The Holiday Cruise in 30 Tweets

Thoughts before a holiday cruise.
1. If I don’t pay enough for my tickets will I be Irish dancing day and night in steerage.
2. Will there be a series of unsolved murders and will I have to solve them?
3. As we sail into the Bermuda triangle, will there be wifi?
4. If we land on a lost continent, will dinosaur taste like chicken.
5. Will there be monsters?
6. If I ever have to man an oar, will I be man enough?
7. Would the food charge on the lifeboats include tip.
8. Does the rule women and children first include man-children?
9. Does our fare include tribute for harpies, sirens, and cyclops?
10. What is the dollar to doubloon exchange rate?

 

Thoughts during a cruise

  1. Some non-Titanic cruise movies they should screen at Movies Under the Stars: The 5th Element, Steve Zissou and the Life Aquatic, Battlestar Galactica, but they don’t take requests.
  2. Back is aft, forward is forward, right is starboard, left is port, and the bathroom is the head. Kind of funny that left is port.
  3. Nobody shouts “land-ho!” when land is clearly ho.
  4. Our steward has better manners than any of us.
  5. The tropical paradise of Eleuthera is a dollop of sand in the middle of the ocean –if it wasn’t for the concession stand, I’d say two weeks tops before the party descends into cannibalism and Lord of the Flies worship.
  6. Trying to figure out what is the real reason behind the all you can eat policy.
  7. Sea Law implies that the captain is a benevolent despot and we are his happy children. Surprisingly, I sleep well.
  8. Man Overboard! Don’t yell that.
  9. Vomiting toddlers are treated like infected zombies.
  10. There is no poop deck, just a walking track.

 

 

Thoughts After A Cruise

  1. Grateful that there were no Kraken, Cyclops, or carnivorous Mermaids showing up asking for tips.
  2. No icebergs.
  3. Gastroenteritis outbreak averted by 36 hour quarantine of 2 year old in a 8×10 cell.
  4. Scopalamine patch effective in creating zombie red eye, furry dry mouth, and Cross Bronx traffic jam constipation.
  5. Baristas no longer hassling me over my morning precoffee aphasia.
  6. Income inequality’s logical end point is well illustrated by the juxtaposition of Paradise Island and the slums over the hill from Nassau.
  7. All you can eat does not mean all you can digest.
  8. They gouge you with the Wifi, the drinks, the tips, and the duty free stuff that is not profit free.
  9. Our particular cruise had the ambience of an over the top Bar Mitzvah that would not end.
  10. Ship’s doctor thankfully didn’t want a tip

    The Only Fellow Who Didn't Want a Tip

    .

 

One percent of the 1%

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From Evernote:

One percent of the 1%

The recent focus on Kim Jong Il’s lifestyle brought gasps of astonishment -he sent his sushi chef on a private jet to Japan to shop for rice cakes while his country was starving. Fact is, among the wealthy, there are the über wealthy, and among the über wealthy are the super duper wealthy whose daily budget would feed maybe a thousand families. While we do not begrudge anyone success -as this is the cornerstone of America, even the most callous person has to admit there is some injustice in North Korean society. It does not come from a lack of guns -the noncoms always outnumber the officers, and the fact that people can bribe border guards to escape means that some independent thinking occurs. The fact is that a religion, a cult of personality, sustains the vast inequality of North Korean society. Religions demand faith over logic. Directing the resources of a nation to the sustenance of a few humans at the top defies logic. It is a religious-type faith and fear of retribution, fear of apostasy and heresy, and fear of change that causes this gangrene to linger. What are the idols that drive injustice here at home? It is the belief that success comes from being favored by God and that lack of success comes from sin. It is the belief in absolutes that define religion. This idea afflicts our politics as much as the cult of personality afflicts North Korea.

The subordination of logic to dogma and its use in organizing societies is a old tradition. It gets people across desserts, oceans, and helps individuals process grief and the unfathomable concept of infinity. It is a human trait as ingrained as circling three times before bedding in a dog. Yet this kind of thinking is also used to demonize the poor, write off the sick, and rationalize the unemployed. It is extended into contempt for anything for the public good that comes from taxes -clean water, safe roads, national rail, public health, education and safety. It sanctifies success defined as wealth and therefore denigrates anything that might take away from that wealth.

In our still free society, one’s success is the result of not only hard work, but favorable circumstances, good health, and the support of people who were midwives to the success -the family and community that nurtured the individual and the society that provided the fertile ground for success. It’s the good plumbing that provided fresh water for excellent development. It’s the public safety provided community police and fire departments. It is the critical mass of excellent citizens that allow for success and justice. I think that is the message of the OWS protesters, that the people who get tasty morsels flown in for them not get protections at the cost of the people making it possible.

I wish for the new year the restoration of reason and clear thinking guided not by desire for retribution or a return to a past that never really was. I want an America where everyone has available all the opportunities while being good citizens and supporting the community, state, and country that allowed that to happen.

The Perfect Game

Wakond Club No. 1, from blue tees, May, 2011

The perfect game in baseball is a rarity among rarities. Only a handful of no-hitters are seen in a season of baseball, but the perfect game of 27 consecutive outs and no base runners has been achieved only 18 times in baseballs modern era. In golf, the perfect game is all 18 holes played in par or better, and it is a seemingly reachable perfection. Like a dangling fruit just out of hand’s reach, par golf sits there printed on the score card. For the majority of golfers, it is as unattainable as pitching in the major leagues.

The quixotic and perverse nature of golf is that anyone with the means can play a round where a professional tournament is held (aside from uber private locales). And during that round, the average golfer may get a glimpse of perfection in the form of a par on a famous hole, a perfect sand blast to within a foot of the cup, or a chip that clatters against the pin and settles into the hole. These transcendent moments of golf perfection are gobsmack hits of opium for the golfer that brings the poor hack coming back for more. On the score card though, these bright spots of perfection are just holes in the roof letting in shafts of celestial light. I used to keep a golf log, and over the course of two years, my best scores on every hole on my home course resulted in a perfect 72. It was in me, but I suppose I never let it out.

Woe betide the golfer who yearns for more and tried to do something about it. I have finished reading the testimony of John Richardson,  who did such a thing and is the proselytizer of the perfect. His book, Dream On: One Hack Golfer’s Challenge to Break Par in One Year (link), is an engaging story that requires golfist faith -the faith that the honesty of the player is a given and that his tale is as true as a score card submitted for handicapping at the clubhouse. It is no big fish story, John’s tale.

I find a lot of things in common with John. We are of similar age growing up in areas where golf is part of the social mesh -me in North Florida, and John in Northern Ireland. I spent many years at the now defunct Baymeadows in Jacksonville, Florida, dreaming of playing with the best while struggling to break 90. Both of us admired Seve Ballesteros and his swashbuckling approach to the game. Both of us gave up golf to become working adults -me to go to college, medical school, and postgraduate training, John to work at becoming a successful  entrepreneur. And both of us took up golf again at similar points in life, after marrying and starting families.

What is different about John was that he took his obsession and channeled it into a deliberate path to perfection. At  the start, he struggled to break 100, but within a year, he broke par. While it was no surpise, the ending of the book in the kind of ethereal round of golf that all hackers dream of, the tension and drama were there nonetheless. The great thing about the book is not necessarily the end result, but the year long journey he took. John proved that all the well worn excuses that golfers have about themselves -including mine about not letting myself be scratch, are mistaken justifications for continued hacking. In fact, whenever he fell into a rut, it was revealed to him that it was a swing error, something as elemental as grip, posture, stance, and alignment, and not always his negative thoughts. That is correct -it’s not your negative thoughts, but instead bad form and lack of practice that leave your game rotting at bogey or worse.

He does seek professional help -and I have taken this advice by taking my first lesson with our amazing new club professional, Mr. Aaron Krueger. He also sought clinical motivational advice -not a shrink, but very close, because a golfing rapture is limned by golfing madness. And he practiced. A lot. Particularly his short game.

This is like one of those miracle baseball movies you can get where some average Joe all of a sudden is throwing heat in the big leagues. I read his book with the same suspension of disbelief that I have for big fish stories, with golfing faith. It gives me hope, and a renewed sense of purpose. So what does it all mean?

I will hereby publicly declare my intention to break par by the end of next season (October 31, 2012) and bring you along with me. May good golf come walking with me and endow my ball with angel wings.

A Year in Two Seasons



There are two seasons in a year, winter and golf. This past golf season just came to a close as the Wakonda Club and Des Moines Golf and Country Club covered their greens this past Monday. The season opened for me with cold rainy rounds at the Legacy GC where snow banks could still be seen in the rough. It took a miraculous 2 weeks to go from three feet of snow to lush green fairways and greens at Wakonda as the past three years’ investment in turf paid off. Despite the spring rains, the grounds crew somehow managed to groom the course into playable condition day after day. As the weather stabilized, the course blossomed in mid summer and Wakonda became a destination as it hosted multiple outings and events. What impressed me was how the course recovered after heavy usage. I credit this to favorable weather, knowledgeable members, and the grounds crew under Mr. Temme.

The weather mostly favored us in the latter summer and fall, creating a bumper crop of turf. The deep root systems, now several years old, allow for nearly instantaneous recovery if properly repaired. This is where the membership came through. Despite the unrepaired ball marks and unfilled divots after bouts of heavy play, the majority of members took it upon themselves to repair all the defects they came across and not just their own. Personal observation of the #10 green showed after an outing, the green had multiple unrepaired ball marks, which after a few days of play by membership and grooming by the grounds staff was basically tournament quality within several days. This was not possible in the older greens where heavily trafficked areas were susceptible to permanent damage requiring direct returfing.

This did nothing good for my handicap because the greens rolled very fast all season. At the Broadmoor for example, they were in the process of a yearlong grooming for the Ladies’ US Open next year, and this resulted in slower greens that I could hammer at –I shot an 86 there on the high course with no 3 putts, playing with three strangers who became good friends at the end. Wakonda gave no such quarter this year.

My favorite away-course this season? DMGCC –after many years, I am beginning to appreciate some of the lumpy bumps, and more importantly the friends I have to play a round with over there. This year included discovery of a no longer used set of Maruman irons in my dad’s garage. They are very light but launch the ball very high and long. Along with these came vintage Taylormade steel hybrids with the Raylor sole plate in 15 and 19 degrees. I have hit the 15 degree as far as my three wood on occasions but can land it with sore feet on long par threes. There really is no need to buy the latest and greatest but rather stick to what works. That said, my happiest moment came with my new set of Taylormade Burner irons, a birthday gift from my wife. I was 216 yards out on Wakonda #4 after fluffing the drive. After considering my choices, I had a great feeling about my 4 iron –I was on a slight downslope and there was wind at my back. I aimed left and set up for a smidge of fade. The pin was mid green to the left. I landed on the flat on the left of the fairway and the ball rolled on and came to a stop 2 feet from the cup. The shot of the year.

The Turkey

The grocery store turkey’s evolution from the wild turkey is an echo of our journey from our wilder, free-range origins.  The wild turkey, whose intelligence caused Benjamin Franklin to recommend it for our national bird, is a far cousin of the overbred, overmedicated artifice that is the plastic wrapped bird that you plunk into your grocery cart. In the passage from our free-range origins to our over-cultivated existence, are we just overbred, overstuffed turkeys? Three things confirm this: the outsourcing of our basic food functions, the reduction of work into processes, and no reduction of stress from our surrender.

Outsourcing of Basic Food Functions

The wild turkey is known to be the most cunning of birds, requiring stealth and deceit to bring it close enough for a shot. I would assume the human in the original state of nature to be no different and no less intelligent. The urban legend is that the domesticated turkey is so stupid that they can’t be left out in the rain because they look up when hit on the head with raindrops, subsequently drowning. While this is untrue of domesticated turkeys, it may be true of domesticated humans, Homo sapiens sapiens familiaris.

We use to hunt for our food or gather it from the fields and forests. At a critical point, we domesticated the game and started farming the fruits and vegetables that sustained us, creating enough surplus calories to sustain larger populations that could then specialize in crafts, trades, and services, to where eventually the majority of the population could outsource food production to a minority of the people. If you’re lucky, you can buy a luscious apple out of season brought in by jet transport directly to your Costco from the Antipodes. This is not too much different from the turkey who willingly or unwillingly entered into the similar bargain with humans. In doing so, the turkey increased its population to an estimated 660 million turkeys currently in the world –technically a raging success on the chromosomal level. The outsourcing of the finding of food proved to be a Faustian bargain for the turkey whose life is rendered short and brutal. Depending on your outlook, the human bargain is no less Faustian because there are 6.8 billion humans, the majority of which now depend on this outsourced food production. If you are reading this on the internet, you are clearly benefiting from this arrangement. The recent economic downturn shows how easy it is to fall from the grace afforded by this system. If you can’t afford the fancy fruits, vegetables, and viands, you are stuck eating the processed corn and petroleum byproducts offered as stock feed for the masses.

 

Reduction of work into processes

Somewhere the idea of work, trade, and craft as virtuous activities became lost as the management professions became elevated. I remember having dinner right out of college with a bunch of young lawyers and consultants in Boston, none over the age of thirty. All were entrusted in some way with managing, valuing, judging, and giving advice on billions of dollars, thus affecting the lives of many people. None of these guys had really worked a day in their lives (including me except maybe stocking groceries throughout high school), but were clearly inside some kind of membrane that separated them from everyone else who did have to work for a wage and save a lifetime to afford a lifestyle that these young men were having straight out of college. One boasted that the yearly return on their fund outstripped the gross national product of whole countries, reaching for some kind of irony that I used to think was cool and now I think is depressing.

I have nothing against capitalism, and know second-hand through my parents and my wife’s parents the horrors of totalitarian communism, but there is a problem when theory trumps practice. Business management allows the reduction of any human activity into processes. The inputs and outputs of these processes can be tabulated, analyzed, and optimized. The logical end result is a human worker confinement pen like the factories in Shenzhen that make my gadgets –the workers live in dormitories adjacent to the factories allowing them to run 24/7. What we are witnessing is the ongoing triumph of totalitarian capitalism, and we’re going to either compete with China on their level or borrow furiously to maintain our relatively luxurious, free-range confinement pens. Neither is palatable to a country having just ended America’s Century in the dust cloud of falling towers.

 

No Reduction of Stress From Our Surrender

The majority of us don’t worry about food because it’s always there in the mega-mart, piled high and cheap. By surrendering our food production, we give up a load of stress but gain new ones. The ancestral stresses of hunger, climate, fear, and disease have been swapped for financial, social, and domestic stress. We outsourced our security functions to the local constabulary and our military, but rather than bask in security, we worry about terrorists at home and an endless war abroad. This stress is basically the same stress that the Thanksgiving turkey feels confined to a few square feet among thousands of other turkeys. That turkey fears not the fox, coyote, or bear, but it must feel something is terribly wrong with its world.

 

Taking It Back

The populist anti-elitism that elevated the dancing Palin against far more qualified, limber, and graceful competitors bears poorly for America’s continued excellence. The problem is not with the elites, but with the complicity of the turkeys in their continued confinement. Rather than cheap corn and petroleum based feed, they should demand the variety of diet that was available only two generations ago right out of small family farms and home vegetable gardens. Rather than dismiss food reform as the socialist dalliance of elitists, people should confront the source of their predicament.

The second half of this is the realization that the solution to outsourcing is In-Sourcing –which means work. It means that the service industry jobs that move quants and utils over the intertubes must be abandoned for work, trade, and craft. It means taking it down a notch as a society and lowering expectations while elevating living. It means a lot more people working in food production and repopulating small towns. It means reconnecting with community and family rather than moving every three years from Charlotte to Atlanta to Houston to Tampa to Denver. It means sweeping, hoeing, weeding, hunting, fishing, gathering.

Worse catastrophes have happened to people –go ask the Carthaginians when you’re in line in purgatory. People want a return to the past, to the golden age of the 50’s and early 60’s. What we’ll get is the 1920’s and 30’s. If you aren’t Howard Hughes, it’ll be a lot of work after work, with canning in the fall.

 

Wakonda Club Number 9

The hole is 178 yards long from the blues, slightly downhill and depending on the prevailing winds needs anything from a 7 iron to 3 hybrid. It’s an easy 3 if you just let the clubs do their work, but try to muscle this hole, a 5 or worse awaits.

 

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.

The Return Customer

The return customer is earned with every interaction. Amazon has earned my business every year with amazing responsiveness and promptness. I have shifted most of my shopping to Amazon purely for the convenience of not having to drive around town looking for things. The Kindle 2, shown above, was purchased with an extended warranty. Normally, wear an tear is not covered, but I felt that it should have weathered a fall from the bed to a carpeted floor. This crack was not only unpleasant to look at, but created instability in the cover and would eventually fall apart in jagged, carotid artery scything shards.

The kind fellow at Amazon has a replacement in the mail! I am now fully Amazoned.

This contrasts with the terribly shabby way I was treated at Dell a few months ago when they lost my on-line order but took my money. It took three days of calling to eventually get them to cough up my netbook.  Their awful customer service and delays in delivery brought them to the attention of the NY Times.

NaNoWriMo -National Novel Writing Month -an excerpt

bookcoverThe national novel writing month approaches. During this month, the challenge is to complete a 50,000 word novel starting on November 1, 2009 through November 30, 2009. The general daily goal is 1667 words a day. Although I am not suppose to start writing, I have submitted an excerpt for my NaNoWriMo home page which I am submitting here. I chose as the title, abandonner which is the French verb, to abandon. Chick Lit is my genre for NaNoWriMo. It is a topic of interest for me. The inner workings of the woman’s mind and her behavior in a natural setting is an avocation for me. I was the first grandson in a household full of women who pampered and spoiled me back in Korea. This was my Eden. Immigrating to America tore me away from this idyllic state, and the tables are now turned.

This coming month’s effort is dedicated to my deceased grandmother who, it is said, would terrorize the household, sending maids and daughter-in-laws out to the market in search of whatever rare, out of season, imported, or altogether-difficult-to-find fruit, viand, cake, dumpling or morsel that I demanded. I was that important at one time. So here you go, a rare and hopefully tasty tidbit of what is to come draining out of my head:

Parma, Ohio 1975

When I was six, a little Serbian girl fell in love with me. She had alabaster skin with black hair in pixie bangs, and I remember her green eyes staring at me. She always wore a brown knit sweater, a cardigan, that I later found out was made by her grandmother in Serbia. Sometimes she wore a black beret. I was doodling at my desk when she grabbed my hand and dragged me over to her desk. It was late fall and we were all working on Halloween drawings. She handed me a Valentine and kissed me on the cheek and ran away.

We became inseparable that year, the first grade couple of note. We were going to get married. We held hands and ate lunch together and played house with poignant accuracy. Hers was a Serbian household constructed of small wooden furniture and plastic. I mostly did what she told me to do. That Easter, she shared with me a rough bread with a kind of butter she called kajmak. The only time we fought was when I wanted to play ball with the other boys during recess. She would fume and watch with singleminded determination.

Summer came and we promised to see each other in the fall. I lied. She looked sad as we walked down to the school entrance and went opposite ways. She thought it was going to be a summer of separation as our parents did not socialize only to be reunited in the fall. I knew it would be goodbye forever as we were going to move away, but I was rendered mute. When I got home, I was whisked away to a family friend’s to stay the night as our furniture was packed. We left the next morning.

It would be nice to say that I think about her frequently, but that is not true. I hardly think about her at all. If I do, its mostly to wonder if she remembered me and thought about me, and how remarkably sad she must have been that following fall. I decided, in my first grade mind, to not dwell on such sad matters and move forward. If this sadness made me heavy with regret, it would be a rejection of it to let me be light again. But I do think about her, and it was thirty five years later that I met her again…