The Shoes Don’t Go Here With That

img_2115The LL Bean boot is the footgear that started the empire. It was perfectly normal for me to slide these on over thick wool socks, and tuck my dress pants into the leather uppers. This was okay to do in the Northeast. It is not in the Midwest. Some of my nurses, those who became familiar enough with me to find humor in my actions, found it hilarious to the point of pointing fingers and guffawing. They no longer work for me, but not for this reason.

Truthfully, it is a bit of an affectation because rarely does snow ever reach so high that this is necessary, and most places that I frequent are either indoors or cleared of snow. I did not grow up wearing these in Florida.

I could have many choices of footgear for the snow, but I really like these boots. This despite the fact that they are not all that warm, especially compared to a modern snow boot. In college, in the midst of serious preppies, I found that this is what you wear when you want to take your yellow labrador retriever for a walk in the snow up in your cottage in Vermont. It is permissible to wear jeans for this, but only blue, lightly faded, and only Levi’s.

Otherwise, you presented yourself within the dress code of your prep school or country club. It was my prep school, then Ivy League college education, that made me a fair mimic of the Prince of Wales, sartorially.

It was also important for me to fit in, and I did not want my clothes to be a barrier. Now that I am wise I realize that people who make clothing a barrier aren’t all that wonderful to be around. But that is the difference about living in the midwest and living out East.

In general, but not as a rule, you have a hard time finding a professional job out East without some kind of Ivy League cred. You might say the same about state schools and the old boy networks, and I found that to be just as stifling when I lived in the south, but that was it -in the south, the old boy networks are very important, but so far, to my experience, not here.

Living here in the Midwest, I have found that these elitist codes, and membership and employment in the satrapies of myopic nabobs who find delight in surrounding themselves with other similar people, don’t work. Some of my patients haven’t a clue what Harvard or Columbia are. Or why it is wearing Bean boots with your khaki Chinos tucked in, all while you’re bundled in fashionable, primary-colored layers, wrapped in a Burberry oil skin hunting jacket which identified you as a member of the elite out East, just makes you a curious fellow here in Des Moines -someone overly involved with looking like they’re about to shoot some pheasants, but absent a shotgun, a pickup truck, or a dog.

These boots are now just useful, waterproof footwear, like they were meant to be.

I find living here in the midwest as close to heaven as I can imagine, especially when I contemplate the great golf that is coming my way this spring. Here I live, and here I will be buried.

Review of iPhone Kindle App

img_0003It was with some dubiousness that I downloaded the Kindle application. I already have 8 pages of apps, and I really only use a handful at any given moment. The application runs without a hitch, but I didn’t have any books. 

I scooted over to Amazon, to my account, and I purchased the excellent book, Tales from Q School: Inside Golf’s Fifth Major by John Feinstein. I bought it with a gift certificate (another story), and then nothing. I shrugged, and went about my business.

Later, I fired up the application, and lo and behold, the book was img_0004on the list! Tapping on it, a very readable rendering of the book came up. 

The font is resizable, and the application takes it in stride. I have used other reader software, and this can be a complicated process. 

Turning the page is merely sweeping the page to the right. I read half the book with no eye fatigue. It is fantastically easy to read on the Kindle App. This is remarkable.

My prior experience with ebooks has been the awkward transfer of ebook files -the downloading and the purchasing is always a drag. The ebook stores that I have perused have a limited number of books that I actually want to read. This is substantially not the case with the Kindle app. img_00051

The NY Times bestseller list, the deep catalog of recent books on Amazon, this is the scale that Amazon brings. 

Whisper Sync is the killer app of the whole deal. I bought the ebook online, and it shows up basically instantly on my index of books. This is not only cool, but going to make Kindle the leader in all of this.

This leaves Sony out in the cold again. They just don’t get the modern economy and haven’t evolved past the cassette walkman in terms of business models. 

The drawbacks are due to the screen technology. The Kindle draws power when a page is turned. The e-ink maintains its image without drawing further current. Reading a book on iPhone results in a significant battery drain -about half the battery for half the book or two hours of reading which is on par with video watching or gameplay. 

And finally, the application does exactly what its suppose to which is convinces me to go and get a Kindle 2!

The Bonfire of the Bonus Babies

 

The Fifth Horseman - TARP Fund Distribution

The Fifth Horseman - TARP Fund Distribution

 

On some level, I understand why the management at AIG took their bonuses. If it was part of their contract, why shouldn’t they? If their pay was part of the balance sheet that the rescue package was meant to help pay for the negative side of the sheet, why shouldn’t they collect? After all, the laws requires the company to pay its debts. Are we then to decide which of these debts take priority? Is it then not a fiction that we are rescuing these institutions when in fact we are just paying out to companies owed by AIG who in turn have their own contractual bonus obligations to meet. Why must the AIG boys hang and not the people about to collect on insurance floated by AIG.

It begs the question: is it wrong to be rich?

The Plaza Hotel

The Plaza Hotel

It’s a question that comes starkly to me as I wandered around ground zero of this pickle. I got to visit Southampton on Long Island and stayed in a luxury building on Central Park South. I ate Chinese a stone’s throw from Wall Street, and meandered past the half empty emporia of the vilified wealthy.

 

I noticed that among the well heeled, they never feel all that wealthy and they envy, resent, or at least are aware of someone wealthier than they. It is human nature to feel inadequate and to want. It is easy to live in the myopic view of the world in front of one’s face and not see the wider world around.

We notice only this world of the nearby and can be disassociated from images of suffering around the globe. Its that most people living near the median never actually see the lives of the people living one or two grades above them. The talk has always been about the invisible poor, the hungry and the homeless, but reveal the invisible rich, and it’s “to the barricades.” The French had these spasms of violence against the rich. Most recently in 1871, where mobs ransacked, butchered, and raped (in random order, usually all three) the wealthy and privileged of Paris. We are coming close to this when we vent rage at the managers of AIG.

 

View from Central Park South

View from Central Park South

The culture of the past twenty years has degenerated to a worship of things and their acquisition. By putting credit in front of people not used to wealth, the earnings of many years and even generations were made available to people who could not manage this kind of wealth. The packaging and selling of these loans and the skimming of fees as they were passed around, the leveraging of fractions of this debt, and the insuring of the particles thereof produced great wealth for a time, but it all came due. 

 

Everybody is at fault. This is a national vice issue where  there were pimps, whores, and johns, and no victims, but lots of perpetrators. If you’ve ever carried credit card debt beyond a month, you have been a party to this. If you bought lots of stuff borrowed from the value of your home, you have been a party to this. Right now, though, we’re concentrating on destroying the narrow class of Ivy-League educated ruling class living in smart enclaves in Connecticut and Manhattan, with their retreats in isolated burgs and islands.

Atlas -aka as President Obama

Atlas -aka as President Obama

I have to say, it is a terrible injustice to point the finger at a few and say, these people did it, and by burning them at the stake, we’ll be free. Everyone carries some of the blame. 

For the so-called middle class, this comes in the form of giant homes made of pressed wood fiber and synthetic petroleum byproduct, filled with unused exercise equipment, scattered and broken toys, and flat screen televisions. An anodyne futuristic lifestyle made available by the floating of a couple of years worth of disposable income.

The whole country’s occupation for the past generation had become the building of far-flung exurbs reachable by SUV, with no town center but a giant parking lot attached to a WalMart or a Costco. This was our wealth, to build these pressboard homes and borrow future earnings against their ever inflating values to accumulate jet skis and recreational vehicles, and Praise the Lord in colossal arena churches with concert level sound systems, sermons delivered in Powerpoint, and self-justification assured in the liturgy of accumulation and consumption.

The poor managers of AIG, the ones with death threats and private security guards, are merely the sacrificial scapegoats, the fools thrown out to the zombie mob in hopes that its attention will be distracted. What we aren’t seeing is a concerted message that the old ways are done. International commerce is done for a while, especially after we wash our hands of the accumulated debt by devaluation and nationalization.

What to do? Think about what it was that sustained life in the area around you. There is no reason why millions should live in the desert when the original population density was a few people per square mile. These areas should be abandoned. The general population should get used to working for and creating food. Our treasure and work should be spent creating sustainable economies, healthy strong communities, and planning for the future  rather than consuming and destroying and breeding with the hope of some end of the world bringing salvation. Or worse, go to Greenwich, Connecticut, to burn it down, and turn eastern Long Island into Rwanda.

The President gets it when he and his family started a garden. Say hello to your neighbor and wake up to the fact that he is really your fellow tribesman, and not the guy relocated there last year from Charlotte by his multinational now going belly up. The people around you and your relationship to them are the most important tools to survival. Humans were evolved to live in bands and tribes. The idea of holing up in some mountain redoubt with a lot of guns is a failure to recognize the lessons of zombie movies. 

We have to see these times as transformational, and that in fact we need a new contract that returns to the basic framework of the Constitution but acknowledges the challenges of the modern economy -too many people, not enough resources, inefficient ways of distributing them. 

For myself, the ethos of golf applied to life out of the bounds of the fairway, the application of the USGA rules of Golf to life, makes perfect sense. It is the need to create a new concept of the citizen and player in this country.

The Mast at the Empire State Building

The Mast at the Empire State Building

The un-iPhone: A Review of Nokia N810 -an iPhone User’s View

img_2042

Moore’s Law, the observation that processor speeds double every few years, has hit the other principle, the law of dimishing returns. Once computers can reliably do the following, list below, any increase in processor speed or other tech spec is frivolous:

1. Connect to the web
2. Get and send email, photos, and video
3. Process text, spreadsheets, and presentations
4. Keep track of schedules and tasks
5. View documents, pictures, and video
6. Communicate by voice and video
7. Play music, movies and television
8. Play games
9. Blog

There is really no great need for the latest processors or gizmos once a device can do the above reliably. To make money, you have to innovate or you sell upgrades of broken software. This is why Apple has triumphed by creating a device that does all of the above with panache in a pocketable package. But in getting there it created compromises (12 things I hate about iPhone), which made me try out the N810.

It was after a great deal of research that I finally broke down and purchased the Nokia N810. I had been complaining about the iPhone and its deficiencies, and even with iPhone 3.0 which came out yesterday. Apple has been determinedly avoiding creating a competitor to its MacBook, iMac, and PowerMac’s. This means keeping everything aside from the making of simple emails, playing songs, and launching apps completely hidden.

The N810 is an internet tablet which in many ways is the un-iPhone. It runs a flavor of Linux designed for ARM processors, and potentially the iPod Touch could run it. It has a physical keyboard. I wrote this review on it using LeafPad, an open source project available for free download. Nokia appears to have built the N810 for geeks, because I see no obvious business use. It only connects via wifi 802.11g, although they offer a Wimax version. But it has several things going for it that trump iPhone: the keyboard, bluetooth keyboard capability, and communications via Skype and Google.

First Impressions
The device out of the box is gorgeous. All brushed aluminum in grays and blues that are dressy and corporate. It has none of the tacky garishness of some of the Windows Mobile phones. The slideout keyboard works nicely and there are just enough buttons.I think iPhone doesn’t have enough -particularly a keyboard. There is a forward facing videocamera for chatting and a popout easel stand -perfect for using with a bluetooth keyboard.

Turning On
This is one dislike -the device requires a bootup but the device behaves like a smartphone in that it quickly spools into standby mode which the battery meter will tell you is good for almost a week. Bootup takes less than a minute. I would much prefer instant on. After some use, I realized that you aren’t meant to turn off the machine after bootup. It goes into a sleep mode and you can keep it in standby for days. A tap on the screen brings it back to life. With average use, I’m getting about 7 hours of battery life. This far exceeds the iPhone, which frankly is under-batteried for the ways that I was using it.

Software
The device needed to be upgraded to the current OS version which I had to do via a Windows computer. Not a big deal, and it enhanced stability.

It comes with a very capable web browser that renders full pages quite well. It has a dedicated zoom rocker switch that lets you adjust to comfort level. Also, there is a dedicated full screen button. It has Flash, which empowers this device for web 2.0. Unfortunately, it is an older Flash and some web sites, including Hulu won’t run, but Youtube and videoclips off NYTimes ran okay, if a bit choppy.

Multitasking is smooth and it has copy paste. Pressing the x cleanly ends the program, unlike Windows Mobile which has muddled way of dealing with multiple processes -namely it doesn’t and Windows Mobile devices get easily gummed up.

It works perfectly as a communicator -it notifies you of incoming text messages via skype, google, and aol and presumably msn via a number of programs. Unfortunately, skype’s client doesn’t have video chat yet.

Email is functional and straightforward. The client that comes with the N810 is spare and straightforward, but has a limited feature set. A more feature rich client, Claws Email is available for free download from Maemo.org.

The un-App Store – the Apps are open source and free. What isn’t available are PIM and Office software -I don’t think anything matches the utility of Documents to Go for the Palm OS. Everyone is waiting for someone to port OpenOffice, but I know it will run very slowly. There are some who have hacked Debian or Ubuntu Linux to run on this device but it slows down when programs meant for laptops and desktops run on what is a smartphone.

I have paired an Apple Bluetooth keyboard to it and it is now a very useful netbook replacement.

Media
It will play movies converted to mpegs or wmv’s. It comes with a one month trial of Rhapsody’s music library which is wonderful. I installed a Mini-SD card which had a few albums from my former Treo. With the iTune’s store offering DRM free MP3′s, getting music onto this device is not too cumbersome. The included headphones have a built in microphone for phone calls which work fine as well.

Rationale
Why did I get this when iPhone did most of the things I needed? It has to do with the things iPhone left out: Bluetooth keyboard, copy-paste, multitasking, and builtin-keyboard. I got the N810 through Amazon -not from the mothership but one of the vendors who had it for $250. With Apple Bluetooth keyboard which is very portable and stable, and usable with my other Apple gear, it is a worthy replacement for the Acer Aspire One which I recently sold to a friend.

Why? The netbook phenomena is a giant failure because it has been hijacked by Windows. With Windows XP, these small laptops are just that -small Windows XP laptops with slow processors. Coupled with Vista, these netbooks are completely useless. Microsoft intends on loading these netbooks with Windows 7 that has been downgraded to run only 3 applications.

Right now, I can compose on a very comfortable keyboard or a usable thumbboard in a pinch with a total cost of $325, with all the communcation capabilities brought by Nokia. Very happy. This entire blog entry has been created on the N810, by the way.

The netbook replacement in action

The netbook replacement in action

Rhapsody on the N810 is pretty cool because you have access to a large number of tracks and radio stations centered around bands. This rental of music scheme is okay, but I don’t think I’ll keep it. Pandora works! It’s slow, but it works fine. Streaming Sting radio, it comes through with FM quality with occasional very short skips probably related to the processor groaning while I type away.

The media player does a fine job with files loaded onto the internal storage. External storage is in the form of Mini-SD cards. I don’t particularly mind as I have all the adapters, but would have preferred regular SD. I don’t plan on watching movies with it, as the iPod is just too easy to use -iTunes to iPhone trumps ripping DVD’s to the correct aspect ratio, then copying to a mini-SD card -it was okay ten years ago to geek away, but in this day, streamlined delivery of content is a given.

I wish they would update the Flash, as Flash 9 doesn’t work on all sites, particularly Hulu. Also, Netflix is run off Silverlight -and I doubt they’ll release a Linux version anytime soon.

The picture shows the minikeyboard opened -this elevates the display perfectly. The easel stand is a wonderful touch. The Apple Bluetooth keyboard is the same chiclet keyboard found on the new Macbooks and is wonderful to type on. It would be great if iPhone would do the same, but we will never ever see this. They want you to buy a Macbook.

Addendum 3/23/2009
After using it as my netbook replacement for a week, I have been only delighted with it. I use the open source program WordPy to update this blog. Google Documents, though a big laggy when it comes to saving and opening, works just fine and is the office solution that this device didn’t come with. The great thing is that I am now typing on a great keyboard and extremely portable.

I have totally gotten into the internet radio, which for now eliminates my desire to pick up a short wave radio. Hundreds of stations from Hong Kong to Zambia, from Lichtenstein to Kuala Lumpur are available.

I also get much better phone calls out via Skype indoors at my hospital over the guest web connection than I do through the AT&T connection which goes through a repeater. I have to figure out how to get my contacts on the thing though -simply taking outlook contacts and trying to get the N810 to recognize them isn’t working.

Addendum 4/17/2009

After a month of use, I am pleased with the portability of the setup. I do find that certain things run slowly -some web pages take a while to load up where in iPhone Safari -it’s pretty blistering fast. Also, typing on some Web 2.0 pages causes strange stutters in the text. It is much easier to live with than the Acer Aspire One primarily because I didn’t need a small Windows XP laptop in my life. This the N810 does everything that iPhone doesn’t do at all very well. The overlapping functional items -mostly I leave to iPhone because I don’t have too much in the way of non-iTunes related media. The whole idea of using the Acer One as a large video iPod really failed because the video output was laggy compared to the sound.

The N810 is a device to fill in the gap between iPhone and a small laptop. It does this function very well.

Golf at the End of the World, or at least the Long Island Rail Road

 

Guardian of the Range

Guardian of the Range

The Long Island Railroad is celebrating its 175th anniversary, and it reflects the depth of the infrastructure on the east coast compared to the rest of the country. You could literally get aboard a train in Washington, DC, and get to 90% of the points on the eastern seaboard. Where I live, you are SOL if you don’t have a car, and fuhgeddaboudit when gas hits 4-5 bucks a gallon which it will if the economy heats up or inflation starts.

The driving range near my sister in law’s house was one of those summer resort ranges that also had a putt putt course. It is the off season, and there was no one hitting. A large bucket was 10 bucks -expensive. The owner’s dog was an aloof golden retriever who like his owner appears to have seen it all. 

I didn’t bring any clubs, and I was pointed to this rack of img_0018used clubs from the seventies and eighties -old Wilson blades and beat up persimmons and first generation steel headed drivers. The grips were smooth and bare. I took the challenge and managed to hit some very nice irons and even jacked the persimmon out beyond the 200 yard mark. 

It was satisfying to hit these clubs, and it brought back some memories. I think it would be great to have a challenge tournament where people picked out four clubs and a putter out of a pile of old junked clubs. Call it the garage sale open. 

The next day, J gave the blessing for me to go out and play on the wonderful Robert Trent Jones’ Montauk Downs course. It was a hoot. The course was basically empty except for golf crazed locals, and a threesome tucked me in and let me play along. 

The course is the poor sister of Shinnecock and Bethpage -both US. Open layouts, the first, so exclusive that you have to be born into the club to be a member, the second a N.Y. State Park layout like the Downs. Montauk was a formerly private course that fell on hard times and was bought by the state. It still has the hints of its glory days, and some teeth, though the deep sea grass roughs were mowed down -the gentlemen I played with told me the grass gets knee high and nearly unplayable in season, and the greens are lightning quick in season. 

The rental clubs were deeply offset beginner clubs that accentuated my draw into a hook, making play difficult. I scored poorly, but had enough great shots to bring a smile to my face. I look forward to coming back when it does come into its full glory during the mid to late summers.

 

Risk and Reward

Risk and Reward

Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom

flowersSpring approaches and the sap rises from the root. The days are noticeably longer, and golf approaches. I feel ready this year, more than any other year. Two things are different -I have practiced through the winter and my swing is groovy when I keep my head down. The other is my mental outlook is different. I am dreading the putter far less this year than any other year because I am approaching it no differently than any other club in my bag. 

My experience on Sunday is illustrative of both my past and hopefully my future with the putter. On more than a few occasions, I got on in regulation at the tough Redstone course, site of the Shell-Houston Open Tournament in a few weeks. I three putted, but the reason I missed was mostly because of distance errors and not complete misreads, hurried slapdash efforts at shoving the ball in. The proof was in several putts made from over ten feet, and many 4-5 footers were made as well. 

The real secret sauce though was a mental trick picked up from Chopra’s book. It is based on yoga, and brings about the stillness that you need to execute shots. Good golf to all -I am vacationing in a secret location this coming week, but hopefully will be able to squeeze in a round if weather permits. 

PS -We saw several snakes during the round at Redstone including a poisonous water mocassin. I think that these fellows will likely come into play in the marginal areas around the water hazards. The course has few OB’s but is ringed in red hazards.

The Trustworthy

The Iowa Orchards on Meredith Parkway in Urbandale, Iowa, is a working apple orchard. It processes apples into all sorts of appley good products including a world class apple pie. The shop is open 7 days a week from 9 to 6, but there is no one there. You pick your items and you put the cash in the honor box. The lesson in values is enormous. I could take everything including the box and walk out. There are no cameras. I am completely alone.

This us the same situation you are in playing golf alone. You could give yourself Mulligans, kick the ball out of the rough, and give yourself putts, but that would be no different than stealing apple pies from the good people of Iowa Orchards. I take two frozen double crusts and put a twenty in the box. Par.

The Afterglow

Being back to reality can be drag, but the memories leave a satisfied feeling. The good holes and shots stand out -the long chip in, the perfectly threaded 4 wood, the par on #1 at Redstone, the par 5 at Blackhorse I reached in 2, the handful of made long putts. But it was the fellowship of my fellow golfers that leaves me pleased. Golfists all, they played with honesty and put one hundred percent into each shot. Every one revealed their true characters on the course, and that is what golf does. I feel very ready for the 2009 season. I have to thank finally the four wives and nine children who made this trip possible.