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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Banjo upgrades operating system hard drive - SSD

A couple of months ago, I built up a completely new computer system.  (BTW - "building your own" sure is different than when I did it in 1978, a DEC PDP-11/03 from Heathkit - back then I had to build everything; the keyboard, the keys, the springs under the keys, the labels on the keys, the transformers for the video monitor, all the resistors, all the capacitors, all the IC chips.....it took a lot of time!" - so building your own computer, by today's standards, is a piece of cake).

Anyway...I picked up an ASUS motherboard P8Z68-VPRO, an Intel Core iP processor, 16 GB of ram, 3 x 3TB hard drives (7200, 64 MB cache), 3 SAMSUNG 27" monitors, 1 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580, and a 60 GB Solid State Drive (SSD) made by Corsair.  I'm driving 2 monitors on it, planning on adding another NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 soon, along with 2 more monitors (Samsung 27"), bringing it up to 4 monitors.  I've got a 1200 watt power supply (!) powering it all, and a big ol UPS to help smooth things out, like when the little window air conditioner kicks in and out due to all the heat.  In order to keep it fast, I've limited the SSD to the OS and ThinkOrSwim.  Nothing else goes on this drive.

Well, it has been fast-as-hell, but it crashes a couple of times a week.  Great big ol' BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) greets me a lot of mornings (btw - if you are new to my blog, I daytrade stocks, and usually leave my system up all night as I will drop by a couple of times a night to see how futures are doing).  And, sometimes it will just sit there and do nothing for about 45 seconds.....not good for trading realtime with money on the line!

This is my primary machine, and I have an older PC with 2 video monitors on it, so I just rotate my chair over to it when something gets goofy.

So I've been pretty much searching for a solution to the BSOD and the 'hanging' situation.  Seeing comments on the Internet that the 'hanging' or 'slow down' may be associated with Windows 7; don't know.  I've got a process monitor running to try and grab some info, but even it hangs when the system hangs, but things like the mouse still move around.

Anyway, quite a bit of research brought forth the problem with the BSOD may be being caused by the Corsair 3 Force 60GB SSD.  They are giving people RMAs and returning new drives.  I flashed the motherboard bios bringing it up to the most current, but that didn't help, so per the vendor, looks like the next step on that is to flash the SSD bios, and if that doesn't work, then ship it back to them.

Well, I don't have time for all of that crap.  Once I found out the vendor is crying about problem SSDs, I went down and bought a 120GB Kingston SSD.  They also had a special rebate on Norton Ghost, so I picked up a copy of that too.  I mentioned to the sales staff at Fry's that I had problems with Ghost in the past, and they assured me this wasn't an issue now.

Well, it was.  I've spent all-damn-day trying to image my OS SDD drive over to the new SDD drive.  I get the images created all right, and can then move them onto the new drive, but it won't boot.  I went through the Ghost user guide, and nothing works.

I powered down and removed the power cord, then pulled the power feeds from all of the hard drives except for the two SSD drives, one of which had my operating system on it (the Corsair), and the other the new empty drive (Kingston), that way there wouldn't be any confusion or chance to destroy data on any of the other drives - only the two SSDs were online and available to the system once I pulled their power feeds.

So I did what all good programmers do - I said "I'm switching to LINUX" to do this.  What I mean by that is, I'm giving up on that POS Norton Ghost, and am using a Ubuntu (LINUX derivative) LiveCD.  I popped that CD (BTW - you can download this for free from Ubuntu) into the CD/DVD reader, selecting the option to 'run' but not the 'install'.  About 2 minutes later, I had an Ubuntu session up and running!  I went to 'Applications' (top menu bar) ->Accessories > Terminal and launched that Terminal program, which looks a lot like an old black screen MSDOS.

I then took a look at the drives the Ubuntu system was seeing using the command "sudo fdisk -l" (and that's a lower case "L"; it showed /dev/sda and /dev/sdb.

I then used the command "sudo dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb" to do an image copy from the Corsairs SSD disk to the Kingston SSD disk.

I then did another "sudo fdisk -l" to have a look, and the partitions and disk data sizes were in agreement.  This took about 25 minutes for the 60 GB to be imaged onto the Kinston SSD.

I powered down and unplugged the electrical cord again.

I reconnected all the power feeds to each of the hard drives, and removed the power feed from the Corsair, so it's not online any more.

I then repowered up, changed the ASUS bios setting to reflect booting from this Kingston SSD, and it came up immediately, no problems, and my trading systems are up and running.

This took about 30 minutes, after spending a whole-damn-day screwing around with Norton Ghost.  And for that privilege of getting nothing but spending time, I had the honor of paying Norton some hard earned cash, while the Ubuntu worked with minimal instructions, took 30 minutes, and was free.

While I have a background in UNIX, and I run one Ubuntu system here (it's one of three up all the time here in my trading office), I don't frequently use commands like 'fdisk' and 'dd'.  I got this excellent insight from the chaps at "howtogeek".  Here's their LINK.

Special Note: I was able to move from a SSD drive to another SSD drive.  You should not do this from a HDD to an SDD, nor from SDD to HDD.  The reason being the boundary sizes are different between the two devices.  In my case, I had installed Windows 7 directly onto the SSD, and Windows 7 takes care of this problem for you; if you install first to an HDD, Windows 7 will set it up for HDD, and you will end up with incorrect boundary sizes when you try to create an image of the HDD and apply it to the SDD.  Do some research on "SSD alignment" for insight.






Thursday, September 22, 2011

Banjo on Hedging Stock

Hedging - what's the point


A Simple Definition of Selling Short
I want to talk a minute about hedging.  But before I can do that, I need to be able for you to understand the concept of selling short.

When selling stock short, it means I borrow stock then sell it (it's all automated - I don't say "Hey, I want to borrow some stock"; instead I just sell it and the borrowing happens for me).  So, when I borrow stock (from my broker) and then sell it, I have sold stock short.  At this point, I still owe the original owner (my broker) the stock that I borrowed.  So I have to buy stock and give it to my broker.  Once I have returned stock to my broker, my short stock position no longer exists.

Sometimes people find this confusing.  They wonder, "how can I sell something I don't have"?  Well, I can't.  But if I borrow something, I can sell that borrowed item, with the understanding that I will need to return that borrowed item to the original owner at some point in the future.  Making it simple, it's the same as buying something then selling it, which you already understand by living life.  We are selling something then buying it, but it's the same, from a profit standpoint, as buying something and then selling it.

Selling Short
One thing to note - in these examples, I'm going to assume that the stock I'm long (NFLX), and the stock I'm short (SPY - actually, it's an ETF, but we're going to ignore that for this example), travel in lock step.  If I have $1,000 worth of NFLX, and it goes up $500, then the $1,000 worth of SPY will also go up $500.  This is an example only; it  may not be true in the real world, but is used to illustrate the point.  Another thing - for this example, I'm going to ignore the cost of selling short.  Those costs will be the cost of borrowing, and the cost of any dividends I may need to pay on the shares I borrowed - the real owner of the shares I borrowed are going to expect to be able to receive their dividends!

If I own $1,000 worth of Netflix (NFLX) stock, and it goes down so that I own $500 worth of NFLX, then I have lost $500 value from NFLX stock.  That should be clear.


If I sell $1,000 worth of S&P 500 (SPY) short, and it goes down so that I now owe $500 for the SPY, then I have made $500 value from   SPY stock.  If that confuses you, accept, without worrying about the 'how' that it means: I buy something, then I sell it - I'm buying it at $500, and I'm selling it at $1,000 for a profit of $500.  In reality, I borrowed $1,000 worth of SPY, which I sold for $1,000.  Then later, after the price of SPY dropped, I bought SPY back for $500, and returned those shares to the original owner I borrowed it from, keeping the $500 difference.  It should be clear that I made $500 on this transaction.  I sold it for $1,000, I paid $500 for it, so I made $500.  This is the same as - I bought it for $500, I sold it for $1,000, so I made $500.  It's the same, except the time sequence it occurred is inverted.


Hedging
My definition of a hedge is something that will provide value in the opposite direction of another investment.  So, if I own stock (aka long the stock), and I want to hedge that stock, then I could sell another stock short (also known as being short the stock) if it tended to move with the stock I'm long.

Assuming I'm careful about selecting the stock I bought and it's relationship to the stock I'm using for a hedge (the stock I'm short), (in other words, they move closely together - when one investment goes down $500, the other investment will go up $500), then as the market moves up and down, the two stocks (one the long stock, the other the short stock) will move in opposite directions, with the net change being $0.


What's the point in a hedge?
What's the point in being in a hedge?   While I'm in a balanced hedge, long one stock and short another, then (assuming they move in lockstep):

  • I won't make any money on my short, nor lose any money on my long, when the market goes down.  
  • I won't make any money, nor lose any money, when the market doesn't change (doesn't go up or down) on neither my long nor my short.
  • I won't make any money on my long, nor lose any money on my short, when the market goes up.
It's as though my account is frozen; the market and my stock bounce around, up, down, and sideways, but my account balance doesn't  change much.  It may not track in lockstep, so it may vary a little, but it won't be big if I've been careful about selecting the primary investment and the hedge.

If the primary investment and the hedge are balanced, moving in lockstep then:
  • When the market goes up, my long will make money, while my short will lose the same amount; my net is $0.
  • When the market goes down, my long will lose money, while my short will make the same amount; my net is $0.
  • When the market goes sideways, my long doesn't make nor lose money, and my short doesn't make nor lose money; my net is $0.
My account balance doesn't really change.

So, what's the point?  I mean, why would I want to basically lock or freeze my account balances?

I've been asking myself this for quite a while.  I understood the concept of a hedge, but since nothing is changing, I never really could find the answer, in any of my searches, as to why would I want to my account into a situation where it doesn't change value?  Why wouldn't I just get out of the market, since when I'm out of the market my account balance doesn't change either.  So, to me, a hedge was the same as being out of the market.  And, to a certain point, that's true.  And if being fully hedged (that's one consideration - being fully hedge vs. being partially hedged) means my account balance doesn't move, then it's true that it's the same as not being in the market.

Or is it?  As it turns out, while my account balance doesn't change, some other things may change.  For instance, I could continue to collect dividends on my long positions, if they pay dividends.  And those dividends would certainly affect my account balance, in a positive manner!

So, what are some things that might change?  That might give some insight as to why I might want to employ a hedge.

Some things that might change when in a hedge

My basis
Assuming I bought $1,000 worth of NFLX stock (I'm not concerned with the price per share here in order to keep this example simple).  My basis in the NFLX stock is -$1,000 (we can ignore how many shares this is).  Suffice it to say: I am long $1,000 worth of NFLX.  I have a '-' sign in front of the $1,000 because I payed cash when I bought it, so I reflect the spending of $1,000 with the '-'.

If I hedge by selling $1,000 worth of SPY, then my basis in SPY is +$1,000.  I am short $1,000 worth of SPY.  I have a '+' sign in front of that $1,000 because I received cash when I sold it, so I reflect the receipt of $1,000 with the '+'.

If the market moves down, and NFLX and SPY move lock-step together, with (in this example) NFLX will losing -$500.  Meanwhile, the short SPY position will make +$500 profit.

Position Change (I start with $1,000 worth of NFLX, and -$1,000 worth of SPY):
NFLX: -$500  (it dropped in value by $500).
SPY: +$500 (it went up in value by $500).
net: $0 (-$500 +$500 => $0)

If I close the hedge (by buying back SPY for -$500) at this point, I receive $500 from that hedge transaction on SPY.  I sold SPY short for +$1,000, and I bought it back for -$500, so the profit is +$500.  This is the same as saying I bought it for -$500 and I sold it for +$1,000, so the profit is +$500, with the only difference being the time sequence of events - the events themselves didn't change.

So, while I lost -$500 on the NFLX, and I made +$500 on the short SPY, so the net gain or loss is $0.  No change there.  But one thing did change: my basis in NFLX changed from $1,000 to $500, from a practical standpoint..  I still own the same number of shares, but after closing the short position, they cost me only -$500, instead of the $1,000 they cost when I bought them originally.  So, while my account balance didn't change, my basis in the NFLX stock did change!

This, for me, is some additional insight I didn't have; I never thought about the fact I was changing the basis point of the long position.

So, another way to look at a hedge is to view it as a way to change a basis point in a stock.  It can work both ways, for you, and against you.  For instance, if the market had moved in the opposite direction, so that I made money in the long position, while losing money in the short (SPY), my account balance would not have changed, but my basis in the long stock (NFLX) would have gone up by $500.

So, account balance doesn't change, but stock basis changes, and it changes based upon the direction of the movement relative to the primary and hedge positions.  And, it only changes when you close the hedge.

So a full hedge can be viewed as freezing the account value, and changing the basis point until the hedge is removed.

When might I be interested in doing this?

Well, I might be interested in doing this if my goal is to hang onto stock for dividends; the account value isn't changing with the market's gyrations, but I am still receiving the dividends.  It appears this might be a way to freeze my account balance with the exception of the dividends I am going to receive.  

What else have I gained?

Well, since my account balance isn't changing, then I've removed a lot of risk, assuming the long position and the hedge position move in lock step.  Also, note that, if the stock I am using as a hedge has dividends that are payable during the time I have them borrowed, then I will pay the dividends out of my account, plus interest on the borrowed stock.  You didn't expect to get all of this for free, did you?  So maybe I should hedge with stocks that don't have dividend risk, or stocks that pay a lower dividend then the stock I am long.  That might be a good idea.

(Note that this section talks about hedging with options.  This is not something you would do unless you are an expert in trading options, and understand the obligations, risk, and pitfalls in trading options).  Another example might be where, instead of being long a stock, I am short an option.  Remember my definition above - the hedge is the opposite of the other position, the primary position I call it.  So if I decide to short a put on NFLX in order to capture time value, with a belief that NFLX is going to go up, which means I would be obligated to purchase the stock should the put expire in-the-money, then the opposite (the hedge) would be to be short calls; being short calls means I must provide the stock if the call expires in-the-money.  So, I could use the put and the call as hedges for each other.  Note a problem here though - you must understand fully the concept of deltas, gamma, and vega in order to understand the hedge, with the profit being theta.  

Some thoughts on using a hedge
I'm still looking, and thinking, about using hedges.  I know that I am only scratching the surface, but I'm having to do this on my own, as I don't have any mentors nor have I been able to find any information about the 'why' of hedging.  So, I'm sort of stumbling along on my own, trying to gain insight.  If you have additional insight, I would appreciate hearing from you!

Considerations
Anything that moves in an opposite direction from my primary investment can be a hedge.  It doesn't have to be stock.  Gold is frequently used as a hedge against inflation, which is a hedge using gold against the dollar. It's important to know how tight the correlation between the primary and hedge are.  You don't want to be long some investment (long real estate, long stock, long classic cars) and think you have a hedge (long gold, short stock, short bass boats) only to find out you don't have a hedge at all; I wouldn't think long classic cars and short bass boats would be good hedge; I would think they might have a tendency move in the same direction with each other, and if that's the case, when I'm losing money on the primary, I'm also losing money on the hedge!  That's a way to lose fast!

So understanding the correlation is important.

I always assumed that should inflation kick in, I would go long rental houses or beach property as a hedge against the purchasing power of the dollar.  That certainly worked in the 1970s, but currently it's not a hedge I would put on until the housing market turns upwards.  So that hedge isn't available to me right now.  But I do have some of my portfolio on GLD, an ETF (or is it ETC?).  It's bouncing around quite a bit, and sometimes it looks like a really great hedge, and other times it looks like I've made a mistake.

Pairs Trading
One popular concept I hear bantered around is 'pairs trading'.  This is an approach, primarily using stock, where you go long the stock that is the stronger in it's sector (or where you have some belief that this is a strong stock), and go short the weaker stock.  A popular example of this is long HomeDepot, and short Lowes.  I don't have an opinion on this, I've just seen it used as an example.  

Typically, HomeDepot and Lowes have different stock prices, and may move at different rates in the market; e.g., the market is up 2%, HomeDepot is up 5% and Lowes is up 3.5%.  I use software that allows me to get a gauge on the relationship between the two stocks, so I could invest -$1,000 in HomeDepot (going long HomeDepot), while selling +$1,000 of Lowes (going short Lowes).  If they move at different rates, then it might mean that I need to go long $1,000 worth of HomeDepot stock, while going short +$750 Lowes stock.  I'm not trying to say what to do, as that will change over time, I'm just saying you need to give this consideration before doing it.  Doing a google search for stock pairs trading will give you much more detailed information then I have presented here in this little example.

So, I'm still looking for more ways to use hedging to reduce risk while providing profits.

If you know additional approaches, leave me a comment!
  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Banjo's Jokes - Poor ol George

This is a favorite joke.  It was told to us by Eddie M. while my wife and I were dating - 37 years ago.  I came across it on the Internet today!

Young Clyde of a rather affulent family has returned from summer vacation. At his first day at his posh private school we have what did you did this summer day. Clyde tells his tale. We went to London and saw Big Ben and the tower of London my brother George went too ... he's crippled you know. And then we went to Paris and the Eiffel Tower. And my brother George went too he's crippled you know. And then we went to Italy and we went to the Vatican and we met the Pope and the Pope put his hands on Georges head and said "Throw down your crutches and walk".  And Whiing - George's left crutch just flew off!!!  and Whing - Greorge's right crutch just flew off!   

And in unison, we all said "What happened???".

And Clyde said: Well, George fell on his ass...He's crippled you know. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Banjo and Family Remember 9/11

Some of my family also sent me their remembrances, so I've consolidated them all here.

Banjo Remembers

I was home on 9/11 in order to change our cable TV over to a different service provider.  While waiting for someone to show up, my wife called from work to tell me that a plane had flown into a tower - she thought it was a traffic spotter plane; at the time, I understood that she was talking about an event in downtown Atlanta.  I said I didn't know if we had a TV signal yet, but would check...I remember wondering how a small plane could have flow into a tower in Atlanta, as the weather was pretty clear.

I checked the TV, and we had a signal!  Apparently, the cable company had been able to hook everything up from outside and never rang my doorbell.

I watched on NBC as Tom Brokow reported about the event of a plane flying into a tower in downtown NY.

I'm an instrumented-rated pilot, and the first thing I noticed, after realizing the tower was one in NY, not Atlanta, was that it was "severe clear" in pilot lingo.  Not much chance for a weather related visibility problem, so this was a real mystery....

I called my wife back to let her know that it wasn't Atlanta, but was in NYC, and explained my confusion about how this could happen with the weather being so clear...I was beginning to suspect the pilot had become incapacitated while flying.

While my wife was on the phone, I saw the 2nd plane banking into a left hand turn.  I thought I was seeing a replay of the original impact. I was truly stunned to realize this was a full size commercial jet aircraft, and that it was in a turn heading at the tower!  So that meant the impact had not been due to a pilot being incapacitated, so I was now doubly confused.  I watched as the plane impacted the tower and exploded through it....and I saw the first tower, and realized there were two towers involved, and this wasn't a replay, but was a new impact; two planes, two towers!!!

I thought "there's no way that second impact was a mistake", and I told my wife, who I had been giving a play-by-play, that she was to get out of the tower she was in and get home NOW, that we were under attack!  She later said she told her manager she was leaving because of the attacks on the towers, and that dumb-ass woman treated my wife like she was goofy, saying "it's just a small plane flying into a building for christ sakes", but my wife did tell her she was leaving and she was leaving now.  Bless my wife's ability to take action when it is needed and override dumb-ass corporate managers.


So my wife headed home.  I called my office to let them know what I was seeing on TV, and that I would not be coming in.  My wife showed up at our house about a half hour later.

I called our youngest daughter, who was in college at Southern Polytechnic State University, which is located near an Air Force base, and told her to get out of that area now; if we're under attack, then that base may be a target.  I told her it was OK to bring her boyfriend home too if she wanted to, as he was from out of town and no way to get back to his home.  So she headed home with him.

My oldest daughter had just started a new job as a programmer the day before, on 9/10!  She was in training when they got the word, and all training was stopped and they were told to go home, so she came home as well.

We spent the rest of that day and the next several days watching TV and feeling sick - news accounts were saying the death toll could be as high as 30,000 people!

I remember one really different thing - everyone stopped blowing their horns at other cars - for weeks!  If someone was slow ahead of you, no one honked their horn.  If they made a mistake, they were just waved on.  Jay Leno canceled his Tonight Show appearances, saying this wasn't the appropriate time to be telling jokes.

And, for a while, we were all Americans, liberal as well as conservative, with a common, unified goal - get the SOBs that had done this to us.  And I remember thinking, as a Southerner - they've killed our Yankees, and I hope we bust their ass for it.


My wife remembers 9/11

I was working that day, and in the morning happened to over hear someone in the office say they had heard on the radio that one of the towers at the World Trade Center in NY had been struck by an airplane. My husband was working from home that day, and I called to tell him what I had heard, the assumption being the plane crash
had been a terrible accident. As we were talking on the phone, he was watching TV trying to get a better feel for what had actually happened, when suddenly a second plane crashed into the other tower.

At this point my husband realized there had been no mistake; these were deliberate, intentional acts, and our country was under attack. By whom or what, no one yet knew, and the sense of urgency in my husband's voice telling me to come home, made me feel uneasy. When I told my manager I was leaving to go home, she wasn't very understanding, and I got the distinct impression she thought I was "over reacting". She would soon learn otherwise.

Driving home, I don't remember there being many cars on the highway. As I listened to the reports on the radio, I desperately wanted to get home where I'd feel safe. Once home, I immediately looked at the footage on  TV, and I just couldn't believe what I saw. I remember we were very concerned about the safety of our younger daughter who attended Southern Poly which is in close proximity to Dobbins Air Force Base, and we called to tell her to come home.

We watched TV for the remainder of the day and most of the night, and I remember feeling an over whelming sadness. The loss of innocent lives and the devastation left behind were incomprehensible. I couldn't understand how someone could hate America so much and cause the kind of devastation I saw. My America forever changed that day.





Heather, my oldest daughter, remembers 9/11

The second day of my brand new career started out slow and quiet.  I showed up to new cubicle around 8am wondering when my boss would be in the office and what I should do while I was waiting for him to arrive.   I'd spent the previous day going through orientation and learning where I would be sitting.  Without any work to do I began poking around on the internet for Java development sites and tried to keep myself busy doing work related reading. 
Some time around 9am my Dad called to say the news was reporting a plane had flown in to one of the world trade center towers.  I didn't even know which buildings the world trade center towers were.  We talked briefly about what might have been the cause before we hung up.  We considered common theories: a small plane pilot had somehow become confused, or maybe a pilot had experienced a medical problem.  I don't recall us considering at the time that this was a deliberate act. 

After hanging up the phone, I tried to access CNN.com.  The page wouldn't render for me and so I assumed that I didn't have access to view that page at the office.  I walked down to our Admin, Christine, to see if she could access that page.  She was able to pull up the page, although it was very slow to load.  While we were waiting for the page to render, I began to hear a few other people around making comments about the plane that had flown into the building.  Most of the comments were surprise about how much damage had been done to the building.  As the page finally displayed on Christine's computer, I too saw a very large area of black with thick smoke pouring out towards the top of the building.  This looked like a lot of damage to have been caused by a small plane.


Soon I heard that the television in the back break room was tuned to the news.  About 20 of us stood around in the room watching as the smoke billowed out of the building.  It was during this time that I learned where these buildings were on the New York City skyline and that I'd seen them in every episode of Friends and other television shows and movies.  As we stood watching the tv and talking among ourselves about how we hoped everyone in the building would be ok, we watched as another jet flew in to the second tower.  The conference room fell silent as the total impact washed over us.  We all knew in that instant that this was no accident.


Sometime during this I spoke with my Dad again.  He confirmed his feelings that this was indeed not an accident and that he was concerned about us in Atlanta because of the CDC being located here.  I remember that he wanted to reach my Mom who was working in a taller building in Dunwoody and tell her to go home because he was concerned that attacks may be planned elsewhere. 
A bit later I returned a call from my boss who was on his way in to the office.  He mentioned that he'd had to leave me a voice mail and thought I would be in the office already.  I told him I was in the office but many of us were watching the events unfold on the television in the break room.  He hadn't heard about what was happening in New York, so I briefly filled him in.  He seemed rather callous about the whole thing and commented that he didn't understand why that would stop people down here from working.  Later I learned that he'd not really been listening to me all that well while driving and didn't grasp the full extent of what was going on. 


I don't remember much else in detail from that day.  I remember walking to the other building on campus with other people and watching everything unfold on the televisions in the cafeteria.  I was standing in there watching when the first building collapsed.  There were a lot of gasps and cries in the small group that had gathered to watch.  I think I went on about my day as you would on your first "real" day at a new job, and checked in on the news a lot throughout the day. 


That night when I got home, my husband had the tv on and we continued to watch the coverage.  I remember seeing up close footage of debris falling from the buildings before they collapsed.  I'd earlier assumed I was seeing chairs and desks being thrown out of windows.  I learned that night that I'd in fact watched people jump to their deaths.  I cried a lot that night watching the tv coverage.  I don't remember talking much, just being stunned into a total silence.  The United States of America as I'd known them was no more.  I'd never considered the thought that any one or any group would want to hurt us.  I saw us as a nation who helped others, not as one who others hated.  An attack on the U.S. only existed in history books - Pearl Harbor happened even before my parents were born!  I had grown up taking my safety and life here for granted without realizing I was doing so. 


I know that even with all of the memorials, teachings, movies, stories, and songs about the tragic events of 9-11, my children will not really understand what it was like for all of us on that day.  I hope that they never experience a loss in their lifetime like we did that day.  But I do hope that between now and then the unity we feel as a country and the desire to help one another only grows stronger.  The lives lost on that day and in the days since should not be in vain. 
Heather

Sarah, my youngest daughter, remembers 9/11



I was a college freshmen attending Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Georgia on September 11, 2001. I had graduated high school a little over three months prior and felt like the world was huge and I was going to make an impact. In the last few years of high school and starting college I’d begun thinking about my generation and what we were going to do, how we were going to make an impact and what our legacy was going to be. With generations previous it was the Vietnam War, Civil rights, JFK’s assassination and Watergate, those defining moments in their history and our generation didn’t seem to have much, except for the Gulf War which I vaguely remember. That all changed on 9/11/01. 


I’d been in my Calculus class and was walking back to my dorm room, chatting with a friend. I was about half-way back to the dorm when we passed another friend who told me to turn on the TV when I got back to my room, that the World Trade Center had been hit. Like most, I wasn’t really sure what that meant, how it happened, or really the magnitude. My dad was a private pilot and when anyone said plane I thought of a small plane, not a jetliner. As I continued to pass people on the sidewalk, they confirmed what my friend told me and I needed to turn on the TV. I got to the third floor of my dorm, knocked on my boyfriend’s door to get him out of bed and told him what happened as we turned on the TV. About that time the plane began to go into the second tower, as we watched in horror. I realized then that this was huge. 


Shortly after that, my dad called me to tell me he wanted me to come home and that my boyfriend could come if he would like, as he lived two hours away. My dad was concerned about my safety, as my college was within 5 miles of Dobbins Air Force Base. We knew we were under attack and didn’t know what was next and what the other targets were. At that point, what was safe? I don’t remember the drive home, couldn’t tell you if I listened to the radio, what route I took, or what time I arrived. School was about 30-45 minutes from my parents’ house. I don’t remember if my mom was home yet, but I do remember my sister being there with my dad and us sitting down to watch more of the coverage on TV. My dad began to explain to us from his air experiences, that it was intentional and not an accident and how difficult and tactful these events were. Shortly after arriving we learned that the pentagon had been hit and that a plane that authorities believed was headed for The White House was overtaken by passengers and crashed in Pennsylvania. 


It wasn’t too much longer when the towers began to collapse. I remember thinking it was odd that it surprised some that the buildings would collapse, as they had been structurally damages and that gravity was working against them. In the aftermath, I have learned how the towers were built structurally and how it was an abnormality that they collapsed. I remember watching people on the streets crossing the bridge and being in volcanic-type ash walking out of Manhattan. I was praying for those involved, the families and the city of New York. I was concerned too with my friends who graduated with me that were attending Marymount in Manhattan, thinking how horrific it was, and wondering how anyone “survives,” “moves on” and “heals” from those images in person. I since learned that one of my high school friends assisted public safety personnel by bringing water and providing lunches to those working.

I don’t remember if I ate lunch or dinner, what the conversations were, where I slept or even when I went back to school. I DO remember that my university wasn’t shut down and classes still proceeded as usual (I remember how rude I felt that was). Most importantly I remember how, for the first time in my life, I felt like our country was more united, that our differences didn’t matter, that we were more accepting of others, that we truly BELIEVED in our country. I remember knowing that I was uncertain about what came next but that our country would never be the same. As the decade comes to a close and I reflect on it, our country has spent the last decade in a war, in panic, and in a state of somewhat paranoia. As the stock market continues to be volatile and others continue to lose their jobs, I can only continue to pray that we will get back to the way things were on 9/11/01… that we could pray openly, use the word “God” in public places, be reminded that tomorrow is not promised, be considerate of our fellow man, be conscientious of others feeling, conscious of others hurts, that we must love each other and be accepting of each other. It doesn’t make things “right” it doesn’t make things go away, but it can change the future of our great nation, of our history, and how people are treated. In the aftermath, it’s many of those that I went to school with that fought and continue to fight to protect us. 


On September 12, 2003 I visited the “Field of Flags” at Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield. Each year they spread over 3,000 flags in their field to symbolize each person that died in the events in 2001. Some have names with them, others are anonymous. Items have been dropped off and if not for the passing cars, the field is silent with only the ripple of the flags in the breeze. It is a truly spiritual moment and a visual reminder of the magnitude of the “cost.” I’ve remembered with candle-lighting ceremonies at college. I hope to one day go to the memorial to pay my respects and to remember.

Looking back, I would be ok with the title of silent generation, with no true defining moment…  I’d be na├»ve if I thought there wouldn’t have been a different event, just like I am sure there will be others after.  I can only continue to hold on to my belief that everything happens for a reason, that God has a purpose for all of this, and that as we reflect on the events from 10 years ago that, perhaps we will be able to feel united again in something that is bigger than us… sometimes we need a reminder. I feel sorrow for those who lost their lives, continue to lose their lives, and those who have lost ones they love. It is a reminder to say what you want to say when you feel you need to say it, share with those you love, give freely and be conscious of how your words and actions can affect others. If we just stepped back, leaned on God, and prayed for one another, we could turn this chaos into something better and bigger than us. 



My cousin Sondra remembers 9/11
Well, on 9/11, I happened to be at Mom's Myrtle Beach condo with my Aunt. (I had brought her there from Charleston for a few days to give her an "outing" after she pulled through heart surgery and rehab.) I received a telephone call from my daughter-in-law telling me one of the Twin Towers in NY City had been hit!

My daughter-in-law said everyone in her town was vary scared, especially since we live in a town with a military base! She was going to check the kids out of school to have them with them at home as were most parents who could do so.

Anyway, I turned on the TV just in time to see the second tower hit and was terrified myself!
Of course, I was in a town with an Air force base so unrest abode there as well!

We stayed glued to the television as all of the horrors unfolded before our eyes. It indeed was a terrifying day for America as we had NEVER been attacked on our own soil before! It was a day never to be forgotten in the minds and hearts of all Americans as were the many days to follow.
We all felt so sad for the people and families who were directly effected. I hope no one EVER has to live through anything like that again!


My cousin Bill remembers 9/11

I was at the [school's] central office when the Twin Towers were hit. I was on a panel of judges for [the] County's Teacher of the Year. My committee took a break and I went into the office of a friend who had her small TV on. All of a sudden she screamed "Oh No!" and I turned to look just as the first tower was hit!

As we stood looking in amazement, the second tower was hit! By that time, her small office was packed as others joined in to watch in horror. They kept playing the scene over and over on the TV as everyone stood around in total silence not knowing what might happen next.

The scene continued to unfold as New York was in total confusion and emergency people and equipment began to react.

My committee only had two interviews remaining which we somehow managed to resume. Then the friend came in to inform us that the Pentagon had also been hit! After the Pentagon was hit, the President downed all aircraft except military for many days. Needless to say, the schools were then closed and everyone began to assemble at home with their own families to watch the remaining sad events. At home everyone was glued to the TV when the forth plane was "downed" in Pennsylvania!

My final recollection of 9/11 was that our "world" as we knew it had changed forever and America was no longer safe as we had come to know it!


My cousin Carol Lou remembers 9/11

We were living at [a] Lake [in NC], and my husband had gotten up before me. He hollered for me "come see this!" when suddenly another plane crashed into the twin towers. I called mom to tell her to turn on her TV. We were glued to it all day.

My neighbor now is the one that worked in the Pentagon. She said she had just left the area where the plane struck . She heard the plane... Sounded very close... She said the plane revved it's motor just before impact. Bodies were every where and she lost 26 of her friends that day. Not knowing what, she went back into her office and tried to work but couldn't stay but for short periods, because she couldn't breath. Pentagon being old, had asbestos and the smell of jet fuel and many other chemicals. Someone finally came around and told her to evacuate. She has major health problems as a result of 9/11.

Judy from Stedman remembers 9/11



 My mother and I decided to go on a trip to see our cousin in Syracuse,NY in 2001.  We wanted to go in September so it would be a little cooler.  Mama would not fly so we took the train.  We left the Fayetteville station at 12:00a.m.and arrived in Penn Station around 9:40 the next morning.  When we came up the stairs to the main lobby, I went to the Information Station to check on the status of our connecting train.  I noticed a crowd of people at the Hudson News Stand.  After settling Mama in a seat, I told her it looked like the World Trade Center was on fire.  The crowd was looking at a TV on top of the cash register. I went over to the area.  A man next to me told us that 2 hijacked planes had crashed into each tower.  He also told me that he worked there but had been running late that morning.  At that point, I became very uneasy!  Mama and I then went into the passenger waiting area to wait for our train.  We also heard tha the Pentagon was hit.
     Around 10:00 I bought a cinnamon bun and a drink for each of us.  It's a good thing I did because we didn't have anything to eat until the next morning.  At 10:30 a.m., just after the Towers collapsed, they announced that Penn Station was being evacuated1  Mama and I went up the stairs and realized we were at the entrance to Madison Square Gardens and the outside of the McGraw Hill Building.  We sat on a stoop at the entrance to MSG and waited for 3-4 hours.  The streets and sidewalks were full of people.  Two police officers with megaphones intermittently gave us updates.  The female officer announced that the only way off the island of Manhattan was by foo!.  Everyone with a cell phone was frantically trying to reach their friends and family, but the phones wouldn't work.  Fire engines, ambulances and police sirens were going off everywhere.  Here I was with my 81 year old mother by myself.  I was very worried and scared!
   During this ordeal, another plane went overhead and everyone just stood stockstill and looked up.  It was surreal!  I felt like I was on the movie set for Superman.  I (like everyone else) thought they were going to hit another building!
    After about 45 minutes, I noticed several peoples' phones were working.  There was a Pakistani girl sitting next to us with a cell phone.  She contacted her Mom who was visiting her.  The girl was a trader on the NY Stock Exchange.  I asked her if I could use her phone and I would pay her.  She allowed me to use it and would not take any money.  In the next hour, transportation to Long Island was resumed and she agreed to call my husband and let him call my Dad and sisters to let them know we were okay.
     I called home several times and couldn't get an answer so I called my husband's work number, left a message and then called his secretary's number.  I reached one of his fellow workers and he relayed the message to Calton that Mama and I were okay.
     While we were waiting, we also met a nice Filipino man from Connecticut.  He had a radio and kept us informed on all the news.  His first remark was, "Where's Bruce Willis when you need him?  Where's Rambo?"  He lightened the mood and I felt a little safer with a man there.
     Finally, around 2:15p.m. they announced we could re-enter Penn Station at the corner of 8th Ave and 33rd  St.  Our new friend, the Filipino,walked us to the new entrance.  He was very nice and I think God sent him to help Mama and I along. 
      We didn't wait long before they announced for us to go to Gate 6.  As Mama tried to get through the door, a throng of people going to another gate almost knocked her down.  We made our way to the train and were on our way by 3:00p.m.  Our train moved  very slowly for a long while and we wondered why.  Very soon, the conductor stated that because of the terrorist's attack, the transportation authority would not let us go over 30 mph.
     We finally arrived in Syracuse at 12:40 p.m.(7 hrs and 40 minutes late).  What a harrowing experience that was! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Banjo Cooks - Beef Round Tip - Sous Vide Roast

Prepare the meat per this link.

However, do not slice into steaks.  Instead, leave as one large single piece of meat.

Take meat from Sous Vide cooker, then place into very hot oven (e.g., 450 dF) or hot grill (with lid on grill).

Cook until brown.  If on grill, you may need to turn.

Since the meat is already cooked and you are just browning the meat, watch for it to take on  the amount of toasting you desire.

Serve on platter, slicing with long, thin knife to serve directly to plates.

Banjo Cooks - Beef Round Tip - Sous Vide Prime Rib-like Steaks

Makes prime rib-like steaks, plus sandwich meat.

Note: Optionally, this recipe starts with a single large piece of meat, which has been divided into three large pieces, one of which is used to make this meal.  The benefits to using a single large piece of meat is: value - I using Beef Round Tip, which I can buy at Costco for $2.89 a pound (9/7/11); it means I can prepare a lot of meals in advance so I'm not spending a lot of time per meal on 
this; I get a lot of different meals.



Please refer to this link for the whole concept of cooking a lot at one time for multiple days - saves a lot of your time, increases the value of your meals.

Prep
  • Obtain one large piece of beef round tip and cut it into thirds (see link), or buy a single piece around 3 - 4 pounds in size.  If you are not able to find beef round tip, then you can use beef chuck.
  • Preheat your Sous Vide cooker to 132 dF.
  • Please the meat into a one-gallon freezer zip-lock bag.  Remove all the air you can, and place into Sous Vide cooker.
Cooking
  • Cook for 48 - 60 hours.
Serve
  • Remove from Sous Vide cooker.
  • Slice into 1" to 2" thick steaks, enough for your meal.  Set aside the rest of the meat, so you can thin-slice for sandwiches.
  • Brown the steaks in hot pan, or under oven broiler, or on hot grill.
  • Serve.
Depending on the number of steaks you cut, you can have a lot of tender sandwich meat left over!

Banjo Cooks - Beef Round Tip - Eat for 3 weeks!


Using 1 Single Large Piece of Meat, We Make
  • Beef Pot Pies (link)
  • Stew Beef (link)
  • Pulled Beef BBQ (link pending - please check back later)
  • Sous Vide - Prime Rib-like steaks (link) and Sandwich meat or
  • Sous Vide - Roast (link)
I bought a large piece of beef (about 13 lbs, so dividing into three pieces, each piece will be around 4 pounds) at Costco yesterday for $2.89/pound, with the intent of cutting it into three sections and cooking each independently of the other two.  The first piece will be cooked as stew, the second will be braised, and the last third will be cooked Sous Vide then toasted on the grill.
This will prepare a great deal of meat for meals, probably enough for 3 weeks, or 21 meals x 2 (for 2 people), or 42 servings!  Way, way more than we can eat in just a few days.  However, I will use this opportunity to prepare meals that we will be able to pull from the freezer at any time over the next couple of months.  So, for a few hours work, you will have great tasting meals, and maybe enough to have 21 separate meals for 2 people.


Is that worth the work?  Yup, I think so!!


13 pounds of beef at $2.89 per pound....rounding that up to $3.00 per pound, means I paid less than $39.00 for this meat.  Let's call it $40.  If I make 21 x 2 = 42 meals out of this, call it 40 meals, then it means I'm paying about $1.00 per serving for great tasting meals!
Beef Round Tip Roast
Beef round tip roast is a wedge-shaped cut from the thin side of round. It contains cap muscle of sirloin and is usually prepared by braising or roasting.

What we're going to do
We are going to take one large piece of meat and split it into three large pieces, cooking each piece individually. First, for tonight's dinner, we're going use one large piece of meat to start the beef stew, which will also be used for beef pot pies.  While the Beef stew is cooking, we will put the second large piece of meat into the Sous Vide cooker - it will be ready  in two days.  Tomorrow we will braise the third large piece of meat to make braised beef and pulled beef BBQ.


Beef Pot Pies - the size 12" of pies
Description
I like to start this around 2 PM for dinner tonight.  It takes about 1 hour to prep.  I like to cook mine for a total of 6 hours, but you can do it in 4 if you prefer.  This will make a beef stew first (If that's what you want, then you can stop here, but to make the beef pot pie, continue on).  Then we let it simmer with the lid off to reduce the liquid while intensifying the flavor.  Then we remove some of the stew from the pot and place into a deep dish pie pastry, place shredded fat-free sharp cheddar cheese, then covering with another deep dish pie pastry (flattened), then cooking in the oven at 325 for 20 minutes to brown the pie dough.  The rest of the stew is divide up and placed into individual Zip-lock Quart Freezer bags, where it will be quick-chilled and then frozen for later use.  Each Quart should contain enough for a meal for 3 - 4 people.

Time to prepare and cook

  • 30 minutes - 1 hour prep
  • 2 hours cooking covered (I go for 4 hours as it makes it more tender)
  • 2 hours cooking uncovered
  • 20 minute cooking pot pie in oven
  • Total elapsed time: about 5 hours, 1 hour of which requires your dedicated attention.

When Finished
This will produce enough to make four 12" beef pot pies.  I make one for tonight for the two of us; there's enough left over for lunch tomorrow for both of us.  That means we've got 3 more dinners plus 3 more lunches already prepared and residing in Zip-lock bags in the freezer - all you need to do is place the contents into pie dough and you're ready to cook the pot pies!

Ingredients
  • 3 - 4 pounds of round tip roast (if you can't find that, use chuck)
  • 4 large onions
  • 6 carrots
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 1 can of dark beer, like a Guinness Stout (or coke/pepsi/dr.pepper, but not diet)
  • (optional: 3 chipotle peppers)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (optional - 1 pound of good quality bacon)
  • (optional: 1 pound of fat-free sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, for topping)
  • (optional: 1 cup all-purpose flower for dusting meat)
Prep
  • Using a piece of of beef round tip roast, about 3 - 4 lbs, cut into 1 inch squares.  
  • In a large enameled dutch oven, add a little olive oil (or cook therein about 1 pound of bacon to get bacon fat).  
  • Bring the oil up to a high temperature, but not enough to smoke. 
  • If desired, dust the meat with flower.  
  • Brown the cubed beef, about a cup at a time (this is so you won't lower the temperature of the oil too much), remove browned meat and add more beef until all of the beef has been browned.  You can do it all at once, but the meat won't have as much flavor.
  • Reduce heat to a simmer and place all of the browned beef into the dutch oven and cover.  
  • Chop up 4 large onions in to large chunks and add to the dutch oven.  
  • Chop up about 6 carrots into large bite size chunks and add to the dutch oven.  
  • Chop up 3 stalks of celery into bite sized chunks and add to the dutch oven.  
  • Add 1 bottle of dark beer or coke (not diet-coke).  
  • Add chipotle pepper (optional)
  • Cover and let simmer for 4 hours. 
  • Do not salt at this time - wait to add salt and pepper until after you've condensed it, otherwise, you can end up with too much salt and pepper.
Cooking
  • Note: Once you've got this on the stove, then take the second piece of meet and put it into the Sous Vide cooker, where it will cook for 48 hours.  See link here.
  • Cook all ingredients in covered enameled pot on a simmer for 2 hours (if you have the time, I prefer 4 hours).
  • Uncover, and allow to simmer for about 2 more hours, or until the amount of liquid has evaporated until the liquid has thickened, stirring occasionally.  Monitor this so it doesn't cook down too much and burn.
Making the Pot Pies
  • Place enough contents into a 12" deep pie crust dough to fill it, (optional - cover with fat-free cheese; we prefer sharp cheddar), top with a flattened-out 12" deep pie crust.
  • Place into the middle of your oven and cook for about 20 minutes at 350 dF.  Watch it so it doesn't burn on top.  The contents already cooked, so you're just cooking the dough.
  • Remove from oven, and scoop-serve into large bowls. 



Freezing the remaining contents
  • First, be sure and do a quick-cool on the contents, then split into quart-size freezer zip-locks.  
  • Then freeze each zip-lock.  Try not to overlap the bags so the contents will freeze quickly.  Spread out as thin as possible so it cools quicker.
  • On removing, you can remove from zip-lock and place into a micro-safe bowl, thawing out in your microwave.  Continue to heat until it's cooked to a serving temperature.
  • Place into pot pies as outlined above.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Banjo Remembers 9/11

Please go to this page.  This page has been updated and includes additional stories from other family members.  I'm keeping this page here as some other sites have linked to this page.

I was home on 9/11 in order to change our cable TV over to a different service provider.  While waiting for someone to show up, my wife called from work to tell me that a plane had flown into a tower - she thought it was a traffic spotter plane; at the time, I understood that she was talking about an event in downtown Atlanta.  I said I didn't know if we had a TV signal yet, but would check...I remember wondering how a small plane could have flow into a tower in Atlanta, as the weather was pretty clear.

I checked the TV, and we had a signal!  Apparently, the cable company had been able to hook everything up from outside and never rang my doorbell.

I watched on NBC as Tom Brokow reported about the event of a plane flying into a tower in downtown NY.

I'm an instrumented-rated pilot, and the first thing I noticed, after realizing the tower was one in NY, not Atlanta, was that it was "severe clear" in pilot lingo.  Not much chance for a weather related visibility problem, so this was a real mystery....

I called my wife back to let her know that it wasn't Atlanta, but was in NYC, and explained my confusion about how this could happen with the weather being so clear...I was beginning to suspect the pilot had become incapacitated while flying.

While my wife was on the phone, I saw the 2nd plane banking into a left hand turn.  I thought I was seeing a replay of the original impact. I was truly stunned to realize this was a full size commercial jet aircraft, and that it was in a turn heading at the tower!  So that meant the impact had not been due to a pilot being incapacitated, so I was now doubly confused.  I watched as the plane impacted the tower and exploded through it....and I saw the first tower, and realized there were two towers involved, and this wasn't a replay, but was a new impact; two planes, two towers!!!

I thought "there's no way that second impact was a mistake", and I told my wife, who I had been giving a play-by-play, that she was to get out of the tower she was in and get home NOW, that we were under attack!  She later said she told her manager she was leaving because of the attacks on the towers, and that dumb-ass woman treated my wife like she was goofy, saying "it's just a small plane flying into a building for christ sakes", but my wife did tell her she was leaving and she was leaving now.  Bless my wife ability to take action when it is needed and override dumb-ass corporate managers.


So my wife headed home.  I called my office to let them know what I was seeing on TV, and that I would not be coming in.  My wife showed up at our house about a half hour later.

I called our youngest daughter, who was in college at Kennesaw State University, which is located next to an Air Force base, and told her to get out of that area now; if we're under attack, then that base may be a target.  I told her it was OK to bring her boyfriend home too if she wanted to, as he was from out of town and no way to get back to his home.  So she headed home with him.

My oldest daughter had just started a new job as a programmer the day before, on 9/10!  She was in training when they got the word, and all training was stopped and they were told to go home, so she came home as well.

We spent the rest of that day and the next several days watching TV and feeling sick - news accounts were saying the death toll could be as high as 30,000 people!

I remember one really different thing - everyone stopped blowing their horns at other cars - for weeks!  If someone was slow ahead of you, no one honked their horn.  If they made a mistake, they were just waved on.  Jay Leno canceled his Tonight Show appearances, saying this wasn't the appropriate time to be telling jokes.

And, for a while, we were all Americans, liberal as well as conservative, with a common, unified goal - get the SOBs that had done this to us.  And I remember thinking, as a Southerner - they've killed our Yankees, and I hope we bust their ass for it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Not your typical movie site

This is an interesting site for short (very short loops) of movies.  It doesn't sound interesting, does it?  But...it looks interesting!

http://iwdrm.tumblr.com/


Friday, September 2, 2011

Atlanta's DragonCon - Steampunk

Dang.

This weekend (today is Sep 2, 2011) marks this years DragonCon.  I thought I would be ready for it with some Steampunk stuff, but I got sidetracked.

Dang.

Hope to make it next year!

Here's a picture from CNN and a link to the article...




Banjo - Night Sailing on Lake Waccamaw NC

Night Sailing on Lake Waccamaw - The Banjo Effect Explained

Map Link to Lake Waccamaw NC

I discovered this, so I get to name it - The Banjo Effect!

I've never shared The Banjo Effect before, always keeping it private for my use!  But I'm going to share that with you now!

Before I get to The Banjo Effect, I want to give a little background.

I spent a lot of time at Lake Waccamaw NC when younger.  We had a cottage directly on the lake, located on the western shore, near Dupree's.

I had been interested in sailing for years, and finally, while in college, had managed to buy an old scrap wooden sailboat (a Windmill - see bottom of this post for more information on Windmills).  I made some repairs to it, and soon was out sailing on the lake, teaching myself how to sail.  It was about 15 feet long, with a mainsail and jib.  The sails that came with the boat included a racing jib (genoea?), which I kept up all the time, as I enjoyed the speed it provided.

For those that aren't familiar with a Windmill, at the time, it was a  wooden boat and very very narrow, so that it was fast enough to plane on the water, and had a center-board (rather than a weighted keel).  However, with it being so narrow and without a weighted keel, it was also very tricky to keep upright in high wind.

I sailed it until a friend of mine ended up taking it out and overturning it, getting the mast imbedded in the bottom, while waves pounded on it; this broke the boat up, and I never got to sail it again.  However, my friend did tell me, if I could get a trailer and would tow it to Boone NC where he was in college, he would help me repair it!  Seeing as Boone was about 6 hours away (and 6 hours back), the boat was wrecked and I didn't have any access to a trailer, and while I thought that was a more-than-generous offer to help me repair the boat he had wrecked,  for some reason, which eludes me now, I didn't take him up on it.

Later, after I was married, I returned to live at Lake Waccamaw for a year after the nuclear industry stopped building plants (I had been a startup engineer for computer controls), while furthering my background in programming in order to make a career change.

While there, I bought a Tanzer, which is a fiberglass boat, centerboard, two sails (jib and mainsail), and slightly longer at 17 feet or so, but a whole lot wider!  It certainly lacked the speed of the Windmill, but it could carry me, my wife, and our two small children, so it was a big improvement.


THE BANJO EFFECT
At some point, I started sailing at night on the lake.  I had sailed back to the house from the front area of the lake, sometimes getting back after dark.  So, I didn't set out to sail at night, it just ended up this way.  An odd thing to note; when I was coming into the land, the wind would always die out, which I realized was probably the trees blocking the wind near shore.

I found that I enjoyed this evening sailing, so I gradually stayed out later and later, until at some point I was going out late, may 9 - 10 PM and coming back at 2 - 3 AM!    I was sailing around the lake, keeping a fairly constant distance from the shore, sailing a great big circle.  For those not familiar with the lake, it's oblong, about 3 x 5 miles.

Sailing at night, I always had really, really good wind!  And this was a puzzle, as I never had this type of wind during the daytime.  I could have good wind sometimes during the daytime, but not always!  At night, it was always good wind!

I began to notice, again, that the wind would die when coming into the shore area, maybe 1/4 mile out from shore.  I would crank my little 1.5 horsepower motor up and putt on into shore.  But it finally began to dawn on me that at night, I had to motor out, and motor back in, but there was always, and I mean always, wind out 1/4 mile or so out, regardless of how still it might be on land.


My sweet wife would always be puzzled, saying how can you be sailing - there's no wind here at the house!  And I would tell her I don't know how or why that is, but there is wind out on the lake, about 1/4 mile out, even if there's no wind here at the house!


Once I realized I had a mystery on my hands, I set out to solve it.  I gradually added another piece to the puzzle:  When I was sailing at night, I never had to adjust the sails!  In sailing counterclockwise around the lake, the wind was always, always, coming from shore, always on my right, even though the sailboat and I were constantly changing the direction we were heading in order to keep a constant distance out from shore!


In the daytime, the wind always had a direction to it; e.g., during the afternoons, it was typically from the South.  At night, when the land was calm, then there was plenty of wind, but it did not have a compass direction to it; it was always from the land, regardless of where I was at on the lake.


So this meant either the wind was changing just right so that it continued to change direction as I sailed, or else it was being pulled into the lake equally from all sides. Well, we all know the wind wasn't keeping track of me and following me around, so indeed it meant the air was being pulled in from all sides.


So, how to test this?  I realized that, if indeed the wind was being pulled into the lake from all sides, then it had to end up in the middle of the lake, but once itwas in the middle, since all of it was coming in and none of it was going out, it wasn't going into the lake, so it had to be going up into the sky!  And, near the shoreline, there was no wind because the tree line was keeping the wind above the trees, where it would slope down to meet the lake about 1/4 mile out - so the trees were creating a dead-zone of wind near the shore.


Well, this was another mystery....what in heck would cause all of this air to be rushing into the middle of the lake, then shooting up into the sky?  Why - if the lake water was warmer than the surrounding air, then it would rise up off of the lake, and go up into the sky.  This would create a low pressure area in the lake, and air would rush in from the cooler-temperature land to fill that void!  And as this air flowed in from the cooler land, it would pass over the warmer lake and be heated, so it was gathering heat as it flowed in to rise up in the middle.  Thus, it would come in from all sides, so that when sailing around in a big counterclockwise circle, it would always be coming in from the right side, it would be constant, and I would never have to adjust anything!  How about that?

Imagine a hot camp fire on a windless night.  The heat from the fire and smoke goes straight up from the hot fire, while air rushes in (wind!) from low on the sides to fill the void.  

I realized that there was one way to test all of this; the air, when it came in from the sides, would have to bend and go up near the middle.  That meant that the wind in the middle would shift from coming from the land, and would now be going straight up.  And that from a sailing perspective, it would be calm and windless in the middle of the lake!  So out I went to test it.....and sure enough; as I approached the middle of the lake, the wind lessened, the closer I got, the less wind there was, until I couldn't sail any more!  And when I moved myself back closer to the shore, the wind gradually got stronger and stronger until I had a constant wind off of the shore!

Bands and Areas
So there's 3 bands, sort of like a bulls eye, which I'll describe starting from the outer edge and moving towards the center:
  1. The first, outer band is the Shore Band - it's next to the shore and has no wind.
  2. The second, inner band is the Wind Band, and like the name says, it has wind.  It's between the Shore Band and the Center Band.  This band, the Wind Band, is subdivided into three areas again moving from the outer towards the inner; the First Area, The Middle Area, and the Last Area.  Each area has it's own wind signature.
  3. The third, Center Band (the bulls eye) is the middle area of the lake, and has no wind.
Wind Bands
Stylized view of Lake Waccamaw
Lake is in the middle (yellow and blue), surrounded by land (brown).


So the 2nd band, the Wind Band, is where the wind is, and to sail, you have to get to it.

This 2nd band, the Wind Band, is broken down into 3 areas in and of itself:
  • The First Area of the Wind Band.  This is the area that ajoins the Shore Band, and it has light wind.  The wind is making the transition from Shore Band has-no-wind to Wind Band has-wind, so the wind is just starting to build here.  So as we move away from the Shore Band has-no-wind, the wind gradually builds until we get to the Middle Area of the Wind Band, where there's the most wind.
  • The Middle Area of the Wind Band has the most wind.  It's midway from the edge of the Shore Band to the edge of the Center Band.  It's between the First Area light-wind and the Last Area light-wind of the Wind Band.
  • The Last Area of the Wind Band, and it has light wind.  The wind is making the transition from Wind Band has-wind to Center Band no-wind, so the wind is starting to decay here and getting light and lighter until you get to the Center Band, where there isn't any wind.
Closeup of Wind areas within the Wind Band
(blue sections)
Dark Blue is strongest wind.


Why, heck - I could sail by being in the Wind Band, then I could decide how much wind and speed I wanted to deal with; if I was in the Middle Area, then by either moving towards the First Area or towards the Last Area I could lesson the wind; if I was in the First Area or Last Area, by moving into the center of the Middle Area, I could increase the wind.  I could fine-tune this however much I wanted.

The only bad news - you couldn't take a short cut home by cutting through the Center Band - you would get slower and slower while running out of wind, and it would take longer and longer to get home. So unless I started up my motor to get through the Center Band, I had to circumnavigate the lake via the Wind Band to get back home.

So there you have it - THE BANJO EFFECT!  If you want great sailing at Lake Waccamaw, then in the summer, when the lake is hotter than the land in the late evenings, then the sailing will be great in the Wind Band, which is between the Shore Band and the Center Band - just like a bulls-eye, half way between the edge and the center.   The wind will always be from the right (when sailing counterclockwise), it will be steady, and you won't have to adjust anything in sailing the whole way around the lake!

It's important to wait for the land to cool down below the temperature of the water.  The cooler the land while the hotter the water, the greater the effect.  Sorta like how a hurricane works.....air rising in the center creating a low pressure point in the middle, with air rushing in from the sides to fill the void.


Some Information about Windmill Sailboats - from the official site (link)

The Windmill is a 15 1/2 foot, 2-person racing dinghy designed by boat-builder Clark Mills in 1953. Having designed the Optimist Pram in 1947, Clark saw a need for a 2-person high performance dingy that can be inexpensively constructed by amateur builders. The class has since evolved with the times to allow fiberglass construction and aluminum spars, yet both wooden and fiberglass Windmills remain equally competitive. The Windmill is a born racer. Its narrow, hard-chined planing hull provides high performance. Being a non-trapeze, non-spinnaker boat makes the Windmill accessible to a wide range of sailing skills.

Contact the class officers for more informaion.
Length Overall 15' 6"
Length Waterline (LWL) 13' 8"
Beam 4' 9"
Sail Area 119 sq. ft.
Draft - Board Down 4' 2" / Board Up 6"
Mast Height 20' 3"
Portsmouth Ratings: 
    Level
 89.7     Light air 92.3    Medium 91.4     Heavy 86.4