Recently Published – The Wiring Whisperer & The Top 10 Sailing Movies

The new year didn’t truly set in for me until mid-January. I’m a little behind, I guess!

A48-north-january-2016-covert the beginning of January my latest profile for 48° North, Dan Hopkins: The Wiring Whisperer, appeared in the January issue of the print magazine. A retired electrician and experienced liveaboard, Dan is a “guiding light” in his community helping new liveaboards safely update their electrical systems and install heat this winter.

It was such a pleasure speaking with Dan, his wife Irene, and the appreciative neighbors he has helped. I learned so much about marine electrical, boat ownership, and the camaraderie of the boating community.

Read The Wiring Whisperer here.

 

 

Mid-January was an especially exciting time; I began a new job! My big present this holiday season was being offered, and enthusiastically accepting, the position of Marketing and Advertising Coordinator with GeekWire, an online tech and business publication based in Seattle.

GeekWire logoMy transition kept me on my toes. I left my previous job one Friday and reported for duty at my new job the next Monday, the time has been flying ever since! In addition to working with members, assisting with events, coordinating advertising and more, I curate two weekly posts, GeekWire Calendar Picks and GeekWork Picks.

GeekWire boasts an amazing editorial team and covers a very diverse range of topics, be sure to check it out!

Lastly, this new year has brought an exciting new phase for a publication I’ve worked closely with for several years now. 48° North launched a new website with even more great content for the NW sailing community. Congratulations to the team at 48° North!

For the occasion, I explored what nautical entertainment had to offer and compiled my Top 10 Sailing Movies, check out Part 1 (10-6) here. A couple of my favorite new features are the Editor’s Picks and #TBT. Now you can enjoy even more of the magazine “By Sailors, For Sailors.” 

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Busy with The Borgen Project

I’m a pretty busy person. I keep finding tasks to fill my time and extra time that doesn’t exist, but I’m sure this isn’t surprising.

This winter my time has been filled by a very enlightening and challenging task and that is my role as a volunteer writer for The Borgen Project.

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What is The Borgen Project? 

What am I doing as a volunteer writer?

How can we help solve global poverty?

Here are a few answers!

An innovative, national campaign, The Borgen Project works with U.S. leaders to improve their response to the global poverty crisis. With one full-time staff member (founder Clint Borgen) and a group of highly motivated and organized volunteers across the country, The Borgen Project is making global poverty an American priority.

The Borgen Project is the definition of doing a lot with a little. Volunteers meet with U.S. leaders (298 meetings in 2014 with members of Congress and their staff) and mobilize citizens across the globe. They don’t want to be the only ones talking about global poverty, they want all of us to speak out too.

Since the beginning of November, I have called and emailed my Congressional representatives each week. Not only has this taught me how foreign aid, policy, and poverty are intertwined, but I’ve also felt empowered as a citizen.

In addition to advocacy efforts, The Borgen Project works to raise awareness about global poverty through The Borgen Project Blog and The Borgen Magazine. This is where I come in.

As a volunteer writer, I am contributing my time and writing skills to help raise awareness about global poverty issues. Over the past couple months, I have researched and written about a wide range of topics from the potential of hydroponic farming in Africa to decreasing cases of malaria in South American and more.

By the end of my time as a volunteer writer, I will have completed 39 articles and improved my writing skills to boot! In addition to writing, my goal is to fundraise at least $500 for the world’s poor and I know every penny will help The Borgen Project pursue its mission.

Not since studying International Studies at the University of Oregon have I felt so aware and inquisitive about the dynamics of globalization and development. I often considered issues such as global poverty too overwhelming to tackle. The Borgen Project’s focus makes me believe otherwise.

So please, take a wander around The Borgen Project website (this is a good place to start) and if you’re in Seattle come join me at Hilliard’s Brewing on Thursday, January 14th from 5:30-8:30 pm for my fundraising event “Beers for the Borgen Project.”B4BPHalfPageHere are all my published articles:

A Timeline of Rwandan Ethnic Conflict

Increasing Rural Electrification in the Pacific
Digital Financial Services Help Women Invest in Future
Increasing Food Production in Liberia After Ebola
How to Help Refugees and Displaced Populations
5 Global Poverty Infographics Show 2015 Progress
Kyrgyz Republic Forest Management and Poverty
EU Finances Program Tackling Poverty Reduction in Pakistan
Hydroponic Systems: Food Security in Developing Countries
Mozambique Entrepreneurs Change Lives with Bikes
New Innovative Cooking Stove Uses 50 Percent Less Fuels
Virtual Reality Films Provide Powerful Insights
3 Ways Startup Culture Impacts Nonprofits
Cholera Outbreak in Nepal Averted Following Earthquake
Green Growth in Morocco Takes Center Stage
Prevention of Malaria in South America See Cases Reduced
VillageReach Optimizes Healthcare Data Collection
5 Solar Powered Solutions for Refugees

 

Recently Published- The Deep End: A Dinghy Sailor Dives In

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Back from the Boat

I returned from French Polynesia just over two months ago and it feels more than an ocean away. Days at sea, meals at an angle, and delicious Tahitian fruit are no longer the norm. However, I do now enjoy regular showers, excellent coffee, and my own bed.

Kids at summer camp say it, adults with full time jobs think about it:”I want to sail around the world!” Even within the racing community, the dream of sailing into the sunset ignites a spark in the eye of novices, racers, and cruisers alike. It’s a crazy, life changing idea. What’s even crazier is that people do it, hundreds every year! This year I met some of these people and experienced a small but stirring part of that dream.

I feel lucky to share my experience through this 48 North article, it is always a pleasure to work with them and they put out a great publication for the sailing community. I also feel lucky to be reminded about my trip, especially as I settle back into life in Seattle. When I’m heading to work, bundling up for the rain, or grabbing a coffee I will remind myself, “Yeah, I did that!”

Check out the full article here, thanks for reading!

– Cara
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Don’t miss the complete digital edition of 48° North Magazine.

The Top Shelf: Part 1

Since I can’t reach the top shelf of my bookcase, this list actually includes titles from the second-from-the-top-shelf. However, for various reasons they have earned that spot, placed there with all the honor and distinction of a “top shelf” book. Over the past twenty years of literary experience my reading preferences have changed drastically, especially during ages 5 to 15 and again after university when I learned to read for fun again.

Currently, my “top shelf” is a place for books that make an impression on me. These books made me pause, consider what I had just read, and not just slide them in any ol’ place on the bookcase. They might be written in a style I aspire to or are so exceptional I can only dream about such an accomplishment. Sometimes they are just books I really, really enjoyed and probably will reread. Sometimes I am asked for book recommendations or like to share an obscure story I’ve read so even though these books are hanging out on the shelf, they are still very much on my mind.

For Part 1, here are five, all non-fiction, books that currently reside on my “top shelf”:

1.       The Voyage of the Rose City: An Adventure at Sea, by John Moynihanm Spiegel & Grau, 2011.

The Voyage of the Rose City

This book recounts Moynihan’s experiences when he leaves his private college and senator father behind and signs on as a deckhand on a cargo ship in 1980, visiting places many people would never dream of in a very unconventional way. A significant portion of the book is set on the ship which gives insight into what it would be like to spend months at a time at sea. The combination of a travel story and personal journey, including a hard look at the socioeconomic issues at hand, blend together beautifully and naturally. He not only wrote it well, he actually experienced it.

 

How I Found It: The Seattle Public Library. I read an article about cutting costs in which the author advised “consider the library your primary form of entertainment.” I took his advice and along the way found this book which I enjoyed so much I bought a copy.

2.       The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine, by Benjamin Wallace, Three Rivers Press Reprint Edition, 2009.The Billionaire's Vinegar

In a nutshell, this is a very curious story centered around a fake bottle of wine attributed to be Thomas Jefferson’s and sold at auction for the highest amount paid for a bottle of wine ever. Wallace establishes the context of this story very with the background of vintage wines and auction houses but maintains a literary narrative that keeps you absorbed until the end. The recurring role of Michael Broadbent, a Christie’s wine expert, incorporates a very intriguing, and mysterious character. With the benefit of retrospection Wallace gradually reveals how this bottle of wine fooled the greater vintage wine community.  I credit it with the majority of my knowledge to date about French wines.

How I Found It: My brother and then my father recommend this book, it came up over dinner I’m sure. My copy is the second or third in the family.

  1. The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries, by Marilyn Johnson; Harper Annotated Edition, 2006.

The Dead BeatJohnson’s collection about obituaries doesn’t follow a chronological narrative but makes a logical progression through the history of obituaries and the author’s personal experiences. After taking the reader to the heart of the obituary world at the Sixth Great Obituary Writers International Conference, Johnson builds on this experience with the more nuanced side of obituary appreciation.  I will never look at obituaries the same way again and indeed, I now actually look at them.

How I Found It: My parents. While my father is an avid non-fiction reader my mother, who holds down fiction for the family, also really enjoyed this book. I did take the book aboard a boat so now it is a slightly water stained, less formal copy.

4.       99 Drams of Whiskey: The Accidental Hedonist’s Quest for the Perfect Shot and the History of the Drink, by Kate Hopkins, St. Martin’s Press First Edition, 2009.

99 Drams of WhiskeyThis book brings together several things I love: Scotland, travel, whiskey, and history. In her book, Hopkins tours the major whiskey producing regions in Scotland, Ireland, the U.S. and Canada. Within this travel story she interweaves a well researched history of whiskey and shares her ever-growing knowledge about whiskey production. The travel narrative seems a very approachable way to delve into a dense topic such as whiskey. She basically has my dream job.

How I Found It: The Seattle Public Library wins again! A simple search of “whiskey” and “whisky” lead me to a niche section of the catalog. This book stood out as a narrative tale among reference books and didn’t disappoint.

 

5.       The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe, Picador Trade Paperback Edition, 2008.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid TestOne of the first nonfiction books I really enjoyed during my freshman year of college. I was also able to cite it in an academic paper about the 1960s counterculture movement. Wolfe’s book has fascinated me for some time now, both his style and story. His ability to draw you into an almost indescribable world and capture a pivotal moment in counterculture is mesmerizing. As he follows Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters the reader experiences something they never would otherwise. Wolfe’s journalistic influences and descriptions really enrich this book for me. (Fun Fact: I just started rereading it!)

How I Found It: When you are 18 and some “cool” older college boys tell you about this “sick” book they just read you might jump on board just like I did. These “cool” boys also taught me about longboarding on campus, introduced me to IPAs, and talked me through driving an F250 truck plus trailer on I-5. Not all of their ideas were great but I do appreciate them for turning me on to “tuning out.”

*All images from the Seattle Public Library catalog

Ksssh…

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Ksssh…

It’s a pretty good sound to accompany a pretty good feeling.

The bottle opener on the wall is constant, immobile, physical part of my apartment.

The beer in the fridge is temporary, transitory, and part of my life.

All the different brands, flavors, and types sometimes are forgettable but the routine of opening that bottle of beer is ingrained in my memory.

I reach down and grab a beer from my mostly empty fridge, which is either truly pitiful or truly youthful. It takes two steps to cross the tiny kitchen, one swing of my arm to hook the bottle cap’s righteous ridges under the immaculately designed silver arch. Just the slightest bit of pressure and Ksssh….the bottle cap drops.

Sometimes it falls right into the jar below, often times I have to pick it up and toss it in, another flick of the wrist in just the right direction. Today, I just let it fall. I’m moving today and everything has to get picked up in the end.

Instinctively the bottle smoothly rises from the opener at waist height to head height, as my lips eagerly accept the offering. It’s cold, hopefully. It’s flavorful, mostly. And it’s refreshing, nearly always.

Fridge. Beer. Opener. Drink.

In those four steps I can be like almost anybody. I am the beer bellied, sweat stained man going for another Bud he more than doesn’t need. I am the funky hippy chick with my organic brew and my favorite bottle cap tied into my dreads. I am the guy in the commercial, the generic looking one with lots of friends and the best looking beer in the world, I even come with my own sound effects. I am also me, comfortable drinking alone in my own apartment and living up to my twenty-something reputation.

When I take my first sip, I hold the bottle with such authority. We’re good friends and I’ve just slung my arm around his shoulder, this is how its meant to be. Just us sharing in the refreshment.

I lower the bottle and step through the doorway, and just like that, the spell is broken.

Once I step through the doorway I’m back in my room and trying to remember what I was going to do after I grabbed a beer. The events of that day and the plans of the coming week wash over me. Now this beer has become different than all those other beers. Timing, season, and context now define it, sometimes more so than taste and label.

But for a moment I’m just a person, cracking open a brewsky, taking a pause and enjoying the refreshment life has to offer.

Ksssh….

Forever Friends

A while ago I sent two lovely ladies some well chosen words that I’d thought a lot about. It was scary to seal the envelopes and drop them in.

I love and cherish my friends more than anything. I use to struggle to make friends, perhaps that’s why I cherish them so much. These two, my Z Ladies, have always made me feel treasured, entertained, and welcomed my form of “weird.” Above all, they make me feel comfortable, they make me feel like Cara. Perhaps that’s why I felt bold enough to send them these words, to share with them the part of me that aspires to be a writer.

As I pursue writing I am learning to play with words, to capture emotions, and to speak in a new way. I speak about my past in a new way. These words aren’t quite poetry nor are they lyrical. They are just a wee card’s worth of words:

Forever Friends are something special.
You want only the best for them, this incredible person with whom your bond is so genuine.
Forever Friends may spend much of their lives apart.
They don’t need amusements or status updates.
They give unconditional love with every hug.
Forever Friends will always be a part of who you are, no matter what phase you’re in.
Nothing can replace the memories you’ve shared with them.
So that’s why you are my Forever Friend.

All my love to my Zs.

ForeverFriends

Wanting to Write

Growing up I wanted to be a writer and a spy, mostly the latter. My desire to be a secret agent only diminished during the period I desperately wanted to attend Hogwarts. Harry Potter and I were the same age when the series began but my generation and those that followed never received our letter, at least not yet.

In middle school and high school I enjoyed journalism, sought it out even. I took my turn as the middle school news anchor, the lone sophomore on the high school paper, and then spent two years as editor of the “re-launched” high school paper. My writing was half-assed and often confusing bordering on obscure.

That’s how I talked then too, without conviction or clarity like a genuinely awkward sixteen year old. As college crept closer my peers and teachers occasionally asked if I intended to pursue journalism in college.

“Oh no,” I would reply, “I don’t want to work in insurance.”

This unclear joke had to do with my mother’s career. She graduated with a degree in journalism from San Francisco State and worked for a regional magazine until Rupert Murdoch personally fired her after acquiring the publication. Needing to support herself in San Francisco, she found employment with an insurance company and became a trainee.

In 2012 she retired from senior management after over 35 years in the worker’s compensation industry. She succeeded professionally, personally, and never stopped reading magazines and following the news. At sixteen I didn’t want to work in insurance and I still don’t. However, in the years since my terrible joke I learned several important things.

First, whatever career my mother stumbled upon whether it had been insurance, human resources, banking, etc. she couldn’t help but be successful. She is an intelligent, eloquent, and dedicated professional who excels at whatever she puts her mind to including insurance. She has excellent writing skills to boot.

While she learned to get excited over estimating annual compensation for agricultural workers, her professional success was most apparent to me in her management skills. At the end of most days she spoke more about her staff’s professional development and collective goals than any one contract or personal task. She never hesitated to be the most spirited individual in the office or to bring the most sugar despite being Type II diabetic and even then she appreciated the irony. Lastly, she defined success for herself.

We led good lives, especially my childhood and education, supported by her career. Now it is time to define success for myself.

In college I kept a journal, wrote academically, and occasionally blogged while abroad. At some point I became self-conscious about my writing, hesitant to share it. I never felt bold enough to voice my desire to be a writer anymore it seemed too unattainable. I chose instead to study something I would find interesting for four whole years.

I majored in International Studies, which offered plenty of academic opportunities to write. The culmination of which was my honors thesis: 109 pages of my “well-researched” ideas that I presented and defended in weary terror. While not a document of excellent verse, my thesis taught me two things: 1) I could finish writing something and 2) these ideas, my ideas, were worth sharing. Still, I did not want to be a writer, or anything else yet, so I spent three months driving around the country.

I created a blog to document my trip. At first I aspired to create something professional, impressive and insightful. I found that is hard to do and enjoy your trip. I changed gears and instead documented my trip for me, eagerly sharing my observations and experiences with anyone who would listen. The blog in fact remains incomplete, the last month of my travels recorded in my journal but never shared. There came a tipping point when experiencing my trip could not also include writing about my trip for others anymore. Not completing my blog proved to be another lesson, a break from academic expectations and requirements.

Two years ago I decided to pursue writing. It felt vague, overly ambitious, and to some extent cliché. Just over a year ago I began using the term “writer” to define myself sometimes, to some people, occasionally. It terrified me but after a beer or two I could usually say it.

Calling myself a writer still terrifies me but I now live up to the title. I feel compelled to write, communicate, and share. A couple of articles have been published, other stories are being edited and revised, and there is even the semblance of a system in place. I have embarked on a new education.

I keep chipping away at it, this childhood dream come around again.

I read voraciously, write things no one will ever read, write things I hope everyone will read, and struggle to enjoy proofreading. From my first news stories to every page of my thesis and now, to profiles and pitches I have always gone to one editor first: my mom.

In her retirement she has begun to dabble in grant writing, the world of holiday cards, and reads more than ever. Professionally or otherwise, we are both writers with a world of possibilities ahead of us and for now, neither of us works in insurance.

 

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