Friday, August 28, 2009

At my high school reunion

In the middle of our 40th year high school reunion on Saturday, we stopped music and revelry for 20 minutes to honor the twenty-five classmates no longer with us. My wife's brother Eddie was one of those twenty-five.

Twenty-five living classmates stood behind Jennifer Kestel Harris as she called the roll of deceased classmates. As Jennifer read each name, we all answered "Here!", to show that the departed classmate remained alive and present in our memories. Before Jennifer moved on to the next name, one of the twenty-five living classmates behind her stepped forward and lit a candle for the departed friend she had just called.

Of the two hundred people in attendance Saturday evening, my wife Joanna was the only relative of any of the deceased classmates. We asked and she agreed to light Eddie’s candle. As she stepped forward, I struggled not to cry. Joanna’s hand was shaking as she lit the candle, and I steadied her. As she turned to step back, I had to hold her up, and we exited to a back hallway until she could recover.

After the candle-lighting ceremony, a dozen or more of Eddie’s close friends came to Joanna, one by one. It was difficult all evening for Joanna to talk with everyone about Eddie’s life. But it was an important step toward reaching closure.

I don’t know if I’ll survive any of my seven siblings. I’m not looking forward to doing so. But if it happens, I hope I’m able to summon half the dignity and strength my wife Joanna has displayed these past sixteen months.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fixing slow play in golf: reduce bottlenecks

Stephen Shmanske, in his recent book Golfonomics, sheds some light on slow play on the golf course. Bottlenecks – especially par 3’s – are as much to blame as any other factor. Shmanske shows how pace of play on par 4’s can be perfectly acceptable at 14 minutes a hole, but overall pace of play for a round gets blown away by queues at par 3’s. The delays start out very small early in the day, but can steadily grow to 30 minute waits.

The problem with par 3’s is that only one foursome can play the hole at a time. Unlike par 4’s, which have two playing “stations”, par 3’s have, by design, only one “station” on which to play. Where play per station on a par 4 is generally about 7 minutes (14 minutes for the hole), par 3’s almost always require 9 to 10 minutes for completion.. Golfers can easily make their way around the course in 7 minutes per station – until they reach the par 3. Then the queue builds up and golfers start to get annoyed.

Many pace of play “experts” suggest that the key to improving pace of play is to spread the tee times. Rather than 7 or 8 minute spacings, they suggest using 9 or 10 minutes. But that hurts the golf course financially, as fewer foursomes can be scheduled through the day. Those who advocate 9 or 10 minute spacings are essentially saying that the entire golf course should be spaced to the requirements of the par 3’s, with their 9 minute stations.

Shmanske offers a solution, but admits it is difficult to get buy in. In his book, he shows that queueing can be eliminated at par 3’s if the foursome on the green delays putting out for two minutes, and allows the foursome on the tee to hit to the green. Then, as the second foursome makes their way to the green and – of course – the greenside bunkers, the first foursome goes ahead and putts out. In effect, this tactic allows two foursomes to play on the par 3’s single “station” simultaneously.

I was skeptical upon first reading Shmanske’s solution, so I used an Excel spreadsheet to simulate the queueing. Shmanske is absolutely correct. Calling up the next foursome before putting on the par 3’s will definitely end delays at par 3’s. My local golf association experimented with this tactic on one tournament hole this summer, and discovered it worked well. For some reason, though, they reverted to the one foursome per par 3 norm for the next tournament, and experienced the 15 and 20 minute waits as play backed up.

It’s very difficult to implement the call up strategy during non-tournament open play. but I think we need to find a way at my golf course.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween with my sexy coworkers

I wanted to join my boss and my coworkers in these disco outfits, but the store was out of my size. So I settled for the hippie look. You can't see my cool hippie boots in this photo.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Age gracefully? I don't think so.

So today I'm going to brag a bit. I played basketball again with the young guys at lunch. A few are in their 40's, but most are in the 23 to 37 range, or about 20 to 34 years younger than me. I can't move quite as fast as some of them, but I defend pretty well and make a shot every once in a while. After 6 months of playing full court basketball - 3 hours a week - I'm now, acording to the young guys, "in damn good shape for an old man".

Not sure when I decided this, but I have no intention of aging gracefully. I'll be kicking and screaming - but smiling - all the way to the grave. No old man golf carts for me. No way I'm going to be out of breath after two flights of stairs. Relaxed fit jeans? No way! I'm working on getting my waist down to - not college size - high school size.

One of my role models is the weathered old guy - probably 70 - who last year zoomed past me half way up Arizona's Peralta Trail on the way to Weaver's Needle. Another is Ken Mink, the 73 year old guy now playing college basketball. If they can Just Do It! after 7 decades, then why shouldn't I as well?

Ken Mink is living his college hoops dream at the age of 73. (Saul Young/Knoxville News Sentinel / Special to

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Good reason for a tattoo?

I’m not a big fan of bold tattoos, but I’m not bothered by small ones. It’s not something I would do, but perhaps that’s just a generational thing. Many of my flower child era did paint images on their faces and bodies, but rarely took the risk of a permanent decoration.

There’s a story behind most of the images on the tattoo-adorned younger folks I talk with. I don’t always appreciate the significance of the tales. But this weekend I did agree with one girl’s reasoning.

Kristi, one of the attractive beverage cart girls at my local golf course, showed me a couple of her tattoos as she was filling my drink order. I had not noticed before the blue star on each of her ears, similar to the blue star on Bjork’s neck in this image. Blue stars in north Texas are certainly common, as this is Cowboys country.

Kristi explained that her aunt had been one of the original Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders in 1972 or 1973. She had been close to her aunt all her life, and deeply felt her loss when the aunt died a few years ago. So Kristi honored her aunt by having a blue star tattooed on each earlobe. This seemed an acceptable reason for a tattoo, one of the best I’ve heard.

Do you have a tattoo? Will you share its significance?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tee Time, my four legged friend

Tee-Time is the name of a mostly Jack Russell terrier abandoned near the Grapevine Municipal Golf Course in the summer of 2007. Tee-Time adopted the golf course as her new home, and the staff and golfers have adopted Tee-Time as well.

We’ve never been able to catch Tee-Time, or even pet her. Someone must have abused the poor animal in a previous life, and she steadfastly refuses to trust any golfer or staffer. But she gladly accepts French fries and peanut butter crackers and sandwich crusts from anyone. The owner of the grill quickly realized that buying dog food was a smart move, as it sharply reduced the number of sandwiches the beverage cart girls determined to be too stale for humans.

When I play at the course, I always carry dog biscuits or liver treats or some other canine delicacy in my bag. After two years, Tee Time has come to recognize me as a major donor. So she follows me for the entire 18 hole round. Usually she just stares at me, longingly awaiting the next treat. On the few occasions when I’ve jogged to catch up with my riding companions, Tee Time runs alongside of me. If I neglect to reward her loyalty for a hole or two, Tee Time nips at my heel to remind me.

Tee Time rules the golf course, her private little kingdom. She can often be seen chasing squirrels back into trees and ducks back into ponds. Occasionally a large goose will challenge her, thinking that, at a mere 12 pounds, Tee Time will back down,. Not a chance.

Tee Time must have experienced love at one point in her prior life. I’ve been told that a very young boy visited the course recently, and was able to pet her and scratch her belly. When small children accompany a parent to the driving range, Tee Time stops all begging activity and stares intently and longingly at the little people from 50 feet away – sometimes for 30 minutes or more.

I love this little dog. I wish more than anything she’d let me show her how much.

Monday, May 5, 2008

UFO's chase beagle

My little beagle, Austin, let me know at 2:00 AM a few nights ago that he couldn't wait three hours for his normal "relief" time. He needed to get outside and get there fast.

The wind was strong as we opened the door to the back porch, but Austin had urgent business in the back yard, so he ventured forth into the darkness. About ten seconds later a blur passed my view, followed by a loud "Blam!" Austin's momentum had carried him past the door, up onto his igloo, and into the window screen. He was down in a flash, into the house, and peering out from behind my legs.

The hail was only quarter-sized, but it was coming down fast. Austin had previously felt snowflakes and driving rain on his fur, but never anything that stung quite like this.

What must go through the mind of a small canine when the normal emptying of his bladder is so rudely interrupted? How long will it take the poor little guy to overcome this new fear of the darkness hours? I've noticed he hasn't awakened me for the past four nights. I guess I would also strain with discomfort until the morning light if someone had ever once pelted me with ice marbles from the dark sky.