Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 Review

That's it for 2019 - and it has been since November 12. Due to a couple of trips to Germany (first by me, then by Nina), the windsurfing season ended earlier than in any of the last years, since I started recording sessions in 2009. It will be a few more weeks until we sail again in warmer climates, and this will be the longest break in all those years, too.

But I can't complain. My windsurfing year started with sailing at Fangy's Weed Farm on January 1st, and I managed to squeeze 148 sessions into the shortened year. That includes a few days with more than one session, since I counted most foiling sessions separately. A bit more than a third of the sessions this year were foil sessions - 53 in total.

Learning to foil was definitely one of the highlights of the year, but the bigger one was the trip to Australia. Windsurfing in 20+ knots on perfectly flat water at the Weed Farm, Lilacs, and Lake George was something absolutely unique. Of all the memorable sessions in Oz, the one in Albany when Nina and I set PBs for alphas stands out - here's a picture of Nina jibing:
We did not even have much wind that day - just enough to be nicely powered on 7.0 and the big slalom board. How great this spot can be shows a recent session from the "Pesky Pinnaroos", who set a total of 17 (!) PB there just a week ago. Most of the guys who set PBs have been sailing for many years! One of the guys posted a video from that day:

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Kafka Americano

This is another non-windsurfing post .. although it may well contain some useful information for some of my windsurfing friends in the US, who may find themselves in a similar situation. To those who live in other countries, it might provide a bit of entertainment..

It started simple enough. After returning to the US, I found a letter from the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) that it was time to renew my drivers license, with a strong suggestion to do this online. That had been easy enough in the past - but we live in a new era!

A new, and apparently very important, part of the license renewal is the obligation to provide proof of legal residency. No problem, I thought - I have had US passports for 12 years now, and used my current passport just yesterday to travel back to the US. But things started going wrong after I had entered (and thoroughly double-checked) the information from my passport. I got the message that the verification of my passport had started, and that I should click "Next".

A few "next" buttons and web forms later, I was told that I had "successfully begun the renewal process", and instructed to print out a letter and take it to an RMV office. A section labeled "Documents Required" stated I needed my "US Passport for Lawful Presence Requirement".

Should be easy, I thought. Should be easy, thought the RMV person to whom I handed my passport. She scanned it. Then she scanned it again. Then again. Then she tried typing the information by hand. Only to be told that the passport could not be verified by the system. She tried to send me away without a new drivers license. When I pointed out that this was not an entirely satisfying solution, she handed me off to her supervisor.

The supervisor scanned my passport. And scanned it again. And again. Then she entered the information by hand. But her supervisory powers were insufficient to convince "the system" to verify the passport. When I pointed out that I had used the very same passport just a day earlier to enter the US, she pointed out that there was "no way" to overrule the system. She suggested that I should come back with my Naturalization Certificate.

Remembering what I had learned when reading Kafka in my youth, I understood that I should be happy  (a) to have definitive instructions;  (b) to live just an hour (round trip) from the RMV office; and (c) to have real hope that just one more visit might actually solve the issue! There was absolutely no point in comparing my situation with my wife's situation, who had been able to complete the entire process on the computer within a few minutes.

Thanks to excellent filing skills and driving a bit above the speed limit, I was back in the office before the supervisor could even finish her lunch break. Half an hour later, I walked out of the office with a temporary drivers license and a promise that the new license should arrive in the mail soon. Apparently, "the system" had accepted my Certificate of Naturalization!

A bit of research at home showed that I was definitely not the only person experiencing these problems. The local CBS station reported more than a year ago that "Drivers With New Passports Face Problems Trying To Renew Licenses". They cited an RMV spokesperson stating that "the issue seems to be isolated to passports issued within the last six months". But that was last year. A newer forum post from a software consultant for RMVs stated "any passport issued within the last 15 months is likely not going to verify". My passport was issued 20 months ago - they are not catching up, it seems! Fortunately, my Certificate of Naturalization is 12 years old, and has apparently made it into the USCIS SAVE system that the RMV uses.

So - when does your driver's license expire? If it's anytime soon, get started with the renewal, or at least make sure that you have the required documents. Most windsurfers I know have a passport, but it may not work, especially if it was issued within the last year or two. So make sure that you have one of the other allowed immigration documents handy: your birth certificate if you were born in the US, or a Certificate of Naturalization or similar if you were born in a different country.

I have had a driver's license in Massachusetts for more almost three decades now, so it was a bit annoying to spend half a day trying to renew my drivers license. But that's pretty minor compared to what some immigrants with temporary legal status experienced when trying to renew their commercial driver's licenses, as reported by the CommonWealth Journal. So I guess I'll have to count myself lucky!