Thought Block

This picture above shows #1 at Wakonda during the time when the fairways were being reseeded with a new hybrid bent grass. The hole is a dogleg left with a hump of about 10 foot tall and forty yards long, transecting the fairway of the dogleg’s bend. This small hill acts as a shield, and most average drives of 230 yards drawn or hit into this mound will roll right, and leave an approach with an uphill lie and greater than 150 yards (the marker is on the upslope of this inclined impediment). When I first played this hole ever five years ago, I looked out and saw the dogleg and the trees marking the bend, and I thought -“jack it over those trees with a draw” and I did, leaving me with a 100 yard pitch. When I later explained to an established member, he looked at me with some concern, and said, “you can’t do that!

To this day, I have not been able to recreate that shot because I hear that thought in my head, “you can’t do that!

The Rabbit and the Dog -a drill to teach a newbie putting skills

Rabbits about to run for the hole

The hard part about teaching putting to a child who thinks he already knows putting is the fact the child remembers every crazy putt he drained by drilling the ball straight at the hole. So it was with a bit of excitement that I tried out this drill which may or may not be original. I took one ball -the rabbit, and tapped it out about a foot away from a second ball, the dog, and I told my son, G, to go and chase the rabbit. To get half credit, the dog had to end up within a club head of the rabbit. It took only a few minutes before he was hitting most of the 3 footers, and started making a few of the 5 and 10 footers. The best part was when he began to get bored with the drill, I sent the rabbit into the hole from 8 foot away, and he chased it in with his putt!

Sunrise Golf

For several years now I have been asking the club to allow me to play golf at daybreak. It would allow me to get in 9 holes from a cart in way under an hour, 35 minutes was a recent time. This year, sunrise golf has been instituted and it is a roaring success.

Speed golf off a cart is like speed chess, it seems like the same game but different factors come to the fore. first there is the lack of warmup – you knock it down the fairway and play it as it lies. The other is that it simplifies your mental prep – playing alone and fast means I have to find the ball so I become very good at tracking and finding balls but foremost, I try to keep it in the fairway. I count every stroke but will allow a free drop if I never saw the ball in flight -I figure a playing partner if one had been present would have tracked it. The course is mine and that is the most important thing. It’s meditative and calming to be alone in all that splendor.

Golf Transparency -the egalitarianism of golf

My GHIN number update came back, and my handicap index is 18.4, with a course handicap of 21 for Wakonda. I have been playing poorly, but I always do better in competition. Golf takes on a different, truer aspect when its played in formal competition. Yesterday evening, I played in the Wakonda Match Play Championship, handicapped flight.

Golf reveals its egalitarian nature in the handicapping system. I played RG, a 16 handicapper who defeated me during my run at the cup several years ago in a memorable match that taught me a lot about myself. He is an excellent player and can spin off some marvelous golf shots that exceed the level suggested by his handicap. Golf allows such unequal competitors to play on a level field with the handicap system. He gave me 5 strokes which were instrumental in keeping the match even. Through 16 holes, we were level, after RG came back from a 3 shot deficit. We were playing in a thunderstorm, barely able to see the shot beyond 20 feet. I was further handicapped by having to wear sunglasses which were prescription sunglasses. Without it, I was basically blind, but due to the waning cloudy light, the ball and target were dark. I do think that the sensory deprivation allowed me to swing better.

I was able to line up, square, square, square and swing with my head still. This allowed me to make a natural bogey, net par with a concession, followed up by a ball on green on the final hole with RG’s unfortunately lost into dark woods. This match was very close, and could only have been so with accurate handicaps.

It makes me wonder why we this concept works in golf but not in life at large. It’s written in the constitution that All Men Are Created Equal, but this is not true, is it?

Apple passes Microsoft in stock valuation

This must break some sort of apocalyptic seal presaging the end times. Apple has passed Microsoft in terms of stock valuation (NYT link). Who would have predicted this fifteen years ago after the Newton debacle and the clone wars? In those dark days, I actually took it upon myself to help sell Macintoshes at the CompUSA in Columbus Circle, and I was not alone. It was strange how anti-Apple the sales staff was. I see this ultimately as the proof that people appreciate simplicity and perfection in design.

Golf Passage of the Mysteries

A poem written driving from Detroit to Des Moines after we missed a connecting flight, we were returning from a spring golf trip to Hilton Head, myself and several most excellent golfing companions. As we pulled out of a convenience store lot, I had the vision of a wizened old man, a specter, hailing us with the following words…
Five and One man, on a journey!
Heading westwards, on into the night.
Burdens shared, and sleep neglected,
Y’all crossing the river, and arrive at first light.
Great joy you have found, and more do you seek
Onwards and onwards, for promises to keep,
Hammer on the right foot, no shoe on the left
Still many hours, before you shall sleep.
So go, I say go, and listen No More,
I am an illusion, but so is your labor,
That ball is not a ball, that hole is not a hole,
And that last hasty meal, you will not savor.
And when you are home, and you lay in your bed
Alive you will feel, alive with no dread
And in seeking all that golfin’ pleasure,
You realize the truth that the company is the treasure.

Hoddeok -Korean comfort food

The hoddeok is a flat bread pastry with typically a brown sugar syrup filling with chopped nuts -traditionally walnuts, that are sold in the markets in Korea. It’s warm and filling comfort food, and I came across a youtube video by Maangchi who is now one of my favorite food bloggers. The recipe is here:

but you have to watch her video (search Maangchi and hoddeok) to get the gist of making hoddeok. I made one with mozzarella filling which my son topped with marinara (a Korean calzone!). It was delicious and very easy to make, and reminded me of being a kid in Korea.

Windows Mobile 6.5 -too little, too late, but reasonably great

As someone who has suffered from almost a decade of desperately mediocre Window Mobile devices, it was with a specific reason I chose to switch out of iPhone to Verizon’s HTC TouchPro2 last fall. There is a program called Walking Hotspot which turns any WinMo device into a Wifi hotspot and I felt that it would support my iPhone and future devices like the current iPad the best.

The phone turned out to be a load of turd as far as smartphones go, but I blamed it mostly on Microsoft and not HTC. HTC puts a skin called Sense UI on all of its Android devices and a similar skin called TouchFlo on Windows devices, and I turned it off several days ago after finally just being unable to deal with the screen lags and freezes. Lo and behold, underneath all the TouchFlo cosmetics was the outdated and ugly Windows Mobile 6.1, which ran pretty well on this latest and greatest hardware.

So it was a no brainer for me to try the Windows Mobile 6.5 upgrade offered by Verizon. I saw several warnings on blogs that it would slow things terribly, but I sensed that it was the TouchFlo skin and not Windows Mobile. The upgrade went well, and lo and behold, turning off the beautiful TouchFlo skin resulted in a spiffy windows 6.5 smartphone that actually works. The screens snap and the device really does alright with Wifi and Bluetooth, things that it was gasping at before. The browser still sucks compared to Safari on iPhone, but borders on usable to where I no longer use iPhone for email so much.

Which leads me to this conclusion: Microsoft spent a decade missing the opportunity to grab and dominate the smartphone market by creating a horrible interface (6.1 and prior) and then allowing third parties to skin up the phone to copy iPhone without regard to performance or battery life. If 6.5 is any indication, Windows Phone 7 will be a formidable entry to the market, more so than Android which is already confusing because of the plethora of skins, form factors, and OS versions.

Comfort food and Mother’s day

I was on call and Jen had to leave the house for the evening, leaving me to my fate with regard to dinner. Being the on call surgeon is an exercise in anticipation. I waited like a fire extinguisher hanging in a glass box for that call -a ruptured aortic aneurysm, a cold pulseless limb, trouble in the body’s pipes. I passed the time watching a show from the History Channel about the universe. I fell asleep and woke at 7, way past my usual dinner time.
I walked out in to the family room and made my hungry face -nothing happened. No food. Just silence. I felt existentially as empty as my stomach. Without Jennifer, there was no meal. Just me in a dark box. I sat there for a while chewing on walnuts, contemplating food, and more specifically Korean food. Food holds a central spot in a Korean household and the mom is the one who makes the food. Korean food is time consuming to prepare because of the way a Korean meal is constructed.
The rice is the foundation of the meal. A bowl of rice is a cornucopia to a Korean -a magic bowl of happiness. The rice is eaten with ban ch’an -small dishes of prepared and seasoned meats, fish, and vegetables, sometimes pickled that add salty, spicy, tangy, and sweet to a bowlful of rice. The variety of side dishes is what is so appealing about the Korean meal and so devilishly hard to prepare. Most of the vegetable dishes are created from roots and leafy greens that distill large baskets of raw produce into handfuls of final items in small dishes on the table. The process sometimes takes the whole day, sometimes two days, and typically 3 or 4 of these vegetable dishes are standard.
The meat was a rarity in premodern times, and was usually reserved for festival days but prosperity has made it common. Fish, too, is standard -usually a hand sized cutlet of salted mackerel broiled in the oven is shared among everyone at the table. This emphasis on intensely flavored small portions of meat or fish allows a small quantity to flavor a mouthful of rice. So imagine a Korean war refugee who came into possession of a can of Spam from a US Army C-ration -it was ambrosia. Spam came into such high regard that even today, giving a carton of Spam is considered a suitably generous house gift.
Spam cooks to a beautiful crispness with juicy tenderness in the center of medium thickness cuts that perfectly flavor rice -especially cold left over rice. I found some rice and a can of Spam in the pantry and all thoughts of going out for a steak were gone. Filet mignon does not compare to a bowl of cold rice topped off by three medium thickness slices of Spam crisped to perfection on a frying pan. And in the near darkness of the empty house, I savored my repast to the last spoonful, feeling soothed, sated, happy. Mothered in fact.