Etiquette–Doing is Being

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When my son turned 8, we enrolled him in an etiquette course at our country club. He was one of only two boys in that class, which had four times as many girls. Etiquette is as popular among boys, it seems, as ballet or gymnastics. So how is it that we teach our children, especially our boys, manners? In my experience in the Midwestern suburbs, for the presumptive future alpha males, it is through football that parents teach their boys how to behave in society.

The cult of football, which recently took a hit in the Penn State scandal, is very much the secular religion in the US, and its principles of individual sacrifice, self improvement, and group effort are laudable. The American ideals are poured into the public ethos of football. Much of America’s recent history can be viewed in a football context, explained in football metaphor, and historical events remembered like games and seasons. If you are a space alien needing education in American culture, you need only to review the past five Super Bowls’ worth of half-time shows and commercials. Football is America’s vernacular.

In watching an etiquette class, I realized that the forms and routines –how a table is laid out, how you approach the chair, which side the drinks are, which side is the meal served, what the utensils are for, etc., create the physical input to dial in behavior and ultimately etiquette. Dressing and behaving like a gentleman makes you a gentle man. Let me explain. The mind can be changed based on what you do physically. It has been shown that simply smiling increases the dopamine levels and changes your brain patterns to one that matches happiness. Yes. Smiling can make you happy.

The mind can be changed based on what you do physically… Smiling can make you happy.

Martial arts like Tae Kwon Do or Kung Fu focus a lot on forms –series of rote maneuvers that are memorized which to me as a student seemed tedious but retrospect have the effect of shaping the mind. Focusing on the forms of courtesy eventually makes you courteous. So where does football and football parenting leave us?

As far as I can tell, it teaches impressionable young boys how to dominate the weak. It confuses narcissism as self-esteem. By its nature, football cannot teach empathy, courtesy, or thoughtfulness. There is nothing wrong with this if your goals for a society are to create a core group of warrior that will fight wars, conquer nations, and pull down an eight figure salary in free agency. The unintended side effect is that you readily miss the opportunity to prevent the development of psychopathic bullies and date rapists. You only have to watch parents at football practice to understand why this is so. It is why figures like Tim Tebow are such an anomaly not only because he seems to outwardly practice courtesy, respect, and reverence. It is why Penn State was allowed to happen, because football is more important that a few little boys.

If you want to teach your child how to compete while being civilized, you can try etiquette lessons, but more practically, you can do no better than golf. The first section of the USGA Rules of Golf is focused on etiquette, but in fact, you teach your child important lessons by having them accompany you for a round on the cart. You learn to wait your turn staying respectfully silent. You learn to be timely and considerate of others in your group and in the groups ahead and behind you. You learn to be honest and to be your own referee. You learn to impose penalties on yourself for transgressions and be transparent about it. You learn to post your scores (like submitting tax returns when running for president). You learn to behave in a way that would make you proud and not ashamed.

As a nation, we need more mediocre golfers than we do washed out football players. We will be far better off for it.

Major Surgery -on a Mac Mini

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My Mac Mini, purchased in 2009, was beginning to choke on simple tasks and be generally slow as molasses, and I was considering retiring it. It was attached to our TV as our media player, but after trying Apple TV, I decided the latter was far superior, especially after the addition of Hulu+ to the mix of iTunes, Netflix, Youtube, Vimeo, MLB, and Photostream.

I had been using my MacBook Pro as my desktop, but found it to be more useful as an actual laptop, so I moved the Mac Mini to my desk but found it to be, well old. If it were a Windows based system, there would be no question where it would be headed -the recycling bin at Best Buy after I tore out the hard drive. But after I investigated the Mini, it turned out to have two problems -the 160 GB hard drive was nearly full and was a lowly 5400 RPM disk. Also, the stock Mini came with 2GB of RAM. The hard drive would need to be upgraded and I found a nice 750GB SATA drive spinning at 7200 RPM which would speed things up nicely and allow me to create a generous Boot Camp partition (lets me run Windows). The RAM was upgradeable to 8GB. Both upgrades ended up totally $150 from Other World Computing which specializes in upgrade packages for older Macs. To answer the obvious question -I declined using an SSD drive because it would be over $200 for a reasonably sized drive, and I wanted to keep costs down.

The instructions for surgery are on the internet -the OWC site’s videos are comprehensive, but start with the caveat that the upgrade should be done by a professional. If you can replace the batteries on a toddler bath toy, you can kick this. The upgrade was very easy and took all of 10 minutes after cloning the original drive to the new one (using Carbon Copy on trial, does need a SATA reader) which took a few hours. Booting up was noticeably quicker and the computer seemed happier after the brain transplant. I also took the opportunity to blow out a lot of accumulated dust in the machine.

After surgery, the “About This Mac” screen shows the new RAM.

The great thing from doing this was setting up Windows 7 in a Boot Camp partition which gives you a clean install of Windows. The Mac Mini is a GREAT Windows 7 machine, and runs very snappy.

One of the things I regret about the move to increasingly hermetic systems like iPad and MacBook Air and the recently released Retina Macbook is the loss of the ability to upgrade the Mac. This Mini is now good for another 3-5 years as long as Apple supports the upgrade to this system. As a Windows machine, it will probably not get Windows 8, but Windows 7 will be supported for the next 7-10 years if Windows XP is to be used as a rubric.

Mars Rover Landing: Curiosity Lands Early Monday Morning (RECAP)


This bodes well for America’s well being. At one time, doing really cool stuff was America’s metier. Landing a robotic Chevy by a rocket crane on the 4th planet, in a crater that we chose -how cool is that? It must feel like this to pitch one’s first victory after time spent on the disabled list. Of course, if it had failed, it would be another boondoggle example of government waste that could be better spent as pocket change in the ass pockets of troglodytes who don’t care where Mars is and believe the universe was created in a week.

Why are we there? If you are at all curious, that is reason enough that we are there, but for those troglodytes who are upset about government spending, I can reassure you that landing that Chevy with the American Flag logo painted on the side is as good as planting a flag on the planet. I bet you there is even a hidden flag that can be planted if it came to that. Mars is ours.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Highland Park GC

ImageI was looking for a driving range, and found a 36 hole public golf course instead only 5 minutes from my house. Getting there at 7:30, I was surprised to find that the Blue Course was open -basically first come first serve. I paid my 35 bucks for a cart, and played 18 holes in 2 hours, playing through three groups who were very gracious in letting me fly. 

I played from the tips and had a blast -the greens were slow and I could take dead aim and blast the ball into the cup. 

William Rose, Teacher of Golf

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When I started this blog, I had in mind what could pan out with mindful attention to golf. Would it improve my life? Would it make me a better man? Would my golf get better? One of the first people I turned to in this endeavor was Mr. William Rose, the emeritus golf professional at the Wakonda Club, and a quick sitdown with him was one of the last things I did at Wakonda before I took off for Ohio.

Born and raised in Duluth, Minnesota, Mr. Rose learned to play golf there and after he was demobilized from the Korean War, he joined the professional staff at the Evanston Country Club headed by the recently retired Johnny Revolta. Johnny Revolta, winner of the 1935 PGA Championship along with 25 other titles as a touring pro. Mr. Rose earned his craft from this great teacher and moved to Iowa, taking the position of head golf professional at the Wakonda Club in 1960.

Since that time, Mr. Rose tells me, the club has changed much and not at all. He remembers the club in a very different time when Wakonda was the sun around which everyone’s social and recreational orbits were centered. The pinnacle of that time was when Wakonda Club hosted the US Amateur tournament in 1963, the one where Deane Beman, future PGA Commisioner (the one who Jerry Pate tossed into the water hazard after winning the TPC at the TPC Sawgrass), won. The bridge from #18 tee to the fairway is called the Beman Bridge in honor of that victory.

In the tournament were Billie Joe Patten and Charlie Coe from Augusta National who noticed the work of Mr. Rose’s assistant professional, Mr. Bob Kletcke and recruited him away. Mr. Rose relayed, “They asked me if Bob would be available, I told them he’s packing his bags now.” Mr. Kletcke eventually became the head golf professional at Augusta National Golf Club in 1966. In an interview given to the blog, Carolina Golfer (link), Mr. Kletcke said this:

“I needed to improve my teaching skills so Johnny Revolta, one of the game’s best teachers at the time, got me a job at Wakonda Club in Des Moines, Iowa, where I would study under Bill Rose,” Kletcke offered. ”That turned out to be a wise decision because I learned much from Rose.”

When I was learning piano, I had a thought. What is the lineage of my teacher? If you trace back your teachers to their teachers, could you track the roots back to Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, or Bach? For example, my basic chemistry teacher in college was Dudley Herschbach who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry soon after I finished his Intro to Chemistry course. When I teach my son about atomic valence, he should know that he is one step removed from a Nobel Prize winner. Here, with Mr. Rose is a connection to the broader world of golf beyond Wakonda Club, but I always suspected that Mr. Rose had a great mystical connection to golf.

Teachers talk about greatness to inspire their students, but the great teachers inspire greatness from their students, even from the first moments. I remember in 2005 chipping twenty footers with desultory results when Mr. Rose shouted, “point your club at the hole on the follow through.” I made the next chip into the cup and Mr. Rose shrugged and walked away with his students who were as mystified as I was. At my first lesson with Mr. Rose, he told me to use only half of my energy in swinging the club -that golf shouldn’t be so hard. Within five minutes, I was hitting pure iron shots, two of which hit the pin at 150 yards!

I wrote down whatever I could remember from those lessons, but what stuck was the point about golf not being a hard game unless you made it difficult. The same could be said about life, I suppose.

If Korea were whole…

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The Olympics make me cry. Watching Gabby Douglas triumph brought tears to my eyes. The Pistorius story  makes me bawl. Every four years, I choke up, and what makes me always choke up is the story of the two Koreas. Looking at the results to date, the South (ROK) has 9/3/5 in gold, silver bronze, giving it a total 17 in medal count. The North, (PRK) has 4/0/1, or 5 total. Combined, that is 13/3/6 or 22 total so far. In terms of golds, it would place Korea 4th behind the UK, and it would tie with France in the total count. This makes me cry and cry watching the clips of Koreans winning. When Rim Jong Sim, North Korean power lifter took gold, I cried -happy at the thought of all the food that she and her family would get. 

While I harbor many dark thoughts about the North -I have stated that justice would be served by lining up all the fat people in North Korea on the wall, I can’t help thinking that reunification would have to involve reconciliation. I look at the example of South Africa, and the miracle that it didn’t descend in to a genocidal hell, and wish something half as good could happen to Korea before the North becomes a province of China. Unfortunately, all the potential Mandelas in the North have been shot or nicely enslaved.

I pray that force of arms won’t be required to rejoin two halves of one body, but with every decade, the memory of wholeness will become more distant. But the games, oh the games!