The Womp Rat: Wakonda Club No. 14

“Like targeting womp rats back home,” or so the quote goes from Star Wars. Luke Skywalker was referring to the ease with which he he used to vaporize small desert rats, intimating that the small exhaust port on the Death Star was no big deal. At Wakonda, we have our womp rat. Actually, it’s a heavily defended thermal exhaust port.

The fourteenth hole at Wakonda is a Rorshach test of a golfer’s mindset. From the blues, the hole is about 165 to the middle of the green. The prevailing winds are left to right. The problem is the three foot differential between the upper and lower tiers. Also, there is about a two foot drop over a thirty feet length going from back to front. This means that balls tend to roll right and off the green.

The pin position shown is front left. Depending on the mood of the greenskeeper and the pro, the pin can be placed right next to the precipice. This translates into a challenging two putt from below the cup. Anywhere else and a three putt bogey is a relief. In terms of score, this little bantam of a hole behaves like a par four or five, leaving grown men with tears.

Success on this hole requires command of your swing and fearless putting. Ideally, you want to hit into the fringe up front with a draw and roll onto the green below the hole. My ball ended up with a fade, landing hard in the center of the green, on the incline, which squirted the ball hard right and off the green. My chip landed short, sending my ball rolling back to the right fringe. A long putt failed the hill climb and three more putts later, a 6 was my reward.

Mujigae Ddeok -Korean Rice Cake Pastry

My food obsessions have fixated on making ddeok, or rice cake. It was one of the few items that my mother did not make at home and thus very mysterious as to it’s manufacture. Below is the link to Maangchi’s recipe for one of my favorites, but the final step eludes me. Pictured is my latest attempt but the problem is getting a good flow of steam without overwhelming the ddeok and basically creating sticky mochi. This batch was almost there but not quite and I had to throw it out.

The seal around the steamer has to be tight to direct all the steam into the cooking chamber. Oh well. Will have to try again.

Mid-summer night’s ice cream

Ice cream has always been an mystery and it was solved by my cub scout G who learned it during a recent mosquito infested camp. It’s simplicity is as wonderful as the the ice cream which is perfect. Made with whole milk, it is basically a vanilla gelato, tasting less fatty but just as good as the thick buttery premium ice creams. That it’s homemade adds flavor notes that can only be summed by by G -“It has a better taste than processed because it’s made by a human.”

It just takes a large plastic bag (or large Zip-loc) and a sandwich sized Zip-Loc bag. Into the sandwich sized Zip-Loc goes a cup or two of whole milk with a tablespoon of sugar for each cup, and a half teaspoon of vanilla extract. Seal the bag and mix the ingredients.

Into the larger Zip-Loc or plastic sack, you place lots of ice, a cup of salt, and a cup of water. You put the small bag of milk inside and you shake the bag holding up sides of the bag. After ten minutes -voila -the best ice cream you’ve ever had!

Everything I’ve tried this summer in terms of cooking which has been mysterious to me is in fact amazingly simple. This lets you make just enough ice cream for about 3 people, a perfect dessert.

The half life of human desire…about two years

Married Chairs

Married Chairs

Golf partners are most enjoyable when they are golfists. To make your marriage work, you have to be a marriage-ist.

This is advice I give to young, single women who are giddy about a blossoming romance. The half-life of human desire is about 2 years. This is if two people remain unchanged and exactly the way they are. It applies to just about anything that you get passionate about. When you start something new, a giant hourglass flips over. The sand is finite, and it is half empty in about two years, and a half again, furthermore in another two.

To keep a relationship going you have to evolve, break it off for a while (not cheap if you are already married), or have kids to completely distract yourself. Adding of more sand is not possible, but flipping different hourglasses that you discover between yourself and your mate is always a good rule. These are discovered often by means of meaningful conversations.

A second rule of thumb is that you can have about a hundred meaningful conversations with anyone before you have to quit. Most long-lasting couples understand this and keep conversation to a minimum or go on vacations -usually to the same place -how different is bermuda from palm beach from bali -trust me I’ve been to all of these places and if I were a primitive person, I would think that I enter a metal box with no airholes, sit cramped and bored for about 8 hours, and end up in the same crazy taxis, going to the same sandy, watery, blue skied place, eating the same food, and buying the same trinkets.

Don’t reduce your choices to someone’s basic body parts. In all the freedoms we think we have (free will being the top) we are shackled by the basic laws of neurotransmitter biochemistry. Romantic love is a neurobiological one-way spawning state – we’re all tricked into thinking it occurs naturally by our limbic system, but true love is a marathon of the higher brain centers.

You’re probably just as well off being given a mate on your appointed wedding day, someone you get to know in the Biblical sense on the wedding night in half darkness broken by the ululations of your women kinfolk holding up the bloody bedsheets to the village. And after your inaugural flying of the flag of Japan, you embark on a life of getting to know eachother, and if you’re lucky, falling in love, which only 5 percent of us really get. Be careful before you waste one of your 100 meaningful conversations over this post.

Bibimbap -risotto coreano

Among rice eating nations, there is a common dish that translates across national boundaries. Basically, you have leftovers and some rice. You chop up the leftovers and mix it up with the rice. Paella, risotto, fried rice, rice and beans with plantains and chicken, it’s peasant food that when done well is satisfying and sublime.

Bibimbap fits in this culinary niche and I remember eating whatever mom had chopped up and mixed with the rice (bokeumbap), but bibimbap is far more refined. Whenever I go back to New York, I head straight to Korea Town (the one in Queens is better but the one in Manhattan is more convenient), and over several days I fit in several of my favorite dishes. Bibimbap is right up there. Here in the Midwest, it’s hard to get to Korean food, so videoblogger Maangchi has become an irreplaceable resource for second generation folk like me who never had the time to learn the dishes that really make me who I am.

Pictured is my latest effort from Maanchi following her recipe with some personal flair. It is missing bellflower root which I’m okay with but many would consider it sacrilege not to have it. I shrug because that misses the point of bibimbap which is all about quickly throwing together little parts to make a great meal.

Link to Maangchi’s recipe.

Golf manners, and a bit about DMGCC’s Pete Dye greens

Waiting for the faster group behind to play through

I was recently invited to play at Des Moines Golf and Country Club by my neighbor down the street. It was over the July 4th holiday, and I expected a crowded course, but rain kept everyone but the most serious golfers away. I played with JD, and we invited two other friends to join us, and the round was memorable for this.

A twosome came up to us on what had been an empty course, and we let them pass with a smile and wave. They thanked us, and played on with little delay, bothering us not at all. This little interaction speaks volumes about golf etiquette and why I’m so passionate about golf. Everyone there understood the rules and the conventions of play -the faster group is allowed to play through. When playing through, you understand that it’s a gift, and you play briskly and thank the group you’re playing through.

This is all taught, and universally understood. If only the world at large played in this way. It used to be that everyone went to the same schools and had a common civic culture that emphasized the importance of public life of the citizen. Then things became atomized and it’s difficult to find the same levels of socialization. Today, the country is split along socioeconomic class lines that make collective action for the public good difficult or in some cases impossible.

Life really is no different from golf -for a society to function well, there have to be not only laws but unwritten rules.


I am finally getting the Pete Dye greens. Where old line courses like Wakonda’s will have one general slope split by a secondary slope to the terrain, Dye placed topography creating miniature maps of mesas, plateaus, lowlands, and valleys so that two changes in slope will occur not within 30 feet which is typical of most courses, but within 5 to ten feet. He also emphasized the artificial organic -think avant garde white plastic furniture from the late sixties. Wakonda is art deco like the Chrysler building, while Des Moines Golf and CC’s Pete Dye layout is decidedly modernist like 2 Columbus Circle before it’s renovation.

Nothing wrong with it. The important thing was, after this epiphany, my putting improved because I looked for the giant beach ball buried in the green above the buried giant banana.

Speaking of which, putting has become the center focus of my efforts this summer, and it is beginning to pay off. I started a miserable 9 holes earlier today at Wakonda, going 10 over through the first four holes, and finished the latter 5 holes at 2 over after I turned on the putting. The key today was emphasizing the putting stroke as a stroke, with putting as a process, and focusing on seeing the line.

Close Your Eyes in the Bunker

Chalk this up to the weirdest thing to ever happen to me on a golf course. I am a big fan of Bill Pennington, golf writer for the NYTIMES. He recently posted a video about hitting bunker shots (link here), which I watched with amusement. At Wakonda Club, we have sunrise golf, which for me works out well because I can slip in 9 holes at the crack of dawn and be done by office hours.

The gist of Pennington’s mad video is that once you set up your bunker shot, you really don’t need the extra visual stimulus of vision to accomplish your goal. Yesterday, on number 18, I was in the right green side bunker on the front lobe, meaning I was easily over 50 feet away. The lie was a partially plugged lie in a previous sand divot which had eroded from the constant recent rain. Typically, the wet sand gives me fits. I set up and visualized my shot, and closed my eyes and swung. I heard a nice thud of my 54 degree Cleveland wedge hitting sand, and I opened my eyes. The ball tracked over the greenside lip and I lost sight of it, but a few seconds later, there was a satisfying rattle of ball hitting the pin. It scooted off to the side about a foot!

I figured it was a fluke, but again this morning, I found myself in the left bunker on 18, this time on wet sand that had been raked but close to a collection of water that would have allowed me relief. I decided, hell with it. I was this time about 30 feet away, and I used my 58 degree wedge. I set up, closed my eyes, and again, the thud of the wedge traveling through wet sand. I opened my eyes and panicked when I saw the ball rise very high, much higher than I had wanted -I thought, but the ball landed with sore feet about three feet from the pin, bounced and stopped on the spot.

Two times in bad bunker conditions is amazing. You have to try this, and thank you Mr. Pennington. I’d hand you a zucchini out of my garden if I could.

iOS4 keeps the iPhone 3G relevant

The arrival of iPhone 4 has overshadowed the arrival of iOS 4. Many of us have held on to our iPhones despite quitting AT&T -this is a testimony to the greatness of the product in that previously, when I changed phones, the phones would be given away or put in a drawer or donated. The iPhone, when disconnected from AT&T, is still a wonderful device -more useful than the iPod Touch because of its great and handy camera. In fact, I call it my iPad Mini.

iOS4 promises multitasking to the iPhone 3GS and the most recent iPod Touch, but alas, not the iPhone 3G. What it does do after a long and convoluted updating process which included a period of time where I thought it was bricked, is make the device even more useful by offering folders which seen above during an App Store update, shows the folder contents with micro icons. When you tap on a folder, its contents show nicely just so:

This degree of intuitive folder behavior is …magical. The other thing that I love about the iOS4 update is the unified mailbox. All your mail accounts are consolidated in the unified box and organized by conversation thread!

The iPhone 3G is two years old, and even though it doesn’t multitask, the upgrades to the user interface and mail are worth it and keeps the device relevant. Even though I carry an HTC Touch Pro2 from Verizon, its days are numbered as I consider an upgrade to Droid X or the holy grail -the Verizon iPhone. The only other piece of technology that stayed in my pocket long after its release and freshness date was the Psion Series 5mx, which I reviewed before. When the Touch Pro2’s days are over, it will go into the dustbin.

BTW, this summer has been very busy, so apologies go out to regular visitors. I promise I will update this blog at least twice a week.