Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Polly Burns: World Champion Pugilist

I like doing genealogy research because of the fun things that I find out about my ancestors.

Last week I discovered that my Great Aunt (Polly Burns) was a world champion pugilist, the top female boxer in the world in 1900!

Polly Burns was not your typical demure Victorian lady. Uncle Tommy was quite wealthy from his work as a fight promoter and they lived in a mansion on Merrion Strand Road in Dublin. Aunt Polly loved her pets and they had an aviary with over 100 chirping birds.

Aunt Polly died before I was born, but I was told that she was cultured and cordial, well-mannered and gracious, with a great sense of humor. But Aunt Polly was no pushover.

Polly Burns was lightening fast, and she could take-on any professional boxer. She once fought an exhibition match in Dublin with the heavyweight champion of the world (Jack Johnson)!

The Burns women were also notorious bikers!

Polly Burns was the subject of a documentary film titled "My Grandmother Was A Boxer", part of the “true Lives” television show on Ireland’s RTE network.

It’s said that my Uncle Tommy met her in the boxing ring! Polly fought men at the National Sporting Club in London, where Uncle Tommy liked to hang out. Polly challenged him to a match, and after she nailed him with a wicked left hook, it was true love, and they were married shortly thereafter. Uncle Tommy was a dapper man-about-town, well-educated, rich and good-looking:

My Great Uncle - The dapper Tommy Burns

Her favorite advice was to “never to clinch an argument with a straight left.” This is the only photo I found of Polly, surrounded by her male opponents:

Polly Fairclough Burns
World Champion Boxer, 1900

Here is an old newspaper clipping on Polly Burns that I found in an old trunk, documenting her years as a prizefighter:

See my notes on Polly Burns, world champion lady boxer.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Choosing a custom golf cart

Many country club members flaunt their expensive golf carts, some of which are street-legal and cost as much as ordinary cars!

It’s an interesting crew, as I noted on how to join a country club.

Check out this Forbes golf cart article titled “Pimp my Cart”, and this slideshow of custom golf carts.

Custom Hummer golf cart is only $38,000

The car dealerships have been known to “loan” luxury golf carts to club members in the hopes that the jealous co-clubbers will have to have one too! I’ve noticed quite a few of the Escalade golf cart, almost always owned by people who don’t drive an Escalade car!

We just struck a deal with a car dealership on one of their new line of Chrysler GEM luxury golf carts.

The GEM two-seater street-legal pickup truck, about $10,000

But we went for the “stretch version”, a four-seater:

We chose the 4-seater, and it has hard doors and a heater too, great for play on those cold winter days, and we can drive it on the street too:

The GEM 4-seater with doors and roll-up windows

Monday, December 17, 2007

The world's lowest golf course

Playing the world’s lowest golf course

Furnace Creek golf course carries the distinction of being the world’s lowest golf course, settled-in at 218 feet below sea level. Summer temperatures in Death Valley can reach in excess of 130 degrees, but in the winter months the climate is ideal, with cool breezes and temperatures in the 60’s, perfect for golfing.

It has wide open panoramic vistas and breathtaking views:

They say that ball travel is impeded below sea level and that you should add two clubs to each shot to compensate the increased air pressure. Our friend Brad Clayton is a PGA Master professional, and he recommended that we try it.

If you want the experience of frying an egg on the hood of your car or feeling your sneakers melting into the rocks beneath you, visit Death Valley in July and August. Kids love it, and it’s safe so long as you pump some salt pills into them and insist that they drink at least a pint of water per hour.

I’m not kidding when I say that your shoes will melt! Summer temps are regularly over 120 degrees and the ground is about 80 degrees hotter that the air temperature. Death Valley is great fun, and they have “Badwater”, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere:

There is also “devil’s golf course” and the “racetrack”, worth seeing:

We stayed at the Furnace Creek Resort, an art deco masterpiece nestled in the desolate Funeral Mountains, built in 1927.

The Inn is a true oasis, and includes a babbling brook of hot water (geothermal, not heat induced) and a grove of 70 year-old palm trees. In the fall and winter months, you can warm yourself on the naturally heated pool and enjoy the warmth of massive a pinion wood fireplace near the pool!

Death Valley is a haven for artists and photographers, and for good reason:

John Garmany and I spent time in China Lake working for the military, and the weekend was a great time to visit Death Valley. This area surrounding Death Valley sees mini earthquakes which cannot he seen or heard, but you will get a felling of extreme dizziness and nausea as the land shifts silently you! P

eople who work in the China lake area have those hanging ball toys which sway, indicating a minor tremor.

If you get a 4WD, make sure to see the racetrack where stones move mysteriously across the desert floor:

This Youtube video on the racetrack shows the rocks moving.

See my notes on Furnace Creek golf course and touring in Death Valley.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dog is my co-pilot

Wherever we travel, Noel insists on helping with the driving, like here in Death Valley.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Farting dogs on airplanes

Silent but deadly

I’m sitting in the second row of a long plane ride and Noel the dog just started gassing-out the whole first class section. She is placed right under a man’s seat, and he does not know that she is there:

A Yorkie Flight bag

Now these are not those “Aww . . . how cute . . . ” little Yorkie farts. These are industrial strength farts, nasty, putrid gas with the wallop to take-down a full grown man.

Dog farts are beyond nasty

The businessman in the first row just exclaimed “What the heck died in here?” and he is starting to make faces and looking at me over his shoulder!

Gawd, he thinks I did it! I’m honored, of course, but I swear to God, I did not rip these nasties. . .

And Janet’s no help at all. She’s just sitting there, bent-over in a fetal position, crippled with laughter!!!

But it's probably my fault, I should not have fed her that aged kielbasa sausage. . . .

Never feed kielbasa to a Yorkie

He who smelt it, dealt it

For a small pooch, Noel can sure pass the gas, and she can clear a room better than a dog five times her size. But it’s agonizing in a small fuselage, where the smell gently wafts back, row by row, into the coach section . . . . Man, it’s so dense you can almost see it . .

I think that Socrates once said: “He who smelt it, dealt it”.

Next time he looks back here, I’m gonna give the guy a dirty look, and ask "What on earth have you been eating?" . . .


It reminds me of the bestselling book “Walter the farting dog”:

And the inevitable knock-offs:

What will we do when we don't have Dubya to mock anymore?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Gerry Chatterton, RIP

It is with great sadness that I must report the untimely death of my good friend Gerry Chatterton. While most people are more familiar with his scuba diving brother John Chatterton from the Discovery Channel, Gerry Chatterton was very well-known during the 1990’s New York computer boom, one of the original NYC dot com zillionaires, employing hundreds of consultants.

Gerry was widely known for his contagious, manic enthusiasm and hardly an IT manager from the Financial District to Midtown did not know and like Gerry Chatterton.

I first met Gerry in Los Angeles in the mid 1990’s when I was speaking at the Oracle Openworld conference. Brilliant and congenial with contagious enthusiasm, Gerry arrived at Oracle World like a King, replete with his family and his entourage of personal assistants.

That year Oracle rented Universal Studios for one evening, and while Andy & Jen relished the no-lines access to the rides, Gerry and Adrian won us over and we became fast friends.

Gerry was generous to a fault, and Janet and I soon discovered that we should never admire anything in a store, lest Gerry whip out his wallet and buy it for us. Over the years we met Gerry and his family for outings, our kids played together and we all came to know and love him.

I’ll never forget the evening in 2000 when Gerry flew me and Janet up to NYC to celebrate his wedding anniversary. We dined at Windows on the World in the 107th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center, with an unforgettable view of the Manhattan skyline.

107th floor of the North Tower, WTC

During dinner, Gerry snuck off to the gift shop and surprised me and Janet with a pair of extremely expensive WOW leather jackets. As a memento of the World Trade Center, it’s probably worth a small fortune on eBay, but it’s worth far more to me as a gift from a dear friend.

Gerry retired in 2000 to relax and enjoy his retirement, and his untimely death was both shocking and tragic. Gerry will be sorely missed, both by his friends and business associates. Our hearts go out Gerry’s wife and family . . .

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Penn & Teller & cold reading

Janet and I caught the Penn & Teller show at the Rio awhile back, and they did a great presentation of cold reading skills. They are the masters of illusion and quite funny. Check out this youtube video where Penn & Teller gets hippies to sign a petition to ban water!

Janet with Penn Jillette & Ray Teller

Penn & Teller are our kind of folks (Penn loves South Park), and they know that the really amazing thing about a cold reading is the reality that you can learn to read facial expression with amazing accuracy.

In their show they made a point of noting that all psychics are charlatans and frauds, and that the ability to read human expressions is far more fascinating than the magical explanation.

Psychological studies conform that women are far better at cold reading then men which explains why the majority of psychics are female.

Male poker players study for years at reading “tells”, and it’s fascinating that our animal cousins are often better at reading human emotions that humans. Horses are exceptionally skilled at reading human emotions.

Clever Hans

Back in 1891 a horse named Clever Hans made headlines with his counting skills, and thousands of people were in awe at his mathematical skills. It was not until Hans was “debunked” by Oskar Pfungst that people learned that his real skills were far more fascinating than counting.

Pfungst proved that Hans was cold reading his audience, picking-up on subtle cues from the audience that they could not perceive, more anazing than counting.

The horse “Lady Wonder” was acclaimed as a “psychic horse” because of her skill at reading human emotions.

Horse Sense and the cold read

Janet has been able to train horses as seeing-eye animals because she has worked for years at understanding the non-verbal skills of equines. Horses communicate non verbally, and they have developed amazing skills at reading humans.

Dan & Cuddles have been together for 7 years now, and their symbiosis is incredible. Dan says that all he has to do is think about where he wants to go and Cuddles will take him there, but in reality Cuddles has learned his subtle non-verbal cues.

Dan & Cuddles stroll in NYC

In just a few years, Dan & Cuddles will become the worlds longest guide animal couple (horses live to be over 30 years old), and it will be great to see how well Cuddles learns Dan’s body language.

Symbiosis between man & horse

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Remember disabled veterans this Christmas

This Christmas season, let's not forget those who have suffered to preserve our freedom.

You can send random gifts to wounded vets at this address:

A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, DC. 20307-5001

Also, don't forget the Diasbled Veterans of America, a great charity:

And don't forget to volunteer. Our golf pro, Brad Clayton, is very active in donating his time to teach golf to disabled war veterans, and there are many things that you can do to make a hero's holiday brighter . . . .

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The best Toddler and kids toys

All toddlers like drum sets and it’s one of the best toddler toys around. The audio feedback is great for reinforcing kids motor skills.

Psychologists say that activity toys are the best for kids, and a fart machine brings hours of dignified play.

You cannot go wrong with any of the slime toys.

Everybody loves taxidermy, and this fellow sells the best cuddly, real stuffed animals.

Kids love to paint, and this paint spinner toy is guaranteed to be a best choice.

Silly string is always a best choice for kid’s gifts, and for the young lady, a kids make up kit is a great choice (make sure to get kids lipstick too).

There is nothing like watching your daughter morph herself into Alice cooper on Christmas morning.

Whatever you do, watch out for gifts that might be in bad taste.

Friday, November 23, 2007

My newest MBA!

Congrats go out to our son Andrew Sean Burleson on his acceptance into an AACSB accredited MBA! Andy has distinguished himself both academically and socially, and I’m proud to see that he has evolved into a fine young man. He likes golf too, a big plus!

Andy plays guitar in his own band, and has a part-time job, even though we pay all of his expenses.

Andy has all of the hallmarks of a successful businessman. He is honest, intelligent and compassionate, but he doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and he has the courage of his convictions.

Now, I’m not just saying this because Andy is my son, and he has inherited my studly good looks and intelligence. Mark my words, this boy is going places.

Andy skydiving with his sister Jen

As of now, Andy plans to start law school next fall and after completing his JD/MBA, he plans to open his own practice on the beltway as an IP attorney.

Andy doing underwater photography

Long term, Andy says that he is going to save his pennies and become an entrepreneur, with the long-term goal of retiring to become a gentleman scholar by age 40.

By golly, I’ll bet he makes it . . . .

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A little pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving

Meet "Pumpkin Pie"

It’s always fun to have a new baby in the house during the holidays, and this year we got our latest baby, appropriately named for Thanksgiving as “Pumpkin Pie”.

Pumpkin is a 9-week-old Rottweiler puppy, and just like a human toddler, the house is cluttered with dog toys and pizzle chew toys:

Our Thanksgiving baby!

Pumpkin will live in the house with us for the next 10 week, during which she will learn basic obedience, Schutzhund training and most important, never to kill small animals. Our Yorkie Noel is especially excited to have a new playmate, and Pumpkin has already learned to “play gentle”, since she is only four pounds:

Baby Rotties must learn to be gentle

Properly raised, Rotties are very loving, and they love baby animals. They will even nurse kitties! The famous Rottweiler Carl could be trusted with even the youngest children.

The ultimate protection dog!

Pumpkin will soon join the outside pack where her job will be to protect and defend her “family”, which includes her horses and ponies, but they can even be trained to protect chickens and Guinea hens, while ignoring any non-aggressive wild critters like possums and squirrels!

When Pumpkin joins the dog pack, she will quickly learn which vermin are to be destroyed, in our case, foxes and raccoons. The raccoons are frequently rabid, and just yesterday Jen3’s Dad shot one who was foaming at the mouth. Raccoons are nasty, annoying critters, with no respect for dogs:

Raccoons are unkind to dogs

But make no mistake, Pumpkin will viscously attack any critter who threatens her family, and Rotties will draw and quarter any Raccoon who dares attack their poultry. They are usually disemboweled so thoroughly that the only evidence is a raccoon tail lying near the chicken house. They will also make short work of rats and other vermin:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Using Burl Walnut!

I love Walnut!

As a follow-up to my post on processing your own hardwood lumber, I finally harvested the old walnut tree!

To learn more, see my notes on Finishing your own lumber.

I guess I’m a tree hugger at heart, and I could not bear to kill a tree that managed to survive for more than 200 years. It was an almost-dead, ugly, scary ole tree, like the ones in the Tim Burton films and we’ve been waiting for years for this decrepit old tree to die of natural causes.

Well, the old Persimmon tree finally died, and it’s all mine!

200-300 year old log - Persimmon?

While I’m sad to see it die, I’m thrilled because we can finally open-up the fallow meadow. We could never use it because Walnut trees are highly toxic to horses.

The log weights over a ton (about 2,300 pounds) and it’s off to the sawmill for cutting. I chose to cut a 3 x 10 slab from the middle for a fireplace mantle or an impressive bar top, and I’m saving the other lumber for custom trim.

The best part is the stump, about another full ton of burl! I love burl wood, it’s beautiful and rich with amazing grain swirls, and I now have a huge chunk, enough for a massive hand-carved chair.

Once I get into it, I may decide to slice the burl into a half inch veneer, and use it as capstones on our Oak walls. There are many uses for burl wood:

I was surprised to see that the walnut was a cream color, not the natural chocolate brown that we see in the lumber stores. Walnut is aged (and sometimes steamed) to bring-out the natural dark coloration, and after cutting, I’ll be stacking the boards for aging and drying.

Our own pitch and putt?

This summer we vacationed at Oakhurst, the St. Andrews of the USA, America’s oldest golf club. Nestled in the hills of West Virginia, you must play in the true 1800’s style, hacking gutta percha balls with hickory sticks while sheep graze in the fairways:

Oakhurst is great fun, authentic in every detail, right down to the lemonade and ginger snaps in the 19th hole:

That’s our son Andy on the right. Andy is a senior now and hopes to be an MBA and attorney (as long as we pay for five more years of school!).

It's interesting, Andy is almost as tall as I was at his age, plus it's great that Andy has inherited my studly good looks.

Fescue Vs. Costal Bermuda

Now that the Walnut tree is gone, we can finally open-up the 15 acre meadow. Here it is, all plowed-up and ready to use:

Pitch & Putt or pasture?

Me, I want to make our own pitch and putt! Our 50+ horses are superb lawnmowers, just look at how tidy they keep the grass in their existing pastures:

Horse are the world’s best natural lawnmowers

Janet and I are honored to have an absolutely amazing instructor, PGA master professional Brad Clayton. Just last week Janet scored her first par-5 birdie, wailing the ball like Tiger himself. I think that Brad’s new book “No Silver Bullets” will be quite popular. If he can make us into good golfers, he can do it for anybody!

I want to turn the meadow into a dual use pasture and grazing and I advocate planting Costal Bermuda grass, which has a low yield but is perfect for fairways and greens. Janet, being more pragmatic, wants to plant fescue with a 4x higher grass yield, but fescue is not so great for greens and aprons, and it’s impossible to carve-out a decent putting surface on fescue.

Brad has hooked us on golf, and even though we have several superb gold links nearly, we have decided to build something just for us, even if it’s just a single par 3 practice hole. . . .

Monday, November 19, 2007

The "Shop Dropping" fad

The new College fad: “Dropping”

Some of my young charges have alerted me to a new College fad called “dropping”.

As I understand it, dropping is the opposite of shoplifting, and the goal is to smuggle goods into a retail store! It’s an honest alternative to the nasty game of extreme shoplifting:

Video on extreme shoplifting

I’m told that dropping requires all of the cunning of shoplifting, but without the stealing, but it sound a tad weird to me:

Shop Dropping for girls

Some sororities are now requiring a dropping initiation, and it works something like this:

1 - The pledge starts at a thrift store, seeking the most repulsive crack whore gown that she can find. They get extra points for blood and semen stains.

2 – The pledge smuggles the gown into a high-end clothing store with the goal of putting the groady gown onto the racks without being seen. They get extra points for dropping in a super high-end store like Gucci or Fendi.

3 – They get extra points for placing the gown on a mannequin, an act that requires a pack of sisters working together.

The payoff happens when a customer pulls the gown from the rack . . .

Shop Dropping for guys

For young men, dropping often involves smuggling a live chicken into the dressing room of a high-end clothier like Brooks Brothers:

1 – The guy buys a live chicken at the farmer’s market or Chinatown (on Delancy St.). If grown chickens are not available, baby chicks or bunny rabbits can be substituted. However, it’s not recommend to use both a chicken and a bunny:

2 – The chicken is smuggled into the store under a coat. (Any farmer knows that it’s easy to carry a live chicken. Chickens have a “darkness reflex”, and they become zombies in the dark, so that part is easier than it sounds). The larger the chicken, the more points . . .

3 – The chicken is dropped in a dressing room.

The payoff is watching a well-dressed clerk chasing the foul around the store.

Ah, those whacky college kids. . . .