyway, all his defenses amount to guilt in the eyes of the Powers That Be. Remember, ‘Dear Colleagues,’ it is your duty to protect Bonnie from harm, or harassment, or an unwanted kiss from the wrong guy. She’s not a ‘bad girl,’ after all, even if she was wearing the uniform, talking the talk and walking the walk.

And it goes on like that, out of college and into adult life. Women are insulated from the consequences of their actions, and they can and do reap untold benefits from the actions of the men around them. ‘Can’t hit a girl,’ with all the insane bias that implies, gets enacted into the Law of the Land, with the Violence Against Women Act in the USA, the Australian Government’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children (The Plan); the misandric legislation of dozens of countries, designed to protect women at the cost of punishing men – down to the point of harnessing them to be financial draft-animals, the economic slaves, of women and the Nanny State that so carefully protects its own.

Actions have consequences.

Playground proofing has consequences, too. The consequence is that the boys are leaving the playground – leaving its padded girl-friendly surfaces, its consequence-free zones, the shaming and blaming of the supervisors, to go play somewhere else.

They’re growing up to be boys who don’t trust girls, men who are more and more likely not to pursue or hook up with women, or who do so only with the intention of sexual relief; men who are choosing not to ‘man up’ but to ‘man out’ and leave the protected, pampered, coddled, ‘empowered and entitled,’ spoiled brats in adult bodies, to face their own consequences – alone.

A tip of the hat to Dr. Tara Palmatier of shrink4men.com for coining the term “playground proofing” and inspiring this article.

(This article was originally published by to A Voice For Men; their version is here.)

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One of the problems of solo sailing is that you still have to sleep. You still have to eat, and fix your meals, and use the head. You have to leave the boat to make its own way, when you do these and if it can’t stay on course, you’ve got a heck of a problem.

There are a few ways to handle this, but only two of them work if you’ve got a sloop (like mine) with a helm wheel (like mine). You can install a mechanical device that keeps your boat pointed correctly in reference to the wind (a wind-vane system), or you can install an electrical/electronic device that keeps your boat on the magnetic-compass course that you want to follow more-or-less … an autopilot. For a boat like Halcyon, the electronic solution costs about one-third the price of the wind-and-water-powered version, and it requires a boat-owner to do a lot less modifications to his/her boat.

So it is that I decided to entrust Halcyon and (and my own skin) to that latter, electronic system … decided, with trepidation and reservations, because of the less-than-stellar performance of a similar autopilot system on my previous boat, Bossa Nova. And with my first little day-sailing voyage using the new and improved Raymarine X-5 Wheel Pilot, I am thoroughly delighted with the device as it runs on Halcyon.

Otto the Autopilot, on board Bossa Nova (artist’s misconception)

As I suggested, I had some prior experience with autopilots because I decided to put one on ‘Bossa Nova,’ my Macgregor 26X … which is best described as ‘a 26-foot sleep-aboard sailing dinghy.’ The MacGregor 26 series are trailer-borne day-sailors with enough amenities to work as a weekend-or-vacation getaway for one, or a couple, or a man and wife with two young children … or so they say. I’ve used it as a vacation home, and as a funny-shaped travel trailer, and it worked well enough for me by myself; but it’s a very light and ‘nervous’ boat, built for protected waters and/or excursions in the best of conditions. Because I was sailing solo – the whole point of my sailing, because I don’t expect or plan or wish to need someone else sailing with me – I needed some ‘help’ to keep Bossa Nova on-course when I had to take down and flake down its mainsail. And ‘Otto’ did a pretty good job of that. Otto was noisy, though, and drank up the amp-hours from my electrical system, which (on a boat like this) wasn’t all that capable and strong to begin with.

But … don’t the world-cruisers, the people who are sailing away for real, use wind-vanes? I should say, wind-and-water-powered steering systems, designed to keep your boat following the wind, and costing you not a watt-hour of battery power. A cursory check of long-distance-cruisers’ Web sites reveals this is the case. But is a wind-vane system like the Cape Horn (the one I’d like) well-suited to sailing the Chesapeake Bay, for someone who just wants to extend his horizons a little beyond the local area? And would the next buyer of Halcyon – if I decide she’s not quite enough boat for my dreams – feel comfortable about a wind-vane?

Between the money, and the difficulties I envisioned installing the thing, I decided that the autopilot makes more sense for now. The easiest thing to install would be a ‘wheel pilot’ that attaches to the helm wheel directly, and only Raymarine makes one of those any more. When I spotted a sale at Defender, a mail-order boating supplies firm, I put in my order for the whole kit, plus an instrument housing for the control head.

Halcyon’s autopilot, driving me home.

The installation wasn’t all that hard, but it took time and I made a couple of bad decisions in mounting the stuff. One problem was that Raymarine had cooked up a new networking system that meant I had to install a ‘backbone’ close to the control head. Another was that I let a well-meaning friend talk me into mounting the control box in a place where I found it would not be able to be cabled up; the old-style control head with its cabling system would have worked fine there, but I couldn’t get the cable through the helm pedestal. Oh, well, live and learn, and take care of the cosmetic problems when you have to. I also had to order a longer device cable and a special ‘right-angle plug’cable directly from Raymarine. And I had to find places to put the parts, access routes to pull the cables through from all over the boat to the power pack, ways to make access holes to do the final cable-leading to that control head, power connections, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So it took a few days of work, spread out over several weeks. But finally I got it all installed, all hooked up, ready and steady and sturdy and strong.

And the results are very satisfactory. I’m not trapped at the helm, able to leave it wheel-locked for only a minute or so. “Otto” takes care of things well, if not exactly ‘efficiently’ – moving the wheel in response to every wave, every burble of wake, every excuse it gets. I’m not sure how much electricity it’s using, but I have solar panels to mitigate its energy use and I’m thinking about where I might put a couple more panels if it turns out I need them. The new control head is more sophisticated, ‘smarter,’ than the one on Bossa Nova. It’s a definite improvement, and very liberating … I can sit at ease in the shade or even sunbathe up in the bows of the boat, and let Otto take care of steering. In wide-open waters I could take a nap while letting Otto run the boat – which is critical, as I will need to be able to ‘catnap’ through the night on ocean passages.

With Otto at the helm, my horizons are extended – dramatically.

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